"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lovin' the Zoo

We have been going to the Dakota Zoo my whole entire life.

Since I have been a mom, it is a summer tradition.  We always buy a membership and spend many hours watching stinky animals sleep in the shade (as my non-zoo-loving husband likes to say).  It is not too big and not too little. It is a great place to wander for an afternoon and explore.

Joshua came home TERRIFIED of animals.
(note the caps, bold, and underline above)

He would go to the zoo, but it did not bring him ANY joy.

Slowly as so many prayers were answered, Joshua began to be curious about animals.  First, he tolerated our dog.  That "relationship" blossomed into true love.  And I quote, "I love Riley soooo much!  He is the best dog in the whole world!"

Then he decided horses were WAY cool. (Grandpa rejoiced!)

Slowly, more and more animals were added to his list of likes.

Today, we went to the zoo for the first time this season.  Joshua's reaction shocked, awed, and excited me.  He LOVED the zoo.  He grabbed my hand and walked me from habitat to habitat wanting to know all about each animal.  It was so fun! 

He also shocked us when he WALKED through the whole entire zoo. That is a sign of serious commitment on Joshua Gebeyehu Chad Dietrich's part.  No joke.  He is so strong and fast in comparison to when he arrived.  Yet, he continues to have less stamina than most kids his age.  It is very unusual for him to be able to walk as far and as long as he did today.  He was excited and determined!

He was also completely exhausted by the end of the day! He was asleep before prayers were said tonight!

I know loving the zoo does not seem like  big deal.  Truly, I would not be disappointed if Joshua never liked the zoo.  However, his enjoyment today symbolizes (to me) growth, confidence, and healing and that is HUGE.

Here are a couple of photos of Joshua and Brenna from today that I will hide in my heart forever.
 (When I was a kid the star of the zoo was a bear named "Clyde."  My littles are pictured in front of a life-size sculpture of the bear I grew up going to see.)
This makes my heart sigh.
I am so very thankful for the absolute sibling bond that my white-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed Brenna and her brown-skinned, black-haired, brown-eyed brother share.  They may not "match" on the outside, but they are totally, completely siblings in every way that matters.

But God. . .


Last night Sierra and Tishina (one of her BFFs) begged to attend a summer kick-off event at another church in town.  How could I and/or why would I say no to that?

 You can imagine my utter surprise when I returned and found them looking like THIS!?!

They were totally caked with thick, stinky mud!
It was really, really gross!

While this church did have a hose hooked up for kids to spray themselves off, the line was WAY long.  I was tired and the girls were shivering like crazy, so. . .
 I found some garbage bags in my van, and "clothed" the girls in them for the ride home.

I am pausing here to pat my own back.

I have never, ever, ever hauled ANYTHING as messy as these two girls were in ANY vehicle.  Yet, when I saw them walk up to my van 20 minutes later than we had agreed upon, covered in thick, stinky mud - I DID NOT lose it!   I simply told them that they were very lucky that I picked them up rather than Krissy!  They totally agreed, and promised to shampoo the mud out of my van ASAP.

I really like clean.
I also really like ON TIME.
Thus I am really proud of myself!
I must be growing up.
When we arrived home, there was NO choice but to hose her off in the garage.  This was not because we were punishing her.  We just knew that the amount of mud that she was wearing would undoubtedly clog the drain.  Lucky for her, we have warm water in our garage!

 The amount of mud that rolled off of her was totally astonishing.

Chad truly hosed her off for 15+ minutes.
Sierra says she will never, ever, ever, ever play in the mud again.

She is my party-girl (in a sweet, delightful, fun way).

I am more than sure that she will have a few more adventurous surprises in store for me during her teen years! I promise to take LOTS of pictures along the way.  Hers as sure to be the high school graduation DVD you will not want to miss!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Celebrating that Today I am Mommy!

Two Years Ago TODAY
 this beautiful boy was placed in my arms
everyone around him declared me "Gebeyehu momma!"

that same beautiful boy knows me,
 understands me,
and loves me

We celebrate healing, love, acceptance, sonship, and grace today!

Joshua Gebeyehu Chad Dietrich I am so very thankful that God chose me to be your mommy.

Father God, I thank you that have truly created Joshua Gebeyehu with a spirit of SONSHIP and NOT a spirit fear.  I thank you that you have helped every member of our family to be strong and courageous, to not be terrified or discouraged because You HAVE been with us every step of the way!  Thank you that your make all things new, that you complete the work that you start in each of us, and that when we perservere, You really do keep Your promises.  I am honored to serve You.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

30 Days Until. . .

In 30 days we will
 move out of this

and into

Before eventually settling into

Any one want to take a guess as to just how long we will be camping?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Construction Update: Framing Begins!

Last week our crew began framing our house!

It is so exciting to see it begin to have a shape!
They have the exterior and load-bearing walls on the main floor fully framed.
They have started hanging the floor joist, as well.
Chad is standing in what will be "his" front door.
Chad has taken finding the perfect front door to a new level!

He searched and searched for the exact door he had in mind.
It is 8 feet tall and 3.5 feet wide.
(It really will fill the space he is standing in.)
It has one side light (with the monster sized door, we did not have room for two!)
It will be made of African Mahagony.
(I think the African Mahagony was the clincher.)
He found a custom door builder online that is custom designing it for a steal.
(I think I have mentioned that Chad is the shopper in our family?!?)

He is so excited about it.
(Me too, but not quite as excited as he is!)

 Our sitting room will have 2 stories of huge windows.
This is the view out one of them.

Just think how pretty it will be in 15 years when we have grown trees and grass.
We have a lot of landscaping to do, but I am also so very thankful that there are some full grown trees already in place!
 This is what I will see when washing dishes in the kitchen.
Eventually it will be a play area with an outdoor kitchen and fire pit as well.
Eventually. . .
 Chad and I are standing in front of our bedroom window.
Our bedroom and Joshua's are on the main floor.
Both face the road/driveway.
 This will be the stairway.
(Yes, I know.  These are really boring if you will not live here.)

I will live here, so they are exciting to me.

This is the pile of materials waiting for the crew this week.
They will finish hanging floor joist.
Then the joist will be sheeted with a  tongue and groove OSB decking.
Then the main floor walls will be sheeted with OSB.
Then they will begin framing the second level.

I sm so thankful for their talent, attention to detail, and hard work!

Memorial Day Weekend 2012

Most years we spend Memorial Day weekend in the camper. The weather is almost always cold and rainy, but that rarely stops us.  This year we have decided that since in 32 days we will be living in a camper full-time, we might be wise to enjoy a real roof while we can!

So. . .
 Memorial Day weekend started with Chad and I working on installing our water line.  (OK, so mostly Chad - but he did find me a couple of things to "help" with!)
Unfortunately, the backhoe wanted a weekend off!  (a hydraulic line broke)

Which meant we spent a lot of time:
 shopping online

 and in stores.

We accomplished a lot!  We chose and purchased our light fixtures, tubs, sinks, faucets, showers, shingles, and doors.  Crazy how much money one couple can spend in 36 hours!

One thing that has been different about building this house is that Chad is enjoying being a part of each and every step.  When we built our current home, he left many things totally up to me.  I chose light fixtures and plumbing fixtures all by myself.  I am enjoying his input!

We also spent a lot of time doing this:
 I NEVER watch TV, and I watched 2 movies this weekend!

Joshua also let me snooze on the couch two mornings while he watched a movie.  This morning he even tucked me in on the couch with a kiss and my favorite blanket!  It was the perfect solution.  I was able to sleep in, and he was not lonely when he woke way before the rest of the family.
I even laced on my running shoes several times over the weekend!

I have missed running more than I can even explain, so it was such a treat!

It is a bit sobering as well.  My "long" run this morning was 3 miles.  That same route used to be my short fast hill route.  Oh, well!  I have to restart somewhere!

It was most certainly the most relaxing weekend I have had since Hawaii.  And I have a sneaking suspicion that this 4 day weekend may be as close to a summer vacation as I get!

It may not be a restful summer, but it is sure to be an exciting, adventurous, and very memorable one!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

2 Years in Review

Two years ago this Memorial Day Weekend, I was in Ethiopia bringing Joshua Gebeyehu home at long last.  (The actual date of was May 30, but because it was a holiday weekend, Memorial Day always will be "the day" in a way.)

When I think over the past 2 years, I realize that WE HAVE COME A LOOOOONG WAY!

A really, really, really looooooooooooooong way!!!!!!

I took some time today to read through all that I posted in our first month home, and looking back, I realize a few things.   First, things got A LOT harder before they got better.  In the first days and weeks home, the fact that Joshua "liked" us seemed like "enough."  Over time, Joshua's lack of attachment skills became more and more obvious.  "Liking" someone is totally completely different than being securely attached.  As we began expecting attachment, Joshua back peddled BIG TIME - especially in his relationship with his dad.

We quickly realized that our lives would have to change A LOT in order to help Joshua heal from all the trauma he had experienced in his short life.

In order to foster attachment, and help Joshua learn to trust - I did not do ANYTHING without Joshua for 6 to 9 months.  And I really do mean anything.  The ONLY time I left the house without him was if he was asleep for the night.  It was hard core.  But hard core was what it took for our son to know and trust me as his momma.

Since Chad had to leave to work, Joshua's level of trust with his daddy took a lot longer to establish.  He always "liked" Chad.  But it took more than a year before he would snuggle with him.  If I placed Joshua next to Chad in bed, he would freak out.  He silently and nearly unnoticeable rejected his dad all the time.  For example, he would walk the long way from point A to point B in order to avoid contact with his dad.  Others did not notice, but Chad did.  And it hurt.

Slowly, ever so slowly,  we have seen Joshua develop the deep, trusting, lasting attachment with Chad and I that our older kids were born into.  Truly, it was not until this winter that Joshua really "caved" and totally completely fell head over heals in love with his daddy.  It was slow going.  And I tell you honestly that for the first 18 mo. that Joshua was a part of our family, every decision Chad and I made was shaded by attachment concerns.  And in the first 6 to 9 months that Joshua was a part of our family, our entire life focus was on parenting. 

It was hard core, but we are both completely THANKFUL for the decisions we made.  Two years later we are reaping the rewards, as our son is doing so, so, so well. 

Beyond attachment issues, Joshua arrived with very delayed motor skills.  He was 2.5 and had only been walking for a couple of months.  He could not run.  He could not jump.  He could not go up and down stairs.  He was VERY uncoordinated.

Two years later, he is totally caught up.  It makes my heart so happy to arrive at day care and see him racing with his buddy.  He is not only able to run, he is becoming fast!

His small motor skills are as good as he wants them to be.  He is super with tools, but not so super with a pencil.  Pre-school will be a good thing for Mr. Joshua!

His speech and language skills are totally age appropriate.

He eats very appropriately as well.  He does not have any of the food related "issues" which are common in kids with similar backgrounds.

Joshua has as good an understanding of his past as can be expected at his current age.  We talk about Ethiopia, his Ethiopian family, and his adoption all the time.  He is very comfortable with these discussions, as are we.

He is increasingly aware of skin color.  He thinks brown is the prettiest color to be.  He asked recently if the baby in his Auntie's tummy would be brown or white.  He had a major light bulb moment as I explained that the baby would be white because the mommy whose tummy it is growing in is white.  He thinks it would be really, really good to have more brown kids in our family.

Currently there is only one area in which we parent him quite a bit differently than we did the older kids at the same age - times of transition.  Joshua DOES NOT handle transitions well.  He needs warning before a transition happens.  We are forever setting timers.  When I drop him off and when I pick him up from day care I have to set the timer on my phone.  He (usually) stays/leaves nicely after the timer goes off - but he absolutely NEEDS that concrete timer to signify a transition.  We also use a timer before bed, before bath, when it is time to leave church, or any other time he struggles to switch activities.

When he has not been adequately warned that a transition will happen, it can get ugly!  For example, one day Chad and I picked him up from day care together in Chad's truck.  Usually I pick him up by myself with the van.  I thought it would be a fun surprise.  I thought wrong!  He freaked out.  He cried and kicked and fought getting into the truck.  I then needed to stay in the back seat with him to make sure he stayed in his car seat.

When he gets really, really angry (like in the above example) he is not capable of soothing himself.  Time alone in his room, a spanking, or a traditional time out only cause him to be more dis-regulated.  When he becomes totally completely upset, only a time-in will help.

A time-in is just like a time-out, except that it happens on my lap.  I CALMLY hold him in my lap, whether he likes or not, until he is calmer.  He needs the calm and acceptance of my arms to calm himself.  This is hard sometimes.  I can fool myself into thinking that I am giving him added attention for his bad behavior.  However, that is totally incorrect.  When he is totally upset, he needs my calm and support to help him learn coping skills.  He needs me to love him through the storm.

Holding him as he tantrums is not the same as coddling him or telling him his behavior is acceptable.  During a time-in he absolutely knows he is out of control.  He just can not get back under control on his own, much like a baby can not. 

These time-ins happen increasingly less and less.  Joshua is much like Jamison - both our boys are very mild tempered.  However, when they are mad... watch out!

The most important thing that I have learned in the last two years is that parenting MUST look very different for different kids.  If I had helped the older kids through a tantrum at age 4, it would have been coddling them.  They had the coping skills necessary to calm themselves.  I used to be much more black-and-white in my views about parenting.  I have had to learn to be so much more flexible, so much more patient, so much more educated.  I now know that sometimes "good parenting" looks totally completely differently than I ever would have expected.  And hopefully, I have become a much better parent in the process.

I also know that no matter how many books I read, seminars I go to, and parenting videos I watch - God alone is in control.  I put all of my faith, hope, and trust in Him who reigns.

If you are in the midst of the hard moments, struggling with a child who has no idea how to attach, know that although you may be totally misunderstood and you most likely are totally isolated and completely exhausted, your child is worth the fight.  It may be a slow, slow, slow process.  Some days may seem to move way backward instead of even an inch forward.  You may wonder if things will ever get better.  I am here to encourage you, to tell you to hang in there, keep working, keep loving, keep trusting the Healer.  Healing happens in His time and He will give you the skills and strength necessary to complete the task He called you to. (even if it looks totally differently than you ever expected.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sierra - Saying Good-bye to Elementary School

I am feeling majorly nostalgic tonight.

Another school year is over, and as of today - I have more "big" kids than "little" kids for the first time ever.  (I have already warned Chad that I am not sure this scenario can continue for very long.)

Next year, Sierra will be a 7th grader.  In our town, 7th grade is the beginning of Middle School! Jamison will be a Freshman.  Krissy will be a Junior.  Brenna will be a 4th grader.  Joshua will begin Pre-school. 

Sierra and I both had some bittersweet moments today thinking about her years at Northridge Elementary.
 This is my sweet Sierra-berra on her first day of Kindergarten!
 And this is our beautiful Sierra today, on her last day at that same school.

(oh my heart)
 Here she is watching for the bus.
For the last time.
(Check out her hair!  Krissy got up early to style it.  Stunning, not?!?)
 Today was the last day that they will be in school together, for a loooong time.
( Couldn't totally leave our Brenna Joy.)
 Last morning at the bus stop.

(This did not make Sierra sad.  She will not miss this bus!)
 Every year all of the Northridge students meet at the flag pole just before the final bell rings for a flag lowering ceremony.
 The band plays.
(Sierra was finally part of the band!)
 And the flag is lowered one final time for the year.

It is a somber ceremony, which quickly becomes
 The sixth graders went crazy with silly string.
 Then the girls took some BFF photos,
gave lots of hugs,
shed a few tears,
and headed off the playground for the LAST time.

 Here is our girl surrounded by all her 6th grade honors.

Bye-Bye Elementary School!
Ready or Not Horizon Middle School (and momma),
Sierra Faith Dietrich is headed your way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Another Dietrich Driver

Our tall son got his driving permit today!

I am not sure who is more excited. . .
or me?!?

Truly, I am thrilled to have another driver in training, because

we bought this little cutie for him to learn to drive in!

Which means, momma will be keeping the mega-momma-mobile in the garage more often than not in the next year!  Now, don't get me wrong, I am very thankful for the flexibility that our 12 passenger van provides.  However, there is NOTHING cute about it!  It is also very hard to learn in because it is so stinking huge.  Since Chad drives a 1-Ton-Dually truck, driving with dad is not any safer.  So, Chad went shopping.

Chad is one of the best vehicle finders ever.  He found this little jeep in a salvage lot.  It is a 2004 with very few miles. It was totaled out, but it needs very little work.  It just needs some paintless dent repair, a fender, a fender flare, and some control arm parts replaced. (Damage is on the side of the jeep not photographed.)  Now that is all Greek to me, but Chad will have it fixed up in no time.

I am so thankful for the skills my husband has!  He saves us money time and time again with his ability to do anything and everything!

I have already warned Jamison that he may never be able to peel me out of this teeny tiny SUV.  For the moment, he just grins - but I have a feeling once that permit becomes a full fledged drivers license he may become a bit more territorial!

Monday, May 21, 2012

An Operation Christmas Child Surprise

For the past who knows how many years, we have sent Christmas gifts to underprivileged children across the globe through Operation Christmas Child.  We started when my teen-agers were toddlers, and it has become a yearly ritual.

This year, for the very first time, we included our names and address in the boxes we were sending.  We were also able to pay for the postage for our boxes on-line.  By doing so, we would be sent an email letting us know when and where our boxes were shipped.

In January (I think), we received an email telling us our Operation Christmas Child boxes were en route to Zambia, Africa. 

Today, we received a thank you letter in the mail AND a photo of the 11-year-old boy who received one of our boxes!  His name is Redford, and he wrote so nicely in English!  He is the youngest of 7 siblings.  His parents are peasant farmers. His favorite color is pink! He drew us pictures of his home.  He included hand sketched maps of the continent of Africa, the country of Zambia, and he put a big circle around where his home is. 

It was so exciting to know that our box really made it into the hands of a smiling 11-year-old boy half a world away!  The only thing that would be better would be to deliver the gifts myself!  Who knows?  Maybe someday I will...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Keeping Up with My Kids!

May is intense!

Each of our kids have had more activities, class projects, and presentations than usual.

Here is a brief catch-up:

Jamison's track season has officially ended.  He struggled with a sore hip much of the season.  It was not bad enough to put him on the bench, but it WAS bad enough to prevent him from running his best.  It was a bit of a bummer of a season. 

Krissy has 1.5 days left of school.  She will keep busy this summer with summer school.  Chemistry will be her class of choice.
 A Northridge 6th grade tradition is the "Living Museum."  Each student chooses a historical person to research.  They then create a costume and a short speech about their person of choice.  All the students have a "button" on their hand.  When you push the button, they stand and give their speech.  It is a very fun and creative event.

Sierra chose to be Aphrodite, Goddess of Love.
She was gorgeous!

A long standing Bismarck tradition is the All City 6th Grade Track Meet.  After hearing all about Krissy and Jamison's meets, Sierra was VERY excited for her turn.  She ran the 800, 200, and the 1600.  She was most excited about the 800.  Jamison had been training her for it.  He was so kind and encouraging!  Sierra was so thrilled with the time he spent with her!

We had been praying for her poor foot.  She has been struggling with plantar faciatis.  She was unable to train much.  Her goal was to make it through all her races.

Goal accomplished!  She placed 13th in the 1600 and 10th in the 800.  Most importantly, she ran faster than her goal pace in the 800 AND she finished the day without a limp!

We were very thankful!
 Yet another 6th grade tradition... the farewell band concert!

Here they are!

Sierra plays percussion.  It is really fun to watch her.  She loves it!  It is amazing how much the kids have learned this year.  Percussion is extra fun to watch because the kids get to play so many different instruments.  Sierra is our first "band kid" so concerts are especially fun!
 In third grade news, Brenna played "deer" in her class play last week.

 She and her classmates did such a great job with the play.  They did all the costumes and staging themselves.  It was very cute!

We have one more week of school.  During this week, we will attend a talent show and an awards ceremony.  Chad and I have joked that we almost needed to quit our jobs in favor of attending all of our kids' activities these last weeks.  It has been hectic!
Joshua agrees!

He is a good sport (for the most part), but he gets really tired of chasing to the kids' events some days.

Track meets are his least favorite.  He says they are "weally weally bowing" (really, really boring!)

Oh, he makes us laugh!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Evidence of God's Protection

On Tuesday they poured the concrete floor for our future garage.

Chad emailed me this photo at work.

But. . .
then I saw the rest of the email.

The house floor would be delayed a couple days because they were waiting on a pump truck.
Deep Breath.
And a quiet reminder that God is in control followed.

A delay with concrete meant that framing would not begin until next week.
That was disappointing.
However, I have decided not to stress about the timeline of this build.
I know that everyone is going to do their best to get us moved in ASAP.
We are using our "regular" subcontractors.
They are very sympathetic to the fact that we will be moving our family of 7 (plus Riley dog) into a camper(s) for an undisclosed period of time, and I am positive they are working as hard as possible to move this house along.

So I am choosing to trust!
(Yet, I have to remind myself of that frequently.)

Anyway. . .
God gave me a great gift yesterday.

Yesterday was the day our house floor was "supposed to" be poured.  It was a HOT, windy day. And rumor has it that there were floors poured yesterday that were ruined because of the weather conditions. (Concrete hardens faster when it is hot and windy.)

Had our floor been poured yesterday, it may have been one of the ones that will need to be tore our and repoured!  Because of the amount of underground work involved in out home, this would have put our home "behind" by several weeks.

It was such a great lesson to me.
God really does have a plan.
He is protecting us ALL . THE . TIME.
Often we do not hear of the evidence, but yesterday He allowed me a glimpse.

Thank you God for showing me once again that You are in always watching over me.

Our floor WAS poured today.
One day "late!"
And I am told it turned out perfectly.

Thank you God for showing me once again that You are in always watching over me.