Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm back!

I know I have been rather lame lately. I have been lacking inspiration. Basically what that means is I have just been tired and behind on a lot of things. Mark's brother John and his wife Ashley have been in town with their two little cherubs. This means we have been out of our regular routine a bit. Not complaining - just letting you all know why I have been so lame at posting anything about our life. So...I will give you a smattering of pictures and sometime in the near future (near future is relative of course) I will post something with a little more meat. I have been pondering what makes a good mother lately - maybe I will try to get some of that out of my head and into the blogging sphere. Here is Tristan tormenting the chicks. He loves to chase them while giggling. He has this real funny way of "talking" and he makes sure he gives the chicks a piece of his mind at times. I hope this carries over when as he gets older and the "chicks" need to be told where to go. Like home to their daddy!!! Hands off - this is my boy!!
Bath time - gives me some kicks and giggles every time. I love bathing Tristan and Eden together. Tristan gets all bossy and Eden gives him her very displeased eyes. I'm not real sure how long this shared bath time will continue. Eden has realized that her brother has some different plumbing than her and she is quite fixated on reaching it. He is vehemently opposed to anyone being near his plumbing. Again, this bodes well for the future!! Stick to your guns little man!! I always have to get a close up of his eyes when I have the camera out. Everything else gets distorted but those eyes sure shine through.

I had a doctors appointment yesterday and came home to my little girl having a scratch on her cheek. No one seems to know what happened. Hmmm.....could be a cover-up I'm thinking.

On to the twins!! You have never seen such sweet and chubby babies. They are the epitome of healthy, happy babies. And they are such living breathing miracles.
Here is Jacqueline sleeping on our couch. Our couch somehow has a way of putting everyone in Mark's family asleep. It has kind of become a family joke.
And here is Caleb in blissful oblivion. On the couch.
Jacqueline sitting outside by the swing set. She really, really enjoys swinging.

And Eden with Aunt Joyce. If we walk in the direction of the swings at all Eden begins pointing and squealing. She actually called it a wee-wee the other day. She says a few words already which is quite impressive. She took two steps yesterday too which is slightly terrifying and impressive all at the same time. I will post many more pictures soon. We are spending the day with Mark's family tomorrow and some of his extended family. A family reunion of sorts. We don't see John and Ashley and their babies very often so we are trying to make the most of their visit.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What to do, what to do???

Mark took Judah and Shane to a minor league game tonight in State College. It was guy's night out and they were pretty thrilled. This means I was at home by myself with two little munchkins and I didn't quite know what to do with myself. It seemed really quiet except for Tristan's occasional screaming. I vacillated between getting a lot of work done with minor interruptions or doing nothing. I kind of opted for not doing too much. But.....I guess it is all relative because I just sat on the floor and played with the bambino's. And took lots of self-portraits. I do most of the photo taking at this house and I am absent from almost every picture. Well, not tonight! We got picture happy. Take a look. Yes, Tristan does have more than this one green shirt. I am starting to notice that he has this shirt on really often when I have the camera out. It must be a sub-conscious reminder to start snapping away.
And yes, he is getting a trim next week. For all of you concerned that he is looking a little "too pretty."

Would someone tell her to get off of me!!!
Crazy woman!!!
This is my favorite. I know it chops every ones head off but I think it is great!!!
She really is crazy!! Just look at her!! I like how we are all looking different places on this one.
Tell my mom I have had enough for one night!!!!
Tristan's binky is actually not attached to his face. It just looks like it is. I am trying to figure out a plan of action so the binky can be put to rest. Anyone have any good ideas? I was kind of waiting until he got all of his teeth but he is taking his time. I should probably try to get a little something done since they have fallen asleep and I can be even more productive. Yippeee!!!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ethiopian hunger

Like I said in an earlier post adoption is not the answer to the crisis in third world countries. It is a band-aid for the war, poverty, disease, economic issues that leave these precious children in a situation outside of their control. I didn't mean to post another "heavy" one today. I am just reminded again that if we did not have a tangible reminder in our home everyday I probably wouldn't think about the desparity in other places. Watch the link below. Not for emotional persuasion but just to be educated. If we hadn't just been to Ethiopia I probably would be oblivious to the looming crisis. Put yourselves in the parents shoes and then just be faithful with whatever part you may play in the life of a child/children. I am praying for direction on how to give - even if you feel like it isn't much it may make all the difference for one.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Excitement of today

Let's just say today is one of those days I would prefer to put to rest and not revisit. Tristan has been a bear!! I don't know if it is his teeth or what but he has had a major beef with life today. I loaded all the kids up this morning because Tristan had an eye doctor appointment. Overall it was okay! I was rapidly reaching my breaking point but we made it home without incident. Shane kept telling me he didn't feel very well and at one point I found him asleep in his bed. That is not normal!! We did a little running around this afternoon and yup - he vomited in the van! I will spare you the gory details. Eden has been very happy but that is normal. Especially when she has food in front of her. These pictures of Eden eating are for you Sharon. I know you were pretty amused watching her continuous eating at mom's yesterday.

Here is Shane resting on the couch watching a movie. I think that is the boys' favorite part of being sick. I am a little more lax with movies - the normal "watching" limits get overlooked. Shane is so so sweet when he is sick. He never complains - just deals with it. Unlike some of the other characters in the house.
Here is Judah with a smile because he finally was able to get his little chicks today! He has been wanting to get a few chickens so we did some research and decided to let him get a few. We figured chickens were a fairly safe animal purchase. If you regret the decision in a few months you can just go ahead and eat them! (not really) We were supposed to get some two weeks ago but the order got messed up somehow. So, the mill placed an additional order and we got our phone call today. To say Judah was excited is a little bit of an understatement. As much as Judah enjoys gardening and animals her really should live on a farm. Here are the five little chicks - two rhode island reds and three black sexlings. The little black ones are only a day old. Makes me a little nervous. I have never taken care of little chicks before. I just don't want them passing on to their next life too soon. I guess they will start laying eggs in about 6 months. We are getting ready to build a little coop for them - something that resembles a garden shed I think. I don't want a coop that is ugly - it needs to have some charm.
One last picture of Eden for today. I just love her pouty mouth!!
And Tristan stuffing his face. Fun times, fun times.
And now for the little info I said would be coming this post. I will try really hard to make this brief. I was talking with someone from our agency two weeks ago that has become a dear friend. She is leaving in a few weeks to bring her new daughter home. She informed me that there is a tremendous need right now at Toukoul orphanage. The orphanage is set up to care for 300 children - give or take a few. Normally there are 25-30 infants at this orphanage at one time. They are equipped and staffed to care for that number of infants. Right now they have somewhere around 200 infants!!! It is a staggering number!! She said she really isn't sure how they are caring for them all but somehow it is happening. There are different speculations as to why the increase - there is a famine right now in parts of Ethiopia which creates desperation to survive. Also, Toukoul orphanage has been around for close to 25 years. They have great relationships with the police stations and usually are the first ones contacted if a baby has been found or relinquished. I really don't have all the answers as to the influx right now. I was just asked to help get the word out. If anyone who is reading this has thought of adopting from Ethiopia and you use an agency that is connected with Toukoul I am pretty confident you will not be waiting long for a referral. We are once again so happy that Eden is home and isn't getting lost in the shuffle. Toukoul is a great orphanage but there is no way that many babies are getting the love they deserve.
No pressure on anyone reading - just being an informant. A friend of ours in State College called us last week and gave us the number of a couple they had just met at a graduation party. This couple left for Ethiopia on Saturday and they had some questions. We called them and found out their daughter was at the same orphanage Eden was at. Ironic? I think not. She is 3 1/2 and they will be arriving home this Saturday. I cannot wait to see if she is one of the children I spent time with while there. We are thrilled to have another family so close with a daughter from Toukoul. Lets just get some of those handsome boys home too!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

On to the next question

First of all just look at this picture and compare it to the picture of Eden on the sidebar. Notice the chubby little cheeks and the developing roll? She is changing daily and is becoming harder and harder to keep up with - she is a mover and a shaker. Secondly, Riley came home yesterday!!! This is wonderful news!! I haven't gotten too much detail yet. I just know they took the picc line out before she came home and did one final CAT scan. We are going into Mom's tomorrow and are hoping to stop by and see Riley - I will maybe even post a picture of her in her recovery. Sweet little thing!!
So, I kind of gave the first step two days ago of how we came to embark on adopting Eden. I will try to give the next step today.
For review - I first had to engage in the reality of the enormity of loss that happens in order for us to have the opportunity to give new life to a child. I knew that after allowing myself to feel the pain that I could no longer walk away from it and let someone else tackle the compounding problem of orphaned children. I wasn't sure how it would look for us. I just knew that as people who profess to love Jesus we are mandated to care for orphans. That meant we had to be active in caring - there was no way we could stare at the magnitude of need and say it was someone else's responsibility. It was now my responsibility.
The next step was finding out what our part was in this whole big picture. There are so many amazing ways to help. Sponsoring a child so they can remain in their native land, support people who work hands on with orphaned children, help financially support the maintenance of an orphanage, etc. ect. I was pretty sure ours would be some of the above but also would include adding another little person to our family. Shortly after Tristan was born I began wrestling with God about adoption. Was this for our family? Was this something He desired for us to do? But how? We have three little boys and people would think we were crazy? I told God He would have to make it really clear to me - Mark was okay adopting and he was okay waiting. I was a little more uptight.
Now.....some people will think I am crazy but I am okay with that. I know that God spoke very clearly to me. Over the next two weeks after saying, "God, you will have to make it exceedingly clear" He gave me three dreams. In every dream I saw the same little girl, she was our daughter and she was a lighter skinned African child. I finally told Mark about my dreams and said, "What do you think?" It was one of those "duh" moments - you asked God to show you and I think He did. For some reason God tends to reveal things to me in dreams. I don't know if it is because I am not a good listener while awake or what? This week I had a dream that Shane broke his arm - I'll be honest. I have been a little more paranoid about his safety. Sometimes the dreams are kind of funny - like the dream that Joy, Sharon and I were all pregnant. Joy thought that was pretty funny - turns out it came true.
When people ask how we came to the decision to adopt I never know quite how to answer. It wasn't a decision that we made lightly. We did a lot of research but after seeing the little girl in my dreams we realized Ethiopia made the most sense. Someone asked me a few months ago if Eden was the girl in my dreams. And my answer at this point would have to be yes!! She has the same little button nose, the exact skin tones and the hair.
Now, do I think adoption is the answer to the crisis? I think there are a lot of things that need to be hammered out in order for the cycle to slow down. There are some amazing things out there that are making a huge difference for especially women in impoverished countries. One thing that I really like and have done some research on is the whole concept of micro-financing. Amazing!!! Giving them the ability to change their lives long-term. I do recognize that adoption is one of the pieces though in helping with orphan care. There is a story that goes like this: A little boy is walking along a beach and happens upon thousands of star fish that have been washed out of the water. He begins throwing them back in one by one. An older man walks by and asks why he is even bothering to try. He told him he wasn't making a difference. So, the little boy picked up a star fish and threw it into the ocean. He turned to the man and said, "It made a difference for that one." Obviously it is easy to see the point of the story.
Eden will no longer be an orphan. She has been given a name and has found a family. She will not have to wonder what she will do when she is too old to be in the orphanage. She will never have to prostitute herself for survival. She will not contract AIDS as a result from the prostitution. She will not birth a child and leave them motherless because she is too impoverished to get help for an illness. She will not perpetuate what happened to her. By following God's heart for us a difference has been made in the life of our beautiful daughter Eden!!
I will sign off for today but either later today or tomorrow I am going to let you know of some significant need right now at Toukoul orphanage - the orphanage that cared for Eden until we arrived. Who knows - maybe one of you will be traveling there soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Emotions surrounding the topic of Adoption

I have been mulling over this whole concept of adoption yet again. We are of course through the "honeymoon" phase and the reality has set in. It is a good reality - there is no regret and I can't imagine there ever will be. I was talking with a friend last week who is preparing to bring home their little girl from Ethiopia next month. They have been through this before - they have one son from Russian, a daughter and a son from Ethiopia and this will be their fourth child. She is a seasoned parent and her input is invaluable to me. We were talking about the romanticized notion many people have going into this whole process. I don't necessarily feel like I romanticized it too much simply because I have grown up watching adoption take place in my family. What I wasn't prepared for is the feelings of guilt I sometimes have because I find myself getting frustrated with Eden just like I do with the boys. Mark thinks this is a positive thing because I am not giving her preferential treatment. The reality is your children are the same no matter how they arrive to be your child. They invoke the same feelings within you - joy, a sense of fulfillment watching them grow, frustration, exasperation, ...... you know the drill.

I look at Eden on a daily basis and think, "What would she be experiencing if she were still at the orphanage? Would this beaming little girl be so happy? Or would she feel a sense of longing that is innate in all of us to belong?" Eden continues to just unfold and blossom right in front of us. She has so much personality and it emerges more everyday.

Before we fully committed to adoption I had some crazy misconceptions or basically just made myself believe things that were not based on anything true. I hate to even write down one of the biggest ones for fear that I will be perceived as callous and unfeeling. It was just a defense mechanism for me so I would not have to engage in the plight of a majority of the world. goes.

I somehow convinced myself that parents of children in third world countries where almost numb to loss. All around them they watch parents giving their children to institutions because of poverty or illness. One day their neighbor may have 5 children and the next maybe only 3. I'm sure they don't ask where the other two children are - there is an understanding. Why is there an understanding? Because the pain runs way deeper than I can ever fathom. Just because it is a way of life and a part of survival doesn't mean that the loss is any easier. The truth is no matter where you are born or what your culture is like instinct kicks in. Now, I can only speak from a maternal perspective. But I know that every mother regardless of her situation loves her children more than herself. At least most of the time - I know there are exceptions. What I'm trying to say is this - when I finally allowed myself to imagine looking at my children and picking which ones I could keep and which ones I would have to give up I about came undone. Yes, this is the reality for a majority of the world and it is a means of survival. But my goodness!!! How incredibly shallow of me to think that it is somehow easier for women I have never met to relinquish a part of themselves into the hands of complete strangers. I'm sure you have heard the phrase, "Once you are a mother a piece of your heart will forever walk outside of your body." I cannot agree more. So, is this only true for wealthy westerners? Or does this hold true no matter origin, ethnicity and social status? Of course it is true!! We are all made in the image of God and we all carry the same emotions.

I have much more to say about different of my experiences and thoughts. I think I may take a few days to get this out there. Some things may sound full of judgement which I ask that you just give me grace. I am still sorting through my feelings but this is part of processing for me.

I will leave you with this. A blog address of a family who met the birth mother of their two sons and went through exactly what I described above. Please read it and allow yourself to grieve with her loss and rejoice at the same time. Read the March 31st post to meet the mother of their boys.

Also, when you are finished reading this take a minute and think of your children. And if your children are grown think back to when they were young. I look at Judah and Shane and I vividly remember seeing children their age with siblings Tristan's age strapped to their backs and walking the streets. Chances are they are orphans. Now it is the responsibility of the oldest to care for the younger sibling(s). This is a way of life for them. What really breaks my heart though is what happens when people around them find out they are alone. They are easy prey for anyone. And trust me - they become someones prey. I don't mean to be a sicko or play on your emotions. But sometimes at night when I go back into our kids rooms to re-tuck them in I imagine them alone and at the mercy of someone who does not have their best in mind. I was challenged by a woman who had been in Swaziland for a year to do this very thing - imagine your children alone, without any protectors and then the emotions your feel and the tears you begin to cry - cry for the millions of children who are in that position and cry out to God to be their defender. Sorry this post is a little heavier than most. My heart is just burdened today for the forgotten children of the world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Riley and other stuff

First of all I will give a little update on Riley. She continues to be hospitalized and they are waiting for the abscess to encapsulate before going in to do surgery. She is on strong doses of antibiotics so they are monitoring her platelet and white cell counts to watch the infection and also to make sure the antibiotics are not harming her liver. It would be wonderful if the antibiotics fought off the infection so she would not have to have more surgery. Also, they were planning on putting a picc line in this morning because her IV started leaking and her veins are collapsing. So....the picc line will go directly to her heart and they can continue to administer her antibiotics through her picc line after returning home. Yesterday a doctor told Steve the soonest they would be coming home was Friday. Who knew an appendix would land you in the hospital for almost two weeks? I talked to Riley yesterday and she sounded pretty chipper. Also, her digestive system starting moving a bit yesterday so that is really good news.

For a bit of the action around here..... Our next door neighbor is going to be 84 years old at the end of this month and she offered the use of her pool to us last summer. It really has been an amazing blessing! I put the kiddos to bed and take Judah and Shane swimming and just take the monitor out with us. Sometimes we only get an hour before someone is awake. Last night though Mark took them swimming after dinner. The water is 84 degrees which in my opinion is the best temperature for swimming. Tristan decided he wanted to get in on the action so ...... in he went. Clothes and all.
Here is Eden doing one of her favorite things - playing piano. She absolutely loves to pound on the piano. Of course I am hoping this is a sign of things to come. I know she really enjoys dancing. Music is just in her!!
Tristan and Eden sharing cheerios in the living room. Isn't she chunking up? She has gained a total of 4 pounds in the 2 1/2 months we have been home. And developing quite an attitude too. She has always been pretty vocal but she is becoming quite comfortable with adding kicking and screaming to her resume. Yikes!!!! But notice how tiny her feet are. They are so, so tiny. Not much bigger than all three boys feet were at birth. I am not quite sure how she is supposed to walk on those little things.
All her attitude has tuckered her out. I think there are few things sweeter than pictures of sleeping children. They look so cherubic. Is that a word? It must be since my spell check didn't highlight it. Now I am off to make lunch and get ready to take all the kids to Grandma Eveleth's. I am dropping off the youngest two and taking Judah and Shane to paint pottery and do some shopping. I need some time with the older two since "the babies" seem to have overtaken so much of my time. I think they would rather stay home and swim. Oh well.....

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Riley Rae

Yes, I am aware that you saw this picture in my last post. But Riley has been through quite an ordeal since then. Late Tuesday night she had emergency surgery for a perforated/ruptured appendix. Here we are on Sunday night and she is still not doing very well. She may be heading back into surgery tonight because her CAT scan today showed an abscess which needs to be cleaned out. Her intestines are not working very much at this point either. I don't believe she has really eaten anything since Tuesday. They need her digestive system to wake up and start working. I asked Steve and Sharon's permission to post this so people that know her (and those of you who don't) can be praying and interceding on her behalf. Please pray, pray, pray for this little girl. She celebrated her fifth birthday in the hospital on Thursday. Please be diligent in praying specifically for all infection to leave her body and for her body to begin functioning completely. Thanks and I'll keep you posted!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The cabin

So my family all converged on Joe Sharp's cabin for the weekend. The weather was absolutely perfect and we had a wonderful time. There is a two acre pond and of course that is where the kids spent most of their time. There is a really cute sandy beach area, docks to jump into the water, kayaks, a paddleboat, a rowboat and plenty of space to swim. Judah spent a great deal of time kayaking and did very well. His statement to me on Saturday was, "I am going to live here for 50 years." Oh...I wish we could buddy. Speaking of Saturday Judah, Shane and Tyler decided to get up somewhere around 5:45 am to get started on their day. Fortunately Uncle Lamar heard someone downstairs, thought someone was making breakfast, came down to check it out and got sucker punched into taking three little boys to the pond at 6:00 in the morning. We love Uncle Lamar!!!! I heard them running down the stairs but my body just couldn't respond by getting out of bed to see who was awake and what time it actually was. Before arriving I was a little nervous about the pond but all the kids did an amazing job of wearing life vests without hardly any reminders. Most of them can swim but we just wanted to be on the safe side. I have posted a bunch of pictures starting with my favorite of the weekend. Miss Cassie Jo - isn't she beautiful?
Mike jumping off the dock with Tyler and Levi.
My very own tender hearted Shane. He played with Cassie and Riley a bunch this weekend and was so cute! I just love this kid!
Riley striking a pose!
Judah doing his new favorite thing.
Shane and Cassie hanging out on the beach area.
Again, here is Riley looking cute!
Avery's sandy feet.
Chevy trying to figure out if he should jump in the water. He ended up in Mike's arms but not on his own.
Here is Ajmaani. Those eyes are so soulful.
Emily and Chase in a kayak.
The three little munchkins playing by the water wheel.
Eden watching me walk up from the pond toward the cabin. She saw me and started reaching through the railing. Very sweet.
Caitlyn with my boys.
Wyatt sitting on the stone wall over the beach just watching everyone.
Mike burying Cassie.
Steve and Lamar manning the grill.
Tristan laying on Eden so she can't move. He likes to do this a lot.
One of the best surprises of the weekend was seeing one of the little girls Eden spent her first few months with at Toukoul orphanage. There is a couple we met while in Ethiopia that live only 10-15 minutes from the cabin. I said numerous times I should have called them so we could get the girls together again. sister Beth went ahead and called them so I was surprised to see them pull in the driveway. She is such a sweet little girl and it was fun seeing her and Eden playing together. She looks so much the same but is so much more smiley and happy. We met a world away and it was fun hearing how their first two months have been.

Mark and Tristan on the swing.
Shane again.
Tyler coming out of the water.
Judah messing up Joe's fishing by maneuvering his kayak right alongside of the paddleboat.
Me and Tristan snuggling.
Chase running around in his perpetual diaper.
Aji and Tristan sitting next to each other snacking.
When we arrived home we decided to try and celebrate Eden's first birthday. She was not impressed at all by her cake. Maybe she was just too tired. I mean, who doesn't like icing?
Hard to believe she is one already. Now I have two children that are one at the same time. Kind of scary!!