Thursday, July 29, 2010

He finally shared about his birth family

Today was the first time that Tyson Fikadu opened up and mentioned his birth family. We have been waiting and listening and curious if and when he would say anything about them. So after 5 months and enjoying his first happy meal, today was the day.

Chuck had taken him along for the morning and as they were driving around the city, he noticed the signs all around town. This must have triggered a memory for him. He then started sharing stories of bringing old signs to someone for money (sounds like he got 10 burr) and then he would take the money and buy food to share with his family. He actually used the phrase "my family". I am so glad he is able to start to share about his life before the orphanage. All we have heard about Ethiopia was his time at Hannah's Hope (the transition home he lived in). I had started to wonder if he would end up blocking some memories, but he felt comfortable enough to share.

We have worked hard at allowing our family to be a safe place for the boys. Believing that when the level of trust was established, Tyson
Fikadu would open up and share some memories. Not only to give us a glimpse into his world, but also so we can record these for him so he can keep a connection to his life in Ethiopia.

We have learned a lot in the last few weeks of the extreme measures their family went to to provide food for the children. We have no idea what it must be like to feel the pains of hunger. Or as a mama, to not have enough food for her little ones. Needless to say, my heart is heavy tonight with processing these thoughts. I am feeling so unworthy of being the mama. What a precious
privilege that God has entrusted these precious boys to our care.

Dear Sweet Peas,

I am so thankful that God matched us together. He knew that we would be the best fit. I love how He works to bring different pieces of fabric together to make such a beautiful quilt. It is an honor to be your mom. I pray I raise you boys well. I pray that you come to know God early and always walk with Him.

Love, Mom

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's been 5 months...some CUTE pics...and how to make injera has officially been 5 months. And we are turning in our 6 month post placement report to our agency (that way it has time to make it to Ethiopia by the 6 month anniversary of our Embassy date). Our world is slowly becoming more and more normal. Now, our new normal is not the same as the old normal, but we are getting used to it. I like to share updates, not only for those following, but for my own records so I can see how far we have come.

Things that are
different around here:

  • Tyce has learned to ride a bike without his training wheels. Yep...this kids amazes me EVERY DAY. First time, first try he did it (and he is trying to pop wheelies too - he's 4).
  • We are looking at a little simple program for Tyce to be part of this fall. Like a preschool or a mom's morning out. Just a simple something that will allow me to continue home educating and gives him a little opportunity for friend time.
  • Tate is fully potty trained (almost at night too). He was by the time he turned 2 last month. And that kid LOVES his undies.
  • Chuck has moved back to his own bed and Tyce is sleeping on his own. I am just a few feet away, but a little space seems to be a good thing for now.
  • We are filling out and filing papers for our re-adoption process here in the states. (Just a formality that is required due to the visa that the boys came home on...they have legally been part of our family since Jan).
  • I have started a small (in our town) adoption support group for families and a mom's night out. It has been a blessing for me and hopefully for others.
  • Both boys continue to explode in their language. And to add to it...are both signing a lot too.
  • I switched the car seats around in our van. I need to have Tyce a little closer to mama bear so he keeps up with the good behavior.
  • Tate will now fall asleep on his little mat on the floor as I sit next to him. He doesn't require being held the whole time.
  • I have now learned to cut both boys' hair. I went with shorter hair for Tyce for the summer to keep him cool, but as soon as I cut it...I regretted it. I LOVED the twists. They will be making an appearance this fall.
  • There are times that Tate can resist the tantrum and snap out of his fit. Not all that often, but we have seen it a few times.
  • Sometimes, instead of a tantrum, Tate will sulk on the floor with his head down, until he gets over it. (I think that is HUGE progression).

Things that are the
same around here:

  • Tate still doesn't go to any class or nursery at church. He sits with us.
  • Tate still rides in the sling every day. He still loves to be held.
  • Both boys still visit the time out spot often. I sit a few feet away until they are ready to talk and do what's right.
  • I still hold and snuggle both boys each night for tuck ins. If I am out for the evening, I go after I put them down.
  • Tate and I are still co-sleeping in the same room. Baby steps to transition.
  • Both boys still don't like to be "parented". To go from "free range" to a structured family is still hard for them.
  • Both boys also don't enjoy when they don't get their way. Um...just like any child.
  • Chuck and I have not left them yet (accept after they were asleep for the night) with anyone else. Grammy and Papa have come to play with them at our home (while I was teaching a class upstairs) but we have continued to be the sole care takers for them.

OK, so that is a little bit of our update. Things continue to go well. Each day has challenges. But each day is still filled with many blessings. The girls are continuing to adjust well and fit into their new roles as big sister's to brothers. The boys clearly see us as their family and continue to stay close to us and not look for attention from others. God's blessings and grace has been evident in our family.

So...on to some pics. I had to gather all of my photos to turn in for our report. It is soooooo hard to get a picture of Tate looking at the camera, let alone, one of him smiling. But, here are a few recent pics. These boys are growing up right before my eyes. are adorable.

And now for how to make injera. My very dear friend of many years brought home 3 Ethiopian kids last year and she has perfected how to make injera. Check out her blog HERE. And please pray for their daughter who is fighting a parasite infection that has her hospitalized. And speaking of prayer, I am praying for a few friends who leave this week to head on over to Africa and am praying for another family that had to put their trip on hold due to an Embassy orphan investigation. Praying lots and lots for these families each day.

Dear Sweet Peas,

I thank God each and every day that He allowed me to be the mama to raise you and teach you about Him. You have brought our family joy and blessings each and every day.

Love, Mom

Thursday, July 15, 2010

invisible baggage

As much as I want to be positive about our experience, I don't ever want to paint an unrealistic picture of what adoption really is. And so, because of my desire to keep it real (HERE is another great post on keeping it real) and help another who may be struggling with the lows of adoption...I share.

The reality is, most international older (other than infant) children who are adopted do not come into your family alone. With them, they bring their invisible baggage. You may not see it very often, but it is there. The difficult circumstances that they have been through that, at times they don't know how to handle the pain. And due to the limited information that you may have on your child's history, you may not even know what they cart around in those bags.









As great as the strides you make each day to help your children heal from the difficult place they come can't fix it for them. You can't make it go away. You can't go back and change history. You have no control of what they have gone through. And to be honest, they have gone through a lot. (Read a good possible situation HERE to understand what might have taken place in their life).

Our social worker reminded me that it is important to accept that I can't change it and fix it. Acknowledging it will help me focus my energy on being supportive when our boys are struggling. And struggle, they do. There are times it feels like we take 2 steps forward and then one step back. We are not where we were 5 months ago, but we are not where we long to be.

I pray every day that GOD will heal the hurt and pain and brokenness. see the brokenness first hand is hard. Grieving is normal for these kids. And they grieve in many different ways. Crying, sleeping, refusing to sleep, acting out, disobeying, rejecting, being difficult...all normal ways for these little ones to act. And one of my new phrases I've come up with is, "just because it's normal, doesn't mean it's easy". Everything we have experienced so far is NORMAL.

These little ones don't have the coping skills to process what they are feeling. And there are times that something triggers something from their previous life and then we have a few days of set back. A few days of grieving, rejecting, showing us their brokenness.

We had one of those days yesterday. Chuck had gone for his morning walk with Tyce (our 4yo) and he was all smiles and happy. Then they walked into the kitchen and I greeted him. The moment he saw me, his face fell. He wouldn't make eye contact with me. He was angry and defiant, he rejected me all day and was just out of sorts. The only thing I could get him to communicate was that he had a dream about Ethiopia and it made him sad. It clearly triggered some difficult feelings toward me, the mama (which is NORMAL to have rejection toward the mom only). And when he saw me that morning, he was reminded of it. I don't know if it was something about his birth family, or being left at the orphanage, or who knows what. But those feelings are real and he is a broken little 4 year old that is trying to process the pain the best he can.

And in those moments, I stay close to him. Hold him, pray with him, say loving things to him and try to reassure him that I will always be here for him and love him. And when we have days like that...I pray. I pray that God will heal their pain and hurt. That the Holy Spirit will do a miracle in their lives that will transform them to children that can understand love and God's grace.

So, today, we get up and the very visible baggage that was being carted around our home yesterday is back in the closet. It isn't gone, for the pain and brokenness is deep. It will be back and we will be reminded that they have experienced significant hurt in their little lives and we will take another step back. It will be an obvious reminder that they need the flow of the Spirit in their lives. The healing touch of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gather together

Had a great time with some local families who are in the adoption world. I've shared before how important it is to find a group of other families that can understand your situation. Adoptive families not only share your passion and heart beat for orphans, they can relate. Relate to the difficult times of waiting, adjusting, parenting new additions...they can understand and be the support that you need.We have only gotten together a few times here in town but we already have about 15-20 families that are part of our group. Some of these families are just investigating adoption to see if it is right for them.

I loved to walk past groups of people and here bits and pieces of how they came to have a heart for adoption. Makes me smile.

We actually started to get rained out on this afternoon. It hasn't rained in weeks here and of course, the one day we have an outdoor party planned, it opens up and pours.

I think everyone was glad to have the sun come back out and shine down so the kids could play in the water.

Chuck was such a good man to stand and work the grill the whole time. When you are making 75 hot dogs, it takes awhile.

I loved watching these 3 boys play. Tyce has been longing for friends and this was so special for him to have fun with some new buddies.

Tate seemed happy enough as long as he had food with ketchup. He is doing better with larger crowds of people and seems to be able to handle short doses of stimulation.

We are also part of an African Fellowship in our larger city and have really enjoyed the fellowship there. This group here in our little town is not country specific, we have Ethiopian, South Korea, Nepal, domestic...all are welcome. Red and yellow, black and white...all precious in His sight.

I snapped these from the deck up high. Love that it shows we can host about 60 people and it doesn't feel too crowded. Guess that big yard is worth it. =)

Now...I'm just not sure where we will host all these families when the weather turns cool and we need to be indoors. But for now...I'm so glad we were able to gather together.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

answers to some common questions

So...I have gathered some questions and have spent a few days pondering some answers and wanted to post them here. Some of these questions I have gotten in person when I am talking with someone and thought I would throw those in here too.

First off...the most common question.

Are they biological brothers?

Well, that isn't how it is always worded (please don't use the phrase "real brothers"), but I think "biological" is the best way to state it. And yes, our boys are biological brothers.

What books would you recommend reading?

I have enjoyed a few that I would recommend. When we were
thinking about adoption I read these.

Adopted for Life

Strength of Mercy

I've heard others enjoying some of these books.

There's No Me Without You

RED Letters

The Hole in our Gospel

For books about attaching and bonding:

The Connected Child

Attaching in Adoption

Adopting the Hurt Child

Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family

How did your older children handle it? Were there concerns about having them give up too much?

Were your girls on board from day one, or was there reservation/jealousy/fear about how their life would be "shared" with two more siblings.

Well, we prepared the girls as best as we could. We have often talked about living a life that is full of sacrifice and they understood that was part of the package. They were on board from the get go, and I think it has been good for them to step into this new role. To be honest, most of Americans encourage our kids to think of themselves and don't challenge them to live more sacrificially. This isn't a whole lot different than when a mama gives birth to a new baby. The roles change. There is adjusting time and to be honest, we are all better for it.

Now that you have had your boys for 5 months (seems to have gone by so fast!!), what has the adjustment been like for your girls?

The transition has been normal. Some days are hard, most are pretty easy with maybe some difficult moments. At first, the girls did grieve the loss of having me to themselves, the loss of just the 4 of us, the loss of what was familiar. But we worked through it. We allowed them to share their feelings and we listened to them. Helped them process them and encouraged them to think of good things. It can become a danger of dwelling on the hard things. But we are dedicated to focus on the positive things.

What is it like to "start over" with a baby and toddler while having older, self-sufficient girls too.

Starting over...well...I'm older than I was 10 years ago, but not too rusty. I am back to little ones who are needy. They demand my attention ALL day long, and if you aren't willing to sacrifice your time and energy...than it could be a rude awakening. I have found, I do enjoy this role and I am grateful that God has given me another go around. The girls are a big help and it seems to be preparing them for caring for little ones. It is a beautiful thing to be part of.

How did/are you handling the language barrier with having an older child? Any tips on what works best to communicate with your children? I was wondering about how the process of learning English is going for your boys? How are you teaching them? Is it difficult to communicate?? Did they learn any English in Africa?

The language question is the
second most common question I get. To be honest, I didn't give it much thought. If I could communicate about the basics (bathroom, mommy, hurt...) the rest would come. I knew how to say "shint" (potty) and "caca" (poopy) and "enat" (mama). We were able to communicate anything concrete ideas right away. Lots of acting things out, pointing and pictures. Abstract ideas were harder to communicate.

We have used a lot of signing and this has continued to help. In fact we are learning together how to sign many different things. We like this video series that we borrowed from the library (check to see what your library has, and if they don't...request it). We even watch them together. You can see some pics of Tate signing before he was able to say the words HERE.

Now that both boys have picked up the English language VERY well, we still sign. There are times that when they boys "shut down" emotionally (don't get their way or are being disciplined). When that happens, we use signing to talk things out. That has helped a great deal. It seems to be less intimidating for Tyce to sign to me rather than use words to express his feelings (signing is for more than just has been one of the best tools for us).

They didn't really know ANY English when they came home. Maybe 2 words or so. And I've heard that with in 3 months they lose their original language. Our boys have been exposed to 3 languages by now. Their native tongue, then the national language Amharic, and now English. They are truly sponges to learn this much. I do desire to have them learn some conversational Amharic so they can communicate with other Ethiopians (one project at a time).

Would you do it again?

I was recently asked this and my answer would be YES !!!!!!!!!!! I would do it again. Not only again to bring my two sweet peas home, but I would consider doing it again another time. I can see why people go back and adopt again and again.

Did you know for a long time that you would plan to adopt? Was it something you saw for your family for many years or a more sudden "call" to adopt?

I would say, I have always had a heart for adoption. For a very long time. In fact, when Chuck and I were first married (like 18 years ago) we went on a missions trip to Honduras and on that trip we had the chance to visit an orphanage. I will NEVER get that image out of my head, those children all crying and rows of babies needing food. I believe that God used that to move in my heart a passion for orphans.

We actually had considered adoption for many years before we had bio kids and never felt that the time was right. I think God had some work to do in us before He brought us to this place. And for the last 4 plus years we have been discussing adoption more seriously. Something that was significant for me was studying the book of Ephesians about 3 years ago. Understanding more and more about God's heart for adoption. I think we thought there would be a "right time" and we were waiting for things to be more settled. We had saved up our adoption "nest egg" and due to our moving we lost it all. Like I said, there is no perfect time. But last summer I couldn't shake the sense of urgency. We stepped out in complete faith, feeling that it was time we followed in obedience and respond to the call on our family to adopt. And God, in His great mercy, blessed every step of the way.

What has helped your family adjust to the new boys? How is the attaching and bonding going?

I think it was crucial for us to cocoon (stay home and limit interaction with others) for 3 months. It has really helped the boys identify what family is and helped them connect with us and us with them.

Co-sleeping has also been key. It has provided the foundation that the boys need to understand that we will always be here for them. They both have the abandonment issue and that is normal for their situation. We are working really hard at making them feel very secure in our family.

Routine is the next big thing that has helped our transition. We live a pretty simple life and having an expected routine for the boys helps them cope with the ups and downs they feel during each day. There just aren't a lot of surprises around her and that helps them feel safe and secure.

That's about it for this round of questions. Feel free to shoot me a question if you have more or if I missed yours. I have prayed from day ONE that our story would be a positive example of adoption. Still praying that God uses our family to grow yours.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Send me your questions

I often get emails asking questions about our adoption. I figured it would be helpful to post a little Q AND A here on the blog. So, send me questions you may have been thinking. From how did we decided to adopt to picking an agency or a country. Maybe you have questions about older children for adoption or siblings. Wonder if we would do it again? Or maybe what the biggest challenge is? Ask away...I will make a post in the next few days.

If you'd like your question to be anonymous...just let me know and I won't post your name. All comments come to my email before I post anything.


Thursday, July 1, 2010


Just wanted to share a little update on how we finally got rid of the giardia. If you are unfamiliar with to anyone who has done third world country and you will realize it is just part of the package. One of the reasons you don't drink the water (lovely little parasites that you can pick up from the water). But of course, we figured it would be just one of the medical issues we would deal with (remember our list???).

Well, four months and four rounds of antibiotic treatments and LOTS of natural remedies...and BYE BYE GIARDIA. We started with Alinia (3 day treatment - did NOTHING), moved to one round of Metronidazole (10 day treatment - worked a little but the big D was back as soon as the treatment was done), then moved to Tinidazole (has to be special ordered and only found at our local children's hospital - worked a little but again...signs that it wasn't gone for good). THEN...I started doing some research on what else we could do.

Marched myself into the health food store and picked up some really good probiotics and Grapefruit Seed Extract (pictured on the right). GSE - 2 drops per 10 pounds of their weight, 3 times a day (we put it in a medicine spoon of orange juice). And we did that for about 2 and a half months before we saw good results. Consistency with the probiotics (which helps build up their gut - which after ALL those antibiotics was pretty bad) makes a big difference. I wanted to show the picture of the yellow box of probiotics. Got them at Target, chewable for kids...not great probiotics, but better than none. We also used Danactive yogurt drink and stayed off of sugar (which just makes it worse). And good vitamins help too. Trying to get these boys healthy.

Then we did one more round of Metronidazole and that seemed to finally take care of it. Giardia can be persistent. It can take months to take care of. It can get frustrating when you little one has horrible diarrhea every day. Lots of adopted kids struggle with it and it helps to talk to other adoptive moms that have been there before. Most docs aren't used to it and aren't sure why the antibiotics don't work. I found the natural route to be a big help for us.

And now...I can take them to the pool and not fear we will contaminate the whole neighborhood.