Friday, October 30, 2009

Veddy veddy sho much!

Yikealo's command of English grows stronger every day. He uses very little Amharic any more, which makes me very sad, and yet it's fun to hear him pick up more of our language too. There are a few things that he says that just make us laugh though - like the way that he pronounces "sleeper" ("a-city-peu") - and the way that he turns his verbs and nouns around (like when he tells me that he needs to "potty go!") My personal favorite "Yikealo-ism" is when he squeezes me tightly around the neck, kisses my cheek and says in a fervent voice, "Veddy, veddy sho much!" That's his way of repeating what he's heard us say: "I love you so very, very much." I somehow think that we might still be saying "veddy veddy sho much" twenty years from now - just one of those embarrassing family sayings that bring you strange looks from anyone else!

I went back to work this week - just two days a week - and I'm amazed at how smoothly it went. I've been dreading even the thought of work for months, and I've said repeatedly that if it weren't for the fact that I work for the family business, I wouldn't have even considered it. I'm the buyer/showroom designer for the Maibach family's furniture store, and I actually had a lot of fun hanging pictures and moving furniture around again. Yikealo had a lot of fun at his Aunt Susan's house, hanging out with his cousins and playing in the leaves. We'll see how it goes over the next few weeks, but so far, it's been much better than expected. He still uses the Amharic word for work - "sarra" - and he informed me the other day that Ababa went to sarra, Mama went to a different sarra, and Yikealo went to sarra at Susan's house. Hmmmm....I somehow doubt that Susan would agree with that assessment of his time at her house!

Now for a few pictures for everybody: I finally got a new camera this week to replace my old one which has been having some issues ever since we went to Ethiopia - it just got grabbed out of my hands and smashed around a few too many times by all of the little darlings at HH! Anyway, so far I've been loving the new one, although Yikealo is highly uncooperative when it comes to me taking his picture. If I ask him to smile, I generally get something like this:

Attractive, isn't it? Of course, I usually get a similar reaction from his father, so I shouldn't be surprised by this type of behavior. I have managed to get a couple of cute ones though, so here they are!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Let's talk about the money...

Money - it's one of the most private areas of our lives, isn't it? It's something that we just don't share with anyone else, and yet it should be one of those areas in which, as Christians, we look for some help with accountability from fellow believers. God's word references money more than 2300 times, and our relationship with Him can definitely be affected by how we use the material blessings that He gives us. So often, our tendency to think of those material blessings as "ours" causes all sorts of problems, because of course, they are not ours. They are His - lent to us to be used in His service. Our adoption journey has taught us so much about God and His money, and I feel compelled to share some of it. Yes, this story will include some personal details about us, but this story isn't really about us at all. It's about God and His amazing power and grace.

In the Spring of 2008, we joined a Crown Financial small group Bible study at church and became increasingly convicted over the next several months that our finances needed to be turned over to God. We were not in much debt, and we had always tithed, but we were certainly spending a lot of money on very unnecessary things, and in our pride we justified ourselves by saying things like, "Yeah, but look how small our house is. At least we're not spending tons of money trying to build a huge house when there are so many people with nothing," - a great example of why the Lord tells us not to compare ourselves to others. What exactly do we have to be proud about? The Word teaches that we are NOTHING of ourselves. As we moved deeper and deeper into the Bible study, we began to ask ourselves some tough questions. How could we continue to say that we were in the service of God when we were giving so little of our abundance to Him? How could we continue to spend so much on ourselves when there were so many starving, needy people in the world? We were convicted, but made very few changes to our lifestyle. Years of living as a double-income-no-kids couple and pretty much buying anything we wanted when we wanted it had definitely impacted the way that we thought about "our" money. At some point during the Bible study, we were directed to begin asking the Lord to put a poor person in our life that we could help, and so we began to pray that prayer, never guessing where God was going to lead us!

God is not limited for resources in any way, and if He has led you to do something in His name, He will provide a way for it to happen - sometimes in spite of the roadblocks that you put up. (As he often does, Satan even tried to use our source of pride - our "small" house against us as God began to lead us toward adoption: "Lord, our house is way too small to add another person to it - how could we possibly adopt?" Well, let me tell you, God dealt with THAT idea pretty effectively by showing us the living conditions of most of the rest of the world during our trip to Ethiopia!) Anyway, when He finally got through to us that we were to adopt, we had about $5000 saved for a trip to Hawaii, and we felt that He was asking us to put that money toward a completely different kind of journey. :-) I remember thinking before we really looked into it, "I know that adoption can be expensive - this could probably cost us over $10,000!" Imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach as I began to research and learned that adoption generally costs anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000. "Ummm, Lord, how are we going to get THAT kind of money?" At the beginning of last October, we re-budgeted to live off of only David's income, so that we could put my income toward adoption expenses. According to our thoughts, our adoption would probably take at least a year - maybe even 18 months, and if we carefully saved my income, the money would be there.

At one point, shortly afterward, I had a little internal wrestling match with God over what I still thought of as "my" money. “Why in the world would You want us to spend this much money to help just one person when that same amount would help hundreds if we gave it to be used for a food project? It just doesn’t make any sense, and we are probably so wrong about what we’ve thought You've been saying.” I was preparing for a Crown Bible study at the time and happened to look down at my workbook where I saw the words of Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” I was definitely pricked by that, but continued on with the lesson. The next question was about Deuteronomy 10:14, which says: “Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that is therein.” “Okay,” I thought to myself, “I guess that the orphaned children of this world belong to God, and if He wants me to have one, then that’s His choice, but it sure doesn’t make sense to me.” I think that God knew He needed to deal with my belligerent attitude once and for all, because even though the lesson only called for that one verse to be read, I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to continue the passage. “Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. Circumcise therefore your heart and be no more stiffnecked! For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He doth execute justice for the orphan and the widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.” By this point in the passage I was reduced to tears as I was confronted by my weak, doubting heart. I praise God that He knows exactly when I need His chastening - how dare I try to argue with Him about what I KNEW that He was telling me to do? I then finished the chapter: “Love ye therefore the stranger, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to Him shalt thou cleave, and swear by His name. He is thy praise, and He is Thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.” God can make His will perfectly clear!

Well, to make a very long story a bit shorter, we signed our contract with AGCI on December 6th, and in January, my job went to part-time, effectively cutting my income in half. In February, David began to have some serious health issues, and over the next month and a half, ended up in the hospital for about 15 days, eventually having his colon removed, and causing us to have to pay out all of our medical deductibles. During that same time, we received our referral for Yikealo - MUCH earlier than we had originally planned! We ended up traveling in June to bring home our new son - only 7 months to the day from the day that our application was accepted by AGCI. Here's the amazing part - the money was there for everything! Our God can multiply a few loaves and fishes to feed 5000, and He took our $5000 and multiplied it in a very short time to somewhere around $30,000 (between medical and adoption expenses.) We did not have to take out any loans, and we are completely paid up on all of the adoption expenses AND the hospital bills. We were blessed by some very generous donations from family and friends without us ever even asking for them, and I really believe that the whole experience was God's way of showing us clearly that HE DOESN'T NEED US to accomplish His will. He knocked so much of our safety net completely out of the way, and showed us once again that His ways are not our ways.

Has God asked you to do something for Him? Something that you're looking at and saying, "Oh, I couldn't do THAT - I'm not big enough or strong enough or rich enough..."? Well, you're right - YOU can't do it, but GOD can! God doesn't need you anyway, but He WANTS you. He WILL provide when you step out in faith to do what He asks, and you will be abundantly, miraculously blessed. It's not always easy, and you may learn some unpleasant truths about yourself in the process, but it's so worth it. He is more than able to help you through whatever it is that He asks of you, and He will teach you more about His mercy and grace in the process. Just give it up to Him every single day - He's completely capable of handling the details. The best part is that He doesn't wait until we're perfect or until we get everything together before He chooses to use us - if He waited for that, He'd never find a use for us. We all make lots of mistakes along the way and most of us have to learn the same lessons over and over and over again - but He NEVER gives up on us, and He NEVER stops trying to conform us more closely to the image of His Son. May His name be praised!

Early on in our adoption journey, David was convicted by the words of a song that Christian singer Michael Card wrote to his young son. I like to think that it's also a song of God's love to us and the joy that He takes in watching us experience the blessing that He gives:

"Reject the worldly lie that says
that life lies always up ahead.
Let power go before control
becomes a crust around your soul.
Escape the hunger to possess
and soul-diminishing success.
This world is full of narrow lives -
I pray, by grace, your smile survives.

For I would wander weary miles,
Would welcome ridicule, my child,
To simply see the sunrise of your smile,
To see the light behind your eyes,
the happy thought that makes you fly.
Yes, I would wander weary miles
To simply see the sunrise of your smile.

He DID wander weary miles to be with us. He DID welcome ridicule in order to become our salvation. How could we ever think that the God who gave up everything to rescue us would not be able to handle a little thing like our personal finances?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our little tree-hugger

Somebody is LOVING the fall leaves around here. He delights in stomping through the crunchy piles of leaves on the street, exclaiming "Konjo (beautiful) tree!" and trying to find all of the "big ones." It's fun to watch my little guy enjoying my favorite season and getting so much pleasure out of God's glorious creation.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hokie Pokie

A brief review of my medical chart prior to this week shows:

God put my colon in
Doc took my colon out
God put my intestines in
then Doc moved them all about
Doc did the Hokie Pokie
and he turned my insides out
That's what this post's about

Sorry for that :) ... I'll need to post quick before my editor reads this, else the above literary masterpiece will likely never see the world wide web. Some bloggers are just way too serious about their little domain.

To continue the saga so eloquently begun above: on Monday Doc finally put my intestines back where they belong -- on my inside. In the backdrop of my two prior surgeries, this was truly a non-event. I know that every surgery has its own dangers and potential for complications, but the loop ileostomy reversal is peanuts in comparison to the hemi-colectomy and colectomy that were performed during my previous trips to the Cleveland Clinic OR.

From start to finish, everything went smoothly. Due to my Ankylosing Spondylitis I cannot move my neck. At all. To an Anesthesiologist this means trouble. Typical procedure for the Anesthesiologist is to put the patient under and then immediately secure the breathing passage. This second step is done by jiggling the sleeping patient's head and neck as the doc slides a tube down their throat. However, as my neck does not jiggle and as breathing is good, I get to experience the whole "doc slides a tube down their throat" part while conscious. Fun.

During my prior two surgeries, I was prepared for the abuse described above by getting high -- the Anesthesiologist called it "a cocktail" but I don't remember drinking anything -- and then having a numbing agent sprayed down my throat.... which had the overall effect (or is it affect... stupid language... I think there is a gene that determines whether or not you'll ever be able to know when to use effect/affect) of starting your gagging about 15 seconds early. On Monday I was presented with a little tube that had steam pouring out the end. Apparently they can now get the zylocane suspended in a mist as opposed to just gagging you with it. The numbing steam is vastly preferable, and between it and my cocktail I don't even remember being intubated. Nice.

When I started to come to in the PACU (that's the new, official sounding word for the Recovery Room), my first thought was about the horrible taste in my mouth. While this was undeniably a side-whatever of the numbing steam, it soon dawned on me (over the course of half an hour probably... 'soon' is relative post anesthesia) that if my primary concern is the taste in my mouth, then my abdomen must not hurt very much at all. Honestly, there were times when the skin around my stoma was so irritated that it hurt worse than anything I've felt since my surgery. Very nice.

So I get back up to my room and start a race with the H50 floor as to whether or not I can get discharged the following day: I'm trying for yes and they're... well... I'm not really sure what they're doing. Oh, by the way, that was another thing that went really smooth this time: I got up to the colorectal ward almost immediately. After my first surgery it took over six hours to find a room for me and after the second surgery I never did make it to the proper ward the day of surgery but was shipped to a general medicine ward post-op. On Monday it took about an hour to find a room and another to get me there. This time, I was in the right bed before 12:30 (given a 9:45 surgery).

So anyway, I'm able to move myself from the transport bed to my permanent bed and after about an hour I'm ready to get up and walk. History teaches that the only way they let you off the colorectal ward is to move your bowels (not sure what this is called in my case... bowel -- singular -- or something else because I think bowel refers to the colon... we'll call it an X movement... XM :) and the only thing I can do to encourage an XM is to eat and walk.

I buzzed my nurse at about 2:30 asking for some assistance getting out of bed. She was surprised and hesitant. However, my general good health and persistence (nobody can wait out a conversation like someone on an analgesic pump!) finally convinced her to unhook me from the stuff on my bed, tie up my gown, and do a couple laps with me. If you ever have to go through this, get out of bed as soon as possible; it hurts bad the first lap but makes a huge difference overall. I promise you'll feel better by lap two.

Next started a silly game between myself and the doctors: making XM out of a clear liquid diet. The repeated conversations went something like this:

Doc: you need to have an XM before you can leave
Me: I need to eat something more than liquid to have an XM
Doc: you need to have an XM before we can give you something more substantial

Really!? who are they kidding!? you can't XM water! Anyway, three meals of clear liquids and a bunch of Popsicles later and, you guessed it: no XM. Finally, I got my lunch on Tuesday switched to include milk and ice-cream. In unrelated news, I had an XM two hours later.

During the whole diet fight I had been walking a lot and am convinced this helped get things moving. So at 1:30 on Tuesday, after my XM, the head-honcho doc said I could go home. Sadly, the head-honcho doc did not write the orders, and it wasn't until 7:00 that some timid fellow (read "not very close to the head-honcho doc and used to taking orders, not making decisions") was pressured into signing for my release while chanting "Nobody has ever been released this soon" over and over.

So YAY, I made it home Tuesday night. This was really good because Yikealo was pretty unsettled by the experience. His mother relinquished him due to "big hand ouchies" (leprosy), and I'm pretty sure my stay in the hospital was ringing all kind of "big ouchie" alarms in his precious little head. In fact it wasn't until today, Saturday, that Yikealo finally had a normal day and was back to his typical, dolly self. I hate to think what another night in the hospital would have cost him.

Thank you again for all your prayers and support. There is no doubt in my mind the the good news relayed above is God's answer to all your supplication on our behalf.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Things we've learned this week

This week's been a bit tough on several levels, although we certainly have a lot for which to be thankful too. David's reversal surgery and recovery could not have gone more smoothly thus far. As close as I can tell, the actual procedure lasted less than 20 minutes, and he was situated in his hospital room having a delicious lunch of clear liquids within three hours. The nursing staff was wonderful for once, and everyone on the colorectal ward seemed shocked that David was able to go home after only one night in the hospital. They teased him about setting a record and said that they'd have to put his name on a plaque somewhere. He's been feeling great since, and has said that his pain level really isn't even as bad as the skin irritation was at times around the stoma. Praise God! Besides, I will NOT miss my job of stoma care-taker/pouch changer!

So, for some of the things we've learned:

1) Three months of Yikealo waking up to snuggles with at least one of us (and usually both of us) can be completely undone by one morning of waking up to both of us being gone to the hospital already. It doesn't matter how many times we talked about it beforehand and told him that Grandma would be there the next morning when he woke up. It doesn't matter that we talked to him on the phone within minutes of him waking up and told him that we would see him later that day. It doesn't matter that he acted fine with everyone else that day. He's made sure since to tell us repeatedly that it was very scary, and he's made it pretty clear that he's not exactly trusting us again yet.

2) Seeing his precious Ababa hooked up to all kinds of IVs in the hospital was pretty scary too, although it was great fun to "help" him push his IV pole while he did his laps around the colorectal ward. This caused Ababa to walk a bit faster than normal to keep up - all the better to get him out of the hospital sooner - and it also caused everyone on the floor to stop and smile and go on and on about how cute Yikealo is.

3) Incessant baby-talking as a means of attention getting will drive your parents absolutely crazy. Loud, manic, I'm-trying-way-too-hard-to-be-funny-in-hopes-that-you'll-think-I'm-cute laughter does the same thing.

4) Rules like the fact that Ababa can't lift more than 10 lbs. for the next 4-6 weeks are pretty hard to take. Picking up Yikealo's 33 pounds is a definite no-no, and a certain little boy is NOT happy about it. Asking every five minutes, "Ababa's ouchie all better?" doesn't actually help Ababa heal faster, although I'm not sure that we've actually LEARNED this lesson yet.

5) LOTS of extra hugs, kisses and "I love you's" have helped a little bit, but he's been very clingy or very distant by fits and starts all week - which has been kind of tough on Mom, since he's been doing so well for so long.

6) Temper tantrums can be thrown about almost anything - even the fact that Ababa was eating instant oatmeal out of the new box that Yikealo had decided was HIS, even though Mom had actually bought it for Ababa.

7) Losing sight of Mama while he was climbing around inside the children's play area at Chick-fil-A caused a nearly hysterical melt-down. The fact that he could clearly see Ababa through one of the little look-out windows didn't help AT ALL.

8) It IS possible to for an adult woman to wedge herself inside the plastic labyrinth of said children's play area (even while wearing a straight skirt and high-heeled boots) to rescue the afore-mentioned sobbing child. It is NOT, however, comfortable, and may, in fact cause Mom to become a bit cranky.

9) Everything can be made a little bit better by getting "away from it all" - especially if the hotel that you visit has a very nice, deserted, warm indoor swimming pool and Mom lets you swim with her for a couple of hours, and you have Mama and Ababa's undivided attention for awhile. It's also pretty exciting to see some "BIG woha" (Lake Erie) and to walk along the shore, even if it is colder than anything that you ever experienced in Ethiopia.

10) It's still great fun to imitate EVERYTHING that Ababa does. Since Ababa has an ouchie on his belly, Yikealo has to pretend to have one too. If Ababa is shaving with an electric razor, Yikealo has to do the same. If Ababa is wearing a belt, or gloves, or a scarf, or shoes, or a button-down shirt, Yikealo MUST be wearing the same item of clothing. If Ababa dumps his french fries out of the container onto the sandwich wrapper, Yikealo needs to do the same. Okay, I have to admit that it's pretty cute to watch him idolize David!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Safely home

And now for our shortest blog ever: I am safely home from the hospital one day earlier than anticipated. My surgery went very well. We'll likely post more later, but for now I'd like to thank everyone for your prayers and support through this time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

An update and a prayer request

Things are still going remarkably well for all of us - hence the lack of posting lately. Who really wants to read about how many times we've read "Go Dog, Go!" this morning or how long we spent kicking the ball back and forth in the street? Yikealo is just almost always a happy if somewhat goofy little boy. Last weekend, we bought a remote control truck for $1 at our next door neighbor's garage sale, and Yikealo has spent untold hours running it up, down and around our driveway. I'm not exactly sure though, who's enjoying it more: Yikealo or David! In the middle of all of the good stuff, Yikealo does seem to be trying to come to terms with people from his past. During the last two weeks he has started asking fairly frequently if we can go to Mihiret's house. When I've said that we can't, he wants to know if we can visit Genet instead. When that request is also met with a no, he asks if he can talk to them on the phone. When I tell him that I'm sorry, but we don't have their numbers, he wants me to re-tell his adoption story. Right now, it goes something like this:

Me: "Yikealo, remember how Mihiret had ouchie hands?"
Y: "Yes."
Me: "Well, she couldn't take care of you anymore, so she took you to Hannah's Hope - to Genet and Alem and Almaz. Do you remember them?"
Y: "Yes."
Me: "Then the people from Hannah's Hope called Amama and Ababa and said, 'We have a little boy for you.' So Mama and Ababa got on the airplane and went to Ethiopia and we got you and brought you to America. Now you're our little boy and you live here at Yikealo's house."
Y: "Yeah! Amama gotchoo! (He means 'got me') And then, Yikealo airplane and then Gwen 'Hi!' (Gwen met us at the airport in Cleveland) and then Yikealo's house! Yeah!"

Once I've taken the time to explain things again, he seems fine with everything, although I'm sure that he doesn't really understand that we can't just hop on a plane to go see all of them again.

He's also been obsessed with wondering if we think he's bad lately. If we show the SLIGHTEST bit of displeasure, he wants to know if he's bad. The conversation usually sounds similar to this:

Y: "Mom, more candy please."
Me: "No. Absolutely not. You've had enough candy."
Y: "Yikealo bad?"
Me: "No, you're a good boy, but I'm still not giving you more candy."

Or this:

Me: (in a somewhat annoyed tone) "Yikealo, PLEASE eat your lunch! You've been chewing that same bite for 15 minutes!"
Y: "Yikealo bad?"
Me: "No, you're not bad, you're just very slow."
Y: "Yikealo bad - Amama bite choo?" (It took me awhile to figure this one out, until he mimicked someone biting his arm.)
Me: (very emphatically) "No I'm not going to bite you! Why in the world would you think that? I've never bitten you! That would hurt, and I don't want to hurt you. I love you very much, sweetie!"
Y: (big smile) "Okay! Thank you! I love you too!"

Honestly, where did the whole biting thing come from? I can't imagine that anyone in his past has bitten him as a form of punishment. We've warned him not to be mean to Frankie (the cat) or she could bite him - is that what he's thinking of?

Unfortunately, right in the middle of this whole "we're your parents and we're not going to leave you" stuff, David's going to be spending a minimum of two nights in the hospital next week following his surgery. So, to those who are still patiently following this blog, we're asking for prayers: specifically that David's surgery will go smoothly and that Yikealo will not be too traumatized by the fact that his Ababa is not here for a couple of days. We've been talking about it - that Ababa is going to go to the hospital so the doctors can fix his ouchie, and Yikealo is looking forward to spending some quality time with his Aunt Suz on Monday and his Aunt Tigg (Karen) on Tuesday, but we'd really appreciate the prayer cover too!