Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Playing Zoom"

One of Yikealo's very favorite pastimes in his new country is "playing ZOOM" - his term for sliding down the hill of our front lawn on his snowboard. I think the name originated from Aunt Susan trying to explain the concept of a sled to him while there was no snow on the ground.

Suz: "Once we get lots of snow this winter, your Mama will have to bring you over to play outside with Cole and Quinn. They can take you for a ride on the sled!"

Y: "Menden sled?"

Suz: "You sit on it, and it goes ZOOM down the hill."

Hence the name. We spent some of his Christmas money from grandparents on a snowsuit and a snowboard, and he and David have spent several Saturday and Sunday afternoons "playing ZOOM!"

He loves to make snow angels too, and I can't even begin to guess how many handfuls of snow he has crammed into his mouth.

After playing outside in the freezing weather, he always wants hot chocolate. The little boy who didn't like sweets and couldn't stand chocolate has completely disappeared.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Growing and Grieving

We had a few changes last weekend. First, we discovered that Yikealo had hit a major growth spurt when we measured him on Saturday morning and learned that he had grown over an inch since the middle of December! He's gained just over 2 inches since we brought him home in early July, and over half of that was in the last three and a half weeks - no wonder it's seemed like I just can't keep him full lately.

Then there was the fairly drastic change in his mood last weekend: it really only lasted for Friday and Saturday, but it was definitely new territory for us. He decided out of the blue on Friday morning that he wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with me. David was fine, but Yikealo really lashed out at me, sobbing when I tried to snuggle him first thing in the morning (which we've done pretty much every morning since meeting him), shrugging away whenever I tried to talk to him, kicking, saying "I don't like Mama. I like Daddy," and really trying hard to pit David and I against each other. I was caught off guard with the suddenness of the behavior change and must admit that I was shocked at the depth of pain that I felt at his utter rejection of me. I told David that I felt ridiculous for feeling sad - I wanted to face it with the calm understanding that he's three and has been through a lot of traumatic experiences in his life rather than get down about it. David, as usual, gave me the answer that I needed: "Honey, do you really think that love works that way? If you love someone, of course you'll feel hurt when they lash out at you. You just need to actively and consistently show love to him through this, and you're doing a great job." David also did a wonderful job of fathering with Yikealo, telling him that "Mama and Daddy are a team. You cannot make us go against each other. You might think that you're only making Mama sad, but when you say mean things to Mama, it makes Daddy sad too."

On Saturday night, I think I caught a glimpse of the deeper story. It was my turn to put Yikealo to bed, so once the prayers were said and the lights were out, I just asked him about it. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Yikealo, can I talk to you for a minute? What's going on, sweetie? Why are you so grumpy with Mama?"
Y: "I dont' know. And then you leave, and I sad."
Me: "Honey, I'm not going to leave you without telling you where I'm going. Sometimes you might stay with Aunt Susan or Grandma when I'm at work, but I'll come back to get you. I'm not going to leave you. Are you really scared that I might not come back?"
Y: "Yes, and then I sad."
Me: "Why do you think that might happen? Is it because Mihiret left you?"
Y: "Yeah. Mom please, I wanna go Mihiret's house."
Me: "I'm sorry sweetie, but you can't go to her house. Do you miss her?"
Y: "Yes. Why I not go Mihiret's house?"
Me: "I'm sure that she misses you too, but Yikealo, she can't take care of you. Do you remember her ouchie hands? She couldn't give you enough food to eat or keep you safe. She lives far, far away, and we can't just go see her. Don't you want to stay with Daddy and Mama?"
Y: "No, I not stay here. I wanna go Mihiret's house. I wanna take my Thomas train."
Me: "I'm so sorry that you feel that way, but we would miss you so much, Yikealo. We love our little boy, and we would be sad if you weren't here."
Y: "Maybe I go airplane, Mihiret's house, and then I come right back."
Me: " Honey, I'm sorry, but I don't really even know where she lives. But you know what? It's okay to feel sad. It's okay to miss Mihiret. It's okay to talk about her, sweetie. I like it when you tell me how you're feeling. I'm sorry that you're sad, but it's good that you're talking about it. I love you so much, no matter what, and I'm so glad that God brought you to me."
Y: (throwing his arms around my neck and squeezing for all he was worth) "I love you too, Mom. I no wanna leave."

I spent the next few minutes just holding him as he fell asleep and praying over him. Praying that God would take the hurt and make something miraculous and beautiful from it. Praying that I could be understanding and loving at all times - no matter how he's showing the grief. Praying that he could continue to pour out the pain and frustration and longing right out of his little heart so that the wound can continue to heal.

That conversation completely changed his mood again, and he's been very affectionate and very much himself since, but WOW. It was good for me - not only to get into Yikealo's mind, but to see my relationship with God through new eyes. He is my Father, my Daddy, my Abba, my adoptive parent. He loves me so much more than I could ever begin to love Yikealo. How does He feel when I reject him? When I turn away from spending time with Him? When I don't greet Him with joy first thing in the morning? When I prefer someone else to Him? When I take the love that He pours out on me, toss it back in His face and do my own thing instead? Through all of it, He loves me with a perfect, unfailing love, and THAT is how I need to respond to my son. Not that I'll ever come close to measuring up to Him, but I am so thankful for His perfect example...and for the new perspective.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Dear God says..." & other Yikealo-isms

Conversations with the boy can be pretty interesting. Yikealo's latest tactic when he's trying to get his way is to tell us what "Dear God" says on any given matter. He's certainly inventive - I'll give him that much! Take the following conversation for instance:

Y: "Mom, what are you doing?"
Me: "I'm making soup for supper tonight."
Y: "I no like it soup."
Me: "Yes you do. You've liked every kind of soup that we've given you so far."
Y: "No, I don't. Dear God says, 'No like it soup.' Dear God says, 'Yes, like it, milkshapes.'"
Me: "I see. Well, I don't really remember that part of the Bible, and besides, I am NOT making you a milkshake right now!"

Or this one:

Y: "Mom, please fix train track."
Me: "I'm doing dishes right now. Just wait a few minutes, and when I'm finished, I'll fix your train track.
Y: "Dear God says, 'Don't do dishes!'"
Me: "PLEASE get me the chapter and verse on that one, okay?"

Or this:

Y: "Mom, please watch train movie?"
Me: "No. I am making eggs for your breakfast, and besides, you do NOT need to watch that glorified GeoTrax advertisement again!" (It came with his train at Christmas, and he LOVES the annoying thing.)
Y: "Dear God says, 'No eat eggs.' Dear God says, 'Yes watch movie.'"
Me: "Sorry to disagree with you, but Dear God did not say that you should watch movies. What He DOES say is that you need to obey your Mama, so why don't you stop being mouthy, okay?"
Hey, like my friend Lori says, at least he's gotten the idea that what God says is important to us!

In addition to Dear God stories, he still talks about George the imaginary monkey all of the time. Just this morning he was asking David to discipline George for "bossing" him. Yeah, right. If anyone is being bossy, you can pretty much bet that it's Yikealo. The other day, he informed us that George was hitting him and needed a time out, and we also were supposed to tell George to stop touching Yikealo's puzzle. A few weeks ago, I had thrown my hip out of place and stayed home from church on Sunday morning. When David brought Yikealo home, I asked if he had been a good boy. He said that he had, but "George needed time out." I wondered what George had been doing to necessitate punishment, and Yikealo informed me that "He very bad boy. He no wear pants, shoes and coat. Sit chair, time out." So, apologies to those of you who may have been shocked by a naked monkey running around at church!

Speaking of bossiness, here is an exchange that we had several weeks ago. I was taking his shoes off and had just leaned down to smooch his cheek while doing so:

Y: "Don't kissa me! Is veddy annoween!"
Me: "Did you just tell me that I was annoying?"
Y: "Yes. You kissa me and then I says veddy annoween."
Me: "Well, I'm allowed to kiss you whenever I want to. So there." (More smooches follow. Yeah, I know, really mature of me!)
Y: (Giggling) "I says NO KISSA ME! Time out - right nyow!"
Me: "You are not allowed to give me a time out. I'm the Mom."

A few minutes later, Yikealo came into my room, and took my hand.

Y: "Mom, come here. I show ya somethin'." (He proceeded to lead me to the "time out" chair in the living room.) "Sit down." (I did.) "Mom, I says no kissa me and you did. Time out. Ever, ever EVER don't do lat again, okay? Now cry."
Me: (laughing) "Ummm.....I think that we might need to work on who is the boss around here."

Other funny moments have occurred while he's been trying to figure out certain relationships. Recently, we spent a few days at a small water park with my sister's family, and Yikealo had a great time playing with his cousin Shana. He's since informed us that he wants us to "make a girl for him - just like Shana!" I think that would be pretty difficult, considering that she's almost nine. Anyway, he was going on about how much fun Shana was, and I asked if Shana was his friend. He replied, "Yeah! Mom, Unca Seff my friend too?" ("Unca Seff" would be Uncle Seth, my youngest brother.) I said that I was sure that Unca Seff would consider Yikealo to be his friend. Then he followed with this question, "Mom, is Unca Seff my husband?" Ummmm....that answer would be no, son! He's been obsessed with husbands lately, probably since I told him that Daddy was my husband. We said that girls have husbands and boys have wives, so maybe someday he can have a wife, to which he replied that he wants Shana. Sorry bud, but she's your cousin, so you can't marry her either!

Last week, after spending the day at Aunt Susan's house, we had this conversation:
Y: "Mom, are you my Susan?"
Me: "No, I'm your Mama."
Y: "No, no, no. Aunt Susan is Quinn's Mama?"
Me: "Yes."
Y: "And you my Mama, yes?"
Me: "That's right."
Y: "So, are you my Susan?"
Me: "Well, I suppose if that's how you're putting it, then I guess I am your Susan. But please call me Mom, okay?" I told Suz that she must be the quintessential mother figure!

Overall, his language skills have been pretty amazing, but we are highly entertained by certain pronunciations. Some of our current favorites are: "ack-shik-ally" (actually), "a-stunk-a-stink" (disgusting), "pin-cuter" (computer), and "cat-a-pick-alor" (caterpillar).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if Yikealo is talking, there is usually amusement to follow!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Christmas - Parts 3 & 4

Okay, enough of this Christmas posting already! I promise that this one will be quick - I just don't have that many photos from the W family Christmas. We stayed with my family from Thursday evening until Sunday evening of Christmas week, and we had a wonderful time, as always. Lots of long, slow days with games and photos and late nights and great talks - oh yeah, and lots of LOUD, small children, but really, what fun would Christmas be without that? Yikealo had a ball playing with all of his cousins.

He had lots of quality time hanging out with his cousin Zavi (read: fighting over toys and arguing over Papaw's attention!) Those two are something else when they get together - they are both highly competitive, and they are frequently bickering about something, but they love to be with each other. David calls them "the photo negatives!" :-) Casey (Zavi's mom) and I decided that we'll have to be sure from now on to make sure that they get all the same toys at Christmas, because they MUST be doing the same thing at all times, and they just end up fighting over the toys that they don't have in common anyway.

At any rate, Yikealo ended up with lots of great little boy toys: combines, trucks and motorcycles. What more could you possibly want?

On January 1st, David and I celebrated our 15th anniversary - Yikes! It's hard to believe that it's been 15 years already, but it must really be true that time flies when you're having fun. We are blessed with an incredible marriage, and I am so thankful every single day that God brought David into my life. I could not ask for a more wonderful husband.

Then, last Thursday, we celebrated Yikealo's Ethiopian heritage with our own little "Ganna" supper. The Ethiopian Orthodox church observes "Ganna" or the birth of Jesus on January 7th, so I made shiro and injera (well, okay, so my injera was really just sourdough pancakes) for supper, and we all dressed in our traditional Ethiopian clothing. Very low-key, but still fun to remember. Yikealo was SO excited to eat shiro and injera again, as evidenced by all of the goofy faces, and he started jumping up and down and clapping when he saw his little Ethiopian outfit. He looked very handsome in it, I must say!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Exciting news!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Christmas posting to share some very exciting news: my sister Erica and her family have just announced their decision to adopt a child from Ethiopia! Let me tell you, Dad and Mom's family is growing in leaps and bounds. All three of my brothers and their wives are expecting babies during the next few months, and now there could possibly be a fourth new grandchild joining the family in 2010!

Erica and her husband Chris have been married for almost 10 years, and they have 4 great kids - 2 boys and 2 girls - ages 3 1/2 to almost 9.

God has been moving in their hearts for quite a while now, and they have an amazing story to tell. I'm hoping that I can talk them into starting a blog (hint, hint!) but they need to actually get internet access first. It has been so wonderful to watch the way that God has led them to this decision - so much of their story mirrors things that David and I went through a year and a half ago. We ask for your prayers on their behalf as they enter this overwhelming, awe-inspiring, heartbreaking world of international adoption, and we can't wait to meet the little person that God has in store for them!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Christmas - Part 2 - Just Us

Now that there is more to our family than "just the two of us," David and I needed to set some new traditions this year. We've always spent Christmas Eve night at the home of one of our sets of parents, since we alternate years between our respective families. We wanted to keep that going, so when were we going to have Christmas with Yikealo? We decided to spread it out a bit, allowing him to open one gift on Tuesday night, one on Wednesday night, and then the last one on Christmas morning at my Mom and Dad's house.

We had already decided a year ago or so to give our new child 3 gifts at Christmas - one for each of the gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men. Gold was very precious and costly and identified Jesus as King, so to signify gold, we wanted to give him something that he really wanted - something precious to him. Myrrh was used to anoint the body for burial, signifying the death of Christ, so we chose to get Yikealo something for his body. Frankincense was an incense used in temple worship and stood for Christ's priesthood, so to represent frankincense, we gave something to augment Yikealo's spiritual life. I realize that this year, the symbolism was completely lost on our little guy, but hopefully, in years to come, it will be one more way to concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas.

So, on Tuesday evening of Christmas week, following a reading of part of the Christmas story, Yikealo opened his "gold" gift - a GeoTrax remote control train set. He loved it, and has played with it nearly every day since then.

The only thing that we hadn't planned for was the complete fascination that the cats had for the moving train. Yikealo was not happy about Frankie trying to knock the cars off of the tracks every time that they moved in her direction.

On Wednesday evening, we read another portion of the Christmas story, and then opened the "myrrh" gift - a new pair of light up tennis shoes to replace the precious Thomas shoes that we had given him in Ethiopia. After wearing them nearly every day for six months, those shoes are well-worn, and starting to fall apart. Needless to say, my little shoe fanatic was thrilled, and spent quite a bit of time jumping up and down in front of the full-length mirror in his room so that he could see the lights. Upon leaving his room, he ran into Frankie in the hallway and had to stop to ask her opinion: "You like 'em, dese, my new shoes, Frankie?" She didn't appear to be terribly impressed.

Christmas morning was fun for me, since it brought back my childhood memories of waking up early before church, walking downstairs in the dim glow of the Christmas lights on the railing, and opening presents in the family room in front of the fireplace.

We gave Yikealo his "frankincense" gift - some children's books about God - and then opened our stockings as well. Among other small items, Yikealo's stocking held - Oh Joy! - a Donald Duck Pez dispenser. This kid LOVES Pez, and was quite excited to get a "Duckey Mouse" dispenser. Tragically, we accidently left "Duckey Mouse" at Mom and Dad's house, so he has been asking every other day or so if we can PLEASE go to Grammy's to get "Duckey Mouse." Unfortunately for him, I am NOT driving three hours on slick roads for a cheap piece of plastic, so he'll just have to wait until we visit again at the end of January. Besides, he has another Pez dispenser that someone gave him in church. I think that it's supposed to be someone from "Pirates of the Caribbean", but Yikealo has named it "Dear God." He thinks it looks like pictures of Jesus, which I suppose it does - if you use your imagination and ignore the earring!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas - Part 1

After a month and a half of utter craziness, I am thoroughly enjoying the return to normalcy around here! We've had lots of snow over the last week, and there are few things that I enjoy more than that "hibernation" feeling that comes along with it - long, lazy days stuck at home with blankets, stories, hot chocolate and time to catch up a bit on my scrapbooks. I think that Yikealo is really appreciating the change in pace too - he is definitely a child who benefits greatly from a routine. Anyway, I finally have a bit of time to catch up on the blog as well, so here's the first part of our Christmas 2009 memories.

Christmas for us started on the 18th of December when we spent the night at David's parents' house with the other 20 family members. It was so much fun to be together - up late playing games, running around with cousins, and eating way too much! Yikealo got some quality time with his buddy Quinn - they're just a few weeks apart, and they are becoming good buddies.

Susan (Quinn's mom and Yikealo's babysitter) had given Yikealo a Thomas engine the day before, so the two boys spent some serious time poring over the package insert that shows all of the other pieces.

After a VERY short night, we had a yummy brunch and then got ready to open the presents. We had to take the annual "grandkids" picture, of course, especially with the new addition!

Yikealo was very excited to finally be able to open some presents. We'd been collecting them under the tree for several weeks, and he had been asking about them EVERY SINGLE DAY - usually several times!

I was a little worried that he'd be jealous of some of the other things that his cousins got, but he did great! He loved everything that he received, although I think that the favorite gift may have been the $1 bag of clear marbles from Grandma. This child is obsessed with marbles!

After the presents, Yikealo got to play out in the snow for a bit with his cousin Reed. Yikealo LOVES playing in the snow.

After the snowtime, we headed home for a short nap before going to Grandma Alma's Christmas in the evening. More food, more presents, more fun! We generally go to visit Gram on Thursday evenings, and Yikealo is completely fascinated with her old marble rolling game. He plays with it the entire time that we are there, so he got some good lessons in sharing and taking turns when surrounded by cousins!

There were more family pictures: all of the great grand-kids with Gram,

and the family picture for David's mom. There are just too many of us to ever get a really good one, but oh well!

Then it was time for more presents. After waiting patiently for his turn,

Yikealo got some new sleepers from Grandma and a great Thomas set from his cousin Isaac. He was SO excited when he ripped the paper off of that box. He started shouting "Train track! Train track! Train track!" at the top of his lungs and HAD to play with it immediately!

Then it was time to go home and head to bed, where he got to wear one of the new sleepers - oh bliss! We were planning another extended family Christmas the following day with lots of new cousins to meet, so it was definitely time for a bit of rest. What a great start to the holidays!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The parable of me

Crohn's Disease is a very nasty customer. To anyone not familiar with Crohn's, it falls in a general classification of auto-immune diseases; essentially these are conditions in which the body's immune system has a difficult time identifying friend versus foe and, ultimately, ends up attacking other parts of the body. Most things ending in "itis" fall under this category, the most common of which is arthritis.

While some auto-immune diseases are not life-threatening, Crohn's Disease can be. When your immune system attacks your bowels, the bowel becomes inflamed, forms scar tissue over the inflamed area, and ultimately loses its ability to perform its function. This is horribly inconvenient should Crohn's occur in your large bowel but, ultimately, you can live without your large bowel as I can attest to. However, if Crohn's Disease attacks your small bowel, the situation is much worse. The scar tissue prevents the small bowel from absorbing nutrients and, if the disease progresses unchecked, you cannot retain enough energy to live.

Along the way, many things can happen: pain, fatigue, loss of strength, surgery. I can remember sitting in a chair completely daunted by the task of brushing my teeth. For weeks I had enough strength to do about 15 minutes of activity per day. That's it.

One of the more sobering aspects of Crohn's disease is this: not only the small bowel is affected. My thighs, which are just fine thank you very much, atrophied to a comic state because they were not receiving enough nutrients and because I didn't have enough energy to exercise. Plus my joints were hurting, so exercise was even more difficult regardless of the thighs being fine. Ditto for my pectoral and bicep muscles.

If you'd been able to talk to my auto-immune system during my most recent bout with Crohn's, it would have said something like this: "who, me? I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do. That tissue looked suspicious, it's gotta go." The auto-immune system was simply doing what it thought was best. Further, it is not an option to get rid of the auto-immune system; it was performing a vital function for the body. Even while attacking the large bowel, it was defending the body from foreign elements and warding off other sicknesses.

So, why am I sharing all of this?

Early in my convalescence, I was sitting in church exhausted from a day of... well... sitting in church. I was trying to make sense of my weakness when God laid a parable on my heart: I am a metaphor of the church.

We, the Christians of the world, are the Church and as such, the Bible repeatedly compares us and our inter-operations with that of the human body. Just as the different cells, organs, and systems of the body serve different purposes, we -- the members of the body of Christ -- each serve different purposes (I Cor. 12) ;but all for one goal: God's glory. The body of Christ must work together, each performing his or her own unique purpose, just as the human body must work together.

The Bible is also full of references to situations where the body of Christ wasn't working in harmony as it should have been (Philippians 4:2, I Corinthians 3:3-5, Galatians 2:11). This is what God laid on my heart: dysfunction in the body of Christ has the exact same consequences as dysfunction -- Crohn's disease -- in the human body.

So, backing up to my medical condition and using the analogy: when one member of the church attacks another, the church as a whole cannot expect to operate to full capacity any more than my body could operate to full capacity while Crohn's disease was attacking my intestines. Similarly, just because you personally are not involved in the altercation doesn't mean that you are not impacted by the situation. Rather, you are just like the thigh; you may not have a personal problem, but you are cut off from the nutrition and the support system that the rest of the body is supposed to supply, but cannot.

It doesn't matter who is involved and it doesn't matter the reasoning; when the body attacks itself it cannot complete all of its assigned tasks. The worse the problem, the less the productivity until the body of Christ, just like my human body, is sitting in a church pew too tired to do anything other than sit.