Friday, December 21, 2012

6 Months, 8 Months, 9 Months, 10 Months and 1 Year

This week has a host of anniversaries for Sintayehu...anniversaries of hard places, sad times, and beautiful things. It is all a part of his story, of his personality, of his reaction to various stimuli, and it is important for us to pause for a moment in this busy week of Christmas to remember just how much his life has changed during the last year.

Last Christmas we were waiting...impatiently at see our second child's face, to hear his or her name for the first time. There was one Christmas song that I could not hear without crying:

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
Where the forgotten are
But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in His arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you "Merry Christmas."

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow.
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white,
Make angels in the snow.
But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that Heaven's angels come to carry you here.

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you "Merry Christmas."

We had no way of knowing at the time, but this was exactly Sintayehu's situation last Christmas. On December 23rd, his mother's case passed the Gambella court system, granting her permission to relinquish her only child to the local orphanage so that he could be adopted. Christmas day was probably one of Sintay's first days away from the only family that he had ever known, and I can't imagine the pain and anguish that he must have been feeling.

10 months ago yesterday, on February 20th, he arrived at Hannah's Hope in Addis Ababa. He had just ridden in a van for 3 days, making the trek from Gambella to Ethiopia's capitol. His life had been disrupted again, and he had no idea what was happening to him. He was terribly sick and dangerously anemic, and he had a horrible infection over one thumb that needed immediate treatment.

 One month later, on March 23rd, Sintay's mother came to see him again. She had just finalized her relinquishment in the national court of Ethiopia. I'm sure that it was hard on both of them to see each other again, and yet the love between them is so clear in the photos that we have from that meeting.

8 months ago yesterday, Mr. S legally became our son when we passed our own court date in Ethiopia. He had spent the previous 2 days getting to know us a little bit, but there was no possible way that he could have known the significance of that day. We stood before a judge and promised to care for him always, to love him as our child. We spent some time with him again that afternoon, and although the meeting wasn't any different for him, it certainly was for us. We understood the depth of what we had promised earlier that day, and now when we held him in our arms, he was really, truly OURS.

6 months ago yesterday we took custody of Sintayehu and became his family forever! He seemed so happy to be with us again during those first few days together and during most of the days since then. Yet, it was just the beginning of another overwhelming transition for him. This time, he was leaving not only his mother and his region, but his entire country, his language, his culture, and a host of special caretakers who deeply loved him.

It is hard for me to wrap my mind around the changes that Sintayehu has seen and experienced over the last year. At the very least, it is perfectly understandable why he can get so sad at times, and why the craziness of the holidays can be a little overwhelming for him. We are so thankful to have him in our lives, and it is good for us to stop and remember every now and then just how short a time he's been with us.

It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, "I wish you Merry Christmas!"
Third Day

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

And Then There's Sintay....

We woke up to a 62 degree house this morning.....only to discover the real reason behind the lowered temperature a little later:

Sintayehu is perfectly capable of saying his own name, but he insists on calling himself "Nuh." Every day we hear lots of "Nuh do it!" in protest to us trying to help him with something. We also hear things like "Nuh cold!" (Yeah, well....who is the button-pusher who insists on turning the thermostat down?) and "Nuh silly!" (Oh definitely!) and "Nuh like it candy!" (Unfortunately, all too true.)

Someone's very favorite toy of late has become this stuffed panda. He drags it around with him constantly and was desperately sad when we accidentally left it at Grammy's house over Thanksgiving.
A while back, Sintay had spent several short breaks in the corner after hitting and spitting at Yikealo while Y and I were trying to get school done. Later in the morning, I noticed this:
Clearly, a certain small boy was feeling the need to exercise some authority over SOMEONE!

This child is such an overwhelming dichotomy of LOUD, aggressive sweetness. Case in point: he frequently stages the most horrendous train crashes while playing with his train set, laughs uproariously, and then asks in the gentlest possible voice, "Wha' HOPPENED, honey?" while he softly pets the "injured" train.

We had stopped at Hobby Lobby on my way home from work to pick up a couple of Christmas decorations. I told Sintay that he could choose a stocking for himself, since we didn't have one yet for him. With absolutely no hesitation, he reached for a high-heeled, zebra-print, hot-pink-sequined affair. It pretty much summed up his personality to a tee....but using my better judgement, I directed him to a few that would fit in better with our decor. His second choice had pine trees and about opposite extremes! Along with that, the very first song that he learned to sing in America was "Happy Birthday, Princess" from a princess songs CD that he insisted on borrowing from the library. Yikealo's first song was "Jesus Loves Me", Sintay's was "Happy Birthday, Princess".....any questions?

Last week, he was using his toy phone to have the following conversation with Aunt Erica: "Hi Ehkah! Ummm.....'Kahlo, Mommy, pincess. (Yikealo, Mommy, princess) What doing? What sayin'? 'K! S'layduh! Bye!" Then he walked over to me and said, "Mom, Ehkah says 'Hi!'"

After his bath one day, I told him to go into my room so that I could lotion him up. I hung up the towels in the bathroom and headed into my bedroom only to discover that there was no boy. Using my firm "mommy-means-business" voice, I called, "Sintayehu, you had better get in here now!" No answer for a second, and then a plaintive little voice from the next room, "Ahm hahdin, Honey Mommy!" Where is this pseudo Southern accent coming from anyway?

When we ask him a question that he doesn't want to answer, he shrugs his shoulders and waves his arms around and says, "No ahdea!"

Sintayehu doesn't hide his feelings about anything. In some ways this is good, but in others it's a problem. He sees me as his own personal possession, and he cannot STAND it when I show affection to anyone else. David and I were hugging in the kitchen several weeks ago, when I felt some very sharp little teeth sink into the back of my thigh. It wasn't a pleasant experience, I'm afraid! When he's angry with me, he hits my picture with his fist, but then when he's over the fit, he'll make a show of kissing and petting the same photo. At least there's usually no doubt as to what he's thinking.

He's loving his first holiday experiences this year. Last week, he saw his first glimpses of snow. He was fascinated with touching it and catching snowflakes on his tongue...until he discovered the bits of white on his pajama sleeve. Then his inner OCD kicked in, and he brushed frantically at his clothing and whined.

We've had several extended family Christmases already, and he's starting to figure out this present thing. I now have to answer, "Open pezzents now?" several times a day, and keep him distracted from yanking his stocking off of the fireplace. Thankfully, he also plays with our Nativity scene and talks about Baby Jesus several times each day too. It is so fun to experience the holidays for the first time with our little guy!

Friday, December 14, 2012

More Yikealo-isms

I realize that I've been very lax in posting lately.....not because I don't have 2 constant sources of good material, but because those 2 sources make my life crazy busy. Lots of day-to-day things go undone, the least of which is keeping up with the blog. Yikealo has kept us laughing as usual, however, so here are some recent tidbits:
  • Out of the blue one day, he asked, "Mom, why does everyone think I am so cool?" (Obviously, son, you're quite humble as well.)
  • One evening as supper, he was commenting that although his Dad was very thin, Mama was getting kind of chubby. David informed him that it is never okay to discuss a lady's weight....especially in front of the lady. Y stopped for a minute and then said in his kindest voice, "Mom, you DO have very thin ears." Thanks bud....that really makes me feel better!
  • On the morning of the election in November, David told Yikealo that it was Election Tuesday and that we were going to go vote that day for various offices, including that of President of the United States. Yikealo, who has been spending lots of time listening to Adventures in Odyssey lately, asked if we were going to vote for John Avery Whitaker. David informed him that unfortunately, none of our choices were nearly that good.
  • After saying something that made me smile, Y requested, "Mom, tell Dad what I said that gave you a gleam of joy!"
  • A few weeks ago, Erica texted me a picture of Ashton from Florida. Sintayehu started whining to see Shana too, so Erica scoured her phone for a photo of Shana. The only one she had was a 10-year-old  picture of Shana as a 1 year old. I showed it to Sintay, exclaiming "Here's a picture of Baby Shana." Sintay was thrilled, but Yikealo looked absolutely horrified. His mouth fell open, and he asked in a shocked voice, "Shana's a BABY now?"
  • Yikealo and Sintay were waging a war with some toy knights while I wrapped Christmas presents in the next room. It was quite amusing to listen to them, as every few minutes the battle sounds were interrupted for what Yikealo called a "dance party." I peeked around the corner to see them holding their respective knights together, while they swayed back and forth in time to Yikealo humming Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik." Seconds later, they were back to slinging weapons and shouting, "You're dead!" Boys....who can possibly understand the way their little brains work?
  • In Language Arts one day, Yikealo needed to write down his hopes and dreams for when he grows up. Here is his rather interesting list: "Be a Dad, Have 7 children and 0 girls, Be an inventor, Worship God, Sit on the toylit and play on the i-pad." 
  • At our hotel the other week, both boys were in the shower together, when Yikealo shouted rather frantically from the bathroom, "Dad, we could use some definitely help in here! Sintay keeps trying to touch my nibbles!" When I giggled about his knowledge of anatomy, he informed me, "Mom....(insert eye-roll and a hand-on-the-hip stance)...they are called "nibbles" because that is where a baby learns to eat."
  • This morning in Science, we were discussing the courtship rituals of the whooping crane. While trying to attract a mate, male whooping cranes stretch out their wings and move them back and forth. While their wings are outspread, the cranes hop and squawk loudly. Upon hearing that, Yikealo informed me that he was "going to catch a girl that way someday." I asked for clarification, adding that I didn't really think that human girls were going to find that behavior particularly attractive. Y jumped into action, showing me his version of the whooping crane dance, which he stated would "make the girl stop and stare. When she stops to watch, I will grab her like this!" (taking a flying leap across the room and grabbing at the imaginary girl's ankles.) "Then she will be all mine!" Ummmm.....yeah.....somehow, I think that I'm very thankful that we have lots of time for more training on how to treat a lady.
  • I was complaining one evening about how fast Y is growing up. He asked why I don't want him to get big, and I replied that I do, but it's going to make me very sad someday when he is too big to hold and snuggle. He looked shocked, and said, "WHAT? I will NEVER be too big for you to snuggle me!" Oh son....if only! And yes, I am absolutely going to remind you of that statement when you are 13 or so!

Monday, December 3, 2012

One Blood

We spent part of our weekend with Chris and Erica's family. We went to the "Lights Before Christmas" at the Toledo Zoo, and then headed north to the Detroit area, where we spent the night before visiting the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. We enjoyed the time together, our kids had fun swimming and playing with cousins, and Yikealo got plenty of time playing with Legos in one of the exhibits at the museum. An idyllic little get-away, really, except for one thing...

 There is a large section of the Henry Ford Museum that is dedicated to the Civil Rights movement. I simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that just a few short years ago...within my parents' lifetime, would have been illegal in some states for MY CHILDREN to use the same drinking fountain that I used, for them to sit in the same bus seats that I sat in, for them to attend the same school that I attended. I get a sharp pain in my stomach as I walk past the glass cases showing Ku Klux Klan paraphernalia. I look into my boys' gorgeous brown eyes, hear their high-pitched little voices, and wonder how anyone could think that they are anything but beautiful creations in the image of a holy God. The museum has the famous bus where brave Rosa Parks finally reached her limit and refused to give up her seat just because she was sitting across the aisle from a caucasian man. We happened to be there on the 57th anniversary of her courageous stand against tyranny. We climbed onto the bus and sat listening to Rosa's voice speaking overhead, "I would have to know for once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen." I glanced across the aisle and noticed my "black" son sitting in the same seat as his "white" cousin and started to cry.
I cried again, a little later, as I stood inside a replica of a segregated bus station and listened to Martin Luther King telling me that he had a dream. I am so thankful for people who stood up to injustice and paved the way for my family to be accepted within the "norm" of modern American society. I am also thankful for a loving God who told the truth in His Word....long before Rosa Parks took a stand in December of 1955.

"God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things, and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determnined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being....For we are also His offspring."

So thankful that my children are growing up within the context of an extended family that looks like this!
 (Zavier, Yikealo, Sintayehu and Jordan, hand in hand on Thanksgiving Day.)

Friday, November 23, 2012


Today, on this weekend of giving thanks, we are celebrating 5 months home with Sintayehu. It feels like he's been part of our lives forever, and yet there are still days when the realization that I have 2 little boys catches me by surprise for a moment! He is doing so well...since his arrival in America he has grown almost 3 inches, he has gained 4 pounds, and learned to communicate with us in spite of not speaking a lot of English yet. He adores his Mommy, he has made his peace with "Dod" (as he calls David), and he loves his big brother most of the time. He is loud, and funny, and joyful and so much fun, and we love having him in our home.

Are there hard days? Sure. This child knows exactly where my buttons are, and he has become adept at stomping all over them during his moments of grieving. Even during those times though, I stand in awe of how far God has brought him. November is National Adoption Month, and I am so grateful for the chance to know and love this energetic, full-of-life little boy. I praise Jesus for the changes that He has brought into Sintayehu's life during this last year! All glory to Him!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bit of a Breakthrough

Our vacation time this year was pretty well blown up by two trips to Ethiopia and the various doctor's appointments that David has. Fortunately, his vacation year rolls over in October, so a week ago we took two extra days and made a long weekend out of a trip to the family cottage in Michigan. In our pre-kid world, this was one of our favorite get-aways. Michigan in the fall is lovely: bright autumn leaves glistening against the deep green pines, morning mist spiralling up from the frigid lake, mugs of mulled apple cider warming our hands as we sit on the swing, wrapped in soft old quilts to ward off the chill while we watch the late afternoon sunlight glinting like diamonds off of the water, flocks of geese honking overhead as they wend their way south.....we love it. Although we were excited to experience it again, we weren't quite sure how it would go with two very active little boys. It would be far too cold to swim, and although they both love story-time, reading books for hours out on the swing isn't their idea of great fun!

In reality, it was a beautiful little vacation. We enjoyed long walks, lots of games and coloring, a boat ride or two, and we had a truly refreshing time together. The very best part was that this was the longest amount of time that Sintayehu has had with his Daddy since we brought him home in June, and it proved to be a breakthrough in their relationship. For the first time, he began to actively seek out David's attention, and since then there have been several times when he has chosen David's company over mine. Daddy is now the first person that he asks about in the morning, and his screams of delight over "Ababa's" return home from work in the evenings are now genuine, rather than a mere attempt to imitate and out-do Yikealo. He now asks to "sa-nuggle Dod" and doesn't kick David away when it's Daddy's turn to put him to bed. We had been focused on re-charging ourselves after a couple of stressful months, but this trip proved to be a greater blessing than we could have imagined!

Here are some photos of our time together:
 The foliage was glorious! I think that we were probably there during the peak of fall color.

 We took lots of long walks, and the boys loved running down the hills.

 Time with Daddy....what could be better?

 Afternoon naps....ahhhhh!!!!

Precious boys


 Pirate at the rudder

 Uh oh....who's steering this thing?

 Cutest coffee-delivery service ever!

 Did you know that Michigan has monkeys?

 While David and I relaxed on the swing, Yikealo was pretending to be a pirate in the tied-up boat. He refused to share his oars with his brother, so Mr. Sintay headed to the basement to find his own the form of a rake.

 The two of them played "pirates" for over an hour, while David and I soaked up the afternoon sunshine!

 We had a couple of rainy days, so the boys filled their time with i-pad games, coloring and putting together puzzles. We also played lots of Trouble, Skip-Bo and Battleship with Yikealo.

David has since decided that we'll have to make this an annual tradition. Our boys are the 5th generation to enjoy this special place, and it was so much fun to hear Yikealo saying, "I LOVE it here! Can we please just stay 2 more days? Or maybe 10?" He also wanted to know, "Why do all the days when Dad is not with us go so slow, but when he is with us, they go so fast? That is not fair." I quite agree, son!