Sunday, June 23, 2013

One Year Home

One year ago today, after approximately 33 hours of travel, we arrived in the USA with Sintayehu!

We've come a long way since then. We still have a long way to go, but we've overcome quite a few obstacles in the last year. So thankful for a God who redeems hard situations and makes something beautiful out of pain!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Remembering and Reconnecting

One year ago today, we landed in Ethiopia to bring our Sintay home. We spent 3 days stuck in the Riviera Hotel, waiting on his travel visa and getting acquainted with the A family: Michael, Mindy and their new daughter Alaysia. Mindy and I had connected the year before via e-mail after she had met my father-in-law, who was speaking at her church in Illinois. I had also been with her in Atlanta in March of last year at the Created for Care it turns out, on the very day that they received their referral for Miss Alaysia. Their case was a few weeks behind ours, but since our case was delayed at the Embassy level for a couple of weeks, we ended up in Ethiopia to pick up our kiddos at the same time. Really, it was a God thing all the way! We had some great conversations together, and connected on so many levels. Their sweet Alaysia was struggling with the transition, while Sintayehu was doing great, so we were able to spend some time lifting them up in prayer and walking the courtyard with them as they tried to calm their screaming daughter. Miss A seemed happier when Sintay was helping to entertain her, so we definitely logged some hours in that courtyard! Sometimes, some very strong friendships can be forged in the rough places....God is a master at bringing beauty from hard situations.


Ready to leave the Riviera for America! June 22, 2012

When I met Mindy again at this year's C4C retreat, she invited us to spend a weekend with them. We chose Father's Day weekend....just days away from our one-year anniversary of being together in Ethiopia. We had a wonderful time getting reacquainted and marveling at how much our little ones have changed over the intervening year. It was nice to meet their two sons as well, and we truly enjoyed being together again! Here are some photos from our weekend:
Miss Alaysia today....isn't she gorgeous?

Noah and Levi, Alaysia's big brothers

We took the short walk to a beautiful park right around the corner from Michael and Mindy's. It was a cool, cloudy day with a bit of rain every now and then, but that didn't stop my boys from getting soaking wet as soon as they saw the splash pad.

Mindy's children, clearly less crazy than mine, sat quietly (and warmly) on the sidelines, watching Y and S cavorting about in the water.
Saturday evening, we walked uptown to a great ice-cream/coffee shop, where we met another AGCI family, Ryan and Amber. I have known Amber's family since we were both little girls, and today she lives just a couple of miles from Mindy, who happens to be her close friend. It really is a small world sometimes! Alaysia and Sintay held hands all the way there....too cute!

The kids all walked around the fountain area in uptown, and of course my boys were the only ones who got completely soaked once again!
Amber, me and Mindy

After church on Sunday, we snapped some Father's Day photos of our men with the little ones.

I feel so blessed to get to parent our boys with David. He is such an awesome Daddy!

Sintayehu LOVED Mindy, and insisted on holding her hand whenever possible.
Aren't these two adorable?

We all look a lot more relaxed than in the photo taken a year ago!
After we left Michael and Mindy's, we drove to Indiana to stay with Jason and Lori, some more great friends. Lori and I became buddies in Sunday School, when we were four years old, and I still consider her to be one of my very favorite people. We've got lots of memories, good and bad, and I love seeing how God has changed and molded both of us during the last 30-odd years. We enjoyed seeing their new-to-them home, and the boys loved the pool in the backyard. Jason and Lori are expecting a little boy in September of this year, and we can't wait to meet him! Their girls, Lindsey and Elise were awesome with our wild boys....they'll do just great with a little brother!

Our weekend may not have been very restful, between the 16 or so hours of driving and staying up late talking for several nights in a row, but it was definitely a blessing!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Birthday Boy

Yikealo turned 7 on the 12th, and it's looking like this particular birthday is going to stretch out for some time. We don't buy a lot of "things" as birthday presents around here, because we'd prefer to make memories as a family, and quite frankly, our kiddos don't need more stuff! For Yikealo's birthday celebration, we plan to spend some time at Great Wolf Lodge, but we can't fit it into our crazy schedule until a couple of weeks after his birthday, so that part will have to wait a bit.

In the meantime, Mr. Y was extremely excited to have his birthday! On Tuesday, I was cuddling with him on the sofa and bemoaning the fact that he was growing up way too fast. I said something like, "This is the very last day that I can snuggle you while you're still 6!" to which he replied, "But I'll still be little....enough with the moping, Mom!" I'm definitely not getting sympathy from that quarter, that's for sure. That night, he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to get to sleep because he was too excited. I told him that the faster he fell asleep, the sooner his birthday would be here, and he was out in no time. He did, however, wake up at 5:20 the next morning...and came out singing, "I'm seven today!!" He was thrilled to open his gift of a puzzle and two coloring books.

I attempted to get some photos of him on his birthday, and instead ended up with mostly silly pictures of him making faces.

With much effort, I did eventually manage to get a decent one or two!
Later that afternoon, David had an appointment with the naturopathic doctor that he sees in Indiana, so the boys and I hung out at Mom and Dad's place for awhile. Yikealo's cousin and good buddy Zavier came over, and we brought him home with us later that night. We're heading to Illinois this weekend, and figured that this would be a good chance to have Zavi stay with us for a couple of days, since we can easily return him to his family on our trip west. Y and Z always have a great time playing and plotting together. They went to work with me yesterday, and on the way home we stopped at a cupcake shop where the boys each got to pick two cupcakes for our little celebration at home.

Yesterday afternoon, they played with Legos, staged Playmobil battles, painted a model train, and spent quite a bit of time constructing a blanket tent and playing what must be the boy version of "house." Sintay was the Daddy tiger, and Yikealo and Zavi were the baby tigers. Sintay kept telling his charges, "Today, Daddy no sarra!" (Today, Daddy doesn't have to work!) "Now, you say 'Yay!'" Then they'd all wrestle around and growl at each other....lovely!

Sintay is starting to figure out this thing called a birthday, and is asking over and over, "When my birthday be, Mama?" in an extremely whiny voice. We've had lots of pouting and temper tantrums over the last couple of days, and next month can't come soon enough for him! We did let him blow out "fire" on his cupcake, "Just like Kahlo!"

To Mr. Y....we are so proud of you, bud! We thank God every day for bringing you into our lives, and we love the person that you are!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

May Got Away

We had a busy May, and therefore, a neglected blog, but here's a quick recap of some of our memorable moments!

The boys and I drove out to see Aunt Erica, and then we visited the Toledo Zoo. Casey and her kiddos joined us, and we had a great day together!

We saw a lot more than birds, but aren't these gorgeous? What an awesome Creator God we serve!

We attended our niece Rachel's testimony and baptism.

On the same day as the baptism, my youngest brother Seth, our niece Jana, and her new husband Tim all graduated with Doctor of Pharmacy degrees from Ohio Northern University. Seth was chosen to give the address at the school of Pharmacy's hooding ceremony, so we went to Ada to watch that, and then drove madly back to Leo for the baptism. It was a lot of driving for one day, but it was worth it to be able to support so many family members on important occasions! Seth did a great job on his speech, which you can see here.


As part of our virtual academy enrollment, we are required to attend a minimum of 4 "face-to-face" events each year, where we can interact with OHVA staff. There is a huge variety of events scheduled throughout the year, so there is always plenty to choose from.  As part of our last week of school, Yikealo got to take a fun field trip to Bricks4Kidz in Medina, where he learned to make an Empire State building and a very cool paper crinkler. This kiddo LOVES his Legos, and spends lots of time building various things while listening to Adventures in Odyssey.

Sintayehu rediscovered a Christmas present from last year, and Duckie began to accompany us nearly everywhere. Sintay usually insisted on pushing Duckie in the stroller, and we had an absolute crisis one day when S realized that he had left his beloved at the store where I work. I had a good mom moment and drove back 10 minutes through traffic to get the little piece of fluff and plastic.....can't have my moody, often grieving kiddo thinking that we'll leave one of our own behind.

On May 17th, we finished up school for the year, so Yikealo is officially a second grader! We celebrated the end of our last lesson by having our first watermelon of the year out on the lawn. Yay for summer!

On that same night, Yikealo finished up his soccer schedule for the year. This was his first time participating in a sport, and he really loved it, in spite of the cold temperatures for several of his practices/games.

Y with his coaches.

We visited some fellow adoptive families in Columbus. First, the B family, whose sweet daughter Kewogo was at HH with Sintayehu. We fell in love with "Giggles" (as she was nicknamed) when we traveled for court last year, and it was so great to see her again and meet more of her family. K's mama had just returned a few days before from Gambella, the region where both Sintay and K are from, and it was fascinating to hear her perspective of the area.

3 little Ethiopians!
Mrs. B was so very thoughtful, and had brought each of our boys a beaded necklace and bracelet from Gambella. I love it that Sintay has something tangible from his region now. She also gave us an amazing gift in the form of the first photo taken of Sintayehu. She had visited the orphanage where he lived for a few months before going to HH, and as she was going to be meeting us, they allowed her to bring us his original intake photo. I can't really explain what it feels like to get another tiny piece of your child's life back.

That afternoon, we met the R family at Lalibela Ethiopian restaurant. We stayed with this AWESOME family a couple of years ago, and it was so great to see them again. Their son Samuel is from the same region as Yikealo, and they just missed being at HH together by a couple of weeks. Samuel and Y hit it off right away again, and seemed to have a great time together. We definitely need to make sure that we don't have quite so long in between visits, but I will say that we had to work several months in advance just to find time to meet for lunch! It is ridiculous how chaotic life can be at times.

Posing with the traditional tops to the mesob tables as hats...we're truly mixing cultures here....a little Vietnamese/Mexican thing going on with the Ethiopian roots!

On the 24th, we headed down to the North Carolina coast where we spent a glorious week on the beach with Seth and Casey's family....but that will have to be another post! We returned home on June 1st, turned the calendar page, and picked life back up. Right now, without our school schedule, that means extra snuggling, lots of blanket tents and stories, coloring pictures, riding our bikes and playing board games. I am determined to spend as much quality time as possible with my little boys this summer!