"Sometimes I'd like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it...but I'm afraid God might ask me the same question."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Please Help Support Orphans In Ethiopia!

Grace and I are so excited to show you some adorable necklaces that we are selling to raise money to help support Love In Action orphanage in Ethiopia. We were inspired by a fellow blogger, Robyn. Her family is selling similar necklaces to help raise money for programs in Ethiopia too. We purchased a few necklaces and Grace fell in love with them. When I told Robyn about trying to think of creative ways to raise money for Love In Action, she was so sweet and encouraged us to try to sell as many necklaces as we could. She helped me learn about the best suppliers for necklace parts, the best materials to use, etc.

Our family does not want to forget the millions (yes, millions) of orphans still waiting for their forever families. 100% of the money we raise will be sent to Ethiopia to help open the doors of LIA and to help welcome more children home.
We have six really cool necklace designs and they are really cheap! Each necklace is only $5 (plus $1 shipping) and has a 24inch chain (which is the perfect length to fit over a child's head without them having to undo the clasp).

Grace loves to wear her "G" necklace. She always tells everyone, "G says Grace." The adorable polka dot design is perfect for little girls. The necklaces come packaged in cellophane and are perfect little additions to birthday gifts and are great stocking stuffers.

I love it when people ask about the necklaces- usually when one of the kids is wearing one...Grace usually draws a response when she wears her "Africa with pink heart" necklace. I love how the necklace allows us to share our passion for Ethiopia and tell others about the hope and love we feel for the amazing kids still in Ethiopia.

In addition to the necklaces, we have key chains with the same designs. The key chains can be used alone, added to another key chain, or used as a backpack toggle.

We hope you like the necklaces and key chains. Our goal is to sell at least 100 items so that we can donate $500 to Love In Action orphanage by the end of the year. Thanks so much for your support and keep checking our blog for new designs coming soon. If you would like to place an order, please use the paypal link on the side of our blog.

If you are ordering an "initial" design, please indicate which initial you would like in the comment section of the paypal order page.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Keeping It "Real"

So, I've been wanting to write about the hard parts of adopting an adorable three year old from Ethiopia... Adopted children are no different than biological children in the sense that they all have quirky little behaviors that are challenging, frustrating, and very real. First of all, I tend to post cute pictures of my little darling all dressed up and smiling for the camera. That is not always the way things are around here. We have our struggles and our days are not all sunshine and roses. We have experienced many meltdowns. We have had our share of temper tantrums (both child and parent). I can't begin to guess the number of times I have heard Grace tell me "NO." Huh? You are three and I am ... not three... you shouldn't tell me no. Grace has also enjoyed being held and carried around a lot since we met her. When we first brought her home, she liked to be carried whenever she was upset...At first I thought it was sort of neat to be the special one that got to carry her around to comfort her...well, when we realized that she was "working" us to whine until she got her way, we had to revert back to our regular parenting skills...Things are getting way better. We are not having to listen to as much crying (thanks, in part, to the "crying chair" we have at our house - she is welcome to cry if she needs to, but if she is just whining, she needs to go have a seat on our special chair). She has come a long way. I am attributing it to her feeling more and more secure every day. Most days she is a true joy, but most days also come with little challenges. So...this is ONE of the hard parts of adoption...

The second thing that I have really struggled with since bringing Grace home, is how much I think about her relatives in Ethiopia. I also struggle with the amount of questions I receive about her birth family. It is REALLY hard to answer questions about her background. These photos are not of Grace's relatives, but they are some of the millions of loving, compassionate people that live a hard life in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people were the most warm and gracious people that I have ever met. Grace did not spontaneously appear at KVI (her orphanage). Obviously, she has a history and a beautiful story filled with "grace." Grace does have loving relatives who made an incredible decision for her. She has a story and that story is HERS. It would not be right for me to blab about her story to everyone who asks. And those people who innocently ask (and keep asking) are not trying to be rude. The problem is, Grace should be the one to understand her story and decide what she wants to share about her life in Ethiopia. Her story is not super unusual or anything, just sad and true. She experienced three years in a beautiful country. A country with people that we have come to love. Three years of her life that are real and special. I can't wait to talk about it all with Grace as she grows. The facts of her coming to us are not public knowledge, but they are definitely orchestrated by a higher power. I don't doubt for a minute that she was chosen to be with our family. God has orchestrated our lives in such a way that Ethiopia and Grace's birth relatives will be in our hearts forever. I never expected to feel so protective of Grace's Ethiopian family. It kills me to think that people may judge them for choosing to give Grace the opportunity to be adopted. All people need to understand is that she had loving relatives and they made the most loving decision that anyone could possibly make - and not a day goes by that I don't think of her relatives and pray that they somehow know how well she is doing and how much she is cherished.
The third thing that has been HARD since coming home from Ethiopia, is remembering all of the faces that we saw throughout Addis and the orphanages we visited. We met, played with, hugged, and took photos of, literally hundreds of orphans. And that is just a drop in the bucket of how many orphans are living in Ethiopia. Over five million children are orphaned and still wait for a loving family to call their own. Many haven't had the privilege of living in a nice orphanage like Grace did. Many live on the streets. Many are waiting to leave overcrowded government facilities. We are so excited to partner with our adoption agency to raise funds for a new orphanage in Addis. I can't stop thinking about the beautiful faces of the kids that are waiting to call the new orphanage (which is called Love In Action) their temporary home. We spent time at LIA and saw it while it was in it's raw form. Many of our friends donated money for us to use for humanitarian aide while we were in Addis. With some of the money, we were able to purchase the new cribs needed for the orphanage. Since our trip, the building has been remodeled, the grounds have been improved, a new water system has been added, and children have been waiting to move in. The orphanage is almost ready. There are still some monetary needs to be met before the kids come, but we are excited that they will be arriving soon.

It is so hard to think of the sweet kids that we met in Ethiopia and know that so many of them are still waiting for families. One of the sweetest and saddest things that happened at KVI - Grace's orphanage - was when we were being introduced to Grace. The director brought her to us and while we were being introduced to her, a little boy her age came along and would not leave her side. The director said that the little boy was her best friend and had traveled with her and arrived at KVI the same day. They were both from a region far from Addis. He was so sad! He knew his best friend was leaving that day and he would not be going with her. I wish I could post a picture of his sweet face, but I am not allowed to post any photos of the kids who are still at the orphanage. We DO NOT want to forget these sweet children who wait. If you have any desire to learn more about adopting from Ethiopia or know someone who is thinking about it, please consider contacting our agency to learn more. Every child we met was cuter than the next...and they were such well behaved, sweet kids!

Our family does not want to forget the waiting kids in Ethiopia. We also want to continue to support Love In Action orphanage. In an effort to stay involved (and keep our whole family involved in the project), we have decided to sell some adorable necklaces and key chains to raise funds for LIA. Very soon, I will be posting about how you can help us with our efforts. I can tell you that the necklaces are cute, cheap, and great little gifts that will share the story of Love In Action and the beautiful country of Ethiopia.

Here is Grace with a sneak peek at one of the designs...She loves to point out that

"G says Grace."Please check back SOON for more details! We can't wait to see what we can do to raise some funds for LOVE IN ACTION!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grace's First Dance Class

Today Grace had her first dance class! Grace has been going to the dance studio the past two months to drop off her big sister for her dance classes, and today was the big day...Grace had her first tap and ballet class. She has been talking about it for weeks. She has been wearing her tap shoes around the house and loves the fancy clothes she gets to wear. Of course, I am super excited for her as well. I never guessed I would be taking another three year old to dance. Alyssa started dancing at the same studio ten years ago (yeah, that makes me the old dance mom now)...hard to believe I've been driving to the studio several times a week for so long...
So, when it was time for class to begin, Grace was super excited. UNTIL...we entered the studio...she got very shy and didn't want me to leave (to wait in the lobby, etc.). I had already talked to the dance instructor (who is so sweet and understanding), so she didn't mind that I stayed in the room with Grace. Tap was first, and Grace was not producing the "shuffle steps" that her big sister had been teaching her :) She was very clingy. She was not too sure about dance all of a sudden. Well, half way through the class, they switched to ballet shoes. She started to get much more comfortable during ballet, and by the time they were working on "sashe'," Grace was comfortable enough to do a solo across the room. She was very proud...Oh, and she was (in my opinion) the cutest dancer at the studio!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Busy Weekend...Happy New Year!

On Friday night, we were able to go see the African Children's Choir perform. I thought it would be fun...I had no idea how awesome it would be for us. Grace LOVED it. I didn't realize how touching and personal it would turn out to be. Grace was loving the children who were performing. She kept pointing to them and saying "Ethiopia." So sweet! The stories of the singers were also very powerful. They are so young. They have traveled all the way from Africa to raise awareness and funds to help support vulnerable children in Africa. It was a great show. All of my kids really enjoyed the music, dancing, and drumming. Please check out the choir if they are ever in a city near you. Saturday was Ethiopian New Year! Happy New Year 2003! In Ethiopia they still follow the Julian calender which is divided up in 12 months of 30 days and then a 13th month which has 5 days or 6 days during leap year. Enkutatash is the formal name for the first day of the New Year. Meskerem (September) is seen as a month of transition from the old year to the new. The rainy season in Ethiopia is ending and the new year is beginning. Because Ethiopians follow the Julian calender, Ethiopia is 8 years behind the more commonly used Gregorian calendar from January to September and 7 years behind from September 11 - January 8. So, it is now the year 2003 in Ethiopia...cool, huh?

Back in the US, we spent Saturday focused on football. Drew played hard - he has the bruises to prove it! Notice that he is number 4? He still loves Brett Farve even though Farve plays for that awful purple team now...

Drew thought it was time for Grace to learn about football - not the soccer kind of "football!"

We spent some time planting fall flowers...

Took a walk to the playground...
And, dressed up like a Packers cheerleader...

We were invited to watch the first Packer game of the season with our good friends.
We needed a picture of our whole family for our social worker to include in our first post-placement report. Even though it is "cheesy" (no pun intended) to wear matching Packers clothes, we decided to snap a family picture. Notice Drew wearing #4 again? He has a #12 jersey, but he just can't stop being a Farve fan...

After the Packer win, we decided to wrap up the weekend with a little "coffee ceremony" to celebrate Ethiopian New Year. Like in Ethiopia, we enjoyed popcorn and "coffee" (hot chocolate). Bryce was so cute - he ditched his Packer clothes and ran to get his traditional Ethiopian clothes on for the occasion.
Happy New Year 2003!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two Months Home

We have been home with Grace for just over two months now. Wow. The time seems to have flown by, yet it is hard to remember what it was like around here without her. I think it is safe to say that everyone that has met our little Ethiopian princess has fallen in love with her. She is joy to be around and has certainly changed our family in a wonderful way.

So when people ask me how she is doing, I don't know where to begin. It is incredible to think that just over two months ago, she didn't even speak English. People used to ask us what we were going to do about communicating with her. Well, that has proven to be no big deal! I can't even begin to count the phrases and words that she uses. She says everything! She still has her sweet Ethiopian accent. I will be sad when it is gone. She will ask questions that have a certain Ethiopian twist to them - things like, "This one blue, yes?" She talks all the time when we are home and when it is just her family around. She tends to be very quiet when others are visiting. She doesn't say much when we are out and about. Then, the second we get into the car to come home, it is like all of her words were stored up waiting to come out. She has a complete understanding of what we say to her. It is really wild how much she has learned in such a short time.

Some of Grace's favorite things are her babies (she must sleep with them), swinging, brushing her teeth, taking a bath, Play Doh, being outside, and just about anything else that she can do with her brothers and sister. She loves to play silly games like chasing/hiding/teasing.

Grace is a great eater. She will eat all sorts of healthy things. When she first came home, I was worried all she would ever eat was bananas. Now, she eats almost anything. She eats better than my other three kids. She loves veggies. She still loves injera and asks for it. We try to stay stocked up, but the closest Ethiopian restaurant is about two hours away. Our freezer is full of injera for now, so Grace is thrilled.

Grace is still an awesome sleeper. I had heard all sorts of stories about sleep issues with adopted children. I was aware that adopted children often grieve while they sleep, crying out, waking up, etc. Well, we are blessed because Grace lays down to sleep wide awake and I don't usually hear from her until morning. We have our bedtime ritual - books, snuggling, etc., then it is off to bed...awake...no laying down with her for me. I know that some adoptive parents think it is important to co-sleep, etc., but at the end of the day, I am done - if I lay down with Grace, I will be out like a light. We treat Grace just as we did our bio kids and it is working out beautifully. Like I said, we are blessed.

So, we have been thrilled with our transition and believe Grace is really bonding well and feeling attached to us. We are lucky and are head over heels in love. Now...keeping it real...Adopting a preschool age child is not all "sunshine and light" - (wink, wink, Bonnie).Grace does have her moments. We see that "Ethiopian pout" that we've heard about. She doesn't like to hear the word "no" and she will cry and turn into a limp noodle if she wants to be picked up and doesn't get her way. She is also a major diva when it comes to fashion. The girl has strong opinions about what she wears. I give her a few options every morning (things that I am alright with) and she needs to choose. She loves to accessorize and is often a stinker about needing to wear her fake earrings or sunglasses wherever we go. It's a good thing she is my fourth child, because I would have been in big trouble if she was my first. I think it would be hard to adopt an older child without the parenting experience that we have had. We have a much easier time setting boundaries because we have some experience (I am also able to listen to a little crying without giving in).

God really knew what he was doing when he choose Grace for our family. She fits in perfectly...she has just enough of a combination of sweet and spicy. She can handle our crazy schedule and seems to really enjoy us at same time. We are cherishing our transition time. If I had to describe how the adoption experience has been, I would say it is FUN. As a family, we have laughed more in the past two months than we have in a long time. Every day the older kids have a funny Grace story to share or enjoy fooling around and playing with her. Adoption truly is as much of a miracle as birth is...it's just different. One of my favorite adoption quotes puts it best..."Mosaic consists of multi-colored glass and stones; some are broken and fragmented, specifically placed to make beautiful artwork. That is how I view adoption. Adoption includes various color of glass...ethnicity, cultures, families, backgrounds. Many will be "broken," but God specifically sets them in place...not at random, but with a specific pattern or purpose in mind. What seems like a broken piece of glass becomes beautiful artwork." - unknown
I couldn't write this post without a few pictures. I finally got Grace to put on her traditional Ethiopian clothes. While we were in Ethiopia, we bought a few dresses for her in a variety of sizes. For the first month or so she didn't want to wear her Ethiopian clothes. Thankfully, she finally agreed and has since decided that she LOVES to model them for me (and the camera). These shots were all her doing. She was all about the scarf on her head, looking at the camera over her shoulder, etc. She cracks me up sometimes. I swear that if we don't watch it, she will become so precocious that we will need to move to Hollywood and get her an agent...

And one cute picture with some good old American denim on...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

Just a quick recap of our Labor Day weekend...We had tons of fun with family and friends who traveled many hours to come and see us - OK, they really came to see/meet Grace! Luckily, Grace was in a great mood all weekend and had a ton of fun hanging out with wonderful friends and special family members who she had the pleasure of meeting.
Just hanging out and waiting for our friends to come.

It didn't take long, and Mr. Bruce was a good enough friend to play with Grace on the swing set. Our friends came from Minneapolis - we don't see each other as often as we would like, but when we get together, we have the best time!
Two cute little girls...
The kids got to do a little fishing. Our boys love to go "fishing" with their dad - we use the term very loosely- they can fish in a puddle and think it is a great time.
Grace got to experience her first hotel swimming pool. Of course, she LOVED it! One funny comment at the pool...(keep in mind we do not live in the most diverse community)...an older lady came up to me in the pool area and said, "is that your little girl -insert long pause-in the pink swimming suit? She is so cute..." I laughed to myself because I know what she was thinking - is that little black girl yours? She was being nice and paying Grace a compliment, but it was just sort of funny. It is funny how I forget that we don't "match" when we are out in public. The first few days that we were home with Grace and we started to go places, I was much more conscious of it. Now, I just sort of forget until someone makes a little comment or smiles at us in an unusual way. Most people are super nice about it...one little girl at the mall today came over to Grace and touched her with a quizzical look...her mom was super embarrassed...
We had a ton of fun with our Minnesota friends. Thanks for a great visit!!!!

On Sunday, we were blessed with a visit from our relatives from Omaha, NE. They are the sweetest people you could ever meet. They are so sweet that when they heard that Grace was out of injera, they made a trip to an African market in Omaha to bring her a boatload of injera! What a great first impression they made on Grace. She was smitten with them from the start!

Grace has so many hidden talents that we are discovering. One of her talents is playing marbles with great aim and accuracy. Is it possible that she played a game like this in Ethiopia?

Playing marbles with Uncle Tex

What a sweet big brother!
Drew and Uncle Tex share a love of the New York Yankees - especially #25...Tex's nephew Mark Teixeira plays for the Yankees!
Aunt Shari knows just what she is doing. She brings a box of candy for each child every time she visits. Injera and candy...Grace was so fond of her new found relatives...

We couldn't have asked for a better Labor Day weekend. We even had time to do a few fun things today. The boys went fishing and the girls headed to the mall. To top off the night, we went to Bryce's baseball game.
We are so thankful for all of our family and friends this Labor Day weekend...we are truly blessed!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Meant To Be

I absolutely love Steven Curtis Chapman's music and have been lucky enough to see him in concert many times. His family has been such an inspiration to many of us in the adoption world. I have so much respect for the work that he does as an artist and most importantly, as an adoption advocate. After listening to his latest song, Meant To Be, I just had to share it...
There is no doubt in my mind that this little girl was meant to be in our family...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First Day Of School

Was the "Hallelujah" chorus heard throughout everyone's house this morning, or was it just mine? OK...so I thought that I was ready for the kids to go back to school, but I did miss them a tiny little bit today. Grace handled it well. I was worried that she would miss them terribly. She did ask a couple of times about "Grace's school" but, all in all, she had a nice day at home playing with her dolls and hanging out with her mom.
They were all so darn cute this morning. Drew was sweet enough to offer Grace his backpack so that she felt special. She might have still thought she was going to school at that point...

Tonight we had a great night. After Bryce's baseball practice, we went out for a special "first day of school dinner" at a pizza place. It was special to us because almost exactly six months ago, we took the kids to the same pizza place and announced that we had received a referral of a tiny three year old girl... We showed them the photo we had received that morning as part of our adoption referral, and they saw their sister's face for the very first time. It was amazing to sit at the same restaurant, have the same waitress, and eat the same meal WITH the same little girl that we had admired in the photo! Tonight Alyssa pointed out that the table we were sitting at - a table for six- was perfect for our family now...no empty seats...it did feel perfect. We say it all the time, but we are so blessed to have Grace with us. She is incredible and we feel incredibly blessed to have her home!