We've been blessed with the addition of our four year old daughter from Ethiopia. We fell in love with Ethiopia and want to honor the gift of our daughter by continuing to embrace her amazing homeland. Join us on our journey as we become a family of six through international adoption and as we work to support the beautiful country of Ethiopia.
I haven't really blogged about our life for a long time. When this happens, I start to reflect on why it's so hard to write. I would say that our busy schedule is the reason, but it's really more than that.
Sometimes it is just hard to express how I feel. I've noticed that when I don't write on the blog, there is usually a reason. It is often that I am processing my feelings and wondering what I am being called to do next. Alyssa and I have been working on The Sparkle Project, and our first project was to raise money for girls in Ethiopia to be sponsored to go to school. It was a huge success. It felt great to work on something with purpose and know that our efforts were making a difference in the lives of girls in Ethiopia.
So, what else has been on my mind? Ethiopia. It's the time of year when consumerism and materialism really gets to me. I enjoy shopping and gift giving. I love to celebrate the holidays. I treasure the decorations, family traditions, and treats. I am working extra hard to make sure that our family celebrates the true meaning of Christmas, but it's so easy to forget...so easy to get caught up. Yesterday I found myself at a store wandering aimlessly to find a few more gifts for the kids...really? I was just wandering...they need nothing...
And ...then my heart remembers Ethiopia. How can I worry about having the perfectly decorated house when people that I know living in Ethiopia have this house to decorate?
How do I complain about having to do holiday grocery shopping and meal preparing when this is the local grocery store that many will visit in Ethiopia?
Preparing holiday meals and treats is a lot of work...how can I complain about it when others across the world prepare even their grain from scratch and have just enough to get by?
Sure I would love a few new and improved kitchen gadgets or appliances this holiday season, but do I need them? This is the kitchen at the orphanage Grace was at. They served about fifty people from this kitchen. Notice the water source?
Part of the excitement of the holiday season is experiencing the holidays through the eyes of my children. I can't help but think of these children, who are working daily to help provide for their families.
And Christmas gifts, well, I can only hope that my own kids appreciate the blessings and special gifts that they will receive this Christmas as much as these sweet street boys did when we gave them a soccer ball. It was a treasure to them. They were so full of joy!
So, there you have it. That's what has been on my mind. I know that my lack of posting has something to do with a heavy heart. I miss Ethiopia. I miss seeing the love, joy and hope that the people in Ethiopia have. Having experienced Africa and coming home is a juggling act. You never want to forget, get complacent, or stop serving. I know that "I need Africa more than Africa needs me..."
It's not too late! You can still order your awesome "Sparkle"
t-shirts until the end of the day today. I am submitting our order tomorrow, so please don't delay. I want each and every one of you that is interested, to have the opportunity to support a beautiful girl in Ethiopia. Remember...the shirts make great gifts and you will receive a photo of the girl that you are helping to support.
Grace is super excited about Halloween. She has spent a lot of time scouring the costume magazines that we have gotten in the mail.
Grace decided that she really wants to be Bat Girl this year. (I have to say that I am pretty proud of myself for agreeing to let her be a caped super hero type of character...I would typically be very into a beautiful hand-made princess costume or something of that sort).
So, anyway, people have been asking Grace what she is going to be for Halloween.
I can't help but giggle to myself when she tells them.
She will proudly say, "I am going to be black Bat Girl."
Grace is just referring to the fact that she is not going to be the pink Bat Girl that she saw in the catalog.. I don't think most people know about the pink version, so they usually look at me and smile. Perhaps they think I am just really encouraging Grace to be proud of her AA identity (which I am), but it makes me smile every time she proclaims that she is "Black Bat Girl!"
Head over to The Sparkle Project blog to learn more about how you can buy a shirt and sponsor a girl in Ethiopia in the process.
The shirts make great gifts, and come packaged with a card that includes a photo of the girl that you helped to sponsor.
One of the main goals of The Sparkle Project is to support girls and women in Ethiopia. We have some exciting news... We have partnered with a wonderful organization called Eyes That See to sponsor girls in Ethiopia. We were fortunate enough to visit the site of ETS while we were in Ethiopia. We have also met the founders of ETS in person, and know first-hand about the incredible work they are doing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Eyes That See provides school tuition, uniforms, healthy meals, and emotional support for the children they serve. It costs $25 a month to sponsor a girl in Ethiopia.
Here is how you can make a positive change: by purchasing a $25 Sparkle shirt, you help sponsor a child for a month!!!! It's like spending $25 to sponsor a child (a great gift in itself), and getting a cool t-shirt along with your donation!
A few months ago, Grace and I were approached while we shopped at Sam's Club. A very nice lady told me how beautiful Grace was, and mentioned that her modeling agency is always looking for children to be photographed for print and television ads. Hmmm...my skeptical self sort of thought...creepy. Well, after talking with the lady for a few minutes, she asked me if Grace was from Ethiopia. She explained that one of her best friends also adopted from Ethiopia. Turns out I knew the person she was referring to. The whole "modeling agency" thing started to seem more ligit and I took her card. I knew why we were approached. Grace is adorable, but she is also diverse for the area we live. It got me thinking...we should see diversity in magazines, advertisements, etc. I thought about it for a couple of weeks (i.e. forgot about it), and then came across the business card that we had been given. I called the agency, had an appointment with the owner. She met Grace and said she would love to have her as a "client." We hadn't heard from the agency for awhile, and then we got a call to see if Grace was available to model for a Christmas toy catalog. Mill's Fleet Farm (a store where you can buy anything for fishing, hunting, home improvement, housewares, etc.) has a huge toy department for the holidays. They call it Toyland, and they send out catalogs with all sorts of Christmas toys featured. The stores are located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota.
Well, to make a long story short, Grace was given an opportunity to model for the toy catalog. She did a great job. I couldn't watch (I'm sure they don't want crazy stage moms around), so I had no idea what she looked like or how she posed. Turned out, she was a natural. The whole thing took a matter of minutes. I think we spent more money on gas to drive to the job than she was paid, but she is proud. Our catalog came in the mail last weekend (I still had no idea when it would be published, etc.). Grace was fine with it. No big deal. At school on Monday morning, a few people told Grace they saw her in the catalog and she thought that was pretty neat. One person asked for her autograph. So...with that, Grace has had her official "15 minutes of fame."
Wow. Two years. In so many ways, time has flow by. In other ways, it seems like we have always had Grace in our lives. She has been with us for just over two years. It's funny to think of a time when she wasn't here. It seems very natural that she is part of our family. From time to time I forget that she looks different than we do (in fact, this week I had a woman tell me that she resembled me). At other times, it is very obvious that our family was not made up in a totally traditional manner. Having Grace start school brought reminders that we are a family that has been blessed through adoption. People notice differences. People ask questions.
Celebrating two years home. Grace drew pictures of "her" two flags.
So...the truth about adoption two years later...hmmm...I've sort of avoided writing this post, because I don't want to give the impression that our adoption was a breeze, but we have been very fortunate with Grace's adjustment.
There are so many things to love about Grace. She is:
Friendly, Smart, Daring
Creative, Loving, Determined
Athletic, Kind, Beautiful
and, A little "spicy"
Grace's first trip to the ocean. She was so excited!!!!
Grace's favorite things to do:
Gymnastics, dance, soccer, swing, ride her bike, draw, make "cards" for people, go to school
Grace's first season of soccer (I promise, her hair was not as crazy as it looks in this picture...)
There have been some tough times throughout the past two years. It's hard to write a blog about adoption/family life without sugar coating things. I want to be transparent and "keep it real," but that's hard to do that when family, friends, and (possibly in the future) Grace will read the posts. I would say that most of the tougher times relate to my relationship with Grace. It is different to parent a child that you meet as a little person, and not an infant. I don't have experience with this, so it challenges me from time to time. Grace and I must be a lot alike, because we both seem to feel the same way about our relationship. We have a lot of love for each other, but we also challenge each other and drive each other nuts at times. I was lucky enough to attend one of the Created for Care retreats last spring. One of the best parts of the conference (for me) was hearing this common theme from other adoptive parents. It seemed like many of the conference sessions that I attended involved an adoptive mom admitting that her adoption/relationship with her child was somewhat challenging from time to time. Many moms openly discussed how hard it was to bring a new child home. It was refreshing to hear stories from other moms. It also put my concerns into perspective and made me feel like I was not the only one. It is just not something you read about on many adoption blogs. Thanks to those of you who are being honest.
The second thing that continues to be an issue for us right now, is that Grace is more aware of being "different" than she was when she first came home. She is the only "brown" kid in her class, and she is really noticing this more and more lately. She wishes thather hair was as smooth and straight as her sister's. She loves to tell me about it when she sees other kids that look like her (which can be a little strange if we are out in public and she isn't using a quiet voice). I realize that it is my job as a parent to do my best to interact with other African American people as much as I can...trouble is, we are not living in a diverse area. I really didn't think this was going to be a challenge for Grace yet. I was wrong to assume that we would have time before these issues surfaced.
Truthfully, adoption = normal family stuff...
Our family is so darn normal, adoption doesn't really change that.
Grace still struggles with normal stuff, like not wanting to hear the word "no", being told it's time for bed (although she is a total angel when it comes to sleep...no complaints), and trying to find something "fun" to do. She also doesn't really love having her hair done or having a mom that prefers to pick out her clothes for her ;) We also deal with the normal family stuff that comes with a family of six. Sometimes our kids argue. Sometimes mom and dad yell. Sometimes, we forget how lucky we are.
The kids convinced me to go to Golden Corral for dinner while we were on vacation (ugh...I tend to avoid buffet restaurants like the plague), and they were loving the chocolate fountain, dessert bar, and all you can eat cotton candy.
One of the best parts of adopting, is meeting new friends that have also grown their families through adoption. There is just something about connecting with people through this experience. It is also super important to stay connected with those friends, because they are some of the people that can really understand the ups and downs of having a child that was adopted.
Grace loves to spend time with other kids who have families that look like ours.
We are so blessed to have all of these wonderful adoption friends and families in our lives...
For us, adoption has also meant falling in love with another country.
What we didn't know, was that the love that we have for Ethiopia would not stop after the excitement of the adoption process was over.
Our love for Ethiopia has not faded since we boarded a plane to come home. I can not wait until we are able to get on a plane and head right back to Addis Ababa. In the meantime, it has been a joy to watch our kids fall in love with Ethiopia too. Alyssa and I are in the middle of working on a great project that I will be sharing soon. We cherish those who support Grace's homeland, and as a family, we will continue to serve the beautiful people of Ethiopia however we can.
So there you have it, time has definitely gone by quickly...just take a look...
Since we aren't lucky enough to celebrate the Ethiopian new year at an Ethiopian restaurant, or spend time with our favorite adoptive families and friends, we settled on Ethiopian flags and Africa cookies (my go to treat to celebrate all that is Africa/Ethiopian).
Today also happened to be "orange day" in kindergarten. They were all supposed to wear the color orange. Imagine Grace's teacher's surprise when Grace handed her a beautifully wrapped Africa cookie (complete with a matching Ethiopian colored bow) and wished her "Happy New Year!" first thing this morning...she was a little puzzled, but Grace explained that it is now the year 2005 in Ethiopia! I love explaining that little factoid to people :)
Well, at least Grace had a (somewhat) orangish shirt (that just so happened to have the continent of Africa on it) to wear to school today. Perfect!
As I type this post, I am home alone...it is quiet...strange.
Grace has been waiting for this day for two years. She is thrilled to be starting school and can't wait to learn, meet new friends, and stay at school all day.
This mom's heart worries bit because she is the only (as Grace put it) "girl with brown skin" in her class...broke my heart to hear that from her (more to come on that later). I know she will hold her own and will do just fine. We were blessed to have Grace placed in a kindergarten class with an amazing teacher and friend of mine. I know that this year will be filled with so many new experiences for Grace, and I can't wait to watch her flourish!
In addition to having a new kindergarten student, we have...
A 4th Grader
A 7th Grader (who is not impressed with the sign he was forced to hold)
and a 10th Grader!
One of the few times that the kids stand next to each other for photos...
As I sit in my house all alone, I think I am at peace with the quiet. I am pretty sure I will enjoy the lack of noise...or am I just trying to convince myself? Five years ago I had the same self talk with myself...I had just brought my baby to kindergarten. I never thought I would be a kindergarten mom again...
Little did I know that God had some other plans for us!
Thank God for allowing us to change our plans and to grow our family and hearts in such an incredible way.
Who knows what this school year will bring, but for now, I am going to enjoy the start of an exciting chapter.
We had an great time watching the Olympic opening ceremony last night.
Grace waved her Ethiopian flag proudly when the Ethiopian team entered the stadium.
This was the first time we were able to celebrate the Olympics with Grace, and I have to say that after traveling to Ethiopia and going through the adoption process, it feels like we have a real connection to Ethiopia. We did not only adopt a beautiful little three year old girl to come into our family, we adopted the entire country of Ethiopia into our hearts.
Our hearts were so filled with joy when we watched the athletes from Grace's country of birth, marching proudly and holding the Ethiopia flag.
OK...I am serious about the next part of my post...this book is sooooo good!
I heard about the book, it arrived at my house on Thursday, and I finished it today (it's that good!).
It is the autobiography of Lopez Lomong. He is an Olympic athlete that has lived an incredible life.
He was born in South Sudan. He was kidnapped by rebel soldiers when he was six years old. He escaped the horrors of his captures and eventually fled to Kenya where he lived in a refugee camp for ten years. There were so many amazing parts of his life, but one of the most incredible parts was that he eventually came to the U.S. and is now part of the U.S. Olympic team. Just a short time ago, he was living in Kenya and running barefoot. He worked so incredibly hard to reach his goals. He never gave up hope. He trusted that God had an amazing plan for him, and he did whatever he could to make his dreams come true. Lopez also has a foundation that works to improve the lives of other innocent casualties of the Sudanese Civil War.
Lopez Lomong is a true inspiration.
This is a fantastic book to read right now!
I CAN NOT wait to see what Lopez does in the 2012 Olympic Games!!!!