Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Operation Makina

Is it possible that I could be so proud and so humbled at the very same time?

Our son has taught Wes and me to approach the Christmas season with a new attitude. It is such a beautiful time of year, yet the waste and excess in our American culture can be hard to stomach, especially when your own child asks why there was no Christmas in Ethiopia. This year Bunte has been very nostalgic about Ethiopia as this time of year also marks his first anniversary of coming home and joining our family. He has asked to eat injera more and asked us questions about Ethiopia. And I could go on about how Bunte is processing all of this, but I am focusing on just one of his recent reflections.

We celebrate our Christmas with Wes's side of the family early in the season. Bunte loves matchbox cars, partly because he remembers playing with the few that came to the orphanage and care center via traveling families while he lived there, and partly because he is a 5 yo that likes cars. Anyhow, his Aunt Camala knows how much he loves cars so she gave him a gift of 20 or so matchbox cars. As we left the celebration, Bunte turned to Wes and asked him if it "would be okay to send the cars to Africa because the boys at "sister's house" (what he calls his former care center) don't have cars and I have lots." We were so impressed with his sweet and giving heart. Bunte can get very wrapped up in materialism like so many other American kids. But he also knows what it is like to go without (and by that, I mean he knows not just about how to live without toys, but without a lot of the basics most Americans take for granted.) We immediately told him that we would find a way to get the cars to Africa. I came home that evening and updated my facebook status with what my sweet boy shared with us. And something neat happened. I began to get emails, facebook messages, and texts from people asking me how they could help Bunte send matchbox cars to Ethiopia. My five year old was the root of a chain reaction. A beautiful chain reaction with a giving heart at the center of it all. This is exactly what this season should be about: a loving God who sent a Beautiful Gift to earth for all of humanity and choosing to model our own actions after a gracious Father.

In response to all of the positive feedback, we have officially launched "Operation Makina." (Btw, Makina means car in Amharic, one of the most widely spoken languages in Ethiopia.) We are collecting matchbox cars and small dolls (the size of your hand or smaller, preferably wooden or plastic, not plush as that will transmit diseases more easily in crowded care centers and orphanages). We are also collecting monetary donations to cover the cost of shipping these gifts to a family traveling to Ethiopia in January who will deliver them to a care center/orphanage. In addition, the funds will help cover the cost of an additional checked bag on their flight. For those of you that live locally and contacted us and wish to help Bunte with this project, please drop off your donations by December 30.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Giving Thanks for all the many Blessings

Yes, everyone is doing it, but I thought it might turn my mood around to think of 30 things I have to be thankful for this month. Really, there is so much. So here is my "Thirty Days of Thanks."

1. For plenty of food to eat.

2. Tonight I read this post by Jen Hatmaker. She is one of my favorite writers and bloggers. Her honesty about adoption is amazing and inspiring. This post was about "being the village" for those walking through the adoption journey. Tonight I am thankful for our very small village that supported us along the way each time when there were so many others who did not. They were willing to understand and support us, no matter what. This is the ultimate post for friends and family of perspective adoptive parents to read. A guidebook, of sorts. I am grateful for our village and the opportunity to be the village so others in the AP community.

3.This evening we had the privilege of having dinner with a couple at the beginning stages of pursuing adoption. We shared our stories and heart for adoption. As we re-lived each of the journeys we walked to bring our boys home, my heart was filled with joy. What an amazing gift to experience. Learning to trust in His provision and timing was hard, but ultimately we were blessed more than we could have ever imagined. I am thankful for our boys, the journeys we have traveled together, and this special couple preparing for the ride of lifetime! This picture was taken on the first anniversary of Bunte's Forever Family Day.

4. For fresh water to drink... because so many people go without. We took this picture of the water (which many use a dump) in Ethiopia. We drove by this each day on our way to Bunte's care center. After a week or so of brushing my teeth with bottled water and putting tape over mouth while I took a shower, I had a new appreciation for just turning on the tap. Even though I was simply "inconvienced" by this, I had the means to purchase clean drinking water. Meanwhile, many others die each day from disease, such as Cholera, Giardia, and Typhoid, which are spread by contaminated water. When I first met my own child, he was suffering from preventable parasites and bacteria that he would not have had if there had been fresh water for him to drink.

5. I am thankful for my wonderful cousin Willow. She is truly a delight and has impacted me more than she will ever know. This year Willow rode Daisy, my pony, during the show season. Tonight was her night to shine as she and Daisy took the spotlight at the pony medal finals. They looked great, got ALL of their leads, and even took a victory gallop. A 5th place finish never looked so good! I am grateful for my sweet pony and the joy she has brought to our lives, but I am even more grateful for my wonderful cousin, Willow! I was so proud of her tonight!

6. Today is Orphan Sunday. It is estimated that there are 163 million orphans around the world. My heart aches for each little one waiting and hoping for a place to call home and parents to snuggle them to sleep. Tonight, on Orphan Sunday, my oldest son asked me to snuggle with him for the very first time. Payton always asks me for a "little tiny lay down," but Bunte has not...until tonight. I snuggled for bit, amazed at the changes in my son from 11 months ago until today. Our attachment journey has been a long one and we still have quite a ways to go. However, I am thankful for the breakthroughs, both big and small.

7. Bunte got his flu shot today. I am so grateful that we have access to basic medical care, such as vaccines. The flu could be deadly to Payton because of his asthma and it is deadly for so many in the world. It breaks my heart to think of all the people, esp. children, that die unnecessarily because they cannot get vaccinated. So grateful that my entire family is now protected from the flu.

8. For another great appointment with my midwife. She said all looks good! I am grateful that I have pre-natal care so readily available.

9. Tonight I am grateful for my loving husband. He had dinner ready for me when I walked in the door, then he cleaned the kitchen, and gave me a 1/2 hour long massage. Seriously, I hit the jack pot. And last night he had the boys fed, bathed and in bed when I got home since I had to work late. He is an amazing support for me and makes life so much more fun!

10. I am grateful for my precious fur-babies. They are a hassle to care for and can make me oh-so-mad, but they love us no matter what and are so loyal, kind, and loving to my entire family. They make us laugh every day with their silly antics. God knew what he was doing when He blessed humans with a "best friend." Jackie, LuLu and Carmen are a part of our family.
Photo from Rebekah Girvan Photography
11. I am so thankful for Bunte's school. Today we had a meeting with his guidance counselor and we are so pleased with all the support and resources available to him. His teacher is fantastic and caring and so are all the support staff that work with him. They have made school a FUN place for Bunte and he soaks it up each day! What a blessing! Public education can be great!

12. For a great big extended family. We aren't without our drama from time to time, but it was so great to grow up with so many cousins!

13. Today I am grateful that an adult adoptee that I had never met before chose to share her adoption story with us and ENCOURAGE us adoptive parents. What a blessing!

14. For a warm and cozy house.

15. I am grateful that today I was able to register with the public cord blood donation bank at Duke University. I hope that all works out well and that someone in need of this unique donation will benefit greatly.

16. Today I am grateful for family time. We have been VERY busy lately. Life just keeps passing by while we zoom from one thing to the next. But tonight we were all home for a "quiet" evening. (Ha, life with two boys is NEVER quiet.) Tonight is Wednesday, so it is "belly picture" night (31 weeks). I got ready for my usual photo shoot when the boys decided they needed to jump in as well. They stuffed their shirts and strutted over to stand next to me. It was so fun watching my boys tonight. I love them... all three of them.

17. Today I am grateful for God's protection. As I was driving home from work today a car hit me in an intersection. She completely blew through a red light. Half a second and I literally would have been smashed and most likely, killed. The only real damage was to the right side of the car and we both walked away unscathed. Immediately, one of my former high school teachers stopped to assist me, and my mom, godmother, and Wes appeared shortly thereafter. We spent some time ironing out the details with the police and insurance companies, then I headed home and called my midwife, per Wes' advice. She sent me to the hospital. I spent a few hours at the hospital so they could monitor Baby for any stress, and he appeared to be healthy and active. Wes picked me up and took me home. I walked in the house and tiptoed in the boys room and gave them great big kisses. I am thankful to be able to give them a kiss goodnight one more time. Life is precious.

18. Today I am so very thankful for my Payton. A child that knows he is loved and is comfortable with who he is. Payton has always been willing to be "his own" person. I had the privilege of picking up Payton from pre-school for the very first time today (I am usually at work). The children were studying Thanksgiving and made posters for all the things they were thankful for. On one poster every child (but mine) was grateful for either their mom or dad. Payton was grateful for "Lightening McQueen." On another, the children said which body part they were thankful for. All of the children responded their hands, back, legs, arms... but mine. Payton was grateful for his butt. Lovely son. So, there, proudly displayed on the wall, is the evidence of my very independent son. It is days like these that I am reminded that sometimes even though my child looks nothing like me, there is so much about him that resembles me. I love my Payton.
19. Today I am grateful for my best friends Erin, Meghan and Ashley. They hosted the most perfect baby shower for me today. It was low key and intimate, with all my favorite people. They even made all my favorite foods (crab dip, spinach dip, spring rolls with shrimp, strawberry icing topped cupcakes...mmmmmmm). So wonderfully wonderful. I am blessed that we have been able to maintain our relationship over the years, regardless of distance. And I am grateful for all the people who attended to show their love and support for our family as we grow...again. (And I would be remiss if I did not also add that I am grateful for all the ...diapers!)

20. Today I am grateful for our local Habesha community. We are so blessed that our tiny town has such a large community of Eritreans and Ethiopians. Today I watched Bunte playing soccer with a teenager from Ethiopia who has been so kind to him and such a role model. I am grateful that Bunte has so many wonderful, local Ethiopian families around to share their culture and love with him. What a blessing!

21. For a God that never fails me, even when I am weak, He is strong.

22. Tonight I attended our annual cross country end of season awards banquet. Although I am not a full time assistant coach anymore, I am grateful that I am able to participate, encourage, and coach when I can and give back to the sport I love so much. I am also grateful for the seven years I have been able to work with the head coach. She is a fantastic coach and a fantastic friend. Way to go, Coach Rinker and SHS CC!

23. Reconnecting with old friends.

24. Thanksgiving Day is here! This is our first and last Thanksgiving as a family of four because next year we hope to celebrate as a family of five. I loved that Bunte was here this year. Last year we were waiting on his embassy date in Ethiopia. He was able to watch the Macy's Day parade for the first time and to meet some extended family members for the first time. I was so happy and so grateful for my family. What a fun day!

25. Holiday traditions can be such fun for families. Bunte asked over and over again if we could put up our tree. Last year I refused to put it up until he was home and though he may not realize it, I think this was a milestone for him. It was one of the first "family" things we did after he came home. He eagerly decorated each branch and made our tree so beautiful. I am thankful for a little boy who is finding more and more comfort and security in what it means to be family.26. Today I am grateful that I was able to go to the UVA/Tech game. Although my school (UVA) lost, Wes and I had a great time together and enjoyed the view from a suite, courtesy of family friends! I was also able to get in some hangout time with my cousin Cristen and her precious little baby, Waverly.

27. A second Thanksgiving! We spent our evening dining with Wes's family and enjoying a second meal. We are blessed to have such wonderful families and delicious food to eat.

28. Today was our last child birth class. We toured the hospital and asked our last minute questions to the staff. As we walked around I just couldn't help but think about how blessed we are to have such wonderful medical care available. We are also thankful for a Wes's mom. She spent the evening with the boys and entertained them.

29. I am grateful for my mom who helped me iron out the details of the car accident with the insurance company and has been an extra help in dealing with some of life's unexpected challenges over the last few months :)

30. Well, I guess this is the last one. After school today I met with my long term. She is a former colleague of mine and it was so reassuring to have a chance to meet with her and prepare as I hand over my classes to her when the new addition arrives. (Baby boy, did you hear that? I am ready now... grow for another week or so and then make your grand appearance....) So thankful for the great staff at my school. They are FANTASTIC!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One Year Ago Today... Part 2

One year ago today...

We woke up (or simply got out of bed, considering both of us had a serious case of insomnia) and heard the sounds of crowing roosters, calls to prayer, and many barking dogs. We opened the window and heard laughing children and horns beeping and Ethiopian music blaring. We were bombarded by new sights and sounds. We stepped onto the balcony to soak it all in. We did not one to miss one minute of this experience. Just then, we heard a donkey bray and saw a young boy heard donkeys down the street. Meanwhile, the younger kids attending the small school across the street laughed and waved at us and yelled, "China!" and pointed to us. There are many Chinese companies building in Addis and guess they were used to seeing Chinese travelers at our guest house. I smiled and waved back. We brushed our teeth with bottled water and headed down to breakfast of eggs and fresh pineapple juice. Then we waited and waited for the van scheduled to take us to meet our son for the very first time. Lord, prepare my heart. Lord, guard his heart. Please, Lord. Finally, the van arrived. We crowded in with other families preparing for the same encounter. The first embrace of the child they had grown to love through pictures and tidbits shared from other traveling families. This was it. He was really real and this journey was about to become very real.

Everything about our trip was unexpected... everything. We thought our son was at his orphanage (he wasn't, he was actually at the care center). We thought we would not meet his birth family (we did). And the list goes on. Anyhow, we rode along the crowded streets of Addis, holding back tears. It seemed like the longest journey ever and then the van pulled into Bunte's orphanage. I thought he would be there. He was not (the agency had moved him to the care center a few days earlier). Anyhow, I took advantage of this time to see where my son had spent three months of his life. I was desperate to soak up any knowledge of his past, because I knew there were many parts that would be a mystery to me... forever (and they still are). We shared a few donations with the orphanage and took some pictures for families that were still stateside, waiting to meet there little ones. Then we hopped back in the van and left for the care center. At this point, my stomach was in knots and the silent tears kept coming. I kept telling myself I had to make them stop before we met him. He does need my emotions on top of his. God, please help me stop these tears.

Bunte's bed at the orphanage (above) and the playground where he laughed and giggled with his friends (below).

And then they opened the green gates. The van pulled in and the children giggled and scattered. Where is my child? My eyes scanned frantically. Wes grabbed my arm and siad, "I see him! He is peeking out of the window." Sure enough, his terrified face was peeking through the corner of the window. We stepped out of the van and were ushered by the nannies to the "boy's room." All of the children were chatting away, but not my boy. Oh no, he is scared of us! The nannies took them all back inside and then brought Bunte out to us. He started to cry. And they told him to hug us... and I told him he did not have to. I need strength. My mommy instinct was to scoop him up, but my rational self knew to give him space. We were nothing more than strangers to him. While we starred at his picture each day and heard accounts and insights into his personality from traveling parents and prayed for him daily, he did not know a single thing about us. Nothing. How terrifying for him! They took us up to the porch where we broke the ice a little. Thankfully, I had a few bottles of bubbles in backpack. Slowly, we saw a few smiles cross his face. And just like that...we went from being strangers to forging our way into being a family. Each action, each word, each touch, each gaze, was intentional. Those three hours were exhausting. Then it was time to leave. No, it can't be. I can't leave. I just got here.

After the exhausting emotional journey of the early afternoon, we hired a driver and headed out to visit the restaurant at Desta Mender (part of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital). Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed. However, our travels allowed us to see much more of the city and its surrounding areas. We also stopped for a brief shopping excursion at ALERT, the leprosy hospital in Addis. It was a day we will never forget. On top of meeting our son, we also met some great people. Members of our travel group immediately became some of our most intimate friends. It was amazing how people we did not just one day ago suddenly shared a bond that would last forever. I am so grateful to know Lindsey and Branden!

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Year Ago Today Part 1

One year ago today...

we were filled with feelings of helplessness, anticipation, anxiety, frustration, and love. All the emotions that come with the end stages of labor and birth of a new child. Except this birth resulted in the addition of a four year old (or older) little boy, not an 8 pound infant. And the labor was more intense and more emotional than words could ever explain. A year worth of social worker visits, countless notarized and authenticated papers, and endless hours of prayers and tears were finally coming to end as a new journey in our lives was about to begin. I realized that I never told much of story on our blog (because we are just now starting to emotionally process through everything that happened), so for the next few days I am going to try to re-cap the week long journey to gain legal custody of our son and become of a family of four.
One year ago today...

Our bags were packed for a week long journey to Africa to meet our son for the very first time.
Our donations for orphanages were boxed and duct taped for safe keeping.
We left our youngest son overnight, for the first time.
I had no idea what true suffering was or what it looked like.
We hopped on a plane and landed in Germany and enjoyed a brief but fantastic time with our friends, Matt and Kit.
We shopped for kindereggs for our soon-to-be four year old son and his friends.
I saw the largest rat-like creature ever (no, seriously, it was huge.)
We had not met some of the friends we would soon be linked to for life.
We had no idea what just how much our life was about to change.
My arms had never embraced my little boy whose picture I had memorized and studied for hours and hours and hours.

Group shot with Kit and Matt (one of Wes's brother rats from VMI) just before we left for Ethiopia. We loved that that made the trek to Frankfurt to spend the day with us and show us around a bit...including a search for enough kinder eggs for Bunte and his friends. Note that I have kinder eggs in my bag! I was protecting those eggs.
The rat thing we saw on our walk through a nature path outside of Frankfurt.
Just an image to show you just how big this rat thing was. The kids were feeding them like they were dogs. And all I could think, "Hmmm....perhaps this is an RUS (Princess Bride, anyone?)"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Letter to my Little Man on His 3rd Birthday

Oh My Precious Little Love Bug,

I cannot believe your third birthday is already here. It has been such a joyous three years with you. It seems that just yesterday we received the phone call that you would be born in just a few hours and instantaneously switched gears from being “Wes and Diana” to “Mommy and Daddy.” As soon as I could catch my breath from the excitement of that completely unexpected phone call, I immediately bowed my head and prayed some of the most fervent prayers of my life. Instantly, my prayers became those of a mother. Within hours of that phone call, you were safely born. And within 36 hours of your birth, we found ourselves sitting in the a hospital waiting room, for hours on end, wringing our hands and waiting to hear if you would be our precious son.

When it was finally time, we stepped onto to the elevator and headed down to the nursery. After a lot of security checks, I looked through the nursery windows at all the little babies wondering which one was my son. They were all beautiful babies. While I starred in wonder at the babies, my hand gently touching the window, our social worker chatted with the charge nurse while our hearts pounded in our chests. She returned after a few moments, but to us it felt like an eternity. They called us back to a tiny room behind the nursery. Daddy and I (along with three social workers and two nurses) waited for you in a room that was probably only 6 feet by 6 feet. We were crowded and it felt like we had an audience for what would be one of the most intimate moments in our life. And then they wheeled you in. All 5 pounds of you. You were calmly resting and wearing hospital-issued baby t-shirt that was WAY too big. Instantly, I thought you were the most beautiful of God’s creations. The nurse gently picked you up and placed you in my arms and tears gently rolled down my cheeks. Within moments you opened your eyes. It was as if those eyes of yours belonged to someone so much older. They looked right through us, to our hearts. You, Payton, were the unexpected blessing that we had prayed for. We were so in love with you then and still are.

After our nine days of travel and hotel living in two different states, we finally arrived home as a family of three. That very night we sat down on the floor of your nursery and read to you from Max Lucado’s children’s book, Just In Case You Ever Wonder. I don’t think I have ever wept so hard with such happy tears. As we read to you, our tiny babe, it was hard for me to imagine you being old enough to understand this simple little book. But now you, no longer a baby but a tiny tot weighing in at a whopping 26 pounds, do understand. And, as Lucado wrote in his book “You’re bigger now, and you do more things.” I love watching you master new talents and grow stronger and become the little man God created you to be. Over the last few months you have grownup so quickly. You started preschool, moved into your “big boy bed,” worked on potty training and have a vocabulary that could rival an 5th grader (seriously). It truly is incredible to me how much you have grown. You are an avid breakfast-bar (brekbawrs, as you call them) eater, a jumping enthusiast, a gifted dancer, a budding musician, a Spanish learner, a snuggler, an awesome little brother and soon-to-be big brother, an expert on all things Thomas and CARS, a grammer-correcter (is that correct?), an animal lover, a jump-in-every-mud-puddle kind of spirit, sensitive to other’s emotions, an artist, and my favorite, you are still a mama’s boy through and through. Nothing can make my heart sing like walking in the front door from work and having you run to me, leap it to my arms, and squeal, “Mommy’s HOME! I missed you so much, Mommy!” And then you squeeze my neck oh so tight and give me the most precious kisses. Oh Payton, please know that no matter how old you are, my arms will always ache to hold you and comfort you. “Because as you grow and change, somethings will always be the same. I’ll always love you. I’ll always hug you. … And I want you to that… just in case you ever wonder.”

Patey Kite, it is hard for me to imagine any other child of mine embodying my personality and heart the way that you do. We may not share the same DNA, but son, your attitude, your compassion, your boldness, your temper, your love, your passion, your loyalty, your emphasis on perfection, and your spirit are all so closely connected to mine that there is no doubt you are my son. Maybe your brothers will one day replicate some of these traits too, or maybe not, but you seem to have inherited my strengths and my weaknesses. God certainly knew what he was doing when he connected our families. I pray that you will learn to use all of these traits to bless those around you.

Payton, I love you to the moon and back,


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Great Post!

I read a lot of adoption blogs. Probably more than I should, but the reality is that most of my local friends are SAHMs or only have bio kids, with the exception of one or two. I love them all dearly, but it is really hard to explain to someone just what it is like to parent that broken heart of a child that was adopted at an older age. Parenting is parenting, but it takes on an additional layer when you and your child don't exactly know each other's histories. Anyhow, I look to some of the blogs just to know I am not the only one out there walking this walk. There are others. But last nite I read a blog post that was so amazingly spot-on for our current phase of life that it brought tears to my eyes. I even woke up my husband to read it. And he said, "that's us." I know. So if you know us or our kids, please take a moment to read Jen Hatmaker's post. She uses just the right words. Our "after the airport" life looks a little different than her family's experiences, but it is also very much the same. Thank you, Jen Hatmaker, for putting into words the experiences that I just cannot.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I hate that word.

Unfortunately, we have heard that word too much lately. A word so loaded that I cannot even say it... or write it. My husband and son heard it from the mouth of a county employee at the dump two weeks ago... and we even heard a few days ago from the people in the hotel room next to ours while we were on vacation. When I hear it, I cannot describe how I feel. I want to cry. yell. punch. educate. protect. And all at the same time. I have always hated hearing it because I knew the history behind that word. But now it is really personal and I cannot stand it. The N word.

I know that no matter where my family moves or where my children go to school, there will be people who are not kind to them for some reason. I know that racism, bigotry, prejudice and hate are sins that permeate through all countries, all regions, all cities and counties. We cannot escape it. But can we change it? I would like to believe it is possible. Of course, as a trans-racial family we get questions that are inappropriate and stares that linger a little too long, but these encounters I am about to share are simply wrong and racist. There is no other way to put it.

These are two experiences just from this summer:

The Dump:

My husband made his Saturday morning run to our local dump and took my oldest son along with him in the truck. As he was unloading, the lady in the car in front of him was blaring some loud, older-genre country music. The dump employee, a middle-aged white man, commented on her music to my husband. Wes responded, "well, you know, it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round." To which the man replied, "well, I'll tell you what doesn't make the world go 'round. Rap music. It is just a bunch of n-words yellin. It is the most n-word-ified s--- I have ever heard. They can keep their music." My son was sitting in the back seat. I am praying he did not hear any of this. My husband was stunned. I don't know what he said to the man, but he called the county office and complained the following Monday. I honestly doubt the man was seriously reprimanded, because he was working at the dump again two weekends later. When I posted something about this encounter on my facebook page, I received various feedback. Some people were angry and others just said that they were sorry, because it must really hurt us to hear these things. I appreciate their kind words, but the reason I share these stories and what I hope people will take away from this is that these issues our not OUR (as in my family) issues because we choose to build our family this way. I hope they can see this as their problem too. This problem of racism/homophobia/bigotry is much bigger than our small encounters. We cannot stand idly by and listen as others tell jokes grounded in racial stereotypes or prejudice or homophobia and remain silent. This is not just *our* problem! It is every one's problem. Until more people stand up, say something, nothing will change.

Another story from our vacation:

It was our last day in Virginia Beach. The kids had a blast. We had a blast. As we were walking up from the beach to our hotel room we notice we have new neighbors in the hotel room next to ours. They were LOUD. In the amount of time it took us to get our key card and open the door, we heard these neighbors say the F-word at least four times and the N-word at least three times. I was livid. I knew my boys heard. I don't know how much they understood of the comments coming from next door, but Bunte understood enough to ask me why they wanted to hurt our feelings. Wes immediately called the front desk (resisting his immediate urge to punch the guy in the face) and complained. They appropriately called our hotel neighbors and told them that if they could not stop, they would be asked to leave. The man's daughter hung up the phone and repeated the conversation to her father. He was mad. He continued yelling that it was his right to say what he wanted to say and he did not give a s--- about how these n-words felt because his great-grandfather owned slaves and he would to if they had not changed the laws. We called back to the front desk to complain. We did not hear a peep for the rest of our stay (and noticed a police officer in the lobby). But once again, I thought about how my boys will feel when the same scenario presents itself when they are teenagers. Will they be able to keep their cool? I know I sure had a hard time refraining from knocking on his door and saying exactly how I felt (although I could tell the man was probably drunk and that was not a safe decision for my family.) Will I be able to be the example they need? Will I have taught them enough to handle this situation without me? I worry about these things and pray for guidance daily.

We have always known that racism is, unfortunately, alive and well in our community, but lately it seems these blatant encounters with it are becoming too frequent, even to the point that we have considered moving. Some of the things I have seen and heard I cannot share on here because they happened in an educational setting and I have a strict, self-imposed non-discussion policy to protect my professional career. But what I can say is that the blatant racism in our community makes me anxious. My oldest started kindergarten two weeks ago. I won't be there to protect him from the words of his classmates over the years. My prayer for him is that he has strength and wisdom to educate and inform when he feels offended. My prayer is that we are teaching him to embrace diversity and he will act on those teachings modeled after a Man who challenged stereotypes and loved those that mainstream society did not. A God that only spoke of love instead of hate.

Next time someone shares a joke with you with negative racial/socio-economic/homophobic undertones or stereotypes, will you say something?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What? Another Boy???? (I told you so ;)

Ever since we decided to start building our family, I thought we would end up with five boys. I don't really know why I thought this would happen, but just did. Well, when we found out I was pregnant, I was shocked. When they told us it was a girl at 12 weeks, I was stunned. So much for my theory. However, I was not totally convinced that this baby was a girl. Yesterday we had our "big ultrasound" and, sure enough, it is a BOY! We are on our way to a basketball team of boys! Crazy as it sounds, I was so excited to know I'll have another boy. I love my boys and I am kind a tough mama, so it suits me well. I was most thrilled to know that everything looked okay (except they never got a good look at his spine so I get to have another ultrasound at 24 weeks. I told baby boy he did a good job... just uncooperative enough to get us another ultrasound ;).

My big belly that just keeps growing. It measure at 22 weeks and baby boy is measuring around 21 and I am technically 20. I am hoping this means my due date is sooner than anticipated!!!!!
Yes, he is definitely a BOY!

This picture is my absolute favorite!!!! He was asleep for most of the u/s so she pushed on him a bit to get him to wake up and cooperate. When he finally did wake up he looked right at us and stuck out his tongue. Now this little man is starting to have the attitude it takes to be a part of this family! So cute!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What a Way to Start the School Year!

Bunte started Kindergarten this week and I had that feeling again of "how did we just do 5 years of parenting in the last 8 months?" So crazy. Thankfully, Bunte was so excited for school and loves his teacher! He was a little (ok, a lot) wired and energized after the first day and left some of his listening skills in his Kindergarten classroom, but his behavior improved the rest of the week. The teacher said he did an AWESOME job this week but he needs to work on raising his hand instead of answering ALL of the questions. (So at dinner the other nite he had his had in the air and I asked him what he was doing. He said, "waiting for you to call on me.") ;)

Wes snapped a picture of both of us on our first day of school! His day was way more fun that mine. So fun, in fact, that he never noticed the 5.9 earth quake. I, however, did notice it. I actually thought the pharmaceutical plant next to the high school where I teach blew up. My students were as baffled as I was. Crazy for Virginia to have an earth quake we actually notice.

Bunte rides the bus to school most mornings, but Wes picks him up in the afternoons so he does not have to ride on the bus for an hour. Here he is at the end of the day, waiting patiently in the "K" pick up area.

One happy little kindergartner! He joined Daddy at football practice for a bit and then came with me to cross country practice. When we finally got in the car to come home, I asked him what he did at school. After his list of 10 things, he told me had a lot of fun..... but he really missed his brother! I love that my boys are growing to be such good friends. I hope and pray that bond grows stronger and stronger over the years.

One last bus picture. My Aunt Linda called Bunte to ask him how his first day went and they were having a conversation about the bus ride. Bunte's part of the conversation I heard went something like this, "No, I didn't DRIVE the bus. That would be silly. I am not old like Dad-Dad. I only sit on the bus." (BTW, my Dad (the boys call him Dad Dad) is a farmer and also drives a school bus. I am sure he will be glad to know that Bunte thinks he is old ;).

We hope Bunte's enthusiasm for school lasts for the next 16 years or so! And for next week to have a few less natural disasters.....

Monday, August 22, 2011

"She kiss me"

I was driving when Payton shared these words with me.

And the tears just rolled. I couldn't even turn around and look at him. I don't know if it is just these pregnancy hormones or what, but I could not stop it. The conversation started as Bunte was trying to piece together extended family relationships after a family gathering and how we are all connected. Then he shared a little about his relatives in Ethiopia and he asked if Payton has other brothers and sisters. I shared the little bit of information I had with the boys. Then I heard Payton's little voice say, "I was in Mama C's belly (he said her entire name, but I am not listing it for privacy purposes) and I came out and she held me and she kiss me and she say, "I love you!"

I have told Payton many times that his first mama loves him, but I have never placed it in this context to him. I really don't know what happened in the 36 hours of his life I missed, but I do know that Mama C does love her little boy and prays for him. My heart was delighted to know that Payton, not even 3 yet, has internalized this message and knows he was and is loved by both of his moms.

Oh, this little boy can melt my heart.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Big Belly

So I have not written a post about this pregnancy... because I have not really wanted to and probably should not really put on a public blog the thoughts running through my head in response to many things we have heard form well-meaning people that just plain hurt my feelings. (BTW, if you see me, do not congratulate me on "finally having a real child" or "one of my own". My 2 and 4 year olds are also very real and very much my own. Trust me.) Anyhow, my Daddy said if you can't say something nice.... so, I'll just leave it at that.

However, this little one probably deserves a little more time and attention that I have given her over the past few weeks. There just really isn't time to think about being pregnant when you have a 2 yo and a 4 yo demanding every second of your waking hours. Anyhow, I really have no real reason to whine or complain. I think most pregnant people generally feel kinda crappy and I am right there with them. Otherwise, life goes on. On a lighter note, the one thing that I keep hearing from people is: "your only _ weeks, wow! You look much bigger. Are you sure there aren't twins in there? Are you sure you are only __ weeks?" The answer is yes, I am sure. I have had about 8 or so ultrasounds due to a subchorionic hemorrhage early in my pregnancy. I am sure if the due date was way off or there were twins, someone would have told me. I just have a fat, bloated belly with a baby somewhere in there. And for the record, I just passed 16 weeks and have only gained three pounds since my first weigh in with the midwives at 4.5 weeks. Pretty happy about that :) So, I don't know why my belly is so big, it just is. Perhaps because I have a short waist? Don't know. So what do you think? Am I really as big as they say?

At 12.5 weeks.....

At 16 weeks.....

Ok, no laughing people. :) I told you it was big.

And now every time my boys see someone with a big belly they ask them if there is a baby in there. Oh, talk about some awkward moments.

Little One,
I know we've been rather busy, but I promise that we are very excited to meet you and hold you and kiss your tiny cheeks. And if we could just fast forward to January, your mommy would be delighted. Just keep growing and doing your thing that little babies do in utero (not sure what that is...) and pay no attention to the people that think mommy's belly is much to big :)
We Love You,
Mommy and Daddy

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Morning Conversations

Each morning the boys and I sit down to eat our breakfast. Payton has a "brekbawr" (a nutrigrain bar, because that is all he will eat these days... oh, two year old power struggles) and Bunte and I usually have cereal and juice. Morning conversations typically fall around the days plans or how they laughed at mommy chasing the boxers in the backyard when I let the dogs out. But this morning's conversation was a little different.

We had made a quick grocery run yesterday to pick up some much needed toilet paper before the last roll had only one square to spare. I had not put the tp away and it was sitting by the table in the breakfast nook. The brand we bought uses bears to for its advertising. Bunte got a huge smile and said, "Mommy, mommy, look! It is just like us! The mommy bear is pink and she is swinging a little brown bear in the air!" Sure enough, he is right. My kids love to see other families, pretend or real, that look like us. It makes them feel normal. Thank you, Ch@armin brand TP, for making my sons day.

We are off to Ethiopian culture camp in a few hours to enjoy time surrounded by families like ours. Although the brutal heat and pregnancy nausea will make some parts of this camp not so great for me, I will have a smile on my face because I know my kids will feel "normal" for a few days. No stares. No rude intrusions from strangers. Just normal. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It made me smile...

in the midst of this crazy pregnancy news, Wes and I have had some emotional moments... for many reasons. But mostly because people seem to be rejoicing "more" about this baby that about our adoptions. It hurts. They may not even realize it, but they are. I have two posts I've written, and not posted, about this very issue. Still not sure if I will post them. They are pretty raw. In the mean time, I am *finally* learning to embrace this pregnancy and not just put on my fake smile when people tell me "congrats" and go on and on and on (I mean, where was that when we announced the adoptions of our boys?!), followed by some "first time" mom advice, like I don't already have children of my own. It is becoming a more genuine smile now. We are excited about HER arrival (yes, a GIRL), but all this hoopla makes me worried for my boys. How will/do they feel? Do they notice? I am not sure.

However, my aunt Linda made me smile yesterday. She confessed to me that the other day she saw the cutest little Black girl, about Payton's age, bouncing around in store with precious braids and barretts. " She was beautiful," Linda said. And as she watched her, Linda thought..."oh, won't it be so cute when Wes and Diana have their little girl... she will look just like this :)." I love it. My aunt truly sees my little brown kids as MY kids. Not kind of like them. So much so that she envisions my future children having beautiful brown skin and tight curls too. Then she thought for a second as was like... "wait a minute. Not this baby. She will probably have curly strawberry blonde hair." But, I just loved that she could combine her excitement about our new child in a way that embraced what she already knows to be our children. And it just made sense to her... and to me. So cute.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Last week we were fortunate enough to spend the week at Myrtle Beach. We had not been to that beach in while, but it was a good choice for the kids.

One day we went to a Matinee showing of Car2 (which I did not like, btw. Far too violent for my taste. Especially since we do not let our kids play with any kind of toy guns, swords, knives,lasers, etc. We are really discouraging violence of any type and I was torn between walking out, because everything was blowing up and being shot at, and staying, because my kids LOVED the first one and have been counting down the days to see the movie. Next time I will preview this movie first. Lesson learned. I just don't know why they have to make little kid movies so violent. I HATE IT. We made the best of it. OK, I'll get off my soapbox now.) We took the boys to "build-a-ride" after the movie. Bunte made a Lightening and Payton made a "cwusty" Mater (what he calls the rusty version of Mater). They loved it and are still playing with their far-too-expensive -for -what -they-are cars. After that we headed to Johnny Rockets for lunch. Again, the kids LOVED the dancing and the smiley face ketchup. They are so easy to please. It was a fun day!

Payton building his Mater.
We headed to the aquarium on another day. Again, I was disappointed in the quality of the aquarium. I felt like the tanks were too small and too crowded for the number of fish in them. However, it was very hands on and the kids had a great time.
I tried hard to get a good picture of the boys with the sea turtle in the background, but you can only do so much with a camera phone. If you look hard you can see the turtle behind Bunte's head. Payton was having a hard time sitting still because he wanted to get back on the train (the moving sidewalk thru the tunnel, under the largest tank.)
On our way down to the beach we took the opportunity to stop by my Aunt Meg's house. It was a fabulous visit! I love their dog, Duke. My boys enjoyed him too! They threw the ball deep into the woods and he was able to retrieve it every time. Good boy, Duke :)!
The first time Bunte's toes touched the Atlantic. A special moment.
Bunte catching his first real look at the ocean! That is a genuine smile! He is a beach bum for sure. Loved every minute of it!
So this picture was supposed to be a classic family pic with beach grass in the background. Ha. The sand was blowing so hard that we were all red from the wind and sand, Bunte had just sliced his toe pretty good on a sharp shell in the water and Payton is naked under the towel because he had just pooped in his trunks. TMI, I know. Just being honest that things aren't always what they seem :)
Ugly Brooke toes (my sister).
Cute Bunte toes :)
Look at him fly. I guess this is one advantage to having a tiny-tot. He is nearly 3 and only weighs 25 pounds, so he can still catch some serious air time.
Me and my baby boy.
Family time! Much better family picture. The smiles were genuine this time.
My sister and David with the boys.
Char and my aunt Linda with their daughter, Willow.
The boys loved tackling Daddy in the surf. If you look at Wes' face in the pictures below, I don't think he enjoyed it as much as they did...

Payton's "trick," as he calls it. He just balances there for a minute and then plops in the water. The he "pits" out the water in his mouth. (He still doesn't say the "s" sound at the beginning of words.)
Bunte's learned to swim!!!!!!! He is no expert, but took amazing strides in learning to swim at the beach. Proud mommy moment, for sure!
Look at him go!

We had a great time and have the itch to return already. I think I just might plan a short weekend trip!