Tuesday, June 16, 2015

12 Months Home!

Yup, it's been 12 months on June 15th since we landed in the good ol' USA!  Following a flight from hell, we arrived and settled into this roller coaster called parenthood.  How do we summarize 12 months of the steepest learning curve in history?

Wellll, here goes.

First, let's back up and review.  Here were the first two pictures we had of the kiddos.  We were given their photos and their medical information on June 26th, 2012.  Anya was only 3 months old, and Jayce was only 9 months.  For having asked for a boy and a girl under 4 years old, being referred two kiddos under a year was a shock!  What a gift from God, though.  We received their referrals exactly between Philip's birthday and my birthday-- a joint present from the Most High.

We traveled in November of 2012 to meet the kiddos and spent about 3 weeks in Ethiopia.  Here are some pics from that:

In the mean time, I felt very "pregnant" (moody and finicky and nesting) and even had some "maternity" photos taken:

Then, on June 9th, we took custody of them from the orphanage-- after a VERY long interval in which I became a not-so-nice-person because of all the delays and my own poor attitude.  Here are some pics of them with a few orphanage workers and our time in Addis:

Saying goodbye

In the last year, they have grown and developed in crazy amazing ways.  Each area has had its challenges and victories.  Here's a smattering of things that come to mind in a few categories.

Jayce and Da-Dat at a science museum

Silly dress-up with Ma-Bee and Mama
Each child has grown about 5 inches in the last year.  Anya was wearing 12-18 month clothes when we got her, and Jayce was wearing 18-24 month clothes.  Now, Anya is almost into 3T (her jammies are 4T), and Jayce is flirting with some 4T here and there.  They weigh about the same (heavy!), though Jayce is a few inches taller still.  In Gambellan fashion, Jayce is long and lanky.  My hopes for him include him hitting 6'5", but we'll see how that goes. My grandpa was tall, so height runs in the family, right??  They both eat about the same, though Anya continues to be a bit chubby and Jayce can't get a belly despite his best efforts.  His limbs are just long!  Anya seems to get round in her middle, and then the shoots up and thins out.  She didn't really grow much this last month, so I'll expect another growth spurt here soon.  At 15 months when she came home, Anya was still shaky on her feet and unable to walk on uneven ground.  Now, bumpy grass, rocks, or sand doesn't faze her a bit and off she goes.  Jayce took a soccer class this Spring.  He did great learning how to dribble and kick, and really enjoyed the physical activity with the other 2-3 year olds.

They are such happy little people! (Ok, ok, as I write this, my son is wailing on the chair next to me-- because I asked him to play with trucks instead of climb on me at the moment.)  But mostly, they are happy folks!  For the first 4-6 months, Jayce didn't really laugh.  He'd smile, he'd smile with his eyes, have a pleasant look about him maybe giggle a little, but no belly laughs.  However, in the last 6 months or so, he laughs!  He really laughs, is ticklish, his sense of humor has come out, and he laughs all the time!

He has done well attaching to Philip and I, and we feel he has grown pretty comfortable knowing that we are a staple in his life.  He still seems to need control, and his need to control pops up in random places.  Part of it is just being two, but I think part of it may be related to having no stability in his life for the first 2 years or so.  He is growing to trust us, though, and continues to learn that we will take care of both him and Sissy.  He is beginning to panic less when something unexpected happens to him.  This evening at dinner, Anya spilled apple juice on him.  I saw growth in him when he didn't scream or flail, but just sat there quietly as I cleaned it up.  Yay!  He is growing more adventurous and willing to get wet in a sprinkler or go tramping through the tall grass or dig in the dirt.

He continues to be very self-aware, and aware of everyone around him.  He is no longer concerned that Anya isn't being fed enough, though he keeps track of her and still makes sure that she has everything she needs.  He is kind, and has gentle hands.  Both cats will occasionally sit on him to be petted, and he is aways careful with them.  I enjoy it when he plays with my hair or explores my face when I'm "sleeping" because he is always gentle.  He was "combing" my hair recently and accidentally snagged a small piece of my ear.  "Oops, sorry Mama!"

Jayce loves turtles.  He loves turtles.  He also loves trucks, fire trucks, trucks, tractors, and motorcycles.  Basically, anything that makes a big noise.  He doesn't seem to have a favorite color, as long as it has a turtle on it.  He looks fantastic in bright lime, aqua, yellow, red, and burgundy.

Anya is all smiles and giggles.  After we realized her dairy allergy and removed that from her diet within the first few days of having her, she's healthier and as happy a baby girl as you'd ever want to see.  She has so many faces and expressions.  She loves pink, sparkles, and all things girly.  She loves buterflies ("fuh-fies") and giraffes ("raff-raffs") best.  She looks great in pink, aqua and turquoise.  She can rock almost any color, except mustard.  She hates the process of Mama doing her hair, but loves the beads and pretty colors!  I hope she learns to love "hair time" since it'll be a part of her life forever!  I enjoy doing it, and am always on the look-out for fun and easy styles for her. I have about 20-30 minutes to take out an old style and put a new one in-- thats about as long as I can get her to sit still, even with distractions like food.

Anya has come a long way in coordination and awareness.  She still is my messy eater, but it's nothing compared to where we were even 6 months ago!  She is actually fairly organized when left to herself and will arrange blocks or wooden dolls in rows.  Since she is rarely by herself, though, it's hard for her to get time to work independently.  We try to make time where the kiddos can be apart and can develop individually.  This afternoon she was able to assemble a foam alphabet floor puzzle with help, and showed improvement in problem solving skills!  Yay!

We have needed to be a little more aware of Anya's emotional needs since she has had a harder time attaching to us.  Honestly, she's never had to attach before.  She's never had a family, and never learned what that was like.  She has been with us longer than any other caregiver, and I think the practical application of that is still sinking in.  She has become consistent about letting us comfort her when she gets a bump or bruise.  In fact, I think she invents some owies just to get a kiss.  ("No, child, I will not kiss your tongue.")

Anya did a great job today "checking in" with me at the park.  She would go play for a few minutes and then come back to me, make eye contact, and give me a hug before she went out to play again.  It was really good to see!

It's so fun to see the kiddos learn about God and His Son, Jesus.  Their favorite Bible stories are Noah and the Ark, baby Moses in the basket, and anything that involves fighting.  They know the song "Jesus Loves Me" and can do the motions to several other Sunday School songs, like "I'm In The Lord's Army".  Neither kiddos seems to understand about Jesus' substitutionary death, though we do talk about it often.  They are sensitive to teaching about kindness and selflessness, and it makes me smile that they want to be "fire truck men" because "fire truck men help people and keep people safe."  The Sunday school and children's church programs at our church have been wonderful, and the stories and truths taught there are really beginning to sink in and stick with the kiddos through the week.

The kiddos's vocabulary grows daily.  They can sing along to the ABCs, and recognize some letters.  Jayce surprised us the other day by understanding when a waiter asked if we wanted "i-c-e c-r-e-a-m" for dessert.  Because the kiddos are always together, Anya parrots everything Jayce says.  It's like an echo.  All. The. Time.  #facepalm.  Even if she doesn't understand what she's saying, she repeats it.  I suppose it's how she's learning the language, and most of the time we can tune it out, for better or for worse.  She continues to be more adventurous with words, and is often better at pronunciation than Jayce.  She's willing to try things and not get it quite right, whereas Jayce wants to wait until he knows he can get it right.  This has been a pretty consistent pattern over the year.

In the past month or so, they have come to more consistently mimic Philip and I.  I'll drop something and Jayce will patiently tell me, "Uh oh!  It happens!" Or we will overhear them lecturing their stuffed animals about being quiet or going potty.  Philip mentioned this evening that we learn a lot about ourselves by watching out small folks imitate us.


  • Raff raffs = giraffes
  • fuh-fies = butterflies
  • fuh-floes = buffaloes
  • Bamyahs (Though Anya insists on saying "banana" now)
  • Eh-phant = elephant
  • Fire truck hat/ fire truck man
  • Jayce has started saying "thanks" this week, and has been saying "um....  sure!" for a few weeks
  • Gun-noo = Thank you
  • Peesh = please
  • "Big Hard" = anything that is too large and difficult for them (Having difficulty putting on a shoe: "Daddy!  Big hard!")

Good morning Baby Girl!  Oatmeal is
a standard morning fare, and it usually
gets everywhere.
Favorite activities:

  • Taking baths
  • Playing "fire truck man" with their "fire truck hats"
  • Looking at their kiddo Bible and doing "Bible shuddies (studies)" 
  • Hanging out at our Krav Maga class with Mr. Keegan, watching people "fight!"
  • Playing car in cardboard boxes
  • Feeding people "food"
  • Bringing people "coffee"
  • Going "bye" with Mama and Daddy-- doesn't matter where!  They love adventure.
  • Riding anything big, like horses, camels, or tractors.
  • "Helping" Mama in the garden, in the kitchen, etc.
  • Anything together
  • Playing the guitar
  • "Fighting" with knives and sticks.  I'm probably the only mama in town that regularly tells her kiddos "Fight gently!"
  • Spending time with Ma-Bee, Grand-Mom and Da-Dat
  • Watching fire trucks, dump trucks, and motorcycles
  • Going to the zoo

Jayce takes a while to wake up.  Philip is
taking him potty and he's still
sound asleep.

Favorite foods:

  • Pancakes
  • Bananas
  • Muffins
  • Toast and eggs
  • Chips
  • Pizza
  • Oatmeal

Mama is annoyed by:

  • The echo and repetition of words
  • My attention being called to every minute detail
  • Poop.
  • Noise.  Chatter.  Talking.

Mama loves:

  • Snuggles
  • Kiddos falling asleep on me
  • Unsolicited kisses
  • Quiet voices
  • A fuzzy head of hair tucked into my neck
  • Quiet coffee in the morning.

Daddy is annoyed by:

  • Poop.

Daddy loves:
  • Clean diapers
  • Snuggles
  • Smiles and giggles
  • Belly laughs

Parenting isn't as "hard" as they say, but it is utterly exhausting.  I still live on coffee, just as much as I did a year ago.  I have more gray hairs, more chubbiness, and even more adoration for my amazing husband.  I've a headache now, this post has taken 3 days to write, and I have limited time before my kiddos will need something again.  So, stay tuned-- adventures ahead!  This parenting thing is one wild ride!

Here's my favorite video ever:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Change Of One Year

One year ago today, I woke up for the first time to small children in my bed.  Life had upended overnight.  <Here> is my post from the first day that we had custody of the kiddos, and <here> is my post from the first 48 hours.

I'll write soon and try to overview the last year, but in the mean time, here are some "then" and "now" pics.  All the pictures on the left were taken in Ethiopia within the first few days of taking custody.  The pictures on the right were taken in the last 2-3 months.  I didn't specifically choose "worse" and "better" pictures from my files.  I tried to choose similar activities or poses, but my goal is to show the changes that occurred in my kiddos, from their status as "orphan" to "beloved child".

Same pose, but the first is based on loneliness and change,
the second is based on being goofy with Mama.
Anya, Mama and Grand-mom at the orphanage all ready to hop in the van,
contrasted with Anya at her second birthday party!  Maybe she
was upset that she had to wear blue....  Now we know she loves pink.
At the guest house in Addis,
and at my kitchen table playing fireman

Anya has almost grown out of my favorite red dress!  It's neat to see
the change in her from fear to contentment.

Jayce has always been a Little Man

Anya's hair!  It's so beautiful, and I love seeing her dimples.
This one is my favorite.  On the left, Jayce has his "lost little boy" look
that we are familiar with.  On the right, he's all confidence and attitude!
My daughter, still with striped PJs, but a lot happier!

Friends, this is the change that one year can make in the life of a child.  A year of family, nutrition, and love.  There are SO many children on the left side....  Consider allowing God to use you to be a catalyst for change in the life of one made in His image.

Psalm 68:5-6 NIV

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing..."