Tuesday, April 30, 2013

judah's last preschool spring show

 Last night was Judah's very last preschool Spring Show. He has been doing these since he was 1 year old! This year's theme was 50's - Rockin' the Armor of God! Practices were a little iffy with him so I wasn't sure how he would do but he pulled it together and did great! He kept nervously itching every now and then but he sang so I'd call it a success! So proud of my big boy!!!

Him with his best friend, Linkon.

I have loved being at school with him the past 5 years! It will be really weird with him not there next year! Kindergarten...sniff, sniff.

Thanks to the grandmas, Nana & Kaki, for coming to his program!

Friday, April 26, 2013

judah turns 5 {how did this happen?}

To say this week has been busy is an understatement. Getting Jason ready to leave for Ethiopia to bring our daughter home, Elijah's first time taking the STAAR tests, and my baby boy turned 5 years old yesterday! We started the adoption process when he was 18 months old and I NEVER in a million years thought he would be 5 when we brought her home. As far back as he can remember, there has been "baby sister" and now, days after his 5th birthday she'll finally become a reality for him. I cannot believe this little boy will start kindergarten next school year. He is such a joy and we love him! He and his brother couldn't be more different but that makes them special & unique.

His last night as a 4 year old.

 Now he's FIVE!!!

It was a school day so he had birthday cupcakes with his preschool friends. On the way to school they said Happy Birthday to him on the radio. He asked if they could do that a long time ago so we made it happen. He thought it was really cool!

He LOVES Imaginext toys. We got him the dragon. Nana & Grangoat gave him a Target gift card and what did he pick out? The castle to go with the dragon of course! :-)

He also loves Ninjago and Target did a great job on this cake. I actually kind of enjoy making their cakes each year but this year was too crazy so Target it was!

I sure do love these boys. They will be great big brothers to Evie!

He's a crazy boy!

We love you SO much Judah! Our family wouldn't be complete without your crazy self! Here are 5 things I just love about you right now:
1. I love how you use the words "of course" a lot when you're talking.
2. I have loved watching your artistic abilities develop in the past few months.
3. I love how much you adore your big brother. You look up to him so much.
4. I love that you tell me, "You're the bestest Mommy ever!"
5. You have a genuine love for music and I love that!

You have part of my heart...always.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

on bringing evie home


We are in awe and shock. Our moment is finally about to arrive. Our daughter is coming home to be with her family, and will be here a mere 5 days before her first birthday. Amazing. That was our prayer when we first saw her sweet face, that we would have her home by her birthday - and we will. God is awesome and He is faithful and He has delivered our daughter. She will no longer be called orphan but daughter. I am so thankful for the wonderful care that she's received in Ethiopia, but it's not a mother's care. She has never been loved unconditionally by a mother, father and brothers. That makes all the difference. We cannot wait to take care of her the way she deserves to be taken care of.

God knew when we started this process 3 1/2 years ago that this would be her time to come home. He in all His wisdom knew the journey we were embarking on when we had no idea. Had we known, I don't know that my heart would have been able to handle it. He has grown us, strengthened us and carried us through this long, hard journey and we have arrived at the finish line. He has seen it through to the end. Thank you Lord.

For various reasons, Jason is going with his Dad to bring Evie home. I need to be here with the boys for their various activities, and want to be rested to take care of her when she comes home. Jason leaves on Friday with a Tuesday Embassy appointment and HOME FOREVER with Evie on Thursday night. It is very surreal. Below is a letter to our friends and family to let you know what our plan is and how you can be of help to us.

Dear friends and family,
We are so excited to finally be bringing Evangeline home! It is so surreal and wonderful and we could not have made it this far in our journey without the prayers and support of all of you! So, thank you so much for sticking with us through thick & thin, ups & downs and ins & outs! We can’t wait to have her in our arms forever!
I know that most of you are not as familiar as we are on international adoption attachment (seeing that we’ve had loads of training and YEARS to read up on it :-), so we wanted to let you all know what to expect and how you can help us with this. All of this is speculative at this point…ultimately, we will be reading her cues and assess periodically how she is doing. Everything is going to be overwhelming and over-stimulating for her at first. She has spent the majority of her life in one room and has rarely been outside.
When we come home, we will be “cocooning” at home with her for a period of time to work on bonding and attachment. Evie has had disruptions in her attachment since birth and has never really bonded with a “parent” in the way that she should. She has had MANY different caregivers just at Hilawe, and I was told that all of them have taken care of her at some point. While she’s had great care, she has not attached to any one of them and does not know what a Mom and Dad are. It is our job to teach her what that looks like and one huge way we can do that is to make sure that Jason or I are the ones meeting all of her needs (ie feeding her, changing her, putting her to bed, consoling her, excessive cuddling/kissing, etc). We read that for every year a child is in an institution, at least ONE MONTH of intense cocooning needs to happen. Our plan is to start with one month and go from there. During this time, Jason or I need to be within 3 feet of her at all times and we won’t take her on very many outings. I know this sounds extreme, but Jason and I want to get this right from the beginning so that there are no issues later on.
Believe me, I know how long some of you have waited to hold, hug and kiss on her and I understand that this is going to be the hardest part. We have decided that we don’t want anyone holding her at the airport and after we come home that day, immediate family only is welcome to come over and hold her for a short period of time and stay for a short visit. After that, we will be in lockdown, as Jason likes to say. :-) We’d like one week of no visitors (any meals can be left on the porch that week – I am sure that meals will be a HUGE help). After that first week, we are okay with family and friends coming for short visits, holding her for short periods of time, as long as Jason or I are right there, and no excessive hugging or kissing on her. We are taking all of our training and reading on attachment and making a plan that we think will work for Evie and be better for her in the long run. 
She may be overly friendly and reach for anyone and if so, we ask that you not pick her up if she does that during this cocooning phase and that you direct her back to Jason or I. We want her to know that we are her caretakers and that she will not be getting care from just anyone anymore. This is so important to her development but I know how it sounds. This is hardest for all of you, especially family, and we totally get that. We thank you in advance for honoring our requests and sticking to the plan. Ultimately this is all on Evie’s terms and we will be watching her closely, reading her cues and assessing her attachment with us.
After 3 ½ long years….SHE’S COMING HOME!!! Thank you Lord!
We love you all,
Jason & Summer

Monday, April 22, 2013

fun with the boys

I have been trying to have as much intentional fun with the boys as I can before we bring their sister home. There are not many days left with just "the boys". While we are overjoyed to finally be bringing their sister home, the end of an era is about to occur. These are some of the fun things we did with "the boys" this past week.

One thing I want to remember about Judah at this age is that he calls these "wishes". He gets so excited when he sees a "wish" outside, runs to scoop it up and then announces his wish before he blows it. So cute. I love this age.

Judah is very artistic so I enrolled him in a weekly art class at my friend's art studio since he didn't want to play soccer. Here is a unicorn that he painted one day on his own, with some guidance. Am I bragging to think this is really good?!?! I don't think so. He's not even 5 yet.

 He loves playing with play-doh. He created a little man out of play-doh and said, "Mommy, take a picture!" Oh please don't start kindergarten little boy...my heart can't take it.

I had wanted to for some time, take Judah to the zoo before Evie comes home. I took Elijah ALL the time before Kindergarten - in fact, we had yearly passes - but Judah has not been a whole lot. I have such fond memories of my friend Abbie and I taking our oldest two to the zoo quite frequently. This past Weds, we met up with our (current) youngest two and enjoyed the zoo yet again. Judah loved it.

So proud that we got the bird on his stick.

Judah and Brynlee. These two haven't spent a lot of time together because Abbie's family moved further away and when our oldest kids started school we were on different schedules. It was so fun to be with her and Brynlee for the day. Judah and Brynlee had fun together too!

This bird kept trying to peck Judah's hand through the glass. It was quite funny!

I have so many pictures of Elijah & Ellie with these statues. Are these two not adorable?!?! Can you still arrange marriages these days? :-) We could arrange Elijah & Ellie to marry as well while we're at it!

Have I mentioned that all 3 of my children's birthdays are within 3 weeks of each other and this year we are bringing Evie home right in the middle of it (along with tons of end of the school year stuff)? I haven't? Well, they are. Don't you feel sorry for me? :-) April/May are going to be CRAZY every year! When we first saw Evie's birthday I laughed out loud because it fell RIGHT IN BETWEEN the boys' and they were already close together!
We explained to the boys that with the crazy busy-ness of this year, we were not doing a birthday party for them. Too much for this mama to handle this year. Instead, we took them on a special birthday outing this past weekend and on their actual birthdays will give them a gift and a cake. They were totally cool with it and I'm glad to have done this before sister comes home. Evie will be getting her own very small, at home party a little while after she comes home.

We surprised them with an afternoon at Altitude - a ginormous indoor trampoline park. They had never been but I had heard about it and knew they would love it. They did. It is wall to wall trampolines (some literally on the wall) with dodgeball trampoline courts and basketball goals with trampolines so you can dunk the ball.

Do they look like they had fun? Sweaty and happy...I think so. Side note: Jason and I "jumped" with them the first hour. Jason now has several injuries and we are both sore. Hmmmm, we're not as young as we used to be. But we tried!

Elijah jumping into the huge foam pit!

For their "birthday" dinner, we went to a local Hibachi restaurant. The boys love watching them cook in front of us and love the tricks + fire. It was a great week!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

welcome to evie's room

Evie's room is DONE and all ready for her! I can't wait for you all to see the finished product. Her room has been a labor of love and almost everything in it has meaning to me or to her story. It's a small room that we wanted to keep a guest bed in, so I had to get creative with it. Obviously she'll only be in the crib for another year or two and then she'll use the double bed, creating a little more space. The furniture was my great-grandmothers and was in my room as a little girl. It will be hers to keep one day. On to the pictures....enjoy!

The view when you walk in the room.

You'll notice a lot of calla-lily accents (national flower of Ethiopia) and some African animal accents. We kept the walls painted the same as when Judah was in here because, let's be honest, that red was REALLY hard to get right and I'm too lazy to change it! :-)

One side of the room,

and the other side of the room.

Her nightstand - calla-lilies, poem written by my mother, book written by my sister-in-law, African shaped wood with her name on it by my mom...such sweet, sweet things in her room.

The changing station that will one day be a vanity for her.

Looking into her crib...my sister took the Ethiopian fabric, backed it with chenille and made two pillows and a throw-size blanket with it. The blanket is big enough to be used long after the crib.

Beautiful hand-painted sign with her name given to me at her shower.

More sweet things hanging on her wall. Obviously we think she is a "Big Miracle" and I love the scripture done by my friend Shei. Beautiful. Remember that Meaza means "fragrant aroma".

 Her dresser. Wooden giraffe from Ethiopia, hand elephant done at school with Judah's hand.

Painting we purchased on our trip done by an Ethiopian artist. This is something I want her to have for her home one day to remind her of her country.

This is the one thing I made myself with the help of my friend Jennifer. It's a chandelier made from a wire plant basket and mardi gras beads, sprayed white and hung for decoration. One day she can use it over a tea table to have a tea party with.

On the left are blessings for her written at the baby shower and on the right, my grandmother painted this Raggedy Ann and it hung in my room when I was little.

The zebra stool my mom found with some special books in a basket on top.

 A sampling of her many sweet adoption and Ethiopia books plus some Ethiopian music.

Beautiful embroidered blanket with her name and a calla-lily from Nana.

Left: Nana also got her a calla-lily night light. Right: Her car seat is all ready to go! My first pink one!

All of her diapers! We are using cloth diapers & wipes this time. 1. To help the environment. 2. To protect her little bottom from chemicals & diaper rash, and 3. To keep my hands from breaking out in terrible eczema from the chemicals like the last two times. Thanks to my friend Courtney, I feel very confident about the FuzziBunz method of diapering and am ready to go!

Hair and skin products. I wouldn't mind some extra prayers lifted up for me in dealing with her hair! I'm a little nervous about it since I hardly even know how to fix my own hair! :-)
There are too many special things to picture them all, and some I have pictured before, but this gives you a good idea of what a special, special room it is.

Evie, I pray that this room is protected from evil and filled with the presence of God and His angels to watch over you and protect you. I pray that you feel safe, secure and loved when you are in this space we have created for you. So many friends & family who love you have contributed to this beautiful and special room just for YOU! It is ready for you, we are ready for you and we can't wait to show you all of the wonderful things this room has in it for you to play with, snuggle with and keep you comfy & warm. We love you so much sweet girl and cannot wait to have you in our arms FOREVER!!! It is going to be so, so soon. Love, Mama

***We were told 1-2 weeks from submission we should clear and be able to bring her home. That should mean that we will clear THIS week! We would love prayers that it is so. We can't wait!