Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New House, New Baby, and a lot of Firsts!

Mark and I have been busy this spring and fall with the renovation of a 1940's cottage in Garden Oaks neighborhood.  We love the huge trees, generous yards, and small town feel of this area right in the middle of the city.  We bought the house last November and lived in an apartment in Memorial while the renovation was completed.  In my opinion, this saved our sanity, as I've heard living in a construction zone can make people CRAZY.  (I'll post before and afters on the next post.)

In March Mark took a mission trip to Guatemala with 24 other guys from our church, Zane attended his first livestock show and carnival, Mark and I saw Brad Paisley at the rodeo, I attended an adoptive moms conference in Atlanta, I began praying with a group of women from HFBC about Human Trafficking in Houston, and Zane went to his first Easter Egg hunt at HFBC's "Spring Loaded" event!

In April Zane and I went on a bluebonnet tour with Grandmom and her friend Patricia, the Kishbaugh's (friends we met in Ethiopia) came to Houston, we took Zane on his first 5K ride in a stroller with Aid Sudan (now Every Village), the Easter Bunny came to our house (and to Nana's house all in the same day!), and I realized I was 4 weeks pregnant!

In May we heard our new baby's heartbeat for the first time, attended Zane's first Aggie baseball game, and packed up our apartment (returned all our borrowed stuff is really more how it went) and moved in with Mimi and Poppi while our house was being finished up in Garden Oaks.  This time was so precious to us!  Zane got to swim and play in the neighborhood splash pads almost every day...until he fell, hit his head on an iron gate, and got three stitches in his head!  So far he's had a black eye, stitches in his head, and several cuts and bruises.  Clearly, he is all boy.  I'm just crossing my fingers that he doesn't have a broken limb.  I nearly threw up just looking at the blood from the gash in his head.  I am not good with pain.

The house was originally supposed to be done at the beginning of May, so our apartment contract ran out.  As the due date approached, it was clear that it would be June (maybe July) before the house would be ready for move-in.  I hear that's how it always goes...but this was certainly a test of our patience.  We had not seen hardly any of our belongings since we returned from Africa in September.  It was becoming the joke that it would be like Christmas morning opening our storage unit and getting our stuff back!  In retrospect, I can see God's blessing in our transition.

As Zane was being uprooted from his transition home, nannies, friends, and what he knew as normal, Mark and I too were being uprooted from our home in New Orleans, our jobs, our friends, and our church.  As we settled into an apartment together, all of us were experiencing the oddity of a temporary home, the unfamiliarity of other people's stuff around us, the loss of one life, and the blessing of a new. What a gift God gave us all in being able to relate to one another and truly empathize with each other's grief, insecurity, and excitement that overwhelmed us like a roller coaster ride.

In June, we moved into our house that is still a work in progress as workers are in and out every day refining the details of the construction.  We are thankful that Zane is finally sleeping in a bed (not a pack-n-play, as he did for 9 months!), and that we have a nice family room and play room to spread out in.  Our decision to add 15 feet to the back of the house proved to be a vital one, as now we will free up a bedroom for the new baby!  I'm excited to get started on decorating that room!  We have been blessed with the most precious neighbors (who we new previously from HFBC) on one side, and a great Louisiana couple on the other side (did I mention she is a 7th grade teacher?).  How good God is to bring comfort and a sense of home to us in this new place.

Surprisingly, Zane has made the transition to the new house beautifully, which we can only credit to God, the Father, preparing his little heart.  Just as the peace in his eyes showed he knew the day he saw us we would be his parents, so did the joy in his face as he realized this new home was his house.  We are so thankful that he has easily transitioned to a "big boy bed" (trundle of a full size bed).  His expression was priceless as we laid him in it.  He squinted his eyes, grinned, and said, "Thank you, Mommy.  Thank you, Daddy," as he buried his head in the pillow.  So sweet.

After moving in, we took a weeklong trip to Galveston where Zane saw the ocean for the first time.  This was a remarkable memory for us as he ran out on to the sand, splashed his feet in the water, and squealed like a seagull for about 30 minutes straight.  There was so much delight, enthusiasm, and joy in that little boy that he could hardly keep it in.  I think if we had spent one more minute there, he would have burst with happiness.

While we were there, Mark, Zane, and I reflected on our first meeting.  July 9, 2011 was the day we met Zane face-to-face for the first time.  His eyes were engrained on my heart forever.  He didn't cry, but whimpered nervously as I took him out of his nanny's arms.  In less that 5 minutes, his head was pressed to my chest, and his body limp in my arms.  In that moment, we all knew God's presence was there with us.   We will always remember this first meeting as if it was a birthday.  For us, it was the day our family was finally together, and we would never be the same.

Now that we are settling in to our house, developing a better routine, and getting used to the new normal, I plan to keep a journal of our family and the journey to the new baby.  Stay posted!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine's Day Top 10

Zane is my new Valentine this February 14th.  I didn't know how I could love another Valentine (besides my husband) and this year, I am realizing the depth and breadth and height of God's love as I love my little boy.  And to think that God's love is greater still...I can't even imagine.

There are many reasons why I love being Zane's mommy:
10.  He enthusiastically smiles with bright eyes and an excited voice yelling, "Mommy!!" when I pick him up from the church nursery.
9.  Every time he sees a picture of an animal he knows, he shouts it's name and sound as if encountering it for the first time.  "Epitant!!!!!!!!!!! (Elephant)" "Rooster!!!!!!! Da-Da-Dooooo!!!!!"
8.  He loves to count and say the alphabet.  Flash cards, books, and puzzles are his favorites!  It does this teacher's heart good.
7.  He teaches me about moderation; always eating slowly and never cleaning his plate, playing with one or two toys at a time, and never wanting excess.
6.  He says "Thank you" to everything...I mean everything.  Here's a button, Zane.  "Thank you!"  Here's a piece of paper. "Thank you!"  Let Mommy help you with that.  "Thank you!"  It reminds me to always give thanks in every circumstance knowing that the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and perseverance Godliness. (James 1:3)
5.  He loves Veggie Tales with all his heart, and he dances like there's no tomorrow to the theme song,  racing his feet as fast as they will possibly move.
4.  When he wakes up in the morning or from a nap, he unfailingly says, "Hiiiii! (Really drawn out).  How are you?" in the singsongy voice of a Kindergarten teacher.
3.  He shouts "Jesus" periodically during the day - in the car, as we read books, before nap - and I know this means, "Sing me a 'Jesus' song!"  Not just any church song.  Let's be clear.  It must say the name of Jesus or it is not a 'Jesus' song.  No "This Little Light of Mine" in this house...it's "Give Me Jesus", "There's Something About That Name", "Blessed Assurance", "Jesus Loves Me", "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", "Jesus Loves the Little Children", "Praise the Name of Jesus", and any other song that speaks his name.  It just makes me want to shout "GLORY!"  My little boy gets it.  There is power in the name of Jesus.
2. He tugs my neck to draw my faces closer to his to where our cheeks touch, closes his eyes, and rests his head on my shoulder.
1. He reaches up, touches my heart, and says, "Zane" as I cradle him to sleep, which means, "Zane's Mommy."  He knows I am his and he is mine.

My heart is so full this Valentine's Day.  There so much love that I want to give him, and I come up short.  That's when the Holy Spirit takes over with just the right touch, the right words, and the right expression to love him the way that only God can.

I would love to have some special traditions for Valentine's Day.  I think it's a great way to teach him about the true love of God, and people like St. Valentine who gave it all for the cause of Christ.  It's not coincidence that the root "Valen" means "Strong, Powerful, Courageous".  After all, it's this kind of love, God's love, that St. Valentine died for.  It's important to me for Zane to know, that a Valentine is a warrior. Love is difficult.  Love is passionate.  Love is devoted.  And Love died so that he might have life.

***What do you do with your kids on Valentine's Day?  Any special traditions?  Any resources that teach kids about the History of Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Turning 2

My baby is two years old today!  Moms always tell me time with kids flies by.  I believe them, and it seems to be so much more true as adoptive parents.  Even though we met Zane when he was 16 months old, we feel like we've been his parents forever.  In some ways it's like he's always been here, but in other ways, like today, it feels like I've only had him for a few short weeks.  I'm not ready for him to be two already.  It still seems like we just came home with him.

Monday night we had our three month post placement home study, and our social worker confirmed that Zane is every bit a two year old.  We're so glad to see that he is developmentally on track with his peers.  However, turning two is just like turning 16; I'm sure of it.  Between the word, "NO!" and running away from Mommy and Daddy like it's a game, Zane is really a sweetheart.  Like all two year olds, he has a "split personality":  demanding and whiny or hilarious and cuddly.  We love both because it's all a part of who he's becoming as an individual.

When we first met Zane, he was a reluctant, quiet child who preferred the background.  It took a lot to make him laugh.  We couldn't even tickle him to make him laugh.  On occasion though, he would smile through the window at the transition home when his friends yelled his name.  He'd light up when the nannies chanted, "Addisu-Addisu-Addisu-Addisu!" clapping their hands in rhythm.  But for the most part, he was a stoic observer of the world around him, always investigating the leaves, grass, and outdoor life he had only watched through the large pane of glass that separated the toddler room from the great outdoors.

Today, I know a different child.  Zane is eager to laugh, always joining in anyone's laughter as if he knows exactly what the joke was.  He's affectionate with family and close friends, and he loves to "pay??"  (That's "PLAY").

In the Veggie Tales episode "God Made Me Special", Larry jokes, "Nothing says, 'You're special!' like lots of colorful balloons!"  So Mark and I took that word of advice and planned a balloon surprise for Zane.  This morning he woke up to "baboons" (that's a hybrid word for "balloons" and "bubbles") floating into his room!
I'm sure he knew he was special when he saw them.  


When I was thinking about what to do on his birthday, I asked myself, "What would you like to do on your 2nd birthday?"  The answer?  "Eat CAKE for breakfast, of course!"  So that's what we did next.  (I have to insert here that I put the cake on his plate to let him dive in for one of those cake in the face type pics...HOWEVER, this precious boy would rather use a fork.  Hallelujah!  God knows our needs.  My OCD husband and I have secretly stressed out about the messy cake photos.  Please don't take offense if you have one...but they gross me out.)  

I've never seen Zane more happy than he is now.  Not just today, but everyday.  He is full of happiness, love, and anticipation.  And Mark and I?  We are elated.  We've never felt so fortunate, so honored.   God gave us an amazing treasure in Zane.  

Many people  look at adopted children and note an extreme amount of growth when they finally settle into their forever family.  Some may say that it's the result of having parents.  Some may conclude they are getting better nutrition and care.  I know better.  Nothing that Mark and I have done has produced the amazing results we've seen in our little boy.  There's no way!  If anything, we'll screw the poor child up.  What we've witnessed in Zane God's miracle of adoption.  Only He has transformed our little boy.  God, his Father, has made all things new.  He's given Zane a new joy, new meaning, new outlook...He's picked him up out of the pit and set him firmly upon a rock.  He's given him a new name.  Addisu, "the new one", has a new heart with which to love and be loved.  He's being restored everyday.  Only God's grace can do this, which is why we always knew that his American name would be Zane, "God is gracious."  We thank God that he still lavishes his grace upon us and calls us his children.  I know Zane knows this love first hand, and everything in his being radiates with it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First Holiday Season with Zane

Discovering Snow!!!!!  Oh...wait...you thought I meant real snow.  We're in Houston people.  Come on.

The Holidays have come and gone like a thief, and I'm left wondering where in the world time has gone.  Today is already New Year's Day, and I still feel like my baby boy came home a few short weeks ago.  The passing of time makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry like a baby.  I don't ever want things to change, yet they do anyway in a big way.  It was 6 months ago that Mark and I were feverishly packing (and re-packing) our bags for our trip to meet our first born son, Zane Addisu.  We had a family shower to attend in the San Antonio area and planned to celebrate the 4th of July with Aunt Laura and Uncle Ben before heading to Africa July 7th.  Today, I'm floored that the calendar says, not July, but January.  And it's no longer 2011, the year Zane became a  forever member of our family, but 2012, a whole new year, a whole new chapter, with nothing written in it.

The summer and fall of 2011 were unforgettable to me.  I can hardly believe sometimes that we are holding the boy we prayed for and waited for so long.  In Ethiopia I learned that God is everything to me, and there is nothing I desire more than His presence.  I learned to trust him for everything; my peace, my ability to care for a child I barely knew, and my fulfillment, as I spent so much time alone with Him.  I made invaluable friends who I miss so much.  The ladies at Yebsabi Guest House who held me as I held my child are forever etched on my heart.  My throat knots up everytime I think about the morning I threw head on my dear friend's shoulder and cried overwhelmed and exhausted, and how she held me there and told me not to cry.  How another cleaned up vomit with me, not once, but twice in the middle of the night.  How they cared for my son as if he were their's, and sought to bring happiness into our lives.  

I'm thankful for David, our driver, and more importantly our friend.  His love for coffee paralleled mine, and we never passed up an opportunity to share a macchiato together.  He brought us joy as he played Ethiopian music in the car and drove way too fast over pot holes, honking all the way to warn area drivers that we were on a mission.  

I think of Job, his pregnant wife, and the baby that he will soon hold in his arms, and I desire to be there with them to celebrate the birth of his first born.  Job's kindness reflected the peace in his heart.  His laugh made you want to join him, despite not knowing what in the world he was laughing about.  The slow, deep tone of his voice as he spoke of his country let you know of his loyal affections and longing to experience the great potential of Ethiopia.  Job made patience, love, and peace look like decadent chocolate cake, sweet and worth any sacrifice.  He made you want to be more like Jesus.

I remember Yonas's passion for history and for understanding his country's past.  He desires to give Ethiopia a brighter future, and he does this everyday by caring for it's children.  Yonas cared for Addisu as an uncle would while we were apart.  Yonas dreams big dreams and I know he will see them come to reality.  He's motivated, inspiring, knowledgeable, and reminds you why you love Ethiopia.  His stories of Ethiopian history inspire respect, gratitude, and a bright future.

I am so happy I made these dear friends this year.  I am even more happy that I have the most loving, inquisitive, and bright Ethiopian boy sleeping in the room next to me every night.  Zane Addisu has changed my life.  He's a constant reminder of God's grace and redemption for mankind.  He teaches us God's heart everyday through His forgiveness, love for us, and desire to spend time with us.  In parenting him, I understand more how much God desires for us to come to him as we are and open our hearts to him.  

Santa's Wonderland
This holiday season, I watched Zane run in pure joy with cousins who think he's the greatest, hug grandparents who are totally in love with him, laugh at aunts and uncles who adore him, play in fallen leaves at our new house, and cuddle with mommy and daddy in new Christmas pajamas.  The scent of baby lotion, vanilla, cinnamon, and sticks from outside fill our senses this winter, and it fills me with so much joy I could cry.  Part of me wants to make time stop so I can really drink in the life around me, but at the same time, I can't wait to see what's next.  Our lives are so full of happiness, I can't get enough.

Dewberry Farms

Back in NOLA for a Christmas banquet at FBNO

Candy Cane Lane Puppet Show at HFBC
On our way to Zane's first Midnight Yell!
After Zane's first Midnight Yell and a New Year's Eve bowl game win, we appropriately began this New Year with worship to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, at our new church home, Houston's First Baptist Church.  As we sang, "Our God is jealous for His own..." and "None could comprehend His love and His mercy..." and "A mighty fortress is our God..."  I was so overwhelmed by the beauty that I am His child.  I'm so thankful that even when I did not seek Him, He was pursuing me because He wants me so badly to find fulfillment in Him.  I sort of get that now that I am a parent of a beautiful boy.  I'm so jealous for Him to know how much he is loved by God and by His parents.  I want no one else to have His affections but God who is worthy of His heart.  I long for him to comprehend the love and mercy of the Father and know that he was rescued and redeemed.  I pray that He realizes that our God is a mighty fortress and a refuge; that He was there all along, and He will be there forevermore to come through for him.  
When he woke up, his first word (after "HI!") was "Aggies?"  Love it.

Dewberry Farms Christmas Tree Farm
In 2012, I want my life to be more about Christ.  I want my family to be about Christ, and I want to really do what He says.  Right now, Mark and I are reading Kisses From Katie about a young girl living and working among the poor in Uganda.  She has adopted 14 girls who were desperate for someone to care for them.  She's living in remote circumstances with little material wealth.  But she's living the good life...the life that is true living, and living fully.  

This Christmas I am reminded again that life is found in Christ alone.  That our comfort, wealth, and appetites only lead to earthly contentment, and fulfilling life is found in participating in God's work around the world.  This is why I'm so thankful for the time I spent in Ethiopia, and why I can't shake the effect it's had on my life. It's when we are most desperate for God that we truly experience His peace, His presence, His joy.  Enough of the counterfeit stuff of this world...give me the good stuff.  I want Jesus in 2012 and forever.

Zane's first encounter with a REAL horse at Grandmom and G-Daddy's

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Week 9 & 10: Goodnight Aggieland!

The children's book that Mark and I wrote was published, and we received our shipment of books this week!  Goodnight Aggieland is a book about the greatest university on earth, and it's unique traditions.  While it is a children's book primarily, it's great for any fan who wants to share the traditions that make Texas A&M one of the most spirited campuses in the country.  It would make a great Christmas present for anyone!  We are so proud to be able to dedicate the book to our son, Zane Addisu, future Fightin' Texas Aggie class of 2031 (WHOOOOOP!)!  See more about the book at www.goodnightaggieland.com.

We've had a great month of November.  Ginger and cinnamon filled our apartment today as I baked Ginger Spice cookies.  We had pot roast and cornbread tonight before downing the cookies with a hot cup of pumpkin spice coffee.  I love fall.  The smells and tastes are warm and inviting.  The sites around Houston are filled with Christmas lights, colorful ornaments, wreaths, and ribbons.  I felt pure delight as I listened to Bing Crosby fill the halls of Memorial City Mall yesterday.  It may not be a "White Christmas" here, but it certainly will be a joyful one.

It's been interesting to think of Christmas this year with a toddler in our family.  I want to make family traditions that are meaningful and important to him.  Most of all, I want him to know the beauty of the season. Christmas is about giving, sacrifice, and hope.  Our attention turns to the poor and the needy as we gather meals and gifts for others.  We await Santa Clause, or Saint Nick, who is said to have given gold coins to three neighborhood girls who had no dowry for marriage.  The coins were dropped anonymously through the chimney of their home and landed in socks hanging to dry over the fire.  The most important reason we celebrate and the cause of the first Christmas, of course, was the Savior of the world being born to rescue man from their self-destructive sin nature.  The hope and joy we have during this season is because of His deliverance from fear, oppression, and grief.

In the midst of the lights, music, merriment, and fun of it all, I hope to instill traditions of giving, sacrifice, and hope during this season.  As Zane learns American culture, I pray that it is forever infused with his Christian heritage, and the true meaning behind our celebrating!

I would love to hear the Christmas traditions you have with your children or family!  Please leave a comment or post on my facebook page!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Week 7 - Fall is Here!

This week was full of great weather and fun!  We've been in the 70's and 80's here in Houston, which feels like winter, and we've enjoyed being outdoors.

Zane is officially out of size 12 month pants this week!  That's a relief since the boy is almost 22 months!!  He's on to a size 18-24 month!  We continue to introduce new foods, and he's catching on to the American diet.  This week he likes beans, broccoli cheese soup, and peanut butter crackers (an all-time favorite).  He's still not really into meats, but we continue to put them in front of him at meal times.

We've had playdates this week with old friends from college, and Zane even stayed with Mimi and Popi for a whole day while Mommy and Daddy went to the Aggie game.  Unfortunately, the Aggies lost, but we feel like we scored big time with a whole day out and no issues!  Zane is adapting well to life here, and he loves his grandparents!

Sunday we went to Grandmom and G-Daddy's for lunch after church.  Zane went to his first Sunday School class in the toddler room, and we picked him up afterward.  I think he did okay, but he's still a little surprised and relieved when we come back to get him.  We're praying for him about this, and we continue to create opportunities to prove that "Mommy and Daddy ALWAYS come back."  We're also praying that God the Father would be so evident to him that he always feels His closeness when we are away.  God was faithful to be near to him in the months while he was in the transition home, and I know he is near to him now.  I pray that Zane can see that, as he literally and spiritually senses the Lord's presence around him.  At Grandmom and G-Daddy's Zane got to swing, see our dogs, play outside in the beautiful weather, and get spoiled with cookies and lots of attention.  He had a great time playing with vintage toys that Mark, Jay, and Laura used to play with!  Aside from hitting his head on the tile floor and getting his second bruise on his head (same spot as the one he got in Ethiopia from falling out of a chair), he had a great time!

Monday was the big event:  First Fest at Houston's First Baptist Church.  We've been waiting for this for weeks now.  There was everything you could imagine at the festival, including a petting zoo, pony rides, bounce houses, blow up slides, train rides, and more!!!  Zane went to the festival as the Ethiopia Lion of Judah.  In Ethiopia, the Lion of Judah represents the country's strength, independence, and foundation of historical Christianity.  Ethiopians believe that some of the bible's ancient history occurred there, and they even house the ark of the covenant.  This is a really difficult costume to explain to a bunch of American Baptists.  They think we just dressed him as the lion on the Wizard of Oz, but we knew he was so much more.  Zane, the lion, is a representation of God's hand on his country, the power that God has to strengthen Ethiopia, and God's deliverance from oppression.  Of course, these deep thoughts only occur to his mother, the brain behind this madness, and I'm okay with that.

The most thrilling things for Zane were the most simple things:  the bubble wrap tracks where toddlers could run and make the bubbles pop, a plastic pool with water and magnetic fish, and a big sandbox with items you could dig for.  Brilliant!  It was toddler heaven.  They even spread out butcher paper inside and let the kids draw on it with sidewalk chalk.  For Zane, candy was not even a thought this Halloween.  It was all about discovery.

I think Zane was most mesmerized by the Petting Zoo.  He had a love/hate relationship with this attraction.  On one hand, he was so drawn to the donkey, the goats, the lambs, the deer, and the chickens.  Afterall, these animals are EVERYWHERE in Ethiopia, and they sustain the country.  However, he was a little surprised at their audacity to approach him, encourage him to pet them, and invade his personal space.  In Ethiopia, donkeys will toe the line as their master whips them into submission.  Chickens roam the streets and yards of peoples homes without concerning themselves with people.  Goats and lambs stand caged in local markets waiting to be bought and sold, slaughtered, and eaten.  But these animals?  They wanted to be coddled and pet by cute little children dressed as animals, pirates, cowboys, princesses, and other creatures.  This was absolutely bizarre to Zane.  When the donkey stood just beside him and honked out a loud, obnoxiously long "heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw", he raced up my leg into my arms, and looked at the thing like it was crazy.  It was so funny.  I wish I knew what he was thinking the whole time he watched the animals roam in the pin and rub up next to him like pets.

Mommy had a moment of "Toddlers and Tiaras" when I heard announced a costume contest for ages 0-2.  I went into "we gotta get him up there" mode, and I even pulled Zane away from a conversation with Daddy and Pastor Greg.  I've got priorities people!  Zane ended up third place, which is great for his first pageant!  (Not that there will be more...Mark would kill me.)

It was a great night that finished with dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and an "after-party" at home.  Mark and I stayed up with Zane and played until he was worn out from all the fun.  I think Zane's first American holiday was a hit!