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

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!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 6

Mark and I signed a contract on a house this week!  We will be renovating a house in Garden Oaks (near the Heights just outside the loop).  We're really excited and amazed that we're doing this!  We never would have thought we would be renovating a house, but it all worked out so providentially.

A couple of weeks ago we went to dinner at a friend's house on W. 42nd St.  We loved the area as we drove through, and we thought, "We haven't even looked up here!  I wonder what's available?"  Since we've had NO luck at all finding a house in Memorial, it was a possibility we were interested in looking into.  That night, they mentioned that their friend signed a contract on a house two doors down and it was a steal, but he's not been able to sell his town home so he could move forward with the purchase.  I jokingly said, "No problem!  Have him transfer the contract into our names and we'll go ahead and take it off his hands!"  Two days later, we got word that this friend's contract is running out and the house might go on the market.  NO!!!!!!  We jumped on the opportunity before it could be listed for a higher price!  As we looked into the house more, we realized the friend had already done bids on the renovations, inspections, etc.  This was a no-brainer.  Even better, Mark's commute to work is 12 minutes, our commute to our church is 8 minutes, and we have good friends on the street.  It really can't get any better.  We feel so at peace, and we know this is the Lord providing.

When we step back and think about life right now, we laugh that we are undertaking a house renovation.  Mark has started a new job with a new company, I have changed professions from teacher to mom, we've moved cities, we've changed churches, and we're now embarking upon a renovation project.  Oh, did I mention we have a children's book coming out in approximately 3 weeks!!  (More to come on that!)  We like to do things up big in the Brannan house!  The more change the better!

This week my brother has been on leave, so he's in Houston hanging out with us some!  It's great to have him around, and Zane loves having "Untle Dit" in town.

Zane experienced his first carousel this week at the mall.  He was a little dumbfounded by it, but when he got off, all he wanted to do was ride it again!  As much as he loves animals, he was not into these life-size plastic animals with rhinestone saddles, oddly enough.  Who wouldn't like a roaring lion frozen in time adorned with plastic feathers, beads, and leather?  Freaky.

Zane also got his first American haircut this week.  It cost 8 times as much as it did in Ethiopia.  Gulp.  He did well, but I still can't get over the price.  We left some curls on top, so he's looking pretty D.J. Jazzy Jeff from "Fresh Prince".

We had a few cold days this week, so I pulled out a splurge purchase that I couldn't pass up for little Zaney Boy.  Unfortunately, he thought it was HILARIOUS that I would even entertain the thought of putting this on him, and this is the 2 1/2 seconds he actually wore the thing.  Oh well.

We had a trial run with our Halloween costume for the big Fall Festival coming up.  Zane LOVES it, and he wants to play in it all the time.  No spoilers, yet, though.  You gotta wait for the big night to see this one!

Texas Rangers are tied in the series right now, and the game is going on in the next room.  Hate to do it, but I gotta go watch baseball.  This is the only time of year I will watch it, and the Rangers?!  Couldn't be a better fall.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week 5

Our update on week five is way overdue at this point!  We are now in week 6 already of being home from Ethiopia.

Week five was such a great week, that I must recap the highlights.

The week started with a depressing lull Sunday morning with Mark rolling over and saying, "I don't wanna go to church this morning."  Frankly, I didn't either.  Our lives had been changing by the minute and our bodies were exhausted.  Even more so, our spirits were quenched.  We'd been going through the motions of life without joy...just surviving really.  We needed some encouragement in the midst of our house, church, and friend hunt.  Moving to a new city is hard, but it was really hard with a new baby.  We're used to going wherever whenever we want, and things change when you have a child.  It's a great change, but it's change none the less.  The Holy Spirit was nudging me Saturday night to try another church in the area, and Mark briefly mentioned as we drove in the car together that he wanted to try the same church.  It was a fleeting conversation, and as we lay in bed Sunday morning, a spiritual battle began to take place.  We woke up late, Zane slept until 8:30, which rarely happens, and we had every reason to stay in bed.  We both needed to take showers and get ready, give Zane a bath and get him ready, and all eat breakfast by 9:00 so we could make it to the 9:30 service.  The 11:00 service would be too late, as Zane usually eats lunch at 11:30 and takes a nap between 12:30 and 2:30.  Something (the Holy Spirit) kept pushing me to get up and go to church, so I got out of bed and urged the guys in the house to "haul it" getting ready.

We step outside at 9:05 to pouring rain.  The kind of rain a city gets when it hasn't had rain in months.  The kind of rain that all of Houston prayed for to stop the wildfires close by.  Torrential downpours.  But now we were all ready, and by-golly, we were GOING to church.  We raced to the car, and headed toward church.

Needless to say, by the time we parked and got inside from the rain, we were 20 minutes late for the service we had planned to go to.  No problem.  We got some coffee and breakfast and decided to go to the Welcome Center for some more information about the church and its programs.  We would attend the 11:00 service and hope for no meltdowns from Mr. Zane.

At the Welcome Desk, I ran into a sorority sister from Texas A&M and her husband.  Providentially, we began talking about adoption, and her family is doing foster care.  We had an encouraging conversation about God's plan for the orphan and lonely, and how sometimes God's plans look different from what we think makes sense.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a friendly woman introducing herself to Mark.  She later introduced herself to me as the Director of the adoption ministry at the church.  "A big group of adoptive parents are meeting before the service to gather to go up on the stage.  We'd love for y'all to join us!"  I laughed for two reasons:  1)  I was overjoyed to learn that I was minutes away from meeting a "BIG group of adoptive families".  2)  I was tickled that after struggling to get to church and being there only 30 minutes, we were being asked to go on stage.  Why not, right???!!!

After meeting a great couple who told us about bible studies, we learned that they were connected to a couple we had become friends with through Mark's work.  Shortly after, we ran into our old friends from NOLA who moved here a few years ago.  And finally, we were delighted to meet about 20 adoptive families who attend the church regularly and are a part of the orphan care ministry before going up on stage.

The pastor addressed the church about the importance of adoption and the fact that all believers are adopted as sons and daughters of God.  He shared his passion about supporting adoption ministry, and the congregation took up a special offering for adoption and foster care funds that assist member who are seeking to care for orphans.

I cannot tell you how I know the Lord speaks to me, I just know that He does.  When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew we were supposed to attend this church that morning, and it was so evident that we were to be encouraged there by God.  Throughout the week, God continued to show himself faithful by providing encouragement and fellowship in a variety of ways.  A new friend has embraced me as an old one, and allowed me to hang out at her house, go to play dates, and attend her small group.  There I have met many more Christian moms who I look forward to hanging out with.

I am so thankful that God sees me.  I told Him last week, "I don't know how to pray right now, but You know me.  I can't explain my feelings, but You feel them with me.  Help me Lord."  And, as always, He did.  He helped me receive encouragement, He helped me find a friend, He gave me joy, and He filled me with new hope.  He is faithful.

This weekend, we went to New Orleans to see old friends, and sleep in our house one last time.  Miraculously, our house sold after three days of being on the market, and we now wait for closing.  It's bittersweet, as selling our house makes it all so real.  Being with our NOLA friends was almost as if I had never been away.  The only difference was that Zane is actually here in the US now, instead of posted on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror.  It was so sweet to see Zane with Eli.  Anna and I always dreamed of our two Ethiopian boys growing up together!  It will take more effort now, but they will still grow up together, even though it's not quite as we dreamed.  The boys got to pick out one pumpkin each at the nearby pumpkin patch that benefited a local school.  They both went for the cute, little pumpkins, which was fine with us, as it's the cheaper choice!  As I walked through the doors of First Baptist New Orleans on Sunday morning, I immediately went to the stage where the choir and praise team gathered just as we had done every Sunday for years.  After the service ended, I entered the fellowship hall and thought, "I need to hurry and get the coffee ready" as I had done for the past two years for our bible study class.  In the foyer of the church sat the Women's Ministry table decorated for the Annual Ladies Tea coming up next weekend, and two women sat selling tickets as they do every year in October.

It's funny how when everything in life changes, some things remain the same.  Becoming a mom, moving cities, changing occupations, and selling/buying a house can seem overwhelming, but there are constants that keep us grounded and remind us that life goes on.  Those constants anchor us and give us hope when tidal waves crash against us.  One day, everything on this earth will pass away.  There will be no more bible study class after worship services, no more Sunday morning coffee, no more Ladies Tea, no more programs.  On that day, one thing will remain:  Love.  When everything around is shaking, we can stand on God, and there find hope in the new thing God is doing.

"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, my unfailing love for you will never be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord who has compassion on you."  Isaiah 54:10

"See I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up!  Do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah 43:19

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Week 4 - Settling In

Last week finished with a BANG, as Zane had the privledge of getting 7 shots (all routine stuff he missed while in Ethiopia) and 4 tubes of blood taken! Congratulations, Zane! You were the lucky winner of the worst doctor visit imaginable. This kind of doctor appointment calls for Chuey's creamy jalapeno! We enjoyed great Mexican food and the waiter even gave Zane a Blue Bell push pop for free. That totally made up for the bad morning.

Friday night, Jay flew in from New York to see Zane and Laura and Ben came from Gonzales, TX. Zane me them for the first time Saturday morning. It was so nice of them to come down.

He's making his Baylor G-Daddy do his "gig 'em" thumb!  Good boy!

Monday, Zane had 2 more shots and three more tubes of blood taken. He's pretty much scarred for life from any doctor's office.

I think we made up for the bad start to the week by going to the pool, the Children's Museum with his buddy, Musse, and the playground at Memorial City Mall later in the week. It was great to see him having fun and smiling with other kids.
 Learning to use a pulley

 A real-life car!!!

 Favorite exhibit?  The Water Fountain.  Fascinating.

 Zane's already hired a driver.

 Memorial City Mall

 King of the Mountain!