Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday Malachi!

I am still playing catch-up from November! Here are some pictures from Malachi's birthday party. He is such an awesome kid and we just feel so blessed that God gave him to us as our son. He brings joy to our days, lights up the room with his smile, is super sweet with his sister, loves playing kitchen, would drop anything to be read to, is a huge fan of bananas, pizza, and pancakes, loves birthday parties (especially Jesus' b-day), is a GREAT sleeper (2 naps a day), has amazing dance moves, thinks daddy's arms are the best place to be, and I could go on and on so I'll stop there:). He truly is just amazing. I went into a "toddler child" adoption with a lot of assumptions and fears...boy oh boy has this little guy turned all that on it's head. If anyone's feeling led to adopt a toddler, GO FOR IT! I cannot even imagine if we had missed out on having him in our family.

We were originally waiting for 2 children, 0-36 months. About a month before we got our referral we really felt like God was urging us to open up to 48 months. I was really set on that 36 month old mark, so it was a big step for me. But, we opened up to 48 months instead of 36 months, just weeks before our referral. Malachi was 37 months old when we got his referral!!! We wouldn't have gotten his referral if we had stuck to that 36 month old mark. I am SO thankful God was leading our adoption and oh so carefully preparing each and every step to give us Malachi Justice Teshale Erb. He and his sister are the greatest gifts I've ever received. Here's how we celebrated 4 years of life for our Malachi!
When we asked Malachi what he wanted on his cake, he said "Martha"! (his cousin). He then eventually started saying all his cousins. So, this was the best we could do; 12 cousins, under the age of 6. The cake was delish!
I found these really neat extra tall candles. They're great for young kids who take forever to blow out their candles;).
We found a play Ethiopian coffee set on Etsy. He LOVES it! Making "buna" is one of his favorite pass times. The set is seriously indestructible. We love having Ethiopia as a part of our family's culture now.
Yes, we did let him drink coffee on his birthday. He downed it...and it was black
Malachi and his cousin, Nora. You can see half the coffee spilled down the front of Malachi's shirt.
I just love this picture.
And time to eat.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cabin Fun

I realized this morning how much has happened in our lives and none of it's documented on our blog...aka kids' scrapbook someday:). So I have a lot of catch-up to do from the past 2 months. Back in October we went to the cabin with our kids for the first time! We had a blast and enjoyed our first taste of winter air up there.

Happy at the cabin:).
This boy LOVES his daddy.
Just chillin' with Aunt Kelly and Uncle Bob.
My little Peruvian.
He loves wearing his snow hat.
Tractor time with daddy.
They were pretty tuckered out after our walk...and COLD!
Mmmmm...spaghetti.
Family dinners, doesn't get much better.
Our attempt at a family picture.
The whole gang...makes me so happy to M&H in this pic!
It was a beautiful drive home after a cloudy/rainy weekend.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Remembering June 27, 2011

3 months ago, we stepped off a plane in the morning hours at Bole airport, Addis Ababa. I remember walking out to the parking lot and breathing, smelling, hearing, tasting, seeing, and feeling that overwhelming sense that was unmistakably, ETHIOPIA. The day we had been dreaming and praying to come to pass for over 22 months was finally before us!!! We made our way through the city to our guest house and actually managed to shower, prepare 2 cribs, hang up their clothes, organize food, and unpack ourselves.

It was with much joy, excitement, fear, uncertainty, a strong sense of calling, and being led by the Holy Spirit that we got into our agency van and headed to the orphanage that afternoon. Being reunited with our children was sweet indeed. There was also a tremendous heaviness in our hearts, knowing that we were taking these children away from everything familiar to them, the faces they trusted and loved, and into a very scarey new world for a 10 month old and 3 year old to have to adjust to. But, we knew that them joining our family was SO right and had been God's work, so we walked in obedience. And we of course were thrilled in our hearts to finally have these 2 children to call our own!

3 months later, I can sit here and take a deep breath, reflecting on all God's done, and simply be amazed. Transition has and will continue to come, surrounded on all sides by the grace of God. These first few months have had many challenges and great joys...ups and downs...and everything in between. Each day has been a gift. I'm really looking forward to our next 3 months together! Especially with the arrival of the wonderful season of autumn:)...beautiful leaves, cold weather, sweatshirts, fairs, campfires, long walks, football, Thanksgiving, baking, pumpkins, apples, and the start of the Christmas season!

Here are some pics from us receiving the gifts of our children on June 27, 2011 at the Tikuret Chilcare Center.
Hadassah's crib all ready to go...all it needs is HER!
Here we are, just moments before our children were brought down the stairs and placed in our arms forever. I don't think I've ever been so excited and nervous all at the same time!
Here they come! It's such a precious memory to me that Sister Asayech was the one who gave them to us. She's the head of Tikuret and a dear woman possessing an amazing love for these children.
Malachi saw his daddy and ran straight for his arms. Such a picture of us with our Heavenly Father.
Just enjoying the moment...together.
Family
Walking out of the orphanage with our 2 precious bundles. (Side note, we LOVE our Ergos!)
First order of business back at the guest house for Malachi. This makes it look like he's potty-trained, he's not;).
And for this girl it was nap time. 2 empty beds left at the orphanage and pure joy at the sight of our children in these beds and even more so, in our hearts, having been prepared specifically for each of them! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Idol of Attachment

I've been writing this post for awhile and was unsure if it would ever actually make it on our blog. It's one of those lessons that God's been teaching me that I just needed to get written down somewhere. But, after some thought, I decided to post it. This has been MY experience and I'm in no way saying how God led me is for everyone. But, I hope that maybe this testimony can encourage you today and Christ at work in your life.

It's been tempting for me since home with our kids, to want to read detail for detail everyone's post adoption journey, in an unhealthy way. When I first got home, I found myself scouring blogs for some sort of comfort in what I read. While some blogs were definitely helpful and encouraging...in my heart, I was really looking for the wrong reason. If I'm being really honest, most of the time I was looking to compare; comparison that led to condemnation and me falling short to others or led to pride and me feeling better than others. I also did a lot of reading and re-reading of books about attachment and bonding, which definitely have a place and are good...to a point. For me though, this almost led to obsession, striving to be the perfect parent to an adopted child. It gave me this sense of control that if I did everything right, attachment would magically happen in our family because of my own strivings. Attachment became my project, an equation to figure out, and something I could do on my own power.

Shortly after we got home, I was challenged by some discerning people in my life to seek and pursue wisdom from the scripture about adoption and to read parenting books from a kingdom perspective that weren't necessarily about "adoption". One of the best pieces of advice I got. Adoption specific books have a HUGE place and contain heaping amounts of helpful advice and wisdom. I am in no way saying to not read them. For me, they were most effective in the preparation stage. In my own personal experience, I found I needed a balance AND I needed to get these areas put in right perspective with God at the center.

You can read all the right books about attachment, have the perfect cocooning plan laid out, be prepared for the worst issues you can think of, and do all the "right" things. And yet, at the end of the night, when I kiss my kids goodnight and they slobber some of their own back, I know it's a work of God. When my son calls for mommy and runs to me with open arms, I know it's a work of God. When my daughter looks around the room until she finds me in a crowd, I recognize this attachment as a work of God. When Malachi screams daddy when he catches sight of Nate through the crack in his bedroom door, it's a work of God. When Hadassah melts into my arms like there's nowhere else she'd rather be, I know this is a work of my God.

It's been and continues to be a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit that's made us one. It's not The Connected Child, our 60+ hours of adoption education, or our general bonding efforts that have made us a family. God certainly has used all these adoption resources as tools to equip us and it's been a huge part of aiding in our ongoing bonding and attachment. But, that's all they are...tools...they're limited and can only take us so far. GOD is our Potter, Carpenter, Conductor, Author, Artist, Pilot...He's the one orchestrating our family and I am so grateful for this.

As my will began to yield to His (and will always be yielding) and I let go of all my plans, expectations, and desires for how our post adoption journey should look, a beautiful unfolding of attachment, bonding, and adjustment began in an amazingly natural way. All those adoption/attachment tools were put in their rightful place and I was actually able to very effectivley use these tools for their intended purpose. I am so thankful for books and blogs that contain experiences, advice, and tactics about attachment. But, for me, all the adoption/attachment education had become my guiding light instead of the TRUE LIGHT leading the way. I failed to put God in the middle of each chapter of attachment reading. I forgot to go to Him with my fears and instead went looking for peace of mind in blogs. I neglected to pray and trust for a miraculous unfolding of attachment and instead thought my control and gaining of knowledge would bring forth my desired result.

Now for the exciting part:). God was good enough to not let me control Him. He loved us too much to not be at the center of this pivotal stage of our family being brought together. He swept in and brought Himself back to the center of everything. He graciously has given me a wise husband who gently helped me see these things and adjust accordingly. For me, I took a total and complete break from attachment and adoption reading. This was what I felt like I needed to do. I opened up my heart to God and simply prayed to fully receive the gifts of my son and daughter and the amazing blessing of family. I've literally stood back and been amazed at what's taken place. It was so neat as I did this how God would naturally lead us in bonding activities and practices that were right for us and our children; everyone's different and what worked for someone else didn't always for us. But, now it wasn't burdensome, shrouded with my own striving. It brought freedom and has been life giving. I give all the glory to God for how He's molding our little family in this corner of the world. We fail, oh my do we fail, but now our failures drive us to the Lord asking for His grace to cover our sin intead of our own strivings. It's a battle, it's Christ at work in us, but it's so good when I can rest in the knowledge of Him in us and celebrate the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, and everything in between.

Another thing God's reminded me of is that attachment and bonding was HIS idea. He's the source of all this wisdom. I see the principles of adoption, bonding, and attachment all throughout His creation. The way a mother koala has an actual pouch for her baby (I call Haddie my koala:)), did you ever see a monkey clinging to it's mother's back, the way penguins know the song of their family members, how a mama bear fiercely protects her young and is the sole caregiver until that cub is secure enough on it's own, how mother's are the only ones who can naturally feed their newborn, and ultimately how God so lovingly attempts to bond with us, His children.

Everything around us is constantly whispering of His love and faithfulness.

The miracle of attachment and bonding belongs to Him.

The miracle of our family being brought together belongs to Him.

The glory belongs to Him!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beautiful Innocent Childhood

I recently read this poem here

I absolutely love what it says. It challenges me...challenges me to not pick up the spilled food around the dog bowl as a result of Malachi wanting to help, to not get caught up with my to-do lists and miss reading A Mother for Choco for the hundredth time, to not make my kids feel like a burden when they need some lovin' at 2:47am, to take time to finger paint, catch bugs, make cookies (and actually let THEM do it), to let this house be theirs as much as it is mine, to embrace the toys on the floor, crayon on the wall, scotch taped pictures to our fridge, and to take those precious moments before disciplining to make sure it's done shrouded in the same love and gentleness my Heavenly Father uses with us. 

God's teaching us so much in this season. I've never felt so much like a needy toddler myself with God. Although seeing our own failures and sinful selfish nature doesn't always feel good, there's nowhere else we'd rather be. There's nowhere for us to move except the next step ahead...God's hand holding ours...and our hands holding our children's. I hope this poem encourages you today:). Below are some photos of beautiful innocent childhood that's been unfolding in our home these days. Oh God, let me always be as a child before You...
 
If Children Could Talk
My hands are small; please don’t expect perfection whenever I make my bed, draw a picture, or throw a ball.

My legs are short; please slow down so I can keep up with you.

My eyes have not seen the world as yours have; please let me explore safely. Don’t restrict me unnecessarily.

Housework will always be there. I’m only little for a short time-please take time to explain things to me about this wonderful world, and do so willingly.

My feelings are tender; please be sensitive to my needs. Don’t nag me all day long…treat me as you would like to be treated.

I am a special gift from God; please treasure me as God intended you to do, by holding me accountable for my actions, giving me guidelines to live by, and disciplining me in a loving manner.

I need your encouragement to grow. Please go easy on the criticism; remember you can criticize the things I do without criticizing me.

Please give me the freedom to make decisions concerning myself. Permit me to fail, so that I can learn from my mistakes. Then someday I’ll be prepared to make the kind of decisions life requires of me.

Please don’t do things over for me. Somehow that makes me feel that my efforts didn’t quite measure up to your expectations.

I know it’s hard, but please don’t try to compare me with my brother or my sister.

Please don’t be afraid to leave for a weekend together. Kids need vacations from parents, just as parents need vacations from kids. Besides, it’s a great way to show us kids that your marriage is very special.

-Unknown

Who knew a diaper box could be so fun.
When I gave her the flowers, I was picturing a sweet smelling picture. But, Haddie had other ideas...looks like food, right?
Nothing makes this boy happier than watching the washer run.
Sunday coupon clipping...Hadassah style.
Mmmmm, blueberry baked oatmeal.
No, she doesn't have glasses;). But, she'd look really cute if she did!
Playing the piano is so much better with sunglasses on.
She totally fell asleep sitting up, playing with her stuffed animals.
It all looks so neat and pretty...1 minute after this picture was taken it was quite a different scene. But, he had a blast!
Meet Malachi's 2 beloved bears, Alice and Harry.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday Hadassah!

Here are some pictures from Hadassah's first birthday party! What a gift it was to be able to celebrate this special occasion with our daughter at home and in our arms. Through the pink smoke of dolls, clothes, books, toys, and hair accessories:), we knew the greatest gift given to our daughter is the love of her family. It makes me think of how our God gives gifts to His children. He gives extravagantly and without condition. But, I pray I never forget as I enjoy His gifts that the greatest gift He gives us is His unconditional love and that's really all I need. Though everything else fall away, love is an eternal gift that lives in the hearts of God's children.
"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 
1 Corinthians 13:13
We were able to cut the last blooms of the season from our myrtle tree.
I'm so excited for this one's birthday in November. He's such an awesome big brother!
Lots of family was able to come and celebrate.
The kids had their own little table for cupcake decorating and EATING!
This birthday girl was not a fan of her first taste of cake. Poor thing was actually gagging. I'm sure this will change at some point during her childhood when she discovers the pure fun and bliss of a sugar high!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Another Great Post

I recently read this post on another blog...and reread it....and reread it...and reread it...you get the idea;). The way this woman, Jen Hatmaker, describes life "after the airport" in their adoption journey is written so honestly and profoundly. Every adoption is totally unique and I can't sit here and say we've gone through exactly how she describes it on her blog. But, a lot of it we can relate to. Her post is about much more than adoption though...the way I see it, it's so much about community too. Our personal "life after the airport" has been and continues to be filled with memories and experiences of sweet community. The community she talks about brings tears to my eyes because we've experienced the exact same thing and I know what a tremendous blessing this has been for us. Let us never forget the power of just showing up in the lives of our community. Enough said, she says it so much better. You can read it all here...http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/09/06/after-the-airport

Friday, August 26, 2011

Family Photos

Here are some recent pics from our first official photo shoot. Thank you to my talented mom for coming over and photographing 2 very cranky kiddos! She actually managed to get a few good ones amidst Haddie's tears and Malachi's water breaks. We took our pictures by the myrtle tree in our backyard. You can read about it's significance to our family HERE and HERE. I can't tell you how many times I looked at that tree and thought and prayed for our kiddos during the adoption process. God used it as such a symbol of hope and faith. Hope you enjoy the pics:).


"God sets the lonely in families..." 
Psalm 68:6a