Sunday, May 13, 2018

2 Months Home Update

We are just past 2 months home and are hopefully past the steepest adjustment! This month showed lots of progress and Samira is clearly getting more comfortable at home. I’m privileged to be a stay at home mom who can keep a routine M-F quite consistent. Harlyn being at school keeps us pretty on schedule with drop off and pick up to work around. Samira’s pediatrician referred us to some early childhood development specialists and she scored low enough to qualify for their services. Most of her development was falling around the 12 month mark. It will be nice to have therapists help us work with her and it’s super nice that they come to our house too! Their evaluation is very helpful for us in identifying areas she is behind on. We've had to not look at all the progress to go yet but look back and how much progress she's already made. When we do look at where we were at a month or two ago, we see how much we've already worked past.
 
Language
We haven’t changed much in this in the last month but we know she understands a lot of what we say –especially “no”  (and doesn’t like it!) She says some words but they are more universal—like “nana” (not just for bananas but all snacks she wants) “dada” (many different people) She can mimic sounds so a lot of things she might repeat that sound like “all done” “thank you” and we are working on “up”. She is very good at signing please, all done, more and we continue to work on thank you. She can also say “baby” it sounds like. English is her second language, but her speech is about at a 7-8 month old level.
 
Physical Development
This month she started walking!! It was certainly fun and exciting to get to witness this milestone and be a part of it. Just as we suspected she seemed like she knew how to do it, just was refusing to. Once she had a bigger audience (grandma and grandpa) she liked the response when she took some steps and then proceeded to do it over and over! Just like that, it was almost overnight that she went from crawling to walking. She likes to climb up on things now if she can like a bed or small table. This is one big developmental thing a physical therapist is coming for—to work on her weak muscle tone in her abs and legs. Visibly her hair is growing in her bare spots and she sprouted teeth so fast. When we took custody she had 4 teeth, two of which were hardly through the skin and now she has 8. We are still working with her pediatrician to get some things figured out and possibly diagnosed. I waited until this month to take her in when she was more comfortable with us but it just takes time to get all the appointments and tests done.
 
Sleep
She continues to mostly sleep through the night about 11 hours in a crib in our room. Sometimes she clunks right out and sometimes she takes an hour to go to sleep—we aren’t sure what affects that. More and more we are able to sneak out of the room while she is falling asleep so we don’t have to be in there until she is asleep. She now naps 1x during the day going down between 11-12 and then up before 3 when we have to get Harlyn. Doing only one nap has really helped me have a chunk of time in the day with both her and Lawson sleeping at the same time.
 
Food
Toddler pickiness is setting in and we have some typical issues with rejecting lots of foods (typically the healthier ones!) She likes a lot of fruits (bananas still every day) and this month seems to really like protein more—she’ll eat meat pretty well. She still loves her eggs and bananas for breakfast most mornings but now likes cereal a lot too. She still is like a magnet to any open cupboards or baggies with food and you can’t rustle a wrapper without her demanding some too. I think she would eat all day long if we let her. Food is one of the things she is very possessive and emotional about too—don’t you dare take a bag of snack or food from her—or risk the wrath.
 
smoothies require eating outside and no clothes
 
Attachment
This is something we kind of shrug at when people ask us because we are not experts and haven’t done this before. She definitely is attached to me and prefers me if I’m an option. (with the exception of grandma probably) We still haven’t tried real separation from both of us but we are hoping to working toward that sometime in the month of May. I think she’ll be find especially with a grandma and siblings around so we will start very gradual. I was recently reading an attachment book and was encouraged by the checklists they gave for how she responds to us—I think she is doing very well. I think a lot of this is still getting to know eachother through and through. She’s made slow but steady progress with Troy—one big moment happened this week that was pretty exciting—she hates grass and refuses to go on it willingly (even if you’re right by the edge.) She will stand at the edge and will wail for you to come get her or will freak out if she falls in it. One evening Troy was going down the hill and she clearly wanted to go with him and he stopped and said “Okay, come to me” She pranced around a little bit, we thought she’d never do it but surprise surprise she took these hilarious high stepping steps to get to him. We were pretty proud of her and I think Troy’s heart was warmed that she overcame her grass aversions to get to him! We are finding she never likes to be passed from me to Troy or to have Troy take her from me (unless that’s to ride on the tractor with him) but she will be fine with him picking her up if she’s down. It's easier for her to be okay with him if I am not an option too (either gone or outside the house)--so that at least gives me a break to go for a run or walk after Troy gets home.
 
Sibling Relationships
Harlyn and Asher continue to be good older siblings to Samira and Lawson is coming along. His and Samira’s relationship is getting a little less rocky. They still need a lot of supervision I think more due to age and need than because of Lawson being knocked out of his place as baby. He seems to be trying his antics less frequently that push her buttons. She does know how to sound the alarm when he does something she doesn’t like--- like hanging around her food or highchair. We’ve noticed lately she seems to have chosen a favorite sibling who she goes to willingly—he is home with her all day, always compassionate and sympathetic, always kissing her and never takes her food or hurts her.  You can guess which brother that may be. 😉 This past week Lawson and Samira had a fun moment that gives us hope they'll continue to adjust to eachother--she learned how to splash in the bath and he would do it with her and they were both giggling side by side.


Sandy bringing competitive siblings together for fun

 
Going Out
She is definitely most comfortable and independent at home from what I’ve noticed. When we go out we notice increased clinginess and neediness which shows home is her safe space (a good thing) and we have to continue to restrain some of our activities and outings. It is more intimate settings that she seems to be more needy yet in larger settings with lots of people, noise and chaos she toddles around freely enjoying herself. (Harlyn’s school activity just this week as an example) We've been able to do some fun stuff and activities this month though and they've all went pretty well even with travelling. She isn't fond of being in the carseat for long trips and will verbally let us know that :)
 
first visit to Uncle Shaun's CFA
 
 
Playing
She still doesn’t get wrapped up in toys but is starting to show interest in stacking bowls and picking up things and putting them in a container (my only one who does that for fun!) There is one toy she will stop to play with and that’s a little hammer that hits balls through a maze. She likes going outside and going on the trampoline. She loves to be in the bathtub now and play in cupboards. Dance parties with music cranked is a favorite activity with her big siblings.
 
Likes: baths, food and snacks, tickling, copying the big sibs, tractor rides, elderly women, smoothies
 
Dislikes: grass, not getting her way, having a bag of snacks taken away/not allowed to hold it herself
grandma and grandpa visit!
 
 
 
 

Monday, April 2, 2018

1 Month Post Adoption

To keep track of progress, set backs, accomplishments and struggles I’m starting to document monthly how things are going post adoption. Once again, this is more for us rather than for others-so it's crazy detailed but I know I'll enjoy looking back on it a year from now.
 
We could not have survived the first month without the help of dear sisters and my mom along with our church family praying for us and bringing us meals! It has taken so much of that planning, shopping, prepping and clean up time and put it in these weeks so we can focus on just being together as a family.
 
Month 1: 4/1/18
 
It was surreal and very anticlimactic how we gave the orphanage the adoption decree and walked out the gates with Samira. It reminded me of when you leave a hospital with a tiny new baby and are flabbergasted by the fact we are in charge of keeping this helpless thing alive. Just like that, we walked out the gates and into our new life with four kids! Here we are literally about the leave those gates--luckily we kept her awake long enough to say goodbyes and we stopped in the church on the grounds on our way out and just as we were praying for her to have peace, she clunked out. So, she missed the exit but was able to say her goodbyes.
 
 
One month in and there is always a dirty diaper (one of these kids has to be potty trained!!—and I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator for that job) and someone is always touching me—so much touching and grabbing. I think we haven’t had 4/4 crying at the same time but we have had 3 of 4 all at once. If you sat near us in church you can see we are feeling outnumbered!
 
Language: Samira mostly heard Amharic in the orphanage but did have some exposure to English by the nuns who ran her orphanage. Sister Carmella spoke very good English while we were around and with English speaking visitors, I wouldn’t expect much otherwise though. Her nannies said she hadn’t said any first words. Now she says Hi, Mama, Dada, Bubba (Asher claims) and all done--so words are coming slow but she has been signing. We taught her more, please, all done and Amen right away and she picked it up super fast—maybe in less than a week? It was so helpful to eliminate a lot of grunting, whining and legs kicking. All her communication was new to us—so at first we were just trying to learn her needs let alone help her communicate them. She will babble a lot and especially when she’s waving bye bye at the door while someone drives away or the kids are outside—she will kind of go bonkers yelling things. Dinner times can get crazy too—it seems like she tries to keep up with the big kids’ noise level—it gets loud around the table!
 
Physical Development: We haven’t been to the pediatrician yet so we only know her measurements before we left Ethiopia. Our first few days we didn’t even know she could crawl or stand up but when we’d put her in her comfortable environment with her buddies and nannies –she could! She would crawl and walk along the wall or stand holding onto something. She didn’t seem to know she could walk along furniture like around a coffee table or couch when we got home. When we got home she did hardly touch her feet to the ground so maybe that was some of it! Now she is crawling even from room to room. At first we thought maybe she didn’t have the stamina for much crawling because she’d go a little way and then just collapse on her belly and cry. It definitely seemed like certain muscle groups were really weak. (abs, arms, legs) She’s learned to climb and loves to go up and down a step or stool. Now that she learned she can walk holding our hands she loves to do it. Something that was new when we got home was this eye roll thing-or looking up so all we see is the whites of her eyes. We can't figure it out if it may be a bashful thing (people looking at her/giving her attention) or just averting from the eye contact but it does seem to happen around new people and also while we pray. (hoping that's an eye closing thing she thinks she's doing not an eye roll!)
 
Sleeping: Praise the Lord she is sleeping through the night!! This has been amazing since we were pretty strung out not sleeping for weeks and dealing with jet lag. She seemed to adjust well to the time change but regressed a lot from her sleeping patterns in Ethiopia. Bedtime is usually at 8 and she generally sleeps past 7. She likes to nap two times a day if it’s possible-usually a mid morning nap and a later afternoon one. If I can hold her off sometimes we do one nap midday. She does sleep with blankets now although at first she didn’t seem to like them and would get all twisted up and mad. Her nannies said she would throw any blankets off. Now to get to sleep she will pretty much lay down and play around until she falls asleep as long as I’m in the room. Sound, light and noise doesn’t seem to bother her so I fold laundry, clean up or get ready in our bathroom while she falls asleep. If she stands up or whines I’m now able to shush her or say “night night” or just pat/rub her back without having to pick her up and she seems to know and lays back down. What she can’t fall asleep to is Lawson running in and out of the room slamming the door (a problem to tackle another month) I’m really happy that she feels content enough to fall asleep just knowing I am around and not needing to be held or rocked to sleep every time. The ergo also works like a charm to get her to sleep if she isn’t having the crib—and on my back too!
 
Food: She is a good eater and a big one if she likes the food. She was well fed at the orphanage and we think maybe used to being fed all day long! Now we pack up food and put it out of sight after a meal so she doesn’t see it—because if she does, she thinks she needs it. Signing has helped with meal times-signing more, please and all done. Her favorite thing is carbs-pasta, rice, bread etc. She didn’t have much, if any dairy or sugar in her diet before. Turns out she likes those though! Her favorites are scrambled eggs and bananas-she eats them daily. She can out eat Lawson and Asher on most meals. If she is eating something happily and something better comes along she will drop that so fast and beg for the new thing. It was suggested that we don’t let her go to sleep drinking a bottle and she used it mostly as a pacifier anyway so we’ve mostly eliminated bottles. She eats good meals so doesn’t need the extra nutrition from it and has started drinking cows milk. We found a sippy cup she likes to drink from to transition from the bottle. The first two weeks we gave her a warm bottle every night and morning. She sits in a highchair to eat which is big progress too! The first few days we had to hold her while eating and even standing up. Gradually we were able to sit down while eating and then eventually put her in a highchair. It’s nice she can munch sitting in there and be in the middle of all the activity especially in the morning we can have her in the kitchen while everyone else is eating, making lunches and getting ready. Beside munching on a chunk of bread or cracker it doesn’t seem like she knew how to feed herself. She still doesn’t really pick cut up food up off her plate to eat-either we have to feed her or put in on the fork for her, then she will eat it. She started out a very neat eater-would wipe her mouth with her bib or puts any extra food hanging out of her mouth in it but I think since I give her free reign of the food on her plate or tray that has made things messy! She doesn't put too much in her mouth and will wait until she's fully done with a bite before being ready for the next one.
 
Attachment: Mom is her favorite person and we seem to being doing fine with this—she always needs to know where I am in the house and I can’t leave the room without her having a meltdown. This has made progress every week though and things are getting better. I wear her a lot in the ergo and she falls asleep on the back in it a lot if it’s nap time. Troy has to work harder at it but she loves playing with him and they do fine if I’m not an option (gone or out of the house) I take those breaks gratefully for them to work on their bonding! We are still the only people who have held her but we just need more history with her to prove we aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to solely meet her needs so she learns we are her parents she can rely on. She is way more touchy feely than at first. If we’d reach out to touch or stroke her hand at first she’d pull it away from you. We also couldn’t hold her facing out at first. Now she will voluntarily touch us while we play on the floor with her. Now she actually wants to constantly be touching me if I’m in reach!
 
Sibling relationships: Lawson and her struggle to get along and I can’t turn my back on them. He is having a tough adjustment to sharing attention of mommy and having to wait to have needs met. (both of them really) He also can’t seem to control his actions and does things to her that doesn’t help her love him so much. He can be sweet and rub her head or say hi and be interested in her but when it comes to sharing mommy they have issues. There is some jealousy there when I hold one so sometimes I have to hold both.  Harlyn and Asher on the other hand have been dream older siblings—they seem to know to take it slow. Harlyn is so eager to do everything with and for Samira we’ve had to restrain her some. Asher is very sweet and is increasingly doing more with her. She definitely has responded well to them and is fond of them. She thinks they are pretty funny sometimes and tries to do her share to be as loud as them!
Seeing the big sibs with Troy has probably also helped their relationship—seeing them go crazy about him has helped her want to get in on the fun too.
 
Going out: She seems to thrive on lots of activity, noise and people or at least it doesn’t phase her. Whether that’s because her orphanage environment got her used to that or that’s her personality—we don’t know that yet. We’ve done a few grocery trips and outings to church and such and she’s done really well. She panics anytime anyone else is getting out of the car and she hasn’t been unstrapped yet but she is adjusting to the carseat better than I expected too. She is probably more upset about not being held more than anything. The big kids in the back are good entertainment though. This Easter weekend was her first trip to the grandma's houses and meeting extended family.
 
Playing: At first she didn’t know how to play with toys and didn’t really do anything with them. She’d be occupied more with a tassel on my purse or a cup or something while travelling more than anything. Now she will play with them and even play down on the ground, crawl around and go to other things too. She plays with magnet toys on the fridge while I’m in the kitchen and likes this push cart we have. Lawson and her do have fun with that—one rides and the other pushes. She started walking more with the cart to push too!  She knows peek a boo and now will pile on daddy with the other kids too. I’m sure she is soaking up loads from just watching the other kids play. She does like to be outside but it is tough being chilly yet and her not walking.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

March 29

One year ago today we received the phone call about a little 4 month old squirt who is now our daughter! That day we got the call we also got to see her face in this picture:


You can imagine how much we stared at this picture over the last year! Now I can't believe how much she's changed!

 
Today we are also marking 4 weeks since Troy and I took custody of Samira. Below is a picture of that day-March 1st- her "gotcha day"! You can see they decked her out in a new fancy little outfit for the occasion.



 Having that chunk of time to mark and look back on has been good to see where we've come from. When the first days felt long and like we'd never be at this point now suddenly we look up and here we are! We can't talk about where we've come or this adoption without giving credit where credit is due. God has been our constant and our help through this and we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for His grace. God and God alone is to receive the praise for anything we've been able to accomplish so far. We aren't just saying it---we've experienced such moments of human weakness where we know God's strength is the only thing that propelled us through those times.

I will soon write a one month post adoption report for our records covering many areas of Samira's development.

In the meantime, we are doing well and settling in and just marveling at where we've come in the last month of experiences.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Home Sweet Home

Announcing the newest member of the family:
Samira Amina Avery
 
 
We think that’s the official name and spelling we’ve decided on—sorry for the confusion with what it was—it’s not officially changed yet so she actually has Troy as her middle name currently (just the way Ethiopia does it on the paperwork)
 
It is our privilege to raise her and we wanted to keep that part of her given by her birth mother (Semira) while also honoring her birth mother (MI name)
All along this process we believed her name to mean “fulfilled” which was our hope to cling to the God would carry us through completion in this process-in Ethiopia, however, there were varying versions of her name meaning including blessing and God’s gift- all wonderful meanings
 
This week Friday we will be home 2 weeks. It took us a week to recover from jet lag and time zone changes but we are hopefully past the worst of sleepless nights. (there is one other curly headed factor affecting that too!) We have done a very select few outings and will continue to lay low for a while until we start to gradually introduce Samira to new experiences and people. Now we are doing the recommended time with our little family working on bonding among us 6. We continue to be humbled by the expressions of congratulations and people who are continuing to pray for us. Our homecoming was the start of us getting down to work really (Samira found out she has siblings—three of them!!)-we only had one week of custody of her before coming home. Although we started the foundation of our relationship with her there, in her culture, we are relieved to be reunited with all our kids and are tackling things on our own turf which has us more comfortable. We cannot wait to show her off, meet all our wonderful supportive circle and start attending our regular activities but that will all have to come in time. It is hard to answer in 1-2 sentences how our trip was because it was so emotional and we are still quite close to it so we are still processing things ourselves. I hope some time away from the events will give us a better perspective on all we experienced. Please be patient with us as we are working on this transition and know we are so appreciative to each person who has been interested in this journey.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

3 DAYS!

Our trip is 3 days away and we are pinching ourselves that this is real. Since we had a month to prepare it felt like it would be a long time to anticipate leaving. If we didn't have three kids at home, it probably would've been real tough but those three made the time go fast. It was good to not have to rush to pack and get all the details together frantically. I had time to clean up projects around the house, host some gatherings and work on the many things we had to do to get ready. Since we are here now, the time was good to balance preparations and quality time with our kids. My emotions are very mixed when it comes to excitement about travelling and finally meeting Semira and on the other hand leaving our three at home for so long.

So many have expressed their congratulations to us and excitement over us going and we are so honored people think and pray for us. We are beyond excited to introduce her to our family and friends when we return. If you think of us while in country, here is a list of prayer requests we have for our trip:

-travelling-flights go well/no issues or hiccups especially since our return flight will be booked quickly and last minute when we are cleared to leave
-safety for our whole family
-our kids at home-being separated from us and from each other some of the time
-Lawson especially-lesser comprehension of why we are gone
-ability to communicate with family while there (internet working)
-prepare Semira's heart to meet us-that she would feel safe, no fear (first meeting Sunday)
-Semira grieving--that we'll know how best to comfort her and build her trust
-political situation in ET-that it would have no effect on our case
-wisdom for us in the first few days learning about our child and how to meet her needs (1-2 days after our court date on Tuesday Feb 27)
-quick bonding to both parents
-smooth transition out of the only home (orphanage) she's known for the last year
-all court, embassy, medical appointments to go smoothly
-quality bonding time in country before we come home and introduce her to her siblings
-long flight home with a one year old! (need I say more?)
-Lawson wouldn't view her as competition and transition well to having another sibling
-all the things we don't know we should be praying for---that we'd feel God's hand on every part of this trip and feel His peace and presence through whatever comes our way

God continues to work in us as we prepare and we continue to praise Him for His work in our lives to bring us to this point. We are humbled that we get to raise this precious child. While we go, we would covet your prayers especially for her during this life changing phase for her. Thank you, thank you!

*We aren't sure if we'll be updating our blog while we travel but we will certainly email family and close friends while in country when we have wi-fi. They're the ones to ask for updates!


Friday, January 26, 2018

COURT DATE!!

This week we were anticipating a court date for our case on Monday and were just a bundle of nerves when we got the call that.....court was rescheduled for the next day, January 23. Arghhh! It's almost laughable now how often things don't go as planned. We breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn't bad news and we just had to wait one more day. Tuesday all went well and we were granted the judge's approval to proceed with our case! This was what we've been waiting on for months! It was an additional day before we found out the actual day we need to be there. February 27 is our court date!

It's been sort of surreal and a slow realization coming over us that this is really happening. After so long I feel like I need to pinch myself that it's here! We are making travel arrangements and will be going a few days early to meet our girl! So, the countdown chain is up and we have about 30 days to prepare to leave.

Our kids have been just amazing considering it's a hard concept to understand for their little minds but to see their prayers answered is special to us. Harlyn has been praying for this adoption for all the time she can remember as well as Asher. She has a sensitive spirit that can easily cry because she wants her sister home. Asher recently said to me sometimes he prays for Samira "before he even gets out of bed in the morning" -- they really share this dream with us. I've been consciously trying to drop calling Lawson the baby since he won't be in about a month and we refer to Samira as the baby. He knows her picture and now points to bottles and babyish things and says "Mira's ______"! His world is about to be rocked but for now he seems to be going along with it! :)

When telling friends and family who have been praying for us we kept hearing a common theme-God is good! We agree--God has been so very good to us! Sharing this news has been what we've wanted to do for so long!

Friday, January 19, 2018

news and prep


If you have seen in the news, a sad announcement was made last week that Ethiopia would no longer continue to allow international adoption as an option for orphans.  (Link to article: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/10/577144605/ethiopian-lawmakers-vote-to-ban-foreign-adoptions) The news saddens us greatly as it means some kids will no longer have a chance to live with a loving family. A lot of families are greatly upset and understandably emotional about this decision as they have been waiting in this process a long time like us. As far as we know, our case is secure because of the point we are at in the process and Ethiopia will let those adoptions be completed. Our second adoption process we started with another agency, if you recall, almost 2 years ago now will be ended—which is sad because it means no sibling for Samira that will look like her and be from the same culture. (Not that we were there yet but we were open to the possibility) We are so thankful our case continues to be processed but it’s heavy on our hearts what it could mean for the kids left with no parents coming for them.

As we wait for our court date I have officially been labeled as “nesting” and if it’s much longer, I may have the whole house repainted. Its kept me busy prepping our family/home/lives for a new little one when our travel date has been uncertain. As far as prepping for a one year old goes, thankfully her age is so close to Lawson’s that we don’t feel too out of it as to what a one year old needs, etc. Having Harlyn and Asher 18 months apart helped with being prepared for two crib users…etc.  I have begun gathering things we will need for travelling which is making it all the more real that the call will come and then it will be fast and furious planning. We will be in country for an undetermined amount of time as we are doing this a different way than a lot of families before us. Usually the parents appear in court, visit their child and then fly home awaiting the other steps of the process to be completed before returning to ET and taking the child home. We are opting to do it all in one trip, therefore we buy a one way ticket because our return date will be unknown. The things that have to happen after court like embassy appointments, visa issuance, etc. have a domino effect so if one thing gets held up, the whole timeline shifts. They tell us to pack for 3 weeks—it hopefully will be less but could even be more.  Packing for this trip will be tough but we will try to keep it minimal so we can bring as many donations for the orphanages as we can. Our plan will be to take a large suitcase just filled with donations and donate the bag there and fit our stuff in the others.

If you are local and would like to be so generous and help send anything for the kiddos living in Samira’s orphanage, we’d be happy to deliver them on your behalf. If her orphanage does not need them, our agency staff in country there will help distribute to the ones who need the supplies most. We are ready to start gathering these things so keep an eye out for these things and connect up with Troy or myself if you want to send! (Or one of our parents--they can get it to us)

Donations the orphanage needs are as follows:
Powdered infant formula (any brand or kind)
Diapers-disposable or cloth
Pain relief medications
Baby food
New or slightly used clothing and shoes
Diaper rash cream
Scabies cream
Lice shampoo
Powdered Pedialyte
Hydrocortisone cream
Antibiotic cream
Prescription fungal infection medication

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say this probably my whole life, but thank you for your heartfelt prayers and concern about this journey for us. We value and appreciate it more than you will ever know. Continue to lift up Ethiopia’s vulnerable children and pray about a way you might get involved to help orphan prevention and family preservation. In light of the recent news it will be so much more important, I believe, to support those causes and organizations doing that work on the ground there.  I hope to become more informed on who is doing that type of work there and hope to promote their causes all the more.