Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 3 - Exploring Gambella

 Waiting to board our flight to Gambella.
 My roommate in Addis, Rebecca.
 Our awesome, fearless leader, Kiersten.
We would have been lost without Matthues as our guide.
 My room was on the left.
 These trees are beautiful and I want one in my backyard!
 The view outside of my room.
 The many trucks filled with supplies for the Sudanese refugees.
 These precious children who were following us.
 Just a herd of cattle trotting down the street.  No big deal - happens every day in Powell, OH!
 This was taken just before the old woman came and chased the children away.
 Bathing, washing clothes, washing cars.  You can do all of this in the Baro River.
 We all loved this dead tree in the middle of this field.
 More Baro River.
 Fuzzball by the Baro River.
 Our team in front of the Baro River.
 The young ones loved to have their picture taken.
 Our wonderful walking tour leaders.
 A basketball scout just needs to come to Gambella and Viola!  He will have a winning team as these men are TALL!!
Where we had every meal.  We are inside because we couldn't handle the flies.

I was so excited to begin my morning with my Ethiopian tea that I love.  Even though I have some at home it just tastes better in ET.   Kind of like how Dr. Pepper tastes better in Texas.  Wass loaded up the van for us and were on time with our 5:45 am departure to the airport.  It was a good thing we were all so excited to be going to Gambella because none of us were happy about getting on a plane again.  We had a long line when we got there but an uneventful check in. We headed to a waiting area and the ladies and I were all lamenting the fact that we forgot to bring toilet paper. We sat there for a few minutes trying to think of how to get some in case they didn't have any in Gambella.  With no good ideas we stood up to head to our gate and as soon as Kerri stood up we saw that she had been sitting on a roll of toilet paper and hadn't noticed!! We all laughed and decided that God really wanted us to have that toilet paper and ask and you shall receive!  

We boarded our plane to Gambella and we were happy to see that it was bigger than we thought it would be. I sat next to a man named Dilargachew, who was from Gambella and worked in Addis.  He was a social worker and knew all about Brothers and Sisters orphanage where we would be working.  He said he is trying to get into college in the US, Europe, or Canada.  I told him that I would try to help him if I could.  He wants to be an economist and return to ET to work.  We exchanged information and he said he would try to find me in Gambella so he could give me his transcripts.

I should mention that people kept telling us all about how hot it was going to be in Gambella.  I faced this with the approach of 'Bring it on!' I lived in Baton Rouge, LA and Houston, TX for 7 years and feel fully equipped to handle intense heat and sweat.  I can still remember what that heat felt like. So I was very curious to step off the plane and experience this heat for myself.  We got off the plane and Ok, yes it was definitely hotter than Addis but I wasn't too impressed yet (was probably in the low 90s). My initial observations of the landscape were pretty much aligned with the images I had formed in my mind of Gambella.  I had thought, perhaps, that it would have been a little more lush than it was.  We gathered together and collected our luggage off of one big cart. This was kind of a free for all.  We then had to wait for some carts because we had so much stuff between all of our donations and luggage. We hauled it to the front of the airport and were picked up by three of the men working at Brothers and Sisters. We loaded up into two separate SUVs and made our way across the VERY bumpy road towards Gambella town. Not too much to see along the way except lots of short trees and scrub brush , most of which was dead. We did see the occasional mud and grass hut and I sucked in my breath as I imagined if that is what Kewogo's home looked like. When we began to enter Gambella town we straightened our backs and became more alert.  The first thing I noticed were these beautiful trees with huge red flowering blooms on them.  They were gorgeous and I wondered if these were the red flowers Lila talks about.  She has mentioned numerous times about the red flowers in Gambella.  These just had to be it. As we watched people walking down the streets I felt as though every face I saw reminded me of Kewogo.  The people in Gambella have such a distinct look.  Kerri and I had coined the phrase 'Hair Alert' as we are very interested in the different hairstyles of women and girls with the same hair as our daughters.  Suddenly there were too many hair alerts to count. Then........we saw the river. The Baro River that identifies Gambella. The one that feeds into the Nile. The same river that Lila and I sit and look at on Google images. The same river of so many of her stories.  As we looked at the river we saw people bathing in the river, washing clothes, washing cars and buses, and simply swimming in it.  It was quite a sight.

We then pulled into our hotel and it was kind of as I expected.  There was a small office and an outside patio with several tables and chairs. There was a restaurant and a bar. The rooms were small guesthouses with two rooms to each house.  We checked in, dropped off our bags, and then headed to lunch.  We started outside but realized quickly weren't up to the task of managing the flies so we headed inside.  I was able to have my tegabino shirro which I love.  Except it was solid instead of soupy so we knew next time to ask for shirro normal which became a joke for us. After lunch we headed to our rooms to rest and exhaustion had set in and I took a three hour nap despite the intense heat in my room. I had a ceiling fan but it proved to be worthless.  I woke up completely drenched in sweat but feeling much more rested.  At 4:00 pm we headed out on our walking tour led by Matthues (who is employed at HH and came with us to Gambella) and three other men from Brothers and Sisters.  One of the men, Yilma, is the director of Brothers and Sisters orphanage.  As soon as we rounded the first corner what do my ears hear?  Could it be? Seriously?  New Direction??!!! I can't even escape the boy bands halfway across the world!! "Oh! Oh! Oh! You Don't Know You're Beautiful!!"

Our walk was incredible!  It was surreal to be in the very same place where Lila roamed around for the first few years of her life.  We went straight to the river and it was bustling with activity. There were lots of people milling about and engaging in conversation, games, and simply hanging out.  There were fuzzball tables set up and the young boys and young men were playing on them. We did get lots of looks as I do believe the 7 of us were the only white people in all of Gambella, but I soon discovered that if you smiled at the people there they almost always smiled back. I immediately noticed the abundance of mangoes in Gambella.  There were big bowls filled with them and my mouth watered as I watched people eating them.  Fruit is the one thing I can't live without when I travel and I begin to feel panicky at the thought of not having any.  We made our way over to a shady spot underneath a tree where there were a few benches and a woman was serving coffee and tea. I declined; one because I don't drink coffee, and two because I was scared to drink the water even though I was pretty sure it was bottled. We had a nice time just watching the people enjoy the day and there were even some kids nearby who were served some coffee, too.  So this is why Lila can drink a full cup of coffee! I noticed some old scratched out lottery tickets on the ground next to my feet.  Andrew loves lottery tickets so I picked them up and put them in my purse to take home to him.  After a while, we continued on our walk and we saw children playing in the street, half-naked, being silly.  One group of kids started following us and we gave them our water bottles which caused them to erupt in cheers.  They kept following us and we headed out over a field and they were playing a kind of peek-a-boo game with us.  We took some pictures of them and then all of a sudden we saw a very old woman making her way up the hill with the  use of a walking stick.  She had a very determined look on her face and was not happy.  She began speaking to the children and shooed them away from us.  They quickly dispersed and when she seemed satisfied that they were safely away from us, she made her way back down the hill.  It was quite the scene and we all loved how it showed the love and protection that that this woman demonstrated over these children.  Another awesome thing we saw were lots of huge trucks lined up on the streets. We were told that they were filled with supplies for the Sudanese refugees that are living in surrounding Gambella. But then I never saw the trucks move so I wondered when or how these supplies were delivered.

Hot, filthy, sweaty, and dirty we made our way back to our hotel. We headed to dinner and Nate and I split the fish cutlet.  It was pretty decent.  We quickly came to discover that ordering our meals at the hotel would result in pure comedy every time.  We were definitely not short on laughter during mealtime. That evening we started our nightly tradition of going around the table and sharing our favorite moments from the day.  Mine was simply walking the streets in Gambella as I pictured Kewogo walking the same streets, eating mangoes, and swimming in the Baro.  I still couldn't believe that I was actually here.  I kept thanking God over and over for the chance to be here and have this experience and serve with this team.  After dinner I went to my room and took a shower.  There was no hot water so the shower was cold but it felt great because it was so hot.  It reminded me of my first few days at Baylor as a Colorado girl not accustomed to the Teas heat and melting. My only relief was to take a cold shower. I was immediately sweaty after my shower but it felt good to be clean.  I couldn't wait to begin our work at Brothers and Sisters the next day.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day One and Two

Me feeling happy and eager before my tearful goodbye.
Our awesome team!  From left to right - Russ, Ryan, Me, Kiersten, Rebecca, Kerri, and Nate.  I miss them all so much!
The spot where we met Lila for the first time just over a year ago.  Can you say Holy High Emotions?!
Wass smiling as he looks at pictures I brought of Kewogo.  He is our driver, helper, and friend while we are in ET.
 I will write about day one and two together as they mesh together due to the long travel time.  Matt and I left the house at 4:00 am in order for me to catch my 6:30 am flight to DC.  When I was checking in the woman assisting me gave me quite a scare when she was confused by my Visa.  I knew it was a valid Visa but for whatever reason she kept questioning it and we finally realized that she didn't know what she was doing and I helped her to read it.  I guess I needed that shot of adrenaline because I was wide awake after that scare.  Then, a nice man helped me tape up my donation bin better and Matt and I headed to Tim Horton's to eat after I was all checked in.  We had just been at this same Tim Horton's for breakfast just two weeks before as we boarded the plane for our wonderful time in Mexico.  All of a sudden I had the desire to be heading back to Mexico with Matt (or anywhere for that matter) rather than Africa by myself. I knew it was just silly fear creeping in but as we said good bye I was beginning to fall apart and the tears started flowing.  It reminded me of when I was in labor for the second and third time.  I knew the outcome would be wonderful but darn it  - don't make me walk into that hospital and go through it all! I did not want to go through that security line and get on that plane.  When I walked through the body scan machine (that I am certain causes cancer) there was a security woman on the other side who saw my tears and asked if I needed a hug.  She was so sincere and compassionate and I took her up on it.  This was touching to me because just the day before when I was at BSF we were sharing in our group and one of the women told me how much it meant to her when I approached her a few months ago after I noticed she was sad and simply gave her a hug.  She was retelling this with tears in her eyes about how much this simple gesture had meant to her and it made me realize that I never wanted to miss an opportunity to reach out to someone in a time of need. This woman reached out to me today and it had such a calming effect on me.  Right after that I received a text from a friend telling me she was praying for me and then as our plane took off I watched the most beautiful sunrise.  I thanked God for that comfort I needed. I settled in with my bible and continued to be comforted by his Word and I prayed that I would not miss opportunities to encourage others and to be tuned into the needs and feelings of others always and especially on this trip.  As I watched the houses, cars, and roads get smaller and smaller I thought about how very, very, very small I am on this Earth of 6 billion people and how God can use even little old me and our team to help serve the people in Gambella. I am so thrilled over this opportunity.  I looked at the silly little screen that separated first class and thought about how thankful I am that Christ sees no class distinction. There is no separation that divides the "deserving' and "undeserving." We are all the same in God's eyes.

I was the first of my team to arrive in DC and I was very anxious for the others to get here and meet everyone.  The only ones I knew were Nate and Kerri as we traveled with them on our first trip last year. Finally everyone started to arrive and after we all introduced ourselves Nate immediately pulled out his tripod and we took our first picture of what would be hundreds.  Our team consisted of me, Nate and Kerri of Portland, our AGCI leader Kiersten of Portland, Russ and his 16 year old son, Ryan, of Sioux City, and Rebecca of Albuquerque.  Our plane was filled with Americans going on a medical mission.  However, it wasn't full at all and it was so different from our flights last year. The plane was smaller that the ones we flew last the I had switched my seat to sit near everyone and ended up having a whole row to myself.  I was able to stretch out and try to sleep.  This was going well until two women decided to have a conversation over my head.  The one woman was confiding that she was confused by her male friend's actions. Did he like her or not? She had been a faithful wife to her alcoholic ex husband for 36 years so surely he could trust her.  Her acquaintance placated her with platitudes. He is just scared.  NO HE IS NOT SCARED!  HE IS JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU! This is what I wanted to say.  Hasn't she heard of the He's Just Not That Into You Guy?  I think every woman should know about the man who gives women this advice.  I will definitely share his wisdom with my daughters some day.  I wanted to tell her she is a lovely woman and that she needed to quit worrying and move on from this joker but I didn't think this unsolicited advice would be well received so I just continued to sigh loudly hoping they would get the hint and move which they didn't. 

I kept looking at everyone else with their eyes closed and feeling envious because I had hardly slept at all and as it turns out everyone else had felt the same way.  We all thought the others to be sleeping when we actually weren't. Kerri and I talked during the last two hours of the flight and surprisingly the flight ended up going pretty fast. As we deboarded the plane I relished the familiar smells of Ethiopia and it  struck me as to how natural it felt to be back there.  We quickly got our luggage except for Nate and Kerri.  Theirs had been bumped due to the darn medical mission people with their supplies filling up the cargo.  We waited a while to sort through their unfortunate situation as it meant they would not receive their luggage before we had to leave for Gambella. They handled this news beautifully and were mostly concerned with their donations not making it. We checked into The Ember Guest House and then went straight over to Hannah's Hope.  I wasn't prepared for the emotions I would experience as I walked through the gates of Hannah's Hope again.  A huge rush of emotions raced through my body and my eyes immediately filled with tears but never fell.  Almaz (the director of HH) hugged all of us and said that she always tells people to come back and visit and we actually did which made her so happy. The kids were just washing up for lunch when we arrived so we went into one of the large sitting rooms to talk to Almaz about our trip.  As always, she was full of wisdom and said, "Do not make Gambella like America.  You Americans are very task oriented. You don't have to do, do, do while you are there.  Just love on the people you are serving there."  Wow. You mean set aside our agendas and what we value as self-important? She is wise because she knows this is hard for us to do.  Her words stayed with me the whole trip and I couldn't wait to get to Gambella to love on the people. When we were finished with Almaz we played with the kids for awhile and then we had to leave to go take Nate and Kerri on a shopping trip for some clothes.  We helped Kerri pick out some fabulous pants (wink!) and then we headed to dinner.  Our energy level was just through the roof (not!) and we could barely keep our eyes open during dinner.  We headed back to the Ember House after dinner and upon discovering their was no internet we all went right up to bed.  We had a 5:45 am departure time.  I fell asleep at 6:15 pm and awoke to some noise at 7:30 pm and thought I had slept all night! I was so very happy to learn that I didn't have to be up for nine more hours. I fell right back asleep and slept until 2:00 am.   A fly decided to make its home above my ear while buzzing loudly and I couldn't go back to sleep. I kept reflecting on my time at Hannah's Hope and emotion finally took over and the tears started falling.  I was reliving every bit of our being there last year and the memories are just too huge for me to even be able to put into words. After a while I had an urgent desire to talk to my family.  We talked and everyone caught me up on their games, goals scored, etc. and then sweet Brooke was crying and missing me which, of course, made me cry again.  We said goodbye knowing that I would most likely not be able to talk to them for a week. That was hard. I then got up even though it was still the middle of the night and got ready for our big day. Then, the Orthodox prayer call began and grew louder and louder by the minute.  I recorded it to be able to share it with everyone when I got home.  It was a welcome reminder of where I was as it can be hard to remember when I lay safe in my cozy bed in the dark stillness of the night.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heading back to Africa!!!!!

I can't believe this day is here!!!! I am going back to Africa!! In early January I chose to be a part of a mission team with our adoption agency, AGCI.  I will be heading to Addis Ababa and then flying on to Gambella with 7 other people. Gambella is in Western Ethiopia near the Sudan border and is where Lila is from.  I knew I always wanted to go visit there some day, I just never thought it would be this soon! When the opportunity presented itself to me to go, I jumped at the chance after spending much time in prayer.  It has consumed my mind ever since I made my decision and it is surreal that I will be there in a little over 24 hours.  Our team will be working at the Brothers and Sisters orphanage in Gambella and also at Bethel Church in Gambella.  We will also get to visit Hannah's Hope while in Addis.  I am beyond excited, but very sad that Matt isn't able to come with me due to his work constraints.  I know this journey will not be the same without him and I plan on writing down every detail to share with him and the kids when I return.  Lila thinks it is great I am going and I can't wait to show her pictures of me in the place that is so familiar to her.  I have been very anxious this week preparing, but I feel beyond loved and so covered in prayer.  All of the messages I have received this week from friends and family have been the biggest source of encouragement to me so I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! I love you my friends!!! I am beyond blessed. It has given me a great sense of peace that I needed.  Especially today.  My best going away gift was from Luke.  For my birthday present this week I told him I wanted him to sing me a song.  Luke is the only one in our family who can sing.  He chose "Carry On" by Fun - Luke and my new favorite band. It was the perfect good bye song.  Love that kid.  He knows just what I need. If you would like to pray for my trip, please pray for.......

- our safety and health.
-  us to be a light to the people we are serving and that we may grow and learn from them.
-  joyful hearts clinging to God's truths.
 - the Dreamliner to not catch fire on the flight home (legit prayer of mine)
- our families at home.

I don't think I will be able to blog while there due to lack of Internet, but will update when I return!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Season of Thanks

 My aspiring gymnast
 Loved traveling with me to Texas
 Lila at her first beauty shop appointment.  She thought this was awesome!
 Sleeping "Booty" and Rapunzel
 Riding the Rhino on the farm in St. Louis was a big hit.
 She was so ready to get started on her first day of school.
This is what she did when she got her stocking in the mail that my mom sent her.  So funny teaching her these new traditions.

It is true.  I am the worst blogger ever.  I have good intentions. I compose posts in my head while I am out running or driving. I really mean to write them down, I do. But then evening comes and my brain shuts down after 8:00 pm.  I don't ever have time in the day to sit down and write so here I am on Thanksgiving weekend (oh wait now it is mid December) attempting to fit the last four months into one post.

Summer ended.  No more daily "yamburgers" from the pool.  The party was over.  I was a little worried about how she would react with the kids going back to school and being with just me all day long. I explained that the others had to go to school but she got to stay home with me and do school (I am homeschooling her this year).  So "Wow! What fun!  Won't it be great!" I tried to convince her how spectacular it would be since I had a feeling she was going to want to get on that big yellow school bus.  I was right.  But after we waved goodbye to the others that first day, she marched herself right up to the room I turned into our classroom and she got to work.  And this girl works hard!  She has an amazing ability to focus for long stretches of time.  She will sit and focus for two hours at a time.  I am the one suggesting that we take a break.  She is doing great and catching on quickly.  Her English continues to get better and better every week and it has exploded so quickly I can't even remember what it was like before she spoke English. Currently, she is struggling with pronouns which provides some comedy when she is telling on the boys.  "She (meaning 'he') did such and such.... "She won't stop.....

This of course makes the boys laugh hysterically.  September was a hard yet joyful month for me because I have never wanted to make time slow down so fast before in my life.  I know how fast the school year goes. From the start of school I have LOVED every day with Lila and I don't ever want this year to end.  I have already been dreading next year when she gets on that school bus.  She fills my days with so much joy.  My favorite moments come as we walk Macy after waving bye to Brooke on the bus.  As we walk we sing the days of the week song and pick a color of the day and find things that color.  I showed her how to pick lavender and rub it between your fingers to release the scent. I taught her that S-T-O-P spells STOP and we have to stop when we see that sign.  She gets irritated with me when I forget.  We laugh and tell stories and I help teach her numbers as I point to the numbers on the mailboxes.  I am seriously struggling with the thought of being away from her next year when she goes to school.  I tear up which is basically several times a day.

She is a champion eater and she pretty much eats everything now.  She eats a LOT but I think she burns off all of it because the girl is constantly moving!  In fact, her nickname has gone from "giggles" to "energy."  One of the checkout ladies at Kroger has come to love Lila and she sees her coming and says, "Here comes Energy!"  The hip hop teacher at the girls' dance studio calls her Energy.  When her Uncle Johan met her he said, "Wow. That girl is nonstop energy." She definitely lives up to her nickname. I signed her up for gymnastics classes at the end of August.  My goal for her was to learn to be a part of a class, follow directions, stay on her blue square, etc., and of course to have fun. I wasn't concerned about her skill level even though I knew it would take her teachers about 15 minutes to figure out she had some natural ability.  It did.  The teachers first gave her the nickname "giggles" which was her nickname given to her by the parents who met her at Hannah's Hope. I shared this with them which they thought was great.  She had no problem sitting and following directions, participating, etc. despite her limited English.  During her third class the teacher had the girls doing a forward roll from the trampoline onto a mat.  Almost all of the girls struggled to get their little bodies onto the mat.  Lila was the last one in line.  She ran full force down the trampoline like KcKayla Maroney and did a no handed front flip onto the mat.  The other mothers turned their heads towards me at the same time with their mouths wide open.  I just gave a sheepish smile and shrugged my shoulders. Then we watched as Lila did perfect cartwheels all the way back to the front of the line.  Again, the other moms turned to me mouths open again.  I just covered my face with my hands while laughing.  After class the teacher asked me to stay after for a few minutes.  Oh boy, here we go. The coach informed me that there is a class for girls who show "potential" in gymnastics.  They work at a higher level and he wanted Lila to try out the class.  She started the next week and has loved it.  She continues to live up to her name of nonstop energy and even while waiting in line she is always moving.  The radio is always playing in the background during her class which means that Lila is always moving.  Her teacher usually has to tell her at least once a class time, "Lila, less dancing and more gymnastics."  She also tried her hand at spotting the other girls on the bar one day.  All of a sudden I hear her voice from across the gym, "Good Job!  You did it!"  as she helped hurl a little girl over the bar.  Miss Laura had to tell Lila that only Miss Laura is allowed to spot the girls other girls but thank you for wanting to help.  My oh my.  Next session, Lila was cheering on some girls on the trampoline and Miss Laura said, " Lila, that is so nice of you to encourage your friends."  Lila quickly responded with, "I not helping them!  I fromise! (not a typo- promise is fromise in Lila speak)  So I have my little gymnast which thrills me since gymnastics has always been my passion, but she also loves tap dancing, ballet, running, I'm sure she will do swim team next summer, and basically she loves any activity where she is moving.  It is truly a hoot to watch her tap dance and do ballet.  I'm not sure she is the most graceful of dancers but she sure has fun trying!

November is adoption awareness month.  Everywhere I look there are posters advertising adoption, commercials, radio ads, books, magazine articles, articles on Facebook, etc.  It takes me back to three years ago when we began exploring the call to adopt.  It is also the season of Thanksgiving.  Not a day goes by that I don't give thanks for Lila and answering the call to adopt.  This little firecracker has filled our lives with joy and meaning and have made us better people.  One thing I didn't anticipate after we brought Lila was all of the attention we would attract.  I expected the stares and confused looks but what I didn't expect was how many new "friends" I would make.  Every time we go out someone comes up to me and starts telling me how beautiful she is.  It is usually a middle aged white woman.  This woman is usually with her husband.  The woman usually looks longingly at Lila and sometimes I wonder if these women have an adoption connection.  When they approach us telling us how beautiful she is I sense that they are also communicating that they think adoption is beautiful.  One lady at the deli counter recently started caressing my arm (really??) as she stared at Lila and gushed over her!  Now I think Lila is stunningly beautiful (but I am biased) and she has the ability to draw people to her with her lively personality but I wonder if these same women would stop her if she was with an African American woman and tell her how beautiful she is.  No one has ever caressed my arm at the deli counter telling me how beautiful my other children are. No longer can I be an inconspicuous traveler.  Recently, we flew to Texas and it was quite the experience. The best part was when we were at the Starbucks counter at the airport and the ladies working there began asking me where she was from. They were from Ethiopia as well and they even called out all the other workers (also from Ethiopia) to come see her and talk to us.  So of course we got into a discussion about ET and I told them how much I loved the country.  A couple of them got tears in their eyes and thanked me so much for adopting her.  I was blown away.  They told me that her life will be wonderful here.  They said they loved their home country but there is no opportunity for them there.  I was sad, happy, overwhelmed, heavy hearted all at the same time. I wanted to stay and talk with them all day.

Perhaps at least temporarily are the days long gone when I can retreat in my seat with my book and be invisible.  Everyone wanted to talk to her and us.  I had men and women want to know where she was from, how did we come to adopt her, how long have we had her home, how is her English.  It is amazing how many questions people ask.   Now since adoption is my favorite subject I don't mind at all.  It just amuses me.  She remains unfazed.  I wonder how long this will go on.  Will we get the same questions when she is 12? 16?

Some other little Lila stories from the past few months.

She catches on quick to ridiculous American traditions.  She lost her first tooth in our presence (3rd one in total) and I had plans to follow an African tradition of throwing the tooth on the roof and then a special bird will replace it with a new healthy one if you sing a little special song. Isn't that a million times better than the tooth fairy??!! Well as soon as she lost it one of our friends told her all about how the tooth fairy will bring her money if she puts it under her pillow.  Well that ended the sweet little bird on the roof story!  This girl loves money.  She takes after her brother Andrew!  As soon as we got home she put that tooth under her pillow and woke up extra early to show us "my money!"

It also took her about 5 minutes to catch on to Halloween.  She basically got to trick or treat three times because we did Boo at the Zoo, Candy by the Carload, and then of course Trick or Treating on Halloween night.  She came to America not liking sweets and those days are long gone!  She got the most candy of any of our kids and she is still working through her stash.  She was "Sleeping Booty" and she loved dressing up.  She already told us that next year she plans on being Minnie Mouse.

She says "blember" for remember.  When she doesn't want you to laugh she says, "No smiley!"

She is in the Children's program at Bible Study Fellowship (I am in the adult class) and she loves going and never forgets her bible and loves to share what we learned that day.  She loves Jesus and loves going to church.  She loves bible stories and every time she sees a cross she says, "Jesus." One day as we were coming home from BSF we saw a homeless man on the side of the highway.  Lila started asking me all kinds of questions about him.  When I explained that he didn't have a home and that he was hungry she said, "Well then we have to feed him! That will make God happy."  Now feeding the homeless wasn't on my list of things to do that day but how do you say no to that one.  So we went and bought the man some food which Lila had a wonderful time picking out and drove waaaaaay out of our way to turn around to be on the correct side of the highway where he was. I explained to her that he might not be there when we get back and that just means that God had another plan for him today.  He wasn't there.  Thinking Lila was going to be crushed I turned to her and she looked at me and said, "Well, we can eat now."  And that was the day we ate a homeless man's lunch.

She is bossy and loud (we are working on this) and can be a faker.  She has been know to feign illness so she can sit in the middle seats in the van instead of in the back.. Unfortunately, the kids have never stopped fighting over where to sit.  The kids are catching on quick to her ploys.  She wants to be everywhere Brooke is and do everything Brooke does.  She loves her brothers just as much but I think with Brooke being closer in age and the girl factor plays a big part.   The other day Lila was watching me brush Brooke's long blond hair into a ponytail and she says, "I want long hair like Brookie's." My reaction was to hug her and tell her how beautiful she is and that her hair is growing, blah, blah, blah.  Sweet Brooke simply got a ponytail holder and made Lila a little ponytail on the side of her head.  They both smiled with satisfaction as Brooke said, "See. Now you have a ponytail like me."   They spent the rest of the morning making little ponytails all over her head.  She was thrilled.  This is why she loves her Brookie so.

Long gone are the days where she is standoffish to Matt.  She is now the first to greet him at the door and always wants to know where Daddy is and when is he getting home.  She races to try to be the first to hug him. She loves her daddy and it is sweet to watch them together.

From the moment we stepped foot in Ethiopia I wanted to adopt again before we even brought Lila home.  I thought that desire might change but it hasn't.  I would love to adopt again.  But Matt says we are done and that four is enough.  I will have to say that I do love having an even number in my family.  There is something about even numbers that makes our family life more fluid.  It is like how I have to live somewhere with seasons.  It just works.  So I think I would prefer six kids to five kids but since that won't happen I will enjoy every day with the four children God has blessed us with.   I cannot wait to go back to Ethiopia.  I miss the smells, the crazy traffic, the people, the sounds, the tastes.  The boys and I did a 5K this fall to benefit the Ethiopian Orphan Relief group.  There were many Ethiopians there and my heart swelled just by seeing these people and being around them.  It is also always wonderful to be around other ET adoptive families.  I can't wait to  go back and hopefully it will be sometime soon.   I think about Ethiopia all the time.  We talk about Ethiopia all the time.  A piece of my heart will aways be there. I cannot wait to take our children there someday and show Lila her home country.  One night recently Extreme Makeover Home Edition featured a family who had adopted a little boy form ET through our agency, All God's Children International.  Some of the footage included Hannah's Hope and the director of AGCI speaking with Almaz (the director of Hannah's Hope) and one of the special mothers.  The special mother shown was the one who was skipping rope with Lila the fist day we met her.  It choked me up to see Almaz and this mother standing in Hannah's Hope.  I wanted to laser beam myself there right at that moment.  They also showed a half second clip of some children at HH and Matt and I kept pausing it over and over trying to figure out if one of the girls shown was Lila.  They filmed it last winter so it is possible!

Now we have the joy of celebrating Christmas with our sweet girl.  I am soooo excited about this.  She is having a ball participating in all of the festivities.   It truly is a special time.  More later (hopefully not four months later) on this.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Two months home

 Our night out at an Ethiopian dinner organized by adoptive families.  She loved eating injera again.
 She fell asleep reading about the Olympics.  Hopefully she will love them as much as we do!
 She loves to cuddle with her brothers.
 A wise friend sent the girls these dresses as she knows I love the matchy matchy.
 Our little fish!
 Showing her patriotic spirit already!
 She LOVED to jump in with the swim team for the pre race cheer!
 Notice the blue tongue!
 She has an obsession with turning her tongue different colors!
 First tea party with the dolls,
 She is following in her sister's footsteps with her love of dance.
Loves her Andrew!

We have now been home with Lila two months which doesn't seem like a long time but it feels like it has been much longer.  I honestly can't even imagine what we would do without her and I feel like we have always known her.  One thing I worried about with adopting an older child was whether or not I would grieve the fact that we missed the first few years of her life.  I thought that I might obsess about missing her first steps, first words, and other first milestones.  However, I haven't focused on this at all because after meeting her and now spending several weeks with her I can imagine in my head all of those milestones and can picture them perfectly.  Using what we know about her I can draw a picture as to just how she would have behaved and reacted.  This girl is SO FULL of personality!! She goes non stop and I can hardly keep up with her.  I mean it when I say she NEVER stops moving.  She does have the ability to focus and she will sit and do a craft, read books, or participate in a structured activity.  But when there is any down time she is on the go.  We have quite the sporty little girl on our hands.  I see many, many sports in our future.  So far she has proved to be an excellent swimmer, runner, dancer, and gymnast.  Brooke does approximately 857 cartwheels a day and Lila is having no problem keeping up with that daily number.  We are having the best summer with her and I am so thankful that God chose the timing of her homecoming to be in the summer because it has been a wonderful bonding time for all of us.  There are a million things I could write down about her but here are a few glimpses into her personality.

She is picking up English at a rapid rate.  We quit using any Amharic words after being home three weeks because she began using so many English words so quickly.  Amharic isn't her native language anyway which is why she is losing it so quickly.

She will still sing songs in her native language which is Anuak.  She especially does this in the car. It is precious and priceless and it breaks my heart to think of her losing her native tongue. 

We think that she thinks America is one big party because that is pretty much how our summer has been since coming home.  With all of the fun activities and events we have participated in we laugh that when back to school comes she is going to wonder where all the fun went.

She points to the American flag and yells, "America!"  I ask her if she likes America and she vigorously shakes her head with a, "Yes! Yes!" She already knows to put her hand on her heart when she hears the American Anthem.

Feeding her is like feeding a toddler.  She likes some foods one day and then refuses them the next.  Her favorites are spaghetti, hamburgers, fruit, corn, yogurt, and ice cream.  We discovered she loves guacamole which she had for breakfast and lunch one day this week.

She hates conflict of any kind.  If any of us raise our voices she doesn't like it at all.  She wants everyone to be happy all the time and works hard to help resolve conflict.  One day when Andrew was mad about something and started to sulk away from the breakfast table she marched over to him and turned him around and ordered him to, "Sit down!"  She then handed him a newspaper and gestured for him to stay with us at the table and read the paper.  He was trying so hard not to laugh and obeyed her.  She has this ability to get anyone to do what she requests.

She and Brooke were doing cartwheels one day at Andrew's baseball game and she started motioning for people to join in the cartwheels.  Next thing you know there are several kids AND ADULTS (including the coach and a dad who was recovering from a broken arm) doing cartwheels!  Like I said, for some reason she is hard to say no to.  I think she needs to be a diplomat!

We kept her in our room to sleep for the first two weeks until she pointed to her bed one day with a quizzical look on her face as if to say, "Why the heck am I in your room when I could have this nice big bed all to myself??" She has slept in her room from that day on and sleeps like a champ!

She loves to go wake up the others in the morning.  Her favorite way to wake up Luke is to sneak in and then viciously yank the covers off of him. He startles awake but then never stays mad at her.  I might have to use this tactic when it comes time to get him up for middle school next year!

She loves to play jokes and trick people.  She will definitely be my April Fool's sidekick next year.  My family and friends already hate me on April Fool's Day and now I have an accomplice!  God is so good!

She still loves that snack bar at the pool and has to get a "yamburger" every time we go.  And a blue slush. 

People ask if she seems to prefer one of our family members over the other.  Yes. She does have a favorite and it is the dog!  Anytime we have to scold Macy she comes running to her defense, "ASHA (her word for dog) MACY!!" and throws her arms around the dog. 
Thanks Lila, I didn't really need that loaf of bread. Side with the dog.

She learned to sing "Jesus Loves Me" and "This Little Light of Mine" the first week home and it melts my heart every time she sings it. 

She also belts out Katy Perry's, "Firework" like a contestant on American Idol.  My friend is convinced that once she understands how stupid the lyrics are she will give it up. I am not so sure.  "Boom, boom, boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon!" You can't get any better than that. She rocks it!

When we took her to the library we tried to get her to look at the books on Africa and Ethiopia.  She was much more interested in The Wonder Pets dvd.  Go figure.

She is starting to share with us stories from her life in Gambella and it is a treasure to listen to her recall memories. 

She still calls Andrew and Luke the wrong names. They laugh as they patiently correct her every time. 

She has an obsession with the Madagascar movie.  We took her to see the third one in the theater and it was a big hit!! Se sat there wide eyed through the whole thing.

From the first day home I taught her to make her bed get dressed and put her clothes in the hamper.  She does this almost  every morning without me having to ask.  I love this girl.

She knows how to pick the best mangoes at the store. 

She smells good all the time. No matter how sweaty she is or what she has been doing during the day she still smells wonderful. She probably thinks I am weird because I hold her and inhale deeply several times a day.  I wish I could say the same for my boys.

When the kids did their first triathlon of the season guess who shed tears because she wanted to do it too?

At her 4 hour long international pediatrician visit the Occupational therapist declared after being with her for three minutes, "Umm, I think you all won't need me."

She was a trooper when she got her blood work done.  She sat still on Matt's lap and stared at the needle, watched the blood being drawn, and then cried afterwards.  One tough cookie.

 I had no intention of signing her up for any activity for at least a year. Guess who starts gymnastics August 27th?? It was either swimming, gymnastics, dance, or soccer.  My sister helped me make that decision after being here for a week and watched her cartwheel, flip, twist, turn, and leap for 6 straight days.   Might I add that Gabby Douglas (first African American to win gymnastics gold) celebrated her win with "Firework" playing in the background. A little foreshadowing......hmmm...

We stand amazed every day at how perfectly she fits into our family.  I can't wait to share with her someday about all of the countless hours we spent praying over her and the details of her life.  Every night as I tuck her into bed I tell her that I will love her FOREVER and we will be her family FOREVER!! She smiles at me and I think she understands.  She is is a gift, a joy, and I will be eternally grateful that God called us to adopt and expand our family in this beautiful way.

One of my favorite pics of the summer. This dye cannot be good for you!!

Picking blueberries.
Champion blueberry picker!
Hike with her favorite family member, Macy!
My four sweeties!
Love this smile!
We actually managed to get a family shot with everyone smiling!