Ethiopia Bound

Our adoption journey

My Tough Girls March 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlehman @ 10:10 pm

These are my girls. Tough, determined, and sometimes scary! I love it that Peanut is right in there with her little sisters, showing them how to “be a tough girl”! The laughter and squeals from the front yard took me away from work (we had a fog day that had me working from home) to snap a few pictures. This one was too funny and yet it pretty much sums up the craziness that is a daily part of our lives. I wouldn’t want it any other way! Budder was inside enjoying a sister free hour – a very rare occurrence in his life!

And I couldn’t resist posting this one. This is Peanut with her pup Portia. We had a really hard summer and had to put down her first dog at 10 months old because she contracted a rare brain disease. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do. Peanut had researched dogs for years, saved up money, found a specific breeder, and paid for all the shots, spaying, etc. She trained her dog faithfully and couldn’t have loved her more. It was so hard, but within a day of losing Millie we were driving 12 hours to pick up another pup from our amazing breeder. It was what Peanut wanted and needed to get through that time.  Today we couldn’t imagine life without little Portia. I’ve never seen such a “huggy” dog – she really does wrap her paws around your neck and lay her head on your shoulder or stare into your eyes. When we brought her home we wondered if we’d ever love her as much as she deserved and knew it would take a long time as we grieved Millie. Now she’s my favorite dog and she and Peanut are inseparable.

 

A storm day at home and jello March 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlehman @ 9:00 am

We had a storm day yesterday. Working from home is always a treat – but today one of the treats attacked us! Poor Peanut opened the fridge to hunt for food. She didn’t expect liquid jello to be in a bowl on the top shelf. I had JUST put it there and was going back to put wrap on top, but got distracted by the cookies in the oven. A splat… a scream… and it was all over – LITERALLY!!!! The fridge, the floor, Peanut’s p.j.s, my cabinets, the rug, under the fridge, it seeped into the freezer, it seeped into the crispers and every possible shelf in the fridge. It looked like someone met a tragic end in my kitchen. I am very proud of my reaction – I laughed out loud. We took pictures. (although I have to admit that the picture doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did from all angles.) And then I started to help her clean it up. It took an hour and five separate washings of the floor to remove the sticky mess. The whole fridge had to be taken apart people! Surprisingly, we had a marvelous time, the two of us. Moments like these are the ones we’ll remember and discuss at family gatherings until I’m grey (ummm o.k. MORE grey!)

 

Painting Through the Storm March 1, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlehman @ 2:46 pm

 

Sorry about the image quality – the glare was just impossible to get rid of…

 

My time away from blogging was very purposeful. My family needed all of me in a way that was intense and exhausting. I still struggle with how much to share about that time in our lives. Every once in a while I would share too much with people and I could see by their expressions that I overwhelmed them with what was happening within the walls of our home. When each day was finally over, I either didn’t have the energy to blog or I struggled with what to share. And so I turned to a different form of expression – I painted.

The painting above now hangs in our dining room. It’s a rather large piece (5′ x 5′), but I think it’s a great way to honor our girls homeland as we intertwine our lives. As with most of the things we tackle in our lives, the journey is often more important than the results. This painting took me many months and allowed me a creative way to work through some of issues that seemed too large while I was in the middle of them. The painting gave me distance and a quiet refuge when all the kids were finally asleep.

Now that it’s complete, I see this painting as a symbol of our first year together. The journey as an artist and as a parent had many parallels.  There were many many moments when the project seemed too big to complete and I didn’t think I had the skills to do the job. There were moments of indescribable joy that surprised me and gave me hope. There were times when I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. Days I wanted to walk away. Some days it was by sheer force of will that I kept going – I struggled to find desire and motivation. There were moments when I was so entranced by the creation that I couldn’t stop the flow of creativity and emotion. There were days when I “knew” it was all working together in harmony and days when I fretted over what others would think. And then one day I put my brushes aside and realized it was done. It was what it was. There were flaws and things I would have done differently, but it was still beautiful. It was unique. And it was perfect for our family.

 

skiing and hair straightening January 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlehman @ 10:09 pm

Skiing was exactly what you would expect. It began with oodles of excitement, slipped into a moment of fear, was immediately replaced with crying and frustration, and then finally  we persevered,believed we could do it, and the excitement and smiles returned with two very proud Ethiopian skiers.

Bebs (left) had a particularly rough go in the middle section and was very close to quitting in a lovely fit. She and I took a little break right in the middle of the hill and sat down to talk through our options while we both calmed down.🙂 We decided to try one more letter c curve. When we stopped successfully we both noticed a shiny quarter in the snow between our skis. My mind went a thousand miles a minute and out came the best make believe story ever:

“Oh Bebs, look! A shiny quarter just for you!!! I can’t believe this is happening!! Do you know where this is from? The ski fairy (yup, I have sunk very low my friends) left this just for you! You have to put it in your pocket right away! – what, you don’t know about the ski fairy? Well, she is amazing. She knows exactly when little boys and girls are getting frustrated and just before they quit, she leaves them a bright shiny quarter! If you put it in your pocket, you will have special skiing power! She really doesn’t want you to give up Bebs! She knows that you can do this!”

The quarter was deposited in said pocket and low and behold, we could now ski!🙂 She wondered why the other kids didn’t get one, but I assured her that the ski fairy knew that she was very close to giving up and the fairy only helped the children who needed the most help.

I had moments of guilt. Really I did. But then I realized that we both knew there wasn’t a ski fairy. Playing along brought confidence and took our mind off the hard job of learning the snow plow correctly. We all have our fantasies, and this one helped my little girl learn to ski and believe in herself.

And now to our little sassy sprite. She’s been begging for straight hair for months. So today the extensions came out and the straightening iron was turned on. I even convinced her to let me give her a quick trim which is a huge step forward for her. Hair is a big deal at our house.

When you are adopted, you enter your new family without any possessions. Our girls had their names and their hair. (and the stories that came later once we could communicate) They had their hair cut once before and it was a traumatic experience for them. Just talking about haircuts sends them into a tizzy. And I get it. Really I do. They have very valid reasons for wanting to keep their hair long. But on the flip side, their hair is a lot of work to maintain. A LOT!!😀 So even though I think they would look smashing with cute chin length bobs, (not to mention save me hours of work) I will keep finding new things to do with their hair. Straightening the hair is not something we do very often as it is damaging, but twice now I’ve done it for them and they always love the results – maybe too much, as today I was told that everyone would love her because she was so beautiful! Yes Princess Sassy, you are beautiful. (with a gentle reminder that she is beautiful on the inside too, and that’s what counts in the world of friendship)

Speaking of hair… I had my first rude moment at Christmas in the mall. Somewhere out there is a very nice, well meaning lady who I need to apologize to. After being in the mall for less that 40 minutes, she was the fourth person to ask about the girl’s hair while reaching to touch it… I told her “DON’T TOUCH HER HAIR!” which ended the conversation more abruptly than usual. I felt awful because I am usually so patient with people and talk with strangers all the time who are curious. But I had just had it. My girls have a right to wear their hair in braids and not have the general public touch said braids. I forgive little old ladies, because they did that with my bio kids too when they were young. (it’s a generational thing and they practice equal opportunity hair touching) I can’t get over the curious middle aged women though. I keep promising myself that next time I’ll run my hands through their hair and ask what product they use, but I keep chickening out. My real fear is one day I’ll snap and do something worse. Like run my hands through their husband’s hair while asking them, “isn’t it SO much fun to do his hair? I could do this all day!” oops… did I really think that?😉

 

We’re having a blast of a Christmas!! December 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlehman @ 10:58 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas present for Dave’s office at work! The angle is a bit funny, and I’ll have to get a better picture yet. I started painting in October and got it done in time. It’s pretty huge (5×2 ft), but he has big walls that are crying out for something funky and his kids are his life – the perfect gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave’s mom sews p.j.s every year for the kids. This year she bought the tops and sewed the bottoms. The kids LOVE them – it never gets old. Mom had wondered out loud awhile ago that maybe the bigger kids didn’t want them anymore…. they threatened to boycott Christmas – it’s traditions that make Christmas so fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sprite, Peanut, Bebs, and Budder

All four kids at the water park in Minneapolis recently. First time doing the water slides for the littles. The family raft ride was a hoot, and the hot tub was a favorite place too – the littles said they felt like mermaids – so I think it was a good time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bebs and Sprite, as different as night and day, and yet always connected in a special way.

Christmas has been amazing this year. The littles know what to expect and have been doing so well. Dave is off work all week and it’s been great to hang around, have people over, go out for gatherings, and just enjoy spending so much time together.

I managed to get Bebs’ hair done just before Christmas (Sprites has been in for a month and I just couldn’t do another head and so I waited!). It’s so nice to not have to worry about it, but there are draw backs. The first drawback is the time it takes (12 hours) and the second is the attention we get. Hair in braids compared to not in braids is insane! The braids go in and suddenly we are the center of the universe and I’m warding off strangers at every turn in the mall – admittedly very rude to a lady as I said, “DON”T touch her hair!” when she reached out for it. It was the fourth in an hour… I have to balance that with the fact that the girls love it so much and it’s such a break to not have to do anything for months. I guess I’ll just have to get a t-shirt that says “you touch their hair, I’ll let them pick your nose!”🙂 More about hair in a later post – I’m having huge debates in my head about hair and would love some input from those that know better!

Tomorrow is off on another first adventure – we’re taking the kids skiing! Peanut and Budder started skiing at age four and it’s something we have always enjoyed doing whether it’s here on our little bumps of hills or heading for the mountains. Tomorrow the twins get initiated into this winter fun – I can’t wait!! I know it will be interesting – Bebs said she’d “do the sitting part, but that’s it!” Later discussion clarified that she wanted to ride the chairs up and then down again – she’d just skip the skiing part! Our little Sprite is a whole different story -she’s fearless! (guess who I’ll “volunteer” to take with me?)

I better get to bed – the cooler is packed and the snow gear is out and ready – it’s a 6:00 wake up to drive to the hill!

 

 

 

Where to begin? Home 15 months… December 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlehman @ 10:26 pm

It’s so hard to believe that our beautiful girls have been in our lives for over a year now! This picture was taken our first week home. When we look back now it’s like looking at baby pictures – you can hardly believe they were that little!!

And here they are celebrating one year in Canada! I’ll post more pics later from this Christmas!

It has been an amazing journey so far and we feel incredibly blessed as a family. The twins are in grade one this year and loving every minute. They are doing exceptionally well at school and bring a lot of energy to their class. Well, truthfully, they bring a lot of energy everywhere they go! They are wonderfully sassy, loud, beautiful, graceful, and have the most wicked sense of humor! They are as different as night and day – in everything! Abebech is a tiny, academic, fashionista, techno-crazed, fiercely independent sprite with the cutest giggle in the whole world. She has made some significant gains with attachment in the last few months and is becoming much more cuddly as she allows herself to love us deeply. Abebu is a slim, exceptionally tall, sporty, emotionally intense, tenderhearted, lego building, gum addict whose main goal in life is to find the right man.

All four kids are so incredibly bonded – it’s wonderful! Some days I smile when I hear them fighting. It’s music to an adoptive mom’s ears! Our house has changed. It’s so LOUD, filled with giggling, shrieking, running, poking, tickling, dancing, singing children who make us laugh until we cry almost every week. We can hardly believe or imagine what our lives were like before the twins. After the girls were home six weeks or so Peanut announced at diner that our life was incredibly boring before they came. I don’t know if we were boring🙂, but our life seems to be pretty exciting every day. Everything is “the best in the whole university!”

Parts of this past year have been hard. Very hard. There were times when we felt alone and felt like we had lost the ability to parent. People couldn’t always understand the reality of what was happening in our home or why we made decisions we did. I ached for my girls as I watched them grieve and adjust to their new lives. We wondered if we would ever be able to make it through a day without the caution and planning required to help our girls cope. But one day you wake up and realize that things are different. You realize that you haven’t had to pack chili powder in your purse for months… you realize that your kids are eating everything on the table and you have lost your position as short order cook! You aren’t counting grapes and hugs. You realize that you can plan activities two days in a row without major consequences. You realize that the temper tantrums are rare instead of a daily occurrence. And you realize that you miss things that frustrated you before – like the ability to communicate. The girls are almost fully fluent. How can that be? Just this week they pronounced monkey the way we all say it. “Mohn kee” is gone. So is “bee air” (bear).😦

Just today our kids were lobbying for another sibling. Well to be honest it went more like this – Peanut wants three more siblings! Budder has always said no more, but today said he’d really love a brother. “The Littles” as we call them, wanted two more. We discussed it with them very casually when they brought it up because we wanted to hear all their reasons and rationale. (we were in the van on the way to a gathering) The things they shared were so beautiful. As I listened I realized that it wasn’t the wanting another sibling that was important, it was the acceptance and love between them that I was hearing. “THEY”, the four of them, desired to bring someone else into their sphere of love. We were in a place now where we could reach out again and not be so inward focused. A season for everything. I felt like I crossed an important milestone today – we are whole and complete and healthy. The journey is far from over and we don’t pretend to have it all together, but we are celebrating! Or perhaps it is just me finally catching up….

 

Taking a break… October 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlehman @ 9:59 am

Hey everyone. We’re taking a break from the blogging world for awhile. We need to devote all our time to helping our girls adjust right now. For those of you who are close to us, you’ll be kept in the loop. For those of you who might be far away, or friends I’ve met through our journey – you are welcome to e-mail.