From Teacher to Mom!

Yippeee!!!! I can't believe today was the last day of teaching 1st and 2nd grade! It was a crazy half-day, but lots of fun. At this age, the kids LOVE helping you clean up the room. When we left at noon, my whole classroom was cleaned and packed up! What a relief! At the end of every school year, I make a DVD video of our school year and invite the parents to come watch. They really enjoy it and the kids love going home with a copy of it!

I do have to say, I am overjoyed at being done! This is the greatest feeling... not because I don't like teaching, I love it, and not because I don't like my kids... I love them! But it's the greatest feeling because it's the start to a new stage of life for me and us! I am officially done teaching and get the amazing privilege to be a stay at home mommy to Mekonen! I can't describe it, but this end of the year feels so different! Hopefully, in just a few short months, Mekonen will be home in our arms! I am SO READY to transition out of teaching to being a mom. Jon and I have very deep feelings about the importance of time and concentrated energy spent with our kids, especially when they are young. We are trusting the Lord to continue to provide for us and enable us to shepherd our children in this way.

I am continuing my Masters of Education with an emphasis on Curriculum Development. I'm about halfway through and am hoping to have it completed next year. My dream job in the future would be to publish educational material. I'm one of those weird teachers who enjoys planning lessons and units way more than I should. Haha. Here is a picture of my class this year. The smallest one I've ever had!

Things I'm Really Going to Miss About Teaching
  • The kids! For the last four years, I have blessed with great classes of kids. The best part is being a part of their little world, learning about their personalities, their hearts, their unique gifts and talents.
  • Laughing- this pretty much goes on most of the day. They tell the most hilarious stories, usually about their parents/home life (i.e. "My mom got so mad at my dad this morning that she threw a shoe at him. She was soooooo mad.") I have been collecting all the funny stories my kids tell me. I think I'm going to write a book someday. :)
  • Teaching- teaching children comes naturally to me. I love being able to sense their understanding and where they are in the learning process. It's a fascinating puzzle and I actually enjoy putting together individualized plans for areas they need help in or areas they need to be challenged in.
  • Planning- yes, planning! If you're a teacher and reading this, you are probably thinking I am nuts. But planning and creating is one of my favorite parts of the week. I don't get particuarly thrilled with textbook/worksheet planning, but I LOVE creating learning centers, thematic units, and topical units. My previous school in PA enabled me to do this A TON, but I haven't had much of the opportunity to do that this year, which I have really missed.
  • Families- ministering to the parents and families of my students has been one of the biggest joys of teaching. Every year, I meet some amazing families who we always end up keeping in close touch with. There are always some who take a big interest in Jon and I as a young couple and have provided some much needed blessing and encouragement for us.
  • Snow Days- it's like being a kid again. The anticipation and excitement about a snow day has not lost its effect since I was little! There's just something about seeing your school across the screen (especially the night before) and realizing that you can stay up late and sleep in!
Things I am NOT Going to Miss About Teaching
  • Early Mornings- getting up at 5:30 am and driving the 40 minute commute to work. (Although I will still be getting up early, but for a much different reason. :) hehe).
  • Faculty Meetings- one word- UGH!
  • Packing a Lunch- this just gets so old and annoying.
  • Administration- always needing to stay in someone else's parameters...usually in terms of curriculum or teaching style. Let me out!!!
  • Repetition- how many times a day do I have to say the word, "self-control" or answer the question of what to do with their paper when done- even though it goes in the SAME black tray EVERY single day. (However, this lovely word repitition will find a brand new place in my life as we start having kids!)
So anyway, just some thoughts. I will miss teaching a lot. I will miss the kids, parents, and the realm where my gifts are used well. However, nothing excites me more than being a mom and devoting all that time and energy into our kids and family. I know it won't be easy, but what good and profitable things in life are easy? I just cannot wait!

I taught one year of second grade, two years of first grade, and now this year I taught them together- 1st & 2nd. So, to end my teaching career (for now), here is a picture of me when I was in first grade! Haha. :)


I Will Be Hangin' Out With Mekonen!

Yes, I realize that some of you will make fun of me for "wearing Mekonen," but baby carrying is one of the best ways to develop the attachment needed for Mekonen. For all of his life so far, he has learned that "mommies" are replaceable due to the many nannies and caregivers that care for him at the orphanage. Our first and most important job when he comes home is to establish ourselves (Jon & I) as his primary caregivers. We have to pretty much "re-train" him to realize that mommies are not replaceable, and that he only has one forever mommy, ME! One way we have been encouraged to do this is through a baby sling. I am a small person and need something that will be easy for me to move around in when out and about with our babe. I had decided I was going to go with the peanut shell. It's so cute and I just like it. Haha. But then I have heard so much about the Ergo Baby Carrier. It doesn't have a big frame and the baby doesn't hang by his crotch like most carriers, and it can work for all stages/sizes. The peanut shell can supposedly hold them in various positions and sizes as well, it just doesn't look as comfortable out of the "laying down" position. Here are pics of the two. Anyone have any thoughts/ideas? Not your criticisms of how weird it is because I don't care if anyone thinks it's weird.

Here is the Ergo Baby Carrier. You can use it in the front (with baby facing you), on the side, or on the back. I hear it's amazing and super comfortable and lasts for all stages. Con? It costs about $100!Here is the Peanut Shell. Way cuter looking in my opinion, but I'm not sure how practical it will be. Baby can be worn like shown (laying down), on hip, and sitting forward. Pro? It costs $50 and a different brand, same style is about $30.


"How To...Reading"

This is the first in a series of posts entitled "How to..." Each post will list a characteristic or activity that Rachael and I value and hope our children will as well.

Books are like GOLD to me. I love books! Just ask my wife. She would say I'm OCD about books. They are grouped according to subject and size. Each book is personally embossed with the seal "FROM THE LIBRARY OF JONATHAN D. OREN." Rachael had the embosser made for me (perfect gift!). I handle the books carefully depending on their kind as well. For instance, a book that will be regularly used as a reference tool, I use with gentleness so it can stand the long haul. These books are generally biblical studies books. Other books that are read and referenced occasionally are treated with less OCD-ness. My goal is to have a research library of 10,000 solid volumes. Currently, I have <500>
Rachael values reading as well. She's always finding great parent and adoption resources. She reads them and passes them along. We value reading for many reasons. It expands our horizons. We encounter new ideas and the people who promote them. We rub shoulders with differing opinions. We gain an ability to see different viewpoints.

It is our desire that our children value reading too! How does that happen?! As a child, I hated reading. Absolutely hated it! Why did some kids love it and others hated it? We've already purchased Mekonen some books for his kid library. Not just baby books. He has a hardback that is probably close to 300 pages. It's kid friendly though! We want him to see us reading and assume it's a natural part of life. Hopefully he embraces reading.

What would/do you do as a parent to instill the value of reading? Thoughts?


A Few Thoughts...

We received two of the cutest pictures of Mekonen this past week from a traveling family! He actually doesn't look scared or confused in these ones, which helps my mommy heart! He's kind of smiling in one of them and has a little dimple! Yes, a dimple! I hope that sticks around! Oh I want to kiss that little brown face! He is simply beautiful!!!

I have wanted Mekonen home in a different way this week. I can't describe it, but it's a new stage of longing, a new feeling of wanting desperately to have him here. Jesus has been so close to me this week...I feel so at peace despite this new, different, desperate need for my son. I am confident in his plan for seeing our son arrive home and I continue, steady on, trusting that there will be an end to the wait.... soon.

My sister Amy has been my biggest support throughout this adoption process (besides my Jonny of course). She understands the process completely. She is a mom to a son born in Guatemala and a biological daughter. She's done both and has felt it all. She sent me an encouraging message awhile back and it was so insightful. It really speaks to how I am feeling this week.
Adoption is totally different than pregnancy because you feel for this baby who is already here, that you cannot hold or comfort. The strain when your child is already there somewhere, is so different. It's a mom thing that is anxiety and trust in a way like you've never experienced. I am so thankful for that time of waiting because I feel like I understood far earlier that God is 'loaning' my kids to me from him and that he is in control, not me.
What a great thought! I never thought of this waiting as depicting that very truth. God is loaning our children to us asking us to love them and raise them to know Jesus and go out and make a difference in our world.


Mekonen's Baby Shower!

Our trip to PA for Jon's graduation and to visit our family was so much fun and a much needed break from work! While in PA, my mom and sisters threw me a baby shower for Mekonen. About 40 of our friends came to celebrate with us. It was so much fun and Mekonen got lots of special gifts! :) I can't wait for him to come home and try them all out! Here is my mom, my sister Amy & my niece Aderyn (being shy), my sister Rebekah & niece Natalie, and I'm holding Jane! My mom and sisters went way overboard with gifts for Mekonen. I am so blessed!

My two best friends of all time: Rachel & Georgia. I've known Georgia since kindergarten and Rachel since junior high. They were a big help with the shower!

The shower theme was rubber duckies! So cute! Isn't the cake adorable! My friend Katina made it herself!
The centerpieces were bowls with blue glass stones and floating ducks.

The party favors were made by my friend Rachel. They are magnets with our cartoon faces on them and our blog address. Here's a close up of the magnets.

At each table was a map of the continent of Africa. Each table had to race to see who could fill in the most country names. My 3 year old niece Aderyn was the only one who could name where Gambia is! How funny is that!

Yeah! Presents for Mekonen!!

One of my favorites! Georgia and Rachel had this made for Mekonen. It's his name written in Amharic. So sweet. His name means "noble."

My two nieces Aderyn in pink, Natalie in orange, helping me open presents. They LOVE opening presents.

My friend Rachel's mom makes the cutest little hoodie sweaters. They zip up the back! Way cute invention. I was hoping that Mekonen would get one. Hehe.

All the presents opened!

We had a little bowl set up where people could drop advice cards for me. It was so much fun to read them later. Lots of good bits of wisdom! :)

And I added this weird one of me, just for kicks. Looks like I'm surprised by something!


Congratulations to my Jonny!

Yeah!!! Congratulations to Jon!!! Today he graduated from Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. I am so proud of his hard work. This was not an easy task! He took 100 credit hours to complete his degree, which is pretty much equivalent to two or three masters degrees. He averaged reading about 3,000 pages a semester! Can you believe it! And he's one of those guys who reads ALL the assignments. (good boy Jonny).

Just A Few Funny Things About Jon in Seminary
  • Rocco- Rocco was this old, beat-up Buick Skylark without a front grill, so it pretty much had a huge hole on the front. It was a PIECE! In the winter, the inside of the windows would freeze, not the outside, and therefore you had to scrape on the inside. The floors always had water in them, an inch or more, and in the winter it would freeze. You could pretty much "ice-skate" while driving. The radio kept playing when you turned the car off, and on and on it goes. It was pretty much a bomb! So, this the car I brought to our marriage and Jon was the one who drove it to seminary every day. When we first moved to PA he said, "If I drive this to seminary, I will have no friends."
  • The "maroon book." Myself and several of the other wives used to comment on the beloved "maroon book" that would go everywhere with our husbands. I never realy knew the name of it. We just called it the maroon book It went everywhere...to the store, riding in the car, restaurants, bed, and even church! I used to groan, "Oh no, the maroon book." It was a Hebrew book that pretty much required constant attention for several classes in the program.
  • The other funny thing were the blasted Greek and Hebrew cards. These things were everywhere! I can't even recall all the places I found these little stacks of vocabulary cards: Jon's desk, the bathroom, his pockets, the windowsill, and floating in the washing machine. Sometimes he had me "quiz" him, although I never had a blessed clue as to what he was pronouncing. I usually applauded his answers, varifying they were all correct!
He has worked so hard the last 3 years in classes and then this past year on his internship. I am so proud of him. We are excited to see where the Lord takes us next! We at least need a small break before the PhD's hit. Here are some pictures from the day, although I am kicking myself because the pictures are blurry. The camera somehow got bumped off the correct setting and the whole time I couldn't figure out why it was so blurry. It was kind of dark inside so I thought maybe that was it, even though my flash was going off. So, sorry for my terrible picture taking skills.


Happy Early Mother's Day

Mother's day is coming up on Sunday and I totally realized, this is my first Mother's Day! I'm a mama, even though my baby is in Ethiopia! I was visiting my teacher friends from my previous school here in PA and one of them mentioned that this will be my first Mother's Day! I didn't even think about it! Then last night, Jon and I spent some much needed special time with our dear friends Kelli and Ronaldo. They gave us a sweet little gift for Mekonen: it was a froggy stuffed animal, froggy hooded towel (so cute), and a blue and green striped onesie, socks, and washcloths. I love those little hooded towels and can't wait to see Mekonen all wrapped up in it. I love that his skin is brown because he can totally rock pretty much any color.The most special part of the gift was a mother's day card from Kelli. Aww, my first mother's day card! She wrote the sweetest note in it and I will treasure it always!
I've been thinking a lot today about Mekonen's birth mom. I really want to think of a special way to honor her on Mother's Day every year. The gift she has given us is priceless and we want to honor her. I have heard of some people planting a tree in honor of their child's birth mother. But, we won't be staying in the house we're in forever and the direction God is leading us could have us moving more often than not. So, I need something not so permanent to a location, like planting a tree would be. I'd love it to be something that Mekonen can understand and be involved with too, as he gets older. Any thoughts or ideas anyone??


Great Week!

This has been a great week! We are here in Pennsylvania for a whole week for Jon's graduation. He had his oral exam this morning for seminary and passed with an A! Yeah! We've been busy the last two nights with the banquet and small group dinners. It has been so good to get a break from teaching and so good to see my family and friends. When I get back to work, ONLY 3 WEEKS LEFT till the school year is done! Yahoo!! And tonight I took my last quiz for grad. school this semester. Phew! What a week! I've been loving sleeping in and lazying around here at my parents.
I am especially excited for this weekend because my mom is doing a baby shower for me! Yippee. I am very excited. We are doing a blue and yellow theme with rubber duckies! I can't wait to celebrate Mekonen! We got an email today that our case will probably be submitted to court sometime next week. This is when we will be assigned a group letter and are officially "in line" to receive a court date. From the time of our court filing and getting our group letter, to our actual court date, is about 8-12 weeks. Ugh. The tricky part? The rainy season court closing that happens in August and lasts until October. During the rainy season, no cases are heard in court. We were told by our agency that AAI's lawyer believes our case is likely to make it to court before the closure, but they said there are no guarantees. We are praying hard! If we don't make it into court before August, we have to wait until October for a court date. Oh my. That would be incredibly difficult. Please join us in praying for a court date and then smooth passing BEFORE the rainy season cut-off.