An Official Oren

WOW!!! Exactly one year ago today we got the news of a lifetime... our case was heard in the Ethiopian courts and the judge signed and sealed our paperwork and Mekonen was offically ours FOREVER!!! I still can't believe it. I remember this day like it was yesterday. I can almost feel the nerves again that kept me up at night on the 28th, wondering what was happening in that courthouse in Ethiopia. I was so overjoyed when I got the news from our agency that I burst into tears. When I called my mom at work to tell her the news I was crying and she automatically thought bad news, we didn't pass. She goes, "Oh honey..." and I said, "No mom, we passed!!!!!" And then she said, "Don't scare me like that!" Ahhh, what a feeling! Pure bliss! Has it really been a year already? 

Check out the post from one year ago today with the good news and the introduction of our babe!

Here's what Mekonen was up to at this time last year, as he was "officially" becoming an Oren. He had no idea he'd be joining such a crazy family! He has adjusted quite well! ;) Hehe.  
My, how he has grown!


The Beach!!!

Mekonen's first visit to the beach was a blast!! My Mom & Dad brought us all to Topsail Island in North Carolina for a big family vacation. It was so much fun and the break with family was more than needed!

 Mekonen was hesitant about the waves at first and whenever he would go up to the water and the waves would come towards his feed he'd turn around and run! Haha. But by the end of the week he was loving it.

Mekonen's first dip in the water with Daddy! 

Checkin' this stuff out... not too sure about it.

Playin' in the water with Mommy!

Daddy teaching Mekonen how to boogie board. 

Aww... Daddy and his boy.

Mekonen LOVED to drink the water. Eww gross. I swear, we do give him a sippy cup, but he didn't want it. 

And apparently drinking gross things was funny. Mekonen crawled into this cooler we had on the deck where we all washed off our sandy feet before going into the house. He thought it was wildly hilarious that he was in the cooler AND drinking the nasty water in it. 

Me and my two best boys!! Mekonen and Manny.

As soon as I sat down in my beach chair to get a breather, Manny and Aderyn were back at my side, "Auntie come play in the water with us!" Or, "Auntie do you want to build a sand castle?" How can I refuse those little faces! 

Speaking of sand and playing, my Mom is the best Grandma ever! Truthfully, no adult likes to sit in the sand all day getting sand in places it shouldn't be, and running tirelessly in and out of the water with all the kids. But that was my Mom! Every time we turned around she had her small mob of five grandchildren sitting in the sand, and her covered with it! Or she was chasing after them in the water and bobbing through the waves with them. Such great memories for our kids. Thanks Mom!

Playin' in the sand!

We dug a hole for Mekonen and Jane to sit and play in. They absolutely loved it and stayed in there for the longest time filling up their buckets with sand and water. So cute. 

Uncle Meade made the greatest sand creations for the kids. Here's a huge pyramid he made. Mekonen loved following Manny up and over it. 

Grandma dug a huge hole that the kids climbed in and out of, about 100 times! They thought it was awesome. 

Mekonen, clearly on a serious mission. 

He loved sitting in this orange bucket for some reason. Haha. 

Daddy and Grandpa Jack fished every day. Mekonen wanted to join in on the fun! 

Lookin' cool in his red shades. 

My parents and aunt and uncle bought the kids a bunch of kites. We flew them every night on the beach and the kids loved it! This picture is one of my favorites! Daddy flying the kite and Mekonen in his diaper chasing after it. So cute.

Mekonen and I taking a nap after a long morning at the beach. He slept 3 1/2 to 4 hour naps every day, then woke up and went right back out to the beach! I love my little snuggler. 

Our little fam.

Grandma, Mekonen, and Grandpa Jack! 

My sister and I took the kids out to get some pictures of them, but we were missing Natalie and Jane who weren't able to come out right then. Boo. But here is Manny, Aderyn, and Mekonen. So cute. 

Some family pics of us. Look at that cutie smile in the middle! :) 


How Does the Heart Hold So Much?

Last night and today has been one of those times, where my son, his story, and adoption has pulled so fiercely on my heart strings I don't know that I can bear it. It's those times when I feel just a slice of all that has happened in his tiny little life and I feel like I can't think about it another minute, or I might break.

Last night was a difficult night for Mekonen...for us. We have not had many of these nights since he came home, thankfully. But when we do, it's gut wrenching. These are the nights when all of a sudden I hear my son crying, which he almost never does at night. But it's not the "I'm sick" cry, or the "I just got startled out of my sleep" cry. It's a cry like I've never heard before. It's the kind of cry that comes from a far away, very sad place. I just can't describe it, but it is the worst thing to watch our child experiencing a pain we can't touch, a pain we can't take away, a pain they don't even understand. The only thing I can do, is hold him while he experiences it, love him tenderly through it, and pray God uses it in his life in mighty ways.
During the adoption process we were told about the grieving process that even young infants and toddlers go through. We know the signs, we've been educated on what happens, and how to help them through it. But it never touched us fully until we saw it. Until Mekonen is crying and holding onto me so fiercely and is hard to settle back down to sleep.

Last night was one of those times. After lots of holding and soothing him, rocking him, talking to him, he settled and I could hear his slow, steady breathing again. But transitioning him back to his crib alone would put him back in that far away place again, where I felt I couldn't reach him. We took him into bed with us for a few hours. Any movement by me and he clung fiercely to me, starting to whimper, trying to put his cheek right against mine. It took him a few hours to get into a deep, calm sleep, where he was able to finally rest.

He woke up this morning, as happy as a clam, his face shining so bright, full of a laugh so hearty and real, as if nothing had ever happened. My son is incredible. One of the strongest little things I know. We rest confident that his life beginnings will be used by God in mighty ways. That even now, at a year and a half, God is crafting a courageous and bold heart, ready to be moved by nothing but the Holy Spirit. In everything, God is good.


Happy 1st Father's Day!

Vacation was a blast!!! (Post and pictures to come soon). We arrived home just in time for Father's Day at 4:30am. We made it to church and they officially launched the adoption ministry for Father's Day. We're in the video! Check it out.

Happy Father's Day to my Jon! 
Here is part of the "thanks" Mekonen and I had for Daddy today. 
 Dear Daddy,
You are the best Daddy in the world! I am so happy that Jesus chose you to be my Daddy. Last year at this time I was in Ethiopia waiting for you to come get me. I knew you would come. You often prayed that while we were apart, I would feel Jesus in a really special way. I just wanted to let you know that I did. I could you feel you fighting for me and my heart, even from so far away. I always hear you tell people that you and Mommy are the ones who are blessed. But really, it's me! I want to be just like you when I get big. I want to be courageous and bold. God brought me the perfect Daddy to help me pu all the pieces of my story and life into a big colorful masterpiece that shows just how GOOD Jesus is. God really knows what He is doing, doesn't He? Just like you always say.  I love you!
Happy 1st Fathers's Day!

Dear Jon,
There is no one else in this world that I would be prouder to call my husband and the Daddy of our son. God has blessed me incredibly by allowing me to be a part of your life. I often look around me and find myself thanking God for a husband who loves Jesus and is so passionate about raising our son to do the same. Mekonen and I are loved and cherished... we are safe and protected, able to really grow and shine because you get up each day and fight a world of battles for us. You are courageous and bold, the exact picture I long for our son to become. Thank you for doing life with me. On this Father's Day, I hope you know deep in your heart that your place in our lies is invaluable, never able to be replaced. We love you dearly and thank you for taking care of us. 
I love you,


Friday Foto!

And we're off to vacation!!!!!! Can't wait!!!! Cousins, Aunties, Uncles, Grandma and Grandpa here we come!


Vulnerability With Our Children

I see vulnerability as one of the best ways to establish a true relationship with our children and one of the best ways to teach them about their relationship with Jesus. It is a detriment to a child to only see their parent as the authority, the one in charge, the one who makes the last call. I am not in any way downgrading a parents responsibility to train, instruct, and discipline. I am however, calling attention to what we need to ADD, not replace, to those three things... and that is vulnerability.
 How often do we see in our children the very same things we struggle with day in and day out? It seems to be that more often than not, our first inclination is to want to appear that "we have it all together" in front of our children. That we have mastered the selfishness, the bad attitudes, the pride, etc. But truth be told, they already know we haven't, even when they cannot put words to it, they already know!

The danger in this? We may be tempted to discipline and instruct like a hypocrite. Notice I say like. I don't think that it's an intentional thing, and maybe one is not really even being a hypocrite. But when we discipline and instruct without regard to the very same issue we have with ourselves, it's in essence a form of hypocrisy. We never acknowledge, and never admit that we have struggled already with that sin that very same day, and our children know it. A seed of bitterness can likely form in their hearts as they are being disciplined for the very thing their parent often displays without acknowledgment.
I am in no way saying that we therefore forego discipline and instruction due to the fact that we too struggle with the same sins. To wait until we didn't would be ridiculous because in this lifetime, we will never be perfect. Nor do I think we need to acknowledge this in every single discipline and instruction situation. But I do feel however, that a home atmosphere of acknowledgment that parents are sinners too and also daily growing to be more like Jesus, just like their children, would do wonders to soften a child's heart during discipline towards what is true and right.
A few examples of what vulnerability with our children might look like:
  • When speaking to your child about pride, tell them that you too need Jesus every day because you are prideful sometimes, and give an example of two of specific ways you have been prideful recently.
  •  Apologize and ask forgiveness in the right tone, the same tone you would expect your child to ask forgiveness in, without using the word "but." (For example: In an exasperated tone one might say, "Mommy is sorry she yelled at you, BUT you must obey Mommy when she calls you." You are not really apologizing, you are saying the words, but still trying to justify your sin of anger).
  • Ask your children to pray for the things you struggle with. WOW. I never thought of this until I read this on my friend Amanda's blog. I was so incredibly impressed with the vulnerability she has with her children. She was struggling with having a bad attitude toward one of her children who was giving her a particularly difficult day. So in the moment, in the midst of it, she pulled her oldest child (not the one giving her trouble that day), who is 6 years old, aside privately and asked her daughter right there, to pray for Mommy's attitude. WOW. That's vulnerability. Just think of the relationship growing between that little girl and her mom, and between that little girl and Jesus. In my opinion, that opens HUGE doors of communication between mom and daughter in the many years to come when guiding and helping her to make wise choices. Just think of the respect for Mom's wisdom and godly advice that little girl will have when she is being counseled by her mom, even as a teenager, because she trusts her mom. She sees her as a real person, with real struggles, the same as her own, but with more wisdom about how to deal with them. To me, that is priceless parenting. 
"Even while training a child, he will learn from the child, and so he and his child will grow together toward the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (H. Clay Trumbull).


Saturday Snapshot

"Mom, that morning run was way too long." 


Mekonen on the Job!

One area of parenting I am working on is being more deliberate in training Mekonen in regards to chores and cleaning. Some of you are probably gasping thinking, "What! He is only 17 months old!" Haha. Yes, he is. And I don't mean Mekonen has a list of chores by any means. I am talking more about taking the time to start teaching him now about cleaning up his toys and helping Mommy and Daddy with whatever we're doing.

I naturally have the attitude of, "It's just easier for me to do it.  It would get done faster and better if I just did it myself." And actually, that is true. But the best time to establish lifelong habits is before age five. Yes, it takes longer to do things when I'm asking my 17 month old to "help" but I want him to understand very early, the value of his contribution. 

I no longer do the majority of household cleaning and such during Mekonen's naptime or bedtime. It's good for him to understand early that these things don't just "magically get accomplished" and that he's entitled to waking up to all his toys neatly in a row ready to be destroyed again.

Some of you are probably still gasping. But hear me out. I don't drag Mekonen around all day "doing chores." Very far from it. But when I am doing something that he can "help" with, I have been taking the time to teach him. For example, taking the time before his nap to show him how to help me pick up his toys. This can be painstaking sometimes because I can obviously do it much faster (and truthfully, the way I would rather it be done). When I change the sheets on the bed, he loves to drag them down the hallway towards the laundry room. And we are starting to work on Mekonen putting his dirty clothes in the hamper.
 “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children" (Charlotte Mason).
Hopefully, this early training will also eliminate the initial complaining and grumbling when mom all of a sudden instills "the summer chore chart," or decides the kids are at an age where they can help and she starts handing out "chores." If it's always been a part of life then hopefully it won't be a problem.

Side comment on "summer chore charts." I'm not bashing these altogether, so if you do them, please don't be offended. But, they never made much sense to me. We are telling our kids that due to their normal "job" of going to school full-time during the year, they don't have time to help contribute to the family. This doesn't teach them anything because as adults, they will need to be able to successfully manage their families, jobs, household workings, church involvement, friends, etc. all at the same time.

Some might also disagree on this as well, but we don't intend to pay our children to help contribute to the running of the family. If they are doing extra "chores" or projects to earn money for something that is fine, but to pay our children to help clean up after themselves is not going to happen. :)

Here is Mekonen helping me and Grandma clean out the kitchen cupboards.
 He was very excited about this and thought it was so fun to hand us all the cans. What a cutie pie.

Our goal in all this is to train our children early to live a disciplined life. "The discipline learned in work translates into discipline in studies, and later, into discipline in life."
 “The habits of the child produce the character of the man . . . every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend” (Charlotte Mason).


Memorial Day Fun!

Memorial Day Weekend Fun!
 On Sunday we took Mekonen to the splash park for the first time. He had an absolute blast! He was so cute running around like he was a big kid. He was the smallest one there but that didn't stop him!

"Wow! What is this thing!"
He LOVED running through all the water and just kept giggling and giggling.
The water was pretty cold too.
Drink break #1
Trying to catch the water.
Daddy & Mekonen
Drink break #2
Grandma Magz & Mekonen

On Memorial Day we spent the afternoon and evening at our awesome friends Joe & Julie's. 
Lots of friends+lots of food+BIG pool= AWESOME day! 

They have this great little kiddie pool ledge thing. Mekonen was a little hesitant at first but then had a blast.
Daddy showing his moves off the hot tub ledge.
Mekonen and one his greatest girls, Courtney!