The Many Faces of Baby O!

7 Weeks
Heard the heartbeat. Coolest sound ever!
8 Weeks
 9 1/2 Weeks
Saw arms and legs moving!
 11 Weeks
Saw baby flip over on ultrasound, was sucking its hand and had the hiccups! They were quite active! 
 11 Weeks 4D
(Sorry it's a tad fuzzy. Our scanner is not up and I had to take a picture of the picture).

12 Weeks
Saw baby moving arms and legs! 


Mekonen Has Big News!!!

Introducing the newest Baby O!!!!


Boys Will Be Boys!!

Boys will be boys right? We’ve all heard that famous saying, and often it is used when we find ourselves referencing a crazy stunt done by our boys or an outside adventure involving rocks, toads, sticks, and the like. As I continue on this early journey of raising a son, I see many young boys who seem to have no sense of adventure, curiosity, or free spirits. Through teaching, I have been amazed how many children run onto the playground for recess and don’t know what to do! I love this quote by Charlotte Mason, whose writings I have come to love. She says, “Be sure that your children each day have: something or someone to love, something to do, and something to think about!” I’m not talking about merely anything to do or just anything to think about, but instead, something that would chase away an idle, unoccupied mind and fill it with rich thoughts and healthy activity where the word “bored” simply cannot exist.

 Play is an extremely important part of childhood. However, not just any play: not television and computer games (even educational ones), video games, or other electronics. I’m talking about the seemingly lost art of play: imagination, and creativity which seem to be a thing of the past.
I’ve been reading some great books on adventures for boys and how to encourage their ingenuity and playtime. I have been attempting to find other ways to encourage our son’s playtime away from toys that have batteries, make sounds, or only have one purpose. Once I realized how fancy our toys have become, I realized this was a lot harder than I originally thought! But starting early with teaching our son to use his imagination and creativity in his play will eventually lead him to doing and creating, and going out on adventures of his own.
 In his book The American Boy’s Handy Book, D.C. Bear says it like this, “Money spent on fancy sporting apparatuses, toys, etc., would be better spent upon tools and appliances. Let boys make their own kites, bow, and arrows. They will find double pleasure in them, and value them accordingly, to say nothing of the education involved in the successful construction of their homemade playthings.”
 So what does this look like in everyday life?
  1. Turn off the television, computers, and video games. Research has shown that too much screen time stifles creativity and attention span.
  2. Take a look at the kinds of toys you have in your home. You don’t need to necessarily “get rid of” them, but take away a good chunk of the commercialized toys with lights, sounds, and batteries for one month.
  3. Set out toys that force imagination, creativity, and thought. If your child is used to being “entertained” with fancy toys this might be hard for them. You may need to teach them how to play, how to imagine.
  4. Have outside time every day!
Activity Suggestions:
Young toddler/preschooler:
wooden puzzles, blocks, wooden animals, craft materials, cars and trains (but they create their own roads and bridges), and good books! Take them outside with a bucket and show them how to observe nature and “find things.” Have them collect interesting things in their buckets and talk about them. Let them show them to another family member later in the day.
Young elementary/older elementary: nature books- have your children go outside and collect interesting things and look for interesting birds or creatures. Look in nature books to find out what they are and draw them in their books. And best of all, get a book such as The American Boy’s Handy Book and The Dangerous Book for Boys and see the ways your child’s creativity and ingenuity come alive! It teaches them kite making, home-made boats, camping, dogs, paper airplanes, tying knots, marbles, tree houses, snow forts, sledding, and more! It even has many indoor activities as well! (These books also have versions for girls!)
 It'll be fun to see all the things our children create, imagine, and do!


7 Girls at Layla House

It was a bittersweet day at the Layla House orphanage (where Mekonen was) as 7 girls aged out of the orphanage (including those girls who I posted about previously). This is a first for our agency - to promise families to children in care and they weren't able to find any. It's been called bittersweet because AAI has been able to place the girls in a boarding school where they can finish their education and hopefully learn a vocation for life in Ethiopia, which is good! However, they have lost the dream of a new forever family, to have parents again, the stability and love that a family brings, and a lifetime family connection. Without AAI getting them into boarding school some would be returning to relatives who cannot provide an adequate life for them (hence their arrival at the orphanage). They will be able to visit these family members on breaks from school.

I read the update from our agency and I sat at the computer and cried. Here is a picture our agency posted on their blog of the girls leaving Layla. I met 5 of the seven girls. I was extremely saddened and surprised to see Mekdes (2nd from the right). She was waiting for a family when we picked up Mekonen, along with her little brother. She followed me everywhere. Talked to me. Sought me out every time I stepped foot at Layla. She loved carrying Mekonen around. She kept introducing me to her brother. Her brother whom she has to leave behind.
Here's what our agency wrote about these girls and their situation: 
"As we spent quite a few hours gathering supplies, shopping, and finally packing up the 7 girls, the emotions started running high. Reality came in a huge gust and tears were shed as they (and we) contemplated their new journey. Bittersweet to say the least, the 7 beautiful girls we were preparing to send off to L’esperance School in Akaki (about 40 minutes outside of Addis Ababa) had mixed emotions. Excited to have the opportunity to excel and finish school instead of going back to families or relatives with little to no chance of furthering their educations, all 7 of the girls braced themselves for the next chapter of their lives together. In a way, I guess it’s better that there are quite a few of them to support each other. All of them are close and have grown up, so to speak, in the same household as family for a couple of years of their lives.  Three of the girls leave brothers at Layla House still eligible for adoption and that too, added to the sadness of the moment. 

 At Layla, these girls were living a great life (friends, staff and kids that become like family, a clean and sanitary living area, and the comforts of so many things that kids their age and situation lack) and at L’esperance they are required to behave a certain way and take care of themselves like the young adults they now are. It’s going to be a huge change for them but I know that there is a lot of faith for their success and many people praying and continuously supporting them. We can’t thank everyone enough. So for now, keep them in your thoughts and wish them luck on their new endeavor."

Phew. That's hard. They're only young teens. This is not like going away to college. Worst of all, some are separated from siblings, and possibly permanently if their siblings end up adopted. We are told Ethiopia does not separate siblings, but I guess in the case where one child is eligible and the other is not, it must be a different scenario. I keep thinking of myself at 14 and 15. Are you serious? No family? No stability? Separated from my only siblings? Essentially on my own? Whoa. 
I spoke with our agency several weeks ago on the phone about these girls and what has led to this situation, what can be done, etc. They said that the panic of finding homes for children about to age out of the orphanage happens because of the forgotten age range of 9-12 year olds. She said when adopting older children most people are requesting children ages 4-8. Typically, the 9-12 year old age range gets "overlooked" and before you know it, they are the 14-15 age range with no families. Many of these kids spend years at Layla waiting for a family. She was saying they need more awareness brought to the children in the 9-12 year range to prevent them from becoming the aging out kids of 14-15. So... would you really consider bringing a 9-12 year old into your family?

I deal with situations in my heart like this, by continually reminding myself that God is completely powerful enough to intervene in the lives of this girls in a personal way. I am praying that God brings someone into their lives who knows Jesus- someone who can introduce them to the greatest security and love they will ever know.


Celebrating Fall!!!

Ahh...my favorite season of the year!!! When the air gets crisp, the leaves turn colors, and you can smell cinnamon and apples at every turn! I am excited that this fall season Mekonen is a bit older and can do some crafts and things with me (sort of).  A fond memory of my childhood is the time my mom spent doing seasonal crafts and projects with us. I want my children to have wonderful memories like the ones I have where we enjoyed the season and did lots of fun stuff to celebrate it. 

We are ALMOST all settled into our new house. We just need to hang pictures and decorations. It won't feel complete and like "home" without that done. So hopefully soon! I feel like we've been running around like crazy and I'm anxious for it to slow down a bit in the next couple weeks so Mekonen and I can enjoy the season! 

The shorts, swimsuit, and flip flops will soon find their way to storage in the closet. Out come the pants, long sleeves, shoes, and jackets. Ahhh, the signs of fall! 

Mekonen looking so big now in long pants and big boy sneakers! 

To celebrate fall I want to do some mini theme things with apples and pumpkins, etc. Here's what we'll do if you're interested in some ideas!
  • Go to our incredible library nearby and get lots of books on apples to read.
  • Do an internet search for apple coloring pages, apple crafts, etc. 
  • Pick out a few recipes that have apples in them that we can make.
  • Take pictures of our time together and the little projects we've made. 

Here's a specific craft that comes to mind when I think of fall. It's easy for toddlers to "help" with. 
Autumn Leaf Window Decorations
  • Give your child a bucket and let them go outside and collect brightly colored leaves that have fallen from the trees. 
  • Arrange on wax paper (waxy side up) and place another piece of wax paper on top (waxy side down).
  • Put a dry towel on top and iron on medium (no steam needed). 
  • Cut around edges and hang in windows.
  • The color keeps for quite awhile and leaves can later be mailed to grandparents and friends with a note or an Autumn poem to celebrate Thanksgiving.

4. Have fun enjoying the season with your children and creating new memories that will last a lifetime! 

And just for fun, an action shot of Mekonen "jumping." It's hilarious. He only jumps one foot off the ground, but with his take-off you think he was going to jump 3 feet high!


A Letter From Daddy's Heart


I am looking at a picture of you on my phone right now. I am so proud of you simply because you are.
This might be a difficult concept to grasp (depending on the stage of life in which you read this note).
Love for you, joy because of you, courage to lead you as a Daddy all exist simply because you are. You do not have to do anything whatsoever to earn my love. You will surely be tempted to think this throughout your life. It is my joy as a father to alleviate this perceived pressure in your life. I am joyful simply for your existence. You make me proud no matter what you do. Nothing, good or bad, can change the depth of love that I have in my heart for you.

You have already taught me so much about Jesus. Jesus loves us simply because we are. He created us and receives inordinate pleasure in the simple fact of our existence. Because he loves us deeply, He desires that we do not remain in slavery, but are free to enjoy Him ultimately. My discipline in your life is for the same reason. I want to be a champion for your freedom in Christ, love in Christ, peace in Christ, and power in Christ. In order to champion these realities, I must at times, rebuke you or discipline you. Understand that these are the same things that God does to me because He loves me, not in spite of me.

My ultimate desire for your life is very specific and very broad at the same time. Specifically, I hope that you know Jesus not in abstraction, but in reality. Even though you will not likely be graced by Him empirically on this earth, you will hopefully know a Truth that is greater than empiricism. It exists. It is more real than we know. That is my specific and greatest desire for you, and it determines the broad desire that I have for you. Because you are loved by and therefore love Jesus, I hope that you live life in the greatest capacity. It does not matter what you do. If knowing Jesus leads you to be in business, then great. You cannot fail in the ultimate sense of the term. If being loved by God prompts you to change an entire country as a politician, then amazing. If being led by God takes you to the remotest and most dangerous part of the earth, then go. I will love and fully support your efforts to the glory of God. I pray that God gives me wisdom in understanding your heart and passion for Him.

Son, I love you with a Christ‐like love. Of this I am sure. If you were to even curse the day I was born, I would still take all of the pain of this world in order that you might experience true joy and freedom. You simply make me happy.




Goodbye Buffalo! Hello City!

Oh Wow. I have been the worst blogger ever! The month of August was extremely busy and overwhelming to say the least! I sure hope all my readers haven't decided to kick me off their reading list! But, I think it's safe to say, "We are back!!"

So the month of August was crazy and it finished up with a move for us! The decision to move, the packing, and moving in, all happened within just a few weeks, soooooo it was CRAZY! Our move here to Indy 2 years ago from PA, 11 hours away, was WAY easier than this move downtown. Probably because of a certain little someone who wasn't here during that first move! ;)
We moved about 35 minutes towards downtown Indianapolis. Previously we were outside the city on the north side. There were lots of factors going into this move, (it being MUCH closer to Jon's work and saving TONS on gas) but one of the top things being...

**Our desire to really and truly live in community with the poor- to live in community with the people whom we want to see come to know Jesus. We have been very convicted about living nicely in the quiet, safe "suburbs"while we go "visit" the city and the poor to do "ministry" (meaning charity type projects that don't involve relationship). This is where we were convicted. The command of the Bible is to "Go therefore and make disciples!" How did Jesus make His disciples? He spent time with them, poured his life into them. He did not visit them on occassion with food, clothing, and material help and then go back to his own comforts while leaving them desperate, in need, and without hope. You can't make disciples without relationship, and how can we have relationship without being there? Yes, all the ministries such as soup kitchens, clothing drives, etc., are good. But we have not been seeing them create active, on-going relationships where disciples of Jesus can be made. Something had to be done! So we got up and moved.

Our current prayer is for the people in the Mapleton Fall Creek Neighborhood where we now live. It's a rougher area of the city in which we have already encountered some very different things from our "country" life in the "suburbs." We are also LOVING the fact that there other kids with the same skin color as Mekonen at the park!!! :) We have already made some friends on our street and are getting to know the culture of where we live. Crazy how different things can be just 35 minutes away!
And on to Mekonen!! Part of my lack of blogging these days is the toll this transition has taken on Mekonen. It wasn't as bad as I know it could be, but it was still difficult for him. I try to be gracious when I express my concerns of disrupting Mekonen's "normal" when people respond with a flippant, "oh he'll be fine!" and a myriad of other things indicating that my concerns are overprotective, too sensitive, and the like. I love the support of my sister (also adoptive parent) and adoptive families who know I am not overreacting or going crazy. Due to the circumstances surrounding Mekonen's adoption, he will most likely experience some difficulty with most major transitions in his childhood, such as a move, starting school, or any other major events. I know this sounds crazy to many non-adoptive families and like my dear friend Julie has stated, we hear the phrase "but he was so young when you brought him home...he won't remember any of it...babies are so resilient." On the contrary, research shows that the earliest moments in life have the most lasting effects on the brain. If a child has a firm foundation as an infant, then later experiences transitions and trauma, he/she is less likely to have the lasting physiological effects as the child who experiences trauma early in life. Our babies aren't as resilient as science first thought. This is not to say that children who are adopted don't grow into content, well-adjusted children--the majority of them do." It's just important not to make adoptive parents seem like they are crazy when they express their child's struggles and are met with that "oh she's a young and overprotective first time mom."

Once we got moved into our house permanently, Mekonen has been doing phenomenal! He is such a trooper! I am amazed by his resilient spirit and his ability to trust that we will always care for him, and that we are not going anywhere.
Prior to our final move downtown, Mekonen spent a lot of time in our house full of boxes and back and forth to Grandma's for a couple weeks while we made trips back and forth to our new place. He didn't start really showing signs of fear, confusion, etc. until we packed up his bedroom and he was sleeping in there with just a pack n' play. (Note to us: next move, save Mekonen's room for last!) Once the house was pretty much packed and all his stuff was "gone" and there was no more "routine" the transition started taking its toll. Mekonen was constantly whining, grabbing at my legs, wanting my full blown attention, testing the boundaries way more than usual, and lots of other little things you notice as a parent that just aren't "right." He was also sleeping extra long and not eating very much (which is a HUGE deal for Mekonen who will eat ANYTHING at ANYTIME). The anxiety I knew was plaguing my son's heart was difficult for me, and I in turn, was having a very difficult time with wanting so badly to make it all go away, for him to never feel like this again- for him to know, we are never leaving him.

All that to say, as soon as we got to our new house, and his room was set-up with his stuff, he was fine! You see, for a child like Mekonen, home is his "safe-place." Where his stuff is, his mom and dad are, etc. To him, it is how he knows we are coming back. Yes, we travel a lot and Mekonen sleeps in a lot of different places. That is all fine and good with him because he knows that at the end of it comes HOME. So when that was disrupted, it was a little chaotic for him. But literally, once we stayed at our new place overnight, and his stuff was back in his room, he has been completely fine! Such a champ! He is back to his normal, confident, outgoing self. Ahh, such peace for that little babe's heart and his mama's!