The Trip Beyond Your Wildest Dreams…

Seven Months. Wow. We’ve been home – with the girls – for a full seven months today – ok yesterday now, but I finished this up late last night.

I decided to commemorate the date with a recap of our trip home from Ethiopia. It was quite the adventure and an unbelievable story. I’m going to tell all the nitty gritty details because I think someday I will be able to laugh at it. Seven months is not quite enough time to laugh yet, but I can look at it and see some crazily amusing aspects. So I thought I’d share.

I'm holding Lyla and Nancy is holding Sosie. It was our almost last picture taken in Ethiopia - we passed Embassy, we were headed to meet with the birthmom, and then we were going HOME!!!!!I must preface this story by saying that nothing – and I mean NOTHING – in this story is an exaggeration. I don’t think. I mean I say with every fiber of truth in my body that I am telling this story with the most honesty that I can muster. I mean it.

I wrote about Part One of our Embassy Trip that you can go read if you would like to read about the first part of our voyage…

And now onto Part Two…

So we had a series of three flights – my sweet Aunt Nancy and I with the babies. And lots o luggage. 20 pound baby on the front, 30 pound backpack on the back, and a cart FULL of luggage – whew! Look how sweet and smiley we looked – we were so excited just to be headed home. It was also about 11 pm or so in Ethiopia.

In the first flight – which was five hours I believe – we were doing great. Having had a baby on an airplane before, I was confident that I was at least as prepared as I could be. We’d need to keep them entertained, but what could go wrong? I had scoured the blogs and asked experienced traveling friends what to take, and I had it all. We were prepared.

This flight didn’t have any of the bulkhead crib seats available, but we were in three seats with the two of us (plus the babies) so we were excited to have the wee bit of extra room. Other babies on the plane were crying before we even taxied out of the runway – but not ours! We wisely saved our bottles for the takeoff where the drinking of the bottle would soothe their little popping ears. I mean, I’ve done this before – it ain’t my first time around the block. I surely know how to fly with babies. Nancy too.

We took off, and we popped those bottles in at just the right time. The girls sweetly relaxed and slowly drank their bottles while drifting off to sleep. Other babies cried – but not ours! I mean, why couldn’t everyone have it as together as we did? I mean, I’m trying to catch some sleep here…

I had Lyla, and Nancy had Sosie. At the end of her bottle, Lyla got a little fussy, but she did better when I sat her up. She was on my lap facing me, and seemed a little weirded out by the plane but okay otherwise. And then it happened.

Projectile. Vomit. The contents of that entire bottle were spewed all. over. me.

Lyla immediately seemed to feel better, but I was covered from my hair to my knees in putrid, rancid-smelling vomit. (Let’s insert here that I’ve never done well with vomit. Ever. Jason is a saint and bails me out most of the time to clean it up. Gag reflex on steroids from me. I just can’t do it.)

I stayed calm. Kind of.

I paged the stewardess and asked for some napkins or something. She wasn’t really paying attention, and she was like, umm, why? I said, “My daughter got sick, and I need to clean up.” She said, “Uhh, okay.” I shifted Lyla so she could see the sheer volume of vomit all over me, and she jumped into action. You know the hot towels that the stewardesses take around to you? She brought us a whole tray. And two whole packs of unopened cocktail napkins. And a large trash bag.

I changed and cleaned Lyla and stuffed all of the gross washcloths into the bag along with Lyla’s clothes.

My biggest dilemma was that I knew if I stood up and walked the 3/4ths length of the plane back to the bathroom that the rows and rows and rows of people behind me would be aghast at the vomit dripping off me all the way up the aisle. It would be a big show. So I stripped right there in the seat – as discreetly as possible – after checking out that nobody could really see me around us. I stuffed all the puke clothes into the plastic bag. I had clean clothes on, but I was still covered in vomit.

I headed back to the bathroom, and wiped off as well as I could. People, vomit had pooled in my bra. It was bad. I rinsed my hair in the sink and smothered myself with the scented lotion I luckily had in my backpack. I really just couldn’t get the smell off of me.

Can you scroll back up to the picture for a second? What do you notice about my hair? Yes! It’s wet! I would like to point out the fact that I very wisely waited until the last possible second to shower – I knew we had 24 hours of travel ahead of us and at the end there would be my gorgeous husband, my sweet kiddos, and many many people we loved like crazy waiting to see us. And lots of pictures being taken.

So back to the vomit-covered me… :)

Most of the rest of the flight was okay. I’d occasionally whimper/glaze over in wonder at the fact that I’d used one of my spare outfits just 15 minutes into 24 hours of traveling. And I spent the other four hours and 45 minutes holding a puke bag within inches of Lyla’s face – I jumped whenever she even flinched! But what else could happen?

At the end of the flight, we very wisely changed the girls before we stuck them into the baby carriers and lugged them through however many gates we would need to go through. We took turns changing them in the empty seat. I changed Lyla first. Then Nancy changed Sosie. She peels down sweet Sosie’s diaper and what happened?

Projectile. Poop. And not normal baby poop smell. Like rancid, I’m ridding my little body of all kinds of germs-smelling diarrhea.

All over Nancy’s pants. And her backpack. Like thick, permeating pudding-like poop. By this time, other people were filing past us to exit. Nancy and I kind of chuckled at what other people were having to smell and see, but we could do nothing but frantically scoop up the poop with the wipes we had – and our bare hands.

Did I mention how immensely grateful I was that Nancy was with me? How sacrificial she was all week? How I couldn’t have done it without her? Oh man oh man.

We cleaned as quickly as we could and reassured each other that we weren’t in a rush. We’d get off when we got off and it was ok. No reason to panic. The stewards were really rushing us and trying to hold the babies – which resulted in screaming from them.

We finally get off the plane only to discover that the back third of the plane was all crowded into a little tram anxiously waiting on whoever the holdup was so they could be taxied to our gate. Well we didn’t know that!

So we walk as quickly as we can, each with our extra 50 pounds of baby and backpack. Nancy smells like poop, I smell like vomit, and I’m now carrying a clear trash bag full of puke and poop-covered washcloths, baby clothes, and every item of clothing I had on. Poor Nancy didn’t have time to change and just had to wear what she had on. We crammed our stinky selves onto the tram with our impatient fellow travelers and made it to the exit gate.

Only to wait through five different lines of the Turkey officials checking, rechecking, verifying, and re-verifying our passports, the girls’ passports, asking for additional paperwork which I had to dig out of the backpack, and then rechecking everything again. I don’t know what the deal was, but boy they were doing their J-O-B…

FINALLY we made it to the ticket desk to request our bulkhead seating so we could take advantage of the cribs on our upcoming 10-ish hour flight. I felt very proud of us. It’d been a tough flight, but here we were. We made it. We’d get this little detail set up, and then we’d clean up in the spacious airport bathrooms.

I’ll spare you the details, but I spent the next hour and half begging and pleading with the Turkish Airline precious people to PLEASE let us have the bulkhead seats. Someone was sitting in those seats, but they didn’t have two babies – or one baby. So we should get them, right? No can do. It involved lots of the workers, language barriers, and the meanest supervisor lady I’d ever met. I cried. Poop-covered Nancy was sitting on a nearby bench holding two babies – both of which were crying. My vomit smelling little self had done okay so far, but we were only six or seven hours in and I was out of any traveling willpower I had. The supervisor even seemed gleeful in her denial of any fraction of sanity we could imagine over the next ten hours. Nothing we could do.

We freshened up best we could, tried to eat and get the babies calmed, and then trudged to our next flight. We got the third degree about our water – um, two babies, 10 hours of flying, bottles? Finally they let us through with the airport-purchased water. I don’t think we talked much waiting to get on the next flight. Nancy and I were both exhausted and dreading the flight. Our last hope was that we would meet a sweet stewardess.

I got on and quickly explained our dilemma to the nicest-looking stewardess I could find. And she was a gift from the Lord. She preciously and sweetly – but yet firmly – asked the people if they would mind moving seats. One man was very willing. The older couple though? No way were they happy. They were really upset to have to move. They came back to take our seats, and we both went overboard to wearily tell them just how appreciative we were for the seats while trying to explain. Stone-faced responses. Nothing. Ticked little old people.

What did we do in response to Mr. and Mrs. Grouchy? Well, Nancy and I tried not to skip down the aisle with joy to our spacious new seats!!!! We checked out where the cribs would go, happily kissed on the babies, stored our brick-filled backpacks (and the puke/poop laundry trash bag), and stretched our feet out. AAHH – we could do this! And we both said we didn’t feel one TINY bit of guilt about taking their seats. I think even Jesus would have taken their seats had He experienced what we had on the previous flight. Ok, maybe not. Well, maybe.

Anyway, the flight went pretty well. The old people kept stomping up to our seats because they left their carry-on luggage there – even though they could have moved it – and glared angrily at us while they slammed the overhead bin shut. Nope, still no guilt. Not a bit.

Sosie buried in the beautiful crib - aaah!Lyla snoozing on the plane - a beautiful sight!The babies slept a couple of times in the little cribs, and Nancy and I actually got to like eat – well pick at – the Turkish food… (let’s say I’m not itching to go to Turkey anytime soon!) and rest our arms! Glorious! There were quite a few diaper blowouts – diaper after diaper, outfit after outfit. Our backpacks were becoming lighter while the poopy/vomity clothes bag got heavier. I was sooo grateful for packing SOOOO many clothes for all of us. Can I tell you at this point, we kind of giggled (in a maybe manical way) everytime we had to open the vomit/poop clothes bag to put another item in? Those clothes had been marinating in their bodily fluids for 15ish hours now at least. Yeah, we really felt bad for everyone around us – at least we knew to hold our breath!

We finally landed and taxied to our runway – whoooo hooo!!! We were in America! The babies were American citizens!!!! I was so excited and tearful. We just had one more little two hour flight and we had plenty of time to get there.

Until we sat on the plane for an extra hour at the gate. Who knows why. They wouldn’t let people pee or get up or do anything. The babies were okay, but I was dreading having to miss our flight – it would mean flying in on Sunday morning instead of Saturday night. It would mean our welcoming party would mostly be at church. And I couldn’t spend the night in the New York airport. I just couldn’t.

I must mention that while we were sitting there parked on the runway, there was a scurry of activity behind us and an oxygen tank was being rolled out. I turned around and there was Mrs. Grouchy laying on Mr. Grouchy’s lap and sucking in some oxygen for a few minutes. And then she was fine. I don’t think another foot of room would have helped her breathe, but I felt a twinge of guilt. Well, no I didn’t. Really, that’s horrible I suppose. But I didn’t feel one bit bad. Not a bit… She was fine.

We eventually got off, made it through customs FINALLY in spite of some cocky airport cops – seriously?, and claimed our luggage – still carrying the poop/puke bag. Then we trekked with the 20 pound babies and the 30 pound backpacks and the multiple suitcases to go re-check our luggage since we were coming from a foreign country to America. Which took about another hour. Time was ticking down for us making our flight on time.

Meanwhile Jason was texting me telling me Nolan had fallen off his bike and had gotten stitches. I was like, ooookkkk… why are you telling me this now? If you only knew the extreme duress I was under right now, you would not be telling me about a couple of stitches on his leg – or wherever it was. I’d kill for 1000 stitches for myself to get me home. I was like – he has NO CLUE…

Finally we get our luggage rechecked and we go to find our gate. I think we maybe had like 25 minutes or something. We had to go through hallway after hallway after turn after an elevator or five, and FINALLY we saw our airline’s desk and rushed to get our seat assignments. The ladies started talking like we were going to miss our flight or something, and I was like, really? What’s the big deal? We’re here! We just have to walk to our gate? They made a big deal about our gate being really far away (of course it was), but I knew we were in shape and would run if we had to in order to make our flight. I mean how long of a walk could it be? We had a few minutes still.

They pointed us toward our gate, and we hurried around the corner following the directions they gave us. And then I froze. In front of us stood probably 500 people – at least – waiting to go through security. Oh crap.

I lost it again. Cried right there. I knew that had to be it. I was praying, but I was crying too. We were sooo tired, and it had been such a looong flight – we were finally in America, almost home, and I wanted my family all in one place so bad that I couldn’t stand it. I ACHED for it. But yet it was sooo far away.

I trudged towards the line and prayed for a miracle. While I was bawling – like audibly bawling. I mean we’d had maybe a total of an hour or two of sleep in 48 or so hours (had full day in Ethiopia bc we left at 11pm, then had been traveling for almost a full day) – which came at the end of a hard, emotional week in Ethiopia. I just wanted home.

This lady was standing there that sweetly said, “Baby, what are you crying for?” I started rambling (while still bawling) about Ethiopia and vomit and 20 hours of traveling and poop and babies and my husband and America and our flight and sleeping in the airport. I think she thought I was nuts. But she so sweetly whisked us over to a short line and patted my arm and told us it’d be okay. Can I say that sweet sweet Nancy was so calm during all of this? Seriously – she’s a saint!

There were about 10 people in front of us, but we had about 15 minutes or so until our flight was supposed to be leaving. I was still crying. Happy to have 10 people in front of us instead of 490, but I still wasn’t thinking it looked too good.

The people in front of us asked what was wrong, and I tried not to tell them, but about half of the vomit, poop, husband, Ethiopia, baby details came out. The man sweetly encouraged us to get in front of him, and I said, “No, no, I’m okay – it’s just been a long long long day.” He said, “Do you want to miss your flight?” Me, crying more, “Well, no…” He said, “Then GO!”

We finally made it to the scanner line, and for the first time in all our security checks, they told us we had to take the babies out of the baby carriers to go through security. What??? I nicely refused. They said, “Well, you’re going to have to be patted down if you don’t.” Uhhh, pat away sister, but I’m not taking the time to take off these babies!

The dam had broken by then, and I cried all through our pat downs and was doing the like hyper-ventilating breathing. Another really kind lady was so sweet to us (I’ve said “sweet” a lot – God put some really sweet people in our path – THANK YOU LORD!) and helped us get our backpacks back on and kept telling us we were okay. I was quite the sight I assure you. I am NOT like that – like never in my life have I EVER been like that. It had been a long, long day.

We get through security and the little guy asks where our gate was and when our flight was. We told him, and he just said, you’re not going to make it. No way – it takes a good 15 minutes to walk down to that gate – it’s the farthest one from here.

Great.

But, we figured we could try. So we started running. Running while crying. Carrying 20 pounds of baby and 30 pounds of backpack (maybe 20 pounds by now?) along with a 20 pound bag of rancid puke/poop laundry in a clear bag for all of America to see. We’d run, walk to catch our breaths, run again, walk some more, cry, commiserate, and try to run again. It took forever. I don’t even remember what the babies were doing except kind of whimpering a little and trying to hold on. Sweet girls. I think God must’ve comforted them Himself.

We’d see the sign for our gate and pick up the pace only to discover that it was just pointing to another long hallway around the corner. That happened like three times. Finally I see our real real real gate at the end of a long hallway. I didn’t know how much time we had left, but I knew it had to be close.

I ran a little faster just to get closer and maybe catch the plane for Nancy and I. I ran past the gate check-in gate. They hollered something at me, and I just yelled back, we’re trying to catch the Nashville flight! They didn’t say anything back.

Of course there were like five turns and hallways, but I heard the stewardess yelling, “Last call for Nashville, last call!!!” I SCREAMED, “WAIT WAIT WAIT!!! WE’RE COMING!! WAIT!!!!” Oh my word, we made it.

We walked onto that plane two balls of sweaty hot mess. We sank into seats, stripped off our outer layers and stripped the babies down – even they were covered with sweat. I think we sat there just breathing for like 45 minutes – both of us crying off and on by then. It had been a long long long long 24 hours. But finally we were going to land in Nashville – barring something else crazy – and we would be done. I think we were crying from both the horror of the day and the relief.

The last thirty minutes or so we ate, and the precious stewardess brought us plenty of extra snacks and water and was so sweet. The babies got a good snacky-meal, and we did too. Then we changed our clothes into our final outfit – thankfully we each still had a final outfit. I re-smothered myself with scented lotion again – I was sooo glad I had brought it!

And then, we walked off of the plane, onto our ramp, and INTO THE NASHVILLE AIRPORT!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was such a surreal, miraculous-seeming, long-time-coming, precious moment. Here’s a gallery of pictures to look through: (A HUGE “Amesegenallo” to Amanda Humphrey for our airport pics!!! THANK YOU!)

Pictures are better than words – so “they” say. If each picture were to describe 10,000 words, there would still not be enough words to express how grateful I was to see EACH AND EVERY FACE at the airport. Thank you – from the bottom of my heart – to all of you that came out. It was the best, best, most perfect ending to such a long journey. Those precious people had supported us all along the way, and there is no better ending than having them there with us to celebrate our sweet girls finally being home. I think that moment is just one that I’ll remember forever – like Mary in the Bible, I stored those moments in my heart, and I’ll ponder and reflect on them forever. And be grateful beyond belief for our support network – every. single. time.

And oh the sight of my precious husband and my other three children! Oh my, the WHOLE UNDERHILL FAMILY ALL TOGETHER!!!!!!!! And my pitiful Nolan’s face – no wonder Jason tried to warn me about the stitches. I didn’t ask, but I assumed it was a couple of stitches on his knee! Nope, an all out face crash off his bike – poor baby. But there was no better sight to see!

And seeing all of those faces made the trip – every vomit and diarrhea-soaked moment of it – completely worth it. I would have rather had an easier trip of course, but it will make for great stories to tell the girls someday. And I think I’ll be able to laugh by then! :)

And once again (but not for the last time), thank you sweet Aunt Nancy. You made the trip and saved my very little crazy self! I love you, and I am so grateful to have you sharing that trip with me – every vomit and diarrhea-soaked moment of it.

We’re Adopting… AGAIN!!!

Yep, you read that correctly… Us. Adopting. Again.

Are you breathing? Are you in shock? I know!

We are NOT adopting TWO this time – just one.

I know it’s pretty crazy around here, but this next process will be WAY easier. We’ve actually already FOUND the newest member of our family. It’s another little girl that we believe is about 4.

Are you with me? Think we’re nuts?

This time we’re doing a domestic adoption. We actually got to foster her first to make sure that she would fit in well and to see how everyone adapted.

AAAANNNNDDDD…. WE ALREADY HAVE A PICTURE OF HER!!! Wanna see???

Our sweet dog - MOLLY!

Sweet Molly fits right in!

Wait, you didn’t think we were going to adopt another PERSON right now did you?? THAT would be crazy!

There’s actually an interesting story about this though that is kind of a heart-level story. Our last two dogs have NOT worked out. One we raised from a puppy and so we got to socialize him, train him, everything, but he turned out VERY territorial and would lunge at visitors, etc. despite puppy AND dog training classes. He ended up getting adopted from someone in Chicago – after he bit our NES man (one of many bites he passed out).

Our other dog was a golden retriever we got at the local Humane Society. We spent as much time with him as we could in the little room, and he did great! We brought that dog home, and he was a SPAZ! Could NOT settle down unless he was in a commanded “down, stay” (which we couldn’t leave him in for life of course). We ran him, we had a private trainer come to the house – he was just too much dog for us, and we took him back to the Humane Society.

Now it’s interesting because so many people are SOOOO judgemental about giving up a durn dog. It’s a dog! I’m not saying families should be flippant and just have no level of commitment to a dog, but if it doesn’t work, looking for a humane option for the dog is NOT A CARDINAL SIN!!! (Check your Bible – it’s not in there! In fact it says men are to rule OVER the animals and ONLY HUMANS were made IN GOD’S IMAGE!!!)

So we waited a while, and then we started looking for another dog – because we really are a dog family. I did a lot of research, and the best advice we found was to not get a dog based upon a breed. Just because we’d had one perfect golden retriever didn’t mean that ANY golden retriever would be perfect. (We already KNEW not to get a puppy!)

We like to adopt dogs that aren’t otherwise going to find a home, and so we looked at one of our local shelters – who will remain nameless. (BUT if you’re looking for a dog and you’re a local, I’ll tell you the name of the place to AVOID. Just ask me.)

I emailed the owner of said shelter first to see if there were even any good possibilities for us. I told her the trouble we’d had in the past – being 100% honest. I told her ages of our kids. And instead of ME trying to pick a dog for us, I asked HER to suggest a few dogs before I fell in love with some snuggly puppy. I told her we were open to any breed and any gender, but we just wanted the right one for our family.

She suggested four different dogs. Nolan and I went one day to meet them all with the owner. She personally showed me each one, and we talked through pros and cons of each one when compared with our family. I picked two that I thought would be best, and the whole family went the next day to check out the dogs.

Katie Beth (my dog loving girl who thinks she wants to be a vet one day) and Everett (who loves dogs as well) fell head over heels in love with the one I thought was a best fit too. They got to play with her in a large fenced yard area with one of the workers supervising us. The kids were on their best behavior, and did so well staying calm in spite of their excitement. The worker agreed that the dog seemed to be a great fit for our family. She was even really gentle with the little girls!

The dog had been in the shelter for a YEAR! She was skinny, and they said they “just noticed” her peeing a lot and were running some tests. I decided she REALLY needed a home fast to get some one on one care. We filled out our application that day, and we turned it in.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

I would check in and either get no response or a vague one. Katie Beth was coming home from school every day and would ask with a huge expectant grin, “Any news????!!!???” No honey, sorry. And her face would fall.

Finally I called the owner and pinned her down. She said (and yes, this is a QUOTE), “I just don’t think she’s the right dog for your family. You just have so many kids that I just don’t think the dog would be top priority.”

WHAT?

I replied that NO, a DOG would never be TOP priority in our house, but we wanted to make her a member of our family, and she stuck with NO.

It killed me. It wasn’t so much the dog I realized. It was that she looked at our family, judged us, and said that dog was better off being in a shelter (where her ribs were showing and she’d been an entire year) instead of in a family with us! Were we THAT BAD???

Jason finally talked me down and said she was crazy – one of those people that believe dogs should have more rights than people. I realized I was accepting the way someone saw our family as fact instead of going with what I knew to be true. I guess I’ve just kind of been waiting for that moment of discrimination because of us being a large family, and when it finally came, it hurt! But it was just that – discrimination!

Katie Beth was crushed, and Everett was okay. We explained the lady believed that the dog needed to be most important in our house and we thought that was crazy. She wanted the dog to go to a smaller family – one with less kids. Everett was funny and said, “What? She thinks it’d be better if we just had ONE KID??? That’s crazy! We have MORE PEOPLE in our family to love on her than any other family!” Sweet boy. So true.

The thought that kept crossing my mind was, ONLY IN AMERICA WOULD WE BE ELIGIBLE TO ADOPT TWO (or more) CHILDREN BUT NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO ADOPT A DURN DOG!!!!!!! I’m all for the humane treatment of animals, but we have our priorities way messed up in this country when saving an animal comes before saving a child. I wanted to ask Miss Make Dogs A Priority what she’d done to help the orphan crisis or stop sex trafficking or to help the homeless or the widow, but I didn’t. (Aren’t you proud of me?)

After a few weeks, we tried again, and I believe we found an even MORE perfect dog for our family. And we found a great local organization!

If you’re a local, check out The Hairy Moose Pet Retreat. They are a doggie daycare, boarding, and grooming facility. They also find homes for adoptable animals through a portion of their business called Friends of Hannah – they are FANTASTIC.They are also a family-owned business.

First of all, instead of giving you five minutes to decide whether you will keep this dog for life, you can take a dog home for the weekend to foster to see how they fit in with your family. This sold me! Even if you aren’t interested in adopting, they still allow dogs to be fostered out on the weekend to help them learn social skills and get to experience family life.

Secondly, they REALLY LISTENED and were respectful. They listened to problems we’d had, what we were looking for in a dog, and they made suggestions of what animals might be a good fit. AND they didn’t discriminate against us for having a measly 5 kids! :)

I’d HIGHLY suggest them if you are looking for a new pet!!!

Molly (formerly Bay Bay) is doing great. She’s calm, sweet with the kids, and she loves to sleep! She was at a facility in Memphis, had just had puppies that were already adopted out, and she was going to be put down the next day. A volunteer from Hairy Moose got her and brought her to her own house to foster Bay Bay and another dog for a month. After she felt like she knew them well, she brought them to Hairy Moose so they could find a family. And now she’s a perfect fit!

So I encourage you to consider adopting an older animal instead of buying a puppy!!! First of all, a puppy’s personality is not set. You may pick a calm puppy that “wakes up” at about six months old and goes beserk!

Also, the vet expenses of adopting an older dog are so low – there’s nothing else for us to really do but continue her heartworm and flea meds. She already has had all of her shots and is set to be spayed soon. A puppy has to go in for several more rounds of shots and checkups still.

Also, puppies have little sharp nails and LOVE to chew – it’s not their fault – it’s the nature of puppies. But still, why go through that?

AND, most dogs don’t settle down until about 2 or 3 when they are considered to be out of their teenage stage!

And, hello… this dog is potty trained, house trained, and is FABULOUS! We want to help her learn a few more commands, but sweet Molly is just about as perfect as she could be!!!!

And we are technically still “in process” because I haven’t been by to pick up her final paperwork! :) Did I trick you for a second?? :)

January Wrap Up…

We celebrated Martin Luther King Day with a whole different level of appreciation this year - so thankful for all the work Dr. King did to move towards racial equality. We still have a ways to go in this country, but I'm so grateful for all those that sacrificed so much to get us to this point.

I’ve been horribly remiss at keeping my blog updated. In part this is due to the five littles that keep me busy around here. Probably more fairly, it’s mainly due to the fact that I truly am not sure what to write.

I have ALWAYS been passionate about being honest through the adoption process. And yet once kids are home, being honest means on a lot of days, I’d be saying, “so in so child” drives me nuts because she does blah blah blah. I don’t want them to grow up, read this, and see I was complaining about them all the time. Not that I would sit and complain all the time, but kids’ perceptions of what a parent struggles with could be viewed as complaining about the kid vs struggling through the process.

So, I think I’m kind of to the point where I can write a little more objectively, depending on the day of course. I’m to that point where I think in blog posts throughout the day, so I know it’s time to start writing again. I will.

But I’m going to start easy, okay? :) I figured I’ll use a couple of posts over the next couple of days to catch you up on what’s been going on around here.

Did you notice anything odd in the picture above? Anything purple stick out? Yes, Sosie has a cast on! Oh my. We were doing our normal bath routine, I got them out dried off, lotioned up, and then we ALWAYS walk from my bathroom across the hall to their room to get dressed. While they are toddling along behind me, I hang up their towels in the bathroom. Well it wasn’t FIFTEEN SECONDS of my eyes off of them when I heard a crash and crying crying crying began that just didn’t sound right. (Red Flag #1)

I rushed in to find my sweet Sosie on the ground. It LOOKED like she’d peed (which has NEVER happened), and then she slipped in the puddle of pee. I stuck her in the tub for a sec while I got Lyla diapered and threw some clothes on real fast and then came back to bathe Sosie. She was crying, but I saw she’d vomited in the tub. (Red Flag #2) I quickly cleaned her off, and as I was pulling her out of the tub, her toes dragged the top edge of the bathtub and she cried suddenly in pain. (Red Flag #3) When she couldn’t put weight on it and was limping when I encouraged her to walk, I just KNEW it was broken.

We went to the ER, and I’ve only heard horror stories of EVIL social workers who swoop in with any kid injury and take all the kids to foster care. I tend to think in worst-case scenarios and was certain that I’d be sleeping in an empty house that night with my children scattered across the city with evil, abusive foster parents. Instead everyone was really sweet, several nurses were reassuring that their OWN kids had broken bones at the SAME ages, and the Xrays showed a small fracture in her tibia. We had a bright purple waterproof cast on by that afternoon, and she was starting to crawl around on it by that evening…

And then within a day or two she was hobbling around on that thing like a pro and using that cast to make fantastic banging noises on her crib! In a way her cast was kind of a good tool in attachment. She had to depend on us more, and she stayed out of trouble a little more. It slowed her down – she’s my rough and tumble, go 100 miles an hour, leap before you look child! I’d say moreso than any of our other four!

Four weeks later, we went back into the doctor and got that sucker cut off! She did SO great!! Her fraction has healed 100%, and she’s working on learning to get back to walking normally.

Vanderbilt bowl game in Memphis with our friends the Schells! (but we lost - that's okay, at least we went to a bowl game!)

We do a LOT of this...

Award Day with Katie Beth

Nolan's block tower

Lyla - my shopping buddy - coupons and ALL

They are getting SOOOO big!

A Wiser One Should Have Taken My Place…

I’m into the Christmas carols meanings lately. I know. Bear with me.

Every year, one song strikes my heart and just gets me. This year there wasn’t a Christmas song that had really hit me yet, and I was okay with there not being a song for the season. But I was kind of still waiting for God to give me one because He usually does.

Then yesterday I was driving in my car alone and heard Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven”. I’ve heard it a bajillion times before, but this year, one part in particular had special meaning.

In case you haven’t heard the song, the song is sung from Mary’s perspective in thinking about having Jesus. She just prays that God would be with her in what He’s called her to do. Here’s a video if you’re interested:

Amy Grant – Breath of Heaven

The portion of lyrics that was playing when I turned to the station was:

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong, help me be, help me…

Oh I’m certain that is probably a thought of mine at least five times a day regarding God’s choice of me as the mother of these five sweet children. I’m almost constantly certain that God is sitting in heaven thinking, “Wow, I was hoping she would do better than this. Turns out she’s not able to do this. I was hoping she would, but nope. She failed. I’m disappointed.”

Thankfully, in God’s sweet mercy, on most days that those thoughts are running through my mind, I’m even more conscious of God’s sweet voice reminding me, “For he CHOSE us in Him BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD to be holy and blameless in His sight.” (Eph 1:4)

I chose you Sarah. I chose you. Before I even created the sky or the grass or the oceans or the sun, before I created light or darkness, before the first animal or plant or human was formed, I chose YOU. To be HOLY and BLAMELESS in my sight.

I’m doing a very timely Bible study right now by Tammy Head entitled “Duty or Delight? Knowing Where You Stand With God”. It took me a few weeks just to get through the first few days. It’s about this very issue of knowing that God isn’t a bad guy cop waiting in heaven for us to mess up so he can “get” us.

But I just don’t always feel very chosen…

I love this song because it shows Mary (our imagined song-version of Mary) didn’t always feel very chosen either. Of course that’s not in the Bible. We don’t know what she felt.

But we do know that she was human. And humans – we weren’t made to be perfect. We mess up, we learn, and hopefully we grow closer to God in the process. So I feel pretty certain that Mary had a moment or two of flipping out in the nine months she was waiting to give birth to Jesus. I’ll bet she bit Joseph’s head off a time or two. I’d bet that she had some late night conversations with God that went a lot like mine.

Really God? You think I can handle this? Why in the world did you choose ME? Why? I’m failing you miserably. I’m not cut out for this! Really God?

Whether you’re a mom or newly married, single or wedded for 60 years, working in the home or outside of it – don’t you think we as women tend to always think we’re not measuring up or not doing quite well enough? That’s a constant struggle for me.

A good day in God’s book does not equal me getting it all right. A good day is not measured by whether or not I kept my Mary Poppins voice with the kids all day (whew – I don’t think I even HAVE a Mary Poppins voice!), have dinner on the table (on time, not overcooked, and everyone loves it!), folded the laundry instead of leaving it piled up in the laundry room (or strewn about my room), or kept peace with Jason.

Just because I feel inadequate does NOT mean that God thinks I’m inadequate. He CHOSE me to do this. But believing it in my heart is a whole lot harder than knowing it in my head.

I love song-version Mary’s response to wondering if God is happy with His choosing of her. She feels inadequate, but what does she say? “I offer all I am for the mercy of your plan”. And then she BEGS God to be with her.

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy

Amen to that.

It’s Christmas Time Again….

The stockings are finally hung. Seven stockings is a beautiful sight to behold. Beautiful.

I was home one night this week with only the girls; the big kids were at church with Daddy. I pulled up my Christmas playlist from last year, and I was half-listening to it while I did stuff with the girls and worked on my ever-lengthening to-dos. I haven’t listened to that playlist since last Christmas, so it was good to kind of re-hear all the songs from last year. It was a nice little moment with our Christmas tree lights twinkling, Christmas music, and the girls happily playing as I hummed along to songs here and there.

When all the sudden my ears perked up. And my heart.

On came the song that I’d forgotten about. The song I’d cried a few tears through the previous Christmas. Third Day has a song entitled “Merry Christmas” about a man who is thinking about his daughter to be adopted that’s on the other side of the world. He talks about how he’s hanging the stockings, but she’s not there, she’s all alone somewhere while her family is all here. And he’s wishing her a Merry Christmas.

But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine

It’s Christmas time again but you’re not home
Your family is here and yet you’re somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

You can watch the video here if you want to hear the whole song:

Merry Christmas by Third Day

Really depressing in a way, but in another way, it was so comforting last year to hear a song that kind of identified the way I felt. So it’s really more of an adoption song than a Christmas song I guess.

Anyway, I quit what I was doing and sat and just WATCHED the girls. And tried for the millionth time to let it sink in that they are HOME and HERE and MINE. It still doesn’t seem that way sometimes – it just took so long to get them here!

I was remembering all that I felt and wondered and thought last Christmas. Of course we thought we’d have them home pretty quickly – like March or April at the latest – so I had no idea the fight ahead of us. We were happy to have a referral, hoping for a court date, and dreaming of those two little sweet faces. It was hard to think of them not being here for Christmas.

As I was watching the girls and getting all misty-eyed, I guess I weirded Lyla out or something (I could see her thinking, “Mom, why are you staring at us like that?”) because she crawled over and wanted me to pick her up. So I stood and scooped her up for some good cuddle time. I was singing along to the song and giving that baby sweet kisses while I thanked God over and over and over that they WERE home.

And then came the end of the song. I had forgotten all about this part. The words go like this:

It’s Christmas time again and now you’re home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I’ll hold you in my arms
And I’ll tell you from my heart, and I’ll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas

I forgot there was a verse at the end where the little girl came home, and she WAS finally there for Christmas. So then I was bawling all over Lyla and was really telling God my thank yous. :) It was a sweet moment.

So I am SUPER grateful to have our girls home. These past months have NOT been easy, but we’re coming into a new normal finally. And I promise to get blogging again sometime SOON!

Until then, I’ll leave you with a few cute girls pictures – they are getting SO SO SO BIG!

The girls really are a joy! A challenging, beautiful joy!

Referral-versary!

One year ago today (November 2nd – I know, I’m posting just about 30 minutes after the ACTUAL date) we got our referral. Jason and I sat in SHOCK on the phone listening to the fact that we were being referred TWIN THREE MONTH OLD BABY GIRLS. SHOCKED SHOCKED SHOCKED. SHOCKED. We just stared at each other. We were thrilled and excited and nervous and thrilled and excited all at the same time. And shocked! We NEVER expected twins! Nor did we expect babies so young.

We sat and gazed at these pictures, listened to how sick their little bodies were, heard their story, and just wondered in amazement what God was up to:

Lyla on left, Sosie on right

Lyla

Sosie

Nor did we expect such a long wait to get them home. Aahhh, what a journey this last year has been. But ohhh, look at these sweet babies now:

Clapping after church this past Sunday - they went to nursery for an hour! It was rough, but we all made it! YAY!

I love how they watch each other.

Lyla started playing peekaboo with her dress...

I see you!

Lyla

Sosie

My two little Halloween pumpkins...

Sosie on left, Lyla on right

The two pumpkins did not go trick or treating with my Spiderman, Princess Leia, and Indiana Jones - they stayed home with me. They were a bit out of sorts.

I'm seeing more and more scenes like this - holding hands at their highchairs...

Oh that twin bond...

(Sosie was done holding hands and was doing her pose for the camera - Lyla's like, hey, come back here, hold my hand sissie!!!!)

Another everyday scene - both the twin love and the diarrhea of toys...

Cuddling again...

What? You have the camera out? Let me jump up and do my camera pose!

I know I haven’t written in a while. Yes, we’ve been fighting to keep our heads above water, but if I’m 100% honest, most days I can’t write because I don’t dare write what I’m thinking/feeling. We have had some really really tough days. My lack of documenting them has less to do with what people will think about me and more to do with what the girls will think when they grow up and read what I wrote.

We have lots of good moments, and I don’t want the bad to overshadow the good. I remember reading a couple of places (where????) that it can take a year for the parents and adopted child to bond to each other. I read that and thought it was ridiculous, but I can see that more.

And as much as I’ve read that you instantly have the same bond with your adopted child as you did with your biological children, I say hogwash. It’s different. And every normal person I’ve talked to says the same. It’s just different to get a kid who has lived a year or more of their life somewhere else with different rules and procedures and methods of communication, etc and then to try to integrate them into your home – it’s just different. It’s not a “blank slate” – of course a biological kid isn’t a blank slate either with their personalities, etc., but on top of the normal “presets”, there’s no blank slate with an adopted kid.

We’ve learned a WHOLE lot more than I ever wanted to know about brain chemistry, the chemistry of fear in kids from hard places, hyper-vigilance, mother rejection, and all kinds of other things that literally fill books. But we’re learning. And growing. And improving.

All day today I sat and just marveled at the girls and thought about what we were doing a year ago. One year ago right now we were getting the news. One year ago right now we were telling the kids. One year ago right now we were telling most of our parents. One year ago right now we were laying in bed going, “Twins? Really? Twins? WOOOWWWW!”

I’d remember being anxious to hold them yet at the same time anxious about how in the world we could do two babies plus three others. And while I was remembering those feelings from a year ago, I’m also chasing and laughing at and changing diapers with those twin babies. I’m cuddling them, kissing their smooshy cheeks, keeping them out of the toilet, patting their backs for nap time, and scooping dinner into their little mouths. I’m watching them play with each other, hold hands, and roll around on the floor. (All the pictures in the white sleepers were from tonight.)

And BOTH girls are walking now. Lyla is toddling around everywhere, and she is incredibly proud of herself for walking so well. We cheer her on and she just LIGHTS UP! What a bright smiley face! She and Sosie have such fun together! When Lyla picks up a little more speed I’m going to be in BIG trouble!

It’s so neat to see them come out of their shells a little bit everyday. They bond to us just a little bit more, and their connection with each other is amazing. They comfort each other when one is crying or upset or tired. They bring each other their doggies or sippy cups (AND BRING THE CORRECT COLOR – AMAZING, YES???!!!) The pat each other on the head (or smush the crying one on the head making it worse.)

And they do the same for Nolan, Everett, and Katie Beth. Today Nolan was crying about something and he was laying in my lap for a few minutes of cuddle time. Both girls toddled over and patted his head and rubbed his back. Sweet babies.

And then tonight right before bed I got both of them in my lap at once, both heads laying on one of my shoulders, and I just got to sing to them while they sat cuddling with me, looking at each other, their faces only inches apart from each other while doing their twin-babbling, and yet they were cuddled up to ME.

So that’s what I was doing today while I was remembering a short, yet long, year ago today. It was a wonderful referral-versary day. Not perfect, but it was a pretty darn good one.

I love these sweet girls. And as hard as life is sometimes around here, it’s getting easier – slowly. (really slowly) And all five of us are so so so thrilled that they are here. I don’t think we could imagine our lives any other way.

(Well, except the times when I imagine myself alone on a lonely beach with no rescue in sight for a few days or the times when I imagine myself sleeping in a big comfy bed for days on end with only the interruption of room service or the times that I imagine a nice massage. But other than that, totally can’t imagine life without them!)

Thanks for being on this journey with us! What a year it’s been!

And if you want some more memories, here’s our referral/we passed court video:

A Tea Kettle and A Crock Pot

Just had to update a quick post. Thanks for the encouragement/prayers from last post. Once I got out and about Tuesday… and Wednesday… and Thursday, it’s been better. :) Getting OUT is the key for me!!!

We did meet with an adoption attachment therapist on Thursday. No tons of mind-blowing, new information, but she confirmed that we were doing things right. It just takes time.

She nailed the girls’ personalities and kind of their major areas of struggle/need right now. It was good to have a “label” (so that I can google it of course!), and she was great to let us know some things to help.

It’s just a slow road of course. Sosie is kind of like a teapot on the stove. She’s warmed up to us really fast, but she has a lot of need and does best with some quick attention. She’s a “sensory seeker” meaning she loves to be held and touched and likes some kind of “rough play” and being held tightly, etc. It makes sense with what we see. It’s why she’ll go to anyone – she craves the interaction. But the challenge is being able to “fill her up” just from Mommy and Daddy and not others.

Lyla is more like a crockpot – on LOW. She’s still not completely warmed up to us yet – she’s more cautious and we just have to take it easy with her. It’s so interesting to watch. She is a BIG TIME Daddy’s girl. She sprung up a crazy fever yesterday with a bad cough. She did NOT feel good last night, and she ONLY wanted Daddy. I was like, what??? I’m the Mommy! I’m great at taking care of sick babies!! Come to me!! But, nope. One time Jason held her out to me and she literally arched her back mid-air to try to back off from me.

That was really hard, but I did some googling last night, and found that MOST toddlers reject at least one parent. And most often it’s the mother. Interesting, right? Nobody really KNOWS why b’c of course toddlers don’t talk and say, “I’m rejecting you because…” But, it’s believed that it’s due to the fact that most caregivers in institutional care are mothers. And once they get home and have settled in a bit, that relationship starts to grow with their adoptive mother. But then they get this sense of fear of being separated from her again and so they try to “detach” emotionally to keep from being hurt.

I’m the first one to look at theories like that and call it “bull”. So much of psychology I think seems just crazy-talk. Some things just are because they are. But, they’ve done this study with adopted toddlers across various countries of origins, various orphanage setups, various circumstances before birth, and the same results have repeated themselves. It’s fascinating to me that our brains our built to protect ourselves like that – even as young as 14 months old.

She challenged me to rest and get out for “me” time more – to put it IN MY SCHEDULE. That’s a challenge. But I’m working on it as we saw the results this past week of not having it.

Today begins a couple of weeks off for Jason. Such a blessing. We’re going to do some traveling to see family this week so we’ll be out of pocket. We’re going to try and leave the screens OFF. Really praying it’s a chance for our whole family to just take a collective breath of fresh air from the busy-ness of the past months. Praying for lots of laughter, connecting, and fun!

Headed to pack… I’ve taken the “you need rest” suggestion TOO seriously in the last 24 hours. I hate packing and always procrastinate until the last minute. And I still am procrastinating… At this moment. The more sentences I write, the longer I can delay packing. The more sentences I write, the longer I can delay packing. The more sentences I write, the longer I can delay packing…