Friday, December 23, 2011

Livin' the Dream, Craig Style

This has been a whirlwind of a week for the Craig Family.  It has left me with questions, confusion, and yet utter thankfulness.
Steve ended up in the hospital this weekend for a series of blood clots (aka DVT) that he didn't know he had.  His leg had been hurting him, and he felt a tough patch under the skin at the spot.  He called our neighbor who is a paramedic and was advised to get it checked out immediately (Thanks, Chad!).  It was date night, our first date night in seven months since bringing home our little man, and we spent it in the ER.  Hot, right?  After Steve's Doppler and blood tests, four blood clots were found.  Thankfully, three were superficial, but the fourth was/is a different story.  It apparently formed six fateful months ago.  Six months ago we were in Ethiopia having one of the most joyful moments of our lives.  I am utterly grateful that it didn't travel to his heart and cause an embolism there; our happy moment definitely would have turned tragic.  So, after two days in the hospital, Steve was released Monday night.
This is Steve's second round with a DVT.  It happened once before after his knee surgery in 2004.  I don't think Steve will ever forget being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance; it really scared the crap out of him.  We were living in Florida at the time with our then 1 1/2 year old little girl, who was going through a screaming phase that brought us to a few uncomfortable conversations with the director of her preschool.  We got him home, started on self injections of lovenox, and got him up and running.  Because this is Steve's second round with DVT, it looks like this is something that could be genetic or some sort of blood disease; we're still figuring this out with his new friend, the hematologist :)
Monday night, Steve came home, happy to see the kids and ready to take a hot shower.  He handed me a series of prescriptions, which I was happy to go and fill.  Off to Kroger I went, handed our friendly pharmacist the orders of medicine that would continue to thin Steve's blood and essentially save his life.  Steve and I are professionals, he a marketing/fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity and I'm a teacher.  We have health insurance through my workplace.  Although it has changed a bit due to budget cuts,  I was not prepared for what happened next in any shape or form.
As the pharmacist was about to hand me Steve's injections, he looked at me and said, "Now, I don't know if you're aware of this, but this script costs $900." With a smirk on my face I replied, "How much does it cost with my insurance?" thinking this was before he ran it through.  His reply, "No, this is with your insurance."  My reply, "Holy sh**."  Of course, I followed this up with the old standby:  Does this come in generic...  This is the only medicine on the market like this.  Fourteen injections=$900.  Wow.
My next move was unavoidable in my mind; I began to cry in front of the pharmacist.  This poor guy.  He must have been straight out of pharmacy school or something.  He said amidst my tears, "I would have been concerned if you weren't shocked."  Sincerely nice guy.  I handed him our credit card and signed away.  What else could I do?
I wonder if in that moment I should have just sucked it up and been overjoyed that my husband was home, we caught the clot before it traveled, etc...  But it was tough.
I then became angry on the way home.  Anger erupted on my solo sojourn, and I poured out to God that I just needed Him right then.
The more I think about it, the more justified I feel in speaking out about this.  How does this happen?
I am most likely going to write a lovely letter to my district office and our insurance company about this.  The bottom line is this:  no one should be sent home from the hospital with that kind of predicament and expect to just have money lying around like this in a life our death situation.  I am beginning to have true empathy for other people and families who are in this type of situation:  cancer patients, AIDS patients, etc...  It just seems out of control.
On top of this, we've experienced other negative things in our insurance as well.  Every time the kids see the pediatrician, we get a bill for $80, and that would continue until we reach our crazy, unreachable deductible.  HSE has kindly provided a free clinic with a very nice doctor who handles every case by handing out antibiotics like candy, and you're on your merry way.  His job is to get the employees back to work ASAP; I get it.  But when you have bigger problems than that or when you have children, you need someone who is going to take care of the whole problem and see what's sincerely going on.  This guy put Steve on three rounds of antibiotics for a nagging cough this November; while he was in the hospital, they discovered it was from acid reflux, and the cough was gone in a day.  UGH.
Health care cannot be treated like a McDonald's drive through.  I understand the quick fixes, but when we have true issues that need sincere care, we have to pay way more than we can ever think to afford (and that is with insurance that we pay for out of our paychecks!).  It infuriates me.  I am a teacher, just a hard working teacher.  I hate to use the phrase, back in the day, but back in the day, at least a teacher had good insurance.  Not anymore.  I could go on and on how teachers, who pour into the future of our country and work more hours than anyone sees, are being cut off at the knees by our government despite the worthy work we've been called to do with at least a bachelor's degree, although many of us have at least a master's degree plus many more countless trainings (sorry about the run on sentence), but then I would digress.
On a side note, I would love to see how many people they can convince to join the teaching ranks after all of the crazy bull crap they are passing through in legislation.  Unfortunately, our kids will pay the price.
Anyway, I am infuriated over our fast food health care that we're expected to pay steak dinner prices for, and then pay crazy amounts of money for scripts.  These people are on crack.  Some one's making way too much money, while I have to fund their salaries on my freaking Discover card.
 This has been one of those years for the Craig family where an elbow bumping doctor at a walk in facility is not sufficient, especially for my babies.  Steve and I suck it up, but when your 12 month old has puss coming out of his ear for the third time in six months, and the amoxicillan (sp?) they already gave you isn't working, you don't go back to the clinic.  When your 9 year old gets diagnosed with ADHD, you don't go to the clinic for that either.  And when your husband is experiencing unexplainable leg pain and you fear that he may have another blood clot, you don't go get an antibiotic, even though they're handing it out for free.
If I don't sound grateful, I am.  And thank you for putting up with my rant.  I love my job.  I love my family.  I love my God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit.  I'm so happy we'll all be in service tonight, worshipping Him and thanking Him because I am thankful.  I'm thankful we'll be sitting around our tree tomorrow with my two beautiful children, who humble me beyond words, with Alex's trillions of homemade ornaments that keep filling our tree from year to year.  We are home, we are safe, but we are broke.
Much love.  Merry Christmas to you all.  I pray that you all have the best holiday ever and that you have great health this year; really, that's my prayer!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Happy Birthday to my sweet boy!

Happy first birthday to my sweet boy, Jesse Getiso.  Although I'm writing this a day early, his actual birthday is on the 4th, I wanted to take some time to express how thankful I am for this amazing gift.  Jesse has lit up our lives since the day we knew of him.  There aren't enough words to express how he lights up my heart each and everyday.  We are so honored to be his parents.  
Chillin' w/ my daddy before bath time
Alex's big, toothy grin!  Mwah!
There are so many things I could say about him and how he's changed our lives.  He's just an absolute joy.  He's growing into this funny, adorable kiddo who finds random things hysterical in his car seat.  His favorite book is Llama, Llama Mad at Mama and shares his food with Charlie and Marley, our two dogs.  One of my favorite sights is when he cuddles with Steve before bathtime with his milk and just hangs with his daddy.  His laughter when Alex tickles him is contagious.  He loves to throw balls all over the house and chase after them and nuzzle his face in my hair before he goes to sleep.  I just want to eat him up everyday.  
I thank God for Jesse and Alex.  I thank Him for the opportunity to be a mommy to these two crazy, beautiful children and to be able to have moments like this.  I feel so blessed and humbled.  I love you, sweet boy! 
I've had enough cake now.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blessed Beyond Measure

On this Thanksgiving, I just wanted to share some of the things I'm thankful for. (not in any particular order)
1.  I'm thankful for God who is bigger than I could ever imagine.  I'm grateful that He's in control of my life and not me.
2.  My amazing, hilarious husband who makes me laugh every day.  Our marriage and relationship is more than this girl could ever dream of.
3.  My beautiful kiddos.  Alex, my benevolent dictator who will take over a small country one day, is my teacher and my partner in crime.  She surprises me every day with new insights.  TJ, who showed me how significant a life is, no matter how short it is.  And finally, Jesse Getiso, my sunshine; I now understand why all of my boyfriends' mothers hated me growing up.  I will cut a hoochie mama if she comes near my son (not that I was a hoochie mama, but the mother son bond is indescribable).
4.  I'm thankful for our church family at Harvest who has been through some crazy times w/ the Craig family this year.  I love this group of people.
5.  My small group is out of control.  Thank you for accepting me, bumps and bruises included and for laughing at my corkiness.  I would sleep in a cabin in the woods for any of you guys any time.  Yes, I will make the documentary about our group one day.
6.  My in laws.  I feel like I've grown so close to them, especially since moving to Indy.  They would do anything for me at anytime.  I can't believe how supportive they are.  I love them dearly.
7.  A job that supported me in taking some time off to be home with my kids while Jesse adjusted.  Thank you, HSE.
8.  Teaching.  It gives me purpose and an outlet to help kids find who they are in this crazy world.  I'm honored and humbled to work among professionals who love kids so much.
9.  My mini van.  I must admit that I've hated this car, but now that I have two kids I'm grateful.
10.  HGTV, which helps fill in some of the gaps in my day.
11.  Meijer.  They make great diapers, and they're cheap.  Also, they carry a big selection of organic food, and I don't feel like I have to chop off a limb to pay for it.
12.  Being able to go to Ethiopia twice this year.  Absolutely, hands down, some of the greatest memories of my life for a variety of reasons.  I can't wait to go back.  I feel as if there's a part of me there now.
13.  Our friends from all over the country, whom we traveled with to Ethiopia.  Oh my gosh, I love this group of moms dearly.
14.  Technology to communicate with friends, especially those far away, including my O-town ya yas.
15.  Access to good healthcare.  Enough said.
16.  The public library, which is my new favorite place.  I heart story time.
17.  Being able to get baptized with my Alex.  I was much more emotional than I imagined I would be.
18.  All God's Children and Hannah's Hope.  What an incredible group of people who are truly a champion for children.  Our adoption process was bumpy, but they stuck with us through it all.  Also, when we had to leave Jesse on our first trip, I knew how much love they were pouring into our little man at HH.  God bless them.
19.  JabuAfrica.  I love that I get to do whatever I can for this organization.  Thanks, Sarah, for all you do.
20.  The crazy road that has led me to Christ.  No more words needed.

Ok, that's enough.  I'm certain I'm leaving things out.  It's bound to happen.  Happy Thanksgiving.  I send you love and warm wishes on this wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Yesterday, after stuffing myself silly at Alex's class Thanksgiving feast, she turned to me in the car and said, "Well, tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever."
Surprised, I asked why.  She responded, "Tomorrow is the day TJ died last year."
She remembered that on the eve of Thanksgiving, her little brother whom she dreamed about and prayed for died.
One year later, I remember that she was with me, just she and I, when I received the news that he suddenly passed away in the middle of the night.  We were in my classroom on my day off preparing for the substitute who was to take the reins for me while Steve and I were in Ethiopia officially making TJ ours, just days away from getting on that plane and holding him in our arms.  She is the one that heard and saw my sobs on the phone as I received the news; my then 8 year old girl.  I understand that this is a day that she will remember for a long time to come.
The Holy Spirit was with me in the car yesterday as I began to tell her this:
Tomorrow we will celebrate a great God who is taking care of our boy.   Even though we will be sad because he isn't here with us, we will give Him our thanks for all that He's doing for TJ until we get there ourselves to see and rejoice with him.  We'll be thankful that our hearts formed a very special place for him.  And we're gonna celebrate that He brought home Jesse, our amazing Jesse.  Our family grew with two boys since a year ago, not just one.
Today, I ask that you lift up in prayer the orphans of the world.  There are an estimated five million orphans in Ethiopia.  We have had the opportunity to love, with all of our hearts, two sweet boys who were once called orphans.  One is dancing with Jesus and the other is trying to snatch his sister's chocolate muffin with a huge grin on his face.  Pray for their safety, health, education, and overall well being, but most of all, pray that they have the opportunity to be a part of a family, to be adopted.
Thanks so much and thank you to our Lord for all that He does.  Much love to you as you head into this delicious holiday and give thanks for all that you have.  We are so blessed.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On this Orphan Sunday

Today is Orphan Sunday, as many of you know.  Today was not just a day to reflect on our adoption process, but my sweet daughter, Alex, and I were baptized.  It was a two fold day of joy.  I was a spectrum of emotions as I watched my girl go into the baptism pool and then to go myself in front of our friends and family at our amazing church today.  We declared that our love for Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, publicly.  It was so glorious and humbling.  I'm so thankful to have had this moment today.
This evening, in order to reflect on Orphan Sunday, I went through our referral paperwork and pictures on both TJ and Jesse.  I have to say, this was very moving for me.  TJ was abandoned in a hospital shortly after his birth with his twin sister, who died minutes after her birth.  We never had information on his birth mother.  We received pictures of this tiny boy with a worried look on his face.  I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to hold him and bring our love into his heart, so he wouldn't look so afraid.  I remember praying that God would bring a comfort to his heart that his mamma was coming soon and everything would be ok.
Although, technically, TJ died an orphan, he was never that in my heart.  He was mine the second I heard his story on the phone with Brandi, our case manager at AGCI, and laid eyes on his picture.  I was days, just days from getting on a plane to hold him and go to court to make him officially ours.
The other day I was watching Little Women with Alex.  I uncontrollably found tears streaming down my face when Beth was speaking her last words to Joe.  She was saying that when she died she would feel homesick for her sisters because even though she would be in heaven, she would miss her sisters who had such a big place in her heart.  It was cold and blustery outside, much like the day before Thanksgiving last year when we received the news that our boy didn't make it through the night at Hannah's Hope.  We had just gotten the news only 16 hours earlier that TJ was released from the hospital with pneumonia; we didn't even know he was sick before that call; it happened so fast.  I know we'll see TJ in heaven, but sometimes I feel homesick for him.  He has a special place in my heart and always will.
Our goal last year was to just get through the holidays.  We did more than that.  We held one another a bit tighter, we counted our blessings, we thanked God that our boy was with Him, we cried, we prayed, we talked, we regrouped, we changed.  We knew that God gave us this boy to love, and we knew we always would.  We walked through the pain with the help of our friends, the love of our family, and the grace and the comfort that only our God gives.
In late January, we decided that we couldn't turn our backs on what God called us to do.  We gave the thumbs up to AGCI that we would like to move forward with our process, and they gave us their blessing.  They grieved with us too during that season.  Looking back, I'm so thankful for them in ways that I never gave them credit for.
On February 15th, we received this picture:
and this one:
and this one too:

Pictures of a sweet boy named Getiso at 2 months old.  We saw those sweet eyes and smile and moved forward with cautious optimism.  We didn't know right away that we would name him Jesse.  That came later when we felt it was a great name for a little brother.  He was described as happy and strong-willed, and I can atest to that :)   Today, reading his referral, it is bitter sweet.  I mourn for his birth mother.  I pray for her by name everyday.  I can't imagine what my life would be like without this boy, and yet I know that she does live without him.  It's hard.  Because not only do I love this boy with all my heart, I love his birth mamma too.  How could I not?
For those of you who know my Jesse, you know a boy who smiles ALL THE TIME.  He's a boy who loves to high five, pat his head, clap hands, and flirts with everyone in church.  He's joy defined.  He's my boy, and he is loved beyond measure.  
I never saw my boys as "orphans."  They were mine the second I knew them.  
Sometimes I hear people say, "I don't think I could do that," meaning the international adoption thing.  I don't judge them in any way.  I understand the questions or fears behind a statement like that, and I appreciate someone's honesty.  This is just what Steve and I were called to do, whatever route we've travelled to get there.  He's our son, that simple.  It wasn't meant to be any other way.  And I gotta tell you, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Yes, I would fill out every last bit of paperwork and take the same risks all over again.  We are blessed and that's all there is to it. 
So, today I celebrate Jesus in my individual walk and in my daughter's life and my family's life.  I thank Him for all of it.  I ask Him to bring families to the children who are waiting all over the world, just waiting and praying like you and me.  Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for my family.  Thank You for this love.     

Thursday, October 27, 2011

As my crazy girl heads closer to her ninth birthday, it is weighing heavily on me what this year brought on for me when I was her age...puberty.  I come from a long line of women who develop early into womanhood; lucky us.  During my nine year old experience, my mother decided that it was a good idea to have "the talk."  You know exactly what I'm talking about too.  The birds and the bees, her monthly visitor, and the physical changes of womanhood.
To say that I am freaked out about doing this is an understatement.  I mean, what a freaking responsibility.  So, I've spent some time hashing out the memory of my mom sitting me down and taking out a book entitled Period.  What a trip!  There were drawings of little girls with sanitary napkins and tampons with awkward illustrated girls of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Gotta love it.  So, I endured the discussion, but I was grateful for it, especially a year later when my visitor invaded.
I've been reading stuff on how to go about having this talk, and I'm still nervous as you know what.  One book suggested I have this tete a tete with a gift basket of women's products and sundry items.  My kid might stick them on her head and make a craft out of it.  I fear that she'll think it's something to bedazzle and a tampon as material for a mobile.  Who am I kidding?  I'm in a bind.
It is with this fear and trepidation that I ask for prayer as I prepare to have this conversation with my baby girl.  Yes, MY BABY GIRL.
I called my mom today and explained that it's probably time to do this thing.  She seemed as freaked out as I, and my husband was barely verbal when I brought the subject up after the kids went to bed the other night, which is just weird.
Alex is a little girl.  She's smart, but she doesn't go there from what I see.  Just the other day she asked me if I would like to join her I.H.J.B Club.  Yup, that stands for I hate Justin Beiber.  Sorry, Justin.  My kid just ain't buyin' it, and according to her, she has no idea why Selena Gomez would want to date him.  She's super cool in our house.  It's not that she's unaware of boys; I spy secret crushes, but this conversation changes the game.  Ick.
All the literature says you have to have this talk between the ages of 8-10, and especially with our family history, I feel backed into a corner.
Moms out there, how have you done this?  What worked?  I want to hear all about it.
I strive to make this a positive, God-centered talk about how she was created and how beautiful she is and this is, but it's not easy.  I'll take all the advice I can get.
Much love,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fear of Bumper Stickers

I know this is going to sound weird, but I have a strange new fear of anything that sticks to a car such as a bumper sticker, magnet, or decal.  I can remember, back when I was a kid, it became popular to slam that "My kid is an honor roll student at such and such Elementary School!" sticker on one's bumper.  The "un-honor roll" parents' aversion to those stickers was palpable as the un-bumper sticker moms and dads would poke fun at them like no one's business.
Needless to say, you don't see those honor roll stickers out there anymore.  I think people realized it was like saying, "My kid is awesome, and I'm an awesome parent, and you suck."
But my new fear began a few years ago when Alex started kindergarten, and I thumped the magnet for her school on my minivan.  I would roll up into my school's parking lot, where I teach, and feel awkward every day because here I am teaching at a public school (which I love, by the way), and my daughter is going to a private school.  I felt like it was an invitation for fight club at any given moment:  How could I do that?  Are you stuck up?  Is public school not good enough for you?
As a side note, Alex doesn't go to public school for any of those questioning accusations.  We take it year by year and evaluate what our pocket books can stretch to and most importantly, what's best for Alex.  She loves where she goes to school, so we haven't moved her yet.
I digress...
Putting that magnet made me feel vulnerable.  I had to answer for that to anyone who saw it.  The other conflict was that there were some days where I wasn't a 100% fan of her school, which every parent goes through from day to day no matter where their kid goes to school.  I felt guilty being the rolling billboard on days that were challenging for me.
OK, example #2:  Alex's swim club car magnet.  Alex joined the local swim club a few years ago too.  I slapped that magnet on as well.  Again, I had my own parental challenges with that on particular days and felt like it wasn't permanent that she was going to do it forever.
So, I'm car magnet/bumper sticker free now.  I don't know, maybe it takes a certain confidence and comfort level with your life to be able to carry them off well.  Obviously I don't have that, so I'm not hating on anyone who rolls with various medallions.  Our life changes a lot and often.  We're still figuring things out and maybe that's why I fear the bumper sticker:  it's so freaking permanent.  It feels like writing with a Sharpie that will never come off.
Sometimes as I'm cruising I see really good one: there was one that said, "Normal isn't working for you?" and the "t" was a cross.  I LOVED that.  I also love the Africa/Ethiopia decals with the heart in them, but those make me feel that I'm leaving my biological daughter out.  I know this sounds crazy.  I have issues; I know this.
So for now, I will admire some of your "stickers," and I may smirk from time to time at some of them, but I guess that's what makes life interesting and fun.  They certainly make me think about stuff.  Oh well!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tween Bible Study: The Initiation

Last spring, I felt a heavy burden on my heart to do all that I could to not only build a positive relationship with my 8 year old daughter, Alex.  Our strong willed, fiercely independent, energetic girl and I were butting heads, a lot.  For those who know Alex, you know that she is extremely social, gregarious, and a bit all over the place; she's either hyper focused on something or a million places at once.  I have always said that Alex is my teacher.  She reminds me that I, in no way, have this parenting thing all together.  Steve and I have some principles that guide us, but to be honest, when the rubber hits the road it's hard to see these principles that we believe strongly in carry out.
As we were preparing for our TJ (our first referral in September who passed away in November) and then Jesse last year, we thought a little family counseling wouldn't be a bad idea.  Yes, we are one of those families.  I have no problem reaching out when I feel a bit lost!  Our goal was to make sure our lines of communication were open w/ Alex as she transitioned from only child to big sister and to prepare anyway we could.  We talked about as much as possible and got some great tips from our counselor; it was time and money well spent for us.  It especially helped us with Alex when TJ unexpectedly died.  I wouldn't trade that time in her office for anything; it really put my mommy heart at ease as we were grieving.
Heading back to the spring, I felt called to try to build a better relationship with Alex by participating with her in a Bible Study of some sort, something appropriate and fun for her, but also meaningful to help her walk with God.  The burden came from a bit of fear: What if I miss this opportunity to really connect with her before she hits the teen years?  Also, I didn't want to look back and say that I could have done this or that, but I didn't.  
For those of you who know me, I'm a secondary English Teacher.  I heart teenagers.  They are funny and figuring it all out.  I love to just help them to not take themselves too seriously and yet encourage them to find their voice as they are entering this crazy world.  My big questions are:  Why are you here? (i.e. What do you think you've been put on this earth to do?) My challenge is:  Do it if you know what that is or explore what's out there to see if something ignites your soul!  This is a little deep for my 8 year old, although we are all about exploring to see where her talents and passions are right now.  This stage of her life is a bit goofy; I called this time in my own particular life "the uglies," (I hate to put a negative connotation on it, but it's honestly what I grew up calling it.) because I was so awkward and unsure.  As a result of this, I'm doing all that I can to appreciate a stage in my kiddo's life that I particularly didn't enjoy in my own.  Whew!  Sounds a bit self centered, I admit.
So, I organized a tween Bible Study for my crazy girl and some of the other girls who go to our church.  Last night was our first meeting chez moi.  I had my many magic markers and Bible Study books ready to go.  We sat in our only picked up room in my house, girls and moms together and discussed meditating on God's Word as it was laid out in Psalm 119.  I gotta tell you, this is deep stuff.  I'm praying that I didn't sound like a babbling idiot.  I was SO happy the other moms were there to be there in the conversation with our girls; they are a God send!  My biggest fear is confusing our girls or saying something that's wrong.  It's such a huge responsibility.
Anyway, I ask for your prayers as we continue on this journey.  I've been asking for the Holy Spirit to guide my words, etc.  My kid was the class clown in the group; are you surprised?  So, now my new prayer is that she focuses a little more (surprise, surprise!) and listens with her whole heart.  I'm grateful to have this time with her, and I hope we can look back one day and say, "Remember when..."  I want as many of those as possible.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Education

The number one question that I have been asked since starting the adoption process is, "Why Ethiopia?"  I even had two people, including one of my family members, tisk tisk me for not "considering our own children here in the US to adopt."  They have a point, but I'm not about winning a battle over where God revealed to me where my child was.  That's how it all started, with a fireworks show in the pit of my belly when I even heard that adoption was possible in Ethiopia; I knew right then and there that that was where my family was headed to bring home our son.  Those of you who have had moments like that know there's no questioning it, you simply step out in faith and do what He has called you to do.  The interesting part of our family's story is that when I was ready to go go go in 2007, Steve was not.  It took every ounce of my being to not want to "make" him do what I wanted; because we all know that women can be very powerful creatures.  He didn't give me an emphatic "no," it was just "I'm not ready for all of this; maybe one day, but not today."  I had to respect that as much as I didn't want to.  Steve was born to be a daddy.  He's amazing with Alex, and I knew that pushing him into something his heart wasn't ready for was something I was not ready to do to our marriage, which I am so incredibly grateful for.  
So, what did I do?  I prayed and waited to see what would happen.  In the meantime, we went through a job loss and a move from Florida to Indiana.  We both started new jobs and built a house.  That took two years.  That's my testimony on why my husband's voice is important to me.  God planted something in his heart that our family had some other things to go through until we could grow our family.  But I remember the February day in 2009 when I came home and told him that this was on my heart stronger than ever as we sat in the office of our newly built home.  And that was when he said "I'm ready to bring our next baby home," and I almost peed my pants.  
All I knew at that point about Africa, aside from the commercials for Save the Children with Sally Field and the images on news casts, was what I had learned when Invisible Children came to the high school where I was teaching.  That was very moving for me.  
As Steve and I started our international journey and began to trek up the mountain of paperwork, I began to feel like I was taking something very valuable from Ethiopia, a piece of their future, one of their precious children.  It was then laid on my heart that it's imperative for me to give back and to help in some way.  Part of this for me is keeping Jesse's heritage alive in his life.  I want him to feel a pride for his birth country and encourage him in anyway he would like to explore to do something to make it a better place.  
Another piece of the puzzle was looking at my students as an educator and figuring out a way that I could help my US students bridge relationships with children in Africa.  I feel a strong sense that through conversation, either through letters, etc..., that we can help our privileged kids create solutions and relationships alongside the people who's voice is often unheard:  the people whom we're often "trying"to help.  What I've seen as a US citizen is that we impart our own solutions without listening to the people we're trying to help.  Just because we have more money doesn't mean we have all of the answers.  This is something I still feel a desire to do.  Unfortunately, with the awkward, precarious state of public schools today, I'm not sure when this will happen.  In my own district, dollars raised and money spent is only to be spent on local organizations and causes.  I respect it, but I think our world is much more than our community in the 21st Century, and if those who have a global desire to use their gifts want to, they shouldn't be deterred from doing so.  Just sayin'.
Through this adoption journey, I have met amazing, every day people just living and doing a lot like Steve and I have been:  bringing our baby home, getting adjusted, and basking in the glow of our growing family.  It's a comfort to have this community.  I feel so blessed.  One of these people whom I've become friends with is Sarah Castor, her husband Dave, and their three beautiful boys from different parts of Africa.  She, in an effort to give back to Africa (much like the call laid on my heart), created a non profit called JabuAfrica.  When I asked her what I could do to help, she asked me to write for the JabuAfrica blog, which I've completed one post for.  I'm happy to do anything because it's a place to plug in whatever I can with others to do even more than just little old me could do alone.  
JabuAfrica's first project is a long term orphanage in Congo, where Sarah's youngest son is from.  I immediately thought of the care that Jesse had at Hannah's Hope and was shocked in despair when she described what she saw when she was there last year to bring home her son.  
I've always known that I have a lot to learn, but to spend time learning about the Congo has been on whole other level for me.  I am not a political person.  I always tend to play devil's advocate when people criticize a politician, whether they be a democrat or republican.  When election day rolls around, I admit to being cynical; I look at the "promises" and issues of each candidate and choose the path of less evil.  I find that every politician, although with good intentions I'm sure, end up succumbing to the game.  I sincerely feel bad.  It seems that this is how we have set up or political system, and now we have to lie in the bed we made. 
Currently, a part of my education on Congo has been the chance meeting of a few families who have adopted recently from Congo here in Indianapolis.  Most people do not get the opportunity to go to Congo to bring home their kiddos; they are brought to them here in the US.  I'm happy that their children are brought safely to them, but it was made apparent to me that the trip to see, hear, and experience, even if it's for a few short weeks, what their children have gone through is imperative to their journey in connecting to their kiddos. It made me so thankful to have been able to go to Ethiopia twice to see where our little man came from.  I pray that these families will have a safe opportunity to go and see...
Here's an example of something that clarified a lot for me on what's going on in Congo, and why it's imperative to give it attention.  I was deeply moved...

Warning:  This video is not meant for little eyes, but I feel that if you are interested in what's happening specifically in the Congo, you need to watch this. 
I feel like my journey to Africa has been one where pieces to a puzzle that I've longed to put together have been given to me.  I gather pieces here and there and discover more about who I am, where I've been, and where I'm going.  I must admit that there are so many more pieces of the puzzle to find and put together, but I have to move with what I know.  I know that my son's country is poverty stricken to the point where his birth mother told Almaz at Hannah's Hope that she thought Jesse would die from hunger if he remained with her.  Could you imagine?  In the US, we have institutions and programs to help with hunger, although I'm positive their are plenty of hungry people here in the US.  But the scale in which people experience this puts Ethiopians and other Africans on another level of survival, one beyond qualifying as human.
A part of bringing Jesse home has been the guilt I feel almost each night as I tuck him in bed that I get to raise this beautiful boy with his infectious smile.  His birth mom will not see this smile that lights up my day because of her dire circumstances.  She won't know first hand the joy this little miracle is.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to her and let her know how grateful I am and how loved he is.  I pray that she feels some comfort in her brave decision to have him adopted.  I don't know...
After viewing this video on Congo, I was literally shaking at the thought of what people are doing to other people and how we there has been no uprising from the US about this.  It is a holocaust beyond proportion; we stepped in during World War II, why aren't we doing it now????  Obama created the PL 109-456, but it's not being acted upon.  It's just sitting there as a powerless tool.  As one of the gentlemen on the video said, "The Congolese people can't eat cobalt.  Why don't you just talk to them?"
It seems we all have a lot to learn about what's going on.  We have a lot of listening to do and frankly, I'm tired of listening to politicians.  I want to hear what the people in Africa have to say.  I want to hear their voice, create those relationships, and empower them.  Somehow I'm gonna do it; one day at a time.
I apologize for my scattered thoughts on all of this.  I have pieces here and there that my heart often jumps to.  Thanks for your time in giving this crazy post a reading and some thought.
Much love,


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy 3 Months, Jesse!

Jesse Getiso Craig: in my arms for 3 months

My man literally smiles like this all day long.  He is living, breathing joy.  Three months ago, we arrived in Addis Ababa for the second time and went back to Hannah's Hope to bring our little boy into our family forever!  I was thrilled to be united with our friends from our first trip, exhausted from our 24 hour flight, and giddy with some nervousness to put my little man in my baby Ergo and carry him out of the gates of the orphanage.  He smiled when he saw us, gave us kisses like it was yesterday that we saw him, and trustfully allowed Steve and I to take him out of those safe and familiar confines of Hannah's Hope.  Wow.  
Three months later and here we are.  He smiles just as big, has four teeth and crawls all over the place.  His favorite song is undoubtedly, "If You're Happy and You Know It."  "The Wheels on the Bus" comes in a close second.  He loves to clap his hands, climb on Charlie and Marley, and give huge hair pulling kisses, which his big sister sometimes loves and sometimes hates. 
We are a family.  We are together, and our love for him is immense.  Let the good times roll, buddy!     

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering that day

 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
 -Psalm 23

I'm sure we can all go back to that day when everything changed.  I look back to ten years ago and now realize that Steve and I were still newlyweds, without any children, living in a one bedroom apartment with Charlie (our dog).  I was teaching ninth grade English at Edgewater High School in Orlando.  I was in a portable that year, and it was underclassman picture day, which is crazy on the Edgewater campus.  I remember bringing my classes down that day to the library and sneaking off to a tv while my crazy kiddos were on line to take their picture for the yearbook.  It was palpitating.  I remember talking about what this could all mean with my students as we huddled in our brown paneled room.  I can still see the fresh faces in front of me and their names:  Staci, John, Phillip, Betsy...  Some of these kiddos are my "friends" on facebook now as they have now graduated from college and are in the midst of the beginning of their careers.  I just feel very connected to them, partly because of that day.
I know everyone deals with tragedy differently.  My husband deals by watching every news channel 24/7. I think he feels comforted by information.  I tend to do the opposite.  I get overwhelmed by images and voices.  I would rather be by myself praying or anything other than sitting in front of the tv.  Even today, I did not want to rewatch all of the news coverage, etc.  It's still too much.  I know by watching it I can't change it, I can't do anything about it.  I feel helpless just watching.  I know with prayer that God is listening and hearing my heart.
Many ask themselves how they are different since that day.  I know I wanted, more than I already had, to make people feel accepted and loved, especially those who may have felt targeted or uncomfortable by the reaction to what happened.  I still can't wrap my mind around why and how people hate Americans.  I don't want to hate anyone.  I don't want to play into all of that.  I just want to love and keep an open mind because there's no way I can fully understand why people do what they do.  My life is but a small dot on this vast mosaic.  I just know there's a greater story than the mere black and white version some people quickly retell.  There are many shades and undulations to one's story.  So, I try to walk forward with a warm smile as I see people.  I want people to feel that when they see me they get the feeling that I'm one who's willing to listen and understand the many layers to who they are.  I hope I'm somewhat communicating that.
As this day closes, I lift up a prayer of comfort for those who are hurting today.  I can't imagine the pain that aches in their hearts these ten years later and beyond.  I just don't want people to be afraid.  I want people to embrace what they can do and what each day has the possibility of holding.
Ok, going through the airport is totally different now.  I'm fine with that.  This past spring, going through the Heathrow Airport, I was felt in crevices I didn't know existed on my body by security, but I didn't mind.  Going through Dulles on our way home, Jesse (at 6 months old), just landing on US soil and being granted a US citizen, was patted down and his diaper bag thoroughly searched.  It was fine.  This is what it is.
I'm an American. I am free to my opinions.  I'm free to write this.  I know that there are sacrifices that I cannot even comprehend that have been and are made for this freedom. I just don't want to take this lightly.  I thank those who have given for me, the people I don't know, the people I will never know, the people who never planned on sacrificing for me and did anyway, from those who never though about if they would be giving their life for me to those who trained for such a time as this.  It's more than I can wrap my mind around.
On another note, people talk about the concept of evil.  Yes, I believe evil exists.  I simply cannot deny that it does exist, especially when I think of that day.  I, in my heart, know God is greater and bigger and most of all sovereign (a word I've used a lot over the past 12 months).  But again, I have an accumulating list of questions for Him; this reminds me of one of my questions.  Then again, if I didn't have questions, I wouldn't be here on earth.  I'd be with Him with the answers.  I think you just gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other during times like this and just don't stop moving.  He'll take us to where He wants us to be.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Last night was the kick off Women's Bible Study meeting for the year for our church.  This year we're doing something different, we're doing a different topic each week.  Yesterday, we started off with a focus from Beth Moore's Breaking Free study.  I don't know about you, but I know every time I'm about to get into a Beth Moore anything, it's going to be intense.  Last night didn't disappoint.
We discussed how we walk around with these stigmas of shame and sometimes go through the cycle of defeat rather than wind ourselves into a cycle of victory.  I know for certain that I have walked around with stigmas, sins and experiences that I've used to define me and not walk in the full glory of God.  I have found myself, particularly over the past year, in situations where I was being tested with these stigmas.  Sometimes I failed the test, and I knew better.  I carry a lot of repent for those moments.  But we are human, and we will fail the tests every now and then UNTIL we learn our lesson, recognize what we need to do differently an DO it.  Beth Moore made such an awesome point last night:  God wants us to be victorious, and that's why he keeps giving us the same tests over and over again until we conquer it in Him.  Man, how awesome is that?
I was not only thinking about this in my own life, but also in my daughter's life.  Holy cannoli, have we been going through some tumultuous times.  She is adjusting to life as a sibling while battling attitude & obeying issues, and we're trying to figure out how we can help her through this so that she comes out victorious.  Currently, she has a vicious habit of wanting to have the last word in any disagreement.  My prayer (as I'm ready to rip my hair out of my head and discipline her without letting my emotions get the better of it) is that she will still herself to hear God's voice before she abruptly allows her ego to try to get the best of the situation.  I know God is going to help her overcome this because He keeps giving her this test knowing that she will be victorious in Him.  I realized this last night.  So, I'm trying to rejoice in this epiphany before our next tete a tete.  Oh well.
I want to see myself and everyone go full circle, get to the place like when the Israelites got to Gilgal (look it up; HUGE!) and walk in His glory.  I'll tell you what, I have not done that very well.  I don't think I've allowed myself to be victorious, to be truly identified in Him and what Jesus did for me; instead I've held onto the my past identities:  crazy, poor self image, failure (and the list could go on), and held myself down because of that.
I just want to encourage all of us to cling to the robe God made for you through His son.  That is our identity.  I want to soar with Him; that's what He wants for us!
I'll tell you my biggest weakness, but it also has to do with something that I'm really good at:  blending in.  I've always been pretty good at adapting to new situations, but that's not always a good thing.  I think it has put me on the fence rather than standing on the side where I know God wants me to be.  I need to be careful; I know this is a weakness of mine.  But again, I know God will keep testing me until I am victorious.  I became truly aware of this last night, and I'm grateful.  I've compromised and sinned against God because of this, and I don't want to do that again.  I don't want to be that kind of disciple, all raggedy and torn up because I kept sinning against Him just to blend in, when I knew better!  I want to fly to Him and know that I took every experience on earth and was obedient and faithful.  I know I can't be perfect (ha ha ha ha), but I can do better with the knowledge and wisdom that He gives me.  I have to believe that He will use me ten times more that way than to do it "my way."  And that's all I want, that is my heart's desire:  to be used by God in whatever way He calls me to do.  That fills my heart more than anything!
I want to be different.  I want His light to shine through me more.  As Beth Moore said, the victory has already been won through Christ Jesus, we just have to roll our stuff to Him and accept Him, His death, and what that really means, and wear it.  I want that to be my armor, not my pride, ego, or desire to fit in.
Anyway, just some thoughts for today.  I'm gonna go frost some funfetti cupcakes now while my lil man is snoozing.
Much love, my friends!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Being Home

I have found my emotions a bit more raw than usual lately.  No, I don't think it's my monthly visitor or anything like that, but I've realized that being home has changed me a bit.
Working, I realized has given me a suit of armor, if you will.  It has not only been an amazing outlet for me, which I am ever grateful to have, but I also see that it has fed my ego in some ways.  I have worn the, "I'm a working mom" identity for so long that it's as if I wear the "t shirt" 24/7.  I've been aware of how the stripping of this layer, even if only for a short time, has made me more sensitive to what's really going on inside my heart.  Now don't get me wrong, I look forward to going back to my insane job, that only someone like me could love, in January. But I have a different appreciation and perspective of what this all means and what I often push down in order to keep all of this madness accomplished every day.
The reality is that it's easy for me to go to work.  It's what I know, it's what my momma raised me to do.  It's more difficult for me to be home and working as a stay at home mom.  I have the space to question more, think more about things going on around me.  I have had the time and energy to ask my husband how work was and not pray for a long drawn out narrative.  I've been looking at my daughter's homework more carefully and cooked some meals (sort of).  I've spent time on the floor with my son just banging blocks with him because he LOVES that.  I've found myself questioning whether I'm doing too much or too little.  The question still isn't answered.
It's a vulnerable place to be in, honestly.  You question if you're on the right track.  But I think what it comes down to is that God has right where you are, especially when it feels uncomfortable.  He's giving me a different perspective, and I can't help but be grateful for that.  He's giving me room to grow a bit, and even I know I need that!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Missing Ethiopia Part 2

Saying hello again at HH on June 13, 2011.  Forever in our arms!
Ok, here are some more memories and images that I've been thinking about of our two trips to ET:

First Trip/ May 2011:
1.  Wearing a fanny pack on my first day in ET because I didn't know if that's what I should do or not.  I looked like an idiot, hence the pics w/ the fanny pack.  I remember coming down the stairs at The Riviera getting ready to meet our travel group with my fanny pack on thinking, "this thing is so unlike me," but I figured when in Rome...  Oh well.  I felt like such moron seeing everyone w/ a simple backpack, but I didn't want to be one of those people who runs upstairs to "change."  I mean, I was getting ready to go meet my son.  Screw the fanny pack!
2.  Being in the Heathrow Airport for eight hours; sleeping on the benches in the international terminal w/ all of my belongings strapped to me.  By the way, I did some wonderful window shopping during our layover.  I realized that people in England are eating a lot healthier than we are in the states; almost everything was fresh and organic.  PS.  A caviar bar??? Wow.
3.  Riding in the van from the airport and seeing tons of people just wandering the street.  It seemed as if they had nowhere to go.  I kept thinking, "where are all of those people going?"
4.  Getting used to not using the water to brush my teeth at the hotel and "showering" w/out a shower curtain.
5.  Meeting our wonderful friends in our travel group who I had no idea I would grow to love so much!
6.  Meeting Wass and wondering if I was going to die on each and every ride w/ him.  We laughed so much on that van, I figured that if you were gonna go out, it wasn't a bad way to go (dark humor, but true)
7.  Seeing the black gate at Hannah's Hope and just wanting to get behind it.
8.  Asking the special moms where Getiso was when we got into the baby house, and there he was in his bouncy seat w/ those big, beautiful eyes looking at me like I was on crack  while I cried and just picked him up.  Steve and I were SO cautiously optimistic about Jesse Getiso, and I remember all of the emotions just flooding when I saw him.  There was no holding back.
9.  Seeing him smile and playing with Steve on that green couch! Bathing him in the turtle room that first day and meeting all of the wonderful special moms.  I was overwhelmed with emotion.
10.  My favorite time at HH was sitting in the courtyard with our friends, the special moms, the amazing staff at HH, and our kiddos just playing, laughing, interacting with the other beautiful kids at HH.  It was nothing less than magical.  The sun was shining everyday, and all of us begged for more time there when Wass said it was time to go.  Sometimes we got our way!
11.  Looking at Steve at dinner the first night at the Riviera and telling him that we were doing this again.
12.  Going to TJ's gravesite.  We asked if we could go but had no idea if we would be able to.  They were so gracious in taking us.  Having that time at his gravesite with his special mom that cared for him while he died was more than words could imagine.  The scene itself at the cemetery was quite startling and eye opening.  We were told that bodies are exhumed every 7 years to make room.  TJ's gravesite had no marker, but it lay among fresh graves and caskets lying open everywhere.  It made me realize how death is a part of their every day lives.  I ached for the Ethiopian people.
13.  Going to court...the most nerve wracking day of my life.  We had no idea if all of our paperwork would be there.  I literally almost crapped my pants and had to use the bathroom at the courthouse; not a good door, no toilet paper, no way to wash my hands.  Let's just say that I didn't exactly sit down when they brought us before the judge.  On the other hand, when she said that we all passed, I could care less if I had skid marks in my underwear.
14.  The cultural dinner:  Amazing!  The dancing was outrageous!  I laughed my butt off that night.
15.  Last day with Jesse:  he gave me kisses.  Then we had to leave, and I cried all the way back to the Riviera and all the way home.
16.  Last but not least, making phone calls to Alex from the front desk of the Riviera in the middle of the night.  Our Internet access was really bad.  The woman at the front desk was so lovely in helping me each night make a phone call to our baby girl back home.  We missed her terribly.

Second Trip/June 2011:
1.  Meeting up with our friends in Dulles to board our ET Air flight!
2.  Meeting Almaz.  I remember telling her thank you amidst tears of not only loving Jesse, but also TJ.  she cried with me.
3.  Being so giddy and sleep deprived, again, getting in the van to HH and singing Whitney Houston on the way.  I believe it was "One Moment in Time."  I was just so excited, and I couldn't contain myself.
3.  Seeing Jesse and him smiling at us.  Steve and I were ear to ear.  We didn't even want to wait for someone to video us getting to him.  I was beelining to the baby house as soon as I stepped through the gate.
HH, but I knew this must be terrifying for him.
5.  Learning that Jesse loved to look at Steve and I; he would (and still does) grab our hair, sink his eyes into ours and give us huge open mouthed kisses (he still does this, and I have to say that I LOVE it.)
6.  Calling Alex back at home to tell her about Jesse and hearing about her days.
7.  Every meal with the gang.
8.  I will never forget the image through the van window of the little girl sleeping in the street using the curb as a pillow.  It was something that I know is forever etched in Steve's memory too.
8.  Our last meeting with Almaz; saying goodbye to both Wass and Almaz.  It was my last moment to say thank you.  It was very emotional for me.
9.  The trip, oh the trip home.  I got so car sick in the van, and it followed me all 24 hours home.  Thank God for Steve.  I vomited in the airport and took so much medication that I was OUT.  I guess it comes with the territory.

So, those are the highlights.  I cannot wait to go back.  My biggest regret was not having Alex with us.   I would have loved for her to have experienced this with us.  I'm praying that she can come next time!!!  I love you, Ethiopia!
The cemetery in Addis Ababa

Missing Ethiopia

The turtle room where Jesse roomed with Aweke and Hailu!

Jesse's crib in the turtle room
Love the special mothers!


Our hotel; the most awesome hotel ever!  We loved the people there!

Street images

Daddy holding Jesse on day 2 during nap time
Gate into Hannah's Hope in Addis Ababa

First of all, I didn't do a very good job uploading and placing these pics, so bare with me...
As I was trolling on facebook during naptime on Sunday, I came across a fellow adoptive family's photos from Ethiopia.  I just started crying.  Seeing the pictures of the gate to Hannah's Hope just took my breath away.  Every time I walked through that single door, my heart fluttered.
We saw so much, and I know we didn't even scratch the surface, I just felt like a piece of myself was left there.  In a way, I think this is good.  I want my son to know that his mommy has a connection there.  So, Lord willing, I'll get to go back.  Here are some more images that we captured (btw, these aren't very good; most were taken from the van window!)
I never laughed or cried so much in my life.  I love this place and all of the memories that I have there, some painful (saying goodbye to TJ), some of the most joyous (holding Jesse), and some of the most fun (eating french fries at the Riviera at every meal with our wonderful friends and riding in the van sleep deprived and giddy!).  Can't wait to go back ;)
going into the baby house at HH for the 1st time

holding Jesse Getiso for the first time

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I still think of him.  Sometimes I look at our beautiful boy, and think that we would have celebrated TJ's 1st birthday this summer.  Jesse is the most amazing little boy a mommy could ask for, and I know all mothers say this about their kiddos, but I think that's because God gives you the children He wants you to have; they're just for you.
My mother in law's birthday passed a week and half ago, and I had a necklace made for her with Jesse and Alex's names and birthdays on it.  Before I gave the necklace to my mom, I realized I didn't put TJ's name on there w/ his birthday.  It makes me cry to think that I didn't put him on  the necklace.  I'm certain I can have it still done, but I didn't do it in the first place.  I'm not going to beat myself up over it, but it just stinks.
I am certain he's in heaven dancing with Jesus with his twin sister, who didn't make it past her first breath, but I miss him all the same.  I do not regret the pain we experienced when he passed away; it marks the joy we felt for him when he was alive.  And I know I never held him or laid eyes on more than a picture, but I did pick up the dirt where he was buried and cried with those who loved him here and in Ethiopia.  There is just an ache in my heart today for him.
One of the most emotional parts of our second trip to Ethiopia to bring home Jesse, was saying goodbye to Almaz; she runs Hannah's Hope in Ethiopia.  My last words to her were, "Thank you for all that you've done for both my boys," amidst tears, which we both shed.  One of my friends, who traveled with us on both trips to Ethiopia and was bringing home her second child, said to me that Almaz is one of her heroes.  I understand why.  She and her staff pours so much into the children who have nothing, in hopes of giving them love and good health.  It takes a sharp, no nonsense woman to make that happen.  The goal is to give the kiddos a loving and safe place for them to live until their families are able to get through the process to bring them home.  They are family.  I can't imagine how hard it was for Almaz and the special moms, who fought so hard for him not to leave the hospital, to see him not make it.  I could still feel Almaz's frustration when we met in June.
The amazing thing is God's sovereignty.  When TJ passed away and through the grieving process, I feel like I've changed, I feel like my family has changed.  We are not the same that we were in some ways.  I don't really want to entertain nonsense anymore, and when I feel it arising in myself, I'm much more vigilant of it and want to repent much sooner than perhaps I did before all of this.  There are probably other things I see different too, but that's the most poignant.  I see how distracting life can get, and I want to keep the main thing the main thing.  God comes first, even amidst the pressure of suburban sports, material possessions, career drive, etc.  I admit that I was very distracted and disillusioned for awhile; I had and still have a lot to learn!
One of the highlights of going to Africa was traveling with the family that we bumped back a number on the waiting list when we decided to re-enter the process after TJ died.  Essentially, they were lined up to be Jesse's family, and if we returned to the process with the difference of just a week or two, we would have been their little boy's family.  God had it all under control, though.  For anyone who has been in the international adoption process, the waiting list is SO difficult, and every move you make on the "list" is so significant each month.  Here was the moment:  Steve and I were in the living room at Hannah's Hope  with Jesse in our arms and the other family was with us with their gorgeous boy in their arms, and we began to share how we lost TJ and returned to the list in January, etc...  Julie said that she remembers when they were told they were bumped back a number, but they felt a true peace about it...we bumped her.  Holding our boys in our arms and having that realization was huge.  I felt God's sovereignty in that room in such a big way, and I feel so blessed that God gave us that moment.  I will never forget that.  I couldn't have written that script if I tried.
He is real.  I don't care what anyone says.  God is real.  I think about how much He loves his son and what He watched him endure for us, and I get to have moments like those.  I am so humbled.  TJ's life has (present tense) great purpose, and the missing him reminds me of what God has done through my pain, like the pain that Jesus went through for us.  I also know there's so many more nuances that I haven't discovered yet in this journey.  But I'm here, and my heart is open.
TJ Sidrak Craig, still loved.

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Day of School

Alex with her teacher, Mrs. Just
My baby girl is in third grade.  As all parents say, "where did the time go?"  This is the outfit my kiddo picked out for her first day.  We went shopping this weekend and discovered that she no longer fits in the girl's section.  We ended up at American Eagle and felt like fish out of water.  What was all this teenager stuff???  Everyone says she's going to be a basketball player or something, but if you've seen my family, that's not how God made us.  God DID make us to grow fast and then suddenly stop at age 11.  I've looked the same way since I was in 6th grade, and my mom is known as "munchichi" because she's under 5 foot.  I'm pretty confident that she won't surpass the Jolly Green Giant.
I've gotta tell you, Alex was nervous about school.  She had a difficult time getting to bed last night, and she had a belly ache. We made it, though!
This is what Alex had to say about herself on the first day of school:
This made me cry.  I just love her so much!  Alex is my teacher.  She brought me into motherhood, and she's kept me on my toes ever since.  I've been far from the perfect parent, and I'm still figuring things out, but I know God has her.  In fact, He's working on both of us every step of the way.  This paper is who my baby girl is:  a girl who likes her steak and wants to have fun.  A little girl who is discovering what the love of a sibling means, that she will always have her little brother to love.  She has been very consistent in saying that she wants to be an art teacher, and she does love to draw and create, but this summer, she also started writing stories too, just for fun.  I must say that she now reads in bed before she goes to sleep, just like her mommy.  Sometimes I'll check on her and she'll be journaling or writing a story; you just never know.  She's a girl with ideas and there's ALWAYS a "plan."  I believe that our international adoption process, along with lots of interesting conversations about different parts of the world at school & church, has opened her heart to what's going on in the world, especially with children.  This summer, she was constantly asking us about faraway places like Togo, South America, England, and China.  We ended up getting her a huge map, so she could see where these places are; we often looked up places on the internet to see what it's like there.  She's expressed that she wants to travel, but it's always followed with, "But I'm afraid of getting shots," knowing that you have to get certain vaccinations before you go certain places.  Pretty normal 8 year old stuff.  When I was her age, I was obsessed with Paris (I still kind of am); I wanted to be like Madeline and speak french and just live the Parisian lifestyle; I understand her desire to experience different things and see how that changes you.
As for swimming, I'm not sure if we're married to it.  We learned the hard way, that club swimming requires A LOT of volunteer hours, which we were unable to complete (by volunteer, I mean required).  Yes, we ended up with a lofty bill for not completing our hours and have had to rethink if this is something we can all commit to.  We've decided to put her in a less competitive swimming team.  When it comes down to it, we really want her to exercise and learn discipline and hard work, but our extra time as a family is going into our church.  So, she'll work out three times a week and do a few meets a year but not on a club team.  At 8 years old, she shouldn't feel her whole world is all about one thing.  If she wants to try volleyball (or whatever) next year, then we shouldn't feel too meshed into one thing to let her try whatever!  Oh well.
So, I realize my posts may seem a little manic about my Alex.  Honestly, we have good days and bad days.  I just want to embrace these moments as much as possible because I am blessed to have her as a daughter, even on our tense days (and we do have tense days).  God is preparing her and using her every moment; personally, I think He's using her to teach me a thing or do.  I could use a few lessons, so I won't complain!
On another note, our hearts are so heavy for all who were affected by the Indiana State Fair tragedy.  I'm thankful that Steve was home two hours before it happened; he was there working on the Habitat house. I'm praying for those who work there.  I can't imagine how stressful and emotional it is to handle that.  Ugh.
Mr. Jesse Getiso Craig is amazing.  He crawled today.  CRAZY.  I ran to get the video camera, and he wouldn't do it again.  The cutest thing was that he was chasing Alex as she was leaving the living room; he just adores her.  I promise tomorrow I'll have something!
Much love,

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Rocking of Her World

Ok, we're living w/ the sleep thing. That's ok, we'll make it.  Right now, the hardest part is the adjustment w/ my 8 year old.  Alex has always been a strong willed one (a bit of an understatement), but we're seeing a whole new level on the stubborn scale.  Before I rant about my daughter, I must tell you that I love her so much, and she's an amazing little girl.  She's just experiencing the "rocking of her world" that I predicted would occur when Jesse came home.
It seems that once a week since the summer began, I've called Steve to cry and vent about my horrible day w/ Alex.  She just doesn't listen, and I'll discipline her for one thing, and she turns around and does something else crazy.  She's now in her room for an hour after already losing television, computer, and DS privileges for the day.  UGH.  Do I lose my temper?  Yes, yes, I do after the fifth round; I end up yelling.  Sorry.
Do I think it's a jealousy thing?  Probably.  Is it that she's so used to the world revolving around her?  Yes.  It is what it is.  Kids all over the world have to go through this.  So, I just gotta share today's journey:
1. She thew a fit this morning because she wasn't allowed to go to the fair w/ her dad who is WORKING on the Habitat house there.  Ok.
2.  She's angry that there's "nothing for her to eat for breakfast," and complains in the most "privileged" way possible while staring at a loaf of bread, peanut butter, milk, english muffins, toaster egg thingies, and cereal.
3.  She runs at mock speed w/ her little brother in the cart at Meijer at 9:30 this morning.  She does this three times, which each time she was told not to do this for the many reasons you could imagine, especially that this is the prime time for the elderly to go shopping; not good.  The third time resulted in her losing access to tv, etc. for the rest of the day.
4.  We get home, I put Jesse down to play in his little play area while I carry in the tons of groceries, she picks him up w/out permission and when she feels like it, puts him down so he tips over on his toys.
5.  Then we move to chores.  Each 5 minute chore starts & ends w/ "Do I have to do this?" & "I don't want to do this anymore."
6.  The straw that broke my back was when she yelled at me while I was on the phone & when I got off the phone w/ grandma because I didn't tell grandma something.  This resulted being sent to her room for a long while.
For me, this is tougher than lack of sleep.  She gets tons of positive attention & praise; trust me, I'm vigilant about looking for every minute, positive thing she does.  Oh well.  I'm ready for school to start like yesterday .  Thanks for letting me vent.  Much love!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Handsome Boy!!!

My baby boy is eight months old today.  I'm more in love everyday.  Since he's been home, he started eating solids, has four new teeth, gained three pounds, and is on the verge of crawling.  I can't believe I get to be his mommy.  I just feel so blessed, and I'm pretty sure I can speak for the whole family.  He smiles and laughs everyday, and I LOVE hearing him say, "Da, da, da, da, da," he even forms it into a question every now and then.
Our Jesse is just a big ball of love.  Like all parents, I'm so honored and humbled to be the mommy to both Alex and Jesse.  Thank You, Lord.  Thank You so very much!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Oh sleep, where art thou?

Sleeping is my hobby, my passion.  A weird one at that , but it is what it is.  Ever since I was a little girl, I could be lulled to sleep almost anywhere including on a horse.  An afternoon nap on a Sunday afternoon is absolute heaven to me.  When Alex was born, I soaked up nap time like a junky.
Things are a bit different now.  My beautiful son is waking up almost every hour to two hours at night.  Whoa.  This is not easy for the girl who happily falls asleep at 8 pm for  fun.
I now find myself playing musical beds to my son's unrest.  Sometimes when he wakes, I will fall asleep on the single bed we set up in Jesse's room for situations like this.  Other times, I'm sprawled on Alex's bed with her arms dangled over me.  And every once in awhile I'll land in my comfy spot in my bed with Charlie the dog nestled in the crook of my legs.  It seems that when I hear him crying, I automatically awake from wherever I am upstairs, clog downstairs, grab a bottle from the fridge, rock Jesse to sleep while he sips a minuscule amount of formula, lay him down, clog back downstairs and sleepwalk my way to wherever I may land up there.  I have to tell you the best part, though.  Jesse seems to find comfort in grabbing my face and resting his sweet lips on my cheek and simply comforting himself there to sleep.  Every single night hearing those little lips pucker on my face is worth every second of sleeplessness; I don't care what anyone says.
Some people say to let him cry it out.  It's not that easy with adopted kiddos.  I feel strongly that we're still building trust.  Every time he wakes up and sees my face, he smiles.  His smile, in my mommy heart, feels like it's telling me, "Thank you for being there again."  I will be there until he knows in his heart that yes, I'll be there every time, and there's no need to worry.
So, I'm a little tired right now.  It's ok.  He's worth every sleepless moment.

PS.  We had the kids' pictures taken.  Here's a peak of my sweet babies on our photographer's blog, Melissa Hanley.  Enjoy!

Thanks, Melissa!  We love the pictures!!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Can't help telling you this story...

Ok, so I knew that I would receive a "look" every now and then.  I mean, people are curious.  They see this white mama with this black baby, and they wonder.  I get it.  There are so many options.
This past Saturday, I had this little girl just get down and dirty and ask me exactly what she wanted to know.  Steve and I took Alex, her friend Elizabeth, and Jesse to the mall to get a quick bite to eat.  We ended up at the Lego Store for a few minutes, and it was packed with kiddos putting together Harry Potter wands.
This little girl took one look at me with Jesse in his baby carrier, and the conversation went like this:
"Is that your baby?"  the little girl questioned.
"Yup,"  I answered with a smile on my face.
"He came from you?"
"No, he was adopted," I replied politely.
"You breastfeed him?"  she inquired further.
"No, he takes a bottle."
"Oh," she satisfyingly responded.
At this point, Alex walks over, as she sees that I'm engaged in a conversation with a girl around her age, curious about the point of discussion.
Alex enters, "Hi.  That's my brother.  He's adopted from Ethiopia."
The girl addresses Alex, "Oh."
"Yeah, he just came home from Africa a few weeks ago," Alex adds.
With an epiphany, the girl questions, "Your baby is an African baby?"
"Yeah," Alex says.
Now, Elizabeth walks over and joins in.
The little girl asks, "Why didn't you adopt her?"
"Well, she has a mommy and daddy, so she doesn't need to be adopted."
I must tell you, this is EXACTLY how the conversation went.  I couldn't make this up if I tried.  It's one of those conversations I don't think I'll forget.  It was so honest.  I appreciated her fearlessness in asking exactly what was on her mind.  It was perfect, but I was also relieved to have to go and give Jesse a bottle.  I'm afraid what other questions she may have had for me!  Kids are awesome.