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 idea...no 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!!