Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Five weeks home - Bethie update

This will be a horrible blog post. Stringing sentences together just seems so draining.

Let's do bullet points. I do so love me some bullet points. They're like the quarters of writing. I love quarters. Bullet points and pictures. I can handle that.

  • We're doing great. Life after Bethie is starting to seem, not normal, but it's getting sort of normal. Spring Break was hard, very hard. We didn't get to go anywhere so the other kids were very stir crazy and Walker traveled for part of it. Ugh. Bethie loves her siblings but when they are all home, there is a lot of fighting for Mom's attention and she's right in the middle of it.

    When we first came home, Bethie would go up to strangers and take their hands or try to hug them. She tried to do this with most of my small group when they delivered meals. The beauty of attending a church where adoption is common is that all of them knew not to return the affection, but she would try.

    My mother-in-law and sister-in-law Laurel came over for a short visit on Thursday during Spring Break so that Laurel could meet her newest niece. Bethie was very interested in Laurel, and would climb over to her (poor Aunt Lolly knew not to hug her and she was about to die, she was almost sitting on her hands) and go through her purse, then go talk to Mimi, but she always came back to me and climbed on my lap. Check them out, come back to me, like any two year old would. I realized then for the first time, I felt like her mom.

  • The other kids are adjusting well, except Ike. He is not thrilled about having his Prince Baby of the Family role usurped. He's also not old enough to think she's cute, not one bit. He is acting out in a bad way. Like, you'd think he was living on nothing but red dye, bad. It is honestly my biggest stress right now. I know he's sad and mad and I try to be empathetic to him but when he hits her or kicks her I lose my patience pretty quickly. When they get along, they crack each other up, he just needs to learn that he can get better attention by being a good big brother than by torturing her.  Prayers appreciated in this area.

    The other three adore her and literally fight over her. She adores them back - usually.

  • The hardest time of day by far is the hour and a half after the kids get home from school. She gets jealous and clingy, Ike gets jealous and clingy, they are literally fighting over me. I've got four kids with homework and chores to do - it's pretty rough. By dinner time, Daddy's home, she has calmed down, Ike has calmed down, and we have some happy times making her laugh or putting on Amharic music just to watch her dance. But the hours leading up to that are driving me to drink. I mean that quite literally. A fellow adoptive mom told me to stock up on wine before we brought her home. Sage advice.

  • Bethie's relationship with Walker has dramatically improved. Thank you for her prayers. Last week he held out his arms and she went to him for the first time! Which led to even greater things:

  • Saturday I went to the chiropractor. Why? Because of this

    I left Bethie alone with Walker for the first time....and everyone survived. I came back 30 minutes later and she was happy and happy to see me. Jessica had asked asked if we wanted to come to Central Market that evening to celebrate Amalie's seventh birthday and I said no...but then I thought, well, this would be a good test, right? I took the big girls but made sure to be home by 8 so I could lie down with her to get her to sleep as I have every night since we got her. But as I was pulling into the driveway, Walker texted me "She's asleep." HE. GOT. HER. TO. SLEEP.

    So last night, I lay in bed with her for an hour and the child would not sleep. She just kept fighting it. You have to know that this is torture for me.

    One time I drove from San Antonio to Houston, a good four hours, with a friend of a friend. She wanted to leave extremely early in the morning and I agreed if I could continue my snooze in the car. I assured her that the radio would not bother me. But - get this - she never turned it on. The whole way home - four hours - she drove in total silence. 

    I couldn't get over it. I kept telling Walker "We didn't talk! She didn't listen to the radio! It was just SILENT! I don't get that?? How can anyone DO THAT?? Silence! For four hours!! Isn't that BIZARRE??" He kept telling me that no, it wasn't bizarre, in fact it sounded nice, and I continued to be flabbergasted. Still am.

    I tell you this so that you will understand that for me to lie silently in bed staring at the ceiling for an extended period with a toddler who won't sleep is HELL. HELL I tell you HELL. 

    So, after more than an hour of intensely monitoring every yawn and breath and finger suck only to have her repeatedly be a fraction of a second from unconsciousness and then start singing a song to wake herself up !!!!!! I was d-o-n-e. I walked out and told Walker "Your turn." She cried, he lay down with her, and he walked out ten minutes later. Because she had crashed. After ten minutes. So it has been proven. All five of my children know that Momma is a sucker.

  • My mom came to visit this past week. It's the second time she's met Bethie and they are fans of each other. And because I felt like Bethie was attaching so well to me, and because my mom was staying with us for five days and I could get some stuff done and this is life, she did hold her. Grandmas, what are you gonna do?
  • My girls have always come into the bathroom when my mom puts her makeup on and watched her. She will put on lotion, then they put on lotion. She puts on lipstick, they put on lipstick. Bethie got initiated into the GG tradition.

  • Saturday my mom took us all to Aster's, one of Austin's Ethiopian restaurant, which was for the record the best Ethiopian food I have ever had. The waitress was so sweet to Bethie and when she began speaking to her in Amharic, she looked so stunned, and was so glad. She answered all of her questions and was so happy. The trip completely cheered her up - she sang and carseat-danced the entire way home.

    The most amazing part, to me, was that the waitress asked her in Amharic "Who is your momma?" and so on with each member of the family, daddy, brother, sister, even grandmother, and Bethie pointed to the proper person each time. How did she know that?? She never had a mother or a father or sister or brother and certainly not a grandmother. And since we got home, we have used the English terms. So how could it be that when the lady asked her who her "set ayat" was she pointed to my mom?? Amazing.

    It also made me a little sad to see her communicate with someone else. I want to be able to communicate with her like that too.

    • Language: She has said very few words in English. She says Mama and M-m-m for milk in English and waha (water) in Amharic. She will sign More and Milk and All done. There are a few words I think I've heard her say. She talks a lot in what may be Amharic but may be baby talk. I know some key phrases in Amharic (Are you hungry, go to sleep, etc) but she understands so much. If I say "take off your shoes"  or "go get in the bath" she does it. If I say "Kiss everyone night night" she will walk into the family room and hold out her cheek to each family member so they can kiss her. She follows most commands, including "put the diaper in the trash."

      She can point when asked to her nose, eyes, ears, hair, teeth, tongue, fingers, toes, tummy, and booty.

      We started trying to entice her by using the other kids. I'll say "Say Daddy, Maggie" and Maggie says "Daddy!" and gets a high five, and so on around the table. Every time it is her turn, regardless of what the word is, she answers "A mama!" then holds up her hand for a high five and then everyone laughs and it's not really helping to teach her but it sure is cute. 

    • We went to church Sunday morning for the first time. Bethie did great. We didn't have a traditional service for Palm Sunday, they read Scripture then sang, read Scripture then sang, so it was dark in there most of the time, so she slept a lot. They also sang How He Loves Us which makes me embarrass Shepherd every time because I get the ugly cry. If His grace is an ocean then we're all sinking....SOB

      She's holding a play fork that she took from Sunday School when we dropped off Ike. It's currently in my car somewhere. Yes, we steal from church.

    • Bethie wore this, which used to be Maggie's. Our church (Austin New Church) is about the un-smockiest place ever, but I still reserve the right to dress my babies like Presbyterians.

    • Our pastor Brandon, dad to two from Ethiopia, came up to Bethie and said "God bless you" in Amharic and she answered him "Amen." Yes, she did. 

    • She is eating pretty well. She loves anything spicy. I am having a really hard time getting fruits and green veggies in her, but I'm Scarletting it for now. I'll worry about that tomorrow.

    • The hair. Oh my gosh, y'all. Was there a special segment of y'all praying that the Lord would grace me with a child with good hair? Because her hair is FABULOUS.

      I wondered what it would look like if I did absolutely nothing to it: no conditioner,  didn't even put it up at night. And this is the result after two days of complete neglect:

      Adorable, right?
      Thank you, Jesus.
    • Sleep: She sleeps fine. About 12 hours at night and a 1-2 hour nap, but will only go to sleep if I (and now Walker! Yea!) lies down with her, including at naptime, and then I can sneak out (or, nap, which I usually end up doing.) She often wakes up about midnight but goes back to sleep. The time change threw us, I forgot how much I hate Daylight Savings. She is in our bed, which has led to really good bonding but I do dream of lying her down in a crib and just walking away.  We did try the crib for a couple of nights and even though I had it right next to my bed so that I was holding her hand, it did not go well. She's just not ready.  Some day... But I know a lot of adopted kids have really hard sleep issues so I am just going to be thankful.

    • I'm in love with her. Officially. I adore her, I think she's the prettiest baby girl, I'm so proud of her when others see her, I stare at her when she's sleeping. I think she's beautiful and funny and brilliant. I can't believe that she's finally here. I'm so, so thankful that God put this precious child in our family and chose me to be her mommy. 

      She was so worth the wait. 


    1. Every one of those photos is fabulous - from the peanut butter to the gorgeous hair. Will keep Ike's adjustment to your expanded family in prayer as well as an extra one for your sanity and sense of humor while that works itself out. Looking forward to the photo and bullet points of their best friendship in the near future!

    2. Thank you for this wonderful and complete update--it's a pleasure and a blessing and a real privilege to be able to follow your story. I've been loving seeing your photos on Facebook. What a great family you all are, and what a sweetheart Bethie is.

      I have a question that probably all your followers who know about international adoptions already know the answer to, but: is the reason people shouldn't hug Bethie back at this point because you're trying to reinforce her primary link with you? And is her *wanting* hugs from everyone just a natural child thing, or is it something relating to the big shifts in her life?

    3. I'm so glad to see the updates, glad it's all going well. Hopefully Ike will adjust soon, but for 5 weeks in you seem to be rocking it. (You compare to a newborn, right? For a 5 week old just joining the family, you are all doing great!)

    4. Thank you for this post, don't worry about sentence structure. We all just want to praise God with you for these blessings, and know how to pray for you now.

      I think it's completely normal for Ike to be upset. My family of 4 kids always had the most struggles between the siblings that were next to each other in age.

      I'm so glad everything is settling in for you. She's absolutely adorable.

    5. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

    6. Love this Missy!! So thankful for you! When we brought our daughter home, our youngest son at the time had a terrible transition. They were bitter enemies for a while (over-emotional little girl mixed with an over aggressive little boy does not make for a good mix). They eventually got it figured out. Still go at it sometimes, but they also have become really sweet friends. Praying for Ike. It's hard to loose your spot as the baby, especially to someone closer to your age.

    7. Great update, thanks for sharing this! I will continue to pray for all of you, with special prayers for Ike. Transition is hard! Especially when you are not the baby anymore. It sounds like things are going well considering this is a major life upheaval for all. Honored to share in the journey with you. And her hair is ADORABLE!!

    8. I wish I could just sit and have a long conversation with you and discuss each and every one of these things. So much to add, ask and comment on.

      I will just say this: Your bullet points are glorified paragraphs. No need to bullet.

      Oh, and the after school/before dinner hours--by far, my worst memory of the whole "adopt a toddler from another country with elementary-aged children in the home" scenario. Terrible and exhausting.

      And then it ends and everyone gets better and well-adjusted.

      Love you.

    9. Yay!! I love this update. Love love love. Been praying for y'all. And even though our church is un-smocking-ish too, you'd better believe my daughter is gonna look like a Presbyterian. Though not with smocking, exactly, I am not such a fan of that. I think that's a Southern thing.

    10. Such a love story. Beautiful! peace just emanates from your words, even the fighting, it is all just bathed in God's peace- this is what he wanted. So awesome!

    11. Super update - she's such a doll! I'm an SLP and have worked with a lot of babies who have been adopted internationally and came here after 1 year of age. It's fantastic that she is understanding so much in English! Reception comes first, then expressive language. Using signs is also a great way to work on communication "I still reserve the right to dress my babies like Presbyterians" - greatest line ever:)

    12. I've seen bits and pieces on facebook, but good to read it all in context. So glad she's doing so well! I didn't realize that no one else could hug her. That would be so hard if she was trying to hug you! How long does that last?
      Will definitely pray for Ike. My 3 year old has had a lot of that with twin baby sisters. He just wants my attention all the time too.

    13. I'm having some after-school hours flashbacks here -- that was a HARD time for our family too. Summer is coming, which takes the stress off of that time of day. I will be praying for Ike's adjustment! Looking into the future, I can see the same kind of thing happening with our 6-year-old daughter, who very much enjoys being the doted-on only girl + youngest. Full of joy for Bethie settling into her place in your family!

    14. She was so worth the wait...AMEN!

    15. Missy! These pictures and stories make me so happy for you. Bethie's smile lights up her face!

    16. "Dress my babies like Presbyterians." CRACK. ME. UP. Love that.

      I'm a friend of Gillian's from Atlanta. I think I found you that way and was an occasional reader who then spent more than a couple nights, up much later than I should have been, next to my sleeping husband reading *just one more* post on my ipad about you, your kids, feingold (never heard of it before), adoption, your LONG adoption journey, and what God is doing in your life. You now seem like a friend and I have been rejoicing with (and stalking, I guess, since this is my first comment - I even follow you on instagram now...) you ever since you were awaiting the travel to get Bethie - checking my reader several times daily to see if you had posted something else.

      I also wanted to tell you that I think God has planted an adoption seed in my heart through you. I had never really thought about acting out our own adoption through Christ as a reason for God's people to adopt. To be quite honest, I had not thought about adoption much at all beyond a lovely way for those unable to conceive to grow their families. Through your sharing and humor I have thought about adoption in new ways. I SO appreciate you sharing all sorts of ups and downs and real life here. I was quite ignorant of the ways and etiquette of adoption before and your blog has definitely provided an eduction for that. I don't know what God will do with the seed and what is in store for our life, but I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your work here.

      And I have a two year old too. And they are so stinking cute. And have a tendency to act like they are two. I hear ya.


      And this? "Our pastor Brandon, dad to two from Ethiopia, came up to Bethie and said "God bless you" in Amharic and she answered him "Amen." Yes, she did." I knew it already, because of FB, but I still can't bring myself to tell anyone that story without getting so choked up, I can't make it to the end.

    18. Oh wow. I think I held my breath the whole time I was reading this. How exciting and scary and overwhelming. I never knew the not hugging rule... makes sense.

    19. Hey Missy. LONG time reader here- delurking. I never meant to be a lurker but I guess that is what I am. ;) It's been such a blessing to see Bethie's story unfold here. Like the above poster, I think I held my breath the whole way through too! Prayers for you guys as you continue to adjust. Have you looked into some sort of carrier? All I keep thinking is that you need an Ergo! Will she let you wear her in some capacity? I can't help but think that you would save your back and a little sanity with some solid babywearing throughout the day.

    20. This made me cry :) what a beautiful family! Her hair is awesome, I love that she's sleeping for you, I love the part about her and Ike. I picture my youngest responding exactly like Ike. I'm just so very happy for you, and so happy to feel like there's finally a happy ending to your story I've followed for so long!! It's a great story!!!

    21. Great update, Missy! It sounds like things are progressing splendidly and I'm praying the post-adoption fog will lift soon. I also really appreciate your "adoption education" you sprinkle throughout your posts. Way to use the platform the Lord has given you!

    22. Just beautiful Missy.
      With the night time laying down with her-try having your ipod/iphone and have it very quietly playing with your headphones on & listent to a podcast. I love TED talks but there are lots out there.
      I am guilty of doing this when my kids are sick & need me to lay with them. And sometimes when we are watching kids tv together ;D

    23. P.S She is just divinely beautiful! And I LOVE her hair.

    24. loved the update, thank you! praying for your family!

    25. Really enjoy your posts, though I'm relatively new to the party! I, too, once had to drive with a friend in utter silence for about 3 hours. About 18 years ago and I still remember. . . I share your astonishment that anyone would choose such a state. . .

      Bethie is a dollbaby. Makes me think, again, about adopting even though I'm single.

    26. Oh Missy, I am REJOICING big time with your fam and Bethie's arrival! SHE IS BEYOND BEAUTIFUL! So so so thankful.

    27. This post was just thrilling, Missy. Beautiful answers to prayers. I SO want to hug and hold your beautiful baby girl!!! But I'm thinking no hugging at the picnic. Is this right? Lisa S.

    28. I feel your pain on the sibling rivalry between your two "babies." Our Ethiopian daughter came home at 18 months. Our bio son was 2. It was U.G.L.Y. (uuuuuugggggglllllyyyy, I tell you.) Frustrating. Maddening. Saddening (is that a word? You know what I mean). Anyways, fast forward 5 years and they are two peas in a pod. I refer to them as "my old married couple" as I don't think they would know what to do without each other. They still have their moments, but fewer and much further between. Time. Love. Patience. It will all work out, I promise.

    29. Forgot to say I am sooo jealous about the hair. Our daughter's curls are about as tight as they could be... two days of neglect and we're talking dreads...

    30. I am also jealous about the hair. My Ethiopia treasure (now 3) has the tiniest ringlet curls I've ever seen and having it loose for even a day or two leads to an hour of detangling. Regarding the sleep - I HEAR YOU. My Everly has been home a year and a half and for the first year she would not sleep (nap or night) without me lying with her. Problem being she would take anywhere from 1-3 hours to fall asleep every night and would then sleep for 6-8 hours. Yes, my two year old was sleep for 8-9 hours a day, total. I'm a single mom and it was brutal. About a year home I started leaving her in her bed while she was still awake and now we're at about 10-15 minutes of snuggling and then I leave. We also have a weighted blanket. She's still only averaging 9-10 hours a day but I can see straight again. It will get better. It is worth it, even when it totally doesn't seem like it!

    31. awesome!!! and yes, the hair. fantastic :)



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