A sparrow when I'm broken, and eagle when I fly.....

Welcome to my world. I am an ordinary wife and mom who has been extraordinarily blessed by an amazing husband and house full of beautiful children. My prayer is that you will be somehow blessed by our family's story. It is a tale of God's grace and forgiveness...His loving kindness and patience with us His children as we strive & struggle everyday to bless His name with our lives

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Ideal Vacation Day

1) Slept six straight hours before waking up to the loud speakers of daily chanting from the mosque a few blocks away.
2) Made coffee and peanut butter and crackers, then had breakfast with God for company.
3) Internet at guest house hooked up first try! Then checked email. You guys can write me…I love it. May not return emails (maybe?) till home.
4) Did a backpacking bath in bathroom sink (wiped down dirty parts) and wet down hair to get the dust out. Refreshed!. Dug through clothes to find the least dirty to wear for today.
5) on walk to AHOPE passed out bread and crackers to beggar mommies and their children. ***Yes, It is SOOO much better to give than receive. To be here surrounded by need and feel so powerless is hard for me. Making a child smile with food because they are hungry makes ME so happy and helps ME feel better. Pray
6) At AHOPE in time to greet Assefa waking up. So sweet. Hugged a bunch of kids and passed out dabo kolo (tiny fried bread pieces) Pray
7) Get picked up by Mesfin (Muffin) who is Selamne’s brother driving for Ketema. Go to Kidane Mehret (orphanage called KM) to visit a ton of kids. Visit children I already know and love and meet a ton more kids home from school. Hold babies, toddlers and big kids. Talk to teens begging me to find them a family. Sit in the sun for an hour holding a little boy I fell in love with the other day. His name is Fitsum and he is four years old. He was born with a major spinal deformity and some skull deformity. He is smart and sweet and will not live more than a few more years without surgery in U.S. Said “Choa” to all the kids promising to be back before I leave for America. Pray
8) Went to supermarket to buy food stuffs to take home (berebere, green coffee beans, Shiro etc….) Found Diet Coke at this new supermarket! Oh happy day! Thank you Lord.
9) Rest and drink two cold Diet Cokes at my guest house. Ahhhh. Bread and cheese for lunch.
10) Visit Layla, hold babies, and walk around Layla carrying my baby Gezehegn. Check on some big Layla kids for their new parents in U.S. Gezehegn and I watch kids playing soccer till he falls asleep. Hold more babies, babies, and babies. Pray
11) Visit little AHOPE and Assefa again. Play with kids, hold babies, play with kids, hold babies…Say good night to 28 of the world’s sweetest kids. Pray
12) walk back to guest house again visiting with my new friends on way (beggars) feel safe as I have anywhere in the world at night on streets of Addis. Pray
13) Ran three inches of cool warm water in tub and stripped off my clothes covered with every form of bodily fluid, then basked in that water and really washed hair for the first time in a week. Thank you God again…enough water and water pressure! Put on last clean clothes, it felt good.
14) Talked to my darling husband who called me to say good night. I love him. Miss the kids, counting the days till I go home to them, counting the days till I have to leave here. Pray
15) Listen to Third day songs as I go to sleep. End of my perfect vacation day…could only be better if Mike and other kids were here.
P.S. The comment regarding bodily fluids didn't paint a nice picture of me. I will change it "that my clothes were covered with ALMOST every sort of bodily fluid."

and several different kinds of pus and drainage

that is enough said about that.

P.S.S. Kidist and her sister wash clothes for guests and getting your clothes cleaned at Addis Kidan guest house is no problem. I just hate to make more work for them than I have too. They are so wonderful here at the guest house. I only wished they lived next door to me always. Nice, nice, nice

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Partying the Night Away: Part 2

I had a great email version of the second part of the big night out but it went off into Internet land never to be seen again. I am just going to highlight the best parts my second try....

The food was wonderful and such a feast. No way we could eat it all but we sure tried. The dancing started as we ordered and all through our meal and coffee ceremony after dinner. There was a group of dancers male and female who danced traditional dances from all the major tribes in Ethiopia as well as a few modern dances. There were also several singers and musicians using traditional Ethiopian instruments. The dancers changed their costumes many times throughout the evening to reflect the kind of clothes worn by the tribe they were reflecting. Traditional dancing is very popular here and is on the TV a lot. Towards the end the dancers came out into audience to dance for tables individually.

I would have paid a $1000 for our Ethiopian daughters to see this show! The meal for all five of us adult plus two children was $46 or 4600 birr. In the U.S. I would expect to pay $3-400 at least for such an experience. I would HIGHLY recommend anyone coming here for adoption or something else to check out this place.

Later I will tell of our experience meeting the groups of adopting parents at this restaurant with their new babies. PLEASE people, obey and respect the rules implemented by the government officials here in Ethiopia. When you don't you are jeopardizing future adoptions here! More on this subject later

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Partying the Night Away (part 1)

It is 6:00 Dec 11 here in Addis as I write this and 7:00 Dec 10th at home. I just want to share about our fabulous evening! Ketema picked us up with his family in tow and we went to the Yod Abisynia Cultural Restaurant. This is also where we had lunch the other day. The food is fantastic there. It is near to the guest houses and orphanages too. Lots of families like to go to Crown Hotel to see the dancing but the show last night at this restaurant can not be possibly improved on. We had so much fun.
We got there about 8:00 PM and Ketema had reserved the best seats in the house. For those of you unaware of traditional Ethiopian meals....we sat on short chairs around the taller round basket tables. The top of basket holds the round injera about size of giant pizza. First of all the beautifully dressed waitress come to pour wash you with soap and warn water poured over your hands into basin. Then we were served our feast. The injera (soured flat bread) in then covered with plops of all different kinds of delicious "wats". Wat is many things like meat or vegetables cooked up in spices from mild to really hot and spicy. The food must be chopped or minced before cooking to ensure you can eat it all by tearing off a piece of injera to scoop up food to your mouth (no silverwear of course) I have tried one thing this trip that was new to me. I have heard from many they don’t like it. I don’t know the Amharic name but it is "false banana leaf bread" which is really good with kitfo. I had the cooked meat Kitfo version not the raw meat version.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Play Day

I guess everyday can be called a play day when you get to spend it with kids. Until today I have spend most of everyday hanging out with and playing with kids here in Ethiopia. Today was a "play day" as it seemed more tourist type "play" stuff for my friend and I. It costs 600 birr ($60) to hire a driver for whole day or 70 birr ($7) per hour. This is more than in the past and because gas prices have gone up so much here. Anyway, it is really better use of money to hire a drive for all day and use that day to do a lot of stuff. Today we shopped at Haile Sellasie shopping center and Sorvino shopping. Selassie is a shopping place all enclosed in one building. The prices seemed good and it was kind of easy not dealing with a large market type crown. Sorvino shopping is where I have been before. It is a long row of open front shops to find all sorts of traditional Ethiopian kind of goods. I am watching my money but I did have a small list of things I wanted to bring home. There are some common things adopting parents buy for their new children from Ethiopia. Most parents try to get a traditional outfit or two, the fancy carved wooden crosses, silver necklace cross and other jewelry, and scarves or other lines. Of course there are endless things to buy that speak of Ethiopia. Every main Orthodox church here has it's own style cross design. I like the Lalibela style and have worn the silver necklace I got in 2005 constantly since then. The different woven linens of all types are extremely beautiful. I bought some more tablecloths today. I love to have things from here that I use every day. I also did a little Christmas shopping for our kids. That was fun. We also went to buy Ethiopian music CDs (psst...it is a secret, don’t tell the Ethio teens) I bought some Teddy Afro music. He is the popular young singer sentenced to six years in jail last week for having some wording in his songs that the government didn't agree with. sigh.

We had lunch at a fun place I hadn’t heard of. It is called "The Old Milk Can" and had both American and Ethiopian food. We ate Morracan and it was good! The nicest thing is that the restaurant is on top floor of tall building next to place grounds. The view of Addis from the top was amazing and worth the price of lunch.

We stopped by the Ritmo guest house to visit some other adopting parents there. I saw Gail there before she took a small group to their embassy appointment. The embassy appointment is to apply for their new adopted child's visa to enter the U.S. We also went to big AHOPE to deliver donations and to the Fantu supermarket. There are so many beggars and giving out money to them is discouraged. I have found great joy is always having bags of bread
to give out, especially to the moms with little children. So I bought a lot more bread
and small packages of crackers, etc....to share. I wish I could tell you how happy their faces looks to get the food. We also stocked up on bread and cheese for ourselves and the times we can not get out to get food.

Tonight at 7:30 Ketema is picking us up to have dinner at a place where we will see a lot of traditional dancing. The food is suppose to be great Ethiopian fare also. My friend and I invited Ketema to bring his wife and two young boys with us. I look forward to meeting them. I'll let you know tomorrow how the dancing was!

I missed being able to spend the whole days with my boys. My heart and mind was with them all day, but the break from orphanage emotions was restful for me. I love being in the orphanage so much. It is just so emotional. I knew this was a good day to have our "play" day. My friend leaves Friday night and I wouldn’t have wanted to do this stuff without someone along with me for company.

Maggie at home is feeling better but MyHao and Solomon now are ill with fever and tummy upset. Good to know Maggie was dealing with a bug rather than something more serious but sad more of my kids are sick when I am not there. Bless Kayla our older daughter helping Mike care for the kids. She is really doing a great job! I guess she slept on the floor last night between Maggie, MyHao and Solomon. Bet she is tired.

Love from Addis,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From Addis

My friend and I are having a grand time here at the Addis Kidan guest house. Last night a whole crowd of people checked in and so we shared a room. It was slumber party time. Most of the those folks are checking out tonight. They have been working short term mission trip in a village down south of here.

My schedule has been visiting AHOPE and my baby Assefa first thing in the morning as it is a close walk from guest house. Then I have Ketema (driver) or one of his friend pick me up and take me to Layla/Wanna to see Gezehegn. Sometimes my friend will come to Layla with me. We may do errands like change money, grocery shop or stop for lunch. Yesterday we went to the Yilma for lunch. I was longing for a Diet Coke and the Yilma Hotel restaurant is the only place in Ethiopia I have ever seen "Coca Cola Light".

AHOPE is amazing for the care they give the kids. It has been so fun to watch them all begin to get to know all the children's personalities. Our Assefa is never put down. He is being held or loved on every minute by the caregivers. He has really matured the last two months and coos and laughs and giggles. He is also a very mellow baby. We'll see if he is still as mellow after coming home when not being held every second. Actually knowing my kids that baby is going to be held a LOT at home too! Gezehegn is so wonderful I am so in love with that little boy. He seems pretty in love with me too. I have never ever seen so many babies and toddlers at Wanna! Today was calmer there for my visit and it was a great time for me. I was able to get a good dose of cuddling Gezehegn and also help with the other toddlers. They are so hungry for affection. Any kind of touch or attention is like a special gift to them. I have asked God for an endless supply of hugs and prays to give out to these precious little ones. Can you guess how many toddlers you can hold on your lap at one time? I cry every day to leave Gezehegn. It isn’t so hard to leave assefa as he is always being carted around and every whimper or need immediately addressed. I love both our boys so much and feel so very blessed to be here with them.

Maggie has been ill at home and I have been worried about her but Mike has stuff all under control. I miss all the kids a lot but feel guilty not to be with her when she doesn't feel good.

Tomorrow will be a fun day, we have Ketema for whole day. Can't wait to report it to you tomorrow.

Seven years ago Dec. 9th Mike, Michael and I were in China adopting Anna. Our first adoption. Today is a special day for another reason too. Happy Birthday Cody! My first child , my baby boy. You changed my life and maybe saved my life because I wanted to be a better person for you my little baby...now all grown up to a wonderful man. Sooo, family who has his phone number...call my boy Cody and wish him Happy Birthday for me.

Blessings, Julee

Friday, December 5, 2008

Back in Addis

I am here in Ethiopia. I got in late last night after leaving home Tuesday afternoon. Good flights even though United made me check my carry on in D.C. because the plane was too full and heavy. That will show me not to wait till last minute to board.

I am staying at the Addis Kidan Guest House which is walking distance to AHOPE. It is nice here. There is internet access which is handy. Tonight I go back to the airport to pick up an email friend who is visiting her daughter this week. It will be so nice to have another mo to hang out with here.

First thing this morning I walked to AHOPE to see Assefa. He looks wonderful and has gained weight. He slept my whole visit so haven’t seen him awake yet but will tomorrow. For others with children waiting at little AHOPE, I saw and loved on your kids already! I will be there daily for two weeks but wanted you to know they all look great and I am taking lots of photos. I will try to write to each of you. There is a new little girl way, way cute there....bet she'll be referred soon if not already. She is about 18 mos old?

I then went to Wanna/Layla to see Gezehegn. They shaved his head! Just recently too. I knew that they certainly would have too as his hair was really long in recent photos of him. His hair is very straight for Ethiopian but that is normal for Down Syndrome people. Seeing him bald was a little shocking but of course he is still as cute as ever. Looks a little like a chemo boy though. It is very crowded at Wanna. LOTS of toddlers. I don't think Gezehegn recognised me...but he warmed back up to me after awhile. I saw a group of kids at Wanna that were there from KM that we had gotten to know in October. There were there for medicals. It was really fun to see the two teen girls we had met at KM who came into care while we were there. They are both LOVELY if anyone is looking for an older girl. Mike and I spent a lot of time with them in October.

I went to the Hilton to confirm my flights and change money....there was 70 people in Ethiopian airline office to confirm flights. "bag this" I said. I will go tomorrow with my friend who is coming in tonight.

Ketema is free to drive me my time here. He is Endala's (the driver we used in October) brother that usually drives for a Canadian agency. He is free for another month. What a great guy and I am thrilled to have him taxi me around my trip here. He knows all the places adoptive parents like to go. Gas has gone up and so has the price of taxis. It is cheaper to pay for a day than by the hour now.

Best news!! I found out this morning we have a court date for our Group D. We are January 21. Please keep praying for our boys and especially pray that they pass court the first time. They need to be home!

Love, Julee

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Missing my baby boys....

....and I get to go visit them again! I have the world's best husband. Thanks be to Mike and God for making the way for me to go visit our little lambs in Ethiopia again. It has been as hard as we imagined to be away from our little guys. It is always a loooong hard wait to bring home an adopted child. Meeting them face to face and then leaving them indefinitely is just plain agony. The good news on the adoption front is that Gezehegn has been moved to Wanna and into AAI's care. As long as Gezehegn's paperwork is in order then his case can be added without delay to Assefa's and both of them submitted to court soon. We are praying to be in "Group D" and our cases submitted to court in January. That means they may be home by early spring.....like in March. There are just too many variables to guess with any certainty when they will home for sure. Because we are concerned about Assefa's health and mostly because we MISS them so much and want one of us at least to go hold and love on them....I get to go visit for two weeks. I leave December 2 and get back home the 19th. God bless Kayla our adult daughter staying here to help with the kids when I am gone. There is no way this could happen without her. Please pray for Assefa's continued health improvement, we are mostly concerned about the lung issues. Praises that his CD4 count was excellent! Very, very impressive for an HIV+ infant. This is the most excellent kind of news. Please remember to pray for Gezehegn as he adjusts to a new environment at Wanna house. He was doing so well at the Gladney home and I just know he must be missing his former caregivers and friends and wondering just where he is now.

It may seem like a lot of money to spend just to go visit the babies and hang out in the orphanages. Mike and I know we would do the same for any one of our children....and these two guys are already our children even if not so on paper yet.

thankfully counting the days till I snuggle my new baby boys again

Bittersweet Birthday Photos

October 23rd was Jonathan's birthday. Here I am with tiny newborn Jonathan the day I met him three years ago. What a glorious day. Even looking at this photo three years later I can hardly believe what our great God did when He gave us Jonathan as a son. Here is Jonathan two years ago with his creme puff 1st Birthday Cake. What a grin he had! He was doing so well at one year old. He was almost all weaned off of oxygen support and close to finished wearing the helmet to reshape his skull. One of the cool things for moms about having a child with Down Syndrome is they stay a "baby" a bit longer. You can see here in the photo that he was being propped up a bit with towels in the highchair...he wasn't quite able to sit up perfectly yet.

Here is our boy last year on his 2nd birthday. He had become ill the previous January and was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. Jonathan and I had spent most of the previous ten months in and out of the hospital. He had gone through so much suffering by the time his birthday rolled around. We were waiting for his bone marrow transplant at this point. I wept with joy and worry this day. I hadn't realized that a big part of me doubted he would survive to make it to his 2nd birthday. It was a wonderful celebration. We went all out on presents for him. I searched and shopped online for every sort of wham-a-dine top rated musical toy ever made. Those toys sure came in handy the next six months. He loved those toys so much. This year the end of October we went to Goldendale again just like we did last year with Jonathan. Last year we were trying to make some good family memories before Jonnie and I left for Seattle for the long haul of the transplant. This year without Jonathan we went because it is our "happy place". We have such a great time up in the woods. It is nice to remember being there with Jonathan. This photo is taken the first time he pulled himself up to standing....one day after his 2nd birthday in Goldendale. We all were so excited and clapping and whooping for joy for his accomplishment. He was pretty thrilled too!

It doesn't seem like enough to just ever have two birthdays does it? I am thankful for the two we had with him though. Our new son Gezehegn's birthday was two days after Jonathan's. Next year when he turns four he will have his first ever birthday cake with us. Our adopted children who came home at all ages had their first ever birthday cake and party after they joined our family. I know that in most parts of the world birthdays aren't celebrated the way we do here in the U.S. I do imagine that the birth mother's of our adopted children that are still living remember those special days as they pass each year. I think of them on our kid's birthdays and say a prayer for them....hoping they know the gift we have been given with their child. Do they know how thankful we are?! I imagine that Jonathan's birth mother remembered his day this year with sadness and some regrets too. I hope somehow she knows how amazingly wonderful he was. How happy he made us and everyone who met him. He may have only had two birthdays, but those two years were full up to the brim with fun and joy. If lives are measured with the love created and shared in them...Jonathan's life was a full one.

Top Ten Predictions

I have always been too self absorbed or just too plain busy to be involved much in politics. I think maybe I am not alone in being a closet lackadaisical citizen? This year, these elections were different for me. I think it was different for many of us for all sorts of reasons. I read something on another blog that was a great comfort to me. It is from a website I have never visited before but I give credit to the author posted below. In a week where over half our nation is rejoicing and the rest of us grieving, it is a good reminder that God is in charge. Let us join together to commit to pray for our president-to-be and his family.

Top Ten Predictions No Matter Who Wins the Election

1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessing upon His people.
8. There will still be room at The Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.

*Courtesy of David Virtue at www.Virtueonline.org

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Top Of The Mountain: Part Three

First thing Thursday morning we drove out to visit Gezehegn again. Oh my how we love that boy already. He was a little more leery of Mike today but just melted into my arms like we had known each other always. I can not describe how wonderful it felt to cuddle him. Down Syndrome people especially DS children were invented by God to be the world’s best huggers. Since Jonathan died I have regularly burst into tears at the sight of any DS boys. It is just a vivid reminder that Jonnie isn’t here and won’t ever be that age doing those things I see other DS kids doing. I didn’t feel that way with Gezehegn. Holding him felt like I’d come home. I know holding Gezehegn wasn’t a substitute for holding Jonathan, but it sure did ease up the aching empty feeling in my arms since April when Jonathan died. Mike and I were still numb about losing Edelawit though it helped to see how God was giving us Gezehegn. We spent two hours playing with Gezehegn before we had to leave. We got to meet Belay, Gladney’s Ethiopian director. What a nice man he was. You can tell he really loves all the kids and works hard for the very best for them. He gave us his full support to adopt Gezehegn. We assured him we would be pursuing Gezehegn’s adoption as soon as possible after our current adoption.

We had our taxi driver take us back to the Ritmo guest house so we could meet with Gail and Merrily. They were wonderful and supportive about what happened with Edelawit. They planned to visit KM to speak with the Sisters there about Edelawit and her brother. Gail assured us they would close the current file on Edelawit and reopen a new file as a sib set after they processed the brother Yared. Gail felt Edeawit and Yared would be matched to another family before we would be able to adopt again after this adoption. The good news was that Gail and Merrily seemed to feel all was not lost for Edelawit and her brother being adopted at some future date…even if it wasn’t to us. I had envisioned yesterday Edelawit never being able to be adopted by anyone and wasting away from AIDS in some lonely place; never the hope of a family and long term medical care. I still cried some about the whole sad thing but managed to hold it together for the most part in front of Gail and Merrily. Gail wanted us to choose another child to add to Assefa and said it wouldn’t stall his adoption. We said we just wanted to get him home and not take any chances of complicating his adoption. We didn’t say anything about Gezehegn because we didn’t want to do anything to disrupt the timeline to bring our baby home.

Mike and I later visited our baby boy at AHOPE. Assefa is so sweet. I just kept praying hard there while at AHOPE and trying not to cry with worry. I could tell Assefa had a very poor suck-swallow-breath rhythm. He spit up a lot and I could see he had reflux. His lungs were really wheezy though I didn’t have a stethoscope. I had been trying to talk to caregivers all week about changing from his fast flow nipple and also having him upright for 20 minutes after feeding. I knew I wasn’t getting through to them. Then the AHOPE director came to us in the baby room and said the doctor was there. I took Assefa into medical office while the AHOPE pediatrician talked to staff person about adjusting his ARV meds (for HIV+) for his current weight. I pulled up Assefa’s shirt where you could see him retracting (working too hard) his chest as he breathed. The doctor listened to his chest and said “yes, his lungs are full”. The doctor pronounced he had reactive airway disease and put him on antibiotics. He also agreed he needed a slow flow nipple for bottle and should be kept upright after feeding. I was so relieved! Here I was so concerned about our baby and I felt helpless to convey it all to the staff. God had worked it all out for the doctor to come for the routine exam while Mike and I were there! First I thought maybe Gail had asked the doctor to come after I had shared with her Assefa was really wheezy. But no, it was the Lord God who timed the doctor’s monthly visit for that day and that time when we were there. I may feel helpless and truly be helpless on my own but my Father works everything out! I don’t want to ever forget I can do no good things on my own, but only with my Father’s help will anything be accomplished.

My trip to Ethiopia in 2005 to adopt Tigist and Meseret from Layla and Berhanu from KM , we stayed at the Yilma Hotel. Hope and Michael came with me that trip and lodging for the six of us was cheaper at the Yilma than staying at the Ritmo guest house. The Yilma was nice that trip though we didn’t meet up with other adoptive families which can be fun. I had a built in translator with Hope around so we traveled all over the city in cabs and buses. The nicest thing about the Yilma was the restaurant downstairs. Great food and great prices. We all loved breakfast there and that is where I fell in love with steel cut oats for breakfast (they make it with sweetened condensed milk and it is scrumptious) Anyway, I wanted to take Mike there to eat as he’d never been before. We had the restaurant to ourselves and he had a nice juicy steak and I had the Yilma “fir fir” I remembered so fondly from 2005. The best part of dinner was they had Diet Coke there! We both miss that when we travel outside America. Of course only the U.S. puts the word “die” in our drinks (“Die”t Coke). In Ethiopia like many places in the world it’s called Coca Cola Light. Same thing and boy was it good after not tasting it for 10 days.

We were sitting in the Yilma restaurant eating a nice meal and drinking lukewarm diet coke and chasing it with Ethiopian beer. We felt sad about Edelawit, happy about seeing Assefa’s doctor. We felt happy about God leading us to Gezehegn, sad that it would take so long to get him home. We figured it could take three months to get Assefa home and then another 6-9 mos at least to adopt Gezehegn. Then maybe …maybe, maybe we’d be able to adopt Edelawit and her brother Yared. As we were sitting there trying to do justice to our meal, Gail called. Mike was talking to her and then he handed the cell phone to me. Guess what!? Gail had been at a U.S. embassy meeting that afternoon. One of the few other agencies’ staff she knows happens to be Gladney’s. Ryan saw her and approached her and told her about Gezehegn. I had email Ryan when Edelawit’s case blew all to pieces, so he knew about that. Gail and Ryan and Belay talked and decided that Gladney would release Gezehegn to AAI and he could be added to Assefa’s case to be adopted at the same time! NEVER did we dream God would work that one out! I remember thinking the last few days…”God this one is hard, I KNOW You are ALWAYS good. Nothing is impossible for YOU. You can work this out.” And He did! Mike and I both were crying with surprise and joy after Gail’s phone call. We just sat there at the Yilma, floating up to the ceiling with awe and wonder and GRATEFULNESS that our loving Father was working all these things out better than we could have ever imagined.

Friday morning we visited Gezehegn one last time and I wept when we left. Sad to be leaving him for the several more months before he could come home, but thrilled and still amazed his case would be added to Assefa’s. We arranged with Gail and Ryan for Gezehegn to be moved in the next few days into AAI's care, either Wanna or Opportunity House. We stopped at Opportunity House (AAI's special needs home)to tell director Tigist that our new guy Gezehegn may be coming there. We visited Layla to pick up mail to bring home to the states and met up with volunteer Ivy escorting a medical group we'd met on the flight from DC to Addis. They said "so, you are the legendary Fesers?". Too funny. I was sort of secretly pleased they looked more exhausted than we did after two weeks in Ethiopia. We packed up our bags and then spent our last few hours in Addis holding and loving on Assefa at AHOPE before heading for airport and home.

Leaving that night Mike and I knew God had taken us to the top of the mountain. It's a wonderful and exhilarating place up high like that. Basking in His Grace and Glory and Good Gifts. It was made all that much higher and breathtaking because of our wanderings in the deep valley of the shadow of death this past year. Rosh Hashana we'd celebrated the creation of the world on this planet's birthday as we met our new tiny baby boy Assefa and our precious little girl Edelawit. We remembered it was six months since Jonathan breathed his last breath as we first laid eyes on our new son Gezehegn. We lost Edelawit (for now) and found out Gezehegn could come home sooner with Assefa. That long hard mule ride and hike up the mountain in Lalibela was a lesson for us. There were times I thought I would surely die from lack of oxegen scaling that mountain. There have surely been times I have thought (and wished!) I would die in my grief for Jonathan. But oh how the Lord's light and glory can consume and burn off all that fear and suffering. I wouldn't change a thing. Not a single thing. After all, who am I to think I could have chosen a way any better? His reality far exceeds my wildest dreams. I trust HIM and how He chooses because He is so brilliant and worthy of anything my unworthy self could offer up to Him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Top Of The Mountain : Part Two

Wednesday before we went out to the Gladney homes we’d made a quick visit to KM. We had been told Edelawit’s birth father would show up that morning but he wasn’t there so we just hung out with our darling little girl for awhile in her classroom. The other kids are all twice her size. She sits in the front near the teacher and seems to love the whole thing. She watches intently as the class is drilled on their letters (English). As all the children sing the Kindergarten songs Edelawit lays her head down on the desk.. She just watches but never speaks. We gave her a photo of us and a photo of her and she clutches those as she shyly glances at us sitting on the bench at the side of the room. At times she seems happy to see us and at times she is petrified of us. She is so precious.

As we drove out of the city to the east edge of Addis I commented to Mike how very much Ethiopia is a land of extreme contrasts. There’s the lushness of beautiful gardens next to open sewers. Beautiful homes with landscaped acres are enclosed with high walls topped with barbed wire. Absolutely gorgeous people (the most beautiful examples of physical perfection in human beings) walking past maimed and crippled beggars on the street.

After meeting Gezehegn on Wednesday morning we visited AHOPE to spend time with Assefa before heading back to KM. We’d arranged to be back to KM at 4:00 that afternoon to meet Edelawit’s birth father...hopefully. We’d found out the day before that he was alive, and to us this was good news. Often times the child report you get on children you’re adopting is inaccurate. The orphanage and agency goes on information given by those friends or relatives who bring the child to orphanage. Edelawit’s records said both parents were dead and she had no siblings. We knew how priceless it would be for her that we could meet her birth father and get photos and exchange information. Having a living birth parent is a good thing always!! We assumed that her file could be easily changed to reflect a living father who was relinquishing her due to his health issues.

At KM we saw no one… so we visited the baby rooms where I managed to have a run in with a group of Europeans who were “baby shopping”. Mind you I have made promises to Mike not to engage anymore in arguments with guys in uniforms carrying machine guns…but I’ve made no promises about being nice too prejudiced ignorant baby shoppers looking for “bright” (fair skinned) babies.

We were loving on Edelawit and the other kidlets in the 3-6 year old group when we sensed a stirring of trouble in the air. I think God mut have placed a cloud of His mercy around us. For the most part we were sailing though the battles raging around us without understanding what was happening. All of a sudden we found ourselves amidst of quite the drama. . Edelawit’s birth father never showed up that day. At one point a Sister (nun) said “her brother is here”. I said “you mean her father’s brother?” No, it was Edelawit;s brother. This was the very first real hint we had that things may not work out with Edelawit and us. There is a law (a good and righteous one) in Ethiopian courts now that a child must be adopted with bio siblings. We met Edelawit’s brother, a very nice boy age 11 yr named Yared. Then we were introduced to aunts, uncles and cousins. There were those in charge pressuring us to let it be….not ask questions…The aunts and uncles were being questioned. How could this be? A bio brother? They said they must be lying to get him adopted too? (but of course it was her brother, she looks exactly like him!) The aunts and uncles were threatened and cross-examined because they had lied in affidavits to court saying Edelawit’s parents were dead and no living siblings. Oh how we wished we spoke Amharic then! Edelawit was crying and brother Yared looked so scared. It was heartbreaking. There is a lot I could say but we have chosen to keep this blog public and I must be wise with my words. We did find out that Yared her brother visits her at KM every week. Her birth father used to visit once a month. There is total of nine siblings, but supposedly only Yared is “full blood sibling” and needing to be adopted with Edelawit. Finally, it all was sinking in…all of Edelawit’s paperwork had been falsified. There now was crowd of people who knew…there was no way AAI our agency could submit her file to court let alone the U.S. embassy for her visa to U.S. It was sinking in that there were serious road blocks to us adopting Edelawit! Our parting words as we left KM were “We can not be a party to this kind of deceit. God would not honor this” and “You know us! We will do the right thing. We will be back for Edelawit and her brother as soon as we are allowed”. The reply to that was that her file could not be resubmitted to court with a different story as that would say to court that the first file was all lies. I wept in the taxi all the way back to the Ritmo quest house. Mike and I were reeling. Later that evening we finally reached Gail our AAI in country agency staff and told her the situation. We arranged to meet with her and Merrily (agency director who happened to be there in Addis) the next morning. Mike and I knew we would not be soon if ever bringing home the little girl we had come to love as our daughter.

Just like we’d talked about that morning in the taxi…Ethiopia a land of extreme contrasts…our day had been one of extreme contrasts….the soaring joy and thankfulness of meeting Gezehegn and knowing he was to be ours….and the crushing grief of losing Edelawit and the panicked worry of what would happen to her?! One thing we knew as He had taught us time and time again. He (Yahweh) is always good. He knew all this long before we ever imagined it happening. Though we were heart broken about what looked to be us losing Edelawit , we rejoiced in His goodness at bringing this whole situation to light. We knew we could trust Edelawit to Yahweh’s care. We still were absorbing His great goodness and grace in leading us to Gezehegn. I never went to sleep this night. It was a night of tears and pleading, praising and worship. He gave Mike and I perfect peace and joy in HIM. Nothing else mattered too much.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Top Of The Mountain: Part One

The recurring theme that continued to play out on our trip to Ethiopia was God taking us to the top of the mountain. Literally we did climb a mountain in Lalibela. That mountain top was simply a physical illustration of the heights we soared as we basked in our Father’s great love and grace to us on our adventure in Ethiopia. You may have wondered just when I was going to post travel stories? I do want to share more travel details but not in this post. Since we arrived home six days ago I have been wrestling with just how to share what happened in Ethiopia. I don’t feel like I can do the story justice but can’t wait any longer to tell you the great things the Lord has done for us.

We couldn’t wait to meet our new children once there in Addis. We were away from them the few days we spent in Lalibela, but other than that we visited each of them daily. Assefa at AHOPE, Edelawit at KM (Kidane Mehret) and also visiting other orphanages as time allowed. Assefa is a tiny thing still. We found ourselves spending hours just watching him sleep. When awake we delighted to catch his baby smiles and carry on long conversations with our own silliness and his soft cooing. As the only little baby at AHOPE he is adored and doted on by the staff. I was happy they were so willing to share him with his new mom and dad!

Across town we’d go visit Edelawit. We were surprised by her loveliness. Her photos of course had been darling, but in person we found her beautiful, really stunning. She is very shy and timid though. She seems to be such a frightened little girl. Our hearts just broke for her. As we found out more about how sick she had been and how far she still as to go in her recovery, it just made us want to desperately get her home as soon as possible. She is not 2-3 years as we thought but rather 4-5 years old. She doesn’t really speak, walks haltingly, and can’t climb stairs by herself. But a year ago when she came to KM they thought she would die. She spent months just staring out at the world with blank eyes. She has come a long way and we can thank the care at KM for that. Edelawit seemed close to a few special caregivers. Mostly she was scared to death of us, but would at times feel comfortable enough to play and sit by us, even on our laps once in awhile. Then something would spook her and she would become hysterical, screaming inconsolably so hard she vomited. Poor, poor little girl!

Among the orphanages we had been visiting were the children’s home run by Gladney adoption agency. Right before we left for Ethiopia we found out about a little Down Syndrome toddler named Gezehegn in their care. We hooked up with their in country staff on Wednesday. We were very impressed with Ryan and later when we met Belay. Their children’s home are far from the center of Addis to the farthest east side of the city. It was a long drive (about an hour) but worth it. It was so nice to be away from the dust and smog. The homes are beautiful with grass in the yards and stop signs in the streets (first I’ve ever seen in Ethiopia). Ryan gave a full blown tour and we met dozens of gorgeous babies including some with special needs I will be advocating for. I can not begin to describe what it was like when we finally met Gezehegn. We fell instantly head over heals and over the moon in love. I had known somehow when we first heard about him that he would be our son someday. Mike knew it the second he laid eyes on him and Gezehegn looked up at Mike and said “hi”. Ryan asked us before he had to leave if we wanted him. “YES!!” We knew and Gladney knew we would have to wait until we got Assefa and Edelawit home to adopt Gezehegn. We were floored and thrilled to pieces they were willing to wait for us and allow us to pursue this cutie! We made plans to visit him every day of our remaining time in Ethiopia.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back in Addis with the kids!

Lalibela was AWESOME!! We saw the top of the world. No regrets about making the trip. I will never forget that place. I did manage to get a bit of altitude sickness so you can pray for strength for me. I hear it lasts just a few days and I just need to rest and drink a lot of water.

Phone and internet access have been extremely challenging. We are unable to hook our laptop up anywhere so can’t send photos. Never know when or if we can get access so I am writing a detailed travel journal to share once home.

We got back from Lalibela yesterday afternoon (Monday) and hired a driver straight away to take us to little AHOPE to see baby Assefa again. All the children there are lovely! I want the waiting parents to know that Mike and I are taking our duties very seriously meet your waiting children. I lost my notebook with names of kids to see but the staff is very helpful when I ask about any names I may have forgotten. It is an honor to meet your children, give them a love and pray for them. Today we hired a driver for whole day and will be visiting KM, Layla/Wanna and Little AHOPE again. As time allows we will be at Opportunity and big AHOPE. The only agenda we have our remaining 4 days is seeing kids...yours and ours!

It is so wonderful to have the opportunity to meet and spend time with baby Assefa when he is still so small. He is a beautiful baby and very much loved at AHOPE. I can tell it will cause much grief to a few wonderful caregivers when he leaves after his adoption. But they are ever so gracious to us and are happy he has a family. There is a new little girl at little AHOPE that I am sure will have a new family soon. She has fallen in love with Mike and him with her. She is the sparkliest little girl we have ever met!

I am so excited to see Edelawit today at KM. She is so timid at times but also smiles a smile that lights up the room. Her little friends (and children-to-be of my email friends) crowd around us for loves and goldfish crackers. Having a camera that you can show them their photos after you take it is a nifty invention. We found out Edelawit has a living father and we may be able to meet with him. Edelawit was seriously ill when she arrived at KM over a year ago. Some doubted she would survive. I met a volunteer that spent a lot of time with her her first year here. It is heartbreaking to hear how sick and empty she was. But she has come alive this last year and walks and talks and plays with other kids now. She is at least fours years old but maybe weighs 20 lbs and is size 2, but she was wearing size 12 months pants when I met her. We owe the nuns and staff at KM much for bringing her this far. We are so grateful for both her and Assefa. It is mind boggling always that the Lord loves us enough to bless us again with precious children. We just pray they are home soon!**

**heard that AAI has 50 cases for court once as it opens this week. 10 cases a week...we may have our court case for the kids in November. Travel then most likely after the first of year...but we can pray for miracle right? Sooner is always better

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Message From Ethiopia!

This is Julee’s sister, Katie, surrogate blogging. Internet and phone access have been tricky, but Julee got a quick email to us yesterday with news that they are safe and sound in Ethiopia. Best of all she writes, “Met the kids today. They are wonderful!!! Way cuter than ever imagined.” It chokes me up to think of Assefa and Edelawit in Mommy and Daddy’s arms. God is soooooo good!!!

Thanks for your prayers for the whole family. Kayla says things are going well on the home front- very peaceful!

Mike and Julee should be visiting Lalibella now. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Lalibella was the capitol city during the middle ages when Ethiopians sought shelter in the central highlands, living for almost a thousand years in isolation. King Lalibella directed the building/carving of many churches hewn out of the stone ground. Priests and pilgrims still worship in these amazing structures, though Lalibella is now an isolated village rather than a thriving metropolis.

Hoping for more news (maybe a personal blog entry?) on Monday.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Newest Feser Blessings-Adoption Part Two

When Mike got home from work on June 9th we talked about my day. He wasn’t surprised at all when I told him I was ready to adopt again. Though I was still a total basket case with grief over Jonathan we decided to move forward. We know adoptions can take so long and we didn’t expect our child to be home till next spring. I thought I would be less a basket case by then and would be glad we’d started when we did. Mike and I both felt strongly that after all the kids and us have been through that last few years with Jonathan’s illness and death we were ready for “easy”. It seemed that we should do the easiest kind of adoption which is younger than our youngest at home. We have never done the birth order adoption rule, but it is the right thing for our family right now. We also wanted to adopt the “easiest” special need which to us would be HIV+.

While we were talking Mike and I came to the same conclusion at about the same time…we should just go ahead and adopt Edelawit. We have known Edelawit’s face for a long time. Family friends here in town were adopting two girls from Ethiopia, one a little girl named Eden and also baby girl Imani. My friend had given me a photo of Eden long ago and it’s been on our frig all these months. In the photo Eden is sitting on a nun’s lap next to a friend whose name is Edelawit. There is something about keeping photos on the frig of orphans needing homes. Those faces become a part of your heart and you can’t get them out. So….I emailed our agency AAI to see if Edelawit age 2-3 at Kidane Mehret was still available and she was!

We really wanted a baby boy too. We didn’t want our very last baby to be one that died. The Lord impressed on me that it was fine and dandy to ask for my heart’s desire. I struggle with this you know…I feel that I don’t deserve all the blessings He heaps on me, Of course I really don’t deserve them, but He wants me to ask Him for what I want anyway. That is just the kind of Father He is. So I told Him that in my humble opinion the very most perfect little boy would be Down Syndrome and HIV+. “Pleeease God…. but You always chose best so we’ll go with what You say”

Our updated home study approved us for five children ages 0-16 years old and any special needs specifically addressing HIV+. (might as well cover all our bases) There were no little HIV+ baby boys waiting in care to be referred. I kept praying and trusting God would bring the child (or children, remember I was given two names) in time to be added to our case with Edelawit. The agency director said she thought there just wasn’t much of a chance an HIV baby would come into care and be able to be referred with Edelawit. We knew we wouldn’t wait and stall Edelawit’s adoption. That would not be fair to her. As the weeks passed we were compiling our dossier and waiting to hear news of a baby. I kept looking at other kids, older kids. Thinking that if there wasn’t a chance we could adopt a baby then we should just go ahead and get another older child or two. I felt the Lord telling me (and Mike!) to wait till August 4th. This is a very important day for our family and a story for another day. On August 4th I was asking Mike and our agency about adding two older HIV kids…..and just then I got an email saying a tiny baby boy had been brought into care and he was HIV+. If we wanted him he was ours! His paperwork wouldn’t be ready for a month but the timing would work out. Okay, so he wasn't HIV+ and Down Syndrome but I thought he was perfect anyway. Smile. Our baby is at AHOPE. His Ethiopian name is “Assefa” which means “God as multiplied our family”. Yes, He sure has!

For their precious children’s privacy Ethiopia does not allow photos of referred children until after adoption is finalized in court. Here is a photo of our symbol of them though. I bought these at Target the day after we started this adoption. I thought we’d be adopting three kids and wanted three little lambs…but they only had two left. **Mike says it is because we are only adopting two. Only two right now though AAI. Our agency director said that it would be pushing it to adopt three unrelated children t one time with our large family etc…Maybe we will meet and fall in love with someone (#3 lamb?) when we are there visiting. It is very dangerous to visit those orphanages and meet the 100s of beautiful children pinning away for a mommy and daddy. These two lambs sit on the kitchen window still to remind me to pray for our two newest little lambs waiting for us in Ethiopia.

Here is a photo of Mike and I on the day our dossier went to Ethiopia. We have our children’s referrals and our paperwork is all in Addis and moving through the system. Now we wait to hear about being assigned a “Group” and getting a court date.


ready to be in Africa

Monday, September 29, 2008

Newest Feser Blessings-Adoption Part One

Our family always knew we would adopt again. In fact we had thought to start a new adoption in early 2007 but we put those plans on hold when Jonathan was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. Through his illness we kept up to date of happenings in the adoption world. Mike and I planned to adopt as soon as Jonathan was stable and well. We were always aware that he could die; but I just don’t think one can ever really prepare themselves for that. I thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t. When he died adopting another child was the very last thing on my mind. All I wanted was Jonathan.

For the first time ever…Mike himself broached the subject of adoption to me. He told me the day after Jonnie died that in a few months we would be getting our paperwork updated to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia. This happened in the long car ride home from Seattle on our way to funeral home with Jonathan in the back seat. I told Mike I wasn’t ready to think about adoption and wouldn’t be for a long time, maybe never be able to think about it again. * Mike bringing up the adoption to me was a total shock. It is always me…seeing a child’s photo, or hearing of a child needing home….presenting their case to Mike….begging to bring them home…. And hardest for me of all…..learning to trust that God speaks to Mike when a child is the right one for our family.

On June 9th two months after Jonathan died I realized something. I realized that no matter how much I missed Jonathan and wanted him back; I still loved the other kids just as much as always. This helped me to understand that I could love new children just as much as the children we have now. And I could love new children even though I would grieve forever for Jonathan. That is the day we started our new adoption. If you see the “ticker” on the top of my blog posts…that is the date we count as the beginning of this adoption. June 9th I spent all day in the Word. I looked up every single passage in the Bible that mentions heaven. Next to each verse I wrote the date and the name “Neveah” (Heaven spelled backwards) I knew God was going to give us a daughter and I wanted “heaven” to be a part of her name. Her name would be a testament to our real home and that which we long for….finally one day being with Jesus and with Jonathan again too. God also gave me two other very special names that were a message to Mike and I. One name was “Job” which means “surviving or triumphing over affliction” and the other was “Judah” which means “Praise (God)”. These names were again reinforcing God’s message to praise Him in all things. (Praise Him in Affliction)This is such a big thing in my relationship with God. Not only must I obey Him by praising Him for all things, but He shows ALWAYS that His ways are best and worthy of all our praise! It is all about glorifying Him. Stuff happens I don’t like and would change if I could. I HATE seeing any child suffer, but especially hate seeing my own suffer. We praise Him because we KNOW He is worthy and His plans are perfect. We praise Him not just because He says too but because it is what we were made for. We praise Him because no matter how painful and awful life can be …there is no better place that right beside HIM praising His name and being in His will.

It is amazing how smoothly and quickly this adoption has gone so far. At least the paperwork has seemed easier this time. The “wait” has been MUCH easier than I ever remember it being. That might have something to do with the fact that we are meeting our new kids in a few days! Ask me how easy the “wait” is after we have to leave them at the orphanages in Ethiopia and come back here to wait for court in Ethiopia and the adoption travel dates.

More on the little munchkins and newest Fesers-to-be in next post.

dreaming of holding wee little ones again
and drinking deep of sweet baby smell

Mike & Julee's Big Adventure

Mike and I are finally taking a honeymoon! We got married eighteen years ago so it’s about time. We have done amazing trips together to China and South Africa for adoptions. We took children with us those trips and of course were getting new children to take home. Really cool times but not so great “couple” time. After the South African adoption of Maggie and Josiah we had too many “littles” at home for both of us to go on adoption trips. We have taken turns since then traveling to bring home new children from foreign lands. This is the first time we have taken a vacation or trip just the two if us. What brought this about you say….?

Yes, we are adopting again. Wanting to meet our new children had a big part (BIGGEST part) in planning a trip to beautiful Ethiopia. We also decided we wanted to be able to experience an enjoy Ethiopia as a couple. Our plans include a trip to Lalibela and some other cool tourist kind of stuff. Of course we will also be visiting orphanages every chance we get!

Our grown daughter Kayla is coming to be here at home with the eleven youngest children. Bless Kayla! Without her we couldn’t ever even dream of this kind of adventure. She knows the children’s needs well as she cared for them so much when I was away from home with Jonathan in the hospitals. We’ve all missed Kayla so much since she moved to Oregon. This trip has precipitated her deciding to move back to our town. Yah! Yasab is helping me finish fixing up her new room to make her feel extra welcome. I’m so happy to have one of my “big” kids and best friends around again.

We fly tomorrow afternoon to Seattle to spend the night. Early the next morning we fly out at the crack of dawn to Ethiopia via WA DC and Rome…till we land in Addis Thursday evening. Please pray for us and whatever God lays before us on our trip. May we be open and watchful to His plans for our time there. Please also pray for the kids here at home and Kayla as she lovingly cares for them. We are asking God to keep them healthy when we are gone, especially Maggie.

We’ll be away from Sept 30th-Oct 11th. We are taking the laptop and plan to update the blog and check email…as often as we can get internet access. I am so overwhelmed this morning with gratitude to the Lord and my husband for the chance to take this trip. Thank you Jesus and Mike! I love this photo of Kayla with some of the kids. It was taken this past May when she visited home.

all packed and ready for adventure
pretty much recovered from anti-malaria meds induced psychosis

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Busy Little Boy

This morning was quiet. Yasab my lone homeschool student was working on the computer downstairs. It was just Solomon and I hanging out. You'd think I could keep one small four year old out of trouble huh? So.....I was typing on the laptop in my room and Solomon was watching "Wonder Pets" in the living room. I could hear Solomon happily singing and making play fighting noises with his toy solders. Pretty soon I realized I didn't hear anything but the "Wonder Pets" singing. Mmmm. This is what I saw as I came around the corner of the dining room. What I didn't see at first was the half a dozen of Yasab's prized guppies lifeless in puddles on the floor. Except for the one that wound up under my shoe, they all survived. Can't believe they looked so dead out of water and how they perked up once I managed to pick them up and tossed them back into the aquarium. Okay, next is trip news!

Money Well Spent

I want to share a series of favorite things. Don't we all fret over money? I hate wasting money but continue to do so. One way I waste money is when I don't plan ahead. Example: not starting dinner in time wastes money because usually cheap food takes more preparation. God tells us to be good stewards of that when He gives us. All things come from Him and our money is all His of course too. There are some things I have decided are worth every penny we spend on them. I have some favorite "money well spent" things. Here's one.

After Jonathan died Mike and I made some changes. A lot of it was just striving to do anything that might possibly make us feel even a little bit better. Some of the changes were because we needed to get back to a normalcy after living so long frantically fighting for the life of a child. We redecorated our bedroom and did other projects around the house. It seems like when you make your environment prettier you feel prettier inside too. One day I was looking around at all the beautiful flowers and plant arrangements from Jonathan's funeral. I know why people give flowers when there is a death! Flowers are breathtaking in their perfection. How can we look close at them and not marvel? I decided that from that day forward I would always have fresh flowers by my bedside. For years I felt buying cut flowers was a waste of money. This summer roses from the garden have graced my nightstand. I do plan to buy cut flowers again this fall as I did last spring. As I lay in bed at night trying to fall asleep the heavenly aroma of a couple perfect rosebuds, a cluster of carnations, or one spectacular lily, reminds me of all things lovely. Budgeting the few dollars once a week for my bedside flowers is my first "money well spent" favorite things.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blue Jeans & Malaria Med Nightmare

Mike and I are planning a very special trip* and started Malaria meds three weeks ago. The medicine is called Mefloquine and you are suppose to take one tablet once a week before leaving and once weekly thereafter until four weeks after you are leaving area of exposure (malaria danger zone). We haven’t ever had to take it for a trip before but this trip we felt it wise to do the meds. Our doctor and pharmacists explained all the side effects possible…but it just sounded like “blah, blah, blah” to me. I figured we’d for sure get a little tummy upset but couldn’t imagine anything worse happening. You know those warning labels? They just have to say all the worst things that could happen…not the average side effects (I thought). I spent the first few days after taking the first pill with my head in a toilet getting sick. I had horrible migraines too and just thought it was bad migraine sick…not the malaria pill. Then the second week still crazy sick with migraine, dizzy, feeling awful. I even took a pregnancy test as I was very “late” and so nauseated. Nope, not pregnant. Then one morning I had a hot flash. Heard all about those hot flashes, but never had one before. I cried. I was “late” and having hot flashes. I really cried hard. “Great!” I thought. It’s menopause. Ugh. I am “only” 49 years old. But I don’t want to be in menopause yet! The thing about the hot flashes I was having is they came every five or ten minutes for hours on end and were AWFUL. I couldn’t figure out how women survived them?! Then I started hearing things…like voices or weird sounds. I even saw things that weren’t there. Fun. I was more mental (crazy uptight and sensitive) with poor Mike and the kids. My anxiety level shot through the roof. I really thought I was going crazy. It was only when I got a rash, some hives, and itching all over my skin; did I consider digging out the paper from the pharmacy listing the Malaria drug side effects. There it all was listed: Nausea, dizziness, headache, numb hands and feet, night sweats, hallucinations, aggression, anxiety. You may be wondering why it took me so long to realize what was happening to me. I was just so ill and fuzzy in my thinking that I wasn’t connecting the dots. And I also wasn’t being totally honest with Mike about all my side effects. When I heard the voices that didn’t belong to anyone calling me from the other room, or saw the kangaroo wearing a very snappy jacket sitting at the kitchen table…I just thought it was a very extreme atypical migraine brain trip.
Okay, so I can’t take the anti-malaria meds. Thankfully Mike is doing okay on the Mefloquine. My side effect symptoms are fading a little every day and the drug should be mostly out of my system in about ten days. Since I still plan to have the adventure of a lifetime and do not want Malaria I am taking other precautions. I am treating all my trip clothes with Permethrin to reply mosquitoes. I also added long sleeved shirts and long pants to luggage and pulled the skirts and T shirts. We packed some nice strong DEET too!
Yesterday I bought a pair of jeans. I needed them for the trip. I only had one other pair of long pants, the khakis I take camping. The last time I bought a pair of jeans for myself was 11 years ago. Yes, really. I’ve worn just dresses and skirts for years. Since Jonathan died I have changed. I don’t wear only skirts or dresses anymore. Finding a pair of jeans was mind blowing. So, I went to JC Pennys. I steered clear of the Junior section and went to “women’s casual wear”. There was 100s of different kinds of blue jeans. Oh my. I grabbed up twelve different pairs of size 12 jeans to try on in the dressing room. In a few minutes I put those all back and grabbed 4 more pairs in size 10 this time. (that was at least cool to discover!) A few minutes later I paid $40 for a soft as butter pair of Levis and walked out the door. The whole shopping trip was 30 minutes. I had forgotten how comfortable a good ole pair of Levis are.

Psst: don’t tell my kids jeans costing over $20 are allowed.

* post about our “trip” and adoption news next!


Monday, September 15, 2008

Solomon the Birthday Boy

Solomon's big day was Saturday. Pleasing a four year old boy is easy as long as the gifts have wheels. He won a cake at the at the school carnival and believed it was meant to be his birthday cake...so it was. "Cars" like in "Lightening McQueen" will always be the favorite I think, but Solomon was pretty pleased with the "Speed Racer" car found at Fred Meyer's ( $3.50 after 50% off last marked clearance price) I believe "Speed Racer" comes out on DVD tomorrow? Oh my, I imagine after viewing that there will be a brand new little boy's mania focus around our house.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Year & Sweet 16

Happy Birthday Tigist and Happy New Year Ethiopia! 9/11 means something different to most of us in the U.S., but our Ethiopian children remember it as the best day of the year. Thursday Tigist turned 16 years old and Ethiopia started the year 2001. (The Ethiopian calendar is made up of 12 months, each lasting 30 days, and then an extra month is tagged on lasting just 5 days. Ethiopia is 7.5 years behind the Gregorian calendar ) I did poorly creating an Ethiopian New Years celebration for our family this year, though we are feasting on Injera (from freezer) and Wat this weekend. We did have a very nice birthday celebration for Tigist. She is really growing up to be such a lovely and kind girl. Tigist is a quiet person, calm and level headed. I rarely see her shocked or amazed. I will always remember the look on her face when she opened her present and saw an IPOD! She wanted an MP3 player but thought maybe she might get a much cheaper version. Really what she got was my replaced IPOD nano as I upgraded to standard IPOD last month. Tigist couldn't be more pleased. She is having Ethio girl friends over this weekend for movies and feasting.
It's Happy Sabbath today for us (Saturday) and a day to make another cake for a birthday boy. I'll share his happy face tomorrow.

New Shoes & Prayer Needs

Well I’m not keeping up with this new blog thing. I plan to work on that habit and post more often. The children are all adjusting well to starting public school. Even my three 1st graders seem to be surviving. I think starting 1st grade is so hard for most kids. It’s a long day for little bodies. They do come home exhausted. I thought we’d escape for awhile the “back-to-school” clothes shopping expense. But all the grade school kiddos have something called “P.E.” that requires tennis shoes …..I was shocked to discover the tennis shoes that hadn’t been on kid’s feet since we switched to sandal weather last spring, are all too small this fall! Seven spanking new pairs of shoes later and I sadly realized summer was over. Summer means sandals. Sandals mean I don’t have to find eight pairs of socks every morning for little feet. Here is proud Berhanu and Josiah off to 1st grade with their brand new sparkling white tennis. Those shoes glow they are so pristine and new…for one day anyway.

Maggie is our other 1st grader. She loves going to school and has been very sad to be kept home the last two days. She is having problems again with her feeding. Maggie is G-tube fed and usually on a pump overnight with food/formula and bolus (gravity fed a tubes of food/formula) fed during the day. At times she has so much reflux and retching that she can barely keep anything down. She is on meds for reflux. This is a common problem with people like Maggie who don’t eat by mouth. Our bodies are not made to function by being fed through a tube in our stomach. We’ve had to keep her home from school to try to get some calories in her. She’s starving and weighs a little less than she did a year ago. I have spent hours on the phone with specialists and made the earliest appointment available to see her doctors at Children’s Hospital in Seattle……in December. (She is on waiting list in case of an earlier opening) We have had some success feeding her “real” food blenderized in our Vitamix and feeding her tiny amounts every 20 minutes. That is what I’ve been doing the last 48 hours. She looks better, eyes are brighter and she seems more comfortable. By “real food” I mean regular healthy food made into a liquid rather than the specially made canned formulas created to sustain life of those people not able to eat by mouth. Here is Maggie in her temporary wheelchair and her new shoes which are her braces called AFOs. Maggie’s AFOS cost $1343.52 which is quite a bit more than it costs to buy shoes for the entire rest of he family. At least our portion the co-pay was only $309.60 after insurance paid their part. Update on wheelchair saga…It is now 18 mos since we started trying to get her new chair. She grew out of her old one last spring and had nothing. But God answered our prayers and provided this one for the time being. This chair was left out in a field for four years to rust and the padding rot off. Someone brought it to the Dept.of Disabilities in case it could be donated to needy person. Unbelievably Mike was able to fix it to work for Maggie…for now. She really needs her new wheelchair! I call every week on Monday to cry to the wheelchair place responsible for getting the paperwork maze completed to okay her new chair. This is the company that will build it once our two insurances have agreed on things. This week I called to harangue the “wheelchair guy” only to find out he doesn’t work there anymore. For some reason I wasn’t surprised. Ugh. What to do?! Please pray. I feel I might become a terrorist over this. Mostly please pray that we can stabilize Maggie’s feeding issues very soon and she can start gaining weight.

Solomon started preschool today. His morning was total and complete boundless joy. The child never stops moving. He doesn’t ever walk, he runs or skips or hops. Sometimes I feel impatient trying to hold the hand of a bouncing Tigger boy Solomon across the parking lot. Then I think how silly of me Lord. We never thought this child would walk; let alone run, jump and bounce! What a miracle he is. They all are. Thank You God for bringing Solomon to our family and for healing Solomon’s spine. We prayed for his life to be saved, and really barely asked for divine healing of his spine. May we never forget what You can do and Your extravagant love and delight in giving good gifts.

New Years, Birthday Happenings, and Travel Plans postings to come soon. Thank you very much for praying for Maggie!


Saturday, August 30, 2008

confessions of a die hard homeschooler

A week ago we made a life altering decision. Our camping trip to Jubilee Lake was cut short due to heavy rain storms up in the mountains. We were all sad (and wet) at our washed up vacation. It turned out for the good as we wound up having a very busy weekend at home. Friday morning I nervously approached Mike to share with him my fears about homeschooling the kids this year.

1)I still believe with every fiber of my being that home educating our children is the very best and most ideal choice for them.
2)The last few years have been rough on a lot of things with Jonathan’s illness and death. I was away from home in hospitals with Jonathan so very much and that alone affected the homeschooling.
3)I had thought we would be doing a lot of catching up with school stuff this summer. But we haven’t. Mostly it has been catching up with relationship stuff. My “littles” have needed a lot of mommy time to feel loved and safe. My teens as well have needed some good one on one times of just having fun, shopping, and talking.
4)I had really thought that by now in this crazy grief process stuff….that I would be better. Not so fragile. Not so emotional and needy. I am needy in that I need MORE of everything to function. More sleep. More quiet time with the Lord. More long walks in solitude with my Savior. MORE GOD in every waking second. Living in and through the great sadness learning how to be without Jonathan seems to suck way more energy than I ever imagined. I get less done than ever before. The kid’s needs are met. Mikes needs are mostly met. But there is nothing left of me for homeschooling right now.
5)I was nervous to talk to Mike about my fear that homeschooling the kids wasn’t going to work this year. In reality Mike was relieved when I told him. He felt the same way I did but was hesitant to hurt me. Yes, I would have been felt like an even bigger failure if Mike had told me first; that he thought I wasn’t up to homeschooling this year. Somehow it was better for my self esteem that I was the one to bring it up.

So, instead of spending a long weekend at the Lake, I ran around town enrolling kids in school and “back-to-school” shopping. The kids are all excited and had a good first week of school. I have been adjusting this week to the whole idea. Tamar MyHao is in Kindergarden. Maggie, Josiah and Berhanu in 1st grade. Miriam and Anna in 2nd grade. Meseret in 5th grade. Tigist in 9th at High School. Yasab is still homeschooled in 8th grade. Michael in 11th at Running Start at the college. Solomon will be starting West Side Preschool three mornings a week!

Mike says I am not a failure. He reminds me we always have said that we will be open every year to whatever is the very best thing for each and every child. This is the best thing now for the whole family. I am so thankful the awesome moms and dads I know who raise wonderful Christian children IN public school. It helps me to see your example! It helps me to know this will be okay.

We are heading out the door to Goldendale, be back in a couple days!

Love, Julee

Monday, August 18, 2008

my new blog

Here is photo of our current smaller family, just thirteen of us living at home. We can all fit in the 15 passenger van now.

I decided to finally catch up to the rest of the world and start a “blog”. I started our newsletter yahoo group in 2001 during our first adoption of Anna from China. Many of you have walked beside us since the beginning. You’ve gone through our “virgin” adoption walk of a screaming grieving toddler and on to adoptions of every other kind. You’ve been beside us as we brought home deathly ill babies and we went without sleep for months on end. You bore with my whining and impatience during the long waits for every new child. You have listened to my worries of parenting scarred and abused older children and my complaints of angry teenagers. You have prayed with us as we limped through Jonathan’s battle with aplastic anemia; and you wept with us at his death after the bone marrow transplant. I hope too that along with my struggles you have also shared in our joy and awe at how God has taken two very flawed people like Mike and I, and created a wondrous thing. Every family is miracle and every child a blessing. Mike and I still marvel God brought us together as a family and chose to make us HIS people. That He chose to make us so RICH in blessings and children, that He LOVES us so much. He uses us in our puny weakness and grows us up into HIM through each and every adventure and battle. I pray that you will continue to share in our unfolding story and that God would bless your life through it.
Thanks for being interested enough to read what I write and for supporting us with your friendship. Keep praying for us. God is ALWAYS good. It is just very hard still sometimes missing our Jonathan. It feels like we are doing good hard “grief” work. It is a summer of learning to live a lot of changes. Jonathan gone forever….. Mommy back home fulltime after being away so much with Jonathan….. Big girls Hope, Haimanot, and Roza gone at Job Core. This week we are going camping at Jubilee Lake. With the medical challenges of the last few years we haven’t been there in a long time. I am so excited to be there. It will be some of the kid’s first time fishing and swimming in lake. And we can count on it being cooler on top of the mountain than the 104 degrees it is here at home.
Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance,