Tuesday, January 31, 2012

28+1 Days of Lila

Last February, we documented 28 things we love about Lila.  This year, we're lucky to have an extra day to our month of love so we'll be sharing 29 things we love about Lila.  We dedicate the month of February to this little tradition (two years in a row make it a tradition, right?) because we want to remember the little things about the stage she is in right now.  There are so many things that I wish I could bottle up to enjoy later - like the way she says smoothie, "smuse-me" or the way she makes me change Lambie's diaper before I change her diaper or the way she...wait, I'm getting ahead of myself!

So for the next 29 days, we'll have a post a day detailing our favorite things about two-year-old Lila.  Because we don't want to forget this cuteness:
drinking a smuse-me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bedtime conversations

I had a migraine tonight so the awesome Husband took over parenting duties with the Baby Girl.  They had a Daddy-Daughter date at Wendy's (where Lila managed to dump an entire cup of water on herself and then declare, "I soaked, Daddy.") and then, because he's so very awesome, he cleaned up the disaster zone left by Hurricane Lila/Ruby while Lila played with her "Sesame Street Guys."
I found this the other day after I had put Lila down for her nap.  Evidently her Sesame Street Guys needed a nap, too.
I was out of commission right up until bedtime, but I wanted to be sure to say goodnight to Lila so she would feel like her world wasn't completely falling apart.  You see, upon further reflection of our day from H-E-Double Hockey Sticks a few weeks ago, I have a suspicion that part of the problem was that I hadn't been very accessible to her for the 48 hours previous.  The two days prior to that day, I had been teaching all day and in bed with what I thought at the time was the flu, respectively.  So tonight I wanted to end her day with our normal routine since she had to share me (and all of her stuff) with Ruby today in addition to my reclusive migraine-induced behavior.  I was determined to do what I could to prevent a second installment of One of Those Days.

Oh, and in regards to one of those days, we are doing much better.  The weekend following the Day was rough, but I went to bed that Sunday night and prayed a prayer of hope that tomorrow is another day and that the Lord's mercies are new every morning.  And true to His word, that Monday was tons better.  I am grateful to you, sweet friends, who affirmed and encouraged me as a mom with your comments and emails and phone calls.  

At some point during my conversation with my parents that Friday night, I tearfully blubbered, "If I could make the choice to do one thing perfectly in my life and do everything else terribly, I would choose raising Lila as the one thing I would do perfectly.  She's that important.  She deserves that."

What mom doesn't feel like that? Of course, that choice doesn't exist.  But, as my friend Kerri encouraged me, our imperfections allow our children to see first hand the redeeming work that Jesus Christ does in a heart.  And boy, does my broken life allow for lots of hands on experience in that department!

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine and I were talking about how moms (ourselves included) can be so judgmental of other moms.  And we concluded that judgement and comparison does no one any good (duh).  A different friend once shared something she heard in a sermon: comparison always leads to carnality.  When you compare up, you end up feeling less than, insecure and even ungrateful; when you compare down, you end up feeling prideful, judgmental and self-righteous.  There is no healthy comparison.  

When I see a thin, fit mom with her angelic child dressed in a hip little outfit or when I look at blogs of people who have amazing style and decoration sense, I can't help but feel bad about my lingering baby weight (can I still call it that two years later?), my naughty little girl and my house decorated in unfolded laundry.  On the other hand when I see a mom with her screaming two-year-old at Walmart at 11:00pm (for shame!) or witness a preschooler demanding a candy bar in the brattiest voice you can imagine, I can't help but congratulate myself on giving Lila boundaries and setting her up for healthy sleep habits and a cavity-free (and unspoiled) life.  Never mind the possibility that the mom with the two-year-old in Walmart might just be there because she's picking up some tylenol for her sick (and therefore screaming) kid, or because she's a single mom who works two jobs and 11:00pm is the only time she can run to the store for groceries.  And never mind the possibility that the mom of the bratty kid is just as appalled by her child's behavior as I am, but she's too exhausted to discipline her kid because her husband has been out of town on business for the last three days and she's spent.  

The truth is: most moms are doing their very best with the tools they have and most moms fear that their best isn't good enough.  There is absolutely nothing more terrifying than motherhood.  Nothing.  The responsibility of shaping, protecting, discipling and training a child is the most nerve-wracking and self-doubt-inducing thing a person could possibly do.  And to make matters worse, the results of our blood, toil, tears and sweat (yes, I'm quoting Churchill) are walking around in their own independent bodies to be admired or judged by the rest of the waking world.  Heaven help us.  Literally. 

We have no other option but to trust God to fill in the gaps.  An example that comes to mind happened when Lila was about eight months old.  I was picking up a few things for my classroom and Lila was being really wiggly, so as I shopped I set her down to let her move around a bit.  Once I had found all I needed, I picked her up and got in line.  I noticed she was drooling a ton, but I attributed it to teething.  It wasn't until I was strapping her in her car seat that I saw a flash of white in her mouth.  I immediately stuck my finger in her mouth and fished this out:
I kept this little disc as a reminder that the Lord holds Lila in His hands

It's one of those little plastic discs that holds a sales tag on the edge of a shelf so that it sticks out and catches your eye.  She must have picked it up and popped it in her mouth in the few minutes I had let her crawl around in the store.  I sat in shock for several minutes, holding that innocent looking disc in the palm of my hand, tears springing to my eyes in a mix of gratitude and fear of the what ifs.  I wondered what could have happened if I hadn't noticed it when I did.  What if she had choked on it while I was driving and, in her rear-facing seat, I couldn't see what was happening?  

That fearful moment will be permanently etched in my memory.  Along with the time I got her out of the car in our driveway and realized that I had driven seven miles with her unbuckled in her car seat.  I had been to lunch with my cousin and had her unbuckled in her car seat, snapped into the stroller.  When I had gone to transfer her from her stroller to the car, I had forgotten that she wasn't buckled in the seat and then driven all the way home with her vulnerably free from the car seat's restraints.  In those moments, it's clear to me that no matter how attentive I try to be, no matter how much energy and time and prayer I put into worrying about doing it right, in the end Lila's health, happiness and survival isn't in my hands because I just can't do it perfectly.

So here's what I propose, when you find yourself sizing up a mom because her child is putting on an impressive performance of Rebellious Toddler in Target, or judging a friend of yours based on her parenting decisions, remind yourself that she is doing her very best and that her deepest fear is that her best isn't good enough.  Remember that little adage and whisper something encouraging to her.  Tell her she's doing a great job.  Tell her that parenting is hard (especially in public).  Tell her that second-guessing and worrying is a natural hazard of the job.  Affirm before you advise.  Encourage before you judge.  Because she's doing her very best and no one wants her best to be enough more than she does.

But I digress, this post was supposed to be about a conversation I had with Lila tonight.

So, after Daddy had snuggled, rocked, sung and prayed with the Baby Girl, I went in to tuck her and pat her back.  As I bade her goodnight, here is the conversation that ensued:

Me: Goodnight, Sweet Girl.  See you tomorrow.
Lila: trying to form her question Um, where, uh, where, uh, uh, uh, where tomorrow come from?
Me: giggling Tomorrow comes after you sleep.  When you wake up it will be tomorrow!
Lila: Oh.
Me: kissing her hand I love you so much.  See you in the morning.
Lila: I love you so much.

Oh, my heart.  My poor, poor, Mommy Heart.

Thank you, Lord that tomorrow comes after we sleep and that there are new mercies waiting for us when Tomorrow wakes us.  And thank you that I get to wake up to this little face:

And to all you moms out there, you're doing a great job.  Parenting is hard.  All you can do is give it your best, and even when you don't or can't, it's okay.  The Lord will fill in the gaps.  He's cool like that.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dossier: APPROVED!


That pretty much sums up our emotions right now!  We are so relieved to have the dossier out of our hands!  Of course, we'll keep you updated as we receive news about our precious dossier's journey to and from Washington DC.  In the meantime, we've been planning our month of posts for this year's 28 days of Lila so stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dossier ARRIVED!

Hooray! So, as you can read, our dossier arrived safe and sound to our agency! Wahoo! And also, the marriage license doesn't need to be re-notarized! Yay!  Whew.  What a relief.

I know I kind of already explained the next steps, but just as a reminder I'll recap.  The next thing that will happen is our adoption consultant will review everything to make sure we did everything correctly (please?) and then it will be sent to Washington DC for authentication.  According to our original paperwork, this step should take between two and three weeks so we're looking at mid-February before we are officially on the waiting list.  Maybe the Husband will get an awesome birthday present and we'll hear our official number on his birthday on the 13th?  We'd both be thrilled with an early birthday present, though!

Well, the Husband and I are off to a date night, but I wanted to give you all a quick update to keep you in the loop!

Thanks for your prayers and support thus far.  This has truly felt like a team effort.  We are so grateful for our outstanding community.  Literally couldn't do this without you guys.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dossier MAILED!

Well, we did it.  It's out of our hands.  Our dossier - that pile of papers that has simultaneously been our most protected and precious possession and the bane of our existence - will be shipped on Monday and should arrive in St. Louis on Tuesday.  And I will be obsessively checking our tracking number until then.  Because I'm a control freak and that's what I do.

The day was not without its share of excitement.  You would think mailing a pile of papers would be simple enough, but leave it to me and I can complicate any situation.   I felt like I was mailing away a second child.  Which is sort of true - I mean, at this point that pile of papers represents our child.  When the Husband and I were talking about how to send our dossier we knew we wanted it trackable, but we were debating insuring it.  On one hand, if something happened to it, no amount of money could buy us a brand new pile of those papers.  No amount of money can buy the three months of our lives it took to compile those documents.  But on the other hand, just the literal cost of some of the documents alone made that envelope worth over $200.  $10 for a copy of our marriage certificate, $15 each for copies of our birth certificates, $10 for medical letters, $7.50 each for 23 state certified documents, etc.  To say those papers are precious to us is an understatement.  Our agency will probably think we are neurotic lunatics when they receive our dossier because we ended up putting all of the papers into a bigger-than-necessary stiff envelope (because I didn't want to risk folding corners if we tried to squeeze too many papers into a smaller envelope) and then packing that envelope in a larger box cushioned with packing peanuts.  I wonder how many dossiers they receive in that sort of protection - or are we the only crazy people?

We spent a good twenty minutes making copies before packing it all up, during which I realized there was a section on the back of our marriage license for notaries that had not been filled out.  We don't know if it was supposed to be filled out because the Secretary of State office certified the original notary from when we got married rather than the notary that perhaps should have witnessed the person who prepared the official copy of our license.  We plan on calling our agency on Monday to clarify and if worse comes to worst we'll have to make a trip downtown to get another official copy that has been notarized, get that state certified and then mail that to St. Louis to join our other documents.  The good news is that it is a Missouri document so it's a 20 minute drive rather than an hour drive.  We hope it won't be necessary, but we'll keep you updated.

During all of this, Lila played happily with the toys the UPS store provides for its customers' children.  Until it was time to leave.  At which point she threw a fit.  In her defense, it was past her nap time, but let's just say that we haven't had the most peaceful last 48 hours.  Eric picked her up off the floor, and he handed her her cup of water.  She promptly threw it in defiance and it hit me in the mouth.  I. was. furious.  If I had been standing a few feet further away and the cup had just fallen to the floor, I would have merely scolded her knowing that she was running on empty - hungry and tired.  But I wasn't standing a few feet further away and it didn't fall innocently to the floor.  It hit me in the mouth and it hurt in that way that causes tears to burn in your eyes involuntarily from the shock of the impact.  I was grateful that Eric was there to deal with Lila so I could just turn away and take some deep breaths.  By the time we got in the car I had regained my composure enough to tell Lila that when we hurt someone, we need to say we are sorry.  I told her to say, "Sorry I hurt you, Mommy."  At first she refused, but after several stubborn moments, she finally mumbled something close to those words and I just had to take what I could get and nurse my swollen lip, still holding back tears that I think were less due to my sore lip and more residual from yesterday's failures.

We got home and Eric got Lila ready for her nap.  I started filing our copies away at which point I realized that we had forgotten to include the $4,100 check with our dossier.  Yeah, that's probably kind of important.  Frantically, I called the UPS store and caught the guy who helped us just as he was sealing our box.  He set the box aside and I hurried back to add the check to the dossier packet.  I gave it one last glance, said one last prayer that it would make it to St. Louis safely and then I got in my car and went home.

There.  So NOW, it's done.  Really, really done.  Finished.  Done-zo.  The end.

Unless of course we need to get another copy of our marriage license.  But the after that, we'll really be done.  Really.  Hopefully.  I think. *sigh*

One of those days

Today was one of those days I'm glad Lila's childhood isn't defined by one day.  The day started fine and slowly regressed from fine to bad to worse to horrible, dramatic meltdown and monumental mommy screw up.

We've been working really hard on getting Lila to come to us when we call her.  I know it sounds like I'm training a dog and sometimes it feels that way.  I've been really frustrated recently by her tendency to high-tail it out of the room when I am trying to get her dressed, change her diaper, feed her lunch.  Essentially every time I try to meet one of her basic needs she stages a revolt.  Only, I'm pretty sure she just thinks it's a thrilling game.  But it's exhausting and annoying.  And then a few nights ago I had a dream that Lila ran away from me into the street and I couldn't get to her.  She was running straight down the middle of the street and I was too slow to catch up with her.  I woke up before anything happened to her, heart racing, sweating.  I resolved to train that pooch to come when called.  It's now beyond a minor irritant.  It's a safety concern.  We've had very few real safety concerns, but usually because I can catch her in time for her to really be in harm's way.

Anyway, the last three days, I've really cracked down on her disobedience in this - even if she just thinks she's playing.  Good-natured defiance, you know.  She needs to understand that when Mommy or Daddy say, "Come here," there's no choice involved.  Sometimes it will just mean, "Come here, I need to put your shoes on."  Others it might mean, "Come here before you get hit by a car/eaten by that bear/snatched away by the creepy guy lurking behind the corners at Target."

Today seemed like we took one step forward, and 29 steps back.  The one step forward might even be a little gratuitous.  It was just a constant battle all day long.   So when Eric called to tell me he was heading to Topeka to get our last dossier document certified I let out a sigh that was 50% relieved that it would be done and 50% resigning to an extra hour or two of Mommy vs. Toddler.  So I called my parents and asked if we could come over for a break.

Before we headed to Nanny and Pop's however, we stopped at Target to return something.  And that's when I won the battle but lost the war.  Actually, I'm not even sure I won the battle.  Lila ran away from me in Target.  I had a brief panic attack when I turned the corner where she had disappeared and she wasn't there.  The little booger had taken off down another aisle.  I found her easily enough, but now I was really put out - the anger and frustration that had mounted all day combined with the momentary stress when she slipped from my sight pushed me right to the brink.  Stupidly, I soldiered on after I gave her a stern reprimand.  As I searched for the shortest checkout line, she took off again, this time more slowly because I think she sensed that I was "stuck" in line.  Finally I had to relinquish my place in line, abandon my purchases on the belt of a closed lane, scoop her up and march out of the store.  I gave her a spanking in the car.  Just a swat on the hand, but she looked at me with this offended look that was a mixture of shock, pain and defiance.  I told her, "Lila, when Mommy tells you to come, you need to come right away.  It's not safe to run away from Mommy."  Then I got in the car and drove to my parents' house, bubbling with frustration, exhaustion, self-doubt and regret.

I was thinking, "I should have gotten a cart - then I could have just corralled her in there and I wouldn't have had to resort to spanking her.  That mom with her three angelic children who commented that she was wondering who Lila belonged to when I finally retrieved her probably thought I was being an irresponsible parent.  Did I spank her because it was a fitting punishment or because I was angry?  Should I spank her at all? Ever?  If time outs don't work, what other choices do I have? I'm really a bad mom if I can't even keep my cool for something that small.  I wonder why she's been acting up so much today - is it because I didn't play with her enough?  Is it because I didn't get her in bed on time so she only took a short nap?  Is it because I spent too much time on the computer this morning when I could have been interacting with her?  Is it because she's hungry?  Maybe she's getting sick.  If she's sick I shouldn't be so hard on her.  I shouldn't have gone to Target.  It's my fault she's acting this way...." and on and on the self-doubt continued.

You might think that was the low point, but you would be wrong.  The low point came an hour or so later when, after some innocuous comments from my parents about Lila's behavior, I completely lost it and ended up yelling at my dad in front of Lila.  Which made her cry because I don't think she's every seen/heard me yell like that.  Thankfully, by then Eric had come home so he took her home after I picked her up and told her "It's okay, Mommy was just upset.  I shouldn't have yelled."  When she kept crying I asked her if she was scared and she wailed, "Yeeeaaahhhhhh!" and my heart broke.  Of all the ways I screwed up today, this one did it.  I had completely lost it and now my daughter was scared.  Of what, I don't know.  It was just clear that Mommy was not okay and that was scary.  So Daddy took her home and put her to bed and I stayed to talk things out with my parents.

What a horrible way to end a horrible day.  I hate the thought that the last interaction we had was that scared, upset, emotional one.  I hate it.  I really, really hate it.  I'm crying right now thinking about it.  Of course I went in and held her for a little while when I got home.  I held her and cried some more and begged Jesus to let this day just slip away from everyone's memory.  Let it just be gone.

I'm still praying that prayer.  I'm praying that in 18 years when Lila is reading this post she says, "Mom, I have no memory of you ever yelling like that."  Maybe that's wishful thinking, because I'll probably be guilty of many more days ending like this.  But I'm going to pray it anyway.

21“Pay attention, O Jacob,
for you are my servant, O Israel.
I, the LORD, made you,
and I will not forget you.
22I have swept away your sins like a cloud.
I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.
Oh, return to me,
for I have paid the price to set you free.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

I should have known

Well, we had our trek to Topeka yesterday morning, all hopeful and excitedly talking about finally having the dossier completely DONE.

However.  As Georgia (the nice lady in charge of state certifications in the Secretary of State's office) looked through our papers, she pulled out one document - a reference letter - and said, "The notary on this one is expired."

What?! No! It's not possible!  I checked them! I double checked them! I sent them to our adoption consultant to check them!  I...

Oh bother.

I almost cried.  I mean, we drove an hour to get this stuff done so that we wouldn't have to delay getting on the waiting list by waiting on the mail and now we had to get a new letter with a new notary's signature and get that letter back to the SOS office which means delays and waiting and  BAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

But I should have known.  I should have just prepared myself to have something not be done.  Because that's how this whole process has been!  Everything just takes so much work and has to be just so and there are so many humans involved in each document so the possibility for human error just climbs and climbs.  I'm not complaining.  Well, maybe I am.  But I'm not suggesting it should be any other way.  After all, this is a child's life we're talking about here.  So I'm glad there are so many checks in place to make sure that our child will be placed in a safe and loving home.  But still...BAAAAAHHHHHHH!  It's just infuriating when you think you've done everything right only to find out that you haven't.  ONE. MEASLY. LITTLE. DATE. can ruin it all.  Can knock back your schedule by a week or more.

But no use bemoaning what's done.  It's really no one's fault.  At the time of the signature, the notary wasn't expired, but the notary has to be valid through the date when our dossier is reviewed by the Ethiopian Embassy so our agency suggests all of our notaries have expiration dates at least six months out.  I should have caught it.  But I didn't.

On the bright side, it was only one document.  And it was a reference letter from my sweet friend, Kathleen (also known as Baby Ruby's Mommy - that's what Lila calls her) as opposed to a medical letter from our doctor that would have involved a lot more people and more money.  So Kathleen graciously took time this morning (even though her mom is visiting from out of town) to get the letter re-signed and notarized.  Lila and I picked it up and the Husband will drive it to Topeka on Monday.  We could mail it, but the earliest we would have it then would be Wednesday.  This way, we'll have this document back on Monday and be able to mail our completed dossier overnight that day so it will be in St. Louis (where our agency is based) on Tuesday.
UPDATE: The Husband just called and he left work early today to drive the letter to Topeka tonight! Then we can be done-done-done!

After that, our adoption consultant will review our dossier and if everything looks good (please, LORD let everything be good!) she will send it on to the courier in Washington DC to have it authenticated.  I don't know what "authenticated" means nor do I care.  All I care about is that it is out of my hands.  No longer will it be possible that I can delay the day that our baby comes home to us.  After it is authenticated by the U.S. Department of State, then the courier will pick it up and bring it to the Ethiopian Embassy in DC to be authenticated again by the Ethiopian government.  Once that is done, our agency will be notified and we will be put on the waiting list.  This all should take 2-3 weeks so our realistic hope is that we will be on the waiting list by the end of February.

The last email we got from our agency said that there are 94 families on the waiting list and there hasn't been a referral since December so that means there are still at least 94 families ahead of us.  Eek.  But we know and trust that the timing will be perfect.  The Lord knows who our son or daughter is even now - just as He knew Lila even before she was conceived.  We have to view even little hiccups like the expired notary as intentional stalls to get us where we need to be to be matched with our son or daughter.  We have to.  Otherwise, we'll go crazy.  Well, I'll go crazy.  Eric is usually the sane one of the two of us.  Usually.

In other news, we did get our passport photos taken on Wednesday so that's one more thing checked off the list.

The Husband is actually smiling in his photo.  I was giving him grief because he usually looks so depressed/angry in photos for things like this.  I think in an effort to look cool or something.  Grumpy does not equal cool, Husband.
 Lila wanted her photo taken even though we didn't need one for her and the sweet lady working at Walgreens took one of her and then printed it for us for free.  And it's super cute! See?
She's been putting her hand in her mouth when she's self-concious.  It's kinda cute, kinda gross.
Lila was thrilled beyond words.  And I was thrilled beyond words to check one more thing off the list.

Also, I bought this hardcore contraption to keep our documents in:

I wish I would have bought this at the very beginning of our adoption process.  It would have prevented many unnecessarily dramatic gasps, panic attacks and Husband scoldings when our flimsy folder was put in harms way.  For whatever reason, the only one big enough to hold our entire dossier came with a calculator.  I find this hilarious.  And awesome.

Here's hoping our next post will be titled: Dossier MAILED!  Stay tuned...

Monday, January 16, 2012

"So, how's the adoption process going?"

We've been getting that question a lot recently and for a detail-oriented person like me it's really hard to give a short answer.  If I can tell it's someone just being polite, I just say, "Really well!" or maybe add "We're finishing up the paperwork part of the process and soon we'll be a waiting family."  If the questioner continues to ask questions, that's when I take the cue to go into more detail. 

I thought I'd go into that detail here for those of you who are interested.

We have finally completed all of our documents for our dossier.  The requirements for the documents are super picky as far as content and presentation of the documents.  Each document must be in pristine condition and be notarized and state certified (the notary verifies that the person who signed the document is who they say they are and state certification verifies that the notary is a authentic notary in a particular state).  Each document was so much work to complete - doctors letters, references, original birth certificates, financial declarations, employment verifications - and each is now precious to me because of the amount of effort put into each one.  I would cry if something happened to even one thing and I sweat every time I have to bring our paperwork out of our house!

On December 9th, we got our fingerprints taken as a part of a criminal history background check for USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).  We had to wait until we got that approval back before we could get all of our dossier documents state certified.  The approval came in the mail last Friday, January 13th.  (Not a bad turn around for having the holidays in there as well as a little hiccup when they called and said page 5 of our home study was mysteriously missing.  Not to worry, our awesome HS agency fixed that problem the same afternoon!)

So here's what's next:
1. Drive to Topeka and get all of our dossier documents state certified. (We plan to do this on Thursday)
2. Get our passport photos taken.
3. Submit all documents to CHI for processing/checking for accuracy.

Once our dossier is completed and turned in to our agency, they will send it on to Ethiopia and put us on the waiting list.  At that time they will tell us how many families are waiting ahead of us.  However, just because we are number 81 (for example) on the waiting list, doesn't necessarily mean that we will wait for 81 referrals to be handed out to other families before we are matched with our child.  There are two lists - one of children who are ready to be matched with a family and another of families waiting for a referral.  Each list would indicate the gender, age and health conditions of the child and the specific requests of the family (age, gender, heath conditions, siblings, etc). The lists might look like this: (sorry if the lists are all wonky...I was having frustrating formatting issues)

Children waiting                               Families waiting
1. Two year old girl                          1. girl 0-12 months
2. 7 month old boy                           2. siblings 0-7 years
3. 3 year old boy                              3. boy or girl 0-3 years
4. 4 month old girl                           4. boy or girl 0-12 months

So, our agency would look at the child in the number one slot - a two year old girl in my example - and then start going down the list of families to see if she matches a family's requests.  So in this case, families in the 1 and 2 slots don't match with the first child available, but family number three does - so they would skip ahead and get their referral next.  Basically, the more specific you are, the more likely you will be waiting longer.  In theory.  Of course, it's all dependent on the children who are available for referral.  

Remember this story, about the family whose daughter turned out to be a son?  The were several slots down on the list, but all the families in front of them had requested boys, so because they had requested boy OR girl and their son (whose paperwork mistakenly said he was a girl) was the first child available, they got bumped to the top of the list.  If his paperwork had been correct, he would have been matched with one of the families at the top of the list. It's a crazy, unpredictable, beautiful process.  But, you just have to trust that God is in it.  

We are requesting a boy or girl 0-12 months.  We have recently seen families wait 10.5 months for a referral that fits our request, but we're telling ourselves to expect a year at least so we don't get our hopes up too high.  In that time, we will be fundraising for our referral fee (note our new thermometer on the right!), loving on Lila, and praying for our son or daughter and his or her family in Ethiopia.  It is bittersweet when we think about our baby joining our family because we know for that to happen, a terrible tragedy will have to first happen in his or her life.  Kids just don't become orphans without a tragedy. 

In light of that reality, I've been thinking about Baby Jesus (I know Christmas is over and everything, but stick with me) and the fact that as he snuck into this world, the tide began to turn and from that moment all the wrong things began their journey to become right.

During the weeks surrounding Christmas, Lila and I read and re-read the nativity story in Lila's Jesus Storybook Bible: 

"But it's too wonderful!" Mary said.  "How can it be true?"

"Is anything too wonderful for God?" Gabriel said.

So Mary trusted God more than what her eyes could see. And she believed.

As I've been praying for our baby and his or her family, I have been reminding myself that nothing is too wonderful for him.  I have been praying for the least tragic option for our son or daughter...whatever that might be.  I am trusting Him to bring good from even the most horrible tragedies because nothing is too wonderful for him.  He's here and wrong things are becoming "righter" by the second because of Him.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Okay, so I'm slow on the updating here, but better late than never, right?

We had an extended Christmas as we tried to make time for each side of the family.

On Christmas Eve, we had brunch with the Kautzi family and opened presents with Lila's cousins.  She thought this was the best thing that ever happened to her.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I have no pictures. Booo.

Christmas Eve night, we went to church - got there 15 minutes early (unheard of for us) and still had to stand in the back! It was packed!!  Lila distracted all the nice people in the back by running back and forth and yelling "Yay!" every time a song ended.  Also she looked this cute:
Yes, that's a bloody gash across her nose.  She was climbing on the dog and when Franny decided she'd had enough she stood up to walk away (her only defense, really) and vaulted Lila into my dresser.  It was a sad day.

Christmas day, we spent with just the three of us.  We took Lila to see the Muppet Movie as her Christmas present.  The girl loves the Muppets.  We were grateful that there were only about 12 other people in the theater for Lila's first movie-going experience.  She did amazingly for the first hour or so, but got restless for the last 45 minutes.  Overall, it was a fun experience - and if you are a true Muppet fan, you will LOVE the movie.  Both the Husband and I cried.  I mean...I cried - the Husband is too manly to cry at a movie.  (But not really, he cried more than I did.)

We spent Christmas evening at my grandparents' house with our cousins and the usual 3-5 extra guests that people had invited.  This year we were representing many cultures - Chinese, Indian, and Carrigan.  That is, Jason Carrigan, self-proclaimed adopted brother and Lila's "Favorite Uncle." (I try to tell him that he's lucky to even get the uncle card for not being related to us and that it's pushing it to go for favorite, but the man won't hear reason.)  I wonder if Jason still reads my blog.  He'd be happy now that we actually put pictures and stuff on here.  Jason? Do you read my blog?

We always end the night by singing some carols as a family.  It's both sentimental and hilarious.  It means so much to my grandma - she is a retired preschool music teacher - and she has printed caroling books and jingle bells to boot.  Let's just say the Kahler clan is not known for its musical abilities.  We can't seem to manage to sing on tempo, much less on key.

Here's a glimpse:

My favorite part of that video is Jason nodding as he sings "won't you guide my sleigh tonight?" We were all excited when Kyle joined the family and he was quickly enlisted as our choral director.  Although as you may have noticed in the video, not everyone is accustomed to submitting to someone else's leadership.  Often, the mob takes over and we fumble through a song unaccompanied.

The last song of caroling is always Twelve Days of Christmas.  For you brave souls who can handle 7 whole minutes of Kahler caroling, I captured it this year in it's entirety.  The video starts out with Grandma assigning the parts.

Since we were all spending the 26th with my family, I had the brilliant idea for all of us to spend the night at my parents' house.  I think in the future this could be really fun, but it was decidedly NOT.  I think there were just too many X-factors with two dogs (one of which is an ENORMOUS weimaraner "puppy" and the other is a cranky herding dog who kept trying to keep the pup under control) six adults and an over-stimulated 2-year-old.  I don't think anyone got any sleep and I will be the first to admit that I was a GRUMP the next morning.  Not exactly the nostalgic Christmas experience we were going for.  Ah, you live and learn.  We still had a great day, but by that afternoon, we were all toast.  It took a good week and a half to recover.

Which is why I'm writing this post halfway through January.  The end.

Stay tuned for an adoption update!  I promise, it's coming!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ahhh, Presents!

In my head I said that title the way Tina Fey says one of the lines in the Bossypants audiobook: "Ahh Babies!"  It's only funny if you can hear it.  Which you can't.  Because I can't figure out how to put the sound byte on here.  Or, I'm too lazy to figure out how to do it.

Before I get into an overview of our birthday/Christmas/New Year celebrations, I thought I'd write out a post about Lila's favorite gifts.  There are eleven days in between Lila's birthday and the 26th (when we celebrated Christmas with my family) and I'm pretty sure Lila is under the impression that those are now called the Eleven Days of Lila.  In fact, I think it's a distinct possibility that she believes she is now entitled to a present a day because the gifts are still trickling in from sweet out of town relatives and friends who missed her party.  I swear she gets up in the morning and holds out her hands and says, "Present please."  Okay maybe not, but it wouldn't surprise me.  Needless to say, we've got some figuring to do so that we don't end up raising an ungrateful little booger.

Anyway...as of right now, her favorite presents are:

I may have played with this for 20 minutes after Lila went to bed.
Doggie Guitar.  She picked this out with her birthday money with only a little prodding from the parental units.  And by prodding I mostly mean steering her away from the more obnoxious toys with loud noises and flashing buttons.  My favorite part of this toy is that it has three settings: acoustic, electric and howl.  Lila likes the howl one, but she's scared of the howling on the song that is played when you use the whammy bar bone.  However, like many other things she's scared of, she seems to think that immersion therapy is best and just keeps pushing the bar over and over.  Her reaction is one of two: 1) wailing, "Mommmyyyy!!!" and running to me or 2) saying, "Doggie noise - it not scary," to herself with shaky confidence.

Picnic Basket.  This one was a gift from Aunt Mackenzie and Uncle Scottie.  It talks to her and tells her to find the orange circle or the purple cup.  If she leaves it alone for too long it will try to get her to play with it again by asking her to find the pie shaped like a triangle or something like that.  The hilarious thing is that she often doesn't hear/comprehend what the basket is saying so she turns to it and says, "What? What Basket?"  To make matters worse, I sometimes catch myself translating for her: "Basket said, 'Can you find the brown triangle?'"  I'm sure she thinks there's a tiny person living inside her picnic basket.  Which might explain why she guards that thing with her life and yells, "MIIIIINNNNNE!" whenever anyone goes near it.  Or maybe she just does that because she's two.

I think she's contemplating retaliation for all the unflattering pictures I've put of her on this blog.
Her computer.  This gift was chosen by Lila's buddy, Emri who assured her mom in the store that, "Lila wants this."  When I told Kerri that Lila was obsessed with her new computer (so much so that she refused to open any other gifts once she discovered the computer), Kerri responded, "Emri knows best."  It's a LeapFrog computer and I credit it with Lila's new skill of naming every letter and most of their sounds. "A says ahh."  You can even personalize it by entering in your child's name.  So now when she pushes the "L" button, it says, "L! That's the first letter in your name, Lila!" There's a setting for animals starting with each letter, too and a little animated version of the animal appears on the screen.  Of course, there is one that she's scared of.  "What animal has a long neck? V! Vulture!" and then it makes this sort of creepy wah-wa-wa-wah-wa-wa-waaaaaah sound.  And of course, she's also chosen immersion therapy for this fear.  Or rather the Husband forced it on her because he thought she was saying she wanted to see the vulture and was completely befuddled when she flopped down on her floor in hysterics when he left her in her room by herself.  Enter, mommy who, because I log more hours talking Toddler-speak, was able to translate what sounded like "see vulture" as "scary vulture"  Don't worry, she's not scarred for life.  We told her she didn't need to be afraid - a vulture is just a "big birdie."  So now she pushes the V button and assures herself in a shaky voice, "Just big birdie."

Are we noticing a trend here?  All of her favorite toys are plastic electronic things that make weird noises and only pass as tolerable because they are somewhat educational.  Just for giggles, wanna know what Mommy's favorite of her presents were?

Lila says, "Aren't I cute in my skinny jeans?  Oh, and GO CATS!" (That tee was also a birthday gift - thanks, Anna!)
Lila's skinny jeans. Of which she got two pairs!  One was from my cousin, Laura (whom Lila adorably calls "Laurla"), one was from my Grandma who asked my mom to ask me what I really want for Lila, but wouldn't buy myself.  I tried to think of something that would fit that description and also be fun for Grandma to give her, but I just couldn't think of anything that fit the "I want but wouldn't buy" category more than skinny jeans!  When my Grandma showed my Pop what they were getting Lila for her birthday he asked, fairly, "Where's the top?" Thanks Grandma and Pop for being generous to us even if you don't get what "skinny jeans" are and why my toddler needs them. :)
(P.S. Hi Grandma! Hi Pop!  I hope you are enjoying reading our blog on your new IPad!  I'm so proud of you for learning something new - I'm sure it's intimidating! Now, everyone on the Internet, say "Hi" to Grandma and Pop, the cutest new additions to the world wide web!  All together now, "HI GRANDMA! HI POP!")

Lila's Ethiopian Dolly. My awesome friend, Joyele MADE this for her.  MADE it!  With her own two hands!  (Okay, probably with a sewing machine, too.)  And isn't it perfect??  I love it love it love it!  In fact, I often suggest to Lila, "Don't you want to bring your Dolly with you to church/the store/a friend's house?" because I want to show it off.  To which she replies, "Yes!"  Not really.  She replies, "No. Doggie guitar," and then I sneak it in the car anyway so I can show it off.

Laurisa also gave her a little rolling pin, but...we...lost it already.  I'm sure it rolled under something in the playroom.
Lila's sugar cookies.  My other awesome friend, Laurisa made these for Lila.  Is this not the CUTEST THING!?!?  She can roll out the dough, (by the way, I just spelled "dough," doe, do, and doh before I remembered how to actually spell it.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I teach 6 year olds how to spell.  Rest assured, the literacy of future generations is resting in these capable hands.) cut the cookies, ice them and bake them in her little kitchen!  Or rather, I can.  Which I do.  By myself.  Quite often.  While Lila assures herself, "Doggie noise - it not scary."

Yes, I have very creative and talented friends.  I like to think that their creativity will rub off on me eventually.  So far...not so much.  In the meantime, I'll just play with all the things they make my kid.

Well, that's the run-down.  The moral of the story is, if you're looking for a gift that a two-year-old would love, go with something that talks with flashy buttons.  On the other hand, if you're looking for a gift that a two-year-old's mommy would play with, go stylish (skinny jeans) or hand-made.

Coming soon...a Christmas update - better late than never.

P.S. I feel like I should mention - on behalf of those of you who got Lila gifts that didn't make either Top 3 list - that she really did love each gift she got.  Truly.  She is so blessed to have so many people who love her so much.  Me, too.

Also, a tip for those of you with peanuts born close to Christmas, I usually put away some of her gifts to bring out in the summer so she has new things to play with throughout the year.  It's just a small way to help with the over-abundance of toys this time of year.  A little delayed gratification never hurt anyone, right?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lila's Birthday Party

Lila's birthday party was December 17th.  Simply put, it was 3+ hours of joyful chaos.  Lila was beside herself with glee as each of her favorite people walked through the door.  Franny, the over-zealous guard dog, gave up her barking fits after the 17th person walked in without knocking.  Lila just kept running around showing off and yelling intermittently, "Butterfly Birthday!!" It was awesome.

Here's a glimpse of the party in pictures:

the spread

party favors: butterfly ornaments
little notes for the big two-year-old.  I love reading what people say about my girl.
Birthday banner from last year, embellished with little butterflies made by Laurisa

birthday girl/hostess was busy cooking up some fake food for her guests. that plate has half an orange, a croissant and a giant chicken leg. hilarious.

blowing out her candles on the butterfly ice cream cake.  I have a death grip on her neck because my little sister once caught her hair on fire when blowing out birthday candles and now I'm paranoid.

enjoying the cake with Daddy. you can see that the crash is coming soon...

...and here it is.  after everyone left, a very tired and chocolate-covered birthday girl. 
All in all it was a fun and exhausting day.  Eric made Lila a film about her 2nd year just like he did for her first year.  She watches them obsessively.  Oh to be a narcissistic two-year-old with parents who spoil you rotten.

I'm having technical difficulties with last year's video, but here's this year's for your viewing pleasure: