Not too long ago my Dad was helping him into the car. Dad was getting ready to close the door and said "Felmata, watch your hands". So, Felmata looked down at his hands and watched them. And why not? That's what Grandpa said to do!
Last night at dinner we encouraged him to eat a few more bites. "I can't!", he said. "If I put anymore food in there my tummy will POP!" After a few more questions we figured out that he thinks if he eats too much his tummy will get bigger and bigger and then it will explode. An interesting concept...
Christmas has been the same way. As a family, we've never made a big deal out of Santa, and this year has been no different. With Felmata especially we've been focusing on the meaning of the season ... Jesus' Birthday. But, this is America, and so he's seen some Santa stuff here and there. This was our conversation from this morning...
"Ma ... I want to be awake when the reindeer bring Santa to our house."
"Well, honey, if Santa does come it will be at night when we're all asleep."
"But how will we watch him blow out the candles if we're sleeping?"
"What candles Meta?"
"The candles on Baby Jesus' birthday cake!"
Somewhere this past month he put 2 and 2 together and figured out that Santa will come on Christmas Eve and blow out the candles on Jesus' birthday cake. Hmmmm I guess we have a little more explaining to do!
Here's where I'm coming from. I am hosting a little neighborhood Christmas party on Monday. We're doing a birthday party for Baby Jesus. I'm asking each child to bring a picture of themselves as babies, then we'll do a show and tell about how we ALL were babies once, even Jesus. I want to put a "picture" of Baby Jesus in the center of the board, and have the kids place their pictures around it. For a 3 year old, it will be a good visual that Jesus actually WAS a baby!
Which brings me to my discovery ... where to find a "picture" of Baby Jesus? I went to the local card shop. One would think there would be a card out there somewhere with a picture of the manager on it. I looked and looked and looked again. I saw santas and snow flakes and trees and presents and lights and reindeer and beautiful flowers and candles and snowmen but not one card with a manger and the baby on it. Not one. Maybe I'm terribly naive but this has shocked me a little. And I think it should.
And then I look around my house. And there are santas and snow flakes and and trees and presents and lights and reindeer and beautiful flowers and candles and snowmen and yes, a baby Jesus, too.
Traditions aren't bad. But I hope I can regain a renewed determination to keep the Christ in Christmas. And if the card stores don't want to, then so be it. But at our house this year we're not going to forget what exactly it is we're celebrating. The birthday of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
And if I sound politically incorrect, I'm not going to apologize. Cuz like I said, this is my blog. And it's Christmas. Jesus' Birthday. And I think He should be prevalent in the celebration. It just makes sense.
Felmata and I had been talking about Thanksgiving all week. We read lots of books, so he could be "caught up" on what it is we do. ie... eat turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. Go to Grandma's house. Go bowling (we've been doing that for years ... kinda wierd but tradition is tradition, and it's kinda fun to have an activity after lunch). As we read and talked and anticipated, he had lots of important questions ... like how would Nana put the stuffing into the turkey? I answered the only way I could think of ... through it's butt. Opps ... he has been repeating that one with a little grin to anyone who will listen. Not sure why I didn't think of "through the turkey's neck"!
He also made me promise to see the turkey before we ate it. No problem!
When we got to Grandma's house, he ran to the kitchen. Me see the turkey! We opened the oven and he was quite disappointed. Apparently he wanted to see the turkey BEFORE it was dead. The next best thing was to see the feathers and the head. "Nana! I want to see the feathers!" Then we had to explain that the store took the feathers and head off before we bought the turkey. Bummer! I get why he thought it would be alive ... in a lot of the Africa we've seen families have a little chicken in a little fence, which they would eventually kill and eat. No wonder he wanted to see the head and feathers.
After his first bite we asked what he thought ... "tastes like chicken" was his comment.
To make a perfect day a near fairy tale to one Ethiopian American, just as we were fitting the last bites of food into our tummys, my Dad said "Look outside! Here come the turkeys!" Nearly 2 dozen turkeys were making their way around the backyard. Right outside the window. Felmata and Noah ran outside where Felmata attempted to catch a turkey for "next time". No so luck, but the look on his face is something that I will remember for a long time. For all he knows ... chasing turkeys for "next time" is just part of the family tradition.
Happy Thanksgiving little buddy! I hope all of them are as magical as this one was. Now ... onto Christmas!
I am thankful for a God who knows better than I do what I need. I am thankful for a living, adventurous God who doesn't allow me to coast through life, but challenges me to grow and change and thrive. I'm thankful that when storms come my way, Jesus wants me to row, but also gets in the boat with me.
I am thankful for a husband who loves his God, his family and his work. I get to be married to a man who shares from his heart and wants to look into mine. I am thankful that we are learning to be our "true selves" with each other.
I am thankful for healthy kids with different personalities. I have been blessed with 3 children who not only bring laughter and joy into my life, but who challenge me and stretch me and make me a better person.
I am thankful for my parents who are proud of me and still remind me of that, even though I'm 33 years old. I am thankful for in-laws who support my role in our family and cheer us on with each new "adventure". I am thankful for a father-in-law who calls me just to say I'm doing a "good job".
I am thankful for 2 sisters who knew me when I was at my worst, and still love me anyway. It is an amazing blessing to not only love but also like your siblings.
I am thankful for friendships that have gone deeper this year. I am grateful for women in my life who are willing to be real and authentic and allow me to be too (even when it's ugly).
None of these things I have earned. None of them are mine. I don't possess them. I try to hold them loosely, knowing that my hope comes from above. But oh, for the moment, I am so grateful to the One who has given them to me.
This weekend we publically dedicated Felmata to the Lord. Obviously we did this a long time ago in our hearts, but this was the night we stood up in front of family and friends and declared it out loud. We chose Jeremiah 29:11 to be read for Felmata. This is a verse I "claimed" for Felmata long ago.
I so believe that God has good plans for my son ... plans to give him hope and a future. It is a sobering job, this thing called Motherhood. It is filled with ups and downs and fear and joy and pride and regret and so much more.
More than all of that, in the middle of all of that, really, there is my God who promises not only for me, but for my children as well, that He will never leave us. That He has plans for us, and those plans are good. And because of that promise, and His love that never changes, I can take the ups and downs and fears and regrets, and also the joys and laughter and hugs, and I can wake up each morning with eagerness to do my job the best that I can. I have my part, and God has His, and for that I am thankful this year!
Noah and Ella have had their share of tantrums. Not large. Not long. But they've each had fits over not getting their way. Felmata has had his share, too. But I've never seen one like this ... even from somebody else's child. Never. In all of my life. And I've seen some pretty ugly tantrums.
We were wrapping up our shopping. Noah brought a few of his own dollars to buy a tech deck. Felmata wanted a toy, too. I explained that he got a new toy just this past Saturday, and that Noah was using his own money. The tantrum began. It was manageable, but that's where it started. We headed for the check out, kicking, yelling, crying, but still, mostly manageable. A little embarassing, yes, but no big deal. I have thick skin. An older Mom smiled as she passed and encouraged me to "stay strong".
At the same time the tantrum began, Felmata was clutching his Little Debbie brownies. I let the kids each pick a Little Debbie snack for later. See ... I'm not really a mean Mom.
Anyway, as the kicking, yelling, crying continued, Felmata made the choice to throw his brownies over the edge of the cart. "That'll show you" was the look on his face. "I don't think so" was the look on mine.
This is the part where it got really really ugly. I picked up the brownies off from the floor, and simply put them back on the shelf. I'm not going to tolerate food being thrown out of the grocery cart. Tantrum or not.
The yelling became louder. The kicking got stronger. The crying more intense. The spitting began. During flu season. My child was spitting on everything he could get to. And on and on and on.
2 store employees stopped to ask if they could help. Shoppers left their aisles to find out what the racket was. Several women stopped their carts completely to stare. Literally just stood and stared.
What was I to do? Abandon my cart and leave the store? Reason with a totally out of control child? I tried a time out in the shoe aisle to no avail. Should I just try and get through the checkout super fast? I picked option 3. I hurried to the checkout.
Where, you guessed it, I saw not 1, not 2, but 3 people I knew. 2 pretended not to see me. Although I could see them walking a little quicker as I got closer.
With tears streaming down my face, I quickly loaded my groceries, paid my bill, and started to head for the door. When person #3 chose to get into my chaos for a second. My friend Missi stopped what she was doing, walked over to me (now she was being stared at, too) and gave me the biggest bear hug I've gotten in a very long time. It wasn't a pat on the shoulder, a "poor you", kind of hug. She hugged me until I let go, and whispered what a good Mom I was.
The last few years I've often times made my outings to Meijer an intentional place to show some love. Often when I'm there, I'm looking for people to extend a smile to. I try to make conversation with the cashiers. Try to ask about their lives. Often I let frazled moms go ahead of me in line. I feel like I can be Jesus for just a second to someone I run into. I feel like maybe a small gesture could brighten someone's day.
Today the tables were turned. I'm not sure Missi will ever know how thankful I was that God had her right there, right then, and that she chose to walk into my world for just a second, and be Jesus to me.
I cried most of the way home. Not because I was frustrated, or embarassed, or angry. But because someone showed such kindness, and I felt such love.
Life is hard sometimes. It's not always easy being a Mom. But how much brighter the world looks when someone chooses to walk across the aisle and share a little of the burden.
Ella aka Hannah Montana
Felmata the "friendly" lion. He refused to say "ROOOAR" but chose instead to say "meow".
"I so happy Mom"!
I so happy too Felmata ... What a joy you are to me.
It is fall, and at our house that means Football and Soccer!
Ella played her first game of the season on Tuesday. The "Candy Bashers" had a great first game. Ella had a lot of fun. I think the highlight for her was the cartwheels she perfomed in the goal. Ahh, Ella. She does not have her brother's competitive nature, but she sure knows how to have fun. She's the kind of kid who really believes it's not about winning or losing, but it's about having a good time that matters most.
Which brings me to Noah. He had his 1st football game of the season on Saturday. The "Mud Dogs" won 12 -6 and Noah scored one of the touchdowns for the team. His first ever ... and hopefully not his last. I can not even explain the joy on his face as he ran across that line. This kid loves sports with every part of his being. He also loves to win! He was awake at 6:30 Saturday morning thinking about the game. It's fun to see him so dedicated and passionate about something. The lessons he has learned and is learning on and off the field/s will do him well someday.
Bedtimes at our house have quieted down! Praise God for that! I can not put into words how big of a victory this past week has been. We have finally found the "formula" for Felmata, or maybe he's just learning to trust us more? Whatever it is, we've now gone 7 nights successfully with no screaming, no fits, just a simple bedtime routine with a book, prayers, kisses and the closet light on. Can I hear a hallelujah!!!!!
I got to have a little fun this week, too! For Christmas, Paul's employees gave us a hot air balloon ride. The pilot called this week and wondered if we could make it on Saturday. We said "yes" ... and last night we went up for the first time ever in a balloon. What a blast! It was so peaceful and relaxing and even a little romantic. It was so great to get away from the house and kids for a night, and focus on each other and have some fun. I don't blog about Paul very often but he is the absolute love of my life and if I could pick anything to do on any particular day it would be to spend time with him. I am blessed beyond words!
So there you have it. A few pictures from the last week. I'm choosing not to blog about the 2 bouts of ring worm we've had to battle this week ... thanks Ethiopia! ... or the "time out rug" that has been added to our home ... maybe some other time!
For weeks, anytime Felmata sees a fish (on TV, in Cartoons, in a book, in aquariums ...) he says "YUMMY!" "FISH"! Then he makes a cutting motion and pretends to be picking apart the fish to eat. One would think I would have cooked the child some fish by now. I'm embarassed to say ... I have not. I am not a fish lover. In fact, the smell of it turns my stomach. I did not eat fish as a child, I do not eat fish as an adult ... unless it's tuna from a can with mayo and lots of veggies added in. That's not the funny part of the story.
Today was a hard day for Felmata (see my last blog post). A few days ago we were at the neighbors, and he got to feed their pet fish. He thought that was fun. I thought ... Felmata needs a fish of his own. What a fun project that would be! We could care for it, love it, he could have a pet of his own.
At Meijer today we bought a very cute (if they can be cute!) Beta fish complete with his own food and "safe water" solution. You can probably see where this story is heading ... I, on the other hand, didn't follow the logical conclusion until it was almost too late.
Fast forward to lunch time.
Me: "Felmata" ... "What would you like for lunch?"
Me: "Oh, Honey! Mommy's sorry but we don't have any fish. How about some pasta?"
This is the part I should have seen coming. For the Beta's sake, if not for my own.
Felmata proceeds to run to the fish bowl, and grab for the Beta. He splashes, he stabs, he very nearly has the Beta in his hand. There is water everyone. If fish could scream, Beta would be howling.
Felmata: "FISH! YUMMMMY! FISH for LUNCH!!!"
Apparently he thought the nice pet Beta was our lunch.
How could I serve the child pasta after that?? We got our shoes on and headed to Lamberts (a seafood specialty market) and I bought the boy some perch.
He loved it. And the Beta is still alive ... for today anyway.
If you're wondering how Felmata did with sending his 2 favorite people off to school today ... these pictures say it better than I could. Poor little guy!!
Thankfully he's resilient and I had the foresight to have a new box of playdough waiting for when we got home!
I took a few minutes tonight to look at a few, and so many emotions came rushing back. The joyful, fun loving, exciting, loving, lover-of-all-things-new child we've been blessed with came from a very different world than we know. I should know that ... I was there ... but life takes over and I forget. Even in a short month. I sometimes forget about his birth mom who loves him. I think less and less about the poverty & hunger he's experienced for most of his life. I forget about the friends he's left behind. It's only been a month, but somehow I have to remind myself that he hasn't been mine forever. And I'm so thankful he's mine now, and will be from here on out.
This image of a market in Ethiopia
compared with this image of our day today
is a stark reminder of all that has happened in my sweet little boy's life in one short month.
On a brighter note, Felmeta is one amazing little kid! He woke up this morning by crawling into our bed and saying “Mama!” “Papa!” with his bright happy smile. This little boy is going to fit right into our family.
Can’t wait to see you all soon!!!!!!!! Tell Noah and Ella we miss them so much!!!
Paul and Jess
We have had a busy 2 days! We were able to have a wonderful, very emotional meeting with Felmeta’s birthmom yesterday. Her story is Felmata’s to share someday, but we will say this. She is a beautiful woman filled with courage. We have very big shoes to fill.
Today we were able to pick up Felmata from the orphanage. What a GREAT day it has been! We have never seen a child with such a large smile, or so much energy! He talks and talks and talks and we have no idea what he’s saying! Yet he just keeps on chatting and smiling. We are in love! He is already starting to repeat English words that we say, and when we held him for the first time he said “mama”! “papa”! Clearly the orphanage prepared him very well. We brought a long a toy airplane and he seems to know he’s going on one soon.
We’re getting dinner soon, then calling it a night. We’re hoping he sleep well.
Thank you for all of your prayers. I am feeling a little better … kind of frustrating to not be 100% feeling good, but God has given me the strength exactly when I’ve needed it. Please keep praying that I feel better soon.
We (I) miss home so much and can’t wait to come home on Saturday. Africa is a wonderful place, but I miss Michigan. Not sure when we’ll be able to email again … the power just came on and had been out for a long time.
Love you you all!
Jess & Paul
Ps If you happen to see Noah and Ella please tell them we LOVE THEM and can’t wait to see them soon!!
There were a few tears last night (just from me) as I realized that would be the last sit down dinner at our table with just 4 of us. It feels a little bittersweet to be saying "good bye" to our family as we know it. I remember the feeling well just before Ella was born. And, oh my, I can not even IMAGINE life without that child now. How blessed we have been!
Today we are relaxed, and feeling so comfortable and at ease with the whole entire thing. We know that God is with us, in fact He's gone before us, and if He is for us who (what!) can be against us?
We have been touched over and over and over again by the kind words of encouragmenet, love and support from our friends and families. We feel overwhelmed by the people who have surrounded us and who we know will be here waiting with open arms when Judah comes home.
Our hearts are full & running over.
Thank you for your prayers for safe travel, absence of fear & smooth transitions for all of us.
Here we go!
Another family we are planning on traveling with had not so good news regarding their girl's tests. We're praying that their chest X Rays are negative, and that they can travel on time!
I promised a pic of Judah's room, and now that it's complete, here's the photo... All it needs now is a smiley little 3 year old boy!
With all the freedom in the air, on this the 4th of July, my mind naturally drifts to ... Africa. No surprise there! I'm putting the finishing touches on Judah's birth mom's photo album. We are going to be able to meet her while we're in the country. This is something I feel so blessed to be able to experience, and yet so overwhelmed by. I hardly dare even "go there" in my thoughts. How am I going to be able to sit with this incredible women? How am I going to be able to look her in the eyes, see the love for her son, and rationalize the injustice in this world. It is pretty safe to assume that life has not been kind to her. What does freedom look like to her? Surely she didn't ask to be born into a country where there is a 70% illiteracy rate. I can not imagine, if given the choice, she would live in a world where HIV is eliminating an entire generation of her family & friends. Surely she didn't ask to live in poverty the likes of which I've never even seen. Surely she didn't choose to give birth to a beautiful boy, with the hopes of relinquishing him to the care of an orphanage. Surely if she had even a little bit of freedom, she wouldn't be where she is right now. And so I think about her
with tears in my eyes
and pray that God will give me the words to express to her how sorry I am
that she doesn't have the choices I do
and pray that God will allow her to sense
just a little bit of how much I'll love this child
how much he'll be a part of our lives, our hearts, our hopes and our dreams
somehow ... someway ... I pray she'll get just a glimmer of hope in one of the choices she was able to make ... the choice to trust us to give him the best life we possibly can
and I am reminded once again that this temporary "crazyiness" is soooo worth it ...
We were also sent a few more pictures of him. Wow is this child ours! He has a smile that lights up my entire computer screen, and his eyes have a twinkle in them that must be from God himself. After we pass court I'll be able to post his picture on this sight, and you can see for yourself what I'm talking about.
We also received confirmation that he received the care package we sent. My heart beats a little faster when I think of him opening the photo book we put together, and imagining how his mind must be trying to imagine life in with us. We pray every day that God will be preparing him for all that lies ahead. I am trusting that God has us on this journey for a reason, and just like He is so good at doing, He's preparing all of us right now for what lies ahead.
On Monday, that's 5 days from now!, our case will go before a judge in Ethiopia and we're praying all goes well. We are trusting God's timing, whatever that might be, but also know if the timing is NOW we will be thrilled! We can hardly wait to bring this precious child home!
Lots of preparations are taking place around our house.
The kids and us have finally agreed on a name ... Judah. We are hopeful it will serve him well throughout his life. The name Judah is a Biblical one; it means "praised one". The strongest, most determined, most obedient tribe of Israel was called Judah and Jesus came from the line of Judah. Plus, it's easy to say, sounds a bit like his Ethiopian name and we all agree it's super cute.
We're putting the finishing touches on Judah's bedroom. The painting is completed! Noah & Ella got their way, no surprise there!, and there is a giraffe (actually 2!) on 1 of the walls. I'll post pictures as soon as we get the furniture moved back in.
We've begun the gift buying process. While in Ethiopia, so many people we'll meet and talk with will have played an integral role in our new son's life. It seems natural to arrive with small tokens of thanks. Our agency does a great job preparing us for what types of gifts are appropriate, how many we'll need, etc but to sit down and be creative, without being excessive, is a little more difficult than I had thought it would be. I love to give gifts, but giving gifts to people I've never met in an environment I can't imagine, has been hard. I'm so thankful for those who have "gone before us" and all their recommendations. I know already our trip will be better because of all of them and their great tips and advice.
We are counting down to May 25th, and praying for success! Each day that passes our hearts are getting more and more eager to go get that little sweetie, and bring him HOME!