Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from our little punkin' to you!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Grief of Remembering

Last Thursday Anna was fine in the morning, but in the afternoon she was inconsolable. At naptime she cried and cried for no discernible reason. She didn't need anything, and I wasn't trying to make her do anything (like sleep) that she would resist--in fact, she was clinging onto me for dear life, in contrast to her anxious behavior yesterday (more on that in another post).

She just seemed . . . sad. Grieving.

I do believe infants grieve, and our precious child has experienced much loss in her short life. Perhaps it catches up to her unexpectedly, at seemingly peaceful times, as grief does to all of us.

What's a mother to do?

I did all I could do, all any of us can do for each other. I held her tight as she buried her face in my neck and squeezed fistfulls of my shirt and lifted her face and howled to the heavens and pressed against me again as if to climb inside. I told her over and over that I loved her and that I was with her. That it was okay to be sad, that I'm sad too that she's sad and that she can't know her mother in Ethiopia. That I wished we could have met her but I know, I just know like a mom knows, she misses you too. That I'm sorry she had to leave everything she knew but that I would do my best as her mama, that I would always be here, always be her mommy, always love her.

Isshy, isshy, Yegetanesh. Isshy. Okay.

In time her sobbing stopped, her breathing calmed, her body grew heavy and relaxed into deep sleep. She slept in peace and woke in peace, and our broken hearts carried us on through the day, but they remember what was lost. I promise to remember.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Cup Runneth Over and Maketh a Big Mess

Warning: Transparency Alert.

Disclaimer: I'm not out of hope and I don't dislike motherhood. In fact overall I'm surprisingly fond of it, but that's a story for another day. This is about these latter days and how they've taken their toll.*

We were joined in church yesterday by the missionaries to Cambodia who our church supports and whose grandmother goes to our church. Jeremy preached and besides telling stories that made me want to go back to Ethiopia, he used an example of a pitcher of water pouring into a cup sitting on a saucer sitting on a plate. The pitcher is God; he's always pouring and pouring his grace. We're the cup; God pours into us and it overflows into our family/loved ones/the things we hold most dear (the saucer) and then into the larger world, the people and places we touch in ministry/life (the plate). But if you put the saucer or plate over the cup, nothing gets into the cup. It stays empty or drys up.


I'd say I am feeling dry, except it's more like drowning. There's grace all around me and most days I can even see it, but sometimes it feels like instead of drinking it in, I'm just flailing around and making a mess.

These days I am giving a lot to Anna, and that's a good thing. It's worthwhile and usually it's enjoyable. Sometimes it's downright fun. But it never, ever stops. It's just so constant, this mothering thing.

That might be okay if everything else weren't constant too. But it is, and over the last couple weeks all the demands of life, mine and ours and everyone else's, have been engulfing and overwhelming me. Sometimes I feel like I work thirteen hours a day and accomplish nothing. Too many to-do's and not enough done. Too many bills and not enough money. Too much conflict and not enough communication. Too many needs and not enough helpers. Too much work and not enough play and one dull boy and girl crashed vacantly on the couch with no energy for either.

Another day, another dollar. Two steps forward, three steps back.

Days and weeks like these can leave us feeling perplexed. What are we doing wrong? Why did God bring us to this spot? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? What if the money runs out? Is it my fault? Will it ever get easier?

Some of those questions I know the answer to; I just need to remind myself or hear the truth again. Some of them we'll never know the answers to. And for some of them we just have to play our hand out as best we can.

It's not like I haven't been here before, and knowing me, I'm sure I'll come back again. I'm thankful God gives more than enough grace to smooth over my ups and downs. Deep down I trust His work is not done in me and around me. I want to be a Psalm 27 girl:

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

(verses 13-14)

But let's get real: My confidence falters sometimes, with so much riding on it. I try to be strong and I just take on too much. My plate gets full and my cup gets blocked and runneth over and maketh a big mess. (And then leaves that mess in the kitchen for several days hoping it will clean itself.)

So yeah, I'm a Psalm 27 girl, deep down. But some days, in all honesty, it comes a little more naturally for me to be a Matchbox 20 girl: I really, really just wish the real world would stop hassling me. And you.

Please don't change
Please don't break
The only thing that seems to work at all is you . . .
I wish the real world would just stop hassling me and you

*Mmm, what I really need right now is some Good Dog Bad Dog for these latter days. All I need is everything. Will there ever be a time in my life when I can't come back to these lyrics? I submit that there will not.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Muhammed Duck-li

Ridiculously cute.

Seriously cute.

Seriously ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Baptism in Pictures

For those of you craving more detail (for some strange reason), here are more pictures from Anna's baptism day, with helpful captions and witty commentary.

First, Pastor J says some stuff. We taught Anna to look interested.

Next, we hand her off so he can show his skills
at juggling a baby and a small pitcher of water while praying.
He holds a doctorate in this.

Water is applied to baby's forehead in thoughtfully small amounts,
despite to a certain reverend's reputation to the contrary.
Baby's father shows signs of needing to go get a glass of water himself.(When said father starts to cry during a movie, he suddenly thirsts and goes to the kitchen to get a glass of water as a coverup. However, since he once revealed this to the whole church in a sermon, now everyone knows what a big crybaby he is, especially when adoption-pregnant. I mean, come on--A Night at the Museum? That's not a tearjerker.)

Pastor says, "Ta-daaaaa!"
Or is it "Whaaaat? Did you think I was going to dump this whole thing on her?"
(Um, why do you think there are twelve towels on hand?)

We hold up all of coffee mingle to pose for the paparazzi parishioners.
In case you didn't know, "coffee mingle" is not half regular, half decaf.
It is Presbyterian for "fellowshiping," which passes as a word only
in the Baptist dialect, roughly translated "hanging out over food."

It was a lovely cake. Even butterflies were drawn to it.

On your baptism day you are allowed to stick your fist into your cake.
You don't want to know what I'm doing in the above picture.
I edited it out to spare my mother. But I bet some of you could guess.

Mmm, mmm, sacramentally good!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Truest Thing About Her

This year’s Young Life leadership camp speaker reminded us of a great truth: What is the truest thing about you? Your name. Who you are. Who God made you to be—his child whom he calls by name. You belong to God—in Amharic, Yegetanesh.

Yesterday at church, in the presence of friends and a great cloud of witnesses, Anna Jubilee Yegetanesh joined our church family through a simple affirmation of God’s covenant with us through baptism:

Aaron and Wendy, do you desire for Anna to be baptized?
We do.

Relying on God’s grace, do you promise to live the Christian faith and to teach that faith to your child?
We do.

Do you, congregation, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, promise to guide and nurture Anna, by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging her to know and follow Christ and be a faithful member of his church?
We do.

And so with joy we dedicated to God that which is already his yet ours to watch over. We cling to the covenant promise that as he calls her by name, he whispers to her soul the truest thing about her: Yegetanesh—you belong to God.

Let the people sing:

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

He knows my name
He knows my every thought,
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

I have a Father,
He calls me his own
He’ll never leave me,
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

Tommy Walker, "He Knows My Name (I Have a Maker)"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Baptism This Sunday

Anna will be baptized this Sunday. Everyone wants to know what she is wearing (I think they all want to buy her something) and I'm happy to report that she fits in the traditional Ethiopian dress we bought in Addis and so will be able to wear that.

Please join us if you'd like--10:30 a.m., CPC in Smallport.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Favorites at 9 Months

Here's an update on what Anna is up to and into now that she's over the 9 month mark.

Size: She has grown so much! She's almost 18 pounds and 27 inches. She's out of some of her cute small clothes and into her cute bigger clothes (no fashion shortage here) and #3 diapers.

Words: Ear-piercing happy screams, vowels, and dadadadadadadada (may or may not be directed at Dad, dog, chair, wall, etc.)

Transportation: Rolling, rotating, scooting on her stomach - now getting up on her knees and rocking - look out!

Foods: Formula, cereal with veggies or fruit, paper

Favorite toys: Paper, books, stuffed cow, Daddy, the dog's bone, whatever she's not supposed to have

Favorite hobbies/games: Dancing, shrieking, giggling, eating, bouncing on the big bed, clapping, chasing doggie, human lint brush

Favorite books: The Very Hungry Caterpilar, Time for Bed (to read); the phone book (to eat)

Favorite music: Hey Ya (acoustic mommy version); You and Me by Lifehouse; Eternal Flame by The Bangles. Likes oldies, '80s, church music, and anything with a good beat you can dance to. Undecided on NPR and The Killers (she's got soul, but she's not a soldier).

Ahh, kids today - growin' up so fast!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

They Have Everything There

Earlier this week I received an email with a strange subject line: recommends Jesus and more
I was surprised but thought that was nice of them, since I recommend him myself.

Then I saw this ad, and I thought, Now they've gone too far:
  • Children: Try eBay
    Looking for Children? Find exactly what you want today.

And to think we went and wasted all that money on adoption.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Beauty and the BS

To follow up on my earlier post about being highly visible and the praise that constantly gushes over our daughter, let me say again that I do take these comments as compliments (we have yet to receive a negative remark--though I know we will someday). We are and will continue to be as proud as imaginable of our daughter not just for her beauty but for all the other qualities emerging in her as well. I do appreciate the nice things people say.

I'm just not always sure what to say in return.

When someone says, "She's such a beautiful baby!" or "That's the most adorable baby I've ever seen!" what am I supposed to say?

I usually go with a simple "Thank you," although sometimes it feels like taking credit for something we had nothing to do with. We neither made nor chose her.

I've occasionally said something joking like "Yes, no thanks to us," but I don't really want to emphasize that as she grows up.

Sometimes I say, "Yes, we certainly think so." This is true, but does admitting my bias imply I don't think it's true? I mean, sometimes I think people are laying it on a little thick, but I don't mind them agreeing with my assessment that she's the most beautiful baby ever.

Sometimes I think I can see my baby's ego causing her entire head to swell up to the 99th percentile and a belief that beauty matters most rising up to devour the seeds of her preteen self-esteem, so I deflect with a comment about something she's doing rather than how she looks. I want her to hear, and know, and trust, as she grows older, that her beauty is enhanced and made complete by her brains, her heart, her purpose, her character.

She's beautiful, yes. But it's nothing compared to the beauty inside.

That's my answer. If only you, and she, could see how true it is.

Note: This may seem silly at her age and when the comments are compliments, but consider the hair comments which are surely in our future:

Also recommended:
"A Girl Like Me" at

Friday, October 05, 2007

Cutest Baby EVER in the WORLD?

As I already shared, a couple weeks ago we took Anna with us to Wildhorse Canyon for Young Life leadership training camp, and she was a great traveler and made lots of friends. This phenomenon was an interesting experiment, in fact.

The first night she was being chatty so I took her outside to the "baby zone" where a dad was trying to jiggle his little guy to sleep too, but of course Anna saw that she could soak up attention from everyone standing there and immediately enjoyed making big eyes at people and smiling so they could tell her how she's the cutest, most adorable baby ever in the whole wide world with the biggest eyes and oh so sweet. Which is true, of course. Still . . .

She was like a freaking celebrity with all the attention she got. Everyone was always watching her and saying hi and asking her name and (occasional grr) touching her head. This happened quite a bit in the store this week too. I know people like babies and especially cute, alert babies . . . but at first Control Group Baby was right there and it was Anna that got all the oohs and ahhs. And I know she really is cute and adorable and alert and with big eyes and oh so sweet. And we her parents do find her to be the most beautiful thing in the whole wide world. But twice total strangers have said, "She is the cutest [or most beautiful] baby I've ever seen in my life." In your life? Really? You don't have children or grandchildren or neices or friends' children whom you've seen for more than ten seconds and whom your affection for might give them a bump up to the top of the list? I mean, these were older women. They had to have seen a lot of babies in their life. But it's official, and we're making a plaque for the house: Cutest Baby EVER Slept Here.

Young Life leaders are awesome people so all the attention was positive and we had some nice conversations with people about adoption and babies/parenting, so I didn't really mind. Actually it was a lot of fun having her there and we are proud to have adopted her and be her parents (and prideful in a selfish way to be seen with celebrity baby). I know a lot of the attention she gets is because she is black in places most are white, and she doesn't "match" us either. She just plain stands out in a crowd, and the consensus does seem to be that she's exceptionally cute, and even we are amazed at her beauty. So I don't blame people for watching her--I would and I do! That's an illustration of differences in racial privilege, but I don't take offense as long as people are positive, not offensive, and it's not making her or us uncomfortable (at this point).

Still, it's a little strange to know that a lot of that attention is because in our white world, she's got a novelty factor as well. And I wonder sometimes about how much of the praise for her beauty is a kind of surprise. When people seem amazed that she could be so cute, or have such fine features, or whatever, is that a slightly different kind of response to her race? Did you not think she could or would be cute? (Then again, maybe just not that cute, because she's even more beautiful than even I imagined. But I see with mommy eyes.)

I don't want to read too much into people's comments, but it's interesting to observe the patterns. Seems like maybe white people overcompensate: they get caught staring and so feel they have to give a compliment so we know they approve. Or tell us about someone else they know who adopted. People do this a lot in general; when we told people we were adopting, we almost always got told about someone else's adopted kids in response, and often about how cute (and/or maybe how small or curly-haired or whatever) so-and-so's little girl from wherever is.

It's human nature to try to make that connection, maybe. To show your support with examples of others you support. But I wonder if there isn't a bit more to it with adoption and especially transracial adoption. (To show you're not racist by talking about your personal Stephen Colbert's Black Friend Alan?) We don't need these people's assurance, but maybe they do.

Or, then again, maybe she just really is the world's most beautiful baby.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Time, Travels

I'm not sure what's wrong with me--why I haven't been writing. I have had a couple days between work projects to get caught up on my to-do lists and I've been only somewhat successful. Trouble getting motivated at the right time, when the little girl is napping, I guess. Then before you know it she's up, she's eating (she's always eating!), and the day's gone. All you experienced mothers are thinking, Duh, newbie.

I mentioned in passing that a couple weeks ago we had our post-placement visit from an agency social worker. This means someone comes to your house for an hour, talks to you, and writes a short report, and you pay for the privilege.

Next we get to pay for Anna's re-adoption in Oregon, which is necessary to get her a U.S. birth certificate and get her name and birthdate all straightened out. I also have to get her Social Security card before we need it for tax purposes. The adoption paper fun never stops.

We took Anna on her first big trip, aside from that whole Ethiopia-to-USA thing, of course. She went with us to Wildhorse Canyon for Young Life leadership training camp. 'Cuz she's already sure she wants to be a Young Life leader. Wildhorse is the most amazing camp and I personally always like to go in the fall (when it's not 110 degrees) and be with the leaders. The only problem is that it's six hours away. After four hours Anna definitely wanted to be out of that car seat. But other than that and her repeated prank of peeing every time her dad had her diaper off (hee hee), she did fantastic. We finally made some good use of our stroller, which I love love love for its rear-facing seat, and she stayed in almost all the big "Club" meetings and workshops with us. She was so exhausted by making new friends everywhere she went--more on this tomorrow--that by Saturday night she slept through every raucous gathering her irresponsible parents selfishly dragged her to. Because hey, we couldn't miss anything involving raw foods and something called a Man-O-Meter for something as petty as sleep.

Camp can be very, very tiring.