Sunday, July 30, 2006

Congratulations Bethany and Zach!

My cousin Bethany got married today! She was the most beautiful bride I have ever seen. Bethany's family is very similar to ours (lots of kids, 6 of whom were adopted), so it is always fun to see them. The service was so sweet; Bethany and Zach are a great example of a couple with Christ at the center of their relationship.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Many Faces of JANAYA



"I am SO over this"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

An Unhappy Reader

Well, I have received my very first blog complaint. It came from my little brother Isaac. He claims that there are not enough pictures of him on my blog. Being the people-pleaser that I am, I will remedy the situation immediately.

Here are the results of a late-night photo shoot, consisting of Isaac, Lacy, and myself!

Aaron's Adoption Story Part IV: The "referral"

Continued from parts I, II, and III...

We adopted through the WIC (Waiting International Children) program, so we didn't go through the same referral process as most families. Aaron was in the program because he was very malnourished. Our whole family was drawn to his description on the WIC list, and it didn't take us long to know that this was our brother/son!!

The first pictures we received were painful to look at. He was so skinny, and looked like he was just barely hanging on. It's hard to describe just how much I wanted to hold him, and love him, and take all his pain away.

The nannies took great care of Aaron, and in the next set of pictures (that came about a month later), he looked so much healthier.

I carried the pictures around school and showed him off to EVERYONE!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Just Had to Share...

Yesterday my mom and I were shopping for outfits that Tekle and Aaron could wear to our cousin's wedding. While we were there I saw the cutest little boy running around and I started talking/playing with him. I guessed that he was Ethiopian but I couldn't tell for sure. A few seconds later his mom walked over, and than I KNEW he was Ethiopian. I continued to play with the little boy while our moms talked. The woman told us about her time in Ethiopia and quoted a lot of encouraging scripture. Turns out they attend an Evangelical Ethiopian church near our house, and invited us to attend culture classes there with Tekle and Aaron. How cool is that???

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Aaron's Adoption Story Part III: Location, Location, Location

We knew from the start that we would like to adopt from Africa. The need was so great and we felt a strong connection to the continent. We had awesome experiences hosting members of different African choirs when they were touring the US, and Jesse had traveled to South Africa a few years back. Not to mention Isaac, Janaya, and Lacy's African American heritage. We never really considered anywhere else. Initially, the plan was to adopt from Liberia. However, we were advised to switch to Ethiopia because of instability in the Liberian program at the time. It was hard to shift our focus to Ethiopia after having Liberia in our hearts for so long, but it turns out God was just leading us to the kids that were meant to be ours!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Grandma's House!

There is no place like Grandma and Grandpa's house! Our family loves traveling up to the country to spend time with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. My grandma and grandpa are the most loving, generous, and Christ-like couple you could ever meet. Not to mention everything my grandma cooks is amazing!!! We love riding the four wheeler and hanging out in their huge back yard. Everyone always come home feeling relaxed, loved, and of course, FULL.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Some More Firsts For Teketel!

Last weekend Tekle went to his first carnival/festival! The summer program at our church organizes it every year--I remember going when I was his age :)
Tekle was a bit overwhelmed with the whole experience. He downright REFUSED to play any of the games at first. So, I just held him and we walked around observing everything. Pretty soon my arms were tired and I asked Tekle why we were still there if he didn't want to play any games. "'Cause this is fun Kels". ("NOT FOR ME!"I thought).
With the help of an extremely friendly staff, Tekle was coaxed into playing a few games, and he even slid down the giant slide!

Tekle also had his first treat from the ice cream truck!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Aaron's Adoption Story Part II: Convincing the Rest of Us

Continued from Part I...

After even more prayer and soul-searching, my mom was convinced that it was time for our family to adopt again. She now had to get the rest of the family on board. Each person had a different reaction to the news. I of course, said "Yes, Yes, Yes!!". For years I had been trying to persuade my parents (ok, maybe begging is a better choice of words) to add "just one more" to our household.

My older brothers said "You guys are crazy...Seven kids?" Then following that question was a simple "That's cool". They did eventually get excited, but at this point we didn't even know who our baby would be.

Isaac (7th grade at the time) busted out with "Yes, more black people!"

Janaya enthusiastically agreed.

Lacy took a little longer to warm up to the idea. Ok, a lot longer. She was the baby of the family and had been for seven long years. She was very "well-nurtured" (polite way of saying very SPOILED), and was understandably concerned with being de-throned. Throughout the entire process she would be excited one moment, then crying 'I DON'T WANT A DUMB BABY!" the next.

My Dad was unsure at first and took awhile to decide whether or not we would proceed, but he was soon as anxious and excited as the rest of us!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Aaron's Adoption Story Part I:The Decision

My mom decided one day, years ago, that she would like to have six kids. "6 is the perfect number" she thought. "I can have three boys and three girls". By the year 1998, she had accomplished her goal. There were six children living at home; my older biological brothers, Peter and Jesse, myself, Isaac (domestically adopted as an infant) Janaya (domestically adopted as an infant), and Lacy (domestically adopted as an infant). It was just as she had planned, 3 boys and 3 girls. However, God's plans are not always the same as our own. In 2005 my mom started to feel a pull towards adoption again. At first she brushed it off as a coping mechanism since Jesse had just moved out for college. Even so, the feeling persisted. Not willing to surrender to the idea just yet, she bought a puppy. Yes, my mom purchased a puppy to satisfy her yearning for another child. As much as she loved Cali (named after California because my dad was there on a business trip at the time- thus being too far way to stop my mom from buying a dog)she couldn't shake this "feeling". In her last stage of denial, my mom decided that maybe God was not calling her to adopt, but instead telling her to aid in someone else's adoption. So she attended an adoption conference, and stated her intentions as finding out ways she could help. Of course, the conference had the opposite effect and left her convinced that God was calling our family to expand yet again...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Love and Loss

One of the toughest realities of adoption is that as you are welcoming a new child into your life, someone else has had to say good-bye. One night I was lying down with Aaron, trying to help him fall asleep. I began to reflect on how much our lives had changed since he came home, and the immense amount of joy he has brought to our family. This led me into thinking about his birth mother. She must have been gorgeous because my little brother is about the cutest thing I have ever seen. She must have nurtured him with her whole heart because he never showed signs of neglect--his eye contact was incredible and he bonded quickly. She must have experienced unfathomable poverty because Aaron didn't even have children's clothes on when he was found--he was wrapped in an adult size t-shirt.

I was overcome with grief and stared to cry and cry...WHY does this have to be the reality of our world???

Instead of doing math homework that night, I wrote a poem:

Deeper than Most Eyes Can See

A beautiful mother
Deep pain set in her eyes
Holds her baby close, as she bears his hungry cries

She bows her head and asks,
"LORD what can I do?
My baby will not live, unless we find some food"

Her heart breaks to see
Her little ones condition
And out of love, this mother makes a desperate decision

She only wants the best
For her precious baby boy
A life free of hunger, and full of love and joy

Her eyes gaze down upon
His malnourished little face
Time stops as she brings him near her heart for an embrace

She whispers "Know forever,
That you are loved and cherished
I will think of you continually, until the day I perish"

She's trying to stay strong
But her lip begins to quiver
She wraps the baby in a shirt, and walks down toward the river

She picks a spot of land
Careful not to make a sound
And sets her baby down, where she knows he will be found

She bends down near her child's cheek
And gives him one last kiss
All the while grieving, the life that she would miss

She retreats back down the road
Careful not to look behind
For she knows that if she hesitates, she just might change her mind

God has been watching
Her prayers are not in vain
He knows exactly how it feels to see your son in pain

God has plans for this baby
"Plans to prosper, not to harm
To give him hope and a future", safe in a mother's arms

A woman has arrived
To fetch water for the day
She sees the tiny baby, and carries him away

The woman tries to care for him
But it's clear this boy needs more
A few days later he arrives at the Bete Sa'ida doors

The nannies really love him
And help him start to heal
The baby learns what it is like to be fed at every meal

He is loved at the orphanage
But the staff cannot replace
The gift of waking up to see your dad and mommy's face

Another mom across the globe
Has begun to pray
God's placed adoption on her heart; she knows she must obey

The love felt for this little boy
That she has yet to meet
Convinces her that 'till he's home, her family's not complete

The day finally comes
A mom united with her child
A pure and perfect love is felt ; he looks at her and smiles

These two mothers share a bond
Deeper than most eyes can see
They love this baby more than life, and want him to succeed

His brand new mommy knows
That he's a gift from God above
She promises to raise him well, and shower him with love

He is a living miracle
A sweet loving little boy
Jesus shines right through him as he fills a home with joy

Friday, July 07, 2006


A common concern among families who are adopting older children internationally is how they will communicate with their newest addition. This was often the focus of our dinner table discussions in the months prior to meeting Tekle. I can't imagine going through such an enormous transition and being unable to express myself. I was very blessed in that I had a friend who spoke Amharic in my English class. He patiently taught me about 10 critical phrases. My accent was HORRIBLE because I kept pronouncing the words as if I were speaking Spanish. However, he worked with me until it was comprehendible.

When we met Tekle we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of English he already knew. It was mostly colors, numbers, animals etc... but he also knew a few random phrases. One of which was "Do not touch anything" with an emphasis on the ANYTHING. I'm sure he heard that a lot ;)
Tekle would giggle and giggle when I attempted to speak Amharic, but he understood what I was saying!! I would tell him that I loved him, and he would say "amesaygenaloh" (thank you). Tekle learned an impressive amount of English in the single week we spent with him in Addis. I fondly remember him pacing around the room saying "Wherrrre arrre you shoes??" rolling all the "r's". It was the cutest thing. He was even translating for us by the end of the week. One of his friends would yell out "Makina, makina!" and he would look at me and say "Makina, Car".

Within less than a month of coming home, Tekle had enough of a vocabulary that he could understand most of what we said, and could communicate all the basics. He was very determined to learn English and I would often hear him practicing a sentence under his breath before saying it out loud. There were still times when it was obvious that he really wanted to tell us something but couldn't find the words. That was hard to watch, but he handled it very well. His accent was the most precious thing I have heard in my life. He rolled all his "r's" and I could definitely hear the Italian influence in his voice. Unfortunately, after seven months his accent is almost gone. We took some video of Tekle shortly after he came home, so at least we have it on tape. He watched the video about a month ago asked "Kels, why am I talking so funny?" I told him that it wasn't funny, it was CUTE!

Tekle still gets confused once in awhile with English phrases. The other day my mom said "See ya later alligator". And Tekle was like "Mom, why are you talking about alligators?". Even more recently, I told Tekle that I didn't have a clue about something and he responded "Janaya doesn't have any clues either. Why don't you guys have any clues? I think you need to find some. What are clues?".

In conclusion my advice is to:

~Learn the basics to the best of your ability (I love you, do you need to use the bathroom, etc...)

~Show more than you tell

~Don't underestimate the power of hugs, kisses, and tickling to communicate :)

Just one more little anecdote...

The word for 'socks' in Amharic is "kal-see" (phonetically spelled).
Tekle came to the conclusion one day that "kal-see" was pretty much the same as "Kelsey" (me). He thought that was HILARIOUS, and called me socks for weeks!
I told this story to my Ethiopian friends at school (smart huh?), so I got a new nickname there too...