Friday, March 30, 2012

An Instruction Manual for Understanding the Harder Family

Our family is going to look a little different in the upcoming months.  I'm not just talking about how there will be three of us instead of two, I'm talking about what our life will look like at first with three.  Here's a quick instruction manual to help you figure out the new, improved Harder Family.

1.) You won't be seeing us for awhile.

After we return from Ethiopia, you won't see us for a few months.  We're going to hunker down and spend time just the three of us, learning how to be a family.  This is a common process in adoption, sometimes referred to as "cocooning."  It has been shown to provide lifelong benefits to the child, specifically in the areas of relationships, identity, and development.

Our little Feven has been a blessed little girl.  So far, she has been given very good care by every adult in her life.  However, her little brain is learning that EVERY adult person in her life will take care of her.  For her safety and also her ability to form good relationships later in life, we need to teach her to trust a few people, and then slowly let others into her life.  We want her to know that we are "It" for her.  She is not going to be passed off to any other care givers; we are her everything and will be there for her forever.

To help her learn this, we are going to hibernate for 4-6 weeks.  No trips with Feven to the grocery store or Target.  No visitors to our house, no visits to friends' houses, and no commitments.  Our priority is loving her and connecting with her, and that will be the only item on the To-Do list for every day of that period.

After about 4 weeks, we plan to take her to a therapist in the cities who specializes in adoption.  We will share with her about what we've noticed with Feven, and the therapist will observe Feven interacting with us.  Hopefully we'll get some tips to strengthen our bonds with Feven, and then proceed accordingly.

When our period of intense hibernation is complete, based on Feven's signals, we will begin opening her world up to our immediate family members.  Feven's grandparents, aunts, and uncles will be invited in for brief visits so she can begin forming relationships with them.

Our immediate family members will get the monopoly on Feven for about a month, and then we will introduce Feven slowly to our friends, church family, and community.

By doing this, we hope to show her who she can trust the most in her life; first us as her parents, then her extended family, and then friends and community members.   

2.) There are two ways to look at child's age: Chronological Age and Family Age.

As I write this post, Feven is 10 months old.  This is her Chronological Age.  However, when we bring her to our house for the first time, she will be only one day old in Family Age.  Because of the discrepancy between Chronological Age and Family Age, our activities and routines might look different than other families who have been parenting their children since birth.

One example of this is when it's time for Feven to eat.  She is capable of feeding herself because she is 10 months old in Chronological Age, but because she is a newborn in Family Age, we will be feeding her all her meals.  We want her to know we will be there to provide for her, and we want to go back and make up some of that special eye contact and touching that we missed while she was apart from us.  We will feed her all her bottles, and work hard to make eye contact with her during those times and talk and coo to her.  There are some magnificent things that go on in a child's brain when they are making eye contact with their care-giver during feeding times, and we want to recreate that for Feven in case she never got that.

Another thing that might seem silly for a 10 month old in Chronological Age is that we plan to hold Feven.  A lot.  She will be crawling and perhaps toddling when she first enters our home, but we will spend many hours with her in a baby carrier on us.  We will be "wearing" her so that we can have that physical closeness.  She will be able to hear our hearts beating when her head is near our chest, and she will feel our stomachs moving in and out as we are breathing.  This happens naturally with newborns, and since Feven is a newborn in Family Age, we want to give her this experience.

3.) We will be the ones to meet Feven's care needs.

Zac and I will be changing every diaper.  Every. Diaper.  We will be giving her every bottle and spoonful of food.  We will be the ones to pick her up after she has fallen or put a band-aid on her scraped knee.  We want her to see that we will be meeting her every need.  She no longer needs to approach any adult and trust that she will be cared for; we want her to look for us and seek us out when she has an unmet need.

This isn't so we can feel good about ourselves and how "needed" we are.  This is so our daughter can know who her go-to people are - who her number one fans are, and who will be there for her no matter what.  If you are around her when she falls off the swing at the park or if you see the diaper bag nearby and think you could help us by changing her blow-out diaper,  please hold yourself back and refrain from meeting her needs for the first year. Instead, please redirect her to us for comfort and care. We want to ingrain in her that we are her people.  So far in life, she has learned that every adult will meet her needs, and it will take some time to teach her otherwise.

4.) We are weak and need your help to stay strong.

Both Zac and I are people pleasers.  Now that you know our plan, please don't ask us to break this plan.  If you are at our house, please don't say, "Oh, can I just peek in on her?  She's sleeping, she won't even know I'm there."  We are weak and may give in to you.

On the other hand, we are going to be so excited to share our bundle of joy!  You might come by some night to talk with us on our front step and we might try to persuade you to come in and see her.  We might say to you, "She's won't be a problem!  You have to see her, she's just so beautiful!"  Stay strong and hold us accountable too.  Ask us if that's what we really want, and remind us of why we're doing what we're doing.  We need your help to stick to the plan!

5.) You might not hear too much from us for the next few months.

During our time of hibernation, we will not be returning phone calls, checking emails, or updating Facebook regularly.  We want Feven to know that she is our focus.  The next few months are going to be loaded with songs, giggles, activities, learning, and bonding.  We have a lot of missed time to make up, and that takes precedence now.

We still welcome communication from you - please keep us informed as to what's going on in your lives, but also understand that you will likely not get a response from us.  She needs us now, and this is our family's time to bond.

6.) There are specific ways we could use your support.

Meals - if you would like to cook a meal for our family, we welcome it.  We're going to have a grueling journey back home with an infant who is taking her first plane ride with (virtually) complete strangers who don't speak her language. God help us and all the passengers on those flights home!  We will likely come back exhausted and jet-lagged and our little angel will be on a timezone 8 hours ahead of us.  I imagine the first week that we'll all pretty much be in a fog.  A friend of mine offered to coordinate meals, and if that's something you're interested in, please contact me privately and I will connect you with my friend.

Companionship - Zac and I might go crazy trying to lay low and stay near home so much.  We might feel isolated and out of the loop with our friends.  We might feel tired and overwhelmed and in need of distraction.  If you would like to come over sometime and sip cold drinks on our fronts steps and keep us company as Feven sleeps, please let me know.  We can take in the quiet summer nights from the front porch and Zac and I can feel like people again.

Prayer - We need you to be praying for us and Feven in this time.  This transition is critical in her development as a person, and the things we do with her as she enters our family will lay the groundwork for relationships for her for the rest of her life.  No pressure there!  We need prayers for wisdom, patience, and selflessness.

Laughter - If you have funny stories or YouTube videos, please email them to us throughout the upcoming months.  I'm sure there will be times when we just need a good laugh!

Check-ins - Please leave us voicemails and emails just to let us know you're thinking of us, praying for us, or available to help.  Even if we don't respond to your messages, we will receive them and they will be a comfort to us. 

For further reading, check out these links:

Very well-articulated plan and reasons from Amanda of Walk by Faith
Letter to Family and Friends

An Open Letter to Family and Friends by Abby of finally.

A great, three-part blog series by Tiffany of A Moment Cherished
Planning for Attachment, Bonding, and Cocooning, Part 1
Planning for Attachment, Bonding, and Cocooning, Part 2
Planning for Attachment, Bonding, and Cocooning, Part 3

Nurturing Your Adopted Child to Grow on the Inside - Triangle Psychological Services
An Adopted Child's View of a Typical Gotcha Homecoming Day - Dr. Patti Zordich
Integrating Adopted Children into the Family - Corrie Lynne Player
Bringing Home a New Child - Cocoon

Friday, March 23, 2012

The End

Today is the last day of my long-term sub job.  I have mixed emotions as I get ready for work.  On the one hand, I'm excited to have one less responsibility.  Being done with this job also means I'm one step closer to bringing Feven home.

On the other hand, I've really learned to care for these kids.  Each of them is special and unique.  I like our inside jokes, our routines, and the sweet, sweet kids that they are.  Case in point?  When we recently got a new kid from Chicago, a couple boys that sit near the new kid's desk wore their Chicago Cubs clothing to make the new student feel welcome!

On Wednesday after school, I was presented with going-away cards that the students made for me.  I read them at home last night (Thursday), and have to share a few excerpts with you today.

"I will miss you severely when you go!" (I think severely may have been a recent vocab word)

"I really liked how you took our names to Ethiopia and took pictures for us, while you were on vacation, even then you cared for us when you could have been doing something completely different." (This student is referring to a project I had the kids do.  Each one made an 8.5 x 11 picture of their name and I photographed it somewhere in Ethiopia, then printed the pictures for the kids.  Even though they haven't been to ET, their name has!)

"I really liked my picture in Ethyopia"

"I know you are going to be a great mom because you are very good with kids."

"I hope you and Feven have a wonderful life together." (and Zac too...?  I guess I don't talk about my husband enough!)

"You mean more than a sub to me. You were like a teacher."

"You are one of my favrit teachers and I think your a good teacher." (what? I yelled at you nearly every day!)

"Than you for teaching me How to talk Spanish and Ethiopian."

"I hope Feven will be glad to be with you.  Wait, I KNOW she will be glad to be with you."  (Oh, sweet!)

"I guess this is my last goodbye. sniff, sniff, tears rushing down, sad music."  (This student is really good at crafting stories - you can see that imagination here!)

"you really got me reading now i love reading thanks to you."

"You have been here so long, that it will take some getting used to knot having You around!"

I second that last comment.  I have been there so long that it will take some getting used to enter the school and not walk down to that room.  For the last few months I have felt at home in that room, like I had a claim on it somehow.  It was a space in which I could be creative and dream up projects for the class.  It was a space in which I could be a "real" teacher and not just a sub that does what someone else has planned for her that day.  It was a space in which I could reach out to parents to work together on improving student behavior.  It was a space where other teachers dropped in to say hi, came to ask questions, or to share stories about personal lives.

After today, the magic wears off.  The clock strikes midnight and I'm back to being a daily sub.

But I've got to tell you - I will walk away with some really great memories from the palace ball!  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I've been reflecting some more on Monday's post about time and expectations, specifically the line, "How can one achieve greatness with so few hours in the day?"

Being a perfectionist and optimist, I see opportunities for greatness on a daily basis.  There are not enough hours in the day to do all the great things I dream up.

And the things I dream up are really on a relatively small scale compared to the people in the world who have contributed to curing disease, overturning injustice, feeding the hungry, and creating peace.

How do they do it?

Recently a friend of mine and I were pondering this question, and began wondering if it was a matter of calling.  I could spend the rest of my life trying to discover a cure for cancer, but it would take a great effort on my part and a really long time because:

A.) I don't have any of the medical education, so I'd have to start there
B.) Biology doesn't come naturally to me
C.) I'm afraid of needles
D.) I don't even like the sciences!

Sometimes I wonder if I pursue things because I think they would be good things to do, but it isn't God calling me to do those things.  Inevitably those things that I am not called to do but rather pursing on my own will take me exponentially more time than someone else because I do not have the skills or gifts in that area.

Consequently, I may be missing out on a project that God is calling me to because I'm pursing the cure to cancer when that wasn't my project to begin with.

To achieve greatness, I must first ask God what He needs me to do.

Just yesterday, I was putting sheets on our guest bed for some friends arriving last night.  I had so much I wanted to do around the house to get ready for them, but I had VERY limited time.  Greatness came to mind again, and I wished that I could be a great host.  I could have fresh flowers in their room waiting for them, or chocolates on the bed, or even just a clear pathway from the front door to the kitchen!  Quiet as a whisper, a thought popped into my head...


Do I want to pursue greatness here on earth, or greatness in heaven? 

Thank you, Lord, for making the choice clear.  May I pursue YOU first and foremost, and honor the gifts and skills you have given me.  Turn my ear to hear your voice giving me projects, and may I not get caught up in greatness here on earth or in others' eyes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Time Marches On

Somehow it is nearly the end of March.  I'm still trying to figure out where January went, and now it's almost time to say goodbye to March. 

Day after day goes by, packed with activities to the max.  Sometimes at the end of each day I feel like I'm shutting that junk closet - you know the one I'm talking about. The one where you have to push and shove and squeeze in that last item, and then quickly slam the door shut, sometimes even forcefully pushing it shut with your butt to get it to latch. 

Welcome to my life.

This week is the final week of my long-term substitute teaching position.  It is the third and final long-term job I have done in this particular classroom.  It's been so great to have this kind of consistency, as well as a school and classroom to call home.  I feel like I'm just beginning to figure out how this group of kids tick, and now it's time to go.  How has it flown by like this without my permission?  I'm not ready to be done!

Next week marks my final week at my marketing job.  I will have put in 2 years and 3 months at this job.  I've worked hard to take the position I started in and bring it to the next level.  I have done that, but I wonder if I will have adequate time to wrap up all of the open projects and leave good notes for the next person.  How can it be time to finish that position?

I have two weeks left with my kids in the remedial after-school program.  When I started working with them in November, I had high hopes to bring these 4th graders up a few grades in their reading levels.  I was going to run the best program EVER for them in reading and math!  They would be so smart and confident!  Now I don't know where our weeks went, but I feel like it would be an earth-shattering momentous occasion if I could just get them all reading at grade level.  Or even 3rd grade level.  Somehow the days flew by too quickly, and there hasn't been enough time to plan and do all of the things with them that I wanted to.

Each day closes before I'm ready.  It's sealed and stored away in the past, only to be remembered.  The new day that awaits me each morning seems too short at the onset, and continues to feel too short as the hours tick by.

How can one achieve greatness with so few hours in the day?

Perhaps it's an issue of expectations, and not time itself.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Reason to Smile

I don't know about you, but it's been a long week for me!  TGIF!

To start our weekend off with a smile, I'd like to share this video with you today.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bad Kids and a Good God

When I began substitute teaching, I viewed my work as a ministry opportunity. Each day before I taught in an elementary school, I would walk around the room and silently pray for each name on the desk.  If I was in middle school or high school, I would sit with the class lists for each period and pray over the student names before school, or I would walk around the room while students were quietly working and pray for them silently during class.

It was helpful when I had been at a place before, because then I had specifics to pray for with each kid.  Common ones were focus, friends, self-worth, make good choices, etc. I enjoyed praying for the students, and saw it as a powerful gift I could give them.

I've been having some challenges in a particular classroom recently. There are some students who somehow change the atmosphere of the entire classroom with their poor choices and lack of self control.  I feel the majority of the teaching day is spent reminding them of things they're supposed to be doing, and because I'm focusing on them so much, I miss opportunities to encourage and support the kids who are following directions consistently.

And the worst part of the whole situation?  I've been forgetting to pray.

A few weeks ago it hit me that I have not been praying.  In all of the excitement with adoption updates and all of the work that goes into prepping for the elementary days, I've been forgetting to pray.  I began lifting up those particular students go God, and praying for Him to soften my heart toward them and help me know how to care for them.

You know what happened?  God said yes.

On a Monday a few weeks back, I was reminded in my church small group of a philosophy I had about 10 years ago.  When someone was bothering me, or I didn't have as much love in my heart for them as I wanted, I would try to picture them as an infant.  I remembered that they were somebody's baby, and at some point in their life, someone held them, cooed to them, and watched them sleep.  They are precious to somebody here on earth, and even more precious to God.  This often worked to change my heart and help me love people more. 

After that night at small group, I'm not sure if I consciously prayed to God to help me picture these frustrating students as babies, but you won't believe what happened.  One of them had a baby book with them  There was no reason for that student to have the book in school, they just did.  I asked them to show me the pictures, and the student proceeded to go through the entire book and told me about each photo.  I didn't have to work hard to view that student as somebody's baby because there were all of the pictures, showing that they were loved and adored by their parents.  My heart softened toward that student.

I also feel that God has been giving me wisdom and insight into the gifts these particular students may have.  I've had the opportunity to see them excel in some areas, and I have been encouraging them to continue pursuing those talents. 

My tone and approach with them has changed because my heart has changed.  Thanks be to God!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ethiopia - The Journey

Thank you for walking with me over the last few weeks in the journey to meet my daughter.  In case you missed a post, here is a gathering of Ethiopia stories:

The Next Chapter
"...Now it is like looking in a looking-glass which does not make things clear. We cannot see and understand things plainly. But when things become perfect, then we shall fully know and understand everything, just as God knows..."

We Have Arrived
"...We have landed after a long day of travel, and tonight we are in our daughter's birth country.  Walking out of the airport a sprinkle of rain was falling and it brought out the dusty smell of the pavement.  There were tropical trees and shrubs and the temperature was wonderful..."

Bright and Early
"...It is now 5am and morning cannot come soon enough!  Zac and I have been awake since 3:45/4:00.  Our bodies, despite having been through nearly 32 hours without sleep, think they have just taken a long nap and should get up for supper back home..."

Meeting HER
"Zac and I spent a few minutes watching the other little ones and interacting with the nannies.  Soon our translator was back to retrieve us, but instead of telling us the Family Room was ready, she was lowering a baby into our arms.  She was saying as she did so, 'Here she is...'"

First Lunch 
"...This morning when our translator walked into the room near the end of our visit with you, she said it was going to be lunchtime soon and we could feed you if we wanted.  We of course said yes!  She brought a container of mashed-up potatoes and carrots in a broth with garlic and onions.  It smelled so good, and you were HUNGRY!"

Waiting and Watching
"...I am sitting in the alley, waiting for the van to come and pick us up to see Feven.  It is another beautiful day.  The people who pass by in the alley are friendly and if I wave they usually smile or wave too..."

Meeting My Daughter's Mother
"...I was mesmerized by her - I wanted to stare at her and see if I could see similarities in Feven's features and hers.  I wanted to ask her a million question and have her tell me all about her life.  I wanted to hold her hand and acknowledge the hurt and pain that she has seen in her life.  I wanted to express to her the deep gratitude I have for the opportunity to raise this child..."

The First Smile
"Dear Feven,
You laughed for us today!  We were hoping for one smile and we got so many smiles and a laugh!  It was more than we could imagine..."

"...One by one, different families were called - both Ethiopian and American.  The place began to empty out, and soon it was just us and about 6 others.  Finally they called our orphanage's name and it was our turn!..."

What's In a Name?
"...Since Zac and I have been married, we have always had a running discussion on our children's names.  We've had a few favorites over the years that we've agreed on, but some have dropped off the favorites list as they become too popular with other parents.  Girl names are always easier for us to agree on than boy names.  As we began the adoption process, we discussed names for our child(ren), but determined to not decide on a name until we saw their picture or met them.  We wanted the name to fit them..."

Coffee Ceremony
"...Our host took fresh, green coffee beans and roasted them in a shallow pan over the fire until they were dark brown.  She then brought the pan around to each of us so we could smell the rich smell of freshly-roasted coffee beans..."

Cultural Food and Dance
"...As I watched and listened, my heart swelled with pride.  Ethiopia is such a wonderful place!  I am so proud that my daughter is from Ethiopia, and that I too have a connection to this great country..."

The Hard Goodbye
"...I have to keep telling myself that saying goodbye is a step in the process to get to saying hello.  And that next hello will be the forever hello.."

I hope you've enjoyed this chapter, and I look forward to sharing with you the stories that are yet to come!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ethiopia - The Hard Goodbye


Dear Feven,
It's hard to think that we leave today.  I don't want to leave you - we just met you!  I don't think that I'm thinking about truly how hard it will be to say goodbye.  How do I even say goodbye?  What does that look like?

I have to keep telling myself that saying goodbye is a step in the process to get to saying hello.  And that next hello will be the forever hello.

We are here with you now!  You weren't a happy camper this morning, so we rocked you to sleep.  Right now I'm torn between wanting to write down memories and just wanting to stare at you.  I get a little teary-eyed as I write I'm crying.  I miss you so much already.  I want us to be here everyday with you so I can rock you to sleep.  I want to be the one caring for you.  I want to be the one to make you smile and giggle.  I pray this next phase of the adoption goes VERY quickly.

I'm sitting in the plane now, looking out at the city lights of Addis one last time before we head down the runway to go home.  Tears are spilling from my eyes as I try to process something that doesn't make sense to me at all.  Why am I even on this plane?  Right now as I sit here I am 15 minutes from you.  This plane is going to take me far, far away.  When I step off this plane again, I will be at least a full day's travel from you.  There has to be some way I can just stay here.  When will I see you again?  Will you be crawling, or even walking the next time I see you?  Will you remember me?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ethiopia - Cultural Food and Dance

mid-flight, no clue which timezone currently!

Abyssinia - where do I start?  This was one of the neatest, most amazing experiences we had while in Ethiopia.  I can't wait to go back someday!

Our visit to the restaurant Abyssinia started because we wanted to eat Ethiopian food.  Our guest house cooked well for us, but it was all American Food.  We wanted injera and wat!  We asked our translator for a good place to go, and she arranged everything for us!

Our agency's driver came to pick us up and we wound through the streets to a location across town.  When we pulled onto the side street where the restaurant was located, it was very busy.  There was a parking attendant to help find space for all of the vehicles.  When we finally found a spot, we proceeded to the restaurant.  It was so nice and fancy!  It had a little bit of the feel of the Rainforest Cafe in the Mall of America, if you've ever been there.  It was all done-up and made you feel like you were really in for a treat.

To get in, we had to have our bags checked and go through a metal detector.  That surprised me, but we just did it.  We didn't have to do that anywhere else - not even the courthouse!  We approached the seating host and gave the name of our reservation.  He took us to the FRONT ROW TABLE near the left of the stage!

At our table, there were brown padded chairs, low to the ground with tall backs.  There were a few low end tables near our chairs for our beverages, and a traditional, woven circular table in the center.  I'm sure there's a special name for it, but I just don't know it yet!

There were so many menu items to choose from!  I wanted to taste everything, but neither my stomach nor budget could do that, so we settled on a tibs dish as well as one made from ground chickpeas.

After our order was placed, a waiter came around with a large tin bowl and teapot.  We held our hands over the empty tin bowl while he poured warm water on our hands.  It felt so good!  We got a squirt of soap, scrubbed, and then he again poured water over our hands so we could rinse them off.

While we waited for our food to arrive, we heard the most wonderful Ethiopian music!  It was traditional music that I think is still popular and appreciated today.  I'm sure our driver has been to this place countless times to accompany other foreign nationals, but he seemed to be genuinely enjoying the music.

When the food came, the wait staff placed a very large, round tin plate on top of the round table.  It had a piece of injera covering it as well as rolls of injera on the sides.  Next came our stews, and the waitress scooped a large portion of the chickpea dish into the center of the injera, and then scooped a large portion of the tibs near each one of us.  It was very ceremonial, and I was never sure what would happen next!

Meals are communal, but you don't have to worry about double-dipping!  Each time you go to get some food, you rip off a piece of the injera bread with your right hand only.  You use the bread to protect your fingers from getting sauce all over them, and you pick up a small bite of the stew with your bread.  Then you take a bite of the food in your hand, or put the whole thing in your mouth.  When you want more, you break another piece of bread off to pick up more stew.

A year or so ago I took an Ethiopian cooking class and learned that meals are relaxed and slow.  It looks funny if you just take bite after bite after bite and focus only on eating.  Conversation should flow at meals, and eating is somewhat secondary.  I tried to remember this when we were at the restaurant with our driver.  I consciously took my time, reclined back in my chair to listen to the music for awhile, asked questions of our driver, and ate.

It was fun to casually rip off injera and grab for the meat or beans, all the while being entertained by this great music in front of us.  I got brave and tried all 3 spices that came with our dish.  One was a yellowy mustard that tasted of horseradish.  Another was a red powder with some kick, and I can't remember exactly what the third was, but it may have been more of a red sauce.  I'm so glad I tried these!

The dancing soon began, and I loved every minute of it!  The costumes were elaborate, and each dance had its own costumes.  I was very interested in the dances from the Oromo region, where Feven is from.

Zac and I took a few videos, but then the camera battery died!  It was devastating!  We had prime seats to record these dances, and no battery power left!  We got some good ones on film, but not the very best ones.  Those came at the end.

I can't even describe how cool these dances were, especially the ones at the end of the night.  It was simply amazing.  The dancers looked like they were enjoying themselves, and giving it everything they had!  The guys were phenomenal, doing that crazy kicking thing, throwing their feet way out in front of them.  It was amazing.  I think I had a smile stuck on my face the whole time.  I loved every minute of it!

As I watched and listened, my heart swelled with pride.  Ethiopia is such a wonderful place!  I am so proud that my daughter is from Ethiopia, and that I too have a connection to this great country.

When it was time to leave, we couldn't stop talking about the performances.  My ears were ringing like I had just been to a rock concert, and my heart and mind were energized by experiencing something so new and wonderful.  I think our driver was chuckling at us because we just continued exclaiming in the van how great it was!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ethiopia - Coffee Ceremony


Yesterday we had a coffee ceremony at our guest house.  It was so fun, but it went by too quickly!

It started with the bean roasting.  Our host took fresh, green coffee beans and roasted them in a shallow pan over the fire until they were dark brown.  She then brought the pan around to each of us so we could smell the rich smell of freshly-roasted coffee beans. 

Our coffee ceremony was outside in the courtyard of our guesthouse, and the beans were brought inside for grinding after they had been roasted.  While the beans were being ground, she placed a ceramic jug of water on top of the fire.  Soon the water began to boil, and the coffee grounds were added to the jug and left to settle on the bottom.

After a time, we were each given a delicate chinacup and the host came around and poured the fresh coffee into our cups.  Somebody else came around with sugar in the raw to sweeten the coffee.  I guess Ethiopians add a lot of sugar, so I did too!  It was very good.

One thing that surprised me was that the coffee didn't have the bitter after-taste that I think of when I think of coffee here in the states.  I typically don't like coffee, but I liked this coffee.

Also, did I mention the popcorn?  Popcorn was passed around on a tray from the start, and we munched on it throughout the entire ceremony.

The whole process was relaxed and very conversational.  We had a good time chatting with the other American family staying at the guest house, and our Ethiopian friends who were on staff at the guest house.  The warm sun shone down on us as we were reclining in chairs and on stairs in the courtyard.  I think it was as close to a perfect afternoon as you can get!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Pictures

We were so blessed this weekend to receive new pictures of our daughter!  Two families were in Ethiopia last week meeting their children for the first time, and they gave us one of the the biggest gifts in the world by taking time out of their day to photograph our daughter.

Here she is just after her bath.  Look at that big girl standing up in her crib!

Both Zac and I busted out laughing when we saw this one.  Looks like she's still teething!

Isn't that an amazing expression?  I can't wait to make her smile like this everyday!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ethiopia - What's in a Name?

Since Zac and I have been married, we have always had a running discussion on our children's names.  I think this is common for most couples.  We've had a few favorites over the years that we've agreed on, but some have dropped off the favorites list as they become too popular with other parents.  Girl names are always easier for us to agree on than boy names.  We had one good boy's name once, but then our friends had a son and named him that, so we crossed it off our list!

As we began the adoption process, we discussed names for our child(ren), but determined to not decide on a name until we saw their picture or met them.  We wanted the name to fit them.  Some of the names that had been on our favorites list were more suited for white children.  Yes, I realize you can name a child whatever you want, but it seemed a little silly to name a black child Lily.  It didn't fit in my head.

Additionally, we discussed whether or not we would give them a new name, or keep their given name if they had one.  We really wrestled with this because there were pros and cons to both options.

If we kept their given name, it felt like it was honoring to their mom or dad or whomever had given them the name.  That's also who they were born as, and that's significant.  However, their name may be difficult to pronounce to English speakers, and we don't want our child to have to explain how to say their name to their teacher every year, or say and spell it numerous times over the phone when on a business call.

If we gave them a new name, it would feel like we were welcoming them into our family.  Naming is significant.  One of my friends was adopted when she was an infant, and her family gave her a new name.  It was a family name, and to her that was incredibly meaningful.  However, I don't like the feeling of taking away our child's name altogether and replacing it with a new one.  I felt like I was taking away the only thing they had left in life. 

With such a difficult decision to make, we resolved to just wait and see who we were matched with.  Maybe we would have more clarity then.

The day we got "The Call" from our agency, we learned we had a daughter.  We saw her picture and her name - Feven.  Within minutes I googled it to see what it meant and if there was an English equivalent.  Feven is a Biblical name, and in English we'd say Phoebe.  It means brilliant or radiant.

For about 10 seconds we discussed if we should name her Phoebe, but then decided against it because all either of us could think about was Phoebe from the TV show "Friends."  That show is such a huge part of our culture that many people would think of the character of that show when they would hear our daughter Phoebe's name.  Yes, I realize that her future friends and classmates won't know the show "Friends," but I will.  And I can just picture my daughter singing the Smelly Cat song to me someday.

Our naming conversation continued on the day we learned of her, and I came up with the name Adelaide.  We both really liked it.  It worked as both a kid name and as a name for a professional adult.  It was unique, and it seemed to suit her when we looked at her picture.  We could call her Addy for short, and maybe even spell it "Addi," like the first part of the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.  It was perfect!

We began to refer to her as Addy to one another, still keeping in mind that we wanted to meet her, see her personality, and see if Addy still fit...but we were pretty certain we had an Addy!

 At this same time, we were also asking around to see how to say the name "Feven."  At times we were told "Fee-ven," then "Fay-ven," and even "feh-ven" (like heaven).  Additionally, some of our paperwork spelled it "Feven" while other documents listed it as "Feben."  What was our daughter's name, anyway!

Only recently did the light bulb click for me.  The language spoken in Ethiopia, Amharic, uses characters and not letters.  "Feven" is spelled correctly in Amharic characters, but it's translated to English letters and that's why there's such variety.  Here is a sampling of some Amharic: How would you know what letters to use in English for this?!?

When we traveled to Ethiopia, we were so excited to meet our daughter, and also so excited to see if we had an Addy!  What transpired surprised both of us.

At the transition home, all of the nannies knew Feven.  When we were walking around the complex with her, they would call to her in loving tones and try to wiggle a smile out of her.  She had so many nicknames from the nannies, too!  We heard "Fee-ven," "Fay-ven," "Fay-boo," "Fee-boo," and "Fee-bee."  I think once I even heard "Bee-ben."

The most amazing thing was that Feven also knew her name.  We would talk to her and she would ignore, us, but then we'd say her name and she'd look at us.  She was 8 months old, and she recognized her name.

On one of the many early mornings when Zac and I laid in bed, wide awake at a ridiculous hour, we began talking about her name.  In my heart, I knew that I wanted to keep her name Feven.  Zac was pretty adamant prior to our trip about giving her a new name because nobody would know how to pronounce her name.  Heck, we didn't even know exactly how to say it!  The conversation that ensued surprised me, as both of our hearts were set on keeping her name Feven.

She is Feven.  She was given the name Feven by her mother, who loves her very much.  She is known to the people that love and care for her everyday as Feven.  And SHE knows she is Feven.  She smiles when she hears her name.

And besides, she didn't really look like an Addy anyway.

So, we have a daughter named Feven (Fay-ven).  We don't know what her middle name will be yet...we're still trying to decide.  We're wrestling with it because right now her second name is her mother's first name.  I want to honor her mother by keeping it, but we want to name her too.  We want to claim her as a part of our family and give her a name of our choosing to signify this.  Naming is incredibly significant.  I think I'm beginning to see just how important and meaningful a name can be.