Friday, August 31, 2012

True Confessions: Language Acquisition

I have the smartest little girl on the planet as my daughter.  Don't argue with me because I know it's true. 

Many people have asked about Feven's English skills, and I gotta tell you, they are AMAZING.

It's hard to believe that just 4 months ago this little girl was immersed in an entirely different language.  It's hard to believe because she is understanding English, responding to requests spoken in English, and even speaking English.

I'm amazed at all she can do.  Just today I said, "Feven, do you want to go to the park?" (affirmative head nod from her) "Then go get your shoes and bring them to mommy.  Then we'll go to the park."  (she walks off in the direction of her shoes)

Also this week I began reasoning with her for the first time.  "Feven, will you eat some more please?" (vigorous negative head nod and flailing of hands) "Feven, if you eat one more bite of lentils, then you can have your yogurt." (she opens her mouth and her hands are calm as she takes her one bite in order to get her yogurt)

This is amazing, amazing stuff.  This is far quicker acquisition than I could have imagined.  I'm especially in awe of the way God created the human brain to absorb SO MUCH in those first few years.  She is watching every.single.thing we do and processing it. 

It's incredible.  This is one area that is going far better than expected.  I would even venture to say that she has as good of a handle on the English language as her peers who were immersed in English since birth.  What a joy it is to watch her learning and practicing her English.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

True Confessions: New Job Blues

When I became a mom, I left my out-of-the-home employment and began clocking in and out at our home.  Some days I delight in the fact that I can lay down on the couch and put my feet up when my daughter is sleeping, and if I want to I can wear my pajamas all day!  The perks are numerous, but there are also drawbacks.

Sometimes it feels confining.  There are days when it's a struggle to get out of the house between naps.  I find myself running around trying to pack a diaper bag, find the missing shoe and gather my own belongings before we head out the door.  Just as we're about to leave, there will be a diaper emergency or a hair emergency or we ran out of time to go and won't get back in time for the next nap.  It's a LOT of time at home.  I guess that's why they call it a stay-at-home-mom.

I miss my commute.  When I worked outside the home at my two jobs, I had a commute between 10-25 minutes.  That was great time to crank the music, process the day, and let go of work before getting home.  I don't have that separation anymore, and it's hard for me to let go of the frustrating things from the day and hit the reset button when 5:00 rolls around.  I'm trying out a few ways to make that separation, but I haven't found anything that's worked well yet.

I'm on call.  All the time.  And it would be so grand if I got paid like a doctor who's on call.  There was one particularly trying day last week (read: awful, awful day) when both Feven and I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  I can't remember why, but I had cried twice before 7:30am.  Then just as I was in the middle of eating my breakfast, she - standing right beside me - began grunting and twisting up her face.  Yep.  Dirty diaper coming.  It wouldn't be so bad, but she does this EVERY DAY when I'm eating my breakfast.  It doesn't matter what time I feed her or what time I eat, she always poops while I'm eating.  And I gotta tell you, my breakfast does NOT seem as appealing when I come back to it after changing one of her diapers.  So I trudged into her bedroom and reluctantly peeled the diaper back.  The anticipation is the worst.  Except this time.  The diaper was actually worse.  Even though I tried to breathe only through my mouth like Zac taught me, I still caught a whiff.  Incredibly awful.  I thought to myself, "Okay, that's it.  I'm taking a mental health day today.  I'm calling in and I'll use one of my sick days and...wait a minute.  I don't have time off!  I can't call in sick.  Ever!"

That's when I cried for the third time.  Sheesh, it wasn't even 8am yet!

It hit me so hard.  I can't take a break.  This is my job.  Every day.  All day.  There are no sick days, no mental health days, and no vacation days. 

That day I felt stuck.  I felt trapped.  I just wanted off the ferris wheel.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

True Confessions: I Chose This

Becoming a mom via adoption was a 3-year process for me.  For three years I've longed for and dreamed of this little one.  Of course I imagined some crying and a few sleepless nights, but it was all hypothetical and I focused more on the hugs and smiles.

When I became Feven's mom, I fully understood how much time and energy it takes to parent.  Gone are the days of hobbies and time with friends.  Gone are the restful nights.  Gone is the feeling that I have it together.  Gone are conversations with my husband.  Gone are the days when we had nothing better to do than sit on the couch and stare out the window (that really happened!)

The first few weeks of being a parent I would think solemnly, "I chose this."  Shortly followed by, "What was I thinking?"  I chose to be a mom and went through a 3-year arduous process for this?  For this lack of sleep, lack of time, lack of space, lack of sanity?  This was my choice?  Why?!? 

It certainly hasn't been an easy transition, and I've shared this with many friends who have all offered nice reasons why such as,  "Maybe it's harder because you and Zac have been married so long before having kids," or "Maybe it's so difficult because you jumped right into the toddler stage without going through the baby stage."

I think I know the real reason.  Parenting is hard because...well...because you have to meet someone else's needs before your own.  Oh sure, marriage gave me a little taste of that, but even in marriage I could spend a lot of time and energy doing things that I wanted to do.  Also, Zac and I have a lot in common so shared activities were a lot of me getting to do what I liked to do anyway. 

With Feven, I have to feed her first in the morning then see to my own breakfast afterward.  I have to think about how many errands I want to run and how many she can handle.  I have to hold her tight when she's screaming her head off to let her know that I'll always be there for her no matter what.

I'm learning selfless love.  And that's hard.  Some days I want my simple, predictable life back.  That life seemed overwhelming at times, and now I just laugh at what I used to think was overwhelming.  If I could go back and tell Amber of the Past one thing it would be this, "Look out, girl!  You won't know what hit you!"

But I chose this.  I am sticking to this.  This has meaning and value far greater than anything I've done before in my life.  I chose this.  And there are many daily rewards that reinforce that it was a good decision.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


My dear, sweet cousins came over yesterday to help me with some projects.  This is one of them that made the most difference and makes me smile each time I walk by.

Check out these massive weeds before:


And now the after...Look!  There were actually plants there!

Simply Amazing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Up North

We met some of our dear friends at a Bed and Breakfast up north this past weekend.  Feven took her very first paddleboat ride... help from a friend in the swing...

...and stopped to smell the "roses"!  What a great vacation!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Park

The weather here has been just gorgeous the last two weeks.  Finally it feels like you can be outside again!  We took a trip to the park recently, which is quickly becoming one of Feven's favorite places.

She likes swinging...

And going down the slide all by herself...

And playing peek-a-boo with mommy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Girls' Weekend

What's a summer without a Girls' Weekend?  Just days ago I was absolutely, utterly blessed to fly down to Kentucky to meet up with some adoptive mamas for a weekend getaway.

After a few weeks (or perhaps months) of what felt like total burnout, I packed my bags and ventured out.  Even the journey to get there was relaxing.  I had nobody else to care for; it was just me, my notepad, and my book.  I spent hours in the airport and aboard the planes reading and writing.  Sometimes I even just spaced out!

When I got to Kentucky, I rented a car and drove through wooded hills on the highway, then through winding, narrow back roads to get to my destination.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey to get there.  When I pulled into the driveway, my friend Cadell came out to greet me, and standing behind her were 3 other adoptive mamas.  We hugged our greetings, even though that was the first time most of us met.  There's something special shared when you encounter another woman who has chosen the adoption road.  Three of us at the weekend retreat had adopted from Ethiopia with our agency, one is VERY close to being matched with her daughter from Ethiopia, and the 5th woman has adopted from both China and Cambodia.

Conversation flowed smoothly and some of my favorite memories were made sitting around the table talking.  Time always flew by when we conversed, and it was very meaningful to hear from other voices who had walked down my same path. 

The weekend went by all too quickly, and the departures began Sunday morning.  Luckily they were staggered, so Sarah, Cadell, and I spent the afternoon kayaking down the Green River

We parked our cars and hiked down a breathtaking path toward the river. 

The path was bordered by unique, native flowers that were emerging after a strategic burn.

At the river, we loaded into our kayaks and began the journey.

As we floated down the Green River, I was hesitant to put my paddle in at times because I didn't want to disrupt the pristine silence.  No trucks, airplanes, or people could be heard; only the sound of the birds and insects chirping from the trees, or the occasional lap of water against the river's edge.

Notice the color of the water above.  This river usually has more of a green appearance; however, when we were there, the river was muddy because after being drought-stricken for much of the summer, this area received a lot of rain at once.  Even though it didn't look its usual self, I was still awe-struck by its beauty.

Per tradition, Sarah and I had to be "baptized" in the falls because it was our first time going down the Green River.  The falls are fed by underground springs, where the water temperature is about 60 degrees.  It was cold as it cascaded down on us!

The ferns lining the hillside took my breath away.  It was so fresh, lush, and full of life here! 

The weekend served to energize and inspire me.  It breathed new life into me so I came home rejuvenated.  When we said our goodbyes, I felt in my heart that we were instead saying, "See you later."  I believe that I'll be seeing more of these wonderful women in the future.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Annual Party

Man, these guys go all out!  We attended Zac's work party and had a blast as a family! 

Feven got a henna tattoo and was very patient as the woman put it on her leg.

We went to the petting zoo where Feven was licked by a goat.  I snapped the picture too quickly in the moment and she's not in focus, but you can see what was happening.

You can imagine her hesitation around goats after this.  Here she hides behind Daddy as another goat approaches!

There was also live jazz music, and we listened as we sat in the shade eating ice cream sandwiches.  Summer perfection!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Date Night

My favorite thing about my husband Zac is that he is my best friend.  I truly enjoy being in the same room as him.  He can make me laugh with his silly antics, and sometimes he knows how I'm feeling even before I do.  Our relationship started off as friends, and that has remained our core over the years.

One challenge that parenthood has brought is that we don't have as much time as before to hang out with one another.  Some days in the course of the last few months I have looked at him at in the evening as we are slumped on the couch, dozing off from an exhausting day, and said, "I miss you."  Even though I have seen him or have spent the entire day with him, we don't have the time to actually look one another in the eye and have a conversation.  I miss my best friend.

Enter Sunday.  We got the go-ahead a few weeks ago from the attachment specialist that we could have a babysitter for Feven.  My sister, brother-in-law, and niece came over to our house and Zac and I ran out the door! 

Well, not exactly.  We did the proper thing by getting Feven used to her caregivers for the night, we spent time saying our usual goodbye to her, and then we ran out the door!

What freedom there was in leaving our daughter in the great care of my sister and her family!  What freedom there was in having a whole 2 hours to spend with only each other!  What bliss! 

We purchased sandwiches and brought them to a lake near where we lived when we were first married.  We had our supper on the grass near a waterfall and people-watched for awhile.  We then went to Grand Ave in St. Paul to get ice cream and walked down the street hand in hand.  Simple, yet amazing.  What a great night!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I am really getting into the Olympics this year.  Not only am I excited to cheer on our American athletes, but I'm also excited to cheer on the Ethiopian athletes.  Zac and I have been closely following the running events with Ethiopians competing.  It's been so much fun!  I think our interest has certainly been heightened by our trips this year to Ethiopia, but also because we are starting to understand how important running is to this country.  And, of course, there's Feven.  :)

The races thus far have been aired during Feven's naps, but the women's marathon was on Sunday morning from 5am-7:30am.  We watched the last 4 miles together as a family and it was so exciting!  We tried to teach Feven to cheer for Ethiopia.  This is what we got:

Not a bad start!  That last picture looks like she's practicing her finish.  Maybe we'll have a runner on our hands!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bare Feet and Blueberry Pie

Last year when my friend showed me pictures of a house she and her husband were considering purchasing, the front porch caught my eye.  I told her that looks like a great porch on which to sit and drink wine coolers together.  I made her promise that if they got that house, we could spend an afternoon or evening doing that very thing.

Yesterday was the day.  And while we didn't have wine coolers (she happens to be 5 months pregnant!), we did have cookies, sweet tea, fresh cherry tomatoes, and blueberry pie.  I took my shoes off and we leaned back in our chairs and began to catch up on the many things that have happened in our lives since we talked last.

I can't think of a better way to have spent the afternoon.  It was glorious for so many reasons.  I think one of the best things was the temperature.  It was in the high 70's after a stretch of two months of heat and humidity.  Our town has seen more days in the 90's than any other summer I can remember.  I have talked with others who have "cabin fever" because it's too hot and humid outside to do anything!  Finally the heat broke, and I got to enjoy the afternoon in the company of a cool breeze and a great friend.  Summer.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Library

I'm a complete book nerd.  I know I've talked about my love of books before, but it's worth mentioning again: I love books.

Summer childhood memories for me are filled with trips to the Bookmobile, our public school library which was open a few days a week in the summer, or the BIG library in the neighboring town.  Ooooh, it was so much fun to look at all of the books on the shelves, examine the covers and read the summaries on the back!  Which stories would grab my attention?  Who would I meet in the stories and what would I learn from them?  It was all I could do to not get sucked in right there amidst the library shelves!

Yesterday got to be a loooong day, so Feven and I went on a trip to the library.  She has a ways to go yet before she can fully appreciate the library, so I chose the books this time.  When we got home, I put the book bag on the floor and went to the kitchen to put away some groceries.  I came back in to find Feven taking the books out of the book bag and paging through them.  Yahoo!  A book lover in the making!  I joined her and began paging through the new books myself.  How exciting!

Feven and I read at least 9 books together each day.  You can imagine how quickly we read through our own collection at this rate!  These fresh books were such a treat for both of us!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Zoo!

We've been making good use of our zoo membership this summer.  It was an incredibly thoughtful gift given to us for Feven's first birthday.

Yesterday we visited the zoo with our good friends, one of whom was celebrating her birthday.

Here's Feven, all ready for the day!

We got to watch a diver give a lesson on the fish from inside the tank!

Probably the coolest thing we did was go through the butterfly garden.  Butterflies fluttered all around us and landed on the most colorful flowers.  It was incredible!

Here's Feven and I in the butterfly garden.

And we had to stop and see the goats.  Feven gets braver and braver each time we come.  This time she wanted to touch the goats, but as soon as one popped its head out the openings in the fence, she'd run back to mama!

What a great day at the zoo!  It was so good, in fact, that Feven was asleep in the car by the time we got to the end of the zoo's driveway!  Score one for mama for a quiet drive home!