Friday, April 26, 2013

ONE (more) TIME!!!!

Feven and I were at a new park this morning.  The park had a GREAT slide, among other things.  As we were approaching the time we needed to leave, I told her, "You can go down the slide one more time, then we need to go home."

We went down again and it was the best ride of them all!  When we got to the bottom I picked her up to take her home, but she frantically squirmed and tried to get out of my arms whining and yelling, "ONE TIME!!!  ONE TIME!!!"  She wanted to go down one more time.

She's got me thinking.  What are the things in MY life that I feel that way about? What are those things that as soon as they're over I find myself desperate to do again?  Do I have enough or even any of those things in my life?

I don't know if I have answers yet.  I need to do some more thinking.

How about you?

Monday, April 22, 2013


Last month our family was invited to a birthday party for our friend's three kids.  That's right, a triple birthday party!  When I was thinking about what gift to give each kid, I remembered my friend saying that when they came home from one particular family Christmas this past year, they had to pack the kids in the van first, then pack the gifts in around them.  They had received so much STUFF they could hardly haul it all home!

I knew that getting them more STUFF wasn't a good idea, so I started brainstorming what I could give that wouldn't be a thing.  Then it hit me - Family Fort Night!

We gave them a birthday card the day of the party that promised a family fort night, complete with make-your-own pizza and a MegaFort that covered the entire basement.  It probably wasn't the most exciting gift to open that day, but we hoped to make up for it with a really fun experience!

To prepare our basement to transform into a MegaFort, we purchased eye hook screws and 48 feet of rope.  We placed the screws into the studs at various distances around our basement.  We tried to place them at a height that would be high enough so kids wouldn't bump their heads on the screws when running around the basement, yet low enough they would be able to reach the rope in order to help build the fort.  When we strung up the rope, we made sure that it crisscrossed the basement for maximum fun.  That way we could break the MegaFort into multiple rooms if we wanted.

We set up a small tent and tunnel in a different part of the basement for the youngest children, in case the bigger kids wanted to play in the MegaFort without the smaller kids. 

Once our friends arrived, we started hanging up the walls and ceiling of the MegaFort.  With clothespins we hung up tablecloths, bedsheets, and other pieces of fabric we found around the house.

We used this row of scarves as our entrance into the tent.  It also worked great for peek-a-boo.

Once the fort was complete the kids began to do a lot of crawling, chasing, giggling, and squealing.  The canopy of fabric above made it feel cozy inside, and the MegaFort entirely transformed the wood-paneled basement into a magical space.  As much as I dream about remodeling that basement, I know I wouldn't have so easily placed screws all over the walls had it been newly-finished drywall instead of old wood paneling!  I guess the basement is good for something after all.  :)


I hope it was as much fun for the kids to receive the gift as it was for us to give it.  We sure had a good time!  This has me thinking about gifts in a new way, and I look forward to seeing what else we will do in the future.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Value of Reminiscing

Has this ever happened to you?  You start cleaning out a closet and happen upon old photos, notebooks, or prayer journals and suddenly your 30-minute project turns into an entire afternoon?
Running across old keepsakes is one of those situations for me where everything stands still and I'm transported back in time.  I'll sit on the floor for hours looking through letters my best friend and I exchanged in 6th grade or pictures from family vacations 20 years ago.

Reminiscing serves to remind me of special people and experiences in my past.  It shows me the many ways I'm blessed, and makes it clear to me that God has been there for me time and time again throughout my entire life.

I'm facing a bit of a predicament, though.  If reminiscing is so special and valuable to me, why don't I do it more?  What's keeping me from reminiscing on a regular basis rather than waiting for enough junk to collect in a closet to motivate me to open up those old boxes?

I want to find a way to build it into my life more, this business of reminiscing.  I think it used to happen more in days gone by, maybe around kitchen tables after Sunday church.  Maybe on front porches in the early evening as the sun was setting.  Maybe in the middle of the grocery aisles or on the sidewalks or at the park while pushing swings with smiling children.  I think our fast-paced culture, live-in-the-moment mentality has expanded so much that little things like reminiscing get bumped out.

In my own life when I can't seem to part the Red Sea of toys to make a path to the door or when I struggle to find enough counter space to prepare a snack because of all the dishes piled up, reminiscing is quickly bumped to the low-priority list if it makes it on the list at all!  What can I do to promote reminiscing but avoid getting lost for hours in old photos?

What ideas do you have?  How do you reminisce?

Monday, April 15, 2013


Resolve: firmness of purpose or intent; determination

Winter is hanging on with a death grip here in Minnesota.  While friends across the country post pictures on Facebook of their children playing outside in shorts and flip-flops, I look out my window and see angry snowflakes hurtling down from the sky.

To say it's depressing is an understatement. 

Two things this past weekend cheered me up and gave me hope.  The first was a Facebook page entitled, "Meanwhile in Minnesota."  Last I checked, it had some pretty creative pictures taken by Minnesotans over the last month that help me to laugh at the snow instead of cry.

The second thing that cheered me up was the view of my flowers in the backyard.  Granted, I came across this beautiful scene when Feven and I were playing IN OUR SNOWPANTS in the backyard, but still.

Those Irises gives me hope that Spring will come.  Also, the more I reflect on those Irises, the more I appreciate their resolve.  The snow was spinning around them when they broke through the ground, and they peeked out to find a very different April than normal, but they decided to grow!  They did not give up because circumstances were difficult.  They knew it was their time to go for it and they did!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Gotcha Day - The Best Part

By far, the best part of our Gotcha Day celebration was our time spent together as a family.  We spent the entire weekend focusing solely on quality time as a family. And how fitting that the best part of Gotcha Day was not the food or the hair or the outfits, but being with our little Feven.  Truly the best thing about having her join our lives is HER. 

To make the weekend special for her, we tried to incorporate her favorite things.  That said, it was a no-brainer to start the weekend off by cooking!  So we cooked together, and during that time she remarked numerous times, "happy" and gave us hugs. She was having a blast!

We played all over the house together, and after a particularly exhausting play session, Zac laid down and pretended to sleep on the floor.  Feven promptly got blankets from her bed to cover him up.  She is so sweet and caring.

While we were in Ethiopia last year we purchased many gifts for Feven with the intent of giving her one every year on her Gotcha Day.  This year she received a ball with the Amharic numbers stitched onto it.  She could kick a ball before she knew how to walk, so this seemed like a fitting first gift for her!

We also took at long trip to the park to play together.  That combined two of Feven's loves - swinging and being outside!

What a great weekend to pause and be thankful for the gift of Feven.  Of course with any anniversary celebration comes memories of the past.  Over the weekend I was overwhelmed with memories of our time in Ethiopia - even some things that I had not thought about since being there last year.  It was a treasured weekend to reflect, remember, and celebrate.  We have been so blessed.  Through all the tears and heartaches and wonderings that led us to Feven, God had a plan and a purpose.  I see it now every day in this bright, energetic, happy little girl.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gotcha Day - Dress

When we were in Ethiopia last year we picked out a cultural dress for Feven.  Not really knowing her size or how she'd grow, we lucked out in that it still fits her!

For Gotcha Day she got to wear her special dress to church.  We had to do some layers because April has been really cold here in Minnesota this year, but I think she still looks great in it!  By the pictures, I think SHE thinks she looks great in it too!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gotcha Day - Eating Out

What's a Gotcha Day without a special meal to celebrate?  In future years maybe I'll make Ethiopian food here at the house, but this time we went out to eat. 

I'm really thankful that we are able to eat Ethiopian food enough that Feven knows exactly what to do when they bring us the injera.  She doesn't hesitate, but digs right in!  If she had her way, she would eat only injera without anything else for a meal!

I absolutely love this picture.  I don't even know if I can pinpoint what it is about it, but I love it!  In the background you can see two Ethiopian-American men dining.  One special thing I've noticed is how many Ethiopians dote on children.  While in-country, I recall numerous times walking down the street and passersby would grab Feven's hand to kiss it or remark how cute she was.  At the restaurant this weekend, the other customers waved to her, smiled at her, or greeted her.  I like that.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gotcha Day - Hair

Something I REALLY wanted to do for Gotcha Day was have Feven's hair braided.  There are many good places around town to get your hair braided, and I chose an Ethiopian place I had come across before called FM Barber & Braiding. 

I didn't have a phone number for them, so I couldn't make an appointment prior to arriving.  As our family drove to the shop my thoughts were a mix of prayers and hopes that there would be availability.

We opened the door and were greeted by the sights and sounds of a busy barber shop!  One barber was giving a gentleman a trim while two little boys with fresh hair cuts looked on.  Four women in the back part of the shop were fixing hair and visiting while another woman prepared coffee on a small table in the middle of the floor.  The shop was a little hazy, and I imagine it was from some freshly-roasted coffee beans.  A little boy ran around while his mom chatted with her friends.  He was younger than Feven but I'm not sure by how much.  I learned later that his name was Fikar, which means love.

Within moments of us walking in the door, one of the stylists approached us.  It probably did look a little out of place to have two ferenji walk in with an Ethiopian child.  After telling her what we were looking for, she said she could take care of us right then and there!  Yay!

The first thing they did was to comb out Feven's hair.  I say "they" because during the course of our time there, we typically had 3-4 women working on Feven's hair!  While they were combing out her hair, they remarked over and over that she had good hair, nice hair, soft hair. 

Throughout our time at the shop, I struggled knowing how much to stick with Feven and how much to sit back and let the women do their job.  Because Feven was so recently adopted, I still have attachment questions flooding my mind.  What does it mean for Feven when I plop her down in a chair in a new place and sit 6 feet away while four women she doesn't know pull and tug on her hair?  I erred on the side of caution and held her hand for the first part.  (Also, to my CHI friends, doesn't this look like Hermella from the side?!?)

Feven was a good sport for most of it, but the tugging and the sitting still finally got to her toward the end.  Then the tears came!  Daddy sat with her on his lap and that helped.  Each of the women offered her their phones at different points and that helped too.  But what finally stopped the tears was when they gave her a hair product bottle to hold.  Immediately the tears shut off and we heard her say, "Pink bottle."  Who knew that's what it would take?

As they were finishing up they asked us if we wanted beads.  I wasn't sure, so I looked at Zac and he said a definite yes!  I watched how they put them in so I will know how to do it next time.  

Feven liked her hair, and she liked swinging her head around to feel the beads move.  For the rest of the day I heard the click clack of the beads as she danced and jumped around the house.  What a special experience!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gotcha Day - Introduction

This weekend we celebrated our "Gotcha Day" with Feven.  A Gotcha Day is a common event for families who have adopted, but different families choose different milestones to be their actual day.  Some say that their Gotcha Day was when they legally became the parents of their child; others say it was when they first took custody of their child; still others choose their Gotcha Day as the day they arrived home with their child.

For our family, we wanted our Gotcha Day to be the day we took custody of Feven.  Through a series of unexpected events last year, our day became April 7th. 

We have been looking forward to celebrating this day for a long time!  We had all sorts of plans and ideas how to make this day (and weekend!) special.  Of all the things we planned to do, our overall goal was to be together as much as possible as a family and be grateful for being together.

In the upcoming days I will share some of our pictures and stories from our Gotcha Day weekend.  We had a fantastic time together as a family, and it may have been my favorite weekend out of all of them in the last year!

Friday, April 5, 2013

First Easter!

We had a great first Easter together!  We spent the weekend in Zac's hometown and our days were filled with family and festivities.  Although Feven looks a little unsure in this picture, I had to post it as it's our first Easter family photo. 

Here you can see her in her Easter dress a little better.  It's somewhat "nontraditional" in that it isn't fluffy and didn't come with an Easter hat and gloves, but I thought she looked beautiful in it and it also served as comfortable play clothes so she could keep on riding her horsey!

The church service was a long hour forty-five minutes Easter morning, but Feven kept herself entertained by narrating what was happening, dancing to the hymns, clapping after special music when nobody else did, sharing toys across pews, crawling under pews, eating a million fruit snacks, and taking frequent bathroom breaks.  All in all, it was a good day!