Friday, May 27, 2011


My boys have graduated from Kindergarten!! They had a graduation ceremony yesterday, and today they went to their 1st grade class for the day. I am officially the mother of first graders!! I was so, so sad when they left for kindergarten, but I am so, so happy for them right now!

This has been a wonderful year for both boys. Let me start with Calvin. Last year, his pre-school teacher told us that she was "on the fence" about recommending he start kindergarten. He would be a young 5 year old, and she felt he had some confidence issues. She said she is pretty sure that he knows the material, but he always says "I don't know" when asked. After talking to several teachers and the principal of their current school, we learned that since the issues weren't behavioral and maturity, then it would be best to go ahead and start him in kindergarten. Nervously, we did.

In the beginning of school, we were also told that Calvin had scored ZERO on his first DIBELS test before entering Kindergarten. Again -- was it because he didn't know it, or because he was too shy? Calvin's teacher caught onto this real fast and she helped bring him out of his shell. It was simply a confidence issue. When I got Calvin's report card today -- he met all expectations for Kindergarten. He exceeded in a few areas of math and drawing, which doesn't surprise us at all. Calvin can look at an object and draw it very well. His DIBELS test scores were all above average. We are so, so proud of him!

Whether it was his teacher or a substitute teacher, everyone always complimented Calvin. He never got in trouble or reprimanded one single time at school. We were told by several teachers that he was extremely well liked in class and a great role model. Calvin loves his teacher, Mrs. VanDeCar, and I believe the feeling is mutual. She is always telling me Calvin stories, and she always talks about how much she enjoys having him in class. We were hoping we could get a first grade teacher that would be as good as her, and a few weeks ago she pulled me aside to let me know that she was looping up with the class. If we wanted, she could be Calvin's teacher again. YES!!!
Principal Gunning giving Calvin his diploma

We are just as proud of Wes even though we knew he was ready for kindergarten. He had a great year! He scored very, very high (one even off the charts) for his DIBELS test score. He loves to sound words out. Sometimes we will be in mid-conversation, and he will stop to sound out a word. His favorite subject is Art and he was so sad when he had the flu and missed art class. I promised him that we would have our own art class this summer, and Adam is already looking into other art classes for the kids. As you can imagine, being self-employed in creative fields, Adam and I both think that Art is the most important thing you do in school. It is nice to see that both boys enjoy it so much.

Wes met his new first grade teacher today, and he said she was really nice. He is really proud of himself for being a first grader. Just a few minutes ago, I learned from the next door neighbor who was a 1st grader this year that Wes' new teacher yells a lot. Ut-oh. :-)

We had a really, really good school year with only some minor bumps in the road. It ended on a great note too -- both boys got Student of the Month this month! I am so excited to get to spend more time with the boys this summer and we have all sorts of stuff planned. Wes' first plan is to stay up until midnight tonight.

Wes' 5th grade class "buddy" congratulating Wes.

Calvin is Student of the Month, next to proud teacher Mrs. VanDeCar

Wes showing off his Student of the Month certificate

Camping On Trampoline

They made it until 3:30 a.m. and then had to come back in because it got too cold for Wes. Wes is our Phoenix boy because he hates anything cold. In fact, he carries his drinks around in a koozie so he doesn't have to touch them if they are cold.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sweet Pictures From Calvin

Tonight was just a perfect night. I was laying on the floor in the playroom reading a book. Allie was climbing all over and around me using me as a jungle gym. The boys were sitting at their table drawing pictures. Adam was working on the boys' ipods. I thought my night couldn't get any better, but I was wrong. Wes has asked if he could tape a picture up in my room. Sure thing buddy. He likes to tape pictures on the wall by my desk. However tonight was different. After we put the kids to bed, I went back into my bedroom to see a heart that Wes had drawn and colored. He had taped it on the wall, centered over the headboard of our bed. What a sweet, sweet boy.

This reminded me of another post I've been meaning to do for over a month now but I keep forgetting to go downstairs and scan in the pictures. I finally did it tonight. Calvin drew me 2 pictures that I will cherish forever.

This first picture was drawn after my birthday. We went to the green park and had dinner. He told me that he drew the picture of us at the park so he will never, ever forget what a special day we had.

The second picture is actually a note that was written a month ago. I had to put the boys in time-out for not listening. After they come out of time-out, we always talk about what they did wrong, and then all is happy again and they go play some more. A few minutes after they started to play again, Calvin brings me back a note that he wrote me. Calvin isn't good at making spaces between letters, and he actually started writing at the very bottom of the page and worked his way up. However the note said "I love you and I never stop loving you." This was his way of saying sorry. He probably mentions this note at least once a week and asks if I still have it.

The boys are at such a great, cute age. I know I say that no matter how old they are, but they just make me smile every day. I am so excited to have them home from school this summer (even though they are already sad about school ending). This past week, they are playing with Allie nonstop. Carrying her around places is the most fun. They love to make her smile and laugh. I am so happy that she has been home almost 3 months, and that the boys have welcomed her with open arms and without any jealousy issues. I think it is easier for twins to accept new siblings. Whatever the reason, it has made this transition so much fun!

Now it is time to go to sleep underneath the heart taped on my wall.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

How Will You Change The World?

You have to watch the short video below! This video was shot during our second trip to Ethiopia. Sam (video guy) and Dawit (IT guy) would come to our guest house for dinner every night all sweaty with video equipment slung over their shoulders. Adam and Sam would discuss video stuff nonstop. After dinner, we would bug Dawit to get the internet working, and once we even bribed him with sweet treats if he would bring a modem over to our guest house from another house. The people in this video may live across the world, but they are our friends.

The video is about Korah and Addis Ababa. It is such a joy to see these faces again. Summer is the woman who showed us around Korah, and I couldn't help but smile as I recognized children from our trip there. I couldn't help but touch my neck as I saw the women making necklaces that I purchased from there. Adam and our Tennessee friend, Brian, have been itching to go back to Korah and help in some way.

This is a great video, you just have to watch it. As I watch it (for the 10th time), I feel it. I see it, feel it, smell it. It puts me right back in Ethiopia. I have to quote my friend Hollie because she says it perfectly: "Thanks Sam for creating such a fantastic video..a wonderful representation of the beautiful people of Ethiopia and the powerful ministries stirring the souls and giving hope to all they meet."

The City of Addis - A short documentary from Session 7 Media on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

One happy mother

Disclaimer: It is almost 1 a.m. and I can't sleep. Adam is camping out with the boys on the trampoline, and I am lying awake with so many mommy thoughts running through my head. I decided I wanted to write this stuff down because it is important that I never, ever forget it.

I have a lot of anxiety and always wonder about the "what ifs". I remember sitting on the couch at the Arizona Fertility Center with Dr. Nemiro in 2004. He was telling me that the procedures we had done were not working. My ovaries were not responding to the high dose of fertility drugs or AI. He was proposing I undergo ZIFT. This is where I have 2 surgeries within 24 hours and the embryos are implanted directly into my fallopian tubes. In addition, he was talking about some bad results from blood tests; bad things from my uterus scan; steroids; and 2-3 shots per day for 8 weeks. He was very matter of fact and he told me what would happen, the costs, and the statistics. Most people would have a lot of questions. My one and only question was "What do we do if this doesn't work?" He wouldn't answer me. I was scared. I was scared throughout my pregnancy always wondering "what if" something happens. I had already gotten adoption paperwork because I had told Adam that if something happened during my pregnancy, I wouldn't try again. Everything was done with caution. I gave birth to my two little boys 8 weeks premature but yet I couldn't see them for hours. They weren't breathing when they were born, but I just laid there as they intubated them -- not being able to focus on anything. They tried to wheel my bed into the NICU but I still couldn't see them because the isolettes were too high. In fact, the first time I saw my boys was in a picture on our blog. In that moment, I fell in love immediately. When I saw their pictures I was just overwhelmed with emotion and how much love I had for these two boys. They were my boys.

The first pictures I saw of Calvin & Wes (respectively)
Allie's story isn't much different. Throughout our adoption process, I always had the "what if" playing over and over in the back of my mind. I said things like "Oh we will definitely pass court eventually even if it isn't on the first time" . . . but inside, I'm worried. I remember riding in the van on the way to court and the "what ifs" were going through my mind. What if her grandfather doesn't show up? I got this sense of determination come over me as I thought "That can't happen! This little girl is my daughter! She is mine! That just can't happen! She is mine!" I realized that was the first time that I could no longer think of "what if" because there was no "what if" -- I would fight and fight for my daughter. Before passing court, she was already my daughter. In that van ride, I knew that I had fallen in love with her.

The next day it was time to say goodbye to Alemitu. I knew it would be hard. I knew I couldn't prepare for it. I still wasn't prepared for how hard it would be. When it was time, I gave her back to the nannies and I tried to wave bye and explain to them that I wasn't coming back. The nannies didn't speak English, but they understood when they saw my eyes well up with tears. I just quickly handed her over, waved goodbye, and turned around and walked away. I walked to the balcony where Adam was standing and he went to give me a hug. I said, "Please do not touch me. I will fall apart." He understood and we left the transition home quickly as all I could think about was just putting one foot in front of the other and not falling down on the ground with tears. She was my daughter.

Those are tough memories that I never want to forget, but they are such happy memories as I know distinctly when I fell in love with my children.

My kids make it easy for me to be a good mom. They are just really, really good kids. We laugh every single day. Do I mess up? Oh yeah. But I make it known to them that I am not perfect, and I quickly apologize if I've done something wrong. As they grow older I know it will get harder, but I'm ready for the challenges that will arise. They are my kids. I love them. I will fight for them.

So this year, I've chosen to do nothing out of the ordinary for a regular Sunday in our house. As cliche as it sounds, I feel blessed every single day of the year with great kids and a great husband.

So many people talk about how special this Mother's Day will be for me now that I have my daughter at home. It is. But this Mother's Day -- and future Mother's Day, it will be a day for me to not only celebrate my love for my own mother and my children, but to also celebrate Alemitu's birth mother. I was so very sad when I had to leave Alemitu at the transition home and walk away. But I knew I was coming back. I knew she was mine. Allie's mother had to say goodbye to her child knowing she would never see her again. There were so many uncertainties. Alemitu's mother needs to be celebrated for bringing such a beautiful little girl into this world and into our lives. I pray for Alemitu's mother all of the time. Sometimes I wonder if she crumbled to the ground in tears when she walked away. I cannot imagine her pain. But I can give thanks to her for her sacrifice. I can pray for her healing.

Today, this Mother's Day, will be a great day. But they all are.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


We've had a busy weekend with our friends. On Saturday we went to 3 different birthday party. The first was for Wes' good friend, Denali. Denali lives in our neighborhood and this was the first party that I left the boys at without Adam nor I present. I stayed about 25 minutes and realized that they were going to be just fine without me. Wes thought it was so cool that he was going to hang out with his friends without mom around. I came back to the house empty handed to a very surprised husband -- who was staying at home to take care of Allie during the party. When I explained that they were at the party by themselves he said, "Okay, I think we just need to sit on the couch and process this one for a minute." Our boys are growing up. That makes me sad and happy at the same time. I went back to the party an hour later to find Calvin jumping on the trampoline with a dinosaur mask on his face and a hook on his hand scaring everyone. Wes was running through the house with some kids playing battle something or other with swords. They had a really good time.

Calvin & Wes at Denali's Party

The next stop was Hayden's party (Calvin's friend). We only stayed for a short while but the boys were able to make their own pizzas. They tasted pretty good too.

Preparing pizzas at Hayden's party

Our last party was for Ella (Alemitu's friend). Ella is turning 1 next week. Her parents have been some of our best friends since we first moved to Arizona 9 years ago. We always love spending time with them, and the boys enjoy playing with their son Jack who is 2 years younger than Wes and Calvin. At this party we caught up with quite a few of our other friends while the kids watched Toy Story 3 on a huge screen in Ella's backyard.

Watching the backyard movie

It was a great day. Today continued to be a lot of fun. We opened up our pool for the summer and the boys did a little swimming (73 degrees -- brrrrrr). This evening we went to the airport to greet our friends Jason and Paige who were bringing their daughter home from Ethiopia. We were so excited to go to the airport and meet Sophie. Paige and I were already planning playdates.

As for Adam, this fun weekend just wasn't long enough for him because on the way to the airport he asked if we could extend it longer. He asked if the boys could skip school tomorrow so we could have another family day and go to a mid-day movie. You don't have to ask me twice! We left it up to the boys (because they are normally disappointed when they can't go to school), and for the first time they were super excited about skipping it. Right now they are watching a movie and having a slumber party in our room. This has been a great weekend!