Sunday, March 31, 2013

Family Visit

Sabrina's parents and older sister (and family) came to visit for a week. We had a great time, and the kids had a blast. They were here for Easter, and so we had a picnic in the park and even had an egg hunt and snowball fight. (stuffed snowballs) The boys played really well with their cousins, and Alemitu played really well with Aunt Tina. She talks nonstop about Aunt Tina now. She pretends to call her on the phone, asks me if we can go to her house, asks me if I am talking to her on the phone, asks if she is in the airplane in the sky, etc. Aunt Tina, Aunt Tina, Aunt Tina.

Here are some highlights from their visit:
We went to a spring training game, but it was really hot sitting in the stands. So Grandpa started a baseball game with the kids in the cool, grassy area.

Alemitu's first "big kid" ride.
She LOVED it!
Alemitu's second "big kid" ride. (She is sitting with Grandpa.)
She HATED IT! Look closely to see her crying into grandpa's chest. Unfortunately, this ride goes twice -- so she had to go again. After that, she was done with big kid rides. Done.

The boys LOVE going to Castle n Coasters with my dad. You can see why! I think he likes to take them just as much!

Everyone else was done riding roller coasters except for Wes. He told me he was brave enough to go by himself so I walked him up there and away he went. He was so proud of himself, and I was so proud of him.
Kissing cousins. They kiss and hug .. all of the time. Seriously. All. The. Time. (At least they aren't blood related???)

Alemitu is learning to give judgmental, questioning looks from her other cousin Chloe.

Fun in the Jeep with the hard top off.

Alemitu and Uncle "Feeeel" (Phil)
Lots of playground time.
Hiking on the White Tank Mountains.

Friday, March 15, 2013

I'm the Princess!!

Alemitu and I jetted off to Texas for a long weekend to visit my sister and her family. We had a great time even though we only left the house twice, and that was just to go ride the carousel at the mall down the street. My sister and I are perfectly comfortable staying in our pajamas all day and just letting the kids play while we catch up. Plus, it was really cold outside. Each day we'd sit on the couch while we talked and researched on our laptops. I was obsessing, I mean "researching", information about a house we had just got into contract with -- and then we canceled it that weekend -- and then we put an offer on another house I had never seen that weekend too. It was crazy, and I ended up electronically signing an offer on another house that I had never seen on the flight home. Jenna found the house, Adam saw the house, and then we made an offer on the house -- all within 12 hours of it getting on the market, and even with asking over the listing price, we still didn't get it. In addition to obsessing over finding me a house, Jenna was also "researching" her upcoming Disney vacation. I think we drove Zach crazy, but it was the perfect weekend!
Riding the "round and round and up and down"
Alemitu and Chloe had a great time too. Sometimes they would graciously include Baby Levi (as Allie refers to him) in their fun. Both girls are very strong willed and like to be in charge, but they carry it out so differently. Alemitu is loud. Very loud. I didn't realize until that weekend exactly how loud she actually is. Chloe is extremely quiet. You have to concentrate to hear her, but she is just as strong willed -- just quietly. I call her "silent sneaky". Both girls ended up standing in the corner a few times, but overall they played together really well. I had brought Chloe some sour gummy worms to win over her affection. It worked. She would quietly walk up to me, sometimes climb in my lap, and just stare at me. Gummy worm time. :-) She got tired of doing all that work after a while and then just started sneaking into my room and getting them out of my purse. BUT, she still wanted me to hold her at times -- and I'm sure it had nothing to do with the Dr. Pepper sitting next to me that I'd always let her drink out of.
Picking Flowers
There was one incident over who was the princess. Alemitu is so into princesses right now. Everything is about the Disney princesses. She shared her passion with Chloe that weekend. One evening at dinner Chloe very quietly said she was a princess. That did not sit well with Alemitu. Alemitu immediately, and loudly, announced that she was the princess, not Chloe. They went back and forth. We explained that there are two princesses -- Princess Alemitu and Princess Chloe. After saying that a few times, Alemitu calmed down and accepted it (or so we thought). Later that evening when the girls were getting ready for bed, Alemitu asked if she could go give Chloe a hug goodnight. Of course, sweet child. She went into Chloe's bedroom and gave her a sweet hug and kiss. What a perfect angel child I have raised. As we were walking out of Chloe's room, Alemitu stopped at the door, spun around, and loudly declared "I THE PRINCESS!" And then she turned back around and walked to her room. Oh dear. 
It was the perfect weekend, and I thought I'd be okay saying goodbye because I will see Jenna again soon. However when we said goodbye, Alemitu starting crying really, really hard. All weekend she wanted her daddy and brothers. We had to talk to them several times a day. But she was so sad to leave Chloe. She just kept crying and saying that she wanted to stay with Chloe. Of course Jenna and I both lost it at that moment. Chloe just quietly stood there staring at Alemitu, probably freaked out over Alemitu's extreme reaction, but I know her heart was hurting too. It just killed me to see Alemitu so upset over leaving Chloe. I'm glad we'll get to see them again soon.
That weekend, Alemitu also began declaring that she is not "baby" "honey" "sweetie" etc., she is "Alemitu". Every time we would call her something else, she would declare that she is Alemitu. Since we've been home (I'm writing this blog 2 months after our trip), Alemitu has a script that she repeats word for word about 10 times a day (because we haven't broke our habit yet). It is "I not a baby. Levi baby. I Alemitu."She even repeated it to her teacher at school who translated that to mean that I was having another baby. Um, no. Jenna says that Alemitu's world will turn upside down next month when she see Levi and sees that he isn't really a baby anymore. I'm more interested in seeing how both girls share grandma. Although favorite Aunt Tina will be there too, so I think we'll be okay. (Let's not kid ourselves, Jenna and I rank far below Energetic, Never Stopping, Aunt Tina when it comes to favorite aunts. And Allie talks about Tina every day. So it will be just fine.)
Alemitu trying to hold Baby Levi
In a vertical tunnel, trapped by Uncle Zachy

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Happy 2 Year Anniversary

I can't believe it has been 2 years since we first saw this beautiful face:
1/22/11: ..."One of the nannies brought in Allie. We were expecting her to cry -- everyone was. She didn't. She stared us down. She went right to me and then she kept looking at Adam and his camera. She reached out to grab the camera. Then she grabbed Adam's hand and held on tight."...

And two years since we were forever blessed by the strength of this man:
1/25/11: "...He wants her to know how much he loves her, and that he hopes we love her just as much...." 
 And two years since we had to say goodbye:
1/26/11: ..."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...."

 And two years since she came home:
Taken a few days after we became a family.
Taken at Alemitu's 1st adoption anniversary
Taken at Alemitu's 2nd adoption anniversary

While at times, January 2011 seems like yesterday. There are other times that I feel as though Alemitu has been with us forever. She is full of love and life, and she brings such happiness to our family. Also such craziness to our family. Such silliness to our family. Such love to our family. Such attitude to our family. And such NOISE to our family. I wouldn't trade a single piece of her personality. She is beautiful, inside and out. 

I wouldn't trade a single tear shed over her. A single bit of anxiety felt through the process. A single bit of fear. Or a single dollar spent. Our journey had its ups and down, and it was full of emotion along the way, but that was the journey we needed to take to get to where we are today. And the journey has just begun. I never want to get complacent. I fought hard for her 2 years ago, and I fight hard for her everyday. I fight hard for my family. Adam and I made a vow to that little girl that we will never stop fighting for her. The same vow we made to our boys as we fought for them in the NICU. And we won't stop. We will never let complacency or selfishness get in the way of fighting for her. I never want to have to say that kind of goodbye again. I never want my child to ever know the feeling that comes with parents who have stopped fighting. I never want Alemitu's grandfather to ever feel pain with thoughts or worries that we may stop fighting. 

I never want to forget each and every moment, and each and every miracle, and each every prayer said through the journey we took to bring Alemitu Tagese home. She lights up our lives. She is my daughter, and I cannot wait to watch her grow into a beautiful woman. Our journey wasn't to save her. Alemitu saved us.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Winter Fun

I can't believe it is spring already. We had a great winter. Here are some pictures:

1.  We adopted a dog . . . 

Our old dog Clementine has no interest in playing with the boys. She is 12 years old and sleeps all day long. The boys have taken an interest into dogs, and so we decided it was time to get them their own dog. Adam and I were both hesitant about this. I specifically said I didn't want a dog younger than six months; one that would be large; and one that was a light color (new brown couch at home). Well, we bought a 9 week old puppy, that will be very large, and will have long, thick white fur. Yep, I'm a sucker.

The boys have really enjoyed their dog . . . "Scooby" . . . a girl. They play with Scooby a lot, and Allie is enjoying her more and more too. She LOVED Scooby at first and then HATED Scooby. Now she wants to be around Scooby all of the time, but still starts to get upset if Scooby is hyper and running around.

Our old dog is doing okay too. She loved having Scooby at home, but now she gets annoyed on occasion - especially since Scooby has already doubled in size. Clementine still doesn't want her personal time though, she prefers to have her eyes on Scooby at all times. This timing was perfect because a week after we brought Scooby home we found out that Clementine has cancer. The good news is that it is slow growing, but it is still cancer. Some days I love Scooby, and some days I think "what have I done?" I guess this is Karma for when Adam surprised me with a cat for my birthday -- and never asked my parents' permission. At the time, I couldn't understand why my mom wouldn't just fall in love with the amazing new kitty. Yep, karma.
Alemitu pretending to be a dog at the vet.
2. Sickness continued in our house through February. Wes got so sick in January that I couldn't even leave the house. Trust me, I tried. I tried to bribe him with a trip to Toys R' Us, but nothing could get him to move off of the couch. Unfortunately Adam was out of town that week and our refrigerator broke down and all the food was bad. We drank soda and ordered pizza twice, and then a great friend brought us a chicken nugget tray and gallon of lemonade. She even offered to go to the grocery for me, but Wes was finally on the mend. I was definitely overwhelmed those 3 days, but I learned (after getting lectured by a few friends) that I need to work on asking for help sometimes.
As for Allie, she gets sick in style . . .

This was taken 5 minutes later.

3.  The boys started riding the bus to and from school. In kindergarten, riding the bus wasn't worth it. It would take us longer to walk to the neighborhood gate to wait for the bus than it was for me to just drive to the school. Plus we liked to ride bikes. Okay, I'll admit it -- I couldn't imagine my poor, helpless, confused, scared little boys on a big, bad bus. In 1st grade, we got a variance to keep our kids in the same school, and so we had to drive 10 minutes to/from school. No bus options. And now in 2nd grade, I have run out of excuses. The boys were curious about riding, and I couldn't think of a single reason why they couldn't. So, I hesitantly said yes. And now I wonder why the heck I didn't do this sooner. Having the kids ride the bus is awesome! No more showing up to school and fighting the new pick-up system. I . . . I mean the boys, love it!

On Thursdays, the boys stay late for a drawing class, so I still pick them up on those days. One afternoon, I went out to start my Jeep to run a few errands before picking them up. My Jeep wouldn't start. Dead battery. Adam was on a shoot and couldn't be reached. My sister and brother-in-law were selfish and moved away from me so they can't be here to rescue me at my beck and call. And, I hate asking for help so I didn't even call the friends and clients that live within a mile of me and would not hesitate to help me out. So... it was time to try out the golf cart. I didn't know how much battery remained, but I gave it a shot. I drove to the store, to the post office, and to my work. It started slowing down on the way to school. Crap. I picked up the boys and they told me they would just push it if it died. I explained that there is no way they can push this thing. Well sure enough it died about .5 miles from home. And sure enough those boys were determined to push the golf cart. And they did. I was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my cheeks. For a while, I even sat in it as they pushed me (their idea). Cars were driving by us and staring as a mother is laughing while her young children push her in a golf cart. We came home so sweaty, but we had the best time ever.

4.  It snowed! One day we had a freak winter storm and it actually snowed in Scottsdale. This is a picture taken by Adam's office.

 5. Grandma came to visit for a few days in February. My mom said we were "on the way" to her business trip in San Francisco. (And my other sister, in Texas, was "on the way home".) I'm not complaining though, we love these little visits. I am so very lucky to get to see my family as much as I do. We went to the park a few times, and we also went hiking on a new trail. And as always, the boys "kicked her butt" at Wii games. It was a great weekend. The kids always look forward to these visits, and it is so hard to say goodbye. Alemitu really has a hard time with it and will usually start crying. It breaks my heart.
6.  Alemitu has learned that she can get out of her bed and play while she is supposed to be napping. If she hears us coming, she'll run back in bed and pretend she is asleep. One night we could hear her playing with toys in her bed. (Her bed is usually filled with toys under the covers.) She kept playing with this electronic telephone. After about 10 minutes, Adam went in there, and she immediately tried to hide. He said, "Allie, you need to go to bed." She kept trying to hide, but was looking back over at him. He said, "Were you talking on your phone?" She said, "Gamma call me daddy." It's all gamma's fault.

Like I said, we had a great January and February. March gets even crazier with a lot of changes . . . but I'll post about all of that soon. :-)