Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Poppy Dip!

My friend Sallee has been raising money for their THIRD Ethiopian adoption by making adorable dresses and skirts for little girls out of the cutest fabrics you have ever seen. She calls her little fundraiser company "It's Poppy Dip!" after a cute saying of her son's. I have loved the dresses since I first saw them, and I've wanted one for Madeline forever. A couple of months ago I WON THE GIVEAWAY on Sallee's blog by guessing how many dresses she has made over the last months. It's a lot! Here is Madeline in her cutie patootie Poppy Dip dress:

Check out Sallee's website and her blog and see for yourself all of the cute fabrics she has available. She just posted all of the new Christmas fabrics she will have for this year. I want about six!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

- Isaiah 41:10

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

- Isaiah 40:11

Don't lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

- II Corinthians 4:16-18

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Truth

Let me preface this by telling you that this isn’t going to be a happy-go-lucky blog post, full of rainbows and roses. I don’t have a super-spiritual revelation to share with you or a word of encouragement to brighten your day. I’m just gonna be real with ya. Mama is just barely holding it together some days lately.

I haven’t written much on this blog recently because, honestly, I haven’t been sure what to say. I don’t want to be a discouragement to anyone. I am fearful that someone out there is considering adoption and will read a post that shows the harder side of the adjustment period and will decide that it just too difficult. That’s why I’ve been quiet. I have felt the need to just burrow down into my little hole and keep everything to myself until things get easier, and then I’ll come back out into the sunshine and tell you some great stories about how well everyone is doing. But that’s not who I am. You see, I am a “real” person. I cannot stand being fake, even if that means that I come across as negative sometimes. So I will tell you the truth.

The transition to having two kids has been really, really hard. I am embarrassed to admit it. I know so many great mama’s (mostly through our adoption community) out there who have 4, 5, or even 6 or more kids. They love it, they seem to do a beautiful job managing their households, and their attitude is “the more the merrier.” I know that I should not be comparing myself with others. My job is to be the person that God created ME to be, to ask what his will is for MY life. But try as I may, I can’t stay away from the feeling that I am a real weenie – I can hardly manage life with two children and a small house when these other beautiful mothers have two or three times as many and a much larger house to keep up.

I’ve been getting by on a steady diet of sugar and caffeine, and I’ve gotten very little exercise since we have gotten back. I know that is definitely making me feel crummy physically and making everything else harder, but I just can’t seem to get back on track. Most nights I get six-ish hours of sleep, and I am gradually getting tireder and tireder.

Everything is such a struggle these days. Madeline (almost two-and-a-half now) has been particularly whiny and contrary lately. She is more defiant and disobedient that I am used to. Dealing with her and addressing everything that needs to be addressed takes so much constant energy.

Benjamin is very needy. He is a happy child when he is being held, but does not like to be put down at all. Even for a moment. This makes things like loading up the car to go somewhere, putting clothes in the dryer, or even just going to the bathroom extremely difficult. He is a passionate little guy, and he makes his displeasure known by screaming. This is very understandable behavior. He was abandoned by his birth mother, and he was then ripped away from his caretakers of six months at the transition home. Naturally, he is afraid of that happening again. He NEEDS me to stay close to him, to reassure him over and over that I am never going to leave him. That I may walk away, but I am always going to come back. (This is getting better gradually. This week I have noticed a big improvement – Praise God!)

Both of my children need me so much. I feel like I need to give 100% of my energy and emotion to each of them. Plus I want to have at least a little left over to give to Daniel when he gets home. Then there’s the housework, the cooking, the errands. Oh, and I guess I should leave a little bit of time and energy to take care of myself – you know get some exercise, get a little more sleep, have some quiet time.

The math just isn’t adding up. If I give 100% to each of my kids, it is already requiring 200% of my normal energy. And that leaves nothing for everything else on the list. So that’s where I am right now. And that’s why you haven’t heard much from me. :) I know that things will get easier. I am COUNTING on that. There are just a lot of wrinkles to be ironed out of this new season of life. A lot to figure out still in order to make life work for all of us.

Just say a prayer for me if you will – for strength, for patience, for energy. And that I will continue to cling to my Savior - the Only One who can give me the grace and the peace that I need to face each day and be all that I need to be for my family.

P.S. By the way, for the most part, these struggles are not adoption related. I'm just a tired mama of two very young children. Who I love very much. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our Life in Pictures

I have no idea how you mama's out there who have four or five kids are able to keep up with a blog. I hardly have time to go to the bathroom these days, much less write long and thoughtful blog posts. By the time they go to bed, I am beat. I am a tired mama these days. But I sure do have two cute kids! :) Here is a peek at some of the cuteness that our little house has been filled with lately.

Cuddling in mama and daddy's bed before bedtime. Yes, our pillow cases don't match the sheets. Yes, there is a wet spot from a bottle that leaked. Focus on the cute kids please.

Bath time. Oh how our boy loves the bath tub. Splashes and laughs and splashes and laughs. He even lets you pour water over his head and thinks that it is funny.

Dress up. We do this A LOT. She wears the tiara and the high heels (her "pancy" shoes) at least half of the time.

And, of course, Elmo needs to dress up too.

Madeline loves raw corn on the cob. I let her try it once because she was being so impatient when I told her that I needed to cook it first. I thought one bite would convince her that she would rather wait. Nope. She ate the whole thing.

"Don't touch me, brother!"

More dressing up. She has learned how to do the "cheese" face.

And more dressing up. Notice the wings she is eating while eating supper.

Madeline goes through spells where she wears these rose-tinted sunglasses all the time. Even while watching Pingu on Netflix. Oh yes, and holding her friend Mr. Potato head at the same time.

Quite a handsome guy, don't you think? :)

The little guy LOVES to make noise. The more noise the better in his opinion.

Ready for the 4th of July parade in our little town.

Spraying Daddy with a squirt bottle to help him keep cool. Don't you love the feather hat that she got at the parade? :)


Cool dude. He LOVES to swing, and the higher the better. Quite the opposite of my cautious little girl who likes to just barely move on the swing. I lightly push her, and she tells me, "Too high mama! Too high!"

Gotta love the icing goatee. July 2nd is the birthday of one of M's friends, so we had some cupcake fun with them on the 4th.

Yea for birthdays and yea for cupcakes!

Yes, and yea for sparklers too! Madeline thought this was great fun. I LOVE that she is getting old enough now to do fun things with.

Flowers that Daniel sent me on a particularly hard day. Yes, I will admit that the transition to having two young children has been overwhelming on some days. Daniel has been so helpful and supportive.

Playing in the water on a very hot day at my parents' house. My sis and her daughter came to visit for a week earlier this month.

What a cutie!

Benjamin and his cousin Abigail are only three days apart.

Isn't she beautiful?

A little over two years ago, there were no babies in our extended family. Now there are four with a fifth on the way! These are fun years. Abigail jumped off the stairs only moments after this was taken.

Rachel and Abigail - two beauties.

A couple of my college friends had a shower for us a couple of weeks ago. It was such a special day. Isn't this the best cake ever?

Mary, me, and Chrissy. Friends since college. I love these girls.

And I love this one too! Kristen was my roommate for four years. She has three sweet girls with a fourth on the way!

My friend Gloria from Sierra Leone

Playing by the creek at the park

Lots of diapers! The best present ever!

And this is what Benjamin thought of the shower... A great opportunity to take a nap. :) He is such a great sleeper. He goes to sleep easily and even sleeps in the stroller occasionally. He has slept through the night ever since he got over his jet lag, and slowly but surely he is sleeping a little later in the morning too. Yea!

Daniel's co-workers had a shower for us too! Lots of diapers and money for formula. :) It was so special and appreciated. They were so good to us.

Cool beach cupcakes

Lovin' the blue icing. And notice the "silly bands" on Madeline's wrist. She got her first silly bands as a gift at the shower. She loves the things. So funny on a two year old.

Everyone signed a "Go. Seek. Love." shirt for us. I love it! I can't decide whether to frame it or make it into a pillow.

The guest of honor.

(The photos of this shower came from Daniel's co-worker Joan.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Packing List

I promised a few of you out there that I would share my big fat packing spreadsheet after we returned from Ethiopia. I finally found a few minutes to revise it and add a few notes, and here it is:

I added a list of things to buy while in Ethiopia, a "to do" list for the weeks before you leave, and a few miscellaneous items of advice to the spreadsheet as well. I hope that this helps someone out there!

More info (and pictures!) about our family coming soon. I promise!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Meet the Cassadas

For the month of July all proceeds from the sale of Go. Seek. Love. T-shirts and note cards will go to the Cassada family - adopting two children from Rwanda!

Family blog:

Family bio: We got married young - in college. We've grown up together...had 4 amazing kids...they are 8, 6, 4 and almost 2. Pat loves his job (in the corporate world) and I love mine (at home). We love to be together as a family...picking strawberries at the farm, going for walks, working in the yard, playing games. God has blessed up abundantly.

The short answer to why were adopting is because we can! The longer answer: God laid it on our hearts (Courtney's first...Pat's a little while later) a couple years ago. We LOVE being parents and there are so many children out there that need a home and a family. We have both. And we look forward to opening our hearts and home to 2 more precious children from Rwanda!

Head over to and buy a T-shirt to support the Cassadas' adoption now!

By the way, we just wrapped up the fundraiser for the Kirk family, and we were very excited to be able to send them a check for almost $1,000! Woo hoo! Amy did an incredible job promoting it!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Travel Journal Part Nine: Coffee Factory and The Long Journey Home

Friday, June 11 - Saturday, June 12

On Friday we got to visit a coffee factory. What a fun experience for a coffee-loving family! Coffee is Ethiopia's largest export, generating 60% of its total export earnings. So learning more about coffee was an important cultural experience as well as just being fun for us.

Emily and Yemi

We first visited the coffee shop and had our daily dose of caramel macchiatos. Yummy! Then we got to visit the warehouses with unbelievable stacks of burlap bags stuffed with coffee beans. All along the way our guide taught us about how the beans are processed, sorted for quality control, roasted, and shipped. Some of the beans are shipped "green," and some are roasted first at the factory. The beans for Starbucks Ethiopian blend come from this factory! (I believe he said that they are roasted elsewhere, though.)

My favorite part was seeing the large room where rows and rows of women sit on benches all day, combing through the coffee beans that continually pass by them on a conveyor belt. Quality control. At first I felt sorry for them. It seemed like it wouldn't be a very fun job. Then I realized that they seemed happy. Most of them were talking to each other as they worked.

This coffee roasting machine looked like something out of a movie

After this we spent the afternoon packing up and preparing to leave. We had to be at the airport at 4 pm for our 7 pm flight to Dubai. We had brought 4 large bags (3 duffel bags and a suitcase) with us. Three of them were filled with donations, so we thought we would have plenty of room for our souvenirs. They just barely fit, though! We bought 30 pounds of coffee to bring back with us, both for ourselves and to give to others. That is a lot of coffee!

Our bedroom at the Yesabi Guest House

Benjamin's bed

The sitting room and kitchen area that we shared with another family

By Friday, I was so ready to go home. Ever since we picked up Benjamin, I had been ready to just hop on a plane and get back. I'm thankful that we went early for that reason. It was hard to enjoy being there, soak up the culture, go sightseeing, etc., when all I wanted to do was get my baby home and have our family together.

But it was more than that. I had seen so many difficult things over the last week. There was so much that my heart needed to process, and I had just had all that I could take. I had seen so much suffering that I felt like I couldn't breathe anymore. My heart was about to cave in from the pain. The unspeakable poverty, the street kids with so little hope for their future, the orphanages, the disease... I felt overwhelmed and hopeless.

However now, three weeks after returning home, I am reminded that my feelings of hopelessness are not from God. He is a God of hope, of life, of healing. I cling to the hope that he he has a plan for Ethiopia. He sees their suffering and has compassion. However, you and I are his hands and feet. He works through us. For God's purposes to be accomplished, WE must be obedient carry out his plans. We must use the gifts that he has given us - of money, of talent, of freedom and opportunity - to help others who have none of those things.

How do you want to use us God? We have seen and heard and our hearts have broken. What shall we do now? That is what we are asking constantly. We don't have complete answers yet, but we are trying to be faithful to just keep taking one step at a time. We are trusting that he will continue to show us the next step to take.

The journey home was long. Very, very long. But we made it, and that's all that really matters. Benjamin did amazingly well for a nine-month-old baby. He slept in our arms a lot, even as we walked around airports. We had a bassinet on our long flight (Yea Emirates!), and it was a life saver. He slept for about 4 hours straight in it. But then he was awake. Very awake. He was just being a normal, noisy, happy baby, but the sleeping people all around us didn't appreciate the squeals too much. It was stressful, but we survived. We stood up in the kitchen area quite a bit, and the flight attendants were so nice to us. They played with Benjamin and gave him toys.

Sleeping on a bench in the airport

Arriving home at the Nashville airport was a day that I will never, ever forget. Ahead of time I was a little afraid that I would regret inviting people to come since I knew we would be so tired, but that's not how I felt at all. The closer to Nashville we got, the more excited I got. I couldn't wait to get there! I couldn't WAIT to see Madeline again (oh, I missed my sweet girl SO much!), to introduce her to Benjamin, to introduce him to so many family and friends who were all there waiting for us and excited to finally see him in person. We had quite a welcoming party, and it meant so much to me. We felt so loved and supported.

And the day just continued to be wonderful! When we got home, we discovered that my Aunt Sarah had been there and had decorated our mailbox with a sign and balloons, cleaned our house, did laundry, left flowers in several rooms, and filled our refrigerator and pantry with fresh food. What a wonderful gift! Then later, some dear friends came over to meet Benjamin and bring us dinner. It was the first of many yummy meals delivered to us over the next couple of weeks.

9-year-old Mattie made this cake to welcome Benjamin home

I want to say thank you, once again, to every single person who has come alongside us during this long journey. So many of you donated money, others helped with fundraisers, and others supported us with their prayers and encouragement. We thank God for every one of you. The adoption process is finally over (thank goodness!!!), but the ADOPTION has only just begun.