Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Benjamin!

We had a lion-themed birthday party for Benjamin on Saturday

Madeline was very excited to help me make these lion cupcakes. :)

I used a runner on the table that I bought at the ALERT hospital in Ethiopia, and a wood carved lion from the market.

I made a rare full-price retail purchase when I bought this lion shirt for the birthday boy to wear at his party. He had a diaper explosion not long after the party started, and he had to have a wardrobe change. I was determined to get a picture of him in it, though, before we changed his clothes. He was NOT cooperating. :)

Pizza and fruit was on the menu. We kept it simple. :)

Mama and the birthday boy

Getting some tickles from Peepaw

Cousin Annie

The fire truck riding toy was a huge hit

Time to blow out the candles!

And time to eat cake! Here is the first bite...

Ooh! I think I like this stuff!

Oh yeah, I am seriously digging the cake thing.

Woah! Did I seriously just eat the whole thing?!

And big sister enjoyed the fruits of her labor too.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Unexpected Grief

Today is Benjamin's first birthday. The cupcakes are made, the house is clean, and in a couple of hours we are expecting some family members to help us celebrate! What joy to finally have him home and to get to share this special milestone with him. I began dreaming about this birthday party long before we even had him home with us.

But as I have prepared for the party over the last couple of days, I have had an unexpected emotional reaction.

Birthdays are a fun time to celebrate a person. With parties and cakes we seek to say we love you and we are glad that you were born. But for mommies birthdays have a deeper, fuller meaning. They are a day of special remembrance. We recall watching a miracle as God brought a new life forth from our bodies. We recall watching in wonder and falling in love. Today I am feeling grief, unexpected grief, because I have no such memories of Benjamin.

I wish I remember what happened a year ago today. I wish that when I met Benjamin's birth mom it had occurred to me to ask her about her labor. What was the birth like? Who helped her? How long was she in labor? What was the weather like that day?

I am his mommy; there is no doubt about that. But today I feel a hole. Over time I'm sure that this hole will be filled with many, many memories, replacing the sadness that I feel right now. After all, our relationship only goes back two months.

Happy birthday, Little Brother. We love you very, very much, and we are so glad that you joined our family.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Miss Madeline

I have offered lots of updates about how our Little Man is doing lately, but I haven't shared much about what's going on with our almost-two-and-a-half-year-old princess. And that she is: A princess. Where in the world she gets it, I don't know. I've never been a pink-wearing, dress-up playing kind of girl. But my sweet daughter certainly is.

I have kinda been putting off doing this. As she gets older, more complex, more of a real person, it is harder to put together a neat little summary describing what she is like. With a baby you can easily summarize their eating and sleeping habits, include a list of the words they can say and the latest physical milestones, and add in a few sentences about their developing personality. But Madeline is a real person now. There is a lot more to her than how many hours she sleeps at night. And the words she can say? I don't think blogger will allow me to post an entry long enough to include them all.

My girl is gentle and kind. She is detail oriented and orderly (she often lines up her toys in neat little rows when she plays and sorts things by color and size). She is also a complete mess, leaving a trail of toys, shoes, and hair accessories everywhere she goes. (I often tell Daniel that I feel like someone has hit the "shuffle" button on my house every night, moving all of the contents to opposite ends.) She sings all the time. She talks a lot, but not all the time. I think that she will be an introvert like her mama. She enjoys people, but she also loves to go in her room, shut the door, and read books for thirty minutes at a time. She reads all the time, and she completely memorizes books that I read to her scary quick. (I keep a stash of books in the car, and she "reads" them aloud one at a time, throwing them on the floor when she is done with each one.) She loves Pingu and the Wonder Pets. She does not like to be dirty. (If she dribbles a little bit while she is eating, she won't take another bite until she has cleaned the table or her clothes up.) She has known all of her letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. since before she was two.

Climbing, jumping, and throwing are not her strongest skills. She is more of a fine motor skill kind of girl. She can draw smiley faces. She even tries to draw letters and gets super-excited when she gets anywhere close.

My Mattie Lou is half big girl and half baby. She still sleeps in a crib, she still likes to have a bottle of milk before bed, and she loves for me to rock her and sing the same three songs every night. (No variations allowed...) But she also shares her thoughts, tell me where it hurts, and describes what happened during her Sunday school class. She wants to ride around the house on my back in the backpack (because that is what brother is doing), but quickly gets bored and wants to "help" me cook and unload the dishwasher instead. (She is great at organizing the silverware drawer!) She no longer says "foffee"; she says coffee. She doesn't say "Afrifa"; she says Africa. She has quit saying "Aunt Emmy"; and instead calls her Emily. I miss all her cute little baby talk so much. She does, however, still call her dress up shoes her "pancy" shoes (fancy shoes), and I am doing my best to keep her from learning the correct way to say it!

My Sweet Girl loves to have her "poe nails" painted, and she can go through a whole sheet of stickers in no time flat, sticking them to everything in sight. (However, I strictly enforce a "no stickers on the floor" policy.) She still adores her "fuzz pillow" that her aunt Emily made for her, and every morning I clean up a small mountain of polyester fiber fill that she has pulled out of her pillow and thrown on the floor during the night. She sleeps with about six blankets in her bed. She goes crazy over anything soft.

We are NOT potty trained. We made a whole-hearted effort last week, and it just didn't work out. It exhausted and stressed us all, and we just need to take a break from it all. We will try again in a few months.

I am so impressed with how kind and patient she is to her brother. "Mr. Grabby Hands," as we like to call him, just loves to seize handfuls of her hair and sometimes even try to pull her nose right off of her face. She just pushes his hand away and says, "No brother." No hitting or fussing! She loves to help me by giving him his pacifier or a toy. And one of her greatest delights is to make him laugh. I have a couple of videos on my phone of her making him laugh, and she loves to watch them over and over. She quickly picks up on any pet names that I call him, and gives us a laugh when we hear her call him "Little Man," "Dude," or "Big Boy." Things are getting a bit harder now that is he mobile and can get into her toys, though. I have heard the word "Mine!" quite a few times in the last few days.

Madeline has more than a slight obsession with the books about "Gigi: God's Little Pricess" (from Lifeway). She reads Gigi every day, dresses up in a pink leotard, ballet shoes, and a pink feather boa every day, and acts out the story about Gigi taking ballet lessons - over and over and over.

Our biggest struggles these days are whining and refusing to eat what I want her to eat at mealtime. (Not because she doesn't like it; just because I want her to eat it.) She IS two, after all.

Thankfully, she has given up her nap strike that she was on for about three or four months and now sleeps for about two-and-a-half hours every single day. Yea! She really needs that nap. And, well, honestly mama does too.

One of the best moments of my day comes at bed time when we are saying our prayers together. She likes to get down on our knees to pray, and then I ask her what she wants to say, "Thank you, God" for. We go through her list and I add a few too. Then I put her in bed, close the door, and listen to her sing until she falls asleep. Sometimes it takes her an hour or more to fall asleep, but she just sings her heart out until she finally dozes off.

Oh how I love my sweet girl.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We Are Crawling!

Look what happened at our house yesterday!

Look out world, here he comes!

In addition, we are doing "Potty Training Boot Camp" at our house this week. Yesterday we enjoyed five successes and only one wet diaper! And today has brought several more successful trips to the potty. Woo hoo!

It has already been a big week at the Dubois house!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Holocaust Denial

You need to read this post on my friend Tracy's blog. Their family adopted a sibling group of four from Ethiopia in February. They are beautiful, every one of them, on the inside and on the outside. Her children have experienced horrors, and the Lord is healing, gradually over time. Oh the stories of his faithfulness and love they have to share. Please take a moment to read her words.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Two Month Update on Benjamin

For those of you who are interested, I thought I would share a bit about how our little man is doing. (I call him that - "Little Man" - a lot, and Madeline has caught on. She handed him a toy the other day and said, "Here you go, Little Man. :) )

First and foremost: He is completely healthy! We are so thankful! Our pediatrician tested him for just about everything he could be tested for, and all the results have come back negative. Praise God! We had braced ourselves, expecting that we might face some concerning health problems when we got home. As much as possible, we had been saving the money in our FSA this year "just in case." The only little hiccup is that his TB skin test was positive. This is ONLY because he received the TB vaccine while he was at the Transition Home in Ethiopia, and this causes him to have the antibody in his bloodstream. His chest x-ray is completely clear. He does NOT have tuberculosis. However, the health department doesn't care. Anyone (at least in our state) who has a positive skin test has to take medication for 9 months. So we are about a month and a half into that. If that's the worst thing that we have to face, then we will take it. Our pediatrician is re-vaccinating him for all of the standard things. He did receive some immunizations while in Ethiopia, but he recommends just starting over.

The little (big) guy is growing by leaps and bounds. In the first month that we were home he grew half an inch and gained 2 1/2 pounds! I know that is much more than that by now. He is over 25 pounds already and around the 90th percentile for his weight and moving up to around the 60th for his height. Our pediatrician gave us a pat on the back, telling us that the quick increase in height is directly linked to how much love and security he is receiving.

He got FOUR teeth all in the same week a few weeks ago. Poor little guy. It was a rough week for all of us. So he now has two on the bottom (with a third about to poke through) and four on the top. His big teeth up top make him look like a big kid!

When we picked him up from the Transition Home, he was about 9 1/2 months old and not at all mobile. He could sit up, and that was it. He wasn't at all interested in trying to go anywhere. He didn't even roll over yet. He still slept like a tiny infant, flat on his back with his arms and legs extended, never moving an inch. He was nowhere near crawling. He had no strength at all in his arms and legs. In fact, when we stood him up on our laps, holding his hands, he would start crying after a couple of minutes. He wasn't used to that, and his little legs hurt! Well, he has progressed tremendously since coming home. He started rolling over within a couple of weeks after we got back, and he was soon able to log roll to get where he wanted to go. He isn't technically crawling yet, but every day for the last week I have thought that it was going to be the big day. He is right on the verge, up on his hands and knees, rocking back and forth. He manages to scoot from one place to another, and he is very motivated now. He gets so frustrated when he can't reach whatever it is that he wants.

He is saying quite a few words already. I had expected that he would take a little bit longer to begin to catch on to our language since the sounds are so different from Amharic, but that hasn't been the case at all. He started learning new words right away. He can say (or at least tries to say) Dada, Mama, bye bye, baba (bottle), kitty, all done, and bread (his favorite food). I have tried teaching him a few signs. He understands what they mean, but he doesn't attempt to do them at all. But if he chooses to learn the words instead, that is even better. He waves when you say "bye bye" and claps when you say "yea!" He seems just like a healthy, normal almost one-year-old.

Benjamin is a GREAT sleeper. WHAT A BLESSING. I do not take this for granted at all. Since getting over jet lag (it took about two weeks for him to fully adjust), he has slept through the night every single night. Madeline wasn't even doing that yet at this age! We have gradually worked on adjusting his schedule to fit better with the rhythm of our family life. Although it took a while, his schedule works out great for everyone now. At first he was an early riser - 5:45 or so most mornings - and he preferred to go to bed at 7 pm or so. Normal for babies, I know, but really hard on mama... Now he goes to bed at 8 pm, and he gets up at 7 am or so. He naps twice a day for 1 1/2 hours or so each time, and his afternoon nap is at the same time as Madeline's. That is HUGE for me.

Our Benjamin is a passionate little guy. That is something we are having to get used to around here... We are a mild mannered family, and we are used to having things at least somewhat calm and quiet most of the time. Well, B isn't into "calm and quiet." The boy is a screamer. He screams when he is happy, when he is sad, when he is mad. He loves to hear himself, and he loves noise! And boy oh boy, does he have a temper. He arches that little back and throws himself backward when things don't go his way. It's amusing now, but I know that it won't be later. :) I do love to see the vibrancy of his personality. His passion is going to make all of our lives richer as he grows and develops.

He has come such a long way in the security department. We literally couldn't put him down without him falling apart at first. He would act like his little heart was breaking every time. This is normal, but it was really, really stressful. I know that many have been praying for him and for us, and I can't thank you enough. Our prayers are being answered before our eyes. The turning point was about three weeks ago: We arrived home after going to the grocery store, and I had to put him on the floor with some toys while I made three trips back to the car to bring in groceries. Normally at that point he would have been screaming his head off, both sad and mad that I would dare to put him down like that. But I made THREE TRIPS and he never cried a bit. Instead I cried, thanking God that this day had come! Since then he has continued to become more and more secure. He still prefers to stay close, but he definitely doesn't seem to think that we are leaving him forever every time we put him down for a minute.

I carry him around in a backpack with a frame on it (the kind that you use for hiking) quite a bit. Weighing in at over 25 pounds, he is way to heavy for the Baby Bjorn or a sling now. He is very content to just hang out with me, which is fun. Ethiopian women carry their babies on their backs, and I like to think that it is in his genes to be carried that way. I'm not cool enough to pull it off the way they do, tying him on with a shawl, but the backpack works for me pretty well. I can cook, run the vacuum, play with Madeline in the yard, and do lots of other things while he is there, and we are both happy. I have, however, had to start seeing my chiropractor again.... Oh well. This is a season, right?

Life is good. I have two beautiful, happy, and healthy children. I have a husband who loves me and is supportive. I have a lovely home, and I love where we live. We have so much more than we need. The Lord has blessed us. May we live to bless others.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Happy Report

Well I am filled with joy to share that things are going really well now. I have gradually found new rhythms and routines for our days that are working for us. Madeline is doing SO WELL with Benjamin – so helpful and kind and patient (well, most of the time…). Benjamin is doing awesome! I mean, incredible. He has done a 180 and is so much more secure and content than he was a few weeks ago. And me? Well, I am no longer on the brink of crying all the time and instead I am having a lot of fun! Really!

My threshold for dealing with the craziness has increased so that it doesn’t get to me nearly as much. I am a one-thing-at-a-time type of person and I get overwhelmed too easily. I wish so badly that I could multi-task well. Aren’t all women supposed to be good at that? Well, I’m not. The multi-tasking part of my brain is underdeveloped, and trying to juggle a lot of things at once is extremely stressful for me. But I’m getting used to it and getting better at it. I no longer cry every time I am trying to get the car packed and the kids loaded just to go to the grocery store. :)

Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers and encouragement over the past few weeks. You guys are wonderful – I have gotten emails, phone calls, offers to help, and even a card in the mail with a gift certificate for chocolate! So many have encouraged me by sharing scripture and relating your own experiences and struggles. Oh, it has helped so much! Thank you one and all. I had felt reluctant to share my difficulties in such a public way, but I am so glad that I did.

By the way, we went on a road trip to Asheville, NC, last weekend to run an important errand (and had a very fun family weekend in the process). It’s related to a fun and exciting announcement coming up about a way that we are going to be able to help even more adoptive families. We have been praying and dreaming about this for a long time now. I can't wait to share, but I'll just leave you with that teaser for now...

And finally...What kind of blog post would this be without cute pictures of the kids?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Meet the Robbins

I am very excited to introduce you to the Robbins family! They are our Go. Seek. Love. partner family for the month of August. Aren't they the cutest family you've ever seen? Talk about photogenic!

Kirk and Becca Robbins with Grace, Ben, and Rhett

Here is their bio:

We are Kirk and Becca Robbins. We live in Rogers, Arkansas where Kirk works for Dr. Pepper and is in school getting his MBA and Becca is the CEO of the Robbins’ Nest! We have three busy kids: Grace (5), Ben (2) and Rhett (1). Both of our sons have a severe bleeding disorder called Hemophilia. We’ve faced some tough challenges the past few years and will no doubt have more to come. Through this, we’ve grown stronger as a family and in our faith.
We have both always had the desire to adopt and are so excited to be on this journey! We know this is God’s calling for us and feel that our family is just not yet complete. We can’t wait to add another child into our lives and home! Currently, we are on the waitlist for a precious baby girl from Ethiopia.

Head over to and buy a T-shirt or notecards. 100% of the profits will go toward the Robbins' adoption. Check out their blog at