Ok, so let’s just say I’m a little behind. Like eight weeks behind. I really do want (and need) to keep this up to date because the days are blurring, things change so quickly, and someday (like when we start the adoption process again) we need to go back and read these and say “Oh. My. Goodness. Do you remember when she did this?! Or that?! And how we were pretty sure things were never going to get easier even though we knew they would? Crazy. Ok, we can do it again.” Ha!! And let me just start out by saying, we were (are) very aware that adoption takes work. Like crazy amounts of it. Amounts that only God can actually give you, and then sometimes you’re so sleep deprived and confused that you kind of forget to look to Him for it until you realize you’ve derailed and need Him to get you back on there and moving forward.
Let me also say that we count ourselves very blessed. And really truly believe that we have had a very “easy” first 11 weeks home. We have far more good days than bad. Far more good moments than bad. Far more hugs and kisses than bites and hits. We have from the second we met her. We know that is not necessarily everyone’s story. So we are beyond grateful and thrilled that things have gone as they have. And we are amazed every day that Elsa continues to grow in her attachment to us, her comfort level in our home, and her ability to adapt to her new surroundings. Nate and I have looked at each other more than a few times and said “How does she do it? How does she allow herself to be happy? To have fun here? To eat here? To sleep here?” I’m pretty sure if my world had been turned upside down the way hers was I’d still be crying…but I’m not as amazing as my daughter, so I guess that shouldn’t surprise me.
Please don’t hear me saying that there isn’t a lot of work to be done though. There is. There always ALWAYS will be. Always. There are deep wounds that may never heal. There are “behaviors” that may not resolve for a very very long time…ever? Maybe not. Our sweet daughter has been through, in her three years, what most of us don’t experience in a lifetime. As much as we want to we can’t fix that. We just have to remember it (every. single. day.) as we parent her and help her process through these things. Confession: this is the hardest part…this is where our personal sin is by far the most visible.
But I want to take some notes about the first month home so I don’t forget. They may be fragmented now. So here’s what I do (and want to) remember for Elsa Banke from the haze of that time…
• I had never been more excited and nervous in my life. Ever. You are the most precious thing ever. Full of joy and sweetness. It is abundant in you. I know this because it shines through all the fear, anger, grief, discomfort…all of it. At the end of the day everyone who knows you and meets you KNOWS how full of joy you truly are.
• You make us laugh. A lot. This is a short point, but you really do. Always have. You are a hilarious, cute, joyful little girl. With an awesomely kissable belly and the softest hair there ever was.
• You changed outfits at least seven times a day. True story. But they were all awesome. We have the pictures to prove it.
• We didn’t sleep much that first week and a half. Like at all. You slept for 16 hours the second you got in the car at the airport, but hardly at all for the next 9 days or so. I’m not sure how any of us survived haha. ; ) Whew. That second night…when I sat in your room with you from 2-10am…that was something. Jetlag, fear, and stress are sleep killers. Melatonin is a miracle. And now we all sleep. Enough said.
• There were real moments of fear and grief. REAL moments. And all we could do was sit there and hold you until it passed enough for you to open your eyes and breathe again. Puke happened. Tear induced puke. This mommy, who hates puke more than most anything, didn’t even care. Although since all you ate was Ethiopian food we were pretty sure we’d never be able to enjoy it again. Everyone in the house was sick. The place smelled like a pile of puke, poop, dirty laundry, and ethiopian food. We were all way too sick and tired to even notice. Sorry for all of you that brought us meals those first couple of weeks…we must have been a sight.
• We started seeing healing from day one. You attached very quickly, especially to abapa. Grief happened, but you came to us for comfort from the very beginning. A good sign. You got overwhelmed, but you asked us to come with you and you removed yourself from the situation (started at week two). Also a good sign. Even in those first couple of weeks we had a lot of hugs, a lot of kisses, a lot of laughter.
• The whole dog situation worked out a million times better than we’d expected. They were boarded for the first few days (best decision ever!) because let’s be honest, dachshunds can be annoyingly barky…and needy. They came home four days in, and by the third day they were home the three of you could be in the same room as each other and you were petting them. Honestly, this transition as been far harder on them than on you. Stubborn doxies.
• Eating was never an issue. Thank you Lord. You ate from day one. A lot. That tapered off and normal portions started around week 2-3. You’re so awesome at the table. Spoon, fork, hands…you can eat with them all and drink out of an open cup with one hand. Like I said, the first week or so was all Ethiopian food, but you started branching out sometime during that first week and trying new foods. Oh, and everything was room temperature. No hot or cold of any sort. I swear it all had to be between 70-75 degrees. Your “too hot” or “too cold” reaction is quite cute though. : )
• Our lives were one giant game of charades. We went from about 30 words to 2-3 word sentences during the first month. Your language development is so amazing and fascinating. You also gained quite an attention span in the first few weeks. This was quite possibly our favorite new skill.
• Oooo, or the carseat. That was a big deal too. You hated it. HATED it. But only for about five days. Thank you again Lord. We played for hours in the car. You would climb all over it, getting comfortable in it, “driving” in the garage. And then one day you pointed at the seat and said “Mine?” in Amharic. Yes! Yes, yours! And that day you decided to get in. There was no going back. You’ve loved the “beep beep” ever since. In fact it’s how you fell asleep for the first four weeks. I don’t blame you…I don’t like falling asleep in a new place either. Nights are hard.
• Bathtime went from being kind of scary to super fun. Like hours a day fun. Three, four baths a day. Didn’t matter. We just wanted you to feel safe and comfortable and have fun in the tub. Girl, you LOVE duckies. Your first few baths were what I would call freezing (I like my showers on the burny side). Not because I wanted them that way, because you did. I felt bad that they were so not warm, but each time we would warm it up a little tiny bit and by the second/third week you were taking baths I didn’t feel so badly about you being in for long periods of time. Now you’re like mama…you like the bath hot…but back then, whew.
• You liked to look at things from Ethiopia and wear your dresses from Ethiopia. You still do. Almost on a daily basis we look through pictures of your/our time in Ethiopia and at AHOPE. We’re also fortunate enough to get to skype with some of the people who cared for you so well before we could be a family. These aren’t scary or sad moments for you right now, but almost happy. We’re excited and anxious to hear what you have to say about these things as your language develops.
• The very first book you picked up was your “Jesus book.” This was amazing to us. It’s still one of your favorites. Without any language we were able to add the name Jesus to our conversation without having to try very hard. Amazing. Now it’s mommy and abapa’s job to do a good job nurturing that. Confession: you’ve reminded us to pray more than a couple of times…
• Christmas happened. And it was awesome. Somebody is definitely the first grandchild on both sides. And how nice it is to have family that supports us and loves us and LOVES us and you so so much. LOVES you loves you loves you. We know how huge of a blessing this is, and we will never take it for granted. But seriously, it was awesome having you home for Christmas. And truly awesome having both families come visit us. We know it wasn’t an easy trip for anyone. But you love them all so much…I think they were happy to make the drive. ; ) Lots of fun moments, hugs, kisses, hilarious faces, and trying new foods that grandma made. Oh and GG, you and GG are quite the pair. Week four ended with my parents leaving. Week five started with Nate’s family getting here…so they’re up next…
PICS FROM WEEK ONE
PICS FROM WEEK TWO
PICS FROM WEEK 3
PICS FROM WEEK 4