Monday, December 7, 2015

FAILURE TO REMEMBER

That’s what I’m calling this stage. And I’m admitting it. We’ve had failure-to-rememberitis. 

 

Christmas is my FAVORITE holiday. Hands down. No competition. And frankly, last year kind of sucked. We were still in limbo and unsure if we would be traveling to get Bertie or not. So, we tried to make it magical for the boys while still being prepared to travel at the drop of a hat. 

 

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

 

So when we traveled at the beginning of the year, I absolutely, 100% could not wait for the holidays. Because our family would be together with a new addition. This was going to be the best Christmas EVER!! In my excitement and planning for the greatest Christmas season ever – full of parades, activities, and Silver Dollar City lit up in beautiful colors – we forgot one major detail: Bertie.

 

Now, I’m not saying we forgot to include her. Because we were doing this for her and the boys.

 

No, in all our excitement, we forgot to take her into consideration. 

 

Bertie has been home for 9 months. And while so many of you guys (and briefly us) thought that that should be plenty of time to adjust, it isn’t. Bertie has experienced some real trauma. And now that she is speaking English so well, she’s able to talk about her memories. And she doesn’t always voice them, but tries to process them internally. She tries to keep us out. And that results in meltdowns. MAJOR meltdowns.

 

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been working hard with her to remind her that she’s safe with us. That she can always share how she’s feeling without repercussions. Sometimes she’s on board with sharing, other times she isn’t. 

 

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, I shared last week about what we’ve encountered just since the week of Thanksgiving. She was at my mom’s house during Thanksgiving break and had a full blown meltdown: kicking, screaming, hitting, shouting ‘I hate you’, and threatening (and trying) to run away.

 

Then, a few nights later, another wave with the exact same thing happened at home with KC and I. And the scared little girl we haven’t seen since spring emerged. Guys, this will be a regular occurrence in our lives for a while. Bertie will begin to trust and get comfortable, and then a memory will come to her and she’ll realize that she’s thousands of miles away from where she was born and raised. With a new set of parents.

 

And she’ll probably struggle internally for a while before it becomes too much to handle and she explodes with every emotion imaginable.

 

I knew going into this that we’d likely have a day where she told us she hated us and wanted to go back to Ethiopia, but I don’t think I quite anticipated how it tears at your heart – even though you 1000000% know she doesn’t mean it. 

 

I don’t think you understand how it feels to have your daughter look at you with no emotion and say ‘I hate you’ and ‘I will run away when you sleep’.

 

But here’s the thing, most of the time, she barely remembers what she said or did. She just remembers that she was very angry and sad and she says “I don’t know why I say dose tings Mom. I just get so angry and I don’t know why…”. 

 

And then she cries, apologizes, and becomes incredibly clingy. She just wants to touch you and for you to hold her tight. And I cannot explain what it’s like to see that much remorse in her big brown eyes.

 

Her little heart needs healing. I can’t imagine how it feels to lose your parents and then have new ones and create new memories…. Does she ever feel like she’s betraying them? That she shouldn’t be happy? I honestly don’t know. But I can’t imagine the internal struggle she deals with regularly at the age of 6.

 

She is such an amazing little girl.

 

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KC and I experienced the FAILURE TO REMEMBER stage for the first time, and probably not the last time. It kind of creeps up on you after a season of smooth waters.

 

This holiday season is going to be a bit different. We’re taking a step back and trying “cocoon” a bit to help her feel safe. That unfortunately means staying close to home and adjusting our work days/hours the 2 weeks that the kids are out of school – but I’m thankful that KC and I both are at such great places of work where we can do that.  

 

Maybe this holiday isn’t full of the wonderful ideas we had planned, BUT, our girl is finally home. We love her. She loves us. 


And w’re on the road to healing.

 

I think that’s enough for us this year. ❤️


  
  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Eight months home…..

It’s been 8½  months since we wearily, after multiple weather delays, walked off that last plane in Tulsa and jumped in my van driven by my awesome little sis and bro-in-law for the 90 minute drive home. We caught our second wind and were so happy to hug the smudgy little faces of our boys after 3+ weeks. In some ways it seems much longer while in others, it seems shorter…..


 

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Yikes! Guys, has it really been 6 months since my last update?! I’m so sorry for leaving you hanging. But gosh, things just got wild!

 

In the words of Inigo Montoya “Lemme esplain…. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up”

 

·         I left my job of 6 ½ years so I could stay home with Bertie and the boys the entire summer. It. Was. AWESOME.

·         Going to 1 income was a bit difficult, but we made it through

·         I LOVED spending the summer with my kiddos – I’ve never been able to do that before

·         I started a brand new job 3 weeks before school started (and I LOVE it! Like seriously, 100% LOVE my job. I don’t dread Mondays anymore. It’s amazeballs.)

·         School started and we now have a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and a Kindergartener

·         Bertie started Kindergarten and is really enjoying it!

·         Bertie had her first birthday party – It was Once Upon A Time themed

·         Bertie experienced her first Halloween

·         Bertie’s ABOUT to experience her first Thanksgiving and Christmas and we’re all pretttttyyyyyyy excited about that !

 

So, that’s a speed update! Haha!

 

Bertie started school and is doing amazing. Her English has come along nicely. She had to be assessed by the ESL (English Second Language for those who aren’t familiar with the acronym) Department a few weeks ago. The lady was so surprised to hear that she’s only been speaking English for 8 months. She’s on a level 3 (she was 1 point away from level 4 which is considered ‘fluent’) and they recommend maybe some partial help to get her over that little hill. She wrote her name as ‘Bertie’ instead of ‘Birtukan’ so she lost points for that. She told the lady “Dat’s my name but my mam call me Bertie not Birtukan” – She knows if we use Birtukan, she’s in trouble.  ;-)

 

She had her very first birthday party and it was Once Upon A Time themed – the kids love watching the show with us. She was especially excited to see Elsa and Anna in season 4. So, Bertie was Elsa for her party. And girl loved every minute of it. And there are STILL sparkles all over my house…. And in KC’s beard. Haha! She also requested injera and berbere for dinner and I happily obliged.

 

She’s grown SO much these last few months! For example, she got in trouble few weeks ago for throwing a fit. So, she had to go to her room until she could change her attitude. That didn’t work, so she went to bed 30 minutes early. 

 

The next morning, she was in a great mood. I asked her “Are you in a better mood today?” she said “Yup!”. While I was fixing her hair I asked her if she knew why she got in trouble. She said “Because I mad and I cry and I throw fit”. I replied “yes you did. Even after Mommy gave you 4 chances and tried asking you to sit and watch a show with me”. She said “yeah, But I was mad and did nat listen, so I in trouble. But not naw” and gave me a huge grin.

 

We still have some rough days – mostly days when something reminds her of home. And we are sure to talk about her feelings. We watched Inside Out at the theaters and it’s been so good at helping us talk about emotions with all the kids. But especially Bertie who isn’t always sure. After the movie I told her that it’s okay to be sad, that there are things we’ll remember that will make us sad but to tell Mommy and Daddy so we can help you when you’re sad.

 

We are blessed beyond belief to still have a relationship with her brother. We email a few times a month. She asked us the other day why we couldn’t adopt him too. It was hard to explain, but I think KC and I did our best. She then asked us to adopt one of her friends from the orphanage. That hit hard.

 

We try to be as open as we can with her about everything. She remembers so much about her Dad and we’re learning that he loved her and doted on her. She doesn’t remember anything about her mom, so she says “I not so sad she die because I no remember her”. But we try to keep them both alive by talking about them often.

 

Though, she also has bad memories about her life – and she shares more and more with us each day. We try to tell her that we are here to keep her safe and she is trusting us more and more each day. I’m so amazed at how much she has grown in just the last 7 months. We are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were before. Summer got a bit rough, but we made it through. It seems like she’s always been here; like she’s always been a part of our family.

 

Guys – We are so thankful that we are blessed to be her second family. The weight of realizing that I am seeing her grow up while her first parents are not is not lost on me… We want her to always know that she was loved and cherished by her first family – and we are doing everything we can to talk about them with her. We want her to know we hold a special place in our hearts for them.

 

And this girl is everything I dreamed of in a daughter and more. She holds her own with her brothers, is sarcastic, funny, bright….. she GLOWS.

 

She’ll have a light saber fight while wearing a Darth Vader mask and a tutu, and will then make her brothers sit down for tea. Haha!

 

We are so excited for the holidays. The boys have been explaining Christmas as best as they can. (Just an FYI: we celebrate Christ’s birth but we also enjoy the fun of Santa Claus)

 

She was skeptical about Santa. I told her that he comes down the chimney and leaves gifts. She laughed her adorable deep belly laugh and said “Jou lie Mam!” I told her “No really! Ask your brothers!” she said “Truth Mam?” (that’s her “okay, time out, let’s be serious and tell the truth phrase”) I said “Yes, truth”. So she took off running to ask her Dad and brothers. Haha! So she’s excited about the food, gifts, and lights.

 

She has just in the last few months met more of our family – my tia’s and tio’s. She was wide eyed at the amount of people I introduced as family. I told her “Yes, Mommy has booozooo (big) family!” She jumped right in with playing at my cousin’s birthday party. She LOVES piƱatas and had her system for gathering the most candy down pat. She dove in the pile of kids scrambling for candy and came out with more than I thought her little hands could hold. Her brothers were definitely jealous. 

 

And the boys you ask? Well, late spring and early summer was a bit hard on them. That was, like I said, a bumpy season. She was starting to trust us, but not entirely so we had a lot of fits. So they were home more than they would’ve liked. But they are both such amazing kids, they handled it so well and understood the reasons behind it.

 

They love doting on her. They’ll help her with almost anything she asks and they love teaching her new things or explaining things to her. BUT on the flipside, they’re still siblings and fight and squabble. Normally, it winds up being 2 against 1…. Generally Bertie and Caed against poor Ollie. But he’s tough and 97% of the time, can hold his own.

 

The other day I overheard the boys explaining to Bertie that it isn’t fair that they let her play in their rooms but she doesn’t let them play in hers. She doesn’t like them messing up her clean room. So they came to an agreement that they could play in each other’s rooms but that when they’re in Bertie’s, they won’t touch her most favorite items.

 

They’re also quick to point the finger when I ask who forgot to flush the toilet… again. They all 3 constantly “forget” and blame each other for their messy shared bathroom. So, I’m asking for grace if you show up unannounced at my house and see the bathroom. Haha!

 

But they love their little sister. Almost too much. Bertie is starting to get annoyed with the spontaneous hugs that her brothers thrust upon her. Though, one weekend after Bertie did something adorable, Ollie said “Oh I just love my little Ethiopian sister!!” and grabbed her for a hug. She giggled and hugged him back.

 

These kids….. they will do great things.  

 

So what’s next: 

 

We’re getting into our new normal – going to 3 kids was a bit harder than I thought (time management-wise at least).

 

We’re enjoying this season right now as KC and I both know something “new and big” is on the horizon for us…..

 

As for our family, we are happy with where we are. We’ve discussed more kids, but are confident that right now, 3 is it. HOWEVER, we’re both completely open to whatever God may ask of us in the future. I’d totally go for one more, but KC is content with where we’re at. So we’re continuing to pray for God’s leading.

 

But for now, we’re looking forward to the holidays and are dreaming about a family vacation next year.

 

And hopefully, now that things have settled down some, I can continue to update you on what our day to day looks like.

 

Until next time dear friends. 

 

PS: Here are some photos from the last 8 months



Fourth of July 



First day of school 

First time fishing for B

Berties birthday 



When sweet Shala and Jon and their kiddos stayed with us for a week. We miss you!!

Bertie meeting my Tia's and Tio's 

Girl LOVES frogs and toads 



Halloween


Family pics!

Family pics!



Veterans Day with Dad



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sometimes....

Sometimes when my daughter is throwing a fit when I ask her to sit on her bed for hitting her brother, I forget how frustrated she must feel at not being able to communicate her feelings properly. 

Sometimes when my daughter is crying so violently she's about to vomit, I forget how much her world has changed. 

Sometimes when my daughter is screaming for seemingly no reason, I forget that she's still a typical 5 year old girl. 

Sometimes I forget. 

And most times I get angry. At the screaming, crying fits that can't be stopped. The fits that have to run their course. 

Sometimes I forget and have to apologize for losing my cool. 

Sometimes I forget to be patient. 

Sometimes I cry and am ashamed that I let my frustration take over. 

And today, as I sought God after a trying morning, my eyes found Psalm 73:26 - "my heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever". 

I let that verse wash over me as I had Rend Collective on repeat. The album we listened to continually in Ethiopia. 

Bertie always seeks me out when I put myself in "time-out". She found me sitting on my bedroom floor. She gasped in delight when she heard the songs playing. She remembers them from our time in Addis. She began singing softly and sat next me. She put her head on my shoulder and her hand in my hand. 

I apologize. 

She apologizes. 

Then she sits on my lap and tells me how much she misses her friend and her big brother. 

Her friend who slept beside her at night and sometimes cried. 

Her big brother who would call her at the orphanage to talk. 

Sometimes she tries to explain things to me that I cannot understand and tears run down her cheeks. 

I wipe her tears and tell her it's ok to be sad. But that her friend is her friend forever. And her brother is her brother forever. 

We will always have days like today. Because of the loss that comes with adoption. 

Bertie remembers and will always remember. Its our job to help walk her through the emotions that come with remembering. 

It's tough. 

But He will help guide us. No matter how big of a mess I'll likely make of it at times, He'll still be there.  ❤️

"Countless second chances we've been given at the cross..." 


   


Friday, February 27, 2015

Parenting is tough work

Our girl has experienced more trauma at the age of 5 than most people have their entire lives. 

Eventually, those feelings that are bottled up are going to come out. It's inevitable. 

Earlier this week, Bertie shared her story with an Ethiopian-American lady at our guest house. We couldn't understand, but after a few minutes the lady started crying. 

She told us Bertie told her very calmly and nonchalantly about her parents death and how she arrived in the orphanage. Then, B told the lady not to cry because it was ok. 

No 5 year old should explain some of the things she did as calmly as she did. 

Deep. Hidden. Emotions friends. 

Today was a rough day due to a combination of things - sleepless night, early morning, tummy ache, etc. 

She screamed and cried and kicked and yelled. And all KC and I could do was try to hold our little girl and tell her over and over that it was okay and we'd always love her. 

To be honest, I'd rather deal with messy now than to be tricked into thinking we had it easy for a few weeks of a "honeymoon". 

Our social worker told us that she isn't used to how we do things. She expects to get hit or yelled at since that's what happened in the orphanage. But she told us to keep holding her and telling her we love her. She'll eventually realize it. 

She was fine after about 20 minutes. But those 20 minutes are some of the most heartbreaking moments. All we can do is hold her and pray. 

She told the social worker that we prayed for her last night when she didn't feel well. I'm glad she recognizes it. 

I feel like KC and I are in a constant state of prayer - which is never a bad thing. 

We're eager to get home and lay low with her and the boys. A lot of new people and faces make her nervous and that's when she starts to act out. 

Friends, please keep praying for her little heart (all our hearts).

Healing takes time and is messy. But it'll be so beautiful after some time. ❤️

  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Adoption is love and war

I'm stealing that phrase from my husband. And yes, you read it right. 

Right now, sweet B is in survival mode. We had a few days of perfection, but that's long gone. 

Are we excited to finally be here and see our daughter? ABSOLUTELY. 

But we're in a battle. She's been so independent and has been allowed to kind of do whatever for 5 years. And that can't be undone in a matter of days. 

This is HARD WORK. So while I'm ecstatic that were at this point after 4 years, now comes the nitty gritty. 

The showing her we love her immensely but still slowly applying boundaries. Trying to teach her English and trying to learn Amharic. 

It's tough stuff. 

It'll be tougher still when we get home. But it'll at least be home court advantage. Lol. 

We're tired. She's tired. We're mentally drained. She's mentally drained. We're ready to be home. And she's ready to be home. She asks every day when we're going to America. 

So when we're holed up in our house for weeks, it's because we're working on developing trust and bonding. 

Hear me out. Yes, it's tough stuff. Really tough. But don't think for a second it was a mistake. Because it wasn't. Not. In. The. Least. 

(PS. I'm not gonna lie. We've had a few moments of panic this week, but God has helped us through them. I mean, what new parent hasn't? Whether through adoption or biology! Lol.)

Because we know, in a few months, in a year, things will be better. Healing takes time. 

So please pray for us all. For physical healing to mental healing and especially spiritual healing. ❤️

We've emailed the embassy to see about speeding up the medical process. The replied back with the okay once we get s list of things for them. 

Please help us pray we can get those items FAST and she can start the medical portion by Wednesday or Thursday. 

KC is heading home Thursday (unless there's a major delay) and I don't want to be by myself for more than a week if I can help it. 

So please pray that we get the medical, birth certificate, passport, and visa ASAP. 

We're ready to be home. ❤️❤️

  
  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Our Arrival

As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in bed at the guest house with all the windows and patio door open feeling the cool Ethiopian breeze. It's taken us a day, but I think our bodies are adjusting to the time change. I'm rested enough to update you guys on what has transpired so far. 

(Oh, we put the stinky suitcase on the balcony, in the sun... It smells soooo much better!)


At 10:30am on Thursday, we were taking off from D.C. on a direct flight to Addis Ababa. I think that's when it hit. I feel slightly frightened as I realized this was it. We were on our way to Ethiopia. We kept ourselves occupied on the flight, but every time I'd check our flight progress, I noticed I became more panicked the closer we got. 




When we landed, I had only a moment to be frightened before we went through the medical check, visa line, immigration line, currency exchange, through the baggage line, one more bag check, and finally out of the airport where we were greeted my Mr. M holding up a sign that said Bethany. Plus, Aubrey texted me a picture of him, so I knew what he looked like. I'll interject here and say that Mr. M is only 32. He is so friendly and full of energy. He made us feel right at home. 

We loaded up in the van and headed to the guest house. 

Driving in the capital of Ethiopia is wild! There are no specific lanes, everyone just weaves in and out and you're so close to other vehicles you could reach out the window and touch them. Car horns are also used quite frequently. People cross the street at any point in all the traffic, trusting that the vehicles will slow down long enough to cross. (Search on YouTube for traffic in Addis Ababa for an idea.)

We made it to the guest house and got settled in. M told us that we'd have Friday and most of Saturday to relax. Tonight, he's taking us for a traditional Ethiopian dinner. I believe we'll see some traditional dance too. 

He said his goodbye and KC and I found ourselves standing in the room. Tired, exhausted, and on an emotional high. 

We stood there quietly for some time. 

KC asked me how I was doing and what I was thinking. I just shrugged and said "I dunno". 

If you know me, you know I'm a talker. Happy, sad, angry, hungry... I talk. But I just had nothing to say in this moment. 

KC told me I was freaking him out and needed to say something. I told him I wasn't thinking anything and didn't have much to say. Hint: that was a lie. I was having a panic attack. 

I was all of a sudden terrified at how real this was. Of meeting her, of staying here alone with her, of traveling alone with her... I was shocked at how it was affecting me. 

After we started unpacking, I began to calm down. I then told KC that I had a moment of terror. He laughed and said so did he. 

I think we'd been waiting so long and the actual travel happened so quick, we didn't have a chance to digest it all until we were standing in a room 8,000 miles away from home. 

We talked about how different everything is going to be from this point on. Not just in the family aspect, but in another big way as we've felt that the finalization of the adoption is going to be a turning point for us. 

It's exciting and terrifying at the same time! But my wise husband said it best: That's what makes it so great. If it weren't so scary, everyone would do it. 

So here we are, in Ethiopia, waiting to meet our daughter. Knowing that once we get home, things will never be the same. 

And that is okay with us.  ❤️

About halfway through our flight. I promise KC isn't angry. Just tired. 

Sunrise as we were landing in Ethiopia 

View from our room

Sunrise Saturday morning 

Yummy breakfast this morning






Thursday, February 12, 2015

Leaving on a jet plane!

don't know about you, but I start singing that line like Steve Buscemi in Armageddon. Makes me giggle every time. 

Ok. Catch up time friends! 

I'm typing this while sitting at the airport in DC about to board a 15+ hour flight to Ethiopia. 

My last post was on January 30th. We had FINALLY gotten our positive recommendation letter. 

We had expected our court date the following week. However, the judge was out of town from Wednesday to Friday and we found out on Friday. Haha! 

Then, surprise surprise, our coordinator Mrs. J called me at 7am on Monday morning. Our court date was scheduled for the 19th! Only 10 days away. 

We jumped into what my sister called "survival mode". KC and I wrapped up work on Monday, ran last minute errands and spent a lot of time with the boys Tuesday, and hopped on a flight to DC on Wednesday, my birthday. 

Our flight to Ethiopia didn't leave until Thursday morning. (PS. Our TSA agent lady wished me a belated birthday after checking my passport. Hehe!)

So here we're sitting, waiting to fly to our daughters birth country. 

So many emotions! 

We'll arrive at 7am tomorrow. We'll get acclimated over the weekend, and will travel to the orphanage Mon...

Sorry. I was interrupted by my 7 year old texting me videos through wifi using our spare iPhone.  Haha!

We will travel to the orphanage on Monday, stay overnight, and head back to Addis on Tuesday and have 1 day of time before our court date. And she'll be officially a Collins. 

Eeek!

We are so thankful for you guys and for all the prayers. We couldn't have made it to this point without you guys. We can't wait to share pictures with you after next Thursday!!