Colin & Noelle

Colin & Noelle


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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Post-Adoption Photos by Jamie Abitz Photography

If you read our post on cocooning, you know that the plan has been for us to stay at home as much as possible during the first few months home with our new baby boy, in an attempt to bond.

However, we also realize that we missed so much of B’s early life, and he’s only going to get bigger from here. We knew we wanted to capture our new family of 3 in the early stages, and we knew just who to ask: our kindhearted friend, Jamie, at Jamie Abitz Photography.

Jamie (who also took our pre-adoption photos back in 2012) was a natural choice. We had worked with her before, she takes beautiful shots, she is great with kids, and she is so super sweet and supportive of adoption!

When we asked her, our original intent was to go outdoors (seriously - go check out her portfolio on her website!), but we were between ideas as to where to go. We loved the idea of an outside shoot, but with still cocooning and B’s ability to be easily distracted and overwhelmed, we also needed a place where he would feel comfortable. Jamie had a brilliant idea – why not at home?! Or as Jamie referred to it, a “lifestyle” shoot. B was definitely not his full self with a new face around, but he was so much more at ease than I know he would have been in unfamiliar territory.

 I cannot recommend Jamie enough. And if you are a newly home with a child you've adopted, and are attempting to cocoon – I want to encourage you to ask about an at home, lifestyle type of photo session. I wanted photos to remember this time – and the truth of it is, that “this time” in our life is mostly at home. So naturally, shouldn't the photos be done here as well? Don’t I want to capture B’s true self? The B who is obsessed with dancing around, hugging his stuffed fox he loves so much, and crawling through the table and chair legs? Isn't this the B I want to remember, especially when he is grown and more serious and more ready to “pose” for the camera? Don’t get me wrong – I love posed photo shoots. But as I see how well it went for B that day, and how great the photos turned out, I am so thankful to have lasting memories that show off his true spirit. And for that, I am so thankful.

Thank you, Jamie, for all you have done for us.

Thank for preserving these memories for us.

Thank you for all of your support in our adoption,
and for coming up with a plan that would fit our family’s needs, while still allowing us a fantastic and true-to-life session!  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Almost 2 Months Home.

I can’t believe B has been home almost 2 months already.

I think back to June when we were in Ethiopia picking up our son – and I realize how far we’ve come. I see how little we knew about him compared to all that we’ve learned about him since… which also makes me realize how far we still have to go in this journey as a family.

In the past two months, he has flourished. We’ve seen him gain weight, open up relationally, and he physically seems healthier and more vibrant. He’s more relaxed with us and will usually let us comfort him, which wasn’t always a given in the first week or two. He is also sleeping more regularly than the first week or two home, which felt more like having a newborn in the house than a 2 year old. 

Exploring his room on his first night home.
We’ve also started to notice that he has turned into quite the little talker lately. In addition to being more talkative around us in his Amharic, he has quickly built up his English vocabulary. Given so much about his circumstances, including his health history and time spent in orphanages, there is an understandable expectation for significant language delays. However, he is already using so many more words and expressions than we could have ever hoped for! During his speech therapy assessment, the therapist said he was measuring so well on the assessment he wasn’t even showing up on her sheet as needing that particular therapy! This was astonishing to us.

One of the less “fun” aspects of our time together over the past month has been all the doctors’ visits – some planned and some last minute needs that have come up. One of these visits included an MRI as a sort of “follow up” to one he had done in Ethiopia last year. They found what we expected, so nothing shocking there. But when we reviewed the results with his pediatrician, she only reiterated what we’ve known for so long: this child defies the odds. When you look at his MRI results, you don’t expect to look up and see this same young boy sitting in front of you. He is a miracle – just as the Lord has lead us to believe since we first accepted him as ours over 10 months ago. His test results may try to indicate weaknesses, but his spirit is so STRONG. He doesn’t let what “should be” stop him. We could see that spirit shine through his photographs and his videos from the very beginning. After much prayer and quiet time with the Lord over the course of our waiting period, we just felt that He was up to something amazing with this little boy. We see that now more than ever before as we fully realize his determination and adaptive skills. And we cannot wait to see where that takes him as he grows up over the years…

But with a strong, determined child comes so much tiredness on our end. There have been some tears and fits in this household – and too often they’re coming from mommy. ;) It’s been a hard two months for us. Beautifully hard, I would admit. Dealing with the initial jet lag + sleeping issues was a rough start. Then there’s been settling into a schedule. And setting boundaries. And dealing with food issues. And sleep issues. And skin issues that are spreading between us.  And his constant need for extra attention. And doctors appointments. And specialists. And a trip to the ER. (All of this with language barriers.) And, and, and…. And basically – I am just exhausted. 

One of his favorite toys of his that
we brought on our first trip - so we
bought him another one for home.

However good those things are; however well-deserved; however happy and more-than-willing we are to walk through those things with B… they are still tiresome. Mainly because they're new to us and require some adjusting. On rare occasions, I feel like superwoman. But so much of the time, I feel like I’m just trying to keep up physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And I'm having to learn to be a little less type-A than I naturally am...

Of course, I am in love with this precious little boy. I am so beyond thrilled when I hear him call out, “Mah-mee?” and wait for me to look upon his face, only to respond in turn with a giggle of joy that suggests he’s simply delighted that he gets to say “Mommy” on repeat. My heart is melted each day that Colin comes home from work and B is SO ecstatic that “Daddy’s home!” that he bursts out in so much eagerness for him to walk through the door that he cannot help but jump and run so frantically that he loses his mind to the point of near tears (and on one occasion - actual tears!).

I love when he falls asleep in my arms and his tiny little body is so angelic in that moment. I secretly love when he fights his naps by making silly faces in attempt to make me laugh and forget that I was ever trying to get him to sleep. I love the overly ecstatic mood he enters into when the Curious George theme song comes on the tv and he dances and runs in circles. His requests for "Moosic? Mah-mee, Moosic?" is beyond endearing. Hearing his sweet voice across the room singing his favorite song: "Ho-ee, Ho-ee, Ho-ee" (aka "Holy, Holy, Holy" from the song Holy by Matt Redman) is one of the most beautiful sounds I could imagine. And did you know he also makes up his own songs? His newest hit goes, "Mommy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy!" on high speed. ;) And when he hugs one of his stuffed "aminals" so tight, and joyfulness lights up his face, my heart melts.

I often find myself overwhelmed with joy and happiness as I realize how much sweetness is embodied in this tiny little two-year-old boy. Occasionally I just stop and thank God for him and how perfectly he seems to fit in our family. I could not imagine a better son. 

Even in the tantrums. Even when he lets out his sassiness. I just thank God that he trusts me enough to give me that sass. That B, after so long of being "voiceless", feels free enough with someone to voice his frustration. Yes, we need to parent him and work on teaching respect and boundaries, as with any child his age. But when you parent a child from such a hard place, it's also not a given that they will even trust you enough to be real with you. And for now, if being "real" means him acting out or getting mad at me (and honestly, for a 2-year-old, he's still really well behaved), then I am happy to have those teachable moments with him. I can even look back to our first trip when we met him, and then again when we picked him up in June... and I realize how much more he's opened up to us. I am SO thankful for that. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of it. I want B, and I want all of the real him, however that looks; however hard that gets. 

I just keep reminding myself that these days are limited. And this, too, is just a season. He will grow up. We will grow into our relationships with each other. His language will develop. We'll get his health issues more fully addressed as time continues. A schedule will stick one day. We'll get there... We'll get to a "better" point, and we'll also reach a bittersweet point where we look back and realize that so much of who he was when he first came home is gone. So in the mean time, we will enjoy the little boy we have, as we eagerly await the moments of better communication...

And as we wait to see more of God's work in B's life, we see the work he's trying to do in ours. This time spent cocooning at home, when it's so easy to focus on this child and his life changes, and his heart, and his fears, and his growth... it's easy to forget about ours as parents. But I have started to realize in the past two months that The Lord - This Heavenly Father who cares for His children and works endlessly to prove His faithfulness to them through His redemptive work - this very same God is at work in MY heart. So often I pray for B, for the boy he is and the man he will one day become. I imagine how God might be using this time to work in his life, and I trust that He cares for B, and sees B, and loves B. I see how B has to adjust and change to this new life, and I wonder how God is using that to shape him as he grows. But can I tell you the biggest revelation I've had recently (well, that's really sunk in, in new ways)? 

Adoption is not just redemptive for the child, but for the parent as well.

This time together has meant new challenges for myself and Colin. It stretches us. It has resulted in new prayers, and ugly character traits to surface. It requires I take a good, hard look at myself for the sake of my child as well as my relationships with my husband and God. It requires me to check my selfishness daily, in ways I didn't have to consider before. 

I am just so overwhelmed with God's faithfulness. Not just to bless us with good things through this process - our son being the biggest blessing of all. I am equally eternally grateful for God's faithfulness to bless us with the hard times as well. He is gracious enough not to leave us as we are. His love calls us to love more. His grace calls us to give more of it ourselves. And His sacrificial gift to us has set a precedent that calls us to give sacrificially as well. He has taken this process - the waiting, the traveling, the bonding time at home - and he has used all the happy and hard moments alike to change and mold our hearts. That, my friends, is quite a blessing - that He loves us enough redeem us.

So if you've been wondering or asking how we've been doing since we've come home from Ethiopia with our son - this post is your answer. Because I never know what to say, exactly. Are we doing well? Not so well? I guess it's not "how" we're doing, but more "what" we're doing. And what we're doing is... life. Sometimes it's filled with laughter; sometimes it's filled with tears. We're starting to recognize the blessings in each moment, and the work that is happening in all of our hearts as we are each forever changed and being molded into newer versions of ourselves. 

So that's what we are in this season... blessed

And covered in grace. 

Praise God for that.