Dear Ephrem (February 2014)

Hey Sweet Boy –

One thing that I’ve learned as a parent is how quickly the year goes by. I meant to capture all of the things you can do or love around your second birthday, and well, it flew by without me doing it! I’m so sorry, Bubs.

But you’re growing and changing so fast that I have to capture things as they happen. Otherwise, I’ll forget. And someday you’ll ask me what you liked to eat or do as a toddler and I’ll have to scrounge the back of my useless brain to try to remember.

So here’s you at 2.5 years old. You are an incredible kid. You smile almost all the time. You just started to do this fake laugh, which makes you really laugh and that makes mommy laugh with you. You love to be chased and tickled (“Mommy get you?” you say). You sing all the time – mostly Veggie Tales songs, but sometimes other songs. You love shapes – octagons and circles tend to be your favorite (and are the first to disappear from your shape puzzles). You love to pretend that your green oval is Larry the Cucumber and your wrist band is Bob the Tomato. You just started like to Thomas the Tank Engine (which mommy finds boring but endures because you do love it). You like the library, but only tolerate Story Time with Ms. Brenda. You wake up waaaaay too early some days, but you’re usually singing so it’s adorable, even before 6am. You would eat pizza or chicken “nugs” [nuggets] for every meal if we would let you. You love to run and are pretty fast! You give the best hugs and kisses a mommy could ever hope for.

Sweet Boy, you’re the kiddo I never knew I’d be lucky enough to call my son. I love you always.

Ephrem2pt5years

PS – Stop growing up so fast! Mommy doesn’t feel like she can keep up!

 

A quick update on E

Sorry for the previous sappy post. Let’s talk about what you all come here for: Ephrem. Here, in no particular order, is our update on our Little Man.

Since Evan started his job in October, Ephrem has been attending an amazing school in our town. (side note – I prefer to call it “school” rather than daycare because it alleviates my mommy guilt. And speaking of mommy guilt, I need to do a post on that…) When your child ends up spending more of his day with his teachers than with you, you want to find a good place. We are so blessed that we found an amazing school. We have been so happy with how much his teachers are invested in him and love him. He is learning so much and making all sorts of connections.

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Also, we get photos of E playing or doing activities throughout the day. Seriously, it makes it much easier to get through the day at work.

He’s been promoted from sleeping in a crib (child containment unit) to sleeping on his mat at school. How cute is this?

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In January, we made a quick trip to Savannah to visit a dear friend from Texas who happened to be in town.

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Chelsey was on my first trip to Africa and helped me combat missing my husband terribly and has a huge heart for Africa and orphans. She was a big, big supporter during our adoption and it was an honor for us to introduce Ephrem to her. (Unfortunately we failed to get any photos of her with him because he was sleeping when it was picture time.)

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She also gave E this shirt – how cute is this? I think I might need to stock up on sizes 3t-5t at the rate Ephrem is growing.

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I tried to get him to ride his bike the other day but he really wasn’t interested. He does look cute in this photo though…

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Speaking of bikes, I finally got Ephrem a helmet so we could ride the bike trail with him. This is the result. (He was wearing the helmet on the trail — PROMISE!)

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We have been working on fine motor skills. We were just working with spoons when I thought he should also have some forks. (excuse the poor quality of this photo. He moves fast and sometimes you just have to capture the moment. )

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I’m training him to be a world traveler. Nana V got him his own rolling suitcase to help. Now, just for the time and money to go somewhere fun. (Anyone up for some chipati?)

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Ok that’s enough randomness for one post! I’m hoping to be able to post more frequently. Balancing work, family, and everything else is a super challenge.

Sleep update

So one of our biggest challenges with Ephrem was sleep. It wasn’t great. And for the first three months after he came home, it wasn’t happening. So one of Evan’s sisters recommended the Sleep Lady. We figured we had already lost a ton of sleep, so there’s nothing else to lose by giving it a shot. Evan also wanted Ephrem to start learning how to sleep on his own (i.e. without us having to rock him to sleep) before Evan started his full-time job and Ephrem had to go to daycare.

So we tried it.

The Sleep Lady’s method is gradual. You start close to the crib and eventually work your way out of the room. It’s not something that will get instant results, but for our family, with our son’s needs, it was the best approach. And honestly, while it was a process, the change in Ephrem’s sleeping habits were pretty dramatic and noticeable quickly.We have a consistent bedtime routine. We do things in the same order every night. By the time we get to his “night-night” book, he knows it’s about to be time to sleep. And by the time we’re about to put him in the crib, he’s practically jumping in himself.

While he’s not a perfect sleeper (getting him to nap is still a huge challenge), it is an amazing difference.  Most nights, he’s able to lay down and fall asleep without us having to stay in the room with him or even having to rock him to sleep. He’s now sleeping through the night – again, most nights.

He’s still an early riser. I mean, this kid is up by 5:30am and ready to go. There’s no sleeping in for him. This works for our schedule during the week, so we haven’t really tried to correct it. The early rising is a bit inconvenient when we don’t all have to be out the door super early. But at least it works for us five out of seven days of the week.

So if you are interested in an alternative sleep-training method, you should check out Kim West (aka The Sleep Lady). We highly recommend her!

My Wish

Being a mom has been all-consuming in a way that I didn’t anticipate. It overtakes my thoughts, plans, hopes, dreams, prayers, ministry, my understanding of time…beyond my expectations. First, I’m always incredibly early or incredibly late to things now. Still, it’s been beautiful to simplify and slow down to toddler time, which ironically stands still at 2:30am, but speeds by as I see him grow each day. Now that I’m working full-time, I find myself cherishing every moment with him, even those at 2:30am. (Though, I continue to pray that this boy learns to sleep all night at some point!)

It’s funny how our priorities change when God interrupts our plans. As I’ve been considering what our future holds, everything is colored by this little person.

What I’ve learned is that we can plan all we want, but life is a series of paths. And living life means choosing which path we’re going to take from the choices available to us at a particular moment. It’s scary to choose a path like leaving grad school. Or adoption as “Plan A.” But I honestly cannot imagine my life being different from what it is right now. I can’t imagine me without Evan, and now Ephrem. Because sometimes you pick a path that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.

My heart’s wish is for Ephrem to grow into the man that God created him to be. And I hope that I do everything I possibly can to nurture and empower him to get there. And I pray that he follows his heart in whatever paths life sets before him.

Ephrem, when Mom and Pop danced at my wedding, this is the song that we danced to. We weren’t the “Butterfly Kisses” sort of father-daughter, so we needed a good song for us. To get married to your dad, I made a choice to leave grad school. It’s not a choice that everyone understood, especially Pop, but he supported me no matter what. So Nana suggested this song for us. I hope you know that this is My Wish for you too. I love you, Little Man.

Homecoming Video!

For those of you who weren’t able to join us at the airport, here’s a slideshow of Ephrem’s homecoming. (My brother-in-law is working on the video video – which will be much better than my amatuer slideshow, I’m sure! – but I wanted my family to be able to see his homecoming story, even in just photos.) It’s been an amazing journey and I’m so grateful to have Little Man home. (If you’re new, you can read about our adoption story here.)

Seeing these photos reminded me about God’s redemption. Ephrem never smiled in his update photos. I was concerned. Then I held him for the very first time, and he smile at me. God takes the lonely and sets them in families. This is the God that we serve.

We are so blessed.

Thanks to Lauren, Robin, and John for the photos.

 

A week of firsts!

So hopefully I’ll have time to post more regularly and with actual words, but until then, here’s a post about Ephrem’s first week of July, which came as a big week of firsts!

First birthday (and birthday present from mom and dad!)

First birthday, first cake!

First out-of-town visitor (Aunt Liz)

First trip to the beach! (Yes, my child is eating sand. Don’t judge – he was incredibly quick about his snack)

Um, this isn’t actually from this week, but I love this photos, so….

First time wearing the Darth Vader mask. (Yes, Mom and Dad are that nerdy…We warned you, Little Man)

 

 

A matter of trust

When I first met Evan, I had just exited a very difficult, very challenging relationship. Needless to say, as a result of my past relationships, it took me a long time to trust that Evan wasn’t going to hurt me, on purpose or otherwise. It took almost four years, actually, if I’m really honest.

Our past relationships often influence our present, no matter how similar or dissimilar those relationships are.

So it’s shouldn’t surprise me that Ephrem is still learning to trust us. I don’t know much about his past relationships with caregivers. I don’t know if he felt safe. I don’t know if he felt like his needs – sleep, hunger – were met regularly enough. I don’t know any of this.

And he didn’t know me. Although I had studied his little face, hands, and feet in every photo we got since October, he didn’t know me from any other “mzungu” (White person) in Africa. While I knew I would care for him with whatever he needed (food, sleep, a clean diaper…), he didn’t have any reason to trust me. And I don’t blame him for being scared. I still remember him waking up in the middle of the night that first night looking very bewildered and then screaming. I would have too. I probably looked like an exhausted ghost that early in the day.

(As an aside, my favorite advice I received from a dear friend and fellow adoptive momma was that my job was to be a “big fun white Barney” with him as he probably hadn’t been around too many white people.)

Here’s the thing about trust. It’s not a switch. We can’t just flip it and make him trust us. It comes after time and time of meeting his needs and caring for him. It comes when we wake at 11:30pm, 2:30am, 4:30am to reassure him that we’re still here and to give him a bottle if he’s hungry. It comes when he is startled and jumps into our arms. It comes when he needs to be held and we hold him. (Even when momma’s arms feel like they might possibly fall off.) It comes when he has each and every meal with us. This matter of trust is a long, arduous process.

But we see little progress every day.

He smiles much more. He is beginning to wander to play a few more steps on his own. He is developing relationships with his Nana and Papa. He can sit in the car seat for more than five minutes (most days). He is sleeping…a little better? He just woke up from his nap without screaming.

This is process will happen over a lifetime.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Behind the cute photos

If you follow us on Facebook, no doubt your news feed has been inundated with photos of Baby Shows…er, Ephrem. (I guess we can use his name now. :-))

He is adorable, sweet, kind, and curious. Mostly curious about the furry kid in the house and all his accoutrements recently. Today, while I attempted to cook the first home cooked meal without Evan home, Ephrem found the dog’s water dish and spilled it into Pippin’s food dish (while Pip ate..at least Pippin had the foresight to eat as fast as I’ve ever seen him eat. I think he views E as his competition) and later pulled on Pippin’s ear so hard that Pippin yelped. Pippin never yelps.

But beyond the adorable smiles and sweet photos, we are in the trenches. I hesitate to put this out there publicly but here’s the truth. Ephrem is still learning the trust us. This attachment process is probably going to take many, many months. He needs constant reassurance that he is safe and cared for. And it’s a long process.

Until we get there, we are in the trenches.

Most prospective adoptive parents think that adopting an infant means that the child will have less traumatic experiences and everything will be “easier.” Admittedly, I believe I naively held some of these ideas. I wanted the baby stage as a new parent, definitely. I was intimidated by jumping into parenting with an “older” child and any trauma they may have experienced.

But here’s the truth. No matter how old, a child who is being adopted experiences trauma, whether or not we (as parents) talk about it. They have experienced any number of losses – biological parents, caretakers, culture, language, food. And they can’t tell you about how these losses make them feel. If they are scared or insecure. If they fear hunger. (You haven’t heard a hungry child cry until you have heard an orphan-no-more cry for food.) Many times there are emotional reactions that seem extreme. While we know he’s safe and that food is available, he does not always know that. While we know he can sleep peacefully and doesn’t need to be awake, he does not. While we are probably doing everything “all wrong” according to the baby books, we know what we are doing is right for Ephrem in these moments.

These are the trenches we are navigating.

Beyond the photos is where this becomes real. We are learning what it means to parent a child with 11 months of life already lived. We are learning to love a child from a “hard place,” places where I can imagine hunger was much more real than I know. I can only pray that God’s grace is enough for each moment and that each day Ephrem learns to trust us a little more.

Ephrem, we will love you always.  And always means always.