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Poppy’s Home

Poppy has been home for a little more than a week.  She fits right in, the transition has been…not really a transition, but like she was always meant to be.

All the kids know she is special, and treat her as so, with a little bit of awe, and a lot of tenderness, her goodness glowing out.

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She slept the entire 4 hours from Addis Ababa to Dubai.  Andrew and I were in the best of moods when we got to Dubai….one more leg of travel!!  But, we were soon cured of that ;)  And that’s all I’ll say, except for that we are called to have love and grace, and we probably won’t be headed to Dubai for any specific travel plans.

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Then she slept the entire 16 hour flight to LAX.  A young man sat next to us, and double took the baby, I am sure he thought he was in for it.  Half way through, he asked, “Is she always this quiet?!”

“Yeah,” we said.

“Wow, that’s amazing.”

I tried to sleep too.  She was like a cat, had to be at the highest point of my body no matter how I was laying.  I didn’t sleep as much as sans child, so I got some good movies in (Fury!?  So good!)

16 hours!!!  SLEEPING!!

When we got home, the kids tried to talk and engage her, and she was shy, hiding her face in my shoulder.  “Why she not talking?” Elijah asked a chill number of 100 times.

“She can’t talk yet honey, or even really walk yet, she’s just a baby.”

 

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We put her in bed, she refused the pack and play, and had to be near us.  So much for that super cute crib we got all decked out…  ;)

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Poppy Stats:  Kind and calm.  Loves to play with siblings and toys.  She likes play dough and LOVES music.  She takes a good nap in the afternoon the same time as the boys, and sleeps all night.  The boy’s behavior has risen many levels as they are wanting to be less wild animals, and more nurturing with her presence.  Any whining gets a point, two whining points get them a chore; less whining and cleaner home.

With out first adoption, life seemed to change a lot.  With this one, she folds right in, she is the little beat in everyone’s heart, and goes with the flow of daily life, bringing happiness in her wake.

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She has gained a lot of strength since being home, and our toppling baby has turned into a much stronger toddler who DELIGHTS in the action of our home.  Be careful not to bring her back inside, she’ll bring the back of her hand to her brow and cry ever so softly  (Outside is the coolest)

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Flying super baby!

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She loves friends, and doesn’t seem to have any sensory aversions….

THAT I just can’t still believe.  To this day, Elijah still struggles with sensory issues due to the severe neglect he received, it has been a lot of work on our part, good work, healthy, productive work, but still work.

Poppy has none of it.

She loves being in a family.  She wakes up smiling, and smiles the rest of the day.

“MamaDada!?” she says quickly all day long as she waddles through the house, like a song.  The other day she cleared the table for me after watching Maria the other day; one spoon, one fork, one plate, her smile about to burst off her face as I praised her.

She loves freedom, she loves love.  She loves food, family and friends.

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She loves exploring and piling things on the floor, I mean, who doesn’t when you’re two!?

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The kids have been in VBS all week this week and last, so we get to be besties all morning.  Sometimes we have to do our new-adoptive-mama work stuff like doctors appointments, calling Sunny Days developmental, the Ophthalmologist, the dentist, stool samples, all the glamorous stuff, but still, all the stuff that will help this girl get all she needs.  It’s a gift to my heart to be able to provide this for this amazing soul.

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Picking up the boys from VBS and Maria from KidShine

 

I will end with this final story:

We don’t buy ‘regular’ milk in our house, it upsets too many tummies.  But while we were gone, he had some of Gramma and Grandpa’s.  Last week Finley said, “Can I have some regular milk, mama?”

There was some left, “Sure honey.”  I poured some into a sippy cup and handed it to him, pure gold.  He was about to drink his once-in-a-lifetime-treat when little sister saw it, and gently reached her chubby arm up to him.  He pulled the the cup back protectively, shocked.

Poppy squinted her eyes, and lowered her head ever so slowly, a single tear down her cheek.

Finley looked at his cup, condensation on the outside, looked at baby sister, looked back at his cup filled with his special treat …

and while looking at her, handed it to Poppy.

She lit up and smiled at him.

I stood there with my mouth open.  She drank a drink or two, and gave it back to him.  I was so shocked and proud of him, his most special treat, he gave up for Poppy.

I took him to get a treat during naptime, a sticky, special mess.

Poppy is a good influence on my little boys.

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More to share later, but Poppy is a gift.  She has blessed each one of us in unique ways, I see the character in each of my children growing, just because she is being herself.

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Saying Goodbye

In our final days in Ethiopia, we only had two things to do: Visa Appointment and Coffee Ceremony to say goodbye.  Things were wrapping up before we knew it.  Our year + time, over in what would seem a few moments.

We filled in the edges with as much else as we could, Poppy never leaving our arms or the carrier the entire time. We visited some lakes, Adulala and Kuriftu with our friend Fekadu, watching the patterns across the silent water as we ate, hearing the cows eat grass along the shoreline fenced in by branches.   Time seemed to be standing still, and rushing quickly  at the same time, we wanted so badly to return, but also to stay.   We would pay a small fee and eat at the water’s edge.  Poppy sat contentedly in her high chair snacking or taking in life peacefully.

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On the morning of our Visa appointment, we woke up early, and left early.  Past the dusty buildings, and broken concrete steps, past women sweeping crumbling stoops of shops happily, most everyone walking, past everything to an open, ominous field where a large fortresses, clean lines, with a banner next to the strong gate, “Happy Fourth of July.”

The American Embassy.

We were very early, the man from Poppy’s orphanage wasn’t there yet, we went on a little walk while Fekadu rested in the car.

We saw some children playing hackysack with pieces of leaves sewn together in the middle. They were kicking it over and over to themselves, it sounded like a real hackysack.  “Can I play?” Andrew asked, and they eagerly passed it to him.  He did better than I would, Poppy and I hand in hand watching.

“Time to go!” Fekadu told us.  Andrew told them he’d buy them a soccer ball, and they started running to tell their friends, the news catching like a brush fire, collecting a big group of children, excitement coursing through them.  “When we’re done,” we told them.  We walked up the dirt road, and a man’s car was stuck.  Andrew jumped next to him and they pushed it into the road, the man smiling and waving as he drove on his way down the road clearing our vision, we saw the American flag.

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I saw the man from the orphanage in front of the US Embassy.

“Hello,” he said, the biggest smile, kind eyes, “This is Natty.”

“Hello,” I smiled, “This is Amy.”

He said hi to Poppy, “She looks like you,” he told me.  “That’s a big compliment,” I told him laughing to myself.

We walked through the metal detectors, Poppy toddling from my hand through.  She didn’t realize what was happening this day.  She reached her chubby arms up, her feet stopped, and I scooped her up and held her soft cheek to my face.

We sat in a row of chairs, a picture of Barak Obama and John Kerry smiling at us from the white walls.  There were slides inside for little children.  I thought back to the Embassy in Russia, packed, crowded, not enough seats, children running wild, sterile, raining.

Three children played on the slide, a sister and two young brothers, their dad smiling at them from his seat.

There were two other American families with Ethiopian daughters.  The girls never left their new parent’s laps, clinging on to them, proud.  Happy parents, arms around their treasures.

“Brockhaus.”

We hopped up, held up our right hands, promised everything was true.  “Just sign your name here…just stating you understand her medical condition…”

“Does your family live here with you?” I asked him, kind of impressed that they could live here.

He smiled, “My wife is stationed in Nairobi, so we travel often to each other.”

We headed back to our seats to grab our stuff, we were done, Natty smiled watching it for is.

“Congratulations,” the other American families told us eagerly, “Thank you so much,” we told them, a five year old girl looked at me from her new father’s lap and grinned, her coffee eyes, leaving her parent’s faces for just that moment, her smile singing peace.

As we walked out, Natty told Andrew how he wanted to serve God with his life, “I am a Christian, I am just excited to see what God can do.  I will spend my days serving him.”

Our Visa would be ready the next morning.  The day we leave.  Natty would pick it up and bring it to the coffee ceremony at the orphanage.

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#Squad headed to lunch

 

We were mildly worried for Poppy the day of the coffee ceremony, how would she feel going back?  She clung to us for dear life most days, the saddest face if we had the notion of putting her down.  We passed a semi truck that had driven halfway into a building store front, 40 people gathered around, gas leaking out, people stood in shock.   Shoe shiners leaving their wooden stools to come see.

We arrived at 10.

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We were greeted by Sister Letty.  She asked us how Poppy was doing.  “Good,” we smiled.  “She never wants to be put down, as soon as her feet touch the ground, she has her hands up to be picked up.”

Sister Letty smiled, “She has been waiting for this for a long time.  There are 32 children here, it’s hard for them to get the attention they need.  But each one is so precious.”

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We were given cinnamon tea as we waited.

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At 10:30, they started roasting the green coffee beans.  Little plastic chairs were set out.  People were present, but there was no need to rush or please us, or fill space with unnecessary words.  We sat calmly as the beans began to roast over the coals.

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The children filed in, wearing their best traditional Ethiopian dresses and outfits.  They sat and smiled at us, glowing is a better description.  They sat quietly in the plastic chairs for a long time, patient, not disrupting or needing entertainment. We were served coffee, and sister Letty stood and began to speak.  Every child, every worker was present at the ceremony, to say goodbye.

“Today, is a good day.  It is a sad day too, goodbye is hard, but it is a good day for Poppy.  She will have a life, maybe she will be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher?  We don’t know.  But we know, that God has a plan for her life.  She is special.  She may be sick, but…” and she started crying.  “I shouldn’t be talking, as soon as I do, my tears start to drop…” and she wiped her eyes, regained her composure.  Andrew and I felt all broken up inside watching this dear woman cry.

“But no child is cursed, no child less than any other.  Each child is a gift,” every word a tack onto the banner she was raising above the children in her care.  “Each child is a gift from God,” she was creating the rhythm to the anthem to this home, to her life’s work at this orphanage weaved together with love and security that I have never seen prior in an orphanage.  Sister Letty loved these children fiercely, and it showed now as she spoke.  Reflecting in the faces of each child, and the workers now watching her, hearing each of her words, seeing the tear marks on her face.

“God has given us a big responsibility in each of these gifts he has given, and it is our work, our job to love them well,” the words washed over Andrew and I as we were felt the hot of dark coffee on our tongues, the softness of the bread, just baked by the women.  We felt so included, so cared for in just these moments here.  She does well with what she has been given, our chubby, loved girl on our laps.

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“Now, we will sing you some songs in English, and some traditional songs in Amharic.”  The children stood up to their feet quickly, they had been waiting to sing.  Their small hands clapped lively, bodies swaying, voices full and rich.   Song after song, each, even the small ones, knowing the words, moving their hands and bodies in complete freedom and joy, the voices filling the room.  “God is GOOD all the TIME!” they echoed.  Children are respected here, adults aren’t considered better.  Everyone gathered around, sipping their coffee and watched the children, clapping and filled with joy.  Each adult with pride on their faces watching the little ones.  Children are greeted humbly, a kiss on the hand.

 

Two kind workers came up to Poppy, you could see the love they had for her in their eyes.  They didn’t push, but held out their hand to see if they could feed her, “The Last Supper,” sister Letty called it.  She hadn’t been out of my arms in days, she wouldn’t look at anyone else, normally clinging to me, but, when seeing their kind hand, she accepted their invitation to eat her lunch.  Andrew and I smiled, so proud of her, grateful for these people.

This is love, a lap to sit, another to feed, and another to smile.  In Russia, the children were lucky to get full mouthfuls while they were fed standing in their cribs.

 

 

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“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass

We praised Sister Letty on the love that is here, “Thank you,” she told us.  “God is good.  But, they aren’t all like this one here, many orphanages are very bad.  Sometimes they call us if they have a child who is dying to help, we do what we can.”

Since Poppy left, they had accepted one other child, a little girl into this center.

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As we drive away, we felt as though we should feel triumphant, we are here…  the adoption is done, Visa in our hands.  But leaving the ceremony, where we sat for hours and hours with the kindest most loving people, respectful, lively children, we both felt a strange sense of sadness to go.  We would miss them.  What a difference from one country to the next when adopting.

We drove along the road, “Well…we have about 10 full minutes to pack everything for the airport…” Andrew told us.

“No problem,” I smiled.  This was the easy part.

Poppy sat in my lap, happy as could be.

 

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“It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.”  -Katie Davie

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Praise God, for all things.

Thank you for following our journey to Ethiopia and back for our littest treausre.  We could never have expected it so be so rich, so inspiring and life changing.  Ethiopia is a poor country, the average annual income is $500 a year, but rich and full some of the best ways so many people long for and will never feel their entire lives.  We are changed people by coming here, in ways I am so thankful for and wasn’t expecting.

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Kindness and Connection

Each day we are here, the more impressed I am with Ethiopia.  There is a peace, community and kindness here that Andrew and I have to actively get used to.  People are kind to each other, and I see it as a byproduct of their humility.  If we are walking down the road, and Poppy trips, but is holding onto our hands, a man in his 20′s will throw his hands up to his head and react in the visceral worry that she may hurt herself.  “She’s ok,” I tell him, and he smiles and waves, and keeps walking.  In the states, business men would walk by wrapped up in their lives, but here, with suits and ties, they stop, they pause, casually, kindly.  They speak to her in soft voices, their eyes lighting up to see her, and keep walking with their smiles.  Each night as we drive through country and towns, people aren’t behind the closed doors of their homes alone or wrapped up in technology, but everyone is together, sitting, standing, large groups of people, everywhere, eating warm roasted corn being fanned by women sitting.  Men here don’t stand and talk feet away, arms crossed, drawn faces, but always have their arms around each other.  They touch, they lean, without fear or pride.  Children hold hands, little boys run down the street, hand in hand.  Older children don’t exclude or hurt younger ones, but delight in them without expiration.  Today I was watching a 7 year old boy play with a two year old, catching him down a slide, over and over, each time at the bottom, smiling at him with the kindest most loving eyes, his white teeth shining in the little’s boy’s face, genuinely happy to see the young boy’s smiles.

There is no overt sexualization here, and the more I notice that, the more I see that as a community builder here, an equalizer.  There are no billboards with sexy woman on them, not even for something like make-up or alcohol.  The corner shops don’t have a section for cigarettes and trashy magazines.  There is a great amount of equality between the sexes, more here than I have seen elsewhere, and it’s effortless. There are women construction workers, male orphanage workers.  You will see just as many men out with their young children, holding their hands down the streets as women, no gender loves children more.  Women nurse their babies openly, or from their baby carriers, they are not looked at sideways, but supported.  While I walk down the street, never once has a man tried to make eyes at me, a foreigner, only kindness, freedom, connection as human, I have heard the same from other foreign women, too.

There is very little alcohol or drug abuse here.  I remember a missionary in Mexico saying the most destructive aspect of where he works is alcoholism.  The dads are overworked, they drink, they beat their families.  I have been thinking about the kindness here, and I think it stems from their connection.  There is new evidence that addiction is likely caused by lack of connection.  This could be why there is very little drug and alcohol abuse here, which trickles down to the kindness among people, that you see between the children, even the animals.  The stray dogs are loved, and not abused.  We feed them and they seem thankful, but not cruel or pushy, they hadn’t been hurt.

 

Our girl, as you know, comes from a loving orphanage.  But nonetheless, orphanages are not families.  There are still many, children, with staff here who can only do so much, and much of her day was still spent in a crib.  Our first morning together, we got her up, and she just wanted to keep laying and snuggling.  She blinked deeply, rubbed her eyes as we prepared for breakfast…and would roll back over with a deep breath…so tired.  So not used to being so present yet.  We don’t mind, in fact, we love it.  Her coping to being in the world is to snuggle us, it’s the perfect scenario because there’s nothing we’d rather do, and we have all the time in the world to so just that.

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Poppy is the daughter you dream of having.  When you are young, and you hold a baby doll, who is content to sit with you all day.  With soft seamed joints that fold up into your arms so perfectly and smiles up at you, or sweetly falls asleep.  That is Poppy.  No fuss to get down, kind, gentle, lovable.

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She is floppy and has low muscle tone, so we take her on little walks here and there.  At the fair, we thought we’d take her down a tall, inflatable slide with Andrew.  We took off her shoes, and gently tried to carry her up, until we were told Andrew can’t go up.

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A woman watching her three kids and Fekadu looked an the 8 year old girl playing with her younger brothers, “Take her,” they looked at her.  It wasn’t a question, it’s what you do, you help.  The girl didn’t bat an eye that her play was interrupted by a big job, Poppy isn’t light.  I started to panic on the inside, this poor girl, just wants to play, now she has to struggle to bring up a 2 year old.  Is this our culture?  Fun being the crux?  I start to wonder as I see the adults interact with the children here, see their expectations.  You don’t show kindness once, for show, then continue in your own pursuit…

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And they loved it.  The girl would look to her mom at the bottom of each slide, the mom would just nod, and she’d take her again, three times.  The third time she had to have her brothers push her from behind to get her to the top, they worked so hard.  I felt this sense to free her, to let her have fun, but her mother and Fekadu had other expectations–to help.  To connect, to serve, that’s the expectation, not a cool personality trait, or an extra.

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This girl’s drink of choice, water.  Water, water and more water.  I remember this being the case with our other two when we brought them home.  Diapers are expensive in orphanages, so water isn’t freely given.  We will refill this cup to the brim, 5 to 6 times a day.  She will panic if it is not in her arms.

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Other than that, she’s not a big eater.  We order her avocado or papaya juice, which she will drink, and she’ll have tiny bits and pieces of other food, but prefers water.

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We are at Adulala.  The air is intoxicating with it’s freshness as we gaze through tangles of trees to a lake.  We lay by the lake in the soft grass and time passes in a way that we aren’t used to at home with our busy lives.  Poppy falls asleep on our laps from one moment to the next and sleeps the rest of our visit.  She sleeps through the rain when the drops fall and shatter the reflections of circular light.  We sit under a tree, shielded from the drops.  We look around, no one is panicking, hurrying, angrily checking mobile phones.  They sit and absorb the break, as we do.

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This is what she does when she sees mommy.  She is a mommy’s girl.  She wants mommy at all times.  If most anyone else tried to hold her, she will cry.  Yesterday, I had to leave for a few moments for the first time, and she cried for 20 minutes as anyone around her tried to console her in her papa’s arms.  I could hear her and it was breaking my heart, my palms were sweating, I felt like I needed to get back to her, like you do with a newborn.  Bonding has officially been completed on all ends.

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The Ethiopian man I was walking with smiled a big smile, “She loves you,” he said.

“Yes, we love her, too.”

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She has found her home.  She has found what her heart knew it always needed, but didn’t have.  A mommy and daddy.  That’s where a child belongs, to be endlessly fussed over and cherished.  To see their preciousness reflected back in the eyes on the one caring for them.

 

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Everyone tells us how blessed we are to have her.  Fekadu says, “Lots of kids, they are crying, they are overwhelmed, or they throw up in the cars, they have never been in one.  She loves you guys.  She is good, and kind.  She has found her place.”

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We’ve taken day trips into the country.  Green rolling hills, cows grazing openly.  Barefoot children climbing trees with each other, women herding goats in the fresh air with babies on their backs, waving as we pass.

 

 

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