Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why I love two year olds, but more specifically, mine.

It's been a while...a year almost, but I am back again. I write mostly so I can remember and so one day I can show these posts to my kids. I am currently awake before my family, which hasn't happened much in the past year, but it is welcomed when it does. I was laying awake in bed thinking about why I feel 2 is the best age. I made myself get up to write it out, because I honestly never want to forget.
Am I alone when I ask God why he didn't create a PAUSE button or possibly a DO OVER button??? Since we don't have that luxury, I try to close my eyes in the moments I want to pause and try hard to be extremely present through them. Everything in me wants to remember every year of my children's lives, but we all know it sometimes just blurs together...so in an attempt to remember specifics about ella's second year of life...here I go!
Why do I love 2 year olds so much?? Well, I am convinced they are the cutest things on this planet. Show me a 2 year old and I will find something in them that is pause worthy or hysterical laughter worthy or at least "AWWWWW" worthy. Ella possesses those every single day. I get that I am bias, but I watch other people watch her and not a day goes by where she hasn't made someone else laugh, smile or at least chuckle to themselves. There is no other age where a child is learning to be independent but is still, quite honestly, a baby. Ella can string together little adorable sentences. She can state her dislike for something, try to climb a jungle gym alone, attempt to put her own boots on and then at 1 o'clock curl up into a ball in my arms, stick her fingers in her mouth, and fall asleep. How can you not love nap time?
Her love for babies is unmatched. She will march around the house with a baby in her arm or push them around in a stroller. She also loves real babies and baby animals. Don't believe me? Take her swimming, she will spend half the time trying to swim free from your arms (because 2 year olds are invincible) and the other half pointing out every baby in the pool. "AWWWWWW BABY!!!!!" as she points and gets this tiny little scrunchy face. She just loves them. We recently had a 1 month over at our house and I think she spent the entire visit yelling, "I hold it! I hold it!" while jumping up and down like a mad man. Baby animals are next, you don't need to teach someone that babies are cute, it really is just instinct.
She thinks she can feed herself. Somewhere over the past year, we have progressed from assisted eating to independent eating. She wants nothing to do with you giving her food when she is perfectly capable to feed herself. She is getting a lot better, but I'll never understand how yogurt ends up covering every inch of her face! But, I love this so much because it means I get to eat my food while it's still hot! I don't have to try to stuff bites in between her bites anymore! And baby yogurt faces really are the cutest.
The girl has got moves. I have yet to meet a 2 year old who doesn't know how to dance. It's because they don't care what anyone thinks. They hear the music and they dance. They don't care where they are, the grocery store, the mall, the gas station, the bank, church, it doesn't matter because they don't know what public shame is yet...so they just dance. My daughter loves a good beat, and when she hears it, rest assured she will be dancing, unless she just woke up because she likes to be a grouch for a few minutes.
Her sentences make me want to record everyday of her life and just sit and watch it back over and over. We make her repeatedly say the things that are too cute for life itself. She says, "cary bida" (scary spider) and "peda buda" (peanut butter) in the cutest way ever. I don't care if you are the angriest person on the planet, these words are sure to make you smile. She recently tried to correct me as I took her little mug from her hand, "Mama you no touch that, okayyyyyyy?" and when she is done eating she will say, "I no wan it" and flick her hand to motion to take it away. So much sass in a little body, but I want to raise a girl who can stand up to people and say what she thinks, kindly of course, so we will work on that!
Dressing her up is one of my current joys. This girl can rock any outfit and it is so fun to put them on her. Yesterday at the pool, she marches out with her pink fishy swimming cap, frilly pock-o-dot swim suit and her water wings...that cuteness is unmatched. I actually walked behind her as she proudly marched out into the pool area, because I had to see that cuteness in its entirety. Also, I have yet to hear someone say that a 2 year old in a full piece snowsuit with hat, mitts and boots, is not adorable. The waddle is second to none. I have a little too much fun with dresses, shoes and hair bows... but all my hobbies can't always be fruitful, ok??
I can still put Ella in my carrier, which is one of my favourite things. I love to take my kids on walks, Isaac has become a great walker but Ella is still figuring it out. I don't know what it is about putting my kids in carriers, but it has to be in my top five favorite parts of being a mom. I love holding them close. I love that she will rest her head down, grab a fist of hair and just be content. She will also still fall asleep, which is pretty much the best ever. We missed their first year of their lives and I feel like my carriers have allowed me to gain back some of that lost time. Resting my cheek on that soft, curly fro fills me with joy. Ella is so loving and sweet, I am so happy I've gotten to carry her everywhere for a year.
She has learned how to love back. I am going to end with this one, although I feel I could write all day. This has been one of the biggest blessings for me. Our kids were scared and did not show much affection for their first year home. But, the more we gave, the more they learned. It has been the most rewarding experience to begin to receive love back. Ella will wrap her little arms around my neck and just squeeze. I don't even care that I am partially being choked out, I am just in awe at her ability to learn how to love back. She will say, " I lub you!" and she gives the sweetest kisses. She doesn't hand them out too regularly so when you get one that you didn't ask for, it is precious.
Well, there are some of my top reasons why 2 year olds are the best. I remember saying when Isaac was 2, that I wanted to have a 2 year old in my house forever. I know that isn't possible, but I will be eating up this next year with my daughter and then every year that follows... because whatever age my kids are, is also my favourite age :)


Monday, November 23, 2015

Trial and Error and the "love-shun"

We have been home just over two weeks and we have begun venturing out of the house. We are trying to choose our outings wisely, debating if where we go will be overwhelming for Ella or if it will be ok. Well, let me tell you friends, this is no easy task. I find myself failing more often than winning. I've felt guilty and have questioned myself many times. Ella has been with us for 2 months now, but we still have so far to go. SO. FAR. I was reminded today that time really has nothing to do with her attachment. No one can say stay inside for x amount of days then go here and there, allow this person to see her and keep others away until this date... how I wish it could be this easy. I wish I could follow rules, but there just aren't set rules that will work for every child. So here we go, trial and error, trying to figure out our new life. It's hard. We went to Isaac's swimming lessons and then strollersize today. I ended up spending half the class in the back because Ella wanted to be held. It was a half fail...and it has made me realize that stroller size just isn't for us right now. She needs to know I'll pick her up when she needs it and me trying to get a few more minutes in with distracting her only frustrated both. So back home we go, nesting again. Trial and error. But isn't that the beauty of parenting, we don't need to nail it all the time. It's ok to try something and decide it doesn't work for you and move on. You will see me second guessing myself often. I may be hard on myself but in the end I've been given a job to determine what is best for my children. This is, by far, the hardest job I have been given. Two precious lives, traumatized, and now I am entrusted to pick up the pieces. I am so thankful for  a Jesus who guides me and allows me room to grow. I just hope I can lay aside my self to hear him well enough.
With all this said, we ask you continue to re-direct, shun, ignore, whatever you want to call it, but please continue to do this for us. Ella is not ready for more relationships yet. She is still figuring out she needs us and that we are not leaving her. I can't tell you how much it hurts to feel like I am replaceable or dispensable in her mind. I often break down at this thought. She is used to a revolving door of caregivers and this feeling will not go away overnight. Unfortunately, we do not have an end date, we just need you to trust us. Loving Ella means when she reaches for you, you point her back to me. Her heart is confused, she is figuring out her home base on which to live life from, this needs to be Arnie and I right now. While she is showing she prefers me at times, this is so fragile. She is still figuring out where to go for comfort. Please also pray for us, for wisdom and for Ella to continue to form an attachment to us. I have so many more thoughts in my head right now, I'm just not sure how to word it all. We are in the thick of it and it is hard but we trust God to lead us through. Thank-you for your love from a far, it means so much to us right now.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Our Journey Home

We have been home now for just over 1.5 weeks and I have been meaning to write about our journey home. It was an eventful three days and I really want to remember it!
We were so excited to come home, although we were living in paradise, we couldn't wait to come home and start our real life. Arnie was anxious to get back to work...with reason as we spent a pretty penny in SA, and I was anxious to get to kids into a real life routine. Now that we are home, we are wondering what all our rush was about haha. Anyways we had Ella's passport in hand on a Monday and we were set to fly out on Friday. It was good timing and we were grateful for a few extra days to not have to worry about getting Ella's documents in time, but we were ready to come home. We had spent three weeks on the beach, living it up, but even that can't keep the home sickness at bay. By day we had our loose routine: walk to our coffee shop/bakery, walk home for nap and swimming, find lunch, swim some more, afternoon naps, get dressed and find dinner, walk along the boardwalk, head back to our room. The evenings were the hard part. I often asked Arnie if we could walk on the boardwalk in the evening just so we could get out and I could distract myself from feeling home sick. We had the life, yet we still missed home. I am so grateful for this because it means we have something at home to miss. Friday finally arrived, Isaac walked around and said goodbye to the kid's pool entertainers (they were so kind to him) and we packed our bags. This was a feat on it's own as we had three suitcases and a carry-on. We ended up maxing all three suitcases out at 50lbs each and had to stuff the carry-on to the brim! Arnie is always anxious to get checked in at an airport and be ready for our flights (I made us miss a flight once and so I take full responsibility for this anxiety). He wanted to head to the airport three hours early. This was actually crazy because we were only going on a domestic flight to JoBurg...but for some reason I agreed. We called our cab and loaded up. Once we arrived at the airport we wondered around a little until we found the British Airways check in.  The lady at the desk told us our flight had been delayed by 2 hours and then asked about our connecting flight. We would not have enough time to get onto our flight to London and therefore our entire trip was about to be delayed. This was not good news for us for a couple of reasons. Because we went to Hungary first, we had ended up doing two round trips. We had a one day lay over in Budapest and then we would continue our journey home, only this was a separate trip so if we missed this flight we would be buying a whole new trip home. Panic ensued as we looked at each other with silent panic in our eyes. The lady helping us then said, "Just wait, I'll see what I can do. We have a flight leaving in 20 min to Jo-Burg and I'll try to get you on it." The next 5 minutes were the longest five minutes as she immediately got on the phone and started to rebook our tickets. She wasn't sure if she could get us on as the flight was full so we waited in anticipation. We tried to listen in as the conversation went back and forth as to whether we would make it or not. She told us to get the bags ready to check in case they said yes as we would be running through security. After a few minutes she  hung up the phone and directed her co-worker to start printing the tickets! I have never seen flight workers work with such fury, it was amazing. She threw the luggage tags on, handed us our boarding passes, pointed to security and said run. And run we did. The airport is not large and our gate ended up being right past security. As we arrived, the line up for boarding was not moving. They were late boarding (likely because of our baggage) and we were able to breath. Arnie had not eaten lunch as we were hoping to get food during our three hour wait, now turned 5 minute wait. He was able to grab a sandwich while I waited in line and we boarded our plane in perfect timing. I think that is the key word, PERFECT TIMING. God had it all planned out, including Arnie's idea to arrive 3 hours ahead of time and my compliance with this. We arrived in Jo-Burg early and had a couple hours to walk around. It was perfect. The kids got to run a little and I got to find some great last minute souvenirs. It was 9pm when we boarded our overnight flight to London. We got the kids in their pjs and everyone used the bathroom. We let them run around right up until we boarded the plane. Ella was so tired the minute we sat down, she was out. She slept through take-off and woke up 11 hours later in London. Isaac watched a show and then he was out for the remainder of the flight. It was beautiful. We had the bassinet seat which meant we had tonnes of space. We put Isaac under the bassinet (we weren't supposed to, but we got away with 5 hours like this!) as the arms did not move up and down so we couldn't lay him across us. Arnie and I slept in and out during the flight, as we were making sure the kids were ok for most of the flight. We could not have asked for anything more. In the morning we boarded our flight to Budapest, which also went smoothly. Once in Budapest we checked into our hotel and got a cab to downtown. We didn't know it, but on the weekends they have a food market set up downtown. It was so fun! We decided to just enjoy ourselves and call this a one day vacation. We ate amazing food at the outdoor market, I had hot mulling wine and we got a hot strawberry drink for the kids. We found they had build a large ferris wheel since we had last been there and decided to take the kids for a ride. It overlooked the city and was beautiful. We found our favorite coffee shop and walked around a little more. It started to rain so we headed back to our hotel. We all went to sleep early. I ended up being a little sick so it was a bit of a long night for me, but the kids got a good sleep. We headed out at 430am and made our way back to the airport.  Our flight to Amsterdam was short and easy and then we had a 6 hr layover. We let the kids play for the entire time. when we boarded our flight to Edmonton, Ella was asleep for take-off again. This was a day flight so the kids were awake for a few hours. We gave Isaac free rein to watch as many movies as he pleased so he was content and we took turns entertaining Ella. 9 hours later, we arrived home. When our wheels hit the ground, I looked at Arnie and said, "I can't believe we made it." He agreed and we sat quietly as we thanked God for our safe finish to this crazy journey. It was a moment our hearts rejoiced in. Somewhere in those 2 months gone, you wonder if you will make it out alive...but God had us in His hands. We worried often about our safety and played it safe many times by staying in, but God had it all under control. When we walked through the doors into the arrivals the greeting we received was one of my favourite moments. Isaac missed his cousins so much while we were gone. When we were walking to the doors, Isaac says, "I am going to run to Oli and hug him!" Guess who was there right when the doors opened...our sweet little nephews. Oil ran to Isaac and they had the best hug. I will post a picture as soon as I get it. Our family was there and some of my closest friends to welcome our  sweet Ella to her forever home. It was a tiring journey but we made it. The only thing left behind was my purse on our London flight, but all things replaceable, everything else safe and sound!




Monday, November 2, 2015

Heading Home

As our time winds up here in SA, we are beginning to think about when we arrive home. We did a cocooning phase with Isaac and are planning on repeating that with Ella. She has done so well with us and has really grown in her attachment with us...but we are about to change her world on it's head again. Coming home will be a huge change for her. Everything will be new and we feel our job is to help her transition as softly as possible. We long to take the stress from her and help her enjoy her first days and weeks at home. With that said, I have felt strongly that I am to give myself permission to say no to any commitment for our first little while home. My goal is to keep November as low key and commitment free as possible. I'm also giving myself permission to say no to invitations as well. As much as this month is about Ella, it is also about Isaac, so we feel we are on double duty. We are figuring out our new norm with two children. This is still new for us. Arnie will be going back to work and I will be staying home with the kids. I've watched them alone here for about 1 hour maximum on my own a few times so Arnie could play tennis...but other than that, I don't really know what a day alone with two kids looks like! If you do see us out and about, because I imagine I'll need to gain some sanity through walks and coffee, just be reminded that we will be keeping Ella close to us. We won't be passing her around or letting others pick her up or feed her. She is still learning who we are and it is detrimental to who she is that she forms an attachment with us first before anyone else. Maybe this seems drastic, but we have done the research and we feel in our hearts she needs to know who Mommy and Daddy are first before she learns about other people. We don't know how long we will stay in this phase, but we ask you to trust us. When we feel confident as parents and confident in Ella, we will start to let her explore. It is helpful to think of Ella's age in family age, that puts her at one month old. This means we will carry her, rock her to sleep, give her bottles and keep her as close as we can. It may look like we are babying her, but remembering her trauma and newness to our family will hopefully help people to understand. We are so excited to show our girl off, she is amazing and we think everyone who meets her will agree. She will light up a room when she feels confident and safe and we can't wait to let the world see this in the right time! We are also asking for prayer. Please pray for us as we fly home and transition our family into our new norm. We have felt people's prayers as we have been in SA and we thank-you for everyone of them. God has been looking after us and I know He will continue to do so.




Friday, October 23, 2015

Time

It's been one month since we first laid eyes on our girl. I can't believe it! It would be the equivalent of someone giving birth then realizing their child is a month old already. How things can change in just a few short weeks. Ella has totally opened up to us and we can tell she feels right at home. We are getting to a place where we couldn't imagine life without her. It takes time to feel like a family when you add a member, but we are getting there. Isaac is opening up more to her and he is letting me back in. I'm so grateful we are all settling in this quickly, we are truly blessed. Yesterday I went for a run (cause all we do is eat) during the kids naps and I found myself excited for when Ella wakes up so I could see her again. I know that may sound silly, but this was a big moment for me. I'm feeling like she is mine. You know that ferocious mama love? The kind you feel when you first look into your child's eyes...sometimes that love can take a little time. But I am feeling it. I'm starting to walk around with my girl strapped to my chest and pride in my heart as the world smiles at her sweet face. There are so many aspects to adoption...attachment playing a huge roll. We carry our children, rock them to sleep, sleep beside them, feed them, dote on them, play silly games and don't let them wonder further than a foot from us at all times. This isn't just for them, but for us too. The more time Ella spends on me, the more I feel attached to her and her to me. It's different for everyone but this is how it is happening for us. We are so amazed how God, once again, knew the exact child He would place in our family and how perfect we would be for each other. I'm not saying we are all perfect and every moment is perfect...but the big picture and story is only one God could write. We are increasingly astonished how we are moulding together. We are so blessed to have each other.








Saturday, October 10, 2015

Brother and Sister

I didn't think a lot about the dynamics between Ella and Isaac, I mean you can't really prepare for their reactions to each other until they are actually together. Isaac was excited for his sister and we did the best to prepare him, talking about her and talking about what it means to be a big brother, but its hard to go any further than that. Isaac did such an amazing job when he met her, he walked right up to her and kissed her. He didn't want her to stay at the orphanage when we had to bring her back at night and could hardly wait until we could keep her with us forever. He really has been amazing. We are two weeks in and we are seeing some dynamics play out. In some ways we are happy to see that Isaac is clinging to his Dad and that he is struggling to share him, this means he is attached to him. While he loves his sister, he is struggling to share his toys and sometimes she hits at him which has also been hard for him. But here is where grace is given. Adoption is hard, it is right for us, but it is still hard at times. No one ever said it was easy, we were not told this at any point of our journey...because it's not easy. There is a reason there will be few people who ever do it, it's costly on every front...the question was never "will this be easy?" but always "is this right for us?" We know, without a doubt, that this is right and so we tread lightly. We give ourselves grace and now we are understanding that the same grace is to be extended to our son. It's not easy to suddenly share your life, your parents, your toys, your space. Ella is not a newborn who eats and sleeps all day, she is 14 months and loves to play! She is fun, adventurous and has a playful spirit, which means Isaac has to share a lot more than if she were a newborn. So we are taking this in stride. We are so proud of him when he loves on her and we are not disappointed when he has moments of struggle. Isaac is a fun, loud, caring and playful soul. He loves people and kids, he loves us and his sister...but sometimes love grows. Its the same for us, we love our girl from the bottom of our hearts...but attachment takes time. It will take time for the two to be attached to each other. We want to be gracious about that. We knew it would take time. I'll admit, I was hoping they would be best friends off the hop, but let's be realistic...these thins take time. We pray for them daily, that God would bind their hearts together. There is only so much we can do as their parents, and then God picks up the pieces. What we do know, is that we are called to faithfully love God, each other and our children and that leading by example is the best teacher.
Yesterday, our sweet son said this, "I'm going to protect Ella. I'm not going to let her walk to anyone, because she's ours!" He gets it, he knows she belongs to us, he gets the attachment process. I was floored, he has been listening to our conversations about not letting others hold her, meeting all her needs, and keeping her close to us. If only she didn't bite his chest hours later hahahaha.... and that is reality my friends. Forgiveness, grace, gentleness, kindness and self control all taught through life. This part is hard but so worth it. Please pray for us as we lead and teach.





Thursday, October 8, 2015

our girl- 14 months

It's been almost two weeks together and there is so much we have learned about our daughter...and there is so much we still have yet to learn! We are falling more and more in love with her everyday as we continue to pray for God to bond us together. Isaac has gone through some changes as I mentioned in the last post but we are also seeing him warm up to Ella and begin to come back to me! Here is what we know so far:
Our girl is happy. She didn't show us this at first, she was in a bit of shock and therefore was way more reserved. We have seen this girl open up in just this short time and really start to show us her true colors! She loves play time and she loves being thrown around. Arnie will throw her in the air and she loves it, she is always squealing and laughing when he plays with her. She also loves to cuddle...this is such a gift to me. She will play with Daddy then come to me for a quick hug. She loves sucking her middle two fingers and with the other hand playing with a handful of my hair. She will even pull a chunk out of my pony tail creating a hot looking rat tail :( I've joked about putting in a braided rat tail extension for her! She likes her brother and loves when he plays with her.
What she eats:
she will eat most foods but dislikes mushy things like bananas, we are still trying to figure her out as sometimes she will eat something the 2nd or 3rd time it is offered to her. She likes carbs but dislikes yogurt! She loves eggs and sausage for breakfast and eats whatever we eat for lunch and dinner. She really has won over Arnie's heart with her love for food and eating most of what we serve to her. She will still sometimes overeat and have a huge swollen belly after meals so we are trying to do more meals of smaller quantity.
How she sleeps:
Well, not hard to guess, but she sleeps in the middle of our bed. Most nights she will sleep a solid 12 hours without any fuss and then about every 5th day she will have a rough sleep where she tosses and turns for half the night. We are still trying to figure this out and reminding ourselves that this is all still so new for everyone. She loves to sleep in the carrier if we are out and has given us no grief with falling asleep on our chest. She takes two naps whether we are at home in the bed or out in the carrier. We are so blessed by her (mostly) easy going spirit...and it's ok to have a few sleepless nights anyhow, it reminds us we have a baby :)
What she weighs:
Ella was a premie, we have mixed messaged on how premature she actually was but she was born at 3lbs so we know she was early. She is still small weighing in at 17lbs as the banana scale at the local Spar tells me! She wears 6-12 months but I put some 12-18 on her too even though it is a bit big. The coolest part about this, is that she is so close to what Isaac weighed at this time!

We are always comparing Ella to how Isaac was and we are so amazed at the differences. Isaac was so advanced with speech and understanding but emotionally and physically behind. He would be fine being handed to a stranger and rarely made a fuss over anything. He didn't know how to cuddle and very rarely would lay his head on your shoulder. Ella seems a bit behind in speech but has clung to us. Many people have reached to hold her but she always turns from them and grabs me. This is amazing for us as we don't have to try to get her back if someone has taken her. A lady in the child room in a restaurant tried to put her on her lap, not only did she wriggle out of her arms but she came running straight for me! We are so amazed by this and thank God she is beginning to understand to trust us.

We went to Marine World the other day and had an amazing time! We are really enjoying our family time and are starting to settle in.