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.