Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ONE YEAR (yes, I'm screaming)

One year. There were definitely days last September that made me wonder if Larkin and I would make it to a year. He would get so frustrated that I couldn’t read his mind and know exactly what he wanted. Now I wish I could play dumb and not understand that he wants to listen to “Five little Monkeys” over and over again in the car!

One year. The saying, “We made it, but we may not look like much” comes to mind. We survived our first year. And if Larkin learns as much next year, as he did in this year, I am going to have to study to keep up!

I have found things over the past few years that I have saved to use for our first year together. Some of them I have written, some are stolen from other places.

I found a beautiful piece of artwork the other day with this quote, “Being a family means you are a part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life. No matter what.” Now, the “no matter what” part is questionable. I will question my love for Larkin if he makes me attend football games where I am forced to wear any shade of orange, purple, or blue. But do not think that this means I will be satisfied with a college career at Arkansas, Mississippi State, or Texas A&M. This just means that I look better in crimson than orange ;) And if he keeps eating and gaining weight at the current rate, he will get invitations to attend all of these schools.

One Tree Hill has always been one of my favorite shows. You can judge me. I don’t care. When Peyton was pregnant, I cried during every episode of that nine-month time period. She wrote a poem for her future child, and I copied it into my quote journal. I added a few things to it to make it apply to Larkin. (So some of this is mine and some of this comes from the writers of the CW).

This would have been more appropriate for my blog one year ago. But I was WAY too busy moving clothes and diapers around in suitcases to make sure nothing was over the 50 pound weight limit. I did not have time to blog. And if it weren’t for Dora, I wouldn’t have time to write this blog one year (and a few days) later. Okay, so here it is. Prepare for tears….Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Today is the day my life begins.
Today I become a mother.

Today I become accountable to someone other than myself. (Yep, I’m already crying.)
Today I become accountable to you, my child-to all the possibilities your new life has to offer.

I will be ready for anything, for everything. To take on life. To take on love and heartache and bad dreams and monsters under the bed.

Today I become a citizen of the world.
Today I become a grown-up.
Today I become accountable to the world
To the future

Staring today, my job is to be there for you.
To show up, wide-eyed and ready for anything, for everything

To take on life
To take on love
To take on questions
To take on fears
To take on the responsibility and the possibility of motherhood.

Today my life begins and I cannot wait. (Insert more tears).

Every time I say or type the word ‘year,’ I have to take a minute and just breathe. I am sure that each year will get easier-or maybe not-but I never want to lose the breathless feeling that I have when I think of our time together.

Larkin uses a hot pink dumbbell as a microphone to sing everything from “Jesus loves Me” to Justin Beiber. Larkin is also a “mini-teenager.” When I wake him in the mornings, he pulls the covers over his head or puts his pillow over his face. If he does this at age 3, what’s going to happen when he is 16?!?!

A few of your best accomplishments:
o Potty training
o Knowing the answers to the questions on Dora and Diego
o Using your fingers to count to ten
o Telling me about what you did all day
o Knowing the difference in a tractor, a dump truck, a crane, and a BIG truck
o Knowing colors, thanks to popsicles
o Memorizing almost every word to Cars
o Using your pointer finger when you tell me you will “Be right back”
o Speaking in third person
o Always flushing the toilet-even if it doesn’t need flushing
o Flushing the toilet-even if it is an automatic one
o Saying, “back me” when you want something back (usually something Gus took)
o Yelling from another room, “Where are you?” when a year ago you wouldn’t
leave my side
o Always patting the bed for me for me to lay down with you
o And most importantly: Living your life with wreckless abandon
(something your mom needs to learn)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ethiopian Court meets Pulaski Police Department

While I was drowning in school registration paperwork, I missed two major Larkin milestones. On August 2, 20101, I met Larkin for the first time. I remember journaling that Baby Z was a rock star! Every nanny and America World employee loved him. But he sure knew how to cry to get his way. And neither one of these things have changed!

On August 6, 2010, I went to court to become Larkin’s legal guardian. But on August 5th, I was told that I would not pass court. Which meant my whole trip to Ethiopia was pointless-except for getting to spend 2 weeks with Larkin! I have never been as stressed in my entire life. I sent out an urgent email for prayers and God answered. While I was meeting with Larkin’s birthmom, (throw on some more stress), the court called to say that I had passed after all. I remember breaking down in tears and having his birthmom stare at me in utter confusion. I wasn’t going to pass court because the Pulaski Police Department background check wasn’t on official letterhead. It was just on a plain white piece of paper, and the Ethiopian government said that I could have made it up myself. Which I guess I could have. But how was I to know that on the other side of the world, this would be a problem. I have learned my lesson now! And now the America World staff knows to catch that with every family. Glad we all learned something at my expense! But if it saves another family from the eye twitching, red faced stress that I felt that day, then I guess it was worth it.

The night before court, I was given a DVD of Larkin’s birthmom telling her story. I sat and cried through the entire interview. I’m thankful there were subtitles because I couldn’t hear her talking for my sobbing. And then on August 6th for court, I knew her immediately when she walked in. She and Larkin look identical from the nose up. Their eyes are strikingly the same. My breath caught in my chest when she walked in. So young and so afraid. She was seven hours away from home with only one other birthmom with her. I was nervous, but at least I had the familiarity of my sister and the families that were becoming forever friends.

When I met the judge, she asked me how my relationship with Zelalem was progressing. I told her that we bonded instantly. It was comforting to be able to speak English and have her understand it. It is always a little strange to say something and then wait for it to be translated and repeated. I am always nervous that they won’t be able to translate my exact words or their meanings. So I was glad that when I told her he seemed like he knew me instantly and felt comfortable enough to fall asleep in my arms within a few hours, she truly understood what I meant.

Lots of things have changed in the past year, but the fact that Larkin can go from extremely happy to super angry or sad in 2 seconds has not.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Every day is an adventure!

I always write this blog in Word and then copy and paste it over...leave it to this computer to not cooperate today! Like I don't have anything else to do but write a blog twice! ha!

As I sat down to write this blog about 10 months with Larkin, "Charmed Life" by Joy Williams started playing on my iPod. And how appropriate! Life with Larkin is unexpected and tough at times, but definitely what Joy would call a charmed life!

Since I wrote my 9 month blog, Larkin has started putting more and more words together to make sentences. And I am blown away! He gracefully rolled off his Mack truck the other day and said, "I fell down." I almost fell down because this was not a sentence that I remember working on with him.

We went to the zoo last Saturday and Larkin could name almost every animal there. We had only been to the zoo one other time. The boy is a sponge! And I love it! As a teacher, I want my child to be smart. Every parent wants their child to be smart. But as a teacher, I feel like we put extra pressure on our kids to be the best. And I want all of my students to be the best they can be. And if that means they are B or C students, then that is great! If that is the best they can do, then I am proud. And I want the same for Larkin. I am sure that school will be tough for him. English is his 3rd language to learn in 3 years. The village that he is from speaks a different dialect than Amharic. So he has had to learn a truer form of Amharic, as well as English. I think of his dialect as Cajun is to standard English. And then I laugh because I think of Swamp People-which Larkin loves, so it is a great comparison.

Our 10 month journey starts with Larkin's first plane ride since coming home from Ethiopia. As we were going to the zoo on Saturday, Larkin asked to ride in an airplane. And I am actually able to grant that wish. We leave this afternoon for a wonderful, fun-filled week in Colorado. I am so excited about low humidity and cooler temperatures. But I am even more excited that our 10 month anniversary gets to be spend with the people that were in Ethiopia with me as I started this journey.

Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for the group that God placed together. We immediately bonded over embarrassing stories and Texas shaped waffles....and more luggage than we ever dreamed we would carry! I sort of feel like I'm packing for Ethiopia again with all of the packing and repacking and weighing I have done this week. But it was worth it then and I know it will be worth it this time!

I came across a poem from another adoptive mom's blog and I just love it! I think about it all the time. The words are so perfect for our situation as parents. No, I did not carry Larkin in my womb. No, I did not give him his first bath or witness his first step, but I will forever watch him as he reaches new milestones and continues to grow into the amazing child that he is.

Okay, so here is the poem.

I didn't give you the gift of life, but in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real, as if it had been so.
For us to have each other is like a dream come true.
No, I didn't give you the gift of life.
Life gave me the gift of you.

Wow! I love the last two lines. Gives me chills every time I read them! I have such an amazing gift in Larkin. He is so much like each member of my family it is scary!

When Stephanie was little, she never wanted to wear clothes. And Larkin is the same way. I find random articles of clothes all over the house throughout the day. Now Steph is one of the most modest people I know. So maybe Larkin will outgrow this naked phase too!

And Larkin sweats on his upper lip. It is the first place he sweats. Just like my great-grandfather did. And he passed that to my mom and to me. And now to Larkin. Oh, Larkin would have loved Papa Taylor. They could have spent hours building things and wearing overalls! Papa would have loved that little boy.

Okay, I wasn't going to cry this month, but there goes that goal!

Happy 10 months, Larkin! Let's celebrate with an adventure!

Wheels up!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Changed Forever

One year ago today started out just like any other day. I was on summer vacation. So I slept late, probably ate leftover pizza for breakfast, and then caught up on TV shows. Sometime that afternoon, I thought about what I would wear to Nashville. I had to pick up Dana from the airport. She was coming home from her month in Rwanda and I could not wait to hear ALL about it! I figured she might want to go to dinner that night since she would have eaten African food for an entire month. I know that being in Ethiopia, I am glad to be home and to not eat Italian for a while.

On my way to the airport, I got a phone call. Okay, let me set the scene. Dana’s flight landed around 5:00 p.m. So I have to deal with everyone in Nashville trying to get home. And I have to get all the way over to the airport. Nashville traffic doesn’t bother me. I know where I am going (most of the time). But now throw into the mix a phone call from a 770 area code. The area code where America World is located! So, on top of navigating through traffic, I now I to answer the phone.

And who knows what they want when they call. It could be a million different things-something could be wrong with my paperwork once it got to Ethiopia, they are letting me know that I need to prepare to wait another few months, or they could be calling to let me know I have been matched.

Today’s call was the referral call. 5:00 traffic was no match for the adrenaline rush that I felt when the girl on the other end of the phone said that had a match for me. An adorable two-year-old boy who seems shy and reserved, but very smart. He is small for his age, but has shown growth in the past few months since he had been placed in the orphanage. She went on to tell me about his health issues-nothing I couldn’t deal with. And I honestly don’t think anything she would have told me would have deterred me. I was trying to think rationally and process all of the things she was telling me. I was also trying to take notes about what she was saying while I was driving. I know. Not the safest thing I could have done! But I was overwhelmed with emotion. And I am a note-taking kind of person. So this just goes with who I am. I don’t care about safety as much as I care about having info about my potential future child.

While I am taking notes, she tells me that she will email all of this information to me. Great to know now that I have almost taken out a few cars ;) She is also going to include some photos of the boy. And at this point that is all he was- a little boy from Ethiopia who could possibly be my child, if I accept the referral. Once I got off the phone with her, my phone loaded the email that she had sent. I could not wait to open the pictures and see him. But I made a few phone calls first. I called my family and tried to remember all of the details I was given.

Once I got to the airport, and parked to wait for Dana, I allowed myself to open the email and see his face. Well, it was love at first sight. Duh! How could you look at his face and not fall in love! But, I was still trying to be rational. Some of the medical things that she told me were a little frightening. But in my heart, I could already picture this child as my own. Just the two of us against the world. Who cared about low iron or being really tiny for his age? I didn’t. Nothing mattered once I saw his face.

*See nine month blog for the picture I received that day

So Dana was the first one I told face to face. She cried with me as I jumped for joy (literally-embarrassing, I know!). Hey, I was at the airport. I could have been jumping for joy because I had not seen Dana’s smiling face for an entire month. And I will admit that every time I went to Nashville and did not see her, it felt weird, like something was missing. But she was home now, so all was right with the world.

And the world had just gotten a little happier. Baby Z, what Larkin went by until I decided on Larkin, was going to have a family. I just had to jump through a few more hoops until he was officially mine.

My family has not always been so supportive of the idea of me adopting from Ethiopia. “Why not get a baby from Russia so it will look like you?” “Are you sure he is only two? He looks older.” “Do you know how hard your life is going to be with a black baby?” "Are you SURE you want to do this?" "Do you know how expensive raising a child can be?"

None of these questions stopped me from doing what I knew God wanted me to do. My life had been hard enough already. Life-threatening cancer at 19, parents divorce after almost 30 years, how tough could raising a baby really be!?!? Notice I didn't say black baby. When I see pictures of our time in Ethiopia, I do not see black and white. I see people who need God's love just like I do. There is no color there. And when I look at Larkin, I do not see a black baby. I see my baby.

Don’t get me wrong. I knew the stereotypes that small-town America had (still has) about white girls and black babies. But that wasn’t what this was about. This was about me bringing a smart, determined, inquisitive little boy into my family. And this was about the feeling that I had two years before, while I stood in a tiny room with a dirt floor and held a chunk of a baby boy in Ethiopia. My heart was ripped from my chest. And my heart came back to me in the arms of another little boy-a little older, a little more scarred, a little tougher of a life endured. But my heart returned.

And now I allow that same little boy to carry my heart with him wherever he goes. Because let’s face it, I didn’t say no to him on this day in June of 2009, why would I start saying no to him now? Seriously, look at this face. Who can say no to that?

Here are some photos of Larkin with my family. They are much more supportive of my decision now that he is here for them to love!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nine Months and counting

Wow! Nine months! On one hand, it feels like Larkin has been here for his entire life. On the other hand, it feels like I’m just starting this parenting thing. We have definitely had our good days and bad days…and some really not so great days!

From the moment I laid eyes on him in June, I was in love. If you had told me then, how much I would love him now, I wouldn’t have believed you. We have both grown so much as people. He has learned English and a lot of animal sounds! And I have learned how to be patient when it doesn’t seem possible.

I got teary eyed the other day at the grocery store thinking about how far we have come. From the days of Larkin not leaving my side and having to be in the same room with me, to now playing in the backyard while I plant flowers in the front yard. It seems so small, but it really is a huge thing.

I remember having to pick him up before I could get my car keys out of my purse, or there would be a meltdown that I might be leaving him. Now, he waves from his couch at the babysitter’s house as I head to work each day.

There were so many tears and tantrums because we didn’t speak each other’s language, but now, there are tantrums because I understand that he wants to stay up late and each popcorn, but I still say no.

We had days where the only sounds Larkin would make would be grunts or cries. Now, he can (almost) speak in full sentences. Especially sentences about things he really loves, like the movie Cars and his Mack truck...the best birthday present I could have purchased! Although it kept him from wanting to open any other presents ;)

Larkin used to be terrified of ALL animals! We have lost a cat and gained a kitten in the last nine months, and after we cried our tears over Harris, Larkin was eager to welcome Gus to our family! Larkin will even go to the fence to give Lola and Sampson a treat. He still doesn't want to be in the fence with him. And there are some days when I don't blame him! Larkin's love of animals continues to grow. Last Thursday we had a successful trip to the zoo. The only thing that scared him was the carousel. So he spent his time riding round and round in my arms. Baby steps....At least there were no tears when the elephants and giraffes were right next to the fence.

The picture below is of Larkin and his best friend, Finn, checking out the flamingos. It was hard to get pictures of the boys AND the animals.

Bedtime used to be a two hour disaster with both of us in tears. Now it is a fifteen minute quiet time where Larkin says “hold you” in the sweetest voice. So for that time each night, I am so thankful that he wants to be a part of my life. I know that some families have not had it as “easy” as we have. And I know that in a few very short years, he will not even want me in his room, much less holding him while he falls asleep. So, while there is laundry to be done, I will cherish those fifteen minutes because I know they will be gone too soon!

Larkin’s birthmother carried him in her body for nine months, and I am sure will carry the memory of him forever. And I will forever be thankful for the nine months that she nurtured him to become the healthy three year old that could play for hours in a pool.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Four Months (and three days) ago

Two and a half years ago, Zelalem Birtukan was born in Ethiopia to a very young mother. She did the best she could for him for (almost) the first two years of his life. Bouncing around from house to house, and spending some time on the streets, she loved him the only way that she knew how.

In March of 2010, she knew that love meant giving him to someone else. Zelalem means “forever” in Amharic. I know that she will forever have a hole in her heart for the decision that she made that March day.

And that forever decision changed my life.

On June 30, 2010, I received a phone call with information about a shy, reserved, two year old boy. Just hearing about his personality made me love him already. And once I saw the pictures, it was over! Baby Z was going to be my son!

As I prepared to welcome a two year old into my life, I read every adoption parenting book that I could find. I studied ways to transition him into my home, sleep patterns, and even the best developmental toys to help him learn and grow.

Larkin Elam Sanderson became a reality when I traveled to Ethiopia in August for my court date. I met Larkin on August 2nd and couldn’t get enough of him. And he seemed to feel the same way!

In September, (6 LONG weeks later), I traveled back to Ethiopia for my Embassy appointment and to bring Larkin home.

Four months (and three days) ago today, I traveled in a crowded van with other excited parents to pick up our children from the America World Transition Home. I am so thankful there aren’t seatbelt laws in Ethiopia because we were at maximum capacity (and then some) with our bundles of joy.

Each night as I lay with Larkin to put him to sleep, I am so thankful to his birthmother for her choice to allow me to be his forever mom.



About Me

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I am single, 30 year old teacher in Tennessee. I am anxiously awaiting a child from Ethiopia. I cannot wait to add this adventure to my life!