Thursday, October 4, 2012

Simply Pictures of Jessa's First 10 Weeks Home

First Moments with Jessa in Ethiopia
Getting to know Jessa at the hotel
The Airport
Sweet Neighbors!
First Morning at Home, Snuggling with Bro
First Day at Home - Sisters!
Playing with Grandma Stiger
Little Girls in the stroller
Nothing Sweeter Than Little Girls in Onesies
Me and My Mom and My Little Girls
My Fab Four
Playing at the Pool - Jessa's favorite place
At the Easton Family Picnic
Meeting Grandpa John
Watermelon - the perfect first food
All the Kids with Grandma and Grandpa Ryan
At the Zoo
On the Boat with Dad
Feeding Herself a Graham Cracker (only 2 weeks after putting an object in her mouth for the first time)
This is Anna giving Jessa a hug - Oh, the sister love!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Update on Life with Jessa: Tucking in My Four Heart-Melters

First blog in a long time... Jessa has been home almost 3 months now. I remember so freshly not so long ago when the only way we had to know her was a few pictures which were hung in every room of the house. I used to study those pictures and try to learn about her - try to see in to her soul. But I couldn't see it. She was a mystery. And my heart hurt waiting to know her.
Now she has been here for 10 weeks and I found myself telling someone recently that I can't imagine things going any better. She is perfectly healthy. Her growth charts testifies that she is growing so strong. Developmental assessments have shown that she is barely behind. Besides, she is so rapidly catching up that she has accomplished the goals they have set for her before their first appointment. Two weeks ago I had never seen her put anything in her mouth except her fingers. Today she sat in her highchair shoving a peanut butter sandwich in her mouth. The International Adoption Pediatric Specialist told us that she would have guessed she had been with us longer based on her body language. Bonding. Attaching. I could not have heard sweeter words. That she would trust us, feel whole with us, know that she truly belongs with us is my biggest prayer.
And I know her. She is vivacious, curious, loud, snuggly, playful, smart, ambitious, and fun. Her smile lights up the room. Her eyes are so dark, you can't see her pupils. She takes long, thoughtful gazes deep into peoples' eyes. She prefers vegetables over fruit. She sleeps on her tummy barely moving all night long. She turns her head toward every noise in the room. She grabs for worms and caterpillars, dogs and cats. Her favorite toy is a ball and will hold on to one for a long, long time. Today she started pushing herself forward on her knees - to reach a ball. She hates it when I put my finger in her mouth, but likes it when I clean out her ears. She would bounce in my arms all day, if I had the biceps for it. She likes to swing high and bounce on the trampoline. She splashes in the tub so hard that the whole bathroom floor gets wet.
Everyday with her is truly, truly.... oh, there's not a word to describe it. I am just so in love with her. I am getting in to a routine (even with homeschooling Nathan, 11 and Sarah, 7). I don't feel overwhelmed (well, there are moments when she and Anna sing me a blood-pressure raising chorus of crying because I don't have a second set of arms to take care of them both at once). Sure, I rarely leave the house and don't check facebook as often... Easy sacrifices for getting to live my blessed life.
Sure, I know that this is just the beginning and there may be challenges ahead as we navigate the path of raising our daughter whose beginning was marked by injustice. I am hopeful that the Lord will show us how to get through that when or if it comes. But for now, I am soaking in the peace and joy of this season with no fear of what may be ahead. Tonight as I tucked each of my four heart-melters in to bed I am overwhelmed with joy. I couldn't hold back the tears - I'm so thankful to the Lord for giving them to me and for the blessing of this sweet transition to forever with Jessa.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Jessa has been home nearly 3 weeks now. My mom had been here most of that time, but TODAY is my first day without Mom AND without Ryan... here's a glimpse:


1 load of laundry started

1 floor swept

1 load of dishes put away

3 bottles washed

2 lunches packed

1 breakfast made

1 pot of coffee brewed


1 toddler awake

5 minutes of snuggles

1 diaper changed

2 breakfast eaten (me and Anna)

1 cup of coffee drank


1 baby awake

2 big kids awake (pretty sure they both had breakfast, brushed their teeth, got dressed, made their beds. Positive that they emptied the dishwasher, took out the garbage, and helped me with the babies. I am so grateful for these amazing kids!)

1 bottle fed

1 diaper changed

2 babies dressed

1 baby pooped (a blow out!!)

1 stool sample collected

1 diaper changed again

1 baby dressed again


2 babies in their car seats

1 dog in the laundry room

10 minutes late leaving for Sports Camp (not bad!!)

1 doctor's appointment made


1 empty parking lot... 1 momma who had the wrong start time for camp - oops!

1 trip home for sweatshirts and to fill the travel mug with coffee

1 leaking travel mug dripping on my white sweater

1 new outfit for Mom


1 baby asleep in her car seat

1 baby sippy cup leaking in her car seat

2 kids dropped off early for Sports Camp so I can make the...


1 doctor appointment

1 extra trip to the car for a diaper

1 diaper changed

0 ear infections!!!

1 well-child visit scheduled


4 stool samples dropped off at the lab


1 baby carried in - in her car seat

1 baby carried in - in my arms

5 minutes of snuggles to put put Anna down for a nap

1 diaper changed (we're up to 5 today)

1 bottle made

1 bottle fed

1 clean, full, and happy baby jumping in the Jump-a-Roo

2 stains removed (coffee and poop)

1 load of laundry started

1 sink bleached out

1 doctor appointment rescheduled

1 bottle washed

1 sleepy baby

5 minutes of snuggling and another baby put down for a nap


2 sleeping babies

2 big kids at Sports Camp

15 minutes of reading the bible

1 blog post done.


"Children are a gift from the Lord." Psalm 127:3

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Finally Home!

We have had two full days at home now. Ryan and I keep looking at each other in a knowing exchange that means, "I can't believe we finally have our fourth child! I can't believe we have 4 kids!!" It is blissful disbelief!

Jessa weighs 11 pounds - which about what Anna weighed at 2 months! So she's got some growing to do, and I'm sure she will now that she is home! She is eating great - she's up to a 8 ounce bottle almost every feeding. She sleeps like a baby. :) Tonight my mom was putting her jammies on and she kept trying to roll over over and go to sleep. The second my mom put her in her crib, she was out! Anna was in the room screaming, me, Ryan, and mom were all talking -but she was ready to sleep and sleep she did. The first two mornings at home she has started her day at 4AM. So I've taken the early shift (which is nice because it's just me and her) and he has taken over around 7 to make breakfast for the big kids and get everybody going for the day along with my mom.

Developmentally, she seems to be pretty on track. She can hold toys, roll over, make eye contact and watch as we move around the room, etc. We go to the pediatrician next week and are looking forward to that. Most importantly, she loves to make lots of eye contact with me - and she is smiling and laughing easily and often. She is the happiest baby!

Anna is so funny with her. We took them on a walk in our double stroller and Anna could not stop touching her and looking at her. She had the cutest smile on her face. She is very intrigued and doesn't seem too jealous. My mom is still taking care of most of her needs, and this seems just fine to her. I have been trying to make special time with her since she is still my baby, too. I love her sweet snuggles and have tried to get caught up on those as much as possible. All in all, it's been pretty peaceful - with an occasional moment of "What would I do if Mom and Ryan weren't here right now?"

Sarah is smitten. She has been my right hand helper whenever the baby is awake. She has taken baths with her, fed her bottles, picked out her clothes, held her a ton, and spent a lot of time doting on her and making her laugh. She's an amazing sister.

Nathan is cute. He loves her and gives her sweet kisses often. He loves to make her laugh, too. This girl will not be short on entertainment around here!!!

Today we took all the kids to our friends' pool. I didn't really think we would put Jessa in, since, to me, swimming seems like a pretty over-stimulating activity and thus "too much, too soon" for her... But, Ryan really wanted to take her in, and I'm glad we did. I have not seen her as happy and lit up as she was in the pool. She was splashing and kicking making her soaking wet and loving it. I don't think I've seen a baby love the water so much. It was a great memory.

We've been bombarded by love from friends and family - beginning with an amazing welcome at the airport! I will never forget coming up the escalator hearing the kids yell, "They're coming!!" and seeing the faces of dear friends and family who have been in this wait with us for so long.

This is truly a dream come true!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 3 - saying goodbye to the care center

Today was such a memorable day. We went back to the Care Center where Sitota spent 5 months of her life. The children were all napping most of the time we were there so we ended up spending a lot of time talking with Yared who is the Director. First we unloaded the three huge suitcases of donations that our church gave... Diapers, shoes, lotion, shampoo, and a digital baby scale. The staff were thrilled.

Next we enjoyed a traditional lunch of injera and different kinds of wat (stew) followed by rich, dark, yummy coffee! Through the meal Yared told us about himself and his dreams of doing more humanitarian things with orphans in Etiopia. He also shared more about Sitota's journey through the adoption process. We probably talked with him for 2 hours. I think a long term friendship was made.

Finally, it was time for us to leave, so stopped by the baby room to see the adorable babies and take pictures to send to their mommies and daddies in the US. Then they woke the kids up and they literally came stumbling out of their rooms rubbing their eyes. They went to the water spout and splashed their faces with water! How cute!! We gathered them around the donations for a group picture. I tried to tell them that their parents love them and are coming soon... I hope they understand.

We said goodbye and all the boys shook our hands and The girls gave us hugs. Some of them said, I love you. They really are such sweet kids. So glad to know they have families coming. Sad to think there are so many like them in the country who don't.

We pulled away with the kids waving and waving until the gate closed. Our hearts were full from the joy of the children and the love of the people who are taking such good care of them, we really are blessed that Sitota was in their care.

Now she sleeps for her last night in the country of her birth. This beautiful place with even more wonderful people. I hope and pray that we can return with her someday.

Day 2! Embassy Appointment Success!

After a night of not on and off sleep, Asawmenew, the social worker from the agency,picked up at 7:30am for our Embassy appointment with our babe. The appointment was quick and easy. A half hour of waiting and five minutes talking to thedirector of the adoptions unit. He didn't say anything about the investigation, so we assume that there were no problems with any of her documents. Prise God. We were home by 9 am.

Jessa (trying to get used to calling her that)and I took a long nap. Then we met an amazing friend, Fekadu Hailu Kyle, who took us all around Addis to shop for some special things to remember Ethiopia with and give Jessa as she grows up over the years. Two amazing stops... one was the Makush Art Gallery where we found some beautiful art. We were especially blessed by the manager of the art gallery who took the time to tell us how he admires families who will adopt their country's children and thinks it is a wonderful thing. He was so genuine and kind. And it meant so much to us. After that wewent to little shop owned by the birth mom of a boy our friend adopted. We got to meet her and found some sweet things to buy there.

Back t the hotel we all fell asleep by 6pm. Jessa is sleeping well at night, only waking up once or twice for a bottle and little play time. We are loving our one-on-two time with the baby, knowing that these first days are going by so fast. We have so many memories of lots of snuggling and playing and getting to know each other. At the same time we are missing home, especially the kids. We have been getting cute messages from them everyday. We are excited to bring her back to meet everyone there who loves her so much.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Soaking her in - The first day back at the hotel.

Leaving the care center with the baby was crazy. It really happened after all these years. We were all smiles for the ride to the hotel. Asawmenu even played us some rockin Journey songs to add to the excitement. We took turns with her on our lap (yep, no car seats in Ethiopia). Ryan insisted that we record most of the ride which I'm sure will be so bumpy and make everyone dizzy, but he just wanted this moment to be captured. Sweet.

Inside our hotel room, we all layed on the bed and played. Jessa already loves to look right unto our eyes. She showed us how she can roll over and gave us lots of big smiles. The best part was when Ryan tickled her and she let out a huge belly laugh. All this was wearing her out so she fell asleep peacefully next to us on the bed. Ryan promptly fell asleep,too, but I couldnt take my eyes off of her. She only slept dor about 20minutes then woke up without making a peep. I had not been able to get her to take a bottle earlier, so I tried again and she did great -again looking into my eyes as she ate.

Ryan could not peel open his eyelids so Jessa and I went down to the lobby. It was pretty quiet so it was the perfect time to just absorb her. She was so peaceful. She easily nozzled her head on my shoulder. She poked at my nose and eyes. She tugged on my hair? She squeezed my fingers. It really was the best way to get to know each other. So far she has been all peace and happiness, and calm. She only cried once later during the night when Ryan had to use the bulb syringe to clear out her stuffy nose. She hasn't cried when she's hungry or tired or overwhelmed by all this change. Makes for a sweet first day. But I am watching for More subtle signs of her expressing her needs to us. Instead of cries, I notice things like short quiet squawks and a scrunched up face. Sometimes she turns away when she needs a break. Little things that a momma should respond to when her baby hasn't had a momma to notice before.

Laterback in the room with Daddy awake, we played some more until bedtime. She drifted off to sleep in the crib without a sound, except for the sucking on her fingers. She slept. We slept. We woke up at 1am. Checked facebook and email. Ryan got up at 2 and she was awake. Quiet as could be. So we got her up and played and did the bulb syringe, gave her a bottle, laid her on her tummy between us on the bed and she peacefully went back to sleep. Hmmmm. If only I could do the same.

We finished our first day together in awe of this Gift (which many Ethiopians remind us is what Sitota means in Amharic). We know that we are so blessed.