Friday, February 11, 2011

My Everyday

Katie who recently began Faithblogs, encouraged writers to post on our "Everyday".

Here's my not-so- everyday Everyday
Only by the grace of God, am I able to get up about an hour to two hours before anyone else on this side of the world cares to get up. This is my alone time, my Jesus and me time, and I love it. I make a big pot of coffee and settle in for some bible reading, prayer, and writing. Some days I don't get up so early, like today, when my husband awakens me and asks if he should set the alarm.

My dear sweet husband leaves for work, and I usually say something like, "Don't leave me here with them." (meaning the monsters-aka toddlers). For those of you who don't know me, yes, I think all my children are absolute blessings and amazing, God-breathed wonders! Yes, it's true, I need an attitude adjustment on my mothering attitude at times. Yet, it's also true, that my toddlers plot and plan in their cribs to see how incredibly difficult one day can be for a mom.

So, I hear Gabriel around 6:30. Usually let him get awake for a few minutes and then batten down the hatches and prepare for Hurricane Gabriel's arrival each day.

The routine:
Close and lock all doors, not EVER forgetting the bathroom
Put Sawyer's, the dog, water dish high, where no child can reach
Put Sawyer's food dish away (some days I leave this as a chore for Gabriel-he love it
Put my coffee HIGH, so he doesn't drink it like he's done a few times before.
Push all items to the back of the counter top
I wake the big kids around 7:00. They eat breakfast. Most days we read a verse or I share something from my devotional time. We pray and they're off to school.

Finally, go retrieve a jumping boy from his crib. Yes, most days he's jumping or shaking his crib.

Gabriel's partner in crime, aka Ana, awakes somewhere in this process. The girl loves her sleep-once she's sleeping that is. After they've eaten, they start carrying out the actions I'm sure they've planned overnight. They have quite a system. Sometimes they work together and sometimes it's divide and conquer. Who knew two toddlers, one 18 months and one 19 months could wreak so much havoc.

One scheme of theirs is to go to the door that Gabriel can't unlock and Ana can't open. Ana quickly unlocks and Gabriel opens, and they're off to freedom. They typically don't go far-yet! Today I heard congas playing in the back stairway. Yep, they escaped and found Cole's congas. They actually sounded pretty good. We've tried multiple latches on doors and for the most part, unless a door is inadvertently left ajar, we're in fairly good shape. The last of the drawers to be secured, because it was high, not because we're total dodos, was the knife drawer. Jim came home from work one day, and I said, "Um, hon, I'm pretty sure we need a lock on the knife drawer. Ana came in wielding a knife today. Seriously. Gabriel opened the drawer and as any generous brother would do, handed her the knife. Not that I can prove this, except I'm going on past experience and they certainly have set a precedent for themselves in carrying out their schemes. What Gabriel can't unlock, Ana can. What Ana can't reach on tip-toes or scale because of heights, Gabriel is happy to oblige.

This week I have done the following:
1. Pulled a roll of paper towels from the toilet
2. Pulled the same roll of wet paper towels from the hands of the "other one"
3. Pulled both children from being stuck in the baker's rack
4. Removed Gabriel from the top of a bar stool, dining room table, and the computer table
5. Retrieved 6 pieces of gum from Ana's mouth, half a sweet tart wrapper from Ana's mouth, an entire paper towel from Gabriel's mouth (You know when they ask you at the doctor's office if your children eat unusual things. I gave my husband a sideways glance and told them, "Yes!," half expecting to receive a pamphlet on it or something, but I don't think they believed me, though, 'cause the nurse just carried on in her questioning.
6. Figured out a way to keep the toddlers from the kitchen-FOREVER! Let's hope their callings aren't chefs, 'cause they're not being encouraged here.

The mama list of things I've done could go on and on. Really. I can't believe what these little ones can do in a day. I suppose it's my job to train them in the healthy ways to express their creativity, strength, pioneering abilities, and curiosity. So, this is my typical day until about 3:00 when the The Rescuers, aka the sane people in the family return home. I love seeing each one of them coming through the door.

I am so thankful for this life. Perhaps I need reminded of it from time to time. Actually, I do. So, if you see me and I look tired, I am. If you see me and I look like I need a break, I probably do. But make no mistake, I wouldn't trade this for anything in the world. As my oldest daughter often sings, "I don't wanna gain the whole world and lose my soul." I know for certain that God has given me the incredible gifts of being a wife and being a mother. I have a lot to learn about gentleness and patience. Love and perseverance. I am ever so thankful for God's amazing grace, mercy, leading, and love.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

God's Grace~The Artwork, The Completion (for this season), The Creation, of Our Family

I started to think this day would never come, when the impact of God's grace on our family would finally hit me like a rushing waterfall. I thought the moments settled somewhere deep in the recesses of my being. I've seen glimpses of them, but they retreat quickly to that hidden place. I thought I would shed many tears of joy-wonder-amazement-as I landed in Ethiopia, departed from Ethiopia, returned home to my family, or at least certainly sometime over the course of the last year, but mostly they stayed hidden. Until today.

This moment.

Right now.

The impact of God's grace in the life of our family wells up in my heart and spills tears of pure wonder and amazement over my eyelids.

His grace.

Today, this day~ Oh, the thoughts of arriving home from Ethiopia and seeing the creation of a family of children right before my very eyes~Yes, I have witnessed a miracle.

Her eyes danced as she saw us pull up. She jumped as if on a nonstop pogo stick. She squealed with delight and she ran down the hall and then back again. And when she saw them, her jaw dropped. She uttered sweet words of how cute they were and couldn't wait to wrap her
sister-arms around them.

That boy, he stood in amazement as he looked upon his newest siblings. He cried. I think he cried because he knew. He knew that only the God of the universe could orchestrate something so perfect.

Their grandparents stood back. Watching with wonder. Extending grace to a family who was being molded together before their very eyes. Oh, how we love them.

And above the 4 Laubach children's heads as they huddled together on the floor, hung a banner, proclaiming that Ana and Gabriel were indeed "HOME", where they belong.

Today, in just a few short hours, we will rejoice with some of the tiny and adult hands that made that banner, as those same hands and hearts WELCOME HOME their son and brother from Bulgaria.

Indeed, Father, it is by your grace we are what we are.

We praise you.

We honor you.

We love you.

May you be glorified. For your Name's sake.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the one He loves. ~Ephesians 1:4

Friday, February 4, 2011

Departing Ethiopia in Not-So-Much Style

First, a few random photos of our time in Ethiopia.

Just one of the many delicious meals we had while at the guest house.
Where we ate lunch most days-it was rough :-)
Little Ana in Ethiopia. This was one of my favorite outfits.
Sweet Gabriel, sucking those two fingers, even then.

The not-so-smooth departure
Friday was departure day. Ana was not feeling well upon waking, so we talked with the orphanage/guest home coordinator about what to do. She suggested we take her back to the orphanage doctor. We decided the men would stay behind and pack and the girls would take Ana back to the orphanage to the doctor. To say my nerves were crazy would be an understatement. We weaved our way through the streets of Addis once again, to the orphanage. We met with the doctor, who we had met once before in our general overview meeting of the children. As she was examining Ana, she was telling us what was going on and then started recommending medications and how to administer. She speaks English very well, but I was totally overwhelmed by this point, didn't have a pen and paper, and I seriously think I was shutting down. I knew I was totally reliant upon the Lord at this point to see us through. As we left the orphanage, I said to my friend, "What did she say"? My friend, too, had difficulty understanding all that she said. The doctor had given us a prescription, so I showed it to our driver and he took us to a pharmacy in the middle of Addis. I don't even know how to describe all I was feeling. After moments inside the pharmacy, which was the size of large bathroom, I could have kissed the people behind the counter. One young man spoke English very well, and I knew exactly what I needed to do to administer Ana's meds when we left the store. Thank you, God.

We headed back to the guesthouse to finish packing and preparing for our flight home. The flight home was one of the most physically and emotionally challenging things I've ever faced. Ana was throwing up all over the airport. She was already dehydrated. So, I'm thinking, "What am I going to do if she gets worse while we're flying over the pacific ocean?" At this point, I think I was working in my own strength. Even now though, looking back, I don't know I could have done things differently. I was totally overwhelmed. Thank you, Lord, for never changing, even as my feelings and actions fluctuate.

After convincing security to let Ana's medication through (which was a huge liquid bottle), we boarded the plane heading for Dubai. Our plane didn't take off for over an hour. This meant our layover in Dubai was cut down to minutes. As we sat on the plane waiting to take off, I started to feel ill. I remember thinking that certainly I couldn't be getting sick. BUT-certainly, I was. By the time we landed in Dubai, I seriously did not care if we landed safely or not-I was that sick. They graciously held the plane for us and about 50 other people, many who had small children. However, we had to force-march/sprint through the airport. I never wanted to lay down so badly in all my life. We had some difficulty with our passports, but again, there was a very gracious man who was so so sweet and assured me everything was going to be okay. Jim had taken Gabriel to change him because Gabriel had a major blow-out while in the carrier. Jim was getting ill, and he said he had to change him. I was so nervous that the plane would take off without Jim and Gabriel.

Our flight home was challenging. But, by God's grace, Ana started feeling better. Thank you, Lord. I literally was in the bathroom more than I was not due to illness. Jim and our friends took care of the babies the entire 14 hour flight home. I just couldn't do anything. At one point, they took me to the back of the plane and gave me medicine. Once it kicked it, I started feeling better. We were about 2 hours from home. There was a soldier coming home from Afghanistan who sat by Jim. He helped us so much. At one point toward the end of the flight, when everyone was totally exhausted, he even held Ana for us. Again, thank you, Lord. I remember him pointing to Boston as we flew over and said, that's where I'm heading. He couldn't wait to see his little girl. (Thank you to all who serve our country.)

We did laugh at least once on the way home, even if it was at my expense. We were about an hour from New York, and I got up to go to the bathroom one last time. I got to the door of the bathroom, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to get into the bathroom. I stood there puzzled. It wouldn't have been a big deal, but I was in that same bathroom no less than 20 times already throughout the entire flight home. I looked back the aisle at Jim and the soldier for assistance, like something was wrong with the door. I couldn't believe it. They were both laughing at me. They motioned how to get into the bathroom. Jim told me later that the soldier had nudged him and told him to look at his wife trying to get into the bathroom. He recognized it as fatigue-at least that's what he told my husband. I mean, what kind, upstanding soldier would say to another man, "Hey, look at your wife-the woman you chose to have four children with-she can't even figure out how to get into a bathroom."

Snowstorms had hit New York and the surrounding area and closed down airports for at least a day after we landed. We were blessed to be able to arrive home and land when we did. I will never forget the sheer joy of stepping foot onto the airport floor at JFK. I could have rolled around, did cartwheels, anything. It was the best feeling. We went through customs quite easily and walked through the doors to see our friend who so graciously volunteered to pick us up. My husband says that was one of the best sights of his life-seeing our friend's face in the crowd. Once situated, we loaded in the van and made our way home to introduce our four children to one another-one of the sweetest memories for us.

I praise you, Lord, as I look back at our flight home and see how your grace saw us through the entire thing. While it wasn't easy, it was possible only because of you. Thank you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Forever Signed Out of the Orphanage-one year ago


We awoke after our first full night with Ana and Gabriel. I don't remember many of the details of the night. I know we were awake in the middle of the night, giving Gabriel medicine (which oddly enough we were doing last night, too) and giving each of them bottles. One thing I loved about the orphanage staff was that the babies were on a schedule, BUT the schedule included a midnight feeding, which I was not too fond of.

We went to the orphanage with two other families. We received traditional Ethiopian outfits for both Ana and Gabriel, signed the necessary paperwork, and that was it. We visited the store of the orphanage and picked up a few things for Cole and Julia and for Ana and Gabriel to give to them as they get older. One thing we purchased was a tablecloth w/ the toukoul huts around the edge. Thus far, we've used it for Ana's and Gabriel's birthdays.

In the evening, we were encouraged to go to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. Our friends and another adopting couple went with us. We met our lawyer at the restaurant and he joined us for dinner. Our drivers were with us, too. It was a great experience. I still can't believe the way the women and men could dance. You have to see the women whip their heads around to believe it. While at the restaurant, there was a wedding party that came for the reception. It was interesting to see.

Unfortunately, Ana started getting sick this evening (now we know it was the formula) and we were scheduled to depart the next day. Our departure day would prove to be a challenging one.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Entoto Mountain and the Babies First Night with Us

Wednesday was the day we had planned to unofficially check the babies out of the orphanage. We couldn't officially sign them out forever until after our embassy appointment, which was the following day. During our time in Ethiopia, the babies' stay in the orphanage was much like my biological children's stay in the hospital's nursery. When my children were in the hospital, I was not one to want to keep my children with me all through the night. I appreciated my sleep, and I trusted the nurses caring for my children. The same can be said for the orphanage. While I absolutely loved my children, I appreciated the transition time for them and for us. This was not the process for another family who arrived in Ethiopia with us. They arrived in Ethiopia and picked up their son the same day. Their family seemed to transition smoothly. Each family must make the decision that's best for their family.

It was decided upon with the orphanage director that we would visit Entoto Mountain in the morning and pick the babies up afterward. Our friends and us packed in our van and were taken through the streets of Addis. Perhaps it's called a hill in Ethiopia, I'm not sure, but from my comparison to the landscape of PA, it was definitely a mountain. I'm told the Ethiopian athletes train on the mountain. It made me tired just looking at it. There were several young people filling the streets just below the mountain. Several women were walking the mountain with firewood on their backs. We saw donkeys/burros carrying firewood as well. Children were walking up and down the mountain. I just sat and stared out the window at the wonder before my eyes. Again, I was reminded, "I wasn't in Kansas anymore."
We visited the museum at the top of the mountain and gave out a few pens at the suggestion of our agency. People came out of the woodwork to receive a pen. I've looked back on this experience and wondered what a few pens could do. I'm not sure of the answer, but I do know it allowed me to touch the people. There was one older gentleman, sitting with his bible, which looked ancient-literally. I sat down beside him and handed him the pen. He looked at me in a way I couldn't decipher. Had he seen a pen before? Was he wondering what I was doing? I couldn't read the expression on his face. Not knowing what else to do, I ripped a piece of paper from my journal and drew a smiley face on it. He gave me a human smile. I gave him the paper and my farewell and headed back to my husband. We loaded back into the van and headed for Toukoul to sign the babies out of the orphanage.

Driving with the babies in the van for the first time was a bit interesting. There are no seat belts and no car seats in Addis. I suppose all of Ethiopia. I'm can be a bit of a safety nut, but it didn't really bother me. It just felt odd, holding the babies in our laps. I remember being sad that when we returned to the US, they would have to be in car seats. (I would have been even sadder, had I known how Ana would scream in hers :-) I don't remember much of the rest of our evening. I know we started the babies on the formula we took, which would lead to a badddd evening the next night. We didn't know it at the time, but both babies are lactose intolerant. I recall being up throughout the night, but I don't know how often. I know we were up at midnight, as the orphanage fed them every night at this time. Gabriel was also on medication for his breathing, which we had to administer through the night at some point.

We awoke on Thursday and prepared to sign the babies out of the orphanage forever.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Would You Do It All Over Again?

Daddy and Gabriel.
Signing Gabriel and Ana out of the orphanage.

The coffee ceremony.

Mama and Ana.

Leaving the orphanage for the last time. (except when we had to take Ana back to the dr.:-)

Last night, my husband and I reflected on walking back through our adoption and discussed whether or not we would choose to walk back through the circumstances of this last year.

Both of us absolutely would walk back through the year to have our son and daughter in our arms, but we were discussing the circumstances on which we had different answers. I said an emphatic, "NO", I would not choose to walk through the circumstances again. Jim said a calm, "yes", he would. I reminded him of Ana being sick before our departure, me being sick the whole plane ride home, our mad-dash through the Dubai airport to catch our plane, our horrid diarrhea upon returning home, moving from our house, moving from our church, and our accident. He just laughed.

I lay this out for other adoptive families who may not have their child/children in their arms yet and even for others who put expectations on future endeavors. I often have an expectation of how things are going to go, how I'm going to feel, and how I'm going to be smiling all the while I'm doing it, when in reality, things most often do not go the way I think they will, my emotions are crazy, and I'm often crying or silent instead of smiling. I often say I have a rainbows and unicorns mentality before the fact, and during I wonder what hit me.

I definitely had this mentality in preparing for our time in Ethiopia. I expected to feel "love at first sight" when landing on Ethiopian soil. I didn't. It felt so surreal, that I don't know that I had any emotions, or perhaps too many to express. I expected to feel "right at home", when in reality, I felt "so far from home". This IS how I felt when we landed in Guatemala 6 months prior. I felt "at home". During our stay in Ethiopia, I expected to meet a hundred people I fell in love with and we'd keep in touch-well, I don't think I remember one person's name, with the exception of our driver, who spoke little English.

Everyone was so welcoming and the people were just beautiful. We were well taken care of and I loved so many things about Addis. Even now, I can reflect back and remember tiny details that make my heart swell.
I love how the roads had no signs-it pretty much fits my don't-put-me-in-a-box mentality.
I love the young woman at the desk of our guest house. She was so sweet.
I love our driver, even though we communicated very little. I love how he reminded me of George Jefferson and all the while I felt like he was our protector.
I love how we sat on the balcony at night playing cards with our friends.
I love hearing the Ethiopian music wafting through the guesthouse as we slept.
I love the memory of holding the man's hand at Entoto mountain.
I love how the many cupped his hands and said a million thanks for shoes that a teenager had sent from the US for someone who could use them.
I love how the men showed affection toward one another.
I love how we ate outdoors almost every lunch.
I love how there was a calmness about the people.
So many things to love...

Is it possible to prepare and move forward with no huge expectations of feeling this and feeling that? I suppose it is. I believe this is how my husband operates, and I so admire him for it.

I wonder as I type if I tried to do things in my own strength while in Addis. In part, I suppose I did. I know for certain that it is God's amazing grace that has seen us through the last year. I know God works all things for good for those who love him. I know we are richly blessed beyond measure. I know Jesus Christ holds all things together. I know I choose the One True God versus the god of my feelings today as I walk out the steps before me.

May you be richly and deeply blessed as you move forward in whatever steps the Lord may have you take today and always, for His Name's sake and glory alone.