Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm Glad We Adopted First

My husband and I decided to adopt first when we were just 23 and 25 years old. We adopted our son Israel from Ethiopia, and then had a biological daughter, Edith, a little over a year later. Our kids are 22 months apart. Our decision to adopt Israel was very intentional, and our decision to have Edith was more unexpected (read the story here).

The other day my mom and I were talking about cocooning, because she was talking with another grandmother who was awaiting an adopted grandchild. My mom told me she was really glad that we adopted first, because we didn't have to worry about other kids during the transition. That got me thinking... there's many reasons why I'm glad we adopted first!

  • Cocooning. (See this thread on previous posts). We were able to cocoon with Israel and it didn't affect anyone else but us. I got an excuse to be a selfish mama and keep all the snuggles to myself for a few weeks! :) On the flip side, when you have a biological child second, you don't have to cocoon and it seems so radical! 
  • By adopting first you have all of this education on the emotional health of your adopted kiddos... so you do everything "by the book" to help heal your traumatized kids' hearts... so when you DON'T Have to do that for your biological child it makes it seem a lot easier the second time parenting!
  • By missing the first months of Israel's life, I have a new appreciation for Edith's early days. Israel wasn't in our home for the first 7 months of his life, and we didn't get to experience the early baby stage with him. So instead of wishing away the early months of dependency, I'm soaking it in for the both of them. Often you hear parents say that they cherished their latter kids' early stages more than the first kid. We get to enjoy Edith's early days and don't take them for granted.  
  • It is a million times less expensive to have biological children. Adopting first makes you realize the value of children and what a blessing they are. By adopting first we didn't take having kids for granted. We were able to save, spend time creatively fundraising, and work really hard to bring Israel home. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting at times, and I'm glad we were able to devote the time and energy into it when there were only two of us. 
  • Adopting first made us realize the importance of living missionally and globally. We realized the purchases we made make a difference- buying fair trade, spending our money intentionally, supporting other families, etc. We learned about another country and another culture and have desires to honor Ethiopia in the way that we raise our child. Not saying that you can't do that with biological children, but having an adopted child forces the culture of your home to change. When we were putting ornaments on the tree this year, I was so happy to see all of the Ethiopia/Africa ornaments from various fundraisers of my adopting peers. We have an Ethiopian nativity and table linens that are on display. Ethiopia is a part of our family culture now, and that is an honor. 
  • Adopting first is harder. It is really hard when you are helping a traumatized child heal and transition. You can't let your child cry it out, and you have to be so intentional about caring for your child's heart. We had months of sleeplessness and babywearing as we sought to do what was best for Israel. It was exhausting and physically draining! But we sowed into our son and are reaping joy and healing. We didn't have to worry about tending to other kids when we were dealing with our traumatized baby. We could give him 100% attention. With our second, biological child it has been much easier. SO MUCH EASIER! Sleep-deprivation does not include wondering about her emotional health or attachment. We do not question every interaction with strangers or wonder where she stands with her attachment towards us. It's okay for friends to hold her or for her to be passed around at church. 
  • To my second child, diversity in our home will always be normal. Edith will always have had a brown-skinned, Ethiopian brother. She will only know her family this way! 
  • Adoption is a priority for us, and we were able to make sure that we accomplished something that we felt the Lord's call to do. We knew that having children was going to make our life complicated (okay maybe we really didn't grasp that until we HAD kids!) and so we wanted to make sure that we adopted. That's why we adopted first, because we wanted to make adoption a priority. We knew finances and jobs and school could always change and make adoption difficult... so adopting first allowed us to make sure that we really got to do it! 
These are just a few reasons why I'm thankful our family chose to adopt first. I realize every family has their own reasons for doing things the way they do them! And sometimes, you don't get to plan out the way you have your family. I just want to encourage any other families that are thinking about adopting first, that it is GOOD and HARD but worth it! To my waiting mama friends... keep persevering! The wait is so hard. It is unbearable at times, but you will reap in joy what you sow in tears (Psalm 126:5). Adoption includes LOSS and the experience will change you in so many ways. I cannot imagine coming out from the adoption experience as the same person I was at 23 when we started. We have been stretched in good ways. I'm so thankful God saw fit for our family to start with Israel and then to have Edith. He is faithful and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Weekend Getaway

A few weeks ago we went to the Georgia mountains for a little weekend getaway. We went last year as a family of three, and this year we invited our dear friends, the Rodens, to join us. They have a little girl who is about to turn one, and she and Israel play together a lot. It was a lot of fun getting out of town. We unplugged, enjoyed each other's company and read a lot!

We made a quick outing to the Cabbage Patch Babyland, and also went into Helen in the afternoon. It was a short getaway (Thursday-Saturday) but it was really nice to break up the routine of our life!

All in all, it was a great trip! I'm thankful our friends came too!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Feeling Thankful Tonight

Tonight I'm feeling thankful for a few things. It's been a long day but God is good. I haven't jumped on the "feeling thankful" facebook trend, but tonight I feel that a bit of reflection here is appropriate!

Today at therapy Israel held on to the arms of a walker today for several minutes! At the end of therapy each week they try to put him in a walker, and he is becoming less scared and more confident. He didn't take any steps, but he held on! That was huge.

I turned in a 19 page paper yesterday. I'm thankful that is off my to-do list! Only a few more assignments/tests and I'll be done with this semester! Woo hoo!

I'm thankful that Will can come home for lunch most days. It's a great blessing to see him mid-day, even if its for a few minutes.

Today during meal times I marveled at the fact that my son can self-feed, drink with a straw, and can pick up a sippy cup without handles. Just a few months ago I thought those things would never happen.

After we got home from therapy today, I put Israel down in the den with a bowl of dry cheerios while I went upstairs to put Edith down. When I came back, there were cheerios EVERYWHERE but in the bowl. I put them back in the bowl and walked off again, and when I looked back Israel was taking cheerios by the handful and throwing them around the room, the way a person would throw bread to birds. It was hilarious. He is the silliest kid.

I'm thankful that I've been able to sell some stuff on a local yard sale FB page. Getting rid of excess and making some money for things we need has been super helpful. God is faithful to provide. In  related note, we had a Christmas-themed consignment sale here in Jacksonville last week and I sold some stuff that Israel wasn't using and made $100! After a really hard week of a flat tire, broken washing machine, dead battery, and other unexpected expenses it was great timing.

Tuesday night we had a meeting with some of our college ministry leaders. I got a babysitter and was able to attend and worship and pray with some of our students. It was so refreshing. Both kids did great, and I was able to connect with our students, which seems rare for me in this season!

I'm really excited that I get to see my family next week. My sister had a baby a few weeks ago that I can't wait to meet! My grandparents will get to meed Edith. I always love it when I can see my siblings (we will have 4 out of 5 there!) and I am counting down until next week. I'm definitely not looking forward to the drive to NC but it will be worth it.

Finally, I'm so thankful for Will. He's the best. Seriously. He has shown me so much grace lately and he has been so supportive of me during my school this year. He's not once complained about my lack of meal planning or pitiful attempts at housecleaning. He is always serving others and pouring out and doesn't complain. I am so thankful for a spouse that I truly respect and care for.

What are you thankful for tonight?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thriving in the Chaos

Sometimes Will and I just have to laugh when things are just truly chaotic. Sometimes both kids will be screaming, we will have unending poopy diapers, and we just look at each other and try to remember that these are good days.

But amidst the chaos, we really do have fun and are enjoying this busy, full season. Here are a few things that keep us sane:

1. Family walks. Almost every day, Will takes Israel or all four of us go on family walks. It helps break up the afternoon. We're having to figure things out now that daylight savings time has stolen our evening hours! But family walks have been a great outing for us to stay sane and take up those hours before bedtime that seem to drag by.

2. Weekly dates. Every Tuesday morning after I drop Israel off at school, Will and I go get breakfast somewhere. It may be McDonalds or Waffle House, but we intentionally sit down over coffee and chat about life together. Edith is with us, but we are spending time talking about ministry, school, and things that are important to us. It is a good sacrifice of our time and money to have weekly dates. Even if they only last 20 minutes, it is time that is well spent.

3. Sunday night band practice. Every Sunday night, we go up to the church to watch our college band practice. Israel loves (I mean LOVES) watching the band. It allows for me to spend some time with college students, and Will can get a few ministry tasks done on Sunday night while we are all together. I love that our kids are around college students that love the Lord.

4. Doing mindless activities. With both of us in school, it is important for Will and I to take breaks from reading schoolbooks and do non-school activities sometimes. We watch TV together or read books (I just finished the Divergent series!). We need to mentally take breaks and not let ourselves be consumed by the always present to-do list. There will always be housework or school to do, but sometimes you just need to rest and enjoy each other.

5. Prayer, scripture, and listening to good sermons. This goes without saying, right? But seriously, keeping ourselves grounded in the Word and reminding ourselves of God's faithfulness allows us to see beyond the daily grind and to the big picture. This season serves a purpose, and we are a part of something much bigger than poopy diapers and laundry piles. Our every day faithfulness reflects a big, sovereign God.

What keeps you sane? 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shout Out: The Montz Family

Meet Jason & Heather Montz!

Jason is an only child and I am the youngest daughter of 3. Jason went to a
small Christian school where as I went to the largest public school in our
county. We both attended University of Mobile. We had mutual friends all
along but didn't meet until Sophomore year of college through a friend at
chucrh. We were married in 2008. Jason is the music minister at our
church and I work at a crisis pregnancy center.

I always knew I would adopt one day, regardless of if we were able to have
biological children. We just always thought it would be our second child
that we would adopt. After 3 years of marriage and no pregnancies I knew
something was wrong. After many medical test, changes in diet, fertility
treatments, and more I decided I was "over it". Jason asked if I would be
willing to wait a little longer before we started the adoption process. We
agreed our 5th Anniversary would be the line. We continued to research all
our adoption options without stepping out to do it. We celebrated our 5th
Anniversary in April of 2013. In May of 2013 after attending a local
informational meeting we decided domestic adoption was the best path for us.

We have launched our first fundraiser to help get the process started. We
are selling shirts through BonfireFunds. We must sell at least 50 shirts by
December 5, 2013. Shirts are shipped directly to the buyer from
BonfireFunds. You can purchase a shirt at

Check out the Montz Family Blog here!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Edith: Three Months Old

Dear Edie girl,

You are three months old! Slow down, time! You are such a precious gift to us. We have loved seeing your personality start to come out this month. You are quite the talker! You love to giggle and show off your two dimples. You love watching your brother play, and you make him laugh when you talk to him. You really wave your arms and kick your legs when you are laying on your back. Sometimes I think you really have a message you're trying to tell us! You are starting to really observe toys and things around you. It's fun to watch you talk to your toys on your playmat. The other day you were sitting in the bumbo chair on the counter, and you had a full conversation with a Miralax bottle!

You're wearing 3 month clothes, and cloth diapers most of the time, but size 1 when you are in disposables. You love getting a bath, and you smile when you get your diaper changed. You are really good at tummy time but don't like to do it very long! The other day you flipped from front to back when you were on our bed, so I don't know if that really counts as rolling over since the mattress gave you a little help!

You're not sleeping through the night anymore. You still get up about 2-3 times a night. We recently moved you from your Rock and Play sleeper to the pack and play in the room, and you do well lying flat on your back. You sleep in your crib for some naps, but you still fall asleep in other places too! We are on the go a lot with your brother so you don't have much of a consistent schedule yet. I'm so thankful you are flexible and can take a bottle if necessary in a waiting room or at church!

You had a few big milestones this month: your first family trip was to the Georgia mountains. We even took you to the Cabbage Patch hospital, but you slept through it! You also visited your daddy's hometown and saw a parade! We went to a Pumpkin Patch, a Fall Festival, and a costume party for the college ministry. Technically you won the 2nd place at the costume party because we were Justin Timberlake and his mirrors, and "Baby Mirror" won the award! Just this week you stayed in the church nursery for the first time. You were the only baby so you had a lot of snuggles and attention!

Edith Joy, you are such a treasure. We are so thankful for you and the added blessing that you are. Some days I am overwhelmed by the gifts that I have been given in you and your brother. You guys are the best kids in the world.

With love,

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shout Out: Meet the Rickenbachs!

Meet Katie and Andrew!

My name is Katie Rickenbach. My husband Andrew and I are adopting from Bulgaria! We are waiting for a referral right now and hoping to get siblings, either gender, up to age 6. Our blog is: http://adoptingourchild.blogspot.com

Andrew and I have been married a little over 3 years. Soon after we were married, God started laying the call to adopt in our hearts.  Scripture and learning the need of orphans played a big part in this. We really wanted to give an orphan parents! After 2 years of marriage, decided to put off having biological children and pursue adoption instead. We researched domestic, foster care, and international adoption. International adoption seemed the direction God was leading us. We ended up choosing the country of Bulgaria because it seemed the best fit as far as requirements, cost of adoption, and the availability of children with the characteristics that we felt we would be best able to parent.

We recently finished a Both Hands Project
 by working on widow's home! All our volunteers sent out sponsorship letters, and the supplies were donated by local merchants! 100% of the money raised will go to our adoption. Donations are tax-deductible. AND we have a $3,000 matching grant from LifeSong for Orphans!

Here is the video from our workday at the widow's house: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6entEJCslBg&feature=youtu.be

There are 2 ways to donate. 
1. Send in a check to LifeSong for Orphans 202 N. Ford St.,
Gridley, IL 61744. Write in the memo line: preference Rickenbach #3783
2. Donate safely online here: http://bothhandsfoundation.org/andrew-and-katie-rickenbach (PayPal charges an administrative fee of 1.9% to 2.9% + $0.30 USD per transaction.)

We also have an Amazon Affiliates account! When people shop using our link, it won't charge them anything extra and we earn 6%! www.tinyurl.com/helpandrewandkatieadopt

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thoughts on B-Feeding

This may be awkward, but here it goes. I feel like people don't really talk about breastfeeding, and I had no idea of what it would be like. I just thought it would be natural and easy. It is, but it isn't too. So here's my brain dump of thoughts on the subject.

I never really thought much about breastfeeding until I got pregnant. With an adoption, I knew I didn't want to induce lactation (as many do with adopted kiddos) because I don't like messing with my body with medicines/ hormones. Formula was a given, and Israel was on soy formula for months at Hannah's Hope because of his lactose issues. I remember reading blogs about formula versus breastfeeding, and even received some comments on this blog about the dangers of {soy} formula for babies. I felt defensive! They say "breast is best"- but what about those people whose babies can't process breastmilk? What about all those kids in orphanages who HAVE to have formula? What about my son who was getting soy formula, and I couldn't do anything about it?

I really hate when people get on their formula vs. breastfeeding soapbox, because this is another aspect of motherhood that is deeply personal and sometimes really difficult. Some people want to breastfeed but can't produce enough; some people want to do formula from the start because they want both parents to be involved in that aspect of caring for their baby. It is a hard decision. There are high financial and emotional costs to both.

I really wanted to try to breastfeed Edith. It is something I really felt like I missed out on with Israel. I longed for that bonding process with him, and wanted to give it a shot. In my pregnancy, what scared me the most was thinking about breastfeeding. I read a book right before I had her about it, and went in to the hospital armed with techniques and a game plan for getting her to latch. I felt an enormous pressure to do this right; she depended on me and I needed to make it work.

So far, things have been going really well. Edith is 2 1/2 months old now, and we are still exclusively breastfeeding. She does get pumped bottles regularly (almost once a day), and we introduced the bottle at 2 weeks because I had to leave her all day for class when she was just four weeks old. I pump every morning first thing, and often pump throughout the day if I need to. I'm definitely overproducing, and I'm currently storing extra milk with friends in their deep freezer until we purchase our own. It is a huge blessing to be able to pump extra, and I don't take that for granted.

I didn't expect the hormones and emotions that would come with it. Breastfeeding is physically demanding and exhausting. I am always aware of my daughter's needs and the timing of the clock. It is a burden and a privilege. It is emotionally tiring when Edith is fussy and won't latch at night. I ask myself if she's getting enough, have I eaten anything that will mess her up, did I drink one too many cups of coffee today? I am the sole provider of my daughter's nourishment, and that is both beautiful and scary.

I love when she is eating and pulls away to smile at me. I love the noises she makes when she eats. I don't love wearing a cover up to nurse when I need to be private, and I don't love that breastfeeding is awkward (I'm not brave enough to be one of those bare-all people) and sometimes feels embarrassing when I have to go in a separate place to feed. It is isolating at times. I've had mastitis. I've pumped AND fed in a bathroom and car. It's not glamorous but it is a sacrifice that I want to make.

I don't have a set goal in mind. I really want to go as long as I can. On fussy nights when E won't eat, I fear that she is weaning and it breaks me up. I am not ready to give it up. I want to do this, even though it is the hardest, most self-sacrificing, emotional and physical gift I've ever done.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Israel's Birthday Celebrations

Israel turned 2 on October 12, and it worked out that we had a little Elmo-themed birthday party that day! We had some family and friends celebrate our boy with us at the church "cafe." We kept it simple with sandwiches and chips and cake. I've seen other Elmo-themed parties that have really taken the theme and run with it, but we just did what we could with a 2 month old and a busy season! Will's mom made our awesome cake and cupcakes. She made Israel's cake last year too!

Israel loved having the attention from his family. I think the best part for him was all the grandparents and aunts/uncles loving on him. We decided not to do presents again this year, because he has everything he needs and doesn't cognitively understand gifts just yet. Both of our parents chipped in and bought us a double stroller for his birthday. and he LOVES riding on the stroller, so I consider that a win for all of us! Last year they went in on the swingset for Israel's birthday, and I like the idea of getting him one big gift instead of a bunch of small things that he doesn't need.

After the party, we headed home and Israel took a nap while our families hung out. Will's parents, sister & fam, and brother stayed for the afternoon and we went out to dinner that night. It was really nice spending the day with family.

I was very emotional about Israel turning 2 this year! He's such a precious boy. On Tuesday, Israel took cupcakes (from Wal Mart... yeah I'm not supermom!) to school and shared them with his peers. I'm thankful the director at the school sent me a few pictures of my boy tearing into his cupcake! He doesn't get treats like cupcakes that often so he loved it.

We love our sweet boy and we are SO proud of him. Can't wait to see what the Lord does this year through this spunky, silly kid. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Halloween Festivities

We had two Halloween festivities this year. The first was a college party with our ministry. It was after Israel's bedtime, so he slept while we partied!

Justin Timberlake and his mirrors!

Jake dressed as Will!

Second, our church had a fall festival. We were an Atlanta Braves family. I drew on a onesie for Edith to make her a baseball.

It was a lot of fun and we're glad we got to get out as a family! Israel enjoyed it too!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shout Out: The Moorhouses!

I'm so excited to introduce you to a very special adoption family! Meet Jeremy and Shelly! They have a fundraiser that is time-sensitive to this week, can you check it out and consider giving at least $1?

Hi everyone!  We are in the middle of a special adoption fundraising week over at Give One Save One to help us bring our daughter home from Bulgaria. Here's how it works: 

  • First, check out the feature about us on the G1S1 blog.
  • Then, consider giving $1 (or more) to support our adoption. Everyone's dollar is important!
  • Finally, share the fundraiser link so we can get the word out to more people!  This is really key for a fruitful fundraising week!

The feature and the video should help you learn more about us, but you can also visit my blogMoorhouses On Mission to learn more about our adoption story.
Jeremy & Shelly Moorhouse

Monday, November 4, 2013

Children's Book Giveaway! (Closed)

Israel is really into reading books right now, and I love it! He has his favorite books and we can sit for a while and read together. I love reading adoption books to him because I am constantly reminded that my boy is so very special! Here's a new book, "Born from the Heart" by Berta Serrano!

I was recently given the opportunity to review a brand new children's book about adoption, and I'm SOO excited that I get to share a free copy to one of you! This new book is so sweet. It is about a couple that wants a baby, and they visit the doctor to get a "recipe" for a baby and go home to make it. The mom starts to "show" her big heart as it grows. It is a really cute analogy! When the time is right, the couple travels to get the baby.

I really like this book because it is different from other adoption books. It is one that I could be comfortable reading to Edith (my biological daughter), because the adoption themes are subtle and it recognizes that the mommy's love for her child is outward.

So... would you like to win a copy? Like I said, this would be a great book for biological AND adopted kiddos! The theme is "born from the heart" and I know both of my babies were in my heart before my arms.

Please visit the acutal blog site to participate in the rafflecopter giveaway. Giveaway ends Thursday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book to review. All opinions are my own!

UPDATE: The winner is.... Ashley M! Thanks for entering (for a screen shot of the Rafflecopter results, check facebook! for some reason it won't let me upload it to the blog!)

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