May in Review

I know I'm a little biased, but Ryan is too cute! Look at those eyes! And it is so great to see that smile (which is almost all the time) after seeing such a serious boy in all our care package photos! Finger painting fun - they loved it (thanks Ginger!)

John shows off Uncle Don's house and Bompa and Gramma's house that he has built with blocks:
Dressing up:

Aunt Teri and Uncle Mike's visit!

Making apple cinnamon muffins:

This is a rock in front of the house by the driveway. They both just sat down on it one day and I thought it was too cute!

Sitting inside the tent. We camped out in the backyard one night Mike had off from work in preparation for our camping adventures this summer. The boys LOVED sleeping in the tent and getting their flashlights from Gramma.
Sprinkler fun (thanks Fisher family!)

Ryan was too excited the day I let them sit in the livingroom for snack:
Playing in the small pool in the backyard:
They still love to sit in this box!
A play date with the cousins - isn't this a GREAT picture Mike took:Sami and Uncle Don:
Maddy and Uncle Don:What a super way to end the month!

More Funny English-isms

The other night I made two kinds of marinated chicken, one in honey dijon and one in teriyaki. I asked the boys which kind they wanted (knowing they didn't really know either flavor but wanting to give them a choice!), "honey dijon" or "teriyaki." John pointed at the teriyaki chicken and said, "Teri-yucky! This is teri-yucky! Me no want that."

I told the boys I was going to jump in the shower the other morning. John got excited and said "JUMP, Mommy-a!"

It has been so warm recently and we don't have air conditioning, so I had been leaving the boys' bedroom door open so any cool air could blown into their room through the hall window. After about three days of this, John perplexed asked on morning, "Who this air that come in Eyob and Ephrem's bedroom at night? What his name?"

John has taken to making lots of demands lately and forgetting to say please. So when this happens we ask are you asking or ordering? and he (usually) adds the word please. At my Mom's house she asked me if the boys would like a Popsicle or ice-cream sandwich and I told her the ice-cream sandwich. John didn't hear what I said and yelled after my Mom, "Sandwich cold, please." I told him that's what I ordered for him and he looked at me very seriously and said, "No order, Mommy-a, say please."

A Mom's Encouragement

Mike, who has never been allergic to anything and has worked in the chemical field for 30 years and been tested for allergic reactions, broke out in hives last weekend - an allergic reaction to an antibiotic he was taking to get rid of an infection from a bug bite. He drove himself to the emergency room, waited three, itchy hours for a doctor to see him, then bought some Benadryl before driving home to locate the 24 hour Osco Drug and drive there to get a prescription filled.

And what was my first thought as he left for the hospital and I began giving the boys a bath and putting them to bed? Not I hope it's a quick wait or I hope the itching isn't too bad, but Oh, I have to do bath and bedtime by myself again. With a husband who works third shift, I do breakfast and getting dressed every morning by myself after getting up before the boys wake up (if I'm lucky) to do a quiet time and take my own shower. On the 5-6 nights a week Mike works, he goes back to bed after dinner (and doing the dishes which is much appreciated!) and I am left to do bath time and bedtime on my own. Please know I am not complaining, I knew this is how life would be before we even left to go get the boys. But as I, exhausted from a great day of being Mommy, put the boys in the tub, I almost started to cry. I said to the boys, I need to call Gramma, sometimes a Mommy-a wants her Mommy-a!

I told my Mom how selfish I felt that my first thought was for myself. She told me while I can't change a lot of circumstances in our lives, like Mike's third shift job, I can stop feeling guilty about wishing I had more help or time to myself. Then I admitted I feel guilty desiring time without the boys because I thought it made me look ungrateful that they are here, which is the further thing from the truth! Another thing my Mom said I could change - do not feel guilty because I need some me time. Every Mom does and that does not mean they are not grateful for their children!

It was a good talk with my Mom. And the boys seemed to know I needed it because they played so well in the tub! Yeah for my Mommy-a!!

5/20/10 - 3 Months and Counting

I cannot believe it has been three months since we arrived home with the boys. Yet at the same time, I cannot remember life without them. Nor do I want to imagine life without them here!

They are a joy in my life! Yes there are stressful moments - they argue and disobey like normal children and sometimes Ryan asks please but doesn't tell what for and is so frustrated when I don't give it to him or I'm doing bath and bedtime by myself again as Mike works third shift and is sleeping before going in - but they are far outweighed by all the delights.

And the boys delight in everything: a trip to the park, new sandals, a play date with their cousins or our friend Eleanor, a treat of sherbet at the zoo, sliding down the curly slide on our castle play set, checking the flowers each day to see if they have bloomed, corn on the cob, watching the African children's choir and dancing along with them, listening to Teddy Afro in the car ("Loud, Mommy-a!"), going to church on Sundays and reading our Bible every bedtime, projects and activities (we LOVE cutting and gluing), seeing pictures of friends from Ethiopia on other families blogs, pizza for lunch, running through the sprinkler, dive bombing into the kiddie pool, new toy cars bought by Gramma at a garage sale, anything pasta, choosing the color of the tub water, story time at the library, new clothes given to us by so many generous friends, Aunt Teri coming again in July, camping, Ababa waking up and coming down the stairs in the afternoon, hours spent playing with toy cars, family movie nights and the hot air popcorn maker, seeing "goodnight moon" in the sky when we come home and it's dark out, ...

And I have the joy of watching them experience all these first. How blessed am I?

5/13/10 - They are ours!

The boys were recognized as legally ours by the Ethiopian courts on December 24, 2009. However, we needed to readopt them in the state of Illinois. On May 13, 2010 the readoption became complete and we are legally parents to John Michel Eyob Vagnoni and Ryan Elijah Ephrem Vagnoni!!!
I will say the first thought that ran through my head - and I know it's crazy and there is no basis for it - was: yeah, no one can take the away from us! But if you are an adoptive parent, the thought has probably run thorough your mind as well!

So now that the boys are ours, I feel like I can share some of how God moved in the fundraising while we waited for our referral. I probably could have shared before hand but on the slightest off chance that someone in Ethiopia might see the blog about raising funds and decide we didn't make enough money to raise children and not give us a referral - and once again, I know it's a bit crazy and I have actually only heard of one case in which this happen and that was second hand but if you are or have been in the process of adoption, I know you can relate to all the crazy thoughts that run through your mind - I decided to wait to post.

This is pretty long, but God worked in an amazing way. If we ever needed confirmation that we had heard God correctly and were following His path for us, these two events (along with many others) were it!

Garage Sale - June 5-6, 2009

We want to share the amazing things God did last weekend at our Adoption Fundraiser!!!!!

First, there is our small group. They donated items. They sent an email to friends and family asking for donations. They were here by 7:30am both Friday and Saturday to help us carry things out. They stayed until the end both days and helped us carry things back, Saturday in the pouring rain. They know our story and shared it with people coming to purchase items. They brought coffee, doughnuts, hangers, and plastic bags. They sorted through and organized the clothes – and if you were here you know how many clothes there were!! They bought items and made incredible financial donations for them. And they’re ready to help with and even asked when we are having the next fundraiser, a car wash!! We are blessed beyond words by their love.

Next is our family and friends. They donated items, let us borrow tables and awnings, were here to help move things as well as help sell them. They called Friday evening to ask how everything had gone and were so excited to hear how generous people had been. We are so loved.

Then there are the people who came to the garage sale. We welcomed everyone by with a “Welcome to our Adoption Fundraiser!” and invited them to view a trifold poster Mike had put together. It contained pictures and captions of our paperwork process, facts about Ethiopia and its children, beautiful pictures of Ethiopian boys and girls, a few facts about the country, and our adoption timeline. People read the whole thing and were moved by it, many to get teary eyed – something we did not at all expect! We must have had fifty people wish the best for us. We did not price any of the items but simply asked for donations toward our adoption. People were so excited for us, and they were so generous. They would buy a few items and ask if twenty dollars was okay. And for the most apart (we did have a few stinkers) this was the norm! Our neighbors across the street and in the apartments down the street, some we haven’t even met before, were particularly excited for us and kept coming back and buying more. One lady in an apartment down the street from us bought a plastic boat (the kind a child could sit and play in), a tin, a couple of books, a few knick knacks and asked if thirty five dollars was enough. And then there was a lady who showed up with two kids. They bought about 30 Horrible Harry books and a couple others. The Mom said she knew we were asking for donation but asked how much for the books. I said four or five dollars to which she replied how about twenty four dollars and then started to cry looking at our poster. WE WERE COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY BY THE EMOTIONS AND GENEROSITY OF OTHERS.

Then there was Dawn and Reilly, a mother and daughter. They stopped by on Friday and bought a few things. In talking with them we learned they are Christians and attend the same church as some of our small group members. We had such a nice time chatting with them. They came back toward the end on Sunday, right about the time it started to drizzle. Dawn looked around, said “What do you need, help packing,” and proceeded to stay through the drizzle and short downpour that followed to help us pack everything up. They were the hands of Christ at work.

Then there’s Juan. He and his family stopped by on Friday afternoon. He goes to garage sales and buys large items to take to Mexico where his mother owns a store, and his son just happens to have been in my friend Karen’s (who was helping at the sale) class several years ago so Karen knew them well. Juan bought three of our big items and our three microwaves and is coming back soon to buy two more pieces of furniture – this is totally God that we were able to sell the large pieces of furniture so easily! Juan also came back about 2pm on Saturday (I told him to come back and see what was left) wanting to look through the clothes. Now here was the scene – it was raining, pretty heavily at this point. We have over thirty boxes and bags of clothes and shoes we are trying to figure out where to put – if we carry everything to the garage, I was just going to have to carry it back to the front of the yard again Tuesday night as it was being picked up by charity Wednesday morning. And since it was supposed to rain on Sunday, everything needed to be under a tarp and awning. And everyone kept asking me what I wanted to do – this is really the only time I felt a bit stressed! So I said to Juan, twenty dollars for all the clothes and he took them all! We shoved, and I mean shoved, everything in the back of his truck so he could take them that evening. In addition to being sold at his mother’s store, some of the clothes will be given away in Mexico as well. This was all God!!!!

And God sent people to buy certain items. At one point I watched as someone came to buy the skis, another to buy the double stroller, someone else bought the last car seat, someone came back with their truck to pack up the seven piece patio set they had bought, another sweet couple bought a never before used mobile and baby bedding set, someone called just today to buy the stove top and oven. Then there was the rocking chair, a beautiful pine rocking chair. Several people had looked at it throughout the weekend and one person had even taken a picture for his wife, but no one had bought it. We stood around talking about how we couldn’t believe no one had snatched it up yet. I said, you know why, because the person God wants to have that chair hasn’t been here yet. Within two minutes, I was till standing in the same spot, it was purchased for our dear friend and small group member’s daughter who is due to have a baby in September. And I must tell about the social worker from a near by school district who is in the process of becoming a foster parent. She bought the pack and play, high chair, and baby swing. And she has gone through the home study process and could relate to our process. I never would have imagined that God had certain people in mind to buy so many specific items.

God, who is able to do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine, has blessed us with $2,515 from this fundraiser. Mike and I both had the figure $1,000 in mind as a good amount of money for a garage sale but knowing that God could do way more than that. Two of our friends prayed for two thousand dollars for us. We were humbled by this experience, by people’s reactions and generosity, by the love of friends and family, by the servant’s heart of so many. God did infinitely more than we could have asked or imagined.

Candy Sale Fundraiser – October 24, 2009

I must begin by saying that after asking the Lord how many candy bars to buy for this fundraiser, He laid the number 200 on my heart. I thought, “Wow, God that’s a lot.” But the Lord simply said – trust in me and lean not on your own understanding.

I went to Wal-Mart a week before the sale. I had shopped around looking at candy prices and this was the cheapest I had found. I didn’t realize how much candy 200 pieces actually was until I started picking it all out. At 100 pieces, I said, “Wow Lord, this is a lot of candy.” He simply said trust in me and lean not on your own understanding. I added 50 more candy bars and was running out of new kinds to choose from. I thought 150 pieces is good; it’s a lot, right Lord! Again I felt the Lord say trust in me and lean not on your own understanding. I walked away from the candy and stood in an aisle. I said to the Lord, I don’t know what other pieces of candy to put into my cart Lord. Again trust in me and lean not on your own understanding. I didn’t know what to do. I figured I still had a week before the candy sale. I could go buy 50 more candy bars if I needed to.

I paid and left the store and felt not a lick of peace! I felt like I was not obeying the Lord! I kept thinking: that’s a lot of candy to sell and who’s going to come out of a grocery store and pay a higher price for a candy bar they could have just bought inside!

I talked with my good friend Tracy and told her how I felt I really had not obeyed what God has asked me to do. I went to Wal-Mart later that week and bought 50 more candy bars. As soon as that candy was in my cart I felt complete and total peace!! I didn’t know what the Lord was going to do, but I was going to trust and not lean on my own understanding.

Are you ready to hear how BIG our God is!!?? The candy sale was this past Saturday at the Grayslake Jewel. I arrived about 8:15am and was set up to sell candy by about 8:30am and was joined by my sweet friend Doreen a few minutes later. I brought all 200 pieces of candy (minus the 2 Mike had eaten and the 1 I ate!) and told her we’d have to make $100 to cover the cost of the candy. Well, that was done by 10:15am! As people walked out of the store, we simply asked, “Would you like to support adoption today?” The amount of people who gave a donation but didn’t want any candy was something I had never even thought about! The many, many people who gave $2 or $5 and only took one candy bar or no candy at all makes me realize how many good and generous people there still are today in this tough economy with Christmas approaching. If people were interested we told that Mike and I were adopting from Ethiopia and that the call for 2 boys had come this week. And people were genuinely excited for us!! They wished us luck and best wishes! I wasn’t expecting this either. As yet person after person gave a dollar, or two dollars, or a five or a 10 without wanting any candy, I looked at Doreen and said, “I can’t believe this!” I had told her the whole 200 candy bar obedience to God story earlier and she looked at me and said, “This is because you obeyed God!”

But God wasn’t done yet! A woman and her son, who was obviously adopted, walked by midmorning. She did a quick head spin and asked, “Who’s adopting from Ethiopia?” She lives in Grayslake and has three sons adopted from Ethiopia! We talked for a few minutes and she went on to tell me about other families in Grayslake who have adopted from Ethiopia as well as a Culture Camp in Wisconsin in the summer. Amazing!

But God wasn’t done yet! A young Dad came by with his two kids and had them choose two candy bars. He gave me a twenty and as I went to count the change, he told me to keep it! People who didn’t have any cash would dig in their wallet for change or go to their cars and come back with change! We had $13.20 just in change when we were done with the day! Generosity!!

But the event that brought Doreen and I to tears is this: a young man, late twenties or early thirties, after finding out we were adopting two boys from Ethiopia, gave us a ten dollar bill and said to keep the change. He returned about 30 seconds later with what must have been all the cash he and his wife had: $55! We were speechless!! He simply said, “It’s because you are doing such a good thing.” We were blown away! About two minutes later, I saw him coming toward us again and this time he handed me a folded wad of twenty dollar bills simply saying, “Here, take this.” I could not get any words to come out of my mouth and Doreen managed to say, “Why?” and he simply said, “It’s a good thing you’re doing.” We just started shaking and crying! I do not even know who this young man was but his kindness blew us away!! He blessed us with a total of $225!

I firmly believe God blessed us on Saturday because I chose to obey Him. I don’t even think it was about the number of candy bars, but simple that He said it and I eventually did it. Our God is so good!! He is so faithful!! He so desires to bless us!! Please praise Him with me!! Not only did we raise the $100 to cover the cost of the candy (and came home with about 25 candy bars left) but we were blessed with another $550.20 to put toward the adoption! Every good and perfect gift is from above!!!

Fun Around the House

We recently presented at an America World seminar. The boys chose their own clothes and were so cute, I had to take pictures of them!
Licking the beaters!

Our own make shift outside sensory table filled with water:
The boys LOVE their new flip flops (thanks to Sean, Olivia, and Nancy for the gift that allowed us to purchase them).
The boys first Sammies lunch, our favorite local burger place (thanks Cog and Harry for the gift that allowed us to indulge in this yummy treat!). Ryan enjoys a hot dog:
While John bites into a cheeseburger:
Lounging around the house:
Still having fun with our bog box:
John has drawn and colored in a mail truck!
We had a sunny day and decided to wash winter off our cars. The boys had so much fun:

Outside with accessories for the castle:
John and his "mack-e-naw."
Every once in a while, I'll hear from somewhere in the house, "Mommy-a, where's John?" And then I go looking for him!
Here I am!
And of course little brother has to do the same thing:

Watching cars out the window:
I am too cute!
Another Ethiopian meal, doro wat which is chicken stew:

They were trying to make themselves look like Daddy: