Tuesday, August 28, 2012

10 Things to Catch You Up to Speed

It's been a while since I've found my way to writing here.  Not that I never thought of wanting to, but sometimes life just happens all around you, other "to do's" take priority, vacations come and go, and pecking away at the keyboard just doesn't happen.  I decided I'd give you my top 10 list of things that should catch you up to speed on life in the Thieszen household.

1. Nora.
Nora with her birth half-sister, Giselle, before Giselle headed home to Canada!
Pure beauty.
We are still waiting for her name to be printed in the Haitian newspaper before I can move forward with planning a trip to see her.  Yes, this is frustrating, but somewhat expected.  Typical time frames for that printing can range from 2 weeks to 2 months.  We are 4 weeks into this stage of the wait.  This one is harder in some aspects and easier in others.  First, it's hard because with other stages we wait for officials to review our paperwork or interviews to be done, but in this stage we are simply waiting for a single name to be printed in a paper.  Seems so ridiculously easy in our culture so that makes the wait a little bit harder.  However, knowing this "stage" of the process has a pretty reliable time frame of at the most 2 months makes it a bit easier to bear.  I know that soon enough I will get a precious email letting me know I can go ahead and contact the US Embassy in Haiti to request an appointment.  Once that appointment date is given to me I will be able to plan the trip.  Speaking of the trip.  Some have asked about this trip--is this when you bring her home?  When will you go?  Who all will be going?  How long do you get to stay?  Etc.  The basics would be we will go when the above mentioned items happen...sure hoping for September or October, but it could be as late as November if things take longer than expected.  This is not the trip to bring Nora home.  This would be the required trip towards the middle of the process for two very important appointments.  The final trip will, Lord willing, be approximately 6-9 months after that. We will only stay down there around 4ish days again.  Yes, I wish it could be longer, but they try to keep visits a bit on the short end so your child does not go through attachment and then un-attachment and then re-attachment and so forth with each trip.  It's just too hard on them...and perhaps us too.  Who is the "we" going on this next trip?  I, Angie, will be there with bells on.  Our daughter, Lily, will more than excitedly be with me.  Our third traveling partner is still yet to be determined based on schedules.  It will most likely either be my sister-in-law or my dad or Micah.  We are trying to keep Micah at home so he can save up his vacation hours to utilize when Nora is home.  I will be honest in saying it will be hard to make this trip without my man by my side, but I'm excited for either my sis-in-law or my dad also having the opportunity to meet Nora, see where she calls "home" for the time being, and experience the beauty of the Haitian mountains.

2. Specific prayer request for Nora.  Beyond the request of asking for her name to appear in the newspaper, we would also like to extend an invitation for you to be praying for her leg strength.  We have found out she has begun crawling, but is only going for things she REALLY wants to get to.  If there is nothing she really wants, she seems very content to sit and watch the other children play.  She turns 11 months old this Thursday and this is a pretty typical delayed start to crawling.  Without the one-on-one care she would get in a typical family, the developmental delays have to be expected.  That being said, we had received word from Micah's dad when he visited briefly with Nora in July that he noticed she did not put any weight down on her legs and would not stand up on his lap at all.  As we watched Ashley hold her on our Skype call, we heard her begin a brief cry when Ashley tried to have her stand.  Later the following week Ashley let us know she did try to do some one-on-one time with Nora and she would "yelp" when Ashley would try to straighten out her legs to stand or put weight on them.  Basically, we are not overly concerned at this point, but would appreciate prayers for her leg strength anyways.  We hope as she begins crawling more and more, she will gain a desire to be more independent and therefore strengthen those weak and unused muscles.  It is something I will definitely be checking out while I am there (although that could be funny since I have no medical or physical therapy training whatsoever!)

4. The rest of the Thieszen crew...

I'll start with Lily.  She began her school year a little over a week ago as a 1st Grader!  I still can't believe I am typing that.  She has enjoyed her first week+ very much.  Her teacher seems great so far, she has two of her best friends in her class, and she has brought home many papers already with smiley faces at the top so she is a happy girl.

Lily last year on her first day of kindergarten--notice the skirt she picked to wear & the door knob coming to her mouth.
Lily this year--1st day of 1st Grade--notice the skirt she again picked to wear & the door knob now at her shoulders!
She also, as of today, seems to be missing something...can you tell what it is???

Lastly, we have begun the phase of Lily writing lots of notes without asking us to help her with spelling.  I love it!!!  Here are a few of her samples...can you figure out what all she is saying?

This was a menu she gave Micah and me when we were guests at her "restaurant"

5. Next is Toby.  While Lily has enjoyed the start of school, Toby on the other hand is not so thrilled about what is coming up next week.  According to us, Toby will begin preschool after Labor Day.  According to Toby, he is adamantly NOT going to school!  Eek!  He is certainly our more timid one and does not do as well with new things or new people.  I am entering this time frame with an expectation that it could be a couple solid weeks of crying 3 days a week before he realizes this is actually a lot of fun and then, by all means, he will love it.  It certainly helps one of his best friends from church will also be in his class...still such a huge answer of prayer for this Mama's heart.  He has thoroughly enjoyed a summer of fun outdoors...mainly every day with his best friend and neighbor boy, Caleb.

Toby practicing catching with his Uncle Charlie

6. Quinn!  He is his typical little dimpled, mischievous self.  He's a pretty sweet boy who wants to do everything the bigger kids do (or more) and tends to forget he's only 2.  He gives us challenges when we have to discipline as he simply isn't affected by it one way or another.  Thankfully, he's still 2 and not a teenager yet.  Maybe by the time he gets that old we'll find something that works!  Ha!  One can hope, right?!?!

Oh, melt my heart.  (I also love Micah beside us wishing it was him getting a kiss)

7. Micah!  I love that man!

There are many things about him that are different from me, but with time and wisdom I'm seeing more and more that those differences are such a blessing to our relationship and our family.  I can not tell you where I would be in this life without his constant support, sarcasm, and laid-back personality.  Watching him set up the tent in the back yard this past weekend for an overnight with the three kids while I had an evening/night to get some important things done inside was just another example of the priceless man he is.  I simply can't wait to see Nora blossom under his leadership and love for this family.  He is still hard at work making his cancer patients' time of infusions and blood draws be the best experience it can be.  He feels blessed to be working at more than just a "job" but more his area of calling.  I'm sure his patients (and maybe his co-workers-Ha!) feel the same way.  We are looking forward to celebrating 10 years of marriage this late November.  Not exactly sure what that "celebration" will look like yet, but it will be something.  Probably not the dream trip to Italy/Rome we naively thought we would take on our 10 year anniversary when we first got married. : )  Something about young kids, an adoption, school schedules, budgets, etc. that seem to get in the way of that right now...maybe 25 years???  40???  Someday, we'll get there, Babe!

Our engagement photo--taken in April 2002
10 years later--a little older & still very much in love!
8. Myself.  I feel like God has had me on such an awesome ride with Him the last several years.  Such hard things to deal with, learn, heal from...such joy, depth, and grace given to me to thoroughly be living out of my healed self.  His love and faithfulness and GOODNESS is filling the cracks of my soul more and more each day.  It just seems like it can't get any better and then, low and behold, it does!  He is good like that.  I'm so blessed and so thankful for all He has been teaching me and all the things I've been opened up to because of my willingness to go places with Him.  Truly life-changing.  My relationship with the Lord is simply that--life-changing.  Me-changing.  I'm grateful.  I'm currently reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Highly suggest it for those of you who have not read it yet.  It is not a book you breeze through.  It is heavy, deep, rich, holy, good.  I knew the premise for the book and already knew I'd love it based solely on that, but it is proving to be a bit different than I imagined, which fortunately makes it even that much more rich and that much more a soul I totally connect with.  I love this woman's style of writing, her content, and her challenges.  A definite read for those who want to find even more joy in this abundant life God has given us.

9. V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N. Oh, yes, we had a wonderful time on our family vacation out to Topeka, Kansas to meet our newest nephew, Liam and then onward to Kansas City, Missiouri to visit with our friends, The Churchill's, and then finally for our stop at the St. Louis Arch.  I'll let the photos speak for themselves on the amount of fun we had as a family...

Getting out the traveling craziness
The Cousins!
Pool time relaxation
Sibling love--this started out with Toby on the left, Lily in the middle, and Quinn on the right!
Summertime childhood fun!
Getting ready to head into quite the experience at the T-Rex Cafe!
Such a cool place!
Eating our lunch with the Churchill clan under a giant jellyfish
The Arch!
Yes, we all went up despite my nerves!!!
St. Louis at sunset from 630 feet up!
Can you tell they LOVED the Arch??? (This is in the elevator on the way down)
Just some cool shots of the Arch at dusk
A totally exhausted, happy child with his newly adopted dino, Selly.  Sign of a good trip, eh!

10. Our family did a week long (partial) fast from media.  I say partial because I just HAD to be able to check my email twice a day to see if we had any news from Haiti.  Well, my own overall observations of our fast are the following: that fast was not my cup of tea, I totally checked more than email by the end of the week because I had an excuse reason for each "just this once" moment, a family with young kids (6 and under) CAN get through a whole week with no movies or tv (although I'm not sure I would want to do that again.  Seems that brothers actually do play more and fight more without moments to simply "zone out"), I am a social person--not a social butterfly--but a social person who uses facebook and email as a way to still "get out" while being a stay-at-home mom, there was a lot more things off my "to do list" than a normal week, and our world is definitely and thankfully (in my opinion) connected much easier through the internet.

*Bonus* 11.  Three things Micah and I are looking forward to with the change of seasons....Nebraska football, Ohio State football, and the start of the new "Castle" season (our every Monday night date night on our couch).  Yep, we enjoy fall for far more than the changing leaves and cooler temps, what can we say?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Life at the Orphanage--A Guest Post

Let me introduce you to Ashley.  Ashley is the beautiful (inside and out) young Canadian woman who has been to Haiti and Nora's orphanage 3 times now in the last few years.  She has currently been at the orphanage for this past month with another friend of hers caring and loving on Nora as well as all the other 30 babes at the orphanage where Nora lives as well as the newly opened second orphanage.  Ashley is beyond a mission worker to me...she is a friend God has blessed me with.  If you saw our Skype call on the last post (here) you will recognize Ashley as the one holding Nora in the video and photos.  She is quite literally a God-send to us Mama's waiting to have our babies in our arms.

I can not explain how thankful I am for not only Ashley's care of Nora, but even more so for her heart.  I recently ran across a post she put on her facebook page to thank all of her supporters who helped her get to Haiti for this last month with supplies in hand.  I could not help but ask her for permission to post it here.  Her words are an open window into the heart of the every day life of the orphanage as well as the heart God has given her to help.  I will let her words speak for themselves...they are priceless.

 Original fb post from Ashley....
 I just wanted to say a great big, love-filled thank you to everyone who helped contribute to getting me to Haiti. These trips are not cheap, and there simply is no way that I would be able to do them without all of your support. I'm the one who gets to go have all the fun loving on these kids, but it's because of all you angels that the magic happens.

 Since I have been in Haiti, we have had around 15 new children dropped off at the orphanage. These children all have at least one parent... they are not orphans, so you can just imagine their extreme grief, anger, confusion, and sadness at being left behind in a completely unfamiliar place. We really came at the perfect time because the first month that the kids are at the O is the hardest by far. The nannies at the O have so many responsibilities; simply loving on the children is often overlooked. When Audra and I are there, we are with the children 24/7, which means we help them get through all the good, the bad, and the ugly (not to mention, stinky!).

When I leave Haiti in a little over a week, my heart will be overflowing with all the amazing memories that I will have have. But it will also be filled with the memories that although I wish I could forget, are the reason why I have been called to be here. During our first week, we had one boy dropped off who screamed all afternoon for his papa to come back for him. Anything that we did that hinted of him staying at the O permanently, he absolutely refused. As we tried to take off his old clothes when we offered him new ones, he explained, "my papa is coming back for me and he will not be happy that you took my clothes." It broke my heart that he really had no idea that his papa was never coming back for him. We had twins who were dropped off that we physically had to restrain when their mama walked away. They cried so hard that their entire little bodies shook until they finally fell asleep. We had a baby boy, around four months, who almost choked on his full body sobs when his mama left him behind. I resent days where we have new children dropped off, my throat swells and my heart plummets as I wrap my arms around the little ones who hate me for being part of their terrible predicament. But I am grateful, oh so very grateful that I am there because even though they hate me at that moment, I will be a part of their incredible journey to an amazing new life. All of my babies are adopted, and I sincerely believe that their first day at the O is the absolute hardest step for them out of their entire journey. By having a shoulder to cry on and a reassuring voice to tell them that it's going to be okay (even though it's coming from a blanc speaking an unfamiliar language), makes this absolutely terrible day for them a little more bearable. Or at least that is what I tell myself as they bite, kick, hit, and scream at me. Another important thing to realize is that life at the O doesn't stop when these children come to us. The nannies still have diapers to clean and meals to cook, so if we aren't there as punching bags then the other children take the hit. We had a baby who ended up with a bloody foot because a five year old bite her on his second day at the O. The five-year old is not a bad kid, but we were at church and he had no one else to help him work out his feelings.

The joy of being at the O for extended periods of time is seeing how these children change and begin to accept their new life. Seeing these new children transition is beyond words! This last week has been harmonious. The little boy who bit the baby always gives me a kiss as he walks by. The twins are having oodles of fun and giggles with the other children. Audra and I let out a whoop of joy when the boy (who spent his first day screaming for his papa) finally let us hold him. Up until yesterday, he would punch us repeatedly every time we tried to touch him. All the new children call us by our name instead of "blanc!" We are able to do group activities, like story time and singing, for the first time in history of the O. The children do not fight as badly to get our attention because they know that they will all eventually get their turn at some one-on-one that day. My throat is not sore at the end of the day from having to yell, "pas frappez, pas frappaz, pas frapez!" all. day. long.

Another big part of this trip has been communicating with the families back in America and Canada who will be adopting these children. Anyone who knows me well, knows how much I want a big multicultural family of my own some day. This has probably stemmed from the fact that I grew up with my mom running a daycare in my home. I have always been surrounded by children, and I love it. However, this idea of adopting a bunch of children from throughout the world has been built on quite a bit of ignorance. Working at the O has shown me just how unimaginably hard adopting can be. When we had a baby pass away of TB last fall, all the parents of the children at the O had no idea if their own children were okay. I was not yet in contact with them and the O's director was crazy busy with a billion other things. This time around I have thoroughly enjoyed skyping, sending updates, and taking pictures for all the parents anxiously awaiting the glorious day that they will be able to take their precious ones home. Oh the joys of technology! It also eases a great strain off the O's director by having someone there to help her with all the paperwork that these adoptions entail. Especially when you consider that it is all in English, a language she has only been fluent in for the last five years.

So thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Hundreds (yes hundreds!) of people are responsible for changing these little one's lives... through giving me your bottles, buying a bracelet, placing a bid at out silent auction, or purchasing a chocolate bar, every single dollar really does help. And your generosity has not been singularly monetary, thanks for helping me gather up 200 pounds of formula, diapers, t-shirts, vitamins, and peanut butter. We have significantly filled the O's supply closet for months to come. You know who you are, thank you for your selflessness and your willingness to help make a difference. A small difference, but a significant difference nevertheless. ♥ I love you all.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Blessing of Technology

After we left Nora in December, we knew we would have to rely on technology to keep us in contact with her.  I seriously do not understand how on earth international adoptions were dealt with before the invention of internet...oye!  We knew we would get pictures from various groups heading down to MTM for their mission trips, but had no idea how many that would be over the months and months of this adoption.  We have actually gotten MANY and we feel so blessed because of it.  Little did we know how many other people God would put in our path to also give us photos of our little sweetheart beyond the teams at MTM.  With the blessing of technology, we have been able to see her grow before our virtual eyes.

Beyond those blessed photos, our church mission trip group who went to MTM in February were able to bring home a video of them praying over Nora while they were there (can be seen here).  Priceless. Absolutely priceless.  That same team tried to get Skype to work for us, but there were complications and it didn't happen...we were bummed to say the least.

Well, after two other failed attempts at Skype throughout the last week, I have great news...we DID get to Skype with Nora today!!!!!!  YEAH!!!!!  It was so amazing and wonderful to see her in action.  We have not held her in our arms for 8 months.  We haven't seen her move at all for 6 months (since that video from our church group).  All these months of beautiful photos with no movement, no action, no "life"....until today.

Please enjoy a brief snippet here of our Skype call.  A special, special thank you to Ashley--a dear friend and angel helper to our children at the orphanage this month.  The best moments of this call for me were seeing her cuddle up on Ashley's shoulder (makes me SO excited to have her do that to my own shoulder) and then also hearing her cry.  I know that sounds weird, but just to hear a sound out of her mouth was so wonderful--even if it was a little cry.  I had no idea what her cry even sounded like at this point.  It is moments like this that most moms take for granted because they hear them or see them every day, but when you don't get that chance, these are so amazingly wonderful.

(You will hear Quinn wondering where Maddie is at the beginning of the video.  This is referring to Maddie, our niece, who we have been Skyping with since she started the isolation period of her battle with cancer.  His little 2 1/2 year old self had a hard time understanding that this was not with Maddie also)

Praising God today for technology.  It has allowed our sweet Nora to see all of our faces as well as us to see hers in the midst of the wait.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crawling Along

For once my "Crawling Along" title does not refer to our adoption process.  It refers to this sweet little face...

Yep, you heard it...Nora is officially now a CRAWLER!!!!  We heard earlier this week she was on the brink, but just last night got word from a friend who stopped in to see her yesterday that she finally has done it.  She found a crayon she wanted and went for it!  She didn't get the crayon, but she did get crawling.  Yeah!!!!

This is a huge developmental milestone and we are so excited to see her accomplish this at a reasonable age--many of these children come to the orphanage at older ages, malnourished and developmentally behind.  There are a few things she is slightly behind in, but for the most part, Nora is right on schedule due mainly to the care she has received at the orphanage.  We are blessed to know that even though we would obviously rather her be crawling in our own home, she is at least crawling somewhere and not being confined to a pack-n-play as many orphanage children are.  We are SUPER excited at the possibility of WATCHING Nora crawl on Wednesday late afternoon!  Yep, watching!  We will have our first chance to Skype with one of the girls from Canada helping at the orphanage this month.  I can't even begin to describe how excited I am for this!  We have not seen our little girl move at all since a video of her from our church group clear back in February.  Photos are wonderful, but to see her in action and have her get the chance to see us will be a-mazing!!!

We were also blessed to know and see photos of a brief visit Nora had with one of her grandpa's recently.  Micah's dad, Erland, made another mission trip down to Haiti in mid-July.  He was able to love on Nora for about 15 minutes.  This is Erland's second time of laying eyes on his granddaughter.  Again...feeling blessed to know she has met more family than just her mom and dad.  Here are some photos of his moments with her.

In other news, Nora's half-sister, Giselle, has been picked up by her forever family this week!  Denise and Darren are still in Haiti "vacationing" with her for a few days before the long flights home to Canada.  Denise supposedly took some fun photos of the sisters in matching dresses before they left the orphanage so I will be anxious to get those when they get home.  It is a wonderful reminder that these little blessings DO come home!  Congratulations Naus family on your new addition!!!!

Denise and Darren with Giselle and Adrienne (Giselle & Nora's birth mom)

Speaking of going to Haiti...we are still waiting the next email letting us know Nora's name has been printed in the Montieur.  Once that is printed (usually takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months), I will be in touch with the US Embassy in Haiti to set up our appointment.  When we get that appointment date, Lily, myself, and one yet to be determined person will be heading down to spend some time with Nora and watch her crawl around the floor with our very own eyes.  *Have I expressed how frustrating it is to try to plan a trip to Haiti when you don't exactly know when you are going or who you are going with?  Oye!*   It will all come together--perhaps in just a few short weeks or perhaps a few short months.  Praying for the former option...I can't wait to get my arms around my little one...

Nora with one of her nannies

Look at that adorable, crazy hair!

The kiddos at the orphanage...so precious!