Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Gift of a Meal

It's been a day over three weeks since Kena has been in my arms forever and two and a half weeks since he was home with our entire family. There is so much to write about from the past three weeks.

Today I want to write about meals. Since we have been home, we have had TEN meals provided for our family. There are more to come. I asked my church and other friends to provide meals for us once we returned. I knew I needed meals for the simple reason that my family would need some kind of nourishment outside of PB&J or Mac and Cheese during our first month or two home. It was a request for the purpose of survival. Little did I know that this provision of meals would mean so, so much more.

There has been something  unexpectedly special that has been happening around the dinner table of the Friederichsen household over the past two weeks. Bonding. After loooong days of getting to know our new son and trying to navigate this new normal that seems to change everyday, family dinners around the table have been a true anchor. We have been face to face enjoying a meal together, and our family of six has bonded. Since I haven't had to worry about shopping or cooking, I have been able to sit down for dinner, still weary, but not weary from food prep. Sitting down for dinner has been a welcome break and a surprisingly life-giving time to connect with my people. It's the one time of the day that Kena will always sit in his high chair. We are all face to face. We have shared new laughter. We have discovered new facial expressions. Kena has LOVED trying new foods. I have also loved watching him devour some meals that had similar flavor profiles to his and our beloved Ethiopia. Dinners have been an unexpectedly special oasis in the middle of hard days.

If you have provided a meal, THANK YOU. Without you, I guarantee there would have been a lot of hot dogs and tator tots in front of the TV and much less meal time bonding over the past few weeks. You have ministered to me and our family in ways I never would have imagined we needed. I knew we needed physical nourishment, but these dinners over these past two weeks have been so incredibly nourishing for our family in deeper ways. A moment to sit down and be together. A family of six figuring this new thing out. We're getting to know Kena, and he is getting to know us. God is doing a work around our dining room table every evening around 5:30 p.m. Bonding. Becoming one.

From the bottom of my heart to those who have brought a meal and facilitated this great work of God in our family: Thank you.

Want in on the fun??? There are still spots available on our meal calendar here.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Made for this Day

I am sitting in an airplane in Dubai that feels every bit as hot as the 110 degree weather outside. Delayed for push back, we're just sitting here in our own personal Middle Eastern sauna. We just finished a 12 1/2 hour flight from JFK to Dubai. Thankfully, sleep did come here and there throughout the flight. I pray that those few hours of sleep and adrenaline (and the strength of our mighty God) will get me through the next few very significant hours. 

It's time to go get Kena. Although he doesn't know it, he is spending his final few hours in the care of an orphanage. In a matter of hours, he will be in my arms forever. I am still a stranger to him, but the fight begins. The fight for his heart. The fight for our bond. He doesn't know me, and I don't really know him. I have spent maybe six hours total with him over the span of three days. What size clothes does he really wear? I fear the clothes I brought will swallow him. What food will he eat? Hopefully Cheerios, applesauce, animals crackers and puffs...because that's what mama brought.

I have so many questions:
Will you sleep? Will you play? When will I see your smile? How will you do outside of the orphanage in the specific, loving arms of your mama? Although the institutional setting of a orphanage is not ideal, it's what you know. How will you face your new normal? I will hold you while you grieve this loss of the life you have always known. I will try not to take it personally when my love and affection is not sufficient to help your hurting heart. Only God can soothe and heal the loss you will endure. Adoption is beautiful, but adoption is born out of pain and loss. Be brave, little one. When my and Daddy's love is not enough, we will trust that the Lord will be sufficient for you (and us) in all of our many weaknesses.

Mama is coming, little one. Only the Lord is fully ready to make this happen, because he is the author of our stories. Lord, be near and hold us up when our hearts don't know what we need. We were made for this day. So here I come.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Letter to Our Friends and Family...

Dear friends and family,

Warning: This is a long but important post. Grab a beverage and settle in.

It is almost time to return to Ethiopia to bring Kena home. We hope he will be home before the end of August. As we prepare to bring Kena home, we would like to share some of our thoughts on some parenting decisions we are making. We want to help you understand how you can help us begin our new life with Kena as a family of six.

In Kena's short life, he will have gone through many significant changes and life altering experiences. While he may not consciously remember the events, he will still experience immense loss when we bring him home, including feelings of grief and trauma. He will soon experience the loss of familiar and comforting nannies, as well as the sights, smells, and language of his orphanage in Ethiopia. He will likely struggle with feeling safe and secure, and he may lack the ability to trust that we will meet his needs. Kena has not experienced God's design for family while living in the orphanage, and his world is about to turn upside down.

Throughout our adoption process, we have read books, attended conferences, and listened to stories from other adoptive families. One thing we hear repeatedly is that parenting a child from a hard place is very different than parenting a child from birth. Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in the typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother and birth family at an early age is a major trauma on their little hearts. He has spent more of his life in institutional care than anywhere else. He is a 20 month old baby boy with wounds that God has entrusted to us to help heal. The good news is that we can now, as Kena’s parents and by God’s grace, rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds.

Everything around Kena will be new and he will need to learn not just about his new environment but also about love and family. The best way for us to form a parent/child bond with him is to be the ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe and feed him. For the first few months home, Donny and I will need to be the only ones who hold, feed, bathe, comfort, and change Kena. We need to teach him that we are his people, his parents, and that we will always be there to care for his needs. As our love and care of him repeats over time, he will be able to learn that his parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once Kena starts to establish this important bond, he will then be able to branch out to other healthy relationships.

It will help us immensely if adults limit with Kena what is typically considered normal, physical contact with a baby/toddler. This will (for a while) include things like holding, hugging, and kissing and just seeking any kind of real attachment relationship with him. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone - which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses or giving high fives are absolutely appropriate and welcomed! We want Kena to know that the people with whom he interacts are our trusted friends and family, but we also need to differentiate that we will be the ones who are always there for him as his parents. Please don’t try to meet his needs. Please redirect him to us.

"A well-tended newborn is fed, cradled, and soothed when he cries from hunger or crankiness. This scene plays out hundreds of times in the first month of life alone. Through this exchange, the baby learns to trust that his needs will be met and that he can rely on people." (from The Connected Child).

We have been professionally advised that it is best that Donny and I solely meet every need--quickly and consistently. Until he has learned that WE are his parents, we will need to be his primary caretakers at all times. Although it may appear that we are spoiling or babying him, we are not. You may wonder how long this will take, but the timeline is different for every child. We will follow his lead and trust our instincts as his mom and dad. After meeting him a few weeks ago, we learned that he is apprehensive and hesitant and even fearful in new situations. This confirms even more that we need to really work on developing trust and consistency with him and trust the Lord to bind our hearts.   

For the first few weeks or even months, it will seem as if we are kind of cocooning our family in our home. It will be our time, as a family of 6, to huddle in together and start fresh. We need to teach Kena that he has a stable, calm and predictable environment to live in. Donny will be working from home more often the first few weeks Kena is home, so he can establish himself as “Dad” for Kena. As I stated above, we are starting from the beginning and establishing a connection similar to a newborn/parent. 

"Children who come from hard places don't overcome their history in six weeks; it can take years before new, improved life skills and attachment take permanent root for these children." –from The Connected Child

A brief note about his story – Kena’s life has been hard, but there are obvious strands of God’s love, protection and redemption in his past. We will protect his story, and we are choosing not to share the details of his life before he was matched with us. It is his story, and we are blessed to be a part of it. We will wait to share more with him when he is older, and we pray that the gift of his story in the future will be used to help him see God’s kind and protective hand in the midst of the brokenness that came so early in his life.

We cherish each of you and the role you have played in our adoption story. You have helped us grow our family, and there is just no way to thank you enough for that. We need you. Adoption is restoration, redemption, healing. It is work. It is a different kind of parenting as it's parenting on the front lines of children who come from very hard places. While we wanted to offer some boundaries on how we will approach our early months with Kena, please don’t fear making a mistake that might threaten our attachment with Kena. We will give lots of grace just as we hope you will give us grace as we enter into this new phase of our lives.

I will follow up soon with more about how you can practically help us through this transition. Please keep praying for us. We know the Lord has brought us to this point, and we need to continue to rely on his grace and power to parent Kena in a loving and secure way. Please pray he will bond to us. Thanks again for your love and care. We can’t wait to bring Kena home, and we thank the Lord for this gift of our new son.

With love and thanks,
Donny and Kim (and all of us) 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Heart on a Screen

As I type, we are flying at 39,000 ft with 3 hours to go until we land in Nairobi. I've only watched one movie because I can't keep my eyes off the interactive map that shows our flight progress. I have watched us leave London, pass Austria and Greece (along with many other European lands), fly over Crete and the Mediterranean Sea and then enter air space of a land I know so little about yet love so much - Africa. Maybe it's the homeschooler in me who loves watching us fly over all of these places we have studied and will study again this year. I think, though, that it's because I have a promised son in this land. We will fly over Ethiopia en route to Nairobi, and I just keep staring at that map. He's there somewhere. Our soon-to-be son. And so I stare. Because it's the closest I've ever been to him.

Our travel process has been fairly smooth. We left our house yesterday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in a big, black suburban. A kind friend from church had a car service take us to JFK. The kids thought it was cool being picked up like the president or famous people. It was definitely nice to sit back and let someone else do the driving. As Donny and I took our final steps out of our house, he looked at me and said:  "Let's go get him." Mush. From that moment on, I have been fairly laser focused on one thing: adopting our son. It's time to do this.

Back to travel: Let me tell you - I have never driven with a native New Yorker before through lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. When you are super confident and know what you're doing, you can really get places. Let's just say I was a little white knuckled here or there, but he was great.

We got to JFK with lots of time to spare. Once we checked in and got through security, we got the kids McDonalds and took it to a restaurant where I could get a salad. I don't remember the last time I had a salad. It's been lots of frozen pizzas and breakfast for dinner around here while we've been packing/planning.

After dinner, I realized that I had forgotten lip balm, so the kids and I went into a "Hudson News" bookstore to see if they had lip balm. While in the store, I had my first New York star sighting. I saw Padma from Top Chef. I didn't have my camera with me, so I ran back to get it, and once she had checked out, I went up to her and asked if I could take a picture with her. She had her daughter with her, so she politely declined. I told her how we were flying to Ethiopia to adopt our little boy, and I thought it would be so fun that meeting her was part of our story. We introduced our daughters to each other which was so fun, and then she asked her daughter if she knew what adoption was. Her daughter didn't really respond. Padma said she would explain more about it to her later. She was very kind and gracious to me, her airport stalker, and Millie.

Once we finally boarded our plane, which was delayed, we sat on the tarmack for roughly an hour waiting to be cleared for take-off. Apparently the president was there earlier and had held up departures a bit. We settled into our flight, and we tried not to worry about whether we would make our layover in London.

The kids have been doing great. Will fell asleep during our wait on the tarmack before we even took off from JFK yesterday and slept the whole flight until I had to wake him to put on shoes and put his seat upright. The big kids watched a movie, we ate an unexpected meal around 10:30 pm, and we all fell asleep after about an hour and a half into the flight. I have no idea how long we slept, but I guess maybe 4ish hours.

Now we are on our final few hours before Nairobi. Thankfully, we made our connection, but it was close. We arrived at the gate about 10 minutes before the gates were scheduled to close. The kids have been awake this flight which I hope means they will sleep well tonight. The flight has lots of great on-demand movies and even some video games, so they have been well entertained. 

Overall, I don't know that it could have been smoother. I thank the Lord for his continued grace and provision for our family. We are ready to adopt our boy, and we couldn't be more thankful that we have our whole family here to do it together. Thanks for your continued prayers.

We fly to Ethiopia Saturday morning, will drive 3 hours to his orphanage, and then we will meet our boy for the first time. My heart is thrilled even writing those words. As the east coast wakes Saturday morning, we should have him in our arms. We will love on him with all that we can for three days and then head back to Addis Ababa to appear in court next Tuesday. We won't bring him home with us this trip. Once we adopt him, the U.S. Embassy takes 4-6 weeks to complete all they need to do to prepare him for immigration and citizenship. Then we will race back to get him and bring him home forever hopefully at the end of August or beginning of September.

As you sleep early Monday morning, we will be saying good-bye to him. Writing those words hurts my heart. Pray that our embassy process will be surprisingly swift. We can't wait to bring him home.

Thanks again for all of your love and support. I don't plan to blog much more while we are gone, although I may surprise myself. We'll post quick updates here and there on Facebook. An hour and 22 minutes left of flight time. I think I'll go stare at my map. We're coming for you, little one.

Quick pic of Millie and Will under their "tents" doing what they did most of the JFK-Nairobi flight: Movies and Video Games. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

An update, and the winner of our giveaway is....

Rusty Harding!!!!

Sorry we are a few days late on this, but Millie was excited to draw this morning for our Adoption Fundraising Giveaway. Congrats, Rusty!!!

We are humbled and in awe to report that, by God's grace and the generosity of many, we met 100% our adoption fundraising goal!!! The generosity of our friends and family has been incredible. It really does take a village, and we will continue to need your love, prayers and support now and in the many days and months ahead once we bring our little guy home.

If you had a desire to give and didn't get to it yet, you can still give. There are other "extra" expenses that will come along the way, but it is so good to know we have met all of the absolutely necessary expenses to bring our guy home. 

In case you missed my post on Facebook, we received a court date and will travel to meet him next week! We will officially adopt him to be ours forever on July 28. I will try to post again before we leave, but I can't make any promises. Please pray for our travel over the next two weeks. We are taking our entire family with us, so we are praying that the Lord uses this time to begin molding us into a family of six.

We will not bring him home with us on this trip. Once we pass court, it will take a month to six weeks for him to go through US Embassy  approval to be issued the proper paperwork to come home. Please join us in praying that we can bring him home at the end of August or very beginning of September. Our prayer from the beginning has been that he would be home by Hunter's birthday on September 14. 

Thanks again for your incredible love and support of our family.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Final Countdown

In December, our kids received an XBOX 360 from their Aunt and Uncle. It came with a Kinect sensor that allows them to play the games using their whole body. One of our favorite games is Just Dance 4 where we get points for following the right dance moves. One of our favorite songs in the game is "The Final Countdown" by Europe where two guys dressed as wrestlers dance battle it out. It is very commonplace in our family to hear our four year old humming or singing "The Final Countdown," and that is pretty much awesome.

Well, in a manner of speaking, the final countdown has begun for our family. We received a call yesterday that the final letter needed for us to receive a court date has been submitted to the courts in Ethiopia. Yesterday we were told, "When the court docket comes out next week, your name will be on the list."

I had her repeat that part: "Our name will be on the list."

AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! It's finally here!!!! Hopefully this time next week we will know the date we will go to make our little guy a Friederichsen.

Can you hear it? "Da, dah, Da, dah, Daaaaa....it's the FINAL COUNTDOWN!!!!"

Hopefully more next week with news that we are packing our bags!!!! Until then, enjoy this little music video and just imagine our little family rocking it out, cause it's THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!!!!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

138 days - A Fundraising GIVEAWAY!!!!

First family picture with our little guy back in February.
It's been 138 days since we first saw his face (which is hidden under the heart until we officially adopt him).

138 Days - As of today, it has been 138 days since we saw our future son's face for the first time. Lord willing, there won't be too many more days that will pass before we meet him face to face.

Today I woke up to Facebook posts from families who are leaving for Ethiopia today having been given TWO DAYS NOTICE. Yes, they were called Thursday and are leaving for Ethiopia today. Some of these families are only two weeks ahead of us in the process. It's getting real, folks. Getting THE CALL to travel to go meet our soon-to-be son and officially adopt him could be very close.

We still have about $5000 to raise to be fully funded to travel to adopt him, bring him home, and complete our final adoption expenses. The grants we were hoping to receive to finish off our adoption expenses did not pan out. We are so thankful that we have received some generous donations in the past few weeks, but we are not finished yet!

In honor of our 138 days of knowing our little one's name and face, we are holding a fundraising giveaway!!! 
We are giving away a $138 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!!!

You can enter our giveaway twice. Here's how to enter:
1. Click here to give a donation of ANY AMOUNT, large or small, to our adoption fund with Lifesong for Orphans. Any donation will enter you into our giveaway. Want to give $1 just to be entered? Great!!! We would love for you to be a part of our little guy's story.
If you would like to donate via check rather than paypal, let me know. I can send you the address of where to send a check.

2. Share this blog post/giveaway via Facebook or another social media outlet. Other adoption-minded individuals might be excited enter our giveaway to help us bring our little guy home. We would love your help to SPREAD THE WORD. If you share our giveaway, you can comment on this blog post or comment/message me personally on Facebook, and I will put your name in for a second entry.

Here's something fun to think about: Would you consider giving $138 in honor of our little man and our wait for him to this point? If that is too much or if you want to give more, that is totally fine. Just think - if 37 people gave $138, our needs would be met. Cool, right? OR - What if 138 people gave (even small amounts)? That would be awesome, too. I'll try to post a thermometer on our blog to track the status of the giveaway. This will be SO MUCH FUN to see how the Lord provides.

Giveaway ends on Monday, July 13. I will put all names in a bowl and have our kids draw for a winner on July 16 to celebrate five months since first seeing his face. My prayer is that when we draw for the giveaway that we will also be scrambling making travel plans. Only the Lord knows!!!

If you are a first time visitor to our blog and would like more details about our adoption journey and our financial provision/stewardship throughout the last three years, you are welcome to browse through our blog to learn more of our story. Here are a few specific links:
The Beginnings of our Adoption Process
138 Days Ago - Our Referral Call
June 2015 Update on the State of the Friederichsen Adoption Funds

Thanks for considering our family's needs. Above all, please pray that the time remaining to see him face to face will be short and that the Lord will prepare all of us to be together as a family forever.