December 23, 2012

it's been one year! - anniversary post

It's been one year.  One year since who you know as "The Four" has come home.  One crazy, hard, fun, year.  The past few days have been full of reminiscing over the things we have forgotten about the first days home, as well as the days leading up to it.  When I think back to December of last year, I can still remember every little detail, as if someone caught it on tape and is replaying it for me.

While I was in Ethiopia, I wrote this post.  "When words fail, pictures will have to suffice."  Those were my words, and they were (and still are) true.  That week in Ethiopia was an emotional roller coaster.  It was pain and joy, frustration and laughter, anger and eagerness.  This post is going to be a baring of my soul.  It is time to write the details of that week, and the things I was feeling, the little things that happened.  You need to hear them.  Thank you so much for your support, your comments and encouraging emails, and thank you for your tears and prayers.  They meant so much to me.  This story is my way of thanking you.

3:00 am
i hadn't slept the night of december sixteenth.  i couldn't.  and when i got up, i knew i would regret it, but that didn't matter because i was flying to ethiopia.  it was cold and way too early, but a family friend picked us up to take us to the airport.  we got to the end of our driveway, and my best friend and her dad pulled up.  i hid the tears that came when i saw her smiling face.  with all the excitement, stress, and exhaustion,  i was so happy to see her.  it was the perfect way to be sent off.

the guesthouse
we rested the afternoon that we arrived - the 18th, i think.  i was jetlagged, but sleep would not come.  after visiting in 2010, it was so good to be back in a place i loved and missed.  as i lay in the bed i would share with my dad for the next few days, i was thinking about them.  wondering what they were doing that very moment.  wondering what our meeting would be like.  finally, it was time to get up and go see them.  i remember the bumpy ride, the questions we asked about them, and the familiar sights from a year before.

the transition home
sadly, i don't remember much from our first visit.  it was overwhelming.  it was exciting.  there were hugs, translation, and smiles of recognition.  and a huge weight was on my heart, because suddenly it was real.  faces i had seen in photos were now children on my lap.  this was happening.

thoughts afterward
i want to share with you something i wrote in my journal.  something i haven't shared before.  "what if we regret doing this?  what if it's too hard?  i want my family to stay the way it has been for my entire life, but it won't....i'm feeling guilty for thinking these things.  for thinking that we will regret this....i believe it's going to be fine.  it will be good.  it has been amazing to see the way God helped us get tickets, supplies...He has been helping us prepare the whole time."  surely something worked this perfectly by God would not end in regret and grief.  

the last hours in ethiopia
after we passed through embassy, the kids came to the guest house.  everything was new - the room was clean, there were beds with pillows and blankets, there was a shower and flushing toilet.  and as i write this, i am crying.  they were so scared, so new to everything that i had taken for granted.  we played, took showers, put on new clothes, packed.  our flight left on the 22nd of december - just three days before christmas.  it didn't feel the christmas when we were there.  in fact, i didn't even think about christmas the entire time we were there.  all i knew during that last day was what time our plane was leaving and realizing that it was going to be a LONG flight. 

the realization hit that day, the 22nd.  these kids are real, and they have faults just as i do.  they are my siblings now.  (do you know how hard that is?  to realize that with a woman in the embassy giving you a smile, you now have four new siblings.)  they know five english words, and i know ten amharic words.  that's not going to get us very far.  i can't think about the next few days.  all i can think about is the next few minutes, how to tell them what they need to know, how to prepare them for this.  and i didn't know what they were feeling.  worse than i was, i'm sure.  my dad and i could not prepare them for an airport, an airplane taking off, the upcoming arrival to a cold, dark, and entirely new place that was now forever home, but not the home they had known forever.

thankfully, the airplane was somewhat empty, and we were able to stretch out and sleep that night in the air.  it brought a respite from the struggle to communicate and the fact that EVERYTHING had to be taught - from how to use the plastic fork, to how to open the bathroom door, how to wash hands, how to tie shoes, etc. etc.  it was a very long 14 hours.       

washington d.c.
this was where we touched down in the united states.  i remember smiling and pointing out the window.  "look.  we're in america."  america was a word they understood, and it took on a whole new meaning when we stepped off that plane.  welcome to america, kids.  two hours in line to get through immigration.  hallways lined with restaurants and stores.  so many people.  white people.  this was where the frustration and anger begins.  with an announcement, we learned that our flight home (which should have left three hours after we got to washington d.c.) was now delayed.  the four were tired, intrigued, and impatient.  so we wandered.  my dad and i struggled to entertain as the flight was pushed back hour after hour.  i was ready to cry, and i did a few times.  i struggled to keep the tears back, because i would not let anyone see me cry.  we were exhausted and done.  done with airports and uncomfortable chairs and questions and stares.

finally, home
after eight hours in the washington d.c. airport, our plane finally took off.  i closed my eyes the minute i sat down and fell asleep.  i awoke as we were landing.  the littlest of "the four" was crying. she was scared and in pain from the pressure in her ears.  the sun was setting and i knew we were finally home.  i remember walking out into the dark, the family waiting, and my mom standing on the sidewalk.  i walked to her and began to cry in her hug.  i crawled to the back of the car, trying to control the tears.  we were home, finally.

it was december 23rd, around 7 o'clock.  i walked into my house, and all eleven of us walked through the rooms, showing "the four" around.  we settled in for the night.  after a shower, i sat in a dark room downstairs, curled in a ball on the chair.  and i began to sob.  for some back story, i've never been very fond of change.  i don't handle it well.  i just don't like it.  and this change...this was the biggest change i had ever experienced.  i realized that my family would no longer be the family i had known for fifteen years.  i was mourning - already - for what i had lost.  it was selfish, but all the adoption books said it would happen and it needed to happen.  christmas passed in a blur, and we began to become a family.  there was screaming and crying and anger.  there were blank stares, hatred, and pain.  six days later, i wrote this in my journal:  "christmas and the first week of this adoption have flown by.  truthfully, i don't even want to be writing here right now.  i barely know what day it is."   our new life had begun, but it did not end the way it began.

If you have followed my blog since then, you know that this story is redemptive.  And if you don't know, let me tell you.  This experience has changed me and every single person in my family.  It has brought me so much closer to God.  It is a story of difficulty, pain, mourning for what was lost, and learning.  Everyday there is grace and mercy from our Lord.  There is love and joy (most days) in this house now.

Adoption is not easy.  It's not.  It will never be easy.  But I would never change it.  I would never go back.  The pictures of four kids in Ethiopia have become four siblings that I love very dearly.  And tonight we are all sleeping by the Christmas tree - all eleven of us.  It feels like home, and it feels like family.  It feels so right.  The Christmas my dad and I missed, the Christmas The Four didn't understand, is now a time to create traditions and a time to enjoy each other.  This story is redemptive and for that I am so thankful.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading.  My writing is not even close to being perfect, but I needed to write it down.  Disclaimer: this post is brutally honest, but I will not sugar coat this story.  I strive to be real - on my blog and in my life.  So, that is what I did.  Thank you, again, for your support and encouragement this past year.  It means so much.  Merry Christmas, friends!  I'll be posting again tomorrow with some photos!

December 16, 2012

she's thirteen today

My best friend turns thirteen today.

Somehow, this beautiful sister of mine has become a teenager, and I'm still not sure where the time has gone. She is one of my best friends, with a contagious laugh.  She is a drama queen, an actress, and an artist.  And this girl has a beautiful heart.  Last week, we found a pretty red fence to snap a few photos, and they portray her personality so well.  A little quiet, a little shy, but a heart of gold with a smile and laugh to prove it.  Love you, E, and happy birthday!

December 13, 2012

christmas in their eyes

I love this.  Their innocence at Christmas time.  The way their eyes light up with expectation and excitement.  It brings back memories from when I was their age, and Christmas was a month-long holiday.  Even though that's not the case anymore (thanks to finals...ugh) I still love this part of Christmas.  It might be one of my favorite things about December - that I get to celebrate this time with the people I love the most.

On a completely different note, today was spontaneous; it was the soaking up of ordinary, special moments.  At 12:12, the alarm on my phone went off, and the majority of us went outside.  We were barefoot, and it was forty degrees.  Someone said go, and we ran.  We ran around the house yelling and laughing.  We did it just to celebrate a unique day - 12/12/12.  I came inside with numb feet and a panting breath, but I felt alive.  This is the kind of life I want to live - the spontaneous, the fun the soaking up of every little moment I have been given in this life.

December 08, 2012

december eighth

all shots are sooc today...

Today was one of those days - that even though bad things happen, you can't help but be in a good mood.  It was one of those days where you can literally smell December.  It's in the gray clouds, the Christmas tree farm, the kitchen when you first step in from being out all day.  It was one of those days that felt like the Christmas season - where every room in the house is decorated, the kids open their advent bags for a treat, and checking the mail is much more fun than usual because of the Christmas cards.  I love how Christmas creeps up slowly, and then all of a sudden, it's upon you and you can't help but revel in it.  It was that kind of good day today.

In other news, today I started a mental list of things that make my heart happy.  I'm determined to start filling a notebook with things like this.  Here's a few:

the way my fingers remember how to play songs on the piano faster than my head.  when i find a wrinkled, forgotten sheet, most times i only have to look at the music once and my fingers just take over.  it comes back to me, and i love that.

remembering that week in july that was a dream come true, that was full of memories and friendship building.  i love to go back and look at the photos that are still on my phone.

that my friends and i are planning for the future and realizing our dreams.  and that i get to be a part of it with them.  (also, that my dear friend madeline shot her first wedding today!)

my journals.  i cannot express enough how glad i am that i've written in journals since third grade.  there are so many hidden memories, secrets, and thoughts on their pages that i would have otherwise forgotten if i hadn't written them down.  nine years of writing down the special things has left me with a stack of special journals that i will keep forever.

the fact that friendships can be formed even from a distance.  also, the fact that sometimes you meet someone who you immediately click with, and your friendship is strong even though you are separated by thousands of miles.  hannah, madeline, and kiley are just one example of that.

december nights - like tonight - spent in front of the fire with a good book, a notebook, or my laptop

What are some things that make your heart happy?  I'd love to hear them!

December 07, 2012

a (small) preview of the c family

I can't wait to share the full session of this family with you.  The hour we spent together in my small, cozy town resulted in some of my favorite images ever.

December 05, 2012

an update + two photos for you

My Thanksgiving outfit
I decorated my room for Christmas
I'm stunned that it's already December, that 2012 has only one month left.  The time is passing too quickly.  It's running through my fingers, and I can't hold on to it.  School and work have kept me too busy to even pick up my camera - let alone blog - and I'm learning that maybe that's OK.  Sometimes, it's much better to tell your friends things rather than tell the internet.  Sometimes you just need to spend time with the people around you rather than the people you've never met.  But I thought I share a little update with you today:

I've already begun to make resolutions for next year - parts of me I want to change, things I want to become better at, goals I want to achieve.  It's exciting to plan projects and trips and goals.  I'll share those with you later.

It's been seventy degrees for the past few days this week.  This is not normal for December.  As much as I love warm weather, some snow would be nice.

It's almost been a year since "The Four" came home.  It's crazy how quickly the time has passed.  Most days, I feel like a family, tightly knitted together, becoming stronger everyday.  But, there are also hard days.  A few people have asked me to do an update post, and I will be doing that soon in a few weeks.

Guys, Christmas is twenty days!  (Not like I'm counting down or anything...)  Even though I don't get out of school until the 20th, I plan on being rebellious and stop doing school so I can make Christmas cookies, wrap presents, and read Christmas books to the littles.  I plan on enjoying ever second of this Christmas season.

Look for more posts, as well as a little design work to the blog.  Happy Wednesday!

November 20, 2012

the b family | family photographer

The B family is hard to describe in words.  They are my classmates, teachers, and great friends.  But they are more than that.  They are adventurous, hilarious, and hard working.  Ideas become plans, and plans become actions in this family.  Tanner runs a successful blog, and his dad sponsored my blog this year (link on the side).  Mrs. B has been my history and science teacher over the years.  Hudson has faithfully given me a high-five every Monday and Thursday for two years.

That's why I love photographing people I knew well.  We have stories, and I knew their personalities, their smiles.  It makes the photos much more meaningful.  It was a joy to be able to photograph them...and their dog, Chloe.  So, take a look at their family photos:

Thank you B family for being open to all my ideas and for believing in my photography business!