Happy 2014!

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Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!

Psalm 105:1-2

Happy New Year to you! It’s been over a year now since I last posted anything on this blog, and I thought it was about time for me to post a long overdue update on what God has been doing in our family. As some of you know, I didn’t plan to stop blogging completely, but due to some health problems it seemed best for me to step away from the online world to concentrate on getting better.

Thankfully, I can say that the Lord has strengthened me greatly, and I am in much better health now than I was one year ago. I wouldn’t call this a blogging comeback quite yet, but I do hope to return to sharing encouragement with you here at Precious Adornment as the Lord gives me the energy to do so. In the meantime though, here’s a bit of the news that I shared with family and friends in our Christmas letter…

Probably much like yours, our year seems to have breezed by in a matter of a few short weeks. Looking back over 2013, I can’t help but remember how the days, months, and years before Evangelle came home just crawled by in a painfully slow manner. That heartache is a distant memory now, and the Lord has filled our lives with more joy than we could have imagined. He is good, and every day that we share together as a family is a gracious gift from His hand.

Special Memories from 2013

In Ethiopia, Christmas is celebrated on January 7 instead of December 25, and this year our family had a double celebration of the occasion. First, we had a special dinner at home where I prepared a slightly Americanized version of Ethiopian cuisine including injera (a spongy flatbread) and doro wat  (a spicy chicken stew). Evangelle enjoyed sampling a cabbage and potato dish and a bit of injera and didn’t laugh too much at my attempts to bring a little taste of Ethiopia home to her.

Later in the month, we were thrilled to reunite with some of the friends that we made during our 2012 visits to Ethiopia for a belated Christmas celebration at an Ethiopian restaurant in Charlotte. We think of and pray often for Evangelle’s special friends from Ethiopia and are so happy to see them flourishing with their forever families. 

April 17 marked one year since the Lord brought our family together and we were finally free to bring Evangelle home! God is good!

Mother’s Day was another important day for our family as we participated in a child dedication service at church and publicly committed to raise Evangelle in the ways of the Lord. We want more than anything to honor Him with how we handle the tremendous blessing and responsibility of parenting He has so graciously given us.

Evangelle turned two years old at the end of May. She has very much enjoyed telling people that she is two whether they ask or not! Her language skills are progressing and Joseph and I understand a lot of what she tries to communicate, but translation is still required for most other people. :)

She is learning to count and sing her ABC’s. She loves looking at and having books read to her, and she absolutely adores music. Her favorite album (highly recommend!) has a song called “Make Me Wise.” A day doesn’t go by without her asking multiple times to listen to “May Tee Why.” It’s the cutest thing to hear her singing along at the top of her lungs.

In September, we were able to take Evangelle on a trip to the beach for the very first time. During our brief vacation, she went from despising the feeling of sand on her feet on day one to making sand castles and squealing with delight when we’d take her running through water on the ocean’s edge by our last day there.

November brought a special treat when our missionary friends from Ethiopia, Les and Maxine Williams, came to spend a few days with us during a short visit back in the United States. Les and Maxine house, care for, and share the Gospel with close to 60 young people who would otherwise be entirely abandoned and without hope. If you are interested in supporting a ministry that is changing lives in Ethiopia, please visit the Williams’s website where you can learn more about Hope for Youth Ethiopia.

One other major 2013 event for our family occurred when we decided after much prayer to begin the adoption process from Ethiopia once again! We have been gathering and completing the necessary truckload of paperwork over the last few months and hope to submit our dossier soon after the beginning of the new year. We would be grateful for your prayers as we begin another long wait (the current estimate is 3 years) to bring another precious child into our family.

May God bless you and keep you as you seek him in 2014!

What’s Happening in Evangelle’s World

At 15 months of age and after four months at home with us, Evangelle continues to delight Joseph and me each day with her progress. Here’s a quick update on the top news and events from her little corner of the world…  

  1. She learned to say “Wow” this week. Super cute.
  2. Each day she seems to become a bit more balanced when she stands up on her own. I’m pretty sure her first steps can’t be too far away.
  3. Four sharp little teeth now! There’s a good-sized gap between her two top teeth. Joseph thinks it’s quite adorable and hopes it will stay there. 
  4. Every day is a good day for dancing. If I’m not playing music for her, she seems perfectly happy to dance to the music in her head.
  5. Speaking of music, she has recently begun “singing” along with me when I sing. I’d post a video, but that would mean you’d have to listen to me singing too. Oh, well, just trust me, it’s truly precious (her singing, I mean). :) 
  6. She graduated to drinking from a sippy cup.
  7. Sometimes when I’m lucky, she’ll voluntarily give me a kiss on the cheek.
  8. Other times, she makes me laugh by giving me zrbtts instead. (See HERE if you’re unfamiliar with what a zrbtt is.)
  9. She likes bugs—eating them, that is. I’ve twice discovered her chomping on the remains of some unidentifiable insect. While I try to control my gag reflex, Joseph just laughs and says it’s good protein.
  10. Shoes are apparently her thing. Although she’s a total wiggleworm when I try to dress her or fix her hair, she sits completely still and eagerly points her little toes when it comes time to put her shoes on. Her papa sent her the cutest pair of Skechers last week, and as you can see, they made her feet feel very happy.  

So You Think You Can Dance?

Evangelle certainly does. All it takes is the slightest hint of music or a little drumming on the table to set her in motion.

Recently, Evangelle joined her aunt, uncle, and cousin for their nightly routine of prayer and singing before bedtime. While they provided the vocals, Evangelle decided to show off some of her moves.

I thought the result was too cute to keep to myself…

Not So Fast!

Joseph, Evangelle, and I just returned from spending one week in glorious Santa Clarita, California. I love that city for so many reasons—the tea room, the array of cupcake bakeries and coffee/tea shops, the beautiful scenery and amazing weather—but most of all, I love Santa Clarita because that’s where The Master’s College makes its home.

I’ve been working on a master’s degree in biblical counseling at Master’s for the past few years, and the summer sessions on campus are always a highlight of my year. Being able to spend a week or two at a time immersed in biblical teaching provided by godly professors and deep fellowship shared with precious friends is a great blessing and encouragement to me.

This year’s highlight was even brighter than usual since Joseph and Evangelle were able to join me for my cross-country adventure. I spent the mornings in class, then we would set out as a family each afternoon for a little sight-seeing. In spite of the upheaval caused by traveling and teething, Evangelle was a trooper and seemed to enjoy every last bit of attention my friends and fellow classmates were willing to give her. She really is quite a ham!

Throughout the week, Joseph and I kept remarking how quickly Evangelle seems to be growing. Even though we repeatedly plead with her to slow things down a bit, she continues pushing ahead to her life as a big girl. The day before we left California, she decided to commemorate our visit with two big events—the appearance of a new tooth and this…

Standing on her own for the first time!

As much as Joseph and I love having a “baby” girl, we’re also grateful to see God at work in Evangelle’s growth and development. We’re doing our best to cherish every little moment!

My Favorite Sound

While my husband was out of town on a business trip over the last few days, Evangelle and I were able to spend some quality girl time together. We made sure to fit in plenty of the usual girl stuff like dancing, shopping, drama, and a few tears.  

But most importantly, there was giggling, lots of giggling…

We’ve had much more fun around here since Evangelle finally realized that
she’s ticklish!

Evangelle’s Favorite Things

One of the fun and interesting aspects of life with Evangelle has been learning about what she does and does not enjoy. Fortunately, she has such a happy and generally easy-going disposition that after 3 months together, we’ve been pleased to find that the first list is quite a bit longer than the second. We’ll see how long that holds out. ;)

If you have a little one, are planning to have a little one, know someone with a little one, OR if you’re planning to go and bring home one of those amazing little ones from Ethiopia (hint, hint), I thought you might enjoy seeing this list of Evangelle’s favorite things.

Food

So far, Evangelle’s diet consists mainly of fresh fruits, veggies, and oatmeal. I think she’d eat bananas all day if we’d let her, but we try to make sure she gets in a good variety from day to day. Because she experienced malnutrition in the first few months of life, I’ve been especially concerned about giving her as healthful of a diet as we possibly can to promote growth and keep her immune system strong. I’ve been incredibly grateful that so far she seems to really like healthful foods, and I’m hoping we can train her taste buds to stay that way. 

When we’re out and about, we’ve found the HappyTot line of baby food to be incredibly convenient. The squeezable pouches were perfect for travel, so we stocked up before our trip to Ethiopia. They’re all organic and contain no added sugar, and Evangelle loves all 3 of the flavors that we’ve tried. 

And, oh, my, does this girl love her HappyBaby Sweet Potato Puffs! They’re made with whole grains and sweetened only with fruit juice, so Mommy is pretty happy about her eating them too. You can find them in some grocery stores, or you can buy them in larger quantities through Amazon.

Hair & Skin

Caring for Evangelle’s hair has been surprisingly easy so far. We really like this line of organic coconut and hibiscus hair care products from Shea Moisture. The scent is amazing and may be part of the reason that I have so many people telling me that they want to eat Evangelle up.

You can find Shea Moisture products at Target and Walgreens. 

I wash Evangelle’s hair with the Shea Moisture shampoo once a week and then I do a conditioner wash halfway through the week with Bee Mine avocado cream conditioner. Another adoptive mom said that it had worked wonders on her daughter’s hair, and it seems to be working great for us too.

As you can probably tell, I’m one of those hippie moms who’s pretty concerned about keeping her daughter away from chemicals and artificial products as much as possible, so I was happy to learn that I could use coconut oil to moisturize both Evangelle’s hair and skin. We massage it into her hair once or twice a day, and we use it in place of skin lotion after her bath and before bed.

Evangelle personally recommends using it as a snack while having your hair done. ;)

On our way to D.C. for our flight to Ethiopia, I picked up a tin of this Night Night Balm at a Cracker Barrel store, thinking it might be helpful as we transitioned Evangelle into her new sleeping schedule. It’s made from essential oils like chamomile and lavender that are supposed to have a calming and relaxing effect, and it has a very pleasant scent.

Whether it makes a difference or not with Evangelle’s sleep, I really don’t know, but I do know that she gets very happy when she sees the tin coming out before bedtime. I only use a small amount on her cheeks, neck, and chest, so one tin of Night Night Balm lasts a long time.

Headbands with large bows and flowers have become quite popular for babies in the last few years, but Joseph and I aren’t exactly fans of the kind where the embellishments are bigger than the baby’s head. ;) I found this set of 15 crocheted headbands with smaller-sized daisies on Amazon for a good price. Unfortunately, the price has increased by $5 since I bought them, but I think it’s still a good value for the number of headbands that you get.

I enjoy having so many colors to choose from, and Evangelle seems to have taken a liking to them too. She’ll try over and over to put one on her head. She hasn’t figured out yet how to get it on, but it’s certainly cute to watch her try!

Toys

Before we brought her home, the majority of toys that I’d bought for Evangelle were soft or plush because I thought that’s what she’d prefer at her age. I was wrong. What she likes best right now are plastic or wood toys that she can use to hit together and make a lot of racket! 

She loves these stacking cups that a friend sent to her.

And she’s gotten a lot of enjoyment out of these linkable rings from Bright Starts.

Books & Music

You can check my recent post on Baby’s Hug-a-Bible and Rain for Roots for more details on why Evangelle and I like this storybook and album so much.

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a peek at a few of Evangelle’s favorite things. Maybe a little one you know would enjoy some of them too.

Post-Adoption Report

Just when we began to enjoy a break from the adoption paperwork, the time to file our first post-adoption report has already arrived!

Each country has different requirements regarding these reports, but since we adopted from Ethiopia, we’ll need to provide annual updates until Evangelle is 18 years old with the addition of a few extra during this first year. 

The post-adoption report will include a questionnaire on Evangelle’s progress and development, a variety of photos, and a visit at our home from a social worker. Not too bad, really, when you consider how great a blessing it is for us to have Evangelle as our daughter.

As I read through the questions about her adjustment and development, I was reminded again how gracious God has been to us as a family. Evangelle has been home for just over 10 weeks now, and Joseph and I continue to be amazed by how well she is doing.

Here are a few of the milestones regarding her growth and development that we were able to share with our agency…

  • Transitioned from crawling “Army style” to crawling on hands and knees
  • Able to pull up to standing position with the help of furniture
  • Says “dadada” and “mamama”
  • Understands and responds to phrases like “Wave hello,” “Blow kisses,” and “Clap your hands”
  • Mimics faces really well!
  • Gained over 3 lbs.
  • Two bottom teeth

And to help you better visualize it…

We definitely should have added comedic skills to the list of her strengths. =)

I just want to say again how thankful I am to each one of you who has kept our family in your prayers over the past several months.

The only explanation I can give for why Evangelle has done so well thus far is that God has obviously been hearing and answering prayer! 

Funny Face

From the time she wakes up in the morning until she pokes her little thumb into her mouth before going to sleep at night, Evangelle keeps us laughing with a nearly endless array of funny faces. I thought I’d share a few of them with you today…

We call this her scrunchy face.

And this one—the Kissy-Fishy Face

Working on her whistling skills…

Looking at Mommy through the window

Fierce or friendly?

Not sure what this one is.

So happy she could burst!

Precious Memories

When we finally laid eyes on Evangelle in April after 4 months of being apart, she was wearing a traditional Ethiopian dress which had been given to her by the staff of Acacia Village as one of her first Christmas gifts.

Although we were not allowed to take photographs of her at that time, once we returned home the following week, my extremely skilled brother-in-law Taaron Parsons, was kind enough to capture these beautiful photos of Evangelle in that special dress…

With a handmade tablecloth from Ethiopia as a backdrop,
Evangelle was ready for her photo shoot.

She is the queen of funny faces.

Showing off some of her flexibility

Her continual happiness is a wonderful gift of God!

Her eyes—so dark you can barely distinguish the pupil from the iris—draw the attention of most everyone she meets.

Our favorite photo of all—We love the daydreamy expression on her little face.

Big-Time Birthday Fun

I am sorry to have disappeared for so long. About two weeks ago, I came down with a cold which quickly developed into bronchitis. A doctor prescribed antibiotics for me, but I was almost completely wiped out until this past weekend.

Shortly after I became sick, Joseph and I learned that the congestion Evangelle has been experiencing since we brought her home had moved into her lower respiratory system, and she too, was put on antibiotics. This wasn’t exactly the kind of mother/daughter experience I’d been hoping we’d share!

Praise the Lord, we are both significantly better now, and I finally had the energy to sort through and post photos from Evangelle’s recent birthday. As you might imagine, we thought her first birthday was an event well worth celebrating. So celebrate, we did!

We wanted all of Evangelle’s closest friends and family members to be there, but that would have been quite a crowd for one birthday party…so we had two birthday parties instead. =) The first with family, and the second with friends who have loved Evangelle before they ever even saw her face. It was a special time for all of us.

Here are a few of the highlights from Evangelle’s first birthday experience…

“Am I turning one already?!!” Evangelle had the chance to share a pre-birthday celebration with Uncle Taaron, Aunt Niki, & Addison at Five Guys.

Evangelle’s first 1st birthday cake – I had much grander designs in mind, but time simply wasn’t on my side.

The birthday girl in her birthday chair

Pretty excited about getting some new baby lotion!

She had no idea what it was, but she was impressed nonetheless.

So happy to be together for this special day!

Enjoying one of her gifts from Daddy & Mommy the day after the party

Cake #2: I had a bit more time to prepare for this one, so things got a little fancier – A dark chocolate cake with cherry cream cheese filling, pink ombre buttercream frosting, fondant bear topper, and reused candle =)

First Dr. Seuss book!

It’s going to take some time for her to grow into them, but I can’t wait to see Evangelle wearing these! Such a sweet gift.

Thanks for the Beanie Baby, Nana & Papa!

Evangelle had fun trying out her new pool and bathing suit. I see a lot of summer fun and sunscreen in her future.

It’s so hard to believe our baby girl is already one year old!

Every day God gives us with Evangelle is a gift, and we’re excited to see what He has planned for her future. 

The Birth of a Miracle

It’s days like this that make me wish I were a journal-keeper. Unfortunately though, I’m neither poetic or thoughtful enough to maintain a written account of my life, so I have no idea what I was doing on this day one year ago. 

If I were to guess, I’d say I was probably cleaning the house or writing papers for school or something else entirely ordinary. Even though I can’t remember exactly what I was doing on May 31st last year, I do have a pretty good idea what I was thinking.

Why is this adoption taking so long?

I wonder if this wait is ever going to end…

Lord, will we ever have a baby?

By this point in 2011, Joseph and I had been in the adoption process for over a year and a half. In January, the Ethiopian government had announced it would drastically reduce the number of adoptions processed, a decision which left all waiting families with uncertain timetables. No one knew what to expect anymore.

But the Lord knew. He was in control, and that truth brought me comfort as I tried to keep my mind focused on the here and now instead of obsessing about what might be happening on the other side of the world.

So on May 31, 2011, while I was folding laundry or typing homework assignments and feeling like everything was exactly the same as it had always been and quite possibly would remain that way for the rest of my days on earth, I had no way of knowing that everything had already changed.

Surrounded as I was by all the ordinariness of another day spent in small-town North Carolina, I couldn’t possibly guess that somewhere, thousands of miles away, in a village in Ethiopia, my miracle was being born.

But the Lord knew. While we waited, He was at work, answering our prayers and sovereignly protecting the life of the tiny baby girl He had long ago determined would become our daughter as she entered the world and drew her first breath. 

Today we celebrate that day and all the things we know now that we could never have imagined then. Our God is truly good.

This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

Happy 1st Birthday, Evangelle!

One Month Later

Dressed & ready for church!

It was one month ago today that Evangelle first entered our home. Someone asked me this weekend what I’ve found most surprising about our time together so far, and I was grateful that I could honestly respond, “How easy it’s been!” 

As I anticipated Evangelle’s arrival, I tried to prepare myself for the possibility of any number of difficulties that might appear during her transition from abandoned orphan to beloved daughter—illness or disease, attachment issues, developmental delays, etc. So far however, the greatest challenge we’ve faced is figuring out how to satisfy her growing belly!

One of my dear friends recently told me she believed it was a miracle that Evangelle has adjusted to life with us so easily after all she’d been through during her first 11 months on earth. I wholeheartedly agree that God’s grace is everywhere evident in our experience. He has certainly been kind in easing us gently into our life as parents.

Evangelle is truly the happiest baby I’ve ever known. She wakes up in the morning smiling, kicking her feet, and ready for a day of fun. She’s so incredibly active that she has a hard time sitting still for cuddling, so I have to take advantage of her sleepy moments.

As soon as she wakes up from a nap, I wrap her up in her little fuzzy blanket and sit down to hold her close. She usually stays groggy for a short time and as a result is content to lean against my chest, quietly sucking on her thumb. As you might imagine, those brief minutes of cuddling are the best moments in my day.

Being Evangelle’s mommy is such an honor to me. Infertility, childlessness, and the long wait to adopt were all painful trials in my life, but every moment of darkness that I experienced then has only made the joys of motherhood shine that much brighter.

Sometimes people comment on how blessed they believe Evangelle is to be adopted into our family and have Joseph and me as her parents. I genuinely appreciate the kindness reflected in such statements and sincerely hope that Evangelle will one day see us as a blessing in her life. But for now at least, all I know is that I’m the one who’s been given an incredible gift.

Thank you, Jesus. This has been one amazing month. 

Fun, Firsts, & Feet

Joseph and I have enjoyed another great week with Evangelle. Over the last few days, she’s definitely shown symptoms of teething, although I still can’t see any evidence of the teeth yet! In spite of some apparent discomfort and occasional fussiness, Evangelle has remained active, playful, and funny most of the time.

Since she’s been home for 2 weeks now, we’ve felt comfortable having a few more visitors over to meet her, and Evangelle has managed to charm them all. I think she’s going to become quite the little social butterfly.

The Lord has graciously continued to bless us in regard to her health. We’ve received good results on Evangelle’s medical tests, and she has a great appetite. We’re working on adding some rolls to her little thighs and the size of her belly is progressing nicely. :)

Hope you enjoy the new photos! 

First walk in the park!

Meeting her prayer warriors, Jerry & Kay

Enjoying her first teething biscuit

Just to prove she doesn’t smile all the time… Better be careful getting between this girl and her teething biscuit!

Poor bunny must have gotten on her bad side.

Standing on her own two feet by herself for the first time!

Speaking of feet… Aren’t these the cutest little things?