Friday, July 30, 2010

there are no words

at 11:50 this morning -- july 30, 2010 -- our lives changed forever.  today was the day we finally saw our son.

i was in my friend, kerry's, kitchen getting lunch ready for her three little people as she was at the hospital for the morning.  as i pulled the bread from the pantry, my cell phone rang...

"hello?" i answered.

"allison?" the kind voice on the other line asked.

i responded, "yes, this is allison."

"hi allison.  this is patricia.  you're not behind the wheel of your car, are you?" she asked with a giggle in her voice.

it was at that moment that the world around me disappeared.  patricia is our case worker at our adoption agency, and i knew there could only be one reason she would randomly be calling my cell phone.

i think i blurted out something to the effect of, "no, i'm not driving!!  why are you calling?!?  do you have something to tell us?!?!?!?"

she spoke with a quiet excitement (or maybe she just seemed quiet in comparison to my increasing voice volume) and said, "i've got a little baby for you.  he's only one month old.  he's tiny, but he's such a cute little guy.  would you like to hear more about him?" 

before i could scream "YES! YES! YES!", my phone beeped to let me know that i had another call coming in.  i glanced at the screen and saw that it was josh, so i frantically said, "AAGGHHH!!  can you hold on just a second please?  josh is beeping in."

i clicked over with a gigantic "HELLO?!?!?" and josh said, "hey babe, what's going on?"  i could tell that he had no idea patricia had been trying to get in touch with us so i squealed, "i'm on the phone with patricia.  she's just about to tell me about our baby!!!!!!" 

as i spoke those words to my precious husband, who i've walked hand-in-hand with through this long, sometimes difficult process, i lost it and the tears started flowing.

josh and i hung up, i clicked back over to patricia and said with a pitiful, crackly voice, "ok, i'm back.  please tell me everything."

she spent the next few minutes telling me what little is known about our baby's birthday, his birth family, the circumstances surrounding his surrender at the orphanage, and his medical history.  thankfully i had grabbed a pen and paper and was writing down every word she said or i promise you that i wouldn't be able to recall more than a couple of points from what she shared.  that moment was too incredible and overwhelming to have been able to grasp it all.

because he isn't legally ours yet, i can't show you pictures (oh, how i wish i could) and i can't even tell you much detail about him.  but i can share this...  he was awake and alert in all of his photos from the orphanage, he was wearing a pittsburgh steelers(*) onesie and a diaper, both of which looked almost comical on him because of how big they were.  but his gargantuan getup is because of this:  he weighed 4.4 pounds the day after his birth and last week during his medical exam, he was only up to 5.5 pounds. 

*families are asked to take orphanage donations when they go to pick up their little ones, so i'm imagining that he was wearing a onesie that was donated by a football fan here in the states.  ;-)

i've said from day one of this process that as hard as the paperchase and the early waiting are, i was guessing that the waiting that comes after a referral -- after there is a precious face connected to the baby you've prayed for for so long -- would be so much harder.  and i had honestly been a little surprised throughout the day today that i didn't have that huge rush of needing to have him in my arms. 

but then we sat down for our time of prayer tonight.

josh began by praising the lord for the great works he has done in our lives this week (there's even more than this amazing news) and he gradually turned his prayer toward asking god to protect and provide for our baby in specific ways.  before i go any further, though, you need to know this one little tidbit:  josh had asked me months ago when we quietly decided on what the baby's name would be to not refer to him by his adopted name but to stick with calling him "little man" or "the baby".

after some of the bumps and bruises we've felt over the past year in trying desperately to get to "the baby", it was just too real to call him by his name.  it felt too possible that he might slip away from us.

so as josh sat tonight with me on his right arm and every other square inch covered in little people, he began praying, "lord, we ask you to please protect judah tonight.  give him enough to eat and please provide him with someone to hold him and rock him.  father, please comfort our son, judah, and help him to know that we love him and that we're coming to get him soon." 

judah alexander lewis.  

in following with the same way we've named our other children, his first name means something special to us ("to praise") and his middle name is after someone in our family ("alexander" is josh's middle name).  what better way to say to judah that the lord graciously crossed our paths and allowed us to adopt him into our family, much in the same way that the lord has adopted us into his. 

once i finally stopped -- stepped away from the delightful madness of 493 phone calls, emails, and facebook messages -- it became real.  hearing josh pray for judah by name for the very first time in 20 months crumbled the wall i had gradually built up to protect my heart from the pain of not having him and the fear of not ever getting him.  in the utterance of a single name, my mind flooded with pictures of his face as my heart crumbled with a longing to tuck him in tonight.

we have a son in ethiopia.  be still, my heart.

i will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and 
will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.  -psalm 7:17

Thursday, July 22, 2010

the tradition continues

i don't have a ton of memories of my childhood but one of the things that does stick out to me is that my parents spent hour upon hour of our little years reading the same old books to us.  it's not that they didn't expose us to new and different's that bethany and i had a certain handful of books that we wanted to hear all. the. time.

and one of those favorite books was "my go-to-bed book".  yes, we loved the story, but one night our dad made up some goofy game using the animal patchwork design on the inside cover, and from that time on, we couldn't wait to get through the book so that we could play the game because it always resulted in tickling and laughing until we could barely breathe. 

now fast forward 25 years.  the kids and i were shopping in "tuesday morning" one day (only the finest for us) when something caught my eye in the book section.  yes, my friends, it was a board book version of the exact same book bethany and i used to have (which now resides in the chest my mom keeps of all of our keepsakes).  i think i squealed like a four-year-old and grabbed it off the shelf.  i threw the cover open to see if the inside cover was the same, and i almost cried when i saw those familiar cuddly animals nestled across the pages in a patchwork design.

i walked straight to the register to check out with my treasure.

the kids and i read/play "my go-to-bed book" all the time now, and it's as much a precious time for us as it was for our family growing up so many years ago.  so when my sweet parents made an impromptu visit to our house this week to visit with us, encourage us, and support us, i couldn't wait for the two generations surrounding me to enjoy the tradition together.

as abby read each page, my dad laid his head back, closed his eyes, and carefully recited each and every word of the book from the memories that are etched in his mind from so many years ago.

once the reading was done, the game could begin.  jack could hardly wait (it's his favorite part)...

mom and daddy, i love you so much and i'm so thankful for you and the blessings you are to our family.  and mom, thank you again for tonight...that's just what i needed.  ;-)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

chubby bunny

pronunciation - \'chuh-bē buh-nē\ 
definition - a game in which each participant puts a progressively larger number of marshmallows into his or her mouth, all the while repeating the phrase "chubby bunny".  the winner is the individual who successfully repeats the aforementioned phrase while housing the largest number of marshmallows.

i was initially introduced to chubby bunny during my first trip to the cabin at cashiers.  i didn't remember much about the game other than i laughed myself silly and that josh's mom won, so when somebody mentioned that we would be playing chubby bunny again this year, i jumped all over it.  the dentist(*) tells me i've got a pretty small mouth, so i knew better than to think i might take the prize this year, but i was definitely up for the laughs.

*perhaps i should clarify something here.  the last time i went to the dentist, he did tell me that i've got a small mouth.  the part i didn't mention is that because of a touch of terrified phobia, i've only been to the dentist twice in the last ten years.  maybe my mouth has grown since then.

the kids' cousin, chase, was on us all weekend wanting to know what "chubby bunny" was, but we kept telling him he would just have to wait and experience the amazing game on our last night there.  after excited anticipation, he finally asked once more after our last dinner, "pleeeeease tell me how to play 'chubby bunny'!"

somebody started to answer, but i jumped in with, "ok chase, here it is.  go ahead and close your eyes."  (he closes his eyes and i continue in my best soothing, meditation-type voice...)  "now picture a bunny.  think about what his little face looks like.  think about what his ears and tail look like.  now try to stand like a bunny."  (he perches his hands in front of his face, bends his legs, and pokes his top teeth out)  "next, you've got to imagine a chubby bunny.  think about how he walks.  think about how he hops.  now try your hardest to hop like a chubby bunny."  (he moves his hands out beyond his belly and begins to flop heavily around the back porch.  everyone screams, "bigger!  faster!  chubbier!" as he frantically ups his chubby bunny impersonation.)  

through our laughter and tears, we let chase in on our little secret.  some might call it hazing, but we prefer to think of it as "chubby bunny initation".  chase laughed as hard as we did, and the real game was ready to begin.  the kids each got in on the action...

but the main event began when the grown-ups got going.  "chubby bunny" is one of those things that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated, but i can tell you this about that time-honored tradition -- sometimes it's a little messy...

it's always very funny...

and if you're like papaw, the game is ever-changing.  he tried playing "chubby bunny" in character this year as some sort of backwoods, slightly scary orator.

grandpam and papaw, thank you so very much for letting us join you at the cabin this year.  as you can see from the last two weeks' worth of posts, we had a FANTASTIC time.  we love you -- and we love camp cashiers!!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

it just got better and better...

everyone loved hiking up whiteside mountain and visiting the falls, but if it's possible, i think we had even more fun once we got back to the house and came back to life after naps.  grandpam and papaw took this whole camp cashiers thing to the max when they busted out a slip 'n slide, water balloons, and a sprinkler.  it was like another version of the poor man's water park!! 

as we learned a few weeks ago, izzy hasn't quite grasped the concept of a slip 'n slide, so daddy had to help her out a bit...

since jack laid out of the slip 'n slide festivities the last time, he was also a little unsure of how to execute a proper slide...

so josh created the torpedo game.  problem solved...

it's too bad jack has that whole violent-face-reaction-to-water problem.

we finished the night off with smores...

and fireworks and sparklers.

(well, most of us did...)

but the very, very, VERY best part of the entire trip came just before all of that. 

but you'll have to come back tomorrow for that story!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

sore legs and happy hearts

the drama of the wasp sting began to subside (unfortunately much faster than the swelling of her face) but abby felt good enough to hit the trails.  and why wouldn't she?  after all, it felt amazing outside.

the little people donned their camp cashiers shirts, and we headed over to whiteside mountain for a hike.  after a quick group shot at the bottom of the mountain...

...we started up.  everybody grabbed a partner...

we swapped partners around a bit...

and somehow poor josh ended up with two partners (who happened to be quite tired and in need of hiking help).

but we finally made it to the top, and it was well worth the effort.  gorgeous!!!

poor jack couldn't wait to get to the top of whiteside so he could see the "water fountain" (i got my mountains a little mixed up and might have told him there was a waterfall at the top) and you can see from the photo above that he was heavily disappointed.  but grandpam and papaw knew just what to do...

we left whiteside and drove to hike at a mountain with running water.  and not only was there a waterfall, but you could actually walk behind the water!!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

you know you're in the mountains when...

josh and i were so excited to get to head to the cabin for a few days over the fourth.  we kind of felt like we had taken a bit of a beating over the previous few weeks so we were thrilled at the prospect of leaving town for a while to visit with family, hike, bask in the 68 degree weather, and just stop for a while. 

one of the first ways that we were reminded of our arrival at true mountain living was when we got to the cabin late that first night and pam called downstairs to jim to remind him of a very important task:  "jimmy, go outside and turn the water on!"  we swept a few bugs off the floor, spread out our sleeping bags, and tried to convince the kids that they really did want to go to sleep. 

you've already seen what parts one and two of our first full day in cashiers held, but we were thrown full-force into a whole new world when the music festival began.  everybody was digging the authentic bluegrass of the first several groups...

...especially jack and josh.

and then "sweet tater" took the stage.  who (or what) in the world is that, you ask?  let me enlighten you.

this, my friends, is "sweet tater" (along with their beards and overalls)...

these men loved every minute of what they were doing, and despite the fact that i wanted to rip my ears off and eat them, it was such a joy to watch them play.  especially this guy...

how precious is he?!?  if you're like i was, you're staring at his "instrument" trying to figure out a) what it's made of and b) what kind of music it makes.  well, you're in luck because he told us a little story about the "gut bucket" (no joke, people, that's what it's called.)

he's playing a tin wash bucket turned upside down with a hole drilled into the top.  this type of instrument is typically made with a long stick of some sort to attach the string to, but this jolly little man got creative and used his grandfather's musket to make his version of the GB. 

you can't find stuff like this in birmingham, folks.

we finished the night out with a few more bands, a fireworks show, and a lot of fun laughs with family.  good, good times.

the weekend was off to a fantastic start, but unfortunately, things took a bit of a nasty turn the next morning when abby had a run-in with a wasp.  don't think a wasp sting is that big of a deal?  come back tomorrow...

i'll have three tickets to extended naptime please

once the campers had their t-shirts properly decorated, we scooted over to the cashiers town square for a day of fun at the festival.  before we staked out our seats for the music and the fireworks that night, though, we turned the kids loose on what seemed to be an eighteen-acre land of entertainment.  there were monkey bars:


and really cool poles that made jack think he was a fireman.

(too bad he had to have papaw help hoist him up so he could actually exercise his new-found fireman skills.)

there was a fantastic old red tractor there, too, that i decided i really needed for some sessions coming up.   but hard as i tried, i just couldn't figure out how i could get it back to alabama with me.  I-85 doesn't seem very tractor-friendly.

but the highlight of the playground was most definitely the tire swing.  it may look pretty tame...

but let me slow my shutter speed down just a bit so you can get a feel for what it was really like.

it looked like so much fun that i decided to give it a go myself.  abby and i were having a nice little ride...

that is until man of muscles came along.  josh thought we would enjoy a bit of a more, um, adventurous spin on the old tire swing.

**i would like to point out to all you fellow alabamians that i was wearing a sweatshirt in the photos above.  in case you're not familiar with said clothing, a sweatshirt is designed to keep one warm when the weather is chilly outside.  it was heaven.**

jack was digging the swing, but what he really wanted to do was play chase with daddy.  wish granted, my son.

while the guys ran off some of that unbridled boy energy, izzy and i slowed it down for a game of "make this face".

smiley face:

crazy face:

kissy face:

and my personal favorite (and izzy's specialty)..."do your eyes":

"make this face" is a game of ultimate focus and concentration, and it must have taken it out of izzy because this is how she spent the next thirty minutes on the playground...

when the troops started to fade, we spread our blanket and perched our chairs in the grass near the stage so we could listen to the music.  and let me tell you, you ain't heard nothin' til you hear "sweet tater" rip it up on their gee-tars.

stay tuned, my friends.  you don't want to miss this!