Monday, June 22, 2015

A Story About a Fitbit.

Remember ten days ago or so when I was feeling like a failure in regards to my mountaineering training? Well, on that day Donald went out and bought me a Fitbit as a form of encouragement. It's been a fun way to keep track of my hikes, steps, calories, etc. I love it! A few days later, Alexandra used some of her savings to buy one also, eager to get in on the action.

With Father's Day only a week away I knew the girls should give one to Donald. That way he could join in on step challenges and monitor his daily activity as well. So Alexandra, Lorelai, and Elsa picked out Fitbit with a nice orange band and hid it away until the big day.

Let me tell you - that week was almost unbearable. Every day the girls and I heard how 'it's too bad I don't have one', and 'everyone has one but me', and 'they are on sale at Costco, I should go buy one', and on and on and on... I kept making excuses like, 'we have a lot of expenses coming up, better not spend the money right now'.

The girls and I would laugh to each other. Donald is not one for patience.

Finally, Father's Day arrived.

This was Donald's reaction when he opened that coveted Fitbit:

 photo 48b10ad9-c3d2-4106-8c68-8e46206f3718_zpslzgdk5xy.jpg

 photo 2d5fe585-68df-4938-8e4d-59456047c41d_zps7eultvup.jpg

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Let the step challenges, begin!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Divine Being

Two rays of sunshine.

  photo b6d7f7be-e739-46d9-86e2-0319d3712b41_zps8lgiswmg.jpg 
Elisabeth Elva, age 7.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Story About A Doll

You might recall that when Elisabeth was in the hospital three weeks ago, Elsa was devastated. She crawled into the bed alongside her and cried tears of worry. Before she left, she nestled her treasured doll in close to Elisabeth and told her to keep it until she came home.

Little did she know how much Elisabeth would love that doll. Lizzy has always gravitated towards dolls that are soft and easy to...shall we say...bite, which is why she has quite the sock monkey collection. But Elsa's doll was the exception to the rule. She didn't reject it as she does so many toys  we try giving to her, but held it tight.

A few days after Elisabeth was discharged from the hospital I discovered the doll sitting on Elisabeth's bed along with this note:

 photo 919251da-853e-44cb-a060-651fedfea7ea_zpsep3ppakg.jpg  photo 44a862a3-75cf-4b74-8f83-1dd1b8bb2f69_zpsu99zkehf.jpg

My heart melted.

Before Elsa moved here, I wondered what she would think of Elisabeth and worried that she would be frightened by her, not having seen things like seizures and g-tubes before. I was so concerned, in fact, that I brought Elisabeth's picture with us to Ethiopia and had the doctor at the orphanage explain to Elsa about her.

But my worries were for naught. I will never forget the day Elsa first walked through our front door. Alexandra and Lorelai took her in to meet Elisabeth and Elsa just smiled with pure love and acceptance. She wasn't confused or scared. Their sisterly bond was immediate.

Yesterday morning I went in to check on Elisabeth and this is how I found her:

 photo 0ebf142b-2b65-40db-8e17-a8d3c8b4001d_zpshll4zsnq.jpg 

Fast asleep with her arm wrapped around Elsa's cherished doll, the doll she so selflessly gave to her little sister. 

I am a lucky mother. Lucky to witness such acts of love between my children. I know I am supposed to be the one teaching them about life and love and compassion, but in reality, they are the ones that teach me.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Heartache is Real

When I showed Elsa the picture collages we are sending to her mother in Ethiopia she grinned ear to ear. But as she smiled I noticed tears welling in her eyes.

It is an emotional thing, to go through what she has gone through, to lose one parent to death and then have the other one voluntarily give you up while keeping your siblings. Elsa has a very healthy understanding of it all. I am careful to explain that her mother loved her so much that she wanted her to have food, and doctors, and an education. But even with the knowledge that it was done out of love, emotions are real, loss is real, heartache is real.

So when she saw the pictures that her mother and siblings would see of her life here in America, she cried.

I hugged her and told her how proud her mom was going to be of her,

"You are doing everything she wants you to do. She is going to be so happy when she see's that you have been going to school, and learning to play the piano, and dancing in a ballet recital, and going on fun vacations. This is exactly what she wanted for you. She wanted you to come to America so you could have all of these opportunities - you are doing everything just right. She is still your mom, she will always be your mom. And I'm your mom, too. You get two moms. That makes you extra special. So keep on doing every you are doing, you are making us both so happy."

And it's truth.

Here are pictures of Elsa at her ballet recital :

 photo 7706ee16-74fa-405c-842b-284015fec2f8_zpsc2il4a6f.jpg  photo 0f66f76d-6d52-4978-bbe5-07a3b8b0d3fd_zpse4ujlvs0.jpg  photo 75e20cc1-dc1c-49c9-b265-8e90697f45e8_zpsg6qxnyih.jpg  photo 5ea7fd2d-cad4-4d3c-9717-2006c5fc43d2_zps73qswkin.jpg  photo fb32eac3-a8db-40df-8a14-37b76f82c560_zps8bstvji4.jpg  photo 22ac7fba-8c89-4549-933f-dd88a72d3880_zpsviwbmd8x.jpg  photo 32050d89-39d2-402f-ba61-509c1fd4c745_zpsysvcek8w.jpg 

Do you see why I'm so proud?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Elisabeth is my Mona Lisa

The sideways glance - it's everywhere we go. When Elisabeth is out in public she attracts it; people can't help but look her way. Adults try to make it subtle - they've been taught not to stare. Children are always more bold, pointing and asking questions, but parents are quick to hush them.

I know why they look, indeed, I know why they can't help but look. Life is full of the expected, with common sights and everyday routines. So when something different appears, something that breaks up the monotony, it is near impossible not to stare. Elisabeth is unique, Elisabeth is different, Elisabeth is out of the ordinary.

But is that a bad thing? No.

We, as humans, are drawn to things of beauty. I recall seeing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City and the Mona Lisa in Paris. Masses of people stood and stared, amazed at the sight of art so rare and valuable. Even last month while traveling in California, a Maserati passed us on the freeway. 'Look!' Donald exclaimed. Then we sped up and gazed, impressed by its luxury and elegance.

As I see it, Elisabeth is a Mona Lisa, a Sistine Chapel, a Maserati. She is rare and precious. People don't stare because they are horrified, they stare because they are mesmerized. And oh, the pride I feel when I see people look! (Truth be told, I secretly assume everyone wishes she was their own.) She is a child perfect and pure, with an angelic nature that radiates. Don't hide your stares. Come meet her, come ask questions, come let her change your life. I promise she will. She changed mine. 

Indeed, she can change the world.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Last Day 2015

The last day of...

1st grade
~ Elisabeth Elva ~

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1st grade
~ Elsa Lelise ~

 photo 854249fb-092e-4766-a361-66178239f0c7_zpsauyivju4.jpg  photo c947110f-1344-4e30-8435-ba69f9b56872_zps6eiuef73.jpg

Elsa with her Spanish and English teachers. Alexandra and Lorelai both had these same teachers for Kindergarten and 1st grade as well. I remember saying to them when Lorelai finished 1st grade how sad we were that we didn't have another child entering their classroom. Little did we know at that point that Elsa would join our family! On Friday, when school let out, I found myself once again saying, 'There are no more Sorenson girls to be in your class,' but then immediately thought, 'Never say never'. :)

4th grade
~ Lorelai Leigh ~

 photo 11d9982b-7d05-433f-8b23-a71aa39c3cb2_zpskt7r8nwx.jpg

In the fall Lorelai will be a 5th grader and rule the school! And not only has she been promoted to the 5th grade, but she has been promoted to a level 5 gymnast!


6th grade
~ Alexandra Louise ~

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Alexandra recovered from mono in record time and was able to attend school for last day festivities. She texted me this picture mid-morning.

The now-second-graders:

 photo 6b021563-2dd3-49c1-917b-081c9b9f303c_zpsx3ynqokf.jpg

Can you tell how excited Elsa was for the last day?
All Elisabeth wanted to do was go back to bed.


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The girls arrived at school with pineapples in hand to give to their teachers as a token of thanks.

After school we took the girls out for some celebratory shaved ice. 
Another school year in the books.

 photo b40bc8b2-20cb-49d2-a937-7c53f5319700_zpswnz4naqj.jpg

 Let summer begin!!!!

Tomorrow: The traditional year-end videos of the children speaking in Spanish!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Daughter We Share

 photo ea6a40de-6bb2-444f-844b-7f5f5f79ac2b_zpsymsuknxk.jpg 
Elsa, several years ago when she was first sent to the orphanage.

Once upon a time, Elsa lived in the remote village of Dunchai in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, the youngest of three children. When Elsa's father died, her mother relinquished her since she simply didn't have the means to provide for her. 

And so she came to join our family. The past 19 months have been pure joy - Elsa is compassionate, happy, and brave. I marvel at all she has learned and experienced in the short time she has been in America - from Disneyland, to riding a bike, to dancing in The Nutcracker ballet. To move here and adapt so courageously only shows what an incredible human Elsa is. It is an honored to call her my daughter.

But for all the joy I have felt, there is a small part of me that aches for her mother back in Ethiopia. I simply can't imagine what it must have felt like to say goodbye. I heard a quote once that perfectly summarizes my emotions:

"A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me."     -- Jody Landers

I have desperately longed for a way to let Elsa's mother know that all is well; that I am loving and teaching and protecting her child as my own.  

And my opportunity just arrived. 

Through connections we have made in the adoption community we learned about someone traveling to Elsa's remote village and are able to send pictures to be given to her mother. I am overjoyed! So I've gone through thousands of pictures and picked out some favorites to share. It is my hope that these pictures will bring peace to her heart and that she will know all is well for the daughter that we share.

Here are the collages I put together. They will be on their way to Ethiopia by weeks end!
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  photo 0ff54c84-3dec-4f66-98a2-702c12c8d4fc_zpsp9lswnhm.jpg

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Difference of Opinion

Someone once told me I was selfish to bring Elisabeth into the world knowing she would have brain damage, one of their reasons being that she would be a burden to her siblings.

 photo 099ffcc0-b253-4e68-b9f2-abd01ddf83b5_zpsxo3i2bf4.jpg  photo 31324a24-aacd-49ea-a10b-f6d6d750c265_zpsquidhrfj.jpg
 photo e1f85201-a076-41a2-8118-e1bd1ec9af6b_zpsfksnthhy.jpg  photo ecba1545-c68c-4e1c-ac14-2b8e91f6b974_zpswvns0qaf.jpg

I beg to differ.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

While I Vacuumed...

I asked Elsa to hold Elisabeth while I vacuumed the family room.

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I'd say she did a fine job!


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Let's Hike a Mountain, Shall We?

Mission:

Mt. St. Helens

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I have a crazy habit of setting big goals.

Huge goals.

And I just did it again.

On September 22, 2015 I will hike Mt. St. Helens.

In preparation, I have been training diligently, with daily yoga, 5 am hikes, and strength training. It has been hard, but deeply satisfying.

Until this morning.

All I saw were my shortcomings. I felt like a failure. Despite the ways in which I have progressed, all I could see was how far I am from where I want to be. I left the house a little later than usual for my hike - 5:30 am - and drove to Badger Mountain feeling defeated. When I parked the car I got out, strapped on my 15 pound pack and walked to the base of the mountain. I just stood and looked up...for something like an hour. I had tears streaming down my face and was THIS close to throwing in the towel and going home.

But I didn't.

I finally started up the trail, tears still coming.

It's rare for me to feel that way. Truth be told, I almost always succeed at whatever it is I put my mind to. I believe in taking my dreams and making them happen. But today, for a short while, all I could see was failure.

After some words of wisdom from a trusted friend, I was able to adjust my attitude and once again focus on my goal. 

We don't always progress at the rate we like or even in the way we like. The key is to keep on carrying on.

One bad morning will not define me.

I can do this.

I can do anything.

So I will.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Back Handspring on the Balance Beam: Check!

When I became a parent I knew that one of my goals was for my children to find a discipline to focus on. For Lorelai, that discipline is gymnastics. 

As a gymnast she devotes hours upon hours at the gym, works unceasingly towards new skills, and endures pain and suffering (her hands are completely torn up from the bars). But, the sacrifices are worth it when she conquers a difficult feat.

  photo 45481e3f-be41-4f53-93fd-512b100f6998_zpssdempw0w.jpg   photo bc84702b-8bdb-42e3-941d-c3d19e8d86ba_zpseagewyq2.jpg   photo ecf142f3-7e19-40f8-8f25-8079e33fdc05_zps1yehxjww.jpg  photo 08189f02-d8d2-4207-a693-c9af95dddec3_zpsziw3omla.jpg

I present to you...

Lorelai Leigh, age 10, doing a back handspring on the balance beam:

Saturday, June 6, 2015

If It's Not One Thing It's Another

Wednesday was a great day for Alexandra. After struggling to see the white board at school we scheduled her an optometry appointment and she was fitted for glasses. She is thrilled to have her vision restored and is in love with her new frames.

Yes, indeed, things were looking up for Miss Alexandra.

  photo eca031f6-210e-47c9-9f66-540dc20620ad_zpsmqlxkvxs.jpg  photo 2a16217c-ec81-452a-9429-41f4771eeca9_zpstk7kbnnk.jpg

Until Thursday.

I got a text from her mid morning that said,

'I have never felt so sick in my life'. 

I arrived at her school as quick as I could (Elsa accidentally locked me out of the van - with the keys inside - but that is a whole other story). When I saw her I instantly knew she was not well. We hurried to the urgent care where she was diagnosed with mononucleosis. This news devastated her. It meant missing her leadership field trip to Red Robin the next day as well as the last week of school and all the fun and festivities that includes. She cried all afternoon, both from the pain and the depression.

 photo ce44c8ff-18f9-40d3-8277-f14dbc7af672_zpsov7hmiew.jpg

We are hoping it turns out to be a mild case meaning she would be down for a week or two rather than a month or two. With summer ahead she has performances of The Music Man, girls camp, and a few road trips on the docket - this is no time to have her energy sapped! So we are pampering her and helping her towards wellness.

Elsa even read her a book night before last:

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In other news...

Elisabeth has recovered!

She is home and feeling like herself again!

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 photo 24ed8c75-7713-47be-95ca-335e8a065e72_zps6mipehgg.jpg 

Which goes to prove, if it's not one thing it's another. 

Gotta love life!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Queen Has Fallen Ill

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Saturday was busy, the kind of busy where each minute is mapped out. It began with an early 6 am hike followed by a symphony rehearsal, guitar recital, wedding reception, and a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony in the evening.

But it seems that in life, when we so carefully make plans, the unexpected occurs.

Saturday's unexpected occurred in the early afternoon when I arrived to watch Alexandra perform at a recital hosted by the Classical Guitar Association of the Tri Cities. I had come separately from my rehearsal and when I saw Elisabeth she looked quite out of sorts. "I want to hold her," I told Donald. So he lifted her out of her chair and cradled her into my arms. That's when I noticed the heat. She was burning up. I looked at her face and noticed her eyes rolling up.

I just sensed that an ER trip was in order.

So, those carefully laid plans had to be altered. We rearranged and rescheduled.

At the ER her temperature measured at 103.6. They immediately began ordering x-rays, a CT scan, and labs. After everything turned up okay they sent us home with the conclusion that she had a mere virus.

I stayed home with her from church on Sunday and snuggled her close. She was still so hot, still so lethargic. In the late afternoon the phone rang, it was the hospital. "Her blood culture tested positive, you need to bring her right back."

Over the past 24 hours they have determined that her blood tested positive for strep, but we still don't know which strain. We have also noticed some bloody discharge that has been coming from her g-tube site.

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Elsa was devastated knowing that Elisabeth was ill and in the hospital. When Donald brought her to visit she crawled into bed with her and couldn't hold back the tears.

  photo 1accfbd0-a6fa-4502-a9cf-9cc1a4e9a355_zpsojafdxc8.jpg

The next morning she brought her her treasured doll and insisted Elisabeth keep it until she comes home.

  photo 16841f35-c1d1-42a9-841c-2dc8f352654b_zpsvqbuyos5.jpg  photo e38af1e7-84df-4a5a-9fb8-4a8cc05e82ee_zpszulp4hla.jpg  photo d9ec726e-6a7a-457f-a34e-87870f97e160_zps4kivnrue.jpg

Get well soon, 
sweet child of mine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sister Carrying Sister

Lorelai wanted to be the one to get Elisabeth out of bed.

So she climbed in, and cradled her into her arms...

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But then...a seizure struck:

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So Lorelai held her steady and gave her comfort.

When it ended, up they got:

 photo f9d650c1-aa47-4a1a-b2c7-bbefca6c7bdb_zpsrhlbeumw.jpg

No reason to get all worked up over a seizure, right? 

Just keep calm and carry on:

 photo a6782d74-2f81-4cc9-9cb5-9e9536f06c9a_zpsxoeikdns.jpg  photo 74aeec3c-c7a8-4c35-b642-3821c10fcf4d_zpsuotbzwbs.jpg
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