Monday, April 7, 2014

My Magnum Opus

Today marks 1 year since my life was forever changed by a phone call.

It kick started my international adoption journey into high gear and gave me my most important title yet, Mommy!

Just 12 weeks from that phone call; the first mention of her name, I held her in my arms.

My daughter Imani Ruth

Our very first meeting ~ June 29, 2013

I wrote this back in November 2013.

Imani adds a great deal of joy and laughter to my life. She is amazing and resilient. Her presence in my life came so quickly and so perfectly timed. She also adds challenges and obstacles that have put me in an occasional tailspin. Being a parent is the best and most challenging gift I've ever received. And with it, God has revealed to me how much I need Him, and His people.

So, as it turns out, I am not a Superhero. Becoming a mom has put the ki-bosh to this charade. I fail. Miserably. Everyday. I am no longer the organized multi-tasker I used to be. Multitask? I can't even task these days!

I left my sisters house with no shoes on. As in, left my shoes at her house, to go to a public place. I didn't even realize I was driving with no shoes until I was closer to the appointment than to her house. I pack my daughters gear for outings and sleep overs, but forget to pack my own. I remember my toothbrush, only cause it's next to hers. I've left my house without my cell phone, my girl's school bag, and so many other things. I've taken to writing things down or dictating to Siri, who can remind me when I get to a location.

Then there is this little person who NEEDS my undivided attention, right when I feel I need to concentrate on something I have previously deemed important.

"No go n-e-wear ok Mommy?" from the toilet (where she sits for ages, especially in the middle of mealtime) and appreciates an audience. Mine, that is.
"Mommy wer-ah you goin?" if I try to sneak away to clean up, organize, or get one more thing done.
"Mommy, you ok?!" if all is quiet for 5-10 seconds and I'm not in her sight.
"Mommy look! Mommy look! Mommy look!" from the living room 10 seconds into my shower.
"Mommy sit!" Says the little one from the table as I try to prepare, set out or clean up dinner.

How do I complete tasks/remember/be a superhero with this competition?! How could I do it alone? I don't. I can't. I'm not. I'm leaning on God to handle the details, the stress and anxiety. I'm learning to care about them less and focus on the most important little person in front of me. My house is messy but my girl is loved. She is going to figure out sooner rather than later, if she hasn't already, that I'm not a superhero. No need to keep up appearances right?! :)

What I am is Imani's mommy; her fiercest advocate and her biggest fan. Superheroes have nothing on this gig!


Fast forward 5 months and I've moved beyond the foggy brain. I'm doing better at remembering and multitasking. We are a team and she likes to help me :) Her English has EXPLODED and she now asks "Mommy what's that mean?!" She's a sponge, listening and watching EVERYTHING I do, then questioning it.  She likes to throw me curve balls too, like "Mommy, can Jesus come here? I want to SEE Him!" My personal favorite is when she throws my words back at me. "Mommy, Downing's DON'T waste!" She's onto Papa, who shows his love by giving change and buying ice cream or candy. She reminded me "Mammy can fix it" when her pants ripped. She told me to call Aunt Tanya when we needed something once, cause Aunt Tanya has something for everything.



Aunt Tracy and Uncle Ben are like second parents, keeping Imani before and after school, teaching her balance (life and literally) and LOVE!



Cousins Quinn 1, and Johanna 11, provide sibling-like relationships for my girl. She loves them fiercely, and fights fiercely with them!

Quinny adores his 'Mani. He thinks she's supposed to be with him everyday. Aunt Trina and Uncle Rob host us lots of weekends so they can have their QT.


Aunt Tricia spoils her to no end! I guess that's her job! Isaac and Liam think she's pretty great too!



Swimming at Sunday River with Hannah, Johanna and Drew


Music continues to be a great learning source for her. She sings and dances to music of all kinds. I love hearing her sing her little heart out and get excited when she hears a song she knows, out of the context she's used to hearing it in. She's seen Frozen 3 times now and has Let It Go memorized. She started piano lessons too! 



Any chance she gets to be with her people, she takes it. Sleep overs, dinners, shopping, hanging out, playing outside in the snow, anything really. She's been ice skating, snowmobiling, and sledding. She doesn't mind the cold and just keeps wanting more! And enjoying herself. Always enjoying herself! :)  She loves the iPad and iPhone because FaceTime is just another way to be in touch with her people. And take selfies or watch YouTube. 
















There is this description of an artist's greatest achievement called Magnum Opus.  My Magnum Opus was actually created by God and on loan from Him, but she is by far the best gift I've ever been entrusted with. She's one of a kind and this child, who I get to call my daughter (I still can't really believe it) has forever changed me!

We have been blessed by change, growth, beauty, lessons learned the hard way, and SO. MUCH. LOVE! It hasn't always been easy or pretty, but its all been worth it. So glad God chose me to be Imani's Mommy.

One phone call.

One year ago.

One very special little girl.

Thank You God for my resilient, smart, brave, strong, kind (and most recently a dash of naughty) little lady! I love you to Africa and back Imani Ruth Downing!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

It's Happening

She stopped saying popopcicle.  She just says Popsicle now. 

Dis one, or Dat one is used to reference the person sitting next to her. 

She requested boots like Hannah and Johanna have, except in pink, not brown. This was at 6pm on Sunday night and she wanted to "go shopping now Mommy". 

She answers her own "why" with "cause."

"Please and TH-ank you Mommy?!" When she really wants something!

She's recognizing more letters and colors, zipping her own jacket, and putting her own shoes on. 



"I wanta dis" she tells me, often. 

She's asking hard questions. 

I watch her run off constantly; to go play again after a scuffle, after a bathroom break or after letting her mom get a quick squeeze. The little girl I see running off is not the same little girl I saw walk into the room on June 29. 

Her new favorite things are Docta McFuffins (originally Doc McF**kins), tangerines, and Papa. She loves a sleepover, your house or ours, and is elated when "ev-e-budy" gets togetha.

She says "mommy hold you" as she passes her arms for me to hold her. She's excited for Jesus' birthday and wondered if "Jesus come cuddle" on that day.  She loves love. She loves family and togetherness and Jesus. I think this girl is teaching me more than I am teaching her. 

It's happening. My daughter is watching me and taking it all in. She's growing, in every way imaginable, right before my very eyes. She's learning English incredibly well, speaking and understanding it more every single day. She's learning lots of western ways (many to my dismay) and developing her own little personality. She's physically growing too. She's heavier and taller I'm certain. 

If it's happening this fast already, I can't imagine what the next 10 years will be like. I tell her often that I don't want her to grow up. She laughs and I laugh with her, but a little piece of my heart just doesn't want her to lose more teeth, grow out of anymore of these cute clothes or start saying some words correctly without her little accent/mispronunciation. 

But alas, it's happening. So I'm soaking it all in and enjoying all these moments, making memories with my little girl!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Love You to Africa and Back!

I was exhausted the other night after a long day. We usually read as many books as Imani can negotiate, but I just wanted to turn the light off and snuggle my girl.  "How about Mommy tells you a story and you try to imagine the pictures in your head?" She agreed with enthusiasm so I turned out the light, snuggled my girl thisclose, and began:

Once upon a time there was a girl named Tarsha. 

Giggle, giggle. 

She was feeling like it was time to do something bigger than her. 

BIG Mommy?!

Yes, BIG Imani Ruth!  Life was good but she was not content in just flying by the seat of her pants so much anymore. It was time for something BIG. She prayed and God told her adoption was indeed the next step in His plan for her. She knew right away there was a little girl in Uganda that was her daughter! She wondered about what that little girl was doing in that very moment and imagined what she looked like too!

Africa? Uganda? {giggling}

She decided this little girl's name was Imani. It means faith in Swahili, a language spoken in Uganda. 

Me!!

So she got all her paperwork together (it was A LOT OF PAPERWORK) and tried to plan for when she would become a mom. On Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 7pm Tarsha got a call from her social worker Sharon in Florida. Sharon said she wanted to tell her about a little 4 year old girl. 

Mommy, Imani 5!!!

"But you were 4 when I got the call," I said smiling!  This is where it became more intimate, with me as her Mommy telling her our story.

Sharon told me all about you and then a couple days later she sent me a picture.  I couldn't stop looking at it or wait to finally meet you.  I had to wait 11 weeks before I could travel to Africa.

On June 29, 2013 at 10:15am Kampala, Uganda time, we finally met! Do you remember when I came to the children's home to get you?

Yes! And Danny!

Yes, Danny did come with Mommy to pick you up. We took you back to the guesthouse and you took a looooong nap!  Then we all stayed in Uganda for almost 7 more weeks.  We went to court twice, the lawyers office, Cafe Roma, the tooth doctor, the ear doctor, the American embassy, the American Club, on safari, to the equator, the zoo, and we made some really great friends!


Farouk! {smiling}

Yes! Farouk! He wasn't just our driver, but our life saver there wasn't he? Farouk knew where everything was and he helped us find what we needed! He took great care of us and that's why we still thank God every night for him!

Mommy, Farouk Uganda?

Yes, he is still in Uganda. He lives there and helps other new families like he helped us.  But if all works as Mommy hopes, we can see him in America next summer!

Smiles

Then on August 14, 2013 after getting your very important paperwork from the American Embassy, we finally got to get on a plane home to America! Well four planes actually, until we were finally here right?! Imani liked the planes; we ate in the sky and watched movies! Now we are home; you go to kindergarten and you have a family that really really loves you!

Giggles

So, that's our story thus far my girl.  And when I tell you I love you to Africa and back, its a true story!

Why Mommy?

Oh my girl...

video

For mobile
video





Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I don't want to forget Part 2

   

Our time
together
getting to know 
one another 
in
{Africa}


The place I begged God to go. Twice.
So He sent me twice, just like I asked. 
Both times I have returned exceedingly 
aware of my incredible need for more 
{Him}



I do believe in 
{His plan}


And I don't want to forget!


Monday, October 7, 2013

I don't want to forget...

The way she looked the first time I saw her

How she asked who was taking care of my house while I was in Africa

The way she sang "now I know my D-F-Gs"

The way she pronounced red pajama like eid jamama

The irony that her favorite book when we got home was Are You My Mother? pronounced "R U ma motha?

The adorable space between her two front teeth

The first time she called me Mommy

The way she says "Imani do it sof" (self)

How she sang "touch my felix" (spirit)

The way she says her full name: Imani DOWNing!

Imani has now been home with me as long as we were in Uganda together. This little girl has lost three teeth, grown out of lots of clothing, has a vocabulary that is exploding with English, and an amazing amount of resiliency.  She's independent like her mom!  Her sweet spirit and sassy attitude are still shining bright, but she's added some defiance, tantrums, and yelling. It's almost a joke because all of these are actions she has seen a cousin or two do and she just had to try them on her Mommy. One or two minutes after the attempt, which has been thwarted when I walk away, she's right back to herself. I admire her learning experiences (trial and error) and am reminded that it's just because she's smart. :)

She gets a good report from school daily in the note I get of the basics of her day. I'm amazed at the schedule she keeps and the quick way she adapted, like this was nothing new. She wants to be with family whenever the chance arises and is quick to join both boy and girl cousins at play. 

She eats like a champ and still enjoys chicken and rice any chance she can get them. 'Popopcicles' and avocados rank pretty high too. 

Books are still a delightful passtime and she's memorizing some. She can tell me the story and while she isn't 'reading', she's well on her way! She knows where things go, reminds me of random things at the right time, and keeps me on my toes!  She negotiates "one more time Mommy" with big eyes and several fingers up. She plays with my hair and says "I like it Mommy", rubs my back (when she doesn't want to go to sleep) and says "Good morning", which is just music to my ears. 

Every doctor is the tooth doctor. She has had 2 series of her vaccinations so far (icky) and was totally onto the situation the 2nd time around. I felt horrible even bringing her. 

Being this little girls mom is what I was made to do. It's rewarding, challenging and just awesome to watch her grow and learn with all the love showered on her everyday! 

Thank you to my family and friends for all your unconditional support! Thank You God for holding us in the palm of Your hand and for the gift of being this little girls mommy. I don't want to forget any of it!








Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Home

We are Home.

Home in America. 

Home at our own little place in the world.

Home to begin our new normal. 

Home, where routines are created and fostered. Like getting ready for work and school, bath time, specific songs in the car, and bedtime. 

Sometimes its a good night shower and others its a good morning shower, but it always includes all 10 rubber duckies and 2 Barbie dolls. I love that she calls it good night and good morning. She has such a positive attitude!

Bedtime consists of reading 800 books before we sing and pray. Well maybe not 800, but Imani would read/let me read every single book she owns before sleeping each night if she could! Prayers always include thanking God for Farouk and the days people and events. She even thanked Him for the doctors who have filled a cavity, given shots and removed the bead from her ear. This girl knows how to forgive!

When we get into the car Imani requests 'Ethiopia' or 'So Mighty'. Ethiopia means Who Built the Arc (thats what she hears and I admit, I hear that too now) and So Mighty means My God is So Great. They are song number 23 and 3 respectively. 

Mornings usually go fast. Imani wakes up about 7am. If I'm not in sight, I hear "Mommy? Mommy. MOMMY?!" Once her feet hit the floor she's got an agenda, which she wants me to be involved in all of, so she narrates what's next. It involves putting on new/different clothes, "brush brush brushing her teeth" and washing the sleepy seeds from her eyes. Not necessarily fast or in that order, but without interruption. Then she counts me down when I'm trying to get ready. "1-2-3 all done Mommy" when I'm hardly even all wet in the shower or when rinsing my toothbrush after the first go round. "One more time" as she holds her little pointer finger up towards me. Do I really limit her this much I think to myself?!

Get dressed, or change clothes, has been relabeled put new/different clothes on. Imani was hearing 'dress' or 'change' and getting distracted. She doesn't wear dresses anymore so she contests it immediately. Change means coins, and any you have in your possession become hers. She will unabashedly empty your cup holder or pants pockets of all change you have and move it to her basket. Pennies are fine. All change makes her smile. :) 

After her first day of school I asked her if she made new friends. "Friend, FriendFriend, Friend..." she said as she showed me at least 7 of her little fingers. :)

All dogs are named Saige. But this doesn't mean she likes all dogs. Just Saige, who she walks to school in the morning. 

Chicken and rice are still the go to food, but she will try anything and everything off your plate at dinner time. She's a bottomless pit and I seriously don't know where it goes. Breakfast and lunch are small meals, but at dinner she just stores up. 

Her English is exploding. She speaks of herself in third person, which I find so adorable. She LOVES reading books and has a few favorites she has practically memorized. Llama Llama Red Pajama, Are You My Mother and Good Night Maine are three of the books I could recite and draw illustrations for. She labels everything on the pages, imitates the faces of the characters, knows the plot and when oops, I by mistake, miss a page! Stop judgingyou know you've done it too! :) 

Imani loves Jesus, life and learning. She embraces them all everyday and teaches me in the process. I tell her how brave, strong, smart, kind and special she is. I want her to know these things about herself and never question otherwise. She now lists them off on those cute little fingers! 

I had a small plate of food for dinner so I finished first the other night. Imani pushed her plate to me and moved right into my lap. She said "Mommy all done?" as she tried to share hers with me. "Sit down Mommy" she'll say as she pats the table next to her so we can be "togetha!"

She rubs my face and hair and says "Guud Job Mommy" when I read to her.

We looked at a magazine at dinner and talked about what we saw. It had children's winter clothing and I told her I had a jacket for her already. "Show me Mommy" she said as she jumped into my arms. We walked to her closet where there were actually 2 used winter jackets others had given to Imani. She squealed with excitement and hugged me saying thank you!  This makes my mommy heart happy!

She adores her aunts, uncles, and cousins and will do anything for them, especially things she won't do for me. Things like wear a certain outfit or shoes, her hair a certain way, or a certain food.  An aunt suggests it and shes all "yeah!" like its the best idea ever and the first time it's been offered! She wants to go all the time and she makes a liar out of me constantly! Shy? Not since coming to America. She doesn't wear pants? Dresses all the time? Well since coming to America... :)

I'm thoroughly enjoying watching life from Imani's view. She gets ecstatic to just see cows in a pasture or when she makes a connection from a book we've read. She embraces life with all her being and really appreciates the smaller things in it. 

In Uganda, I was careful to say lets go back to the guest house or to the room. I would correct myself if I said home, because I always referenced America as home and said we would go in an airplane to get there. My girl understood. 

She knows we are Home

Home in America. 

Home at our own little place in the world.

Home. Where my heart, and my little girl are! Thank You Jesus!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow...your only a day away!


Been singing this often with Imani! 

Here is the new checklist:
Blue Form at Embassy- CHECK

Medical appointment-CHECK

Court hearing- CHECK

Verbal ruling- CHECK

Legal Guardianship- CHECK

Passport process- CHECK

Written ruling- CHECK

Visa appointment-CHECK (PASSED)

DEPARTURE DATE- August 14!!!!! TOMORROW!

Thank you God for moving papers and people here in Africa! I'm worn out and flat broke, but blessed beyond measure by this brave, smart, kind and beautiful miracle I get to call my daughter!

Meet Imani Ruth
(I told you she was beautiful!)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We might finally be able to bring Imani HOME!

Here is the new checklist:
Blue Form at Embassy- CHECK

Medical appointment-CHECK

Court hearing- CHECK

Verbal ruling- CHECK

Legal Guardianship- CHECK

Passport process- CHECK

Written ruling- CHECK

Visa appointment-CHECK
August 12- 3pm Kampala time- 8am EST

TENTATIVE DEPARTURE DATE- August 14!!!!! Pray for available and inexpensive flights please! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I'm SOOO ready to come home!

I think an end date may be in sight after tomorrow. 

I'm shooting for less than 10 days. Dear God please be near!


Here is the new checklist:
Blue Form at Embassy- CHECK

Medical appointment-CHECK

Court hearing- CHECK

Verbal ruling- CHECK

Legal Guardianship- CHECK

Passport process- CHECK

Written ruling- CHECK

Visa appointment-I'll know tomorrow!