5 + 1/2 His Life

It's hard to believe that our firstborn is 5 years old. July 8th celebrates Judah's 5th birthday (according to his records, though we are suspect of his actual birthdate). Perhaps it's mostly hard to believe he's 5 years old because he's only been with us half his life.

Of course, as midnight was approaching on his birthday, floods of gratefulness and sadness filled me as I remembered his birth mother, his birth family. If you've been following our journey since the early days, you'll know that we had the holy privilege of meeting Judah's birth mother in November 2010 when we became his legal parents. You'll also know that's the only part of his birth story we are sharing with anyone. Judah deserves to be the first to know his whole story.

However, on big days like birthdays I cannot help but go back to those minutes with his birth mother, remember her story, recount Judah's origin story, and grieve once again for the trauma his losses have brought him. Yet his birthday is also a reminder of the reckless love and redemption that exists for orphans and longing parents. Judah's story is a story of grace

and power 
and healing
and guttural giggles
and tenderness for the outsider
and a gentle, warmheartedness for what's right
and a strong conscious when he's done wrong
and protective instincts over his little sister and brother
and lavish affection for his momma and daddy
and profuse "I love you's"
and inclinations toward all things superhero, rocket ships, volcanoes, bikes, and new things
and a tenacity to learn and relearn all over again
and tentativeness toward people and things that are not safe
and a full life.

This boy is someone special.

Just a few weeks ago a friend from church told me this story about our son. A little girl wanted her mom in their class and our friend went to comfort the little girl. Judah didn't know this little girl (other than class), still went up to my friend and asked, "What's wrong with her?" My friend comforting the girl said, "She's just sad and misses her mommy." Judah pulled up a chair next to the little girl, held her hand and said, "It's okay. You can leave. I'll take care of her." My friend did as she was told and went to go look for the girl's mommy. Several minutes passed and her momma couldn't be found so my friend went back to check on the little girl. In a room full of busy, active 4- and 5-year olds, Judah was still sitting next to the little girl, holding her hand.

That's our son. Anointed.

Judah's come a long way in the past 2.5 years. He's physically grown so much - weight, height, teeth, potty trained, losing a language (or two) and gaining another. But he's grown in his security, attachment, confidence, understanding, and heart. His growth is captivating.

One of the first pictures when I laid eyes on my son. He was barely (even?) 2. 
8 teeth. 18 pounds here. Brand new in the orphanage in Ethiopia. 
We have no pictures before he turned 2.
This about captures us.

3rd Birthday. His first birthday home! (Only 6 months home)

3rd Birthday. His first bike.
Notice the blocks taped to the pedals. Our little guy couldn't yet reach them.
3rd Birthday. A million kisses are yours.

He loves his daddy.

4th Birthday. No words.
Hanging out. Learning to stand on daddy's shoulders.

More confidence, sureness, and strength every day.

(Illegally) picking flowers for his teachers.
Our favorite Ethiopian restaurant. Celebrating the beauty of his roots.
5th Birthday. How old are you buddy?

5th Birthday. He's getting bigger and bigger. 

5th Birthday. A boy, his daddy, and a lion.
Celebrating his day at the San Diego Safari Wildlife Park. Cute kid kept saying he was going to "Africa" for his birthday. 

I wrote, "Today was perfectly perfect for a 100 reasons. #1 was my 5-year old son. He delights me. Don't deserve to be his forever mom!"

Deserve? No. It's all grace.

Judah, your name means "praise". And you've filled our life with it because of who you are. This next year, your daddy and I bless you with your life verse from Psalm 117
"Praise the Lord, all you nations. 
Praise him, all you people of the earth. 
For he loves us with unfailing love; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. 
Praise the Lord!"

Happy birthday, buddy. Can't wait for this next year of your life. I love every single thing about you!
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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

February In Review

What a month it's been. I'm humored that it's Leap Year tomorrow because it has felt like we've fit in at least one more day this month than is normally calendared. Referencing a quote referring to parenting little ones feels very apropos: "the days go slow and the years go so fast".

Here are a few of the highlights from our past 28 days...

The month began with a brave and committed attempt to potty train our first two children. With carpets lined with plastic and counter-tops filled with fun drinks and celebration treats, we began potty training first thing Saturday morning.  Judah was a superstar and was literally potty trained by his nap. Since then, he's only had a couple accidents and stays dry most every nap and overnight. His confidence, independence, and overall joy-factor has increased exponentially. So have ours. Addise is another story. Our strong willed daughter had no problem peeing all over herself and standing in her urine. Un-phased. We quit potty training her in about 24 hours after she proved no interest or desire to follow her brother's lead. Hopefully we'll get her taken care of before baby #3 enters the party.

You can tell Judah is already so proud (and modest). PS. his shirt says, "my dad's tattoos are cooler than yours". My mom bought him this shirt. Awesome.
Capri Sun 100% Juice was a great incentive!
So proud of him! Thomas the Train undies are his favorite. Mommy's favorite are Paul Frank undies.

Shortly after our potty training failure, our baby girl turned two years old. She's still topping the height and weight charts, as is her daily word count. We decided to celebrate her birthday by renewing our Disneyland annual passports and spending a couple days there as a family. Seeing the happiest place on earth through the eyes of our kids is truly magical!

Our beautiful giant on her birthday holding her "big" brother's hand. Poofs and all.
After riding "It's a Small World" at Disney. Fitting for our multi-cultural family.
Love her buttery skin, expressive eyes, and ever-moving mouth.

Exploring her blocks from Grandma and Grandpa. LOVE them.

We also were gifted by a friend with a photo shoot to capture Addise's 2nd birthday and our 1 year anniversary as a family. We went to Balboa Pier on the ocean and had a blast snapping pics of our crazy kiddos on a sunny, warm February Friday.

Loving each other on the pier
Like father like son
How do you put a caption to this??

Oh, yeah. And I'm now 6 months pregnant with our son. This has undeniably been the best month of pregnancy. Of course, I'm still exhausted and uncomfortable at any given moment, but I'm grateful to feel our son kick to his heart's delight. Last night I felt his hiccups for the first time. He also is very fond of digging into my ribs. I'm less fond of this. My pregnancy app says he's now 2 pounds and 10+ inches long. I'm dreaming of him exiting the womb with a head full of dark curls like his daddy and praying some Puerto Rican genes win out. In other news, I'm losing my belly button at an alarming rate, all my shoes are cutting off circulation, and rolling my body out of our Honda Civics is proving more difficult by the day. Perhaps the most entertaining pregnancy news was the overnight swelling of my ring finger. For 5 days I diligently attempted to remove my rings with every known technique and product. To no avail. Finally, I went to a jewelers per my grandmother's urging and they CUT OFF my engagement and wedding rings. The jeweler affirmed those babies had to get off STAT.

After. Yes, my finger is bruised.

I also began registering for baby #3 and shockingly realized that I have now registered for MORE items for our newborn/infant son, than I did for Judah and Addise combined. What?!?! The amount of "stuff" required for a breastfeeding infant is a bit overwhelming.

Brian's birthday and Valentine's Day also went celebrated as we got two date nights this month. What a gift!

Throughout the month I've also been doing some mad research on a couple major purchases that need to be made in the before labor and delivery. Due to 3 kids in car seats for the next several years, we have to move from a Honda Civic to a minivan. Yes. It's true. However, I'm getting quite excited about this purchase as my bulging body and growing toddlers are oozing out of our economy car. We are also exploring remodeling our master bathroom to include a stackable washer-dryer unit. The amount of laundry we do without an infant is mind-boggling and has become unmanageable in a shared laundry room. In an 1100 sq ft condo, we are having to maximize every square inch of our space. We are praying for some divine miracles in these two purchases and trusting God to provide exactly what our family needs. We've already seen him move in extraordinary ways and believe he'll do it once again.

So, that's our month in review. Celebration. Preparation. Anticipation. Here's to March...

Our Girl is Two!

This week my baby girl turned two years old. When we first laid eyes on our daughter she looks so much like she does today...if only we knew who God was giving us.

The first time I laid eyes on her.
Only love...

We celebrated her first birthday only 3 weeks after we came home. My poor baby never had a cupcake in her life. But she loved it!

All chunks and rolls. And sugar.

I think she liked it. Only 2 teeth on her first birthday.

Thursday morning before I got her out of bed, I heard her talking Judah's ear off [per the norm]. The first word I heard her squeal was "MINE". Her first word on her second birthday. Of course.

In celebration of her birthday and life, here are a few things that make our little girl exactly who we love and who exasperates us daily...

  • My favorite words she says these days are: "wa-wee" [water] which she seemingly drinks by the gallon, something that resembles "here ya are, mommy", and "daddy's silly". Totally endearing.
  • She just as enthusiastically will tell her brother [or her parents, truth be told!], "[s]top it!" Lord, have mercy.
  • Playfully yet filled with unknown authority, Addise will point her finger at anything breathing and exclaim, "jeeba boba gee...". Or something like that. We have no idea what she's saying but she's preaching it. That is for sure.
  • Though fearless in situations she should have fear, she's terrified by an stray fuzzy on her hand. 
  • She's still topping the height and weight charts. She's venturing into 3T clothes as a new 2 year old. 
  • She kisses daddy profusely, even without request. And when I ask for a kiss, she'll often give it to her daddy instead and giggle in defiance at my desperate plea.
  • Addise loves lifting her solid body off the ground - jumping up and down over and over again. She thinks she's quite funny and clever.
  • She's drama for her momma - passionately crying for a little "owie", shedding crocodile tears when her feelings get hurt, and doubling-over in laughter at the silliest trick.
  • We tried for about 24 hours to potty train our smarty pants and she wouldn't have it. She was content peeing down her leg and standing in her own urine pool. Unashamed. Uninterested in sitting on her potty chair, unless she was fully clothed. 
  • She's also very intrigued by all her arms can accomplish, mainly hitting and throwing. She prefers to hit her brother for any reason [unacceptable and results "trouble"] and throwing her toys across the room [same result as above].
  • Perhaps my favorite and best descriptor of my girl is the common scene of her running laps around our living room/kitchen in her pink, bedazzled, costume shoes roaring like a lion. Take a moment to fully imagine that scene.

She is truly sugar and spice. Recently the word "FIERCE" has been used to describe her personality. I couldn't agree more.

Yet, in all things adoption, on her birthday I couldn't help but to think of the woman who gave birth to our daughter. Forever I am grateful that she bore Addise Aster Tarike into this world. As I carry our second son today, I also wonder about Addise's 9 months in the womb, her birth, and first months in this world. Though I can never fully understand her birth mother's sacrifice or Addise's story before God brought her to us, I stand in wonder at this amazing little girl and our redemptive God who gave her to us.

Happy Birthday, Addise! We adore you.
We love you with an everlasting love for all you are 
and all you bring to our lives.
Captured on Balboa Pier


April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.