Suzanne wrote a bit about Maura the other day and we also recently celebrated her birthday. She wanted to have an Easter-egg themed party this year so she invited some friends over to have fun decorating eggs.
Our third child, Maura Esther Gowin, just turned eight. Yeah—no more booster seats! (We let Aidan get rid of his too since he is also probably 8 and is as big as her, but he had to wait a day after her birthday so that she was still before him. :)) She is a bright smile in our home and is full of life! Her Bible name came from Esther in the Bible, but it was actually the Veggie Tales version that especially caught my attention. (Michael never lets me live that down.) At the end of the video, the narrator says, “And Esther, she showed more courage than 10 kings and saved her people. Now, she wasn’t born for greatness, she didn’t go to school for it. She just learned that sometimes God has plans so big that only He can see them. All she had to do was believe. She was just a regular kid, just like you.” (I just popped the video in to quote this correctly and I still cry every time I hear it!) I went through the Beth Moore “Esther” study during our adoption and I love Esther’s story so much! She was just a simple kid—in fact, the only one listed in the Bible whose parents both died—and yet God did what He is so good at: He used an ordinary person to do extraordinary things to show His glory and redemption in the world!
Similarly, Maura’s Irish name means Mary. Here is a quote from my favorite Christmas song of all times, “Be Born In Me” by Francesca Battistelli. Mary is laying her heart out when she realizes she is to be the mother of the Lord Jesus: “I am not brave, I’ll never be. The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy. I’m just a girl, nothing more. But I am willing; I am yours.” Isn’t that what we all say to our God? And isn’t that all he truly asks of us? (It is also meaningful to us that Maura’s step-grandmother Marian, which also means Mary, passed away during my pregnancy with Maura. She was a godly woman and a light in my dad’s life.)
I’ve always said that Maura was my passionate child. She is passionate in her offerings of love and kindness, and she is passionate in her frustrations! She still wants to curl up in my lap each night and have me rock her for a few minutes before bed. We used to say she was “squishy” because she loves to snuggle so much. People often say that she looks the most like me, and I guess that must be true because we won a look-alike contest at the fair one year, an accomplishment of which she is very proud! She is often noting things that are alike between us. One morning as we were sitting on the couch reading a story, Maura noticed my tummy roll hanging over my pj’s and proudly exclaimed, “Look Mom! We both have the same chubby tummy!”
Do you remember the little nursery rhyme that went something like this: “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad she was horrid!” Well, that is the rhyme I used on her first birthday invitation. I knew from the day she was born that she would have some fire in her! (That fire is the reason she was always the first to go anywhere near Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, 4th of July sparklers, and locust shells—even though the other two were years older than her!) She can still throw a pretty good temper tantrum! But of all the kids, she is also the first one to come back later, without prompting, and apologize for the way that she acted. I know that God put that fire in her, and He will use it to fight for justice for the lonely and “the least of these.”
Maura does very well in school and gets along with everyone. She says she doesn’t have a best friend because they are all her friends. When we show up at a school function, we hear cries of “Maura! Maura! Come sit here!” And yet she is often telling me about how she was helping another quiet schoolmate with something, or about how sad she is that some of her friends don’t know Jesus and how she tries to share Him with them. Her second grade teacher regularly seats her by the trouble-makers because the teacher knows she can trust Maura to keep the rules and be a good example, and also that she will treat all the children as her friends.
Maura always knows the rules. It is very important to her that everyone understands and follows them. That is what is right and fair and that is how her brain functions. (This is another area where she is like me—that is why I have a degree in math. Math has rules and if you follow them, you will always come to the same conclusion. And justice is a hot topic with me!) Years ago, an adult friend of ours saw our big 3 interact for about 5 minutes and then described them to a T! He said that Erin was the rule-maker (first-born), Liam the rule-breaker (middle kid and boy), and Maura was the rule-enforcer! So true! Now, does she always follow the rules? Of course not! But the rules are so important to her that she used to cry and cry when her daddy wanted to drop her off in the mornings at the side door of the school with the other two kids. She knew the rule was that her age was supposed to go into the front door and even when we had permission from the principal to do so, she still was horrified at the thought of breaking that rule and getting into trouble.
Although there is some sibling rivalry, she is the one that best gets along with Aidan. They are often playing all kinds of games together and there is lots of laughter. Because they are both extroverts, and because she doesn’t care as much about winning as the others do, she is able to let a lot more of Aidan’s control issues go. At the beginning, there were more issues between them because she was trying to “help” him with learning the rules, but it came across as being bossy, which she does have the tendency of doing. When we confronted her on how much this was happening, she cried and cried because she was truly trying to do what I had asked of her (in order to keep him safe out in the snow and neighborhood, etc) and didn’t know how else to follow my instructions!
Maura is a great big sister to Eva and is always good at making little ones feel included. A few weeks ago her 4 year old cousin Evan was visiting, and while all the other big kids were out playing ball, we found Maura and Evan just laying in the back yard chatting together. It was so sweet! (Pic below) She talks of adopting in the future as well. I don’t know what else she might do—I could see her doing medical missions or something. But I am confident of this: God wants to use this ordinary girl from an ordinary and imperfect family for extraordinary things!
Continuing in reverse age order, our second blessing is Aidan Samuel Getahun Gowin. He and his sister came home with us one year and 4 months ago. God gave me his Bible name a long time ago and then reiterated it the same summer that he gave me Eva’s name Ruth. Hannah prayed for a son and God promised her Samuel, who was eventually not raised by his biological family. He was used by God in mighty ways, but one funny way that Aidan Samuel has already lived out his name is that he often comes running when we call anyone’s name, thinking we called him! Remember the story in the Old Testament when God was calling young Samuel in the night, but he kept running to the priest Eli because he thought Eli was calling him? Hopefully as he matures, he will hear God’s voice loud and clear. 🙂
Aidan turned six today and was so excited about it! He is actually more likely 8 years old, but April 16, 2006 is the date they made up on his birth certificate and so he doesn’t know any differently. In most rural villages in Ethiopia, birthdays are not celebrated. They don’t have a calendar on the wall of their hut. Each of their days looks pretty much the same—the focus is mostly on finding work and food for the day and cooking it.
So when Aidan came here, he didn’t know about birthday celebrations. He had one last year, but there wasn’t a way to explain it to him with his limited English understanding at the time, so it just happened. Now that he knows what to expect and understands the concept of a year, there has been much anticipation for his birthday this year! His teacher at school says he has almost daily pointed out his birthday on the calendar! He had a party with some friends on Thursday over Spring Break, and this morning we celebrated him with our family, brought Oreo frog treats to school, and went out to eat Culver’s tonight. I’m sure Michael will post pictures soon.
We are celebrating what a joy he is and celebrating how God brought him to our home. Just the other day, Aidan saw me looking at a post by a Facebook friend who was recently in Uganda. He saw the woman and remarked that she was like me (and pointed to my skin) and that the kids were like him (meaning brown). Then he asked me: “Mom, how you pick me? You do eny-meeny-miny-mo?” It was the perfect time to sit him on my lap and explain how much God loves him! “God saw you and Eva in Ethiopia and He told your daddy and me [using my big God voice], ‘Michael and Suzanne, there is a four year old boy and his baby sister in Ethiopia, and I want YOU to go to Africa and get them and take care of them forever!'” Aidan asked incredulously, “He really said dat??” I laughed, “No, but he did tell us in our hearts.” Aidan curled up in my lap and gave me lots of kisses. I asked him what that was for, just to hear what he’d say, and he said, “You’re my mom!”
Aidan is one of the happiest kids you will meet. Almost everything is fun or funny to him. He has a beautiful big smile that is contagious and eyes that just light up! And he loves life! Of course, he has the Ethiopian loudness gene so his fun is quite big, which is what causes some of the notes home from school. 🙂 He loves to be a helper and is very good at chores. He is very strong and athletic and will be the star on the ball team some day. We have done a few small soccer camps and have put up a basketball hoop, but we will wait till he is a little older to really dive into athletics. We wanted to focus on attachment, ABC’s, and social skills first. He has done really well with his schooling and will likely be at the top of his class. Even though he objected to all the new foods at first, we didn’t allow him to be picky, and within a few weeks he was eating EVERYTHING and asking for more! And though his body objected to structure at first, he thrives on it now. He is the first to follow through, without prompting, with whatever routine he is supposed to be doing (getting ready for school, etc.). And he never forgets a rule, nor is he defiant, so when he disobeys, it is most always because the other thing simply looked more fun.
We would not be honest if we said this first year has been easy. Aidan’s first 6 years of his life were pretty much spent in a village on his own with little supervision or correction. So couple that with a take-charge personality and the Ethiopian happy-but-argumentative culture (yes, that sounds contradictory but it is true), and you have a little boy who tried to come in and control our family from day one. Before he could barely speak any English, he was always (I’m not exaggerating) announcing whose turn it was or arguing about how to play a game that the other kids had just finished teaching him. Add this to the fact that he was regularly making loud obnoxious noises to make sure he was noticed, and the other kids got tired of this really fast. They have all had to learn patience and grace as we try to catch Aidan up on his social skills. He loves people so much, and Michael and I are trying our best to teach him to chill out some so he won’t push away his friends before they even get a chance to know really him.
We totally get the fact that he had to survive on his own some in his old environment—which is why he has scars from fires he fell in while cooking, etc.—but we are trying to help him thrive in this environment. He is doing so much better, but it has been a lot of work and something we still work on daily. I will admit that last summer was one of my hardest summers ever, with them all home and SO much arguing. I lost my patience a lot more than I care to admit, and God has done some refining of me as well. There were times that I wondered if we were getting anywhere, but then I watched a video we had taken of him in Ethiopia, and he looked like he was high on Mountain Dew! That same kid in the States would have been put on ritalin immediately! Fortunately for him (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it 🙂 ), he now has two first-born parents who do their best to focus on self-discipline and consistency, paired with love. Self-control is still an issue for him but he is doing so much better and is therefore more at peace with himself as well.
I know, without a doubt, that like Samuel in the Bible, God is going to do great things through Aidan as he matures! One time when he was helping me wash potatoes, he said, “If I get hundred dollars, I give it to da airplane man and he take me to African so I can tell dem bout God!” I replied, “Well, that’s not quite enough money. But I thought a lot of people in Ethiopia already knew about God?” “Not like DIS!! How much, two hundred? I guess I will have to wait.” He sees how much God loves us and is involved in saving our lives, and he wants to share that great news! If that is not Samuel, then I don’t know what is.
Since I am awful at keeping up with baby books, I want to devote a post to each of our children for posterity. I am going in reverse age order because their birthdays mostly fall in that order.
Our youngest child just turned two today: Eva Ruth Mebrat Gowin. There is richness in her name and in her personality. All of our kids have Irish names and Bible names, and our Ethiopian children kept their Ethiopian names. “Eva” is the Anglicized version of the Irish name Aoife (“ee-fa”—You can understand why we didn’t used the Irish spelling!) which means “radiant, pleasant, beautiful.” She is all of these things. Her birth mother named her “Mebrat” (“muh-brought”—you know, like hot dogs and brats?) which is Ethiopian for “light.” And Ruth is her Bible name. The summer of 2005 I feel like God hit me hard with that name, knowing it would be the name of one of our adopted children. In the Bible, Ruth and Samuel (which is Aidan’s middle name) were both ordinary people whom God used to serve Him and show His glory while not being raised by their biological families. Ruth, a Moabitess, chose to stay with her widowed mother-in-law Naomi to take care of her and follow her God. In the end, Ruth married Boaz (their kinsman redeemer, which means he was in Naomi’s bloodline and chose to redeem her family’s lineage by taking them into his family), and she became the great-grandmother to King David and ultimately to the Lord Jesus Himself. She was selfless and humble and illustrated beautifully how God has redeemed each of -our lives.
Our Eva is a bright light wherever she goes. We cannot leave a store or a doctor’s office without new friends she has made. People who would otherwise ignore us (or even think bad thoughts about a white mom with her brown baby), can’t help but remark how beautiful she is and talk and laugh with her. She is constantly waving at people and saying “hi,” especially if she has met you once before, and if she sees a baby she is beside herself wanting to get out of the cart to go meet him/her. And though these actions might look as if she is not quite attached, if she is so willing to meet other people, but that is certainly not the case. She may go give a stranger a hug and kiss, but once they pick her up, she immediately wants back to Mom.
Eva is also a joyful light in our home. She loves to talk, sing, and dance—and is very good at them, I might add! I wouldn’t be surprised if she is nicknamed Eva Diva someday! She does the most hilarious things but I often cannot catch them on video because she wants to stop and see herself on the camera. She makes us laugh, but not in a needy way to get attention. She often could care less if we saw her doing whatever she was doing. But she is also very sensitive—offering an empathetic pat to another sibling who might be sad or in trouble, or wanting to kiss me if I got “hurt?” She makes you feel like a King or Queen when you are returning home—you should hear her yell “Daddy!!!” when she gets to see him after work. She loves her daddy.
On a physical note, she was very sick when we brought her home a year ago last January—had to be hospitalized with pneumonia that she probably had for months before we got her. She was in the 1st and 6th percentiles in her height and weight when we brought her home. Now she is in the 65th percentile. It is amazing what love and nutrition will do! She had such a hard time napping when we first brought her home. She fought us so much for those much needed naps. But we were persistent. Now she is the best sleeper. Now that she is two, she fights me a little more about not wanting to nap, but I just hold her snugger when I rock her and she is out in less than ten minutes. If she is late for a nap or misses it altogether, she is such a trooper. The other kids would have melt-downs in those circumstances and had a horrible time sleeping in unknown places. She is by far the easiest baby we have ever had.
Also, now that she is two, I expect her strength of character will challenge us at times. She knows what she wants and is not afraid to ask for it, or just go get it. She has gotten herself drinks of water using her toys to dip into the dog’s bowl. If one of the kids leaves the bathroom door open, she is likely to get deodorant and put it on her face like chapstick. She tells me to put “Bad” on the ipod so she can dance to Michael Jackson, and she knows the right moves. She started potty training herself. I had sat her on the potty a couple random times—one time “something happened”—and then she started telling when she needed to go. I need to work regularly with her so she will choose to only go on the potty, but that’s amazing in my book!
I will be sad when she leaves this funny, sweet age, but I am also excited to see what God has in store for this “little light of mine”! I just today sadly learned that Eva’s birthday, April 4, is the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death. I can only hope that she somehow someday redeems that date on the calendar. Maybe she already has.
Michael has said on more than one occasion, with tears in his eyes, “What would we have missed if she were not part of our family?” We implore you, if you have ever considered adoption but then “let the feeling go away” out of fear of the unknown, please consider praying about it again. God can and will do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine if you are only willing to take the risk and trust Him. He will bring you to a realm of understanding of His grace and redemption that you never even knew existed before, and you will never want to go back.