One Year Ago: We Officially Became Elvie’s Family

This time of year is incredibly special for us. It was one year ago that we met Elvie, that we became her family, that we brought her home with us forever. Today marks one year since the day that a judge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, declared Elvie to be our daughter, and we scooped her up out of the care center and never let her go. It is such a joy to be Elvie’s family. We may have our fair share of challenges, but she is more than worth the extra effort. Today, we celebrate having her with us, in our arms, for good. I had a hard time choosing photos because there are so many moments that I want to mark and remember about this first year with Elvie. On our family blog, there is a video full of photos, and here I’ve gathered forty more of my favorites from this year. Thank you for following our story. This celebration of Elvie’s first year in our family is for you, too.

  • Elvie has been in our arms for a year, and we couldn't be happier.

    Elvie has been in our arms for a year, and we couldn’t be happier.

  • The first night she was with us.

    The first night she was with us.

    There was family story time, of course. She seemed to settle right in, content to have three people at her beck and call. Though we were still strangers to her, it was as if she knew that this was better than what had come before.

  • Smitten.

    Smitten.

    She and Jarod liked each other from the start.

  • Sleepy baby

    Sleepy baby

    I loved having her fall asleep in my arms, and she seemed to like it, too.

  • She was all eyes, looking, figuring things out.

    She was all eyes, looking, figuring things out.

    It was a long trip from Addis Ababa to San Francisco, and I know it made her tired, but she still wanted to look around and see what was new.

  • Thanks to medical help, she got strong enough to play.

    Thanks to medical help, she got strong enough to play.

    She was so weak from infection and malnourishment that she hadn’t been able to play. While we hated that we had to start our family life with a hospital stay, we are so grateful for all she gained by being at what we now call our home hospital.

  • Always a bit of a flirt.

    Always a bit of a flirt.

    In the hospital, she would distract the doctors by making faces at them. Sometimes they had to begin what they were saying again in order to get it right.

  • Time for a hearing test!

    Time for a hearing test!

    She didn’t know what to think.

  • Cozy at home, finally.

    Cozy at home, finally.

    For her first hospital stay, Elvie stayed eighteen days. She’d only been home for two and a half days before we checked her in. It was a relief to come home and settle in and SLEEP.

  • The beginning of a friendship

    The beginning of a friendship

    To this day, Elvie and our elderly cat, Phae, have a special relationship. Phae allows Elvie to do almost anything to her, and when Elvie naps, Phae always snuggles up next to her.

  • Having a second hospital stay soon after the first wasn't our favorite thing.

    Having a second hospital stay soon after the first wasn’t our favorite thing.

    Luckily, it was shorter, and Zinashi was there to help Elvie feel more comfortable.

  • Mischief in her eyes

    Mischief in her eyes

    She loves to get into everything, and she thinks that it’s funny. We could tell pretty early on that the twinkle of mischief was there, just waiting for the opportunity to strike.

  • Baby food? NO THANK YOU.

    Baby food? NO THANK YOU.

    To this day she does not like anything pureed. She took her time wanting to eat food, and that’s okay with us. We got a lot of similarly hilarious photos along the way as we attempted to offer her new foods, in hopes that she’d like them. But she had her own preferences and schedule, and she would not be cajoled or rushed.

  • Hamming it up

    Hamming it up

    I’d say that she learned this from her big sister, but I think it was within her the whole time. She is such a silly baby.

  • Sitting up and proud of it

    Sitting up and proud of it

    We didn’t know if she’d be able to sit up on her own before her big surgery, but she surprised us all by doing that and much, much more.

  • Rocking her to sleep

    Rocking her to sleep

    It was and is one of my very favorite things.

  • Getting out to explore was so much fun.

    Getting out to explore was so much fun.

    Elvie loved hitting the sidewalks of San Francisco to see new things.

  • She figured out that licking people was hilarious.

    She figured out that licking people was hilarious.

    It’s still one of her favorite tricks to play on unsuspecting friends and family members.

  • Our Halloween acorn

    Our Halloween acorn

    Zinashi dressed up as a squirrel, so a friend suggested that Elvie could be the acorn. It was perfect, and the best part was that we didn’t have to get fussy with Elvie’s costume. A hat and brown jacket, and she was good to go.

  • I think big bows and flowers on babies are funny.

    I think big bows and flowers on babies are funny.

    I didn’t realize the flower would be bigger than Elvie’s head, but that made it even funnier, and she was a great sport about it.

  • My pretty baby, all dressed up

    My pretty baby, all dressed up

    All the things she is wearing here were my favorites. I have set aside the mouse cardigan for her to keep even though she has outgrown it.

  • She was not impressed with Thanksgiving dinner.

    She was not impressed with Thanksgiving dinner.

    I just made a modest feast for the four of us at home, and it was lovely, but Elvie didn’t agree that the food was something to celebrate.

  • The cutest reindeer

    The cutest reindeer

    I got these antlers in a dollar section of a discount store. It was the best dollar I’ve ever spent.

  • Santa brought a drum set.

    Santa brought a drum set.

    It was definitely a hit. Pun intended.

  • Elvie discovered selfies.

    Elvie discovered selfies.

    It was love at first sight.

  • And then it was surgery time.

    And then it was surgery time.

    I was so nervous. We bought her this funny shirt to wear to the hospital so they would know to treat her right. Of course they knew that already; she had an excellent team of surgeons.

  • She came through her big surgery just fine, if a little puffy.

    She came through her big surgery just fine, if a little puffy.

    I have never been so happy to see anyone in my entire life than I was to see Elvie after that surgery. Even though she was groggy and very puffy, she looked so beautiful to me, breathing fine on her own and waking up gradually.

  • After a long recovery, she was finally ready to go home.

    After a long recovery, she was finally ready to go home.

    She sat up in bed and played, like it was no big deal. But it was a huge deal, and we were so happy to take her back home with us.

  • Before long, she was back to normal.

    Before long, she was back to normal.

    She started crawling just a few days after she was out of the hospital, and she was intent on making big messes as often as possible.

  • And then, it was time to celebrate her first birthday!

    And then, it was time to celebrate her first birthday!

    We had her party a couple of weeks after her actual birthday, but she got her very first cupcake on her big day. We were so proud of all she had fought through and accomplished in her first year; I would have bought her a dozen cupcakes if she’d wanted them. She had plenty of fun with just one, though.

  • First car ride in the US!

    First car ride in the US!

    While Elvie rode in cars with us in Ethiopia, where car seats are not used most of the time, she couldn’t fit in a standard car seat in the US, so we just went everywhere via public transportation before her big surgery. It was a big deal to strap her into her seat for the first time.

  • She has such joy, every day.

    She has such joy, every day.

    It seems like her joyful personality just keeps getting bigger and stronger.

  • Her bedhead has become more impressive with time.

    Her bedhead has become more impressive with time.

    We call this particular style The Einstein.

  • Sleeping through her first plane ride

    Sleeping through her first plane ride

    Once she’d fully healed from her big surgery, we took her to the Midwest to meet friends and family. She did fantastic on her first flight.

  • Such a funny girl

    Such a funny girl

    She knows that grown up sunglasses are funnier than baby sunglasses. She has no interest in wearing hers, but she loves mine.

  • Fun with her big sister is her favorite.

    Fun with her big sister is her favorite.

    When the two of them get going, it’s a nonstop party.

  • For messy meals, a big bib with sleeves is what we need.

    For messy meals, a big bib with sleeves is what we need.

    I love that she enjoys food so much now that she gets it all over the place.

  • Even in a hospital far from home, life is thrilling.

    Even in a hospital far from home, life is thrilling.

    I took this right after she popped her IV out by trying to jump off the bed. She thought it was a great trick, and luckily she didn’t need it much anymore.

  • Elvie is sunshine.

    Elvie is sunshine.

    She’s been working on her serious face, but it never sticks. She’s just happy; it’s part of who she is. I am so glad that she was given the gift of a lightheartedness.

  • Happy, healthy, amazing

    Happy, healthy, amazing

    Elvie has come so far since that first night in Ethiopia, when we were so worried for her health. We couldn’t be happier with how this first year has come to a close. We are so lucky to be her family. We are grateful for her every day.

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