fiddlehead.....every changing, ever growing

fiddlehead....ever changing, ever growing

Saturday, December 31, 2011

looking back on 2011

As I think back on 2011 it was a wonderful year in the life of the Rikkers

some of my favorite photos from 2011....  its a small glimpse and they are
no particular order (because that would mean that I would need to be more organized!)

Hubby turned 40.

 But he stills got it!

Jack is getting to be such a big boy....he is 5 and loves his buddies
Sometimes they end up in a tree and other times in the muddy stream...

My sister got married.....and had her 2nd baby in 11 months.  crazy girl...I love her.

 We attempted a family picture at her reception....nice try

 Halloween in the neighborhood....riding the trailer in the country trick or treating with friends
 Our crew of characters...

A trip to Mexico as a family....relaxing in the hammock with my sweet girl.

Our oldest, Judson, is 10.
Yep, 10.  I can hardly believe it.  
He is growing and changing to fast for my liking and I have to accept that.
I love him so....

Jack on 2 wheels this summer (age 4)
He was so proud....and it brought tears to my eyes!

 Jack is growing so fast...he is spunky and sweet.
One of his favorite things is tickle time.
Here I am tickling in bed (after I was recovering from back surgery)

Bob the bulldog continues to love, and snuggle and sometimes ends up with frozen drool.

Its the last year we swam in the pool, it became a ramp and then went away forever.

 Drew has an incredible love of life.  He is a happy guy and is usually smiling.  
It has been a great year of growth for Drew in so many ways.

 Nana's birthday.....I love this picture of my Mom
She is now retired and we get to see her more.  yeh!

 we were with Pops on Father's Day...I love this picture of him too.

Our sweet girl, Tessa, 
She has grown so much this year.
And "we" have grown up so much this year.
This was the year I really felt our bond was complete.

Tessa is very much to say.  She loves to sing and dance....and her favorite thing, other than Daddy, is Yo Gabba Gabba.
she is dramatic....she is 2 (need I say more?)

There were sad good-byes....
to a loving cat name "Felix"

And recently, to our beloved Opa (Andy's grandfather)

 We had a wonderful Christmas....and fun making our holiday card.

There is alot to say "chin chin" to!

Cheers to 2011 and the new year to come!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I have a thing for Almond Spritz Cookies.   
I mean it is basically butter, flour, sugar and a bunch of almond (we always double or triple the almond).
There is also the fact that my Mom and I have made these together many, many times while I was growing up.
So, to me that smell of almond smells of love.

First, get your hands on a cookie press...this is a vintage one with a twist press and disk for different shapes.  I bet there are more updated cookie presses, but I am partial to the beautiful vintage kind.

Here is Mom stirring up trouble....

Then clean up and smell the almond extract.....ahhh

 Mix it all up.

 Choose the shape you want your spritz.  We started with flowers and then went to wreaths later.
Get the cookie dough in your cookie press.

Sprinkle on colored sugars or cinnamon imperials...

And of course, don't let any dough go to waste!
I still love licking the beaters.

These did not last long...

Here is the recipe (from :


1 c. soft butter
2/3 c. sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
1 1/2 tsp. almond flavoring
2 1/2 c. flour

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, egg yolks and flavorings thoroughly. Work in flour. Press through cookie press into desired shapes onto ungreased cookie sheet. Decorate. Bake 7 to 10 minutes. About 6 dozen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

snow wonder

This is the first real snow of the is magical.

Tessa has already snuck out the door to touch the snow at least 4 times and it is only 8:15 a.m.!   

We will be getting out there to play today, but couldn't resist sharing these photos of our sweet girl in wonder of the snow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas moment

I love Christmas....and all the moments that come with them.
Getting the tree up...the stockings too.
eatting chocolate from the advent calendar.
Lighting our four pine trees outside and seeing them glow

Of all the holiday traditions in our house my favorite has to be the Christmas pyramid... 
which was the best purchase I made while living abroad.
It has its own magic as the angels twirl and the bells chime.  love it.
And love this "moment" from Tessa's first Christmas with us last year.

This year we made it to Brunch with Santa.   Three of the four kiddos were there.  It was the first year Judson chose basketball over Brunch with Santa.  I get it, but I missed him being there for this tradition.   It is a wonderful event and of course the main event is giving your wish list to Santa.  All the kids were very excited to do so.  I had my camera ready as I knew I might catch a "moment".

2 years ago I caught this moment when Jack was 2 years old and met Santa for the first time.   
Oh, the trauma.   .....but it just makes me laughout loud still!!

So, I was ready for any possible moment this year. 
With Tessa being really excited about meeting Santa and showing no signs of worry I really didn't think she would have the same kind of moment Jack did. 
That is until Daddy put her on that strange man's lap.   That is not o.k. and Tessa told the world, just as a 2 year old will do.   

And yes, it was hilarious again.   I was (not so secretly) happy to have 
another classic Christmas "moment".
It still makes me giggle....what is wrong with me?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

holiday card for you....

There are sooo many people in out lives that I want to connect with during the holidays.    This year I wanted to give people a little something to have a jolly chuckle about.   (Maybe I needed that for myself too!)

For all of you in our lives through this blog world, through the internet....thank you for touching my life. For all of my friends and family that keep up on our crazy lives here....I love you.  Thank you for your presence in our lives.
And so I give to you the Rikkers Holiday card 2011!

Happy Holidays from our family to yours.....
"Oh, what we will do for a silent night"

All Rikkers kids merrily consented to being tied in Christmas lights
 and silenced with apples in their mouths to give Mommy and Daddy a "Silent Night".
It was nice while it lasted!

Happy Holidays!  May you be bit by the spirit of the holidays.....Love, the Rikkers

The Paper Mama

Friday, December 2, 2011

Searching with Ethiostork

It was over 2 years ago that we recieved Tessa's referral and the photo above of our sweet girl.   I knew she was meant to be our child.   On that day I read her referral and I knew in my mind that she would have many questions for us one day about what I was reading.  The fact was that there were so many empty spaces and unknowns in her referral.  Those unknowns made me feel a deep sadness, one a mother imagine's for her child.  I knew I wouldn't be able to answer those questions.   I might be able to answer a couple of those questions imagining the context of her birth in Ethiopia at that time in history.   We would just have to imagine.

Until a couple months ago I didn't even realize it was even possible to search for our daughter's birth family in Ethiopia.   All we knew was she has been "left to be found", she didn't have any sort of known birth history.   It was through this big blog world, that I saw another adoptive family had done a birth parent search with "Ethiostork".   I checked out Ethiostork's blog  and I couldn't get the thought of a search out of my mind.  Knowing that we could at least try.....we might find out more about her history and her birth family.    

There is also the realization that 2 years have passed.   That is 2 years from the pain of it.   But that also means 2 years where information could be fading or lost.   I realized I didn't want any more time to pass.  That NOW was the time to search.

I think it might be a common feeling as an adoptive parent, but I felt a bit vulnerable in this process.  I didn't want someone to take advantage of us and our desire to connect to our daughter's history.   I saw Ethiostork's website and all the resources that they provide for Ethiopian adoptive families.  Conducting a birth parent search is just one aspect of their service to adoptive families.   After researching, conversations about the process with Duni, founder of Ethiostork, making sure it was all legitimate, talking with other families (via email) and then doing some soul searching, I new the time was right for us to do a birth parent search for our daughter and took the leap.

It was a bit of a leap of faith.  But I trusted that Ethiostork would represent us well, and do their best to find out any information possible.  While I never thought this process would ever be possible, I had fantasies that I could one day search for her birth parent....but we know full well that "I" couldn't just waltz into an Ethiopian village and start asking very personal and sensitive questions.  It takes the right Ethiopian person, who knows the culture, the language, the systems to do that investigating and to ask those really tough questions.

I knew that in this process that the information we had could lead to a dead end.  Of course, it would be impossible for Ethiostork to guarantee that a birth parent would be found, but they did say they have had good successes.    So, this process was about trust and hope....that if we sent an Ethiostork investigator out into our daughter's village that he/she would be able to uncover some information that would lead to a birth parent or relative.  If there was a dead end in the process more than anything I wanted to be able to tell Tessa that we tried.

Of course, each person's birth parent search is bound to be very different. There may be painful realities.  I can tell you in our case it just took the right person to ask the questions to get to the truth.  The truth that was right there below the surface.   It didn't take long at all to find out the treasured information about my daughter's birth history and first family.    

I know now that things in Ethiopia aren't always as they first appear.  Sadly, people are so often in desperate situations and are forced to create stories to bring children into care when they can't care for them.  It is a fact....a very sad fact.    It is also a fact that Ethiostork helped us uncover the truth.  They have given our daughter the answers.  She will know names, she will know context and will even know the treasured face of her first mother because Ethiostork created a DVD of their interview.   It is an incredible gift.  I am so grateful I listened to my instinct, trusted and took the leap to search for our daughter's first family with Ethiostork.

This is our daughter today.....
today she will point to her shirt and say "Africa".  I ask her, "Where were you born?" and she says "Oo-pia".   Some day she will know even more and will have answers.  Having her story she will be able to have a better understanding of her past.  Her story is apart of our family today and for future generations, and we are so grateful to know it.

If you are reading this and would like to talk more about our journey with Ethiostork and our birth family search in Ethiopia, please email me at
take care.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

dear first Mama

Dear first mother,

For years I have been sending you love in prayers hoping they would reach you.   Knowing you were bringing our daughter into the world.  And then not knowing if we would ever know you or be able to find you.

I barely have the words to express our love and gratitude for you.   You chose to bring this beautiful life into the world under very difficult circumstances.   Thank you for making that choice, for carrying this life and bringing her into the world.   We can only imagine the pain of being unable to raise this precious life.  What you have been through isn't fair.  We want you to know she will be raised with you in our hearts, knowing the struggle you went through to bring this life into the world, and knowing the grief of relinquishing her to another.

Please know how grateful we are that you shared information about yourself for Tessa.   Thank you for sharing your story and giving it to our  daughter.    Being able to have some answers for her about you, and her first days is a gift like no other imaginable.  To have your words, to have your grace and for her to be able to see your image on the video is the most beautiful gift that will be treasured by our daughter and future generations.  

We can't know what your heart is feeling.  It is our prayer that your heart feels a sense of peace.  Peace in knowing that you will be known to our daughter.  Peace in knowing that she is being given a life full of love, where she will have every opportunity given to her and that she will be taught to love and know about the world and life outside of this priviledge. 

In the years to come as we raise our daughter you will never be forgotten.  Your name will fall lovingly and frequently on our daughter's ears.  She will know that your heart wanted to raise her, but that you were unable to.  She will know that the life you were born into was unfair and did not allow you the choices and options that our daughter will have.  She will know.      

With such love, gratitude and respect.

Monday, November 28, 2011


It is with both a heavy heart and such gratitude that I am able to share that we have identified our sweet girl's birth mother.  It is simply amazing to me that this was possible.   That we now know more about her entrance into the world.  A world that is just not fair.    

It isn't fair that some people are born into situations in which they are unable to nuritious their children, have access to resources.   It is isn't fair that people have to create stories so a child can be brought into care when they aren't able to care for them.  It is all just unfair.   And yet, this all had to be for our daughter to come home to us.   Somehow it is all apart of the plan for all of us even if I don't understand it or the inequities of it all.

While I am not sharing Tessa's story, it is hers, I can say very important new information surfaced through the investigation.  

To start this search we shared what information we had from her referral and that is where the investigator started.   It doesn't seem it was that terribly difficult for the investigator to reveal the truth.  It was right there under the surface and just took some probing to uncover it.

Ethiostork did a very professional job at navigating the very sensitive issues surrounding a birth mother search.  They know where to start, who to talk to.   We know could have never done this ourselves without someone asking the questions for us to discover the truth.

The truth can be painful.  I also think it can offer peace, understanding and completion.  I am feeling all of these things, but mostly I am incredibly grateful.   

It makes me wonder if her birth mother is also feeling some of these things...the pain, the peace, understanding and completion.   I can't know for sure, but it seems to me she might be because she now also has information she didn't have before.  She knows her daughter has been adopted, in America, she saw a recent photo of her happy and healthy and also expressed her gratitude for us raising her.    

For over 2 years I have been sending prayers, loving and hopeful energy into the universe hoping it would reach her birth mother.   Perhaps it has been received.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Dear sweet girl,
We have started a search.  A search in your birth place to find a birth relative.  I don't know where it will lead, but I do know we must try.    It is possible that we may be left without knowing the answers to your questions.   There is so much we don't know.   One thing I know for sure, we are forever blessed to love you and call you our daughter.   

I have decided to go forward with a birth family search for Tessa through Ethiostork.
There are so many questions that I know Tessa will carry with her.  One's we will never be able to answer for her.
When I ran across this service and saw other adoptive families making connections for their children, I decided it was worth a try.   In my mind the more time that passes, the more likely it is for information to fade.   Tessa is now 2 years and 4 months old.   

After many conversations about the process and a lot of soul searching, ultimately it came down to having answers for Tessa.   Now is the time to try.   I don't know if we will make any connection.  I don't know what answers will come of this.  But I am hopeful something will emerge.
Worst case scenario is that we discover nothing and have lost some $ with a search.  To me, it is a risk worth taking.  Someday in the future I want to be able to tell Tessa that we tried to find out more and accept that facts of what we do know.

The information (names we have, dates, photos, location) has all been sent and the search has been started.  

As I go about my day I wonder about how this search is intiated.   Who is driving to Hossana and is asking the hard questions?  Who is making the connections in the community?  I am so curious about the process.  But mostly I am sending all sorts of love and hope into this process that is happening in our daughter's birth place.
It's all for you sweet girl.

Thank you for visiting the fiddlehead report!