Simply Elevate Issue 6 June 2013 - Page 10

were approved for adoption. Layla and Levi Soon after notification, they received photos and background information about a sister and brother— Tilahun, a 5-year-old boy, and Amarech, age 3. They had been taken to the orphanage the previous year by their grandfather who could no longer care for them. Once Kendra and Steve saw photos of the two children who would be joining their family, they went about selecting just the right names. The couple had decided the children’s Ethiopian names would be their middle names, but they wanted them to have first names more like the rest of the family. After a great deal of discussion, they chose Layla for Amarech because it is a common girl name in both Ethiopia and the U.S. But they couldn’t find the perfect name for Tilahun. Then one day, Kendra was reading the Bible and ran across a passage about Levi. “When I read that chapter, I knew Levi was the name for him,” Kendra said. Life in America In June 2011, Steve and Kendra made the trip to Ethiopia to bring their children home, which was when they first met Layla and Levi. And that was when the hard work of adjusting began for the entire family. “We knew the transition would be difficult, but I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take for things to reach normal,” Steve said. The first priority when the children arrived in Missouri was to treat their medical issues. Both children children to be accepting of all people, and understanding other cultures will help broaden their perspective and appreciation of others,” Kendra added. Joys of a large family Taking care of four active children who each have extracurricular activities and managing two careers keeps the couple especially busy. Steve is a research scientist, and Kendra owns a travel agency she calls My Tribe Travel. Even with all the craziness, the Scheerers said they love having a large family. “The first two years were very hard,” Steve said. “But it has been pure joy to watch Layla and Levi blossom and see the development of the diverse personalities of all our children. I can’t imagine life any different than it is now. We couldn’t be happier.” Once during a family camping trip, Steve and Levi were walking along a lake at dusk. Levi became very frightened and clung to his father. Steve asked what was wrong, and Levi said he was afraid of the gorillas. Steve later learned that being near water at nightfall in Ethiopia is extremely dangerous. This is when wild animals come to drink. “It’s startling to hear what these children endured,” he said. Now as a multi-cultural family, the Scheerers make a point to expose their children to many cultures. They encourage all four children to develop friendships with children from different cultures. The family attends a church with many multi-cultural families. And they go to local cultural festivals. “We want our Join “My Facebook Tribe Travel” on were very thin and suffered from skin fungus. They also had staph infections, and Levi even had a spider living in his ear. Next came meeting the children’s emotional needs. The entire family has had counseling to help make the transition. “Because Levi and Layla were abandoned several times, developing a parent-child bond has taken nearly two years,” Kendra said. “Their need for love and affection is bottomless, which is sometimes hard to meet when caring for a family of six.” Language of course has been a barrier for the family. Layla is picking up English faster than Levi, who still struggles with certain words. “It’s so fun to see what words and phrases they will come up with,” Kendra said. “For example, Layla calls her arm pit her finger pit.” Surprisingly, even eating has been an issue for the Scheerers. Because Layla and Levi were perpetually hungry in Ethiopia, they overeat now. “I think they are still afraid it will be a long time between meals,” Kendra said. “They don’t seem to know what full feels like. We have to make them stop eating so they don’t get sick.” Likewise, schooling is a challenge for Layla and Levi. They had no education before coming to the States, so they are behind their peers in school. Sitting still and focusing on classwork can be a problem, especially for Levi. They receive additional help at school and home, and are making good progress. Layla will enter first grade, and Levi will begin second grade in the fall. The Scheerers’ birth children – Foster, age 10, and Faith, 7 – are still adjusting to the addition of a new brother and sister too. “Levi adores his older brother and wants to do everything Foster does, which doesn’t work when Foster wants to be alone. But overall, the kids get along as well as any group of siblings,” Kendra said. Bridging cultural differences Teaching Layla and Levi the American way of life is a workin-progress. Coming from a world where lions and elephants were a daily threat, th