MANATEE COUNTY — Ashlie Fulmer can’t imagine anything better than what she’s doing now.
As she watches her 5-month-old son, Easton, tuck his thumb into his mouth and break into a wide, toothless grin, her own smile widens.
“It’s so wonderful,” said Ashlie, who is taking a year off from her career teaching to stay home with Easton. “I can’t think of any other way.”
On Aug. 23, Ashlie arrived home from Ethiopia with Easton in tow after spending the last three months with him in the African country. Baby Easton, who formally was adopted July 21, received his U.S. passport Aug. 19, paving the way for him to come to his new home.
“It was tough, but it was going home,” Ashlie said of the trip.
With a chuckle, she added: “I got McDonalds at the Germany airport. That’s pretty sad when that’s a highlight.”
But after 29 total hours of travel, an exhausted Ashlie and Easton stepped out of the airport terminal and into the arms of family and friends, who greeted them with shouting and signs.
Ashlie’s husband, Ryan, quickly scooped the baby into his arms and touched his feet to the ground.
“I figured he should officially set his foot on American soil, and that’s what we did,” Ryan Fulmer said.
Although Ashlie and Ryan experienced many of their parenting “firsts” together in Ethiopia during the two weeks Ryan was there — the first time feeding Easton formula and giving him a bath, for example — the couple admits there is still much to learn, especially with another arrival on the way. Ashlie herself is due to welcome baby Preston into the world Nov. 20.
“We’re shifting,” Ashlie said. “We know everything about Ethiopia and adopting there. We know nothing about labor and delivery.”
In the meantime, Ashlie said she’s enjoying every moment she can with Easton. Although she’s still figuring out how to use the car seat, many of the other baby gadgets — strollers and the like — are proving to be very convenient.
There’s no more doing laundry in the shower, eating food she brought in a suitcase or living without electricity as she did in Africa. Everything’s much easier, especially with plenty of family support from both her parents, Braden Woods residents Ernie and Pam McFarland, and Ryan’s parents, Dave and Cathy Fulmer, of Largo, Ashlie said.
“I feel like I can’t complain about anything,” she said. “We are so incredibly blessed.”
Already, Easton has settled into a routine and has begun putting on weight.
“He’s a talker,” Ashlie said. “He can go on and on and on. He smiles and giggles.”
The first-time mom also admits she’s enjoying joining mom groups, visiting the store and doing other family-type activities. Ashlie said she cannot help but tell her child’s adoption story to nearly anyone who asks.
“It’s been really cool to share our story,” she said. “It’s neat to share him with everyone else because he’s brought us so much joy.”
But her time in Ethiopia to pick up Easton — as well as to lead part of a mission trip for Woodland, The Community Church — was a life-changing experience.
Ashlie doesn’t know when she’ll go back to Africa but already the stirring is there.
“It’s just the beginning,” Ashlie said. “(Going there) opens your eyes. That’s how it feels with Easton, again. I definitely hope to go back.”
For more, read the Fulmers' online journal at www.fulmerstory.blogspot.com.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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