Thursday, December 30, 2010

No More 'fro...

We take all 3 boys to the barber school for a number of reasons: 1.It's $5! 2. There a mostly black men for Etienne and Zeke to hang with 3. It's $5!!!! Last Thursday was no exception. We've been going to the same barber school for over a year now, and they've been so kind and helpful to teach us how to properly (and respectfully) care for the boys' hair. Etienne had an older man, probably in his late 50s, cut his hair this trip. Etienne LOVES any attention to his hair, which is partly the reason for the 'fro, because it's high maintanence. The moment E sat in this man's chair, the criticism started. First it was that we don't cut his hair frequently enough, then that we should just choose a style already, and finally that Etienne wouldn't cry if he wasn't afraid of getting his hair combed. Etienne was crying, sobbing, because the man was pulling roughly and raising his voice at us. The comments started vaguely but worked their way to saying that we don't know how to care for our son and it's my fault he is crying. By this point, I was forehead to forehead with E, covered in hair, praying and singing to him. I mostly tuned the man out, but I could definately feel every eye in the place on me. I left ashamed, angry and in tears. It was clear that this man believed a white woman has no business with a black son. After a good cry, Ryan convinced me that I needed to let his superviser know what happened. We spoke later, and I hadn't a word out before he said "I've seen your HAPPY Son and I was afraid of what I was witnessing today. I so sorry that you felt judged." His apology was genuine and it comforted me. As a friend said later, "God cares even about hair cuts." He used a horribly hateful experience as a bonding moment for Etienne and I as we cried together. He gave me the opportunity to talk to Molly and Blake about it (they saw the whole thing) and we prayed for that man's hurt/hate. So we tried for lemonade. I am wondering how other transracial families deal with this. Do we boycott the place or show up again with forgiveness? Should I have addressed his racism? I hope that with my actions I displayed only love for my son and that that man saw a new perspective in what defines family. (PS, for the record, the teacher said E's hair was the "healthiest in the joint."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

16 and pregnant...

I confess, I watched the season finale of "16 and Pregnant," (again, don't judge) because Adoptive Family Magazine had given it praise on it's reflection of adoption. That was a mistake. Ryan found me in bed, crying under the flannels, overcome with grief. MTV didn't glamorize teen pregnancy and their reflection of a birth mom's decisions was respectful and totally pro-adoption. The truth is, the show made me feel like I have not given Etienne and Zeke's birth moms enough thought or grief. Two years ago, when we were waiting for a referral, I said random prayers for our birth moms. A year ago, when we were just trying to survive moment to moment, I never thought about those women in Rwanda. Now, after being home 15 months with E and Zeke, I can't even think about that last moment without aching. How that would have felt to set your child down; knowing you would never feel them or smell their breath or hear them cry again. That the life you had forced you to walk away. Not long ago, a woman from our church, who has a heart for God and I love dearly, said something along the lines of "that will be hard for the boys to know that their mother couldn't love them enough to keep them." It was like a punch in the stomach. I guess I just assumed that people in my generation understood that the act of placing a child in adoption is the most sacrifical gift of love a parent could give. I realized that our duty to our 2 birth moms in East Africa will never end. I will defend their love for my boys until everyone gets what love they have.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dinner Talk

Blake: "Hey, Mama, I'm pretty sure when I was in your stomach and you ate food, it landed on my head." Etienne: "ME TOO! When I was in in your tummy!" Me (in my head, ohmygosh, this conversation is actually happening!!): "Buddy, you weren't ever in my tummy, just in my heart. There was a lady in Rwanda that had you in her tummy and she wanted me to be your mama." Zeke: "That's a good idea!!"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A glimpse at awesome!

We have had over a week of mostly NORMAL behavior with Etienne! I am going to share our plan of attack (don't judge) only because I am keenly aware of the other sweet Rwandan kiddos out there they may just be getting over the Honeymoon phase of being adopted. To catch up, Etienne had previously been potty trained. Over the summer, he digressed big time with a lot of attachment issues. One of them being peeing and/or pooping in his underwear. He reserved this joy for mama only. After a lot of prayer and some advice from professionals, we decided to continue to put him in underwear but each time he peed/pooed we took away ALL big boy privledges. We decided not to discipline but to tell him how much we loved him and if he needed to do baby behavior, then he would have to do baby sleeping/activities, etc. The other trick that we have had great results with is that we have held him or worn him on our back immediately after each discipline. Pulling him in rather than letting him return to what he was previously doing. Please know that I am fully aware that I am not an expert or do I think we have it figured out. We have NO IDEA what we are doing. That is the beauty of letting God lead. He has put some resources in our pocket and we have totally let go of any parenting instinct we thought we had. It is a crazy ride that is giving us a few more awesome days and less time crying in the pantry.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Glimpse.....

Last week was Etienne's 4th birthday. I prayed diligently for several days that his behavior could be improved at least for one day. We didn't want to have his special day filled with time-outs and discipline. God is good. Etienne did exceptionally well for any child. He even managed to survive the Thanksgiving holiday by showing some self regulating when he got overstimulated. Any change-even having someone for dinner-typically seems to send E into RAD mode. Not for his birthday or Thanksgiving! Here is my grateful E list: - Etienne can turn anything into a toy. He is never, ever bored. -E is always curious. He thirsts to understand everything (I am sure that some of you know the challenge of this blessing!!) -E isn't picky -Etienne will rub my back or my arms to sooth me when we are having a bad day. -Everyone, I mean EVERYONE, is drawn to him. I have notes from volunteers that remember him as a baby. Strangers talk to him. He engages people. -His eyelashes -Etienne's love of his brothers and sister. -He is learning to pray - He is great at make believe.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I cooked plantains today for Molly's class. She did a persuasion paper on adoption, and being National Adoption Month, we joined her today (no pics allowed). For those who aren't haven't had them, plantains are a staple in most developing countries. They look like a long bananna but on the inside have the texture and taste of a sweet potato. With butter, sugar and cinnamon, they are yummy! I've gotten a lot of crazy reactions since becoming a Rwanda mama (for a zillion reasons). When I say I am cooking Rwandan chicken or discovering East Africa recipes, I get even more mixed responses. I don't really get why becuase when we chose international adoption, we knew that whatever country God led us to our children, that that country would be "ours." We are now Rwandan-Americans because our kids are. Doesn't that seem logical than that we would want to embrace the culture? There is a lot of newer research out there looking at children adopted into transracial families and long term well being. Overwhelmingly, the kids who were acknowledged that they were different had more self-confidence. So the "love sees no color" thing doesn't actually apply. In other words, if we always pretend that E and Zeke are exactly the same, if we don't talk about their differences or their Rwandan culture, that will encourage them to be ashamed of their obvious differences. "If mama and daddy never mention that I'm black maybe that's weird or maybe I shouldn't let others know where I'm from..." I think it's a tricky balance of treating adoptive children equally, but also differently, from biological siblings; and I may not be doing it right. But I do love research based evidence and plantains.

Monday, November 15, 2010

ouch!

Friday night we had our first big snow of the season and all the kids were out enjoying it. I snapped a few shots of Zeke, overjoyed, catching snowflakes in his mouth. About 5 minutes into it, he began to cry. We brought him in as he cried and cried. Ryan and I were laughing at our little Rwandan's dislike of cold. He cried through a warm bath and then wanted wrapped, head to toe, in a super soft blanket. I rocked him to sleep, enjoying the snuggle time Saturday morning, Blake took Zeke down the sled 2 or 3 times; they laughed and giggled, loving every minute. Then Zeke began crying again. Really hard. We brought him in. He took a warm shower with me and then, crying, wanted Daddy to hold him really tight for a good 30 minutes. We looked at each other, thinking this wasn't just a 2 year old moment. Something wasn't right. Ah-ha! I pulled out our old binder from our home study class and thumbed through post adoption issues. Maybe this was a sensory issue? Sure enough. I get really conscious of not labeling Etienne and Zeke's behaviors to "because they are adopted." I don't want to label them and I am completely aware that mothering is not easy, regardless of your child's starting point.....that said, I also completely know my boys struggle bigger battles then Molly and Blake had to at their ages. Sensory processing disorder occurs when a kiddo (or adult) can't seem to process sensory messages coming from the environment in a smooth and efficient manner. Children with sensory processing problems often feel confused, afraid, oblivious, assaulted or angry when confronted with sensations that other children their age take in stride. These emotions may in turn play out in their behaviors. It can be a processing disruption from touch, sound, taste and vision. The disruption occurs in kids who have had extremely stressful experiences or beginnings in their lives and their brain needs time to learn to organize the senses as it receives them. BUT the brain is constantly learning and GOD ALWAYS WINS. In Zeke, as I refreshed myself on the sensory stuff, I realized he does a few of the following things besides his sensitivity to temperatures. -gagging on foods -tripping and running into things -talking CRAZY LOUD. Saying "what? what? what?" -when he is upset, he definately prefers to be swaddled and held really tight. We didn't realize last winter when we were swaddling him all the time that this action really helped with his senses being overstimulated. I found an article in which an 11year old said this "when I go outside in the winter, it feels like I have fiberglass in my clothes." Ouch! I don't write my blog to really be a resource guide, but rather a "don't do what I did" kinda source. I am going to read up on how to help his sweet brain to process a bit better. We are going to be more patient to Zeke's little idiocincricies, and keep getting him hats. He loves, loves, loves his hats. And now I know why!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seeking experienced mama advice....

So here's the scenerio: Your adopted 3/4 year old-ish son (home 10 months when this starts) is potty trained. Has been since being adopted. Then you go out of town for your anniversary and he decides the honeymoon phase of being adopted int his family is over. You work hard on the bonding, resorting to silliness, babying, allowing diapers, feedings, etc. Then, 3 months into the madness, you learn that he is 100% using the potty for everyone else in his life. Goodbye, diapers! No more "big boy" privledges. So on a usual day, you are playing all morning at the park, come home for lunch and remind him to use the potty. He flat out refuses. You remind him that there are consequences to pottying his pants.....10 minutes later, he has peed himself. Do you: 1. make him clean himself and laundry up. Then resume day. 2. spank him, then carry him around the rest of the day 3. put him back in diapers I honestly want feedback on this. I am tired of the people in our lives that "don't get it." I really do want our amazing family, both biological and through adoption, to help me on this...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What to do, what to do....

Last Friday I joined a dear friend to help out with a slumber party over the dinner hour; I was gone from 5:30 to 8:30. Mama is never gone over the dinner/bathtime hour and when I came back I had learned that Etienne had pooped his pants.Gggrr. We have had him in diapers because during the summer he had regressed and our stand had been, "if he needs to be a baby, we will work on bonding." Fast forward to Monday. I mention this to Laurel, (everyone needs a Laurel), our beloved sitter/nanny. She's been coming over 1 or 2 days a week since the messy beginnings. Laurel says "Actually, I haven't even had to help E with pottying since probably before summer." WHAT?!?!? Again with the no mama instinct. My growing adoptive mama instincts are that Etienne is peeing/pooping for us because he is still trying to get that we are his parents forever. My old mama instinct is mad!! He's playing us, right?! Side note: Laurel is amazing. She is in college and she has committed her time, energy and heart to nurturing my kiddos on the days I play midwife. She loves God and she takes everything with prayer. I seriously tear up when I think about trying to work if God hadn't given her to us. Thanks, LaLa. Anyway, I am not going to share yet our plan this week because I don't have confidence that it is right or not. I just want, long to have Etienne's heart completely but I don't want to play the fool. Wet pants or diaper? TBA...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The "sparkly-eyed smiley face"

A year ago, most of my blogs were about the struggle with our little Zeke-baby. For those who may have forgotten, Zeke literally screamed from the time we got off the airplane until October 23, 2009. That day, he decided to be loved. Our baby hasn't turned back since. Many days, when I have no mama instinct for what step to take next with Etienne, I hear Zeke's little Barry White voice and see his smiling eyes, and I know we are in God's hands. Zeke is constantly yelling (in a happy, silly voice), while trying to keep up with his brothers. If he isn't bossing them around, he is in Molly's lap or in the time out corner. The little boy has his siblings wrapped around his pinky. Molly calls him her "sparkly eyed smiley face," which is totally him. He is joy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Amazed

Something so utterly amazing has been happening with Etienne. Initially, I hesitated to post this because I thought of the sceptics/agnostics/doubters that I know read my blog...then I remembered I didn't care! Over the summer, one of my beloved Rwanda sisters shared with me that she had experienced some overwhelming thoughts of E,as an adult, singing and happy. She had this occur during church, while singing "Mighty to Save." This song is especially significant to us because we sang this in during our darkest moments in Africa. "Everyone needs compassion, a love that's never failing Let mercy fall on me Everyone needs forgiveness, the kindness of a savior, the hope of nations Savior, He can move a mountain, our God is Mighty to save..." Yesterday I arrived at work and a coworker pulled me aside. Mind you, this woman is a coworker. Although I know I am transparent on my blog, I have become very guarded as to how much I share with very many people regarding our struggles with bonding/attachment. She said, "Did anything happen with E on Sunday?" I shook my head no, nothing out of the ordinary. She said, "In church, we were singing this "Savior, He can move a mountain" song and I couldn't stop praying for Etienne." WHAT?!?!!?!??! I told her about our other dear friend's same experience in July and she just lost it (something we'd never shared with anyone). There we were, crying together at how cool God is. This is why no matter how long I need to hold E at night, how many diapers he goes through, lies he tells, it doesn't matter. Bring it. God always wins.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"I'm Different"

Molly, Etienne, Zeke and Blake sharing the breakfast table: Etienne: "Mama, I think I'm different" Me: (gulp, I know I'm ready, right!?!?) "You're right, buddy, you are, but God wanted you that way and so did we." Blake: "Eeettttiiiiieeennnneeee!!!! Just because you are chocolate and I am vanilla, we still have 2 elbows!" Molly: "And the same Mama and Daddy." Zeke: "I'm batman." Etienne: "Ok. Can I have a bananna?" I love my life. Its messy and crazy and awesome.

Friday, October 8, 2010

a deeper hurt...

These past few weeks we've really felt like we are uncovering a deeper hurt in Etienne. The sobbing,lying, the apologizing, lack of sleep, all the RAD behaviors have just increased and multiplied. As a believer, I have been to new depths of prayer and diving into my bible more than ever. This is good, right?! Emotionally, I am as drained as I was a year ago but I feel stronger spiritually than I ever have. If I need to fight for Etienne's heart, than bring it on. I could not imagine surviving without my fellow Rwanda Mamas. There is a bond between us that is lifelong and their encouragement and prayer these past few weeks, more than ever, has sustained me. My father-in-law reminded me of how funny our daily life is and I need to share the comedy. There really is never a dull moment.. -So Zeke knows I am a "baby catcher" and its the norm to talk about pregnancy, birth, etc. Last night he was snuggling me and said something about "Zekee in mama's tummy." When I told him that he came didn't come out of my tummy, he opened his eyes really wide, rolled them and fell straight back in shock. It was actually hysterical. A funny birth mom/adoptive mama talk. -Items (to date) used to slide down the stairs: a mini couch, a serving platter, sleeping bags, the dog (totally didn't work), cardboard, a sled. -The boys were in a wedding last weekend and Etienne ROCKED the Calvin Klein tux. He literally did not want to remove even the coat no matter how hot he was. While he sweat in all the layers, Blake wooed some college coeds and Zeke ran circles on the dance floor. -During discipline/time-outs, Zeke now cries "Molly, Molly." Today I told him that Molly would put him in time out too for being naughty and she replied, "Actually, Mom, I totally wouldn't because he's a sparkly-eyed smiley face." - Out closet is now occasionally used for the boys to sleep in (don't tell our social worker) -it is entirely possible for 3 little boys to share a toilet at the same time. When this occurs, all participating parties are required to then join in clean up efforts. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for encouraging me to share our pain and our milestones. Etienne is now consistantly asking to be on my back when he is unable to calm down. He also went to football with grandpa and DID NOT hug anyone he didn't know. These are big steps that we rejoice over. To be continued...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Peeling the Onion

We are over a year home, so to the outside world, nothing is new anymore. But Etienne is like an onion to me, his little core seems to be hollow without love and until we get him peeled, all of the peeing, uncontrollable crying, lying, RAD behaviors aren't really gonna get a whole lot better. I realize that the best thing for Ryan and I to do is just keep pulling him closer when he resists us and loving him harder. The last few weeks, we've started saying "Dear God, please help E know mama and daddy and GOD always love him." He repeats that over and over when he can't be consoled. I just feel like that simple prayer is all he really needs to overcome the RAD behaviors that we are seeing more and more of. Jeremiah 31:13 talks about God turning sorrow to joy. I really feel like that is where we are now; when E cries, I cry. I hurt deeply for him. Honestly, 3 months ago, I didn't. I felt frustrated. Sad. Sad like "he was an orphan" sad. Now I physically hurt and grief with him the way I always have with Molly or Blake and even Zeke. I consider that grief and sorrow to also be a joy because Etienne is my son and what hurts him, hurts me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Attachment Stuff

If many adoptive parents out there are like me, they read every book written during their waiting for their referral. I became very knowledgable about all subjects relating to the psychology of adoption. Even last fall, in the midst of screaming and chaos, I read a few books on attachment and bonding. Apparently, I didn't retain a lot of what I read. This last week, when we had our 1 year post adoption study, the social worker reviewed with us that a lot of our battles are related to attachment/bonding. Here are a few common signs of attachment disorder: -resist parental affection on parents -hypervigilant/hypersensitive -obvious lies -lack of impulse control -poor peer relationships -manipulative-very charming and engaging -incessant chatter -very concerned about tiny hurts but extremely high pain tolerance -fasinated with punching/kicking/play fighting -indiscriminately affectionate with strangers -inappropriately clingy These are a few commonly seen signs of attachment disorder. Ryan and I totally don't believe in classifying or labeling kids. We are shocked at how almost every item on the list fits Etienne; but we also find it reassuring that this is the major battle we need to overcome with him. It is so frustrating that Etienne melts when a fly lands on him but gets his fingers stuck in the van door and doesn't shed a tear. My instinct lately has been to pull Etienne closer when his behavior begins to escalate, and apparently this is the better way to respond. He continues to show more signs of affection toward me (YIPPEE!!) and we are making baby steps with the falling asleep at night. I guess my ability to be transparent is mostly a good thing-kind of a "don't do what I did" guide to adoption. Today's point: there might not be a lot of value to reading all those books so early if you can't retain the information when you need it! It's a wonder I made it through grad school with my brain's lack of retention...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Week of Reflecting (and more diapers)

Another Etienne moment: Last Friday when I went to work, E cried. Really hard. This is a "first" for us because until that day, it didn't matter if I stayed or went. I was, of course, was saying prayers of thanksgiving that all my efforts had worked. Another sign of bonding. He even had to call me at work to talk to me. We woke up Saturday morning, after the tears on Friday, to find E covered in his own poo-all over his hair, arms and bedding. Since than, he's gone back to wearing diapers and is having so many more issues with discipline, sleeping, etc. It doesn't take an adoption expert to notice the corelation between him and I bonding and regression of behaviors. Ggggrrrr....
Initially, Ryan and I were on the fence about how to respond to this. He knows pooping his pants, and especially playing with it, is very wrong. It is important for him to learn to cope with things that upset him and this is not coping or tolerable. He'd been potty trained for a long time too! However, all these facts considered, we came to the agreement that this all seems to be a result of him becoming bonded with his mama. And our big, almost 4 year old never had a mommy before me. Because of that, I have got to give him some grace with this. Our solution right now is to try to ignore it because disciplining, in his eyes, is just another way to get attention. SO....we are putting Etienne in a diaper as disgusting and frustrating as it is for me. It may not be the "right" solution according to the experts, but this is the plan for now.
We've stetched out out Gotcha Day to many days with many loved ones of sorts. For our Missional Community (small group) I made Rwandan Chicken and White Beans. With our Omaha family, we had ice cream and cookies another night. The boys also hung the Rwandan flag on the door for the week. As they get older, I hope we can look at our pictures together but right now its too soon, too fresh.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In a Year...

What a difference a year has made.
Our referral pic of Etienne, in July, 2009.
Ezekiel (Daniel at the time) in July, 2009 at HOH
It's been a year since we met our boys. Sept 9, 2009 is our Gotcha Day. Here's a few changes that we've had in our family since that sweeet day:
-Etienne now wears shoes willingly
-Zeke smiles, laughs and loves
-Blake has transfomed into a thoughtful, helpful, caring BIG(by age, not size!) brother
-No one is afraid of shadows
-Molly has a heart for orphans
-Etienne is learning what trust means
-Giardia is finally (knock on wood, please) gone
- Let go of the clean house
- Both boys love snuggling, hugs and kisses
- Both boys (as of last Friday!) show preference for Mom and Dad over strangers
- Ryan and I went from sharing our room with 2 boys, to 1 to none. Whew! Good to have that grown up space back again. :)
- Etienne has grown 8 inches and gained 2 lbs; Zeke has grown 5 inches, 2 lbs and 22 teeth
- I have learned that some of my best friends aren't neccessarily close at hand, but in heart. I've learned that those I thought we friends weren't. I've learned that my husband is more than amazing and I'd totally marry him all over again...
- We've been transformed, all 6 of us, by what grace truly means.
We have much more reflecting to do as this special week unfolds. I wish I could serve you all an ice cream as a thank you for helping me survive this first year.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Can of Worms

I had to process this experience before I could write about it. It's a hot topic in the adoption world and beyond... A couple weeks ago my mom and I were walking out of a diner, with the entourage in tow. As we passed by an attractive African American couple, the man gave a "tisk-tisk," shook his head and frowned at us. Totally, clearly directed at my family. I kept on walking, loaded the kids in the van, then pulled into the handicap stall in front, with every intention of saying something to him. Then I remembered what Jesus commanded: "love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)." To be honest, I couldn't pray for him. I did pray for Etienne and Zeke, that somehow their little hearts would be protected from this. I really didn't have a plan for what I'd say. So my awesome husband and I talked about it and decided "You can go to the orphanage and see 115 kids and love one too" would be the best response. The thing is, we thought and talked about the subject of judgement by other African Americans llloooonnngggg before we'd even completed our dossier. I don't know any biracial family that didn't give a whole lot of thought and prayer to becoming so. I've been told that some African Americans feel that a black child should be raised by other African Americans because they need to know their culture, roots, pride, etc. Every Rwanda mama that I love makes so many efforts to learn and respect AA hair care, to expose their family to black culture, searches high and low for any and everything Rwanda related. So I know that this will happen to our entourage for the rest of our lives. I knew when Ryan and I prayed about becoming parents to a black child(ren). The truth is, no conversation, book or expert could have prepared my heart for the hurt I felt to be judged so hatefully. It isn't about race. It's about love.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

E and the Ergo

I knew that Ryan going to back to school would send poor Etienne spinning. This past week was especially difficult for him to fall asleep without getting banished from the "big boy room," over the top crying and he's had a crazy amount of time outs.
Thursday by lunchtime we were up to 5 time outs, all for either hitting or pushing someone. At the playground, on top of a slide, Etienne pushed Blake full force off the top. I saw the whole thing clearly because I was standing within 3 feet of them. My reaction was to just pick Etienne up, planning to make him sit the rest of the time with me. E had other ideas. SCREAMING "DON'T SPANK ME, DON'T SPANK ME!" over and over at the top of his lungs. Yikes. In front of dozens of other parents. I couldn't get him to quiet down or stop screaming, and the other 2 boys were ready to go. So I put all 43 lbs of Etienne on the Ergo, mostly because I couldn't carry him and hold the other two's hands. At first he became angrier but within a few minutes, Etienne had stopped crying and was relaxing into me. The rest of the day, after every time out, I put him on my back for 10 or 15 minutes. Etienne was able to stop crying more quickly and seemed to love the closeness.
Man, why didn't I think of this sooner? Oh ya. I had all the "experts" telling me about bounderies and discipline; not to mention the physical challenge of my hefty boy being attached to me! Don't get me wrong, I am grateful that my 4 kiddos are well behaved as a result of our strict parenting but we are so behind in the bonding department with Etienne. If I could hit a rewind button, I would totally have given Etienne a lot more affection despite his resistence to it. But life has no "do over," so I have a new approach yet again. I feel rejuvenated too and I know that is just God working within my spirit to see my little buddy through His eyes.
The Ergo has helped in just a few days. Etienne wanted to sit on my lap during prayers last night! I took a brain photo of that moment because this is honestly the first time he ever wanted me. So I may need a back massage and realignment for my birthday, but I will continue to put my 43lb E on my back.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fun Mommy

I've shared before how Etienne prefers Ryan (and basically all men) over me. I state this not for sympathy but simply as a fact. In the night, he calls for Daddy. If there is an ouchie to be kissed, E founds Daddy. I am okay with this most of the time, but the truth is I need to work on not being jealous and instead rejoice that my child has such an amazing, loving, patient father.
Ryan gently suggested to me early in the summer that I be more playful and "fun." Hence the jumping and spinning when E holds hands with me, daily mommy dinosaur wrestling games, and forcing myself to laugh more. This is why I am sharing a photo of me, in a Sunday dress with mud on my cheeks, going down the slip 'n' slide. It was totally fun, memorable and worth it. Molly was altogether annoyed with me but before she could complain too much, Ryan had joined in. It feels so good to have fun and it makes me realize what a rough year its been. Forcing fun is a very good plan indeed.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

They still stare

We are adapting to people noticing our family and are well aware that no matter how many years we've had our boys, it will still be new to the general public. That's cool. Most of the time, Ryan and I feel like we get a lot of smiles (who wouldn't smile at those cute kids!). Last night I did not get those smiles... I run a tight ship. Overuse of "please" and "thanks" is encouraged. Look people in the eyes; walk, don't run in public. Don't run away from your family. Ever. So we were at a "kids eat free" night with some dear friends and there were 7 kids between us- we get our $$ worth on a night out! There was quite chatter on the kid end of the table and we'd just commented on how great it is that we can go together and have a pleasant time. Ryan went to take Zeke to the potty and Etienne said he wanted to go. I told him I would take him when they returned and to please wait. I looked away for a moment and he was no longer next to me. The restaurant is huge and there are kids everywhere. I found him quickly running down a hall alone. Of course, we then had to find the bathroom for a timeout. When E gets a time out or any form of discipline, he immediately begins crying LOUDLY and chanting, "sorry, sorry,sorry." You can imagine the stares. I am working on not discplining out of anger and I don't raise my voice. But I still got plenty of judgement with his sobbing and my attempting to address the disobedience. I realized that this is a normal parenting moment whether your kid looks like you or not. We just made it really obvious and Ryan and I are trying to determine how to get a 3 year old to have geniune repentence for a wrong without overreacting and creating a scene. Hhhhmmm....I guess if we figure that out, we could really get somewhere!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bobo lost his head....

We had our suspicions. The mysterious noices in the night. Occasional displaced items. The blood shut eyes of our 3 year old. After sharing a room with Etienne for 5 nights, we now know better the depths of Etienne's sleep dysfunctions. Our buddy boy was awake every time I woke up at night. He typically takes a VERY long time to fall asleep and we knew he woke up frequently. While in Wyoming, the above picture of his stuffed animal is his finished product. Poor Bobo is only 10 months old and was previously in mint condition...
Ryan and I have tried snuggling with E at night. We were even open to co-sleeping if it meant that E would sleep a solid night. I think about how much better I function with a good night's rest and I think that maybe some of his struggles would be lessoned if he wasn't always tired. It is pretty typical for kids from an institution to have trouble sleeping at night.
A recent study by Frank Putnam found that older children who have been traumatized have increased large-muscle movements, less frequent REM sleep and wake frequently because they are conditioned to be vigilant (Lamb,M.B.Attachement Issues. Adoptive Families 43:4 (2010)).
Isn't that so sad? I have a new perspective on Etienne. I see him as this beautiful little boy who isn't broken but absolutely perfect as our Creator made him. All the behavior, issues and challenges that break me are simply the Enemy trying again to damage something so incredible.

Monday, July 19, 2010

We NEEDED this!

July 18th has been a really important day for this mama and entourage for 2 reasons. A year ago we got our referral for this beautiful, serious 21/2 yo named Etienne (which we stumbled for weeks trying to pronounce) and "the baby," Ezekiel Daniel. What a year it has been since than! July 18th was also departure day for the long awaited, much anticipated reunion with the Limmers, our travel family to Rwanda. The day before leaving for our reunion, we had some major family crisis' (yes, plural). My remarkable mom insisted that despite the drama on the homefront, we had to go on our trip to see our Rwanda Family. Thank goodness for the wisdom of a mother. This was exactly what we needed. As soon as I am with Heidi, Justin and their crew, my heart just inflates a little more. The bond we share is indescribable. To all those adopting out there, I can not encourage you enough to befriend another family sharing in your journey. In the weeks following our return home with the boys, there were so many days that it was all I could do to get to the pantry and call Heidi crying. Besides our sharing the bond of adoption together (and our families spending the majority of waking hours for weeks in an enclosed van in Africa), our children can now grow up together knowing that there is a family that knows just what it feels like to be us. I LOVE that Heidi knows why I tear up when I talk about our time in Kigali or that she too is constantly exploring which type of milk to try on her son next. I am also so grateful that down the road, when E and Z are doubting their place in this world, that they can Skype with their friends who shared the same journey home. How huge is that?! Today we all just had fun. I can't tell you how long overdue it has been. We still have 2 more days but are already planning next year...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Single Mama and the Entourage

Week 2 of Daddy in Minnesota: -Zeke put a pizza slice in the toilet -became official with One More Home -Molly asked me to refer to her as a mermaid any time she is in the water, fairy while in the forest and princess at all other times -Decided to start writing a book -Etienne has decided on diapers for now (I don't feel like complaining so I will leave it at that) -Some boys at the park asked me if my "darker boys" speak Spanish -Discovered a weekly open mic night with a ton of diverse families. Had to leave when some middle schoolers started rapping about "taking it all off." -Delivered 2 babies -Etienne hugged me spontaneously. So grateful for little gifts. -Blake informed me that if Zeke used the potty, we'd "better get another baby." Funny boy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Prayer

My prayer for Etienne today is that You may work one of your miracles in His little heart. I just want my son to know without a doubt that he is wanted and loved FOREVER. I long for Etienne to believe that his mama and daddy are his own forever and that we will always be his. I pray that Etienne may find my hugs, my hands and my arms to be a source of comfort and security. I ask that E may stop finding attention through hurtful actions and deliberate disobedience. I pray that E may find our encouragement to be more rewarding than our discipline. That I may know how to love him, to be fun and encouraging and discipline out of love and not anger. I seek more patience and insight because my mama instinct left me on Sept 7, 2009. I am so thankful for the miracle that You've worked in Ezekiel. I am grateful for his constant sparkly eyes and toothy grin; they remind me of what Your grace can do. I am thankful that Zeke knows he is loved and wanted and that he recognizes his family as his own. I am also so grateful for Molly's nurturing heart and empathetic spirit, for Blake's comical mischief and kisses. For Ryan's calming nature, for Nana's encouragement and Grandma's knowwledge. Our blessings continue to be abundant despite our 3 year old's healing heart.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Without Daddy

This week Ryan has been in Minnesota for a work related class. The absence of Daddy has been remarkable and reminds me of why God designed families to have 2 parents. Etienne is definately more bonded to Ryan than to me and so I anticipated this time alone to work on more bonding. Unfortunately, I think that Etienne hasn't understood why Daddy isn't home and his reaction is to act out more. Last night after prayers he said "I want to go back to the orphanage." Now I KNOW he doesn't mean that but I was still shocked that he knew that word because we don't ever use it. We only talk about him being from Rwanda. I don't want him to remember anything about the orphanage. I will always tell him with pride of his birth mother's love for him and the amazing grace that brought him into our family, but I don't want him to remember anything incorporated with an orphanage. So his comment still hurt his mama.
I have also taken a fresh angle with E. He always resists me hugging him or holding hands. So I have recruited Molly, Blake and Zeke to help me make holding hands and affection REALLY FUN. We probably stand out even more on the streets of O town because we now all hold hands and say "I am holding your hand because I love you so much and it's so fun." We also twirl while holding hands. Whatever it takes, whatever it takes, whatever it takes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Missing Shoes

Note there is only one shoe in this pile. That would be because Etienne and Zeke (especially E) has a knack for relocating all the shoes in the house. Now I run a tight ship and everyone's shoes go either: 1. in the laundry room 2. in your own closet. In theory, all the shoes should be easily located when time to go somewhere. HOWEVER, Etienne has this way of putting shoes in the washer, the oven, over the balcony into the forest, in the bed of his Daddy's truck, under his covers. No exagerating. This has been the cause of Mama being late for work; her shoes were in the oven again. What's ironic is that in Africa there was no way we could convince these boys to wear shoes. Now they wear them on their feet and in their hands. I fully realize that this is a hoarding behavior left over from 3 years in an institutional setting. It's funny though. Highly annoying at 7:30am on a work day, but still funny.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Bit Grumpy

Lately, I have noticed that I have pretty much stoppped sugar coating anything I share with the rest of the world. I need to pray about this because I don't mean to be quick tempered or sarcastic (Molly likes to play the game "Are you being sarcastic?"). I also find myself more easily frustrated with the general insentivity that people seem to show the Etienne and Ezekiel. This is a problem because insensitivity isn't going to change. It isn't anything new or something I hadn't thought about before deciding to create a transracial family. So I know that's just Satan trying to throw a wrench in something beautiful.
For example, I have been sharing less and less when people ask how we are. Friends that I once considered close will say things such as "Oh, it's just because he's 3," or "They are totally normal now, its amazing." I understand and appreciate that it's meant as encouragement but I am too real for blanket statements. It feels like they are downplaying something that is incredibly heartbreaking to me as much now as it was last fall when everything was still "new." There is an element of truth to the general comments, however, it isn't ok when your 3 year old asks before meals, "Can I eat too?," or when planning an outing, "I get to go too?" And it is more than amazing the transformations that God has performed in my children's life, but my E has yet to learn that he is loved, included and wanted unconditionally now and forever. That is the saddest thing for a mama to realize her baby doesn't know he is loved. On a happy note; Summer has brought some really fun, joyful "firsts." These firsts included but are not limited to:
popsicles, slip and slides, swimming, fireflies, bug bites and corn on the cob. Etienne's love of water is even more fun for us because we vividly remember his terror at taking a bath all of last fall. Fireflies tend to freak the boys out a bit and their smiles while eating corn on the cob speak for themselves.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Surviving the Witching Hour

Ask any parent. The time around 5pm in every household seems to be the witching hour. Everyone is a little tired, a little hungry; too early for dinner or bedtime.
When we came home I was petrified that one of the boys would seriously injure themselves in the kitchen. I would turn around, bend or reach and one of them would be under me. Dishes were broken, the dishwasher took some damage and food was spilled. Finally, finally I came up with the line. We put masking tape on the floor on each side of the kitchen. Now Etienne and Zeke know not to cross the line. I survive cooking dinner a little easier: we've a lot less spills and stress.
I HIGHLY enourage other families to try this. It's normal for kiddos from an institution to have a lot of struggles with eating, hoarding, knowing when to be full. This trick has helped us a lot. Pretty sure the hardwoods will need resurfaced, but we'll deal with that later.

Friday, June 18, 2010

His Own Spot

Maybe I'm slow to pinpoint this, but I think that part of our struggle with Etienne is that he doesn't know where he fits yet. Molly is our brilliant girl, Blake is quirky, Zeke is the baby. What is Etienne? I know that he's inquisitive, bright and strong. He seems to be unsure of his spot in the bunch; more unsure now than 6 months ago. And I find myself as doubtful now as I was when we first got home. Mr E tests our love more today than 6 months ago. He longs to please, yet he can't resist pushing every button and bending every rule.
I am hurting so much for him because it feels like he's being discplined all day long. When he is getting disciplined, he is full of remorse and I feel guilty that I have to punish him. Am I being too harsh? I want him to be treated the same as my biological children, so our expectations of his behavior are high, but is that fair? Again, the doubt. I don't feel like a loving mother, just a rule enforcer and boundry setter.
I don't write this to be pessimistic, but to be real for the other families out there who maybe are wondering if they are normal. Although the boys aren't "new" to our friends and loved ones anymore, it's still new to us. I don't share with my non-adoptive friends many of my struggles because I know that they think "it's just being 3," or that by now we should be adjusted. But I am still surviving most days with nothing but Grace.
Yesterday was the first day E and Z experienced a swimming pool! As you can see, it was a hit. We just have to work on developing a little bit of fear of going under...at least for my sake!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rwandan Chicken and Etienne

I have been attempting to embrace our family's Rwandan culture but the recipes are limited. Below is "Rwandan Chicken," which all four kids really like.
1 whole chicken 3 tsp oil 1 hot pimento or chili pepper
1 onion, sliced 2 celery stalks
3 large tomatos, mashed 1 tsp salt
Fry the chicken in hot oil. Remove pieces and cook the onion in the same oil. Return chicken, along with tomatos, celery, salt and pimento. Simmer 20 minutes or until tender.
I have been trying to let Etienne help me cook this. Trying really hard to find ways to have "special E" time. We are still daily struggling with Etienne, part of it that he is 3 and part of it because he battles old orphanage behavior. It's that taboo, post adoption struggle that no one wants to talk about. Most of the time, all I can do is pray for his little heart and my patience. Also to make more spare keys. He locked my blessed inlaws out of their home and then locked us out of my folks. It won't last forever, it won't last forever, it won't last forever.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Moms Like Us

There's a common sisterhood among adoptive moms. We find each other and instantly swap stories, tears, discipline techniques and prayers. We cry in our pantries, give lots of time outs and buy in bulk. We find each other on blogs, through agencies, chat rooms and in Sam's Club. I am SO THANKFUL for these women in my life- Michelle (far left) and Nicole (middle). In the first chaotic weeks home with Etienne and Zeke, they both brought me meals. I was a stranger at church with newly adopted kids. Period. A month later, Michelle brought her daughter home from China and any day now Nicole will be traveling to Ethiopia to pick up her sweet baby boy. I can't imagine surviving life in a new city, with a new family and a new job if our families hadn't become intertwined. All our kids (11 between us, soon to be 12!) are the same ages and our husbands love the same things (meat, a good ball game, us). Michelle and I have cried together at the frustration and humbleness of transitioning home with a new child, while Nicole has cheered us on. We are so excited to be supporting her (hello, God LOVES garage sales for a good cause!) now that her journey is really just beginning.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Surprise support

This is my old best friend, Erin, and her adorable kiddos along with the Higgins' crew. I am so grateful for her support. A year ago, when I was anxiously awaiting that blessed referral phone call, she was on bedrest with her twins. We hadn't spoken or communicated in several years. Hadn't been friends true friends in at least 12 years. But God is cool like that and He used Facebook to reconnect us. So all those long nights when I prayed for my unknown kids, I prayed for her twins and she prayed for our boys. How cool is that? God shows us His grace so unexpectedly and He isn't limited to bible studies and scripture, I found His grace in fb. For all those waiting families, I pray that you'll identify His grace unexpectedly too.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yup, still got it.

Giardia that is. Zeke's stools have increased in number and stench again. Results came back "large spores of giardia," and "parasites of unknown significance." Awesome. As my fellow adoptive mothers well know, we don't need a lab test to tell us when our kid has giardia, but the professionals do. So Zeke spent another long day at Children's, getting more labs and sticks with no answers still.
What's crazy is that my adoptive friends, Becky, in SoCal, was doing the exact same thing with her son,Judah, on Tuesday as Zeke and I were. He's from HOH too. Getting all the same tests and screenings. We spoke later in the day, after both boys were exhausted from being poked and prodded, not knowing until then that we were sharing the same battle. God is cool like that.
We are now searching to unfold why it is that Zeke can't seem to fight the giardia. It is a difficult balance for me to turn off my nurse practitioner button and only be mommy, to stop my self from investigating and obsessing about those stinkin' cysts and spores. He is a trooper taking another 4 (yes, 4) weeks of Alinia and Bactrim together. The bottom line for me is that he is thriving and happy. Yes, he still weighs the same as he did in Rwanda and the diapers are gross and the number of wipes we go thru is ridiculous; but ultimately no one else is catching it and he is acting more and more like a 2 year old. That's good right?!?
On a fun, "Firsts" note: we have tried all week to convince Etienne and Zeke that playing in the water and taking your shirt off outside is totally fun and ok. Zeke says "get dressed, GET DRESSED!!!!!" the entire time he's in his trunks. To the point that his siblings request that Mommy please just take the baby in and put his clothes on him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What did I need?

This is how Blake and Ezekiel travel these days. I am in love with the love my kiddos share with each other. They are hysterical and sweet without knowing how encouraging it is for me. I still have days where I cry on the pantry floor. Etienne still doesn't know he is loved unconditionally. Zeke still stuffs his mouth full until he gags. We continue to be thrilled with a full nights sleep. But the boys have a sparkle in their eye! They laugh and sing and bob their heads to the music. AND Zeke screamed hysterically when I went to work on Friday! I cried tears of gratitude at this (long awaited) sign of attachment. So blessed are we.
Now God has put been nudging me for several months, but I can't quite put my finger on how. I feel so strongly that I need to be doing something for other adoptive moms, but I can't visualize how it should look. A support group? A grant? Books? Fundraising projects? I am in no way, shape or form an expert on transitioning home an adoptive child (someone let me know when the transition is over!) but I still feel called to serve other families, to be doing something to carry on James 1:27.
I think back to last fall and even this winter, at the days I was so completely broken and lost. I am SURE that I had post adoption depression, but I didn't have anyone to call or seek help from. It was truly the first time in my life that I had absolutely no resource. All that was left was God's grace. That is a beautiful place to be. But it is also lonely and unsure. What did I need? What would have helped me? The answer to this is what I haven't quite solidified, but when I do, I think I'll have a better idea of how I can continue James 1:27.
P.S. I am open to feedback and suggestions from all my sacred adoptive/bloggin' sisters.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The hardest job you'll ever love

A year ago, we had been approved by the Rwandan ministry and we just waiting for the phone call for our referrals. During that time, I knew by than that my children were alive and waiting. I would sit in our rocking chair, praying and crying that they weren't in my arms. I prayed every day that there was someone to kiss their ouchies, rock them every day and tell them about God's love for them. I physically ached that they weren't with me.
This year, Etienne and Ezekiel's birth moms are on my heart. I wonder if they are saying the same prayer for their little boys that I said last year. I wish that I could hug each of these women and promise them that I would give my life for E and Z, just as I would my biological children. I wish that I could hear what it was like the night my little boys were born, did they come out with their eyes wide open, or was Etienne slow to awaken like he is now? I will never be able to tell them this, but they will always be in my heart. Since having Etienne and Ezekiel, my ideas of their birth families have evolved. I treasure who they are and the amazing love it took to place their boys in the arms of a stranger. What faith it took to know that God was ultimately holding their children when they no longer could.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This is how it is.

One of our first outings after coming home, my babysitter joined us heading to the library. As we were leaving, she asked me if I was getting used to all the stares. I was so surprised by her question. Until than I think I was so absorbed with not losing anyone, avoiding blowout giardia diapers and giving all the kids equal attention, that I really didn't notice it. Now that we have our new "norm" figured out (I use that phrase very lightly!) I do notice. I hear the comments ("How many fathers do those kids have?), feel the heads tracking us and am easily offended by the term "real" (all 4 of my kids are, BTW). Today I realized that this is never really going to change. When our family goes out to celebrate Etienne's high school graduation, people will still ask, look, stare. We will still be new to the public. We will never blend in. Then I realized how AWESOME this can be. Just like our amazing faith filled, giving-God-glory adoption. We can turn the rude questions into another opportunity to promote adoption and to share how God's grace sustains us. We look entirely different and I can tell the gawkers that in so many, many ways adoption is more of a miracle than childbirth. This is my professional midwife/adoptive mom opinion...

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Middle Child

Dear Etienne, Lately, it feels like you are really struggling. We know that you crave, you need, lots and lots of attention and encouragement. Daddy and I know that you are easily jealous of anyone else getting snuggles, games or wrestled. It seems that it is worsening, your need for attention and reassurance. So we're trying to make up for lost time. I am holding you, rocking you, feeding you and giving you all the baby-ing that you missed out on. You cry so easily these days, and you don't seem to believe that our love is unconditional and forever. We are praying so, so much for you little buddy. Praying that you'll know that you are ours. You belong in this family and you don't have to do or be anything to be loved here. You're home now.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reality of Postadoption

Sorry, no photos today. I am sure you've all heard recently of the Tennessee woman who sent her recently adopted son on a plane back to Russia as a solution to post adoption transition. Our last night in Addis, in the airport was one of the worst experiences of my life. Etienne didn't understand who we were, what we were doing or where we were going. He refused to walk (poor kiddo had never worn shoes before), he ran into crowds, tried to climb on, in and around things, his white shirt was literally brown because he was on the floor/ground so much. I was so afraid we would lose him or he'd be injured. I remember praying constantly, "God, give us strength to keep him safe right now." I never, ever thought that he wasn't MINE. I was scared, unsure and doubtful, but we knew we had no other option. The transition period after getting your child is nothing like what you think it will be. It's a lot more difficult and there are challenges that you won't know how to fix. I've committed myself to keeping a real, honest blog so that other mamas and daddies will know when they are freaking out in the post-adoption period that they aren't alone and it will get better. The woman in Tennessee is not a reflection of adoptive parents. We love our kids with all our being-it isn't the same love as a biological child-it's different because it is a love grown totally in the heart and through God's grace. I really believe that that woman was missing her Father's support in adopting her son. Last week Blake, our biological son, learned that we wasn't adopted from Hawaii. (??!) When he found out that he was actually from my stomach, the kid was devestated and left the room. I was laughing hysterically and happy that he believes adoption is the norm. I guess I could have reminded him that we're all adopted as God's children, but I was laughing too hard.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Its back...

Yup, our old friend giardia seems to have resurfaced into Zeke's little system. I got ambitious last Friday and let him have 4 ounces of regular formula, thinking we could slowly reintroduce lactose back into his life. Not sure if this is what triggered it or the traveling and stress of being away from his routine, but by Sunday the stinks-so-bad-it-clears-the-out-the-entire-upstairs diapers were back. Ugh.
For other families, it is important to be aware that giardia, like MANY other parasites, can lie dormant in the intestinal system for a long time, then have flair-ups with illness, stress or changes. So back to the stool samples, flagyl and bactrim. The great news is that his belly is not at all distended, he does not have swelling in his face and he continues to be the boss!
Note to self: the more kids you own, the less likely you'll get happy holiday photos.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Miss Spider

" For finding your mother,
there's one certain test.
You must look for the creature
who loves you the best."
-Little Miss Spider, By David Kirk
I consider myself well read, but I didn't realize until recently that the books and Nick Jr series, "Little Miss Spider," are pro-adoption. Little Miss Spider herself is adopted by a beetle named Betty! We're always looking for more adoptive friendly reads, and this was a happy discovery.
On another note, I'd be interested to know if any other HOH kids are afraid of their shadows. Literally. While in Rwanda, we were surprised to realize that Etienne hadn't ever seen his shadow and screamed in response. At the time, he screamed at everything, so we didn't think much of it. Last week we FINALLY, finally found spring time. Poor Etienne and Ezekiel haven't been in America for much nice weather, and while outside walking, Etienne found his shadow. Fear overcame him and he cried and cried as his shadow followed him. It took big brother Blake playing a lot of shadow tag for E to overcome his fear. We're thinking our big guy didn't know his shadow because the walls of House of Hope were very high, there weren't many windows in the rooms and he may have spent his afternoons in the dark sleeping quarters. Amazing to me still, after 6 months home, all the things that we don't know that he doesn't know. Does that make sense?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nightly Event

For those of you waiting for your children, this is a summary of your evening routine once your newest family members arrive: 1. Dinner is loud and long. Using utensils is a bonus. 2. Post meal workout (see above) of wrestling match. Remove all shoes and extra layers for safety purposes. 3. Dance party! KLOVE, Michael Jackson or Kool & the Gang are a hit. 4. Hide most toys. Too many is overstimulation and not enough leads to hoarding. 5. All kids then strip naked and run screaming through the house.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"He's my favorite"

Etienne is speaking in complete sentences! The above title is what he told me today, while pointing at my grandfather, "Mommy, he's my favorite." My grandpa, Marv, lived his life as a western Nebraska farmer and postman, and I can guarantee he NEVER imagined he'd fall in love with his African grandson! These two are hilarious to watch together, they giggle, snuggle and chat. To Ryan and I, this is an especially remarkable display of God's goodness. Prior to our bringing the boys home, we had reservations about how and when we would tell my grandparents that our newest kids would be African American. We should have known that God would use Etienne and Zeke's chocolate eyes and snuggly pudge to soften hearts.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ode to the Ergo

Oh, Ergo,
I'd heard of you for oh so long,
Denied your neccessity was denying my back pain
My baby needed held, my baby needed touch
The wraps, the slings, the bejorns and such
I scoured the craigslists, cosignment stores and blogs
When attending a chili feed, another fellow adoptive mother
Gave me hers!
And my back and my baby oh so happy now!
To any adoptive mama with a toddler or a baby, you must invest in a Ergo! They are crazy expensive new, but if you can find someone to borrow one from, I can't tell you enough what a difference in bonding and in functioning they can be! Ezekiel can also be on my front, but he prefers the back (Rwanda style!) and even sleeps there. And it's a workout too!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Our Little Monster

Baby Ezekiel (Zeke-y Baby),
Happy Birthday, beau! Today is an emotional day for us; we think your birthday is today or tomorrow and part of me doesn't want it to be so. In many ways, you are still our little 18 month old "Daniel," looking so serious. Someone told me a few months ago that the more difficult it is to during the attachment period, the tighter the bond. I know that to be true. There were many, many sleepless nights and weeks and weeks of screaming, looks of terror and no eye contact. I never felt so broke as I did when I was first your mama. I didn't know what to do or how to help you. There were many times I knew you were mine, but I was at a loss for what that meant. God is so good to us though, buddy. Lots of people you'll never even know were praying for us. We held you tighter with each scream, forced you to look us in the eyes and kissed you as you turned away. All the while, God was holding onto us while we tried to hold you. October 24th 2009 I was watching you run around an indoor playground and I was overwhelmed with how simply adorable, irresistable and precious you are. I fell in love. The kind of mommy love that is all encompassing, unconditional and eternal. I cried and laughed and praised God at the playground in that moment. Everyday since then has been more joy than pain, more smiles than tears. You have this amazing sparkle in your eyes now that I know is LOVE.
Although you are 2-ish, you aren't yet ready to lose the swaddling, rocking or being bottle fed. I am totally okay with you being the baby for as long as you need to be...
xoxo Mama Molly and Blake nicknamed you "little monster" in those first weeks home, partly because you had some monster jammies and partly because your behavior was similar to one....it kinda stuck. Hence the monster cake.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Potty training by prayer...

Molly and Blake don't get mentioned as much as they deserve. Molly is my little mama, my helper and my realist. Blake is our veggie-loving, comic relief. They embrace their crazy family and I can't imagine surving Etienne and Zeke without my older two. We've been blessed to join a Missional Community (MC) with another family of four kids, one newly adopted. At MC the other night, all the big sibs were playing make believe and each older girl was on their way to adopt their babies from a variety of nations including Canada! I love that this is our kids "norm." On another note, I am getting lots of advice and opinions on the peeing issue with Etienne. I am grateful for the input, really I am. On the other hand, he isn't the same as your kid or your friend's kid! I really feel that the orphanage background makes a lot of difference. Etienne's first 3 years were in a cinder-block room with somewhere around 110 other kids and a handful of well meaning adults. The best thing that we can do is pray for E's heart to know that he is in his forever home, that our love is unconditional and that he is God's child. We are thankful for our prayerful friends, family and MC community that give us support and we'll keep trudging along. Also, he hasn't had any accidents in a week, since we made our plea public! Ryan and I got a little greedy a few nights ago and thought we'd try to let Zeke settle himself back to sleep and we went to sleep in the spare room. Oops! Now we're back to swaddling, frequent crying sessions and very little sleep. It is better then 5 months ago, but we remember that we still have to erase his little memory of life before being a Higgins. In other words, we were reminded we can't rush and back to sharing a room with the baby...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finding Love

Etienne and Ezekiel holding hands in the car I again was strugggling to find the words to write but am so aware daily of all our friends and prayer partners that deserve "E/Z" updates! Etienne has been my challenge lately; God knew that this mama couldn't handle two boys having adjustment issues at the same time. Etienne is so hungry for any kind of attention from Ryan and I, it just breaks my heart. He echoes anything that Molly, Blake or Zeke says to us, he pushes his way into our arms/laps/faces. These are okay to tolerate, considering his first three years. My challenge has been that he pees his pants in the evening, most of the time when all 6 of us our playing. The boy is potty trained and has been for awhile, but when Ryan comes home and we are all together, he will pee his pants and then hide in shame. I feel strongly that it is attention seeking behavior but I struggle at our response. We currently discipline him with a time out and straight to bed. However, then he gets the attention he seeks. Ryan feels like maybe he just isn't totally ready and he never got to be a "baby." We just can't seek advice from our friends because none of them ever potty trained a child that lived his first years in an orphanage. I have such guilt after I discpline him and I think its because he and I still haven't "fallen" in love. We just aren't there yet. Throughout the last 6 months, so many people have told us that God doesn't give us anything that we can't handle. I have decided that I disagree, I totally don't buy this. What I mean is that I think that God gave me this totally challenging, slap in the face situation that I CAN'T handle. Not without Him. It's truly the first time in my life that I have felt like I have no tools, nothing except His grace. And I am overwhelmed by this realization. On a funny note, little Zeke is asking to use the potty and doing so correctly! It's hilarious to see his little body balanced on the giant throne. Thank you, giardia, for encouraging early use of the toilet!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Remember or Forget?

I couldn't write about this immediately after it happened because I wasn't sure what to do with my emotions. Tuesday night as Etienne and I were starting to say bedtime prayers, he began talking very animated and furvatively in kinyarwandan, mentioning "Margine" and "Molly, Blake, bye-bye." Margine is the name of one of his caretakers from the orphanage. We were all 4 with him the last day at HOH when he told Margine good-bye. I asked him if he missed his friends in Rwanda and he nodded his head and snuggled me. The next night at our bible study, I asked the other women to pray for Etienne about this and one woman looked at me, surprised, and said "You just want him to forget the orphanage?" I do and I know I am getting judged for saying that, but I don't want him to remember what it feels like to play half naked on cold concrete floor. I don't want him remember being bathed with lye soap and a bucket of cold water or falling down and no one helping him up. I don't want him to remember what it feels like to be an orphan. I am forever grateful for the Sisters at Home of Hope; they loved on him and it was the best of a bad circumstance. I know that his basic needs were met and he was given what there was to give. Every day I tell him where he came from and that he is ours. I struggle to find a balance of honoring his history but also protecting his little heart. Zeke update: he is more and more funny each day, continues to stump the infectious disease docs at Children's and we just keep plowing through the stinkiness. B-man started preschool this week and LOVES it. Teaching his teacher new endings to nursery rhymes. Molly's working to plan her birthday party (not until March 30!) and got her hair cut sassy short. Pics to follow....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sometimes I am overjoyed....

Somestimes I am overjoyed. I am overjoyed that Zeke wants me to hold him ALL the time and have decided not to keep this a secret. My parenting style prior to my new babies was ferberizing, cry it out, finish your veggies mommying. The last 4 months have totally shaken up my methods and I have decided to admit that I like it. Ok, I love it. I love that now (finally) Zeke insists on being on my lap, that Etienne needs me to kiss every little microscopic ouchie, that both of them insist on telling me "Mama, car!!" at every car we pass and I have to acknowledge it. I am over the moon that they need and require all this extra nurturing and instead of trying to do it the way I did things with Molly and Blake, I have learned to just go with it. And you know what? It is fine to do it differently. God designed children so amazingly full of love and resilence that Molly and Blake just seem to know that this is what their siblings need and no one is loved any less.
On the topic of nurturing the orphaned child, I finally realized that one reason Etienne has the high maintanance fro is because it is HIS time with mommy and daddy every day. He gets a lot of extra attention and one-on-one time when we have to pick out his hair or put in twisty curls. So we are keeping it this way for now since our E missed out on bottles and rocking and being carried everywhere. He instead gets 2 hour hair styles and trips to the barber shop.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just another flu bug

Poor Etienne is sick with 103.6 fever. I realize every kid gets sick, but this is the first time he has been sick with his mama and daddy. It was heartbreaking to see our little guy with the chills and aches, and not a single tear, sniffle or call out. He just laid in his bed, miserable and not realizing it is totally appropriate for him to want his mommy and daddy to comfort him right now. Molly took great efforts to tell Etienne that even big kids can tell their parents when they don't feel good. I had my mommy alarm clock mode on, so I kept checking on him all through the night and finally just snuggled in bed with him. He will learn that is what family is for. P.S. Another concerned nurse at Children's called to tell me she was sorry to inform me that my son had giardia. Hee, hee! Like that's any news to anyone who knows Zeke.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Have patience, have patience

So I always pride myself on being truthful. Truthful to other parents about adoption and parenthood, truthful to my kids and strangers in line at the grocery. I need to be truthful with myself and pray more about my Etienne.
Etienne's been such a go-with-the-flow kinda boy. I worried that all the daily battles with Ezekiel would make it more difficult for E to bond with his folks but our love for him is just as big.
Etienne is smiley, outgoing, charming and so smart. He is affectionate, cuddly and curious. He is also whiny, manipulative and easily over-stimulated. I find myself being really short with his insecurities and then I have incredible guilt about my impatience. I know that for 3 (or so) years my E didn't have a single possession or someone to love, no attention, snuggles or hugs. I am praying that I remember that when he is jealous of affection, is running wild at Sunday school or manipulating his family.
I write this partially for all the other adoptive moms out there. Maybe they will have less guilt when they are so incredibly angry at the child that they prayed for and dreamed of for so long. It's normal, we just have such high expectations on ourselves that we don't want to talk about our human nature. Can you imagine if our Father got annoyed with all the things we do?!
On a lighter note, the boys received some hair TLC from our good friend Lonnell over the holidays. They loved every minute of it. He also brought a goody bag of supplies that should last us awhile. Ryan and I both find that picking Etienne's 'fro is incredibly soothing. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekend Reunion

"Two are Better than One...." Ecclesiastes 4:9
This weekend we were fortunate to have the Limmers (Justin, Heidi, Asia, Trina & Moses) visit from Wyoming. The Limmers are one of the families that we traveled to Rwanda with; that experience made us closer than friends. During our first 6 weeks home, there were days when the only person I wanted to talk to was Heidi. Some days as I was crying in the pantry or holding Zeke down in a swaddle, my phone would ring and her friendship would pull me through. Such a God thing.
We owe Justin, Heidi and gang a good time. The windchill remained too cold to venture out (espeically with our Rwandan babies) but the kids had fun dressing up, racing cars and playing games. And dates were set for a summer trip to Wyoming!