Thursday, December 29, 2011

#laughsohardyoucry



    We have officially reached insanity.  Ryan and I took all 4 kiddos ice skating at an outdoor rink.  In the rain.  Without help.  En route, Ryan suggested that a trip to the dentist may be more enjoyable while I opted for immunizing them all at once...we were SO WRONG!  I know that I have not laughed this hard since BA (before adoption).  Pure joy.  The photos above are in order so that you may appreciate Zeke on ice.  It is not an exaggeration that every moment Zeke was upright, he deliberately fell.  All out, blades-up-in-the-air, arms flailing, hollering.  He would scream one of two phrases, either "Ka-pow!" or "Alvin! Simon! Theodore!"  Needless to say, it was probably one of the more dangerous activities we've done thus far, but SO worth it.  Of course, I teared up thinking about my babies in the arms of the Sisters at the Home of Hope, coming up those stairs, with their glazed eyes and flat expression...and their giggling now.
  Upon coming home, there was a lot of ugly, RAD stuff but I am thinking we had a "Ah, ha" moment with Etienne.  After some difficult disciplining, we had this talk and decided that from now on, a toy would be donated for every defiance.  
Mama: E, toys don't fill your sippy cup with water.  Toys don't hug you when you are angry.  Toys don't give you food.  Toys don't love you.  
Etienne: My family loves me.
  10 minutes later,in bed.
Etienne: Dear God, please help me not to try to hurt Zeke. Help me tell the truth, help me_______etc etc.  I want to remember that my family loves me and not my toys. Amen.
Ryan's effort to preserve this.  Note that Molly is far away from us.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The season we're in.

     I should tell you about the beauty of having all four of my babies home, in my arms, reading about the first Christmas.  The PC version of the Higgins' family Christmas would talk of how amazing our parents are (they love us well no matter the mess we are in),that our kids were thrilled at the simplicity of Target $1 bin gifts or that our hearts are on all the babies not in their mamas arms.  All this is true.  The reality is that our boys' version of "Happy Birthday to Jesus" involved telling our Savior he "smells like a monkey and looks like one too" (I'm pretty sure Jesus would laugh at that), that we already donated a few of the new toys to charity and that my favorite gift was what I gave my husband: a night of 8hrs of uninterrupted sleep in a hotel across the river.  That is real life here and now.
    This Christmas season has been a lot of struggle for Ryan, myself and our Etienne.  This is nothing new.  I am so grateful that the old testament writes of the promise of Jesus' birth, when times were tough beyond my measure, that there was and IS hope for our salvation.  I have been holding onto Isaiah 35, when  "everlasting joy will be on their heads," with the promise of Christmas.
     So we don't sleep.  The greenery has seen its greener day.  Our 3rd child lives somewhere between time out land and attached to mommy's back world.  But we are here, together and it's a season of hope, joy and love.  I don't want to be Debby Downer.  I'm just being real.

       

Thursday, December 22, 2011

He needed me

     Etienne had an afternoon full of workups to follow up on some of his voiding and incontinence issues and some abnormal lab values (please, don't tell me boys are hard to potty train. Duh. I live with boys.)  It wasn't much fun but at the time, it was his cup of tea to be the center of attention and his mama gave him Bubbalicious.  
   Later in the day, after all of the workups, Etienne was nervous to go to the bathroom.  Understandably.  As he sat in the bathroom, he began to hyperventilate and sob louder than I have ever heard any of my kids cry.  He wanted me to push my hand on his heart and pray with him.  As we prayed, Blake brought in his 'Baby E,' and Zeke and Molly rubbed his head.  Etienne said, "Mommy, mommy," over and over.  Ryan and I were looking at each other and we both realized that we felt like this was the first time that E had ever really wanted us.  Sure, if he skins a knee, he wants me (which even that used to not be the case), but typically, we feel like he wants attention, that it isn't a need for us.  He will ask for me when I am not around, but again, it has felt like attention seeking behavior more than anything.  In our little bathroom, with his whole family there, E needed his mama and daddy.  
     Probably, many of you are thinking I am making a big deal about another Etienne thing.  It's okay if you think that.  I know in my mama gut that we had a moment that I won't forget.  I know in my heart that his cry for me was longing for protection and security.  It was more primal and more natural.   This is a child that all day long says, "Me? Me?" when you are talking about croutons, changing the oil or Newt Gingrich; he is that desperate to be included and to have attention.  So his parents feeling for the first time that they are needed and wanted purely because they are his parents is a big deal.
     Physically, it doesn't really matter if Etienne's kidneys, bladder or pipes are working right or wrong.  God will fix that. And we will continue to find new, clever ways to ensure dryness. At the core is our boy's heart.  I love, love how God uses moments like peeing to get us a little bit closer to our boy and closer to Him.
     

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sparkly Eyed Smiley Face Part II



     Do you see a theme here?  I can catch a hilarious face, question or commentary with Ezekiel at any given moment.  He may have started his first weeks home screaming but now Zeke is all about the laughs.  While all the  boys are getting dressed this morning, they are comparing belly sizes, color and shape.  


Etienne: What is the umbrella cord on me for anyway? 
(translation: umbilical cord, please note their mama had just delivered a baby, so the terms reflect timing!).


Blake: It hooks the baby to the mom so it doesn't fall out.


Me: (while braiding hair, turning Black Eyed Peas louder to get them moving faster AND answering a page) It also feeds the baby, and it's important for....


Zeke: (yelling, as he ALWAYS does) EXCUSE ME, MAMA! You don't even need an umbilical cord.  You feed me and you give me everything I need and my umbrella is brown and yours is vanilla.


THE END.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

God vs. Community

"Little E," Etienne's birthday gift that he LOVES because "he looks like  maybe I looked"
     Truthfully, since Etienne's birthday, we have been in one of the toughest times to date.  There have been days when I literally feel like my heart is breaking.  I physically have pain and it isn't a "poor me" pain.  It's a suffering for my boy's soul.  I don't want to get into the attachment behaviors, the sleepless nights or the sad conversations we have though.
     This suffering is something I know only God can heal.  I totally believe and know and find comfort in that.  It's my own hurt that I am navigating.  If you are thinking or praying about adoption this is for you.  If you already adopted and the meals have stopped coming, this is for your.  If you have a neighbor or children that have adopted, this is for you.  It's important to know that the cute child that laughs big, smiles bigger and doesn't know a stranger could very well be a totally different kid at home.  Kids who struggle to attach and bond typically save their ugliest behaviors for their moms (I know, I know you are saying 'all kids are worst for their parents') but comparing RAD behavior with naughty-for-the sitter behavior is like apples and oranges.  So if your girlfriend, daughter-in-law or coworker is struggling with her adopted child, you can know that she is getting the brunt of the behavior.  Probably when she is alone.  And probably after that child has been an angel at a family gathering.  Which feels like salt on a wound.
     I am not asking for sympathy.  No pity!  I wanted this.  I still do.  I have isolated myself, made an island, out of selfishness.  I haven't been able to find words for some of the people who love me best.  And that is my sin.  It's two years out.  I can't remember a lot of the details of our first weeks home.  So I get that it's difficult for those who love us to understand our hurt right now.  But I am so grateful that adoption redefines community.   
     I have been blessed in my suffering because I have family that will brainstorm better absorption systems at night.  I am touched by a co-worker who says 'You are sighing a lot, are you ok?"  I am encouraged by text messages of prayers.  I am grateful for girlfriends who bring me salads, just because.   I am motivated by Zeke saying "I rang my bell loudest for Jesus!"  My strength is renewed by the writings of Isaiah, promising a savior who will take my son's broken heart and our families wounds, and redeem us.  
     

Friday, December 9, 2011

What I've Got

   
Still feeling overwhelming frustration.  So I'm doing a glass half full of perspective today.  Since adopting 2 boys:
  • I text at record speed because it's too loud in my house to carry on a phone conversation
  • I've introduced our extended family, coworkers and neighbors to a unique, East African blend of resistant ringworm  
  • This family can make dinner last over an hour or in under 5 minutes, depending on the scenario.
  • My nurses now believe it would take a fire, a kidnapped child and a woman pushing her baby out,all simotaneously, to get me "stressed."
  • At work, I can complete a pap on a patient while at least 3 children are climbing on me and still do a gentle, thorough job
  • My life is much funnier than reality TV.
  • Etienne has become an awesome filter for weeding out our true friends.
  • Ryan and I can change a kid, give a sponge bath and change sheets while half asleep in under 3 minutes.  Twice a night.
  • I have the deepest most beautiful reliance on my Creator than I ever could have had if He hadn't given me this journey.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

valleys

     We are in a valley right now and I am struggling to see the view from here.  I have come to expect some rough patches after good times (daddy home 24/7 X5! birthday parties!) but I am not sure why this valley is so wide right now.  I really feel like I am battling for my son's heart again.
     God has this, I know.  I also know that prayer is what I need. Molly, Blake, Ryan and Zeke too.  Etienne's little heart could use even more.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" -Romans 8:26.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Yippee for Zeke-ee!!

     The first winter for Zeke, he was trying to fight off affection and giardia, so snow was out of the question.  Last winter, he cried and cried each time he got cold.  We are talking SHUT THE DOOR this kid is out for the count crying, unresponsive with a flat affect.  We had realized by than that Zeke had some sensory deficits and extreme temperatures is one of them.  (He also flips out if clothing or shoes aren't "tight!!" so don't even think about getting him Velcro. Kid sized Under Armor is his thing.)
  Well, God always wins.  And he won the temperature battle.  The Bigs convinced the Little of trying to snowboard and he loved it! Zeke spent a good hour outside, snow boarding and doing everything a kid is supposed to do in the snow.  YIPPEE!  We love the snow around here and it wasn't going anywhere despite Zeke's protests.
PS  If you've seen our house, we have a perfect Bunny slope on the side yard that flattens out and than leads to our forest, which is a decent sized drop off.  The Entourage discovered sledding and boarding off the slope, into the forest, than used jump ropes and Blake as a human rope to pull themselves up cliff again and again.  It's one of those ideas that I know I should probably stop, but I just want to see how it plays out first... Blake reminded us that he "totally couldn't do this without my brothers."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

roller coaster ride

     Stinkin' RAD.  The reality of post adoption life is this: it's a roller coaster of beautiful highs and ugly lows.  It's long and it's two steps forward, one step back.  It's exhausting and it's not for everyone.  This post is not a pro-adoption post.  We had some great days with E and Zeke showing some attachment signs (sorry, lady who didn't get any Rwandan love) and now we are in the midst of riding another low.  This is for the mamas out there just trying to find joy after coming home.
     I know I have readers that know the old me, the BA (before adoption) Kara.  The free spirited, go getter.  I'm still there.  I just have this new purpose, this new heart, and this new love.  And it's not for my boys or adoption.  It isn't about orphans or Africa.  It's about seeking God in  every aspect of my life in levels I never knew I needed God before.  I can't get through some of these ugly days, when the things that happen in this house are too gross to even whisper about.  I can't go to work without being broken for the mamas I deliver.  I don't see Molly, Blake, Etienne and Zeke as merely  amazing kids with big hearts that I need to send to Sunday school and instill American values in.  Their hearts are at stake here.  Somewhere between Kigali and Council Bluffs, God shook the self-reliant, free-spirited me and said "Look, you can't do this.  My love is sufficient."  And than everything I thought I knew was gone.
     I desire to serve orphans in their distress.  I want to promote adoption.  But more than anything, I just want to seek God.  There aren't therapists, RAD specialists, teachers or other parents to get me through the really bad, don't-talk-about-it days.  I share this to encourage other families to do the same.  When you are suffering or ashamed that AA (after adoption) life isn't what you wanted,  know that your purpose here with your child is so much bigger than you ever imagined.   It's okay to lament and it's okay to cry.  Even in front of your new kids.  That is exactly where you will find Him.  And to all those who think "this is what you wanted;" you are  right and I have so much more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No hugs, thanks.

     HUGE.  Etienne and Zeke encountered an acquaintance and he told her that he was 5 now.  She said "Wow, can I have a hug?"  He glanced back at Ryan and I, than said "No, thank you," and walked away.  Zeke yelled "Nope!" and ran.  HUGE.  Sure, it probably hurt that woman but I was too thrilled with the "No," that I really wasn't thinking about anyone's feelings but my sons.
     We have been working toward that answer for 2 years.  You wouldn't expect Blake to hug a random, well intended, middle-aged woman because she asked.  So don't expect my Rwandan babies to either.  It is HUGE that a child with beginnings in an institution differentiate affection from loved ones vs strangers.  HUGE.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Birthday Boy

His request was a "strawberry cake with yellow, smiley-face frosting like my jammies." 
     Etienne's birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year.  I got him this cool Birthday Boy button to wear all day but he lost it before we even left the house(what was I thinking anyway?).  Blake made it known to anyone we encountered that it was his brother's big day anyway; and pondered "why is everyone saying it is Thanksgiving first and not Etienne's birthday?"
     The eve of his big day, Etienne's birth mom was on my heart. Before I became E and Zeke's mom, I had this selfish idea that I didn't want to share my children with another family.  But the moment I met my boys, all my insecurities and shallow ideas regarding our birth moms disappeared.  I would give anything now to be able to just spend a half hour with Etienne's first mom.  I would ask her about his arrival.  Did he come out loud and yelling, the way he enters a room now?  Was he rolly-polly, with eye lashes a mile long?  Did she labor alone and afraid or was she surrounded by other women, loving and comforting her?  My prayer for E's birth mom on the Eve of his big day was that if she is alive, that God has blessed her with a peaceful heart.  That maybe, somehow, she knows that her baby is safe and warm tonight and that he is loved so much that it hurts.  
     There are days when I feel like my title, this blog, our home, the van, should all be labeled by him.  "E's Mom, E's house, E's car...." because he demands a lot of time, energy, thought, prayer, worry, resources and more prayer.  But this year, I am most thankful for the struggles that we have had being  Etienne's.  My little boy has led me to God like nothing else.  In undergrad, I had to take 15hrs of philosophy and about the only thing I got out of it was something about how to know good, you must know its counterpart.  Well, being E's mom has brought me to the darkest places in my own heart where the only thing that could fix it was God's grace alone.  And those ugly moments, when I can't do anything but get on my knees, they make the good that much sweeter.  If E hadn't fought me for 2 years to rock at night, I wouldn't be so grateful for the first time he fell asleep on my lap.  There is a birth mama somewhere in Kigali tonight that doesn't get to hold Etienne as he sleeps.  But I'm E's mama now. God has given me 2 years of clenched fists and wiggling,whining so that I can relish the sweetness of him sleeping here on me now.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Answer was 'No"

     After a week of ups and downs, long faxes, frantic phone calls, early morning notaries and a race against the clock, a judge in our county denied the petition to readopt the boys tomorrow, on National Adoption Day.  Tonight, Etienne said "I love being in my family."  So I will praise Him anyway.
In the car, Zeke asked if we can take a picture with slushies on our heads.  So I will praise Him anyway.
Molly reminded Blake that "You always have your brothers for friends." And I praised Him.
Dinner with all my babies at the same table, eating off each others' plates and all talking at once. I praised Him still.
     I can choose to be grumpy that the bureaucratic system is hindering Etienne and Zeke from sharing our last name.  Or I can be thankful that I live with them in my arms every day.  There are more than 143million orphans in the world and my boys are 2 less.  No matter what the judge may say.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Request

  I don't need a birth certificate, a judge, a passport or the government to tell me that Etienne and Zeke are mine.  But the rest of the world needs more than what was born in our hearts so long ago.
  It's the 11th hour.  For months, we have been planning to do our re-adoption of the boys on Saturday  because it is National Adoption Day.  We chose now because we are finally complete with the Rwandan post adoption studies and we wanted to do it in November.  Our agency hooked us up with a lawyer in Des Moines that has done re-adoptions for children brought to the USA on I-4 visas.  She said "Sure, no problem.  I'm doing 2 other African re-adoptions for I-4 visas that day too."  She than emailed that she would  get permission from the judge in our county, Pottawattamie (western Iowa) to file it in a different county from where we reside.  Last night the lawyer emailed me that she can't reach a judge, and therefore, find a lawyer in Western Iowa to do it in our county.
  I have spent ALL DAY on the phone with family law offices, The National Adoption Day coordinators, DHS and now even the county Judge.  There aren't lawyers or even a judge around here knows about I-4 visas (this is why our agency told us to go to Des Moines in the first place.).  DHS spent several minutes telling me that if I would have chosen to do foster adopt, I wouldn't have this problem now.
  I am defeated.  Please reserve your questions or suggestions because state to state and country to country laws vary.  (Unless you are a practicing lawyer or judge in Iowa!)  Please just pray that God will move this mountain.  When we were in Rwanda, and later in Ethiopia, there were courts, officials, documents and laws that should not have allowed the boys to be ours.  God moved them and He can move this.  "I believe, help my unbelief." -Mark 9:24

Monday, November 14, 2011

Intentional Fun.

Simeon and Etienne post NFL game!

     I call this past weekend "Intentional Fun" time.  Ryan took E and Blake to the Chiefs/Broncos game with friend Tony and his older boys, Simeon and Justice.  The moms, sisters and little brothers spent much needed time chatting, playing and shopping.  Ryan had high hopes of a winning Chiefs team and son's that were engaged in the game; doing the "Tomahawk Chop," and asking what "off sides" means.  Not so much.  2 minutes into the game, Etienne asked to leave and several meltdowns followed until the dads called it a day.  Ryan tried.
     The night before the game, we had a sleepover with all 8 of our kids together.  We let E start out sharing space with others, but he ended the night in the crib.  We tried.  

     The beauty of our families' friendship is that each of us has our counterpart that "gets it"(they adopted their younger from Ethiopia). Molly has their eldest daughter, Trinity, who shares the misery and patience of having 3 younger brothers.  Blake has Justice and Simeon, boys who know the pressure of having an adopted younger brother.  And I turn to Nicole to say talk RAD, swap nudity stories or just to cry.  I'm pretty sure the dads haven't cried to each other.        
     During our sleepover, Etienne had his layers of diapers and he ended up in the crib.  As you can see above, Simeon loves him anyway.  Sim is Etienne's friend despite his diapers, his tantrums and his attention seeking behavior.  The same is true for the rest of the gang too.  And I do mean gang.  They are some lovable, funny kiddos.  
     Ryan left the game feeling a little disappointed; just as I had the night before as I put my E in the crib.  It's the same feeling I get when I fasten his diaper layers.  A little bummed but with the hope that one day, he will get it.  Until than, we keep trying. 
PS  You should see the hostess when we say "8 kids, 4 adults, 2 high chairs, please."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Immaculee

       I woke up today grumpy.  Here's a run down of our night:
3AM: Etienne at our bedside, "Something happened to my blankets."  He had undone all of them.
3:40AM: Etienne yelling "Mama, Mama!"  I run into his room and he asks "Do you think that a television would fit in my closet?"  I kiss him, tuck him in tight, and turn KLOVE a bit louder on his radio.
3:44AM: Loud sniffles.  Louder fake cries.  I climb into bed with Etienne as he tells me, "I was wondering if there are any bugs in the house."  I attempt to snuggle, but with E, that makes him clench his muscles more and get fidgety.  So I lie next to him until Ryan's alarm goes off in the next room.  Poor us.  Darn attachment struggles.  When will my boy ever sleep through the night?  
     After our rough night, we had a big day.  Immaculee Ilibagiza (www.immaculee.com)was in Omaha to share her  story.  If you don't know her, you should.  While we were waiting for our referral, my brother-in-law had given me one of her books "Led By Faith," and since than she has become a name at our dinner table.  In a nutshell, Immaculee writes of her faith and how God carried her through 91 days of hiding in a bathroom with 7 other women during the Rwandan genocide of 1994.  She also has a history with Home of Hope, the orphanage of Etienne and Ezekiel's past.  Much of her time and money has gone into the building and maintaining of the HOH.
     We found a table in the back of the room and a video telling her story began to play.  Zeke was on my mom's lap and E was on mine.  Immaculee was standing in the doorway behind us and she made eye contact with Zeke and motioned him to come to her.  I carried him to her and she just enveloped him in an embrace.  I told her he was from the HOH and she began to cry. (You know I was already shedding tears!)  Before I knew it, Blake, Molly and Etienne were hugging her too.  She said something to E in kinyarwandan and he held tighter to her neck.  As we walked away to sit down, he said "I am still Rwandan forever, right?"
     It was a humbling reminder of God's goodness.  I had a rough night but I had all my babies under one roof.  Together.  Etienne and Zeke deserve much more patience and grace than I typically give them.  I get caught up in their struggles and I forget how amazing it is that they made it home to our arms.  It was a reminder that Etienne's history, whether he was alive or not, is full of violence and grace.  The genocide is a piece of his past; so that makes it a part of our family's story too.
It's not great lighting, but Immaculee is singing and dancing a Rwandan prayer and she asked all the children, with a call to Etienne and Zeke specifically, to dance with her.
I promise Etienne is in this picture somewhere.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pieces of Hope

     It's hard to see, but this is Etienne's first progress report from the preschool.  Under social-emotional, he got all D (developing) or P (proficient)!!  His teacher said, "He has so much compassion and patience for his friends.  He is always the first to offer to help me and he expresses his emotions and feelings so well."
     THANK GOD FOR THIS!!! Our "homework" has been working on appropriate feelings and emotions.  So we are learning...  We have had a lot a lot of anxiety surrounding his behavior outside the home.  I want E to be seen for the thoughtful, big hearted little boy that he is but often his behaviors mask this.  His teacher also said, "Sometimes he just needs me to hug him for a minute and than he is okay again."  He is loved.  He is accepted.  He is learning.  He is where he belongs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Letter B and Basehor...

     Not sure if it's visible, but on the paper place mat, Etienne wrote the letter 'E' and the letter 'b' (the b is sideways on the mat).  I teared up when he held this up because we have been working on learning the letter 'b' since September 6.  He got over-the-top praise and we didn't ask the sound of b or words that start with it.  Let's rejoice and be glad in this little (big) accomplishment!
     The weekend was bitter sweet for Ryan and me.  We returned to the community that started the adoption journey with us, Basehor,attend a wedding. It is hard to go back now because we have changed so much and I think it's difficult for our old friends to understand the new us.  It is also impossible to explain in words the depths of joy, pain and struggle that is post adoption life.  "It's something you wanted, remember?"
     People want to hug and love on the boys but this is so discouraged for little boys that are trying to learn to be attached to their family. Trying to differentiate affection from strangers to loved ones is challenging for Etienne and I could see his confusion this weekend.  When we first came home, E would climb on, kiss, hug and snuggle with literally any person that gave him attention.  To the by stander, they want to think "wow, this little guy is irresistible, and he likes me!"  He is indeed irresistible but he doesn't care who you are as long as you are giving him attention.  For his mom and dad, if he runs into your arms, it stings a little.  Blake wouldn't run into your strange arms and neither would Molly.  Your biological 4yo wouldn't kiss an adult they didn't know....see where I am going?
     The most painful piece of this scenario is that this was our old home.  These were our friends that loved and prayed us to Africa and home again.  They deserve affection from E and Zeke.  It's just so stinkin' complicated.  I look forward to the day when the boys are old enough that I can introduce them to our Basehor family and say, "This is the woman that made you a quilt; and this whole church sold pizzas for you.  That guy over there, he donated his whole penny collection for you to come home.  Everyone here prayed you home."  And hope that each of them knows  I treasure that piece of our family story.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

  Patient Blake.  Our five minutes of "homework" last night was E and I playing Blake in Guess Who.  It's pretty obvious how Etienne feels about playing board games! What you can't see is Zeke, climbing all over us, yelling clues to both sides.  After a day of lots of time ins, and discipline, Ryan and I were snuggling Etienne.  This is our conversation.
  "God gave you ears to listen, a head to think and a heart to...."
"Keep me alive." Not the answer I was looking for (love) but still truthful.  So we let that go.  Than Ryan said
"Why do we love you, Etienne?"
"Because I am adopted."
"We love you because you are ours.  You don't have to do or be anything.  We love you because you are ours." 
 Typing that makes me tear up.  I know, I know a lot makes me tear up.  God loves us simply because we belong to Him.  It isn't easy, lovely or even fun.  It's messy and complicated and perfect.  I continue to pray that E will know he is loved all the time because he is ours.
 
 
 
 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Big E.

  I am putting this picture up because I LOVE the look on my nephew Gabe's face as he looks up to his cousin.  There isn't a lot that is easy, smooth or natural with Etienne, but he his behavior toward younger kids is.  E does a great job being gentle and loving with kids smaller than him (and that's a lot!).
  Also, we signed the boys up to play YMCA basketball.  Blake and Etienne were on the same team. Yes, as in past tense.  Our vegan-wanna be boy Blake is the lead scorer weighing in at 37lbs and 40inches while Etienne could totally dominate  but has not an ounce of competitiveness in his body.  At the first game, Ryan told him, "You need to put your hands up to block the other team from scoring."  His response, "Why wouldn't I want them to score?"  The next day, while picking apples, he said he didn't want to play basketball at all.  We  talked about it and he consistently said all week long that he didn't want to play.  Our ruling was to let him quit because he only wanted to play to be with his brother.  That desperate need for acceptance, want and love.  And that is why my prayer for my E continues to be "just let him KNOW that he is loved just because he is ours."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Letter B

 
     This is Etienne after our five minutes of "homework."  Two weeks ago, he was supposed to bring to preschool something that started with the letter 'B' (What happened to A, I don't know, we are where we are).  For the first few days of the week, every morning the entourage would name things that started with 'B' but Etienne was so not into it.  He immediately began to cry and whine if he was asked. That was two weeks ago. Since than, we have been trying, daily, to get the sound of B.  Yesterday his preschool teacher (he goes 3 mornings/wk when I see patients) asked that we work extra with him on his sounds. If she only knew!  I am in no way, shape or form qualified to be teaching but I do have a former kindergarten teacher mom in my back pocket.  Grandma has equipped us with more games, ideas and flash cards to practice with.  This is again something God is growing me in.  I assumed Etienne's school challenges would be in his behavior; this is the kid who has removed and rebuilt flashlights, plumbing and hairdryers.  This is my boy who learned Enlish as a third language.  I assumed sounds and numerical values would be a cake walk.
     Two weeks into the sound of B, we still don't have it mastered.  This morning I took a new approach.  We looked and talked about things that start with B ("My Big Brother Blake Bounces a BasketBall!!") and than we practiced the sound of 'B." I screamed louder than I have ever screamed "B says bbbbbbbbb!!!!"  Etienne looked at me and quietly said, "Mama, I usually don't like a lot of noise."  Well that just did me in.  Probably one of the most frequently heard phrases from this mama is "Too loud, that's too loud!"  Clearly, God still has His sense of humor about me learning my Etienne.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

  You know your child is desperate for love when:
  • his most frequent expression is "Can I, can I?"
  • he wakes up through the night so that he doesn't miss his brothers waking up without him.
  • vacuuming with mama is a favorite activity.
  • he as known as the "best sharer" and the "go get it for me" of the family
  • he thanks God for sitting between mama and daddy at dinner.

If that doesn't soften an impatient heart, I don't know what will.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Molars

     Our dinner conversations are usually fabulous.  Topics range from "Let's think of some more homophone words," to "we must be twins because we both like to toot!"  Last night the entourage was comparing teeth.  Molly has lost several, her first was right before she turned six.  Blake reassures us that he has at least five that are loose.  Etienne than said, "Well what about my chipped tooth that matches yours?"  E and I both have a chip in the same spot on our front teeth; a very cool similarity in mother and child indeed!  I wiggled it to appease him and sure enough, it was loose.  He than told me "And it hurts back here.
  So I stuck my finger in his mouth as only mamas will do and felt that he did indeed have a molar cutting through.  This is sort of a gray parenting area for me; I vaguely recall Molly getting hers.  So I texted a dentist friend and read the ADA website.


     The first of the adult molars also begin coming through in the back of the mouth around the age of six years; behind all the deciduous teeth.  These will be the first of adult teeth.  http://www.3dmouth.org/6/6_1.cfm
    I know, I know.  There is no "timeline" for growth and development in children.  I tell my families all the time that "normal" is whatever your kid does, when he does it.  If you are a parent that adopted your child outside the US, than I know you know where I am going with this.  I don't have my son's birth certificate.  His age is all speculation and subjective.  So for me, Etienne cutting a molar feels like I missed more of his life. Before he came home, I would sit in my glider, praying that he was being held and loved; and that many of his "first" moments wouldn't happen until his was with his forever family.  In the grand scheme of life, cutting teeth isn't a big deal.  For a mom that is desperate to bond and love and connect with her 4 year old, it means a lot.  I don't have memories of his first steps, first words or laugh.  I will always remember eating chili, listening to gross little boy talk and discovering his first molar.
P.S. E is supposed to be 5 November 24.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rwanda to Russia

  It's only Thursday, in the midst of a very long week.  My E has thrown a curve ball the past 4 days.  His behaviors are mirroring the classic attachment disorder list as much as they ever did a year ago.  Lying, hurting others, being destructive and having a very flat affect about all of it.  By the end of each day, Ryan and I are wiped out physically and emotionally.  Probably what wears on us most is that we were sort of cruising this past month; E was having more good days than bad.  Tuesday evening, I said "I am so thankful for a job I love that I can go to tomorrow to get a break from this." (I only work part time, sharing patients with 6 other AMAZING babycatchers).
  So I show up to my clinic yesterday ready to face N.  N is an older teen, pregnant and approaching her due date.  Last week, N had kept me late because she had been telling the other midwives in my practice some crazy, over the top lies and I knew I would be seeing her next.  These were lies that were ridiculously obvious, like "I've never had an ultrasound," (we have reports from two ultrasounds to pull out of her chart), "My parents are dead...I don't live with my parents, but they are in Omaha." "I am placing baby in adoption but I have never talked to a social worker(social worker is outside the door of the exam room).  I geared up to face this lying, confused kid that I was the last of our group to see.  As I walked in the room, there sat a tiny, hunched over girl.  I introduced myself, hugged her and told her that all the midwives in our group know her well, we care for her and we keep track of her AND her baby.  Than I asked her to tell me her story.  She said, "I was adopted from an orphanage in Russia when I was 13, but I haven't talked to my adoptive parents in over a year."
  I felt a knot in my stomach and my heart melted.  We finished our visit, I left the room, sat down at my desk and sobbed.  Attachment disorder.  Of course, the lying over obvious truths, the avoidance, the disinterested body language and flat affect.  We decided that it was best for me to be the only CNM to see her until she delivered because I know "the language" of orphans.  
  I am sharing this because God is using my little boy in so many bigger ways than I can imagine.  I am broken, again, at the behaviors he uses to protect himself from our love.  But I am also motivated that E is giving me the tools to love this girl well in the place she is right now.  If Etienne hadn't given me a year of ugly RAD behaviors, I probably wouldn't have been able to recognize, like the rest of the staff, that our lying teen was struggling with RAD because she doesn't know what it means to be wanted, loved, cherished.  Beauty out of ashes.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

How long?

  This past weekend, Ryan and I were a part of a dear friend's wedding.  It was beautiful, nostalgic and joyous.  Many of the wedding party didn't know us and, of course, when a stranger asks us about our family, it goes a little like this:
"Do you have kids?"
"Wow, four?! How old are they?"
"You look so young to have four!"  Here's the part where we have a couple options. We can A. Say, thanks and leave it at that. B. Explain that our two youngest are adopted.  To me, this always feels like a fork in the road.  Do I want to open that Pandora's Box?  Depending on the examiner, the conversation could go a lot of directions from here.  
  The woman quizzing me this weekend, she had small children.  And she followed her question with "Tell me what the orphanage was like."  At this point, I feel time freeze because I really feel like this is pivotal.  I know that our adoption isn't new to us, but to strangers, our story is always new.  I feel really called to the plight of the orphan.  And I know that adoption is not for everyone.  Yet I am plagued with memories of the Home of Hope and I can't walk away from that question.  So this is what I said.
I can't tell you a lot about the Home of Hope.  I can tell you that I believe the nuns did the best that they could with the resources that they had.  The first day that I picked my little boy up, he was being bathed.  On a slab of concrete, with a bucket of cold water and some lard soap.  And then they wanted to feed him before he left, so they shoveled whole sardines into his mouth.  That is how I found my little boy to be surviving.
  This answer is harsh.  It's vivid and jarring and any mother who hears that story is going to take her breath away.  I don't know if it was too much, but I felt like is someone asked such a specific question, I owe it to every other child without a family to give an honest, yet protective answer.  She teared up.  She said her heart broke to think of a child that way.  I teared up too and I always do.  I don't know how long it will be before I don't cry when I am asked about my boys adoption.  I pray, never.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

As big as a building

   So Zeke has this ritual at bedtime.  Picture the sparkly eyed smiley face propped up on 4 pillows, soft rock playing, surrounded by no less than 4 stuffed animals.  We ask him what he wants to pray about and most nights when he talks to God, there are a lot of run on sentences muffled with his Barry White, gruff voice.  Usually I don't have a clue what he is saying.  (Although one night last week he said "Please don't let anyone else die on the cross" which led to a bigger conversation than what should be had at bedtime,).   After praying, he requires 3 kisses from each parent and as well as siblings.  Than he insists on giving a Zeke hug, known as a Big As A Building Hug.  He ends each day with the best line from a toddler ever:
"Mama, I love you and I like you."
  And that is why I can start all over again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Road Rage.

     My 57lb four year old is clearly too big for the five point harness car seat.  Exciting day at Sam's Club, picking out a new car seat!  Etienne proudly showed anyone within shouting range his "Cars" model, the "big boy" seat like Blake. These things are so simple compared to the newborn carrier and the toddler car seat! All you have to do is take the thing out of the box!
     Etienne demonstrated his skill at hooking the seat belt all by himself.  My life just got a little easier; only 1/4 of the entourage needs to be buckled in!  Seemed like a momentous occasion except I should have known that it was too good to be true.  Can we say "freedom?"  AGH!!!! Etienne can not, can not, I repeat, keep his hands off the seat belt.  Driving with him has now become a game of which sibling is in charge of regulating how far out he has stretched the belt, if he is sitting sideways/hanging off the side/completely tangled within the belt; or if the boy has just stretched it so far it doesn't function. What do I do besides scold?  
     When Blake was 2, he wasn't easy.  There was a stretch where a friend actually used duct tape on his car seat during a road trip so that we could avoid constantly re-hooking him in.  I have done a little searching and there are car seats for very large kids but they are super-duper expensive because they are designed for children with physical disabilities. 
     If you see a black minivan with some Will Smith blaring pulled over on the side of the road with a blonde woman pulling her hair out, please don't honk.  Just keep moving.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Its bigger than us.

  This is a shout out to Etienne's Barber Shop, Cross Cuts, in Crossroads Mall, in Omaha.  Today, when they learned we had just celebrated our Gotcha Day, the entire shop celebrated.  I love these guys all the time because they embrace our family.  They are as real as an African American barber shop can be, and they don't care that I am a white mama struggling to maintain a healthy scalp and tight twisty curls.  Every time we come  in, they turn on something like "Drum Line," turn on some clean hip-hop and make E feel like a prince.  Today was no exception.  They all relived Etienne's first 2+hr visit full of tears, language barriers and kicking him; than showered him with praise at his big boy behavior now.  It makes me cry just to think about the love that these men give my son.
  After leaving the barber, we headed to the bank.  The teller, as always, from her little window, talked about to the boys.  Than she said, "I remember when you came in here, needing crisp, new $100 bills and I was amazed at what your family was doing.  We just adopted a dog and I told my boyfriend that he should no that someday I have to adopt a child."  I feel awful I can't remember the poor girl's name and she has witnessed some ugly reality of post-adoption life.  The leaky, giardia-filled diaper in her lobby, the repeated undoing of the seat belts in the drive-thru lane, the screams so loud we played charades.  But God  used our boys to place a longing in her heart. 
  I left our errands reminded at how BIG God is.  In my day-to-day struggles, I forget that our boys, our family, our look, they are still 'new' to the world. What an amazing opportunity to give   Him credit for the chaotic, beautiful mess of a life we live. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gotcha Day 2


Ezekiel and Etienne's Referral Pics, 9/2009
My Rwandan Boys have been home 2 years.
There aren't words for the depths of 
joy
pain
grace
tears
growth
bonding
suffering
contentment
longing
faith
and more grace.


Zeke has gained 8 lbs and 13 inches
Etienne has gained 13 lbs and 8 inches
Molly has gained patience (a little) and empathy (a ton)
Blake has learned loyalty (a lot) and leadership 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wanted.

  I am cooking Rwandan Chicken and White Beans to celebrate "Gotcha Day."  Zeke and Etienne are helping (I use this term lightly) and we are talking about what it was like to bring them home.
Me: "......so than we brought you home forever."
Etienne: "Because my birth mom didn't want me, right?"
I froze.  We have never, ever said such words. Not even close. AAAHHHH!!!!! What did we miss here? How did he get that idea?
Me: "NO! It wasn't that she didn't want you. Your birth mom couldn't give you food or clean water or school."
Zeke: "Or a doggy, E."
    E is only 4.  Yet he has come to this conclusion on his own.  We have to consider developmentally, he can't grasp that a loving action is to give your child to another family.  He may think "love means giving me away."  So we talk about concrete logistics relating to birth moms.  The simple necessities of being a parent. Yet still we get to this thought of not being wanted.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Us time.

     This past weekend, Ryan and I went to Chicago.  I am required to keep up my CEUs and so I attended a Birth Conference.  We got to go with our dearest friends, Kevin and Carrie.  It was fabulous to have quality grown-up time.  Ryan's folks came to town to entertain the entourage: zoo, hot air balloon festival and movies.        They were too busy to notice our absence.
     Biblically, the bible commands that we love God first and submit to our spouses in love next(see Matthew 10).  We all know this is really, really hard to do. It is a challenge to raise Godly kiddos, run a household and maybe a career but above all, to love your husband most!   No matter the chaos that has followed our return home, it is sacred that Ryan and I get time to just be together; it has taken 10yrs for me to grasp the significance of time without kids. I am so grateful for our family that serves us well that we may do this.
     This year, E didn't lock anyone out of the house or car.  He was great for his Nana and Pops!  It's the aftermath for mommy, and now siblings, that is rough.  Please pray for Etienne this week.  We are better equipped and know what to expect (to an extent) after a change in our routine.  The lying, the hurting, the acting out are back.  Our poor boy knows the words "Mommy and Daddy are always your mommy and daddy," but he doesn't feel it.  I am at a place, as his mama, that I am overcome with grief when I think that E doubts my unconditional love.  Most of the time, the constant noise, the breaking/taking apart/losing/reinventing of anything and everything doesn't phase me.  Finding a turkey feather in the washing machine is normal around here.  I let go of order and said adios to a clean house.  I am even cool with all the kids waking up to stomping and chanting.  But there are still a lot of moments that doubt creeps in.  How long will it take to prove my love?  When will he not pee his pants?  At what age will we not have to buy diapers?
     The  cool thing about marriage is that God gave me a partner that doesn't ask those questions.  He doesn't mind if he has to move laundry to climb into bed and he never comments on the prize of diapers.  And that is why my other half totally deserves my undivided time and attention on a very regular basis.  If you are waiting for your child to come home, take note.  If you are struggling to adjust post adoption, schedule breakfast together or a midnight snack if you still working on attachment.  Make it happen.
On a lighter note, Zeke told me tonight "From now on, Mama Mia (that's me), I want to say 'I love you AND I like you."  I am so cool with that.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

  Last night at bath time, Etienne had wet pants.  So ok.  We're not reacting with anger, no biggie at this point.  We were talking about how hard it is to be big when we are really tired and he started crying. 
"I feel like I am not normal.  I feel all alone."
  Those are the words of my preschooler.  Not a teen in angst.  A child in his family.  Molly and Blake both heard him and stopped in their tracks.  Blake laid his head on E's back.  Molly kissed his head and rubbed his face.  I just hugged him tight and the 4 of us cried.  I am so proud that he could articulate (see Spring of 2010 for "I feel happy, this is my happy face." days) his pain so we can share it with him.  I don't have words for this kind of sadness.
  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pursing Him

"For me, to live is in Christ, to die is gain. -Phillipians 1:21

So I heard a sermon regarding this text a couple weeks ago and it has been resonating in me since. To LIVE in CHRIST. I am living in Christ or am I just another Midwestern Mama with good morals and loud kids? I have been pondering that I live in my family. I live in my children. I live in Etienne and Zeke being my children, not orphans. Maybe pursuing my children has overridden pursuing my Father?
This has led to changing my prayers big time. I have been solely praying to live in Christ. To hear his whispers alone. You know what? Molly is happy. Blake is hysterical. Zeke has returned to his sparkly-eyed self despite his big bro going to kindergarten. And E is still struggling some days and other days, not. But my heart is lighter and it brings me back to where I was, on my knees in the pantry floor, remembering that I SO don't got this. It is not for me to control.
It has relieved some pressure too. I LOVE encouraging other mamas but I don't know day to day if my words, my writings, my hugs are helpful or harmful. Again, I don't got this, but my Father does.
Preschool is "like Sunday school all morning," per Zeke. He loves every minute. Etienne is the kid under the table or poking his neighbor. He is also the kid singing the loudest, praying his heart out and smiling ear-to-ear. Below is our accomplishments in play dough. Six months ago, he and I did our homework of sitting for 5 minutes. Now we can sit for at least 10!
In case you'd forgotten, Molly is the greatest. Exhibit A how she watches family movie night with her brothers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

timers


Last night, after E had wet his pants again, Ryan and I sat outside the bathroom, overhearing him say "God, what can I do?" We were both in tears, heartbroken that our little boy has good intentions. Together, we reassured him that we love him ALL the time. Our love, like God's, is unconditional and constant. Than we decided to pull out my old waterproof watch from my floor nursing days and give it to E. We set the alarm for every 2.5 hrs and when it beeps, he uses the bathroom no matter what.
Remember, Etienne used to be potty trained. This isn't about the typical little boy nuances of potty training. This is about the brokenness of the world; about children starting their lives without a family. This is about knowing in his soul that he is wanted, he is loved, he is home. Forever. This is a wound that is God's to heal.
Zeke joined Ryan and I in the hallway. Naked and with a plastic hand (his guitar), he told us, "I have a song for you."
Zeke: "Da, dada, da da!" Repeat this sound about 64times while strumming your air guitar.
Ryan: "Sing your song, buddy."
Zeke: "It's coming, this is the guitar."
Insert lots of laughter from Molly and I here.
Zeke: "I love Etienne! I love Etienne! Da,da, dada. I don't want him to pee his pants."
Guitar solo here. And some naked dancing.
This is what it looks like for God to make beauty of out ashes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

school part 2.


There is no handbook on this. I doubt our decisions daily , but I know we are right where God wants us for now. Etienne attending preschool is a day by day decision. We've adjusted our routine so that I will work 2 days/wk and on those days Etienne (when he can do it) and Zeke will attend a private preschool at a nearby church. Here is some awesomeness of the last few days.
-Zeke has now decided to be known as "Curly," and requested his name badge say that on his first day of preschool.
-Blake has been giving his brothers his skater t-shirts to wear when the miss him. Picture 52lb E and 37lb Zeke wearing skinny 35lbs (when wet) Blake's clothing. Insert visual.
-Molly has been checking with the Principal on Blake's status. He, in turn, has already cultivated a reputation for funny stories in the cafeteria. When asked, he states," Oh, you know. The one about the poo on the stairs."
- On the first day of preschool, the secretary, God love her, asked the boys if they were both adopted (?!?!? she was trying, and very sweet). Etienne replied, "Well, you are too!"

Is this a super insightful comment on God's adoption of us all or just a case of English-as-a-3rd-language confusion? I will let you be the judge...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

school.

The greatest gift I have been given in our adoption is that this pain, this struggle, has lead me to my knees in awe. Awe of my God's great love and mercy. I feel His grace as palpable as my heartbeat.
Tonight was one of the toughest nights the entourage has had since we became a family of 6. Lots of yelling. Tears. Damaged goods. We had back to school night for Molly and Blake-man is headed to kindergarten. This is the first time that my 3 boys will be separated and it is crystal clear to us all that Etienne AND Zeke are most attached to their older brother. Their little hearts are breaking out of fear that Blake won't come home, won't remember them, won't play with them.
Please pray for us tonight. Ryan and I need discernment. I need to let go of the guilt. Our Rwanda babies need assurance that Blake will come home to them every day. Blake shouldn't have so much responsibility for his brothers' happiness(Is it possible to be too attached?). Miss Molly just needs a little patience.
And please don't ever tell me that God can't give me more than I can handle because that's ridiculous. Of course He gives us too much because in that mess, He gets the most glory. When I am on my pantry floor in tears, I have nothing left to "handle" this. It's all Him.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Big Love

Tonight Blake-man got a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's. As he was leaving, Etienne crumbled onto the floor, crying "I will miss him. I want him to come back to me." Not to be outdone, Zeke began yelling for Blake too. The oreo hug than followed and Molly swept in to tickle away the "pity party." My kids are the coolest. Later, I snuggled E after prayers.
"Etienne, do you know who loves you?" I whispered.
"Mommy and Daddy."
"Who else?"
"Molly and Blake." E sniffled.
Who loves you the most?"
"God. His love is biggest."

Monday, August 8, 2011

1 lonely backpack....


That is Etienne's empty backpack. It is empty because as of right now, he can't attend preschool 3 mornings a week. If you are new to the post-adoption world, you may not know that changes in routines, whether good or bad, can wreak havoc on an older adopted child. Since returning from South Dakota, my E has had a few steps back. Long story short, he is now wearing diapers all the time. To Ryan and I, our biggest frustration with this is that he doesn't seem to mind a bit. Peeing in Sam's Club? His reaction was a flat affect, indifferent to wet, smelly pants. We have been telling him that preschools only allow potty trained kids, that big boys can't stay up to watch the Royals, etc, etc.
Last night we had a breakthrough. The remainder of the entourage, including Zeke, was loading their shiny folders, new boxes of crayons and fresh supplies into backpacks. E lost it. I mean sobbing inconsolably. No one had said a word about him missing out or his need to wear diapers. He cried and cried. First thing this morning, the crying started again and he asked to call his Grandpa. E told his grandpa, through tears and sobs, that he didn't know why he peed his pants and he wants to be a big boy. Than he asked his Grandpa to pray with him, to ask God to help him. After they hung up, this is what E and I prayed.
"Please God, let me know that I am loved ALL the time. Please God, let my heart know my family is my family forever and my home is where ever my family is. Please help me remember You love me all the time."
Today we are doing pull-ups, a step up from a diaper, a step down from underpants. Today all 3 siblings are cheering him on, that he is a big boy, that he can do it, that he is always loved.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On the road again...

Back from Lead, South Dakota. Here are some highlights, lowlights and moments that can only occur when your kids outnumber you:
-Upon waking up from a nap on my back at Mt Rushmore, Zeke screamed "WE ARE HERE!!
WHERE IS CURIOUS GEORGE?!?!?" (some of you will get this)

-Blake requested Etienne to continue his loud chanting while hiking in Needles
Park in order to "scare the mountain lions away."

-All 4 kids considered the hotel pool on the middle of nowhere to be a highlight of
the trip

-Molly developed a crush on a singing cowboy at a chuck wagon dinner.

-E MAYBE slept a few hours each night.

-A wild burro attempted to climb in our van.

-Every morning, in attempt to avoid annoying our (patient) extended family, the boys
were forced to participate in a silent dance party in their room until the alarm clock
read 7:45.

-We were the van driving through all the state parks with wet underwear hanging out
window (traveling=regression for E) but it did look pretty funny to see the under
pants flapping in the breeze.

-Molly has stated that she will never, ever share a bed with her siblings again.
After the last 5 days, I think she deserves this honor!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sleep is overrated anyway.

About 6 weeks ago, I posted that once we gave Etienne permission to get up and use the bathroom at night, the soaking through his nighttime layers of diaper/pull-up/plastic cover pretty much stopped. Ha! That was a short lived thrill for him. Needless to say, now he gets up many times a night to "use" the bathroom (code for look out the window, turn the faucet on and watch the water, sit on the potty and sing) AND still have a wet bed in the morning. Besides the trips down the hall, our 4 year old has been taking several hours to fall asleep again, like he used to do. He plays, climbs, talks and just can't stop his muscles to sleep.
Security items aren't helpful. Etienne got a stuffed lamb when we brought him home. See July 2010 for pics of what he did to it at night. He has gone through security blankets/shawls made lovingly by his Nana and his Grandma. Friday night, his pillow pet was next next victim; unstitched by his restless fingers that night. So after the pillow pet was undone, we decided to put him back in our bedroom until he could show us we could trust him in the big boy room with Blake. So sad for him. I sat and watched him try to calm his muscles down and read some Psalms to him. His fists were clenched tightly. He kept saying, "I wanna be with Blake."
As Ryan and I sat replaying our nights and our rituals, trying to figure out why E was having a hard time sleeping again, we realized the problem. Blake, being older, has been allowed to stay up to watch the Royals with his dad a few nights a week. Those are the nights Etienne won't sleep. I am pretty sure that E is on guard because Blake isn't in there and by the time Blake is, E is too worked up to go to sleep.
My suspicion was confirmed yesterday. E and Zeke had a physical and Ryan and Blake waited in the car. Etienne kept saying "Where is my brother? When is my brother coming back?" By the time we returned to the car, he was sobbing and asking for "my brother." Last night, when we said prayers, he said "Thank you that my brother was waiting for me. Thank you that I can sleep with Blake." Holy cow. Special daddy time for Blake= fear and uncertainty for Etienne.
Can you imagine sharing a room with 50 kids? Whenever you roll over, you see another friend's face. Do you think it was quiet? I don't think a room full of preschoolers can ever be quiet, even if they are asleep. I am told that kids in institutions have a hard time ever getting into the restful, REM sleep and yet I still forget. I still tuck him in his big boy bed alone. With music playing and the soft glow of the hall light, I expect this to be reassuring. Geez. How quickly I lose my grace toward him when my own routine is rocked.
So we will figure out a new way for Blake to get alone daddy time and we will give Etienne is security item, that skinny blonde skater boy. And this mama will keep praying for grace no matter how little sleep there may be...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Words Matter.

"Are they brothers?'
"Why were they given away?"
"Are those your real kids?"

When we were first home, these questions enraged me. It seemed so insensitive. Somewhere along the way, I found some grace. Now I usually answer the question with a little humor and kindness. "They became brothers when they were adopted." "They weren't given away, their birth mom chose a better life." "All 4 of my kids are real." It became important for me, and Ryan too, that we can use words to educate the non-adoption community. To the outside world, I know that people don't deliberately think that the choice of words like "give away," and "real" matter much. No one means to imply that my sons were not wanted. The gal from church didn't want my boys to think Molly and Blake were more cherished because they were born of me. That family in the checkout line of Target didn't intentionally say that a sibling is defined by bloodline.
I also know that sometimes the people in our community, our family, our circles think that we make too big of a deal about this issue. I am SO aware of this. So most of the time, that is why I just keep my replies lighthearted. But it matters. Little (smart) ears are listening.
I was cutting potatoes in the kitchen and the entourage was spread in various corners and counters around me, chatting. The conversation was insignificant, but Etienne's statement was huge. He said, "My birth mom didn't want me, right mom? This stopped us in our tracks and it's been lying heavy on my heart since. We have never, ever said something like that. We have always told E and Zeke that their birth mom LOVED them. That she wanted them to have food, clean water, a home and a school.
So if a 4 year old says "My birth mom didn't want me," it may just be words now. But when my boy is 11, will he think he wasn't wanted because he wasn't smart or handsome or fun? No one should fill unwanted. And that is why I correct your words