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


     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.
    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.