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


  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


       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.