Monday, December 31, 2012

...the weary world rejoiced

After Thanksgiving, I will tell you that my bar for the holiday season was so low, you could have just stepped over it.  I anticipated the month of December to be super stressful.
     God totally showed up.  We did things like the Jesse Tree and NOTHING WAS DESTROYED.  Huge.  I took Etienne on a date to a Christmas concert and we stayed for almost the whole show.  Ryan has been able to have the kids join his engineering students in building a robot; and to date no one has gotten hurt.  Molly has had friends over without being humiliated with nudity or inappropriate comments.  Some of our dearest friends Kat and Lonnell came all the way from San Jose for a visit and never once saw any of my boys naked, breaking something or hurting someone (not that these friends would have minded).  No one got lost or hit by a carriage when we went to The Plaza, Ryan and my old stomping ground.  Each Higgins and Holz family event we attended on time (European, that is) and we didn't even make early exits because we'd worn out our welcome (I think, don't burst my bubble if you heard otherwise).
     It has been by and large a season of joy.  My head keeps spinning "a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices" over and over again.  I can't tell you the depths of gratitude my heart feels to have such sacred, peaceful time.  I shared a few pics below.

Time with cousins far.

...and cousins near.

Time for creative mischief

Time with old friends in favorite places; the Country Club Plaza with Ryan's oldest, best friend, Adam and his wife (one of my favorites), Hillary.
Yes, we do the zoo all year round.  Enjoying time with our San Jose friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


     Tonight, as you sit cozy on your couch, maybe sending last minute Christmas cards or making lists of gifts still needed to be purchased, there is a mama out there missing her children.  Her arms ache because only one of her three babies can be home for Christmas.  I will let you read Keri's family story here.  I'm posting it because Seth and Quin have legally been adopted.  They belong to the Atland family but mountains need to move to get them out of Ghana and into their family.  Please read their story and pray.
     When we were adopting Etienne and Ezekiel, we had to enter Ethiopia because the US Embassy in Rwanda did not know how to process adoptions.  As we entered the Addis airport, we were immediately escorted to a tiny, glass room.  Ethiopian officials informed us that the never allowed Rwandans into their country and the only reason they weren't putting our children back on a plane, "alone," is because they were so young.  Then those cold hearted officials disappeared behind some closed doors and we waited.  We prayed.  We cried out to God.  No one from our adoption agency could contact us and no one from the Embassy knew we were there.  Locked in a room in an airport.  An hour and a half later, someone walked back through that door and without explanation shoo'd us out and into the chaos of Addis Ababa.  There were more frightening , impossible-by-man scenarios that unfolded in our time in Africa, bringing our boys home.  Mountains that moved without any reason other than a miracle.
     I share this because Keri needs to hear it.  I share because there are so many countless other parents waiting tonight, low on hope, hurting because the ways of the world keep them from their babies.  Because it is a season of miracles, of magic, of hope.  Tonight I am praying this mama feels hope; and praying that her babies know that God is holding them when she can't.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Zeke has the Best One Liners

     I exited the cardio room at the Y, earphones still in, sweaty and distracted.  I noticed all the staff at the front desk glance up at me as I walked toward the children's room.  Some smiled and one of the trainers said "Your kid is sic" (no one is ill, this is hipster talk for "cool").  I smile and nod, a little confused, but whatever.  We don't live in a small town, but small enough that we are that family.  People remember us.
     As I entered the room to pick Zeke up, the woman working hopped up and met me at the door. "I have to tell you about a conversation Zeke had with another boy."  Oh. Here we go.
     Apparently another 4 year old (one who frequently gives me the stink eye) starting quizzing Zeke after I left the room.  The conversation started something along the lines of whether I was really his mom.  Normal trans racial stuff.  Par for our course.  Then he said to Zeke:
"Why do you have brown skin like that?"
     Zeke didn't miss a beat.  He didn't even glance up from his race cars.  He said:
"Because that is how God made me.  And when I grow up I will be a good man. A brown skinned man."
     The end.  Back to playing.  Enough of an answer for a 4 yo.  Well, those poor YMCA women aren't used to these kinds of heart-in-your throat conversations.  They were in tears.  It was kind of awesome for me to see their reactions at something so normal in our family, yet so remarkable to the rest of the world.  I easily forget how lucky blessed we are to have this life.  Not every mama gets to witness her preschooler teaching adults a thing or two about family. Life. Adoption. Grace.  You get the picture.  Now the girls at the Y do too.

Monday, December 17, 2012

That day.


  1. I am NOT a theologian
  2. I am a follower of Christ
  3. I am a mom
  4. I love a lot of non-believing, not-like-minded people (Good morning, "Kylie"!)
  5. My blog isn't  pretending to be a java loving, hipster adoption blog
     Friday was horrific.  There isn't an American (or a human) that will disagree.  We shed and still cry for the  children, the families and our own children and the future of humanity.  Here's the thing that my agnostic or atheist friends don't get: God was there.
     It's a huge can of worms.  The ageless argument for why God allows suffering.  I can't answer that.  I'm not all knowing and omnipotent.  But I can share what we told our entourage of hurting kiddos.
     Those kids, they weren't scared.  God was already there with them, protecting their eyes and their hearts from what was about to happen.  God is good and loving and just.  
     God did not create a spirit of fear ( 2Tim 1:7).  But who wouldn't be afraid, terrified, at a man with those weapons?  The kids and I opened up our bible yesterday and began reading of the countless times that God sent angels to minister to people.  He sent them ahead of Himself in the Old Testament (Joshua 5), He sent them to serve Jesus (Matt 4).   There are references to angels at least 135 times.  Don't get me wrong: I"m not referring to the '90s sitcoms, the crystals and rainbows kind of angels.  I'm talking biblical here.
     Angels are not God.  They are servants, messengers and worriers for Him.  They are also an image that my kiddos-and all children- can wrap their little brains around.  We made it clear that they are not God but they protect (think Daniel in the lion's den, that's what we did) and they serve.  So we talked about angels being what those children saw in their school that day.  We talked about maybe they saw Jesus too.  But they did not see or feel fear.  Because we know God to be merciful and loving.
     No of us wants to lie to our kids.  We have to give them the truth, but only what they need to know and no details, please.  Media is off.  Music is on.  Kids are in laps and arms and hugs and prayers.  We are crying together and we are talking about it now only when they initiate it.  Interestingly, E has seemed to allow it all in one ear and out the other.  We are fine with that.  Blake man has had many moments of tears and he has been praying for the shooter.  Zeke has speculated "what if..." but that has been replaced with images of angel soldiers slaying lions.  Miss Molly has been prayerful and consoling to others.  They are all doing exactly what I would guess them to do.  
     We always have joy.  This morning everyone raced to be the first ready to move the magnet on the Advent Calendar.  There were cheers for "Pom-Poms" on the oatmeal and a forecast for more snow.  And our life goes on because we have our hopes not in anything of this world but in the grace of the cross.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The THING About Hair.

     Last night my fab hubby and I spent literally over 30 minutes picking dead grass out of Etienne's hair.  That was AFTER I had scrubbed, conditioned and picked it out.  That was AFTER his teacher painstakingly picked out rocks and other playground debris.  When I say that thing is a vacuum, I don't joke!  And, yes, I have used a vacuum on his head before to get the sand or whatever out.  It sorta works but his hair has grown beyond that stage of using
     There are great resources out there for both of my boys' hair.  Sites like "chocolate hair, vanilla care" cater to families like ours.  Which I find helpful but sort of lame.  I really want to learn from the source.  So I email my black friends.  I ask at the barber shop.  I strike up conversations in the elevator.  The majority of the time, my inquiring mind is well received.  There is a lot of pride about hair and I can see that in Etienne.   Than there is that hygiene issue.  In my head I was thinking, as I pulled out a leaf, "this looks like a homeless child." I know, I crossed a line.  Darn it.
     So the easiest solution is to shave it all off, right?  Just go back to our every other week trip to the barber shop.  Keep it short and fresh.  The easiest solution isn't always right.  Here's why.

No one else can manage the Afro but me.

     I am not saying that to seek out praise.  In case you are just tuning in, my kid doesn't really find a lot of use for me.  Most of the time, he seeks out everyone but me.  But daddy doesn't know how to apply the right product or when.  His brothers like to pat the hair, but they are too rough with the pick.  This is a mama only category.  Also, the big hair gets him positive attention everywhere he goes.  He's already going to stand out a lot of the time in his life and I think that if this gives him a bit more of a confidence booster, than bring it.
      As of this morning, it took me 8 minutes to comb the hair out.  8 minutes of Mommy and E time.  That is why I am going to stop with the threatening ("if you make 'waves' in the bathroom again, the 'fro goes") and continue to scrub the tub of the debris after bath time each night.

Friday, December 7, 2012

OH, joy.

     We just finished ourJesse Tree for the day.  If you aren't familiar with the it, it's a daily devotion to prepare for Christmas.  We are making our ornaments (tedious, memorable) and it's a beautiful mess.  Today's devotion is about God promising Abram as many heirs as stars in the sky.  A lot of the Jesse Tree talks about God's promises throughout the bible leading up to Christmas.  The question today for the entourage was "What kinds of promises has God made to you?"  Zeke, standing on a chair, sparkly eyes glowing, looked at Ryan and me and said:
"God promised me that you will always be my mommy and daddy."
    Joy.  Tears in my eyes.  Sweet boy gets that he is forever home.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Depression: a disorder marked by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite, and time spent sleeping; sometimes accompanied by dejection.

Heartbroken: overcome by sorrow.

     I have been asked, by someone(s) that love me, if I think I am depressed.  I pondered this thought, I didn't take offense or jump to conclusions.  I slept on it.  I prayed on it.  I know what depression is; I talk with women and I screen and I advocate for mental health for my mamas all the time.  I am not against this idea.  I just don't take it lightly.
     I sleep great (when babies aren't born or my kids aren't singing Christmas carols).  My weight hasn't fluctuated and I am maintaining my same diet and exercise.  I did have a stretch where I was easily distracted at work; but that could be because I was getting phone calls from the Principal...maybe.  I think a lot.  I pray more.  A friend said to me last week, "Why wouldn't you be depressed?"
     I love that she asked me this.  Truthfully, I have been low on hope lately.  I realized this as I was waiting in the carpool lane outside the kid's school last week.  Etienne walked past our car and he blew me a kiss.  My heart leapt; he blew me, his mama, a kiss!  As I smiled, I watched him continue to walk along the sidewalk.  Blowing kisses to every car.  That was a kick in the stomach.  I do feel like yelling "ITS BEEN 3 FREAKING YEARS!!!!"   How long won't he love me?  How long before he won't push my hand away when I try to hold it or stop lying to me about the littlest and biggest things? How long before it stops hurting?  When will he say "I love you too, Mama"?
     I decided in the car pool lane that I am heartbroken.  I feel like loving this boy carries the weight of all the orphans in the world.  I'm not a saint.  I cry 6 nights out of 7 (and I am married to this saint that keeps telling me "he doesn"t know what love is").  I'm so, so over the attached parenting model.  My feelings are hurt over and over at this little boy that still doesn't really buy this family thing.  I am heartbroken, but I am not depressed and I am not out of hope.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 1: 11-12
"In Him we were also chosen; having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity to the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory."
     This verse was part of the sermon on Sunday.  I listened as we prepared our hearts in Advent.  I walked out of worship a little less worn down.  As we went to pick E up from Sunday school, the teacher said the dreaded "Can I talk to you in private?"  The six year old used the word sexy and wanted help writing it.  Vomit in my mouth.  We listen to KLOVE for heaven's sake.  Gross, gross, gross.  I felt anger but I as we drove (Ryan making a list of consequences, me stewing), I realized I didn't care what the teacher thought about what kind of family we must be.  A little tiny piece of my brain was recognizing that he wanted to write something down (don't judge, I know its a disgusting, ugly word). Words and letters!  This is called hope.
     My hope isn't in attachment parenting.  It isn't in time (3 YEARS, PEOPLE, 3 YEARS!!!).  I don't have hope in bonding.  My hope isn't even in how patient I am or if he ever gets to the point where he loves me.  My hope is in that promise that began with the Israelites, the same hope that guided the shepherds and comforted Mary.  It absolutely stinks right now.  I am frustrated, tired and discouraged but my God's got this.  And this is why I "wouldn't" be depressed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In My Heart

 "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." -Luke 2:19

  Please.  I do not in any way, shape or form compare myself to Mary or my son to Jesus.  I share that because there are a lot of moments, words, looks, touches, that I don't share.  I keep them in my heart.  They are sometimes too personal, to painful or too beautiful to share with anyone.  This verse always pops into my head when we are in one of those moments.  Truthfully, a lot of them are not worthy of sharing because they hurt or because I want to guard E's heart and mine.  But they are moments that are shaping this boy's story; I know with absolute certainty that this story is big.  It's what keeps me going, having this faith that God is using E to bring Him glory.
  On Etienne's birthday we kept it low key.  Uneventful on purpose.  He had a special "mommy and daddy date," and time with close family.  Other than that, we've been trying really hard to keep a strict schedule with a lot of intentional time for him alone with low stimuli.  It is helping everyone.  On his birthday, when I started seeing him spiral, I took him out of the playing, the cake and the festivities.  We headed to the tub and I could visibly see him just exhale.  Like his whole body let go of tension (which to him looks like yelling, crashing, bullying and obnoxiousness).  He stayed in the water until it got cold, humming and chatting.  As I wrapped him up in a towel, he asked for one more picture on his birthday.  This is the gift we got.  I will treasure this in my heart and ponder it on days that I can't get off the pantry floor.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Today we will have friends and strangers in our home.  There is a stain of unknown origin that mysteriously appeared in the living room, mismatched dishes (it's shabby chic!) on the table, and when guests use the toilet, they'll notice the newest drawing on the wall.  But if you look closely, that drawing is the letter 'L'.

Today I am on call.  I may or may not have to leave the festivities to welcome a babe into the world.
And my children will tell me (with seriousness)  not to drop the baby.  My husband will kiss me and wish me fun times.
Today the 5yo will most likely beat box something inappropriate about a nose being ripped off or bodily function.  His big brother will laugh so hard with his jack-o-lantern grin that he'll probably fall off the chair.  It will no doubt be loud and maybe a bit confusing to guests.  Those brothers won't notice because they'll be too busy in their own fun.

Today Molly will launch into a very long and detailed story; most likely about a girl or girls from other countries joining together to fix some huge problem.  Despite the length making it difficult to concentrate, her voice and her heart will be loud and clear throughout.
Today I will trip, fumble and spill my way around our crowded kitchen because my littlest chef, Zeke, will be my shadow.  He will definitely turner a mixer on or drop an egg on the floor as he "helps."  He'll be jabbering a mile a minute, grinning ear-to-ear and reminding each dinner guest that he cooked the food.
Today there will be probably be somethings(s) taken apart or broken.  At some point I will feel exasperated.  There will a lot of noise, indoor racing and/or crashing, nudity and organized chaos.
And I will remember the Thanksgiving when I thanked God that He had laid out this very unclear path of adoption for our family.  I will remember how my arms were just beginning to ache for my children not yet home.  I will remember that I couldn't comprehend what our life would look like or how little I truly understood the meaning of grace.
And I will be thankful.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


     Yesterday afternoon I had just arrived home.  Ryan and I were sitting, having a semi-stressful conversation on the edge of the bathtub, still in our work clothes.  Both of us were preoccupied and distracted.  Etienne walked in and leaned against the wall and watched us.  For a moment, he was quite and still.
     I told him, "Buddy, you are so handsome."
     He walked slowly up to his mama and daddy, leaned into us and wrapped his arms around our necks.  Then he stayed there, quiet and calm.  Geniune.  Real.  My eyes teared up.  My husband's too.
     A real hug and a moment that wasn't forced.  We didn't initiate it.  He didn't crash into us and he didn't do it because he was trying to manipulate us or get out of something.  As I type, I am crying for thankfulness.  Hugs are not taken for granted here.

"To give them beauty from ashes..." -Isaiah 61:3

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guest Blogger

     Hi my name is Molly and I am 9. When I was 6, I went to Rwanda to adopt my brothers Etienne and Zeke.  Being in the orphanage made me sad seeing how they had so much less than us.  I gave some of the kids little colorful stickers and they didn't know what to do with them.  I wished that I could give them yummy food and make their rooms a lot nicer.  I wish that they could get a family who would take good care of them.   Now, I want to go back and work at the orphanage because I can make life a little nicer and more fun while I am there.  Teaching them little games and telling them stories will show them that someone is thinking of them.  
     In the bible there are a few verses that say that you should not leave orphans in the dust and that we should care for them.  I agree.  Not all people can adopt but we can at least care for them.  
     My mom and dad are making me pay for the trip all by myself so you can see that I need a little help here.  They told me that if I wanted to go, I had to reserve a spot.  I wanted to prove to them that I could do it and I prayed about it.  Then I had a face painting booth at my school and my daddy's school football game.  It was pretty much successful.  I could reserve my spot.  But I still need help.
     To help me (and also to get a little something nice for you or someone else), here's how. Below are 2 links. One is to the Visiting Orphans page, where you can buy some nice products like jewelry or shirts.  It's easy! At the checkout, you can click on a button and select "Higgins-Rwanda 2013" and type in my name, Molly Higgins.  Or you can just donate everything you have to me under the donations button. 
      The other is to the Just Love Coffee page, where you can buy coffee from all over the world and $5 of each bag will go to my trip.  They are from other countries and are called free trade.  My mom always gets presents from this website and I love things from around the world so even if I hate the taste of coffee, I would still drink it!!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

2 Steps Forward, 1 Leap Back

The Stride Rite, XX-Wide Etienne shoes
     Etienne figured out how to tie his shoes.  To every kid (and care giver) this is a big milestone, but for our boy, this was bigger, "epic" as Molly would say.  Most of the time, Etienne struggles with simple tasks like going to the restroom or remembering the sound of his letters; and he is brilliant, brilliant boy.  It's just that a lot of his wires, his emotions, his senses, they all get tangled up and so when he "gets" something, it is monumental.  And it's emotional.  For all of us.
     The shoe tying "light bulb" moment was surrounded by his crew.  Molly is kissing him and Blake is explaining "Etienne! You did it! And this is good attention!" (he has been trained well and it was all genuine joy that he expressed).
I was capturing it on film to hide my tears and Ryan just smiled.  He gets the credit on this one for patiently demonstrating the loop over and over.
     We also had a couple of days of "Way to Go!" behavior.  There was some listening, some hard work on letters and even helping another classmate out. In the kid's school, a "Way to Go!" card earned him a free kids meal at Applebees.  Our plan is a mommy and daddy date to Applebees just the three of us.
     I am thrilled. I am so proud of him.  Honestly, I am.  The battle I am having is a selfish one because I want that good behavior.  All the learning is such a blessing and huge progress.
     Thankful. Grateful.  Relieved.  Encouraged.  All words and emotions that I should feel.  And I do.  But this little human corner of my mama heart is still sad.  Sad that I can't get this.  Hurt that he looks me in the eye and he lies to me.  Sad that he finds tools and gadgets to damage and deconstruct; knowing full well it is me that will fix, clean and put everything back together again.  I pray over and over that I can love him the way my Heavenly Father loves me.  That I can continue to wake up and forgive and hug and snuggle and walk away when his words and his actions make me want to slap something or someone.
     God sustains me in the unconditional love that I am so privileged to see.  Molly checks in on E every day.    I found her secretly reading Adoptive Families magazine; an article entitled "Navigating the Older Child," with tears in her eyes.  She looked at me and said, "I wish we could have had E sooner."   Me too, sweet girl.
This love is real.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It IS Sorta Funny

     God has replenished my sense of humor again (my husband is thankful for this) which is good because some of the stuff that has gone down lately has absolutely required us to laugh.
     Remember our beloved Dr C the piano teacher?  Unfortunately, Dr C got a glimpse of why we choose not to take our entourage very many places.  On piano lesson days, Etienne gets Dr C all to himself.  45 minutes of individual, one-on-one, undivided attention.  This kid's dream.  Well this kid loves his Dr C.  He loves him so much that he locked himself into Dr C's bathroom for 12 minutes (as reported to Ryan at the end of the lesson), followed by 4 minutes of "shoe messing around," then 5 minutes of "sweatshirt struggles."  Ryan marched Etienne into the house after hearing this report but before I could hear about it, I could smell it.  The overwhelming smell of men's department store hit me in the kitchen as soon as they walked in from the garage.  Dr C's cologne.
     Ryan was too engrossed in the description of Etienne's lesson to notice the smell (also, Dr C is a classy, well dressed, well groomed guy, so I think his house just smells handsome).  I knew without asking.  Etienne has drenched himself in cologne.
     An hour later, Etienne and I waited patiently to apologize to Dr C.  Then he and I entered the bathroom.  Good heavens.  I know exactly what went down.  E thought, "I love Dr C, so I want to smell like him."  He began investigating and before he could stop himself, an entire bottle of cologne is in the Afro as well as the bathroom floor. Not to mention some medicated cream smeared on the toilet and shaving cream decorating the woodwork.  Ah. There is that instant gratification we are always battling.  As I sat scrubbing the floor, I had to giggle (not in front of E, mind you).  The nuns at Home of Hope had laughed and laughed at Ryan and me.  At the time I thought they were a bit rude but they knew just what we were getting ourselves in to.  
     We are $70 less since purchasing the Aramis cologne to replace the bottle that permeated off E for so many days.  Ryan had him raking leaves (he sobbed, muttering how unfair we are. Again, I worry the neighbors have surely called CPS by now), I pointed out every $70 toy in the Holiday Toys R Us catalog and the big kids had fun adding up all the things that equal $70. 
This= 2 XBOX 360 games or a skateboard + an Avengers outfit
     Lying in bed, Ryan and I began composing a list after this debacle.  I call it our EXTREME PARENTING EXPERIENCES.  It includes such moments as one of the kids driving the car into the side of the house (which Blake put to a stop just in time) and patching holes in the drywall after a "dance off."  I have included scrubbing Preperation H off the side of the piano teacher's toilet to this growing list.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weighted Blankets

     We were the recipients of two very thoughtful gifts.  My mom and sister, Katie, made Etienne and Zeke each their very own weighted blanket.  Sounds weird to some of you, I'm sure.  But these things are beyond fabulous.
     The thought behind a weighted blanket is that the pressure on nerves helps the senses to focus and interpret data more efficiently.  Since I deliver babies, the analogy easiest for me is to think of how we calm a newborn.  We swaddle them tightly and we hold them.  Ryan and I figured out a long time ago that both boys calm down faster and can refocus if we hold them tightly, lie on top of them or swaddle them.  It's nearly impossible for me to do any of these things for all  Etienne's 69lbs.  Enter the blanket.  12 lbs of blanket!
     Mom and Katie saved coupons and built up a supply of poly-pellets.  They searched high and low for fabric that "fit" each boy; funny mustache print for E and track/running fabric for Ezekiel.  Than came many days and some sleepless nights of constructing these bad boys.  I know that each of them felt the weight of the blankets in their necks and shoulders as they stitched them together.  Such a labor of love.
     Zeke's blanket has cut our morning meltdown time to 5-10 minutes, whereas before I am not exaggerating to say that getting him dressed easily took 40 minutes.  Now, when he freaks out about how is underwear or socks feel, I calmly lay him in his blanket and we pray that he find God's strength to overcome how something feels.  Then we sing a worship song and he's usually ready to unwrap and face his clothing.  The funny thing is that he can't unwrap himself so if I get distracted poor Zeke waits in his blanket burrito until I realize that it's unusually quiet.
     Sleep.  Etienne is sleeping longer stretches.  He is keeping his body on the bed.  We don't jump at the sound of him crashing his head on the wall.  And. Wait for it.  He hasn't been wetting the bed.  For the most part, he is waking up with dry layers.  CRAZY!  Sure, we are still having 2 or 3 day runs where he is getting up in the middle of the night and wondering.  But he is falling asleep quickly and sleeping much better.  That means we are too.
     Don't get me wrong.  I don't think that weighted blankets are a magical gift.  I absolutely think that God used these women in my life, with their thought and skill, to give us another tool to help get through the days and the nights.   Very, very grateful am I.
Here is the link to the pattern that they used.  I know the poly-pellets aren't cheap but they watched for weekly Michael's coupons and bought bags with those.

Grandma with the boys.  Photos of them using the blankets feels to private.

Aunt Katie isn't in too many pics-it seems to be a mom thing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Little Things

Sometimes I get questions about how I get through those moments. The ones that seem to escalate and escalate.  I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing most of the time.  But here are a "moves" that seem to help both Zeke and Etienne (whether it's a sensory issue, RAD or whatever)
  • Turn the music on really loud.  Etienne (and his mama) have been digging Hillsong
  • Pray aloud.  This helps me stay calm.  Truthfully, I pray for myself, so my kids can hear me, partly because I want to see this kid the way God sees them and partly because I want them to know that I can't do this alone and that I'm not just giving them lip service when I tell them to pray all day long.  I also sometimes recite bible verses.  Your kid isn't going to listen to you lecture right now anyway.
  • Snuggle & Swaddle. Again, your kids isn't going to listen to you lecture right now anyway. If you hold them tightly you can help sooth and resist the urge to hit/spank (I'm honest and I know that no matter what The Connected Child may say...this is sometimes almost impossibly hard)
  • Blow out the birthday candles. I pull out my coping mechanisms that I use on my laboring patients.  Helping your kid (and you) focus on breathing in their nose and out slowly through the mouth can calm the screaming or snotty crying.
  • Confess to someone else.  Text or call someone that loves you ALL THE TIME and gets what this really looks like.  I don't say much.  Something like "I'm not okay right now. I don't want to get too angry at this kid"
  • Think about the first time you saw this child. For me, I can never ever erase watching an "Auntie" scrub my child's face with lard and a bucket of cold water on a concrete slab.  I share this image because it's painful, it's heartbreaking and it's a piece of our history.  God gave me that glimpse into my children's life before we brought them home so that in these times of trial and suffering, I can be heartbroken for them all over again.  Those tearful memories serve a purpose.  Use them.

"..we rejoice in our sufferings because suffering produces endurance & endurance, character and character hope." Romans 5:3

Friday, October 12, 2012

He is here.

     Sitting at an intersection tonight.  Outside of Molly's window is a man holding a cardboard sign:
"Out of gas money.  Veteran."
     Molly knew our routine.  I gave her all my cash (don't judge, Ryan and I agreed to this a long time ago) and she stuck called "Hey, dude. Hang in there." I love that girl.
     From the middle row of the van the incessant yelling and wiggling stilled.  Then I heard the sweetest words.  My heart skipped a beat.
 "God please take care of that man tonight, even if he doesn't know you yet.  And please give him a house to sleep in and a family to take care of him."
     Etienne said those words.
     God is not dead.  He's surely alive.
     That is HOW I get out of bed each day.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"I wait patiently for the LORD...." -Psalm 40:1

(read the rest of Psalm 40 here)
     The weekend was like a punch in the gut.
     Ryan was out of town.
     Parenting this boy, these boys, feels like I'm always on a steep, uphill climb.
     I fear that people have tired of our drama. (Yeah, Kara, we get it, you have a lot of laundry and your kid likes to make you cry.  Its been three years already. It can't be that bad)
     I don't want to lament.
     I'm paranoid that the world thinks I exaggerate.
     Yet this burden is breaking my heart.
     I've been fighting a lot of anger.  Anger toward people around us that I feel have given up on my family.  That don't believe or understand how much suffering happens between these walls.  Anger toward my children that we can't function in the world at large. Or even in our living room.  
     Anger at God.  There I said it.
     Anger that He can't just heal this broken heart.  That He's allowing my son to push me and hurt me and drive me down this dark, lonely road.  
     I took a midnight run in my sweats.  My husband waited at the driveway, trying to protect me from a distance and guard his children that slept quietly in their beds.  I waited on the Lord while I ran.  Prayed for a sign, a voice, something to renew my spirit.  All was quiet.
     The next day, I took a 2.5 hr hike to and around a cemetery (Ryan's comment: At least you were safe there.).  I waited on the Lord.  Again, I called out for something to renew me.  Instead, the dog glanced back at me, bored and tired as countless barn swallows dived around us.  Still quiet.
     And then my phone buzzed.  A friend in Texas sent me a message that I was on her heart and she was praying over me.  Again, the buzzing.   A fellow midwife sent a text that she was thinking of me.  Still another and another and another.  God showed up in my friends from afar: CA, TX, PA, VA.  And then, AND THEN, I received a text from a Rwanda mama I don't hear from often.  I read these words. 
 "Seriously. World about to be rocked.  I am looking at your son from the summer before you adopted him.  At least I am almost sure of it."

     Ryan and I set staring, tears streaming down our cheeks.  This photo.  That boy.  That is our son, OUR SON, before he knew he was ours.  When Got began etching him into our hearts.  This is sacred.  This is holy.  For a child whose beginnings are so foggy, with so many holes in the first chapters of his story, this is unspeakably valuable.  God is here.  He has always been here.  His heart is breaking over and over again for Etienne and for Etienne's mama. 

     Most of the time, I feel like this little island.  Really near to my community, but not with it or in it.  As close as I can get and still maintain the needs of my children.  Are there other families out there that feel so isolated in order to survive?  This separation, it's not a choice, it's a necessity.  Even if it is lonely and distant, He is here on this island with me.  Between the mean words and the hollow hugs, He is here.

     I've realized that some of my anger, God used it to open my eyes on where my strength and my reliance is.  Maybe my small group, my community of other moms, my coworkers, even my husband, I value too much.  They could all (and sometimes do) be taken from me.  But my God has not left me or forsaken me.  My only strength should be in Him.  Repeat.  My only strength should be in Him.  Repeat.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Not Fair

     I'm sitting on top of 2 mattress pads, a plastic sheet, regular sheets and 3 towels.  Getting ready to make Etienne's bed for the third time since last night.  I'm bitter.  I'm grumpy.  I have him in diapers because I can't keep up on his laundry.
     As I sit here, the television babysitting my children, I'm thinking about how unfair it is that after 3 years, we still have this crap (excuse my french).  I'm noticing the teeth marks on his once beautiful bunk bed purchased by friends that prayed him home to me.  I've got a lot of anger tonight.  His behavior today has led to Zeke screaming and crying about underwear, a meltdown about his waistband and sobs about the seat belt.  It makes me angry, mad, grumpy. Ugly.  Sometimes I really stink at this.
     So I lied down in Etienne's bed and decided to pray for my heart.  I really didn't have words but God knows.  In between my tears, He heard me.
In the midst of my melting anger and sniffling I heard this voice whisper "it's not fair for Etienne."
     It's not for that Etienne wasn't nursed and nurtured by me as a baby.
     It's not fair that Etienne doesn't cry when his finger is caught in the door because he's been conditioned to believe that no one cares about his pain.
     It is not fair that when I ask my son who loves him, he says "I don't know."
     It isn't fair that I found lots and lots of crackers between his pillow and the wall.  He is unsure that he will have a meal when he needs one.
    I'm putting his sheets back on and I'm returning the crackers to the pantry.  On the way back I'm going to give him the Sam's Club sized bag of baby carrots.  Don't let me fool you.  I'm not up for doing some attachment, snuggling wear-your-kid response.  But God has renewed my strength to at least put the sheets back on the bed and tuck my son into them once again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


     Today between 4 and 6:45 we had piano, theater, a soccer game, 3 conferences and football.  This was the time frame of Ryan's parent teacher conferences too.  I survived.  No one missed anything, I didn't get a speeding ticket, forget anyone anywhere or lose anybody.  Mission accomplished.
     Etienne's conference had his teacher and his ELL (English Language Learning) teacher too.  She gets E first thing in the morning.  Her words exactly were "It is such a great way to start my day because he is amazing."  Turn on the tears.  She went on to say that while he has long way to go academically, she loves his enthusiasm and that he gets excited when he makes a connection.  His kindergarten teacher expressed that she knows he is trying and that she can see improvement in his behavior.  More tears.  She asked how things were at home.  Choking up.  We explained a little bit more about the nature of RAD and Ryan reassured her (if you can call it that) that I've always taken the brunt of his abuse.  Par for the course.
     Praise God that someone can see my son's heart.  All I have been praying for, literally, is that the adults that are with him when Ryan and I can't be will see that he is desperate for acceptance, approval, love.  And at least we feel like they may be getting a glimpse of his true spirit.  So thankful for that.
     I can't leave out my "Bigs."  They were both elected as the first first and fourth grade "Citizens of the Month" of the school year.  No surprise with Miss Molly but Blake often does his own thing no matter what the adults in the room suggest.  Apparently, his teacher gets his sense of humor and patience.
     Blessed parents are we.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Zeke Catches the Thief

     The following story is not exaggerated for affect.  I really couldn't make this up.  We may have a lot of stress and dysfunction, but I am fairly confident that my family is one of the more interesting ones you know!
     Molly has been saying for months that she is going to go with Ryan and me to Rwanda next summer with Visiting Orphans and we have made it very clear that she must come up with the funds ($3500) if she really wants to go.  I know, I know we are tough but we both feel that if she prayerfully made this choice, than God will provide her a way.
     Hence the face painting.  At her back to school carnival, Molly made $49 painting cheeks of her fellow classmates.  She also got a dog walking gig and some motivation out of it.  Last night was the Abe Lincoln High School Homecoming Game.  She sent the Principal an email earlier in the week asking if she could paint   faces at the game.  Bless those teenagers!  The student council donated tail gate money, all the dance team girls got in line, and  by half time Molly had made over $200.  So proud of her.

    Meanwhile, back at the grassy lawn behind their sister, the boys are playing catch.  Of course, where there is a ball, boys will come.  Before long, Blake, Etienne and Zeke have quite a crowd of boys playing 2 hand touch.  Along came the middle schoolers to ruin all the fun.  I was close by and trying not to interfere.  Before I knew it, I see Blake and Zeke bolt toward the parking lot.  A good 25 yards away.  I started running after them, yelling in true mom style "That's a dark parking lot, you turn yourself around!!"  They are long gone by the time I enter the parking lot, but I see a lot of commotion on the ground up ahead.  Zeke has passed up a COP who is chasing a rather chunky middle school kid.  The cop is screaming something about stealing as Zeke dives onto the kid's pants and the kid hits the ground.  Followed by the cop.  Chunk the thief is fake crying as the cop gets on his phone to call the kid's parent.  By this time a small crowd of older kids is now cheering Zeke for tackling the thief.  Ball back in hand, he smiles in true Zeke style and says "That kid tried to steal my brother's ball."  I was so surprised at the whole ordeal that I forgot to tell him to leave catching the bad guys to the cops.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Where his heart is

My mom shared this story about E that brings me to tears.
     Sunday she and my dad were running late, so they did "church in the park," singing songs, telling bible stories and spending time in prayer.  The entourage walked near a Vietnam Memorial as well as a MIA/POW statue.  My folks explained to the kiddos what those words meant, then E asked to pray for the soldiers that were MIA/POW.  After praying, the rest of the kids headed off to the playground but E stayed with my mom, saying "I don't think church is over yet."  He prayed some more for those soldiers.
     Later that night, with me, Etienne asked me to help him pray for all the soldiers that weren't with their families at bedtime.  Remember this is my E.  My hurt-my-folks-to-guard-my-heart kid.  This is what encourages me.  This is why I know that my son's redemption story will be worth it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Darn Shoes.

     First, I need to say that I am so appreciative of everyone that served Ryan and me the past few days.  We were able to attend a Visiting Orphans training workshop in Nashville, TN.  We're officially Team Leaders.  Just as importantly, we got 2 nights of >8hrs sleep, a 48hr date, met and worshiped with lots of inspiring people AND had ZERO phone calls from the Principal.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.
     I wanted to share a little bit about how stress looks differently in kids.  It's no secret we've been in a valley lately.  By God's grace, Molly and Blake take it all in stride.  Mr Ezekiel, however, has really been battling his sensory issues.  When Zeke gets stressed, it manifest in how he feels about his clothing, sounds, touch and movement.  It's not exaggeration to say that getting Zeke into shoes each morning takes an hour, followed by lots and lots of whining, adjusting them and tears.  This goes with the waistband and the sleeves of his shirts/shorts.  Ask my folks or the sitter about how long and how many times Zeke changes clothes.
     Sensory issues are common in kids who have been adopted from orphanages, foster care or spent a long time hospitalized.  In simple terms, these kiddos need rewired after spending months or years not being touched and held, not being exposed to various textures, sounds, lights, tastes.  For Zeke, he can't get past how shoes feel.  This is also why he talks exceptionally loud,  could have Ryan spin him around for hours without getting dizzy, likes really, really strong tastes and freaks out about cold/hot.
    Of course, just like everything else, God has got this.  Zeke can't help that he is oversensitive to so much. Often, I wish I could walk into every college Developmental Psych class and say "this is your answer for nature vs nurture."  It matters.  Every loving touch, snuggle, rock, hug, eye contract, gaze and affection a child receives, it all makes a difference.  To the new mamas that just want to get their baby on a schedule and are tired of cuddling their toddlers to sleep, all those moments make a difference.  There is nothing that can replace love.  I can't ever undo that Zeke spent most of his waking hours in metal crib, surrounded by other quiet babies conditioned to not cry.  But I can continue to take a deep breath, pray over him and rock him until he doesn't notice the threads in his socks.  I can have faith that in God's time, this too shall pass.
     Most mornings, unfortunately, I have had to resort to threats to get him out the door because I can't physically stop  our routine to rock him and squeeze him tight for more than a few minutes.  It's easy to get frustrated with the nonstop whining , but Zeke deserves the extra patience, the extra minutes getting ready and the elimination of choices in his wardrobe!  We've dug out our box of rice and I've added a heavy blanket to his bed.  We're encouraging him that God gives him strength to overcome any feeling that he has and that what's real is our touch.  Our love.  Here and now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The best gift.

     Today is my birthday.  We celebrated by going to piano/soccer/football/theater.  Just kidding.  I love my crazy life.  It's no secret that my crazy life has been a bit more painful as of late.  Tonight I  got a great gift.  Like a little encouragement straight from God.
     The entourage was in the midst of bedtime chaos.  Nudity and noise.  Etienne somehow got hold my wedding ring and I heard it clang into the sink.  It spun around the drain but managed to land directly in the middle of the cover.  Whew!  Of course, I didn't react with my "trust based attachment mode"  I scolded him and then moved on.  A couple of minutes later I glanced over at the unusually quiet kid sitting against the door.  He had 2 big tears sliding down his face.  Wasn't screaming, yelling or pounding anything.  I asked him if those were tears.  (I know, stupid question, but it was genuine shock).  He nodded.
"I just feel sad that I almost lost your wedding ring."
      What?!  I hugged him tight and cried.  I told him that I wasn't sorry that he felt sad for hurting me because it meant that a little corner of his heart got a bit squishy and open for love.  I told him that this was the best birthday present I could have asked for.  It was.
     Side note: my card from Blake was signed "Your son, Blake," while Molly made me a paper heart and the above sunglasses.  Then there is Zeke.  He drew a picture of him and I both turned into tornadoes, holding hands.  Nothing says "I love Mama" like two twisters.

My  Molly got me super hip Ray Bans that are covered with peace signs and  anti-war slogans; very  midwife-ish. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I got it, thanks.

     He was having a melt down about getting dog poop on his snowboarding boots.  I helped him clean them up and calmly asked him to please open his eyes and look at me.  He opened his eyes, but looked past me at the trees.  I took him by the hand to go inside and cook dinner together.  He slapped my hand away and whispered, "why does she make me hold hands. I don't ever want to hold hands."
     Well if I hadn't picked up on the looking through me part, I got that message loud and clear.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Button Down the Hatches

     Molly and Blake are amazing.
     If anyone was wondering.  Case in point.  Yesterday was a long, rough parenting day for Ryan and me.  Etienne had spent some time in the Prinicpal's office.  No one needs to go into the 'whys,' but it was behavior that infuriated (maybe even a bit more his teacher daddy than his mama) as well as exasperated us. When discussing the day, Etienne said "I don't even care when I get in trouble" to the two of us.  We believe him on this too.   Needless to say, we were brainstorming our next moves.  We decided to mention the brother in the office to his older siblings; knowing full well that Blake is by far the most influential person in Etienne's life.
     At the dinner table, when they heard that little bro had been to the Principal's, Molly and Blake were bummed.  Then Molly said "I wish I could be a little angel on his shoulder,"  Blake followed with, "No, he needs a camera on his head, then I could whisper into a ear mic what he should do next."     
      They preceded to explain to Etienne all the things he could do at school and for mama and daddy to get "good attention."  The list included playing kickball on Blake's team (he knows E's talented!), walking in the hallway, buying lunch sometimes instead of "always making mommy pack," and saying his teacher was pretty.  This encouraged me so much to see them love their brother well. And serve their parents.
     It's time to say no to everything.  We need to stay in, stop participating and stop pretending we are normal.  This kid is struggling.  We are seeing hoarding, lying and digression.  Tonight I was bummed to miss our first missional community (small group) of the year.  I was having a pity party that this kid can't handle going to other people's homes.  That our anxiety is high all the time.  Than I looked at my big kids; pulling out coloring books and trying to work on the alphabet with him.  Not asking.  Just loving.  I may be stinkin' at parenting the RAD-kid-at-school thing, but God's grace is sufficient for the six of us.
Check out the Sam's Club carrots.  He had just finished 2 bowls of soup,  2 salads, 2 tomatoes and a Popsicle... insecurity= hoarding

So awesome.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Beautiful Things

Sparrow #2 has lasted all week.
        Someone sent me a text today, "I've been checking your blog, how are you?"  So sweet and  yet brought so much guilt.  I know to many people that  it's messed up that I can put it all out there quote, unquote.  If someone asks me how I am, I refuse to give the "I'm fine" answer.  Really, I just found my 13yr old aloe plant in the bathroom sink and I'm pretty sure the dog is wearing my perfume.  Really.  Most people don't know if it's okay to laugh or cry at the absurdity of our daily life.  So instead of making everyone feel uncomfortable,  I reflect, I blog, I see Beautiful Things.  It's a roller coaster here; we go into survival mode, riding out the latest battle that Etienne fights.  Usually, by the time I'm on the pantry floor, in a tearful, snotty mess, it's about to be over.  That's when I can look back at it and see some beauty somehow.
     Tonight it was just Molly, E, Zeke and me.  We had a fun evening and I was aware of how sweet each moment was.  Coming home, there was some lying and some destruction.  I acknowledged his lie, didn't give him opportunity to  make it a bigger whopper and as I was talking, it was like I could hear Karyn Purvis or our counselor saying "Don't further talk in the moment, he isn't hearing you," but I couldn't stop myself from reminding him that lying makes the problem way bigger.  He turned into this screaming, hollering, kicking mess.  I hugged him with my whole body to calm him down. What he did next broke my heart. He squeezed his eyes shut, his hands balled into a fist and his shoulders hunched over.  It looked like he is afraid for his life.  And I know that although there have been countless times that I have wanted to squeeze him with anger, I haven't ever physically hurt him.  But his physical response, it breaks me and it takes me back to the moment I saw him sitting naked on a cold concrete slab.  Getting a bucket of water dumped on his head and having some rough hands scrub him with lard.  I can't ever erase that image from my head and I share it because I know that many people will live life without witnessing injustice like that.  But God burned that glimpse into my son's former life on my heart to give me just a little bit more empathy, a little bit more patience.  That little boy has had more wrongs done to him in his life than I can count.  His body language reminds me that this is the reason he hurts me.  It isn't about me.  It isn't about my walls, his classmates or any of our stuff.  It's all about a broken hearted little boy that still doesn't believe he is lovable.
     I continued to hold him.  I prayed aloud, like I have started to do when I don't know what else to do.  Than he stuck his thumb in his mouth, closed his eyes and put his hand on my heart.  Patting my chest, he felt my necklace and said "There is your sparrow."  That is beauty out of ashes.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's the Little Stuff

     Yesterday my sparrow was found.  By another teacher in another classroom.
     Yesterday Etienne hugged me.  A real hug around my neck on his own initiation.  Etienne crashes into me, he pushes me away or he climbs on me but I don't remember the time he willingly touched me because he
 wanted to touch me.  Just for touch, for contact.  I didn't realize until he had his arms around my neck how much I needed this.
     I consider the found sparrow and the hug to be a gift.  Like a hallmark card of encouragement.  So, so thankful for these.

PS Thank you for the comments here, the texts, the prayers, the emails.  God used you in big ways to bless me this week.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This is What Love Looks Like

    "I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.  Because he inclined his ear to me therefore I will call on him as long as I live." -Psalm 116:1-2
     I woke up early today and caught a baby.  On my drive home, at sunrise, I was praying that God would just pour out compassion and mercy on me toward my son today.  At that moment, a song came on the radio and the lyrics said something about "and I will live to carry your compassion, to love a world that's broken, to be your hands and feet."  Awesome.  I can do this again.
     I needed that encouragement because in the hours before school, Etienne was full of anger toward me.  He couldn't articulate his feelings and it didn't matter what I did, I just got the brunt of tears, yelling and whining.  It was okay.  We can do this.  God can do this.
     It was only 9am when I saw the caller ID say "Lewis & Clark," and I heard the nurse's voice telling me that Etienne had run, deliberately, into a wall on the way to ELL.  She informed me that he had quite a goose egg but he was otherwise fine and ready to go back to class.  I hung up the phone and a little voice in my head was telling me that he needed me.  I wanted to confer with my husband, a counselor, another attachment mom.  Ultimately, a few text encouragements later, I was at the school.  Feeling the judgement of the school secretary and the school nurse (huddled together, arms crossed, forced smiles, "boys do those things" comments), I sat down in front of my E and I told him I loved him.  I told him when he wasn't with me, he was still my son and he was still always on my mind and in my heart.  He wouldn't look me in the eye and he pulled away from my touch.  I took off my sparrow necklace and put it around him.  I wear it 24/7 to remind him that "even the sparrow has a home," (Psalm 84:3) and it's our thing.
     A few hours (and no phone calls!) later, I went to pick Etienne up.  No necklace.  "I took the circle and I opened it and I threw the bird out because I didn't want it."  Sigh.  I tried to hold his hand but he pushed me away.  I knew there wasn't a point in talking about it.  I knew it was a risk to have him wear it.  I knew that the necklace, made by my sister Katie, wasn't worth a lot of numerical value but was priceless in my heart.  She assured me that she can make as many as we need.
     This kind of love, it's so messy.  It's so complicated.  Last night, I was in this place where I knew in my core that I loved Etienne, but I didn't want to.  And then my heavenly father renewed my spirit.  He surrounded me by family (biological and chosen) to remind me that I am so privileged beyond measure to walk this path.  To live in grace alone.  To know that every victory was so not my doing.  Today wasn't really a victory for Etienne but I feel like there was a victory within me because I can do this again.  I can take the lies, the manipulation, the destruction and know that it really isn't me.  It isn't about me at all.  It's a battle for my son's soul and I am ready to fight again.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


    Yesterday, in anger and frustration, I left the house for a run in the rain.  As my feet hit the pavement, my eyes caught sight of one lonely acorn on the road.  It lay perfect, full of potential, on the cold concrete.  It's cheesy, I know, but I had this image of Etienne.  There have been many days lately where I absolutely hate attachment parenting.  I just want to give up because it feels so fruitless.  So here is my broken hearted son, that already doubts his purpose and his worth, with a mom that is feels like that lonely pavement.  I can't get passed my ugly feelings without God doing it for me. 
      I'm not gonna lie.  Me and E, we've been battling a lot of lies these last few days.  It is oil and water.  I'm feeling about as bad as I've felt in my mama days.  I know that none of the doubt, the anger, the frustration, the hopelessness is true.  I know.  But I am feeling it anyway.  So I am choosing tonight to worship God.  There isn't anything else I can do.  These are the lyrics I have been listening to over and over and over.  A Rwanda Mama made them on a plaque for me and I just keep humming it.  The victory will someday be His.
"Never Once"  Matt Redman 

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful


Friday, August 24, 2012

Mama Days

     Zeke is in a bit of a mourning period.  He's never been the only child and I am just not that much fun.  No matter how many games we play, books we read or songs we sing, I am not as interesting or amusing as big brothers.  The big kids have been back to school a week and Zeke still gets tearful every morning at good bye time.
     Each night, Ezekiel will figure out the "pattern," whether tomorrow is a "Mama Day" or not.  Then we make our plans: hiking, the library, picnics, Xbox, Memory, Sorry!, walks, Play Dough.  We've made homemade marinara, bread, salsa and roasted tomatoes.  We've cleaned carpets, painted some walls.
     I'm appreciating the dialogue that my 3 sons have with one another.  Now that Blake and Etienne are gone during the day, I am the only audience for Zeke.  "Mama!  Remember that time we were in the car and we saw a bird?"  While I will fake remembering this, Zeke's brothers will know exactly the time and the bird Zeke is referencing.  I am exhausted by the end of our Mama/Zeke days.
     And I love it.  I love that Zeke gets my full attention. Finally.  He doesn't have to wait for the drama to pass or for his turn on my lap.  He gets all of me, all day.  I am so blessed by this sacred time with him.  As long as Ezekiel has been a Higgins', he has often had to wait to get in his snuggles.  It's his turn and it's lovely.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Red & Yellow, Black & White...

     We were enjoying a "kids eat free" night, rehashing our days.  Dinner usually takes forever because of the conversations and that Ezekiel savors every morsel he eats.  I love, love, love our long dinners.  This one was particularly remarkable.
     Etienne said "I'm the only dark kid in my class."
   Shoot.  Weren't we supposed to have a few more years of parenting in a biracial family before this became an issues?  Well, you can't ignore a comment like that.  Here we go.  We jumped into "just the facts" mode, then Blake pointed out that I am the only one in the family with blue eyes.  Molly piped up with something intelligent about issues of race historically causing conflict (Blake with eye rolling here).  We asked Etienne how being the darkest one in the class made him feel but he couldn't articulate.  That's okay.  It is huge that he could verbalize these observations with us.  Although we attempt to surround ourselves with diversity every day, he will be different.  Our job is to get E to a place where he just holds on tight to what his value is in Christ, not his classmates, his skin color or anything of this world.
  I am blessed that my life and my children give me these moments.  These are conversations and lessons we wouldn't experience if God has given us a path of least resistance.  And there is always some humor.  Please note the photos below.

  PS Etienne actually has a class full of red, yellow, black and white kids. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A New Chapter.

"But now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you, Jacob,  who formed you,  Israel, 'Do not fear, I  have redeemed you, I summoned you, you are mine'." -Isaiah 43:1


  • Molly and Blake have the biggest hearts in the world.  They initiated a "football huddle" prayer around Etienne in the driveway this morning.  Blake invited E to play with his friends at recess. Molly loaned him her bracelet.  My heart swelled.
  • Zeke got a day full of the zoo, swimming, his favorite foods and snuggles.
  • I don't have to say a word to the girls I work with.  They just know.
  • The kindergarten teacher that has entered Etienne's life said "I want to meet Etienne where he is."
  • I was overloaded with texts from my loved ones near and far, praying for my children.  Tears.
  • There was a "friend" today next to E (we don't know his name, but he wore a black shirt today.  This is one thing I have really been praying for.  Just one nice kid to be his true friend.
  • Etienne's heart.  Last night at his first football practice, he got picked on (physically and verbally). Kids are stupid, E is twice their size.  We told him "The first time a kid hits you, say stop.  The second time, tell a grown up.  The third time, you hit him back."  He looked at us and said "I could never hit someone."  More tears.  Sweet, sweet boy. 
Right after their huddle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


We went with fresh paint.
And a 5 year old standing with me, holding a spill rag.
We tried to talk about how HE felt when he did this.  At first, he went with "nothing," but before the day was over, he could say he was worried about the kids at school.
Last night, new crayon in the bedroom.  I cringed, but ignored it.  Some wise adoptive parents and a teacher to some really messed up kids suggested this.  Really, no consequence makes a difference.  So its our own frustration and pride that we need to bury.
I still haven't  found that darn black crayon.  Please, no art supplies for his birthday.

Monday, August 13, 2012

We are Seeking Input

Tonight, I despise Crayola.

     Ryan and I have been lying awake, brainstorming solutions for a concrete, new problem. I can't go to sleep until I Lament, and hopefully get some concrete feedback.
      In 6 days we have had 5 separate instances of crayons on the walls. Etienne has colored on the walls/cabinets/floor, and now, tonight six different spots upstairs.
     The crayons and all writing utensils are kept in the family desk, in the kitchen, with easy access to promote creativity.  We don't want to move them because Molly and Blake are constantly coming up with something (letter to Sports Illustrated, a new comic strip about kittens) and it is in a central, easy to see location in our home.  Etienne has not been allowed to use anything in this area without one of us for a long time.  Plus, we really don't have anywhere that E can't get to.  So that isn't an option.
     After the first instance of marker on the bedroom wall, I made a solution of dye free/fragrance free detergent and water.  It was from "How to Clean Everything," copyright 1979, one of my favorite hand-me-downs from my mom.  Well that got the marker off, but also the paint.  The woodwork and hardwoods have been easier to scrub off.  So I'm wondering if anyone has any cleaning suggestions.  At this point, I could care less if they are kid safe or environmentally friendly.  Let's get real.  At bedtime, I discovered a door, closet, bedroom wall, bathroom wall and hallway with black crayon.  I really, really need something that isn't going to take all day and all my elbow grease to work.
     My second request is feedback for responding in a manner that will continue to promote attachment .  The first few times, we made him attempt cleaning and sit next to us while we worked.  Then last night we made him read books while our guest children played.  Obviously, none of this has impacted him.  Suggestions?
     It's also important to note that our child is still so insecure in our love.  Ryan and I sandwiched him last night, reassuring him and talking about how loving God can fix everything.  Then I asked him "Every night, when Mommy and Daddy are praying and snuggling with you, how do we feel about you?"  He shrugged his shoulders.  "I dunno."
     That answer is why I can not spank him, I can not slap his color happy fingers.  That answer is exactly why I have a school aged child habitually damaging our home.  BTW, he could care less about doing art work so save the "redirecting creativity" ideas.
     Our next strategy is that when he awakes, I will have him sit with me a scrub for a really long time.  As long as it takes.  We are back to not letting him leave my side, even to pee, mode.  But if anyone has any thoughts that will promote attachment, help him remember this behavior is BAD and also keep me from LOSING MY MIND, I would love it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What I've Learned This Week

     The meeting with the teacher didn't happen.  Long story.  Hoping to get it all arranged (at least briefly) before Etienne's first day next week  There is very little that we can control and, ultimately, we can't do much to ease Etienne's anxiety or behaviors either.  It's totally a God thing.  I've been discouraged this week, feeling that I'm spinning my wheels with my rhyming songs, fun filled "memory making" summer days, ridiculous routines.  Some days it seems for nothing.  Poor pity party, I know.  I am not going for martyr.  Not wanting sympathy.  Just sharing parenting in our house this week.
     Some of this was brought on by yesterday.  Etienne had pulled an all nighter, literally.  At 3:09AM, he came in and woke us up, giving me a detailed account of everything that went on after we thought he was asleep (this is creepy, trust me).  He hadn't slept at all.  So we lay in his bed, then he laid between us, then on a nest on the floor. Repeat.  Repeat again.  My heart broke as I lay there thinking that if any other kid couldn't fall asleep, we heard about it within a half hour or so because we are their comforter.  My other kids trust me too soothe them back to sleep.  Etienne lied alone for 6.5 hrs before seeking his parents.  Ugh.
     I went to work all day long and Ryan was home with the exhausted child.  Should have been a challenging day, right?  Etienne was a dream kid for his father.  They had very little structure and nothing fun or educational.  Don't get my wrong, Ryan is the best dad in the world, but he is running out of days to prepare for his students, so he was trying to get his room prepared and the entourage tagged along to school.  No working on letters, doing chores, reading and swimming.  Once I returned home, however, I seemed to throw a wrench in the well behaved kid.
     I know,  I know it was at the end of a day.  Between 5pm and bedtime it is usually difficult for Etienne anyway.  It just felt like it was my fault.  I'm battling some hopelessness, some sleeplessness and tossing the RAD into it stinks.  So here is a list of the sweet smelling stuff I've learned in parenting this week.  I'm going for a glass half full here.

  • Silly Putty expands in a drain.  Thanks to my husband and brother, I know how to undo and reattach the drain to get it out.
  • Dye free, fragrance free detergent takes paint off a wall.  But it also gets of marker, ink and crayon.
  • Every time I open my bible, God throws the exact verse I need in my face.  Then my brother often texts me the same one.
  • An entire package of gum can be consumed on the sly, in under 3 minutes, when I'm putting my shoes on.  
  • I don't need sleep to see 20 patients in  day.  I just need God's grace.  And patience from my nurses.
  • No matter how loud it gets in the mini van, Ryan is a master at only hearing Dave Matthews Band.
  • Etienne could seriously compete as a world class athlete.  For real.  Its the motivation that's missing.  My dad and father-in-law are probably shaking their heads that I just realized this.  It was watching his front flip into a dive at the pool that convinced me.
  • Romans 12:12 "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."
  • Breech natural births are awesome.  Not ideal and dangerous but nonetheless amazing.
  • It's only Thursday.