Monday, January 30, 2012


Music (performed by a friend, Katie Dorband, & her amazing band mates)
Prayer (alone & with others)
Food (constant & good)
Nature (a sunrise, towering Georgia pines and a ginormous lake to walk around)
Community (old & new)
Soul Mate (my husband did all the laundry, they did NOT live on fast food, nothing was broken nor were any objects wedged into any orifices)

Sunrise from my balcony

The resort had to accommodate 400+ women; this made me laugh 

A good spot to reflect & pray

Beautiful decor

Roommates, Rwanda moms & new friends.  Please note the no make up and jammies
          Created for Care is for adoptive moms in all stages: contemplating, waiting, just home, foster-to-adopt, special needs, domestic, international, older kids.  I met women who are loving children that the world has forsaken and whose needs are much greater than my kids.  I finally, finally, found the moms that had done this before me, that could give me concrete ideas & a picture of the future.  It's such a fine line between hope and reality....
        Saturday morning, a woman by the name of Dr Susan Hillis (she works as a scientist at the CDC, (how cool is that!), gave a keynote address.  She has every right to, having bio and adopted children that are grown and have weathered some ugly times.  Dr Hillis' website is here.  I felt like I had found a fast forward button to our family down the road.  She ended her speech with a photo of she and her son at a diner on a weekly date- he's in his 20s now.  That floored me.  Her years of battling for his heart led to God's redeeming him and healing many of his behaviors.  I had the opportunity to visit with her and she prayed for me.  Sigh.
Yup, it wasn't awkward in real life.
       I also was blessed to spend face time with my friend Laurel.  I have "known" her since the winter of 2008.  She and her husband brought their son home a few months before we did and so began our online relationship.  To those who have told me that "facebook friends" aren't "real" I say, boo!  Laurel and I have chatted, IM'd, skyped, etc, etc. and this weekend were able to connect live.  So great.  Check out her non-profit, 4-More here.  
     I can't wait to grow some of the friendships, ideas, and opportunities that I found this weekend.  I also prayed Friday night that I would just be able to hear God.  And I did.  All weekend, that little voice in the cobwebs of my brain just kept whispering "He needs to be a baby."  I kept hearing it in the quiet air port and the long ride home.  My amazing Ryan always trusts my change in our plan of attack, so last night we just pretended that E was a toddler, maybe at that age when they just learn to walk and you can't really even let go of them.  We shall see where this leads the 6 of us (and my sanity) next.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A laughing matter

  I have an old fashioned cold and I can't smell anything.  About 10:30 last night, I'm snuggled in my fleece sheets, pillows propped and tissues at hand, when my fab husband climbs in next to, freezes, climbs right back out of bed and says "Ugh. It STINKS like pee!"  He begins frantically peeling back all my cozy layers, burying his face into each to find the source.  I saw patients yesterday, so I sent out texts to the sitter, hoping you-know-who had fallen asleep in our bed.  Nope, he slept in his nest on the floor....meanwhile, Ryan is now sniffing the carpet, attempting to crawl under the bed and peeking behind it.  Meanwhile, I still can't smell a darn thing.  Ryan attributes this extra sensitive nose to post traumatic stress, him being the one in East Africa that pretty much had kid urine on him at all times....  Since I couldn't smell anyway, I just climbed back into my coziness and planned to wash the whole entire room in the morning.
  About 6a this morning, E is wondering down the hall and as I go to escort him back to bed, he asks, "Did you find my underwear on the floor yet?"  Nope, but Daddy's nose has.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Brain freeze.

Today I am stuck.  It's like writers block or a brain fart around here.  We have found ourselves looking at each other, saying "It doesn't matter what we do," with our consequences for Etienne again. I remember an "aha" moment with Molly; she loved being in her room reading, so her consequences (she's seriously had maybe 5 her whole life) were that she couldn't read.  Yup, grounded from books.  Blake is old school; a spanking and a prayer and he's usually good to go.  Zeke has major repentance when we raise our voices at him, so he doesn't require much in the discipline department either.
Every adoptive mom I know struggles with "Is this attachment or is this a strong willed kid?"  I'm a big fan of algorithms and I need to figure out how to make one for E.  An exact response that is guaranteed to be the right answer.  I know, I know an algorithm for any parenting would be fabulous but trust me, parenting a kid with RAD takes the unknown to a whole new level.  There hasn't been an "aha" moment or even much trial/error.  It's crazy!  We can't do the traditional parenting because at Etienne's core is "No one really loves me forever, so I am just going to see what happens if I...."   I never ever hesitate to punish my biological kids because I know that there isn't a doubt in their minds that they are my children and I would die for them.  But putting a kid who doesn't believe he is loved in a time out corner is just pushing him away from what he needs: more love and more attention.  Believe me, it's infuriating and exhausting because time outs are a great way for a parent to catch their breath and get a grip.  So, no time outs for E.  Spankings are sort of taboo too because we don't know 100% that E wasn't physically abused before he was ours.  For awhile losing toys was working but at some point we feel like we are just donating too much and it wasn't fair to the rest of the kids in the house (and we start running low on toys which leads to marker on the piano and holes in the drywall)  The one thing Etienne consistently loves is dessert.  Except this mama will not make dessert for every meal! Heck, these kids just discovered the joy of Village Inn pie last Friday.  I am very aware the disciplining, spankings, time outs, punishments, etc are like sex and politics.  You aren't really supposed to talk about them with friends, right?  Whatever.  There is no shame here.
Ryan, E and I had this really brilliant (so we thought at the time) talk over the weekend:
Mommy:  One time, Daddy told me that he really didn't like it that I never put the toothpaste lid back on when I was done using it.
Daddy: It was messy. And gross.
Mommy: So I said 'I'm sorry I did that.' Then what do you think happened?
E: You made bad choices?
Daddy: No! She started putting the lid on.
Mommy: I showed him that I loved him by putting the lid on because I knew it upset him when I didn't.
E (appears to be processing this): And then it wasn't messy?  Ok, I will put the toothpaste lid on.

So I am back at the drawing board but at least I have a clean toothpaste drawer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Remember when.

A couple nights ago, Zeke asked if he could see the pictures from when we adopted him.  Actually, his words were, "I want to see when you went on the airplane and you sang that song about the mountain moving and than God did."
Zeke is my baby but he isn't a baby anymore.  We frequently forget.  I tried to pry open his little brain to figure out where this idea spun from, but all I got was "My friend Mason doesn't have brothers or sisters, that is so boring."  Zeke and his one liners kill me.
So 5/6th of us  cuddled up on Zeke's bed and watched those sacred moments again.  So sweet and still so awe inspiring at God's love for us.  Seeing the picture below, Blake said, "Molly, I love you."  Be still my heart.
It's not like Molly was doing something remarkable, but Blake must have some sweet memories of this moment with her.

Making birth mom, adoption and orphanages a part of our family's normal language and dialogue has served us well.  There is no shame or sadness in "before you came home," conversations.  I really think E and Z look at their adoption as something normal, natural and that God did it.   And He did.  Don't get me wrong, we are fully aware that at some point, probably during the angst of middle school, there will be resentment and there will be questions.  At least the two of them will have each other and at least in their core they will know they have always been wanted.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I feel loved.

   My husband is a good man.  My adoption mamas are amazing sisters.  God is good.  I am getting respite in 6 days at a retreat geared just for encouraging adoptive families.  I am humbled with gratitude.  
 To check it out, visit the website.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Attached vs Traditional

Reader disclaimer: this is an honest post. Keep your judging at a minimum unless you've been there, done that.
Scenerio 1- Your kid jumps on the bed when he is thought to be sleeping, so forceful that he breaks the frame.
BA (before adoption): spanking, time out with a prayer and loss of privileges
AA (after adoption):  Pray.Time in (don't let that kid out of your sight, he needs attention) for 24hrs, sleep next to mom and dad  until  further notice.

Scenerio 2- The kiddo has just told you that the sitter is the one that removed the all the pages from the books. (Laurel, shame on you!)
BA:  Spanking, prayer, to the room to be alone and "think," than maybe chores to replace the book.
AA:  Pray, time in, than give the kid a box of hard "baby proof" books that can't be damaged, those are the only books he can look at while always in your line of vision, until further notice.

Starting to see the pattern here?
Then run on the tread mill as fast as you can until the prayer and sweat has taken the anger out of you.
Mama's on the treadmill running super fast.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Keeping it Real

I am honored, honored, that many other adoptive families ask me what to do when the honeymoon phase is over.  It motivates me to continue to peel away the layers of attachment disorders.  It's why I am not giving Etienne meds for sleeping or allowing him to destruct little things because they could become big.  I don't want a band aid.  I want a whole child.  It is so cool to be able to pray with other moms that are hiding in their pantries, wondering what to do to make their new kiddo get it.  But I am a long, long way from knowing how to fix a broken heart.
This weekend was one of those weekends that I found myself at the end of "me" again.  In the span of 24 hrs, we had cleaned marker off the piano keyboard, attempted to reassemble a new remote control car that had been dissembled, searched high and low for some irreplaceable pieces of many Christmas gifts, stopped him from hanging/snapping his neck (while reenacting "Puss in Boots" and I am NOT exaggerating) and lost some books from my childhood.  I am not sharing this to lament.  I am sharing this to encourage others on this journey after the casseroles stop arriving and your family has moved down the prayer list.   Because that's when adoption starts.
Another mom pondered "What defines a successful adoption?" and since she asked, I have returned to this question over and over again.   God adopted us as His own without any requirements.  His love is as far as the east is from the west; without bounds or an asterisk at the end.  When you've been home with your longed for adopted child and they are redefining your patience, your parenting skills and your family core, that's when adoption starts.  I remember crying to Ryan one night that I just wanted my heart to feel like I could die for Zeke and Etienne; in my mind that would define a successful adoption.  That was a long time ago, before I came to the end of me and completely, 100% gave up.  And giving up on myself was when I finally started to truly appreciate what unconditional love really looks like   In our family, for us, successful adoption is ongoing and I believe that every so often, when we have incredibly frustrating RAD days (and nights, who am I kidding?), God gives me that reminder that His adoption of me was perfect.  And I am not Him.  He's got this.  So I will keep peeling the layers and putting the ugly moments out there because I know that those ugly moments are molding the six of us to His definition of adoption.  And now I shall google how to remove vasoline from the remote.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Falling asleep with Mama

     855 days.  That's how many days Etienne has been home.  That's how many days it took for him to fall asleep on my lap.  It was worth the wait.
     I had just finished scrubbing the walls from where he had taken his boots and marked a snow-salt path along them when he played with the remote/dvr.  Truthfully, I was acting on exhaustion and frustration, but the "attached parent" reaction was that I snuggled him on my lap on the couch.  As we were snuggling, E said, "Baby Em sleeps on her mama sometimes when she is at our house."  Thus began our conversation about mamas and babies.  I told him that I loved snuggling him because I never got to when he was a baby or really little.  I could tell he was proccessing this but soon he began sucking his thumb, relaxed all his muscles and gave in. 
     I can't recall the first time Molly fell asleep on me but I am positive it was within the first moments of mommyhood.  I don't remember my first true mama moment with Blake.  Mols and Blake were blessed to be borne into arms that had the capability to keep them close for always.  I pray, and I believe, that Etienne's birth mom held him close too, if even for a moment.      
     I remember that all through the waiting game, that paper pregnancy before my boys came home, people telling me "God's timing is perfect," and convincing myself that it was so.  It still is perfect.  855 days perfect.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Basketball vs Piano

  Routines are a big deal for all kiddos.  Routine is essential for Etienne, and when we change our, he comes unglued.  For example, this morning, after we dropped the bigs off to school, we came home before we went to the YMCA.  Usually, we go straight to the Y.  E was very concerned about stopping back home; tearful and whining.  Two hours later, we've had some lying, some peeing and some drama.  I can tell you because I am his mom that this is what RAD does.  I have come to a place of peace with during his mess.  Lately, I have this vision of Etienne, sitting on a concrete slab in a loin cloth and tee, yelling.  I believe God's burned this memory on my brain to give me patience.  Be patient with this boy that never had a snuggle before bedtime.  Be patient with this child that learned not to cry because no one ever answered his tears.  Be patient with your son because I am patient with you.
  Our routine has changed in the last week so I need extra patience.  To those who knew me BA (before adoption), I thrived on being busy.  Somewhere between Kigali and Iowa, we realized the most important time is between the walls of our home.  However, our kiddos need to be allowed to be their own people and so we have to let them pursue their interests outside those walls.  Hence the schedule change! Molly's had her acting/drama stuff for awhile and Zeke still does the baby brother tag along with mama thing.  Etienne tried sports and made it clear that it wasn't his thing.  Blake-man, our virtually vegan boy LOVES LOVES LOVES sports.  As of this week, while Blake is at basketball, Etienne has piano.  It's hysterical to me that our naturally athletic, freaky strong and graceful Rwandan prefers music lessons while his "twin" longs to be the next All Star (and remember it's even funnier because B looks like an anger free, sweet Eminem).  Again, God clearly has a sense of humor, and again, those nuns knew what they were doing.  It would be perfectly natural for E and B to be jealous and competitive with each other, living like twins.  Instead, by God's grace, their interests and strengths are so different; that Blake has a compassionate heart for E and that E is by nature loving.  Such a perfect plan.  It's the laughs at Blake climbing into the van in his sweatband with a basketball while Etienne solemnly loads up music books that encourage my patience and restore my hope. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Girl.

Molly's "head shot," used for auditions.

    She doesn't get a lot of blog posts about her, but Molly could (should) have her own blog.  She's our little writer, actress, negotiator , thinker and prayer warrior.  She's basically awesome (and a teeny bit spoiled because of her princess status as only girl in the Entourage).
     A lot of the time, Molly flies under the radar. Who can blame her, really, with all the nudity and noise around here?  Molly prefers to have her nose in a book, sing a Show Tune in prep for an audition or create an elaborate make-believe game in the woods.  Tuning out her brothers is her specialty.  She is my moral support, knowing what to pray for or telling me "I love you and I'm sorry today was hard."  Who is this kid anyway to encourage her parents like that?!
     Etienne is Molly's "teddy bear," while Zeke is her "sparkly eyed smiley face baby;" both of them rely on her for a lot of affection and reassurance.  Lately, Etienne has gone into her room several times and taken things, then proceeded to take them apart.  Think undoing every link on a necklace or pulling out every page of a book.  Her reaction is to kiss him and tell him she forgives him.  Every time.  Every single time.  The grace that she shows her sometimes-too-difficult-to-embrace brother is awesome.  It motivates me and it reminds me that God is working in this home.  He is working in our family.  I may struggle with 3 steps back and 1 step forward but Molly has an empathetic, nurturing and patient soul.  Ask her what she wants to do someday and she'll say "I want lots of daughters from Asia, to travel around and write books for God."  I so love her.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

the missing tooth

Etienne's newest nest in our bedroom.
     Blake is always wiggling his lower teeth, being a kindergartner, tooth talk is the coolest.  Yesterday Etienne discovered a loose tooth, and giving his knack for taking things apart, he had his tooth pulled out by bedtime(think ouch and gross because both words describe the event!).  Ryan and I were convinced that the whole tooth fairy business would further decrease Etienne's up-all-night behaviors.  Wrong! I am sure God was chuckling at us.  The kid actually snored.  I have never seen him sleep so well as he did last night!
     Further evidence of God's grace in our family is that Blake could care less that Etienne lost a tooth before him.  Chalk it up to his self-assurance if you want to, but I say it's a grace thing that Blake didn't feel bad. (Ok, maybe he's too assured, he did say 'my teeth are super strong you know.')
Is this further evidence that E's age isn't  objective?!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 fall in love

You wanna know what makes me crazy?  That Etienne can sit through 45 minutes of a piano lesson with an elderly man but in the 5 minutes I leave him unattended at home he seeks out a crayon to color on the woodwork.  It's frustrating that he will allow a sitter to sleep through the night but that Ryan and I book a hotel room for respite.  That makes me crazy.  It hurts my feelings that after all this time, his actions still aim to hurt us.  But it's not about me, is it?
Ultimately, Etienne, Molly, Blake and Zeke aren't my kids.  God has entrusted me with them for the time being.  Ultimately, my goal as their mama is to help them live a life that glorifies God.  And to do that, they need to know Him personally.  i can't force them.
For awhile now, I have been praying that Etienne could know that he is loved unconditionally.  Last night, I decided to change my prayer for him.  I am just praying that E find God on his own accord.  Sure, he is young to have a personal relationship with God.  But this is the God that divided the seas from the land.  The God that moved literally dozens and dozens of people to bring our boys home when the bureaucracy said no.  So I don't doubt that a 5 year old can find a real relationship with Christ.  I want Etienne (and all my kids) to live a life driven out of love for their Creator and not approval of man.  So my new prayer for my son is that he fall in love with God.  Amen.