Friday, March 30, 2012

To all the siblings out there.

     It is not easy to be a sibling of an adopted kiddo.  The new kid demands a whole lot more attention, energy and patience.  Your parents become sleep deprived, emotional beings that take special family "moments" to a whole new level.  You have to put up with questions about your family at the park, the grocery store and birthday parties.  You are all amazing to share your parents, your toys and your hearts.
    Today is my Molly's 9th birthday.  Most days, she is my motivation to keep attempting to love my kids like God loves me.  Molly is full of patience and mercy for her little brothers, she responds to questions about them with grace; usually saying "they are mine as much as Blake is and they are cuter."  It breaks her heart to talk about the orphan crisis, she gets irritated at Mega Millions speculations because "people make too big of a deal about money," and her goal is to travel the world one day.  To avoid running, she likes to say of her days as a premature baby. Drama classes and writing make her happy.  Ask her about politics and she can sum the candidates up perfectly ("Obama has borrowed a billion dollars from China and they have at least that many orphans but Romney called me sweetie and I'm not a little kid").
I'm head over heels for her.
The glasses are only for effect.

She took a package of 500 stickers to the Home of Hope  so every child could have at least one.

Singing a solo for "Newsies"
Calming Zeke down with some love.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Snaking the toilet? Check.

If you are considering adoption, you probably are aware that it will change you and your family.  Change is not a strong enough word. Rocked is more like it.  Maybe my blog is a glimpse of what post-adoption can look like.  I know that there are adoptive families that have it much harder and much easier than us.  I just feel compelled to communicate to others the depths of what adoption can do to you.  Of course, we expect to be emotionally touched, physically exhausted, mentally drained.  I've got that, and so much more.
Random Changes in this Mama since adopting :
  • Ringworm doesn't gross me out.  It's normal, I can pick it up a mile away and I am not offended by it.  I'm accustomed to at least 2 members of my household having it at any given time.  It's not just for wrestlers anymore.
  • I don't hear noise.  I only notice silence.
  • My body feels great with 2.5hrs of sleep (granted, my baby catchin' job contributes to this skill)
  • I now like coffee. A lot.  I survived night shifts, colicky babies & grad school without it.  These Rwandan kids did me in with the java thing. 
  • We have redefined "trench humor." My awesome brother tried to google this term.  If you are an ER nurse, adoptive parent or military personnel, you know what it means.
  • Some of my closet friends are in CA & PA(and everywhere in between).  Contrary to what your high school counselor may preach, real and meaningful relationships can be established via social networking & texts.
  • I let go of organized the moment we stepped off African soil.  I just shoot for "controlled chaos" at this point.
  • I love more husband more deeply than I ever imagined I could.
  • I lost my skills of small talk.  Somewhere between BA (before adoption) and AA, I decided if someone really wanted to know how we were, I wasn't sugar coating it.  Not going for shock value when a coworker asked "How are the kids?" and I may reply with "3/4 are great. That's a solid C, right?" or maybe "Well,  we had a lengthy and sort of traumatizing discussion on circumcision this morning."  If I am smiling, than glory be to God. 
  • I CAN SNAKE A TOILET.  I am super proud of this.  Since I had to borrow a auger not necessarily designed for a toilet, this involved me sticking my hand down the toilet as far as it could go.  But first, I youtubed and researched length of toilet piping, main lines, types of clogging, etc.  It should also be noted that we never told Etienne not to put anything down the toilet, so it is sort of our fault.  It is what it is.  Learn from our assumptions.

Monday, March 26, 2012

      I came downstairs yesterday morning to find Blake and Zeke snuggled on the couch, reading Fly Guy while Etienne was under the table licking crumbs off the floor.  Yes, you read that right.  No, he didn't miss a meal and no,I didn't sleep in.  It was 7:15am.  I picked him up, wrapped him in a quilt and took him to the deck for alone time with mama.  He denied being hungry and he said he didn't know why he was looking for crumbs.  So we watched the birds flying into and out of the trees in the forest.  We talked about how all the mama sparrows were looking for worms for their babies.  I told him what Psalm 84:3 says:
"Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself where she may have her young, near Your alter."
      Than we prayed for the other Rwanda kids that don't have a home and we prayed some more that E would know he would always be in my nest and I would always bring him food.  Then I went upstairs and I cried a little bit for Etienne and for all the orphans that don't yet have a nest.
       I went into the bathroom today and I found another hole in my wall.  Another Matchbox in Etienne's hands.  I was thankful that I saw him eating crumbs off the floor, so fresh in my memory; it was overwhelming.  This is what reality looks like.  I don't write it for sympathy or a drama factor, I write it so that everyone else in the world may be overcome with grief and empathy for this boy and every child like him.  This is my boy who has been home for two years.  He hasn't missed any meals.  Unlimited apples and carrots have been at his fingertips since he became ours.  And yet he still doesn't feel secure that his father and mother will give him everything he needs.  He still doesn't know in his heart of hearts that he is ours.
     After talking about the damage to the woodwork, we snuggled.  We prayed.  I honestly did not have an ounce of anger in my words.  That is what the reality of HIS grace looks like.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I cry all the time.

  Tuesday night, Ryan and I hosted our first adoption seminar.  Ryan began our testimony by saying, "Before we adopted, my wife never cried.  Now she cries all the time and I love it."  This man is not exaggerating.  So far today, I'm at three times.  Of course during the seminar, I got a little emotional sharing our story.  On our drive home, I felt my eyes well up at the thought that 11 families (11!!) were thinking about adopting in some way, shape or form.
  We got home and as we were tucking Molly girl into bed for the night, she mentioned that some of her classmates were talking to her about adoption.  Her words hesitatingly stopped us in our tracks.
"Someone told me that we took my brothers from their family and someday they will want to go home to their real parents."
  Ouch.  Ugh.  Well that definitely made me cry. Molly shared the rest of the conversation with me the next morning, and her biggest question for me was how to share with her classmates what the Bible says about adoption.  She had the right words, that many orphans don't have even have a birth family or that some parents don't want to be parents.  My tears were for my little girl, sad that she had this experience and proud of how she handled it.  I cried that all four of my kids are learning that most of the world will judge our family so wrongly and so often.
  Truthfully, I wanted to just go to bed.  Planning and executing an adoption seminar is on a midwife or mama skill list.  But I knew in my heart that we couldn't turn a deaf ear turn to this comment.  Talking the adoption talk doesn't end with your paper pregnancy.  There is always going to be that woman behind you at the check out counter asking well intended questions.  The kid at the playground asking my son where his real mom won't change no matter how many years we've been home.   So I sent a quick email to Molly's teacher, who immediately asked if we'd do a little presentation sometime this week.
  A short power point and a several consults with my elementary teacher/mom later, I was sitting in a circle with 20 third graders.  This was a game changer.  These kids are getting older and I really felt like I had to go hit them where it hurts.  I wanted to burn some images and facts into their brains before they became crazy adolescents resistant to new ideas.  There weren't any plantains today.  I didn't read any colorful books or illustrations.  Instead, after talking about domestic/foster/international adoption and why all kids need a family, I shared some of these pictures.
I pointed out the shattered glass that lined the top of the wall of the orphanage.

The third graders could see that washing those diapers that are hanging in the background in the same plastic tubs as where food was later prepped probably didn't promote good health and wellness.

I could show the class the water collecting system.  They were shocked to learn that they are more likely to die from dirty water than a car accident, lightening strike or weapons.
  I know it seems harsh, but it was harsh to tell my daughter that her brothers will want to go home to their real family someday.  These aren't little kids anymore, and as another wise adoptive mama pointed out to me, American children see much more graphic images on the television every day.
  After further discussion of the right and wrong words to use about adoption, I told the class they could ask me anything about race, family, orphans, whatever.  We all agreed that this was a special conversation and a time to talk about "stuff" a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about.  A little boy raised his hand and said, "I was adopted from foster care and I only get to see my birth parents once a year because they do bad things."  My heart felt like it had been torn from my chest and I resisted the urge to just scoop him up.  Instead, I told him that I knew his adoptive parents moved the earth to get him to be theirs and I knew that his mama felt like a mama polar bear when it came to loving him.  I didn't cry than, but as soon as I turned keys in my ignition, I let my tears fall.
  Ryan is right, I do cry all the time and I don't care.   I can tell you that it has been years since I cried at a movie (maybe circa 'Say Anything') and don't even get me started on reality television moments.  Hallmark cards and Folgers commercials have nothing for me.  Yet there are guaranteed topics that break me: God's grace, the orphan, my children's hearts, attachment (and not), anything Hillsong, Africa, unconditional love.  Somewhere between dossiers and giardia, God etched this permanently on my soul.  I pray He does this on Molly, Blake, Etienne and Ezekiel too.

Monday, March 19, 2012


  We are the first to live in our house, and it has only been two years.  Our walls, however, look as if we have been training for the demolition segment of Extreme Home Makeover.  Immediately after bringing our boys home, we had entirely too much giardia and hoarding to be concerned about drumming on the walls.
  After the English improved, the boys were told "No, thank you!" to pounding on the walls with anything, including grubby hands.  For awhile, it was better, really, it was.  I let go a long time ago of being concerned about the number of Matchbox cars on the floor  or the general chaotic look of my house.  It's comfy and it is real.  I have noticed how often people attempt to comment on the walls, "It's that cheap builder quality paint," or "Next time you should try egg shell."  Don't get me wrong, it isn't like we have fist holes everywhere.  Just a ridiculous amount of dents and chips, mostly from cars.  I also realized about a year too late that the boys' hair leaves a stain...whatever, it's just a wall.
  Last week Etienne rediscovered his strength with the Matchbox car.  Within 48hrs, we had significant damage to his bedroom wall and door frame.   The first time, we were firm but reiterated prior  rules.  The second night, not so much.  Now if the tire and hitch of the trailer he was holding hadn't been an identical match, neither my fabulous spouse nor I would have believed that he could cause such holes with a plastic toy in a wooden door frame.  He could!  Like CSI working scene, we lined up the vehicles and the holes, and he confessed (score one for truthfulness).
  We felt strongly after the second new hole that he completely comprehended the damage and really didn't care.  So Ryan and I schemed, trying desperately to come up with a consequence that would nip this new damage in the bud.  Scooper pooper!  We decided that when E put a new hole or dent in the wall, he would be given the chore of cleaning up the dog messes in the yard (DON"T JUDGE, and besides, it had been done a couple days prior, so only a couple messes were out there.)  Ryan gave E the plastic bags and the instructions. Within minutes, he had recruited his brothers to be on the search crew.  Within minutes more, E returned to his daddy, grinning ear to ear, shouting "Finished!"  Ryan told him to go to the other side of the yard. Again, with pride, he yelled "I already did!"  Seriously.
 Of course our creative punishment would back fire.  Leave it to our E to enjoy pooper scooper duty.  Bless his big heart.
Ranger, the super dog.  He wears eye patches, capes and  pearls.  The little boys used to only be able to pet him through the screen door.  Now they lie on him during movie night. Literally.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Radio Gig

   There are a lot of different ways to support adoption.  Two years AA (after adoption),  I know that adoption this is not for everyone.  However, I also know that we are commanded to care for widows and orphans.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself polluted from this world." -James 1:27 
   Looking after widows and orphans can come in the form of prayer for a struggling mama (hello, you know one!), writing a check to Children's HopeChest, or going on a trip to build a home for a widow.  Or maybe the voice in the back of your head is telling you to go to that foster care class...whatever. Do something.
   Ryan and I have become associates for our adoption agency.  Not because we thought they were fabulous but because they told us that they saw us as couple that is real and transparent, and have a heart for the orphan.  We see this as an opportunity to challenge others to take the next step, to educate families on the adoption options out there, and to lead groups on trips to serve older, un-adoptable orphans.

  We are hosting our  first seminar next week in Omaha.  The seminar will cover what God says about adoption and  discuss the realities of the process.  Someone at the local Christian radio station saw one of our posters, and poof!, next thing we knew, the boys and I were in a recording studio.  I can't tell you my anxiety level at the idea of Etienne and Zeke in a radio station.  So many buttons and knobs!  In our 30 minutes there, E had taken apart and head set and Zeke managed to scream "God's not dead!" into the microphone.  Par for the course here.  Both AM and the FM KGBI stations will be running 2 1/2 minute interviews with us before each news and weather segment for the next few days.  So cool!  The brief conversation gave me I the opportunity to share what this blog says today on adoption as well as invite the community to our seminar.  Plus, I got cool mama status for the day because E and Zeke both believed that they were indeed rapping and beat boxing "God songs" to the radio listeners of the Omaha metro area.... 

Monday, March 12, 2012


     Before adopting, we did our homework, really we did.  I approached adoption with this huge desire to learn as much as I could about all the best, "most successful" approaches to helping our future kids be as happy and feel as secure in their family as the possibly could.  I knew that research told us that adopted children do best when there is always an open dialogue about their "story."  I was prepared that we would someday have the talks about why their birth mamas placed them in adoption or what it feels like to be black in a white world.  My sources and my book knowledge told me that developmentally, these sort of heavy conversations are typical for junior high (like middle school kids don't have enough angst).  What a joke!  I should know better than to think that anything other than living it could prepare me to mother my Rwandan boys.  There isn't a book with the right answer,for some this stuff.
     This morning I was reminded of this.  The entourage was eating breakfast as a crew and Etienne was just picking on Zeke.  Mean hearted stuff over and over again.  I had moved him from the table to sit alone with his sister because Molly is fabulous.  As Etienne attempted again to jeer at Zeke from across the kitchen, Molly told him, "Etienne, stop. You need to be a nice brother."  Etienne replied,
"Because if I am not nice, Mama and Daddy will send me back to Rwanda?"
     If that doesn't stop you mid sentence, I don't know what will.  I plopped down on the floor next to his chair and grabbed his face.  I told him again and again the same thing I tell him every night.
"I love you no matter what. Even if you are mean or hurt me or hurt someone else, it doesn't change that I am your Mama forever. You can't be taken from us.  You belong to me forever. I love you no matter what."
     I didn't cry than because that sort of sent our morning down the drain.  Big sister needed reassured.  There were longer than normal Monday morning prayers.  This talk was  not supposed to cross his mind until until he's older.  I really don't think Etienne is manipulative enough to have said that statement for the dramatic effect.  It was in his head.  The fear of being taken away from us was in his head.  In his core, my son believes that his behavior (or lack thereof) will equate love.  Ouch.
     This is why adoption has shook my faith in my God.  Holy cow, to be loved unconditionally and to know and to feel that you are worth it, no matter what, is more bigger than we can wrap our brains around.  A parent's love. A father's perfect love.  So I am climbing off my pantry floor and wiping my tears..  Big sigh. Bigger prayers of gratitude that I know I am loved like this.  And pulling on my bootstraps to prove my love to E all over again.

Monday, March 5, 2012

He can do this.

     Last night, Etienne, Ryan and I were in the bathroom, doing the bedtime thing.  E's ritual involves sitting for a long time on the toilet, than loading on all the layers of diapers, pads, night time pull-ups, etc, than double checking that his sheets have all their extra layers too.  It's a lot of work all while doing this, he is usually talking a mile a minute, totally not focused on the task at hand.  Oblivious to how exhausting and time consuming and frustrating these nightly routines are.
      However, last night, his incessant chatter paused and he said "I think my friends would laugh at me if they knew I had to wear all these diapers."  We immediately stopped what we were doing and plopped on the floor.  We told him that the only ones who know about the layers are his family; he said he knew his family didn't tease him.  We told him that he never got to be a baby that we got to rock, feed and change diapers and love on.  We told him that he had as much time as he needed to figure this out.  We told him it was okay to do this his own way.
       This morning he awoke, cheerful and yelling down the stairs "Daddy, I'm dry."  He wasn't.  He cried and he cried.  He said "I can't ever do this.  I can't do anything"  It broke my heart over and over with each tear.  As much as I told him he could do it and lots of other things, he couldn't really hear me.
Today at school they had a concert for Lutheran Education Week (or something along those lines!).  All the classes sang several songs and pounded on some drums.  Chimed a few triangles.  Than Dr. C, Etienne's piano teacher and the school's director of music, called Etienne up front.  This is what he did.

        Dr C told us a few weeks ago that he had realized that Etienne didn't understand a lot of the language or directions that he used.  So he quit the traditional methods and began teaching E how to identify notes on the scales and on the music.  Clearly. my little boy speaks music.  Clearly, he can do this