Sunday, April 29, 2012

Growing Pains

     Reality check.  Etienne got lost at the YMCA soccer fields.  He had been instructed to stay next to Blake but he didn't.  Twice.  I found him the second time we went missing in the parking lot.  Truthfully, although there were hundreds of other people, most of them probably knew he belonged to me.  Still.  It was scary.  Any parent can testify to that.
     After he was found again, I had told him he needed to have quiet time in his room.  We began talking about "big boy" choices and getting ready for school some day.   I was going on about how he has a hard time making good choices when he is  tired and he started to sob.
"I just wanna be like everybody else."
     Well that stopped me in my tracks.  I felt like I was looking down, watching myself be a mean mama, laying on the guilt, and immediately I felt awful for telling him he needed to rest because he wasn't making "big boy" choices.  I climbed into bed and he let me rock him.
     I told him that when everybody else was a baby, they got to suck their thumb, be rocked and wear diapers but he didn't .  I told him I was sorry that Daddy and Mommy weren't with him when he was a baby and that if it took him longer to be a big kid, we were okay with that. We were making up for lost time.  We cried together.
     Than Blake climbed up on top of Etienne and me.  Bony boy in just his underwear, cause that's how we roll.  Blake told E, "You don't need to be like anyone else because you are the funniest and fun.  And sometimes when you are funny you get in trouble.  It happens to me at school when I am funny.  Sometimes I accidently get in trouble, like with the projector" (I decided to let that go).  Then he laid his little blonde head on Etienne's chest and that's where we stayed.
     I know that this is growth.  He is starting to recognize that some of his behaviors aren't "normal."  I believe that for change to occur, he has to be aware that it is needed.  But at what cost?  No mother wants her child to feel left out.  If Molly said she wanted to be like everyone else, I would scold her and tell her that different is awesome.  But for my black baby in a white world, this statement is so enormous.  Ugh.  We talked, the three of us scrunched on the bottom bunk, about how only God can make us change.  E kept insisting that he could do it, no matter what way I or silly Blake tried to explain it.  Etienne's mind couldn't accept that God is our strength and our refuge.  But enough talk for one day, right?
     All these major heart wrenching moments while Daddy is out of town.  I don't know how much this mama heart can endure.  Thank goodness for our semi nude comedian.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Birth Moms.

     My Zeke always kicks me in the heart when I'm least expecting it.  He was apologizing for pouring a large cup of water on my chest (don't ask) when his sparkly eyes welled up with tears.  This kid repents like no other.  We snuggled it out and began talking about his favorite goodnight story: the time we first met.  I love telling him how the moment I saw him, my heart popped and I just ran to him.  Usually he than asks what I did to get to him  home, but tonight was different.
"What does my birth mom look like, Mama?"
     Sigh.  I have had many little talks about our birth moms.  The scientific, evidence-based corner of my brain knows that developmentally, Zeke can only process concrete thoughts.  So this is what I said:
"I am sure that your birth mom had caramel skin, like you do and I bet that her eyes were sparkly like your eyes.  Probably her hair was fuzzy soft like a teddy bear.  She didn't have water or food or space and she knew that Daddy and I did.  She knew that God made me to be your mom."
     For tonight, that was enough to satisfy Zeke's little heart.  I know that there will be many, many more conversations regarding this woman.  I want to honor her by portraying her decision as one of sacrificial love.  I like to believe that she loved my little boy so much, that her actions were for his best interest.  In my mind's eye, I see her longing to give him everything that every child deserves: two parents, a home, love, the abundance of basic necessities like clean water and food every day.  I won't ever know the whole story but I know the best part.  That Ezekiel is mine.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Goodbye, Jack.

   Jack the fish did not survive the McDonald's Happy Meal prize.  In the midst of bath time, Zeke ran into the bathroom, pulled my eyelids wide open and said "That's what Jack looks like."  Sadly, he was upside down, but the gills were still moving.  I said something about a mercy killing, Ryan protested but Molly said, "Dad, than he wouldn't be suffering and he would be at peace."  Who is this kid?!  Fish hospice.
 We all said something nice about Jack and I will let you guess the kid:

  • "Jack, you were beautiful"
  • "I like how you would eat your food and than spit it out."
  • "Jack, you were so fast."
  • "Now you get to go down into the sewers, fish."

   Again, my life is never mundane and I can not make these things up.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Soccer Dad

     If you are  contemplating adoption, I can't emphasize enough that you have to have a partner that is willing to totally give up every routine, stereotype and agenda.  My husband is good at a lot of things.  Great, in fact.  He is a master of much: smoking meat, being a loyal fan to a losing team, baseball rules, wrestling kids, keeping me grounded.  He has not, however, mastered multitasking.  That's cool because I so have that down.
     This past Saturday, I had to be in a meeting in Chicago all day.  We have a "One activity" rule in our house, meaning every kid is allowed one extra curricular activity.  Seems reasonable until Saturday roles around.  (Also, he bends this rule when it comes to his princess. Case in point.)
8:30- Molly's volleyball game
9-10:30: Molly at Broadway class
10- Zeke's soccer game
12- Blake's soccer game
     That's a full morning.  Especially when you throw in the Three Stooges (ours, not Hollywood's), some doughnuts and a few pre-adolescent emotions.  Granted, I had laid out all the gear/clothing in one central station.  Everyone made it to everything and by mid afternoon, Ryan was smoking some pork for our missional community.  Fabulous!
     Sunday after my little out of town meeting was as expeceted: new damaged wall, a fish on hospice and too many lies.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude as Ryan sat with Etienne and Zeke, patiently talking to them about the 10 commandments and trying desperately to make something click in their little heads.  He told E something about knowing that he lies because he just wants to always be pleasing in his mama and daddy's eyes, but that we are pleased with him just because he is our son.  He said it all with patience, a soft voice and a lot of grace.  .
     I am always writing about what goes on in my heart as we walk this post adoption life.  I don't write enough about my other half.  He's super.  And now he's a multi tasker too.
PS  Beta fish do not like to play with happy meal prizes.  Just FYI.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

His sister rocks.

     I got to got to the grocery store with just Molly and Etienne!  The does require an exclamation point because when we separate the Three Stooges, they are entirely different creatures.  Molly and I have this groove for Etienne, trying to help him learn with what we are doing.  "Etienne, can you set that green apple next to the carrots?" Molly will say.  She holds his hand, asks him engaging questions and generally keeps at least one side of his body from crashing into, pulling apart, knocking down or disconnecting everything he passes along the way.  We got to the yogurt section and it was 10/$5.00.  Miss Molly and I set out the yogurts and had Etienne count them out the best he could.  He sort of kept going after he got to big deal to this mama at this point.  We will get there when we get there.
     My Molly turned to me and said "Mama, I makes me so sad that E is so smart but he can't understand this."  Oh, my heart.  It burst with love for her that she has so much empathy for her little brother.  And I'd be lying if I didn't say I did have a pang of sadness that this is indeed true that he has so much to comprehend despite over a year of very intentional play.
     As we rounded the corner toward the front, there was a man in an electric wheelchair and an oxygen tank.  Luckily, that tank was loud because Etienne turned to his sister and in a very loud, very E voice, said "Molly, we should pray for him right now. Shouldn't we?"  Molly's grin was priceless as she patted his head.  I could not be more thankful for that little trip to the store; for her heart and for both of us being reminded that Etienne very clearly comprehends so much of the big stuff.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Community, III

     Last week was a RAD week.  I've come to expect that post fun, I will usually get hit with some added RAD stuff in the return to normal.  Our post spring break/Easter week was a little messier than usual.
     By Thursday, I was beat.  For a refresher, Etienne's reactive attachment stuff looks like lying, manipulating and a lot of destructive (property) habits.  I won't get into the details, if you are a new reader you can reread older posts.  I know that his reactions are out of insecurity and fear.  I know that my core prayer for him is that he know that he is loved unconditionally by 1.His Creator 2. His parents.  Doesn't mean it doesn't suck to google how to remove ink from porcelain.  I also know that "faking it" doesn't work for me.  What you see is what you get.  So I prayed a lot last week that I could remember to find the blessings in the mundane.  
     Last Thursday was a provider meeting day at my work (I am a CNM/women's NP) and these meetings are over the lunch hour. Alas, my mundane was becoming stressful.   I was not about to get a babysitter when I knew that E and Zeke too were needing a little more mama in the face than normal.  I packed large lunches (when given unlimited food, they can remain semi quiet because they are jamming it all in) and some play dough and we ventured in to my work.  It happened to be an education day and the doc in charge did a presentation Jeopardy style all the way down to the buzzers and "What is" format (playing games in meetings, I know!)  My anxiety went sky high at the site of 6 buzzers attached to 6 bright flashing lights.  Darn gadgets!  This is where God showed up.  Zeke snuggled next to another midwife across the room from me while our medical director gave Etienne a buzzer and began whispering the right answers in his ear.  An hour later, both boys had been loved on, heard more than they needed on prostate screenings and I had another lesson learned.  My work community met us where we were and it meant more to me than I can express.  In my role at work, I need to keep up barriers because of professionalism and my relationship with my staff.  I forget that God uses my transparency elsewhere in my life, He can use it here too.  So a lot of the docs and NPs didn't know before Thursday some of the baggage that comes with me, but they took us, our noise, our taking apart the furniture, button pressing, loud talking, no boundaries behavior in stride.  And I found my blessings in the mundane.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


     Etienne had another first.  He came sleep walking into our bedroom, wrapped his arms around Ryan's neck and climbed into his lap.  Ryan shifted him so that he was lying in the middle of us.  I wrapped my whole body around him and he just  sucked his thumb.  After a few minutes, he began whimpering and tightening all his muscles.  His big hands clenched into fists, but he didn't push away from me.  He stayed in my embrace.
     If you aren't an "attachment" parent, no worries, no guilt.  I wasn't for Molly or Blake.  But my bio kids were held, fed, touched, rocked, snuggled from their first moments of life.  With Ezekiel and Etienne, I had flashbacks to Child Psych in college, seeing first hand the results of an institution on a child's development.
     BA (before adoption) I totally took for granted my children's touch.  I know that I complained about personal space.  I sent my kids to their own beds asap.  Then I met my Rwandan babies.  It took literally wearing Zeke for him to not fear touch.  Now, that boy craves it and I really try to oblige no matter how much I feel invaded.
     Etienne will seek a hug for a pinched finger whereas before, he didn't even shed a tear.  But the moment the pain subsides, he pushes me away.  Holding hands is really difficult for him.  We have this cheesy thing where we say "we hold hands in our family because we love each other" but all you parents know its a safety/don't-want-to- lose-my-black-kid -that-won't-identify-me-as-mom-in-public-thing.  So you can imagine my reaction to snuggling in the middle of the night.  Priceless.  One of those moments I will remember in my heart forever.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Where's Your Heart?

"For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also."

    -Matthew 6:21

     A couple of  years ago, during the Easter worship service, I watched all the children singing and praising God and it was the first time that the emotions of adoption really hit me.  I was floored with tears that my children weren't all in my arms.  My heart broke and my arms ached that our whole family was not yet united.  That Easter was the first Easter that I began to feel like the mother of four.
    The boys first Easter home, I was overwhelmed with giardia and the logistics of doubling our kid numbers.  It was all about survival and attempting to make meaning in the day at least for Molly and Blake.  Last year, worship was meaningful and reflective; I had really begun to feel the depths of my Father's love for me.  We were getting a rhythm to our life. 
   This year, by the end of the day, I felt defeated and  let down.  Truthfully, I had a selfish attitude.  I wanted my Easter Sunday to be filled with hallelujahs and grateful hearts.  Instead, I had spent much of the day corralling  my children and keeping E from breaking/hurting/annoying anything or anyone.  Midway through our Easter Sunday, I had stumbled upon some very deliberate behavior that Etienne had done the night before, while Ryan and I were on a date, when Nana and Pops had so graciously been in  charge.  Because of his actions, there was a lot of clean up involved and I spent a chunk of my afternoon and evening fixing his messes.  I kept thinking about how he could still be pulling this crap (sorry, I wanted to say worse), when our weekend had been family filled and fun.  I would say aloud "Why would he do this? Date night was really the trigger of insecurity? Really? Really?!"  The dog listened politely but as soon as the statement would exit my lips, I would think myself a fool to even try to ponder the why of his actions.   I went on a walk, praying and listening to worship music and pondering the fact that date night had led to manipulative, hurtful actions which had led to my grumpy attitude.  What did any of this have to do with the resurrection?  How did I twist Christ's power over death (and my sin) into this bad attitude because I didn't get Easter my way?  I was preaching to me kids that it wasn't about the Bunny (funny side note, there were dead baby bunnies on Easter morn in Pops yard, see the irony?!).  I was asking my entourage to be excited about what God did for them; yet all the while I was letting Etienne's actions  lesson my own gratitude and praise for that empty tomb.  Geez. 
     Then the  verse from Matthew, above, popped into my brain.  What is my treasure?  I say, I strive, I long for it to be God.  But sometimes I think it is my kids.  Or maybe adoption and its messiness?  It certainly is not my Savior every moment of every day.  At least this Easter, I confess that the middle part of my Sunday I somehow got lost along the way to the cross.  This is how it goes, isn't it?  Whether your struggle is making it through another day as a stay-at-home mom, or attempting to connect with the coworker in the next cubicle, we all have our highs and lows.  For me, the Enemy loves to use RAD behaviors to separate the six of us from God's truth.  It is my inequities that let me believe that Etienne will always ruin date night.  God is so much bigger than RAD.  Reality now is sometimes still lousy but my reality is temporary, His glory is eternal.   It totally stinks that our attempt for grown up alone time led to grossness in the spare room but Jesus overcame death!  Holy hallelujah!  In the big picture of life, this RAD stuff is just a little detail.  
     At bedtime, two out of three of the boys prayed that they were thankful for "Jesus dying on the cross," and "God saving me from sin and death."  Only God knows if they honestly feel that in their little hearts.  But I know that  those are the sweetest words I could hear from my babies lips.  There our heart is.
Molly's argument for dressing  her own boho way is "it  doesn't matter what's on the outside?" What can I say to that?

I was NOT for the triplet look but they love it.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

His identity, my identity.

     Last week was parent-teacher conference week.  I say week because when there are four, it takes a whole week.  A quick summary:  we are blessed beyond measure by our little neighborhood public school that Molly and Blake attend.  This is the place with a fabulous principal that greets every child by name, has ordered sensory supplies in preparation for E's arrival next year (that's another post for another day), and his staff genuinely challenges our kids in unique ways (think botany meets Harry Potter).  Molly and Blake's conferences are encouraging for Ryan and me. We are so thankful that school is a great place for the two of them to get away from the sometimes chaos that they live with.  
     Zeke's conference was exactly how we would have guessed.  He is happy, cheerful and quickly learns new concepts.  He knows his colors, shapes and numbers.  Other children enjoy his friendship.  Thank you, God.  His teacher is wrapped around his cute pinkie.
     Etienne's conference brought me to tears. Again.  His teacher, Mrs Thomas, has gone to such lengths to meet him where he is.  She has never attempted to conform him to mainstream learning styles.  In disciplining, her responses are grace-filled and loving.  Last fall, she had asked our permission to use art time as phonics time with Etienne; recognizing that he isn't interested in cutting, gluing or coloring; but that given a toddler sound toy, she could get him interested in letters.  We love this.  Since October, E has gone from recognizing two letters to letters.  Yeah!  My heart is happy.   You may think that six months and only four more letters doesn't seem so good.  Remember that this is the child that learned English has his third language.  This is the boy that has closed his hand in a van door and waited patiently (quietly) for someone to open that door to release his hand.  This kid has more to work out than you will in a lifetime.  Most importantly to his parents, Etienne's teacher shared that his biblical knowledge is huge, he is empathetic to his peers and in music, he excels. 
     I could care less that language and numbers and core pre-k knowledge is under the "emerging category."  I just want others to see Etienne's heart.  Many times his behaviors make that really hard.  A year ago, I was devastated to realize how little he comprehended (counting-basketballs).  I may have said that I knew my son's (and his mama's) identity is in Christ alone.  But I didn't really believe that.  I was trying to convince myself that the ways of the world aren't who we really are; yet I was so saddened that E couldn't count how many noses I had.  Who cares?  I don't.  I care that he knows he will always have another meal.  I care that he believes we are his family forever.  I care that he knows he belongs to God.  That's it. 
     I won't lie.  I went through some sad days, realizing that learning was going to be another struggle for E.  Like he doesn't have enough to deal with.  We love learning in this family; but for Etienne, it is stressful and a lot of work.  With lots of prayer, reading of scripture and conversations (and tears) with our Missional Community, God has given me peace.  He has proven that people outside our family have the patience and the ability to love Etienne and to see beyond his loud, needy, annoying behaviors.  Education for my son won't ever be a walk in the park, but I have learned beyond words that the park is boring. We are blessed for the bumpy, off road adventure of raising these Rwanda babies.  Holding tight to Him for the ride.