Thursday, May 24, 2012

Going Public

     Okay, here comes.  Ryan and I have a new venture and we are ready to officially share (no worries, family, we aren't adding another child to the entourage).  The two of us have been approached, interviewed and have since accepted Rwanda Team Leader positions for an organization called Visiting Orphans.  Next June, 2013, we will be leading our first team to the Land of a Thousand Hills.
    The Land of a Thousand Hills.  Rwanda.  I can't describe to you the heartache, the beauty, the depths of joy in the faces of this country.  I can't tell you how it broke my heart in ways I couldn't imagine.  I can't tell you how my my mind's eye  is always full of the story.  The rich history of blood, suffering, reconciliation, forgiveness, grace.  Mercy.  Healing.
     The secular world is quick to criticize "mission trips" and I don't like the term.  Us Christians got a bad rep somewhere along the lines and rightly so.  A true, gospel centered Christian is going to tell you that the best way to demonstrate the power of God's unbound love is by living it.  Walking in those worn through sandals.  Sharing that dirty play room floor.  Living beside the broken and the weary.  This is not a mission trip.  This is a get perspective, break-your-heart kind of trip.  We want your heart to break over and over again.
     East Africa isn't my first brush with a developing country  It is the first time that I have seen suchf hope in despair; that I have felt true contentment in the face of suffering.  And I want that for everyone that I love. You can't go back to work, to school, to your daily grind the same.  And you shouldn't.  Not everyone should or can adopt an orphan.  Not everyone has the money to sponsor a child.  But everyone can become an advocate.  Everyone can be changed.
     This trip isn't about "saving" orphans.  It's about living as Christ lived.  Some of you we have already talked to about joining us.  For some of you, this is absolutely nothing you have a desire to experience.  That's cool.  To each his own.  But don't say no because of fear or uncertainty.  Talk to us.
     The trip isn't yet posted, but will be in the next few weeks and it will fill fairly quickly.  Our goal is to connect with children with the knowledge that not every child will get an earthly father, but every child deserves to know that they are worth far more than the sparrows (Matt 10:31).  You don't need a skill.  Just feet to kick a soccer ball and a lap to hold a child.  If you would like more details, my email is  Once our trip is "live" there will be a button on my sidebar.
     I'm grateful for my "blog" friends and I want to share this with all our loved ones that have cried, prayed, brainstormed and laughed with us on this journey....
PS  If you tell me you can't go because someone in your family thinks it is dangerous, lame-o.  Send them to us and the to do homework.  Africa is HUGE. Each country, it's people and story are vastly different.  And, as Blake says, "Duh, God is already there."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hey, whatever works.

     Nine!  That's how many layers we  put on and down for Etienne each night at bedtime.  It's like "The Princess & the Pea," although I'm sure if I hid something under all the layers, E's fingers would quickly find it.  Until last Wednesday, he still peed through all those layers.  These were desperate times, my friend, desperate.  There is nothing good out of changing our ginormous boy's bedding and laundering sheets every single day.    
     We've done it all trying to combat the bed wetting.  The craziest element to this dilemma is that the first year home, Etienne didn't even wear a pull up.  So we know he can do it.  This kid is probably border line dehydrated because we are always restricting his fluids, and it's stressful for him too.  Last week, when I tried to make him pee before I went to bed, he actually began speaking French to me.  Poor buddy.
     A friend brought over a little device from the 80's that he thought may be worth a shot.  It alarms when it gets wet, triggering the kid to get up and pee.  With E's busy fingers, he somehow got it working again; and although it seems barbaric, we thought we'd give it a shot.  It isn't that unusual and we need sleep, darn it!
I am still a bit concerned that it will send a little shock to his boy parts...
     The first night, it buzzed and he ignored it totally.  The second night, it woke Ryan and I up in time to make him pee and saved the bedding!  Night number three, it started buzzing and I put it up to his ear and said, "Etienne, its buzzing."  His sleepy response was "Well, what do you want me to do about it?"  Hahahahahahahahahaha.
    Last night the buzzer woke Blake and he jumped down, jumped on him and woke him up.  So I guess this is working?  Although it seems to be conditioning the rest of the family, I am still very relieved to not do a load of sheets, towels and plastic every night.  We will see a change in our budget too (XL diapers and Good Nights aren't cheap!) if we can cut down on all the nighttime layers.
     My goal is that E will be able to go to a sleepover someday.  It's simple, right?  I know, I know, I know that bed wetting is fairly normal problem for little boys.  I also know that my boy used to be fully potty trained until the stress of joining a family shook him up.  The buzzer is a band aid for now.  That's okay.  We need a band aid now and than.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


       Life post adoption for this entourage has been peaks and valleys.  The valleys are pretty dark but let me tell you, the view of our Heavenly Father on the peaks takes my breath away every time.  Its exhausting, exhilarating, emotional.  It's worth it.
      Last week we walked with Etienne through some sad days, thinking about his birth mom.  We shared a lot of tears and uncertainty and new emotions.  We shared his grief that sneaked up on him while working on a family project.  Friday morning our mailman delivered just the gift the boys needed after an emotional week.  My close friend, Laurel Greer's husband, Peter, wrote a book entitled "Mommy's Heart Went POP!" , an adoption story specifically regarding a Rwandan little boy...blonde mama, sister and brother waiting at home, big blue gate, Ethiopian's our story too.
Zeke studying "his story."
    The boys and I snuggled up on the couch.  I cried through our first read.  Zeke was really quiet and he immediately started the book over, looking intently at the pages.  As I snuggled close to him, his big eyes filled with crocodile tears and he started crying and crying.  He buried his sweet self into me and said, "I'm just sad that I wasn't always with you and daddy."  Oh buddy!  Some of this was probably a reaction to Etienne's rough week.  Some of this is my baby boy's squishy heart full of love.  We read it again, looking for the hidden hearts on each page and I reminded him that this is a love story!  Our happily ever after.  He decided he needed to carry "his story" with him all day, taking every moment to look closely at each picture. By the time he showed it to his big sister and brother, his sparkly eyes were back.  
     Later that night, we all climbed into bed together to reread it again with Daddy (funny side note, the bed broke and we all crashed to the floor!).  As Ryan read through it, my eyes welled with tears again because I could feel my heart racing at the site of that blue gate and my heart popping as I held my boys for the first time.  
     We came to the page where the mother wonders who is singing lullabies to her Rwandan child.  Etienne nonchalantly commented, "Well God sang to me."  No big deal, just stating a fact.  The coolest thing about this fact is that Etienne has told me this  before.  He has very clearly sang an old children's song that he said "that Jesus whispered in my ear."  This is a boy that lies all the time for attention, out of jealousy, spite or fear but I knew then and I knew while we reading that this wasn't a lie.  This is my sweet boy's memory of his time before his mama could sing him lullabies and kiss his ouchies away.  His memory is that God was with him before his family brought him home.  That is the greatest gift I can give to any parent that is waiting for their adoptive child; the comfort that my child can say without a doubt in his mind that God was there in the dark rooms full of cold metal cribs and mosquitoes buzzing.  God was there each time he fell on that hard concrete slab.  God was there before me.  How cool is that?
     I am so thankful that God's timing is always perfect.  We didn't orchestrate making a family poster followed by grieving birth moms followed by getting our adoption story in the mail ALL THE WEEK OF MOTHERS DAY. Are you kidding me?!?  Like I said, these peaks are amazing.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012


     Perspective is a funny thing, isn't it?  I was thinking back to seven Mother's Days ago today.  Ryan had given me a combo blender/food processor and I needed to take a walk after opening it.  In my head, I kept hearing Father of  the Bride dialogue "give the little mom a blender, what's that say, I belong in a kitchen?" playing in my head.  I was in the BA (before adoption) phase of my life, with 2 little ones, breastfeeding and pulling a lot of night shifts.  I spent a couple hours a most days of the week at the Y, did artsy projects (before this Pinterest business) during the long afternoon naps my two children took and had a fairly regular date night with my husband.  And I was a pouting about the food processor.
     Then God hit me flat on the head with adoption.  My life now is full of brain teasers like what is this black, plastic-like substance stuck inside the bathroom sink drain or why don't I have any flip flops that match?  I am challenged by seeing how many errands I can run while using just a whoopee cushion for entertaining the entourage.  Nap times are in the backseat of the mini van while waiting in the carpool line and the last artsy project I had my hand in was keeping Etienne from gluing a school poster to the place mat.  That old food processor?  Makes me look really good on Monday morning when I dump some frozen fruit and yogurt in it.  That is perspective.
     Mother's Day has evolved into this totally emotional, bittersweet day of gratitude for me.  I look at my Rwandan boys and my heart swells into my throat.  There are two other women out there, somewhere in the land of a thousand hills, that I can't ever share today with.
      I know, I know that Etienne's giant eyes and long lashes were there on the day he was born.  His birth mom had to walk away from those.  That thought breaks me.  She had to let him go.  No matter if her actions were done out of fear, necessity or love.  She had to let him go without knowing that he had a lifetime of family and love waiting for him.  What kind of woman has to make that choice?  That is perspective.
     There is no doubt in my mind that Ezekiel was a snuggly baby.  The kind that finds the crook of your arm and just nestles down in it.  In my mind's eye, I know that Zeke's birth mom must have had a sacred moment with him buried into her.  And she had to give that up.  She had to let him come home to me.
     There aren't many days that I don't think about what I would tell these two birth moms.  Sometimes it's the little things like how E's muscles look like art because they are so sculpted or that Zeke smiles with his eyes.  Other days, I want to tell them that my heart literally hurts when I think of their loss.  Most of the time I want them to know that I am trying despite all my mess ups.  I am doing my best to get up, to wipe all of our tears, to pray my heart out, to believe and hope and start all over again the next morning.  It isn't pretty but it is real love.  As real as if I birthed them myself.
     So this Mother's Day I am grateful for perspective.   Grateful that I was born into a home and a lifetime of parents that could give me everything I needed.  That is so much bigger than most of us ever realize.  I am grateful that I have four children that call me mama/mom/mommy.  Grateful that I never had to face a decision to walk away from that honor of being mommy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This is how it goes.

     Y'all know that when we take a ginormous  step forward, we then have two steps back.  In many ways, this pattern is a blessing just because we can brace ourselves for the RAD behavior that follows.  Really, who can blame a child that didn't know touch, comfort or love for so long?  It is a dance, this embracing, than pushing away.
     Yesterday E shared his family poster with his class.  He said he was afraid until he looked at his teacher.  He told them about his birth mom and how God got him to us.  His version of the presentation was unremarkable (which is normal, we love normal) and according to him, his classmates think being from Africa is "interesting!"    
     Early this morning there had been enough lying and defiance for me to know that we needed to cancel any plans I may have had for today.  I found Etienne lying on my bathroom floor, lethargic.  He insisted he felt fine and that he wasn't tired.  I knelt down next to him and he started crying really hard.  I tried saying, "I'm sorry that you are sad.  Is there something you are afraid or worried about?"  He did his over exaggerated head shake at me.  Then he let me pick him up and rock him.  For several hours, my big tough bear needed carried all around the house.  However, by lunch time Etienne was pushing me away.  My gut instinct was that I just needed to let him cry and not force the attachment parenting in that moment.  Words weren't needed, just a presence.
     Is this what grief looks like for a little boy?  It feels like he is suffering a loss today.  I have heard and read that most adopted children need to grieve their birth parents at some point; that it is healthy.  Five feels too soon.  Too young to have to experience such sadness and loss.  Every mom knows how heart wrenching it is to watch your child hurt.  It's awful.  This grief in him is like a sinking rock in my stomach.  In a little corner of my brain, I know that this isn't anything I can take away, replace or fix.  It just has to happen.
     When I first became mother of four, I prayed for the day that I could say that I would throw myself in front of a car for all four of my children.  Reality is that that kind of love isn't immediate.  They don't tell you that in parenting classes.  But that day is here now.  It is bittersweet.
     As I write this, Etienne is curled up, his thumb in his mouth, sleeping next to me.  He wouldn't let me hold him, but he did let me rub his feet until he fell asleep.  And I will be here rubbing his feet when he wakes back up.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Family Poster

    We had "homework" that had been an optional project all year- to make an "Etienne's Family" poster.  His little classroom has been decorated with other bright boards displaying fresh pink newborns or toddlers with messy birthday cake faces.  We've occasionally talked about them, he definitely paid attention each time a classmate brought a new one in.  Yesterday he finally decided he wanted to make his own (with 2 weeks left of school!).   It felt like a decision that Etienne had been processing for so long that I thought I'd better jump on it.
     Right away, E felt the urgency to get pictures for his poster, so the grandparents obliged his request.  On the way he said,
"Don't you think my birth mom should be on the picture too?" 
    Wow!  That was to the point.  Again, kind of a ginormous conversation in the mini van with James Taylor blaring (it was Zeke's turn to pick). Where is Ryan when these things get said anyway?  I swallowed my emotions, and reminded him that we didn't have any photos but maybe we could draw something else.  E and Zeke both said "A heart!"  Then went on to remind me that their birth moms loved them.  They couldn't formulate the whys or hows but I figured that four some preschool boys, they are grasping something that the general adult population can't wrap their brains around.
     This is Etienne's birth mom with a big, pink heart.  The convo in Hobby Lobby went something like this:
Blake: "E! Your dark chocolate skin is from her! You need these markers."
(The flavors started 2 yrs ago with the boys. E is dark chocolate, Zeke is caramel, Molly is  mango-peach flavored, I am blonde, Blake is vanilla and Daddy is Neapolitan. Just kidding, for some reason Dad doesn't have a flavor. Poor him.)
E: "Yes! And my eyes need to be black.  Can we just use this  licorice?"  Giggles from the peanut gallery.
     Everyone got involved in the poster making.  Ryan and I helped Etienne lie out the "story" of the day that we brought him home. While I will always treasure that moment, telling him last night about that sweet day was also poignant.  We pointed out to E and Zeke the little airport symbol on the Rwanda map that he had glued down.  Then we set down a picture of Nyanja, our Rwanda "Auntie" that was responsible for coordinating dossiers, referrals and everything adoption related in country.  She will always be a part of the story.  We told the them that she "helped God get us to our boys."
      Than we found a picture of Mama and Daddy right as they were seeing E and Zeke for the first time.  We thought it would be cool for the boys to see our expressions in the family story.  Sort of a substitute for those stereotype exhausted, hospital clad new parent pics.  So overrated.
     The next pic in the story was one of Etienne being held for the first time by his earthly father.  This gets me.  I am sure you can see why by those eyes.
    And than this picture of him with his forever family.

     The rest of his poster had  photos of Ranger, the grandparents and Laurel.  Molly did some fancy third grade style bubble letters and Blake attempted briefly to assist with gluing.  There will be many, many school projects and family trees that pull at our heart strings.  We will navigate this unscripted territory and I know that each time may sometimes lead to more emotions and more dysfunction (this was followed by some lying that led to a late night).  That's okay.  That's where grace comes in.  That's where our family's life is deeper, richer and never, ever mundane.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sniffle, sniffle.

     5am.  Toe curling screams and crying.  Ryan and I bolted out of bed.  Nosebleed?  Nightmare? Fall out of bed?  In the boys room, Etienne's whole body is shaking.
"I can't breath of out this side of my nose.  It's sniffling."
      By grace alone, I hugged him tight and I didn't respond with an you-are-kidding-me remark regarding a stuffy nose, the early morning hour and the boogey man screams.  I hugged and rocked him and Ryan got a tissue.  Than I laid down and wrapped my body around Etienne.  For the first time since becoming his mom, his muscles relaxed, he stuck his thumb in his mouth and went back to sleep.  No clenching fists, no arching back.  He fell asleep in my arms.
     I was so excited!  I stayed up the rest of the night. Thankful.