Friday, June 29, 2012

Everyone needs a Blake.

     "Little" can only be used to describe my birthday boy's physique.  He has the biggest heart in the family, not to mention being the funniest.  I can't imagine surviving life post adoption if I didn't have Blake's quirky sense of humor ("someday when I eat enough to cover my rib bones, can we have a party and eat ribs?"), his nurturing manner with his brothers ("Etienne, hold my hand if you get scared, I have go-go gadget arms"), or the energy that he spreads (we once left him up watching Sports Center to see how long he would last; he pulled an all nighter watching the same episode run over and over again.).
     Blake wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up, while being married to an Ethiopian woman (he charmed them when we spent time there after being in Rwanda) and raising 7 adopted boys.  Last week he told me that he missed Africa.  While his daddy has been out of town, he's been emptying the trash, telling me I am pretty and offering to "watch the boys."  Several days this week, he has whispered in my ear in moments of stress with his brother that he is praying for me.  I'm sure you can tell I'm smitten with him.
     The thing about being Blake is that reality was the hardest for him.  When we brought his new brothers home, he lost his title as baby BUT ALSO had to let go of virtually everything that was "his."  Molly could maintain her princess status and the little brother's never had much interest in her toys, room, etc.  Blake shared his belongings, his room and even his bed with a glad heart.
     Until last year, Blake completely believed that he was adopted from Hawaii.  After learning his status as biological, he sighed, shook his head and walked slowly away.  He does have the surfer boy look, living in board shorts, topless with a tan and white hair.  I love, love, love that this child believes that adoption is totally the norm.  Happy birthday to my wanna-be Hawaiian.
Meeting his "little" brother.  Etienne has continued to hold at least 25lbs on Blake at all times.
They like to be "twins," when he gets his barber shop 'do on, I fear he looks like a happy Eminem
It's difficult to tell, but Blake is holding his baby brother on his lap.  Don't  mind that Zeke weighs 5lbs more..."He ain't heavy, he's my brother"

Goofball wanted pickles, shrimp and mixed berries for his birthday.  The other kids ate cheese pizza.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fried Green Tomatoes

"Etienne, please don't touch the tomato plants, they will break."
"Okay, Mama.  I won't touch."
Touch, shake, shake, shake.
"Etienne! Don't touch OR shake the tomato plants. Look me in the eyes and tell me what I said,"
Wiggling but not touching.
"OK! I won't touch or shake them."
Kick, kick, pass.
"ETIENNE! Give me your hand and with the other hand hold onto this car.
Pulling me from my spot, charging the car into the tomatoes.  Tomatoes are airborne

Fried green tomatoes for lunch.

Monday, June 25, 2012

About last night

     In the middle of the night I climbed into bed with Etienne.  I gently rubbed his arm, feather-like touch.  During the daytime, he resists this but will occasionally rub my arms.  I prayed for him and listened to him breathing slowly and evenly.  After a few minutes I got back out of bed and as I was walking out of the room he whispered, "Thank you mom."
    He is going to start sleeping with me again.

Friday, June 22, 2012


"I call with all my heart, answer me, O Lord, and I will obey your word.  I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.  I rise before dawn and cry for help.  My eyes stay open through the watch of night, that I may meditate on your promises.  Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, O Lord, according to Your law."
 -Psalm 119:145-149
     My brother sent me this verse this morning and tonight I prayed that God would just give me sign to remind me that He is present.  I opened my bible and it fell right up to this exact verse.  He's so real right now.  
     The funny thing about this verse and this week is that I have felt very, very alone.  Since I am with all four kiddos 24/7, I can't talk very candidly on the phone to girlfriends or family unless it's late at night (Etienne's behavior is such that he can't be farther than a few feet from me) .  Next: my phone battery keeps randomly shutting down, in the midst of texting or conversation.  Three: Ryan is on West coast time and in class all day which limits big time how much we can talk.  See where I'm going with this?
     I felt utterly alone because I was relying on the things of this world to give me strength and reassurance that I can parent my child.  So my phone has become unreliable, my schedule has isolated me from my support system and the requirements of keeping my home from looking like a battlefield are further separating us from the things of this world.  It's like God had to slap me on the side of the head to remind me that He's here in the midst of this mess.  That at the end of all this, I will only find respite in Him.
     I have some company for the next couple days and I am going to savor every shower that I get with the stall door closed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


     Last night I was reading about Hannah.  Hannah was unable to have  children.  She spent many days and nights crying out to God for a child.  She prayed that if God would give her a child, she would dedicate that child's life to God.  God gave her what she desired, He gave her Samuel.  This is Etienne's middle name.
     I was thinking back to all the nights and early mornings that I sat in my glider, praying out to God.  Begging to bring my children to me.  While I was crying out, Etienne was most likely lying alone in a crib next to countless other children.  Alone and unknowing of love.
I am holding onto this today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

If he really knew

     Remember when your toddler was exploring independence and by the end of the day, you were just exhausted from running after him?  Remember those days when it felt like all you did was say "No!" and "Stop!"; when parenting just felt like being bad guy?
     That is how it feels when Etienne is spiraling.  I really need to be within a couple feet of him because being even being in my presence is often not enough to keep him out of trouble.  This is just reality.  It's things like walking crossing the room and having him pop out the door and light up the grill.  It's crazy how quick he is (not to mention his skill and memory!) and how slow I seem to have become.
     This morning we started off the day with about 20 minutes of The Crocodile Hunter (now have requests to be Steve Irwin for Halloween) followed by two rounds of some board games, than working in the garden together.  I made the mistake of then starting up the treadmill during a ruckus game of "Scene It".  My focus on running, I missed E grabbing the game box over his head and shredding it to pieces.  After I stopped this Hulk move too late, I asked him to go get some books to read while he sat alone next to me.  I followed him to the bookshelves and overheard him mumbling to himself "Mommy only likes the good kids."  Sigh.  Ugh.  He didn't know I was there to hear him so he wasn't saying it to get a reaction out of me.  He probably meant it.
     A couple weeks ago I was trying to explain to a newer friend of mine that Etienne still doesn't believe that I love him.  That discipline  is difficult because I often fear that he doesn't know that I discipline because I love him so much.  She argued that he was just "trying to press your buttons."  I gave up trying to explain to her because she couldn't hear or understand.  Maybe that is true sometimes that he wants to upset me, but not today.  Not in this moment.  My fear was realized again.
    Please, if you want to be my friend or the friend of a parent with a child like Etienne, don't try to convince them that their child knows they are loved, that their child is like every other child at that age or that what's going on is normal.  It's not okay to accept that a child doesn't believe they are loved, valued or wanted.  Its not okay to settle for mediocre.
     I am again humbled by this reality.  The reality of abandonment, loneliness and doubt.  That my work is not yet finished in proving  that I am his mother; that my love for him is unconditional and without pause.  So I'm pulling up my boot straps and we are headed to the pool for the afternoon.  Believe it or not, its actually easier to contain him and keep him out of trouble in a large body of water than it is in my home.  Go ahead, process that one.

They love that Blake, at 42lbs, can hold Etienne, at 65lbs.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

For Ryan

Dear Ryan,
     I know that when you married me you didn't sign up for my tattoo, rockin' worship services or getting awoke at 5am for sheet changes.  You are my conservative Republican.  Constant and patient and fair.  A few years ago, God called us to this path of uncertainty, full of highs and lows, grace and mercy.  More than ever before, Ephesians 4:1-3 is the verse that reminds me of you:
"I urge you to walk in the manner worthy of the calling in which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
     I am so grateful that we are a team; that is it us against The Entourage.  When we went from man-to-man to a zone in parenting, you stepped up your game.  When I am in tears, you are my voice of reason.  If I jump first and think later, you are there to catch me.  I get us into a lot of pickles and you get us safely home.
     My boys open doors, tell me I'm pretty and ask to pray for me.  They learned that from your example.  Molly has no interest in boys, plans to marry a brilliant, well traveled Godly man someday and requires boys to respect her.  She is learning what a man is by the father in her life.
     I know this won't settle well with the die hard mothers of the world, but I love Ryan more than anyone in the world.  Biblically, we are commanded to love our spouse the most (as Christ loved the church! see Ephesians 5).  I can't love my kids well if I don't love my husband even more.  I'm so thankful for our marriage; the highs and lows, the laughter and disagreements.
     I am embarking on 12 days of parenting alone.  Most of my fear and anxiety is about how I will respond to our kiddos without you by my side, but we will be just  fine.  Happy Father's Day to my bestest friend, my favorite guy and my one and only.
His vegetarian wife does make him his favorite key lime pies.
Don't know if you can see this. It's Zeke's drawing of Daddy and Zeke holding hands and playing baseball.  Love.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happiness is..

     So we've hit another valley in the Higgins' house.  Etienne is struggling big time, which means the whole family is working hard right now.  Although we have our battles, most of the time parenting Zeke is loud, silly and easy.  Looking for blessings today.  
How to Keep Zeke Happy:
1. Plenty of snuggling. 
This boy needs at least 10 minutes a day.  Molly is always willing.
 2. Vacuuming 
I promise I am not abusing his love of a clean carpet.  He yells things like "Look out, I'm coming!"
Sometimes we lay next to each other.  When I turn a page, he turns a page.  Then my heart melts.

4. European (or Rwandan) Dining
People always say Zeke eats a lot.  Actually,  he just eats really, really slow.  Okay, I'm not fooling anyone. He eats a ton.
     The first six weeks that Ezekiel was home, he screamed.  And when he didn't scream, he cried.  Mixed in with some hollering and yelling.  Then he fell in love.  He literally stopped mid-cry and smiled at me. Since that day (10/21/09 to be exact) there hasn't really been a glimpse of that sad, little baby.  That's probably one reason why the sparkle in his eyes motivates me as much as anything else I do.  I remember his "before" and now we are living his "after."
     I don't know if Etienne will have one life changing moment like his little brother.  Most of the time, we have two steps forward and another step back.  I know that God has promised to redeem my son, I just don't know when that will be.
 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! -2 Cor :17  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

If I could undo this..

Apathy noun
1. absence or suppression of passion, emotion or excitement
2. lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting
3. stoicism or freedom from emotion of any kind
                                 -New World Dictionary, 2010

     I don't know why I never used this word before.  Etienne has plenty of passion, emotion and excitement for stomping his feet, jumping headfirst onto the couch and knocking things over.  He has a ton of interest and concern in undoing the toilet or his brother's Lego inventions.  Trust me, there is a lot of emotion toward getting dessert at missional community.  Except all that excitement and emotion vanishes with anything Daddy or Mama say or do.  There isn't an ounce of feeling toward the 9 (not exaggerating) layers to protect the mattress from pee every night.
     The apathy is clearly a coping mechanism.  What kid wouldn't learn to be apathetic towards adults when the only grown ups he knew for so long where an occasional American volunteer or a nun force feeding him?  Apathy protects a little heart from rejection, loneliness and loss.
     My brain keeps telling my heart this.  But my heart is exhausted with efforts to prove myself to this child.  I am angry and frustrated.  Writing it down makes it sound so selfish, I know.  At the end of the day, I don't think that this child could get more attention even if he were an only child with two parents.  His need to be included and to have all eyes on him all the time is overwhelming.
     Learned behaviors are learned because of the outcome that they lead to.  Destruction or deliberate disobedience leads to lots of attention.  Consequences to actions don't really matter when apathy is a coping skill.  Ryan and I don't get anywhere with our responses.  Again, my brain knows that the RAD response is to pull him in closer, to ignore the terrible behavior and to go over-the-top with praise for good choices.  But HELLO! this is real life.  Sometimes you have to react for the sake of the rest of the family.
     The problem is, I am human.  I get tired; and lately, really angry.  Sometimes I really don't like Etienne.  I force myself to go through the mommy motions with him because even though I want go crumble onto the pantry floor, he is mine.  Forever and ever.
     The thing about this roller coaster is the perspective.  Don't get me wrong, parenting my other children is the most rewarding, heart wrenching, fulfilling  job ever.  But loving them is easy.  Loving Etienne is not always.  I think about how I am constantly wrestling with sin yet my Father still pulls me in and loves me.  He doesn't quit on me and He is constantly whispering you are mine, you are loved, you are my greatest work.  And I keep on doing the same stupid things.  And He keeps on loving me.  That is perspective.
     More than lying or breaking my candles into a million pieces or misplacing every flip flop I own, I despise apathy.  My constant prayer (God, just overwhelm E with the security of Your love) will fix this in His time.  Remembering this doesn't undo my exhaustion but it renews my hope.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Left out (not).

     I write my blog for a lot of reasons.  The biggest is probably because it helps me process what my God is doing in my family, my life, my heart.  The second motivation is to give a real, transparent look at adoption after the casseroles stop coming and the ink has dried on the post-home study.  I don't write to complain or to be a martyr.  I write because I love my life, the chaos, the messiness and the grace. I also write because I love moms.  Moms are amazing and I am called to serve them in many capacities.  Blogging being one of them.
     That said, today has been one of those days where it feels like I am watching myself from the ceiling each time I respond to Etienne.  Thinking, "Really? Really? I just told my kid not to pick up furniture?"  Ryan said something about how it feels like we are constantly correcting him or responding to his actions.  Tell me about it, dude.
     I found some kid sized Birkenstocks (I swear, this midwife did not ever buy a pair, EVER) in one of the closets.  It's normal to find unbeknownst items around here all the time.  I called to Zeke to come check them out.  Etienne came running down the hall, shorts around his ankles, in the midst of using the restroom, calling "Can I? Can I?"
     33 months.  33 months of being forever home in a family.  Months filled with lots of one-on-one, special mama/daddy time; not to mention the constant behavior that results in negative attention anyway.  Before he did this today, his morning had been filled with tutoring alone with Grandma and playing in a park alone with Mama.  33 months and he is still fearful of being left out or behind.  This is what it looks like.  The kid knows that running mid-poo into the hall is going to get him in trouble.  In his little head Mama calling to Zeke may mean he is getting left behind and that fear is greater than the consequence of a mess in the hallway.
     I don't know what mom isn't heartbroken by this.  Sure, it angers me to no end to clean up after that debacle.  I am tired by his constant need to be included, seen, heard, recognized.
     So my anger is a little bit lessened.  I know that at this  boy's core, he is still a hurt orphan looking for love.  Whatever the cost, whatever the effort, whatever patience; I will take a deep breath.  Try to proof my love again.

Monday, June 4, 2012

First Recital

     Saturday was a big day.  Maybe bigger for Ryan and me than Etienne.  E has been playing the piano with Dr C for several months now.  At first, he loved practicing and playing.  But just like basketball, school, baseball, stickers and approval, Etienne has lost interest.  I know that this is some sort of deeply rooted coping mechanism, the not caring, but it is difficult for his parents to get past.
     The element of piano that hasn't lost it's thrill is the instructor.  Etienne is Dr C's "scholar," and the bond that the two of them share is priceless.  I really think they need each other.  Working up to the recital, E did every toddler-like move to avoid working with us to prepare.  Daily lessons with Dr C meant sitting with perfect posture, proper language and a very quiet voice.  For him, Etienne could do it.
The bow tie is daily attire.
     We are going to continue the lessons all summer.  Routine, routine, routine.  Tomorrow E gets to ride in Dr C's convertible Camero as a reward for practicing and performing.  Really, I can't make these things up.

Friday, June 1, 2012

It gets better.

     After getting up for the second time to the answer of Etienne's buzzer last night, my hubby and I laid in bed day (night?)dreaming about how great it would be if one these issues would just snap! disappear.  The buzzer is working in the fact that the rest of the family is waking up to get Etienne to use the bathroom.  If we make it in time, we drag him to the bathroom.  Or there are nights where he hears the buzzer and just takes it out.  Sigh.  My glass is half full take on the chronic lack of a good night's sleep is that eventually my husband will use his engineering students to invent some sort of robot that can change bedding and a child while also doing drywall repair.
     I keep seeing these PSA commercials talking about "It gets better."  Believe me, in many aspects our issues have improved and I am fully aware that my son could be setting the house on fire or hurting small animals.  His heart is full of love. And insecurity.  And doubt.  And fear.  It could be so much worse, I know.  I know it could get better too.  That's that thing called hope, right?
     Hope that my kid will stop breaking stuff.  That my mini van won't have ink drawings on the interior. Hope that I will find the matches to all my flip flops.  Hope that Etienne will find His God and his worth.
     Yesterday he took a pair of his brother's glasses and broke them in half.  In front of that brother and me.  I told him it was time to rest, no more play.  His response to me (with some very, very loud yelling) was "I think when I am bad that no one loves me."
     Ugh.  In that moment and that situation, I am pretty confident that he said this statement to get a reaction out of me.  To manipulate.  Manipulation is a great defense when you've been unloved and left behind.  But I'm only about 90% confident that he didn't mean it.  What if he did?  This is my constant fear since the moment I started trying to wrap my brain around how to discipline this child.  There isn't a moment that Molly or Blake have ever doubted my love for them.  Yet every day, this boy still believes that my love is conditional.  It gets better.  It gets better.
     The LORD your God is with you, 
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
-Zephaniah 3:17