Monday, July 30, 2012

Changing him.

     The lady that made me cry yesterday doesn't read my blog.  I'm fairly confident of this, otherwise she wouldn't have led me to tears.  The woman meant well, she loves children and knows how to connect with them.  But she doesn't know my children and she doesn't know adoption.
     Started out like any Sunday morning. ("Boys, what do we do in Sunday school?" "We don't jump out the window, Mom.")  There was a bit of drama in the car and some disrespect toward me from Etienne as I dropped him off in the classroom.  Really nothing that isn't par for our course.
     An hour plus later, we go to pick them up.  The initial report was "We had such good listeners today."  As I am embracing all three boys, all three chattering, all three pulling on me.  Than she leaned in with a whisper.
     "May I suggest, and I know that this is hard, but may I encourage you to correct the action, not the child. "
     Well that stopped me in my holding all my kids like an mama octopus tracks.  I nodded, unsure where this was going.  She continued about how "as Etienne was acting out," (wait, didn't she just say they were good listeners?Honesty, people! I only want honesty!) that Blake made a comment along the lines of "sometimes it is this way when you adopt."  I nodded again, at this point only half listening and focusing more on hiding my emotions  Then I bolted out as soon as I could, sunglasses indoors and all.
     Now I know her intentions.  Her intentions are that all children should be seen as loved children of God.  I know she meant to encourage me.  I appreciate that this is an elder, a mom with a wealth of knowledge, but NO.  Nope.  I can't treat my adopted kids the same.  Reality is not the same because my son doesn't believe that he is loved, that he is wanted, that he doesn't need to do anything to receive his family's affections.  I can not correct the action but not the child.  He doesn't deserve to be treated the same.  Any time that I think back to the rows and rows of cold metal cribs or I remember him being bathed with a bucket of cold water and a bar of lard, I get a bit defensive for my E.  He deserves more grace and more patience and more efforts to reform his confused heart and mind.  My job is to pray that I am a vessel from my heavenly Father to my earthly son.  When your child doesn't believe that he is loved, you have to change your child.  His actions will than follow suit.
     That doesn't mean that I don't believe that he is worth more than gold.  I know, I absolutely to my core know that my son is worth dying for.  On a cross.  With suffering and the sin of the world.  My Etienne is worth that just like Molly and Blake and Ezekiel.  But until he believes that God loves him that endlessly, I will continue to correct my child.
     In the van, a midst the Olympic armpit hair jokes and singling Vanilla Ice off key, I let a few tears slip past my sunglasses.  Ryan knew better than to ask.  I prayed that I would remember that my value is not in what others think of my parenting.  I prayed that next time I can have the courage-with tact and grace-to explain why I can't correct just Etienne's actions.  That I can explain that I am working with God to remold his whole heart.  I prayed that I could just rest in Him.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sweet Molly.

     Here's the deal.  We don't do a lot of date nights because we are vigilant about preserving our time together each night.  The bedtime ritual is preserved for two reasons: to promote some sort of sleep and to preserve the sanctity of this marriage.  So this summer, when the 9 year old started staying up later and later (or else battling "insomnia") I have to say that a bit of my selfish wife heart wasn't always as patient as it could be.  Sometimes I rush everyone a bit so I can exhale and hang with Ryan.
     We've started this routine with the 9 year old Molly since she needs to stay up.  Ryan and I each climb into bed with her and then we do a couple word finds together before she buries her nose in a book.  Last night after we finished our games, Molly was worrying that she may not pass level 3 in swim lessons, but that Etienne most certainly will (the kid is growing gills). How embarrassing to have your kid brother surpass you in anything right?
     I told her that swimming is the only thing that has ever come easy to Etienne.  I told her listening, cooperating, learning his letters and his numbers and colors, all of it is difficult.  We talked about how it's hard for Etienne to fit in anywhere, to make friends or to feel like he belongs.  Swimming is natural, easy and he doesn't have to work hard at it.  This is something he needs the rest of us to be so excited about for him.  Reality is that a lot of E's life will require more effort than the rest of us need.
     She shared her guilt.  Her guilt that he frustrates her so much and that she feels so bad when she gets angry at him.  Than she said what took me at least two years to get.  "If he makes everything in life a joke than he won't ever feel bad about anything."  
     We told her we wished we could take away her guilt.  We also told her that we don't wish it to be any differently because her compassion and her comprehension of what true love means is so beautiful.  We told her that God knew she could do this and he saw something in her that he gave her this brother.  What feels like a burden a lot of the time is such an enormous gift. 
     Seriously, I didn't know my heart could be ripped out, stomped into a million pieces and reformed again and again and again.  Oh, my sweet girl.  You too break my heart with your pain and your knowledge of how big life is.  This too shall pass.  In His time. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oh, my heart.

     Last night dinner took an hour.  Not because Zeke was gagging on green beans or Blake was refusing to eat his roll (seriously, I know.), but because we were telling stories and giggling.  It started with Molly asking Ryan to tell embarrassing  stories about me.  That escalated to funny stories starting with "Once, when Blake was a baby....." or "Etienne, when we first brought you home....."  It was one of those moments that Ryan and I knew we had dreamed of so many years ago when started thinking about having kids.
     I was in the midst of sharing a memory of the first time we met the boys when Etienne interrupted me.
"Was my mom there?"
      I tried to keep it simple, just the facts.  "No buddy, it was only the other kids at the orphanage and the  nuns that took care of you."  That was enough for now.  Everyone went back to giggling at the funny stories. 
     Later, in bed, Ryan and I were talking about it.  This kids memories are coming back and fhey must be so confusing, the images, the feelings and the unclear stories.  He has been home for almost 3 years, yet in so many ways, it still feels new to us.  I think that is because there was a time before us.  It is what it is and the fact is, it stinks.  No kid should have memories of anything other than their parents love.  We accepted long ago, before the dossiers, the sleepless nights, the tutorials on ethnic hair, that we would accept that some things surrounding international adoption (really, adoption in any form) are painful and lousy and we can't change that.  We can only pray through it.
     These kinds of conversations, they ground me.  They remind me of the huge work that is going on under my roof and I am humbled HUMBLED that Ryan and I have been blessed to battle for His glory.  Seriously, we were thinking about how, yes, it's been almost 3 years, but we still have these heart-in-the-throat moments with our kids on a regular basis.  Wow.  
     Summer has probably been more exhausting for Molly than the rest of us because Etienne's escalating behavior has been such that she can't ignore it.  She's tired, exasperated and reflective.  And we are taking the approach that she is so blessed to be his big sister, that God knows she can love him through the pain.    I watch her and he squeezes her too tight and I see her genuinely pat his head with love.  Such evidence of His grace.  So much beauty out of ashes.

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes, 
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

   -Isaiah 61:3

Sunday, July 22, 2012

So thankful.

     Wyoming was fabulous.  We spent some fun filled days with Justin & Heidi, Asia, Trina and Moses.  Nothing will bond you to people like trekking across East Africa, being held in lock down in Ethiopia or paying off passport workers in Kigali.  Being in the company the Limmer family was good for my soul.  It was good for all six of us.  I found myself choked up in emotion countless times, watching Blake giggle as he climbed trees or listening to Molly whisper to the Limmer girls in bed each night.  We were all able to just exhale.  Everyone got to have fun.  
     Thinking of the span of time, since the beginning of history, it's remarkable what God has done with these Rwanda children.  Heidi and I were talking about how while we were going through the adoption process, there was this sense of urgency and than all of a sudden things happened really fast.  Like crazy (14 months start to finish)  in the adoption world fast.  This little tiny window of time opened up  and in that little space of history, our children were adopted, and than it was over.  No Rwandan adoptions before and none in the future.  In that time, He brought together families that will forever be connected.  The craziest thing is that there is a genuine friendship and joy between the Rwandan Adoption Community.  Like we were meant to be together from the start.  Seriously.  When we embarked on this journey I never knew that God would bless me beyond measure with meaningful, lifelong relationships like these.

Lots of hiking.

Blake is actually behind the big sisters. Stinker.

The Big Sisters: Molly & Asia

Feeding 7 kids is just going to be funny,.

The white boy is the oldest.  They just climbed Independence Rock.  The slope is slightly scary.

Good ol' fashioned tree climbing.

And bug collecting

Zeke, Moses and Etienne.  I love that they will have this friend that shares the same beginnings.

Heidi became my sister through adoption.  We got to just sit and watch our kids play.  The highlight of my summer.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Vacation, get away

     Tomorrow we embark on the Higgins family vacation in true Clark W Griswald style.  Ryan will pull over at each historical landmark, we'll belt out some Dave Matthews Band (with Molly's eyes rolling), and stop at Chimney rock for group photos.  We're headed 11hrs west to Wyoming and the Limmer family.   The Limmers adopted their son Moses when we brought the boys' home.  The intensity of East Africa bonded our families for life.
      Every kid loves vacations, right?  Molly can't get the day over with fast enough, she's so excited to get to Wyoming and her "cousins."  Zeke has been counting down for weeks ("Is today Thursday or Sunday, Mama? Because we leave Saturday"!?!?), and Blake has every intention of hanging out with the Daddies, rock climbing and golfing.  Etienne, however, is another story.  He hasn't expressed much interest at all in any of it and tonight I am sitting at his bedside as he cries himself to sleep.  He won't let me touch him, so I am close.  I reach over and rub his arms.  I'm too tired and frustrated to force cuddling this evening.
     His behavior all summer has been that of a toddler that lacks all supervision or discipline.  I am anxious about how he'll handle the car, no routine and unfamiliar spaces.  My gut is that this will stress him out and that there will be repercussions.  I just want this poor guy to exhale and enjoy himself without the drama.
     There are 5 other people in this family that need a break too.  We need to schedule fun for the rest of the kids in this family.  Swimming, rafting, fishing, hiking, staying up late giggling with "cousins" are just what my kiddos deserve.  I may even let them have candy.
     The fabulous thing about our true friends is that we can show up at the Limmers' doorstep disheveled and exhausted, with an armful of kids and a lotta tears, and its okay.  I have been waiting a year to have an iced tea and a heart to heart with Heidi, my adoption-sister for life.  Tomorrow can't come fast enough for this mama either.
     I'm requesting prayers that we will have fun.  That's all.  Seems simple enough and all encompassing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A new twist on the biracial family

     A few years ago, I was always a little sensitive about stating the obvious, the elephant in the room.  We are white and our kids our black.  Anymore, I crack up at Blake and Etienne telling the lady in the check out line, "He's my twin," (this always leaves a stranger speechless).  I am not sure if I have grown accustomed to the stares or maybe I am too busy making sure that I don't lose a kid to care about the looks.
     Last night at the park a little boy stopped at my feet as I was snuggling Zeke.  It's funny when kids blatantly stare.  I said hello and he asked "Is that really your kid?"  I shook my head yes and kissed Zeke again.   He said "Ok," and went on his way.  Love that.  So simple.  It's us grown ups that usually screw things up by making it more complicated than it is.
     Last week on our last night without Daddy, we cashed in on our four kids-eat-free coupons at a local restaurant.  As we were eating, I definitively felt the stares.  One couple kept turning and doing the I'm-pretending-to-look-out-the-window-but-my-husband-wants-me-to-look-at-you stare.  I looked them directly in the eyes with each slow glance and smiled big.  After a while,  I finally asked Molly if she noticed a lot of people looking at us.  Her reply was classic.
"Mom. It's because there is only one grown up out to eat with four kids."
     So there you go.  I was complicating things!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Comfort from fiction.

     Ryan has been home now a few days.  It was like a switch turned Etienne off as soon as his father returned.  I wish that I could capture the intense behavior that Ryan's departure triggered....destruction, sleeplessness, regression.  Those are a few words without getting into details.  It was heart wrenching, exhausting and humbling.
     Something else happened when Ryan left.  It triggered a lot of memories for our Etienne.  He can't articulate specifics, but he can use words  like "dark," and phrases like "I didn't want to be alone, I was scary."  Not any descriptions that we have ever given for his birth country, the people or "his story."  Not any descriptions that any child should ever choose for their memories.
     This has changed me too.  For two plus years, we have been telling Etienne and Ezekiel that before they came home, the people and the places that cared for them cared for them.  For as long he either boy can remember, I have striven to paint their story happy.  That our birth mamas couldn't give them food and clean water, but they knew a place that could.  That their first family didn't have the means to give them what every little boy needs and deserves, but someone else could.  But what if the reality isn't so?  What if my son's beginnings were every parents fear?
     Ultimately, everything broken is fixed the same way.  Every healing comes from God.  I know this, but I am grieving.  I am grieving a story that was probably always fictional.  I am grieving for my child that still has so many layers of hurt to heal.  I am sad that my other children have watched him and their mama suffer.  I just need to cry.
     While my husband was out of town, I really held it together.  I kept and will always keep a lot of the conversations that Etienne and I had in my heart and the back corners of my brain.  Now that Ryan is home, I am overwhelmed with emotions.  I am impatient, overly sensitive and dramatic.  It took a sleepless night for me to realize that I just needed to process all that is.  All that has been done.
"Then your light will break forth like the damn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go forth before you and the glory of the Lord will be your guard." -Isaiah 58:8