Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday Topic: "Fun Mommy"

     I thrive on a little chaos.  Really, anyone with 4 children does.  And delivering babies for a living isn't much of a desk job.  Ask me to get on a roller coaster or ride a motorcycle and I will run the other way, but a part of my soul does indeed flourish with the unpredictable.
  That's why it pains me to have to yell things at my kids (okay, my boys).  In the past couple of days, these are true statements that have come out of my mouth:
"Stop playing with the trash."
"Get off your brother's head."
"Put down the couch." 
      When kids are toddlers, I think that most parents feel that some days, they just play the bad guy.  Saying "no" all day long is no fun.  Well, at our house, it's like one of our kiddos is perpetually stuck in that stage.  And I have seriously pondered if I was crushing his spirit (I know, cheesy, ridiculous) by constantly stopping him.  But when I don't, things like this happen.
     Pulled an organizational hook unit right out of the wall, despite the mother of all anchors that Ryan had installed it with.  Nuts.  I should have said no sooner on that one.
     It's a fine line being, as my hubby says, "fun mommy."  I often have ideas that in theory are good and in reality, very, very bad.  Usually there is paint and googling involved.  The guilt of stopping the boys from running, than sliding across the floor in nylon clothing with the intent of crashing into the door is about equal to cleaning up a kitchen full of water based paint and hand prints.
     I really want to be present and hands on with my kids.  Most of the time, I feel like it is there world and the rest of us are just in it.  Games and crafts and books and puzzles? Check, if you can find all the pieces or pages.  Snuggling and kisses and prayers and bonding? Absolutely, but it will probably end with a tangled pile of kids on the floor.  It's just not that Hallmark around here.  And that is okay.  I am not the mom at the playground riding the down the slide with her children.  I'm the one on the bench, catching my breath and checking my email.  That's real life here.
     So my solution is to pick my battles.  If there isn't blood or tears, I try really hard to pretend that I don't notice running, crashing and wrestling.  It's a mama of boys thing, I suppose.  We don't get too worked up about a little nudity or noise.   Truthfully, if they find new ways to get from the top of the stairs to the bottom, I want to see how it plays out.  Yet holes in the walls, dents in the wood work or extreme embarrassment of big sister aren't allowed.  Using a nylon tent to ride the stairs is okay.  Drawing or writing (even it is FINALLY a letter, praise God) on any surface of the house will always have a consequence.  Carrying your brother on your head, "Rwanda style" will not.  See how this works?  It's a fine line, a very fine line.
     Is this how it is with all girls?  What about families of only one or two kids?  I don't remember a little chaos with only two children.  Do I not have enough rules?  How do you handle constant noise and mess?  Am I the only one that has given up having furniture in descent condition?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My favorite mug

This feels like my life.  Molly gave me this sweet mug, with her own money, for Christmas.  We have this thing with sparrows, so it was an especially thoughtful gift (Not to mention she's saving every penny for her Rwanda trip).
     Notice the black ink scribble on the tail of the sparrow.  Etienne.  Seriously.  All writing utensils of any form have been hidden for months in this house, so even thinking about the how, when, where of him doing this makes me nuts.
     I'm not gonna lie.  I was pissed (excuse my french).  Maybe it was those 5 nights of more than a few hours of sleep or probably it was just God's grace, but I started to laugh.  How imperfectly perfect that my favorite mug had been damaged with black ink.  I can still see something beautiful under that mess.
"Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself where she may place near your alter, O Lord, my King." -Psalm 84:3

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Sleep (or not)

     HOLY JOY!  Etienne has slept through the night five nights in a row!!!!!
     With dry diapers.  What?  In our world, this is God showing up big time.  This is big and beautiful and evidence of His grace.  This is an answered prayer.  This is a boy getting a very big boost in his confidence and this is 2 parents looking a little less zombie-like.  Five mornings of turning up "Say Hey" while we brush our teeth and dance around with praise.
     I blog about our lack of sleep a lot.  I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert at sleep depravity.  After all, most babies prefer sometime after 3 AM but before  AM to be born.  Between living with my entourage and catching babies, it's a topic I don't escape often.  This weekend, I was reminiscing (not fondly) with family about the days that Blake didn't sleep.  For years, he could function pleasantly on only 4 or 5 hours a night!  He was like the energizer bunny.  Ryan once set him in front of Sports Center,  as a 2 year old, at 11 PM.  He called it an "experiment," and at 4 AM, Ryan returned to Blake, tiny toddler with his eyes still glued to Sports Center (which just repeats itself every half hour all night).  I laugh to think it was like God was warming us up for our sleep deprivation in years to come.
     Etienne and Ezekiel came from the Home of Hope, in Kigali, Rwanda.  At the time of their adoption, there were just under 150 children in the orphanage and each our sons was in a room lined with rows and rows of tiny cribs.  Lying in one, a child was surrounded on 3 sides by other children.  They spent many, many hours in those cribs irregardless to whether they were tired or not.
     We took them home and our first mistake was forgetting those rows of "friends."  We tried to have Etienne share a room with Blake and we set a crib in our room, near our bed for Zeke.  Weeks and weeks went by with neither little man or parent sleeping.  As soon as we put ourselves in their shoes, we remembered that a bed or a big spacious crib would be lonely.  So our "3 year old" and our 18 month old shared a crib next to our bed, each swaddled with their feet touching end-to-end.  And it worked. For a bit.
     Zeke now sleeps fabulous.  We are still fumbling our way through new theories and tactics with Etienne.   One thing that we have always noticed with him is that he moves a lot in his sleep, he often sleeps with his hands clenched in fists and his large muscles contracted.  What's heartbreaking about this is that a lot of people-parents and professionals alike-see these same traits.  It is thought that children from an institutional background often don't learn self regulation, do not regularly get their needs met and are often in an over stimulated state of alert (think "I don't know if that noise is bad so I am gonna sit up here, ready to scream and run if I need to,").  It's awful what the world does to it's children.  Along with this, he wakes up a lot and then has difficulty falling back asleep.  Not fair, right?  Poor buddy.
     Here are some good resources for sleep issues:

  •    The Center for Adoptive Medicine- http://adoptmed.org/topics/sleep-and-adoption.html
  •     AdoptiveFamilies.com  
  •    "The Connected Child," Karyn Purvis

     The good news is that God has got this.  As with most parenting, whether a "home grown" kid or not, a lot of what we do is trial and error.  I am thankful that E almost daily reminds me that His grace is sufficient because I am not.  Ultimately, our rest comes from God and not from sleep.  Even though sleep feels amazing.
     So many kiddos have sleep struggles along the way.  "Crying it out" isn't encouraged with children that our newly adopted, but I know some parents have had success with that.   Ryan and I totally jumped on the "Ferber" method train with Molly (mostly because she refused to snuggle and she was so loud when she slept!) while with Blake we honestly found that he liked a dresser drawer.  Desperate times, people, don't judge.
     Does "crying it out" seem harsh?  Can your child sleep better with you or without you?  What about co-sleeping (and how do you ever have another child?!).   I would love to hear how many parents have their adopted children in the room with them...or with another sibling.

Friday, January 18, 2013

When Prayers Aren't AnsweredBless

      I love my minivan.
     That is a statement the pre-adoption me never would have embraced!  I love the automatic doors, the "room for one more," the camera on the rear bumper.  But mostly I love the space between the kids that gives the opportunity to chat rather than punch each other.
     Driving after school earlier this week, Blake said he missed E at recess.  It came out that Etienne had been disciplined.  I asked him what happened and he said
"I was tired.  I guess I am just not a night sleeper. like bats."
     Sigh.  As I type it, my shoulders slouch.  Luckily, I didn't have a chance to respond because big sister said "That's good that you know you were tired, E."  She didn't miss a beat and asked him why doesn't he sleep all night.  He didn't even pause and said that if his diapers didn't get all wet, than maybe he wouldn't wake up.   
     SNAP!  What just happened?  We had a moment where apathy left the building.  Again, I was still reeling from this statement to reply when Blake said
"Well we should just pray that you get potty trained all the time."
     Zeke, not to be left out, chimed in with
"That's a good idea!"
     By this point, I recognized that me keeping out of this was serving a purpose.  Etienne and his sibling formulated this prayer plan and recruiting "our friends that keep a secret that E still wears diapers at night."  
Love that, right?
     Fast forward.  The first night, E still woke up wet sometime around 3a.  We played it cool (like always, dude, the layers of diapers are totally normal).  The kids played it cool too.  The second night, Etienne woke up wet but slept longer than he usually does nad RYAN AND I GOT 6hrs OF UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP before the pee.
     High fives all around.  I turned our morning music up extra loud.  We were in praise mode.  But this is where the logic hit the fan.
     Etienne screamed at me harsher and meaner than he ever has that I wasn't combing his afro right.  Desp;ite the "good rest."
     He had a meltdown, tears and fists, regarding Blake wearing his underwear by mistake.  Even though he slept more hours than usual.
     He stole some money from his dad and lied about it to his mom.
     All this before 8am.
     He missed recess again and will today too for poor choices.  Darn it.
     I put  my hope in rest for a couple days and I know that isn't my source of strength.  At 3am this morning, when E started his day, as I tried to massage his muscles and recite Psalms to him, all I could think about was that I can do this.  Ryan and I are descent at redirecting ourselves to the foot of the cross.  It's just my babies.   Molly, Blake and Zeke that are diligently praying for E to be potty trained so than he can "make good choices."  Their little faithful hearts.
     Do I not mention any of this?  Do I remind them that God always, always hears them but that sometimes His timing is different than ours?  I know I won't tell them to"pray harder," (dumbest statement ever, non-Christ followers, FYI).  God knew that we would have a difficult week and he knew my sweet entourage would react the way they did and he knows how they will respond.  And that is what I am choosing to rest in this morning.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Explaining the Unexplainable

"It was also established and plainly endorsed by God, who showed His approval by signs and wonders and various miraculous manifestations of His power" - Hebrews 2:4
Last night I stumbled upon this old picture of Ezekiel.

        This picture captured a miracle.  For real.  Those of you "new" to us may not know Ezekiel's beginnings.  They weren't pretty.  This sweet face cried or screamed literally for 6 weeks straight.  I am not exaggerating, ask any of our family.  The touch, eye contact and affection we gave him sent him into fits of rage, followed by glazed over moments of shock.  Nights were the same.  We were walking zombies, on our knees in prayer and fatigue.  We had scores of family and strangers praying for our sweet Zeke.
     On October 23 (above) we were in a mall playground.  I set him in this tunnel as he cried for me to hold him; then cried harder when I picked him up.  I climbed away and peeked around at him.  He stopped crying mid cry.  He smiled.  This picture was the first time he wasn't crying and looked me in the eye.  I started balling and I called Ryan, saying, "It happened.  Zeke decided to be loved.  And I just fell head over heels for him."   It was in an instant and I seriously could see a transformation in his eyes in that moment.
"It was also established and plainly endorsed by God, who showed His approval by signs and wonders and various miraculous manifestations of His power" - Hebrews 2:4
     Today's topic to weigh in on is miracles.  I have a number of friends that are skeptics.  Even believers that doubt in the day to day hand that God has on their lives.  Until we adopted our sons, we were in that category.  Maybe miracles were some smoke and fire that televangelists used to boost ratings or Hollywood through around to promote sales.  God opened my eyes to His presence in every element of our life.
     Those skeptical friends of mine that I love so dearly for the color they add to my world; we've had some good talks about miracles.  Trying to explain with science and reason the unexplainable.  Truthfully, as a midwife and an adoptive mom, I feel like the biology of conception, a fetus, a placenta and birth, those things are more easily explained than all the "stars that align" when an adoption occurs.  I can tell you (as so many adoptive families can too) all the crazy, ridiculous, unreal scenarios that went down while we were getting our boys home to us.
     What about you?  How has parenting changed your thoughts on miracles? Are you in the skeptic category?  What kinds of conversations have you had with believers and non-believers on the unexplainable?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I don't need an interpreter

     Etienne spoke French last night
     He hadn't done this, to my knowledge, in several months.  I went into the boy's room because Blake needed "retucked."  As I was turning to leave, Etienne started jabbering.  He had already been tossing and turning restlessly.  I lay down next to him and put his face in my hands.  He shook his head and continued jabbering in French.  He wasn't consciously awake and yet I could feel his unrest even after I left the room.
     The remainder of the night, we were uninterrupted but I could hear so much movement from their bed.  He called out again so I went to my son but he didn't respond, again lost in some other reality.  I tried to hold him but I don't think it mattered.  So I just prayed over him.  Later, he came into our room to use the restroom and take off his wet layers.  He didn't wake either Ryan or me.  We had previously praised him for the rare occasion that he did this but this morning, in my heart, I knew this praise needed to stop.  No matter how little sleep I get, my kid deserves help in this task.
    Lately, some stuff going down has been a harsh reminder of our boy's beginnings.  Behaviors that are a result of unlove.  Of hurt.  French is a beautiful language but I don't want it in any corner of Etienne's brain.  It is still a part of him that we can't quite reach.  It's a part that maybe I never will get to.
     It's easy to let this sadness fill me.  To let my tears flow for him.  It is also a comfort.  A  comfort that I do indeed love this child.  That I would jump in front of a train for him.  I couldn't always say that aloud.  That is evidence that God is filling in those gaps of my heart.  And hope in knowing that at some time, somehow, that same grace will reach those dark corners of French and hurt and uncertainty.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Date Nights

     I don't like to give advice for many reasons.  The biggest reason being that I don't often feel like advice, unless it is sought, is warranted.  Most of the time, since becoming mama of 4, when we think we have something "figured out," it changes and we are back to square one.
     There are a couple of things that I do know.  I do know that a solid marriage has got to be a foundation in every family-and maybe even more so when you are parenting a child from a hard place.  Ryan and I tell the kids "It's us against you all forever. We are always on the same team."  Sometimes this may be between gritted teeth and a glaring smile, but we honor that we were together before these little people joined us, and we will be together when they leave us one day.
     That being said, there is one more thing I know about kids in general and especially kids that aren't attached to their parents.  Routine is huge.  Let me say that again. ROUTINE IS HUGE.  A child that once didn't know if he would get food when he was hungry or a hug when he was scared needs strict structure to get through every day without those old fears creeping back in again.  That sweet kid needs us to reassure that we will meet his physical and his emotional needs every moment.   Example: the day that I didn't eat breakfast with all four kiddos the way that I do every single day of their lives was the day Etienne ran himself full force into a wall at school.  Or when we tried to have our sitter put the kids to sleep one night, I found the frame of the bed covered with teeth marks.  These two incidences have happened in the past few months.  Those teeth marks are a permanent reminder that breaks my heart.  Routine matters a whole bunch, friends.
     Obviously, if we strive to have a strong marriage and we need crazy structure at the same time, we can't easily go to dinner and a movie.  It isn't for lack of friends and family not offering (you all have been great), it is just that most of the time, it's too much change, even if only for a night.
     Here's some things Ryan and I do:

  • We utilize our parents when we can.  For us, we know our parents know the ugliest and most challenging times in our family.  They've seen the intimate stuff and they love us better than anyone else in the world.  If grandparents offer, we don't ever turn them down for giving us a date out of the house.
  • Early bedtime.  We are religious about "mommy and daddy" time.  The kids all know that after lights out, their parents are spending time together and they have learned to honor that.  Almost every night, we have 2 hours together without kids.  Sometimes we will make it an official date with fun nachos and a movie.  But most of the time, we just share a love seat together.
  • Overnights.  This is tricky but good.  Etienne especially needs to see us leave him and return to him again.  We don't get to do this a lot but we know it's invaluable for us and him.  Again, hit up the family for this one.

     I could write blogs and blogs about strengthening a marriage.  That's not the topic here.  The topic is specific to date nights.  And more specific, to parents with kiddos  that have a lot of struggles.  So my first discussion is how do you keep your relationship strong when alone time leads to distress?

Saturday, January 5, 2013


   Lots of nights after we say prayers, Zeke loves to hear "his story."  I usually say something like this (with each sentence giving him a Eskimo kiss):
"Mommy hoped for you. Mommy dreamed for you. Mommy prayed for you. Mommy worked for you. Mommy wished for you.  Mommy got on a plane, across the ocean, to get to you."
  Truthfully and unfortunately, many nights Mr E doesn't get the same warm bedtime tuck in because our day often doesn't end well.  We always, always tell him how much we love and want him no matter what.  Every night we tell him no one loves him more than us except God.  Most nights, he plops his thumb in his mouth and rolls over, away from our snuggles.  In the past, if I tried telling him the same bedtime routine as Zeke, he turned away or started interrupting, talking about something else.  But for the past few days, it has been weighing on my heart a lot that he needs to be forced into hearing this affirmations even if he thinks he doesn't want to.
  So last night wasn't different than many other nights.  We'd discovered some "art work," and some lies.  We were bummed because it stinks to end a fun family night that way.  After praying with us, I asked Etienne if he knew what mommy and daddy did to get him home.  He shook his head no.  This is the story I told him..
  "Before you came home, I was in school during the day and at night, when the rest of the world was sleeping, I signed up for extra hours to deliver babies.  During the quiet hours, I filled out every paper in the world that I could find to bring you to me faster.  I stayed awake to find ways and people and papers to help us get to you.  Then when  I got home, I sat in my blue rocker and I could feel my arms hurt because you weren't in them.  I would pray that someone else was making you feel safe until I got to you.  I would read about Hannah, who longed for her son, Samuel.  I felt like I knew her longing so well.
"The day we found out about you, Daddy was in Oregon and I was in the clinic, the last one there except Eloise.  My phone rang and when I picked it up, a man told me to open my email. I sat down, you know where, at my spot in the corner.  And there was your face on my computer screen.  I cried and cried and I couldn't stop smiling.  I hugged Eloise tight.  I called everyone that loved us to tell them that I get to be your mama.  We celebrated that night and began to pack up our bags to go get you."
"A few weeks later, Daddy and I waited in this tiny room with a window at the orphanage.  We held onto each other because we were so excited. We stretched our heads, looking for you.  Soon one of the nuns came up those cement stairs, holding onto you.  We ran to you.  I couldn't pick you up because Daddy already had.  We cried and laughed because we were so happy God let us  be your mommy and daddy."
   The whole time, Etienne didn't turn away from me.  He listened closely, with his thumb in his mouth.  Than he said something so sweet, I will never forget.
"That is a really happy story, Mama."
  Thank you, God, for the little things that mean so much.  For another little piece of Etienne's heart closer to mine.  Maybe, just maybe he felt a little bit of our love.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Resolutions (yada, yada, yada)

Welcome to 2013.
Whew.  I am not one for setting resolutions....I kind of think there is no time like the present to make a change.  That being said, I am contemplating fresh starts, new approaches...who am I kidding?

  • TOPIC TUESDAY: I want to hear from my readers and engage in lively discussions.  Thank you, Kylie! I am all for free speech and I wouldn't put myself out there the way I do if I was going to take every opinion personally.  So, coming next Tuesday, I will start posting a topic. 
  • REFERENCES: I had debated moving to wordpress but losing my archive makes me sad...instead, I'm playing around with the format and creating more links/tabs to adoption and attachment stuff.
  • BOOK CLUB: I would love your thoughts on this....reading a book only on adoption and attachment? On parenting? On the fiscal cliff?
  On that note, I still want my blog to be my blog.  There are a lot of adoption bloggers out there.  Lots of mama bloggers. Faith bloggers.  I suppose my blog has evolved into all three.  I'm still gonna share our stories and pieces of my heart; the good, the real and the in-between.
  How do you make a kid know love?  I suppose this has been my quest for some time.  The theme of so many actions I take. To make Etienne feel and know our love.  This is weighing on me today.
  Lately, we've had some good days.  We've also had some new, bad behaviors that I can't share because I want to honor my son's privacy. Last night, after some tough conversation, all three of his siblings were crying.  They were crying because they love him, they want him to be "normal," they want him with them for the long haul.  He heard and saw their tears but if he felt the love behind it, if he felt guilt or even satisfaction, he didn't show it.  All those tears were out of love for him.
  I am not sure if anything hurts me more than some of my children crying on behalf of my other child.  Truthfully, there is a little corner of my brain that whispers that this is my fault.  My children are grieving because of what we have done in this family.  But than God whispers in my ear and reminds me and I know once again that that's the Enemy tearing into my heart, making me doubt what is good and right.  There isn't a lot that is worse than feeling at cause for your child's pain; but it is worse to know that your child still doubts that he is loved, wanted and worth dying for.  That is worse.
  So my other hope for 2013 will be that this is the year.  The year that all my children know the depths of their Father's love for them.  That all four, all four, will believe in their core that they are worth dying for.  That someone did indeed die for them.  Because that, my friends, is a game changer.  I so want 2013 to be our  game changer.
Each kiddo painted their tree today with their thumbprints.  We live in a forest, at the top of a hill, so trees  (and those roots) are a tangible thing to associate family with.  Thank you, pinterest.