Thursday, February 28, 2013

Baby Turns 5.

Zeke is really, really loud..
     Today is Ezekiel's birthday.  Sweet, "sparkly-eyed-smiley-face," as his big sis nicknamed him.  Zeke soaks up every moment to be the baby in the family, whether it's whining to Blake to read him a book or convincing Molly to warm him up after a bath.  I believe the word manipulate would not be far off....but who can resist his Barry White voices or his constant bouncing/jumping/skipping/running?
     I love to celebrate Zeke because he is such a perfect reminder of God's goodness and grace.  This child came home to us afraid, sad and in a state of shock.  After six miserable weeks of crying, yelling and shaking, Zeke-ee found love.  And since then, that boy could not be more bonded or attached to his family.
     Since Zeke is 5 today,  I thought I would share 5 fabulous things that make Zeke Zeke.

  1. Zeke gives the biggest, fully body hugs ever.  He calls them "big as a building hugs."  Last week, he told me that he was going to stop squeezing me like that because he didn't want to hurt me and that Daddy could handle it because he's big.  He squints his eyes really tight too when he does this
  2.  This boy can eat.  And eat.  And eat some more.  There really isn't a food that he won't eat.  For a long time this was a hoarding thing, he really didn't trust that there would be another meal coming.  But now, given his love for cooking and The Pioneer Woman, I know he just enjoys food.  And when you run everywhere you go, you need a lot of energy!
  3. Many people don't know how Zeke is very sensitive.  He often needs many hugs from Blake as they depart and it isn't uncommon for him to tear up if a sibling is going to a sleepover.  Zeke is especially sensitive to his "story."  He loves to hear of how we got him; and he often asks for me to "tell all you did to come to me," but it usually ends in lots of tears.  Zeke still cries when he thinks about being away from his family.  But that is another blog story....
  4. Laughing.  Zeke gets to giggling more than the other kids, and his giggle is really low and deep.  Which soon results in the rest of the room, aisle at the store or pew at church chuckling with him.  A great quality to have.
  5. The boy's mind is a steal trap.  Ask his Nana or Grandma.  He has given them each detailed directions to McDonalds...he can tell me the ingredients to the Black Eyed Pea Quinoa, a detailed account of The Prodigal Son or the lyrics to a Micheal Jackson song.  It's awesome and sometimes unnerving!

The Jamaica cake is because Zeke is a Usain Bolt fan.  Sorry,  I can't convince a 5 yo that character is cooler than speed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Big Window

     That's what I am calling our sweet, stress free week.  It was more than a glimpse, it was a really big, floor-to-ceiling window with a beautiful view into Etienne's heart.
     Than the shades were pulled.  But we can still see some light peeking in.
     Ryan and I are cool with the wet sheets, the hyperactivity, the fits because we know that E is capable of being a happy kiddo.  We've been refreshed and revived.  I honestly had forgotten what it was like; I don't think we have had this many low key, relaxed days since 2008.  Not kidding.
     To be truthful, I have had some sin in the fact that I think I had come to believe that our family was always going to have some big battles.  God is  always good and sovereign, but that this struggle was always going to be a part of our lives.  But our God likes to deliver in big ways.  I was reading this morning in Matthew about Jesus feeding 5000.  You know the story.  He had been on a lake, healing people all day.  I imagine it most have been such a party atmosphere and no one wanted to go home.  The disciples, seeing the sun setting, reminded Jesus that it was time to wrap things up and they suggested that he send people home.  I love that the Savior of the world, rather than having thousands of fish wash up to shore, or even have manna rain from heaven, just kept breaking the bread and breaking the bread and breaking the bread.  Everyone got full and the party didn't end.  How glorious is that?
     So of course God can at any moment change everything in my house.  And He did.  And it was awesome and sweet and beautiful.  I cried at the simplicity of our morning routine.  I teared up at being able to read a book without holding (subtle, of course) this boy down.  8 whole days of this gift.
     So we are back to some of our stuff.  But this boy is new.  This child wants to press his face against my side and he reaches over and grabs onto my hand.  That is still there.  The bond, the one every mama can not find words to describe but knows without doubt to be life changing, it happened.
     Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Etienne woke his brothers up way too early; after wet sheets and most likely, hours of sleeplessness.  Saturday,  I scolded him for blasting his radio at 7am and he was furious with me.  I mean, fists tightened, teeth grinding, yelling at the top of lungs mad.  I was psyched!
     Mad is an emotion.
     Mad is  not apathy.
     Mad shows that he cares.  And that is huge.  HUGE!  My son did not want me to be mad at him; and for so long, my anger, my scolding, it always resulted in long stares, fidgeting or flat affect.  This is progress. And  most importantly, this is hope.
"Yes!My soul finds rest in God; my hope comes from Him"
-Psalm 62:5 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday Talk: Circumcision (or not)

  Early 2011, Higgins Bathroom, Bathtime:
Zeke: Blake! What's wrong with your wee-wee?!
E: Ya, Blake-ee, it looks weird!
Blake: (looking sideways at me) I donno, Mom?
Me: (totally unprepared, stammering) Blake is circumcised.  They did it at the hospital when he came out of me.  It isn't necessary, some people do it.  The doctor just clipped a bit of skin off the end.
Blake: You let someone cut my wee-wee?!?!?
E: I'm sorry, Blake-ee.
Blake: How could you, Mom?

     Circumcision is a totally normal conversation for me; one that I have on a regular basis with my families as they prepare for their babies arrivals.  I work with a very diverse population, so there are many, many alternating viewpoints on this topic.  For many cultures, it is offensive and unheard.  For white, middle America, not circumcising is rare.  So if you have a trans racial family, like ours, having boys that play "sword fight" in the bathroom means that this is absolutely going to come up time and time again.
     Religiously speaking, circumcision was once a sort of ratification between God and Abraham (Gen 17) but with the New Testament and time, Christians no longer view the physical act as an element of faith.  Culturally, many living in developing nations are very unfamiliar with circumcision because it is not practiced.  The cost as well as the high rate for complications (infection, scarring) make this procedure one in which the risks outweigh the benefits.
     Speaking of of 1/28/2013 the American Academy of Pediatrics does endorse circumcision.  With an asterisk.  That asterisk will say that it is important for individuals to consider their family values and culture when making this decision for their infant.  Research supports a slightly lower risk for UTIs as well as HIV rates in gay males that are circumcised.  So there's that.  If your child is not circumcised, there is more maintenance and occasionally there may be issues.  But that's the healthcare provider in me talking...PM if you wanna talk that.
     The adoption the parenting question is what to do about the argument of "I want my son to look like his father." Ha!  Let's point out the obvious.  Ryan is white.  E and Zeke are  black.  For our family, we never gave to circumcise or not another thought because we clearly don't care if we "look" alike.  But I totally, totally appreciate that for some folks, this matters.  That's cool.  Every family is different.
     I tell my patients that by the time their children are in the locker rooms checking each other out (do boys really do that?!?) I believe that the population will be pretty equal.  Did you know that there are actually support groups for those that have been "foreskin challenged?" I kid you not. Google it.
     So are there other families that have their kids accusing them of horrendous crimes?  Did you choose to circumcise your older, newly adopted kiddo?  Do you know someone mourning their loss? Kidding, kidding.
Here was last night's discussion bathroom talk:
Etienne: Blake-ee, we should pray about getting your wee-wee to look like mine.  God can fix it.
Blake: Ya, we could do that. I didn't cut it myself,right? You let a doctor do that?! (sigh)
Ryan: (hollering from the stairs) If it is God's will, boys.

P.S.  Etienne is more than awesome.  I am in tears at the miracle in my house.  If we wake up tomorrow morning after a sleepless night and wet beds, with fighting, tears, crashing and destruction, I will be okay.  I am rejoicing, full of joy, at the glimpse-now more of a taste-of my son. Take that, Kylie!  Love wins.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

One Week

For 7 whole days:
  • Etienne has slept through the night every night
  • He has stayed dry all the time. 168 hours and counting.
  • Apologies-authentic and with repentance- have been free flowing from him
  • When I pick him up from school, he doesn't run past me to the car or his sibling, he leans in against me and rests his head on my side (this sign of affection has me on my knees)
  • The other 3 kiddos are giggling, smiling and Molly says "It's like everything has started over"
  • Since Tuesday, E has said without prompting "I love you," to me when he comes and goes (until Tues, I had never heard this)
  • He isn't crashing/falling/flipping/using gravity to get from location to location.  His whole body is moving more appropriately.  That sounds weird, but if you have spent any time with E, you know what I mean.
  • Etienne has sat next to me, cheering and sitting calmly, watching his Blake's basketball game, listening to Molly play piano, watching the Cosby show with all of us.  He can sit!!!
  • No clenched fists. Awake or asleep.
     Ryan had to be out of town for 36 hrs and I had a blast with the kiddos.  I didn't cry, nothing was broken, damaged or lost.  Everyone giggled.  A lot.  This is a text exchanged between us yesterday morning:
          ME: ..and E is a pleasure to watch and is sitting calmly
          RYAN: :)
          ME: another steal by Blake.  No climbing or crashing at all here.  It's awesome.
          RYAN: Oh, I thought you were being sarcastic.
     The past week has given us our son.  The Etienne that God made him to be; that we had previously only seen glimpses of here and there.  I am not naive; he will have his roller coaster moments and this honeymoon phase may end today.  But I also have hope and I have knowledge, first hand, of what God can do.  There are miracles going on here.  I don't care what anyone else says, Ryan and I aren't doing anything different, there isn't a new approach with a therapist or a change in how much attachment parenting we are doing.  This is a God thing.  
We haven't been this happy or stress free for years.  Years.  7 days is enough to last us another few years if needed.
PS Funny side note: E having some boundaries. He told Ryan and I "I shouldn't just like go up to any pregnant woman and starting putting my hands on them."  Hysterical.  Huge, considering his baby catchin' mama does this all the time. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


     Something big is happening here.  I can't put into words the enormity of it.  Someday I will be able to give the details, all the little things that have been so noticeable to us.  But tonight all I can say is that God is working in more beautfiul ways than we have seen in a long while.  There is a weight that has lifted these last few days in the six of us.  Most especially in our E.  Tonight, Ryan and the boys were rough housing and I was sitting on the couch, trying to ignore it.  Etienne stopped playing and crawled onto my lap. He wrapped his arms around me and stuck in face as close into my neck as he could get.  His whole body was relaxed and melted into mine.  And then he stayed there a really long time.  Tears rolled down my face.  Ryan knew too.  This is different.  This is love.  He found it.
"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth.  Do you not see it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. -Isaiah 43:18-19

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

He Definitely Likes Me

     My Mom hand delivered this card to me today (she volunteers in Etienne's class on Tuesdays).  He had demanded that she take it to me NOW.  He had first told his teacher that he wanted to make me a card.  He wasn't prompted by a Valentine station or anything.  This was his choice for his "writer's workshop," and he asked his teacher to help him write by tracing the words.
"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gifts!" - 2 Corinthians 9:15  
    This is the first time that he has said these words to me.  My heart leaps and tears well up again.  You see, when I kiss him good night and tell him I love him, he has always responded with "Good night," or just thumb sucking.  When he climbs out of the van, he hollers good bye, but not "I love you."  He was thinking about me at school.  Another little piece of his heart revealed.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

 Etienne made me cry today.  Twice.  
Tears are normal.  These were tears of happiness and that is not normal.
That is evidence of God's grace.

     The first tears were when I picked him up from Sunday School.  Ryan was down the hall, so I was bracing myself to get the report.  The man, bless his heart, could see my tension from across the room and flashed me a thumb's up.  He went on to tell me that E was respectful and stayed on task; and Etienne was able to give me the entire lesson.  He smiled ear to ear and leaned against me as he talked.  Tears.  I squeezed him a bit too tight and I am pretty sure this teacher got a bit emotional on us too.
     Later, I asked Etienne if he would go to the store with me, just the two of us on a date.  I get that some families take their kids on real dates but in real life, in big families, we look for filling the gas tank or picking up a gallon of milk to be special alone time.  That's just life.  Now normally, Etienne ignores me when I ask him, or he will say "That's okay."  Today he sprinted to get his shoes.
     We only needed potatoes but I wanted to savor every minute with just him.  Especially with this maybe he likes me?! kinda mood.  We counted carts.  We looked for the letter E on signs.  As we were leaving, my son even carried the potatoes for me.  By the time we walked in the door, I was crying.  Ryan hugged Etienne and gave me his "this is awesome for you, babe" look.  
     These little things are a big, big deal.  I take comfort in knowing that there are other parents out there that understand my constant exhaustion at trying to make him feel my love.  I don't joke when I say that he still pulls and pushes away, that he doesn't say "I love you," that he asks for Daddy and never Mama, that my job most of the time is to keep him physically from hurting himself or the space around him.  And when I am not doing that I am wracking my mind brain at how I can find a fun way to show him affection while also making him walk up and down the stairs using his feet and not his arms, his torso, his head and/or gravity.  
     I am still crying as I write this, feeling so overwhelmed at a glimpse of who my son is.  Today was a good, good day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuesday Talk: Transracial Families

       I've blogged about it before.  Every family that has children of multiple shades of color has experienced the comments, "Are those your real children?" (pointing to Molly and Blake); of which we always giggle and say that each kid is real.  We then encourage people to touch, "Go, ahead, touch them! They are all 4 real!"
     Choosing to adopt a child outside your racial group is taking a risk.  It's opening your family up to skepticism, stares and tough conversations.  We knew that and I dare say most every transracial family would agree that yes, they thought about this before they jumped through, over and around every hoop to bring their child home.

This is the alternative.
Go ahead, look.
See, those walls line with broken bottles, those were Etienne's home.
My baby Zeke shared space with hundreds of other kids.
     And there are 210 million kids without homes today.  Do critics really, really wanna say that I am messing my kids up by raising them in a white household?  I have indeed heard that before and to those that believe this, I would invite them into our home.  Spend some time with a child that doesn't know love and see if at the end of the day, color was still that important.  Good gracious.  Family is family.
     I also know that I had better embrace, talk about, acknowledge and celebrate my children's black skin.  To say that we are "color blind" is probably one of the most detrimental statements people can make.  And let me give my reasons why this phrase makes me wanna vomit:
  • It is obvious to my children and anyone with vision that their skin is black and mine is not.  
  • Avoiding talking about anything can send a message that you aren't comfortable or don't accept it.  Here's a professional weighing in on this having this talk 
  • By avoiding the subject, children don't learn what to say, how to say it or, most importantly, how their family feels about it.  As soon as my boys leave my nest, whether it is for Sunday school or the playground, they are going to (and already have many times) be asked about why their mama is white.  They need to be prepared to handle questions.
  • It's a lie.  I am not color blind at all.  I see my boys skin and hair and the whites of their eyes differently than I see Molly or Blake's.  And I need to see them as they are because they require different care to maintain their health.  And I love that.  I want that.
     Ryan and I walked into adopting black children with our eyes wide open.  We heard the pros and the cons.  We even heard from adoptive children and adults that were raised by white parents.  We were not naive on this.  Ultimately, our household finds a lot of humor in the whole thing and I love the reactions Blake and E get from people when they say, with a poker face, that they are "twins."  They are comfortable with it and they set a tone for anyone that comes in contact with them.  I love to think about when they grow up.  Will Blake marry an Ethiopian woman like he says he will?  Will Zeke and E fall in love with women of color or vanilla?  I would almost bet money that Molly's children will be Asian.  And how beautiful our family reunions will be.
     I am sure that you have comments.  Kylie, no doubt, you may want to weigh in on this.  I am grateful and in debt to MLK.  I know progress regarding race still needs to be made, but that isn't what this post is about.  I'm talking the nitty-gritty, real life stuff.  How do you talk to your kids about race?  Does your extended family get uncomfortable?  What do your kids say in the grocery store line? 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why Would I Change This?

     Wednesday I thought I was going to die.
     I am a storyteller, at times I am dramatic and my husband and my brother would both say that I exaggerate.  I think I am working on that and I know that crazy stuff happens to us all the time.  Remember this conversation on Father of the Bride?

George: "You know, Bryan, Annie is a very passionate person and passionate people tend to overreact sometimes.  Annie comes from a long line of overreactors.  Me.  I can definitely lose it.  My mother.  A total nut.  My grandfather.  Stories about him were legendary.  The good news, however, is that the overreacting tends to get proportionally less by your kids could be normal....but on the upside, with this passion comes great spirit and individuality, which is probably one of the things that you love about Annie."
Bryan: "That's what I love most about Annie."
     So when I say that I almost died on Wednesday, the insecure me thinks that my husband and my brother and my loved ones won't believe me.  That the truck, with good wheels and 4WD, going only 30mph, didn't really spin from the inside lane acrossed 4 lanes of traffic and into a snow drift.  But it did.  And I did see, in slow motion, cars in every lane coming at me.  And after I freaked out, I shouted thanksgiving and I got a bit ticked off that I could almost lose everything so quickly.
     I want to complain and whine about the constant chaos that I feel finds me.  Do other people start a sentence with "Remember when I was doing CPR on the side of Hwy 7?" or "Nevermind, I just found my pager in the  tree house."  It annoys me that I know how to snake a toilet, patch drywall and filter out the washer from diaper goo.  I get grumpy that my son is constantly taking something apart and dissembling our house while lying the whole time.  There are days when I feel like the contestants on "Wipe Out," when they get their balance and then from out of no where they get nailed in the head with a pie.  Good gracious.  My home has clean, running water.  There aren't bars on our windows.  I have a healthy family, a husband that loves me and an amazing job and most importantly, salvation from God.
     The selfish side of me doesn't want drama but it finds me anyway.  And it blesses me not to be mundane or ordinary.  When I get to wallowing, God throws something at me to remind me that there is a purpose in every bit of chaos, even if it seems so frustrating or exhausting.  Last night as we were leaving Sam's Club, the woman that checks our receipt for stolen eggs greeted my children by name.  She drew them a picture on the back of our lllloooonnggg ticket and said "You are some of my very favorite people."  Now take a step back and think about what it looks like for us to take all 4 children to Sam's Club.  We have a pep talk that goes like this "What do we expect at Sam's? Yes, that's right. No climbing the shelves. No running or screaming.  Yes, you can pretend to be the Muppets, that is fine."   It is stressful, often embarrassing and sometimes more than frustrating.  I would imagine that Ryan and I usually look a bit frazzled by the time this lady sees us.  But our kids run to her, call her by her name and tell her funny stuff like "I worked a long shift today."  And apparently that is a highlight of her work day.  In other words, my drama my indeed be entertaining and enjoyable to others.  Sweet.
  So bring on the obscure home projects, the nudity and the inappropriate comments ("Mom, what would happen if that man's legs got even fatter? Would he be an elephant?")  And maybe next time I won't need a near death experience to find my gratitude again.