Saturday, January 10, 2015

Last year at this time, I felt totally certain that the verse God hand stamped this verse on my heart for 2014:
"Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past! See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert." -Isaiah 43:18-19
Boom. That was it.  I felt this most certainly applied to the hard stuff in our house, to the new battles Imana Kids was getting ready to fight, and even to Crazy Town, our former "renter."  So I prayed and I dwelled and I studied this.
Rather than pray for my E, I tried praying more for myself.  Don't get me wrong, of course I continue to pray for all my children.  But I began to really be convicted that I needed to change me to change this family's dynamics, to help my son to heal.  I don't want to cause more trauma, and I felt like parents can do a lot of damage in trying to mold a hurt child into someone that God never intended them to be.  If that makes sense?
I started praying to be a "fun mommy" more.  I prayed aloud, in front of all my kids (we like accountability, right, moms? Why can't we be accountable to our children?) that I would be patient and my words would be kind.  That we could look at what God is doing, that He can and will make a way in the desert.  We started talking a lot about His Truths.
I am not going into details because I can summarize it with this:
Yesterday, 6 professionals that know our E well and care deeply for him could not tell us why or how, but that they can pinpoint a significant improvement in his behavior and his academic ability since November.  And that the improvements are consistent. Trauma parents, you all know consistency is so big.
We know the how and why.  We actually high fived each other in the meeting.
God is doing a new thing.  For E, in the past few months, his new thing is that he has been able to sleep through the night almost every single night.  This is life changing for our family of 6.
Sleep is something we haven't had in good amounts since we adopted our boys.  Sleep can't happen if you are really scared, if your brain is processing trauma or you are so overwhelmed and dis-regulated that you can not relax.
 And that's all I am going to write about for a spell.  You all have loved us well and I want to keep you updated from time to time.  At the risk of being offensive, I don't want parenting a child from a hard place to become an idol.  There is a fine line between therapeutic lamenting vs martyrdom.  I could continue to share with you the stories and conversations and moments that are surely more worthy of reality television than something the Kardashians did last week.  And I will, sometimes.
PS  Ezekiel still hasn't lost any baby teeth, which is a status thing in first grade.  Unless you are Ezekiel, and you consider growing multiple rows of teeth , like a shark, because you figure you'll never have to look silly with a "hole in your mouth."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Then he said this.

     Once, in college, I was hanging out with a student priest (is that a thing?) in a bar in Guatemala.  All good stories start like this, don't they?  He was about my age, but our worlds could not have been further apart.  My priest-in-training friend had grown up in a rural village in the mountains of Guatemala.  He was an orphan. He told me that as a young boy, he had been adopted by another family, but that he later ran away from them.  I asked him why and he told me that he never felt like he fit in because he was darker skinned than his adoptive family; and that because he was old enough to remember he was adopted, he could never "forget."  He said that even though they told him they loved him and that he was their son, he never really felt like he was theirs.  Oh.  I didn't have words then,  and I still don't now.  It just sucks. As a naive college girl, this conversation made me stomach hurt and opened my eyes, just a glimpse, to the plight of orphans.  I wish I could find that priest friend now and give him a mama hug.
    I remembered of that story tonight because I am praying for God to speed up His healing process for my own boy.  It seems like we've had E forever, that surely enough time has passed for him to feel like he is home.  It seems like all our repetitiousness, our intentional everything, our deliberateness with him would have erased his painful passed.  It seems like it to us.  But we aren't really the ones that lived it.  That live it now.  Tonight, after E told a lie,  I told him that I was praying for the day that he could trust me with all his heart.  He began arguing and I held his hands and told him that even if he lied to me every day for the rest of his life, I would still love him and be his mom.  Then he said
"But what if you want to send me back?"
    Just like that.  Ripped my heart right out of my chest.  My son, that has been home for 5 years, went on to tell me that the reason he comes in our room sometimes is because he wonders if we will send him back to the orphanage if he is bad.  He even said something about how "even the nuns didn't want me after my birth mom took me there."
     So we cried together.  We prayed for God to bring E redemption tonight.  We prayed that he would know in every corner of his heart that we forever his.  Come Lord Jesus, come.

Monday, September 22, 2014

We're back.

SO. I took some time off on the blog.  I realize so many people like to "keep up" with us and I also know that in keeping true to my transparency, a lot of other moms feel like they aren't alone in learning to love their kids.  I'm back.
Here's some highlights of the summer of 2014:

  • Etienne went to summer school.  All day, 4 days a week, for 5 weeks.  We were sad to send him but didn't want to regret it down the road.  He ended up loving every moment of it.  The rigid schedule is good for him; when he knows what is going to happen each hour of the day,he has a lot less vigilance and anxiety.  Which means a lot less hyperactivity to try to be patient with.  We would pick him up every day, head to the pool and stay until dinner.  
  • We spent a long weekend celebrating my grandfather and all things related to Paxton, NE.  It didn't matter that we were in a teeny tiny town in Nebraska- all 6 of us in a hotel room was some kind of crazy trigger for Etienne.  After that, he thought he should sleep in the same room as everyone in his family every single night.  For real.  He did his best to sabotage every routine and plan so that he could end up with his parents (and if possible siblings too) in the same room.  Since we never want him scared, and its so hard to know what his brain is doing, we bought into this for awhile.  Yikes.
  • Ryan, Molly and I were in Rwanda for a couple of weeks and the boys loved having Grandma and Grandpa Camp and Nana and Pops Vacation.  They got to do "things that cost money" and "drink pop a lot".  We are so thankful that our parents love us well.  We can continue to do our Imana Kids work because of their support.
  • Blake played select baseball and did his best to recruit E, but E only wanted to DH.
  • On that note, all the kids watched "Field of Dreams" with Ryan for Father's Day.  And just yesterday, after seeing a long line of cars, Zeke quoted the movie.  #awesome
  • Decided to jump on the no dye, no dairy, no processed foods train.  We are trying this in hopes of decreasing the volumes and amounts of bed wetting and maybe knock E's hyperactivity down a notch.  The no dye, no dairy isn't hard and most days, I already feed us freshly prepared foods. But when I'm baby catchin', it is harder for Ryan.  We aren't doing awesome at this.
  • The boys sat through all (!!!!) of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," by CS Lewis.  This was thrilling for me in so many ways; it's my favorite book and it's the first time I have been able to keep my Rwanda babies attention with a book for more than a few minutes.
  • Ezekiel can run 1.78 miles with me. It's a blast having him as a running partner.
  I'll be back to blogging again.  We've been approaching a lot of our E struggles with a fresh angle. Like everything, it's two steps forward and one step back.  More to follow...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baby cries

     I was taking a hiatus.  I wanted to go the whole summer without blogging.
     Nobody likes a whiner.  And it's always the same old drama.  Dis-regulation.  Hypervigilance.  Lack of sleep.  Lying.  Blah. Blah. Blah.  Yada, yada, yada.
     Gonna spare you the gory details of summer share something beautiful instead.  One of those moments I will treasure in my mama heart forever.  THIS.

A nest next to MAMA!!!
       My E has had some especially tough nights.  Like newborn feeding kind of schedules.  We never, ever get angry at him.  I offer to snuggle him when he wakes us up but he always gets upset and resists it. He just wants our "help" when he changes into dry pants, bedding, etc.  Lately it has been goofy stuff like "I heard something naughty outside" or "I was just talking to myself a lot."  I know he is afraid of something but he won't or can't say what.  And I can't comfort or give him peace.
     Tonight we were pulling into the garage from running errands.  Etienne started to apologize for waking me up last night.  I told him no big deal, and then I asked him what I ask him every night.  Every. Single. Night.
"Maybe you are afraid or worried about something and you need me to help you pray about it."
     My E started sobbing.  It was the most real, genuine emotion I have seen from my son.  Deep in his heart kind of gut wrenching sobs.  Big, big tears.  Then he let me climb on to his booster seat.  I got to pick my great big boy up and rock him and he didn't push me or tense up. He just leaned into me and cried.
He told me that he is so afraid that his mom and dad will die without him someday.
He told me he is so afraid that he won't know how to drive a car or read a book or "pay for things."
He told me he is so afraid that he won't know how to tell the truth or respect people without us.
He told me that when his mom and dad die and go to be with Jesus, he wants to too.  

"Because, mom, why wouldn't I want to just be with you and dad and Jesus?"

Then I asked him if he would sleep with me and dad.  He finally, finally said yes.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014



    It's funny how God reaches us, isn't it?  This morning I was reading through some scripture on hospitality.  The gift used to be peculiar to me; I didn't really appreciate how welcoming someone into your home could be considered a spiritual gift.  Since my hubs is always looking for a reason to smoke meat and our dining room table is the Imana Kids  HQ, we often have a few extra cars in the driveway or a guest sleeping over.  We dig it.  We're totally hospitable, all six of us.
    A good host has fresh towels out, ice tea chilled and kiddos that keep their clothes on while company is present, right?  Wrong.  This is not the same as hospitality.  This is entertaining.  If my desire is to practice hospitality in the biblical sense, it's not about how clean my bathroom is or whether the boys smell or not.  It's about serving His children.  All of them.  The ones that are easy to love and the ones that press our buttons.  We want to welcome others into our space because that's how God loves others.  He meets them where they're at and welcomes them in.
    Paul wrote a lot about others hosting him.  In one chapter alone, he references a girl named Lydia, a girl who tells fortunes and a prison guard, all of whom he goes on to dine and stay with after becoming baptized (Acts 16).  Strangers became family, just like that.

Being at Home

    What makes a house a home?  I think about how it feels whenever I go to my friend Nicole's house.  She's got lots of kids too and part of the reason I feel comfortable is that I know she gets what it's like to herd cats.  There's always a low level of chaos and that's okay.  In her space, I feel loved, safe and wanted.  I can't recall if she has fresh bath soap or whether there are dishes in her sink.  I know that when I'm there, I can let out a sigh of relief. I'm safe and I'm loved there.
     The Greek word hospitality is philoxenia, which means 'love of strangers'.  I know that Paul talked about showing hospitality to the poor and the brokenhearted, the tax collectors and prostitutes.  But I'm just gonna say it.  There are still many days when I look at my son, whom I know with all my being is my son, and he is so far away and distant and removed.  A stranger to me even though it brings me to tears to admit it.  I need to love that stranger better.  I need to show that stranger whatever I can to so that he can exhale that he is home.
     SO.  So just when I think I can't bend any further, God throws me this. How do I better make my baby boy feel that his family is his home?  What can I do so that he can rest well and have peace in our presence?  There are tangible solutions: empty his room of everything other than a bed, restart our rigid after school routine, eliminate activities.  But I also know that I need to check my own heart.  I gotta let go even more.  Part of being hospitable in a biblical sense is meeting the needs of those around you.  We go in these phases where we think we can jump back in to the rest of the world, doing the American run-around-be-too-busy drama.  What my son really needs is less of that and more of us.

Over and over again. And repeat.

    My kid also needs the kind of mercy and grace that I show my guests.  Instead of raising my voice as he (deliberately) defies me once again, I gotta press on with the kind mommy voice.  You know the one; the after the first-cup-of-coffee voice.  And keep that mommy voice going over and over and over again NOT EXPECTING to be reciprocated, however hard it may be.  Because I know in my heart of hearts that at the end of the day, if I am continuing to correct and discipline and correct and discipline my E, he's going to feel defeated and unaccepted, and ultimately, unloved.  Yuck.  I hate to let that settle. 
    I don't know why it's harder for me to feed the poor and show mercy to the brokenhearted then it is to show patience to my son.  But it is.  I gave up a long time ago into whatever I thought "normal" looked like.  Yet there is still this part of me that wants to change things I can't change; and that's the part of me holding my son back.  Come, Jesus, please come.  I want with all my being for my E to feel at home.  I want him to be able to climb onto my lap and fall asleep feeling safe and wanted and loved.  Home.
Tryin' for a snuggle

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hard stuff

     I haven't written much lately because I am just worn out.  We've had a lot of battles to fight.  Hard stuff with Imana Kids.  Hard stuff with our house that won't sell (and deciding to let that battle with the "renter" go).  Hard stuff with our jobs.  And a few weeks ago, hard stuff with my health.  Don't get me wrong; we know our cups run over with blessings.  But we could really use some good news.    
     Sometimes we try to control the hard stuff.  Do we do something, try to move forward, fix it?  Or do we try to rest in  Him?  I often wonder how to find the balance between being God's hands and feet but also being still.  Waiting on Him.  Our adoption has taught us over and over and over again that we have to wait on Him.  We don't have a choice; we can't quickly heal or erase the hurt that orphanage life imprints on a child's heart.  Only our heavenly Father can do that.
     Tonight Etienne was on his second meltdown of the day.  When he gets to spiraling, I've gotten to this place where I can physically separate me from I watch me in motion.  I think it is the only way that I can respond in an attachment way rather then being angry and mean.  Don't let me fool you, in my head I am screaming and it sometimes takes all my willpower not to swat him.  I made the mistake (again and again) of trying to hold him.  He pushed me away harder and looked panicked.
I said "E, stop, why are you pushing me like that?"  
He said "When I am mad I have to protect myself from you hurting me."
     Kick in the gut.  And the heart.  We've been loving him for almost 5 years. 5 freakin' years.  And still.  His gut instinct is to protect himself from me.  His mama.  Ugh.  This is hard stuff too.
     Do I overreact? Yup, been doing it for years.  Do I get emotional? Always.  Am I a yeller? Not usually, but more now than before I had 4 kids.  Do I hurt my kid?  Oh my.  I pray, no.  But hearing my boy say he has to protect himself from me makes me replay every ugly scenario we've lived.  And people wander why we haven't started spanking him "yet".  Is it my words? Am I mean? Am I over correcting and nagging and ugly?  Sigh.  
     So once again, I am resting. I am waiting.  Be still.  Psalm 46:10..."Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among nations and in the earth."  I have got to let this one go.  I've been trying and trying to be hands and feet to my son but even my hands holding him aren't going to fix it all my son's wounds.   My son whose heart is on the mend.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Turning Away

  For 2014, our house has been talking a lot about repentance.  I really like this definition:

Repentance: to turn away, in both mind and heart, from oneself to God

 For my non-Christian loves, Webster's Dictionary defines it like this:

Repentance: 1. deep sorrow, compunction or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing or the like.  2. regret for past action

     I think all of us would agree that it's really difficult to change a behavior if we just don't care.  Isn't that why I still drink Vanilla Dr Pepper?  I know it's the same reason my pregnant smokers still smoke. We just don't care enough to turn away from past mistakes.
     For Etienne, Ryan and I have really prayed through accepting how some things will always look or (dys)function.  We really don't want to spend our lives nagging and disciplining and running ragged because our son won't change.  Yet we know his loving, squishy heart and we desire for him to live in a way that allows others to see that heart too.  
     Forget the attachment models.  I'm tired.  I just want redemption in one area of our crazy life.  So we've been giving examples of repentance ("see the snot running down Zeke's face from his sobbing? He's sad that his ninja moves took out the plant"), of conviction when we are wrong ("This mama was wrong to freak out about pooping with the door open, it doesn't really matter, it's just gross.").  We've been working on memory verses in the bible.  And, more than anything, we've been specifically praying for Etienne to repent.  
     Friday night Etienne put a hole in the drywall in the bathroom.  Since he's done this a time or two before, Ryan has gotten fairly skilled at the patchwork and repair.  I can sand and paint.  But GEEZ WE JUST DON"T WANT TO SPEND OUR TIME AND MONEY DOING SO!!!!
     When E did the damage, I didn't lose my cool like i did in the above sentence.  I told him I was angry that he did something he's been asked by his parents not to do many, many times.  I made him clean up the immediate mess on the floor.  While he was sweeping the crumbles, he started crying.  Not his fake, manipulative whine but real snotty tears.  He began telling me how he knew dad would be upset when he got home.  I sent him to his room to pray and then I held him on my lap until Ryan got home.
     This is a big deal.  I realize my skeptics will speculate that he cried because he's afraid of his dad.  He's afraid of his dad being upset.  Any of you who know us know that Ryan doesn't raise his voice, we don't physically discipline E and I can count on one hand the times I have seen my man really, really mad.  I don't care about skeptics though.  I care that I saw and heard a little piece of repenting.  Whatever the root of the reason, it doesn't matter.  We start little and we grow these things big.