Saturday, August 27, 2011


Adoption is difficult...have I said that before? It is. It is difficult.
As Katie Davis says, "it is the gospel in my living room."

Bonding is one of those things that I never thought about until I was expecting Elijah. During the 9 months I carried him I was plagued by the doubt of a brand new mother...would I be a good mother? Would I mess him up? I read books and I came across this concept of 'bonding'...they said that some people bonded right away with their babies and for some people it took longer. What did THAT mean? Did they mean that I could be taking care of a baby that didn't feel like my own? Was I going to be despondent and depressed after giving birth because I didn't love my baby?? And it seemed like it could be up to fate...a simple dealing of the cards...some people bond, some don't. WHAT?!?!? I freaked out. Then I remembered, I don't believe in fate! God gave me this baby and love comes from GOD...not from nature, not from genetics, not from the comes from God and He will develop it and grow it.

Thankfully, for a brand new mama who was already struggling with confidence, I did not struggle to bond with my baby when he came. I didn't even have to try. It was completely natural and I never thought about bonding again...until my next blessing was put in my arms 2.5 years later and my first thought was, "Who is THAT?"

I had to try a little harder with Iliana. I loved her, without a doubt...but she wasn't as familiar. I held her and babied her and loved on her, just as I had with Elijah and slowly, over the next few weeks, I was hooked. My ah-ha THAT'S what they meant about bonding...

With both of my bonding examples God filled me with love...I didn't get to watch Him do it with Elijah--it was immediate--so fast that I didn't even realize I had been blessed...but with Iliana, I got to watch Him grow my love for my baby girl. He filled me up with love for her so clearly & measurably that I was able to praise Him for it daily.

Bonding is really just a scientific label for loving. While most of the time we use the word love when we are describing how we really is an action. Bonding is the action of loving. When I was bonding with Iliana, I would sing to her, hold her, rock her, dress her, feed her, soothe her, bathe her, talk to her... all loving actions that grew love for her in my heart. It is the same with adoption.

One of my very favorite books in the Bible is 1 John. Long before I was a parent, I loved this scripture. It has helped me-- a rather closed, careful person by nature-- to open up and to love others. God has used 1 John 4 especially in my life to teach me. When Jared and I were first starting to date, God used 1 John 4:18 to help me to open up to Jared when I was scared to be vulnerable. 1 John 4:7-12 specifically spoke to all those questions I had in my heart (and from others) while we were going through the adoption process...How can I love a child that is not my own flesh and blood? Can I love them as much?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us...and so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in Him.

I love love love this. It fills me with peace and gives me confidence. God IS love. The love I have for Elijah is not made less because I love multiplies...and not because I am some endless fount of love, but because God in me gives me more of Himself.

If I practice love on Canaan and Eden, I love them. My heart grows more connected with them. But I have to actively love them. No, it isn't natural...but it is against my selfish, sinful nature to love ANYone more than myself. The God in me trumps my sin-nature. Oh, how I thank Him for this. Instead of limited, selfish love; I have God-sized, supernatural love to give to my children--ALL of my children.

The practice and process of bonding with my 'homegrown' children all took place when they were babies. It's the same with Canaan and Eden. They are in their 'infant' stage in our family and I bond with them the same way I bonded with Iliana.

I dress them.
Even though they can dress themselves, I frequently help them--not because they need my help but because they need to learn to rely on me.

I talk to them.
And with this, I have to make the conscious effort to make eye contact with them. I don't know why, but my natural tendency while keeping myself guarded is to not make eye contact with people. I have to force myself to look at my kiddos in their eyes when I talk to them and to listen to them with my eyes.

I bathe them.
Yep, I'm their mom. I'm responsible for their messes, bodies included.

I hold them and soothe them.
Canaan's tendency when he came home was to soothe himself. I pretty much had to force myself on him at first when he would hurt himself. He didn't want my sympathy--it didn't help him. Slowly, he grew to accept it and now, he needs me more.

I laugh with them.
Very important. We have fun together. Tickles. Wrestle. Chase. Draw. Dance. Sing.
Fun together.

I share my drink with them.
Weird huh? I have never been a parent who shares my food with my kids. They drink out of their own glasses because I think floaties in my drink are gross ...but with Canaan and Eden, for some reason, the sharing of spit warms my heart to them. Kinda like a mark that they are mine. Call me crazy...but it really, really helps.

Bonding. The practice of loving--actively, consciously. And God supports it, enables it, IS it.

Gotta love the real.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the J-man...

Whenever I'm asked to describe Judah it always takes me a while...don't you know people like that? Those who are SO much that it's hard to succinctly categorize them?

While it can keep me guessing as a momma (because, let's face it, it's easier to organize life when everyone falls into certain "categories")-- I can also see this as one of his greatest strengths. Judah is unique.

He has always been unique...but like the definition of the word, it has taken on many different forms. He started life uniquely as my easiest pregnancy...which, after my experience with Iliana, was relief poured out from my gracious Father...then he glided in to capture the spot of my easiest baby. Judah was SO laid back...a blessing that I needed desperately after the aforementioned Iliana who was difficult in and out of the uterus :-)...and only 15 months his senior.

Laid-back Judah was quiet, funny, happy, and a fabulous eater. Then we uprooted him, took him away from his beloved Papa and moved to Italy. It was a hard enough transition for everyone, but for Judah who also had to potty train, move to a big boy bed, and somewhere in Germany lost his favorite pacifier, the changes struck a more brassy chord. Judah began to develop a rogue defiance...still passive in nature, but with more 'civil disobedience'. If he could entertain others with disobedience, it was worth the consequence...and he still maintains this philosophy...But he is also my child who will notice when I am not feeling well, who won't leave without kissing me goodbye, who loves to lead the family in prayer (and will pray heart-filled prayers for needs around him) and who loves to hold hands.

*I have a point to this's not just emoting on my Judah-boy--stick with me*

We are in a drought. I believe I may have mentioned it a few times. And, at the end of this week, we will have spent a 1/4 of the year in over 100 degree days--and most of those aren't just slightly over 100...most of them are over 110. So, needless to say, it's hot. It's dry. And everything is dying--even the trees. The well has dried up...everything is brown. We fight the discouragement every day. In the midst of this pressing discouragement, God gives us hope-- it doesn't come from my reserves because mine have run comes from Judah. Judah prays faithfully, everyday, for rain...I grew weary long ago--my 4-yr-old leads me in praying for something that seems hopeless...and then there's this:

They are Judah's seeds and the seeds from his sibling's snack, all that he could convince them to save.

He diligently gathered up all these seeds and he's saving them... for when the ground is soft from the rain that he knows is coming.

He's going to plant trees: plum, apple, and cherry trees to replace the ones that are dying.
The faith of my child humbles this cynical momma.

He is unique.

Blessedly steadfast. Unswervingly faithful. Thank you God for Judah.

Friday, August 19, 2011


I sit here this morning, praying for my friends on facebook and one of my friends' pages pops up with an article on the famine in Southern Ethiopia and Somalia...then my mom-in-law posts a similar article...then I see someone else's post along the same subject...

I've been aware of the famine for a while now. I've been following, when I can, the desperate situation of these countries but, honestly, I have been WAY too self absorbed to advocate. How shameful it is for me to admit that. Yes, we are in a drought as well--the worst in anyone's memory--but I am currently sitting in a house (albeit moldy, but a home, just the same) with AC, running water, a full refrigerator, and 2 full freezers. My struggles should not consume me.

My Ethiopian children come from the southern portion of the country. We know very little of their background, but we know the vicinity of their biological family's home. We know the church congregation that buried their biological mother. We know the name of the orphanage where they were surrendered and its the south of Ethiopia. When you read the articles on the famine they all mention the regions in the most crisis...Eastern Africa--especially Somalia and Southern Ethiopia.
I try, feebly most of the time, but I try to keep up with news from the areas where their biological family is but news from that region has been scarce. Then I stumbled upon these blogs (and I am sure there are many more like them out there that I do not know about)

These are all people who live and work in the region of Ethiopia that Canaan and Eden are from. There are links on some of the pages of ways you can help if you feel so lead. As I am at the beginning of my own search, I do not know how to advise you, but we can research together.

I will not post the first pictures I received of my children. My version of child exploitation will be limited to the best of what life is handing them--but these pictures remind me that their lives are a gift that the Father has graciously given me. They would not have survived much longer and they certainly would not have survived this famine. As hard as it must have been to surrender them to the care of another, their biological father saved their lives and I will forever be grateful to him.

I prayed a lot for their family 2 years ago, not knowing their struggle, but knowing that God was telling me to pray for them while we waited for our children to be revealed to us. Now I have my precious children safe within my care and my thoughts are guided to pray again for their first father and for the rest of his family--that aid will come to them in their need. I pray and seek God also for the way I can help. I'll get back to you (probably) as to the direction He leads me. I hope you'll seek God as well for direction in the way that you are to be helping as well.

Here is the article my mom-in-law found:

and here's another option:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

JJ was right...

I think.

After the CTscan came back normal today, we started checking the house over and mold. Apparently the house had leaks before and the mold moved in right about when the old owners moved out. Then the house sat vacant for a long time...then we moved in. Yippee.

I have always been allergic to mold but it never presented itself in this way. Well, to be fair, I never lived in a home with this much mold either.

So we are eradicating it...scratch that--JARED is eradicating it. I can't even walk in the bathroom without my eyes tearing up and my face burning. Weird, huh?

We've got the air purifier running and Jared is scrubbing away. I bought tile and grout and other handy tools to help us tile the floor after the mold is dead. I hope that in a few weeks, the headaches will be a thing of the past as the mold ceases to exist within our home.

If you have any advice, we would gladly accept it :-) We aren't the handiest of people...

my current battle...

is with this head of mine. The day after my mom left, about 2 weeks after Mercy was born, I started having headaches. Bad ones. Not migraines, I don't think, because I wasn't sensitive to light, etc. But bad enough that I couldn't function normally and would have to take tylenol...then my ear clogged. So I thought, sinus blockage. I heated my face, I steamed, I took Sudafed, I drank loads of water, I took Vitamin C...basically anything anyone recommended, I tried. Not much difference. So I did the Neti pot, and saline wash, etc. Not much difference. Then my eyes began to ooze. In a weird way. So I went to the doctor. Got a steroid shot and drops. Better for about 3 days. Then back to the headaches. Right before vacation it got really bad again and the doctor called in some Flonase. Some improvement, but not consistent. But we went on vacation in the City. I didn't have trouble there in the same way as at home. Some headaches, but not as bad. I don't think I had to take any OTC pain relief the whole time. Then we came home. Headaches again and bad. When I bend over to pick things up, around 11:00 a.m., around 5:00 p.m....I wake up with's just constant and this morning I woke up with a clogged ear again--WHAT?????

I've gone through so many 'theories' : sinus infection, blockage, hypertension, TMJ, spinal misalignment, hormones, could I be allergic to our new house?... who knows??

All this to say, that, this morning, I am heading back to the doctor. It's been 2 months of this and I need some relief. I want to be a good momma. My children and husband need some relief too. It's really just supposed to be our 2 month check-up but we'll be dealing with my head too :-)

So please pray. Pray for discovery of the problem. Pray for relief.

P.S. Due to the complain-y nature of this post, I feel I should apologize to anyone who just stopped by to check in on the kids...they are great...loving school and daily praying that their momma's headaches go away so we can get back to normal once more. Sorry. :-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

when momma doesn't know what to say...

This morning, as I was waiting with my kiddos outside on the porch for the bus, we were talking about making friends. I was giving them the assignment to look around their classroom and see if there was anyone who did not have a friend. Their job today would be to try and include that person with THEIR friends, etc. I thought it sounded great. But, like with so many things with parenting, I got thrown off course.

One thing about adopting older children internationally is the time it takes to be able to understand one another. Canaan is doing phenomenally, but there are still many things he does not understand and his vocabulary is still very limited. Sometimes, when he doesn't understand what is being discussed, he won't SAY he doesn't understand. He'll sit there and LOOK like he understands (oh how I can identify with this tactic--this is how I LIVED in Italy...) but then when he opens his mouth to chime in, he will be speaking of unrelated things, showing that his mind was engaged elsewhere. Anyway, back to this morning. We were discussing the concept of making new friends and Canaan chimes in with "I wish we could BUY the teacher." Emphasis on buy. I stopped, completely thrown off. I tried to quickly search the thesaurus in my mind to figure out what he 'meant' because oftentimes, he cannot express what he really means the first time without guidance. But in this case, I was stumped. BUY a teacher? I remembered that just a few days before when he was leaving school I asked him if he had made any new friends and he had told me that he had "wanted to BUY Tristan but didn't." I didn't stop then to figure it all out--but here it was again this morning!

I expressed my confusion. I explained that we BUY food, we BUY clothes, we BUY things at the store, but we do NOT buy people. Then Iliana sweetly chimed in matter-of-factly that he was saying (because my children are my key translators) that he wanted to buy his teacher just like we bought HIM. *GASP* This was one of those moments that I didn't have words...all I could do was pray...pray for words, pray for wisdom, and pray that my face wasn't betraying the shiver that went down my spine. Did my son really think that he was a commodity that could be bought??? Where had we gone wrong in discussing his adoption with him???

In the few seconds of silence (because in times you would like for things to keep upbeat and natural to relax the situation, there is ALWAYS desperate, uncomfortable silence from ALL of the kids...), I composed my words and did my best. The bus was going to be there any minute (another ridiculous irony in parenting...needing time and never having it in the most important situations but having LOADS of time to teach underarm farting...) so I tried to be succinct..."Canaan, God GAVE you to Momma and Daddy just like God gave Judah and Iliana and Elijah and Eden and Mercy to us." and because I'm fallible, I then asked who he had heard that from and of course, he couldn't answer (when he senses things are more serious and he is confused he shuts down...under pressure you just CAN'T get the words out in another language)...and then the bus came. ARG!!!!!!! I had to send my precious child to school with SO many unsaid things!!! I was/am so frustrated!

So many things run through my mind...Did he hear that in Ethiopia? Did they tell him that the Americans were buying the Ethiopian children? What else did he learn about his adoption outside of my home? WHY wasn't I more vigilant in this?? I absolutely saw God's hand in giving us the money to pay for the adoption of Canaan and Eden. In all honesty, He even gave most of it back through the tax credit so we actually 'paid' more for our three bio kids that we delivered in a hospital without insurance!! HOW do I explain this to my child?? How do I explain that the love that I have for him is equal to my love for my children that look more like me? How do I show him that love can ONLY come from can't be bought?? How do I show him his worth in the eyes of his heavenly Father?

It pains me to remember, long before God opened the doors for our adoption, I was joking with friends who had all of one gender in their family--I told them that they needed to BUY the other gender, it's the only way to be sure to get a mix of genders... The words were innocently said-- It was my way of introducing the possibility of adoption in a light hearted way to people who were not considering it. I thought it was fine...even ADVOCATING for adoption... But hearing the concept from the mouth of my gift from Ethiopia was absolutely mortifying.

So now, if you will excuse me, I must go and eat crow before my Father. I know HE will know what to tell Canaan this afternoon...

Monday, August 15, 2011

potty training...a post in progress

So, it's that time again. The dreaded potty training. It comes with having children and unless you don't mind changing adult diapers with adult sized poo in them, you just have to bite the bullet and go through it. Eden is, for all intents and purposes, two. She understands what her diaper is, she understands what the potty is for, she understands what her body it's time to start potty training full time. Eden came home from Ethiopia basically knowing what to do. They would put the teeny kiddos onto potties at the same time every day and they would train them to go at that certain time... because of this she was super easy to train to poo on the's the other stuff that's the problem.

So we have begun the pee parade and she's sporting her big girl panties. Since Thursday she has peed in them twice and once I forgot to change her out of her nap diaper--so that day was a wash. It's been 4 days and today, we went out WITHOUT a diaper on. I'm happy to say, that she stayed dry until I put her down for nap...pretty amazing :-D!!!
It's the little things :-)


I have the chance this morning...everyone is happy and/or snoozing still, so I will post on the first day of school...I've shared on facebook already, so those who connect with me there will find this repetitive...sorry.

Shoes on...check



Take the tags off the extremely colorful shirt you chose for the first day...check

friendly, honest, eager smile...check

sideways debonair grin...check

Good attitude...check

special expensive sugary cereal that you never get except on VERY unique occasions...check


social networking....

So I put my children on the bus and kissed my husband goodbye...pressed my ear to two bedroom doors to ensure that my youngest two were still snoozing and sat down at the computer to pray for my friends and family. For a while now I've had a love/hate relationship with facebook. I hate its addictive nature and the cattiness that can be displayed by loose tongues and hurtful spirits--but I love the way that I am connected with my friends all over the world, just in one place!!

Most mornings, I sit with my coffee and scroll down my news feed and pray for those who God brings up--then I pray a little more and visit a few pages of different people to check in on those I've prayed for the day before, etc. It's been a way for me to organize my praying...I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the people I want to pray for and my desire to be faithful to hold the ropes for them all. This can become such a burden of guilt when time doesn't allow for a good long prayer session. Life doesn't stop, even when I desire to spend time focusing on Kingdom things, like praying for my missionary friends...or when I want to do less-important things like just now, I'm having to stop typing because my youngest is crying--she's lost her pacifier--be right back...

Anyway, facebook has helped me stay connected and feel like God is in control of who I intercede for throughout the day. I love that. When we were at training in VA we had a day that we spent hours in solitude, seeking the Lord and after the allotted time we all gathered back together to share what God had said. One of the guys said that he started his time by putting his iPod on shuffle because then he felt like he was giving God the reigns to control the songs that came up and guide his time of prayer through song...I like that. That's kinda how I feel about facebook--God brings friends to mind, and I's freeing, really. So if I 'like' your status or comment, you can be pretty sure that you were being prayed for that morning :-)

Just another way God reminds me that though I live IN the world, I am not OF the world...

All-in-all, I'm thankful for a medium such as facebook :-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tripping with 8

So we are gearing up for a short vacation. The first real vacation since the end of AGM last year when our family stayed over in Madrid after the meetings to see the city. Our trip to Ethiopia, while technically vacation TIME was anything BUT vacationy--and then we all know what the Christmas vacation ended up being...

So all that to say, we are going on vacation. Nowhere flashy, goodness knows we don't have the funds yet for flashy--it's just to the City...somewhere that you don't have to drive 40 minutes to get to a fast food restaurant...somewhere with a zoo and science museum...a place with a TARGET...a hotel with a, this year, we'll settle for comfortable.

The children are super excited...even my sweet ethiopian babies are excited and they have NO idea what a vacation IS...but excitement is catching, and they've caught it! (Although, you should hear Canaan trying to understand the concept of a's hilarious and well, a little convicting...)

Jared and I have done our research. We plant our family in the neighborhood of the City that is closest to our favorite shopping, favorite food, and our favorite people. The sweet lady on the phone at the hotel offered us a discounted rate even though we didn't have a AAA card and we are still under 65. We also know which fast food is cheapest for our family...we can eat at Taco Bell for about $13...we'll be having a lot of burritos (we are VERY thankful for the $1 five-layer burrito!!) -- PLUS, McDonalds has the 20 piece nuggets for $5 deal going on so we can get through there for about $16...not too shabby. All this saving enables us to take a break from fast food and catch a lunch meal at the Olive Garden or something like evens out.

This will be our first vacation as 8. We'll all be 'learners'. It will also be 110 in the City this week...yippee. I mean, it's been 112 in our town the past 3 weeks, but I was hoping for the cooler 101 degree weather of the City while we were such luck. So we will be hitting the zoo as soon as it opens and probably last no longer than a few hours...I'm sure all will be ready to go back to the hotel pool soon enough. I've got to remember to pack the sunscreen...

We are hoping that this week is our last dry week...we've been praying for rain for so long. Last week it rained for about 10 minutes. Just long enough to make Jared, who had just started mowing the lawn, run inside. My children run outside to play in whatever God chooses to send us...but it's WAY more fun in the rain than in 120 degree temps...