Wednesday, December 19, 2012

on giving

when i was in college, i worked at a lifeway christian bookstore for about six months. one evening, a woman came in the store, distraught and asking for money to help bury her child she'd just lost. i told her i'd ask our manager if we could help, and i gave her what little cash i had in my wallet. moments later, i had to tell her our store could do nothing to help. it wasn't our "policy."

after she left, the guy who was working with me that night said something along the lines of, "you know you just got duped. what an irresponsible way to steward a few bucks." i wasn't naive. i knew there was a good chance the sad story about a dead child and funeral costs had been made up. but, in the back of my mind, i had to wonder: what if it was true? what if she really needed help?

the question of how christians should respond in these situations probably comes up more often around christmas than any other time of the year. i have seen more people on street corners in my city with signs reading "broke and hungry" this month. i was approached two days ago in the parking lot of a local shopping center by a woman who said she needed help feeding her two children. i know there is real need here (several months ago, we were named the #1 city for hungry children in america...not something you really want to be #1 for), but sometimes i still hear that voice in my head: "you know you just got duped."

i don't like that christians make other christians feel guilty about being generous. and i don't want my children believing that we put conditions on how we give and who we give to. i want them to know they should never feel guilty about helping someone who they think is in need.

i love these words from the sermon of a 19th century scottish minister (found in tim keller's excellent book generous justice: how God's grace makes us just):

"now, dear christians, some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of christ. if so, you must be like him in giving...'though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor'...objection 1. 'my money is my own.' answer: christ might have said, 'my blood is my own, my life is my own'...then where should we have been? objection 2. 'the poor are undeserving.' answer: christ might have said, 'they are wicked rebels...shall i lay down my life for these? i will give to the good angels.' but no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. he gave his blood for the undeserving. objection 3. 'the poor may abuse it.' answer: christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood. oh, my dear christians! if you would be like christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and undeserving."


Monday, December 3, 2012

a confession

let me confess: sometimes i torture myself by reading blogs of people whose parenting skills and children seem more advanced than mine. i'm pretty sure women, and mothers in particular, are really bad about comparing.

the most classic "lauren gets angsty every time she reads a blog like this" example is as follows.

the mom who does a billion crafts with her two-year-old and documents each craft with a picture post but never includes any pictures of the two-year-old ACTUALLY DOING THE CRAFT.

this is buma. he just turned two (and i never wrote a birthday post). this kid doesn't sit down for more than five seconds unless he's feeling particularly needy that day (and even then, he wants nothing to do with anything except being held).

the last time we did a craft (which was more than 2 months ago), i literally had to restrain him just so i could trace his hand. and then he had a major meltdown when i tried to put his finger in paint.

his favorite things to do with just about anything you give him are (a) put it in his mouth/eat it or (b) find a bigger container to put it in and then dump it out and then do that all over again or (c) throw it.

sure, he's maybe a tad behind developmentally (someone recently told us they thought he was 14 months old), but from what i know about most typical-didn't-spend-16-months-in-an-orphanage-two-year-olds, his behavior isn't too far off the curve.

so please, if you have a two-year-old that does crafts, at least post pictures that show your kid actually doing the craft so we know he did it and you're not just passing off the work you did as your kid's. or take and actually post some pictures of the mishaps that most certainly did occur when you let your two-year-old try to glue popsicle sticks together to make some holiday-themed bobble.

or you could do what i told my mom to do when she and my dad babysat recently and did a christmas craft with my kids: lie and say that your kid, like most of the rest of ours, can't do a craft yet.*+

*this post was written mostly in jest (i don't really condone lying). but in all seriousness, all the mom bloggers out there should make a pact that says everything you post about your parenting and your children can't be perfect. because perfect just ain't real life.
+buma laid down in the floor and tantrumed when my mom tried to get him to let her paint his hand for the christmas craft.

Friday, November 2, 2012

we aren't perfect: debunking myths

recently, our daughter has begun opening up about her birth mother.*

it has caused me to think a lot about the myths surrounding birth parents and adoptive parents. myths like "your children are so lucky to be adopted" (translation: your children are so lucky to live in america now and not that third world country they were born in) or "you are so inspiring and amazing" (translation: only the most saintly people can adopt) or "wow, those women who give up their children are the most self-sacrificing people ever" (translation: birth parents are perfect) or "ugh, it's so horrible that those women just give up their children" (translation: birth parents are the scum of the earth).

if it weren't a breach of my children's privacy, i wish i could invite people into my home to observe how untrue all of these myths are.

for starters, the lucky children are actually those who have never had a disruption in their family unit.

and me? i'm not a saint. sure, when you first start the adoption process, it feels like you're doing something extraordinarily radical. but then you get your child(ren) home, and you realize you're just like any other parent -- a big, fat sinner, grossly unaware up to that point of how flawed you truly are.

seeing this about myself has caused me considerable struggle recently as kal has begun asking about her birth mother.

birth parent myths are easy to perpetuate, particularly in international adoption situations where there are often few details (and even when there are details, nothing is ever guaranteed to be 100% accurate). this is why we take good care to protect our children's stories, as the tendency of most people is to add or infer information that's not really there.

it's not so much that i feel threatened by the existence of this other woman, as if my daughter hates me. in fact, i rejoice that this woman is now becoming part of our daily conversations. but when i think of her, all i hear is the resounding throng of voices championing the sacrifice of birth parents. and, in my mind, i think she must have been perfect.

i think she must have never yelled. or lost her temper. or been impatient.

i think she must have always played with kal and never needed a break. and always took every opportunity to cuddle and kiss. and always encouaged rather than criticized. and always found every, single thing kal did to be amazing (and never annoying).

i know these things aren't true, because as jamie put it to me, "she's still a sinner too."

but still, these myths can creep into the soul and fester there. some cause insecurity and sadness, others cause pride and flattery. so while it's not bad to honor birth parents because many of them have made enormous sacrifices, or to honor adoptive parents (they make sacrifices too), or to admit that some birth parents suck and are guilty of abuse, neglect, etc...we all should use caution when we speak, guarding our words and weighing the implications of them.

thankfully, i'm an adult who can see how these myths play out in my own family. unfortunately, my children don't have that perception yet, and they are particularly vulnerable to believing things about themselves and their unique situations that aren't true.

*as an aside, we do not make it a practice to discuss the intimate details of our children's lives pre-adoption. however, i do feel at ease making this statement because there is no hiding that all adopted children had birth parents regardless of how/why/when they ultimately came to be adopted.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

last month

nothing thrills me more than to get one good picture of one of my kids.
we just passed five months home and are in the midst of round 2 of post-adoption reports. speaking of pictures, i'm literally flabbergasted when i look back at the pictures we took when the kids first came home. kal has definitely grown and matured in the last almost six months, but it's rebuma that amazes me. that guy has gone from a giant baby to a little boy (he turns two next month...oh my).

if you don't take regular photos of your kids, start doing it! my husband can attest to the fact that i have a little obsession with taking pictures (if i don't have my slr camera shoved in my kids' faces, i at least always have my iphone handy). i like to catch the mundane things of everyday (seriously, i probably have a hundred pictures of my kids rolling a ball back and forth to each other outside or playing with toys in their playroom from tons of different days) because i want to be able to show them what it was like when they were little.


our last month has been a little crazy. i had unexpected surgery last month for a basketball-size ovarian cyst that had been growing in my abdomen for who knows how long. it all came out of nowhere, and i found myself complaining a lot about how terrible the timing was. nobody really plans to have relatively major surgery four months after bringing home two children via adoption. we hadn't planned on our first "just the two of us" date being to an oncologist's office. and we definitely hadn't planned on some of the rules and boundaries we'd set up since coming home being temporarily thrown out the window since i spent about two weeks needing lots of help with even simple caregiving tasks. i struggled enormously the first week after surgery, fretting about attachment and whether my children would rebound from this disruption. i watched my son be confused about who his mommy was.
since then, i've come away with a sense of gratitude, not only because my cyst was benign, but also because i learned to cherish my children more. it's hard to be a parent, and, for me, it's been hard being a stay-at-home-mom. i see my kids every day, all day, which means i experience some of the best times with them and some of the worst (plus, everywhere in between). i often envy jamie when he comes home each night because he's got fresh grace for them and the ability to see everything they do as awesome rather than annoying. for me, having surgery and being forced to take some time off my job as mom helped me come back to my children with fresh grace. i still struggle day-to-day with my responses to them (i don't always give them grace, and sometimes i'm just plain mean), and some days being a mother (and an adoptive mother at that) still seems as overwhelming as it did when they first came home.
but overall, i finally feel normal and adjusted.
and my kids are seriously awesome.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

referralversary #2!

a year ago today, we got the most amazing picture.

it came after a week of praying that the last document for a three-year-old girl would come in quickly so that she could be referred to us. our agency had told us up front that there weren't many pictures of this little girl, and they understood if we decided not to accept her referral. maybe there really are people out there who say "no" to a child because there aren't enough pictures of them, but i can't really fathom that. when i saw that picture, i knew she was ours.

the day we got the call about kal's referral, jamie was out of town on business. it was a friday, and i was leaving work mid-morning to drive to ohio for our nephew's fifth birthday (jamie was flying directly there from his business trip). it was a bummer to be separated on such a momentous day, but i'm honestly grateful for the 6-hour drive i had that day alone. it gave me a lot of time to reflect on kal and her story, and there were many tears shed -- both happy and sad.

before we got kal's referral, we had almost given up hope that we'd be able to adopt two kids at the same time. things had been moving so slowly, and no toddlers had been referred in months. so it was not only a huge miracle to get this second referral, but it was such a surprise to be referred a girl. though we had prepared the entire adoption for two boys based on the wait times for girls being longer, i began longing for a girl.

kal is actually nothing like the first picture we got of her. she is loud and sassy and talkative and energetic. i remember studying that picture over and over again thinking this little girl was the most prim and proper, reserved, innocent girl in the entire world. time went on, however, and we started to realize as we got more pictures that this girl was quite spunky :)

as much as i treasure that first picture of kal, i'm so glad healing has begun in her heart. we still see the scared little girl from the picture sometimes, but more often than not, we see our bubbly girl with a huge grin. and we're so glad she's ours.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

referralversary #1!

today marks one year since we first saw our son's face.

we waited 28 months for that day to come -- 9 months raising money and doing paperwork, 19 months officially on a waitlist. i know it doesn't seem like a lot compared to today's wait times for ethiopia, but it felt like an eternity given the original wait times we had expected.
you can read about rebuma's referral day here. one of my favorite parts of that day was the meatloaf i was eating for lunch while casually talking to jamie on the phone about this child who would be our son. when we got rebuma's referral, he was 9.5 months old and had lived in an orphanage for almost all of his life.
rebuma has endured a lot in his little life -- he is such a miracle. the thing we heard over and over from the staff at our agency's transition home when we picked our kids up was how amazed they were at how rebuma progressed. when he arrived there in december (he'd been at another orphanage previously), he was sick and extremely malnourished. when we met him for the first time in january, he weighed just 11 pounds at 13 months old and literally didn't make noise (no crying, cooing, etc). in the months between our court date and embassy date, he almost doubled his body weight. now that he's been home for more than three months, he has grown even more, started walking, and is on the verge of a major word explosion (thanks to his big sister). he has the goofiest personality (think class clown type) and is, in general, just a really fun kid (with a name like rebuma, i'm pretty sure you're required to have a huge personality). we still have hard times with him, and it's not like the last three months have healed all his wounds. but he has come far, and for that, we are thankful.
he is undoubtedly living proof of God's power and grace. and we are blessed to be his parents.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

three months later

perhaps the title of this post led you to believe this would be an attempt to summarize all that has taken place in our family three months post-adoption. but instead, what i'm really here to say that after three months, we finally broke down and bought...

a double stroller.
and let me tell you, after an inaugural stroll through best buy tonight, i knew my life would never be the same again.
kal has actually been extremely good about walking (and rarely whining) when we go places where she can't just ride in a cart. but even she has had her moments where exhaustion and overstimulation get the best of her. we've had a handful of miserable moments where kal has melted down or been on the verge of melting down because she wanted to be carried while we were out (and, for the record, i have had a few frazzled mom moments when i've obliged her request to be carried. mothers of more than two children, i salute you, because it takes a lot just to juggle a 4-year-old on your hip while steering a stroller carrying an almost-2-year-old with one hand). but now, thanks to the awesome sit and stand double stroller, kal can sit down when she feels tired/overwhelmed or stand up when she's looking for a little adventure (and she can still walk when she wants to, but i already told her that we didn't just buy a double stroller for her to decide that she never wants to ride in the stroller again).
the other thing i've noticed, though, is that strollers are a good way to protect your kids from all the crazies out there who have never heard of a good 'ole thing called personal space. i'm probably a little hypersensitive about personal space because i've read a lot about kids from multiple caregiver backgrounds who don't know how to discriminate between their permanent caregivers (read: mommy and daddy) and all the other potential caregivers in the world (read: complete strangers at the mall). we still don't let people we know and trust get too much in their space because, even with the positive steps toward healthy attachment we've taken in the last few months, there are still times when i watch them be totally confused about who mommy is or who they're going home with. the problem is, rebuma is now in a stage where he absolutely loves to wave at people, which means he is perpetually -- though, unintentionally -- inviting others into his personal space (sometimes, when he's feeling extra congenial, he reaches his hand out to grab people so he can wave at them, and that's when i literally have to restrain his hand with mine). and once rebuma gets someone waving back or talking to him, it draws kal in too, and she starts waving and smiling like she's known that person her whole life...and, well, i hope it makes sense why these interactions are problematic for kids from trauma/multiple caregiver backgrounds.
so, i figure that while a double stroller won't solve all my problems, i now at least have one more buffer between the outside world and both my children. because to get into my children's personal space means the crazies will also have to get all up in mine, and i'm neither as cute or as sweet as my kids.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

the darndest things

i'm really kicking myself for not keeping a better record of all the english-as-a-third-language mix-ups kal has had. like tonight, she kept telling jamie she had a "girl cheese sandwich" for lunch instead of a grilled cheese sandwich.

thankfully, however, i can remember the best mix-up she's had to date. when we realized kal has a pretty sharp memory, we decided to harness it by starting bible verse memorization. for the past month, we've been working on learning a verse each week. a few weeks ago, she was memorizing micah 6:8:

and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

i've noticed that the way she seems to memorize is by taking little chunks of the verse and repeating them over and over until she pieces the whole thing together in her brain. that week, i remember she repeated "walk humbly" about a million times. several days after we'd completed that verse and moved on to the next one, kal was helping jamie bring in groceries and kept saying "walk humbly." thinking she was referring to the verse, jamie said, "yeah, walk humbly, bible verse." but then she pulled out the container of guacamole we'd bought and said, "no, walk humbly" and put it in his hand.

guacamole. walk humbly. they really do sound a little alike, right?

our girl is seriously a trip and a half.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

getting home

confession: i chuckle just a little now when i hear people complaining about a short-haul domestic flight with their children.

i know very few people who aren't scared to death about the flight home from ethiopia with their newly adopted child(ren). it's a long flight no matter how you split it up (direct flight, layover, etc.), and you spend every minute trying your darndest to occupy a child who literally has no idea who you are.

when we got to the airport the night we left ethiopia, i suddenly remembered i hadn't put a change of clothes for myself in our carry-on luggage in the event of a disaster. this thought occurred to me as we were at the check-in desk, and the ethiopian air lady was waiting for us to weigh our luggage. i decided not to hold up the line by rummaging through my suitcase and continued on through immigration and security and to our gate, hoping the outfit i was wearing could withstand the next 16 hours.

we waited at our gate for about an hour and then were informed that our flight would be delayed another 45 minutes. it was hot, we were all tired (it was already close to 11pm), and all i could think about was how terrible it felt that our already-way-too-long flight was delayed. kal had been saying she needed to go to the bathroom, so i took her and decided to change rebuma's diaper while i was in there. i laid rebuma on the changing table and was in the middle of changing him when someone turned on one of those hand drying machines. it scared the ever-living crap out of him. he screamed and cried and thrashed on the table. another cwa mom, maureen, was thankfully in there with me, and she held him down while i got a new diaper on him. i didn't even bother putting his pajamas back on because i just wanted to get out of there.

the flight ended up boarding quicker than expected, so we were soon in line to board. i was holding rebuma, who had about every ethiopian eye on him because all he had on was a diaper (and ethiopians typically over-dress their children to keep them warm and modest). we got down to the door of the plane, and a couple of ethiopian men were checking out rebuma. "where are his clothes?" one of them asked. i explained what had happened in the bathroom. "well, everyone is staring at him because of his chest." translation: your kid has man boobs.

things went well for the first hour, and then rebuma had a dirty diaper. i got my diaper bag and took him into the teeny tiny airplaine bathroom, where i proceeded to remove the poopy diaper and throw it away. that's when i realized that my diaper bag had no diapers in it. so i wrapped his pajamas, which i had planned to put back on him, around him and trudged back to my seat. as i frantically demanded that jamie get me a diaper as quickly as possible, i felt the warm sensation of pee start to saturate the front of my shirt. and with 15 hours left on that airplane, i regretted not taking five minutes to move a change of clothing from our suitcase to our carry-on bags.

so i, covered in a full baby bladder's worth of pee, went back to bathroom because rebuma still needed a diaper. and as i laid him down on the changing table, i'm pretty sure his little mind went straight back to the hand drying machine trauma of 2 hours ago because he screamed and thrashed. and i'm also pretty sure the people sitting right outside the bathroom thought i was trying to stuff him down the toilet or something equally terrible.

fast forward another few hours, and rebuma needed another new diaper. this time, a flight attendant came in and held him down while i changed him because she heard him screaming as she walked by.

fast forward another few hours, and rebuma needed another new diaper. jamie and i both went in the bathroom this time. i held him up (so we didn't have to lay him down), and jamie removed the poopy diaper and put on the new diaper. it was a pretty good plan, but i think rebuma still cried and jamie managed to get poop on himself.

throughout all of this, rebuma clung to in grasped my shirt in each of his little fists and would not let go. my shirt was one of those shirts made of really stretchy cotton, so you can imagine that a few hours of stretching thanks to rebuma holding on for dear life had me freaking out that i was flashing the entire airplane. at times, i was on the edge of insanity, shoving rebuma in jamie's arms, saying, "i just need you to take him! he won't let go of me!"

somewhere near the end of the flight, we told kal she had to put her seat belt on (we weren't descending yet, but we were trying to obey the rule about keeping it on when seated). she flat-out refused, so we decided to ask a flight attendant to explain it to her in amharic. the flight attendant came over and explained the seat belt to her, but then casually said, "but she doesn't need to wear that now," then she reached over and unbuckled the seat belt. "thanks for undermining our parenting to our child who doesn't know she's our child," we thought. when we did begin our descent, kal still refused to put on her seat belt, so we asked another flight attendant for help. she spoke the magic words in amharic, and kal was immediately compliant. seriously, an airplane is not the place to work through a language barrier.

the rest of the flight was a blur. maureen let me borrow a tank top, which i put over the pee shirt. kal braided my hair. i walked up and down the aisles several times so rebuma wouldn't cry. rebuma was sans clothes for at least half the flight. i drank a lot of coke (but not too much since i didn't want to sit on the potty a million times with rebuma strapped to me in the baby ergo). and some guy a few rows in front of us got up and flipped out on another guy for "making a gross noise."

and that is why, after a 16 hour flight from ethiopia to DC, a 5 hour layover, and another 1.5 hour flight to charlotte with an 18 month old and an almost 4 year old who we just started parenting 3 days previously, we looked like this when we finally landed in north carolina:

so the next time you fly with your child, consider it a success if (a) your clothes are appropriately covering you and not covered in your baby's pee (b) your baby lets you change his diaper without the help of a flight attendant and (c) your child obeys you rather than the flight attendant.

Monday, July 9, 2012

should you adopt?

when we started the adoption process in 2009, we knew absolutely nothing about parenting adopted children.

what we did know was that God was calling us on this journey, so we committed ourselves to learning everything we could about adoption. we read books, we talked to other adoptive parents, and we attended a seminar on attachment. we became pretty fluent in talking about brain development and attachment and all the other things that come with adoption.

however, being proficient in all the right things doesn't really sustain you when you delve into the hard part of parenting adopted children. don't get me wrong -- i'm extremely glad we did our research. the literature on adoption is out there for a reason, and i honestly cringe when i hear that adoptive families bypass resources that will help them help their child heal. but there are days when my kids don't react to my intentional parenting the way the books say they will, and there are other days where i know exactly why my kids are behaving a certain way and exactly what i should do to help them, and yet i don't do it because it would be inconvenient for me (and also, sometimes it just feels good to lose your cathartic, yet so sinful).

the truth is, EVERY adopted child has special needs no matter how old they are or how well they seem to be doing or how healthy their paperwork says they are. and so, for me, the thing that gets me through the day is remembering that God called us to this and is helping us uphold our commitment to our children's healing -- even when it's really hard.

and this is precisely why i hate that adoption has become a fad, even among christians.

there is, without a doubt, a revival sweeping through the church where the hearts of God's people are being called to care for orphans. many families i know sponsor children through world vision or compassion international. i've watched my church gather around adoptive families by supporting them in fundraising and also in setting up an adoption fund. there are a number of organizations that now exist to serve orphans through mission trips or to empower women through job skills training so that poverty doesn't force them to abandon or relinquish their children.

as people hear more and more about God's heart for the orphan, i think many of them are genuinely concerned and want to do something. this is why so many of my conversations about adoption with others almost always begin with, "oh, your children are adopted!? we would really like to adopt one day too." unfortunately, when something explodes in popularity (even when it's a good kind of popularity), some people tend to jump on the bandwagon without having a clue what they are doing.

like i said, we knew nothing about parenting adopted children when we began. and if that's you, but you feel so strongly that God is calling you to this journey and you are ready to commit to whatever your child will need to heal, then you need to go for it. not a day goes by that we don't think about all the other children who are just as bright, just as funny, just as bursting with personality, and just as in need of a mom and dad as kalkidan and rebuma.

but if you just want to adopt because it seems like a nice thing to do or because all your friends are doing it or because it'd be convenient for whatever circumstances you find yourself in (ie, you have 2 sons but really want a daughter or you really want kids but have never been into pregnancy), then you should remember that fads come and go, but a child who comes into your family -- even if they are difficult to deal with or bring lots of baggage -- is forever. i can't say enough that it would suck not to have something greater than myself or my "wants" to fall back on when we're having a hard day in our house because of trauma-related behavior.

i still dream of the day when all christians will at least consider whether God is nudging them to adopt, even while believing that not all people will or should adopt. even on the hard days, i'm so glad God called us to this and 100% believe these 2 goobers are totally worth it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

on naming our children

when we set out to choose names for our children, we knew we were undertaking a very serious task. we didn't want to choose names simply because we liked them or how they sounded or because they were family names. we wanted names with meanings, names that our children could live into.

i know the question of re-naming (or not re-naming) adopted children causes friction in the adoption community. i know some people who think it's simply wrong to take away a child's given name, primarily because it's stripping them of the one last tie they have to their birth culture (and, in some cases, birth family). i know others who believe it's the privilege of the adoptive parents to give their child a new name (like God re-naming abraham and sarah after he makes his covenant with them). and still, i know others who believe re-naming an adopted child is good for practical reasons (for example, so your child isn't the kid who gets his name mispronounced on the first day of school every year).

the thing is, based on how things have worked out for us, i'd probably tell all prospective adoptive parents to "wait and see" on the name. otherwise, you may have to write a blog post and circulate it to all the people who now know your children by the wrong names. most people go into the adoption process feeling really passionate one way or the other without considering all the variables. for the person who "knows for sure" they're going to give their child a new name, consider that your child may flat out refuse the name (this most likely won't happen if you're adopting an infant) or won't understand (because of language issues) that the new name is a name and not some other way of categorizing identity (ie, another title like "mommy" or "sister"). this has been the case with our daughter, and the reason why we have ultimately decided not to change their names. at 4 years old, our daughter knows her name is kalkidan. and while she seemed to like the name ruthie, she never latched on to ruthie kalkidan and instead consistently referred to herself as kalkidan ruthie. frankly, we decided it was unfair to force a new name on a child who so adamantly preferred her given name, especially since we have no way of really explaining the re-naming concept (likewise, i'd also say it's unfair to force a child to keep their given name if they specifically ask for a new name, which i know is common for older adopted children to do). plus, kalkidan (particularly her nickname of kal) is much more fitted to her fiesty personality, something we wouldn't have realized had we not at least been open to not re-naming her.

and for the person who "knows for sure" they're going to keep their child's given name, consider that your child may come to you with a name that's flat out crazy (ie, they could be named madonna or obama or something like that) or their name could present a religious conundrum for you (ie, you are a christian but your child's name means "the strength of allah" or something like that).

so if you know us in real-life, this is the newsflash that we're going to confuse the heck out of you by telling you that our kids' names are rebuma and kalkidan and not ruthie and ephraim. their full names will be rebuma ephraim dean and kalkidan ruth dean (because ruth flows better than ruthie after kalkidan), and you can go here to see what each name means.

and if you're thinking about adopting, my advice is to remember that there's no right or wrong way to approach naming your child. our kids may resent us one day for sticking them with names that are extremely unique and, for some, difficult to pronounce. they may also have resented us if we had changed their names and taken away their ethiopian names. i think each child, once they understand the issue, has the potential to take a different stance based on his/her personality. for now, we've done what seemed best with what limited perspective we all have.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

4 years old

today, our sweet kalkidan turned 4 years old.

(blog post coming about how we decided not to change their names)

i guess we can't really say any of those things about time really flying or how we can't believe she's already 4 since she's only been with us for a little over a month now. but what we can say is that we take such delight in this child and are so thankful for her life.

when we decided to adopt 2 children, we never dreamed we'd have a daughter. and now, here she is: half girly-girl (please note the tutu and pink high heels) and half tomboy (soon after the above picture was taken, she took off the tutu so she could ride her bike in just the bike shorts she got as a present today).

she loves baby dolls. her current favorite out of the dozen or so she has is an old cabbage patch doll from the 80s that belonged to me. she loves it because it has the yarn hair that's easy to braid.

she loves riding her bike and bouncing the ball outside.

her favorite songs to sing are "this is the day," "he's got the whole world in his hands," and "deep and wide." (also, she really loves "baby" by justin bieber and that "call me maybe" song). she also has a wide range of ethiopian songs that she sings a lot. we have no clue what the words mean, but we love the songs and hope she never forgets them.

she loves to watch movies, and i've recently been letting her have tv time while i fold the laundry in the mornings. on repeat are: toy story 1&2, madagascar (which she calls "i like to move it move it" because the lemurs in the movie sing that song), the lion king, and a random compilation of thomas the train episodes.

she started out being pretty jealous of baby brother, but she now loves him most of the time.

her favorite foods are pizza, pasta, watermelon, and bananas. she's gotten a little pickier about food since we've been home, but there's really  not much that she won't at least try. and she loved bbq when we had it recently, so she definitely fits in around these parts :)

she probably thinks burping is a socially acceptable habit, but don't worry, we've taught her how to say excuse me. and if you burp and say excuse me, she will say, "you're excused" over and over and over again until you thank her so she can tell you you're welcome.

i've been trying to remember all the funny words she says. she calls paper towels "wipers" and her leapfrog computer "people" (at least the paper towel word is an accurate descriptor. not sure where the computer word came from). she still consistently uses the amharic words for car, cup, shoes, ball, the phrase "good job," and her bathroom business. she's transitioned from amharic to english in a lot of other words, so these might be amharic keepers, which is totally OK with us since they're now part of our regular vocabulary.

she has such an amazing personality that i know will continue to reveal itself as time goes on. she is silly and loves to laugh, but she's also thoughtful and very bright. she catches on quickly to words and concepts, so her english and general communcation are improving daily. she is independent to a fault because she typically refuses to ask for help, even with tasks she can't do herself. but we've seen improvement in this over the last month. we know she still struggles a lot with anxiety and general fears about her place in our family, and we aren't scared to admit that these hurts may take awhile to heal.

today, we also remember a woman half way around the world who gave birth to this beautiful girl who is now our daughter. we pray for her, and we honor her.

happy birthday, kalkidan ruth dean.

Monday, June 4, 2012

on being home

on the plane ride to ethiopia, i was suddenly hit with a pit in my stomach. a panic washed over me and with it came a load of guilt. we'd been waiting for this time to come for years, and all i could think about was how drastically my life was going to change. there were moments during that plane ride when i wished we could just keep on perpetually waiting. i wanted to keep the idea of having children without having to jump into the real life of parenting them because i knew before we even had them in our custody that it was going to be hard.

we've been home for over 2 weeks now. while it has been hard, i'm thankful that we've also had many wonderful moments with our children that have been joy-filled. we have 2 really funny kids who love to talk, sing, dance, and play. our daughter loves bubbles. at every meal, she asks to hear "baby" by justin bieber (and we normally oblige). our son loves peek-a-boo, and his laughs sound like what i imagine an old man chipmunk would sound like. but i would be lying if i let people believe that we haven't had our fair share of trials. some who have visited us since our children came home have remarked at how well they seem to be doing as if they've adjusted with no problems. and it's true, considering all the transitions they have been through in the last several months, they probably are doing "well." however, appearances are deceiving, especially when you are dealing with a child who has come out of trauma. my daughter plays with a smile on her face a lot of the time, but it takes one moment of laying my hand across her chest and feeling her heart beating as if it's going to come out of her chest to know that she probably spends most her days in fight or flight mode. it takes one moment of listening to her cry over something she wanted that she couldn't have to realize that she was only crying for about 30 seconds over that thing and the rest of the time she's been crying over something else entirely -- unknown to me but deep down in her soul. it takes one moment of thoughtlessly shutting myself in the bathroom to clean off a dirty cloth diaper with my son outside the door (because there are poopy wipes in the trash can, and my son will somehow manage to pull them all out and make a huge, gross mess when i'm not looking) to know that my son still struggles with fears of being without a mommy.

one day last week, we'd just come in from playing outside, and i carried my protesting daughter to the mattress she's been sleeping on in our room (as an aside, i will say that bringing home 2 kids at once has had its challenges. on this particular day, my daughter was refusing a nap, so i had to carry her upstairs, which meant leaving my son at the bottom of the stairs with the baby gate closed. as soon as i had gotten my daughter somewhat calmed down and on her bed, i heard my son crying, which meant leaving my daughter alone to go comfort him. and while it seems logical to bring them to the same place so they can both have mommy present, that just seems to add to more stress for both of them. so unfortunately, at least in our 2-kid situation, we have to compromise on some things that adoption literature says are important so that both our kids get what they need). a few minutes later, i heard her yelling for me, so i went back up there (thankfully, my son was calm at this point). what struck me was that she was laying quietly on her bed, and she spoke with a nervous whisper -- quite a turn-around from the child she'd been just minutes earlier. as i stroked her little face, and gave her kisses on the cheek, it hit me that part of my job as her parent is to help her heal from having to be this split child. the vulnerable child who let me lay beside her is my real child -- wounds and all -- while the protesting child is an imposter who shows up when the hurts and the stresses are too overwhelming to bear. my hope for both of my kids is that one day they will be able to come to terms with their losses and will trust us enough to tell us when they are hurting.

i know other parents may be reading this and thinking, "are you sure you just aren't making a bigger deal out of behaviors that even biological children struggle with?" and it's true, bio kids can be crazy at naptime and cry when mommy is out of sight. but when your children have a history of abandonment, loss, and institutionalization, those typical behaviors are often magnified by that history. unfortunately, as a parent who is also a sinner, my tendency is to forget that my children have such tragic pasts. i have had to apologize to my daughter countless times already (even though she can't understand much of what i'm saying because of the language barrier) for being harsh with her when i should have been more gracious. sometimes giving grace is just better for attachment and making your child feel secure. but the christian tendency in parenting is to feel like you have to correct, correct, correct because you feel like you're creating a heathen if you don't (and also, if you're like me, you like to be in control all the time, so it feels like an assault on your control and on justice as you know it if you let your child get away with something).

so yeah, that's how we are doing. i don't really want to overshare about my children on the internet for lots of reasons (primarily, because they might read this blog one day), but i do think candor is good sometimes. i want people to know about adoption -- both how miraculously beautiful and awesome it is and also how hard it is. i want people to know that my children are just like your biological children and also not like them at all. i want people to know that i've yelled at my kids and have given them wrath instead of grace a million times already since they've been home and struggle everyday to be the kind of parent i know God has called me to be (and that i literally plead with the holy spirit to help me because i can't parent these kids on my own). and i also want people to know that there are still orphans out there who need a family, and there are still kids at risk for becoming orphans whose parents need assistance and empowerment so they can keep their families intact.

since my son only naps for about 30 minutes a day right now, this is probably the only substantial writing i can do for awhile, so i tried to get in all my current thoughts :)

Monday, May 28, 2012


from ethiopia....

(right after our embassy appointment)

to america (with my family at the charlotte airport)...

to our cul-de-sac...

to one week home and many adventures!

meeting our cousins

more from mommy later!

Monday, May 7, 2012


we are going back to ethiopia!

i'm in a scramble to book flights and a room at ethiopia guest home as we speak. it's possible ethiopia air will start running a special this afternoon that could get us cheaper fares, so i've got my fingers crossed. i'm hopeful we'll have everything nailed down by the end of the day.

we are very likely leaving this sunday. then we'll have a full day in addis on monday to pick up a few things we wished we'd gotten the last time, and my dad is coming with us, so we'll show him around the city. i think we've convinced him to let us take him to yod abyssinia, the restaurant in addis that has traditional food and dancing. we really enjoyed ourselves there last time, and i think it's the most efficient way to get a nice dose of ethiopian culture (as if riding down the streets of addis isn't enough).

our appointment with the embassy is next thursday the 17th. we'll pick up our kids tuesday and have a couple days to start acclimating to each other before our embassy appointment. we should be able to leave ethiopia friday, but we may stay over another night if there's a significant difference in the airfare (once again, waiting to see how this potential special might affect things).

to say we are excited is an understatement. honestly, i don't think it's all sunk in yet. i could write something really emotional about how long we've been waiting (we signed on with cwa 3 years ago this month...i can't even believe it), how many delays we've had (starting with the expected wait for a referral estimated at 4-6 months when we started, and then turning into 19 months), and how we really didn't think this day would ever come. but i expect that those details, while extremely important parts of our story and things we will most certainly tell over and over again to our kids, will soon fade into the background of what will become our life together as a family. because soon, the joys and frustrations of everyday life with kids will be at the forefront. we will be rejoicing over first english words or peeing in the potty or sleeping through the night and not over a document that has come through or an approval given. and we'll be frustrated about discipline or lack of sleep and not delays or waiting.

whether a person admits it or not, the adoption process kinda hijacks your life. and, for me especially, i think it will be a huge transition not only to having 2 kids, but to being out of the adoption process. even this morning, once i opened the email from the embassy stating our interview is scheduled for the 17th, i realized i'm really not waiting on anything else anymore. that email was it. and it feels weird, but also pretty liberating.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

1 out of 2

the embassy cleared ruthie's case today! now we're just waiting for ephraim's file to get to nairobi and for them to clear his case. please pray there are no delays. in fact, please pray for miraculous quickness.

Monday, April 16, 2012

the (last?) hiccup

we found out today that ephraim's case was forwarded to nairobi for further review. while not what we wanted to hear, it's not the end of the world. it is very hard, though, because we really thought we'd be cleared on wednesday and would be on a plane next week to ethiopia.

if you aren't familiar with how this works, i'll give a brief explanation. according to ethiopia, our children are legally ours. an irrevocable adoption decree declares that we are their parents. however, the united states government essentially re-investigates each child's case to ensure that the child is truly an orphan. the US will not issue a visa (and thus approve immigration) for a child who it does not deem an orphan. this can obviously get sticky because the US can deny a visa to a child who is already the legal child of an american citizen. when i explain this to people who know nothing about the adoption process except for what they've heard from us, they immediately ask why the US doesn't review the cases prior to the irrevocable adoption decree being issued. i always reply, "yes, exactly. i've been asking myself the same question for the past several months." it doesn't really take a rocket scientist to figure out that the process as it stands now is inefficient and a little ridiculous.

if the US embassy does not feel it can, with reasonable certainty, declare your child to be an orphan, they forward the case to the US citizenship and immigration office in nairobi. the trend right now is that most cases forwarded to nairobi have been cleared immediately on arrival simply because USCIS has more authority than the embassy to decide the status of a particular case. being forwarded to nairobi does not mean that the child isn't an orphan or came into an adoption situation unethically.

so we will wait just awhile longer. the interview regarding ruthie's case will still take place on wednesday, and her case will most likely be cleared. our agency has been seeing cases cleared in nairobi a week after they arrive there, so we are hoping to hear late next week that ephraim's case is cleared. we can then schedule an embassy appointment.

adoption is a really hard process. i have struggled lately with how long we have been waiting to be done with this. i kind of tricked myself into thinking that because we waited 19 months for a referral, everything after that would be smooth sailing. unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. when you continue to face delay after delay, it's easy to miss all the little miracles along the way. our case manager says it's a miracle when one child comes home from ethiopia (or any country for that matter) because of how arduous the process is and how many hoops it seems you have to jump through.

if you are thinking about adoption, please don't be discouraged. and if you have declared that you'll never adopt because it's just too hard, please reconsider. my perspective is always righted when i remember that my kids have faced the loss of family, community, language, etc. they have gone through difficult transitions and multiple caregivers. they have been alone in the world. and they are just children. so whatever we're going through on this side of things doesn't really compare to what they've endured, and it helps me to remember why this is all worth it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

interview date

we finally have the interview date we've been waiting for regarding ruthie's case. we are hoping and praying next wednesday the 18th will be the day our cases are approved. no word from the embassy on ephraim's case, but we are told the embassy typically keeps cases together, so it seems his case may be completed and is being held until both cases can be approved at the same time. there's still a chance one or both cases could be sent to nairobi for further review (not very likely in ruthie's case, but possible in ephraim's), but we are praying for good news next week so we can hop on a plane soon after that!

Monday, April 2, 2012

a comparison

we got new pictures of our kids today, and my oh my...this mama's heart can't even take how much her baby is looking like a toddler these days (i mean, he is 16 months and 1 week old, but i wanted him to stay little just awhile longer!) these 2 pictures offer a good comparison of how much he's chunked up in the 3 months since we were in ethiopia. the top picture is one we got today, the bottom is one of my favorites from january (i love how ephraim is leaning his head on his hand and how jamie looks like he's coaching him to crawl).

we are still waiting to hear back from the embassy. tomorrow is 3 weeks since we were submitted. we are waiting for an interview to be completed for ruthie's case, and we expect ephraim's case could clear any day now. each month that has passed, we've thought, "this is going to be month." i really hope and pray that april is the month they'll come home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the real treasure

we didn't get the beach house. we didn't get the big boat. we got a family. and that's the real treasure."

one of my mom's friends recently sent us a newspaper article about a family in her city who adopted a sibling group of 4 from ethiopia. they already had 6 other children -- 2 who were adopted internationally.

i cried at this last line. it is nothing poignant, but it says so much.

i struggle all the time with feeling envious about what others have or what they are doing with their lives. i wish we could travel more. i wish i had lots of money to make the rooms in my house pretty and well-decorated. i wish we didn't have student debt. i wish i had more cute clothes. i wish i could go out right now and buy jamie the new guitar he wants.

i wish.

i wish.

i wish.

in these moments of weakness, i think that we spent our money all wrong when we decided to have kids, and especially when we decided to adopt. but then i see a picture of my kids, and i have to agree: maybe we won't have the life the world says we should, but we will be blessed beyond measure because of this family God is creating.

and quite honestly, we don't go without much. we have great house with food and books and fun toys and clothing. we have seen so much of the world. we both have college and graduate school educations. we make enough to pay our bills, give to our church and others, and then some.

we could probably stand to lose a little more.

as we (hopefully) grow our family in the future -- maybe even by adoption again -- and as our kids grapple with not having every single thing they want, i hope we all can say: we got a family. and that's the real treasure.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


we were submitted to the embassy this morning.

we expect the embassy will want to interview those involved in our children's cases.

please pray they are easy to contact and are able to provide the information the embassy needs to approve our cases.

please pray the embassy is merciful and quick.

this is the very last step of a long, long journey.

we are so close.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

thoughts as we continue waiting

we are hoping to be submitted to the embassy on tuesday. i feel like i will go crazy if we have to wait another week. it has been almost 2 months since we last held our kids, and sometimes i look around and wonder if it was all a dream. thank God for pictures to remind me that, yes, we were in fact there.

ephraim weighed 11 pounds (at 13 months) when we last saw him. in these last 2 months, he's gained 6.5 pounds. he is actually starting to look chunky. he has been through so much. he had measles and pneumonia before he was transferred to our agency's transition home. when he arrived at the transition home in december, he was still malnourished even though he'd been in the care of an orphanage for nearly a year (clearly, i'm not a big fan of people who believe an orphanage in a child's birth country is better than a family elsewhere). he was sick and very weak. i hope that one day he will see how God has delivered him and believe. i also hope he will humor me when i claim "survivor" by destiny's child as his theme song.

ruthie turns 4 in june. she is starting to look like a little girl and not a toddler. one of the things i've loved most about adopting a child that isn't an infant is immediately seeing ruthie's personality. even before we met her, the pictures showed a girl full of spunk. she is a great combo of jamie and me -- such a testament that God providentially destined her for our family, knowing she would fit perfectly.

she is also quickly becoming a sweet big sister. when we decided to adopt 2 kids at the same time, we knew that one big advantage would be our kids coming into our family as "buddies." they'd forever have someone else who looked the same, who came into our family in the same way -- someone who could sympathize with all the messiness that adoption can bring. it amazes me that our kids were once perfect strangers, and now they are forever bonded as brother and sister. ephraim has been alone so much of his life, and all i could think when we passed court was that he was legally not alone anymore -- he had a family. it has given me great comfort to see ruthie love him well while we can't be there. i've prepared for ruthie to struggle when they come home in giving up some of the "mommying" she has done for ephraim, but for now, i'm so thankful they have each other.

it is bittersweet to watch your children grow up from afar. it is a back and forth -- feeling thrilled that your child is gaining weight, becoming healthier, etc. while also feeling sadness that you are missing it all. early on in our adoption, i remember skipping over the sections of books that talked about the grief of adoptive parents. it seemed to me that since we hadn't lost children previously to miscarriage or struggled with infertility, we weren't bringing any grief to the process. what i've realized is this process creates grief. honestly, i don't know how people get through it without God. as of late, i have had to consciously commit to submitting myself to God's timing in all of this, believing that he does know best. it doesn't appease the grief, but it certainly purposes it.

please pray nothing would delay us in submitting to the embassy on tuesday. and pray the embassy would be merciful and quick with our cases.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


a few days after we passed court, we got news that a letter the judge had requested for ruthie hadn't been obtained yet. as you can imagine, this was super anti-climactic, as we had gone from having a lot of momentum from passing court to waiting indefinitely again. the letter was apparently " just for the records" -- a new requirement in the south that the judge was honoring. she obviously didn't need it to pass our case, but it had to be gotten nonetheless. so we waited. then we heard about other cases where birthparents were having a difficult time getting this kind of letter. local judges were telling them to come back when the courts had more time to help them. then we heard that ruthie's first orphanage had the letter but couldn't send it because of trouble with the internet connection. then we heard the power was out in all of soddo (the city where the orphanage is), and that a driver was going to take it to addis.

we got the news about the driver on a wednesday. that same day, we heard the courts were going to close in addis for 3 weeks the following monday for staff training. so we knew that if the letter didn't make it to addis by the end of the week, there was no way our case would move forward (the court would not release our court decrees without the letter). on thursday, we heard no news. on friday, we heard that our letter had made it to addis "at the eleventh hour." our agency's staff took the letter to court, it was approved, and they released our decrees. the same day, a friend told me that the power outage in soddo had been caused by a devastating fire that had cut-off power and water to the city indefinitely.

i haven't particularly enjoyed God's timing for our adoption. passing court seemed to be the one thing that happened exactly like we hoped it would, and yet even that was marred by coming back and hearing that we couldn't move forward without the letter. and yet we stand in awe of our God who works miracles on our behalf when we do not deserve them. in the midst of a fire and a pending court closure, God used a driver from a poor town 6 hours away from addis to carry this very important letter that our entire adoption rested upon. and he got him there on time. and he caused the court to immediately approve the letter and release our decrees. miracles.

so now we are waiting for birth certificates, then passports, then physicals, and then...finally...submission to the embassy. we have been told to prepare to submit in early march, but we are praying for another miracle and hoping to be submitted the last tuesday of february. our prayer is to have our kids home by the end of next month.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

proud to announce...

we passed court!


rebuma ephraim dean

rebuma means "for God" in the oromo language of ethiopia. we will call him ephraim (eh-frum), meaning "for God has made me fruitful in my affliction."


ruthie kalkidan dean

we will call her ruthie, meaning "friendship and loyalty." kalkidan (kal-kee-don) means "promise." (also, ruth 1:16-17 is quite beautiful in light of adoption and the meaning of her given ethiopian name).

please continue praying for us! we long to be reunited soon.