Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Stockings

This week our house has started to look a lot like Christmas.  My oldest son is essentially a Christmas junkie. He started opening boxes and little by little we have hung things up. It is funny how I can look at decorations and remember each little story. There is the advent calendar wall hanging made by my step mom. Yesterday, I carefully filled each pocket with exactly two pieces of candy. Usually there are three, but my oldest has to make weight with the military. There is the Hummel crib set. It was left to me by my grandmother.  My mom has a story behind each piece. For example, my mom had bought Jesus, Mary and Joseph for her parents the year she graduated from nursing school. There are the pieces that are not Hummel, but added later by my grandmother. There is a ceramic springer spaniel, their favorite breed of dog. I think in their minds if there was not a springer in the stable when Jesus was born, there should have been. Loving my lab mix like I do, I can understand that.

Perhaps my favorite decoration is not up yet. It is our Christmas stockings. When I was a little girl my grandma made me a stocking. It was hand knit with my name on it. When Tim and I married, she made him one, then when we adopted Katya and Jack, she made them one too.  They are all different patterns and my grandmother was so dear to me. She was an adoptive mama too. She adopted my mom. I always felt connected to her from that. When we adopted Zachary, she had passed away. Then, Tim's favorite aunt knit one for Zachary too!  She was a special lady too. She never married and spent her life caring for everyone else. She cared for her parents until they died, then cared for two aunts until they died, then moved in with my mother-in-law when my father-in-law died. She cared for all of us.  She shared her faith and her tremendous knowledge of literature. She loved to tell stories and my children and my niece and nephew would gather at her feet as she spun the tale of "The Pirate of Dun Dirk Dowdee" or another such tale. Yes, Zachary's stocking reminds me of all our wonderful times with her.

So, that brings me to my dilemma. Both of these special ladies have passed away. I must admit that I have looked at stockings for Grace and Alex. I have found beautiful ones of all sizes and materials. Yes, they are pretty, but I have grown attached to our hand made stockings, imperfections and all. Then, I had an idea. I texted mom. I asked simply this,"how confident are you with your knitting skills?" I had remembered being a little girl in the 70's. I remembered Mom wearing a multicolored caftan doing lots of things. She had an herb garden, she baked bread, and was what we would now call "crafty". I remember her doing macramé, and knitting. I have not seen her do that stuff in many years, but I know it is in there somewhere. The thing is mom was not well. She had cancer last year and had a breast removed, followed by chemo and radiation. This was all overshadowed by years of back pain making her essentially immobile and on medications that changed who she was. Two weeks ago though, she had surgery. Surgery to fix her back. She can now walk, pain free. Her canc is gone and my mom has returned. She is anxious to knit these new stockings for the babies. We both got a little tearful as we discussed how grateful we were that she is finally well enough to think about enjoying her grandchildren.  We get to make plans for the babies, together.  As for mom, she excitedly talked about a knitting store she knew of and a friend who could help her renew her skills.

When we finished talking it dawned on me. I am not the only one God is preparing. The people under this roof are not the only ones God is readying. He is preparing mom too, and I am so grateful. For now, Grace qnd Alex's stocking holders will remain empty, but I know when they arrive, we will have a good story to share with them of God's healing to their grandmother (ok, she cannot deal with the term, lol! So, God's healing to their Bubbe).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Not the News We Hoped For....

Well, it has been an interesting day. Tim has emailed our coordinator twice this week, and after getting no answer, I bit the bullet and emailed her too. One thing we have learned about Haiti is that "later" takes on a whole new meaning.  "Nothing to report" translates to unanswered email. After 20 months of this journey I have grown accustomed to these things, however, at times my American heritage, i.e. info on demand, gets the best of me and I simply need to hear the actual words,"nothing to report".  S, I carefully crafted an email, laced with complements (which in all honesty were heartfelt as negotiating the Haitian system is very difficult, yet our coordinator perseveres), and encouragement as she becomes frustrated too. Much to my surprise I had an answer immediately. Grace's mother was located and the man brought her to Rachel to finish out our court process.  Only one issue, it was not Grace's mother. Our coordinator explained to me she had a similar name and that was the reason for the confusion. That led me to wonder, although I did not ask, why would this mystery woman come to participate in an adoption legal proceeding that quite obviously was not hers?  The village is very far away from Port Au Prince, a 12 hour walk, and a 6 hour tap tap ride after the walk.  Where did this woman think she was going? And for what?

As my curious nature mulled this over, I was informed by our coordinator that she did in fact, find the man who had originally brought Grace's mother. He was to get back to our coordinator late this afternoon. I did not hear anything after that, but there are some things that have stayed with me. First, our coordinator encouraged me not to lose faith. This is moving under the hand of God even if the answers are not here in front of us. At that moment, I was once again reminded why we work with this woman. Her relentless work on our behalf plus her unwavering faith have guided us through. The next thing that happened was the solicitation of prayer from my fellow mama blanc's. The outpouring in a matter of minutes continued to encourage me.

Ultimately, I texted my husband. He was working late. Somehow, we are both ok. Not thhe news we were looking for, but oddly we have the feeling that once again, God's plan is bigger than we have thought. So, we are pressing on.  We are busily making plans for the big house overhaul that starts next week and getting excited to see what is coming our way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time to Nest

Seven years ago, my mother-in-law passed away. As terrible as it was, we were able to take our inheritance and adopt Zachary. It is funny, but at times he will tell me he misses her, "Nana" is what she was called. He never met her, however somehow it is as if he knows her. There are many things about Zachary that just leave me to not question.  There are just things he knows that could not really be of this world.  Given his love of Jesus that oozes out of him at times that lead us to believe there is certain knowledge he has that we don't.

Anyway, the second part of her passing was her house.  We inherited it jointly with my brother -in-law. We have had years of renters, failed sales, maintenance and headaches. Our current renter has been "getting a mortgage", well, it has now been 3 years. It has been difficult to not be frustrated with the endless delays. Today, we heard we are closing next Thursday. Seven years of waiting, and it will be done. The money is coming right at the right time. In time for our last adoption payment, and in time for me to nest.

Time to do things that cannot be taken back.   I have a bedroom to paint pink with Princess Tiana stick ups, plus the enormous castle stick up!  I have another room to put bunk beds in and overhaul into the Angry Birds room I mentioned before. Yes, it is time to pull out all the stops and prepare. I mentioned the other day not committing my whole heart, well as of next Thursday it is time to start down the path of committing my whole self to my future babies. I think to mark this new chapter, I will start with a whole gallon of pink paint.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The news out of Haiti this weekend was not good. Grace's mother has tried to come for her court appointment once already and it was cancelled. First it was Hurricane Sandy throwing a tree literally in front of the vehicle my coordinator was driving, then the court was closed all together. Then, there was some cell issues after the storm and they could not get a hold of her. Last week a man was paid to make the trek to her village to tell her to come. She was told, I had understood she was to come last week, but yesterday I heard they are still waiting on her. We have been stuck in this phase of our adoption for four months, while other families have long since moved on.

I keep hearing the song "Everlasting God". It starts,"strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.". I have to say, I don't really feel stronger, just frustrated and impatient.  So, to combat this I began to concentrate on other times in our lives we were asked to wait. There was the infertility. Each month seemed like torture. Then, our first adoption. We waited through that. I learned at that time that the infertility was necessary for God to bring us to adoption. Waiting through the first adoption was difficult, but in later years it made another adoption seem feasible, when we felt the call again. Having a younger child, as Zachary is 10 years younger than his next sibling opened the door for us to consider these Haitian adoptions so he would have siblings closer to him in age. I guess I could say through the previous waits I learned to be confident in the process and paperwork and dispel any worries I had about bonding with an adopted child, and this time children of a different race.

I suppose I will just have to see what this torturous wait is preparing me to do. One thing I can count on though is He is, just as the song says, the everlasting God. So, praying this everlasting God will show us some mercy this week and bring Grace's mother.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


As anyone who knows much about my worship life will tell you, I tend to listen to God's message to me best through Christian music. Somehow, certain songs will speak to me and I am hit with an understanding of something I may be struggling with or wondering about. This whole music speaking to me is a bit ironic however, as I cannot carry a tune myself, nor play an instrument. I have been blessed with an extremely musical husband however.  I am guessing that is God filling the musical void left in my own talents.

Nonetheless, yesterday, I found myself herring the song,"He Loves Me", by David Crowder. The song says,"He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his winds and mercy." this always makes me think of Haiti. They have hurricanes all the time.  The trees bend, fall, things are destroyed, the water from the rains seems endless.  I began to consider how it was God's love could be compared to such a destructive storm. The Haitian people do not seem to consider the destruction though.  They pull together and push on, rebuilding time after time til it becomes the norm. We have seen Haitian people carry hundreds of pounds on their head, living with disabilities such as elephantiasis, watching children die, and living without food.  On our last visit, there was a brief storm. It coursed free flowing water multiple inches deep in the streets of Port Au Prince. Traffic did not stop, nobody seemed to notice. We just drove through the fresh river that was the street five minutes prior as did the rest of the traffic.  Yet when these people gather on Sunday for worship, they are dressed as if they are going to a wedding. Their clothes are fancy, dresses for the women, suits for the men.  Many of them walked from the tent city where they only had water.  The service we attended was not air conditioned. It was stiflingly hot and the church was packed to the rafters. The Haitians sang with their entire soul, hands were raised and some people were openly weeping. The next part of that song compares God's love to an ocean, and if so, we are all sinking. These people made that ocean and made it a wonderful place to be with worship.

I have been asked tactfully, and at times not so tactfully, why two children in this season of my life?  As one not so tactful relative said when referring to my children (now ages 18,16 and 7),"you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you keep snuffing it out." He was referring to my continuation of parenting, when I suppose he felt I should be done. Yes, I realize this my not be convenient always, or easy, but the hurricanes in Haiti are not convenient for them yet they bend with the trees under God's mercy. It is my time to bend too. The good news is, through all the challenges that lie ahead, I am convinced my new babies will drown in that ocean of God's love right along with me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Considerations

I realize that in general my job as amateur blogger requires me to recount things I am thankful for on this day. However, as most of my readers have come to realize God is revealing to me Grace and Alex's perspective. In keeping with that I took some time to think of the things they are likely thankful for. There are the things I think they would both be thankful for. The most important is a lady they call Nana. Nana is my coordinator.  She runs the orphanage, she coordinates our adoption and I swear this woman never sleeps. I have no idea how she accomplishes so much.  From the babies' perspective though, I have watched their interactions with her. She picks them up, swings them around, hugs and kisses them until they squeal and kisses the boo boos. She has created a beautiful orphanage and introduced them to God. They are bonded to her and for that, I am SO thankful!
I also believe Grace is quite grateful for food. One year ago she was at home in her small village. Food is scarce and water came from a stream. Babies died all the time as the population starved. Now she gets three meals a day. She has learned to love peanut butter and eats beans and rice like a truck driver. I see the growth in her and how she has come to life this year with good nourishment. Alex has never had food as a concern as he was only days old when he came to the orphanage. Nana has taken good care of him.
Most people would probably guess they are thankful for being adopted, but the reality is they have visitors all the time and given their ages we are simply a face in the crowd at this point. They likely are grateful for the other children. Our orphanage truly is a family and all the children behave like siblings. They laugh together, have their favorite games they play, certain sings they sing and yes, even argue.
As I stuffed my turkey today, it suddenly dawned on me that it would be so great to cook like this for the orphanage. To sit around the table with the nannies and Nana and all of the babies and express my gratitude for all these people have done for Grace and Alex. For the life that Nana created for themtwhen their parents could not. Here I thought I would grieve the empty chairs at my table this year, and as it turns out, I am grateful they are there enjoying what they have in this moment. We have a lifetime of Thanksgivings with them, they have precious little time with their current family. So, although Haiti does not celebrate Thanksgiving, I am sure that they are sitting around the table made up of children brought together by God enjoying their meal of rice and beans laughing at one another or even singing. I can almost see God smiling down on them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This is Real...

It seems that an eternity has passed since we started this journey. Months and months of waiting, months and months of red tape, delay after delay, some man made (cell system failure), some divine (2 hurricanes) somehow, I found myself not really allowing myself to see the actuality of the situation. Call it the professional adopter's distance if you will. It is that place I take myself in professional settings. I am a nurse practitioner in the ER. I see tragedy every day.  It is that wonderful ability I have developed after twenty years in medicine to be empathetic in the moment, yet put it in a neat little box on the shelf next to the ER door when I leave. I cannot really explain it, but it is a mechanism that allows me to love what I do without doing me in emotionally.

I think if I were truly being honest perhaps I have done that to a certain degree with the adoption as well.  Don't get me wrong, I love my new babies so much, and I cannot wait until they come home, but I have not given them my whole heart...not yet. Oh, I buy baby clothes (yes, one of my favorite activities) but there is that part of my brain that says if it doesn't work out, these can be donated. There are the items I have bought for the rooms, but then again Zachary picked out the theme for his and Alex's room (Angry Birds). So, I have an extra comforter, it is still in the package and can be returned as can all the stuff for Grace's Tiana princess room.  So, me giving my whole heart has not happened yet. Until now I have given myself an out.

Today, I was reminded that "the mountains are steeper and the valleys are deeper than I ever dreamed." Steven Curtis Chapman's wise words. Until now I hung to those words. I accepted this very difficult journey as it has been more difficult that I ever imagined. Today though, I got some news. Alex's adoption decree is just about done and Grace's is not far behind. Her mother is coming to sign off on it "this week". She has been wonderful, walking through two hurricanes to do adoption things, never giving up on providing Grace with a future with us. I am amazed by this woman. I met her on our last visit and although we could not communicate at first as I do not speak creole, her pain at giving Grace up was palpable. So, with this final signature, we enter the last phase of the adoption.
Simultaneously, God has provided us the final funding, and yet again, the curtain on God's show pulls back just a bit more.

With all of this, suddenly, I am able to open that box that holds the rest of my reservations and fears and slowly be able to let them go, and realize I have once again become a mother, this time a true mama blanc, and I can finally begin to accept Steven Curtis Chapman's next line of the song,"I know we're gonna make it. I know we're gonna get there soon."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

So Lucky

"They are so lucky!" How many times have I heard this. People say this all the time when they hear my children are adopted. I have had a standard answer I have used since our first adoptions in 1996. It is, "No, we are the lucky ones.  This was not a selfless act.  We wanted children and God brought them to us." yep, I got that one down pat.  Through my prayer time though, God has brought a differ notion to me, maybe it is just a change in thinking, or maybe I am just tired of the same old answers. Nonetheless, in the last few days I have unpacked this automatic pilot answer and began to really think about it.

First, I thought about luck. What does that mean exactly?  Luck. I think in our society people think they have escaped poverty. They now have opportunity. In Grace and Alex's case they are leaving a country where the average salary is $250 a year.  If she were going to remain in her village, Grace would soon be carrying water to and from the stream. There would not be school in her case, simply moving into the role that girls take.  First water getter, eventually clothes washer, child care provider and just basic survival. Alex would have been better off. His village has school and he just might have had some better opportunities should he overcome one basic obstacle, his mother's ability to feed him. She cannot. Yep, they are lucky, by our standards.

There was something nagging at me. I began to consider all the things they have been through. Grace was an infant when the earthquake hit devastating the whole country. They have been through multiple hurricanes, lack of food, no electricity, on and on...I began to think about that they just may have gone through more in the first years than most adults. Yep, seem lucky to me...or do they?  Maybe it is not so simple.

What if tragedy after tragedy was normal?  Hurricanes and poverty are a way of life for them. It is all they know. As another wise mama shared with me (yes, Denise, it is you) these children grieve. Grace lived with her mama until she was two. She was given up, separated from her siblings. Alex was given up at birth, the orphanage children have become his siblings.   We are blessed to have a wonderful coordinator my children call Nana, they will lose their daily contact with her too.  No, poverty and natural disasters sound terrible to us, it is their normal, and they will be losing all they know soon to join us. 

Yes, I realize they will appreciate all of this one day. They will understand the difference between being raised here versus Haiti, and I even think one day they will feel lucky when the grief passes. For now, and for a time when they come home, yes, they will be lucky but not for what they are gaining. They are lucky to have one another. Lucky to be able to share their grief and travel through unchartered waters together. I have never understood God's plan for us to adopt two children at this juncture, I just tried to be obedient. Maybe, just maybe, now that my sticks are put down as I mentioned in my previous blog, and I have joined the audience and waited for God to lift the curtain on his show (not mine) I am starting to see God's fireworks, a special bond these babies will always have. Instead of my boring old spinning plates. Ok, so I always thought my ability to multitask was superhuman with my amazing spinning plates metaphor.  Turns out my show is quite amateur-ish. I guess I will let Him continue to hold my sticks a while. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Reflections from the Great Wolf

Six years ago, our family suffered horrific tragedy. Three deaths in 15 months of close family members.  My mother-in-law of a spontaneous brain bleed, Tim's aunt who lived with her of multiple medical issues, and my sister-in-law of a freak accident. All the sudden, our Sunday dinners ended, our holidays would be be changed forever. So, the first Thanksgiving we needed a good distraction for the kids. We checked in to the Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park hotel. Our kids have come to expect this trip annually around Thanksgiving. So, here we are, swimming, eating, and generally having fun.

Yesterday, I was sitting in the family hot tub trying to picture what this trip will look like next year. I see in my mind's eye Grace and Alex in the kid section going down the short slides. I see them in the water section playing in the fountains splashing around in the bathing suits I have already bought. The princess suit for Grace, and the shark suit for Alex. However, as I am enjoying this notion I am looking around at the other babies and children with their parents as they play when it hits me...they are all white. Grace and Alex are not. Through this thought I am suddenly reminded of all the things I have read about transracial adoption. Here we will stand out. Will it seem strange to Grace and Alex?
Will they realize they are some of the only black children?  I began to realize it was time to start practicing all those clever answers that I have heard to the inevitable questions...Where are they from?  I have decided to answer with:  Heaven. God sent them to us.  Aren't we lucky?  To the stares:  I know, it is hard to stop looking as they are so beautiful.   

Hmmm...seems as if it is time to go back and retread that stuff as I just heard Alex's adoption decree will be done this week. Grace will not be far behind. It is overwhelming to me that this is now becoming real. Guess I better get to work preparing to be their mommy. Well, will work on it more tomorrow. For today, I will work on enjoying the hot tub as I have a feeling next year I will be a bit busy for the hot tub!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Long Absence....

Yes, I realize it has been five months since I posted last. The reason for my posting absence I guess is best explained by simply this...the waiting has been very difficult. It has become like the movie Groundhog Day. Every day just like the last, every step another stumbling block.  However, today it is my birthday.  It is time for reflection. Truth be told I have been reflecting for some time now and feel I have finally gotten a handle on things.

I was talking to a friend several weeks ago and described my function in life like that guy that spins the plates on a stick. Each family member has their own stick in my metaphor and I am spinning those plates:  making dental appointments, doctor appointments, homework help, meetings with teachers, discussing relationships and solving teenage angst. Then there is the housework, bills, pet care and the cooking. Spin, spin, spin....that's me. For the most part I love it. Master plate spinner. Oh yeah I got it all handled. That leaves the things I do not have handled...Grace and Alex.

We finally went for adoption business and a visit in July. All went well and it was great to be with  them. We left Haiti optimistic that things would roll along from there and we would be bringing them home for the holidays. Then, the first hurricane hit. Grace's mom was late for her birth parent interview as a result and they rescheduled her. For two months later. Then, hurricane Sandy hit and she missed her court appearance as they closed court. Then, the phone system is having problems and they cannot find her now to appear in court. We are on terminal hold until they can get word to her to come. Then, in the midst of all this, Alex's mom although she has made all her appointments, had another baby. Wow! Really?  So, to be honest it has been a daunting few months on the adoption train.

That leads me back to the spinning plates. In my mind, I stand before God with two empty sticks waiting on God to start the plates spinning. I actually had this image in my mind until Sunday. My pastor described a difficult circumstance in his life when he was able to realize his circumstances belonged to God and it was our job to trust Him. At that moment, I realized these pretty babies are not mine. They are His.  I needed to trust Him. I realized it was time to surrender their sticks, take a seat in the audience and wait for Him to reveal the real show. Somehow I think it may bit just the slightest bit more amazing than spinning plates.