Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

This summer

We are in a drought here in Charlotte.  Since we moved into our lake house a month ago, the lake has been steadily edging further and further away.  We took the kids kayaking on Friday and it was so hard to get through the knee-high mud to the bathwater-warm water, that it is hard to feel like that venture is worth it right now.

We are happy here in this house.  It has felt like home since the first night I feel asleep next to my huge pane window.  Tonight I sat with Gabe on the back porch, cutting his hair as the sun set and the crickets chirped.  He has had a hard time falling asleep in this new house, even though he loves it too.  So I snipped at his shaggy summer hair and told him about how I grew up somewhere with hardly any trees, and how what trees we had were barely as tall as a one story house.  I always thought that lots of tall trees was the epitome of scenic beauty.  Now I feel so at peace surrounded by our oaks and sweetgums.

It has been an odd summer. Besides the complete upheaval of moving, it was also my first year to send one of my kids off for a week to camp - in the middle of the move actually.  The shift to the teenage years that will bring more camps and youth conferences instead of weeks to schedule out and control as a mom.  

Also in the midst of moving, a shift in my mom's condition. Far beyond not understanding speech, she and my Dad are navigating through the dementia stage of her Primary Progressive Aphasia.  Every day starts afresh with new difficulties and challenges and there very often are no answers.

Then just shortly after, the death of Chad's sweet Grandma Libbie.

Between that, the move, the heartache of intimately watching my mom and dad go through this stage, and the looming adoption questions, I feel off-kilter.  There has been no deliberate and thought-out schedule for the kids like most summers and many things that I have decided to just let go.  It has been the summer of eating out and "Shut Up and Dance with Me." And kid fighting.  Lots of kid fighting.

Sometimes I look out at the lake disappearing and wonder if I should be a little more worried about it.

  It will come back, right?

 I believe it will.  I believe it is just a season.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

10,000 Dollars

On Sunday night, after our succesful dinner, I was sitting with the kids on the couch watching Chopped when Carina suddenly presented me a mini muffin liner.  Inside of it was what looked like itsome dried up apple skin and a Cheerio.  With her usual sparkle in her bright blue eyes, she said, "Here ya go. I made this for you!"

"What is it?"

"Apple and Cheerio."

I got up to see that she had these little appetizers lined up for everyone in the family,

right next to the apple she used,

with bite marks all over it.

I guess she knew she wasn't  allowed to use a knife? Good for her, I guess?

Carina, you've been chopped.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Dinner

My kids have really loved watching cooking shows lately. They often ask me to name an ingredient so they can make their own "Chopped" dish for lunch on the weekends.  I decided to take advantage of their enthusiasm, and couple it with my own desire to get our family back on track with healthful eating.  

 I sat Oliver down the other day in front of my laptop, searched "vegan recipes" on Pinterest, and had him look for something to make with me.

He very quickly decided he wanted to make Avocado Hummus Taquitos (we just left the cheese off). He decided he wanted a rice dish for the side, so we found this recipe for Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.  He also wanted to a do a drink, so we decided on recipe for a delicious Watermelon Breeze, which I will not be posting a link to, because it also brought up a naughty video (Happy Sabbath!).  It was 6 cups of watermelon, a 17 oz can of coconut water, fresh lime juice, lime juice, ice and a sprig of mint, all blended together.

Oliver helped cook the rice, rolled almost all the taquitos, and helped with the dressing for the rice. He never lost enthusiasm and Colin jumped in to help quite a bit.  We had my parents over for dinner to share his creations. 

I also decided that Sunday would be a good day to let them have a homemade vegan treat, so I had Gabe search on Pinterest for a recipe to make. He very quickly decided on The Easiest 3-Ingredient Fudge bites. 

How did the food rate with the kids? 
  •  3 out of 4 loved the taquitos. I liked them - they were very simple and way more filling than I expected.
  • All of the kids ate the rice without complaining.  We used brown rice, which also made it very filling and they didn't eat as much as I expected them to.  As much as I have tried, none of them will eat green onions or peppers, so they picked around those.
  • 3 out of 4 loved the drink.
  • All of them like the fudge.  It was very rich and very dark chocolate. We halfed the recipe, which was plenty.

And then the boys played balloon volleyball while we chatted with my Dad, and Carina did her best to engage Granny with her silly charm.

All in all, it was a very successful Sunday afternoon and dinner, and the kids are already talking about who gets a turn next week.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sifa's birthday

Our little Sifa turned 4.  Our baby.  This is the third birthday she has had since we were matched together.  There are many ways to look at this:

We have missed all the toddler years. We have watched her baby cheeks disappear through pics, longing to kiss them.


We have had the privilege of making sure this child of God is watched over and fed.  Because we were allowed to adopt her, she is healthy and strong. We are incredibly blessed that we have always had the extra money this adoption has required as it has extended over a year past the date we expected.

The first part hurts so much, but I can't forget the second part.

We sent Sifa's foster mom a little extra money this month to throw her a celebration, and decided on some ways to celebrate her here at home.

First I took Carina and her girl cousins that live here shopping for a dress for her.  A summer dress, so she can wear it THIS summer :)  When they get home, there will be five girl cousins here in Charlotte who are within a year and a half of each other.  It will be so fun.

We also picked up some rotisserie chicken, which we paired with bread from the Farmer's Market.  These were Sifa's two favorite things to eat when I visited her last fall, so we had them for dinner in her honor.  Then we topped it off with Elsa cupcakes and a candle for each year.

The first day I met Sifa, I showed them Frozen in French. I was shocked when it started and Sifa blurted out, clear as day, "SVEN!" and then gave me the first twinkly eyed, eyebrow-raised smile that I would come to love over the next week.

So it turns out that they had a much grander feast for Sifa's birthday in Kinshasa.  Look at that delicious chicken, beans, rice, and plantains.  Topped off with Fanta, of course.  And look at our adorable girls!  I am so thankful that Sifa got this special day.  She deserves it, and so much more.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Field trip to the Farmer's Market

Every year the first graders from Waddell Language Academy go on a field trip to the Farmer's Market the Saturday before Mother's Day so they can learn how to use money and buy their mom something sweet.  I have been lucky enough to chaperone for all three boys, and today was Oliver's turn.

It was the best field trip experience I have ever had.  Oliver's teacher - let me just break in and say this woman has my heart forever.  She is so warm and full of happiness.  She is the first teacher my kids have ever had who has NO color-change system in place, and the kids listen to her anyway. Anyway, Oliver's teacher put him in a group with his cousin Liam and their two other very close buds (one more reason to love her).  She told me that the four of them are always together, and they never ever fight.  Do you know how awesome it is to see four little 6 and 7 year old boys group-hugging on a field trip?  All four of them listened so well to me, with no talk-back and no whining.  Rare thing, I am tellin' ya.

Oliver and Liam have grown up together and have been very best friends from a young age.  I think I have heard them get angry with each other maybe three times.  They are both the youngest of three boys and they just get each other.  They all go to Waddell in the Chinese immerson program but they are the only cousins in the same grade.  There are only two Chinese classes for each grade and they were not in the same class last year.  This year when we found out they were going to be separated again, we requested to have them put in the same class. I am so glad we did.  

Oliver bought me three red tulips and we shared a a bacon, brie and apple croissant.  It was the perfect way to start Mother's Day weekend.  I am so thankful I get to be a mom to this brown-eyed sweetheart who is always good for a smile and a snuggle.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tender and small

I have had a hard time blogging for the last two years.  When we started our adoption, I was determined that I wouldn't be an adoption blogger.  I had been blogging for years about everything else and I wasn't going to change that.  But I think in trying not to post too much about that, I stopped posting at all because my mind has kinda turned to mush.  And then every once in awhile I would just HAVE to post some things I needed to say and of course it was always about adoption. So there you have it.  Now?  I am determined to just blog again, whatever that may entail.

We have not heard any news yet. In pregnancy terms, it has been over a month of painful contractions but no baby.  The worst kind of waiting.  We have been told we might hear something this week but I am not really letting myself believe it because just waiting is easier than anxiously waiting.

Yesterday I substitute taught a Primary class of 8 and 9 yr olds.  We were learning about Jesus healing the sick.  We talked about the faith of the woman with the blood issue, and the man with palsy.  I told them that I used to think faith was just a feeling.  Sometimes you felt it, sometimes you didn't.  But now I have learned that faith is often times a choice.  You choose to believe even when you don't feel it.  You literally stop the fearful thoughts that are crowding your mind and focus on the Savior.

We also talked about the many many times that Jesus doesn't perform the ultimate miracle that you would love to have.  I told them about my mom, that she has this disease that has robbed her of her speech and her understanding and how hard it has been on her and our whole family .  I told them that Jesus has not taken this sickness away but instead has comforted her and us through it.

As we were ending the lesson, I had them write down miracles that they have seen in their life, and I remembered one in my own that related so closely to that.

Over two years ago, when Chad and I decided to adopt from the DR Congo, we kept our decision within our immediate family for awhile.  It had been a decision 10 years in the making and it still felt very personal and raw.

Shortly after that, I was thinking about my mom, wondering what I could do to be a part of her life and bring her any joy.  I spontaneously stopped by when my dad was at work and asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. She was already having a very hard time understanding words at that point, but I probably motioned enough that she got my point.  It was a nice day - I had Carina in the stroller and my Mom had their dog Cici on the leash. She seemed happy, which made me happy.  I had this huge and very sudden feeling that I should tell her that we had decided to adopt.  I had not really told her anything that was going on in my life for a very long time before this, because it always just led to her being frustrated that she couldn't understand, and me feeling bad that I frustrated her. Plus Chad and I had agreed not to tell anyone.  But the feeling was strong and felt right.

So I did.

"Mom, Chad and I decided to adopt."

Her face lit up with a huge smile and she gave a little celebration noise with her shoulders scrunched up. She completely understood.

Holding up two fingers, "Siblings, from the DR Congo."

More happy noises and a little victory dance.

She understood so well that later that night my Dad called and said, "What's this I hear about you adopting from the Congo?"  She had gotten enough words out to him to share the happy news and, if I remember correctly, had even pointed it out on a map. I was astounded.

This was the last easily-understood conversation I had with my mom.  It may be a small thing, but it was still a miracle.

My mom hasn't been healed and my girls are still not home.  But every time I seek my Savior, He comforts me.  And I am learning what "exercising" faith really means.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Two weeks ago, Bill McGinty of WCNC aired a story about our adoption.  He filmed it two weeks before, and it was a great experience.  He really took time to cover everything and make sure that he got it right.  The story that aired was just the first part - he expects to cover the situation more clearly over a few different episodes.

I knew when it ran that we would get negative comments online from viewers.  I have seen it on my blog and I have seen it with every news article that has been written about other families in our situation. I am so familiar with these comments that I could have written them myself.

So when NBC Charlotte posted a few links to the story, and the haters showed up, it really didn't bother me or surprise me.

What did surprise me was the outpouring of love from perfect strangers.  Perfect strangers were standing up for us, defending us, letting us know that they were praying for us.

"Beautiful ... Praying for a speedy home coming for these young ladies .."

"Pressing in with prayer! God bless you all~"

"Rest assured.this is in God's hands !"

"Sending love, hugs and lots of prayers that you will be united with your beautiful daughters very soon!"

Over 2,000 likes on one post and 175 shares, lots of love and so many prayers.  I love my city.

If I did not believe in the power of prayer, I would have had to after that day.  I felt those prayers so strongly.

Just the day before our story aired, we heard that President Obama called President Kabila.    Then later that week, we started hearing, for the first time in a long time, very good rumors about the exit letter suspension possibly coming to an end soon.

The wheels are in motion.

 We have higher hopes than we have had in a very long time.

We hope to hear something, one way or the other, soon.

 It is joyful but also so so stressful.  We could still really use your prayers.  That is really the whole point of this blog post.  Please pray for the officials in the DRC that they can find a speedy solution so that these children can finally have families.  Please pray for us as parents that we can withstand the ups and downs and keep our faith.  Please pray for us to stay strong so that when the children finally do come home we are ready to love them and show them all the patience they deserve.  Please pray that the children will feel God's love for them through all of this and that they can know their worth.

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Holding our breath - #500DaysWaiting

Last night, I flew home from a trip to California with my brother.  I was happy to glide down into my city and eager to get home to my family and all the responsibilities that come with it.

As soon as we exited the terminal and headed down the escalator, I felt my eyes begin to water and my jaw tighten with anxiety.  The baggage claim area has become a trigger for me.  

When you start the adoption process, which for us was two years ago, you imagine your airport scene - the moment you come off the plane with your spouse and children and you are finally home.  

You hold your children tightly in your arms, down the escalator, knowing that friends and family are at the bottom with signs and bursting hearts.  You glimpse your other children and they come rushing at you, eager to meet their shy new siblings. Your adopted children are in shock and you know there are tough times ahead, but the wait is behind you and you are ready drive home together to focus in on your newly formed family. You can breathe again. 

Over and over again, you conjure this image with watery eyes when the times are tough.

When that scene constantly eludes you, the airport just reminds you of what should have been - of your uncertain future as a family. You are still holding your breath and it hurts.

Last night I pushed right through it, like I am used to doing. 

The airport is just one trigger.  I am sure that other Congo moms can give you a list of theirs, but here are some more of mine:

The little girls' section at Target
The post office
The UPS store
The intro song to Parenthood
The letters USCIS or DoS
Conference calls with the DoS

Maybe that list makes me sound weak or melodramatic, but I have maintained for the last year and will still declare it:  this is a form of torture  It is truly traumatic for us and our kids, in the truest sense of the word.

The suspension was originally supposed to last "up to" a year, and then the verbiage was changed to "at least" a year, and now we are almost 5 months past a year and there is no timeline whatsoever.

We have been told that the DRC needs to reform their adoption laws and then they can lift the suspension.  Last summer we were told that the new laws would be addressed during their fall session of Parliament.  That didn't happen.  They reconvene in March and we are again being told that maybe the laws will be addressed, and then maybe they will lift the exit letter suspension. There is also talk of again reviewing the less-than thirty cases that were supposed to be grandfathered in way back at fall of 2013. Let that sink in. It is February 2015 and these children were promised exit letters in Oct. 2013 and they are still waiting.  At this rate, it will take many more years to get my children home.

I don't hold much hope in any of that actually happening anyway and I don't want to wait one day longer for meetings that might possibly take place.

Congress has been very helpful, the Department of State is very involved at this point, but we have been told over and over again that President Obama's involvement could be the key in getting this solved.  We have tried over and over again to get that involvement with no success, but we are still trying.  We are hoping that this crisis has reached a time and point when enough people will say "enough" and ask for his involvement.  

If you are willing to spend a few minutes respectfully asking our President to get involved, please click here to sign this petition.  Then confirm your signature through your email.  Anyone over the age of 13 can sign it.  If you feel so included, please share it through twitter or Facebook.  If you know anyone will a large online following who might be willing to pass it along with a few words, please reach out to them. If we get 100,000 signatures before March 12, we are guaranteed some sort of response from the White House.  

I know I have asked for your help before, and I hate to ask again, but I have to.  I just do. Thank you.