Friday, March 29, 2013

A Mom's Dating Advice

I was talking to my 17 year old niece today at a family gathering and she's in love. It reminded me of my dating days. I told her that my mom rarely gave me boy advice. I can only remember three occasions that she spoke up.

1) Never date someone you wouldn't marry

2) Don't marry a lazy man

3) It's harder to wait when you're in love

My niece told me that the best advice she received was to guard her heart.

As we were talking, Robin was asleep in my arms. I wondered what kind of boy conversations we'll have in the future.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Small Things

My two favorite quotes for this season of my life:

¨If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.¨ - Maria Edgeworth

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa

Honestly, I thought I would have done more with my life by now. Or had more to show for what I have done. It has definitely been a decade of "small things with (sometimes) great love." My season of small things is not over yet, and if we choose to homeschool Raccoon and Robin, it will be a long time before I am back in the world. I know that mothering is a huge gift, and I don't take that blessing lightly. So I will go about my daily business quietly, but with the hope that some of my other dreams are not lost, they're just improving with age.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lost in Translation

Years ago while I was in-between kids (after N and J, pregnant with Raccoon), I did translations for an adoption agency. Recently, one of the families contacted me and asked for some translation assistance for their second daughter's paperwork. A diplomat no less. Sure, I thought, a little extra cash would come in handy. I told her I'd have it done in a week. Ha ha.

Miss Robin hasn't slept in days and Raccoon spent the week fine-tuning his whine to the perfect drive-me-crazy pitch. My husband and I finally figured out after too many hard days that Raccoon picked this week to freak out about baby Robin's apparently permanent inclusion in our family. So I am now two days away from my deadline and no work has been done. By some miracle, they both fell asleep around the same time tonight, so I sacrificed some precious shut-eye to get started.

This is when I realized that my brain has officially turned to mush. It's a good thing I told her that I charge by the page and not the hour, because it took me 45 minutes to just find a rusty state of flow again. Of course, two minutes after that Robin woke up. Then randomly fell asleep again as soon as I turned off my computer. Now I am off to bed for some well-deserved zzzzzzzz's, although I'm pretty sure that by the time I get comfy, she'll decide it's time to nurse. Such is life. A blessed mess.

Friday, March 22, 2013


there's just not much of it to be had lately. My baby girl has a cold, or something's bothering her tummy because she's gone from 3 hour stretches to 20 minute ones. Having kids is a hard, hard thing, no matter how grateful I am.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

To My First Daughter

born July 17,  2005
died July 28, 2007

so much love in between.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Packing and Wondering

I pack away the things that are important to me, setting aside the rest to sell, throw, or give away before our upcoming move. So far this means storing ten boxes of books and movies. Stories.

The best stories are the ones full of adventure. But as Bilbo Baggins says, "...I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, and uncomfortable things.” Adventures are experiences that make great stories later, but only after you know how everything turns out. Standing here at the beginning, there is no way to know what will happen to Bunbun and the family that takes her in.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law decided not to pursue her placement with them. I can understand this, having wondered about the risks myself. Especially, how to keep her safe if her mom wants to take her back into a lifestyle of harm?

Safe. We humans like to be safe. Or to at least have the illusion of safety. But what if, as Jen Hatmaker says, we raised our children to be brave instead? For that is what Bunbun needs, a family to prepare her to be a fighter. After just two years of being "safe," she might return to a world of life-and-death risks: life on the street, drugs, abuse. How would you prepare a five year old girl for that?

There are so many thoughts going around in my head. Only God knows the ending to our story, and hers. I have boxes of stories because I like everything with a happy ending, or at least a tidy conclusion. Foster care is not tidy and sometimes, as with N and J, there is no conclusion. They are out there somewhere and I may not know any more about them until heaven. It is kind of like having missing children, although I have reason to hope that mine are alive and probably well.

Foster care, adoption, these are definitely the road less travelled. There will always be a reason to say no or wait, but while we wait, someone else is losing ground, losing hope, out of time. There is a price when you go on an adventure; it is hard and messy and you can never go back to the way you were before. But I love what one missionary wrote about stepping out in faith:

During worship, we were singing the words, “Where you’ll go, I’ll go. Who you love, I’ll love…” I couldn’t sing those words because I knew God was calling us to move to a place we had never seen. Then, He spoke so sweetly to my soul: “Stephanie, you don’t have to go. I will still love you. I will still bless you. BUT, if you go, I will bless you beyond what you could ever imagine.” In that moment, I knew I had to go, and I could sing those words through the tears.

I have no conclusion. This story is not yet written.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Bunbun. Remember the little girl I mentioned a few days ago? In case I have more news to share, I felt that she needed a blog name. I decided to add Rabbit to my forest friends, Raccoon and Robin. But Rabbit is kind of a cold name for a little girl, so her nickname will be Bunbun.

I mentioned Bunbun to one of my sisters-in-law, asking her to pray for a family for her. To my surprise, she said, "I'll do it." But what about your husband? I asked. "He'll say yes," she said with absolute conviction. And he did. So in the upcoming weeks we will be working with a mutual contact to see if the mother is interested in my SIL and BIL as a foster family for her little girl.

But all is not cheery and well. I spoke to that contact today, who knows more of her story... growing up in a prison can lead to some serious stuff, even if she is only three. And her mom... if she came to know Jesus, how amazing that would be, but if not, she's one tough cookie. 

Honestly, I wanted to back out. I even wrote an e-mail to stop everything, recommending a local orphanage I know of instead. But at the last minute, I felt a quiet voice in my spirit saying, "Let it go." Instead, I sent the letter of introduction with pictures that I had prepared for the mother. It is the scary things that require us to step out in faith. But this time, I am scared for the ones I love, which is harder than being scared for myself. 

I am afraid of more heartbreak, especially for my extended family, 
but Jesus' heart broke for us. 
I'm afraid of legal problems and safety issues, 
but the Lord is our defender, so whom should I fear? 
My SIL and BIL are so innocent, 
so unprepared if Bunbun turns out to be a hurricane. 
Who will help them since we won't be here? 
Jesus will never leave them nor forsake them. 

My fears went on and on, but He had a gentle reply for each of them. Jesus said in John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Bunbun, and her mother, need to feel Jesus' love through us, His hands and feet. In the end, as Jen Hatmaker says, "I so desperately want it said of me that I loved well."

Saturday, March 16, 2013


During Raccoon's infancy, I didn't have a single flashback to SB. But with Robin, it's a whole different story. We got SB when she was a year old, but she only weighed 12 pounds or so and was very floppy, so she felt more like a newborn. Due to her injured brain (from abuse after birth or drug-use during the pregnancy, the doctors weren't sure), she only slept four hours a night, with medication. She would start to do what I called the head toss around 4 am and I knew it meant our few hours of sleep were over. Exhaustion doesn't even begin to describe what my husband and I felt. I truly believe that it was only the grace of God and amazing love that sustained us while we cared for her. 

Robin is a great sleeper in general, already doing a five to six hour stretch at night, but unfortunately she seems to share her brother's sensitive stomach. This is hugely discouraging to me because I prayed and prayed that she wouldn't have food allergies or intolerances. She's not as vocal about it, but it affects her sleep if I eat something that bothers her. Instead of settling down, she dozes and does the head toss, eventually waking up. When I hold her, feeling her little head go back and forth fills me with desperation, fear, and if it goes on long enough, anger. I feel like I'm never going to sleep again, or figure out what's wrong. I never thought this would be such a huge trigger for me.

I have to remind myself, Robin has a new story, not one that's been written before. Unlike SB and Raccoon, she will make up the lost sleep as soon as she feels better. I will figure out a diet that works for both of us. Robin will outgrow this head tossing stage and we will all make it through.

What if God wanted her back...

I can't even imagine losing Robin at a year old. Hannah's story has been coming up on my Facebook for the last couple of days. I prayed for her and her family, but didn't have the heart to read her mom's blog until today. Why does the Lord give, only to take away? I am not the person to answer that question. I have seen many stories of loss lately and my heart is saddened. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Little Girl

I received an e-mail a few days ago about a 3 year old girl, A, who needs a foster family. Her mom got pregnant while in prison (remember, I'm in a third world country) and still has 6 years left on her sentence. Kids can stay with their moms up until they are three, then have to be placed elsewhere.

I look at Raccoon who is also 3, and I can feel the mother's anguish. How would you pick a family? How would you know who to trust? It's either a family or a government run orphanage. Can you imagine just handing your child over and maybe never seeing them again?

I can, because I did with N and J. I wonder every day how they are, and I have cried out to God countless times, "Please let them be happy and safe." I have flashbacks just thinking about this situation. I see other people who have heard the same plea remain untouched, but I can't shake it off. I've been there, in that mom's pit of despair.

I wish I could take little A and reassure her mom that she will be loved and cared for, that I would stay in touch. I feel such a burden for A and her mom. Does it matter that I feel some of that mom's pain, when my answer is still no? I'm not sure. The only way I'll feel any relief is to hear that A has a family.

Please pray for little A and her mom, that the right family would come forward quickly.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Secret Messages, Part 2

This article talks about how Jack Andraka's parents encouraged his creativity from a young age. The last two points impacted me because they are where I fail the most:
* Live outside the box
* Innovation comes from discontent

I've been re-examining my parenting this week and coming up with some hard-to-face truths. These are a few more of my disconnects:

Heart message - it's okay to be different, or to look at things differently.
Subtext - conform. 

Heart message - persevere.
Subtext - the task you have designed for yourself is impossible and it's upsetting you, so give up.

Please, Lord, help me to re-align my heart, my words, and my actions so that Raccoon hears one message, the one You want him to know. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Touching Lives

I know which one I am -

"Perhaps they’ll touch the lives of a few deeply, or touch the lives of millions in some momentarily engaging way." Chasing Hollyfeld

The first. Two lives I will touch deeply belong to Raccoon and Robin. Do I expect too much from Raccoon, not in the prodigy way like the blog post discusses, but in self-awareness and self-control?

He didn't want to nap today. His cousins were here, noisily having fun, so I couldn't really blame him. As a child I never wanted to sleep if there was the chance that I was missing out on something. So he and I made a deal. It got to be 10 pm and he wasn't fulfilling his part of the bargain, so I found myself giving him a lecture and pulling out the "I can't trust you to keep your word, so you'll be napping tomorrow" line.

Who put me in charge? I just possibly might be crazy. He's only three. A few minutes later, he came back upstairs and did what he promised, all the protests gone. He's now snoring away and I'm left wondering, the mommy guilt coming on strong. I've been thinking about the messages I send him, spoken and implied.

With N and J, I read in some parenting book that you tell the child what you expect and also the consequence (preferably a logical, natural one). "Please put on your coat or we can't go to the park" type of statement. This worked well with them and became a parenting habit. I've done it with Raccoon as well, but I recently realized that he perceives it as me threatening him, like a power and control issue. Now he mimics it back to me but with his own made-up consequences, "Do this or I won't play with you." Emotional blackmail. Where did he learn that? I don't want to be that parent.

My love for him is unconditional. I play a made-up game with him called "I love you when you're..." inserting random feelings and acting them out. He thinks it's hilarious and asks me to repeat it. I end with "I love you all the time, no matter what." Does he really feel that, know it, believe it? Do I show it to him with my actions and not just my words?

Patterns, habits, little things we do over and over again every day. This is how I'm touching his life.  And only God knows which kind of person he'll be, the first or the second... Or maybe a little of both.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Foody Friday

My mom was here for two weeks after Robin's birth and she frequently used my computer. One day, she saw a blog I'd left open, mealtime hostage. She read this post on the Trust Model and we had a very interesting discussion about selective eating in our family. Turns out, Raccoon is the third generation (that we know of). My mom struggled as a child, as did I. My brother's son is also a very resistant eater.

My mom, bless her heart, did everything in that post so although my family ate a limited and repetitious diet, mealtimes were pleasant for us and I don't remember ever feeling anxious about food at home. At other people's houses I hardly ate anything, but thankfully my parents never forced my brother and I to eat. Although I can now eat a variety of foods, when left to my natural state, I don't, and neither does my mom. We'd eat our favorite things over and over again if possible.

Mealtimes for my mom as a child were difficult (she didn't like her food mixed up and her mom often served it that way), but she learned to cope and eat. I also expanded my palate significantly as an adolescent and adult. I learned to eat a lot of things by either mixing a small amount with lots of rice, or combining a tiny taste with bread until I could tolerate it. Some things I even came to like after a long while. I think the key was that I could cope with new foods on my terms, no one was looking over my shoulder or criticizing me. Eating more variety was something I wanted for myself. And I remember a few epiphany moments, just all of a sudden liking things I'd previously avoided, like tomatoes in a sandwich in 7th grade.

But even though I've followed my mom's relaxed attitude about food, serving only things Raccoon likes and never forcing him to eat, I am not having the same success. I feel like staying completely in his comfort zone should mean that he eats a significant amount, even if it's just of his favorites. Ice cream for breakfast? Okay. Chips whenever you want them, sure. Apples, grapes, and cheese for snack everyday, cut just the way he likes. On his sometimes list are french fries, rice with ketchup, meat, orange juice, spaghetti... So why isn't gaining weight and not being so thin easier? When I hug him and feel his ribs, I feel like a failure as a mom.

I was contemplating this as I made myself supper tonight and I came to the conclusion that... Raccoon just doesn't like to eat. For some reason (his allergies maybe?), it's not the pleasant experience that others, including myself, find it to be. Mealtime hostage says that anxiety is a link among most restrictive eaters. I have to admit, Raccoon is extremely anxious in other areas of his life, and has sensory issues (SPD), but he seems to be relaxed enough about his accepted foods. So what's a mom to do?

My mission: Fatten up my boy. I feel like the old woman in Hansel and Gretel, except that I don't plan to eat Raccoon at any point. Just when I feel like he's not too bony, he hits another growth spurt and all of a sudden I can feel his ribs when I hug him. I pray for wisdom, Lord, because I'm not sure what else to try.

Foody Friday is my way of sharing the struggles and joys of having a resistant eater, the category way beyond picky.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dear Robin

You are five weeks old, and things are starting to come together for us as a family. We went on our first walk yesterday with big brother to buy him a treat and show you off to all of our neighborhood friends. Then in the afternoon we went to the park. You slept through both, but today during our afternoon park excursion you were wide awake. Daddy commented today, "We sure do produce wiggly babies!" If I let you push against my hands with your feet, you can scootch all the way across the bed. You can also roll over (more like falling over, but you like it) if I put you belly down on a pillow on the bed.

I love how sweetly you fall asleep against my shoulder. I always knew when your brother fell asleep as a baby because it was like someone flipped a switch on the energizer bunny from on to off. But you snuggle so quietly, perfectly happy, then drift off. I have to see if those beautiful chocolate eyes are closed to be sure.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Secret Messages, Part 1

I want to participate in Angie Smith's Subtext challenge because I tell Raccoon that I love him a lot, but I'm not sure he feels it. The goal is to discover the messages that I give my kids that don't agree with my heart or "main message" for them. Right now, this is mostly for Raccoon since Robin is happy eating, sleeping, and being held at this point. Angie writes, "I just know that others are blessed when we’re walking in humility..." So here I go.

My heart:
*I have time for you.
*I want to play with you.
*I'm listening, completely focused on you.
*Jesus is the center of our lives.
*People are more important than things.

My words and actions:
*I know I fail at all of these but I'm going to try and observe myself to see how bad it is (ouch!) and how I can change for the better. The first step for most change is awareness, hopefully.
*One message I give with my actions is "I'm happiest when you're not bothering me," there's some painful honesty right there.
*Handling anger, it's an area where both Raccoon and I struggle. I tell him how to do it, but don't model it.
*How many times a day do I say, "Wait a minute" or put him off so I can finish something unimportant, usually on the computer. (I'm doing it right now, poor Robin is waiting for a diaper change so off I go.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

You're Beautiful

I was feeling Robin's head for her soft spot a few days ago, and suddenly I was back there again, seven years ago. Sitting in the neurologist's office and hearing him say that all he could see through SB's soft spot was water. Going to the CAT scan. Getting the results from the pediatrician. It all came flooding into my mind, overwhelming my senses like a storm in the dark.

I wonder what the pediatrician thought when she looked at me, sitting across from her. So young. Naive. Lost, and so incredibly in love with this little girl. I sat there cradling SB, a year old at the time but small and weak, my mom sitting next to me. "She has no brain," the doctor repeated, looking over the scans. "You should take her back to the orphanage." I'd fought two governments to hold her in my arms, and now this horrible diagnosis. No, it wasn't going to end that way.

My husband rarely speaks of SB, but today he told Raccoon that he'd had an older sister. Then he said that the worst thing for him is that she was alone when she died. We were there every day, every minute of her life for over a year. Then it was a Thursday and we knew that something wasn't right, but the children's hospital said she was fine and sent us home. Friday night I'd arranged for respite, the first time ever, at the orphanage where we'd found her. Just one night. My husband refused to go with me to drop her off, but stubbornly I persisted. We had sacrificed so much, it wouldn't hurt for us to take one night for ourselves, right? I almost didn't leave her there. I knew they wouldn't understand her like I did. I stood there crying, watching her on the rug. A visiting volunteer came up to me and said, "It's okay to leave her," and she prayed with me. Then I left. 

It was only supposed to be 15 hours, but it ended up being forever. She died the next morning, early. A worker checked on her and said she felt cold, then she was gone the next time she looked. Did SB feel abandoned, did she think we took her back, did it break her heart before she died that I left her there, alone? This haunts us. I wasn't sure my husband would ever forgive me.

Back at the beginning, I remember the day the U.S. embassy denied her visa. She and I had been through so much already. I couldn't belive it. What was the meaning of this? I was more than heartbroken. I sat at home, holding her and listening to a song called "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. I cried and cried, asking God what in the world I was supposed to do. I wasn't exactly on good terms with Him at the time, and I didn't have the right to ask Him anything since my life was such a mess of sin, but I begged Him anyway. Please, please let me have her. And He did, my merciful Lord, full of love for me even when I was so far away from Him. I think He knew that I would pour out my life for her, like a love offering on the altar. 

I found the song on YouTube and listened to it as I held Robin in my arms. It's funny how much emotion can be contained in a few words and some music. After it finished, I saw a link to another song by James Blunt. He sings of knowing someone so completely, then losing them and how it changed him. I listened to this song a year after SB died, knowing that I was going to lose N and J too. Although a totally different situation from the song, I shared similar feelings of loss and regret and pain. The tears poured down my face, then and now.

So tonight, I just wanted to tell all four of my girls -

You're beautiful, it's true.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Boys Day Out

My husband and Raccoon left early this morning for church and some boy time afterwards. When I saw my little man go out the door without a backward glance, after putting on cologne like a teenager, I almost cried. He was so confident, heading off into the world with his daddy. He gave the baby a good-bye kiss and said, "Don't cry, Robin, I have to go to work, but I'll be back."

Around noon, my husband called me, concerned. "Did you get any sleep? Are you both okay?" At first, his worry seemed a little strange to me. It had only been a few hours with a baby who sleeps well, nurses quickly, and barely cries. I got this.

Then I remembered that I didn't spend a full day alone with Raccoon until he was 7 months old. No kidding. He was that intense. I often couldn't even find time to eat with him, forget sleeping, which he didn't do much of anyway. My husband would frequently come home from work and find me in tears, exhausted.

Robin girl, we love you and your peaceful spirit. I love you too, Raccoon, my grown-up little boy.

And honey, hey, thanks for calling.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spring has come!

I changed the pictures on my blog header and the colors to celebrate a new start for me and our family, now that Robin is here. I wrote about her birth being the start of spring in my life after a long winter, and it's true.

This is my newfound verse for the year. Colossians 3:16-17 "Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him."

This was my old header picture, symbolic of celebrating despite the winter.

Flower and tree images thanks to Wikipedia, Spring (season)

Friday, March 1, 2013


All of a sudden, this moment in my life is exactly where I want to be. Balance. Love. I was catching up on some blog reading tonight and saw this phrase (which I'd never heard before), "...the grass really is greener where you water it." It struck me as profound for some reason, as exactly right for where I am today. So much of my life has been spent wanting to be somewhere else, doing something else, or being someone else. Now, a month into this mother-of-two life, I am finally centered here, in the now.

As you can probably tell, yesterday was one of those I-hope-we-all-live-through-this kind of days. But today... today was better. Much better. I think that is going to be a theme for me this year, the difference that a day (and sleep!) can make. Robin slept regularly, giving me time to spend with Raccoon, which improved his behavior dramatically. Both of us desperately needed some mommy-and-me time. It also gave my husband a break and some time to bond with Robin.

We're still a split family, doing most things two by two, but there are moments of fourness, like when my husband played the guitar for us and sang. It only lasted a few minutes because then Raccoon hit Robin with a pillow while I was holding her, and ran away because he felt bad. But hey, I'll take it. It's a process. We're adapting. Adjusting. Opening up to make room for this new little life. We're all learning.

Watering my grass, I think this is the piece that I have been missing for too long. Although where I am planted is about to radically change in a month or so, but more on that another day...