Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kindergarten Graduate

Lucy Li! You did it, kiddo. You graduated kindergarten!!! We have proof in a fancy certificate, Chucky Cheese vouchers, and countless art pieces and handwriting practice sheets on the fridge, and that toothless grin spread across your sweet face. I just want to tell you how proud I am of you. It didn't come easy. You have daily physical, neurological, and emotional  hurdles to over come. You wanted to quit a few times, (I didn't tell you, but I wanted to quit too!) but you didn't.
You kept trying, until one day, you learned to READ! Letters became words. Words with meaning, and before we knew it, you read your first little book. Just like that, you made the magic of the written word yours. You wielded it's power, and owned it. Keep going. Keep trying, It gets so much better. I hope that one day your love of letters and words becomes a love for writing. You have so much to say, and so many stories to tell. I will be the first to read them all, and clap. Yes, I will embarrass you with my overwhelming pride. Brace yourself. The happy stories, the sad stories. They all matter, and I want to hear all of them. Thank you for the ones that you have already shared with me.

You learned about your senses. You discovered that although your sense of sight is lacking, your sense of smell, and taste, and hearing, and touch, are so keen. You learned to still your busy body long enough to hear the bird outside sing you a song. You delighted in their melody, as I delighted at the sight of you sitting there at the kitchen table, the day's efforts sprawled across that space with glue and  frustrated bits of paper, your eyes closed, your head cocked to one side, a smile spread across your face as you listened. Keep listening. Nature has so much to tell you about beauty. The chatter of the world has it all wrong. Keep listening to what the birds have to say. Keep taking the time to just be still.

You learned about the seven continents, and how each one is uniquely beautiful and special, but one is not better than the other. Maybe that wasn't part of the lesson plan, but we learned it anyway, didn't we? We talked about how no matter where you come from, you get to choose where home is. You get to choose where you will go one day. Know that wherever you go, I'll be there. For now, I really like your plan that your Baba will build you a little house right next to our house one day.

You learned that glasses are cool, white hair is beautiful, and your eyes are blue like the clearest blue water, not red. I will never forget that first June morning when I paused reluctantly in the doorway to your bedroom because you shouted, "Wait for me, mom!" You put on your sun hat and your glasses, and before running out the door you had to do a double take in the mirror. Your hair is growing freely now, you've never seen it this long. You ran your fingers through your snow white locks and declared, "You are right mom. My hair IS so pretty!" and off you skipped to play. You are still learning that mama says people that look different, and think differently, and  who speak and walk differently, are all important. They all need friends, and family, and love, and someone to believe in them. You are learning that words can be weapons to cut people down, but its way more powerful to use them as shoulders, to hoist each other up on. You will keep learning this, every day, until one day you believe all of it.

We took a field trips to the park, and the museum, but also to clinics, and hospitals where we learned about blood draws and EEGs and that was no fun at all. You learned that you can be so brave, when you need to be, but sometimes its ok to cry. When you don't want to be brave mommy can hold you and be brave enough for both of us. You learned that there is always more food. Always a drink when you are thirsty. That Mama and Baba never hit. That we will never laugh at you. That you will always be our girl. Sometimes you will forget these truths, but we will keep reminding you.

Lucy, I don't think that any other kindergartener in the whole wide world learned more than you did this year. We are so, so proud of you.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Six Months of Home

"You've sure got your hands full there." I get this comment a lot, and it's funny because typically it's when I'm out with two out of four of my children. And it's true. Sometimes I really just need a couple of extra arms, or a full time nanny. Ha. Most of the time I am too flustered to say "Well, you should see my heart!" so I respond with "Yep!" Yesterday was our six month post placement visit with our social worker. We met at McDonalds so the littles could play while we talked. "I love what I'm seeing, and hearing here," she said with a grin. The squeals of delight and the stomping of four little feet coming from the plastic tunnel maze behind me has so become the background music to my life these past months, that I had almost tuned it out completely. We tend to take the simple and the beautiful for granted like that, don't we? How quickly I forget how hard the hard was, once life begins to calm again. Lucy and Jerome were just doing what they do, being brother and sister. Perhaps an unlikely pair in my Chinese and Congolese born babies, but beautiful and real, none the less. Certainly no less than miraculous. Six months ago, I might not have guessed that this would be our new normal. 

As fears subside and new routines and comforts settle into the cracks in her 8 year old heart, a newer, truer version of our Lucy Li emerges. These last six months have not at all been easy, but today looks a lot closer to "normal." We have had some behavioral issues, regression, and lots and lots of tears, but it's getting better each day. Bringing home an 8 year old, one might assume that they missed all of the "firsts" and although we missed her first words, first steps, and so many other things, since coming home in September, Lucy has experienced her first trick-or-treating, her first Thanksgiving, first birthday present, and first family Christmas. But beyond the obvious firsts, she's also experienced the first time to be held while she sobbed. The first time to be told her eyes are actually blue and not red, the first time to be told that her white hair is special and beautiful, the first time she got a choice in what she would wear on any given day. Her first bubble bath. First time to dance in her daddy's arms. And her father and I got to be the ones to be there for those things. Every now and then Lucy asks, "Why you not coming when I was one year old? Why you just come when I was seven?" She asks because she knows what we she missed, what we missed, and she wishes it could have been different. "I want to be your tummy baby." she says. I wish that too. I wish more than anything that I could have been there from the beginning. I may never understand exactly why their stories and mine merged, but I am forever thankful for the honor of being mommy to them. 

"The change is incredible," she remarked. Between the typical post placement chats about growth charts, language acquisition, and age appropriate play, my very fair daughter and my sweet brown sugar baby snuck into our booth to steal kisses from me, request chicken nuggets, and ask for assistance in opening their new hot wheels car. Nothing notable, unless of course these simple acts of dependance and affection are actually miraculous when coming from children from hard places. I was home base, and that didn't come instantly, or easily. But somewhere between the cries met with comfort and the simple, every day adorations, my two littlest birds learned that under my wings, they will find shelter, their needs will be met, they are important, amazing, loved, and mine. I could go on about the particular challenges and milestones met to get here, but I've got my hands full over here. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

No More Waiting

I studied the "little red China book" in preparation of my new daughter. This little book compiled by our agency and Lucy's caregivers, contained invaluable information about her likes and dislikes, routine and habits, what upsets and what comforts her. Over seven years of details, things every mother knows about her child. Unless of course, your child comes to you via the broken road that is adoption. I would later learn that many details were true about my daughter, and just as many weren't. Finding the real Lucy Li (the name she now insists we call her) is a journey we are still on, now four months in.

"She likes bright colored clothing." I scanned the closet to pick out the brightest items I could find. A cobalt blue top, and a rainbow colored scarf that I'd purchased at the market the day before. Did I look like a kind, fun mommy? I hoped so. In the silence of my empty room in the heart of Beijing, I whispered a prayer through tears. "Lord, please just help her to feel safe with me. Let her know deep in her soul, that she is loved." I still whisper this prayer often.

Breakfast was coffee. Too anxious to stomach anything more than that. I met my guide in the hotel lobby, and we were off. We hopped into the waiting cab outside of the hotel. As we drove out of the city's center toward Lucy's district, the buildings got smaller, and the gaps between them greater. I breathed a little easier, knowing in just minutes, my girl would be in my arms, an orphan no more.

Words do not come easy as I recall the events that unfolded after the smiling guard ushered us through the gates of the orphanage. This multistory building made of concrete and glass, had been home to Lucy for as long as she could remember, though nothing about it resembled my idea of "home." Sterile, and quiet. I was greeted warmly by the staff, led to an elevator, and then into a conference room. I finished paperwork, and suddenly, without warning, a tiny frame of a girl in sparkling silver shoes and tiara, a floral qipao walked up to me, and put her hands in mine. "Hello, mama." The nannies had to explain why her new mama was crying. Unspeakable joy, mixed with sadness for my girl, standing in front of me so bravely. Her voice was barely above a whisper, she was stiff, and seemed far away. The "shy, timid, girl" her file described. I know now, that this isn't the real Lucy. This is Lucy when she is overcome with fear. These photos break my heart, because the fear is still so palpable here. It's not the happy ending photo opp we hope to see. No. adoption is not a fairy tale, and more often than not,  "gotcha" days, are terrifying, awkward at best. Still, my heart let out a sigh of relief that this moment had finally come, and Lucy Li's near eight year wait for a mama's arms was over. The days and weeks that followed were full of joy and sadness, trust earned through comforting arms, forgiveness, and unending empathy, and the unconditional love of her very own FAMILY.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

China Day One: Moms Of The Round Table

Beijing was so beautiful for most of my time there. I was lucky enough to be there just shortly after the victory parade, so the skies were clear and bright. The locals call it "Beijing Blue." They stop to gasp and take photos because they can actually see the clear blue sky. Most days are gray and covered with the haze of thick pollution.  The gray skies and rain, it seemed would wait until I was shopping the outdoor markets, or scaling the Great Wall.

I had one free day in China before my life would be forever changed with the addition of our precious daughter. I was already enamored with this country and wanted to hit the ground running to soak up every uninterrupted bit that I could. Tomorrow would be less about China, and more about my daughter. I did not come here for a vacation, after all, and although I wanted to experience the beauty and  culture, my mind was quite fixated on that little girl that I'd been loving through pictures and emails for the last 10 months.

Traveling alone was not ideal, and I strongly recommend NOT doing it. But for our family, it was really the only way. I missed Richard terribly and hated that he wasn't here with me experiencing our daughter's home country. Still, I was fortunate enough to connect with another American mom on facebook. Terrie was in China with her best friend Tami and two of Terrie's daughters. Terrie was about to DOUBLE the daughter ratio in her home with the addition of two special girls. This was her second adoption and second time in China so she knew the ropes, better that I did anyway. I hoped it would be fun to have someone to swap stories with and explore the city with, but I had no idea that the comfort of the presence of these two women would be so needed for my heart. But God did.

Despite the incredible spread the hotel offered for breakfast, coffee was all my stomach could handle. I dressed quickly, figured out how to exchange currency and hail a cab without speaking the language, and off I went to meet my new friends at their hotel, which I was sure was somewhere in the city of Beijing. There is really something to be said for the comradely of the mothers in this adoptive community. These ladies met me with open arms and encouragement and we truly didn't know each other from Adam. They told me I was brave to be here alone, but I didn't feel brave. I felt beside myself with joy and jet lag. China, you guys. CHINA. Is this my life? How did I get here? The sheer absurdity of it all still makes me scratch my head at times. But there I was, in China, with my new besties whose names I couldn't keep straight for more than 10 minutes, and off we went to explore. Ridiculous, yes? Naturally, we took the subway. I found it to be very much like the NYC subway. Nothing much to note. I was so sick with jet lag that I'm positive at one point I drifted off to sleep between stops. One of the things I loved was being able to hop off of a subway and onto a rickshaw in the same commute. I loved the mix of ancient and modern. China is so fascinating, you guys. Go visit! China is a place of such rich history and culture. I fell in love, and I fell hard. I honestly cannot wait to go back one day, and pray that Lucy Li will want to come with me. I cannot wait to introduce the whole family to China.

Terrie, Tami, the girls and I wandered markets and met beautiful people selling their wares. I was giddy about the treasures I found. An iron teapot, some leather shadow puppets... as much as I enjoyed this time exploring China with my new friends, I could hardly stand that I was SO close to Lucy Li, but had to wait one more day before meeting her. Even as I carefully maneuvered muddy puddles in the cobblestone alleyways of Beijing, I could hardly believe any of it was real, and how lucky was I that even though I had traveled alone and missed my family so much, God had brought two angels on the same path at the same time. That night would be my last as a mother of three. Peking Duck was served around a beautiful round table surrounded by people whose stories were vastly different than mine but whose hearts were full with the same love and gratitude for the journey we found ourselves on. It was too much for my heart to take. I blamed the spicy food for the tears on my cheeks.

Monday, October 5, 2015

"I'm In China"

Well, not at the moment. As I made my way through the dimly lit airport on September 4th, struggling with the weight of my back pack on my weary shoulders and an absurdly heavy carry on,  it finally hit me. "I'm in China. I made it. This is actually happening, like right now." After a long and sleep deprived transatlantic flight, I expected to all but collapse as my feet finally made it to solid ground again, but standing in this sleepy airport in Beijing, I caught my second wind. It was more than solid ground, it was sacred ground and it felt like an electric wave was surging through every fiber of my being. There I was. Her city. The place my daughter had taken her first breath, and her first steps. The place where her story began and now almost 8 years later, finally intersected with mine.

As I stood in line at immigration, I tried to stifle the emotions welling up, but a tear or two escaped me. I wanted so badly to rest my head on Richard's shoulder and have a good cry, but he was on the other side of the world taking the best care possible of our three other loves at home. Our youngest, home just 16 months, still requires Mommy or Daddy full time, and so I had to travel solo. So instead, I pulled my scarf up to my eyes to dry them, and inched forward a few more steps in line. Finally after clearing immigration, I collected my checked baggage, met my guide, and made it to the hotel.

The Novatel Peace Hotel would be our home away from home for the next week. Here in this neutral space, far away from all of the comforts of home for both Lucy and mommy, we would begin our journey of becoming mother and daughter. I unpacked my things, set up her bed with her new lovey, a cozy blanket just for her, a handful of the chocolate she requested in a letter, and few drops of lavender on her pillow. I prayed that she would feel safe in this space. Often times adoptive parents note the similarities between the adoption process and pregnancy and child birth, and many times I see the similarities as well, but there is one stark contrast between all things adoption, vs traditional family building and parenting, and that is grief. That night as my head hit the pillow, I was not only overcome with excitement that I was about to FINALLY meet our precious Lucy Li, but also grieving for her loss of the only family she has ever known at her orphanage, and the beginning of the end of her time in her beautiful birth country.

To be continued...

Thursday, August 27, 2015


It's been so quiet here in my little corner of blog world, but that doesn't mean that my life has been quiet. Quite the opposite, actually. Most anyone who actually knows and loves our little tribe, the ones who read this, know most of our adoption story. You were there when we announced our plans to adopt from Africa. You prayed for us through the loss of our first referral. You championed us as we fought to bring home our boy through seemingly impossible circumstances, and you grieved the loss of our precious TheThe with us. And then it got quiet.

If you know me, the words you might use to describe me probably include the descriptors; loud, goofy, funny, a big ole' dork, spicy, snarky, smart a$$, randomly breaks into song and if a Disney movie is on you can just forget it. It is on like Donkey Kong! I digress. You would not likely use words like soft spoken, meek, gentle... Not quiet. Almost never quiet. Not unless I am in pain, or there is an emergency type situation occurring. My instinctual response to danger, trauma, pain, and grief, is that I get quiet. I assess. I slow my roll. I calculate the best response. Since 2013 God has been breaking my heart and molding and shaping it to whatever it is it needs to be, and let me tell you, it hurts like a mother. Hard things. Things that offer no opportunity for witty one liners, or snarky come backs. Things like illness, depression, financial hardships, broken relationships, trauma, and death. For a while I wondered if I might lose that spicy girl all together. If the hard rains of this monsoon season of life might just snuff that fire out altogether. But God is good, friends, and although I do not believe that He sends the pain, I fully believe that He can USE it to bring us closer to Him, and I have seen that through this journey.

So for my own reflection I want to outline some of the really goof stuff that has come of his hard season. I feel that the broken places are healing well and this post is a long time coming. 

Sons and daughters. 

This journey brought me first our precious Junior and Marie.
Turns out they had a papa here on earth that wanted to parent them. If I had not seen their precious faces, and read their names, I would not be able to pray for their safety, for hope, for a future for them in the specific way that I do now. I am thankful that God brought them to me, and then brought their father back to them, even if only so that I pray for them by name. TheThe, Oh, my precious girl. I am so thankful that I got to see your sweet face and hear your beautiful name before you left this earth. Thank you for reminding me that life is so precious and short. You remind me to be thankful for the little things I tend to take for granted. I can't wait to meet you and your mama in heaven one day. 

Jerome. Oh my soul. You are my heartbeat. You are my sweet sugar pumpkin. Most days my face hurts from smiling so much at your silly antics and your sweet and snuggly moments. You are an absolute TREASURE. I will never stop pursuing that great big heart of yours. You will forever be my baby, even when you tower over your short little mama. You are a walking miracle and a daily reminder that NOTHING is impossible with God.

Lucy! My little light. I cannot wait to see you SHINE. I'll be there soon, sweet girl.


My precious adoption mama friends and advocates. Lovers of justice and mercy. You are treasures to me and have made this crazy ride so amazing. You have laughed and cried and sweat and I do think one of you even bled with me. Yikes! Love you guys to the moon and back!


It is so essential. I have more of it than I did before. I still strive to maintain it in this crazy, self and comfort obsessed world, but I have a much better grip on it than I did before. It makes me pause before thinking I need things that I truly do not need. It makes things that I once coveted, repulse me. It makes me favor real over fake. Deep over shallow.


Jesus in my life has gone from a story book character that I loved like a holy Santa Claus, to my very favorite everything. Jesus makes me cry in the car, you guys. Jesus was, and is, everything. He is why I choose love when hate threatens to grip my heart. He is why I choose forgiveness over bitterness. He is why the word grace has significant meaning in my life. He makes me brave. Any good in me, is Him. He is why I believe in this whole Gospel thing. The red letters. He is why I strive to be better for my God, my family, my friends, my community, and my world, and at the same time He is why I know that really, I don't have to be anything more than who I am in this very moment. JESUS. You should seriously give Him a try.  

As we head into a whole new season in bringing home our little girl, things might be quiet again for a bit while we all adjust and find our new normal, but I hope to do better at updating this blog. It is really a chronicle of the evolution of our family that I want to preserve for my kids. I want them to know their mama's heart and how much space they take up in it. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

“And then my soul saw you and it kind of went "Oh there you are. I've been looking for you.”

I don't know where that quote came from, but it has stuck with me. I just love it. It's hard to comprehend or explain that soul touching connection. It was like that the first time I held my first born son and the day my first daughter came into the word. It was like that they day I heard Jerome's name, and the day he was finally in my arms. And completely unexpectedly, it was like that one random, ordinary day in November, when I saw the face of our Lucy, only I didn't quite know what to do with it. It was so far outside the scope of our "plans." Our plans for some day, our plans for foster care, and then another adoption from another African country. Our plans... But, God.

We chose foster care. We filled out the paperwork. The moment I dropped off the paperwork, I felt a pit in my stomach. I called the coordinator and asked her to please just hold it. I knew in my head that we wanted to do this. So why did I feel this way? So, we chose the agency. We chose the country. There would be a wait list, and a year or two at least before placement. Time to prepare our home. Time to prepare our finances. Time to settle in a little more comfortably as a family of five, before we became a family of six. Perfect. We began filling out more paperwork. We chose the home study agency and contacted the social worker coordinator, and made plans. As my excitement grew, I told a few people closest to me. Reactions were often less than encouraging. "Why do you feel like your family isn't complete?" "I don't get it." "Maybe you should wait..."

It is so hard to explain the empty space where your child should be, when you have perfectly wonderful children already whom you love and adore. But it is impossible to ignore. When she should be in the empty chair at the table. When you kiss the foreheads at night and you know one is missing. It's like living with a ghost. A shadow, a memory, except there is a space of void where memories are waiting to be made. Ever present, ever missed, ever longed for, wanted. No, I am not crazy. God specifically created me to feel this. How and why else would we search for a child that we didn't know? I was made to be their mama. Her mama.

So there I sat, with all of my perfect plans. I read a post from a friend on facebook. She mentioned praying for waiting children. The ones that nobody is waiting in line to adopt. Their crimes of being too old, and too flawed had left them not only abandoned by their first parents, but by the adoption community as well. It had been a while since I had paused to pray for these precious ones, so I hopped onto the waiting child website to pray hope and life over them. So, so many precious lives just wait. So many beautiful little souls. Immediately, my eye was drawn to this face.

How could it not be, right? My jaw dropped initially at just her utter cuteness. A light shines so brightly from that beautiful smile. Do you see it? Amazing. Suddenly the "awe" factor was replaced with bewilderment, confusion, and almost anger. WHY is this child still waiting?! Seven years she as waited?! Albinism. Ok.... who cares?! She is extra special, people! I shared her on facebook. It must be that people just don't know she exists. No way a waiting family will see her and not RACE to the adoption agency, and then to China to bring her home! I posted. I shared. I wrote these words... 

"Somebody better adopt this kid before I have to!"

As I hit the post button on my facebook page, a light bulb went off. Wait. Hold the phone. Delete that post before someone else inquires. That's her. There she is! That's OUR girl. I argued with myself. Um, she is in China. China is not the plan. Do we even qualify for China? Pretty sure we don't. You know nothing about albinism. She has probably already been matched anyway and they just haven't updated her file. She's not a black child. That was the plan. Africa is the plan. You know nothing about China or albinism, or this child. Get it together, Jennifer.

I decided to send Richard her picture via text. He was usually my voice of reason. He would calm me down, remind me of the plan, tell me I am crazy, etc. His response... "Oh my.... ASK!" He saw it too. He saw her preciousness and her perfect beauty. The light that shines from within. If I haven't mentioned recently, I am so glad I married that man. :) 

And so began our journey to our precious Lucy girl. We were chosen to be her family. We did qualify, we were approved, and so far we have flown through every step and and every piece of paper chase with ease. We have learned about her needs and connected with other families that have adopted children with albinism and low vision. We joined NOAH and have monthly conference calls that help us to prepare for her needs as well. We are learning about her beautiful home country and culture. We have become friends with families that have adopted or are in process of adopting her friends from the orphanage. We will remain connected for life as they are a huge part of her story and are like family to her. What a gift.  The entire journey has been so clearly orchestrated by God. She is so loved, so clearly covered in prayer. Soon, I will be in China holding her hand as we step into uncharted territory for both of us. But we will be together at last. We've waited a long time for her, and she's waited even longer for us. 

“And then my soul saw you and it kind of went "Oh there you are. I've been looking for you.”