Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Faces

Livia had her tonsils and aednoids removed last Tuesday.  She is still in a lot of pain.  I feel so bad.  I really am questioning our decision for her to have this surgery.   But she is finally starting to eat soft food and I know will be feeling better soon.   In the middle of all this pain she had her 10th Birthday!  (Yes, that makes me feel really old.  I can't believe I have a child in the double digits!) 

We did plan ahead and she had a skating party before the surgery with her friends.  She was a sweating birthday queen!

We also had some family over on her actual birthday for Icecream Cake.  One of the few things she could eat.

Livia blowing out the big 10!

Liv with Great Grandma Lil and Papa

Hugs from Grandma Tatu

Liv is showing of her money from Great Aunt Debbie

Liv having lots of fun with Uncle Michael!

Looking at all these pictures reminds me how blessed we are to have such wonderful friends and family living so close to us many of whom are not in any of these pictures.  Love you all!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday's Wisdoms

Ian learned that his hair is the perfect texture on top to hold food really well.

We learned what the mysterious word was.....
Chad had a word he would say everytime we went to the potty or showered, pretty much anytime he was naked.  We just new that this word was Lingala.  We couldn't wait to ask our friend who speaks fluent Lingala about it.  Parker heard me repeating this word to Chad.  Parker asked me why I was saying that.  I told him I was repeating Chad.  Parker told me Chad was saying, "My Weiner!"  I thought, no way, we don't use that word and I didn't think it sounded anything like it.  But sure enough when I asked Chad to say, "my weiner,"  I realized Parker was right.  Oh, the wonderful things big brothers teach little ones!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our Congo Trip - Chapter 3 - Emotion Filled Friday

I know I said most of the trip runs together but this is a day that I remember clearly. It was Friday, Oct 30th.

These are actually from FB notes me and Jamey wrote the day we visited:

My note:
We first went to the Lisanga orphanage. This is where Chad and Ian were for over 2 months. This was my first time seeing an orphanage first hand. No matter how many pictures you see before hand, nothing can prepare you for such a sight. I have no way of describing just how bad it was there. When we left I kept hugging the boys wondering how they ever survived. There were lots of crying babies with no one to hold them. No formula. And it smelled like urine everywhere. We picked up the babies that were crying. But then there were so many toddlers looking up with me with such sad eyes. I sat on a step and I had a lap full. All I could do was love them for that moment and say a prayer for them. It was so impossible to deal with the fact that if I left these babies they would most likely die. But seriously, what could I do? Couldn’t take them all, heck I’d be arrested if I had taken any. That wouldn’t have been good as now 4 of my own kids to take care of. We can leave lots of formula but it will only last so long. As we left all I could do was hold Chad and Ian tightly and Thank God they were alive. Chad had Malaria when he left the orphanage. He was on his death bed. Pastor Loma’s family (foster family) saved his life. Thank you is just not nearly enough.

Later in the day we were blessed to go visit the Loma’s home. I wasn’t for sure if this would be a good thing for Chad. He had just started to come out of his shell. Will he climb back in it after he goes back to his home? My question was answered when we left! But first, let me tell you about our visit. It was so wonderful. The family is so loving and were sooo excited to see the boys! I just can’t explain just how wonderful these people are! They couldn’t stop from loving on them. There are 10 kids 4 grandkids and a few foster children. So the boys had lots of hugs and kisses! Chad (the silent backward one) started cheerfully yelling everyone’s name. He was teasing them. Unfortunately, it was all done in Lingala. Some was translated for us. The rest of his conversations I just enjoyed listening to him interact and everyone laughing at him. How happy he is in this home! As we were leaving, he simply reached for Jamey and yelled BYEYOW (have no idea how to spell, but it sure sounded cute) which means Bye in Lingala to each and every family member. He happily chose to leave with us! It was the most amazing moment! One that will always be remembered!

 Jamey’s note:
Today was full of emotional highs and lows. We started the day by going to an Orphanage. This is where Chad and Ian spent about 2 months. We had been warned it was bad. We had even seen some pictures. Pictures nor warning could have prepared us for what we saw. As you drive down a dirt side street there is a big green gate on the left. We stopped in front of it, stepped over the street side latrine and went thru the gate. When we went in there were several kids running around the path leading into the office area. There were no adults until we got to the office. All of the kids were curious to see what these people were doing there We visited with the 2 women who run the orphanage while teenage girls came running to see Chad & Ian. They all wanted to hold them and love on them. There were probably 35-40 kids at the orphanage, 10-12 were under the age of 2. The remaining 65-70 were in school. We walked into the “nursery”, a large room with 10 or so bunk beds. Most of the kids under 2 were either sleeping or sitting in their bed crying. Few were able to walk at this age due to malnutrition. Jilma picked up 2, and I picked up one. Stori already had 3 or 4 on her lap at the doorway. The girl I held stopped crying the minute I touched her. I held her and she snuggled in for a hug. She was probably 12 months and weighed at most 7 lbs. Stori broke away from the mob on her lap to come see some others. She noticed that the little girls I was holding was covered in feces, as was I now. For some reason it did not matter at that point. I gave her to one of the teenage girls who went to clean her up. I went and cleaned myself up and could not believe what I was seeing. How can 2 women, care for 10-12 infants, and 90+ other children? The answer is no one was getting cared for. At age 15-16 the kids are turned out to the street. So if they are lucky enough to survive no care as infants they will be homeless as teenagers. The bad part of this story is this is one of hundreds of orphanages just like this in this part of the world. The images I saw today will haunt me for a very long time. We are to visit 2 more orphanages in the coming days. They are not supposed to be in such desperate shape. In the storage room all they had was rice and a few beans, no formula, no baby food. There was no running water, no toilet, and no shower. The kids carried water from a well a few blocks away. They used the street side latrine as the toilet and I am not sure about showers. It is my opinion that if a child gets sick and stays in this place, they will not live long. We were so blessed that we were able to get Chad and Ian out of this place and into foster care when we did. I still cannot get this place out of my mind.

This afternoon we visited Pastor Loma and his family at his house. This was the highlight of the trip so far. As soon as we pulled up to their home. Kids came running from the house to greet us, or so I thought. They came running to get Chad and Ian. Pastor Loma’s children range from 8-24 years of each. They all held Chad and Ian at some point and loved on them. When we pulled up Chad started in yelling the kids names and a bunch of other stuff I did not understand. He speaks langala. He speaks it very well from what I learned. He would tease and play with the others for the next 2 hours. It was great to see how these people cared for our boys. They gave Chad a sucker and he shared it with everyone, but would also tease everyone with it. After we shared some gifts we had brought for them all, Mama Josephine removed a cloth from a table to reveal a large spread of food that she and the girls had prepared for us. This surprised us all. We fixed ourselves plates and Mama Josephine and Caroline, their oldest, fixed Chad a plate. He had more then I had. Looked like Grandma Helen had fixed the plate. They took his shirt off of him and set him on the table and he dug in! He ate most of it, that boy can sure eat! All night they would give him the photo album we had sent and then try to take it and he would yell in langala, “Give me back my new papa!” He also pointed out his new mama and new older siblings! Watch out Livia and Parker he knows who you are! When he thought it was time to leave, he crawled to me, I picked him up. He proceed to yell everyone’s name and “Bye- O”. I didn’t know it was time to leave , but he did. That was probably the best feeling I have had in a while. He came to me and wanted me to take him and go home. These were the people who had cared for him for the last 4 months. It seemed as thought they had been preparing him for his new Papa, Mama and his new older siblings. The Loma’s are truly beautiful people, inside and out. They are taking care of 5 kids right now because they believe God called them to do this! Words cannot explain how grateful I am to this family for saving my two boys lives when they brought them into their home and out of that orphanage.

It is so hard not to look at my boys and be totally amazed that they are alive. They both had Malaria when Pastor Loma took them out of the orphanage. He saved their lives. They would not have been treated in the orphanage. It makes me cry to think about it. When I hear Chad cry during his nap, I can’t help but be terrified of what he is dreaming of. When, I climb the steps to get to Ian’s crib, I wonder if he thinks he is going to be left there to scream forever.

They have been through so much in their little lives. First, they lost their Mama. Then were in a field for who knows how long. Then to this very poor orphanage. Then the Loma’s saved them and provided a wonderful loving environment. One in which they became very attached. And finally, we took them from everything they have ever known. We brought them to our world. It is full of such different things, smells, sights, sounds, etc.

I sing to the boys every night a little song I made up. It has a lot of Forever and Always in it. I hope they know that we are here forever and always.

There are days that I wish I had not seen these faces that sometimes haunt my dreams.

But these faces remind me when I am sick of diapering and feeding ,that I am so very blessed to have all those diapers and food to clean up after. I am embarrassed at what I used to believe were problems and stresses in my life. Any problem I have now, I can very easily turn into a blessing that I am able to have the problem at all.

And these faces show me that these children still have Hope despite their living conditions. Please help them to continue to have Hope visit Our Family Adoptions and make a donation. Donations are used to provide housing, infrastructure, clothing, infant formula, supplies, educational materials and scholarships to orphans in DRC of all ages.

Please pray for these children. Please pray for humanity. Please pray that we will come together and do something for these 180 million orphans.

P.S.  My dear friends Megan and Cami are visiting the Lisanga Orphanage today. I pray that God gives them strength to be strong.  Megan has her little baby Miles in her arms! YAY!!!  Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Our Congo Trip - Chapter 2 - Our First Trip Out

This chapter is going to be pretty boring after reading the first. After all, the highlight of the whole trip was holding those babies for the first time! 

This week we have a lot of important trips.  In the van we piled in,  Jilma, Jamey and I and our boys, Pastor Loma, two drivers, Mama Josephine and 3 children that would be going home soon too.  If their paperwork gets completed in time, we are hoping to be able to bring back two of these children with us to the States. At first I am really uncomfortable with the fact that we don't have carseats, but then I realize traffic goes so slowly, I can't imagine a very bad accident occuring.  The van ride is probably the most miserable trip I had ever been on at this point in my life.  But right now I was just as happy as could be to be holding my babies.  I don't seem to care that we all could have heat stroke at any minute, that it takes hours to go a few miles, and that my sinuses burn from the pollution in the city.  None of that mattered at all.

I am trying to take everything in that I see.  Taking pictures in public is against the law.  I keep thinking this is my babies' homeland.  I need to take pictures.  Jilma reminds me that I do not want to be arrested and that we should not even have our cell phones out.  This might risk the police stopping us and accusing us of taking pictures.  Although, now I know with enough money I could have took pictures and not gone to jail.

I am amazed by all of the people everywhere!  Kinshasa has a population of 12 million people and it seems most of them are in the streets.  (There is an estimate of 50,000 children live on the streets.)  There are four lanes of traffic and people walking in between the cars selling water in plastic bags, tissues, maps, bananas, jeans, glasses, lunch, just about everthing.  It is like a continous line of drive-thrus.  We quickly learn not to make eye contact or they will follow us banging on the window.  Yes, traffic is that slow, they can keep up on foot.

Little plots of land through out the city are being gardened.  There are beautiful large trees that have to be hundreds of years old lining the streets.  These are being cut down by the Chinese.  To make room for a bigger road to make it easier to transport whatever they are taking from the Congo. Garbage is everywhere.  Not just a little bit of litter.  There is no garbage pick up or any trash cans to be found.  It just all ends up on the ground.

I loved seeing all of the people in their colorful clothing. Everyone looks so dressed up. The ladies are all in colorful dresses. Most of them have a matching wrap that carries a baby on their back. I am amazed what these lady can do with a piece of fabric. They put our fancy bought slings to shame. The men all wear slacks. Shortlys are very rarely seen, despite the hot weather. These people despite the poor conditions of the city, take great pride in their appearance.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you of the ditches.  On each side of the road their are concrete ditches about 2-3 feet deep.  These ditches are the sewer system.  Yep, people just walk out there and do their "business".  (This woud later explain Chad's amazement by toilets everywhere in the US). This really adds to the aroma of the city.  You see this city has grown way to quickly.  People have ran to the capital city for safety from the on going war.

Our first stop is to the Doctor's office.  The boys have a check up and blood drawn for another HIV test.  The doctor will then fill out the appropriate papers that we could give to the U.S. Embassy (if we ever get another appointment!).  Sitting in the waiting room I began to stress about the possibility that one of my babies might have HIV.  Their tests ended up being both negative and they have had tests here in the States that have all been negative too!

Jilma came and got Ian and told me they wanted to see him without us. I then heard lots of crying and screaming. Apparently, they were trying to hit a vein and did not succeed. He was soon brought back to me. They of course had to try again and I made sure I was there! It was hard to have just gotten the boys yesterday and then today we were already putting them under such painful circumstances.

In the waiting room we soon got a smile back on Ian's little face.

Chad loves little baby Chloe.
(He still enjoys seeing her on her Blog!) 

We also stopped at the U.S. Embassy to register.  We found that the Consulate would not be back in the office until next Monday and that his next available appointment was November 28th!  This just seems so crazy we had an appointment with him that he skipped out on, he should be getting us in as soon as possible.  The lady at the desk told us that would be up to him.  His schedule was already full until the 28th.  We left thinking that surely he will see us Monday or Tuesday and we will be able to go home next week.  So, when we returned back to M.P.H. that night we had to make a really hard phone call.  We would not be returning in 10 days as planned.  Our kids at home were pretty tore up and a lot of tears were shared that night, but they thought we both should stay until we could come home together.

The next morning they woke up to tell their Grandma that they had decided we were going to adopt 10 Congolese children.  She asked, "Are you sure you want them to be from the Congo?  That means Mommy and Daddy would be gone a long time again?"  Parker said, "Yes, there are so many kids that need mommies and daddies there."  When I was told about this conversation the next night, I realized just how much Chad and Ian had already changed Livia and Parker and they have not even yet met.

To be continued.....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Our Congo Trip - Chapter 1 - I am your Mama

As my new friend Megan prepares to leave to bring home her new baby Miles, I am getting just so excited for her.  It brings back so many memories those that I never really shared on my blog.  I maybe wasn't ready to share all my mixed up emotions or maybe it is because I couldn't even grasp what was happening.  So, here they are as I remember them.  I am going to have to write this in several posts.  But this is a start.

October 25th- All day one side of my heart was filled with excitement of finally being able to leave to go and hold my babies!  The other side was being ripped up by the sharp claws of fear.  That side of my heart was making me want to.....well....vomit.  I did not want to leave my other babies here in Indiana.  As the time grew closer to our departure, I began thinking what if something does happen to both of us!  Did we make the right decision to both go? 

I tuck Livia and Parker in before we leave.  They are both practically hyperventalating, with tears pouring.  "Why do you both have to go?" they kept asking.  And I kept thinking to myself, "Because we are both to stinking selfish and stubborn to miss that first moment of being together."   I began to get really angry with Jamey because he had talked me into both of us leaving.  And soooo angry with myself for not sticking to my original plan of going alone.  If all of our luggage didn't need to go to the Congo, I might have stayed that night. 

This was taken that night.  Parker wanted it so he could have it in his camera along  with a video of me singing his "Mommy Loves You" goodnight song.

October 26-On the way to the airport, I realize that I left the necklaces Livia and Parker made me in my car, along with a rock Wally and Evie gave me.  They gave us each a rock in which they engraved a cross on.  So when times got hard we could hold it and pray for each other.  What a way to start my trip!  I began to cry again.

October 27-  We arrive in Kinshasa.  We receive an email upon landing that the US Consulate is out of the country.  WHAT!?!?!!  We scheduled this whole trip around this appointment we had with him!  Our boys were legally ours Aug 26th!  But we had to wait to see this man.  He is the only person in the world who cna give Ian and Chad visas to enter the United States.  He would not see us until the end of October and now he is gone!  We visit the Embassy to find out that we will not be seen for at least another week.  About now, the vomit is coming up, but I keep fighting it down.  Livia, Parker, Livia, Parker.......that is all I can think of.  How are we going to tell them that we are here longer?  How am I going to survive being away from them even longer?

We arrive at MPH.  We are pleasantly suprised that we have an apartment to share with Jilma.  We take our bags into our room.  MPH is the Methodist and Prebyterian Hostile. It was very nice for Kinshasa.  We shared our room with many other creatures.  There were rats, centipedes, really big spiders, lizards, and lots of other bugs, and of course mosquitos in MPH.  But over all it was a great place to stay.  We met lots of people there doing wonderful things for the D.R.C.  We gathered with these people for all of our meals.  This was the only place we could safely eat food. 

Maybe fifteen minutes after arrival, Jilma tells us we have guests.  All the anger dissappears.  I feel like I am melting.  Our babies are here!  They are so very little!  My eyes are so teared up I can't focus on their little faces.  Ian comes right to me.  I snuggle him so tightly.  I remember the earthy smell of him.  One he kept for a long while.  He is little like maybe an American 2 month old.  After lots of begging from Jamey, I hand him over to his anxious Papa.  I'll never forget the smile on Jamey's face.  Jamey smiles all the time.  But THAT smile, the one that makes his face glow, only happens on those undescribable occasions.  We've been together for over 15 years now and I've only seen it three times - when I walked down the aisle, when Livia was born, and again when Parker was born, and now here it is again.  Ian fell asleep in his loving arms.  In this moment, I fall in love with Jamey all over again.  And I am very thankful that he insisted we both be here for this moment.

Chad screamed when he saw me.  Not just a litte scream it was a really terrified scream.  So, I kept my distance for a few minutes.  We all sat down in our apartment and I sat across from Chad and talked to and played with him.  I eventually got the nerve up to reach out and hold him.  I was so afraid he would scream and reach away.  He didn't.  He was pretty much limp in my arms and again so small.  The size of an American 9-12 month old.  He never cried.  He just seemed emotionless.  Later we realized that this little guy was very intelligent and the Loma family had been prpearing him by showing him the picture book of his new Mama and Papa, whom would take him away to his new siblings.  He understood this.  So, he was really terrified when he first saw me.

Events that happened during the next week-

Chad stayed in this emotionless state for a few days.  Then after a bath one evening, I decided to give him rasberries on his belly.  Chad laughed!  Not just a chuckle a big belly shaking laugh!  I began screaming for Jamey and crying.  We smiled and looked into each others eyes, and both new everything was going to be alright. 

The next day I was telling him, "I love you Chad."  As I had done hundreds of time in the last few days.  I then told him,"Now you're suppose to say, I love you Mama!"  And to mine and Jamey's suprise, Chad says, "I love you Mama!"  And the tears come again.  I don't think those words had ever meant so much.  It was so different this time.  I knew Livia and Parker had always loved me.  Chad had been terrified of me and now he says this as happy as he can be to be in my arms!

Ian seemed to bond right away, especially with me.  The second night we had him he grabbed my face and kissed me on the lips.  It was such a precious kiss.  Jamey got a picture of it.  It is one of my favorite pictures.

Another moment that I will never forget happened in the van.  The mini-van was unairconditioned and usually we had 6 adults and 5 children with us.  The temperature was always in the high 90's and the humidy was...well it's a rainforest, so it's pretty freakin humid!  And it took hours to go a few miles.  So, these trips were really dreaded, not only because of the fact that we were all sticking together, but we would be with Mama Jospehine again. 

I love Mama Josephine.  She took Chad and Ian out of the orphanage and saved my boys' lives.  She gave them her love for months.  But right now she is still their Mama, and that is really hard for me to deal with.  But on this one day, Ian was fussing, Mama Josephine took him (and he quieted down as he always did in her arms).  But this time he looked at her and looked at me and then at her and finally he looked deep into my eyes and reached for me.  He chose me!  Another tear moment.  At that moment I felt like he was looking into my eyes and telling me, "You are my Mama."

Yes Ian, yes Chad,  I am your Mama and always will be.

To be continued......

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Windows to a Winter Wonderland

When we first saw our house, we both immediately fell in love with all of the full length windows.  It was on an ugly gloomy winter day.  But we still saw the potential in those windows and in the rest of the house that needed some tender loving care.  We were still in awww of the beauty we saw the first spring and the first snow. 

This morning this is what I saw from my bed.

Pictures do not do the view justice.  Here is a zoomed in view.

Then I got up walked through living room to see...

Then into the kitchen to see......

Then finally to the front door.....

Yeah, I am pretty sure I am living in the middle of Winter Wonderland today.

Friday Faces

This week we visited Daddy's office.

We also went to a lot of basketball games! 

Livia entertained Chad during Parker's game.

Gotta love that face, drool and all!

And here are my awful attempts to take pictures of Parker playing basketball with my little camera.

Trying to get Parker shooting.  I was a little late, but he scored!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wednesday's Weekly Wisdoms

This weekend we participated in our church's winter retreat.  We stayed the night together at the retreat center (which is a whole story in itself!  Oh, the LUGGAGE-playpens, blankets, pillows, toys, diapers, lotions- it looked like we were leaving our house for a month!).   You see, when you have older kids looking forward to things, you tend to do a lot of things you would really prefer not to do with two babies.  Thankfully, the boys were great as usual and actually slept all night too!   So, I learned we can still leave our house overnight and still have a really good time.
Chad continued his "peeing on the potty".  When I asked if he needed to go "pee on the potty?"  He looked really confused and held his hands out with the expression of "where?"  So this week, Chad learned that toilets are not only in our house, but other places have toilets too!  Our house is the first place he has lived that has toilets.  He really seemed amazed!

We also learned at this retreat that Chad can dribble (kick the ball-for all of you Hoosiers who think only of basketball) a soccer ball REALLY well!  I know he has probably watched kids play soccer his whole life, but this was all before he could even walk!  The Congolose are known for their soccer skills.  Actually, the number one pick on the draft this year in the USA was born in the Congo too!  So, we are thinking maybe we should invest in a little soccer ball.

Ian learned how to walk behind the John Deer play tractor.  He pushed little Audrey all over the gym!  He is growing up way to fast!  But his most important accomplishment happened the next morning!  I had to go potty, so I put Ian in bed with Daddy.  When I came back I went to my own twin bed.  Ian sat right up and yelled for the first time ever, "Mama, Mama, Mama!"  So, of course, I ran right over and picked him up!

Another thing I have gladly learned is that Livia and Parker have adjusted very well to the new additions in our family.  When we heard that their was a possibility that orphans from Haiti were needing homes in Indiana, both of my kids insisted we get online to apply (we did try but applications were not being taken anymore).  They have given so much.  Time, weeks with Mom and Dad away, precious time without mommy and daddy, doing less big kids stuff and less mommy and daddy dates.  Help, these kids have helped me so much with their new brothers.  Love, they have given so much love to Ian and Chad.  Yet, they are still willing to give.  So many of us big people could learn from these little two.  I could not be any prouder!  So, proud that I am going to post some of my favorite pictures of these two.  (OK, maybe these are not my favorites, a mother of four does not have time to go through all of her pictures!)

They are just awesome!

Monday, February 1, 2010

If I Only Had A Dime For Each Time....

I absolutely love all of the extra contacts I make with people because I have my little boys in my arms.  Total strangers come up and talk to me and ask me questions.  This is a great opportunity for me to educate them about the D.R.C.  First, I must tell them this is in Africa and there are 5 million orphans there and a war, etc.  I really do love this, please keep asking questions.  I really don't want to discourage this, but......

Some days, I just want to go about my own business.  Somedays, I wish I could not be noticed in my snot covered shirt and comfy sweatpants.  Somedays, I'd love to make it through Walmart in less than an hour (OK, that is everyday).  Yesterday was one of those days.  I just really wished I had a poster that read,

No, MY children are not from Haiti.
They were born in the
Democratic Republic of Congo.
That is a country in Africa.
No, they are not twins.
They are brothers who are
10 months apart.

I said this over 20 times in one visit!  When people start asking questions, Chad has actually started saying, "Congo! Ten months apart."  If I only had a dime for each time I said this, I could fund someone else's adoption!