July 26, 2013

Fast News

We GOT our boys' passports!!!!!

And today we got our US Embassy interview scheduled for a little over a week from now!!!

Tomorrow we are taking the boys to the Ugandan Cranes vs. Tanzania "football" match!  We're going with a bunch of the other families here at our guest house.  The boys are going to be so excited to see a professional soccer game! We got matching jerseys to wear! 

Just a few more weeks and we will all be home!!! 

July 23, 2013

Slowly the walls will fall

Each day we are beginning to see more and more walls begin to crumble...less tears and less tantrums!

Kids being allowed to be kids - letting loose!


"M" loves the swing.

He will ask several times a day for "Daddy push, Mommy push" and he'll even let me know that I DON'T push as big as Daddy does!

When he's swinging and playing, I can see "M's" walls crumble bit by bit.

Today, I watched him put a 1 year old on the "boda boda" and walk her so gently around the yard.  I saw him generously help Brian, one of the groundskeepers & cooks, water all of the flowers around the property. And when I asked him if he was the one who was bending the water hose so the water would be blocked, he reluctantly admitted the truth.

He is a loving boy who needs a mommy to tuck him into bed at night and to tell him over and over that he is special!  Tonight, I "rocked" him before tucking him in and he loved every second of it.  He sees me rocking "A" often, yet, he needs to be rocked and snuggled just as much as "A" does.  I caught his ginormous smile, as I said to him before bed that "Mommy loves you! You are a good boy!"


Here's a glimpse of "A".  I caught this moment as he finished playing with Subi (he's not crying...maybe he's praying or maybe just plain tuckered out!)

Please pray for tomorrow.  We are supposed to pick up our passports for the boys!!!  This will help move the process along and we will get to schedule an appointment with the U.S.Embassy which is our last big step.  Please pray that the passport office goes smoothly!

We love you all and miss you!

July 22, 2013

Pure sweetness


Awww...we can't wait for you to meet these precious boys!!!! 

Each one of them has something so special, so sweet...so unique about them.  

Yesterday, I spotted "A' about to crash into a wall with his "boda boda" bicycle, and before I could say anything, out of the corner of my eye, I see "M" speeding along to catch his little brother just in the knick of time. Save. 

And then, today, I saw "M" save another little boy from falling off of a stroller.  This caring boy loves to push all of the kids around in strollers around the yard.  This is his HIGHLIGHT of the day...and when he has no one to push around, he will jump into the double stroller and roll himself around!!  It's these little moments that we are taking note of and filing away in our memories.  I don't want to forget these moments. 

Little "A" has such a sweet, gentle spirit.  Each morning, he greets his friend Subi by grabbing her hand ever so gently and looking her right in her face. " Morning Subi! Hi, Morning!" The best thing is that he doesn't care even the slightest that Subi is blind.  He happily greets her several times a day and tries to make her laugh.  

Chris and I will take walks to a nearby coffee shop several times a week.  We often walk with some of the other adoptive families and I put "A" in the Ergo carrier.  One day, as we were walking "A" decided to hold hands with his friend.  If you look closely, you will see sweet "A" holding Subi's hand!!!  (I think he's going to be a ladies man for sure!) 

I need to keep a list of all of the cute and funny things they have said and done the past 2 weeks.  If I don't write it down, it's gone!    

Yesterday, we went to Gaba Community Church.  We were so excited to finally get to this church because we had visited there last year and met our friends Francis & Adrienne there.  The church service is in Luganda and English.  We were so happy that "M" could experience the church service, especially because the last two weeks we went to churches that only spoke English.  "M" wants to be a pastor when he grows up! Needless to say, this little boy was very happy after church.  He loved it!

The sermon was all about having courage and living a radical life for Christ. 

COURAGE.

This is a word we are very familiar with and at times, feel as if we are lacking.  But as each day progresses, we have mustered up the courage to continue, to persevere.  But it's not from our own ability, but God's. 

Pastor Peter talked about several figures in the Bible that had "courage" such as Peter & Stephen, and how these men lacked fear at various times.   

We need to live fearlessly in our faith. 

Fear holds us back from doing so many things.  When I look back to three weeks ago, I had SO much fear.  I couldn't stop crying at the airport before loading the plane.  I feared so many unknowns, and was not trusting that my God, who is bigger than ALL things, could carry us through all of these obstacles.  

But here I was, three weeks later, standing in church, holding my baby boy in my arms.  They asked everyone to pray out loud, to praise God for what he has done in our lives and so...

I leaned my head into little "A's", snuggled him tighter, and thanked God over and over for answered prayers



video


July 19, 2013

Can't help but love Africa

The last few days, I've been really trying to revel in all of the special moments here in Africa...

I love the red dusty roads and the constant heat...


waking up to the sounds of honking, fighting dogs, street sweepers, chanting from the nearby mosques, little whimpers from "A" asking to go "Kafuka" (to pee)

i'm trying to soak up these moments because before I know it, we will be on the plane coming home and this time will be a distant memory

These are the moments that are making us a family...these are the moments we want to cherish.

I love so many things about Africa, even the things that in the moment can be frustrating or seem backwards- it's those things that make this place so special. God is here in this place and it's exciting! 

Yesterday, I had my first "boda boda" ride and it was awesome! But, I also was only driving on side streets...I'm not brave enough to get on a main road yet.  But here are some school age children getting a lift in the morning...this is one of the fastest ways to get around Kampala. 


We are going to miss these "boda bodas"!! 

Chris has been capturing pictures for a collage titled "best things to carry on a boda boda!"  Here's one he got the other day.  (note: this pig was breathing!) 



Ugandans are some of the most hospitable people we have ever met.  We were invited to the village the other day and had a VERY large feast. If someone invites you over for dinner, be sure to come with an appetite because it's rude to not finish your whole plate!  I got quite a bit of looks for not eating like a "Ugandan". 


But I think the moments that we are trying to imprint on our minds are the special memories we are making each day with these boys...

there are so many things that we will never know, scars on their tiny bodies that have unexplained beginnings 

"firsts" that were never ours...

But there are "firsts" that belong to us and us alone...inside jokes that maybe only we think are funny, but it gets our kids rolling in laughter, 

and...

each day we see God is binding up past wounds, he's building a family among us

we are growing as parents, growing close as a family, and especially growing in our faith. 

Phew...when I think back to 3 weeks ago, as we loaded the plane in DC, I don't think I would have imagined all that we have experienced.  

That is what God does - if you are willing to let him in - he will change you, stretch you, humble you...

we are imperfect people, and each day, each hour, I just pray for strength that God will continue to give us the courage and patience to endure through this journey he has us on. 





July 18, 2013

Fast news

Heading to bed in a few minutes, but wanted to update everyone with our progress. 

One thing we have learned about Africa is that EVERYTHING takes time!  We have learned that we will be waiting wherever we go, but thankfully, the boys are used to this and have been very well-behaved wherever we have had to wait.  

Yesterday, we went to the passport office to get the boys passports started (nearly 2 hours) but some things were incomplete so we had to return today.  

We arrived at 9:00 am and were done by 9:45. Then headed to IOM (International Migration office which conducts physicals for the boys before they are allowed to enter the U.S.).  We were there for another 2 hours (this was our second visit. The first visit took us 3 1/2 hours of waiting). 

But Chris and I were pretty impressed that we got both of these tasks done before lunchtime! This was all God.  We had been frustrated from the day before so we were thanking God that these two things went so smoothly today. 

Tomorrow we have nothing on the agenda and are just going to let the boys play here at the guest house.  Mama Harriet (our head cook) is making cinnamon rolls tomorrow morning and we've heard they are delicious!  Today she made some scrumptious pancakes, as well as porridge, fresh fruit, and wedge potatoes!  

Next steps:
1) Wait for the boys' passports to be processed (could be as short as 1 week, but most likely it will be longer)
2) Once we receive the passport, then we can submit our paperwork to the U.S. Embassy to be processed and receive an interview date.  (dates are backed up because they are short-handed on staff so please pray for this.  This is why many people are getting stuck in country)
3) Chris's mom is coming to Africa soon!!!!!  Please pray that her trip goes smoothly.  She should be here in 2 weeks. 




July 16, 2013

Progress

Today was finally a GREAT day! But let me fill you in on what happened yesterday...

Last night, Chris was extremely sick with a stomach bug.  So I had the kids outside playing with the other children from our guest house.  M and I had several great moments, but before dinner, I had a moment of defiance from M.  He was being mean to "A" blatantly in front of me (most likely to see whether I would follow through with discipline).  So I had to intervene, lift him off of the bicycle he was on, place him in a "time-in" chair", where he kept slithering off into a pile of mush, in which I picked him up and told him to sit.  But the kicker was when I picked him up for the 3rd time and he smirked.

Umm...that was the breaking moment. I went upstairs and got Chris, which was NOT good since he was extremely sick.  He made M come upstairs and sit out before dinner.  When they came down for dinner, he wouldn't eat.

So we decided, if he didn't want to eat, that was fine with us.  So he went back up to the room until he could apologize to A and to me for being unkind.

I went outside and played with A.  And when it was time for bed, we came up to find that M was still not ready to apologize.  So he went to bed without dinner, no bath, etc.

And while I was giving Little A his bath, it was then that I saw "forgiveness".  "A" filled the bath cup up with water and said "Morrisi".  This little guy had no hard feelings towards his brother. He had already forgiven him and was being so loving by filling the bath cup up for him.  Aww...it was a special moment.  I could see how much he loved his brother and it helped subside the anger that I was feeling towards "M".

I prayed over "M" last night - I prayed that he would realize his actions were wrong and that he would start to let his walls down.

So to bring it back to today...this morning, "M" woke up and seemed a little bit sullen.  However, I pursued him. I brought him downstairs and fed him toast right away especially since I knew that he didn't eat anything for dinner.  We played just the two of us for a half hour. And when everyone piled down for breakfast, he ate willingly.

And then just like that, "M" came right up to me and said..."Sorry Mommy!" I looked up into Chris's eyes with a confused look.  Was this the apology for last night?  Chris looked at me and said "He said Daddy I'm ready to say I'm sorry"

Progress.

Today, was an exciting day for both boys.  We went to take a boat ride on the Nile River in Jinja.  This was something the boys had never done before and they were thrilled.  We stopped at a roadside chicken place and bought chicken on a stick and fried plantains!!  They looked as if they had died and gone to heaven.  This was the best!  These boys know how to eat chicken right off the bone.

After visiting the Nile River, we went to lunch and then to Ekisa, a special needs orphanage, that our friend Brecklyn serves at.  It was so great to see Brecklyn and see what a great work she is doing there at the home.  The kids she works with are adorable.  

But as we first pulled up to the compound, I wasn't ready for what was about to happen. 'A" began to cry.  And that was when I realized it...He thought that we were going to leave him there.  I told him over and over that this was mommy's friend and that we are just visiting, but I had to pass him over to our driver Francis.  Francis consoled him in Luganda and told him, "Mommy and Daddy are never going to leave you!"  He decided it was best to take him back outside of the compound until he could relax.

Even though "A" has adjusted to us so quickly and is such a happy kid, he too, has things he has to work through...pain that is not yet erased.  scars and fears that can't be seen by the visible eye.

I can only imagine the emotions he must have been feeling to think that we were dropping him off there and leaving him.  It just broke our hearts.

I never want him to ever feel that again...ever!

Thank you for the prayers!!!  I decided today that I am not going to take life "day-by-day", but rather "hour-by-hour". :)

A friend sent this verse to me today which lifted my spirits and is reminding me that we have to keep pushing forward...

Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”


Praises /Updates:

1) Received our Written Ruling last night (Huge praise!!!)
2) Passport process was started today & we are going to the passport office tomorrow as part of our procedure.
3) Chris feels so much better today!  Thank you for the prayers!  He needs to keep healing from an allergic reaction he had a few days ago as well.
4) Please pray for us overall - especially health.  Being sick while being away, while becoming new parents, is no fun.  We've been feeling very spiritually attacked.
5) Please pray that God continues to build bonds within our family and that "M" can submit his will to us.


July 11, 2013

Baby steps...

Last night and this morning were really difficult for us...not going to lie.

Actually, ever since we had court, "M" has been having a hard time.  Although he is either 6 or 7 (we're still not quite sure), he seems to be going on 15.  This little man has lived through much more than you or I have ever been through.  And as we take a step back, we realize that he is just a kid, longing to belong, longing for a mommy and a daddy to call his own, longing for someone to bind up his wounds.

The honeymoon period is over.

The boys have been staying with us for about a week now.  The first few nights, we set up a routine of taking a bath, potty, brushing teeth, storytime, singing songs, and prayers.  It was working so well. We never would hear a peep from them and both boys wouldn't dare budge.  Everything was new and unfamiliar to them, so it would take them long to fall asleep.  I sat next to their beds each night, rubbing their backs, until they'd fall asleep, hoping that they would feel safe and secure in their new "temporary home".

However, last night the honeymoon ended!

We asked "M" to brush his teeth in which he refused.  So we repeated our instructions, "M- brush your teeth".

Nothing.

Hmmm...so both Chris and I sat him down for a time-in, where we simply explained that if he didn't brush his teeth, that there would be "no cartoons" tomorrow.  He refused.  Fine!

So we prayed with them and put them to bed.  Within 5 minutes, the waterworks began.  Both boys hysterically crying.  So there we are, Chris and I rocking each boy, attempting to diffuse the tears.

And it was in that moment, that I remembered reading Russell Moore's words (Adopted for Life).  He talked about when he went to adopt his boys from a Russian orphanage, he didn't hear a single peep anywhere. No cries.  No voices.  The children knew that if they cried, they would not be heard.  But he said that it finally happened.  Before leaving the orphanage to return home, he heard the first cry.  It was that of his son's.  His son had finally realized that someone cared for him, that someone loved him.

These were the cries we heard last night.  Both boys knew that if they cried, we would be there to comfort and console them.  Every adoptive mommy & daddy want this moment.  It's when you know that "you've got them!"

But, I wish I could say that our trouble ended there.

Nope.

This morning, the drama continued.  "M" woke up moody and solemn.  He didn't want to listen to us again.  We asked him to make his bed, but he didn't budge.  So we told him that he was not going to ride the "boda boda" (kids bicycle) until we told him he could.

Well, he refused to eat breakfast.  Fine!

So...we did what any good parent would do.  We sat him down in a chair and told him he was not allowed to play until he apologized for being defiant.

Well...1 hour passed.

He didn't budge.  We didn't budge.

Chris and I took turns sitting next to him on the front porch, holding his hand, making him sit, as he watched the other children playing all around him.

It was cruel, but it was necessary.  It was the battle of the wills.  We knew that if we gave in, he would have the upper hand.  So...we stayed put.

Another hour passed and he still wasn't budging.  He finally apologized to Chris, but not to me.  So Chris told him had to stay until he apologized to mommy.

So I stood with my arm around him for a good half hour until...FINALLY...

"sorry!"

YES!  I scooped him up in my arms and went to the back of the house.  I sat down and kissed him on the cheek and told him "Good boy M.  Mommy loves you so much.  You did the right thing and I forgive you.  Mommy and Daddy are never going to leave you!"

A breakthrough.

A moment we'll never forget.

My father always says, "You have to break the will, but not the spirit".

Today, we knew that we "won" the first of many battles to come.  And we realized that we are getting our strength from God.  He's the one equipping us and molding us into a mommy and daddy.

We don't know what tomorrow will bring, but praying that God will equip us with patience and endurance.

 

July 9, 2013

Verbal Approval!!!!

Wow--finally!  Blogger hasn't been working properly.  Sorry for the late update.  Here's what happened yesterday at court:

We arrived at our lawyer's office at 9:00 in which we were told that we needed to go over to the courthouse to wait until they called us for court.

Well - we started off strong and the boys entertained themselves by some of the toys & drawing pads we brought. "A" wanted to eat the entire time we were waiting.  And as we sat there, the clock continued to tick.  By 1:00 pm, we had still not been called in.  So we called our orphanage director to ask what was going on.  She came over to brief us on the hold up and said she would call us soon.  But before we knew it, it was 2:00 before anyone came to us.  By this time, I was running out of good ideas...I had already done Simon Says, ring-around-the-rosie, tickle monster, fed them every snack that I had packed...and just when I thought we were never going to be seen, our lawyer came for us at 3:00 and hurried us down to the judge's chambers.

The rest of this story, I can share later, but it was crazy. I felt as if it wasn't me sitting in the seat listening to the judge. Very strange feeling to be in a room and asking yourself "is this real life?" My head started spinning as the judge grilled the lawyer for answers and paperwork...and numerous times, I  resigned myself to the fact that the judge was going to rule against us.

But I closed my eyes ever so slightly and began praying, as I clutched little "A's" body in my lap...I begged the Lord that if he wanted these boys to be in our family, that he would not let any obstacle stand in the way.

And just like that...without even a glance in our direction, the judge stamped the paperwork and told his  clerk "Approved".

I looked at Chris, then at our orphanage director who flashed us the biggest smile.

We had been approved!!!!!!

Ahhh...God answered our prayers.  One of our biggest hurdles is now out of the way.  Not everyone gets their "verbal ruling" the same day as court. Usually they get it about a week later and then you wait for the "written ruling" to be given to you.  So we will go back to court on Tuesday for the written ruling.

Next steps (Please pray for these important steps):
1) file for boys passport (our lawyer does this)
2) take boys for 2 mandatory medical appointments
3) File with U.S. Embassy
4) U.S. embassy exit interview & paperwork  (This is the biggest hurdle! We need to make sure that all of our documentation is correct and accurate, as well as all of the background information for the boys checks out)

We can't tell you enough how grateful we are for your prayers!!! We feel them in big ways.  God has been allowing us to be broken down and he's building our family together piece by piece.  I've NEVER experienced anything in my lifetime as hard as this.  But those of you who have sent emails and messages to us, have been lifting our spirits.  Please let us know what is going on at home as well.  That is one of the hardest parts of this whole process, not having close family or friends to be able to walk through this with.  But God has supplied a whole bunch of awesome adoptive families at our guest house who have been instrumental in helping us with parenting, adoption advice, and filling us in on the next steps of the process.  We can see that all of this is working together for His good!






July 5, 2013

Court was bumped!

Hey all,

Thanks for all of your emails and prayers!  I wanted to let you know that our lawyer bumped our court date to Monday because of needing more time to get correct paperwork. 

This came after a much emotional morning for me, as I was beginning to get worried and burdened for "M" during court and all that his little heart might be feeling.  I couldn't stop the tears from flowing the moment I got myself ready. Brian, our sweet friend & driver, had me read Psalm 101 as we drove to court, as well as sing some traditional Luganda songs to calm my nerves.

When we arrived at court, I was completely surprised to see what the court house looked like (actually I wasn't surprised).  It was basically empty, no air conditioning, tons of people sitting everywhere on broken seats, and a whole lot of chaos. Before we know it, our lawyer has us come and speak with us, letting us know that we had to bump the case to Monday due to some much need information.  I saw this not as a disappointment, but a moment of truth for us. Chris and I have been praying that our case will be ethical and that all darkness be uncovered...so this was a good thing.

After we figured out what we needed to do, we left with our driver Brian and the boys for some traditional Ugandan lunch...good ole' rice & beans.  It is the cutest thing ever to watch "A" eat food. You would never believe how much food this little man can pack in that belly!  He ate his whole plate!  But we have had to watch him because he doesn't know when to stop himself.  Food is very important to adopted children from impoverished backgrounds. They don't always know when their next meal will be.  This just breaks my heart as I see them want more and more food, and I just want to remind them that they are safe, that they will have food, that there is nothing to worry about.

We asked our agency if the boys could finally stay with us even though we didn't have court, so they said as long as we thought it was okay.  So we asked the boys and they very happily said that they wanted to stay with us. 

Ummmm...I didn't know what I was getting myself into!  Within hours, we were a mommy & a daddy to these boys. We bathed them, brushed their teeth, read them a book, prayed with them, sang a song, and then I sat next to their bed, just praying to God that they would know that they are safe and loved with us.  "M" kept getting out of bed and just seemed not settled in a new place.  But I continued to pray that God would allow them to get a good night's rest. 

Then this morning...M woke up at 6:00 AM!!!  I know all you moms are smiling right now, and saying "Yup..that's what motherhood is all about!" But I wasn't prepared for this!  Well, I thought I prepared myself, but not really.  I made him lay back down until the sun came up and then I made sure there were things for him to do quietly on the floor so we didn't wake anyone else up in the house (we are at a Bed & Breakfast with other adoptive families from the U.S.). 

So...needless to say, we both felt overwhelmed and in over our heads.  But as the day went on, we had fun with the boys. "A" was sick so I had to give him medicine for the first time, we went to the store to buy underwear for "M" because someone stole all 12 pairs that I packed, "M" got locked in the downstairs bathroom which was a crazy, but funny ordeal, went for walk to a local French pastry place with another adoptive mommy & her daughter, ate dinner & played with the other adopted kids at the house.  Overall the day went well. 

Please pray that God continues to equip us both! We both feel so overwhelmed, but feel that we just need to take each day as it comes.  I'm sure all of you who've had children know that feeling when you bring them home from the hospital or when you adopted them, that life was changing...and maybe in that moment, you realized that it is no longer about yourself, but little beings that need nurturing and love. I am just praying that God gives me the strength to raise these boys. And yes, Kerri, they are monkeys!  These boys love to jump off ledges, ride scooters, make up crazy daredevil stunts, play with the dirt (all in their barefeet). We've got our work cut out for us!




 

July 3, 2013

Court tomorrow

Just a fast post to let you know that we are doing well. Court got postponed until tomorrow (July 4th). We are supposed to be at the courthouse at 9:00am.  Please pray that it goes well. 

We just had a minor earthquake of some sort a little bit ago. Also the power went out (which is pretty typical each night) :)  This is Africa! :)

We covet your prayers tonight into tomorrow.