Friday, December 24, 2010

OMG

I never realized

that smiling

AND

looking at the camera

was so difficult


for girls from Rwanda


finally....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yesterday

Yesterday we signed off on our homestudy. Yep, our training is done and our homestudy is done. Wow, in just 6 weeks we are done.

So, now we wait....
1) Our homestudy will be turned into our adoption worker.
2) Our adoption resource file will be opened and approved.
3) Our worker will have a monthly meeting to see if we are a good fit for a child available for adoption.
4) If so, then we will be contacted and the referral will be reviewed.

This process has taken 6 week so far. It seems pretty quick but this next part could take a while. What I like is that I am done with my part. I have filled out all the paperwork, gotten signatures, and signed on the dotted line. I have done all that I can do. Now we wait and pray that there is a little one out there who belongs in our family!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pink ballet shoes

Parent night at dance is a favorite of mine. For years, I loved going to see my little girl in her leo, tights and ballet shoes. My little girl is now 9 but I still feel such joy when I watch her dance. She is not perfect but she is her. I see confidence, I see pride, I see love.
Tonight I also saw joy. I saw joy on the face of a 3 year old who one year ago was getting off a plane and into a new life. I saw little pink tights and tiny ballet shoes on a girl who's smile is good for your soul. Her teacher told me that today. "She is good for my soul." What words that I will always treasure. What a perfect way to sum up our Grace, she is good for our soul.
What dreams I have for these girls. What absolute joy bubbles up in my heart as tears fill my eyes as I watch them dance and grow and love. I am so proud to be their mom. I am so glad that God chose me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homestudy Meeting #1 for adoption #2

Today we had our first home study meeting. It took 3 hours but we were able to get our lives down on paper. It is interesting to look back into your childhood, your parents upbringing and your grandparents lives. Your history jotted down in a sketch book helps you see how your life has been shaped. Generations before you made decisions that still affect you on a daily basis. This makes me want to make better decisions, be a better wife, be a better mother. I hope that I am doing this not for me but for the generations to come...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adoption #2 Update

In the last 6 weeks we have made a lot of progress on our second adoption. Here is what we have accomplished:
1) applied to the program
2) have completed 7 out of 9 training courses
3) been fingerprinted
4) home assessment

This is what we have upcoming:
1) homestudy, 2 meetings
2) paperchase: drivers license copies, ss card copies, financial information, medical information, etc.

Then we are done. This go round is much more relaxed. This time is not as much preparation as the last (read: notaries, state authentications). It is the same basic information but not as approved on all of those different levels (personal, state, us dept, rwanda embassy, rwanda government).

I am not sure how long it will be before a child is matched with us. I learned with Grace not to be overly optimistic on timelines. We are proceeding cautiously but with the same yearning as the last.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Butterflies

Tonight while talking to Kaylee, I began to get nervous. My heart began to beat a bit faster and my breathing is more apparent. Last night, this feeling was a bit more distant and not as real.

Ryan and I are attending the required dhs training for our adoption. All of the classes so far have been over pretty basic stuff, at least to us. When adopting Grace, we had to do a lot of reading, a lot of training online, and my master's degree just happens to be in this same field (family relations and child development). So we haven't necessarily learned a ton. That being said, last night was different.

The topic for the evening was siblings and the importance of keeping them together when possible (both for fostering and adoptive families). Our teachers did some reading out of our workbook and we watched a video. The video followed 3 families that had siblings placed together and some that the siblings where adopted to different homes. There were the smart researcher guys, who talked of the affect the separation has on siblings and how their lives are forever changed in good ways and bad simply in the placement of the siblings, either together or apart. During the video, I looked at Ryan and joked "we could get more than 1." His eyes widened and he threw his head back. It was a funny thought. Not a realistic one though.

When talking to my eldest, I told her what we learned in our class and the importance of sibling placement. I asked her "what if our child has a sibling? what would we do?" Without any hesitation, she described a perfectly doable room situation. She also said "I would love another sister."

I put her to bed and then the butterflies and anxiety overtook my body and mind. Oh my. What if God has 2 kids for us. What if a boy who is a perfect match for us has a older/younger brother or sister? What would we do?

I have never envisioned myself as the mother of 5 children. To be honest, I never saw myself with more than 2 but you are watching how that is turning out.

We felt called to adopt. I knew from the bottom of my soul that God had a child out there for us. I knew that our family was to grow and we followed His lead. We felt that call again and are on the road to add #4 to our family. But what if there is a #5.

I am nervous. I am scared. I am praying.

I know that our home is big enough. I know that the resources will come. I know that my heart has enough love. I don't know whether it will be 1 or 2. Only He does.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gotcha Day!

One year ago, November 28, 2009, we met our precious Grace face to face. We had seen pictures of her but nothing compares to holding her in your arms. We landed in Kigali with our travel group and headed straight to the orphanage. It was so surreal and I love looking back and seeing God's hands all over us.

She didn't want to come to us. She was scared of the white people. But a cookie helped persuade her to come to me. Then to Ryan and she hasn't let go of him since.

First Family picture as a family of 5

Our 3rd blessing


Our travel group: Bowers, Smiths, Spores

Kay with the sister she had hoped for


Today Grace is doing great. What a difference just a year makes. You can see it in her face in the pictures above: fear, loneliness, not sure of what is going on. But then take a look below. Grace with her family and you can see the happiness all over her face...






Tuesday, November 9, 2010

1 year ago

One year ago today, we were on a business trip to Florida. Ryan and I spent a long weekend there. It was Monday, November 9, and we were packing up to head back home. We had breakfast then headed back to our room to gather our things before we got on the airport shuttle.

An email was sitting in my inbox. An email that I had been waiting for since March, well really since we decided to go down this adoption road. This email had a picture of a beautiful little girl who was waiting for us to come and get her. A little girl who had no idea of what was about to happen to the only world she knew.

Elina Muhoza was dressed in a sweet white dress with her little toes peeking out of her sandals. Her hair was cut short. Her lips were the sweetest that I had ever seen.

This was the child that I prayed for. This was the child that God ordained for our family. This was my daughter.

Fast forward one year, Grace Elina, our daughter, is home and is thriving. She is the onery and stubborn light of our life and we cannot imagine our family without her. She is beautiful and unique. She is loving and sweet. She is the child that God made for us.

Friday, November 5, 2010

the stick test

When we were trying to get pregnant and I was few days late, I always rushed to the drug store to buy a pregnancy test. I would anxiously do what you do with that kind of stick and wait for a positive reading. More times then not, the test would be negative. I went through so many tests in those precious years that we should have bought stock in the test makers (read: I am impatient and want to know NOW!).

When we were in the process of adopting Grace, I got the same impatient feelings back. I was not good at waiting and with each step of the process would hope and pray and be frustrated then content and felt like I was constantly thinking about wherever we were in the process. Did I mention patience is not my strong suit? But she is here in God's timing and everything has worked out wonderfully and perfectly.

So guess what. We are doing it again.

We have submitted our paperwork to bring home the next Smith kiddo! We are going the domestic route this time and are hoping to get a little african american boy who is 0-2 years old. I pray that I am more patient and content this go round.

So what steps do we have in front of us:
1) Homestudy
2) 27 hour required training
3) placement

This adoption will definitely look different than Grace's adoption. The time table will be different, the requirements will be different. There won't be any long plane rides or visas to obtain. We won't have to be approved by an embassy or fedex a dossier. However, our prayers will be the same!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Breathe

Today is a new day. We found out last night which way our life will go. We are little disappointed in the possibilities of what could have been but rest in the truth that He has a plan for us.

The "heaby" pressure isn't gone. I thought I would wake up and magically feel different. Wrong. But I do feel the heaviness slowly slipping away. Since it took a year of our lives, I am sure that the feelings will take some time to pass.

I am excited to see where our lives will now go. I love being obedient to His calling. Such satisfaction is felt knowing that we are listening to Him no matter what he calls us to do. Curious to see what is next! We are celebrating "get your life back" day today!



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Heaby

As I look back on the last few years of my life, there are so many things that have happened or are happening that I never expected. Ryan and I are making life decisions that we would have never dreamed of just a few years ago. Both personally and professionally, our lives just keep changing. I attribute it to giving our lives over to God. May be cliche but I know it is the truth. God has been working on us for quite some time and He has us on quite the ride right now.

We are within 2 weeks of knowing which path our life might take. Either path is fine with us because we know that it is God's will. Through the year and a half, Ryan and I's prayer has been that God's will be done. We know that it will be.

There is pressure on us. Every morning when we wake up it is there. We are covered in it all day. It is there when we lay our heads down on our pillows at night. Ryan, I know, has a heavier feeling than I do. As Grace would say "it's heaby."

There is a plan for all of this craziness. There is a plan for our lives and for where we will serve. And even with all of the "heaby" pressure, I am so glad that we chose to follow Him.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Grace

The past few days Grace has been sick. This is the first time she has been sick since we brought her home. It has been a difficult thing as Ryan and I just aren't sure what to do.

When you have a baby, you know everything about that child. You know what every sound, cry, look and snort mean. That baby then grows up and you are in tune with the child because of the history. You know that child better than you know yourself. Grace was 2 1/2 years old when we got her. 2 1/2 years of not knowing her and not knowing her sounds, cries, looks, needs. It is a different place to be.

The other night she was laying in between us, she would make a noise and Ryan and I would look at each other and just wait to see what would happen next. We just weren't sure. It was a funny feeling as a parent. I felt almost not prepared for what could happen.

To throw another kink in the maternal plan, Grace prefers Ryan. This has been since day 1. She and I have a good thing going but when push comes to shove she will pick Ryan over me any day. This happens to also be true when she is not feeling good. She clung to him so tightly and even did some of her self soothing techniques that we witnessed when we first got her. It has kinda felt like we were back to December/January these last few days.

I will report that she just has a virus. She is on the mend and is even signing "Happy Birthday" again which happens to be her favorite song. She's going to make it through just fine I think.

I have learned some things these last few days. I have learned some of her cries, looks and preferences. I will tuck those away in my back pocket. For now, Ryan has them front and center!



Sometimes I wish I could go back in time. I wish that I could go back in time and redo things or undo things or not do things at all. Sometimes I would like to go back in time and relive a season and feel again how it felt. Knowing what I know today, I would go back and sit in contentment and bask in the feelings of the moment.

Too many times I hurry. I hurry up and check things off the list. I hurry up and make decisions. I am very happy with my life but wish that I would learn to be more still and be okay with waiting for the next thing. I am not a very patient person.

But I need to become more patient and content and still...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I have them

I have flashbacks. I have flashbacks of the orphanage. The dark rooms, the children chanting "Elina, Elina" when we brought her back from our first day with her. I have flashbacks of the children climbing the window grates as we left. They, the flashbacks, come unpredictably.

I wonder if she has them, flashbacks.
As she lays in her pink room under her green polka dot sheets wearing her strawberry shortcake nightgown, does she have them? Does she dream about the place she first knew as home? I have asked her if she does. I don't think she understands my questions. The language barrier will be the preventer of our discussions when her memories would be more crisp. I pray that subconsciously she remembers. Not to make her sad or to give her a complex but just so that she would know her story.

My father died when I was 13 months old. I don't have any memories of him. I did have a dream the other night where we were riding in a car. I was trying to hear him talk but couldn't. I just kept thinking "I want to hear his voice, to know what he sounded like. I want to remember it." That is part of my story, being fatherless for most of my life.

Our stories make us who we are. Whether we remember it our not, whether we have glimpses into our past. Our stories are what God has designed for us.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the moon

Every morning we get up and get ready for school. Grace and I drop the big kids off at their school then we head through town to her school. During this time, we talk about what she wants to do that day and what she thinks she will learn. I usually then encourage her to take a nap. The past few days she has noticed something new on her way to school. I think it must be the time of year. This week on our way to school, you would have heard if you would have been a fly on the wall of our car.

Grace: Moo, mama, moo
Me: What Grace, tell me what you see
Grace: Moo, mama, moo
Me: I don't know what you are saying...show me.

At this point, I don't know what she is talking about. We are on a college campus so I know that there are not cows in her line of site. I get out of the car and open her door. She then points and grins, "Moo, mama, MOO."

I then realize that she has found the moon. It the bright cornflower blue sky, she has spotted the white hazy moon before it sets for the day. This made me think, have I taught her the moon? Did she learn this in school? Whatever the way, she is learning. She is learning the simple things and that is encouraging to this mama's heart.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Africa New Life

Thanks to a blog/adoption friend, I have been introduced to a new ministry that is happening in Rwanda. Africa New Life is an organization that is changing lives in my daughter's country.

From clean water to a theology program to sponsoring kids to providing homes for street children, this organization is really making a difference in Rwanda. Last Sunday, we had some ANL staff at our church and 38 kids were sponsored. This means that they now will get to go to school, have more dependent meals and get medicine as well as hear about Jesus.

Please take a few minutes and check them out: www.africanewlife.org.

I am excited about this new partnership that has been developed with Africa New Life and our church. I am optimistic about the future and how we can help change lives in Rwanda. What an amazing story it will be.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another first

This fall is bringing many new experiences for our little Grace. It seems that each season we go through with her becomes a collection of memories. Funny how the big kids had these same experiences but Grace's age just makes it different some how.

Tonight, the five of us loaded up in Ryan's truck and headed to the OK State football game. My bag was packed with snacks and other distractions. Happily, I only needed to use some edible distractions and a book towards the end.

Grace loved the game. At first it seemed a little loud, so she stayed close to dad. But after awhile, she opened up, and became a fan. She now has a new love for Pistol Pete and Bullet. She can make her guns as well as do O - S - U with the rest of the crowd. The big kids loved showing her how to cheer on our team and how to enjoy the game day snacks.

There are many more memories to be made in the next few months. I am looking forward to seeing what else Fall brings!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Overflowing Joy

When Kaylee was young, I counted the days until she could take ballet. She turned 3 in July and in August she took her first dance class. I loved seeing her in the little pink tights, little pink leotard and the little pink leather ballet shoes. I don't know what it is but seeing my little girl in this outfit repeatedly would bring tears to my eyes. And let's not even talk about the recitals.

When we found out we had another little girl on the way, the same excitement filled my heart. She can take ballet! I don't know what it is with me, tights, tutus and little ballet shoes. Grace turned 3 in April. And tonight she followed in her big sister's foot steps.
Tonight there were no tears, though I am sure they will come, just a feeling of pure joy. Grace has been talking about "baable" since we purchased her new little pink ballet shoes. And today was finally the day she got to wear them.

As I slipped on her tights and then her leotard, the smile on her face just got bigger. Once I placed those shoes on her feet, I could feel her excitement, it surrounded us. This little girl, who came from Kigali, who must remember something about her former life, was about to experience something else new.

We walked into the dance studio and immediately she started seeing other little girls in their leotards and ballet shoes. She giggled and pointed and looked at her own shoes. She repeatedly said "baable, baable, Gracie go to baable."

We walked back to her studio. She and her friend A grabbed each others hands and while giggling ran into their first dance class not knowing what awaited them. Grace's dimple was so deep from her wide smile. The joy was so evident, so palpable.

Grace came out of her class with the same smile as when she went in. She loved it. She even was able to show me some positions that she learned. Then when Daddy came home, oh boy, more smiles, more giggling, more dancing. From the moment Grace donned her ballet attire until saying our prayers tonight, I could feel her joy. It was so pure, so overflowing, so real. It is an evening I will never forget.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mirror Mirror

My 9 year old is becoming somewhat of a drama queen when it comes to hurting herself. It doesn't matter whether it is a light scratch or a huge gash, the tears and crying and whining are all the same. From this, it has been hard to react. I have become a bit of a "yeah, your fine" move on reaction with her because it always seems to be nothing.

Tonight after I put the 2 younger ones to bed I put Kay to bed. By this point, I was tired and ready to be childless for the evening. It has been a long 3 day weekend and I had a sick child who was sick last weekend too so I was so done. I was looking forward to sitting on the couch just me and my tv. I turned to leave her room and WHACK. Tears filled my eyes and my legs collapsed beneath me. Searing pain filled my body and I started to cry. I just ran my sweet little pinky toe into her door jam. Great.

Kaylee jumped out of her bed and came to my aid. She wrapped her arm around me then said in a voice that sounded eerily familiar...
1) squeeze it, just squeeze it and it will feel better, apply pressure
2) you're fine, what did you do, you're fine
3) see, every time I do that, I tell you it hurts and you don't believe me

At this point, I am laughing. I am laughing so hard that I am trying not to pee. I am still crying mind you and the two actions together don't make a pretty combination. My little toe is still throbbing and I am still squeezing it and the whole apply pressure thing just doesn't seem to be working. Kay continues to console me but is laughing hysterically herself. This of course draws the middle one out of bed to see what all the fuss is about.

As she re-accounts what had just happened to her little brother, I continue to laugh, cry and squeeze. I then have this conversation with myself "wow, I need to be a little more compassionate to her when she hurts herself, well, at least when she stubs her toe on the dumb door. This really, really hurts. And I don't like the way she sounds which is just a mirror of my reaction to her. Ok, lesson learned. And thank goodness I didn't pee!" Then I said out loud through tears and laughing snorts "Everyone back to bed." Then back in my head "And my toe still hurts, it may be broken."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

update

Well, it has been a week since the news of adoptions being closed in Rwanda. There have been a few families that have been able to get their dossiers completed and over there by today's date. So happy for these families and for the children that will indeed get to come home.

I have been doing a lot more research into domestic adoption. There are so many kids out in the US that need homes. Last week, the day that we learned of the closing, I went to have lunch. I sat down with the paper and the article on the front page was about foster kids aging out of the foster care program. These kids are 18 with no family, without a degree (some of the time). Some of the kids go from home to home to home to home then at the end have no real sense of family or of where they belong. This article was just what I needed to read. Such important information for my mind and my heart. I do believe that things happen for a reason, even if it is just a newspaper article that I happened to read on such a pivotal day for us.

So we will see what the next few months bring for us. I just can't wait to get my arms around that chubby little guy, wherever he may come from!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1st grader

Love love love having a 1st grader. I love how they write. And Cannon's drawings have become so much more detailed.
This weekend, this happened in our front yard. Ryan came in and got us to witness "my kide wos yalen at the skrl." Translation: My kitty was yelling at the squirrel.

Indeed, the cat was on the driveway and a squirrel was in the tree. The squirrel was saying "tik tik" and the cat was meowing up at the squirrel. Then Cannon says "I am in my boots." He was in fact in socks.

I love that he remember this fun unexpected part of our Sunday!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

both good and bad news

Well, the news has spread like wild fire thanks to the internet, bloggy friends and facebook.

This is the scoop:
Rwanda is currently suspending adoptions. The country has decided to become a part of The Hague Convention. The Hague Convention helps protect adopted children from any kind of trafficking as well as other things. This is ultimately a wonderful thing for Rwanda and the children that will be adopted. The timing just isn't so great for some of us. So this means, if you don't have a dossier in country by August 31 then you won't be able to adopt any time soon. Read more here...

The thing about this is, is that there is no way to know how long this may take. It may be a year, it may be several years, it may just be months. I was told that it took the United States 7 years to become a Hague Convention signatory. I have googled this stuff and really found no answers on how long it has taken other countries.

So what does this mean for the Smith family? We were planning on starting adoption #2 late this fall (from Rwanda). After being inside those turquoise gates and seeing the things that we saw, Ryan and I both knew that we would be back.

Right now it seems that God has other plans. I was a little upset with Him yesterday. We had our plan, I had a timeline. I knew what was going to happen and when. Then just like that, *poof*, all of it was gone. No plan, no timelines, nothing. If you know me, you know that I don't do well with the unknown. I do well with plans, guides, instructions, checklists. These things make me happy.

So now, Ryan and I are praying about and discussing what will be our next step. We both agree that there will be a second adoption. We both agree that a Cannon needs a little brother. I have been doing research on domestic adoptions. Did you know that African American boys are the least likely to be adopted. So maybe this is His plan after all. Maybe we are to experience an international as well as a domestic adoption. There are hundreds of thousands of children in foster care that may never be adopted or have a family.

So I ask that you pray for us during these next few months as we see where God leads us. We ultimately want for His will to be done, regardless of what we think is our plan. This will of course test my patience as well as my emotions but it will NOT test my faith. He is and always will be in control. He has the answers and will reveal them to me in His own way on His own time.





Tuesday, August 24, 2010

years gone by

2008

2009

2010
wow...both of my children sprouted necks after the 2008 school year! ah, the memories.

the traditional back to school picture...

Clearly we will have to redo the morning pictures. This time, I will use the real camera instead of the iphone, both for the clarity and the quickness of the shutter. My youngest sure doesn't hold her smile for long :).



Sunday, August 22, 2010

What to do

When I read blogs like Katie's , a sense of worthlessness washes over me. I read what this young twenty something is doing in Africa and I feel that I am not doing enough. I see how she feeds and ministers to hundreds of people every week, and the most people I encounter is at the carpool lane or Walmart.

A good friend asked me what I do with all of the emotions that come with witnessing the orphanages in Rwanda and Mexico and then seeing the shrunken bodies of the sick and the hungry. It is a hard reality to swallow, every. day. As I sit in my comfortable life, these memories and images shock me back to their reality. Then to my reality that I am not doing enough. To my reality of what should I be doing.

I know that God has me here for a reason. He chose this place to be my home (for now) and He wants to use me. Some ways have been evident to me (our sweet little ornery Grace) and some ways I am still trying to figure out (daily life). I pray a lot as I see faces on the computer screen and as dreams take me back to the turquoise blue gates. There are days were I feel confident in my faith and in my actions, that I am doing what He wants me to do. Then there are days when I feel broken and useless.

I have a saying above our living room entry way. It is a reminder to me whenever I read it that He is in control and that He has a plan. I just have to let Him use me and be open to whatever it is He wants me to do, whether it be here or across the ocean.

Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.

I really believe that God will take Ryan and I to the mission fields permanently at some point in our lives. I don't think it will be soon but when our children are grown. I do feel a calling to that life which is a very strange place for me to be. My pew sitter upbringing doesn't understand that "GO" mentality. Thank goodness He has changed me so in the last several years. I do feel blessed to have had my eyes opened to this life.

Until then though, I continue to pray daily of how God can use me. How I can be a tool for Him today. How I can be His hands and feet today. It is a struggle but I feel blessed to wrestle with it every day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Just in case you were getting comfortable

Go here: www.kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com

Read the post. Pray for Katie, for her ministry and for the souls that she touches.

Go.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Can you....

hear it? The sweet hum of the pencil sharpener. The teeth zipping up the side of the backpack. The gentle rush of children running out to recess. School starts for us in just 12 days. 12 days until we get our routine back.

Me and my sweet little children were made for routine. We don't enjoy spur of the moment or a day full of nothing. We thrive on checklists and to do lists. We are planners and live for structure. These apples did not fall far from the mama tree.

Fall brings us (me) my sanity back.

This fall will be like no other. This fall will be busy and crazy and fun. This fall will push me to my limits. God has a plan for this fall. Can't wait to see how it all unfolds.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mexico

Ryan and Kaylee are headed down to Mexico for a few days. Part of our heart is in Piedra Angular, a Christian community, that is down just over the border from Eagle Pass, TX. Crossroads Missions helped establish this community almost 10 years ago. Ryan has visited probably 9 times in the last 3 years. He is also on the board of directors for Crossroads. There are many people that we love in Mexico and they have Coca Light (which is my favorite thing in the whole food world, well besides ice cream and cookies and brownies and...)! The whole fam would be going except our little Rwanda darling can't travel outside of the US just yet.
Crossroads Missions works in Piedras as well as New Orleans and Kentucky. This is a wonderful organization that helps regular folks both be missionaries and to be loved on. You get a group of people to the mission location then they have a mission trip planned for you. For Mexico in particular, each person will spend time doing construction, loving on orphans, feeding the poor at a railroad track community, and providing meals for families at a hospital. No experience is necessary AND any age can go. The experience is amazing and it changes almost everyone that crosses past their gate. You get a different perspective on life and what God wants you to do. You serve the poorest of the poor and you get to love on them. They teach you about humility and faith. The teach you about family and about God.

If you are interested in a mission trip, please visit their site. It is very affordable and the amount of work you get done is unbelievable. God is ever present and you feel him with every breath. It is an amazing place.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Shoes

G in her sister's old recital costume.

Grace has a pair of sandals that I got for her in March. When I bought the shoes, they were really too big. I thought, well, she will grow into them this summer. As of August 6, these sandals are almost too small. Her toes reach the edge as her heal is on the end. Not believing this, I measured, and her foot has grown almost an inch in 5 months. Wow!

The first few months we had Grace home she didn't grow very much. She stayed at 31 pounds from December until June. Her belly did go down from huge to just a regular toddler tummy over this time. But how summer has caused her to sprout! She has gained several pounds, has outgrown all of her 3t clothing, and has definitely grown in height! Maybe it is all the swimming that she has been doing!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Adoption is Hard

This is an excerpt from Kisses from Katie, a ministry that Ryan and I keep up with, pray for and support. This is an amazing young woman who is living in Uganda. She has adopted 14 children and is only in her early 20's. To read more about her ministry and support her, go here: www.amazima.org. She tells the truth about adoption...

In an effort to be real, I want to tell you. Adoption is wonderful and beautiful and the greatest blessing I have ever experienced. Adoption is also HARD and painful. Adoption of older children is a beautiful picture of redemption. It is the GOSPEL in my living room. And some times, it just stinks.

As a parent, it stinks to not know when your daughter took her first steps or what her first word was or what she looked like in Kindergarten. It stinks not to know where she slept and whose shoulder she cried on and what the scar on her eyebrow is from.

As a child, it stinks to have your mom be a different color than you because, inevitably, people are going to ask why. It stinks that your Mom wasn’t there for all the times you had no dinner and all the times you were sick and all the times you needed help with your homework. It stinks when you have to make up your birthday. It skinks when you can’t understand the concept of being a family forever because your first family wasn’t forever.

And every single day, it is worth it. Because ADOPTION IS GOD’S HEART. He sets the lonely in families. Adoption is the reason that I can come before God’s throne and beg Him for mercy, because He predestined me to be adopted as His child through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

My family, adopting these children, it is not optional. It is not my good deed for the day, it is not what I am doing to “help these poor kids out.” I adopt because God commands me to care for the orphans and the widows in their distress. I adopt because to whom much has been given, much will be demanded. I adopt because whoever finds his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for HIS sake will find it.

Some days, my friends, it is not easy. Today, it is not easy. The HURT in my daughters’ hearts is big and real and as their mother, I want to fix it and know that I CAN’T. So I lay it at the feet of my Father and rejoice to know that if we are children, then we are heirs - of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings - in order that we may also share in His glory. And I call out to the Holy Spirit knowing that He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for us.

A sweet friend pointed me yesterday to Genesis Chapter 33. Esau and Jacob are meeting for the first time in a long time. As Jacob approaches Esau, with his many children following close behind, Esau asks, “ And who are these with you?”

Jacob’s reply: “These are the children that the Lord saw fit to bless me with.”

We get all the questions. “Why do you do it?” “Why so many?” “How in the world…” “Why these specific girls?” “Why the number 14?” “Do you think its ok to adopt as a single Mother? Don’t they need a father too?” “Do you think they will have issues since you are not the same race?” We also get the compliments. “I don’t know how you do it!” “Good job!” “You must be so responsible!” “Your girls must be so well behaved.” We get crazy stares and huge smiles and every look inbetween.

Adoption is beautiful. Adoption is hard. Adoption is the Gospel of Christ and the promise of God’s love and redemption lived out in our lives. So I ask for your prayers. Prayers for understanding and peace and trust and the power of God that is more than all I can ask or imagine. And to the questions and the comments and the compliments, this is my reply: “These are the children that the Lord saw fit to bless me with.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer...

I seriously can't believe that summer is almost over. In just 3 weeks, my children will be back in school and our normal routine will once again be in place. Oh how I am a creature of routine. This summer has been filled with camps, work, pool time, campaigning. Lots of stress as well which has made it really fly by. These months have taught me a lot and I hope to not have to repeat some of the lessons.

The kids returned from a 4-day stint at Camp Mimi B (Ryan's mom). Lots of homemade fun was had. They love their time there and have so many stories to tell for days after returning. When I picked up the kids yesterday, there was a crate with 2 little kittens in it. Our previous kittens (Thing 1 and Chocolate Thunda) died unexpectedly in an accident. It was purely an accident and we were all very sad. Mimi B is know for having kittens at her house. So Topsy and Annie have now joined the Smith clan. They are a bit bigger and hopefully a little smarter.

We welcome August and all that it brings, school, schedules, backpacks...


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

She's converting

Last week, Grace started making the conversion. The conversion of "papa" to "daddy." At first, we weren't sure what she was saying. Her use of the American father term was somewhat surprising as we have spent months just trying to get her to say "daddy." We weren't successful and she even would yell "Papa" at us. Here is a typical conversation with Grace:

Us: Say Daddy
Her: Papa
Us: Say Mama
Her: Mama
Us: Say Sister
Her: Sister
Us: Say Cannon
Her: Yaya
Us: Say Daddy
Her: Papa

Ryan and I had both given up on the whole "daddy" thing and our family had really embraced the "papa" thing. Even the big kids call Ryan "papa" on occasion. I really did figure that this name would stick at least for Grace.

Then last week, she started saying "daddy" (imagine in your head, sounds like dadeeeee). As I said before, it was surprising. But a week later, "papa" is heard less everyday and "daddy" is heard a lot more often. The obsession with Ryan continues so this name is heard quite a bit. According to our case worker, this is a big step. It means that Grace is becoming 100% comfortable with us.

To tell you the truth, I am sad to see "papa" go. That name will always be in my memories of the first months with Grace. How many times I have heard that name, I would say it is in the 5000s.


Friday, July 16, 2010

9 & OMG

Following a terrible day on Wednesday, Kaylee turned 9 on Thursday! I seriously CANNOT believe my 1st born is 9 years old. Makes me feel old. We had a spa sleepover last night that involved 6 pre-teen girls, a banana mask, sugar scrub, lemon soak and a fun eye mask. I am tired today. So very tired. This makes me feel even older.
After the clean up of the spa birthday extravaganza, I went to get ready for the day. I came back into the living room to a very distinct smell. This smell hit me in the hallway. I stopped and looked around. Then I looked down.

My eyes then witnessed pink fingernail polish all over a leather ottoman and my baby girls fingers (note I did not just say fingernails). OMG! Grace was digging through Kay's gifts and found some fingernail polish (that happened to be in a plastic sealed container). She opened said container, got out the polish, opened the polish bottle, then proceeded to pretty up herself and my ottoman. Mama cleaned up her fingers and I am hoping that Ryan can clean up the ottoman. Oh, the life with a toddler.






sad news

Something very unexpected happened to Thing 1 and Chocolate Thunda on Wednesday. Let's just say that they will always be in our memories. That is all I will say about that.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

the naming ceremony

It is official, the kittens have been named. It is a tantalizing tale... the kids saw the kittens the morning after we returned from our vacation and named them "tiger" and "oreo." the parental units had no say in these names. i wanted the family to pick out names for the kittens so we put off naming them (we as in me) until kay returned home from church camp on friday.

So friday evening around the dinner table, we each wrote out our ideas for cat names. we put them in little bowls and the 2 older children both got to draw a name. the names that were picked no one really liked. go figure. so we re-thought of names and put them back in the fun little bowls. just like 5 minutes prior, the older children drew the names. again, we didn't like what was picked. so mom (aka me), said the kittens will be named certain names.

The story behind the names... Have you seen Cat in the Hat with Mike Myers? There is part when he (the Cat) introduces Thing 1 and Thing 2. The Cat introduces Thing 1 as Thing 1. Then Thing 2 as Thing 2. Thing 2 says:

Thing Two: Don't belittle me.
The Cat: Ah, yes of course. Thing 2 would like to clarify that just because he wears the number 2 does not imply in any way that he's inferior to Thing 1.
Thing Two: And all of the above.
The Cat: He says you may feel free to call him Thing A if you like. He will also accept Super Thing, Thing King, Kid Dynamite, Chocolate Thun-da.
The Cat: Thing 1 says he's Thing 1 for a reason and some people should just get used to it. It's a Thing thing, you wouldn't understand.

This has been Ryan's favorite part of this movie, for forever. It makes me laugh as well. So for that reason, I (aka mom) made the executive decision and named our kittens the names as illustrated by our children:
The children and I are very excited by their names. Grace says "Chocolate Thunda" surprisingly clear. It makes me giggle each time.

Some of the other name suggestions: stripey, dottie, vampire, warewolf, just to name a few.




Friday, July 9, 2010

our house

Wow, what a vacation can do to you. It is only today, 4 days after returning, do I feel back to normal. A grand time was had by all, no one got lost, no one cried more than once a day. I consider that a successful vacation.

When we returned late on Monday evening, we were greeted by our newest family members.
You can see that these guys have the same picture taking capabilities of my youngest. I took 8 pictures and they all look like this, blurry and not cute (sigh). Trust me, they are cute in real life.

Back to why we doubled our pet population... We have a rodent problem here in our house since we live amongst 1 billion trees. We have voles, shrews, mice, snakes, etc. The before mentioned like to come in our house and setup shop. So we are hoping that these 2 bad boys will help detour the little varmints. They will be outside pets to set a boundary between the pests and the house. Go kittens go! (they don't have names yet, k was gone at camp all week.)



Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day for the US & Rwanda!

Today, the 4th of July, is our great country's Independence Day as well as the last day of the Rwandan genocide. On this day we declared our country's freedom as well as the Rwandan's taking their country back.

Here are a few pics from today...
Tommorowland Transit.
Grace is still working on LOOKING at the camera. Smile is down pat.

Swiss Family Treehouse

driving a boat, such concentration

Mimi and Kay driving a race car

It took G about 3.4 seconds to crash. This is how we all feel :)

Grace also loved the fireworks. She kept saying "more, more." She is officially obsessed with "me me mouse" (note the pjs) and really did great on the trip. The big kids had a blast and we got all activities but 2 done on our list. We are all anxious to get home and see Ryan. We have missed him! So tomorrow we had back to our sweet little house in our cozy little town. Can't wait.

More Rida


watching a performance at Epcot. G thought it was so funny.

Being totems in Canada

with Mimi B - Fish are friends, not food

there were characters all over yesterday! we are not big character people on a daily basis but it is fun at the parks. In order for G to be in the pic, she wanted me to hold her. This was the only character pic she would be in. Her face says it all (close up below).

"help me"

Friday, July 2, 2010

More Flo

G is such a Smith. All of our kiddos don't like life-size characters much. Kay was 6 before she was alright with them and C was 4 or so. It made me laugh. She would let him sign her book but wouldn't take a picture. She screamed instead.

G enjoying Cocoa Beach with C digging in the back.

To an ethnic hair virgin, this should be interesting to get out.


Bike ride tonight. C ended up sitting in front with G. An hour ride only lasted 30 minutes!

Flo-rida

The kids and I, along with my mother in law Brenda and my sis in law Breanna, hit the skies and headed to Orlando for a little bit of R & R (if you can call it that at all, it has been neither, ha!).

Due to Hurricane Alex, we were a day late in arriving to our destination. However, with just a little bit of schedule shuffling, we will still be able to get all of our plans accomplished (again, no R&R).

The kids have done great and Grace is having a wonderful time. We were here in fall of 2007 so the big kids are remembering all of their favorite things and showing their little sister.

the trio before we hit the magic kingdom

after our day at the kingdom, look at Cannon's pained expression and notice G's new ears!


Animal Kingdom fun along with Aunt Bre

the trio before they headed into the ocean. G's first visit. She loved jumping into
the waves and digging in the sand. The big kids loved crashing into the waves.

G at the pool this afternoon. She is such a fish! "Mo pool, Mo pool."