Saturday, January 30, 2010


Tonight Grace had her first experience with pudding, chocolate pudding.
I think she likes it.

She is gonna go for it.

Trying to get the pudding at the bottom.

Miss America pageant is on, Black Eyed Peas "I got a feeling" is playing and she stopped
long enough to sing "woo hoo."

Back to work...

Friday, January 29, 2010


the big kids going out to play

G is just not so sure about this

got out far enough for mom to take a picture

and she is off!

Fantastic Friday

It is snowing at our house. Yesterday was lots of frozen rain and today it is being covered by a blanket of snow. I am taking a break from the heavy posts as requested and posting some fun pictures from the last week. Stay warm!

Kay practicing her beam routine

Cannon blowing out the candles on his 6th birthday

Grace sportin' sister's scarf

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Wall

There is a wall that is very familiar to Rwandan adoptive families. This wall is made of brick. This wall is a orange clay color.

This wall is where some of the referral pictures are taken, mostly the older children. This referral picture is the first thing that you have of your new child. The first view of their face. The first view of who they are. This is Grace's referral picture.

Seeing it now, we see how sad she looked. How alone she looked. Such a little girl next to a big wall. We were so happy to get this picture. We spent hours analyzing the wall, trying to figure out how big she might be. I carried this picture with me everywhere. I had one in my office, in my purse. Ryan had one in his office and Kaylee kept one in her backpack. This picture was our only connection to our Grace.

Arriving at the orphanage on the first day, we instantly recognized this wall. This wall is one of the first things that you see when entering past the big blue gates. This wall is part of a building where the nuns do their daily prayers. This wall will forever be a part of my memory of our adoption journey to Grace.

Since we do not have any baby pictures of Grace or anything really from her life without us, I wanted to take something that was hers and make it ours. I have several pictures of this wall. Pictures of our family getting to know Grace in front of this wall. Our travel group in front of this wall. However, there were 2 pictures that I wanted to have. There were 2 pictures that could help connect us to Grace's past. There were 2 pictures that I took on our last day there.

Now all 3 of my children have been in front of the wall. The first picture was of a little girl sad, scared, not sure what to do. The last 2 pictures are of excited children ready to love their new little sister. All 3 of my children have been at this wall. All 3 of my children have a connection to this wall, this orange clay brick wall. All 3 of my children are gifts from Him.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


sitting here with her on my lap. her head leaning on my chest. smelling her, patting her, feeling her breath. i am still in awe that she is here. all of the waiting, all of the praying, all of the tears have come full circle. i will always wonder why her, why us. i am forever grateful to Him for this great joy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More families headed to Rwanda

There are 9 families headed to Rwanda to pick up their new little ones! They are leaving today and tomorrow and will meet their children on Saturday. Please pray for these families and their new kiddos! I am sure some of them will update their blogs while in Rwanda so here are a few links so you can take a peek.

Also, the Schreck family is soon leaving to move to Rwanda. Yes, move there! They have 2 boys who are from Rwanda and then 2 bio girls. This family is moving to Rwanda to become missionaries there. Pretty big step of faith. Please pray for this family as they prepare to follow God's lead to Rwanda.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Orphans in Haiti

Last Monday, there were approximately 100,000 orphans in Haiti. Just a day later there were countless more. So many souls that are now without a mother and a father. A similar event happened in Rwanda in the mid-90s, the genocide. One day there was a number of orphans, then the next day there were hundreds of thousands more due to people killing people.

I did some research on adopting from Haiti. After a dossier is submitted, there is a waiting period of 12-24 months for a referral. Once the referral has been made, there is another wait period of 24-26 months. So from start to finish, an adoption from Haiti could possible take 4.5 years (I added a short 5 month period of gathering dossier documents). This seems like so long. Our Rwandan adoption took 13 months from start to finish...

Please join me in praying for the previous and new-found orphans in Haiti. Pray for the government to lessen the wait time for these souls to be united with their new family. Pray for the families here in the US who will start their journey to their new Haitian daughter or son.

James 1:27 (The Message) 26-27Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Tuesday...January 19. Wear RED to show support for Haiti. When you see RED, say a prayer for the victims, survivors, relief workers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

break my heart

"break my heart for what breaks yours"

This quote from a favorite worship song is a frequent prayer of mine. A few years ago while sitting in a conference, the speaker spoke of asking God to destroy him. Destroy who he was and what he was. He wanted to be better for God. To do more for God. To be a better Christian. To live for only God. I pray that God will destroy me. I know that he has been working on me for quite some time and I strive to become better every day for Him.

When we started our adoption process, I had no idea of what conditions were like at the orphanage in Rwanda. After visiting, my heart definitely breaks. I know that God's heart is also breaking. I know that those children have shelter, food, water. But they need families. They need a mama and a papa. They need love. The love that only a family can give them.

I pray that the adoption seed has been planted in our community. Not just by us but by other adoptive stories as well. The process is not difficult. The process is no hard. Depending on which route you take (international/domestic, country, age of the child), the process can go very quickly.

Here are, what I think, are some "old wives tales" about adoption:
1) The child must have their own room. I do not believe that this is true. No where in our adoption paperwork did it ask if the child will have their own room nor did it say that the child must have their own room. This may be true in other countries, but not Rwanda.

2) Adoption is expensive. Yes, adoption does cost money. However, I truly believe, that God will provide for the families that adopt. If you are following God's will, then the adoption will happen no matter how much it costs. There are a variety of ways to raise money. There are adoption grants as well as little to no interest adoption loans.

3) Our family is already large (I have a lot of kids!). Yes, it is true that some countries limit the amount of children that a family can have. However, Rwanda does not. I don't think that Ethiopia does either. These countries make their decision on a case-by-case, family-by-family basis. There are many families that have/are adopting from Rwanda that have, 3, 4, 5 kids already! Some of these families are even adopting more than one putting their kid total at 4, 5, 6. Again, I think that God's will WILL be done.

After being home for a month on January 16, my heart and mind is often flooded with the images of all of the little faces looking up at me or I hear the yelling of their little voices or I remember the smell. When this happens, I say a prayer for the little souls as well as their families. I pray that their adoptive families will start the process to bring them home. I pray that other's hearts will "break for what breaks yours." I pray that God's will be done.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday pics

The kids jump roping. Grace didn't want to stop for a pic, hence her face.

Brother & Sister riding bikes.

Kay with her new bike!

Grace. Don't mind the snotty nose. We are working on that!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another experience

Imagine spending the day with your new child. You hold them. Give them love that you have waited so long to give them. You see their face take in all the new experiences, feelings, sights, smells. You spend the day getting to know one another. Seeing how much they will open up to you. Seeing how much they will show you who they are. This is a very special day and it is the beginning of your new life together. You are both cautious. You are both overwhelmed.

Then it is time. It is time to take your new child back to the place that they call home. The place that you have experienced just hours before. Your heart starts beating so fast. You don't want to take them back. You drive down the rocky dirt road. You pull up to the large steel turquoise gates. The driver honks the horn and the gates soon open. You can sense that she knows where she is. Her grip tightens. You are told to go down the concrete steps and take your child back to the place they have lived for the majority of her life.

You walk to the concrete building. You knock on the metal door. You enter a room. It is dark and the smell once again fills your nostrils. She is holding you so tight and starts to cry. You look to the left and see all of the cribs are filled with children. Some of the beds have more than one child. All of their eyes are on you. Some of them scream for you, some of them yell your child's name, some of them just stare. You do not want to let your child go. She screams and does not want you to let her go. The nannies take your child. These are the people that she knows. These are the people that care for her on a daily basis. You tell her you will be back tomorrow. Your eyes fill with tears. Your heart breaks.

After they take her away, you look at the room. You see countless eyes on you. It is dark but you can see their eyes watching your every move. Your soul is forever branded with this image.
You go out the door. You walk by the building. You look to the right. The windows are a mesh metal with no glass. You can hear the children crying, screaming, yelling for you, yelling your child's name. Some of the children are climbing up the crib railings onto the windows. You can hear them but you can't see them. You continue to walk to the concrete steps. You leave knowing that you get to come back and get your child. You get to take her home with you forever. What about these other children? Will they have families come to get them? Will their souls be saved? What does their future hold? They all have names. They all have unique personalities. They all want to be a part of a family.

From my eyes

I said while in Africa that I would talk about the things that I saw while visiting the orphanage in Rwanda. I think that now is the time and I will try my best to articulate what I saw. There were so many emotions flowing through my body during these visits. This will be difficult to write as well as difficult for some to read. I want to say that the orphanage nannies as well as the sisters do the best job they can with the resources they are given. With God's help, these children are surviving as they wait for the families to come and get them.

Picture walking down a set of concrete steps. You hear children talking, crying, playing. You are at a metal door. You knock and wait for it to be opened for you. Your heart is racing not knowing what waits beyond this wall.

A young Rwandan nanny opens the door for you. You are in a dark hallway. There is no evident electricity in the form of lighting. There is a particular smell. You try to think about what it is. The walls are made of concrete block. The floors are a bare concrete gray. You continue walking. There are turquoise blue doors along the hall. These doors lead into rooms that you quickly realize are the children's rooms. There are different age groups in each room. There is crying coming from the infant room. You want to go in there but you aren't allowed because your child is older than that. You then turn to an open door and go in.

You walk into a dark room. You see metal cribs from one end to the next and all the way across. You do a quick count and realize that there are 45 beds in this one room. This is your child's room. You then think, wow, 45 babies who don't have families. You look around. The floor is bare concrete, the walls are concrete block. There is not much on the walls. There is not much light. There is not much in the beds. You look at a bed, which is actually a metal crib. There is a mattress covered with a sheet. There is no blanket, no lovey for a child to cling too. The room is empty. The children are either eating or playing on the concrete patio.

You then walk to another room. You see the same type of things: concrete floors, metal cribs, bare walls. There is a table setup and you see over a dozen children sitting and eating their meal for the day. These children are ages 1-2 years old. They are feeding themselves their food. The food has an overwhelming smell. It is a light brown color and resembles a mush type of food. You are then told that the foods that the children eat are all blended together then cooked. It is hard to tell what has even gone into the food.

You look over to the right and you see some children in beds. These children are obviously mental or physically disabled. There is one child sitting in their crib with their legs sticking out of the rails. You see a pool of spit-up on the concrete. The child has spit-up all down the front of their clothes. A nanny is feeding another child who seems to also be disabled.

As you continue walking, the smell that fills your nostrils is overwhelming. It is a smell of urine, spit-up, food.

You then go outside. You see a great number of children sitting at a table. They all yell for you as you walk out. You wave. Your heart breaks thinking that most of these children will never have a family to call their own.

You are told that there are over 150 children in this orphanage. There are over 150 souls waiting for a family. You are told that this orphanage only goes to age 6. Once a child reaches 6 years of age, they are moved to a different orphanage. You can't even imagine what that orphanage must be like.

Your child is brought to you. She clings to you with obvious fear that you will leave her again. She smells like the smell that penetrated your nostrils. Her clothes are too small, her shoes too big. You hold her so closely and wonder why her, why us? You know that God is in control and that He has a plan. But it is hard for you grasp why this many souls are left abandoned, without families.

You leave the orphanage. You pray. You cry. You wonder again why.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I took Grace in for her first round of vaccinations. She did really well until the shot part. She got 5 shots today. Then in 1 month we go back for 5 more. Then for her 3 year old check up she will get the rest and she will be all caught up on vaccinations. Our pediatrician was able to count some of the vaccinations that she received in Rwanda but not all of them due to when they were given.

I hate the shot visits. The sweet little babies just cry and look at you like "why does this hurt?" And there is nothing you can do about it.... We want our children to be healthy and protected from all those rotten diseases!

She is napping now but before kept pointing at her legs (that is where her shots were given). I am sure that it doesn't feel very good. So it will be a tylenol/motrin day today!

Here is a picture from happier times...G typing on her laptop. She goes and gets it anytime one of us is on the computer.

Monday, January 4, 2010


We have been a family of 5 for 38 days. It is hard to believe that all of the waiting is over. We did alot of work and tried to be patient for just over 13 months. It took just that long to go from this:
to this:
As I look back on our journey, I am just amazed. I stand amazed at God and am in awe at all that He has accomplished through our journey. We have met a lot of people, shared our story with a lot of people, and hopefully planted some adoption seeds.

I have grown so much through this journey and feel like I am a better person, a better follower of Christ. He definitely tore me down on several occasions but then I leaned on Him and He built me back up. Some of the sights I saw while in Africa, I will never be able understand. However, I know that God has a plan for everything. I pray that I continue to lean on Him in my daily life...

We have been home for 19 days. In this 19 days, we have thrown in a baby shower, Christmas, New Years and family visits. Wow! Grace is doing great with the exception of sleeping. She goes to bed fine but thinks she needs to come to bed with us at 2:30 every. single. night. In the 19 days of being home we have only slept the entire night for 1 night. Ryan and I look forward to that happening again soon.

An update on Grace, she
1) loves her baby doll! She loves to feed it and push it in the stroller.
2) is a great eater! Eats just about everything.
3) likes to go in the car!
4) is a great independent player, not too clingy
5) is great at doing tasks (putting her shoes away, her coat in her cubby, picking up her toys)
6) loves to play with the bubbles in the bath tub
7) is still obsessed with her "Papa"
8) loves to point out people's items and then say their name (ex: my purse: mama, Ryan's tool: papa, Kaylee's ds: aylee)
9) loves to change clothes and would do it more if I let her
10) is more affectionate

Grace is coming along on her language as well. She can say about 15 words/phrases and learns something new every day. She understands a ton and it is easy for me to communicate with her.
Grace after playing outside in the cold.

The big kids are also doing well. They are anxious to get back to school and our routine. We were back only 3 days before the Christmas break so they have been out of school for 5 weeks!

Cannon loves to pick on his little sister. I think he has even lessened picking on Kaylee for teasing Grace! Cannon turns 6 in just a few weeks and is very excited.
C giving me a sweet and innocent look

Kaylee is a super big sister. She loves to help me which I am very thankful for. Her extra set of hands is always appreciated!
K & G

2009 was a great year for the Smiths. I pray that God continues to challenge us in 2010. I have a feeling it is going to be another good one!