Dear Leah, Baby Mine

Dear Leah,

You were sick today. Not horribly sick, just feeling a bit under the weather. You had a headache, your tummy ached, and you felt achy all over. You were just sick enough to need someone to take care of you. What a privilege, what a gift that you allowed it to be me.

You know, before we met you, we tried to learn as much as possible about the best ways to love you. We read books and took classes and researched until our eyes crossed. One of the things that “they” all said was to re-create the childhood dependancy that you were never allowed to experience. “They” all said to meet your needs in a very physical and early developmental way. So what if you could tie your own shoes, comb your own hair, button your own sweater? We should do those things for you to prove to you that we are here to take care of you.

Well, “they” have never met you.

Miss Independent, my child who can and will do everything for herself, my oldest daughter who is very good at building up walls to protect her heart. You don’t need anyone’s help, or at least that is what you would like us to believe, isn’t it Leah?

So today, while you were feeling tired, instead of allowing me to help you….you pushed me away. You were cranky. You laid your head on the table and closed your eyes. You snapped at your sisters and brothers. You refused to answer when I talked to you.

And then, late this afternoon, you grew weary of the fight. After the sixth or seventh time that I asked if you would like to take a warm bath, you finally said yes. You allowed me to draw up the bathwater, test the temperature, and sit on the edge of the tub while you climbed in.

There you sat, hunched forward, head laying on your knees, arms wrapped around your legs…..and you allowed me to run my fingers up and down your back. You allowed me to take a warm washcloth and trail it along your arms. The water seemed to slowly wash away all of your pretenses.

You turned your eyes towards me and asked, “Mom, will you wash my hair?”

I filled the cup with water and poured it through your thick curls, over and over again. I massaged your scalp with conditioner. I used my fingers to seperate each curl. I savored the opportunity to take care of you.

I helped you out of the bath and wrapped you in a towel.

“Mom, will you comb out my hair, too?”

I took my time as I ran that comb through your hair. I hoped you felt my love with each brushstroke.

I offered you ibuprofen for about the 25th time….but this time you said yes. You allowed me to measure out your dose and pour you a cup of water. Then, you reached for my hand and held on tight as we walked upstairs.

I sat on the edge of your bed and arranged the blankets over you. I let my fingertips brush your forehead while I said your prayers.

And then, you patted the empty space next to you and said, “Mom, will you stay here? Right here. Until I go to sleep?”

I lay down next to you and you scooted your pillow over to the middle so we could share.

And then, you turned towards me, you buried your head in my shoulder, and you allowed me to hold you.

As Hannah and Naomi climbed into their beds and the room settled into darkness, I told you girls a story. Nothing special. Actually, it was the story about Dumbo the Elephant. I told you about the circus and the animals and how Dumbo’s mother was so excited to get a baby. And then, how that baby looked different from all the other babies and so the animals made fun of him. They teased him for his differences. And Dumbo’s mother fiercly protected him because she knew that no matter what other people thought, Dumbo was special. But, Dumbo didn’t feel special, did he? He felt different. And he cried at night. And I sang you the song that Dumbo’s mom sings to him…..

Baby mine, don’t you cry

Baby mine, dry your eyes

Rest your head close to my heart

Never to part, baby of mine

Little One when you play

Don’t you mind what they say

Let those eyes sparkle and shine

Never a tear, baby of mine

From your head to your toes

You’re so sweet, heaven knows

You are so precious to me

Cute as can be, baby of mine

I sang this song to Joel when he was a baby. And, then again, I sang it to Hannah as I rocked her to sleep.

But I never had the chance to know you as a baby. I never rocked you to sleep or dried your tears. I never had the chance to take care of you when you really needed to be taken care of.

But, now I can.

And so, in that dark room, I sang you the song and I held you close.

I lay in your bed until you fell asleep. By then, you had rolled over onto your back. But, you reached out and felt until you found my hand. And you held it, fingers intertwined, as you fell asleep.

I hope that soon, you realize the point of my story.

The thing that made Dumbo different, that was the thing that made him special.

You are so special, Leah. God has great plans for you.

And thank you for allowing me to mother you when you needed it. Thank you for holding my hand.



Family Vacations, Chicken Poop and Attitudes – Things That Can Stink!

We have been home from Africa for 341 days.

339 of those days we have been at home.

1 of those days we slept on the floor of my dad’s house.

2 of those days we slept at a condo on the coast when we took the kids to see the ocean for the first time.

But, all of the other 339 nights have been spent in our own beds.

When transitioning from another culture, language, country and lifestyle into a family – we felt it would be best to provide stability and structure for our children. Any major changes seem to cause them anxiety. EVERYTHING can be over stimulating to them – going to Costco, spending the day at the water park, eating in a loud restaurant. We have been living our lives in “sound bites” and portioned out the crazy into small, easily digestible doses.

That is, until last week.

Last week we took Our Great 8 on a road trip.

Just the prep work to get 8 people ready for 7 days of road tripping and camping – Oh. My. Word. Crazy eyes, people, crazy eyes. Watch out.

The morning before we left for our vacation, I just happened to run into another adoptive mom who has bunches of children. She asked me if I had already had my pre-vacation melt down.

I was so relieved to hear that I was not the only mother to experience this!

She assured me that this would be my new norm. I should expect at least one personal crying session before every family vacation.

Mine happened when we were trying to fit all of this…..


into the back of our car. Along with 6 children. And 6 pillows. And 6 “personal items” that contained such necessities as coloring crayons and stuffed animals and whistles (YES!!! My little boys thought they needed whistles for the car trip. Obviously.)

My husband casually mentioned that maybe we could leave the food at home and go grocery shopping once we reached our destination. I kindly corrected his mistaken assumption. If I was going to take the time to meal plan, grocery shop, and pack the food – then, dad-gum-it, he was going to make it all fit!


Look at how he filled the car to the ceiling. Who needs a rear-view mirror, anyways? Also, please notice the strategic placement of the pillows at the top of the pile. Whenever my husband slammed on the brakes, our children were hit in the head with only the softer items. (I asked him to slam on the brakes when the whistles threatened to overwhelm my sanity.)

We road tripped for a total of 19 hours.

19 hours, people!

And….despite the close quarters, the limited leg room, the flying objects, and the whistles, OUR KIDS WERE AMAZING!!!!

Yes, there were a few speed bumps along the way.

Yes, the overstimulation messed with our minds at a few points.

Yes, we had a handful of tears and a scattering of disrespect.

But…I declare Our Great 8 Family Vacation to be a resounding success!

We visited friends from Ethiopia who are living in the bay area.

Naomi and her best friend from Ethiopia.

We visited Naomi’s best friend from Ethiopia who now lives in Pismo Beach.


We spent 3 glorious days exploring the sand and the sun and the surf.




We spent a day in San Francisco treating our children to a multitude of firsts.


One of the glorious blessings of adoption is the chance to experience so many firsts with our children. Yes, we missed out on first steps and first words. But, there are so many other firsts that we DO get to be a part of.

Introducing our children to the ocean.


Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and tasting clam chowder and smelling Chinatown.


Demonstrating what it feels like to have fun together as a family.


Laughing together. Playing together. Loving each other despite the fact that we are not perfect.


I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from the week….

“Mom, does Ethiopian chicken’s poop look different than American chicken’s poop?”

“Mom, when we get home can we get goats and chickens and sheep and horses and 2 cats and a new puppy and a hamster?”

“Mom, you talk a lot and you laugh a lot. You are so fun. I like being with you. I am so glad you are my mom.”

“This is my most awesome thing that Jesus made. All of this water, it is my favorite.” (upon seeing the ocean)

And, my favorite quote of the week, from my dear Leah who has resisted our love more than any other….

“I am glad I am a part of this family and not some different family.”

Me, too, honey. I am glad I am a part of this family. There is no other family that could fill my heart and my life the way that you do.



You, You Are Wanted

Naomi turned 9 last week. Or maybe it was last month. Or it might have even been last year. We don’t know exactly when Naomi turned 9.

Somewhere along the way, an unknown employee in an orphanage in Ethiopia assigned her a birthdate. And so, according to her official birth certificate, Naomi turned 9 on July 18, 2013.

We may not have been celebrating the actual day of her birth, but we were celebrating the life of this beautiful girl.

We threw a big party. We had cupcakes and streamers. We had friends and family. We made memories. Naomi felt special.





Naomi has such a tender heart. She is very much a pleaser. She doesn’t like to see people upset. And so, she tends to stuff her feelings down inside so that she doesn’t stir up problems. And, probably because Leah is so much more vocal about her hurt, it is easy for me to overlook the pain that Naomi keeps hidden inside.

Tonight, as we were getting ready for bed, Leah started expressing her hurt and pain. She was crying. She was yelling. Scott was kneeling down at eye-level with her, trying to fight his way past the lies to speak into her heart.

And I looked over and saw Naomi, standing in the corner, with silent tears rolling down her cheeks.

I gathered Naomi up and took her into her bedroom. I hugged her. I tried to talk to her. But she did not want to talk. All that she wanted was a mother to hold her while she cried.

And so I did. And I prayed. And I tucked her into bed and kissed her forehead.

You know, we might not know the exact date or time of Naomi’s birth, but God does.

We might not know the exact history of the hurt that she keeps hidden inside her heart, but God does.

Wanted by Dara MacLean

From the day you were born
And took your first breath
You opened your eyes and in came the light
He was watching you
But all of your life you couldn’t shake the lies in your head
Saying you’re a mistake
Oh, but you were made
By a God who knows your name
He doesn’t make mistakes

You are wanted
To every broken heart, He stands with open arms
You are wanted
To every searching soul, look to the rising sun
If you’re lonely, hurting, gone too far
To the outcast you come as you are
For you, you are wanted, you, you are wanted
You, you are wanted,  you, you are wanted

Let this  be the day that joy takes the place
Of  all of the years that shame tried to steal away
He is calling you
Lift  your eyes to see His face
Come run into the arms of grace

You, you have been marked
You’re set apart
And He calls you His
So you don’t have to search
Don’t have to look for where you belong

You are wanted

Naomi, you are wanted.

By a God who loves you with a jealous love.

By a family who prayed for you before they even knew you.

By a mother who never knew that half-way around the world she would find missing pieces of her heart.


You, Naomi. You were a missing piece of my heart. Happy Birthday, dear girl.



Whatever You Are, Be A Good One

When I was first asked to participate in Dancing With The Stars Shasta County Style, I was beyond excited! Well, for the dancing part. The rest of it left me feeling like a fish out of water.

When looking for the “stars” who will participate in the show, they basically look for people who are well-connected in the community. People who have lots of contacts and who might have a good platform for fundraising.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I qualified to be a star.

I am basically a stay-at-home mom. I have 6 kids. I write a blog. I teach fitness classes. I married well, but other than that, I have no real “contacts” in the business community.

I told them at the initial meeting that I wasn’t really confident about the whole fundraising aspect.

They very kindly responded that I should just do my best and they would be happy if I even raised $10 for the Shasta Women’s Refuge and Family Justice Center.

And so I committed to the cause and jumped in with both feet.

For the first 2 months I loved the dance practice and I dreaded the fundraising. I didn’t know how to ask people for money. I didn’t have a Rolodex filled with phone numbers of important people. I didn’t have the time or the capability to put together a large event. I started to wonder whether I was the right choice for this whole “star” thing.

I remember one morning in particular. I was standing in my kitchen in my pajamas. I had terrible bed head. The 6 adorable hungry children were gathered around the kitchen table asking for demanding breakfast. I had finished wiping up a puddle of milk, reprimanded my oldest for hogging the syrup, flipped my third batch of pancakes, scribbled down a reminder for the home school science lesson I had planned for the day, and finished my second cup of coffee. The scene looked somewhat like this….

Warning - not an actual depiction of events. This portrayal was staged for your enjoyment.

Warning : not an actual depiction of events. This scene was staged for your enjoyment. And my children were totally excited to participate in the re-enactment.

I opened up my FB feed to see what my friends the normal people in the world were doing at 7:30 on a Thursday morning. And I saw a picture of another star. Michelle, you looked beautiful. You definitely did not have bed head. And you were definitely not wearing your pajamas. You were standing, holding a microphone, addressing a group of business people who all looked equally as gorgeous as you. I looked at that picture and I could just hear the people murmuring in agreement to whatever witty, intelligent things were coming out of Michelle’s mouth.

And I let doubt creep in and whisper in my ear.

I did not belong in this world! Who did I think I was trying to fundraise for such a worthy organization? I should probably stick to flipping pancakes.

Do you know what? This was a pride issue. Yep. At it’s core – it was pride. I did not want anyone else to think poorly of me. I did not want to fall short of my fundraising goal. I did not want people to be saying “who is that girl up there with all of those other stars?”

And so I made a decision. To heck with pride! I wasn’t going to compare myself to the other stars. I was going to be the best not-a-star-stay-at-home-blog-writing-fitness-class-teaching-mother-of-6 that I could be. I was going to be me.

Whatever you are, be a good one. ~ Abraham Lincoln

The good news was this – the me that I know is a pretty darn good dancer.

I ended up having so much fun! I loved getting to know everyone involved with show. These are people who I might have otherwise never met. I loved hearing their stories and meeting their families. I loved seeing them raise money for such a worthy cause. But, mostly, I loved the dancing!

Oh, it was like living my dream. The costumes, the theatre, the music, the pretending to be a professional dancer – it was how I imagine heaven might be. I am pretty sure God has included a dance studio in my heavenly mansion. And a kickin sound system. And a dance teacher. And probably, in heaven, I look just like the contestants on So You Think You Can Dance.

Kind of like this…..


But, since we aren’t actually in heaven yet, in reality I looked like this….



And, despite my lack of fundraising skills, and thanks to my friends and co-workers and family and exercise buddies and blog-readers, together we raised almost $9,000! And, in total, the event raised $70,000!

Thank you so much to everyone who donated. Because of you, I am pretty sure that I raised more money than any other not-a-star-stay-at-home-blog-writing-fitness-class-teaching-mother-of-6.

And, did I forget to mention……





God Orchestrates My Life – One Year As A Family Of 8

This blog post has been fitfully started and stopped, written and erased. I have formed many sentences in my head and then discarded them as they don’t seem to capture the essence of my feelings. How do I sum up the last year in one blog post? It seems next to impossible.

One year ago, July 4, 2012, the adoption of our children was finalized in that airless courtroom in Ethiopia. The judge signed the paper that officially made us a family. The social worker placed a phone call and spoke the words we had been praying to hear for many long months.

One year ago, July 4, 2012, I wrote this blog post about the events of that momentous day.

I had absolutely no idea of the twists and turns, stumbles and falls, trials and triumphs that the following year was going to hold for our family.

Oh, we thought we knew. We thought we were prepared. We had read the books and taken the classes, we had asked our questions and heard all of the answers.

But, we really didn’t know.

How could we?

As we approach the one year anniversary of becoming a family, my emotions have been overwhelming at times. I am filled to the brim with thankfulness. I am in awe of the plans that God had marked out for my life. I am amazed at His goodness, how He has carried us through, and how He promises to be ALL that I need as I continue this journey. And I cry tears of both pain and joy as I remember the last year of my life.

You know, God gives each of us exactly what we need for the specific circumstances of our lives. So many people have commented to me that they could not do this. That they could not adopt 4 children from a different culture, from a painful background, from a broken family and then re-arrange their lives and their family to look like something maybe they had never imagined it to be.

Yes, you could do it.

If God asked it of you, you could do it. Because if God asks it of you, He will provide ALL that you need. This past year has not been about me or what I have done. It has been about God and what He has done. It has been about relying on Him, trusting in Him, collapsing at His feet and knowing that He has it all under control.

For the last year, I have written much about the struggles that Leah has faced as she finds her place in our family. She has been very open with her feelings. She has expressed her anger, her hurt, her pain in many ways. She has told us over and over again that she does not believe that we really love her. When we remind her that we wanted her in our family, she says, “You want to adopt someone, not me. If you know it was me, you would not have chosen me. You would not have adopted me.”

I won’t go into all of the reasons she feels this way, but obviously she struggles with feeling any sort of self-worth. How could we love her, how could we choose her,  when her own mother did not? The answer, she feels, is that she must be un-loveable.

I read a letter that was written by a young woman who was adopted from China as an infant. She details her feelings about straddling two worlds and two identities. And she says, “We need your love, not because we were unloved, but because we are loveable.”

Not unloved.


Last week, on a rainy Tuesday, sitting inside our minivan after she had completed horse therapy, Leah turned to me and asked, “Mom, do you REALLY love me? Really? Inside your heart?”

And I looked her in the eye and said, “Oh, Leah. I love you. I love you so much that my heart hurts. I pray that Jesus will help you to feel my love every single time that I hug you, or I kiss you, or I hold you as you cry. I pray that Jesus will help you to know that I am telling the truth every single time that I say I love you.”

And she sat there inside that minivan, as the rain fell down around us, for the first time she said, “I believe you, Mom. I think you really do love me.”

One year. It took my sweet daughter one year to let the hope of the love of a mother penetrate her heart.


I look at the sister relationship that is developing between Naomi and Hannah. And I rejoice. My sister is one of my dearest friends. She shared my bedroom, she shared my secrets, she shared laughter and tears, she shared life with me from the time I was 18 months old. A sister relationship is something special.

One year ago, I could not let my girls spend time alone together in their bedroom. There was constant friction, fighting, tears, anger, manipulation. Do you remember the matching underwear? (or lack, thereof?) Read about it here. I had to be a constant mediator. And, let me tell you, that got tiring for all of us.

This week Naomi braided Hannah’s hair. Hannah offered to do one of Naomi’s chores for her. They played with their baby dolls. They giggled. They whispered in their beds after they were supposed to be asleep. And they quarreled over a board game. Sounds just like sisters, doesn’t it?


One year ago, Micah’s arms and legs were as thin as broomsticks.


This week, he played baseball for the first time. (And, just so you all know, he absolutely killed it!)


And this guy…..


He is in a category all his own. Levi – absolutely overflowing with life and energy and enthusiasm. One year ago, he was wearing a size 3T. Yesterday I bought him size 5. His mischievous personality is so endearing that I love him even when he exhausts me. Here is a sampling on his questions (from the last 2 days only)….

When airplane fall from sky, does it burn up?

Which one stronger – superman or shark?

Why I have to eat meat? I no like meat. Can I eat cake?

Why is the sky blue? Why God no make it red?

Why your hair in the bathtub? You like to put hair in the bathtub and make me clean?

Mom, why when you laugh you sound like a chicken?

I look back on the last year of my life – the mountains, the valleys, the tears, the joys – and I feel overwhelming gratitude. Gratitude that we made it through the biggest battles in the adjustment process. Gratitude to my friends and family who have prayed for us and supported us and loved us. Gratitude to my God who blesses us beyond what we could ever imagine. And gratitude to be a part of a family – THIS family.

One year ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into as I stepped out in faith into uncharted waters. Did I ever imagine my life or my family looking like this? No. Absolutely not. But God had a better plan for our lives than we could ever dream up on our own. Even if we don’t understand that plan.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

I have been reading Secrets to a Happy Life (which just happens to have been written by my pastor, Bill Giovannetti).


This quote jumped off the page and grabbed a hold of my heart. I will remember this…..

If you could see what God sees and feel what God feels, you would orchestrate your world exactly as God has orchestrated it, troubles included. Oh yes, you would.

You see, I have a choice to make.

My children, as they deal with the pain in their past, they have a choice to make.

You, as you wake up today and face a world that will inevitably hold sin and pain, you have a choice to make.

Are you going to trust in the God of the universe? Or are you going to let the fear of the unknown stop you from taking the first step in what might be the greatest journey of your life?

God doesn’t promise a pain-free existence. He doesn’t promise an easy road.

But He does promise that He will carry us. He does promise that it will be worth it.

Are we going to let our circumstances define us?

Or are we going to let our identity as a child of the King define us?


My children, they come to me with scars on their hearts. They have a past full of pain. Leah said to me this week, as we struggled through her conflicting feelings of missing the love of her biological mother and accepting the love of her adoptive mother, “I never pray to be adopted. I only pray to have my family.”

God answered her prayer, just not in the way that she had hoped or expected.

God always answers our prayer, but not always in the way that we hope or expect.

But, remember……

If you could see what God sees and feel what God feels, you would orchestrate your world exactly as God has orchestrated it, troubles included. Oh yes, you would. (Secrets of a Happy Life)


Thank you, God, that you orchestrate my life. Thank you for including these 6 children in it.




Gymnastics And A Mis-Placed Rib

I have this rib (mid-way down my back on my right side) that I continue to pop out of place. I go into my chiropractor and he adjusts it back to where it supposed to be. And then I dance again, and out comes the rib. Now that mis-placed rib is causing muscle spasms. My chiropractor told me the only way to fix it is to rest. I told him I will rest in 2 weeks when the performance is over.

Here are some of the bruises I have sustained during dance practice….


Yes, those are fingerprints. On my leg.

I came home from practice last week so frustrated with myself! (There might have been a little bit of crying.) There is a move in our salsa routine that I just can’t seem to nail! It doesn’t sound too hard when Nathan describes it – simply run forward, vault into a kind of forward cartwheel, keep my legs fanned as they rotate over my head, use his arm as a pivot point, and land on my feet gracefully. No big deal! Never mind that I have never once in my life done a cartwheel. Or a handstand. Never mind that I feel much more comfortable with my feet on the floor rather than rotating in the air over my head.

My husband did what any normal husband would do when his wife is crying about her failed attempts at mastering this dance trick.

He offered to practice it with me.

Never mind that my husband has absolutely no dance (or dance partner) experience.

He knelt on the grass and held his arm out to the side as my pivot point.

I (trustingly) ran forward and vaulted myself through the air.

I guess his arm was supposed to be more than just a pivot point. It was also supposed to push upwards on the small of my back to help me finish the rotation.

I landed on my rear end. There might have been more crying. (I blame my husband’s lack of arm pivot skills rather than my lack of cartwheel skills)

So my husband found a solution.

He called and booked me a private gymnastics lesson. (Oh my word, that man is a gem! I mean really, most men would look at their crying wife with confusion. “Wait. You are crying about dancing? Really?”)

On Saturday, I had a one-on-one lesson with Coach Andrea. She was fantastic! When she found out that her student was a 35-year-old woman with absolutely no gymnastics experience (no flexibility, either, mind you) who wanted to learn a dance trick in a one-hour session, she took it well.

She made me do this….

photo (2)

walkover1 walkover

Did I nail the trick? You will just have to purchase tickets to the show to find out! Go to and get your tickets!

Clearly, I have sacrificed my body for the cause. I have been dancing, and thinking about dancing, and dreaming about dancing for 2 months. I have also been fundraising.

Thank you to everyone who has donated. There are seriously too many people to name. I have friends who have donated time for my fundraising events. I have friends who have donated profits from their business. I have a friend who designed and sewed and bedazzled my costumes. I have a mother-in-law who has designed and printed all of my flyers and promotional materials. And I have many, many, many people who have gotten online and donated to Shasta Women’s Refuge and Family Justice Center. (I have to give a special thank you to Redding Bank of Commerce and Kevin Ramstrom of Steelhead Constructors for their VERY generous donations!)

Why am I fundraising for SWR & FJC?

Shasta Women’s Refuge and Family Justice Center provides victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, their families and friends with safety, healing and prevention of further victimization.

Services provided by SWR & FJC include emergency shelter, a 24 hour crisis line, legal advocacy, a children’s program, and assistance with restraining orders, counseling and other vital support services.

Last year SWR& FJC  assisted over 5,000 victims of domestic violence with shelter, counseling and other life saving services.

SWR & FJC staff is committed to keeping administrative costs to a minimum. Eighty five cents of every dollar you donate goes to sustain their programs.

Please, if you haven’t donated yet, will you consider it today? We have two weeks left until the big show. Two weeks to raise the money that this agency needs to continue to provide these services.

You can click on the donate button on the side of my blog. Or you can go directly to and donate.



God Gave Me You

It is 5:41 am on Saturday, June 1 and I am sitting in the maternity ward waiting room at Mercy Medical Center. The last time I sat in this waiting room, it was the day after my husband’s best friend, Peter, had died. I sat here, surrounded by family, celebrating the new life of my little niece Eva, and at the same time mourning the loss of a friendship. I remember that at one point, simply overcome by all of the emotion of the preceding days, I put my head in my hands and cried deep, uncontrollable sobs. So many feelings – gratitude, excitement, loss, and exhaustion – are intertwined with the memory of sweet baby Eva’s birth.

Last night, my sister called to tell me she was in labor. This time with my soon-to-be born nephew, Beckett. I spent the night in my bed, restless and dozing, checking my phone for updates, while she labored at home. At 4:30 am, she texted that she was at the hospital. I got up, threw on some clothes, and came to join her. I cried in the car as I drove here. Once again, I sit in this waiting room filled with mixed emotions. I am excited and thankful for my sister and my almost arrived nephew, and I am sad as I mourn the loss of another relationship.

Today will be the first time in 6 weeks that I have seen my Mom. Besides a handful of emails, we have not spoken for those same 6 weeks. My heart is broken. I don’t know how to fix it.

I (divinely guided) met a sweet grandmother who volunteers at Leah’s horse therapy program last week. We stood at the rails and visited. She has 2 adopted granddaughters from Ethiopia. She shared the joys and the struggles of their family’s journey. And she said, “You know, my daughter and I didn’t talk for a whole year. Things are better now. We are mending the hurt. But it was hard.”

And I cried, standing there in the sunshine, watching my daughter guide her horse around the ring.

And I am crying right now, sitting in this waiting room, knowing my sister is on the other side of those doors getting ready to meet her son, knowing my mom is on her way to join us.

A year? That sweet grandma didn’t speak with her daughter for a whole year? 6 weeks already feels like forever.

Just as sweet baby Eva’s birth is forever joined with the memory of Peter’s death, now I know that baby Beckett’s birth will forever remind me of the terrible loss of the relationship with my mother. My prayer is that I will eventually have the memories of restoration of that same relationship.

Please, join me in praying for reconciliation. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for love to win.

And, Mom, I know you read my blog.

I love you.

God gave me you.

God gave you me.

Please know that while I am far from perfect, I am in love with the Lord and want to serve Him in everything I do.

I miss you.

It is 6:58 am on Saturday, June 1 and I am sitting in the maternity ward waiting room at Mercy Medical Center. Beckett Augustine David Sprague has arrived!!!

Beautiful Baby Beckett

Beautiful Baby Beckett


My sister and I only moments after meeting her son. Isn't she glowing?

My sister and I only moments after meeting her son. Isn’t she glowing?



Never Once Did We Ever Walk Alone

May 28, 2012 – the day we held our children for the first time.

One year ago today…..

Our first family picture

Our first family picture

I look at this picture and I marvel. I marvel at my God who is so big. I marvel at the work He has done in our family. I marvel at the healing He has started in our children. I marvel at the pruning He has done to my heart.

Do you know that Levi was dropped off at the gates of the orphanage when he was only 2 years old? Barely more than a baby. Naomi and Micah talk about trying to take care of him, protect him, help him – and they were just babies themselves.

When we first held Levi, he was stiff in our arms. We would pick him up, and while he allowed this physical contact, he did not know quite what to do with it. His back was straight and strong, not soft and curved into us. His legs hung down listlessly instead of wrapping around our waist. His arms dangled at his sides instead of holding onto our necks.

When Levi was hurt or angry, he did not run to us for comfort.

When we first started tucking Levi in at night, we had to teach him how to hug. I would physically place his arms around my neck and squeeze them together. I would say, “I love you, Levi. Now, Levi, you say it back to Mommy. Say ‘I love you, Mommy.'”

When Levi woke up in the middle of the night, scared or cold or thirsty, he never called out to us. Not once. We would not hear about it until the next morning.

We had to teach Levi what it meant to have a Mommy and a Daddy who touched him to comfort him, a Mommy and Daddy who would always materialize out of the dark night hallway to scare away his bad dreams, a Mommy and Daddy who would discipline without anger and rage.

The other morning I woke up to this sight…..


This was the first time that our boys had come to us in the middle of the night for comfort. They both snuck into our room, in the dark, and climbed between our warm bodies to feel the safety that lay between their Mommy and Daddy.

We have known our children for one year.

We are getting to know them better every day.

There is so much more that I want to know about them.

I want to know where the scars came from. I want to know the stories behind the behaviors. I want to know their family history – all of it.

But, most of all, I want to know that they will be all right. I want to know that they will grow up to feel loved, and special, and beautiful. I want to know that they will love God and love themselves. I want to know that they will accept my love. And, oh, I want to know that they will love me and accept me as their mother.

We sang this song in church last week, and as the tears rolled down my cheeks, I felt every single word in my soul.

Standing on this mountaintop

Looking just how far we’ve come

Knowing that for every step You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground

Seeing just how much You’ve done

Knowing every victory was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way

But with joy our hearts can say Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone

Never once did You leave us on our own

You are faithful, God, You are faithful




The Man Of My Dreams – He Doesn’t Do Dishes

Tomorrow I celebrate 16 years of marriage to this guy….


Scott and I met in high school when I was only 16 years old. We were married when I was only 19 years old.

I have spent over half of my life loving this man. He is intertwined in my memories, he stars in my dreams, he is as much a part of my life as breathing.

We have been so blessed over the years to enjoy a happy marriage. Oh, there have been irritations and disagreements, there have been annoyances and struggles, but, it seems almost miraculous to me that our entire marriage has been characterized by love and friendship. I admire him. He delights in me.

And then, this past December, January, February and March…..I didn’t particularly like the guy. We went through the hardest season our marriage has had to endure.

Obviously, one major contributor to this was the stress in our life. The logistics of doubling our family, the shifting and changing of our new roles, the constant demands on our time, the emotional baggage that we were dealing with….all of this created a storm of stress around us.

But there are other factors that were just as culpable.

#1 – Satan

Oh, that sneaky adversary! He knows exactly where we are weakest. He targets those weaknesses. And he does it in such sly ways that we often don’t attribute any of the problem to him, but rather blame it on our spouse.

Let me tell you something, satan sees God getting the glory around here. And he hates it! So he attacks.

He whispers in my ear, “Scott should be doing more. Look at what he expects of you! He goes to work and gets to relax with his friends. Then he comes home and he doesn’t even help with the dishes! Oh, that ungrateful man. If only he would offer to do more. I shouldn’t have to ask him! He should know that I need his help. If he really loved me, he would take out the trash.”

And satan’s whispers sound an awful lot like my own selfish thoughts. They fill my head and have me angry at my husband before he even steps foot in the door.

#2 – Selfishness

I had blinders on to the demands that our new family was placing on Scott. I didn’t worry about him balancing work and home, him feeling the pressure to provide for a family of 8, him being tired and worn and burning the candle at both ends. I was only focused on how everything was affecting me.

I was tired. I needed more help. I was stressed. And wasn’t that what was important? My needs?

I spent a large part of the time during those painful months mad at my husband. It was so easy to channel all of my frustration at one target. But, thankfully, my husband is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He was patient with me. And, most importantly, he is a man who loves the Lord and who prays over our marriage.

But, our God is a God who redeems. April and May have been filled with some of the sweetest times our marriage has ever known. There is a new-found appreciation for each other. There is a realization that when we face this battle as a united force, we are stronger than we could ever be alone. There is a feeling of overwhelming gratitude in my heart that I married a man of such character.

I wanted to share just a few of the lessons that God has been teaching me. Really – these lessons have been learned over the last 16 years, but they have been cemented over the past 6 months.

#1 – Marry Scott Putnam.

Oops! He is already taken. I guess you will have to move on to #2.

#2 – Celebrate each other’s strengths, forgive each other’s weaknesses.

Often, this is all in your own point of view. Instead of getting irritated that my husband won’t make a decision and get “insert my assigned task” done quickly, I can appreciate the fact that he is wise and thoughtful. That he never acts rashly and that he takes the time to decide what is best for our family.

Instead of keeping a list of things that he doesn’t do for me (clean, cook, pick up his dirty underwear), I started listing the things that he does do well (play with our children, listen when I need to talk, tell me that he loves me and thinks I am beautiful.) And when I compared those lists, I realized that the things he does do well – those are the important things in life.

#3 – Spend time enjoying each other. Laugh often.

During the roughest patch of our transition, Scott told me that he missed my laughter. I have always been full of fire and passionate about the good and the bad, but lately, it seemed I was only passionate about the bad. I didn’t have the energy to laugh. And he missed that.

#4 – Don’t try to live your marriage 50/50.

No. Instead, you give 100%. Give everything you can. Don’t keep a tally sheet and try to make things “fair.” Something interesting happened when I stopped demanding my husband’s help and instead focused on all that I could do for him. He started taking out the trash. And he offered to help the kids with some school work. He told me to sit down and relax while he covered the bedtime shift. He felt loved and appreciated, and in turn he wanted me to feel the same way. He still hasn’t started doing the dishes – but I expect that to happen any day now!

#5 – Do not rely on your own strength. Make your marriage a 3-part-relationship.




I am so thankful that 19 years ago, when that cute, nerdy boy who sat next to me in math class asked me to go out, I said yes.

Well, okay, first I said no.

But then I changed my mind.

Good thing, huh?

I look forward to spending the rest of my life with this man. Who knows how many kids we will have in another 16 years?

Happy anniversary to the man of my dreams.




We All Long For Our Mothers

My children each stumbled down the stairs this past Sunday morning and came into my bedroom to give me a hug and whisper a sleepy wish for a Happy Mother’s Day. They were heavily directed by their dad, of course, but each whisper was sweetness for my heart.

As Leah hugged me, she said, “I wish I could hug you and Z**** (her birth mom) and say Happy Mother’s Day to both of you.”

I pulled her close and whispered back, “Me, too, baby. I wish that, too.”

Then I asked her if they celebrated Mother’s Day in Ethiopia.

“I don’t know English in Ethiopia. What is “Mother’s Day” in Amharic? What would we have called it?”

“I don’t know, honey. I don’t know how to say Mother’s Day in Amharic. It would have been a day that you did special things for Z****. Maybe give her an extra hug or say thank you for being my mom.”

“Oh. Well I don’t know if we have that day in Ethiopia or not. Z**** was always gone. So she never told me if we had a Mother’s Day.”

Joy and pain. Thankfulness and sorrow. Bitter and sweet.

That is how my Mother’s Day felt this year – my first Mother’s Day as a mom to 6 precious children.

My children miss their first mother, but they have me to love them – if they will allow that love in.

My heart if full of thankfulness that God chose me to mother these 6 beautiful children, but it is also worn and tired because this job is hard.

And I cried because this is the first Mother’s Day in 35 years that I have not spent time with my own mother.

Adoption is an undertaking that affects the entire family. Not just the people in this home, but our whole extended family. Adoption causes growing pains for everyone. It is figuring out new roles and how all the pieces in this new family puzzle fit together.

I have heard many stories of a fractured relationship that stemmed from an adoption. Husband and wife. Sister and sister. Mother and daughter.

But, I never expected to experience that for myself.

I will not share the details. My mom and I love each other. We have always had a close relationship. And, right now, we don’t. She has done things wrong. I have done things wrong. And we need the Lord to heal the hurt.

I include this only because it is now a part of our story. It is the real-life effects of the hard road that we have chosen to walk. It is satan doing what he can to derail God’s plan and steal God’s glory. Satan is the great deceiver, after all, and he loves to whisper lies that take our attention away from what really matters.

I know, deep down in my soul, that my mom and I will find our way back. And I eagerly anticipate that. But, for now, this situation has given me even more insight to the pain my children must feel. We ALL so desperately want our mother’s approval, don’t we? We ALL long for our mother’s love, don’t we? And even though I do my best, even though I love my children from the depths of my heart, even though God has chosen me to be their mother now, it does not erase their need for their first mother.

So, this past Sunday, I enjoyed spending time with the precious children that God has given to me. We laughed. We swam. We played games. We made daddy do all of the cooking.


My children each gave me a beautiful rose. And they each bought a rose for Z****. I have 12 beautiful roses on my counter – a mixture of love for two mothers.

My children also gave me a card that I will treasure forever. I am going to share each of the lovely things they wrote (or spoke and had Daddy write, as the case may be) inside my card. They capture my children’s personalities so perfectly.

“Mom. I love you. P.S. I picked out the card.” ~ This from my oldest, Joel. So eloquent! He loves deep and big, that boy, but he has no time to waste on long sentimental card entries.

“Have a happy mether’s day I help you have good day.” ~ This from Miss Independent, Leah, who did not need any help writing it all by herself. And she did pretty darn good on the spelling! But, she couldn’t quite write I love you, yet. Not yet. But someday.

“Dear Mommy, I love. Love Naomi. Dear Mommy.” ~ Yes, Naomi, you do love. Your sweet heart would worry too much about hurting my feelings to not write I love you. And your handwriting is beautiful, as always, because I know you want so desperately to please me. And you do, dear one. You do please me.

“Mom, I love you so much. You are the best mom ever. Thank you for helping me. I hope you have a good Mother’s Day. I hope you like this card. Love, Hannah.” ~ My baby girl. My child who wants to cuddle, and lie next to me, and rub her hand along my arm, and lean against my side, and sit in my lap with her head on my shoulder. She is a little piece of me, walking around outside of my body, growing older by the day. I pray she will always want to be near me.

“I love you Mommy. Happy Mother’s Day. You are the best mom ever.” ~ Micah, my boy who doesn’t like to call too much attention to himself. The one who takes the longest to open up about what he is really feeling inside. Who maybe finds it easier to answer the same way as everyone else is answering so that no one notices anything different about him. My son who waited to see what everyone else might write before he wrote anything at all.

“Thank you being my mommy. I love you, my mommy. Thank you to come Ethiopia and bring to America. Happy Mother Day.” ~ Levi, my little peanut, who barely remembers any other mother. Levi, who lives life to the fullest, laughs from his belly, never stops moving from the moment he wakes up until his head hits the pillow at night, and loves whole-heartedly.

Each of my children is a gift. I treasure them, each and every one. They are unique, perfect creations and I am honored to be entrusted with their care.

A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy & the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.  -Jody Landers