Monday, September 17, 2012

Good News!!

I have some wonderful news to share! So wonderful I needed to start a whole new blog! Please join me at Joyful Journey

Friday, August 24, 2012

6 Month Reflections

10 days ago was our 6 month anniversary as a family of 6. The most wonderful part was: I forgot all about it. Life seems to flow now and I don't track dates and milestones as much anymore.

These boys have truly become brothers. Their relationship has demanded the most attention as they are now both 7 and "all boy". They get into trouble together, they play together and when they fight, they fight like brothers:) This is our traditional picture at Cedar Point, but I might try to install these in our backyard for those "hard to get along days". Just kidding....

And this little girl is doing so well in preschool. We chose a gentle introduction with just an hour the first day (with me) and then each day we extended the time. Once she knew they would go to the playground and have lunch at the end of the day, she asked to stay the entire time. And I heard something I have never heard in 13 years of parenting: "Mommy, can I please have onions with my broccoli for lunch?" She looooves onion in everything:)

And sweet Emmi, the leader of the pack, continues to extend grace to the little ones as they rummage though her stuff, ask her to play Candyland or pour them a glass of juice. She is amazingly patient (for a teenager) and puts up with a lot of craziness.

So life at 6 months is not perfect. I could be more organized, patient, creative, resourceful and fun. They grieve their losses and we learn about their hurts. But we have also found a gentle rhythm into our every day life and I don't have to plan each outing so carefully anymore. We can just go and live life.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Celebrating His Life

Yesterday, we celebrated Kofi's 7th birthday.

His wish was to go to Build A Bear and here he is with his creation.

He has had the most awesome transformation over the last 6 months. The little boy who was too scared to let us take care of him, who would sleep with a coin in his pocket and food hidden under his pillow is now starting to enjoy the life that is with a Mommy and a Daddy. 

Daily, he melts my heart. In so many ways he "gets" what he has gained and lost in adoption. He tells me things like "thank you for saying YES Mommy" and plans ways to help his village as he gets older. He has not forgotten those who still struggle and he reminds us daily how materially blessed we are in America.

Kofi, I pray that in time you realize the blessing you are to us. I am so proud to be your Mommy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Celebrating her life!

This weekend we celebrated our sweet Joy Agyeiwaa's 4th birthday. 
This was her first birthday celebration ever and her biggest wish was to have ice cream.
She continues to amaze me in her determination to attach to our family. It isn't always easy to a girl with a shy nature. But each day, she is determined to make the most of her life here. 
She adores her siblings, is a total Daddy's girl and Mommy is lucky to get lots of hugs and kisses every day too.
So Happy Birthday Joy Agyeiwaa. You are a bright ray of sunshine in our lives. God has great plans for you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

5 Month Reflections

Each month, my first thought is: "look how far we've come". Each month shows the progress in our attachment as a family, the way our children have embraced their new life and the way they are coping with grief and loss. The pure joy that they experience is now evident and they are allowing themselves to feel that. And when they grieve, they allow us to join them instead of withdrawing. Thank you God for the progress!

We still have many "firsts" as a family of 6. Like explaining why dressing up like a cow gets you a free meal at Chick Fil A! Kofi still finds American customs strange at times, and it brings back memories of when I first came to America as an exchange student. Some things you just have to experience and once again they are good sports!

These two....they just melt my heart. Initially Agyeiwaa didn't want anything to do with Jake. He was so gentle and kind to her, and she just ignored him. Now, all his hard work of reading books to her, playing puzzles, even playing princess have paid off. Everywhere we go, they hold hands and have the best time together.

Life is not perfect (when is it). There are times where I still feel overwhelmed parenting 4 children and I am on my knees praying for wisdom. But a family unit is emerging. Day by day.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sweet Sisters

Emmi is 13, Agyeiwaa is 3 (for 2 more weeks). I thought their age difference would keep them from growing into a close relationship. I regretted that Emmi would never know what a sisterly bond would be because of the years of infertility that kept that dream from becoming a reality. This was the relationship I worried most about, prayed about and tried to figure out in my head. I wanted them to really hit it off.

Not sure why I was so worried? Out of all 4 siblings, these 2 are so close. Emmi is such a tender big sister, she loves playing princess games and tea parties and ballerina dance lessons with Agyeiwaa. In fact they are so close that I must approach their bond with caution so that it doesn't become the primary attachment for Agyeiwaa. Thankfully, she is treating Emmi as a sister, not Mommy, but certainly something to be aware of. When Emmi is at a sleepover or overnight camp, this little girl asks about 10 million times when her big sissy is returning back home.


Friday, June 15, 2012

4 Month Reflections

Yesterday, we celebrated 4 months as a family of 6. Time is going by so fast and I can't believe how far we have come in this amount of time. In some ways, life has a familiar rhythm and a routine to it now, even though Kofi and Agyeiwaa (or princess Joy as she now prefers) are learning so many new things.

Memorial Day weekend, they learned about parades. Kofi thought it was amazing that people would just throw candy at them and it was free!! "America is so crazy!" he said with his adorable accent.
 waiting for the parade to start

my little miss America

Kofi made our local U9 travel soccer team alongside his brother Jake. He is 2 years too young to technically qualify (Jake is 1 year too young), but both boys rocked the tryouts. Kofi is a natural, but needs to learn the rules and playing in a team will be great for him. Jake is a skillful player as well and will be a great role model for Kofi. So proud of these brothers!!

One thing I am especially glad is that our friends and family are finally seeing our children's wonderful personalities. Agyeiwaa used to be so shy around anyone but us. She has such a wonderful spunky, fun loving side to her that she is now able to share with everyone. She is making friends in the neighborhood and I can see that she will be ready for preschool in the fall. Kofi is a social butterfly, but initially he wasn't himself either. There was a sense that everyone had to like him, so his affections and boundaries "went overboard". Now he is so comfortable being himself and knowing his wonderful personality is enough. 

4 months is a great place to be. People around me know how much "heart work" happens in our house every day. Some days I am exhausted from the things we do, but I want to say that our children (all 4) are the true champions in our family. The way that they embrace our new life, the way they lovingly care for each other (in the midst of the bickering and normal sibling stuff) and how they are truly allowing for healing to take place. Wow, they inspire me!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Things I love

Right now, we are experiencing an explosion in both children's English language. Earlier this week, Kofi came off the school bus and said "Mommy, I was messin' around on the bus." I had to laugh because one of Eric's phrases around the house is : "Boys, quit messin' around". While I'm glad of the new phrases they are learning, I secretly hope they never get rid of these:

- calling a door "the gate". As in  "Mommy, please open the gate" "Mommy, the gate is locked"
- my vehicle is "private car" or "driving car"
- getting the words "chicken" and "kitchen" mixed up all the time
- any word that ends in the letter "s" must have a "t" added to it. yes is "yest", shoes are "shoest" and     boss is "bosst"

The ultimate proud Mommy moment happened yesterday. I went to pick up Kofi from children's church and he shared that he prayed in front of the k-3 kids group. In his own words:" Mommy, Kofi pray like this. Thank you God for anyone new, learning, no mothers die, food and the Bible. In Jesus name Amen."

 my sweet prayin' spiderman and his spunky sister

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Year Later

What a difference a year makes...

Last year, during Memorial Day weekend, we met our children for the first time. It was raining heavily and they came to us wet, apprehensive and very quiet. Of course it didn't take them long to have fun and play. But looking at the pictures from our first moments together, I can see the fear in their faces.

9 months later they joined our family forever. Now, home for 3 months and I can't believe they are the same children. Healthy and embracing their new lives with such determination. Today Kofi told me:"Mommy, Kofi stay here for 20 years!" which to him means forever. What a sweet boy.

So today, I will celebrate all that has unfolded over the last year!

Friday, May 25, 2012


the warm weather has arrived. We spend so much time in our backyard and enjoy all things summer:

And running around in swimsuits:

And eating more ice cream than we really should:

And of course riding on Daddy's mower:

Just two more weeks and school's out!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sharing our Adoption Story

After Kofi and Agyeiwaa joined our family, it was pretty obvious to those around us how our family came together. The children don't share my pasty white complexion and they still have their exotic West African accents. I have loved sharing about adoption and our story with many people that have asked about us. And every time I know that this journey was a calling that brought two children in need of a family together with a family who needed them probably even more.

Last Sunday, our pastor shared our adoption story during Mother's Day services. He asked us questions ahead of time and I prayed that each answer reflected our hearts accurately.. He told the story beautifully, focusing on our journey more than our children's story. It wasn't a story about how great we are for adopting, but how this journey has changed our lives. For the better.

In hearing him tell our story and in reflecting  on everything that happened, I know that I needed this. All of this. Even the tough days when I feel like I can't be everything to every child. In caring for my family, I get to witness how God heals hearts, how he makes something beautiful out of tragedy. We are slowly finding a new normal and now find ourselves wondering: what's next? We just can't live life as it was, for ourselves. Our eyes have been opened...

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Mother's Day as an adoptive Mommy

Yesterday, I was able to celebrate my first Mother's Day as a Mommy to 4 children and as an adoptive mother. The reason I mention that, is because it brought on all kinds of new emotions that I have never experienced before. Kofi and Joy have never celebrated this holiday, and I felt sad telling them that this was a day for ME. Their first mother was on my mind all day, I felt so sad that she wasn't able to hold her precious children. Instead, I was the proud Mommy who was able to participate in a child dedication at our church. Somehow all that felt unfair.

Me and my girls after church

The dedication was beautiful. Our pastor is waiting to travel to China to meet and bring home his baby girl soon and we were so blessed to have him dedicate our little ones. This week, they even shared our adoption story as this week's message was on Micah 6:8. We felt so loved and our children felt accepted.

My handsome boys acting silly
 We enjoyed brunch after the dedication and spent the rest of the day relaxing outside. As I reflected on the past year, I am so grateful for the journey. Even when I waited. It was hard, excruciating, heart wrenching and trying. But we made it. And each day, I see my children growing closer to each other. It's beautiful.

Jake's Taekowndo tournament the day before Mother's Day

Friday, May 4, 2012


Last weekend, Eric and I had our first dinner out without the children. Nearly 11 weeks of togetherness and I felt ready to take a little time for the two of us. I knew the right person for the task, she teaches at Jake's old preschool and can handle all kinds of situations. And the dinner would last maybe just over an hour.

 Impromptu dance party

I told all the children that day of the plan for the day. I have figured out how early to tell Kofi something so he is prepared for the change in routine but not too early where he will start to worry about it. We talked what he would be doing, how fun it would be and Jake was even explaining to him how fun Ms Sheila is. I was so proud of how concerned Jake was in making his brother comfortable.

When she arrived, I could tell Kofi was starting to feel anxious. Without going into details, he was trying to prevent us from leaving. To someone else, the behavior wouldn't have seemed like anything big, but to me it was big enough to do something about.

I took Kofi to his room, we sat on the floor and talked. I once again told him what we were going to do, but none of that was making a difference. Finally I cradled his face into my hands and I told him: "I am not going to leave you. I promise, I will be back". Suddenly, the wall broke down and he gave me the tightest hug and tears welled up in his eyes. Thank you God for giving me the right words to reach him. Not just because I desperately needed some time with hubby but for Kofi's sake as well.

Kofi loves to play baby
We are learning daily about our children's triggers. Without knowing everything about their past, this seems like detective work and sometimes the task seems impossible. Without prayer, it would be impossible. Each child has their own triggers and the ways that they show their grief and fear. I am beginning to learn how to recognize their triggers before complete melt downs happen and most days we succeed. We are building trust and I feel more like their Mommy who knows their hearts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2 Month Anniversary and Thoughts on Older Child Adoption

We have been a family of 6 for 2 months now. In some ways, Kofi and Agyeiwaa are learning so many new things every day. In many other ways, they are so comfortable in our daily routine and are truly thriving. It's still strange to be on the other side of the adoption journey, as so much of my time and energy in the last year was spent on longing for them and walking through the steps that would ultimately bring them to our family.Now the focus has shifted on healing and bringing together four siblings that were strangers just 60 days ago.
 Three little ones who have so much fun together

I have had a few friends ask me about the experience of adopting a child that is not a newborn/baby. In theory, many view infants as a blank slate and assume that attachment issues are not an...issue. While this may be true with some babies, I would never assume that any child going through a painful separation from a birth parent can be just "plopped" into a new family. Stress during pregnancy and changes in caregivers are significant events in an infant. Attachment work is necessary in ALL adoptions, IMHO.

Anyway, I can only speak from my experience (naturally) but for our family adopting a preschooler and a 6 year old child has been the biggest blessing. Our children are able to express to us about their life in Ghana, they verbalize their grief and we truly live their experiences with them knowing what is going on. After 2 months, we get to witness our children trusting us more, their affection changing from something they "should do" to something they want to do. The attachment process is a fascinating two way communication that we experience every day. The night time prayers reflect their hearts so beautifully. And to see our son realize that it is ok for him to talk about his first family and that we love them as family too, gives me such hope for the future. Our family has expanded not only by 2 children, but their extended families as well.

Another aspect of older child adoption that I didn't think about initially is blending two cultures. Or in my family, blending three cultures. This goes beyond celebrating major holidays or parent-lead activities to teach a child about their culture. My children are Ghanaian, they have the mannerisms and customs of a child who has grown up in Ghana. They are teaching us about Ghana, about their life, cooking, dancing, customs and national pride. The way Agyeiwaa cares for her baby dolls is the way she has seen mothers, even her mother, take care or babies in Ghana. The way Kofi carries items on his head, is the same way he would carry water multiple times a day in his village. We would have never experienced these wonderful moments if we hadn't said "yes" to an older child.  And after meeting children in the orphanages that are 8, 10, even 13 years old, I wouldn't hesitate to adopt a child in that age range.

 Agyeiwaa loves carrying her baby dolls like women do in Ghana

One common thread in Ghanaian adoptions is that the children were loved by their first families. They were nursed, carried on their mothers' backs, bonded and attached to their families, therefore they will learn to attach to and love their adoptive families as well. Babies are rarely placed for adoption in Ghana (or young toddlers for that matter) as mothers will care for them as long as they can nurse them. I see this as the great strength of the adoption program Ghana and it is the reason the children are thriving in new families. There is grief, and we see it every day. But we also see a wonderful bonding taking place. God is good!

Adopting children in this age range can feel scary for anyone who has a vision of adopting a newborn. But our family is blessed to have two sons that are practically twins and our daughter who keeps everyone in line:) I would absolutely do it again, and who knows, we may do it again...

 Sisters who share such a special bond!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Our New Normal

Adding two children to any family is a challenge. I have four brothers, two of them have twins and I know they would agree with me. Adding two children with a past that is filled with grief and disappointment adds a whole 'nother layer to the process. Each behavior is looked at and analyzed "is this normal kid stuff or is this something else" and I second guess myself all the time. I want to give them opportunities to explore our world a bit, yet give them the security of familiar things. No book I have read addresses every situation I encounter and I wonder if I am making right decisions as things happen. As a "type A perfectionist", this is really where God is stretching me the most. There are days when laundry and other chores wait as I spend a good part of the afternoon helping to heal a heart that is grieving and hurting. I have to say no to commitments because my priority is the attachment of my children. 

Kofi started school (half day kindergarten) and I found myself analyzing every comment from his teacher and every story he has told me. He has wanted to go since day 1 as he feels schooling is a privilege he didn't always have. Also his brother and sister get to go and he felt inferior because he was at home. I also thought the school could make a plan for placement for next year as they got to know him this school year.

We went to a book fair at the school and I quickly found out that sending him was the right choice. He was interacting with his peers, his teacher and the principle (Kofi calls him "School Master", which our principle likes very much!). It has not interrupted our attachment process either. Actually, the times he is home are more relaxed and fun filled as he feels that once again we kept a promise to him. He has a wonderful teacher, he gets private instruction from an ELL teacher and he gets to spend recess with his brother.

Some of the things I need to work on is finding balance in all aspects of my life. For nearly 8 weeks, my sole focus has been creating our new family unit, fostering attachment while ensuring all our children feel loved and valued. Normal things like dates with hubby or even regular showers :) have not been a priority. But I feel like in our "new normal" I am ready to rediscover myself and ALL the roles in my life, not just the Mommy side.

God has also been whispering about new directions in my life and I am quietly taking note of it. I know it's not time for something new, but I know our adoption journey was the tip of an iceberg for something bigger. I felt it in May while in Ghana and I feel it just the same today.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Becoming a daughter....again

In the past 6 weeks home, a transformation has been taking place. As we build trust, we speak new truths into our children's hearts. This change is evident in both children, but in some ways I see it more in our daughter. At age 3, she has had a childhood full of changes and sad circumstances. She certainly wasn't asked if she wanted an obruni Mommy and if she wanted to fly across the world to live in a strange place. By nature she is shy and reserved (for about 5 minutes) until she is comfortable with her surroundings. In some ways she is a typical toddler with testing boundaries, tantrums and her own preferences. She is a girly girl who loves sunglasses, hair bows, nail polish and Dora the Explorer. In other ways, she carries behaviors and memories from her past that are sad to see. But all in all, in the past month and a half, she has made such great strides to become a daughter again. She is amazing.

The above picture is from the first moment we met our children last May. They were accompanied by a sweet girl on the right. I can just see the sheer confusion and fright in her body language. I wanted to scoop her up and just love on her, but I knew she needed a little time. In my heart, I was her Mommy already, but in her mind I was a stranger.

It didn't take long though and she was playing, tickling us, bossing us around;) and comfortable with us. We had the most amazing week together and our goodbyes were sad.
Although she knew us when she joined our family on Valentine's Day, there were moments that I saw the familiar body language of confusion and being scared reappear. She would climb on my back and that provided the familiarity she craved at the moment.

Now those moment are less frequent. She is a happy girl who is embracing her new world. Physically, she is looking healthier. Emotionally, she is more balanced. The empty look in her eyes is being replaced by life and sparkle. In some aspects we have come so far already. This is not to say that we don't have issues or that I am painting a rosy picture of our life. I just want to celebrate the success that we are experiencing right now.

Sweet Joy Agyeiwaa, I am so proud of you.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts after our first month

It's really hard to decide how much I should share publicly. There are parts of our children's story that I want to remain private, as it is not my story to tell "the world". Most of what I know is either second hand information or painful details my son has shared with me. But it is safe to say that children do not end up in an orphanage and adopted internationally out of happy circumstances. There is profound loss, sadness, family crisis and even death that is all weaved into a few short years in a child's life. A childhood that is abruptly interrupted by adult responsibilities of caring for younger siblings, begging and working without access to education or normal child activities. There are also memories of a happier time even though that may have included extreme poverty. It can be such a mixed bag of memories and emotions. Either way, coming to a new family is so unfamiliar and overwhelming.

I thank God that He lead us to adopting siblings and specifically "older children". We are going through such healing together and they are able to verbalized so much of it. There are tough moments of grieving, but there are so many more of pure joy and sharing many "firsts". To see their pure amazement of a drive thru "restaurant" or using an ATM (money comes out of a wall?) or visiting a zoo (even though Kofi wanted to jump in with the lions...) are precious memories that I am able to witness as their Mommy. Kofi and I spent at least 30 minutes discussing how a vacuum cleaner works and he thought it was the most amazing invention. Every time I see them run to me when they are hurt, I am reminded of a time they just whimpered quietly because no one had kissed they boo boos in a long time. This weekend, I worked a 4 hour shift while Eric was with the children. Once I came home and opened the door, Kofi ran to me and hugged me so tightly and said "Mommy is home. I love you Mommy!". God is making us a family and healing hearts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Say Cheese

Not much time theses days to blog.
But just enough to show their smiling faces.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lessons from our first week together

This week has been a wonderfully busy and joyful. There is an air of newness for all our children as they discover more about each other, living in a larger family and of course our new little ones learn more about life in America. Here are some things that have been extremely helpful to manage the chaos that is going on:

1. Preserving some of the familiar
We have spices and condiments that the children are used to in Ghana. I learned to fix a couple of basic recipes that I know they will eat. This seems to bring them so much comfort as  much has changed. They are slowly trying new foods, but this is ALL at the pace. We also know a few basic phrases in their native language Twi: "are you ok?" and "come here" are the most used. I love to be able to check on them in their native language as they will give me a quick "yeah yeah" when they are ok and a head shake when something is wrong.

2. Schedule
Our son does better when he knows what to expect. In Ghana he had a predictable day with school and meals and all that has changed. Since he knows a little English, I usually hold one finger up and tell him what comes first. Then I hold two fingers up and tell the next thing. I usually stop at three and one of them is always a meal. Initially he was unsure if we would continue to feed him, so this was reassuring.

3. Attachment
I know attachment is a lengthy process but I try to discover opportunities whenever possible. Today we played games that encouraged eye contact and staying close to Mommy and Daddy. In the case of siblings, we also try to have times when they are playing separately as they tend to ask each other for help instead of a parent. We use phrases like "Mommy will help you" and "Daddy will keep you safe" to reaffirm when we help them with a task. Agyeiwaa loves to be carried and each day I carry her while completing regular tasks around the house. She is immediately calm and relaxed.

4. Siblings
I have been especially aware of paying attention to Emmi and Jake while their new siblings demand a lot of our attention. They are at school during the day, which makes taking care of Kofi and Agyeiwaa during the day easier. Once they are home though, we have made sure to find one on one time with each child daily to make sure they are not concerned about all the changes. Since their new siblings have an early bed time by choice, we take an hour to do something familiar with them such as read a book, play a game or watch a tv episode.

5. Avoid over stimulation
When I first moved to United States, I was old enough to make the choice to move here and I also spoke English pretty well. But even then, I was absolutely exhausted each day from all the new sights, sounds, language, noises, food, culture and thinking about every sentence that came out of my mouth. For my children, I would think the same is true, except they didn't choose to come here, they don't speak the language well and they are much younger. Therefore, we try to keep the environment as simple as possible. No TV, very little music, familiar food and simple schedule. We have not gone on outings (other than the Dr office and Kofi went to the grocery store with me) and we have only had one visit from family. We want them to be absolutely comfortable at home before we introduce them to new things and people.

6. Have fun
This is the time we have dreamed about for so long. Seeing our children in our home is such a surreal feeling as we have known them only in their environment in Ghana. We have had such sweet moments as they discover new words, come to us for hugs and as they fall asleep in our arms.

This is what has worked for us during the first week. We mess up, we get better and we learn together.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

First day in America!

This morning, my four children finally met each other. On Valentine's Day, our house was full of love!
After traveling through the night, arriving at a strange place with snow and a bunch of obrunis (term for white people in Ghana), I was amazed at how well the children did today.

The first thing Kofi saw in our garage was a bike, and that is all he wanted to do. I thought he would stay outside for 5 minutes and get too cold. He ended up going outside 3 times today (other times he did have gloves and snowpants) and learned how to ride his bike. I was so proud of him and happy to see he doesn't mind the cold weather.

Agyeiwaa stayed inside and had no interest in the snow. She spent her first day playing with balloons, exploring her new room with Emmi and carrying a purse with a toy puppy in it. She wasn't crazy about our cats, but by the end of the day she let them get close.

By early evening, both children started rubbing their eyes. It was time for baths, prayers and bed time. Kofi was glad to have Jakob to share a room with. Agyeiwaa fell asleep while we were snuggling. I have checked on them a few times to makes sure they are ok. And to make sure I wasn't dreaming. They are really here!!!