Rediscovering Rwanda

22 04 2010

In 1994, when genocide swept through the hills of Rwanda, I was in the seventh grade.

Two years later, as a freshman in high school, I remember learning about Rwanda from one of my favorite teachers: Mrs. Joan Malkin. My family had recently moved from Boulder, Colorado to Irvine, California. I was a liberal kid plopped down in a conservative community, wearing birkenstocks and corduroy while my classmates wore cardigans and polo shirts. In the freshman social studies class, Mrs. Malkin challenged her students to think carefully and critically about how they saw the world.

Among other things, I remember learning about Rwanda and the failure of the United Nations and the international community to intervene during the genocide. This remarkable teacher sparked my curiousity for politics and economics. In college, I earned a degree in international relations. Although I’ve spent the last six years focused on loving and serving my husband and our three children, I have never forgotten this passion.

Fourteen years later, I am rediscovering Rwanda. As my husband and I have continued to learn and pray about adoption, we’re beginning to consider adopting from Rwanda. We are learning not only about the international adoption process, but also about the country, which has undergone a remarkable – if flawed – process of rebuilding over the last sixteen years.

I have many questions – and at this point few answers.

Yesterday I read Left to Tell, a memoir written by a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. I finished the book at maybe 2 am. And then I cried and prayed and tried to understand: how could a country could be consumed with such evil? How the same country could be transformed? Rebuilt? Redeemed?

I do not know where this journey will lead me. I do not know if our family will be called to adopt from Rwanda or from elsewhere in Africa. But I do feel God’s hand leading me and drawing my heart to see. And I believe that as God opens my eyes, he will guide my steps.


I heart Micah

24 03 2010

What do you do when you find our your child has something wrong with his heart?

In January, we took Micah to a walk-in clinic with another cold and ear infection. The on-call doctor mentioned that Micah had a heart murmur, but thought it was probably nothing.

Two months later, at Micah’s three year old check-up, his pediatrician spent more time listening to his heart. Normally this part of an exam is quick, but Dr. Sarah was slow and kept asking everyone in the room to be quiet. She then told me she wanted Micah to see a cardiologist at Children’s Hospital. She said that most likely we would go and the doctor would say everything was fine.

But somehow I knew there was more to the story.

Micah was born at 35 weeks, just about one month premature. He weighed 5 pounds 8 ounces, breathed and breastfed well by the end of his first day, and spent less than a week in the NICU. But over the last three years, Micah has grown slowly. He gets sick often and when he catches a cold, he gets much sicker than his big brother. He is calm and he tires easily.

Maybe he does have something wrong with his heart?

When I was pregnant with Micah’s younger brother, Zephaniah, I had dozens of ultrasounds with the high-risk obtetricians. At every ultrasound, the technicians would look for Zephan’s ductus arteriosis. The ductus arteriosus allows the blood pumped by a fetus’ heart to bypass the developing baby’s fluid filled lungs. In most babies, the ductus arteriosus closes shortly after birth. When I was pregnant with Zephan, I was taking medication that could potentially close his ductus while I was still pregnant, which would stress his lungs and heart. So week after week we watched and prayed, hoping that Zephan’s ductus arteriosus would stay open.

Fast forward nearly two years and we’re sitting in the Cardiology Clinic at Children’s Hospital. The kind, experienced doctor spends a few minutes listening to three-year old Micah’s heart. He thinks Micah has two murmurs.

Over the last week, as we waited to see the cardiologist, I have climbed into Micah’s bed when he was sleeping to listen to his heart. Instead of a rythmic lub-lub, Micah’s heart has lubs and gallops and whooshes.

One murmur is normal, just the sound of blood moving through the heart of a young child. The second murmur is the sound of a patent ductus ateriosus. The PDA allows some of the oxygenated blood from the left side of Micah’s heart to flow back to the lungs by flowing from the aorta to the pulmonary artery. Micah’s PDA appears to be small and it seems to have had a limited impact on his health.

Thanks to incredible medical technology, the cardiologists are able to close the PDA without actual heart surgery. The cardiologist will insert a small plastic catheter into a vein in Micah’s leg and follow it to his heart where they will place a small device closing ductus arteriosus. The procedure is relatively simple and on the other side of surgery, Micah should be completely normal.

Even though rationally I understand all of this – that everything is going to be okay – it is hard to discover there is something wrong  with your child’s heart.

I’m sitting here, drinking a beer, probably letting dinner burn on the stove while my older boys play outside and the baby finishes off his second bag of veggie booty. Am I a little numb? I think maybe I should be feeling more than I do, but with everything going on with our children right now, I don’t know that I can stop and let myself dwell.

Heart condition, failure to thrive, developmental delay, hearing loss.

Today we also had an appointment with Zephan’s early intervention therapists. Although Zephan has always been small, we have become more concerned about his growth over the last four months has he has not really gained weight since his first birthday. Over the last month we’ve done testing at Children’s Hospital to look for possible causes of Zephan’s failure to thrive. So far, we do not have any answers and we’re doing everything we can to help him grow. Today at his assesment, we learned he may also have a partial or temporary hearing loss as a result of repeated ear infections. We will have his hearing tested soon. We also talked with the therapists about what we already know, that Zephan is nowhere near walking even though he is 16 months old.

So tonight we ate dinner. We will rest. And we will wake up tomorrow and clean the house and visit friends. Life will keep moving. I am thankful for my boys tonight as the sleep in their beds.

For more information about PDA, click here.

Carrots, broccoli and peas, oh my!

11 01 2010

Over the last year or two, Mark and I have prayed about how God would have us provide an education to our children. After much consideration, we are planning on sending our kids to a Classical Christian school. In order to do this, we will need me to go back to work part time to help pay for tuition.

 To that end, I’ve spent hours trying to figure out what would be the best stewardship of my time and our family’s resources. I’ve thought about returning to grad school to become a teacher or a nurse. I’ve thought about returning to my pre-kid world of marketing and public relations. I’ve even thought about trying to launch an store selling handmade baby products.

As a Christian wife and mommy, however, my top priorities must continue to be my relationship with Jesus, my husband and my children. As I’ve researched what would be involved with each of these paths, I have felt like the cost would be too great for our family. Several months ago, as I was praying about what God would have us do to educate our kids – and stressing about the cost of private school – I very clearly felt like God was telling me to be at peace and to trust him. If private school was his plan, he would provide. That’s that.

A few weeks passed and I stumbled on the Dr. Sears LEAN Kids program. Dr. Sears is a well-known pediatrician and author of dozens of books about childrearing. He has created a new program called LEAN Kids designed to help families feed their children well. The program aims not to just treat or prevent childhood obesity, but also to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle for kids of all shapes and sizes.

In two weeks, I will be going to Denver, Colorado to become a Dr. Sears Certified LEAN Coach. As a LEAN Coach, I will be able to teach several classes, including a LEAN Kids for parents of children ages 3-12 and a LEAN Expectations for pregnant moms. I will also be able to do Pantry Makeovers, helping families learn how to shop, cook, eat and live more healthfully.

Although it is a little daunting to launch a business when I am a busy mom of three, I am excited about this opportunity – not just to provide for our children’s education, but also to help other families live healthier. I have always had a passion for healthy nutrition and this feels like a natural fit for my skills and experience. I enjoy teaching and encouraging others.

As a mom, I know the impact I have on my children everyday, whether I am grocery shopping, cooking dinner, going to the gym or cuddling up to read them a book. I know that as moms and dads, we all worry whether or not we are feeding our kids the right stuff. We also worry about whether we are setting a good example. And so I am excited to have some tools to be able to teach other parents how nourish their families, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.

Three boys in one bedroom

8 01 2010

Right now our family lives in a big suburban house, but we still dream about what it would be like to live in a smaller space in a city. If we were to ever live somewhere like New York or London – or even downtown Bellevue – we would need to have all three boys share a bedroom.

Even in this house where we have plenty of extra space, the older boys ask when their baby brother can move in to their room. So the plan is to eventually put Asher, Micah and Zephan in one bedroom.

To that end, I am always looking for creative ideas.

Room and Board, one of my very favorite furniture stores, has several cool bunk beds that could accomodate three children. The Moda bunk bed can have a trundle under the bottom bunk. The Loft bed and trundle are crafted from natural steel. I like these because they look sturdy and masculine. Although this is only two beds, I wonder if they could made a high loft as well? Beautifully made furniture, if a little expensive.


I recently stumbled on the blog of a family that moved from Colorado to New York, where they are living in a 1,200 square foot 2 bedroom apartment. The family of six has three boys and one girl. The dad chopped up 2 ikea bunk beds to make a modern triple high bunk bed. With thre desks along the other wall (and presumably storage somewhere nearby), they fit three boys in a small bedroom.  What a brilliant idea:


This next one is my favorite! Check out this post from Apartment Therapy’s Small Kids, Big Color contest last year. This incredibly creative family built two Ikea Kura beds on a custom platform. The rolling drawers under the bed provide storage for toys. Not to mention room for four kids to sleep! And play! 

Notice how they built a side table in the corner between the beds to have a space for a light. And the curtains that make the bottom bunks feel like a fort. I am guessing you could set this up for around $1,000 including mattresses and bedding if you found the Kura beds on Craigslist. Not to mention, this whole bed would fit in a corner of a room that was just 8.5′ by 10′. I am totally inspired!

Playroom Inspiration 2.0

29 12 2009

Ready, set, go! Here is the much-anticipated follow up to my September 2008 blog post, Playroom Inspiration.

The Christmas toys are in piles on the playroom floor. They have nowhere to go. The bookcase is full. The closets are overflowing. The cabinet is stuffed. Despite our best intentions to edit our children’s toy collection, the grandparents have spoiled them with more than a few new toys. It is finally time to get the playroom done.

We have a lot of work ahead of us and over the next month or so I’ll share pictures as we decorate the playroom, as well as other spaces in our house becoming a home.

I wrote the first Playroom Inspiration blog while I was on bed rest. In my hospital bed and then at home with a newborn, a toddler and a preschooler, I did not have time to work on the playroom. At all.

But this fall on one trip to IKEA – $1 coffee and free childcare included – I stumbled on this $6 gem:

At last, the inspiration I was looking for! With a few of these in my cart, I headed to the fabric section where I bought 5 yards of the Frederika fabric for about $35 to make curtains.

I am officially inspired. But I still need a plan. And a budget. Check back soon for Playroom Inspiration 2.1!

Ten reasons I love fall

31 10 2009

Fall is my favorite season. Here are the ten reasons I love fall.

10. Wool socks.

9. Pumpkin spice lattes.

8. Running in the rain.

7. The smell of apple cider simmering on the stove.

6. Curling up with a good book, a cup of tea and a soft blanket.

5. The changing weather, especially the mist that makes everything look like a fairytale.

4. Making soup and baking bread.

3. Going back to school (at least vicariously through my children).

2. Watching my boys delight in leaves, pumpkins and mud.

1. Falling in love.

Ten years ago, Mark and I met at a Halloween Hoedown. We were both college students volunteering with Young Life. I was dressed up as a cowgirl: overalls, plaid shirt, hair in braids, even freckles drawn on my face. I guess Mark thought I was cute because he took my picture and spent the next few weeks telling his friends about me. I didn’t exactly remember Mark, but when we met again two weeks later at a Young Life camp, we began the rest of our story. By Christmas, we were both in love and knew it would be forever.

Five years ago, I was seven months pregnant with our oldest son Asher. Three years ago I was four months pregnant with our middle son Micah. And this time last year I was six months pregnant with our youngest son Zephan. Fall is a good time to fall in love.

Tea and books

24 10 2009

I’m sitting down this afternoon with a cup of black tea and a pile of books. I have an hour or two while my little ones sleep and Asher works quietly at his desk. My husband is going on a bike ride and I am going to ignore the piles of laundry. There are always piles of laundry. I will also ignore the dishes in the sink and the cereal on the floor.

I am in the process of reading a stack of books about everything from theology to homemaking to triathlon training. This is a lot of literary juggling, especially when I can hardly keep my eyes open at the end of the day. It is exhausting to be the mother of three little boys. Life seldom slows down and my hands are very full. But the books paint a picture of what God is doing in our lives. 

The first  book is Triathlons for Women by Sally Edwards. Since the Kirkland Triathlon in September, I’ve been recovering from this season and planning for next year. This little book is inspiration to keep me focused on my goals, including an Olympic distance race next summer and a half-iron in 2011 or 2012. Many people have asked how I have time to train when I have three young boys. In all truth, I don’t know how I could have enough energy to be a mom of three boys if I didn’t exercise. Mothering is a physically demanding job and my triathlon training makes everyday easier. Not to mention the hours I spend running, swimming and on the bike provide much needed time for prayer and reflection.

The second book is Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her three daughters. The book claims to offer practical wisdom from the Bible to help women be fruitful rather than just busy. The first chapter is about the seasons in women’s lives. As I am moving from a season of childbearing to a season of raising preschool and school age children, I know I need to refocus my priorities. Mark and I together need to figure out what we will do (and what we will not do) so that our family is fruitful rather than just busy.

The next book is Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans. One of the biggest decisions Mark and I are praying through is how we will educate our boys. Over the last three years, I’ve spent a lot of time researching schools, but relatively little time considering the underlying principles guiding the methods for educating our children. We find ourselves between a few rocks and a hard place. The local public school is good as public schools go, but I am not sure this is right for our children. We love the private school where Asher attends preschool, but the tuition for elementary school is expensive. I think homeschooling is admirable, but it terrifies me. So what do we do? And why? And how?

Although I am just a few chapters deep in this book, I find the authors argument in favor of a classical liberal arts education both grounded in a Biblical worldview and relevant to the culture compelling. One of our primary goals for our children’s education has always been that the boys would use the gifts they have been given to love God, serve people and steward creation. The authors suggest that the goals of education are wisdom and eloquence, that children would be prepared “not only to make a living, but also to make a profound difference in the world.”

The fourth book is Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. I am reading this book in response to what God has been doing in my heart. As I’ve been reminded of God’s concern for the poor and his passion for justice, I am praying about how God would lead our family to live, love and serve differently. Did you know that nearly 30,000 children will die today as a result of hunger or disease caused by poverty? As a Christian, I read the Bible and it is clear that God expects His people to do something about children dying as a result of poverty. The question we’re pondering is what should we do. My husband and I have been reading Adopted for Life by Russel Moore. We are praying about whether God would lead us to adopt, possibly a little girl from Africa. I recently finished Melissa Fay Greene’s stunning book about Ethiopia, There Is No Me Without You. Ethiopia is a country with a population of about 75 million people where nearly 5 million children are orphans. Approximately 1 million children in Ethiopia have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The Bible is clear about God’s compassion for orphans; the question is how will we respond. 

One other book sitting on my bedside table is Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper. This is a biography of several women whose lives declare what it means to be a Christian. The books is about women who were ordinary in many respects, balancing the responsibilities of marriage, motherhood and homemaking. Each of these women were faithful to God, trusting that he would give them strength to serve and love in extraordinary ways.

There are several other books sitting on my desk and beside my bed, including a few about sewing by Amy Butler, several cookbooks and another book about homeschooling. I have more books on hold at the library and I’m trying to track down Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper. And of course the Bible sits on top of these piles. I’ve been studying Luke, Ruth and Esther. I love to read, but more importantly I am also excited to learn and prepare for this next season of my life.

While I’ve blogged, I’ve had two cups of tea. I’ve tucked Micah back in to bed three times. And I’ve stepped on more than a few cheerios on the floor. The laundry and dishes are still sitting where they were an hour ago. Asher is still busy at his desk and I will now turn off the computer and open a book.