This little four year old girl, Chiza, is full of energy and life. She always runs to hold my hand when I visit, and sticks close. She demonstrates a lot of the same behaviors that the other older kids do there who are also desperate for attention, any attention. For instance, the minute I sit down she is pulling at my hair, despite my "no's" she won't stop, because for her, any attention, good or bad, is attention which she wants so badly. She is very sweet. About three weeks ago, when the extra mammas where hired, they realized they have time to interact with the older kids more. Now before lunch they take them all on a long walk away from the orphanage. It is beautiful there around the orphanage, a good place with lots of fresh air and open grounds.
This little girl is 2 1/4, named Cikurru (her name means "oldest of twins", her twin died at the orphanage). She gave me this cute look whenever I looked at her, she loved being held and is buddies with some of the other little girls her age. The picture below is her hanging out with another little girl watching the big kids play with bubbles.
This little girl, Atosha, is 3 1/2, and is very sweet; she always has a gentle smile for me when I visit. She also has the cutest giggle and loves to play (especially hanging on to my hands and hanging from them).
Below are some of the other kids that I am feel blessed to hang out with on my visits!
I went up to the orphanage again yesterday with two good friends. I think I'll let the pictures and their stories tell you about my day. But first, I wanted to share a bit more about our training two weeks ago. In addition to talking a long time about mixing formula correctly and feeding the babies, I talked about touch. I talked about the power of loving touch, how we need it as desperately as we need food. Of course, there is more than just touch, there is the need to belong and to be known, but for so many of these kids, who won't be going home to families (and in the meantime for those who will be), they need to be touched and held and loved on. So, I told them about how I love their culture because of how the mamas love on their babies, how they are carried around on their backs all day. And I told them that they are the mamas of these kids now. I have gone up there enough times to know that the babies and toddlers spend too much time untouched, laying in cribs, or forgotten on floors. Part of the problem is that there weren't enough mamas and there was too much work to do. (Now there are 5 mamas for 32 kids instead of two!) And part of it is just the simple fact that they aren't their kids and it is a job. Thankfully, the mamas do love the kids, and do want to care for them well. It was clear in our training two weeks ago. I think they got the message that I was trying to teach, that I knew they already knew deep in their own hearts, and just needed reminding of: that if you aren't touched and shown love, you lose hope. And when you lose hope you die a little each day and hide your heart away deep inside where it is safe, where you can't be hurt. I have seen that in the eyes of the children there, and I knew that this message was perhaps even more important than the message of how to feed them correctly. Yesterday I asked the wonderful mamas, why is it important to touch the babies and the children, and they said that through touching them they know they are not alone, they are loved, they are not forgotten, and when we hold them against us they hear our heartbeats and they grow strong. It was a good day.
So, hear are some pictures.
This little girl, I've written about before. She probably has broken my heart the most, for the empty look I have seen in her eyes, as if she has just checked out because it is all too painful. I've really never seen her smile before and she is most often in her crib alone. Her twin brother died at the orphanage 6 months ago. She is about 16 months old. She doesn't sit or roll. She doesn't interact, and I've seen very few facial expressions. She holds her arms and hands close to her body all the time. Yesterday, my friend who came with us, held her for a lot of our visit. And we both were about in tears, not only was she smiling, but she laughed! Two big things have happened in her life in the last two weeks. She is fed formula, which she desperately needs, and fed it often, which means she is held a lot. And she is touched and loved. It seems like a little thing, to see a child smile, but it isn't, it is an amazing thing, it is a miracle, it is a blessing, it is life giving and affirming.
The above picture is from a 1 1/2 months ago.
I've written about this little guy too. He is the skinniest and sickliest baby there. He is about 10 months old, and every time I visit I am terrified because I half expect to hear that he has died. He probably weighed 5 lbs when I first met him. His name is Moise. One thing I have learned about this little boy is that he has an indomitable spirit! It is amazing to me that such a little body can house such a spirit. Whenever I see him he is reaching out, those little hands reaching out to whoever comes his way. Anyway, this is him yesterday. Look back at some of my older posts and you will see why even now as I write this I am crying. I hardly recognized him! He actually has cheeks!! He had been getting watered down powdered cow's milk with porridge three times a day up until two weeks ago! Here he is about to fall asleep. He sat in a mamas lap during the training and at one point all the mamas had to show me how good he looked (they were so proud) and he was smiling up a storm. If that isn't a good day, I don't know what is!!
Isla is waking from her nap. I will finish tonight, there is more!
As we get closer and closer to our judgement and the day we can bring the girls home, I find myself going through so many emotions. I've been trying to not put my hopes up too high, to guard my heart, until they are really ours, but that's been hard. Yet, I seem to have succeeded to some extent, because there are moments when I realize that they actually could come home in the next two weeks and I am filled with so much joy and anticipation and hope and love. I simply cannot wait to hold those two little girls and know they are finally ours! When I think about it and it really hits me that it could be happening, I can't breath for a second and I start to cry, that I will be a mom again, to these beautiful children. What a gift, what a precious gift. It is a feeling I recognize, it is the same one I feel when I look at Natalie and Isla everyday, such love and joy, that fills me full. And such humble gratitude that they God gave them to me, to us, that I get to be their mom.
Most of the time, I hold myself back, I try try try to make sure I know all the things that could go wrong (again). I can't hold back the love, I have found, but I can hold back the "reality" of them coming here and officially being our kids. And then today, it hits me again. Natalie asked, "mama, when are we going to have our babies, I really want our babies to come home." I couldn't help but cry, because I think I honestly can say, "soon, baby, soon".
And I'm bewildered all over again, by the overwhelming love of God for me, despite it all. His constant faithfulness and presence, in the good and bad, working things together.
I have two small pairs of robeez type shoes. I have put the other "baby" stuff away out of sight. But, these two little shoes I keep on my desk in my room. They are a small sign of the hope and anticipation that I am guarding well in my heart, that is yet blossoming into full faith and trust. You see, there is another small pair of shoes that were meant for a little boy that we almost called our own, that were put away the day our hearts broke when it was clear we couldn't adopt Moses. Recently, they were put into very good use by another little boy, who reminds me daily that God works things together for His good and His purpose. I may not understand it all, but I am grateful for these two pairs of new little shoes and the hope they symbolize for me today. Hope in a God that is real, and that never stops loving me, whatever the outcome. What a journey! Six months ago we were adopting a little boy, today we are adopting twin girls! It's amazing the spiritual knowing and confirmation we have felt about these little girls, it is absolutely clear to us that God has chosen them for us and us for them. It is so wonderful to feel completely at peace about this (and SO grateful that He directed us in such a clear way), we are so excited about our family of girls!
We are moving the girls back to the orphanage this week. It's a long story, that I won't go into here, but the short of it is that we moved them out because they didn't have enough women to care for all the kids. Now there are enough women, and we are confident they will take good care of the girls. We also know that they know how to feed them right now, so that is good. Otherwise, we continue to wait (and try to be patient).
For those who have known me a long time, you are probably well aware I am a bit of a chicken, and not very brave (AT ALL). I am one of those people who are "scared of their own shadow" and when I was a kid my younger brothers loved to terrorize me by jumping out from behind things. I can't watch any show that is tense at all. Heroes caused me to have nightmares for weeks! Even Alias was too intense. I can't watch any of the crime shows that are on TV. Yeah, I'm pitiful! (And I know this about myself, but did that stop me from watching Blood Diamond about a year ago, when Mike was out of town and I was alone in our huge house in Congo?? NO! Yeah, dumb move!). You are probably wondering what in the world I am doing in Congo, right!?
Anyway, all this to say I also hate sketchy driving situations. I imagine all the worst case scenarios and have to close my eyes a lot. So, driving to the orphanage is a bit of a challenge to me because of two sections on the road. One is where we have to drive through this extremely crowded section of the city and I am always imaging us running over someone or sliding into a house or a market. The second is about a 30 minute part of the drive along an escarpment...you know, one lane, blind curves, plunging mountainsides...yeah, you get the picture. So, I can handle it if I have certain things in order...two big things for me are a mature driver and someone who is used to the drive and can, well, talk me down :). Also, keep in mind, no one else has these issues, this is all scaredy cat me!
So the night before we go up there I'm told we need to make one quick detour (involving very muddy road). Okay, I can handle that, we have a good driver. The next morning, I find out one of my friends (the talk me down friend) can't go because she is sick. All of a sudden, I am the wise, sage, experienced passenger. Great. Then the driver comes. I go to the door to say hi. I see a 15 year old. Really! I start freaking out (inside, I am yelling, "there is NO way I am letting a teenager drive us up there, I am NOT going, no WAY, this is TOO much to ask of me, God, I do not have that much faith, I am NOT going!). Of course, what I do is grab my husband, and say, "how old is that kid???? and you really think I should go with him". I hear, yes holly, it will be fine, he is a good driver, he is not a teenager.
The thing is, I really felt like I should go. I knew it was important to do the training with the mamas. I could NOT chicken out. I tried to remember what I learned in the good old back packing days in college when I did a lot of things outside of my comfort zone....courage is not the absence of fear, but action in spite of it. Or something like that. There have been plenty of times in my life when I've been freaked out, or too discouraged to go on, but God gives me strength, faith and courage. So, I decided to go, that my faith needed to be built up.
Okay, I'm fine, it was all fine, the kid was a great driver, and I'm SO glad I went. The training went really really well. The mamas were so eager and happy to learn! Again, I was SO glad I went. I found out that they didn't know how to mix the formula this whole time! I also found out that because they have had so little formula, once the kids hit 6 months old they get powdered cows milk with porridge three times a day. Actually what it is, is porridge with powdered milk thrown in fed through a bottle three times a day. No wonder some of them look as malnourished as they do!! It's amazing that so many look so good! And, honestly, I feel sort of mad at myself. Here I've been bringing up all the formula and just assumed they knew how to mix it. I had been wondering why they still had so much every time I went. I made the wrong assumption that someone else was bringing some. I had no idea that for the last 2 months that I have been coming, they haven't been mixing it right and the older ones haven't been getting it! But, I have to remind myself that I can't do anything about the past, but that I did go up, I did do the training, and the mamas really got it! So, that means TODAY those babies are getting formula fed to them the right way. And that means TODAY, the older babies and toddlers who desperately need the extra calories and nutrients are also getting fed formula.
Thank God, I didn't chicken out. My faith was built.
I'll post a picture when I can, I didn't really take any. It was quite muddy so we got there late.
I promise a better post about my trip today, but first I just want to ask of everyone reading this blog that they be careful about posting information about the orphanage as it relates to our adoption, in a public forum (i.e. anything that can be accessed by anyone unknown to them, even facebook). I really appreciate. Being on the ground here I have to be careful!
Okay, weird side note, our house is full of some kind of huge flying insect!!! EWWWW!!! And there are 1000s outside our house. Gross! I think I need to hide somewhere!