May 29, 2011

My mother's side of the family is consistent, normal; nurses, farmers, firemen, and land owners. Beautiful really, but the people with the craziness and the ridiculous stories is my father's family. Gamblers, hell-raisers and overall lovers of life, stories about them always left me slack-jawed and wide-eyed when I was a kid. With it being Memorial Day, I thought about one of my favorite Willis family legends.

My great-grandfather, Harry fell over drunk in a rose bush in the front yard of a woman who only discovered him because he wouldn't stop singing. She later married him and bore him three sons, one of whom was my grandfather. Harry's drinking was legendary, so was my great-grandmother's church attendance at the local Baptist church. Harry would be coming in from a night or a weekend of bar-hopping while Mattie had spent the same amount of time or more at church, on her knees that Harry would come to his senses. She was consistently pleading that God would provide a way for Harry to sober up.

She thought the oldest of her boys being drafted into the United States Army not long after Pearl Harbor would be enough. She was wrong. When their middle son was drafted not six months later, Harry's time inside a bottle only increased, as did Mattie's time in church. But when my grandfather, the baby, was drafted only a few months after both the older boys, Harry met Mattie on the porch of their house as she arrived home from church. For the first time in a long time, he was sober.

He only had one question: "Mattie. Is your God big enough to bring all three of my sons home from war alive?"

She only gave one answer "Of course He is Harry. Of course He is."

Now I've heard that you're not supposed to make deals with God, but apparently, my great-grandfather was clueless. He told Mattie to go back to church and tell her God that if He would bring all three boys home safely, he would never drink another drop.

Four years later, one after another, each of the boys came home. Safely.
And Harry kept his promise. He never drank again.
At he and Mattie's 50th wedding anniversary, someone offered him a margarita. He laughed and refused. All he said was "He kept His end of the bargain...I'm not going against mine."

I only remember meeting Harry a few times. He died when I was just a child. As we celebrate those who've gone before us this weekend, I am reminded that I have an ever-growing list of who I can't wait to talk to in Heaven. Harry is definitely at the top of the list.

May 26, 2011

Bacon Make You Feel Better?

Today was hard.

You know the type.

Words are snippy.

Attitudes are haughty.

Open disobedience abounds.

And that was just Mommy's day at the office.

The Angel has had a spell of lying lately.

It's completely out of character.

As I tucked she and The Dinosaur into bed tonight,

We talked about lying.

Why it's not good.

Why it makes it hard for Mommy to trust her.

Why it makes it hard on everyone when she lies.

She cried.

I cried.

We prayed.

She prayed to recognize the truth and own it.

I prayed to provide grace.

Even when she fails.

Just like my Father does for me.

The Dinosaur watched in amazement from his bed.


Through the talking.

Not a word.

Through the praying.

Just stares.

Until The Angel started crying again.

"Hey {Angel} bacon make you feel better?"

I thought he mispronounced a word.

I asked him to repeat.

"I ask {Angel} if bacon make her feel better?"

I almost fell off the bed laughing.

So did the Angel.

I asked the Dinosaur if bacon made him feel better.

"No. Why?"

May 25, 2011

Mommy, Was That God?

Weather in the MidWest has been tumultuous this week.

Last night it was here.

RIGHT above our house.

In 14 months together, we've never had to open the storm shelter.

Until last night.

The Hero toured the kids through it first.

I made emergency kits.

We prayed.

We asked God to send his angels.

We fed the kids dinner and

as The Dinosaur chomped his pizza,

the sky above our house rocked the loudest clasp of thunder I'd ever heard.

I've been in Oklahoma for 31 years.

The Dino stopped in mid-chew, solemn faced and said

"Mommy, is that God?"

"Yes son, that's God."

"Ok. Cool."

Resume eating.

The Hero and I stood outside for awhile, watching the hail pound our house.

Golf balls of ice pelting the ground.

And the kids were thrilled.

Ice cubes in the middle of the yard.

But when the rain and the hail stopped

and the sky opened up

the air stood still

and everything was really quiet.

Mommy looked up and knew that it was God.

And while so much destruction is not pretty,

watching a cloud collect over our house was alarmingly beautiful.

And before Mommy headed into the shelter, I stood on the lawn and gave thanks

that He is who He is

and He always will be.

Even when the clouds surround our house.

As we headed into the shelter with neighbors and friends

and two dogs,

The Dinosaur and the Princess were true to form.

Even in the midst of pressure,

he was cracking jokes,

she was calm and helpful

and The Hero watched the weather

until it was all safe for us to come out.

And as we emerged from the shelter,

we were safe,

warm and dry

and together.

Today we are praying for those who are not.

May 18, 2011

Older Child Adoption: Views on Medicine

A lot of people email me wanting to know about older child and/or sibling adoption. I anticipated that like every other kid I have ever been around, The Angel and The Dinosaur would despise taking medication. I was dead wrong.

I cannot give the Dinosaur cough syrup without the Angel insisting that she get some too and then they both ask for more. They remind me in the mornings to give them their vitamins. Our first weekend home, we made an emergency trip to the dentist (thank goodness he was on call) because The Angel had an abscessed tooth. He prescribed a HUGE bottle of antibiotics before the tooth could come out. I knew it must have tasted awful because it smelled horrific. But she took it all...three times a day and while she didn't love it, she never complained. Not once.

Shots truly scare them both. The Angel cries just thinking about having to get one. The scars on their arms prove that while they were given in Africa, they left their mark. Our first trip to the pediatrician was so traumatic that the Hero is mandated to take them to every other appointment. It was that bad. For them and for Mommy.

Band-Aids are the only medical issue they joke about; they think they need one for every scrape or even invent reasons to get one.

While I don't know about other parents' experiences with medicine and older child adoption, my two seem to know that medicine was a rarity and to be respected and taken when asked. I think it is one of the reasons I advocate so hard for older kids to be adopted. I see what two toddlers have done to change our lives and I think everyone should be able to enjoy that kind of love.

May 16, 2011

Nothing Is Sacred

My transition to motherhood has not always been smooth.

Two toddlers as our first attempt at parenting is still laughable.

While doubling the laundry,

the noise,

the messes,

the food consumption

has all taken some adjustment for the Hero and I,

one thing has really been hard for me to grip:

My lack of privacy.

It's their complete disregard for boundaries.

If they are up, they expect The Hero & I to bounce right out of bed.

Even if it's Saturday.

Whether it's poking our sleeping bodies,

yelling from their beds,

or standing at the closed door to our room POUNDING!

Cooking dinner

better not include a quick taste test.

Without douling out tastes for everyone.

Even an innocent grape popped into my mouth

as we head out the door.

"Mommy, what you eating?"
"Mommy, I want one of those."

"Hey Mommy, you give [The Angel] dat?"

They don't care it's the only breakfast I've consumed.

If they are peacefully coloring,

molding play dough,

playing cars,

I may perform any mundane task.

But the moment I seize the moment

to read,


exhale on the couch,

or paint my toes,

all hell breaks loose.

Biblical proportions.

"Hey Mommy, what you doing?"

"Mommy, why you do dat?"

"Mommy, what's dat?"

"Dinosaur, stop talking, I'm talking to Mommy"


"Can you read this Mommy?"

"HEY Mommy..."

"Hey Mommy..."


Even the most private moments of my day are subject to interruption.

A trip to the restroom or shower must be


always behind a locked door.

They are always having an even bigger emergency.

And nothing is sacred to them.

Not even the bathroom.

While I wouldn't take anything for them,

I'm considering a pair of ear plugs.

And a bigger lock on the bathroom door.

May 14, 2011


The Angel had her first friend (who isn't related to us) sleepover last night.

Listening to kids explain their lives to one another cracks me up.

The Angel and the friend were in the back of the car.

Lexi asks The Angel why she has two silver teeth.

"Because my teeth were not good in Africa."

Lexi: "Whoa! You're from Africa?!"

The Angel: "Duh. That's why I'm brown."

Haha! She's a crack up.

May 11, 2011

Why Last Wednesday Was Wordless

Last Wednesday, I opened up my email in between two meetings. I almost didn't make it to the second one. I couldn't stop crying. This picture greeted me in my inbox:

If you haven't been reading here for long, you probably need to go back and read here, here, here , here, here, here and definitely here to learn why this face, beaming in his University of Oklahoma sweater sent me reeling. I went back and read these post myself tonight and cried and cried.

He has changed such a part of me. This almost twelve year old boy who lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I'm never going to be the same. I haven't had a new picture of him in over a year. That's how long it's been since I've seen him.

I sent his OU sweater with a lady who was traveling several months ago. I almost forgot about it. Until a rock star friend took him a backpack full of stuff a few months ago. She didn't have time to travel to his care point and see him. She sent the backpack with a friend. Since Africa time doesn't tick the same as here, I didn't expect he would have it so soon and I sure never expected a picture of him receiving it.

You now understand my elation.

So until I can take another one of these:

May 8, 2011

Over Infertility?

I told The Hero I didn't want kids.

On our first date.

He laughed and said I would change my mind.

I scoffed.

I had never wanted kids.

Babies didn't make me oogle (still don't).

I had big plans for us.



Complete days of total irresponsibility.

And absolute no sign of crayons,


or crying.

It took three years.

For The Hero to be right.

Work wasn't as rewarding as the brochures made it look.

Money spends twice as fast when you have a little.

The Hero and I were happy and did enjoy days of total irresponsibility.

But something was missing.

He could sense I wasn't satisfied.

But when I told him I wanted kids,

he laughed.

He said it was the cute Asian toddler beside us on the airplane.

He said I'd change my mind when we landed in Mexico.

He brushed it off when I read "What to Expect When You're Expecting"

on the beach,

drinking a margarita.

But he almost fell off the bench when I told him

I felt like we were missing out on a different kind of happiness.

And that I hated the person I was becoming.

And I seriously wanted to talk about a baby.

He cried.

The Hero had been waiting his whole life to be a father.

He's that damn good at it.

I took it extremely personal when we didn't get pregnant.

I felt that my hard heart for so many years led to our infertility.

I felt I had failed my husband,

my family,

and my own gender.

I was unable to perform a task that millions of women accomplish.

Every day.

I got bitter.

I bit back tears at the arrival of birth announcements.

I went to work instead of baby showers.

I let the Devil convince me that I couldn't get pregnant

and that made me less of a woman.

Our adoption changed everything.

My kids are just that: my kids.

But every once in awhile that old bedfellow creeps back.

He starts to lie again.

I'm not good enough.

Our love is different.

They aren't my kids.




Those fears are perhaps felt more often as we head toward adoption again.

An information packet came yesterday.

Asking us same questions as two years ago.

Had we worked past our infertility issues?

I stared at the question.

I asked The Hero.

He laughed.


He offered up.

I stared back.

We haven't?

He smiled.

Infertility is a lie. We had a family without the biology.

God did that.

Infertility is just a liar.

And that's a big enough history to never get over.

Over infertility?


I'm just mad we spent so much time being sidetracked by him.

I laughed.

He's right.

He usually always is.

We'd always have issues with infertility.

It told us we'd never have a family.

It was wrong.

And I'm sure we would have discussed it more.

But there were two voices already screaming



May 5, 2011

Going All In

My last post detailed a hard weekend of parenting.

It wasn't easy to write.

I don't like admitting my faults.

I'm not sure that anyone does.

It's completely against human nature

and especially against American thought to say

"Hey, let me tell you all about the ways that I screw up on a daily basis."

But the more I reflected on all my parenting fails last weekend,

I realized that almost every aspect of parenting is hard.

It's supposed to be.

A continuous dance of move and sway

and locking eyes with your dance partner.

And learning how they respond to the music.

With you.

Doubling our family count with two toddlers was no cake walk.

And learning to parent in your thirties for the first time was like treating a red hot sun burn after a day at the beach;

it needed a lot of TLC.

But while I cannot say I desire the hard days;

I'm learning to take them at face value;

a moment to embrace a chance to learn,

do better

and stop looking for something easy.

If it were easy, I wouldn't care what kind of personalities my kids developed,

would let them juggle knives while standing on our kitchen table

and would disregard all sanitation rules

(ok, maybe not all).

I believe that the biggest challenge to being a parent is

choosing to parent

and choosing it for a lifetime,

especially when it's hard.

So Dinosaur and Princess,

be warned.

You have no passive mama.

She's a warrior.

And she's learning.

Just like you.

She will not give up on you.

She refuses to stop learning from you,

teaching you,

dancing with you,

and guiding your steps as much as she can.

She's in it for the hard days;

the crazy days,

the laughs,

the tears,

the breezy,

the hard.

It will not always be easy,

in fact, she'll bet on it.

but she's crazy about you.

And she's all in.


May 2, 2011


This weekend was hard.

All of it.

Every breath was ragged.

The rain only amplified our frustrations with ourselves and one another.

Every action I took was a Mommy Fail.

I began the weekend in tears and cried until I laughed.

Most of the time, all you see and hear about is their smiling faces.

You're not silly enough to believe that's all there is to them,

to us,

to me.

This weekend was a reminder of how human I am and how very much I have to go.

To be in control means to understand the outcome;

and friends, I am NOT in control of anything.

As I battled The Dinosaur's temper

and my own insecurities.

The sharp sword of my tongue guarded my heart.

After round after round of being on my toes,

deflecting the stinging wounds of his words,

and fighting back the tears.

I wanted to give in.

Throw in my sword and run away from home.

And in the way only He can, His spirit whispered

"because they fight you like you fight against me.

Stop battling.


I love you.

I care what happens to you

and what kind of person you become."

The realization cut me close to the heart.

I'm not done growing.

I may never be.

Stop battling.


Wow! That's good stuff.

Why didn't He whisper that on Saturday morning, instead of Sunday night?

Maybe He did.

I was too busy battling.

As we finished up our nightly routine,

The Dinosaur finished his bath

and The Hero brought him to get clothes.

He snuggled in his towel and whispered

"Mommy, I'm cold."

I wrapped him in a blanket and asked if he was ready for jammies.

"No Mommy. Rock me."

I choked.

In 13 months, he's never asked.

I rocked.

Our love depended on it.

Fifteen minutes and he was asleep.

Peacefully snoring on my chest.

Our arms were both too full of love.

We couldn't even have held a sword.

Our hands were too busy holding all the love.