highs and lows

It's been almost a month since Kembe came home. It's hard to believe . . . it feels like he has been here forever, and yet we still feel like we are in transition mode as a family. I definitely haven't found our "new normal" yet - so far life feels more like a triage situation, where we are just reacting to chaos and crisis as it comes. And it does seem to keep coming. I'm hoping things settle down soon.

Our house is finally feeling well. Mostly well, that is. All of us fell sick over the past month, many of us more than once. I'm happy to report that we've gone a week without anyone puking on their bed.

Kembe is adjusting to the family remarkably well. He is a very loving and affectionate kid, and seems to be bonded to us already. He hugs us (especially the baby) and tells us he loves us often. He has been grieving, to be sure. I know he misses his nannies and his friends, and this sadness is very present when he is tired or upset. Over the first few weeks he had crying spells each day - those have decreased to a few times a week. He seems happy and excited most of the day, and is such a great fit for our family dynamics. He is even begging to go to preschool with his siblings. He is picking up English very quickly, and my other two are picking up Kreyole. Bedtime is now called "domi time", and all three say "mwen vle dlo" when thirsty.

The other three kids have transitioned very well, too. I think there was some initial disappointment on Jafta's part that Kembe didn't walk in and immediately take to playing Transformers and dressing up in Spiderman costume, and all the other things he loves to do most and pictured himself doing with a new brother. I had to do a lot of explaining about a)the age difference, and b)Kembe's lack of exposure to American character branding. They are figuring out how to play together in ways that are mutually enjoyable - it usually involves wrestling or pretending to be lions. India and Karis think that Kembe is the funniest kid on the planet (and really, he is). They just giggle and laugh at him all day.

If I am gonna be totally honest, I think the transition has been most difficult for me. Most of this is due to a convergence of ridiculously ill-timed issues that should only be mildly stressful, but that seem overwhelming when combined with a lack of sleep, a complete void of free time, a perpetually messy house, and some serious PTSD that I've been too busy to deal with. Every day there seems to be a long list of phone calls and paperwork, whether it be calling USCIS looking for lost papers, or calling Refugee Resettlement to get a medical referral, or filling out insurance forms, or scooping poop into a test vial, or filling out tax forms, or making fingerprint renewal appointments, or filling out kindergarten applications . . .etc etc etc. I simply cannot express the amount of phone calls I have made trying to figure out Kembe's refugee status and how to proceed with adoption (or even show that we are somehow his legal guardians until that time). Then there is the minor issue of trying to buy a new car - which I got such good feedback about, thankyouverymuch. But even armed with some realistic parameters of what I want, I am at a loss at how to actually go look at these cars with four kids in tow. We are planning on going to look at a few tomorrow while Mark is home, which is probably not the best use of my small window of sane time with another parent around, but it is what it is. I am really, really hoping we find something. As a friend helped me articulate today, I just need to nest in a car. I have been very fortunate to have people generously loan me cars to drive - but I need to settle in and get used to a car that is mine. Probably one of the reasons I've been feeling so crazy in the last few weeks is that I've felt very paralyzed to leave the house - partly out of fear of loading all these kids in and out of the car, and partly because the "adoption experts" say that we should be staying home. I think we've done a good job of that, and I think, for everyone's sake, it's probably time to start venturing out of this 1400 square foot box of crazy.

I believe my 20-year-old self might have considered hurling herself out of a window at reading the paragraph above. But yes, I just implied that my quality of life will change with a car that allows better loading and unloading of children. And yes, that car probably means a minivan at this stage. My rage against the minivan is turning into a quiet, bitter acceptance.

I'm hoping in the following month I can gain some confidence in venturing outside the home, and that a lot of this administrative stuff will be over, because it is a whole new level of mommy guilt as I sit on the phone for hours only to be told to call the next office, or to be met with an automated message in Vietnamese after pressing one for English, all while my bored son watches his new mommy scream "agent! agent!" into the phone in some futile attempt to get USCIS/ORRS/DHS/DHHS/DOJ/DMV/DCFS to allow me to talk to an actual person to get an actual answer.

I think my rage against the minivan has turned into rage against the government office phone loop system.

Nevertheless, I envisioned my son's homecoming involving much more cuddling and playing, and much less of me frantically making copies and filling out forms, and that reality is making me uneasy. I am so thrilled he is home and I am looking forward to getting a lot of this business behind us so we can relax and get into our groove as a family.


  1. Highly recommend looking online for your vehicle before you traipse to the lots. Most dealers have their used vehicles online. We went to get our minivan when my 3rd was 2 weeks old...thankfully although it took a long time, hubby already knew what they had because of looking online and it made the process easier. It was a hard sell for me too...and we just have three...but glad we did it.

  2. Anonymous12:32 AM

    Fellow head shrinker here :) I think you hit something very important on the head in your post - it doesn't seem like you have had much time to a)work through your very traumatic earthquake experience b)grieve the loss of your old "normal" and c)prioritize so that those little life things dont feel as amplified. On the other hand - good for your for continuing to blog! Don't forget to take care of yourself and "rest" in Jesus even if it's just a few solitary minutes locked in the bathroom. *Snickers* I think you're doing great!

  3. Hey! I'm here from Kelly's blog. I've loved reading your story. I'm a foster mom - my husband and I are always open to adoption, it just hasn't presented itself yet. I love reading the stories of other people who have the same passion and love for children. We blog about our fostering experiences at

  4. Much of your post resonates lots with me ('cept the car part- we already had a Suburban before our last adoption completed). We fought with USCIS for months with a good immigration attorney to get our dd out of Guatemala after more than 3.5 years. There is a wonderful contact at the head of Internal Affairs at USCIS if you need him (email me if you need: lsbkern@hotmail.com). Our dd has been home five months now and the transition seemed super smooth for her but the opposite for me. I'm still struggling. Hang in there!

  5. Praying for you friend!

  6. Taking the kids with you vehicle shopping is NOT fun, I did it recently and I would not do it again. However I am more then willing to come over and watch your kids this weekend at some point so you and Mark (and maybe bring Kembe for special time?) can go look at cars. If you need some time just let me know.

  7. I've been following you for about a month and I think you're amazing. Through all the stress and frustration, I'm amazed at your resilience! I wish you lots of luck through all of it--I'll say a prayer for simplicity to show up soon!

  8. Hugs, Kristen. There's a lot of "this is not how I thought things would be" going around these days! It sounds to me as though you are dealing fantastically with what life has given you.

  9. Holy crap--I don't know how you are not having mini nervous breakdowns on a daily basis. Our prayers for you and your family.
    I vote for getting a minivan only because it would be so darn funny to have a blog entitled, "Rage Against The Minivan", and actually owning one. Forget the convenience factor, I say the primary reason to get one is for the funny factor. Keep your well-developed sense of humor, Kristin. Y'know what they say, "If you're not laughing, you're crying".

  10. Can you believe it's ONLY February?? What a year so far for you! Wow. By no means is my 'to-do' list as long or as important as yours is and I know how overwhelmed I feel. I know these days seem like 50hrs long but I'll pray for you and your family to find a 'new normal' soon.

  11. I have just recently found your blog and I LOVE it!
    I love your honesty and you are hilarious. I was laughing so hard at your post about the dog poop on the bike tire. I have so been there, done that.
    I was crying at your recent blog because it brought back memories of bringing home my 3rd child, born by my 1st Cesarean, and my other two children were 2 & 4. I was a little loco for awhile. Adding some PTSD, government phone loops and a fourth child to the mix. . . . . . . .
    I wish I could offer more than the prayers I am sending up for you right now.
    Hang in there.
    We are all here praying and rooting for you!

  12. Hang in there! It will all be worth it in the end. The calm will come in God's time. Keep relying on him!

  13. i think you are doing fantastically well considering all that you are going through! thank you for being REAL. i follow a few blogs here and there and sometimes i read them and think that i'm sort of failing in life...with all of the gorgeous photos of kids, witty stories about marriage, etc, it's easy to get sucked into thinking that life should always be so peachy. well, it's NOT and i love that you tell it like it is and you make me laugh along the way.
    and good luck with the car...i've been driving a mini van for about 6 months (i said i would NEVER) and while i still see it in the parking lot at the grocery store and i wonder, "um, is that really my car?" - i must admit it is quite functional. it's like a nice sturdy bra...i don't feel very sexy in it, but it sure does it's job well. ha!
    hang in there!!!

  14. Oh gosh...you just summed up my life and I only have two kids (albeit one is special needs). The 1400 square foot house is just not fun, is it? We went house shopping today and realized we just can't afford it. Really wish we could though because I'm about to pull my hair out from all the screaming.

    And those poop vials? Thank God that is over.

  15. I've just found you via momtog but after a look around, I know I'll be back on my own! If only to assure you that there is hope for a mini-van after-life. After driving one for almost 8 years before I was even 30 (gasp!), I got one of those fancy shmancy crossover vehicles that can actually fit all my kids and still keep me looking good! ;)

  16. Anonymous2:05 PM

    WOW! I've been following you since I saw Mark's pic on the front page of the Register! How come we never hear how Mark is handling all of this "stuff"? ALL your babies are beautiful!!!


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