Archive for January 2014 | Monthly archive page

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So dinner time in the Hughes house usually goes one of two ways.

1) We all sit down together at “the big table” (ie the dining room table) and eat together and we all share our “bests” of the day (“played with friends” “had fun with mommy”…or if you’re Charlie, a completely made up story about something that didn’t actually happen). Then Josh reads a chapter out of the Jesus Storybook Bible (this is starting to get fun now that the kids pay attention and ask questions). Then we pray and sing a few songs. Aw, so picturesque right?

(I was recently talking to a friend at church about how I haven’t been going over Bible verses with my kids. At all. And she thanked me for telling her that because she pictures us all sitting around singing hymns while Josh plays the guitar every night. April, this second way that dinner time goes is for you, to dispel that image.)

2) Josh and I are like, no, we cannot sit at a table with these children. They are nuts. And we make them sit at the kitchen table and we sit in the dining room by ourselves. They’re only about 5 feet away but somehow it helps.

Tonight was just such a night, and we had about 10 minutes to talk before the kids were like, hey, you can’t banish us, and they were climbing all over us. Josh was sitting with his feet propped up on the table and Reagan climbed into his lap. And I looked at her, spanning from his chest to his ankles, and immediately thought of a picture of him holding her when she was about 2 months old and did that thing parents do where I COULD NOT BELIEVE HOW HUGE SHE IS. So I ran upstairs and found the picture and brought it down and we were all oohing and aahing over how cute Reagan was as a baby.

And Eva walked up and looked at the picture and smiled. “Awwww,” she said. Which always makes me laugh because “awwww” is a learned expression for her. She sees all of us doing it and mimics it, so it feels a little off coming from her. Like she’s not sure why she’s saying it but knows it’s the right thing to say.

But then her next words, oh how they cut straight to my heart. “Where is one of me, mommy?”

And just like that my laughter and smiling turns to tears welling up in my eyes. Her daddy pulls her in tight and says, “We don’t have any of you as a baby, sweetie, but we have a lot of pictures from when mommy and daddy came to get you in Uganda. Would you like to see those?” She insists that she wants to see one of her as a baby, but as he flips through all the pictures on his phone she is distracted and begins to delight in seeing herself caught on camera.

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I am not an overly sentimental mom, but oh how this breaks my heart. It brings to mind so many things, those things I often just choose not to think on. Because as I think of them as babies, I cannot help but think of their other mother. My children will always have two mothers. Titus will not, in all likelihood, remember. But Eva, dear Eva, I think there are some memories there. There have been hints of it. There is some confusion, there, about mothers. Abandoned by hers so early, acting as one herself to her younger brother. It has been, and continues to be, a slow process, her allowing me to be the mother.

There is so much I don’t know. I think of my memories of Reagan and Charlie, all of those detailed memories that began the days they were born. I have none of those for Eva and Titus. Someone else does.

On the day of our court hearing in Uganda, I sat in the car with the children’s mother for about 30 minutes while we were waiting (there was a lot of waiting in cars). It was just her, the kids, and me. We sat in uncomfortable silence for a while but eventually we began to attempt conversation. She knew very little English and I know like 4 Lugandan words, so this was difficult, but I managed to ask her, mostly through use of my hands, how Titus got a scar on his nose. She conveyed, through broken English and hand motions, that he had fallen and hit his nose on a rock when he was a little younger. That moment was the moment for me. This woman, no matter what she’s done or where she is now, she is their mother. All of those baby memories I have of my Reagan and Charlie, she has for Eva and Titus.

But herein lies the beauty of adoption. Because it doesn’t matter. Oh, of course those memories matter. They matter deeply to me, deeply to this woman who bore them. But it doesn’t matter that I don’t have those memories. I am still a mother to them. They have a new identity and it is a beautiful identity. An identity that has given them mother and father and sisters and grandparents and aunts and uncles. It is theirs fully.

So we make new memories, and take lots of pictures, but we don’t shy away from the heartbreak because it is part of their story. Tonight I am so grateful that even though I’ll never know what those early years were like for my children, God does know. Oh, He knows so well. And He already knew that I would be their mother, long before I did. And in that I take comfort and find peace.

Remembering

Jan
2014
13

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Most days I don’t tend to dwell too much on my children’s past as orphans. I don’t know if this is good or bad or normal. I don’t know that there really is a “normal” when it comes to adoption. But the fact is that our daily life is just fairly ordinary, the kids we’ve adopted are remarkably well adapted, and I just don’t spend a ton of time thinking about their past. They are our children. They feel like our children. They respond to us as our own children.

But there are days, like today, when it’s a constant drumming thought in my mind. Days when we sing in church, “In the night when all our hope is lost/You are the One who won’t give up on us/You hold the orphan in your loving arms” and my eyes fill with tears and I remember – so vividly I remember – holding those children in my arms that night in the car in the parking lot of the airport in Entebbe. So willingly they came into our arms, so deep was their need for a mother and a father.

On days like today, everywhere I look I think of Uganda, of Kampala, of the orphanage. I think of the unclean water and the distended bellies and the relentless snotty noses. I think of the house-mothers who work tirelessly to cook, bathe, dress, teach all these orphans. I think of those children by name. I think of them all curling up for a nap in the middle of the day on that big blue tarp laid out over the concrete floor. I think of the one who sat in the corner and wept silent tears because there weren’t enough balls to go around but he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. I think of how afraid Eva and Titus were when we would go into that orphanage. Afraid that we were going to leave them after all.

I think of the family who we stayed with, working themselves to death to save child after child. I think of all the hard work that goes into every day life there. Of how ill-suited I was for life there, with my weak arms, unable to do laundry by hand, my mediocre cooking skills, not able to make anything without a recipe.

I think of the mother of my children. What a strange sentence. And an even stranger feeling. I wonder where she is. I wonder if she thinks of them often. When we were in that courtroom together, could she see that Josh and I are kind, that we love her children? Or does she live every day in fear of what’s happened to them because she believes the horror stories that she hears of adoptions gone wrong? Does she regret her decision to give up her rights? Or is she happy knowing that they have a chance now? These are questions that will plague me for the rest of my life, I’m sure. Questions without answers.

I could go on and on. I think of how thrilled Eva and Titus were about the most basic modern conveniences. Of how they clapped – CLAPPED – every time we turned on a light for like the first month. So grateful for electricity that is readily available. I think of how they danced in the shower the first time we bathed them in Uganda, so excited for a bath (Titus just came down in his footy pajamas and thanked me for getting him a new loofa. What can I say? They boy loves his loofa.) I think of the way Eva would bring her arms up over her head to hide when she cried in those first months. (Was she afraid? Did she just not want to be seen? I don’t even know if I want to know why she did this). What a relief when she could finally cry freely in front of us. Now she cries loudly and openly when she’s upset, because she’s learned it’s okay to do so.

When Josh got home from his trip today, Eva ran and jumped into his arms shouting, “Daddy!” She loves having a father. She took to him immediately, faster than she did with me. Tonight when he put her in bed, Josh looked at her and said, “Hey Eva, can I tell you a secret? I love being your daddy.” And she replied, “Forever.” Oh how little girls need their daddies.

I think of the poverty. The poverty that you cannot imagine until you’ve seen it with your own eyes. And I wonder what would have become of Eva and Titus had they remained. They had nothing. Their mother had nothing. Statistically there is a very high chance that they would have contracted HIV or simply died young of malnutrition and no health care. These are the hardest thoughts. When I look at my own children, and remember how little chance they had, and remember how I selfishly thought of how hard it would be to adopt them. Even now I hesitantly ask God, Will you ask us to do it again? And that nasty old selfishness rears it’s ugly head in spite of all I’ve seen and all I know.

Today marks 6 months since our children first set foot on American soil. Can it only be 6 months? Oh how afraid I was coming home with those children. Would it be hard for them to learn the language? Would I begin to feel a connection with them? Or would the bonding always be such hard work? Would these 4 siblings, these strangers, become real siblings? Would Eva and Titus begin to really trust us? Would they be able to handle school? Would the culture shock just completely freak them out? Would things ever be normal?

I know I’m rambling. Do you see why I’ve said so little about these things before? There are so many thoughts and feelings and I don’t even know where to begin with them. Adoption is a terrifying, life-changing, miraculous thing. It has changed me at my very core. I know that sounds dramatic. It is dramatic.  Life goes on as it always has, with all of the same demands and tasks and responsibilities that were there before these little ones came. And yet there is a thread of adoption woven through every one of those mundane daily moments. Life. These children have life. Life that I have so taken for granted, now seen through their eyes as a precious gift. Given freely and yet at great cost. A cost I’d gladly pay again.

And I have begun to comprehend, to see, what it is that God loves us as a Father. Life. I have life. Life that I so often take for granted when it is actually the most precious, impossible gift. Given freely to me, and yet at such immeasurable cost. Oh, that I would really see what it means to be adopted by this heavenly father. Who was willing to pay the highest price to take me in His loving arms and bring me home. No more fear. No more anxiety. No more poverty. No more death.

Life.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

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Our family is kind of into Disney. And by “kind of”, I mean big time. And by “our family”, I mostly mean Josh and I. As in, we can go anywhere for our 10th anniversary in a year and half and we are already planning a week at Disney…by ourselves.

But our kids are pretty into it to (which makes it not weird, right??). We had passes last year and took Reagan and Charlie all the time and now they think that’s just a thing people do and are confused when we’re like, “Hey guys, there are 6 people in our family now and it’s a ton of money.” Oh, don’t worry. It’ll happen. But I suppose it’s good for our kids to learn that Disney ain’t free in the meantime. We’ve already got our first trip with Eva and Titus planned for the fall, but while we wait we’ve been busy indoctrinating them with plenty of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Pixar and Princesses. That’s right. Our girls love princesses. And you can’t make me feel badly about it.

So, obviously when Frozen came out we were willing to fork over the cost of an entire week’s worth of groceries to see it (Um, when did going to the movies get so expensive? And how long has it been since we went that it shocked us so much?)

We L-O-V-Ed it. Not only was the film fantastic (if you’ve spent any time with us in the last 2 weeks you’re tired of hearing us talk about it), but it was Eva and Titus’ first time going to the movies. This made it extra special. Titus seriously sat down in his booster, clasped his little fingers together and stared at the screen. And didn’t move for an hour and a half. Then when the movie was over he nonchalantly got out of his chair and left. I love him. Eva is basically like the Energizer bunny and doesn’t stop moving from 7am to 7pm, so she mostly just asked if it was over every time there was a pause in dialogue or darkening of the screen because she wanted to get up and run around in circles.

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Reagan and Charlie are accustomed to watching princess movies so they were all in before it began. Charlie totally enters into a movie. At a dramatic point in the film, when the entire land is covered in snow and the music stops and there’s total silence, Charlie stared wide-eyed at the screen and loudly whispered, “EVERYTHING ITH FROTHEN.” Reagan is 100% girly girl and so all she cared about was the pretty dresses and the castle. So if you ask her about the movie she will tell you about the part where Elsa’s dress changes and she makes an ice castle. Then she will proceed to sing “Let it Go” for you (with perfect pitch, because she is her father’s daughter).

Yesterday morning Reagan informed me that her main goal in life is to be Elsa at Disney World. I mean, can you blame her? I think it might secretly be my dream job, too. Actually, let’s be honest, I think I’d happily sweep the streets at Disney World. Anyway, as we’re talking about this, she informs me that she also wants to be a mom. “But mom,” she asks, “If I’m Elsa at Disney World, what will my kids do during the day while I’m at Disney World being Elsa?”

Oi. 5 year olds ask big questions. Now maybe that’s not a big question for you but it is for me. I have made a very conscious choice to stay home with my children and not pursue any career outside the home. This does NOT mean that I think it’s wrong to pursue a career. I know many women who do so, and I think this choice is a matter of personal conviction that each family has to work out in their own conscience and context. So it’s a tricky question to answer. On the one hand, our decision for me to stay home is one that reflects our beliefs about the home. And I want to teach those beliefs to my children. On the other hand, I don’t want to be weirdo conservative stay-at-home mom who’s daughter goes to school saying that her mom stays home because she loves her children and why doesn’t your mommy stay home? That’s totally unhelpful and uncool.

Either way, my answer went something like, “Well, mommy doesn’t have a job because she wants to take care of you guys. So if you wanted to take care of your kids you could always be Elsa at Disney before you have kids.” It was admittedly kind of a fumble. Thankfully I don’t think she was even listening at that point. Because she immediately followed the question with this one. “Mom, are stepmothers real?” (I can only assume that the train of thought that led to this went something like Elsa -> Princesses -> Cinderella -> Stepmothers. Because otherwise it was a complete non sequitur).

Gah! Why is she asking me all of these questions?? Another hard one, because the answer necessarily involves real life tragedy. There are two ways that children obtain a stepmother (divorce and death), both very serious and hard things to talk about with a five year old. As I stood at the sink thinking hard about how to answer this, she once again moved on to something else. Thankfully this time it involved a pretend game with Charlotte and did NOT involve any more questions.

Several weeks ago when Paul Tripp came and did a parenting conference at our church he talked about the three stages of parenting. The first is 1-5, that trying, physically exhausting stage. The stage where you just have to do EVERYTHING for them and are trying to teach them the basic principles of authority and obedience. And I have just been completely immersed in that stage for 5 years. Especially these last 6 months with FOUR in that stage (ARE WE INSANE?).

But the second stage is 6-12, and I can see it coming for us. Suddenly Reagan can fetch things for me and help around the house and is starting to read and can shower and is helping her siblings and having reason-filled conversations with me. She’s observing classmates and comparing our family to theirs and asking questions about it. She’s asking where babies come from (NOOOOO) and what happened to Eva and Titus’ mommy and daddy and will we adopt any more brothers and sisters (UHHHHH). Suddenly, where there used to be a chubby little curly haired baby there is a tall skinny kid and I’m kind of freaking out.

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You know what? This parenting gig is nuts. And I’ve really only just begun. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Could there be anything better than me than for my kids to ask me questions that force me to really articulate what we believe? Thank God for His Word and the Holy Spirit because otherwise I think I’d just be staring at my kids terrified all the time.

 

January Reading

Jan
2014
03

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Just wanted to give my promised update on what I’m reading. I really am going to try to blog more in 2014 (I guess you could say it’s a resolution?? Although to say I’ve “resolved” to write more blog posts just feels a little dramatic). A great way to do that would be to stop waiting until I have a thousand things to say and then writing super long posts. So here’s a brief one for you!

Last time I mentioned what I was reading I had just started Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible. If you are unfamiliar with stories of some of the more prominent women in the Bible, this is a great book for you. Barrs very nicely summarizes each story and then looks at what we learn about who God is and how He views women. If you’re pretty familiar with these accounts, the summaries might seem a little tedious, but still, I think it’s a worthwhile read with some really interesting insight. It could really even work as a kind of devotional, if you combine the reading of the text being discussed with the helpful questions at the end of each chapter. I recommend it.

This month I plan on tackling a couple of re-reads. As I’m looking ahead to this new year, one of the things I really want to pursue is deeper prayerful-ness. This crazy life we’ve taken on just requires so much dependence upon my heavenly Father and I really desire more consistent communication with Him. So even though I’ve read it before, I’m going to give A Praying Life by Paul Miller another read. This is such a helpful book if you struggle to pray. Miller really gets to the heart of this struggle and seeks to enable believers to pray as they were meant to.

I’m also planning on reading through Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis again. I haven’t read it since high school and was reminded of what a great book it is recently. Our Midtown Pastor, Lance Olimb, quoted several passages from it recently while preaching about that greatest of all sins, pride. I’m looking forward to going through it again, as I love Lewis’ writing.

Also, I can’t believe I failed to include this book in my last post, but one of the most helpful books I read last year is Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. If you have small children, this is a must read. It’s a funny, short little book that’s just packed full of good theology and encouragement for young moms. I totally loved it.

It’s a new year, a great time to get back in the habit of reading!