The Garrisons

Follow our journey on adoption #3 for child #8!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


When I look at my children's faces, it is hard for me to imagine all they have been through...all they have lost...all they have seen in their short lives. When I think of the changes they've endured, I can hardly imagine enduring them myself. Loss of family, loss of relationship, loss of security, of language, culture, custom, and all that is familiar. Can you imagine? I honestly can't.

These sweet babies have not only endured, but handled it all so well. They are learning their third language (they spoke another language at home before being transferred to the Transition Home where they spoke Amharic). They were brought home by virtual strangers they had only seen pictures of before. They were taken to new places, had new experiences, were given new foods and brought home to a place where everything was foreign. Literally.

During all of these transitions, they have been so brave. I have no doubt that they have been afraid at times - especially at first. I have no doubt they have wondered what is going on at times as they adjust to our new routines. But they have done so well. I almost can't believe it. No, every day is not a fairy tale, and sure, we have our challenges. I'm sure hard days will come and questions will be asked. I'm not living in a dream world over here. However, given all that has happened in these kids' lives in the last year, I am so proud of how they've coped. So proud of how they have handled the change.

God is good. I am thankful every day that he continues to do the work of making us a family. Please continue to pray for our kids as they transition and adjust, and pray that God will strengthen relationships and bonds with them. I am inspired by their bravery, and in awe of our God who is responsible for it all.

"LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago."

Isaiah 25:1

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I Remember

Even as I write this post, I am uncertain if this story is for your eyes. This part of my life is one of the most painful, vulnerable parts, and I've never really shared in a public way like this. This writing is therapeutic for me, a part of my healing I think. This post has nothing to do with adoption, but has everything to do with my family. God has taught me his greatest lessons through the conceiving, birthing, adopting, and raising of my children. This story is among those that have had the greatest impact on my life.

Fourteen years ago, God gave Nathan and I the great blessing of identical twin baby boys....Nathanael and Hayden. I am humbled at how he chose to trust us with their lives, and use us to be part of their story. These precious boys were born at 7:35 and 7:37 pm on March 19, 1997. Their birth was 10 weeks early and they were both tiny little things. Upon their arrival, Nathanael had already left us...he had gone home to be with Jesus. He weighed just 2 lbs. 2 oz. Hayden arrived shortly after, weighing in at 2 lbs. 10 oz. I remember lying still during the C-section, waiting and willing him to cry...knowing that if he did it was a good sign. He did make a small sound, and I breathed a sigh of relief and said a prayer that God would protect this tiny child.

I don't speak openly of this story often for many reasons. The first being that it's just too painful. It's too hard to verbalize this kind of loss and how it still takes my breath away 14 years later. It's too hard to watch people's unsure reactions, and their own discomfort as they search for how to react. But also, in large part, because it has seemed unfair to Hayden to share this story about his birth. Like somehow it takes from the joy of his day to also speak of the great loss that occurred simultaneously. March 19 is a bittersweet day. One that never leaves me feeling myself. A day of great loss, yes, but also a day of great celebrating. As the years go by, the loss becomes less raw, and maybe that's what is moving me to talk about it. The loss isn't less real, but certainly not as fresh as it once was.

We are beyond grateful that God spared Hayden that day. Because of the circumstances that surrounded his birth, we were told by the neonatologist that we were fortunate he had survived, and there was a good chance he'd been in shock and would suffer with cerebral palsy. It was a scary time, and I continued to watch his development for years to come, waiting to find evidence of his early birth and slow development. I am grateful to report that Hayden is and always has been healthy. Praise God.

As I remember back fourteen years, it's amazing at how it all rushes back if I allow myself to reminisce for long. I remember the emotions, the smells, and the sight of our sweet boys. I remember the days following and not knowing how to feel or even where to be most of the time - with Haley at home, with Hayden at the hospital, or grieving the profound loss we were experiencing. It was confusing and overwhelming. I remember getting up in the night to call the night nurse to see if Hayden had gained even a few grams of weight. I remember the many, many people who came to help - bringing us a meal or sitting at our house while Haley slept so we could be at the hospital. I remember the cards and the prayers, and will never again underestimate what those things can mean to someone else. Years later, I still remember Nathanael by occasionally bringing out the few things we have to remember him by - a blanket, an outfit, pictures, and a book of thoughts and memories. I close my eyes and remember those few moments we had with him.

But most of all I remember this - God shows up. He shows up when you are hurting. He shows up when you are overwhelmed and aren't sure things will ever feel normal again. He meets you where you are and walks you through the valleys. I remember sharing with a friend a few years after the boys' birth that the greatest blessing of this experience was that I knew what it was to be truly carried by God. And years later, I would agree. God used this joy and loss for my good. He used it to teach me to trust him in a deeper way. He used it to grow my faith and prepare me for his plan for my life. And for that I am grateful.

During this experience, I found this verse and it became the verse I clung to:

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
Lamentations 3:32

His love IS unfailing. It was through this experience that God made this real to me. Of course, I would have never chosen this part of the path for my life, and yet I know it was an important one. So, today, we celebrate our boys. We thank God that he allowed us to raise Hayden in our home, and look forward to being in heaven with Nathanael one day. We praise him for the lessons learned and his presence in our lives. And we remember that through it all his love is real and will not fail us, in joy or sorrow.

Happy Birthday, Hayden!
We love you!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hits Me at the Strangest Times

Some days we are so busy, I don't really stop and take the time to evaluate how we're all doing. Now, of course, I know who has immediate needs, who has 'owies', who is crying, who is squabbling with a sibling, etc. But I mean how we are really doing. How we are coming together as a family.

Yesterday, I was reading a blog post by a sweet family who just made their first trip to Ethiopia to meet their three new children. The mom was describing leaving her new children on the last visit of that trip, and her son's final good-bye (who we met, and is precious!). You can read that post HERE. The image of this mother leaving her kids in Ethiopia....and of us leaving our kids at the Transition Home to come home without them brought tears to my eyes. My heart was so pierced at the thought of being separated from my kids.

Then, it hit me. It hit me that while it was difficult for me to leave my children between trips for a time back in December, how much harder it would even be now. You see, it's happening. God is weaving us together as a family. God is teaching us how to love these kids, and teaching them how to trust us. He is revealing things to us about one another. No, everything revealed isn't lollipops and roses...but it's real. I won't tell you that 'we've arrived' - that the weaving is complete, and that we have it all figured out. A month into this, we have a long way to go. But, I'm grateful that as we learn and grow as a family, God is in charge of the weaving. Thanks be to him!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the interest of keepin' it real... last post was about how we are doing...and the verdict is that we're doing pretty well. Before I dive into this next post, let me reassure you that we still are - overall - doing well. However, I feel like it would be a disservice to 'dress it up' and not also share some of the hard things. Today was a day, and so some of the hard things are fresh in my mind.

  • Appointments. I'm sick of them. I don't want to take another kid to the doctor - like ever. Bringing home three new ones at a time = much time at the clinic. (We'll be there the next two days, though, so my wish is not to be granted).
  • Collecting poop. That's probably all I really need to say about that.
  • Learning to manage the day to day life with 3 new ones (and 1 'old' young one) who need a lot of you.
  • Feeling torn - torn between my daily life, meeting the needs of little ones, running a household, my hubby, and 3 big kids who I still want to spend time with. Sometimes feeling like I'm not doing any of it well.
  • Four children in carseats....time consuming and tedious.
  • Forgetfulness - I'm not sure I'll ever remember anything again - my memory wasn't good to start with!
  • Time outs, spills, kids not sharing, and all other, umm....'joys'...that come from having little ones.
It may sound as though I'm whining...and well, maybe I am a little bit. I'm allowed every now and then...right?? (OK, so I'm really not, but sometimes I do it anyway.) In all honesty, we are doing well - some days are just hard with four little ones. Doesn't seem like it's fair to portray it any other way. Tomorrow is a new day - and I'm actually looking forward to it. Better get to bed and rest up though - it promises not to be boring with this crew!

Friday, March 4, 2011

So how are we doing...really??

Here we all are, ready for our first trip to church. Not an award winning photo, but we're all in it, and we're all looking the right direction!

We've been home for almost 2 weeks now, and I find my curious friends wondering just exactly how is it going? What does the day to day look like...are we overwhelmed...are we sleeping, etc. Well, the short answer is we really are doing well. Much better than I expected. I mean, I was hoping we weren't going to be a total wreck all of the time, but I had prepared myself for our share of bumps in the road.

We have found ourselves in a day to day routine that is predictable and seems to be working for us. (For those of you bored by the mundane, you can skip this post. :) Solomon is the first to rise (wish Teenage Baby could teach him to sleep in), usually around 6. I shower before the rest of the crew is up, and at 6:30, I allow the girls to get up. They are awake before this, but they know to stay in their room until I come to get them...usually they are making their beds and folding blankets when I go into get them. (They have been taught to make beds and fold their pajamas at the end of the bed when they get up...I'm considering having them hold a class on how to do this for my other kids!) They dress into the clothes we put out the night before, and head downstairs for breakfast or to play until it's ready. (Or follow one of us around, which happens often as well). I dress Solomon, and either take him downstairs or a big kid takes him for us. I'd love to tell you that I'm now making a wonderful, hot breakfast, but the reality is, that just ain't happening. My big kids have been amazing to help with the kids and their breakfast, they all pitch in to be sure everyone is fed. Then, it's off in our big van to take the big kids to school.

Our mornings are spent in a variety of ways...playing at home, maybe running an errand (yes, I've taken them all the grocery store!), doctor appointments, and even spending a morning at our church's indoor playground. The time passes quickly, we have an early lunch, and the boys nap by 12:30 to be up in time to pick the big kids up from school. The girls have been having some quiet time with books or resting in their room in the afternoon. (I may need this more than they do, but we are doing it nonetheless!) Around 2:30 or 2:40ish we leave to go pick the big kids up from school and then come home for a snack and playtime. We spend playtime playing play-dough, reading stories, playing 'letter games' on the computer, and recently jumping on the trampoline and going outside. Then, it's dinner, family time, and a bedtime routine.

Aleigha and Grace busy working!

Grace is eager to please and eager to learn. She is concerned with her younger siblings, and a natural caretaker. We are working towards letting her know that we will meet everyone's needs (she doesn't seem overly anxious about it, mostly eager to please), and we want her to relax and rest in the fact that her siblings aren't her responsibility. Grace has a sweet disposition, but is definitely able to let you know if she is unhappy about something. She tends towards the dramatic and expressive, and it will be interesting to watch this come to life as we get to know her better.

Aleigha is fun-loving and giggly most of the time....she often looks like she is on the verge of cracking up. She is usually quieter, but mostly just until she is comfortable in a situation. When the girls are playing or singing together (and there is no one new around), she's definitely out of her shell. She also is eager to learn and loves to sit and play a game (although there may or may not be a little cheating going on), color, and work on learning her letters. She tends to not be quite as serious about things as Grace, and loves to have a good time.

The girls are both picking up a little language, and it's fun to hear them try to use their words. We're glad they feel safe enough to try! You will often hear them walking around just repeating what they've learned. It goes a little something like this (in the cutest Ethiopian accent you can imagine): "Are you OK? I'm OK? How are you? Good. Fine. It's OK. Come. Are you OK? Yes. Good." and so on... They are so proud of their English words, and we are amazed at what they understand already!

Who could resist that smile and those eyes??

Sweet Solomon is definitely the baby of the family. He seems so young in comparison to Elijah's teenage ways. It's evident that he's spent his time with babies, and that his needs were well met. (He has no problem expressing them, and seems to expect that they will be met!) We love his giggles and smiles. He loves the be held and the boy can eat. He's had some 'intestinal issues', and we think his over interest in food comes from a combination of those issues, eating for comfort and security, and habits he's developed. We actually already see some improvement in this area, but he still loves to chow. He's a decent sleeper (does not get up in the night), although he gets up a little early for this needs-her-sleep mama. Elijah was not sure what to think about him at first, and was a little rough with Solomon. (He's just a rougher kid than Solomon anyway). That seems to be improving, and seems to view Solomon as a baby, and is learning to be a kinder, gentler version of himself.

So, that's us for now. Maybe not super exciting, but that's perfectly fine with me! We have a long way to go in truly getting to know each other, but we are enjoying the ride this far. We're so glad our kids are all home - what a blessing!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


As I sit in my living room this afternoon, my house is peaceful and I have a few moments to think. The 3 bigs are in school, the little boys are sleeping, and I have two girls coloring at my feet. As I sit and reflect, and watch these girls in my home, I am overcome. Overcome with gratitude that God brought these children into my home. Overcome that despite my many flaws and shortcomings, he saw fit to use me in their story and become their mama. How on earth did I ever get so blessed?

I also can't help but reflect on the many children left behind. (You knew this post was coming, right? The 'how can I leave them behind' post? The 'why aren't we doing more' post? It comes every time the images are raw from our travel to Ethiopia.) I can't shake it. I can't get them out of my mind. Five million orphans in Ethiopia alone. And I ask the question once again - where is everyone? Why aren't we doing more? Why is this OK with us? Why is it OK for us to be moved by a story, become teary during a video or song, and then move on with our lives?

This post is not about judgment. It's not about judging you or what you are or aren't's just a question that haunts me, and confuses me. Here's the thing - I don't care whether you adopt from Ethiopia or not...I just want for the body of Christ to be enough for these children. I want to be doing something. Something to care for these vulnerable children and orphans...and here's the clincher: So does God. He commands us to care for the orphan. I don't know what each person's role will be... but I do know this - God has a role for each one. He has a role for you. He has a role for me. We are all to play a part. It's not enough to feel compassion towards the cause or weep at a gotcha day video...God wants us to move. And if this were your child, you would want someone else to move on their behalf, too. These children are waiting on our obedience. For us to move in the way he has already commanded. Their futures depend on it.

"But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams."
1 Samuel 15:22