Friday, March 30, 2012

Mercy Project's Record-Breaking Baseball Game


Mercy Project, a Texas based organization working to free child slaves in Ghana is playing a 49 hour, world-record breaking baseball game to raise money and awareness for the work they are doing in Africa.  We have the great pleasure of going to church with the people behind Mercy Project.  We're awfully proud of the work they are doing.

We were "official witnesses" tonight.  That's a fancy way of saying we watched the game and signed some papers verifying that the team played by the rules (as if I would know if they didn't).

The players can sleep in shifts for two hour increments between now and Sunday, but the game can't stop.  Since I am not an athlete, I can only equate what these players are doing to giving birth and breastfeeding around the clock for 49 hours.  I want to cry that crazy, irrational kind of cry simply imagining what these players will go through this weekend.



Tents at the baseball field.  

By Sunday the players will be miserable, but we're incredibly thankful for what they are doing to raise awareness for children suffering in Ghana.

"The ultimate goals of the baseball game are to create awareness about the plight of child slaves around the world and raise money that will directly help children in slavery in Ghana.  An estimated 7,000 Ghanian children have been sold into slavery, most of them in the fishing industry.  The money raised from this record attempt will build new farm fishing opportunities, enabling the communities in that region to be economically viable without slavery."

Child slavery is always the tip of the iceberg.  Underneath are miles and miles of economic and societal breakdown.  Only devastating poverty and hopelessness creates a culture that leads parents to sell their children into slavery.  We're grateful that Mercy Project sees the bigger picture; the need for sustainable economic opportunities in Ghana.

Our family will be at the baseball field throughout the weekend.  We want to cheer on the players, support what Mercy Project is doing, but most importantly...we want to watch as the delirium sets in.  We Hendricks never miss a freak show.  You can find us on the front row.

For more information about Mercy Project, spend some time catching up on their website this weekend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Remember::Spaghetti Day


March 27 is a special day in our home.  It's a day to remember.  It's a day to be extra thankful. It's a day to celebrate and retell a story of healing and mercy.

Today marks the six year anniversary of when Hayden got to eat dinner with the rest of our family.

Six years ago today we ate spaghetti with tears in our eyes and an epipen on our kitchen table.

Six years ago Hayden ate all his spaghetti, stayed alive, and declared noodles and sauce the best food ever.

Six years ago God brought comfort and healing to our son and our family.

We will celebrate this day for as long as we live.

Spaghetti Day, March 27, 2006

Very shortly after Hayden was born we knew that something was wrong.  His entire body began to break out in hives.  He was sick.  His skin was constantly hot to the touch, felt like leather, or he had open, oozing sores all over his body.  I remember with my first baby sitting and nursing my child rubbing those precious legs.  Soaking in that baby skin.  The feel of those soft baby arms and legs seemed like one of the sweetest gifts this side of heaven.

Hayden's skin was nothing like that.  He looked like a burn victim.  We kept his body covered at all times.  If not, he would scratch his skin, begin bleeding, and was prone to secondary skin infections.  Some of my saddest memories were walking into my son's room to pick him up out of his crib and finding his sheets covered with blood.  His skin was a source of constant misery to him. Socks were sewn into his pajamas. He wore socks on his hands.  For three years he lived his life in long-sleeve, long-pants pajamas and with socked-hands and feet.  We kept his skin covered to keep him from clawing at his skin, but we also kept it covered because his skin was so damaged that if he even touched things he was allergic to (dust, animals, most foods) he would break out in hives. His nose and eyes would start running.  Strong topical steroids, benadryl, and doctor visits were constant friends.  With major reactions, it would take weeks for Hayden to recover.

After allergy testing, he could only eat eight foods.  Leaving the house with Hayden was always a gamble.  The times we risked it, we usually ended up coming home frustrated and in tears.  We'd pay for that gamble for days as we watched Hayden react and us have absolutely no real idea what was happening to him. Hayden paid for it the most as it was him who physically had to suffer.  Our baby.  Always suffering. Always scratching.

We took Hayden to fancy doctors.  We were sent to specialists.  Hayden was in constant pain.  We will always look back and say that watching our child suffer for years was hopefully the hardest thing God will ever ask us to do.

When Hayden was three he was put through his yearly round of allergy tests.  This time the allergist called me at home with the results.  No nurse.  The doctor.  I was startled.  I remember him telling me that out of the eight foods Hayden was eating, he was now reacting so strongly to four of them that we needed to remove those from his diet as well.  Four foods.  We were down to four foods.  The allergist also told me that I needed to understand the severity of this.  He explained that with Hayden's body reacting so regularly that this would cause long-term damage to his major organs.  He gently said he'd like to set up a meeting with his team so we could determine how to proceed.  They seemed to be finished trying to find a solution.  The best doctors had already looked at Hayden and could not figure out what was wrong.

It was a devastating day.  I already felt like we were doing everything humanly possible.  Our lives had practically shut down.  This sickness colored every part of our life.  We rarely left the house with Hayden.  I cooked all of his food.  I fell into the bed most nights exhausted from trying to keep him safe. The house swept and mopped every single day. Dusted from top to bottom.  Every.  Single.  Day.  My baby.  Socked hands.  Socked feet.  Me cleaning.  Trying hard.  Yet constantly feeling like a failure...my selfishness noticeably on display as I attempted to love and care for a child so infinitely needy.

The next Sunday I shared with our church what we had just found out from the allergist.  They prayed for Hayden.  Standing in the front of the church with people praying for my son, I wanted so badly to open my eyes, look at my three year old son and see his skin had miraculously been healed.  Like those stories I heard in Sunday School...wide eyed as a little girl...those stories of when Jesus healed the people with leprosy.  The sores were there one minute.  Gone the next.  One flannel-board lady had leprosy.  Then a new flannel board lady appeared whose skin was soft and beautiful.  She was shiny and lovely.  I wanted that.  I wanted our family to be a flannel board family.  One minute a desperate wreck.  The next minute healed.  The people said, "Amen"...I opened my eyes and Hayden looked the same.

God did not miraculously reach down and heal Hayden that day.  Instead, on the day I shared about Hayden in front of our church a new family was sitting in the congregation.  They had recently started visiting our church.  The father of that family was a doctor.  He later contacted us and asked if he could see Hayden's chart.  Sure.  Why not.  What would it hurt?  Besides, this is a "family practice" doctor. What's he going to know?  In Hayden's diagnostic career, "family practice" doctors were so two years ago.

That doctor found that Hayden had an amoeba in his body that he probably got in utero during our trip to Mexico when I was seven months pregnant.  This amoeba had gone untreated for three years.  To make a very long story short, after a couple rounds of medication, our son's body began to heal.  In October his allergist was trying to figure out how to keep the kid alive, and by March...with Dr. Bacak's help Hayden's skin was clearing up.  We slowly added simple foods back into his diet.  The socks eventually came off his hands and feet.  Hayden was wearing shorts.  He wasn't covered in hives. We took him places.  Healing was happening.

A few months later, Hayden was getting so much better...his skin healing up...that Dr. Bacak said something outrageous at one of our visits.  He looked at Hayden.  Looked at me.  Then he said, "Heather...let's do something crazy.  Let's feed this kid."  I answered, "Like real food?"

Yes.  Feed him real food.

I went home nervous.  I held my three year old son in my lap and asked him a simple question.  "What is one food you have always, always wanted to eat?"  There wasn't even a pause.  "Seggi!"  Hayden wanted spaghetti.

We ate.  For the first time Hayden ate the same thing his family ate for dinner.  He lived.  We cried.  We celebrated.  It was a day we never want to forget.


We remember this day every year by eating Spaghetti, retelling the story, and thanking God for mercy.  I don't know why there is so much suffering in this world.  I don't know why babies sit in hospitals with teary-eyed mammas by their sides or why mercy and healing seem to stay just out of reach.  I don't know why my baby is whole today when other mothers with sick kids probably prayed more, fasted more, read their Bibles more, and were over-all better woman than I ever hope to be. Yet their babies suffer on.  I don't know why Hayden is here, cracking jokes, slurping up messy noodles when I don't think we ever really learned to suffer well.  We did not earn Hayden's healing with clean hearts and bended knees.  I was never a rock.  I was a doubting, angry, wreck accusing God of terrible things.  All I know is that for three long, hard years our life and Hayden's life was going one way...the same old way it had been going for years.  Then all of a sudden life wasn't going that way anymore.

Everything began to change.

Mercy.

That's my favorite part of the story.  That mercy part.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie Review::Hope and The Hunger Games

We drove up to the movie theater this weekend, my pre-teen in the passenger seat, this long-awaited date night to the Hunger Games becoming a reality.  I've never seen more cars in the theater's parking lot.  My eldest son is ironically who introduced me to the popular series.  "You have to read these books, Mom.  You have to read them."  Juvenile fiction?  I'll pass.  I read big-girl books, thank you very much.  He continued to beg.  When my firstborn son said, "Mom, I'll babysit for you while you read the books" I quickly rethought my position.  Free babysitting and book reading in the middle of the day?  Surely I could force myself to make it through these books with such an attractive offer on the table.

Surprisingly, there was no forcing my way through the series.  A few chapters in I was hooked.  Teeth brushing, house cleaning, dinner?  I could only vaguely remember what it was like to care about those daily parts of life once I was introduced to Katniss and Peeta.

I can't tell you how much sick enjoyment I get when people ask me what the books are about.  "Oh you know...kids living in poverty, fighting to the death on a reality TV show for entertainment purposes.  It's fantastic!  You should read them!"  Sounds horrifying, doesn't it?  And it is.  It definitely would be if kids killing kids is really what the books are about, but they aren't, and that's what makes this series brilliant. The deeper messages and how well they have been received are also what fill me with a lot of hope as a parent.  As I read the books, Aaron would check on me every once in awhile.  I hadn't brushed my hair in a week, so he mostly kept his distance, but when he would check in, I'd look up from my book and say something profound like, "Suzanne Collins is a freakin' genius."

After I finished reading the series, we sat around the dinner table one night. I asked our oldest son what he thought Collins is really trying to say in her books.  What's the deeper messages?  His response?  "These are books about the rich using the poor for their own entertainment and greed."  Aaron's jaw dropped.  We were stunned when Anson began explaining how this is sort of like, "You know...fair trade chocolate, Mom.  How we want cheap chocolate even if that means children are being abused, enslaved, and dying."

Only a literary work of art can use themes of violence and oppression to cause the reader to despise violence and oppression.  Suzanne Collins does this beautifully in her books.

Last night we arrived at the movie theater an hour early.  We bought our tickets days in advance.  The line to get in the theater wrapped around the building.  Arriving an hour early with tickets in our hands, 18 hours after the movie debuted, we found ourselves forced to sit on the fourth row of the theater.  Standing in line and sitting in the packed theater, I felt too hopeful for my son's generation to be irritated about the wait or my neck ache.

Uncountable young people (and old people) will stand in line to watch The Hunger Games this weekend.  The story of Katniss and Peeta will stir deep disgust towards The Capitol of Panem, a system of government built on fear, greed, intimidation, and lies.  The audience will join Collins in mocking the residents of the Capitol, who are caught up in the latest, odd fashions, dressing their pets in people clothes, living wasteful lives, completely removed and unaware that outside their city the rest of the world suffers and barely survives.  Readers and movie watchers will resent the Capitol residents for their flippant disregard for the struggles and pain of the people outside their city.  My son, along with millions of American teenagers will feel intense anger towards the Capitol residents who coldly oppress and exploit the poor in order to maintain their lush lifestyle.  The audience will root for Katniss and Peeta.  They will cheer when these children of poverty and slavery rise up and tell their oppressors, "We will be free.  You. Do. Not. Own. Us."

I've heard the Hunger Game haters say these books are vile and send a horrible message to young people.  They are uncomfortable with the society Collins depicts.  "It won't be long and this world could be as evil and inhumane as the world in the Hunger Games," they argue.  To this I say, as long as innocent children are kidnapped and enslaved to make our chocolate and eight year olds are killing other eight year olds so that we can wear shiny rocks on our fingers, we are already living in the world of the Hunger Games.  Welcome to Panem.

The plot of the Hunger Games is so moving, and the characters so easy to fall in love with (or hate), that Collins allows us to see ourselves in both the underdogs and the oppressors.  Since these difficult topics are wrapped in well-written fiction, we feel safe and can explore these subjects without shame or judgement.  Without shame, we are free to be open-minded about who we are in the story.

I have to believe our love for this series is rooted in the truth that we were created to hate oppression and love freedom.  We were created to care deeply about human life, to love others like we love ourselves.  Collins touches something human and deeply spiritual in each of us as we root for a world where Katniss and Peeta can live safe and free.

That long line of "young people" wrapped around the movie theater, waiting hours to get in to celebrate this story of peace, freedom, and justice may be one of the most hopeful moments I've had for my son's generation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Smiles and Shivers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Don't let their smiles fool you.  They were freezing.

As soon as the sun comes out and wearing shorts is bearable, the boys start pestering me to take them swimming.  I tell them it's too cold.  It's not time yet.  Just because it's sunny and warm during the day does not mean the water in a deep swimming pool will be warm. You'll freeze your bum off.  You'll get sick.

Then I stop mid-parent lecture and think, "If I tried hard enough, I wonder if I could pinpoint the exact moment when I became my parents."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Together


When we were waiting to adopt, I remember sitting in adoption training and workshops as speakers attempted to paint a realistic picture of adoption.  Although I'm convinced no one can fully prepare someone to adopt, we're thankful we were not sold the lie that adoption is glamorous and easy.  Beautiful, yes.  Necessary, sometimes.  Easy-breezy?  Never.  The adoption community around us helped our family understand that we were volunteering to walk into a life-long situation built on loss, hurt, pain, and the unknown.  There would be varying degrees of loss, pain, and the unknown for every adoptive household, but we knew...those elements would exist in our story moving forward.  Most painfully, they would exist in our child's story.

No matter what labels or adjectives we assign to the conversation of adoption, here's one thing I know with certainty; adoption is miraculously brave.  When families have been well-educated about what real-life adoption looks like and sign up to take on an innocent child's grief, loss, rage, and insecurities, I'm not sure if there is anything that requires more faith and courage.  Not courage in the "Pass me the cape, I'm heroic, I'll save you" sort of way.  Courage in the "we're already imperfect in this house, feel like fat parenting failures most days while raising kids without a lot of emotional scars, and yet we're willing to rearrange our own dysfunction to make space for another life filled with hurt and fear."

What I did not know at the time I was sitting in adoption training and conferences was what a mess I was as an individual.  I think I ignorantly thought that we could offer a stable home, hold a hurting child, and make it a little better for them.  When I imagined life as an adoptive, therapeutic parent, it was mostly the child needing the therapy...the support...the love.  We would be there for them.  We would do what it took to help them.


Simply stated, our child would need help.  We would be the ones helping.  The healthy, helping the unhealthy. The strong parenting the weak.  The whole raising the broken.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

If there is one prevailing message we have been learning as a family over the past five years, it's this one...

You can't be near the broken without coming face to ugly face with your own brokenness.

Fear, shame, pain, anger, and  insecurity cause my child to break down and lose it.  My own fear, shame, pain, anger, and insecurity fuel my embarrassing responses to his behavior.  To say this isn't how I imagined these scenarios playing out pre-adoption would be laughable.  

Before adopting I thought I'd be here for my child, the instrument of help and healing to my child.  The real truth is, I'm simply here with my child.  Walking through our hurt and dysfunction together.  Holding my child after an episode that leaves us sweaty and breathless admitting that we're both a wreck in need of healing.  In need of a miracle.

Me, needing to be parented by God while I attempt to parent.

Me, a child of this fallen world and thus a child of trauma to some extent, attempting to parent a child of trauma.

On paper this seems like such a bad idea, and I guess it would be if we fail to admit that we need healing just as much as our kids do.

We're neck deep right now in evaluations for our son, counseling, and adoption support groups.  We're learning tactics, modifying diets, getting much-needed support, education, love, and understanding.  These resources are extremely valuable.  Most valuable is finding ourselves in a safe community where we feel free and encouraged to fully acknowledge our own shortcomings that keep us from responding to brokenness and pain with love, empathy, and patience.  Prior to adopting, I thought adoption meant inviting loss, insecurity, and hurt into our story.  Instead, adoption has been just as much about realizing to what extent those elements were already a very real part of our story and what it looks like to parent a hurting child out of our own rich bank of emotional deficits.

As painful and exhausting as this part of our life is in the moment, it's surprising how hopeful and thankful I feel.

Adoption is the gift that you never quit opening, isn't it?

I remember sitting in adoption training and conferences while we waited to adopt.  I was scared but eager to be a small part of redemption in our future child's life.  I foolishly thought our family would be used (even if it was only in a minuscule way) to bring healing and health to a child who was coming from a place of loss and pain.  Instead, our son is forever the reason why God is bringing healing and health to us.  Oh, the irony.

We are learning that we rarely walk before our kids through pain, loss, insecurity, and fear.  We walk with them. It's less about healing them, and more about healing together.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break in Photos::Part Two

{Boat Making}

 

 

Two seconds later Hudson ran over and stomped on all the boats.  Sinking them.
Think Dash off of the Incredibles movie.  That's how quickly Hudson moves.

{Backyard Camp-Out With Friends} 

 

decorations courtesy of Ashton


We also roasted Starbursts.  Have you heard of this?  I think I ate half a bag.  The inside gets gooey.  The outside gets a little crunchy.  Yum.



Hudson is really enjoying himself.  Can't you tell?



be very, very afraid
Hudson.  Fire.  Sharp object.
Not bright of us.


{Freak Fever Rides Again} 

Spring Break Week-O-Awesomeness was once again interrupted by a freak fever episode.  The last time we had a fever scare was last year during Spring Break.  How is that possible?  As a matter of fact, I don't think anyone in our house has been sick at all since Spring Break last year.  Weird, right?  Last year, while we were living in Haiti, Hudson ran such a high fever he had a seizure.  It was very scary.  This year, Hayden's fever quickly spiked to 105.  It all happened so fast.  One minute he's barely running fever at all.  The next we've got a lot of fever-reducing meds in his system and cold rags on his head and neck.  Thankfully we have a great doctor friend.  Aaron called him.  He reminded us that our kids are weird and run really high fevers.  Thankfully, he talked us through what to do, keeping us out of the emergency room.  24 hours later, Hayden was playing outside with his brothers.  Freak fevers, we'll be watching for you Spring Break 2013.

 {Kickball}





Aaron said it looks like he's worshiping God..about to be hit in the face with a kickball.  Why do I think this is so funny?


The beer goggles ride again.
I know why I think this is so funny.  
Because it is.

{St. Patty's Day Feast} 

rosemary/thyme potatoes
Cut up potatoes in small cubes.  Place in a large bowl.  Coat with olive oil.  Spread potatoes on a large baking pan.  Generously cover in salt, pepper, garlic granules, onion powder, fresh rosemary and thyme.  Cook in 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes (or until tender).

This was my first time to ever cook a St. Patrick's Day meal.  The first time we celebrated St. Patrick's Day was last year in Haiti.  In Texas, St. Patrick's Day is not so much the big deal.  Apparently, in other parts of the country it's a real-deal holiday.  The kids loved the celebration in Haiti so much they begged to do it again.  We invited friends over and ate until we felt sick.  Corned beef.  Cabbage.  Sweet potatoes.  Rosemary/Thyme potatoes.  Spicy mustard.  Food traditions are my favorite.  There.  I said it.


 

We're back in full-on school mode this morning.  Spring Break Week-O-Awesomeness, we love you but you're such a tease.  Want to know the first thing I did this morning?  I counted how many days left until summer.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

DIY Microwave Popcorn

 
While looking through my archives for a flashback weekend post, I realized that on this day three years ago I learned a valuable tip from my friend, Kirby.  DIY microwave popcorn.  Don't you love tips that become a normal part of life?  We eat this snack several times a week.  

 

I'm not sure why I heart this method of popping popcorn more.  Is it great because I no longer have to buy microwave popcorn that contains a long list of weird ingredients? Is it great because I no longer have to pay for expensive, organic microwave popcorn?  Or is it great because the kids can make this snack themselves?  The jury is still out, but as they are deliberating I imagine them eating popcorn talking about how great it is that kids can be on their own during snack time.

{What you need}

A brown paper lunch bag
1/4 cup popcorn
salt (optional)
butter (optional)

 

Measure out 1/4 cup popcorn.  I keep this measuring cup in the popcorn jar so my kids never have to wonder how much to use.  Pour popcorn in the brown paper bag.

 

Fold top of the bag over a few times, creasing as you fold.  Place in microwave.

 

You'll have to experiment with your microwave to figure out how long to cook the popcorn.  Every microwave seems to differ.

 

 

 Our favorite way to eat the popcorn?  With butter, salt, and some cane sugar.  Instant kettle corn.  Yum.  We are always suckers for carnival food.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Truth According to Hugo Cabret



We are a couple years behind in our movie watching.  Our family sat down to watch Hugo last night.  We are obnoxious fans of Selznick's books The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck.   If you know us in real life, chances are we've tried to push these books on you.  Our boys love them.  Part text.  Part art and story-boarding.  Selznick has a unique style that captivates our imagination.


We really enjoyed the film.  A truly brilliant story has the power to conjure up deep emotions not only about the character's lives, but about our own as well.  At one point, Hugo looks out over the city and says...




"Right after my father died, I would come up here a lot.  I'd imagine the whole world was one big machine.  Machines never come with any extra parts, you know.  They always come with the exact amount they need.  So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part.  I had to be here for some reason.  And that means you have to be here for some reason too."


"Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do.  Maybe it's the same with people.  If you lose your purpose...it's like you're broken.

I'll be pondering those profound words this weekend.  Want to ponder them with me?  With a full Saturday and Sunday, I'm sure we can answer all the hard questions of the universe. Eye-roll anyone? (Maybe my purpose in life is to be an over-zealous, idealist.)

Does knowing our purpose or the pursuit of purpose fuel healthy human beings?  I know I can obsess about purpose at times.  Is purpose over-rated or is it truly what fuels our lives when our purpose feels clear and tangible?  I don't know the answers to those questions yet (because duh, it's only Friday) but I still think it would be pretty kind to remind one another (often) of the truth behind Hugo's words...  


"So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part.  I had to be here for some reason.  And that means you have to be here for some reason too."


Consider yourself reminded.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Break in Photos:: Part One

{{PLAYED AT THE PARK IN THE RAIN}}

 


I've heard there are kids that go to a park and slide down the slides and swing on the swings.  I have yet to raise one of those.


It was a lot colder than the weather channel forecast said it would be.  I was sure that our kick-start for Spring Break Week-O-Awesomeness would lead to pneumonia in the kids.  Nothing says "fun" like an upper respiratory infection.  Thankfully this not-so-bright-of-an-idea did not land us with sick kids.

{{WATCHED THE LORAX}}

I have no photos of this outing because pictures in a movie theater are lame.  We loved the movie.  Any kid's film that allows for conversations with my boys about responsible capitalism is great in my book.  Hudson did learn how to say a very dramatic and drawn-out..."HOLY CRAP" from the movie.  He even knows how to use it in context.  Wonderful.  Thank you for that, Lorax.

{{SPOONS AND SPOONS}}   


We have a Spoons yogurt in our town.  This is the promised land of frozen fabulosity.  They have gluten-free/dairy free options.  We met friends there for a treat and then headed to our favorite park to play the card game, Spoons and go on a nature walk.













The boys got so muddy they road home in their underwear.  Their clothes are still in the back of the truck.  I've gone to look at them a few times, but am not brave enough to pick them up.  During the nature walk Ashton said, "I was standing in water that smelled like tuna!"  I am always amazed that boys end such sentences with an explanation point.  The tuna statement explains my apprehension and denial about the fact that at some point their clothes will need to be washed.

{{MUSEUM DAY AND NATURE TRAIL}}










This trail was so much the nature trail that it took us a very long time to find it.  It was high on nature.  Low on trail.  Once again we came home muddy.  Two sets of hazmat-worthy clothes are in the back of the truck.  Don't judge. 

Whether you are celebrating Spring Break or not this week, I hope these days have been filled with the hope that Spring brings.