Thank You: Part 1

written while sitting in the atlanta airport

It’s taken 2 years to get to the point of departure and, while only part way to the end, I am (we are) overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. At times this journey – from infertility to 2 little Colombian ninas – has been very hard. Many have helped us along the way. I wanted to quickly mention them before we begin our travels.

In no particular order (and to be followed by part 2 after our trip!)…

Our Families. Without doubt, their prayers, support (verbal and financial), advice, general humor and keen sense of empathy has gotten us to this point. We love them all so much and can’t wait to add our girls to the chaos! I’m actually eager to have our daughters creating all kinds of mischief with Ava and Gracie.

Our Church Families. I am convinced that becoming a parent (adoptive or otherwise) is a spiritual moment. We’ve had so much prayer and support from our home church – College Hill Presbyterian – that I find it hard to envision going through an experience like this without their community. We also want to thank my wonderful childhood church – 14th St CRC – whose loving community still feels like home. Special thanks to the Walters’ family who, for all practical purposes, adopted Renee and me into their fun clan (Karis – can’t wait for you to meet Monica!).

Our Small Group. Some things are very clearly providential. In the past few years our small group has wrestled with the ups and downs of desiring a family, fertility problems, happy births and adventurous adoptions. It’s not that you have to go through those things to empathize and care, but it does add a dimension of realness. Their friendships and prayers have helped pull us through as well. We love them all and love the fact that we keep growing.

Our Friends. It was a blessing that in the few days before leaving our phones were constantly ringing with friends from all over the US wishing us well. Their humor and sincere listening has done much to relieve the stress of this process (and add to our excitement).

Our Work Places. It has not escaped our attention that Ren and I have some of the most awesome jobs in the world. Besides just being plain fun, our workplaces have been highly supportive of our entire adoption process. It’s not an easy thing to take off for 6 weeks (or in Renee’s case, the rest of the year). But everything has panned out beautifully.

The Adoption Community. Part of the reason we’re keeping this blog is for fellow adoptive parents. We’ve often relied on the community – their stories, advice, frustrations, and adventures – to plan and understand this experience. I have to do a special shout out to the Hollis family who, while probably not aware of this, had a Colombian blog that did more to settle my freak out moments (as in – what are we getting into!?) than anything else.


The Geometry of Traveling

Over the course of our marriage Renee and I have become incredibly talented with packing the (semi) necessities into small places. This is because we usually live out of car for the summer months – traveling to the hinterlands of this continent. 2004 was the high point, packing all our gear into a tiny Mazda protege and road tripping from Houston to Michigan to Alaska to California and back to Houston (15,000 miles if I remember correctly).

Our friends, the ones with children, would laugh, shake their heads, and say “wait until you have kids.”

The challenge today was to fit a week’s worth of clothing and a month’s worth of activities for 4 people (two little girls) into two suitcases that had to weigh 50 pounds or less. I’ll be honest. It was the most complicated packing jigsaw we’ve ever done.

In the end we’re left with one bag tipping in at 49 pounds and another at 51.5. We’re hoping the second one sweats off an extra pound and a half by Monday.



In the large list of things to freak out about for next week, I find myself going over what the first conversation will be/should be/ etc.  Which is funny, considering it will probably be such an emotional event that I won’t remember what I’m saying in the first place. Leading contenders:

  • Hola mis ninas, soy tu papi americano (most probable)
  • Soy dad, y yo te amo (the basics)
  • Hola mis ninas, como estan ustedes (too formal/old?)

It’s not so much what will be said that is obsessing me. It’s more the surreal experience adoptive parents go through with introducing themselves to their children. I’ve absolutely longed for this day for a very long time. But, being honest and all, it just seems a bit weird.

Family birth by verbal introduction.


Sorta Latin

Note: This a cross post from

In my experience, white, Dutch Americans typically lumber into a dance with rusty, jerky, mechanical movements that resemble tin men without the grease (anyone ever see Dutch Dancing?). It’s a natural condition, no doubt fostered by a Calvinist/puritan roots skeptical of displaying too much emotion and a climate of cold mid-western winters that discourage displays of passion.  But, although it is a natural condition, it can be changed with persistent practice and a healthy appreciation for beat and rhythm.

Last Monday Ren and I had a double date with Jeff and Kristen. We went Salsa dancing. It’s part of our concerted effort to seek out latin cultured everythings. I am acutely aware of the difficulties of maintaining our daughters’ Latin American roots in Cincinnati.

My 17 year-old self learning to dance Lambada in Brazil

Anyway, we danced Salsa. Or tried to. I was having problems with my hips. They wanted to take my torso along for the ride. This, apparently, was a no no.

Before folks think I’m just a funny, skinny looking guy trying to dance I want to mention that I’m a halfway decent dancer (or at least not terrible).  My year in Brazil was one long, continuous dance (samba, lambada, foho). When Ren and I started dating we frequently went swing dancing (popular for a brief period of time in the late 90s). I can feel a beat and follow it.

Still, since moving to Cincinnati we’ve had such little opportunity for Latin dance. We were rusty. And, listening to the Porto Rican band play that evening, I realized I’ve grown rusty in many ways.

I love Latin America. This love began when, at 16, I spent a year living in Brazil. Since then I’ve studied in Chile, backpacked and hitchhiked through through the Andes, gotten lost in Jesuit ruins in Argentina, graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies, asked Ren to marry me on a beach in Brazil, taught History in Spanish to ESL students in Houston, and, now, am adopting two girls from Colombia. The people, the languages, the history, the beaches and the mountains, the stories and songs.  I love them all. I’ve often joked that mi corazon es latino (or the Brazilian version “minha coracao e brasilero”).

Yet these past few years have felt so, I don’t know, middle American. Part of this is because Cincinnati, while a great city, is not necessarily a mecca for latino immigrants (and, of course, any place that lacks “the other” tends to have greater xenophobic views of them). I rarely speak Spanish. It’s hard to come by a decent taqueria. There tends to be a rather narrow world view.

Before adopting I was somewhat at peace with this. We still get 3 month off out of the year. We can travel to other places (indeed, Ren and I had planned to go to Brazil this summer before – happily – finding out about the girls). I would have to work harder at engaging my Latino interests, but I could get by.

Now it’s different. I don’t want my daughters to loose their identification (and my identification?) with their Latina roots. While certainly not the most pressing issue (bonding and attachment definitely take precedent), it’s an issue that sits on the back burner.

Our identity as a family is changing. I’m thrilled and happy with the change, but I wonder what it all means. Is there a wise way to do this? How important – their Colombian roots – will it be to them? What is Ren and my relation to Colombia now? Are we obligated to keep abreast of its current events and its culture? Is creating opportunities with other Latinos the same as creating opportunities with Colombians?

Just some random thoughts that pop up from the back of the mind.


Reflections on Advent, Reconciliation, and Fatherhood

Note: This a cross post from  As ardenlane is our adoption blog, and posts relating to adoption will most likely find themselves over here!


Growing up I lived in an earth-bermed house built into a hill. Beyond the hill lay a creek that, on good winter days with the right combination of snow and ice, could be cleared by a well placed sled and an intuitive sense of physics. Along the creek were cottonwood trees, beech trees, and pine. During some Novembers, Mom would send me down the hill with a bow saw to cut branches from the pine trees. We needed them for the Advent wreathe.

Today my wife and I either use a fake wreathe or we use the clippings from the Christmas tree we usually buy the 1st week of December. But when I was a kid my family  didn’t get around to purchasing a tree until a week before Christmas. My parents never seemed to be big into trees (today they have a “Christmas plant” they bring in from the front porch…it’s a bedraggled thing, slightly less pathetic than Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree). Advent, on the other hand, was important. And it was good to have a respectable wreathe.

Advent: By Ola Wiberg
Advent: By Ola Wiberg

I love Advent. Part of that love is rooted in my family’s traditions. Every night we’d gather at the table. There were 3 distinct jobs split between me and my sisters. One of us got to light the Advent candles. One of us got to snuff it out. One of us got to pick an ornament to hang on the Advent Calendar my Mom made at a crafts fair. Dad or Mom would read a devotional, something  liturgical (one year my mom even used a Catholic study) and then we’d pray. The time would end with a Christmas song, dad singing horribly out of tune (but none of us cared) and Mom adding alto parts to the Christmas hymns.

The yearly ritual fostered a feeling of longing, of happily riding a crescendo to December 25th when, wonderfully, we remembered that Christ was born. The experience of waiting calmed the spirit.

Lately I’ve come to view my faith through a lens of reconciliation. I’m not much of a black and white Christian. There is much to the faith that is confusing, odd, and – frankly – bizarre. To deal with such peculiarities I often have to get comfortable with the idea of mystery…that some questions lack answers (at least in this life). That’s the gray area of being a Christian. But then I’m left wondering about the absolutes.

One absolute, rooted in my experience of being human, is that, on my own, I am quite alone. We humans have a tendency towards selfishness. This selfishness alienates us, from each other and from God. I’m not exactly sure why, but I find it easy to view Christ’s sacrifice as a means of making it possible for us to reconcile with God and, by extension, with each other. Reconciliation is a way of making us whole.

So this Advent, when reflecting on Christ’s coming and being made whole, I’m also reflecting on an area of our lives where we’ve been quite broken…and the hope that this too will end.

Ren and I always wanted children. We’re a family with room to grow. When we discovered that this was not to be, at least through normal means, the decision to adopt came quickly and naturally. Honestly, I’ve never felt much grief over the inability to have biological children. I did feel grief – strong, deep and terrifying – over the long wait (and uncertainties) for our adopted children. These past 2 years have moved me to tears in many unexpected moments (the funniest was when watching an ER episode in which the nurse practitioner and her husband adopt a little boy…I started with crying). I’m a man made aware of a longing that echoes through his soul. We’re a family that needs to be made whole.

I know our family is forming because of brokenness. Our girls come from a broken family.  We are a family made whole through our brokenness. I also know healing brokenness takes time and considerable effort.

This Advent is different. I find myself trying to look at everything as if I were a 6 year old. What will this be like next year? This year we set the Advent wreathe on the table and hung the Advent calendar next to our Colombian flag. Ren plunked Christmas songs on the piano and I tried to follow with the guitar. When we decorated our tree it felt odd. It’s a tradition that finally will have some permanence next year. For next year Monica and Kelly will be home.

This Advent we’re waiting, not just for the coming of our Lord, but for our two little girls.

Waiting to be made whole.