Sunday, August 22, 2010

Precious Moments

Jeremy just woke up. We've had a busy of day of switching off with the kids while we juggled our Sunday responsibilities at church. Marc left the house at 8:00 this morning already to practise in time for the service...I left halfway through supper to make it in time to practise for the evening service only to rush home so that Marc could leave for a youth event that began after the service. We had company after church complete with the dutch Sunday tradition of dessert before lunch -- Rhubarb cake with ice cream, followed by hamburgers, two types of salads and good old ice cream sandwiches. It was a busy day in which we were always hurrying the kids somewhere, or feeding someone or clearing up dishes. I came home from church, Marc had the kids in bed already (bless him), and I sat down with a cup of tea and my book (1000 Awesome Things). I read for an hour and was just getting up to get a drink when I heard Jeremy peeping from his room. I've hardly seen him all day and missed putting him to bed tonight. I quietly dimmed the lights in the living room, sneaked into his room and got him out of bed. His little eyes were still squeezed shut and his little squishy fists were balled up tight as he squirmed slightly and nuzzled my arm. Carrying him into the living room I kissed his little head and nursed him in the dark. Peace and quiet with my little boy sucking softly, sleepily, contentedly. He finished, but I wasn't; I sat in the stillness and held my sweet babe, stroking his impossibly soft skin. Precious.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Witnessing a Miracle

Marc's parents just couldn't wait any longer.  Skype and blogs don't hold anything up to the real thing and after a month of only seeing their newest grandchild digitally, Mom was just dying to hold our little guy.  So they threw together their belongings and headed to our place.  We're glad they did!

Something seems almost magical each time Jeremy meets a loved one for the first time.  We get to witness the answer of prayers.  Mom and Dad have been so supportive the entire adoption journey, loving us and especially their newest grandchild even before they'd even heard of them.  When someone has been praying so hard for someone they've never met, the meeting is that much more amazing.  Jeremy is an answer to all of our prayers and somehow watching people meet him, brings to mind a miracle.

Marc's mom was able to get bigger smiles and giggles from Jeremy than we'd ever seen or heard!

We had a really nice time with Grandma and Grandpa.  We had a low key weekend, staying around the house and enjoying the gorgeous weather.  We barbecued in the backyard and spent time in the park near our house.

The pictures speak for themselves.  It was a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Home Sweet Home

It's good to be home!  It's good to be with the five of us, just being together.  We're cuddling, we're reading books, we're sharing stories.  We're so happy to finally be united as a family.  Our church community is bringing us meals and our house is spotless.  There's not much demanded of us but to be together.  It's nice to ease into life as a family of five slowly and with lots of time to just be together.

Our arrival at our house in Sarnia was a series of surprises, one after another.  The girls (and my mom) surprised us with a beautifully decorated wall to welcome Jeremy home.  Using the paints that we'd given as one of their presents while we were in South Africa, they created colourful pictures and hung their favourites with a big welcome sign for their baby brother.

Our friends Chris and Jen and their boys Ryan and Caleb also surprised us with a warm welcome.  On Sunday morning they decorated our front porch and yard with balloons and streamers to welcome us home.  Since we arrived a day earlier than we had  expected, they thought that we were still away and were coming home that day.  They were shocked to see our van in the driveway.  But they worked quickly and silently while we ate our breakfast in the kitchen and we had no idea what they were up to!

Jeremy sleeping on our nice new carpet!
We were also welcomed with another surprise.  While our parents were taking care of our kids for a month, they were also taking care of us.  Just before we got the call to go to South Africa we had begun an ambitious renovation of our basement.  We got the painting and the carpet down, but the tedious work of trimming the doors and the baseboard we left for our return.  We came home to a completely finished basement, a house with shiny clean windows, yards and gardens that looked beautiful, and the "Honey, do list" of several years running completely checked off.  Thanks Mom and Dad Brink and Mom and Dad Hoogstad for not only taking care of our girls, but taking care of our home!

We were excited to unpack the treasures that we had purchased in South Africa, most of which we had bought to decorate our new family room in the basement.  
Baskets made by local artisans in the Drakensberg Mountains puchased at Didima.

The giraffe and elephant statues we purchased at the Bruma Market in Johannesberg as well as the series of three paintings.

This gorgeous piece we purchased on the Safari that we enjoyed in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi

Sara and Leah are continuing to bond beautifully with their brother.  They love to look at Jeremy, and especially to hold him. Leah sits up so straight on the couch and holds her arms in a big circle just like we practiced during our long wait.

Sara likes to sing to Jeremy as she holds him.  If he starts to whimper, even a little, she comes in with a slightly panicked but beautiful "Twinkle twinkle" just hoping he'll settle down.

Sometimes Marc and I just sit and watch our kids.  We watch them play together.  We are amazed at their creativity and their imagination.  We even smile at their squabbles.  We're overwhelmed by love and humbled before our Gracious God who entrusted us with these three amazing children.

Our hearts are full of praise.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The end of the sky...

Our journey home was wonderfully unremarkable. We packed on Thursday morning, and since we had brought an entire suitcase of baby clothes to leave at Jeremy's baby house, we had an huge suitcase to put in all of our souvenirs. Packing went quickly and easily and we had lots of room for all of our belongings.

We arrived at Durban's airport well ahead of time, despite the fact that Geraldine our GPS, failed us completely by trying to make us take an extremely hilly and almost impassable dirt road (poor Geraldine had been so faithful this whole trip, to fail us now...) We opted for the six lane highway instead and followed airport signs.

In the airport we bought a few last minute souvenirs, yes, even a Vuvuzela, those super annoying and loud horn like things blown by thousands of fans at soccer games. Marc thought it might come in handy with his youth group!

The flights were long, but not unbearable. Our plane from Durban to Capetown was not full and so we ended up having three seats together. It was nice to have Jeremy on the seat between us instead of having to hold him. It was on this flight that I started adding up the amount of hours we'd be on the plane and the hours we'd be waiting in different airports. Two hours to Capetown, a three hour stopover, eleven hours to Amsterdam, a two hour stopover, and eight hours to Canada -- 26 hours all together. That's when I realized our mistake. We had told our family to pick us up at the airport on Saturday, but 26 hours would have us arrive in Canada on Friday -- some how something went wrong when we calculated the time change. Excited at arriving home a day earlier than expected, but frantic that we wouldn't be able to get a hold of our family, we called our parents from Capetown with our South African cell phone. No problems.

The flight from Capetown to Amsterdam was long, but fortunately, we had the use of a bassinet for Jeremy. He fell asleep during takeoff, and slept almost the entire time on the plane. He woke up near the end and made friends with a cute little 10 month old from Gronigan. She couldn't keep her hands off him. They made a cute pair!

Another cute pair was made in the Amsterdam airport when we ran into my childhood friend Michelle Kooy. She was on her way from Jakarta, Indonesia and was traveling to her parents who live in London and are good friends with my parents. Her eleven month old, who had just endured a sixteen hour plane ride was headed into the eight hour one and without a bassinet!

Jeremy slept again most of the flight to Toronto and we arrived tired, but grateful, in Canada, Jeremy's new country. Sporting our Bafana Bafana shirts, we met my grinning brother, Eric, and drove with him to our parents' home.

And there were our girls!

They came bounding out of the house to meet us with huge grins. "Mommy, Daddy, Mommy Daddy!" It was a joyful reunion. It felt so good to hold those little girls again. I couldn't hug them enough. But, there was more...they were meeting Jeremy!

We pulled his car seat out of the car and the girls saw their little brother in person for the first time. They couldn't stop touching him. Right then and there, in the driveway of 34 Masefield Cr., Sara sat down. "I want to hold Jeremy", she said, arms ready in a circle the way we'd practised at home. So we spent an extra five minutes right there on the driveway so that Sara, and then Leah could hold their little brother. They'd waited long enough, now it was time!

We stayed the night at my parents, enjoying their hospitality while enduring our jet lag. Oma and Opa and brother Eric got lots of chances to hold Jeremy and talk to him. And hundreds of pictures were snapped, literally.

That night Marc, Jeremy and I all slept well. We awoke early on Saturday, after a good sleep and enjoyed a quiet morning with our parents and children. Then, our new family, all five of us, drove to Sarnia, and finally, brought Jeremy HOME!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Special Day

Yesterday was a very special day. We’ve been hanging out here in Umhlanga, a touristy part of the Durban area, enjoying the beach, our very comfortable bed and breakfast, the Kingston House, and have even gone to Gateway, the largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere. Mostly, we’ve been killing time, waiting for the passport, waiting until it’s time to leave South Africa, but also, waiting, a little excited and a little nervous, to meet Jeremy’s birth mother. Yesterday was that day.

I don’t know if I’ve ever prayed so hard and so often in preparation for such a short time. We had heard from others, that the meetings with birth parents are usually very difficult, very emotional. One woman who we’ve met describes it as the hardest thing she has ever done. We tried to picture how it would go, what we’d say, how would she react to seeing Jeremy. Most of all, we prayed. Our prayer was simple. God be with the birth parents. Help it to be a good and meaningful time, an important part of the healing process for the birth parents, and a time when they are reassured that they’ve made the right choice.

We met at the home of our social worker. Upon our arrival we pulled over to the side of the road, just before the driveway to pray one last time, for God’s presence in the meeting, for strength for the birth parents and for us, for the words to say…

God was present, the words came, and we had a good, meaningful time with Jeremy’s biological mother and his grandparents. They were sweet, good people, happy to see us, and happy to see Jeremy for the first time. We hadn’t realized that Jeremy’s birth mom had never seen him before. We have some beautiful photographs of her holding him, talking to him, and playing with him.

It was a difficult time for Jeremy’s mom. Her eyes filled with tears often, but she’d quietly wipe them away. She is not a talkative woman, a little shy with difficulty expressing herself (who can blame her giving the circumstances), but we feel like just that short time with her allowed us to get to know her a little more.

Jeremy’s grandmother is making a book about their family and about South Africa for him. This gift surprised us and delighted us. What an incredible gift to have such a book to look at when he thinks about and wonders about his first family. The book is not quite complete and so we will have to wait until it arrives in the mail. Hopefully it won’t be too long.

One of the neat things about an open adoption, even one that is separated by such a great distance, is that when we parted, when Jeremy’s birth mom so sweetly and so painfully touched his little arm to say goodbye, it wasn’t last contact. In a few weeks we’ll be sending the first pictures of his time in Canada. Jeremy’s birth mom will see him greeted by his Canadian grandparents and his big sisters. She’ll see pictures of his baptism, camping this summer, his first steps, first days at school. And in return, when Jeremy wonders what his birth mother’s favourite colour is, or whether she likes pineapple on her pizza, or any other question little boys wonder about people, he can ask her. What a healthy and positive way to do adoption.

My heart breaks for Jeremy’s birth parents. I know their hearts are breaking in the most painful way. We expect it to be a very difficult journey for them as they deal with grief which we can’t even imagine. So now we continue to pray, not out of fear and nervousness about a difficult meeting, but for strength and comfort and peace for these two important people who have joined our family as part of Jeremy’s family.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

On Safari

Last Friday we decided that since Jeremy was doing so well, we would make one (more) switch to our itinerary. So on Saturday morning we packed up our belongings, threw all of our suitcases into our Honda Jazz, and drove up the coast to St. Lucia, a quiet little vacation town about three hours north of Durban.

The decision to go to St. Lucia was definitely a good one. After settling in at “African Ambiance, our gorgeous B&B, complete with African décor, gorgeous wooden furniture and a grass thatched roof, we took our hosts’ advice and headed to the beach.

Geckos, better than rats I guess!

After a short hike along a boardwalk, on our guard against rogue crocodiles, we found ourselves at the beachfront of the St. Lucia Estuary, a huge wildlife park. The estuary is home to hundreds of different bird life, hippos, crocodiles, sharks, whales, and is the breeding ground of the leather backed turtle. The beach was beautiful and huge, and it took some time to find the shore…

After the beach we went to the local ski and boat club restaurant for drinks and to watch the crocs and hippos play in the river. What a great afternoon! We watched a mamma and baby hippo romping through the water, swimming back and forth across the river. And about five crocodiles were chilling out near the shore. We also saw some beautiful birds who were quite hesitant around the crocs.

The goal of our trip to St. Lucia was simple– safari. On Sunday morning we headed out to Hluhuwe Imfolozi Park and set off on a 6 hour safari drive in search of wildlife. With Jeremy sound asleep in the back, we headed out into the Imfolozi part of the park. We hoped to see animals – lots of them, and we were not disappointed. Around the first turn after entering the park, a giant African Elephant was tramping through the tall grass. We spent the entire day marvelling at creation, worshiping God as we gazed at zebra, warthog, impala, nyala, kudu, and lots of others. We were greeted by a baby giraffe walking with it’s parents and relatives right beside the road. We were road-blocked by a wildebeest, who glared at us as we inched timidly around him. And an enormous rhinoceros sized us up as we passed by him and his mate. Jeremy woke in time for our picnic lunch at the Mpila Camp, and he even rode in the front seat with us for a bit down the road (when in Rome…).

Jeremy and the Giraffes

Momma, Poppa and little baby

White Rhinoceros (or maybe black, who can tell?)


Drove right beside this one

Impala, they were EVERYWHERE!

Blurry African Elephant (and African grass which stole the focus)

Vervet Monkey (these were all around St. Lucia)

Red Duiker, also in St. Lucia


Warthog, she had four babies with her too -- even the babies are ugly!

Beautiful zebra grazing right beside the road

The day was awe inspiring. What an incredible world we live in!