Monday, August 16, 2010

Our Son is No Longer an Orphan!

Our youngest, Wesley, looks forward to taking a walk each evening because we search for toads, frogs, caterpillars, and other fascinating little creatures.  He reaches for a tupperware container or his bug box and settles into his stroller with anticipation.  We have a certain path that we take, and we stop at the milkweed plants to search for caterpillars and the occassional tree frog.  As the walking path curves into the forest, we watch for toads hopping across the path, or jumping for cover in the leaves.

There have been times when we find nothing - and other times when we come back with toad stacked on top of toad, stacked on top of toad.  We have about 7 or 8 tree frogs that live under our porch lights (growing fat on the bugs that swarm the lights each evening), and in the watering can.  And we always have a few chrysallis' hanging from the roof of our bug box, like little jewel boxes with irridescent green skins and delicate gold dots.

As we near home, Wesley excitedly announces "I want to show the kids my toads".  ("the kids" are his brother and sisters).  And after they have all "oooohed" and "aaaaaahed" over his toads or caterpillars, he wants to let them go outside "so they can find their mommy and daddy".

I smile at his sweet concern and empathy for his bugs and toads - and their "families", because I know deep down, he is concerned for anything and anyone that doesn't have a mommy and a daddy.

We don't know the specific details about Wesley's birthmother, other than that she was very young and was a street orphan herself.  Somehow she kept Wesley with her (on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) until he was about 2 years old, and then she relinquished him at a police station with the hope that he would somehow survive (they were starving and his growth was already being stunted due to malnutrition) and maybe even be adopted into a family (although that was probably too much to even hope for or dream about).

There are times when I am still haunted by this most difficult and unselfish of decisions that was made by his young mother.  I often put myself in her shoes, and think about being faced with giving up my children with the hope and prayer for something better for them.  Can you imagine?

Can you imagine wondering what your children are thinking?  Are they waiting for me to come back?  Do they know that I love them so much that I "let them go" for the possibility of a better life?  Or are they angry and heartbroken about my abandonment?  Will they forgive me?

Wesley lived in the orphanage for only about 6 months before we adopted him.  I know kids are amazingly resiliant but they are often wise beyond their years and they can store up hurt, and loneliness, and anger in their little hearts.  That 6 months in an orphanage (and who knows what experiences he had living on the streets of Addis Ababa with his orphaned teenage mother) was enough to affect him.

He was mistrustful, distant and aggressively defensive at first.  I look back at those early pictures and his eyes are vacant, his face expressionless, and his little body leans away from me as I held him close.  With his body language he is saying ...

"I don't want your touch or your love because it hurts too much to lose it". 

"I don't know you and I don't want you". 

"I've learned to defend myself and my stuff with my fingernails, my fists and my teeth.  There is no one to protect me, so I protect myself." 

He was only 2 years old - and already, this is what he knew.

The first 9 months were tough.  And we had to show tough love - drawing very clear lines in the sand about behaviour, and very methodically teaching him about love and trust and family.

Sometime after 9 months or so, we started to see that love and that trust being reciprocated.

And today - over 18 month later, our little Wesley is one of the most affectionate, loving, empathetic and sweetly obedient little boys I have ever known.  That concern he shows for his frogs and toads and caterpillars and lady bugs is born of his deep concern for anyone or anything that does not have a family. 

Several months ago, Wesley started nonchalantly asking ... "Mom, You love me?"  The first time he asked me, I looked up at him with concern to try and discern why he was questioning my love for him.  But he was smiling, and so I smiled back and answered, "Yes, Wesley.  I love you!" 

I watched a little ripple of happiness pass through his body and he confidently went back to what he was doing.  He wasn't questioning.  He was revelling in the knowledge and confidence of my love for him.

It's a regular question around here now.  Out of nowhere he suddenly pipes up, "Dad?  You love me?"  Completely confident in the answer, he waits expectantly, already knowing the answer.  And Jay responds, "Yes Wesley.  I love you."  And Wesley grins and wiggles with happiness and security, soaking in the love of his mommy and daddy, and his brother and sisters.

Our littlest boy was officially and legally declared a "Wistrom" by an Ethiopian judge in November of 2008.  At that point, a piece of paper and a court system declared that he was no longer an orphan.  I love it when I hear him talking with his brother and sisters about me or Jay.  He subconsciously puts a little emphasis on the word "my".  "MY mommy" says this, or "MY daddy" says that.  He claims us completely as his own now.  He is no longer an orphan in his heart and in his mind.  He is completely and securely our son.

Another one of his little questions is this ... "Mom, you happy?"  I answer, "Yes Wesley, I'm happy."  Then I ask him, "Are you happy?"  And he triumphantly answers, "Yesssss!" as he sneaks in for a quick kiss on the wrist. :)


Anonymous said...

I love this! What a beautiful boy, a beautiful family, and a beautiful story of hope! Thanks for sharing!

Barbara said...

I can't comment because I am weeping. Thank you Kim.

Lindsey said...

LOVE this post! How beautiful how God sets the lonely in families.

Karla said...

You kill me! :)

Amy E. said...

Amazing! Thank you for sharing your story!

The Hermyzoo! said...

THANK YOU so much for this POST! I LOVED IT!!!

ps. I WOULD LOVE to know how you do his hair? I am twisting my sons hair as well however it's not lasting long. He sleeps with a du-rag and it just gets really matted. I am wondering if I need to use different products. I would love your help if your up for it :P

What a gorgeous family you have. I am glad I have found your blog.

Mike and Amy said...

I LOVE IT!!! This is beautiful - thank you so much for sharing so much of your heart. I began reading your blog back in February of 2009 and have LOVED seeing all your family grow.
In His Love,
Mom to John and Ryan

Tracy said...

Beyond BEAUTIFUL Karen!!! So blessed by your story!! God is SO good!!

Olson Family said...

I have tears! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

jkseevers said...

my hubby passed along your blog to me and said, "you've GOT to read this". Well, I did and now I'm crying. :)
We have 4 bio children ages 12, 9,6, and 18 months and we are adopting from Ethiopia. Our homestudy is almost complete, and with each passing day we get more eager to bring our babe/ babies home. Yes, that's right... we are requesting a sibling group. We'd love if you'd pray along with us as we continue on this amazing journey...
check us out at If you go to the "video" link, you'll be able to see our beginning in a few short minutes:)

Angela said...

I can't even tell you how much I love your blog. Thank you for your posts!

D and A said...

I have tears reading this. I can recall my son at 2 leaning away and looking so sad when we picked him up too and now how God has made it as if he were also born from my womb. God is amazing! Your son is precious!

Tracy said...

Precious, precious. Thanks for sharing. Also, I need some hair care advise!! :) You have to tell me what you do to his hair.

Amy ReneƩ said...

Beautiful! Redeeming!!! Inspiring!!!

Heather said...

What a sweet, special story. He is so handsome and sweet!
I second that question about the hair! You do an amazing job with it. Can you give me some tips? Our Elias is 2 and it looks ok, but not like Wesley's. :) Thanks for sharing your beautiful story!

Jim and Laura said...

Beautiful. We have an older adopted son. He became part of your family when he was 5. Unfortunate circumstances made life very hard for him as a young child. It takes patience, praying, love, and understanding but in the end they will trust and give you more than your can ever give them.

Apryl said...

An amazing post--you've captured everything so well the pictures are astounding. Isn't it incredible to look back at the early photos and see now what you didn't notice then? I'm always so thrilled to see photos of your family, never tiring of reveling in the difference a few years and a family can make.
Very beautiful :) apryl

Debb said...

Oh, Karen! Your post just fills my heart with JOY! Your story is such an amazing example of what God can do in a family! He more than brings us together from halfway across the world, but He also heals brokenness and loneliness. With love. Each one of your children are a huge blessing to you ~ and know that you are to them, as well. Thank you for sharing this ever-precious post! May God continue to fill your family with such a safe and confident love! You and yours bless me! Big hugs!

Mike said...

I am writing to ask for your permission to include your posts on and include a link to your blog in our
directory. We would
include a link back to your blog fully crediting you for your work
along with a profile about you listed on .
Please let us
know as soon as possible.

Mike Thomas

Freedom Hollow Farmgirl said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. My husband and I are awaiting acceptance into our agency's Ethiopia program. We are just starting our journey and so appreciate you sharing part of your journey.

You have a beautiful family.


Connie said...

God has gifted you as a writer! Absolutely tear-inducingly beautiful! I'm off to find some kleenex...

Zess said...

WoW!!!! What a beautiful family and a beautifl story! I am incredibly greatful to you and to the families all around the world that have a desire to help not only just one kid but his or her future generation. I just want to personally thank you so much for your kindness and generosity to spend your time, energy and resources to make a difference to otherwise forgotten and abondened kids. How wonderful to have you in this world to change so many lives. You are amazing!! May God bless you and your family abundently! I wish I can just give you a big hug!