Friday, December 25, 2009


Christmas eve was a day of visiting, gift sharing, and adventures in candlelight. After hearing so much about Mado's family, she brought along her husband and two youngest children, Emmanuel and Lidia, to visit with us. They were eager to meet the twins and visit with the people their mother has been spending so much time with! They also came with gifts for us.
Lidia cooked up some special chicken and manioc greens and brought along the casava and corn flour to show me how to make fufu. Suzanne, the woman who does weekly housecleaning for Suzanne and Tim, was also with us that day and she quickly stepped in to help out with the fufu lesson. After that, we all ate together and then opened up small gifts rummaged together from our luggage and wrapped up in some cloth scraps I found in the upstairs closet.

After everyone left, David and I and the kids had a nice dinner by candle light. [I must add that Kendra had gathered a variety of odds and ends to mark the season. A small, planted tree was brought in from the front stoop and decorated with a few ornaments we found tucked away in my parents closets along with little plastic scoops from the many jars of baby formula we have been going through this season. The tree was topped off with the two angels gifted to us by Southside Fellowship; we felt our home congregation watching over us this holiday season.

Fresh flowers also made their way from the stand just outside our compound to appear here and there around the house. Glittering stars are now permanently taped to my parents' walls and a beautiful wooden creche appeared from somewhere.]

A huge storm came through as we ate our Christmas Eve dinner and we lost our electricity. This is not uncommon, but, when the power came back on we had electricity on the second story but not on the ground floor - David runs around in the rain flipping circuits and trying to find someone who might be able to help. We then decide to let it go for the night and move our baby operation upstairs- which included carrying the small fridge up the steep concrete stairs. We nestled in up there on Christmas Eve, the four of us, each drifting in and out of our irregular but peaceful slumber.
Christmas day brought two rested and mercifully calm and cuddly young ones. A leisurely morning-into-noon culminated in an improvised upstairs dinner. Due to the very mysterious circumstances that cut our electricity off, we enjoyed an amazing raw food dinner complete with fresh avacado, green pepper, tomato and mango served up with some french bread. Later that evening after discussing the import of first Christmases with Likabo and Kitoko and tucking them away for another nap, Kendra pulled out a secret stash of cookies and we sat quietly and contemplated it all...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Catching Up

Of course it is not December 22nd. Technically our Christmas and holidays are officially over and we are gazing into 2010, wondering what the next year will bring us- not to mention the next month.

Still no news from the USCIS with our approval to move ahead with interviews, visa applications and other embassy business here in Kinshasa. Meanwhile, our departure date (January 15th) looms largely over our heads since we know that at least David has to depart that day in order to return to work responsibilities at Goshen College. Should David end up leaving alone- Desmond, Amari and I will stay on with Grandma Suzanne (who returned to Kinshasa this afternoon!) until we are given permission to move forward.

We have been rather busy. Busy in this context means we've had a steady flow of visitors and outings and adventures, as well as, of course, Desmond and Amari who still seem to want our attention more often than not, for which we are grateful. It seems like every day they are learning new skills and activities that take lots of time to "ohhh and ahhhh" on our behalf. And then of course, there is the play and exercise regiment that includes rolling over, singing songs with lots of arm and leg gestures, and of course the ever popular tummy time. Desmond has found his fists and has begun drooling in his free time. Amari is quite acrobatic and is well on her way to rolling over on her own (while her brother likes to just sort of lay lodged in a face plant).

At this point, given the amount of time that has lapsed, I thought we would just offer some brief highlights in chronological order for those of you interested in our goings-on. We'll start off with a little ditty from Desmond.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Settling In

It has been a settling in week since our last post. Settling in does not mean becoming comfortably accustomed to all that goes on. In fact, a metaphor for our situation that has come to our minds on a number of occasions is a kind of resignation to bricolage. In sociology, bricolage refers to a life, activity, or cultural construction of some sort put together from whatever is at hand. Typically the bricoleur is viewed as a craftsperson of sorts whose work is admired. I suppose all of us are bricoleur in some sense. But, here in this time, Kendra and I are much to frantic about our piecing together of whatever is at hand to have achieved any kind of artistic flare or vision in this enterprise. Yet, despite being fairly uncertain about best practices beyond feed, clean, put to sleep and of course despite being very tired life rolls along and everybody seems fairly healthy. We try to remember to take deep breaths when one or the other youngling feigns sleep and wakes up for the third time in 20 minutes. We drink lots of water, take breaks where possible, and sleep. Ahh sleep - we were warned, but the bricoleur will tell you, one has to do it to fully know it - sleep is a precious thing. We have been working on this sleep issue through a series of family conversations that Kendra instituted over the past few days. We'll let Kitoko and Likabo tell you about it.

Paperwork and adoption proceedings continue to move in a roundabout way towards a conclusion of some sort. On the Congolese side this process is characterized by personal face-to-face relations, at least with the people who know how to make things happen.
Last week we met with Master Okoko, the Congolese lawyer who is helping to make everything official over here, and with Pastor Loma, the man who fostered Kitoko and Likabo and continues to manage a variety of behind the scenes work all of which we are not completely aware of. They handed over all of the original copies of important documents like the kids' birth certificates and the newly made passports.

At that same meeting we also met with Adrian, the English translator studying to be a pediatrician, who translated all the original Congolese documents into English. We are still waiting on one final document on the Congolese side but are more or less the official parents of Amari and Desmond as far as the Congolese are concerned.

The USAmerican side of the equation is a different kind of social animal characterized by online forms and anonymous letters that come to us whenever they please on departmental stationary. Saturday evening, early afternoon Goshen time, Kendra had the strange opportunity to open up one of these letters from the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) in real time via Skype with Jeremiah, Stef, Scarlett, and Mira, our neighbors. Unfortunately, it was not the news we were hoping for. It appears that the USCIS has some concern about our legitimacy as US citizens, because we were both (now all) born abroad. Consequently, our parents have had to scramble together their own notarized birth certificates, passports and marriage certificates along with sworn affidavits that we are indeed their children. Hopefully this will help satisfy the USCIS and push along the US side of the formal adoption process.

Of course, neither the US nor the Congolese side of this process would be possible without the work of Jilma, the ultimate global bricoleur. She has pieced together this bricolage that brings together different systems and peoples to constitute families. She has some grace we cannot know and remains mysterious to Kendra and I who have never met her in the flesh but know her only as a voice out there. We are assured that she is real and, in fact, it was Jilma who cared for Likabo and Kitoko for the first few days after we learned of them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Second Shift Starts at 3 A.M.

I have found one of those rare moments when all is silent. Everyone sleeps. The rain falls hard outside the window and I sit in the pre-dawn quiet, sipping tea and listening to the celtic Christmas music I found in Tim and Suzanne's cd stack. I want to find the right words, I want to be witty and profound but at 4:38am Congo-time I am content to send a word of greeting to everyone and to say I am thinking of you and wishing that you were all coming over in awhile, casseroles in hand, eager to pick up a baby and talk to me about life. Yesterday was challenging - our first day without Grandpa Tim, just the four of us (2 vs. 2- adult to baby)- we consternated over Amari's diaper rash (what does diaper rash look like anyway?!) and despaired over how much Desmond is spitting up (way more than any person should). But how do I know? At just 72 hours of life together, I find myself asserting "this just isn't like him" and I have to chuckle because really 72 hours is too short of an amount of time to be the expert on anything/body much less six week old babies.

Early, early this morning (right around 3am, when my shift starts) I had a rare 45 minutes after David went up to bed and Likabo was sleeping, to just hang out with Amari. I fed and changed her, then stretched out on the coach with her, our faces looking at each other, only inches apart. I smile and she smiles. We do this for awhile, sharing this secret smiling game. Her eyes, alert and playful, seemed to offer me some kind of mom approval- like she was telling me she had decided to keep me. It was one of the best moments. Ever.

David is in schedule-and-chart mode. We are collecting data around the clock now, we color code sleeping, feeding and bowel movements (among other unsavory excretions) on excel spreadsheets on his macbook. This is way too much fun. Each shift change we study the patterns and marvel at what we imagine we have learned from this exercise in careful participant observation. No wonder social scientists make such great parents, right? Ha. And the joke really is on us because more often then not, we end up throwing our hands in the air and laughing at ourselves, at the circumstances that brought us to this latest adventure. Here we are in Kinshasa. At Christmas-time. Hanging with our six week old kids. Creating spreadsheets of their burps and giggles. Don't know much French. Don't know much about babies (as I am quickly finding out). Hanging out at Tim and Suzanne's home (without Tim & Suzanne) in the DRC. Skyping people several continents away for baby advice. Negotiating the culturally variable advice of Mama Josephine and Mama Sharon (to use powder or not to use powder??). Sleeping in shifts. Twins. How utterly, wonderfully absurdly, good.

6:45am Des & Amari are both down again. I have a weak cup of coffee and am listening to the chatter of morning birds. The rain has passed for now. The sky is hazy. I open the curtain a crack to check on the mango tree outside the gate. The tree is heavy with fruit. Life is good this Monday morning. I laugh. David sleeps. Amari cries. Desmond grunts. And off I go....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where are the instructions!?

It is Saturday morning, a rare silence has descended. Kendra, Kitoko, and Likabo are all asleep - it has been a whole 15 minutes. Dad and I are treading softly and there are theories a plenty in the air concerning the best way to encourage sleep to continue when small movements surface...

That didn't last long....

It is now around six in the evening. Late last night as I was getting up again it became clear that I needed to find some instructions and, with Amari lounging victoriously in my left arm, I searched for one of those books that Kendra wisely purchased with titles like, "Surviving Twins" and chapters like, "How to make sure you get one shower a week." A quick skimming of these instruction manuals is comforting, but the most common end-theme seems to be -- here are some ideas, give them a try, but remember you are dealing with strange infant creatures who can't be programed to be otherwise than what they are right now and the rest you pretty much have to figure out for yourself. Figuring it out has been a good bit of exhausting.

We have begun playing with schedules of this and schedules of that, which really aren't schedules at all but more like accounts of how often and how much Kitoko and Likabo do the things they do. Likabo, from what I can tell, seems to be a fairly good sleeper, especially after 2 or 3 ounces of formula. Kitoko on the other hand is often not willing to lay still, especially after 12:30 a.m., for more than 15 minutes without some tactile reassurance that all is well in the world.

My father left today so Kendra, Amari, Desmond and I have the whole place to ourselves much of the time. We had some fun talks today over skype with Cousin Sarah, Grandma Suzanne, Uncle Jon (Luke) and neighbors Stefanie, Jeremiah, Scarlett, and Mira.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting to know you-day (and night) one

It is Friday morning around 11:00. Mama Josephine left about 24 hours ago so we have begun in earnest to experience the wonders of twins. We have a working hypothesis that they have a psychic connection, the main purpose of which is to ensure that both never sleep at the same time.

We have of course been taking photos along with some video that I will try to get up soon. There are just more and more pictures of Likabo and Kitoko and it is not clear to me at all how to choose this one or that one to share here. Here is a picture of Kendra and Amari trying out the sling Betsy gave us and once used with Crosby.

We are anxiously awaiting other items for the twins and a change of clothes for Kendra and myself, all of which were left in Johannesburg when we flew in on Wednesday. They are supposed to arrive today. Josephine was kind enough to lend us some basic essentials of blankets and onesies but everything is beginning to smell a little like sour milk.

My father is leaving tomorrow, which seems a bit too soon. He has been showing us around the neighborhood in shifts. Late yesterday afternoon he took me for a short jaunt of less than a block to a small collection of fresh fruit and vegetable stands and a small grocery store. The vendors all know Grandpa Tim and I assume Grandma Suzanne and the introduction of his eldest son produced among other things the marvelous gift of a fresh avocado and a mango from one of the stands.

After dark last night all five of us took what felt like a furtive tour of downtown Kinshasa with the main purpose of memorizing the route to the 24 hour red cross emergency room. Desmond fell asleep immediately so will be absolutely no help navigating should the need arise. We drove past the old MTS travel building where Grandpa Kermit worked some 4 or 5 decades ago. Desmond woke up as soon as we stopped bouncing around on the unlit streets.
This afternoon, Mado, Tim, Kendra and I took Desmond and Amari to the clinic for a check up. With Tim leaving we wanted to make sure that the wheezing and coughing was nothing to worry about. Just kidding! They appear to be in fine health! This is the clinic where they first went to get checked on with Jilma and where their final checkup will be for the US Embassy. They recognized the twins when we walked in the door.

When we got home Apollo had returned from the airport with our luggage. I got to take a cold shower and change clothes. Desmond got to try on a new outfit courtesy of Grandma Yoder.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meeting the Twins

It is late Thursday morning, I have been intermittently working on putting this blog together and tag teaming with Mado to care for the twins. I got a good nights sleep last night thanks to Mama Josephine and Kendra. Kendra stayed up late with the kids and has been sleeping most of the morning.

I am torn between wanting to write something reflective and simply reporting. I believe this blog will consist mostly of reports and I will work on another that has more or less to say depending on your interests.

We arrived soon after noon local time and had an easy time at the airport finding our guide who ushered us through the system to my father who was also accompanied by Mato Fumunjuya who will be hanging around with Kendra and I as we get adjusted.
The Loma's. These wonderful people have been caring for Likabo and Kitoko over the past few weeks. Except for a brief stop at my parents house, we went straight to the Loma's home upon our arrival.
Mama Josephine met us with great big hugs and took us into the house where Kendra and I finally came face to face with beautiful Amari and Desmond.
We stayed for a brief visit at the Loma's and then Kendra carried Amari and I carried Desmond all the way home. Thankfully, Josephine came with us, but despite being quite tired, we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening holding, feeding, and generally becoming a little bit familiar with each other at my parents house. We got to talk (and see) grandma Suzanne, Sharon, and grandpa Kermit over skype.