Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Give and Take

"...the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21

The Lord gives us multiple blessings each day, each year.  Having moved so much in my life....from Kentucky to Tennessee to Georgia to the Caribbean for medical school then to NYC and to Somerset, KY and now to Louisville....  I have learned that people come and go from your life and if you are truly seeking His direction for your life, He plants the right people for the right times.  Despite this, it still really stinks when you move or those close to you move.... It stinks regardless of the call, the job, the life change.  Really it sucks.... pardon my language.... Despite knowing the benefits, I am a selfish creature and want those that I love to stay close.  Yes.  I said it.  I am selfish.  I. Love. My. Friends. 

Well, in the last bit, God is paving the way for new entrances and tough exits.  I needed to write about them....I needed to acknowledge them...

Meet Whitney.  Isn't she beautiful? Our regular sitter, who we have for the summer and loves Tedi more than anyone else in the world, has busy fall as she finishes college, so we had been praying for a nanny/babysitter for Tedi and Chernet this coming school year after school for many complicated reasons.  That sounds fancy "nanny"..... what it means us: someone to love our boys, play with them, and accept the fact we are not rich but will treat them like family and not be scared by HIV.... So if that is "fancy", so be it.  After a recommendation from a work friend, we posted a wanted ad in the local seminary bulletin.  Whitney responded... we spoke at length, called all of her references, spoke again, and well, we picked her.... okay, not really.  We believe no meetings are coincidental. 

Whitney is marrying that handsome boy, Layne, on June 9 (that is next week, by the way) and shortly thereafter will be moving to Louisville where they will be getting masters degrees at Southern Seminary.  She just finished up at Baylor and loved flag football (plus).  We have not met face to face (this will happen in July), but she did not balk at Chernet's HIV or the thought of two 5year old boys.  We can not wait to have her here and get to know her more! 

Erica and I have been friends since we started residency.  She had a huge life accomplishment today when she matched into a Pediatric Pulmonology fellowship in Cleveland, Ohio.  We celebrated tonight with pizza, Comfy Cow ice cream, flowers, sweat pants on the couch....the best kind of celebration.  What an exciting accomplishment!  Though she won't be moving for one year, it is still starting to cause little pangs of sadness.... Despite my knowledge of persisting friendship, it is tough.  I won't lie.  That is all.

I can not really write about this.... not yet.  But my nearest and dearest, my hero, my lovely friend with a huge heart and diva daughters and devoted husband are moving.... moving FAR....not out of the country but Phoenix is pretty darn close.  And because we have had the luxury of 2 years of living within 2 hours of each other, and now God is deciding to use them elsewhere.... because of that I will employ immature coping skills and not think about it this until it happens too soon.  That is all about that...

I write this to celebrate... to celebrate that in the loss there is gain.... others will meet these fabulous people, to celebrate that my life is better while they are here and remind me to celebrate each minute with them.  I write this to thank God for the additions and coming attractions He is providing.  In addition to Whitney, there are other friendships and relationships that He is growing and strengthening, and for that I am thankful.

Monday, May 28, 2012


.....what DO you DO?

What am I talking about? Well, we advocate for adoption.  Now, we feel called to advocate for HIV+ children, their needs and finding people to care for them.  Yet, just because these are what we "DO" (for lack of a better term or more eloquent semantics), does not mean we do not support other causes or what many others do.  Just because HIV is our "thing" does not mean we will not answer questions, advocate for and get excited about your adoptions.

This is what we do....But what do you DO?  Maybe adoption is not what you do or at least what you do yet (though I'm not sure why :-)  Anyhow, that is fine....but what are you doing in your every day life to make the difference for other people.  Everyone's "everyday" looks a little different.  For some, it is staying home, loving and raising children.  For some, it is working outside the home teaching, in medicine, as nurses, and many other places.  Where you work, however, is not what you DO.  However, if you make an effort each day at where you work to DO something for others, then, in fact, it is.

Advocate for domestic adoptions.  Feed the homeless.  Serve women in strip clubs.  Babysit for single moms.  Speak out for HIV+ children.  ADOPT.  Work at the local food pantry.  Join organizations who prevent child abuse.  Run races for cancer.  Parent special needs children. Sponsor a child.  Foster a child.  Fight for those being trafficked. Love people you meet each day that may look different, smell different, behave differently from you.  THESE ARE ALL VERBS....they require "DOING SOMETHING".....  So whatever you choose to do, just DO something for others.

Matthew 25:40.....The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

Ethiopia Day 1

So I tried to journal every day while in Ethiopia...I did not do a great job but here is a start.  Most of this comes directly from the journal.  All of this was written during the trip in case the tense is confusing.

Day 1: May 5, 2012

Today started at home with us finishing our packing.  I did not sleep well.  Shocking!  I tossed and turned and woke up numerous times.  JT grabbed Wendy's for us as an early lunch.  As we were loading my father in law's truck with our luggage, the letter came from Brown Elementary.  It was our first choice for optional programs.  They only take 48 kids and we are NOT one of them.  Oh well!  We got our first choice for genera public schools.  Several of his pre-school classmates will be at his school anyways.  There is always a reason..... a reason for everything.  We may even start Chernet at Bloom.  We will have to wait and see once we meet him. 

Check in went smoothly other than the $100 extra for our bag of donations.  She could not promise that we would not have to pay $200 more tomorrow.  It is worth it to provide medical supplies in our sons' country.

We sat at our gate people watching.  It was a great day because of all the people arriving for Derby.  All the ladies wearing too high wedges, carrying Louis Vitton hat boxes..... or my favorite, the middle aged ladies talking too loudly while wearing said derby hats.  OR their husbands carrying their wives' hat boxes around. One lady was carrying a three foot by four foot Louis Vitton bag filled with the largest bag you can imagine. I commented on this to JT and he laughed saying "What a first world problem?!?!"

This has me thinking today about my own "first world problems" and first world preoccupations.... what earring do I wear when I meet Chernet OR when I meet Tedi's birthmom OR which outfit is flattering in pictures...what elementary school the boys will be into.... since the country we are traveling to would be fortunate to have education and my clothes are the least of their problems.  How my eyebrows are not plucked does not matter.

Our flight to DC from Louisville was bumpy but quick.  There was of course "that guy" on the flight.  The one who asked for multiple drinks, kept getting up during the times he should not, having his iPhone on too long.  At least he was entertaining. 

Man, what a large airport Dulles is.... I have been through JFK and Laguardia and O'Hare and Atlanta but this place was a maze.  Thankfully, the size will make for passing time during our 8 hour layover when we come back.  We stood in baggage claim with two men from Salem, Indiana.  They helped us gather our medical donations that spilled all over the belt. 

The most comical and yet frustrating part of our trip has been the Embassy Suites transportation.  We waited almost an hour to be board the shuttle then had to circle back for a guest standing at the wrong location. Later we asked for a ride to get dinner.  We went to a beautiful place called the Reston Towne Center.  We ate dinner and walked the streets lined with shoppes....J. Crew, Gap, Pottery Barn mixed with Anthropologie, local shoppes and coffee shoppes.  I even picked up the journal I am writing in at a cute boutique.  After grabbing yogurt, we called for transportation and waited 45 minutes before giving up.  We just took a taxi home. 

This place, Reston Towne Center, was gorgeous.  The weather had cooled off and the time together was great.  We held hands and talked about Tedi.  But the tall, tall condo buildings and $200+ Anthropologie dresses and frapps and overpriced card shops (which I love) are standing juxtaposed in my mind to a place I have not yet been.  I am interested to see the picture of this nice shopping area next to those of Woolayita, Ethiopia. 

I want to return changed and yet be able to function in this world, America, with one foot in the other,.  We shall see.  I pray for Him to continue breaking my heart for what breaks his...and at the same time I fear for what this will mean.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Then and Now

We went to the lake this holiday weekend.  About two years ago (August 2010), we took Tedi to my dad's house boat for the first time.  This is likely out last weekend at the boat as a family of three.  I was shocked at the difference in pictures of Tedi now compared to two years ago....I know he has grown 14 inches and 12 pounds since then.... HOWEVER, it is still impressive to see in photos...



Helping Grandpa: THEN

Helping Grandpa: NOW
Driving the boat: THEN

Driving the boat: NOW

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who we are.....

So we have been getting more blog traffic lately so I thought this was an appropriate time for this post....I wanted introduce or re-introduce me, us and really what we are all about....It is only a little snapshot so if you want to know more (which you probably don't at all) let me know.... so, if you know us, feel free to skip this.  If not, welcome! 

Our Family~
We are currently a family of 3, Natalie, JT and Tedi, but we are waiting to bring home our second son, Chernet.  We are using Lifeline Adoptions and love them!  We are huge adoption advocates....HIV adoptions, international adoptions, domestic..... we support and encourage it all... We attend The Avenue Church, which is a church plant on the campus of the University of Louisville geared at reaching college kids.  With that, we are some the oldest members.  JT is an elder at the church and Tedi is quite a hit! 

As stated above, JT is an elder as our church.  He works for Family and Children's Place as the assistant development is an organization that offers services and such for children who have been victims of physical and sexual abuse.  JT is fundraiser for their programs and loves his job.  In addition to this, he helps coach an AAU team in the spring.   If you have questions about adoption from a men's perspective or our church, please feel free to email him at

I am finishing my second year as a pediatric resident at Kosair Children's Hospital, the children's hospital in Louisville, KY.  While my job requires much of time and energy, I can not think of doing anything else.  I work crazy hours but love my boys, my friends, my family like crazy.  I love talking about adoption of all types, educating families about the medical aspects of adoption, and really answer any questions in general.

Tedi & Chernet~
These are our boys.... Tedros "Tedi" Henderson is our first son and he is five years old.  He will start kindergarten in the fall here in Louisville.  He loves soccer and running but has little love for basketball or baseball, breaking his father's heart.  Chernet, our second son, should be coming home from Ethiopia late July or August of this year.  From our first meeting, he is rambunctious, loving, and a little mischievious.  We can not wait to add him to our family. 


Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about adoption, HIV or otherwise!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Over the weekend....

I thought I would do so more light hearted posting.... This weekend was the annual Henderson men baseball trip.... my father in law, brother in law, JT and Tedi all took off to Milwaukee for a Brewers vs. Twins game.  They choose a different park every year, so despite being Cubs fans, they like to visit different cities.They are having a great time.

As for me, I have been left to my own devices. Last night, I curled up in sweats, Indian food, and one of my good friends from work and we watched a "girlie" movie.  Today started with strolling through the mall with a friend (see below picture.)  I spent my alone afternoon doing laundry, my nemesis, worked on a craft for the boys' room (also pictured below), cleaned out Tedi's winter clothes and set aside clothes for Chernet, and lastly..... I worked on the blog.  I updated the tabs at the top and their contents.  I also added a music playlist at the bottom of the blog.... I wanted this option while I am browsing the web but I also wanted it not automatically start jamming Jason Mraz at work, so it won't play unless you make it!  (Don't judge my music choices).  I added a fundraising 101 section so if you have any ideas that have worked, I would love to share them here.  I have cleaned up the HIV section and am continuing to work on these... Suggestions are definitely welcome to make the blog more usable and helpful to visitors!

Next year, this guy will make the baseball trip.... God help them!  He will wear them out!  Thank you Fran for this amazing picture of Chernet at the transition home.  Yep, those are pink crocs he is rocking....  oh he has no idea what is waiting him, my sweet boy.

I met my friend Lesley at the mall today.  We browsed all the stores while talking..... we circled a second time through Old Navy and look what she found!  Of course the doctor in me had to have these for my son... they did not have them in Tedi's size so Chernet is going to be punished...

Lastly, I thought I would try to be crafty.... if you know me, having a self-referencing pronoun and craft in the same sentence is an oxymoron.... These are wood, painted brown, with different scrapbook papers modge podged onto the wood... I will post a picture one they are hung in the boys room... 

Friday, May 18, 2012

So What's Next????

~ We passed court and officially became Chernet's parents on May 9, 2012 (I don't think I mentioned that we passed court for Tedi on May 10, 2010...pretty cool). 

~ So happens now.... well our court documents and decree have to be translated from Amharic,     
  Chernet has a formal medical evaluation, and all of our and his documents are compiled and  
  submitted to the United States Embassy for review and visa.

~ When will he be home....  the short answer is we do not know.  He has a living birth grandparent
   that the embassy may want to speak with (completely okay by me).... it is taking anywhere   
   from four weeks to four months with the average of 3 months-ish.... So, we don't know when he
   will be here but we hope it is sooner rather than later

~ In the meantime.... we are trying to arrange for someone to pick up the boys in the fall after school
  from two separate elementary schools (interested?) We will work like crazy...organize Tedi's  
  room to make room in all the toys for a brother.  I will be applying for my pediatric intensive care  
  fellowship in July.... that is what we will do while we wait.  Oh yes, and continue to encourage
  everyone else to adopt, advocate, fight, DO...

Can you find my boy? A lovely gift from a friend who was in Ethiopia a few days after us.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lice, Scabies, and Ringworm.... Oh My!

Our trip to Ethiopia was filled with many overwhelming experiences.... spending time with our second son (joyful), meeting Tedi's birth family (so emotional), soaking in the sights and sounds of our children's birth country.  One of the most reward moments of the trip was getting to use my medical knowledge and talents to help the children.  I did not bring antibiotics but I brought the basics for checking ears, ointments of skin, stickers as rewards....suckers as bribes (don't tell the dentists) 

Here in America, we take medical care for granted.  People bring their children to the emergency room for ear infections, strep throat, bug bites.....  we expect to be seen immediately.  We let our children act like fools if they are getting shots or even better, we threaten their bad behavior with shots....or my favorite, we choose NOT to give vaccines when so many countries are literally having their children die because of diseases that in American we can protect our children from....

As I sat up a makeshift clinic in the West Sands Primary School, I was answering questions from the teachers and school workers.  The basic question: how do we get rid of ring worm in the scalp?  So simple, right?  You take griseofulvin, an anti fungal, by mouth two times per day.  You get rid of the hats and use new clippers.... wash all of the bedding and throw away all brushes (similar to lice, minus the 6 weeks of medicine)  As I said this, I could read the looks I was receiving.  I then realized....if you saved to buy one hat, it is difficult to throw it away.  If you only have one set of clippers, how can you justify throwing them out.  A medicine that you must take for 6 weeks is just a little too expensive when paying for food is difficult.  My heart broke... think about those tough decisions being made... when here, we run to the ER and demand answers and a quick fix...  I am an American pediatrician and now I have a new appreciation for "sick"....a new understanding of what a little education can do for a family...  and maybe a little more impatience for parents who don't hold their kids for ear exams (just wait till you see the pics) because these kids, without their parents present, sat overly cooperatively for the exam. 

I won't lie....on the drive home, I convinced myself that I had taken with me the lice, ringworm, and maybe a little scabies or molluscum.  Our second day home I even had my friend (who also happens to do my hair) get out of bed and drive to our house in the rain to check my head for lice.... I did not have it then but still carry a little paranoia.... I would have taken lice, molluscum, ringworm....the sinus infection (which I do have).... I would have taken it all on myself for the experience of serving the children... I would have taken it all and more if it meant I could remove it from their little bodies....

Below are the highlights from the school medical clinic (my husband was a great photographer and medical assistant and another adoptive mom was the fav with stickers and suckers)....

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


This was posted by our adoption agency today on Facebook.  (We are with Lifeline Adoption but our in country placing agency is West Sands Adoption in Ethiopia....)

Attention Adoptive Families - We have several HIV+ waiting children ready to be matched to their forever family. If you are interested in learning more about adopting an HIV+ child please let us know. We have a sweet (just turned) 4 year old boy, 6 year old girls, 8 year old boys, and a 12 year old girl with mitral valve prolapse. We also have healthy siblings - boy 8 years old & girl 6 years old. Please help us spread the word, to find these children's families....We know they are out there. :)

A post very similar to this in early March changed the course of our adoption, the course of our lives.  We said "yes" to HIV adoption of our son Chernet... our journey is just beginning.  Let me tell you....these kids need homes just like the cuddly, cute babies.  That is not a knock on the babies...I don't worry about babies not being adopted.  I worry about these kids.  My husband, as we speak, wants to shake me.  He won't deny it...and he tells me "Natalie, we can't adopt everyone."  I keep thinking...just one more. 

Sadly, he is right.  Despite my longing, my desire for another, there will always be ONE MORE.  In truth, I can not save every child......For now, I am working on the peace of realizing I can not save every one of them.  (If you are interested in these kids....seriously, email me. I will direct you to right place.)

Mother Teresa seemed to have it right.... She said many things that became famous...but the quotes below, they keep me in knots...these quotes, along with the faces from last week, keep me sharing the same story and advocating for ONE MORE....maybe, just maybe, it will encourage someone else to subtract ONE MORE.

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."

"One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody. "

Fun, Fun

I thought I would take a one blog break from all of the heavy stuff on my heart and post some of the fun pictures (photographer I am not, but I think you get the picture)... to make you smile and laugh and entice you to LOVE...

A hut on the way to Tedi's village

Adding fuel to the car manually since the gas station was out of gasoline

Pretend Coffee Ceremony

Too Cool

I know it is sideways and I can't fix that but it shows his personality

in mommy's glasses


Caramel Macchiato

His true colors

First Picture together as parents of 2 boys

Monday, May 14, 2012


And I am worried that my air conditioning isn't working....about where Tedi and Chernet will attend school and how much the after school care will cost..... about which brand of cereal to buy....As my husband says, all of these are FIRST world problems...problems we stress because this is where we live, how we are raised..and though adopting and visiting Ethiopia and being aware of THIRD world problems does not solve them, it at least reminds us to have perspective.  Even home 3 days, I must not let myself lose perspective...when I go back to work on Thursday, I must not lose perspective.

"Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows we know and holds us responsible to act."
Proverbs 24:12

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Not Just Another Mother's Day....

Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's, mama's, mommy's, step-mom's, granny's, granna's, aunt's, friends, soon-to-be moms, want-to-be moms, birth moms, adoptive moms, ladies who mothered you without being given the title of mother, mom's who have carried a child in the womb without the child ever having a face to see, to the mom's who sit empty-armed in a hut half a world away, mom's who drive mini vans and home school and mom's who work 16 hours a day and are thankful for daycare, mom's who can cook and mom's who order out, mom's who have no children but love many children as their own and mom's who have 1, 3, 7, 15 children....    For the definition of mother I found says "female that creates, nurtures, protects something..."  Some definitions include producing off spring...yet I find this one more true.... more reflective of the mother figures in my life, the mother I want to be.   For all the women than can produce offspring do not necessarily nurture, create, or protect... (trust me, this I know for sure in my job)....

I spend today reflecting on last Sunday, the day I met Tedi's birth mother, Worknesh.  Our bodies, hers who gave him life, and mine, the one that sustains his life now, met in multiple hugs.  Words were not understood but between mothers, so much can be understood in a look, a touch.  I watched her kiss Tedi's picture.  I watched the looks of longing in her eyes....I could see the love for him radiate from within her soul.   My mother's day blessing is born from her loss of her youngest son.  Yet her strength, her resolute and faithful demeanor are traits I want to emulate.  The villagers described her as a hard-worker, protecting, strong, respected.... much like the traits described in Proverbs 31, though she is not clothed in scarlet or fine linens...she does not have servant girls and her husband is deceased.  Yet, she steadfastly pursues the life she was given, despite the confines of poverty in which she lives.  Having met this woman makes me want to be a better mom to her son, a better steward of her gift and the many blessings God has bestowed upon me (namely her son).  In her loss, I have gained and yet she continuously said to me, "God Bless You... I have no words to thank you..." In truth, I have no words for her...

So while you go about your week worrying about which is better, public school private school or home school or you begin judging the mom who may not be keeping up with her kids or you worry about the hairdryer that just broke and what your hair will look at church (me)....think about the true responsibility of mothering...the blessing God gave to you...whether in your womb or in the womb of another woman...God blessed you with each moment you have with your children. 

While I am soul searching on motherhood....scary when I have been up since 3am due to jet lag......  I feel so inadequate... I mean, I am a self conscious (short, overweight, not smart enough), I am busy (I work ridiculous could I even think I could continue to add to my family...and I want more than just two right now)..... I am selfish (I want nap rather than do laundry, I want to buy a coffee rather than make it).... Who am I to parent one child, two children, or more????  Yet who aren't I?  God has infinitely blessed me.  He loves me at size 8 or 18, when I am serving and saving other people's children and nurturing my own children.  He loves me even when the laundry is piled up and I am selfish.... 

So if He loves me as His child, how can I/we not love more of His children?  It is mother's day.... and think of all the children sitting in orphanages around the world and here without mommy's to make cards for....but oh how they would love it... If I could post pictures of the children in the orphanages, I would.... I looked into so many sad eyes...they would smile and play and laugh, but they want someone to take them home... You don't have to super woman or special or rich or whatever you think you have to be to love another child, to mother another child.  You may be the only chance they have at a mother...  Today is these children's "motherless day."  Maybe next year you can be his or her can share a life with another woman who provided it....  Just because they don't look like you does not make you any less capable of loving them, parenting them....Trust me, it is in you....there is enough love.  When you make the effort to step out, He will give you the ability to mother more, to love more, to give more....

Again, Happy Mother's Day!  I am truly to that laundry from our trip!

Meeting Chernet

We did not even realize that the car moving Chernet from the orphanage to the transition home pulled in behind our van.  Our agency's guest home is attached to the transition home so that when you arrive for court or embassy the child is in the transition home.... this is nice because you can see them daily.  We woke each morning to noise of the children playing (and the Orthodox Christian calls to prayer)...

When I met Tedi, it was at the end of a jet way as he held his father's hand.  I missed that first week of bonding in Ethiopia due to work.  However, that moment was no less special than the one with Chernet.  I have never given birth, yet these moments of first meeting my sons, are irreplaceable.  Meeting them was not preceded by physical pain and tears but rather emotional roller coasters and months of waiting and work...  How blessed I am to have these boys, to be their mom. 

Chernet instantly began playing with us....both with blocks, basketball, soccer, and eating our breakfast.  It was a great first morning as parents of two children.... I can not even imagine the noise level that is going to happen so very soon in our home.... Between Tedi's continuous talking and Chernet's activity level, it should be interesting. 

Enjoy a few more pictures of our first day together....