Meeting Keza

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Keza Baby

"She is so sweet and so beautiful! How long has she been a part of your family?"

I told the woman four months. But Keza, baby, you were our family long before we looked into those deep brown eyes for the very first time. You were our family before we hopped a plane to Africa, before we signed a bunch of papers and paid a bunch of money. Keza baby, you were ours before you were even born, before we asked for you, before we wanted you.

I don't know how He does it, but He does it and He does it dramatically, spectacularly! He designs our hearts, He hides our dreams and our hopes and our children somewhere in the deep places. And when the time is right, when He knows we are ready, when it is HIS time and HIS place and everything is positioned, when He sets all the peices in motion and they obey, we are amazed. Keza baby, you were part of our hearts before we knew we had hearts.

He planted you. He watered you. He grew a desire. He pushed us when we didn't even feel the hand on our backs. He led us to adoption. He led us to Africa. He led us to Rwanda. He led us to Kigali. At the right year. In the right month. At the right place. And when we held you, we knew you. Miraculously.

Keza baby, you were our family since He said so.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Part 3: Fear

What we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adoption is so expensive. I don’t know where we would find the money. I wouldn’t even know where to start. There is so much paperwork and it all is so confusing. How am I sure I will love my baby like he is my own? What if the child hates me? Maybe we won’t be able to bond. What if they have emotional or developmental problems because they have been in an orphanage? Aren’t kids like that always messed up? How do we know an agency is legit and not scamming us out of our money? Some people wait years for their child. Can I do that to my heart? It sounds exhausting. Am I going to be perceived as un-American and selfish if I adopt internationally instead of from my own country? There are so many unknown factors in International adoption. How can we trust the information given to us? What if we get there and something horrible happens like the paperwork gets lost or something is wrong with the baby and we have to go home empty handed? What if the medical reports say the child is healthy and we get home and he has HIV or something? What about having a multi-race family? Are people going to judge us? Will that be hard for the child, growing up with a white family? Is that going to cause resentment and anger for being adopted? Will the child love me?

Thoughts that I have thought. Thoughts that every adoptive mother or father think when contemplating adoption. Thoughts that will still try to surface long after they have been buried. Thoughts I could fill entire pages with. Thoughts whose name is fear.

Running in Christian circles you meet a few people who believe that any fear is equal to sin. After all, fear is the antithesis of faith and faith is our very composition, it’s what makes us His. I believe God uses our fears. Fear, in its basic form serves as a survival mechanism to help you protect yourself. It’s what crawls up a mother’s spine when a stranger approaches her child. It’s what spreads across your chest when your toes curl around the edge of a cliff. Fear is a gift. The problem is, most of us have developed a hyper-active survival mechanism and it not only protects us, it cuts off every ‘unknown’ at the knees.

Websters defines fear as, “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain, whether the threat is real or imagined.” The thing is, even Webster understands that fear need not be founded. What someone is afraid of can be a complete mirage, an illusion, imagination, something that doesn’t even exist. On the other hand, maybe what you fear does exist. Maybe it’s really ugly. Either scenario still leads me to the same question:

Who do you want to be?

I was not an athletic child. I was routinely the last, or at least the next to last person picked for any sort of sport. I was the child who was always overweight, insecure, and dubious of anything physically strenuous. I was the teenager who was conveniently sick every time the mile run rolled around. My struggles with weight must have begun somewhere in these formative years and if I am honest, they still have not ended.

Fast forward a decade or so. I am pregnant with my second child.  I am so sick of being fat. And not just the pregnancy part. I am sick of being who I am: the girl who sits on the sidelines and watches her life run past her. It came to me when I was seven months pregnant: I could fear facing the battle that scared me more than anything, or I could regret a life unlived. I could be who I have been. Or I could be who I want to be. So, I hoisted my belly up and stepped with two swollen ankles into my deepest fears. Six months after welcoming little Maddox into this world I had lost 60 pounds and ran my first half-marathon. A year after that I stood with my toes punching the starting line of the Seattle Marathon. Me. Hanna Nicole. I hated running. You couldn’t have paid me to run. I avoided it at all cost. But you know, the person I wanted to be would have been crazy enough to run 26.2 miles. So I did it. And somewhere along the line, when I felt like I had found a way to wrap my arms around the sky, I realized that the person I was and the person I wanted to become were both finally me.

People who adopt are afraid. They feel fear like everyone else. At first, the fear is overwhelming.  But for whatever reason, somewhere along the lines, they decided that the risk was worth taking. They decided to face their fears and work through them.

I have a friend who just a few weeks ago said, “The greatest risk comes from the lack of knowledge about your choices. Try learning as much as you can about something if you're intimidated or afraid of it, your understanding will most likely change your perception.”

The first time I ran after giving birth I made it a tenth of a mile. But each time I went to workout I ran farther. I remember when I hit 2 miles I felt like an Olympian! I could not freaking believe it. I kept running and starting researching and reading. The more I ran, the more I learned, the more attainable it seemed and I slowly grew to believe that I was capable of more than I could imagine. Adoption is the same way. You just have to start looking at your questions instead of running from them. You have to search and find answers. You will certainly find that many of your fears really were illusions. You will also find that some fears are founded. Once you face those facts, the certainties and the unknowns, once you look them in the eyes and know what they are made of, you can make an informed decision about adoption. Maybe you will find that you really don't want to adopt or cannot at this time in your life. And maybe, just maybe, you will realize that you are capable of more than you imagined.

Regardless of your choice or what path you will lead your life, never let your fear make your decisions. Feel your fear. Respect your fear. Look your fear in the eyes and be who you want to be.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Part 2: Money

Sorry this has been so long coming. I underestimate life with three children in the middle of summer. But here is Part 2: Money

One of the first thing people always asked us when we were in the process of adopting was “So, how much is this going to cost you?” Two years ago when we were in research mode, money was the first thing we looked at on any given countries criteria. To say money isn’t important would be a lie. Money does not grow on trees and babies don’t just fall out of the sky into your arms. When it comes to adoption- domestic or international, babies cost a lot. If anyone tells you otherwise, don’t believe them. In the long run most people end up spending $20,000-$40,000 dollars. Your stomach just flipped, didn’t it? So did mine. Most people see those numbers and that’s it. The off-switch flips in some corner of their mind and life moves on.

Living in Alaska I am surrounded by mountains on all sides. I can leave my home and within ten minutes be hiking in what looks like it came straight out of National Geographic. If you stand at ground zero of a mountain, as I have countless times, you can’t even see the mountain. You just see a wall. A brick rising out of the ground with no visible end in sight.

There are two kinds of people: ones who do and ones who don’t. One man will stand with his toes touching the wall, look at the overgrown face of mountain and tremble. He will decide before he ever laces his shoes that he will never see the other side. He is much too small, the mountain much too treacherous. Another man will stand in front of the same scene and he will also feel fear. But he will, with trembling hands, knot his shoes securely and begin to climb with one question in his heart: what if?

What if the person who instantly writes off adoption with the monetary cost would pause? What options might open if he realized that there are more ways to pass a mountain than bulldozing through it? What if he decided to roll up his sleeves and give it his best shot? What if he became creative and dogged in his pursuit to find alternate routes to the same destination? What if he did it, found his destination? And what if one day that destination looked back at him with deep brown eyes that seemed to say, “I knew you’d come?”

Have you ever noticed that the most treasured pieces of your life are the ones that have cost you the most, be it money, time, or effort? What relationship, what love, what joy has ever flooded your soul without first costing you something that was hard to give?

John Maxwell once said that “A person’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” When I was in Rwanda I learned that the majority of families who adopt are not the rich, upper-income-class that the world perceives them to be. The people who adopt are middle income, average people. The people who adopt are the people who want to. Do you want to adopt? Then feel the fear, and do it anyway. Thousands of us have.

When you start searching for answers with an expectant heart you will find a wealth of information and help available to you including hundreds of grants, programs and financial aid. You will find that our government offers a tax credit/refund of over $13,000 for those who adopt. You will find an amazing world-wide support system through blogs, forums and chat groups where you learn and grow with hundreds of people in the exact position you are.

When we started adopting we did not have the funds we needed. But we had faith and fundraisers. For our first fundraiser we raffled off a weekend stay at a ski-lodge. I knocked on hundreds of stranger’s doors and sold tickets. To say I was intimidated would be a serious understatement. But I did it, met many adoptive families behind open doors and made our first $3,000. Our next fundraiser completely bombed. We actually didn’t even finish it. We were discouraged, but figured it was time to re-route, not give up. Wayne worked really hard in the coming months, bringing in additional funds that we could contribute toward the adoption. Our last fundraiser was a garage sale. We asked for donations on Face-book and Craigslist and advertised it everywhere. We made $4,000. Arnold Bennett once said, “Much ingenuity with a little money is vastly more profitable and amusing than much money without ingenuity.” I know countless other families who have raised thousands upon thousands of dollars because they wanted something so they got creative and made a way.

People, you can do it. It’s absolutely possible. Research. Ask questions. Brainstorm. Call me or another adoptive family for encouragement. Look at that mountain and just start climbing. Move. The higher you climb the more you’ll see. And never forget for even a moment that your Father, the one who loves and sees the children no one else does, owns every dollar in the world. So if your money isn’t really even yours, what do you have to lose?

Here's a small glimpse of my destination looking back at me:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Part 1: Infertility

“Thank God for making me incapable of carrying a child. Thank God for a broken body with a broken womb. Thank God for silence. If He had answered my thousands of prayers to help us get pregnant, I never would have known my daughter. I had no idea how perfect, how real this would be.” Kara’s arms are wrapped around the girl with deep almond eyes. If eyes are the window to the soul, Lydia’s soul is filled with beauty.

Kara and her husband couldn’t conceive. Month stacked upon month and soon it was years filled with disappointment and heartache. Infertility treatments failed one after another. Soon they were left with one option: In Vitro, and even with that extensive procedure, nothing could be guaranteed. $20,000 was the figure Kara’s doctor quoted, whether it worked or not. It was then, that moment, sitting in the doctor’s office with tears of frustration glossing her face, it came to her: adoption.

Unlike Kara, I had no problem conceiving. I just wanted to adopt. In fact, I feared when I first got pregnant that it might diminish my desire to someday adopt. I loved Gideon so deeply while he was forming and that love strengthened every day. I remember wondering how on earth I could love another child as I love him, especially if that child wasn’t mine biologically. In the weeks and months after he was born I determined that having a biological child was in no way diminishing my desire to adopt, it was actually multiplying it. I would look at him, hold him, love him and think, “My gosh, there are millions of him out there with no one. I could love another child.”

Fast forward four years. I am standing in an orphanage, in a room stacked with infants. Hungry, searching eyes look up at me as if to say, “Where is my mother? Have you seen her? Could you be her?” One particular child, not unlike any other, searched my eyes with these questions and was answered, for once in her life, as I extended my arms, picked her up and walked out of that room.

Sometimes when I look at Keza, her eyes become brown bottomless wells. It’s as if I can see past her and into the eyes of the brothers and sisters we left behind. And not only them, but into the eyes of a whole generation of children who are alone. I think of the people like Kara and her husband, whose eyes were also once wild and grasping for hope that one day they would have a child to love and I wonder how many people in this world have the same hungry eyes, how many could have what they are looking for, daughters and fathers, mothers and sons, if they only could look beyond what they thought would be and see what is?

Surely I don’t really understand all the Kara’s in the world since I cannot relate to infertility. I can’t pretend that I know every answer or that I have the right to judge. Here’s what I do know: When I held Keza in my arms for the very first time it was no less miraculous than when my trembling arms wrapped around the newborn bodies of my sons. My heart was no less filled with wonder, the tears no less fresh upon my face. I was no less a mother, she was no less my child.

Adoption is not Plan B. Adoption is the heartbeat of God. Maybe it is hard to imagine. Maybe there is fear. Yet maybe, just maybe, adoption is the answer to a lot of unanswered questions. But don’t take my word for it. Ask someone like Kara.

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God. God places the lonely in families. Psalms 68:5-6


Last week at Target: “Did you adopt her?” the woman behind me in the checkout line asks. I tell her I did and she immediately looks at the floor. “You are so lucky. I wish I could do something like that.”

I can’t get it out of my mind. I keeping thinking about people and what stops them from doing the things they want to do.

About two years ago my husband and I decided it was time to adopt. We told our family of the plan and then started telling our friends (and anyone who was interested and had an ear) about it. Through the course of our conversations we were shocked to find out how many of those people had at one time thought about adoption and had even considered it. Most said the desire was there but they had never made the step to get serious about it and didn’t know if they would. Always, people came back to the same reasoning as to why they didn’t think they could or would adopt: money, fear, effort. All of these reasons are natural, we faced all of them personally. But really, all three reasons boil down to just one: fear. And fear should not ever carve the path we tread.

There was another group of people we seemed to learn about often as well. Dear couples who were exhausted and disappointed from years of trying to conceive and failing. Most of these people were closed to the idea of adoption despite their fierce desire for a child to love.

I want to talk about adoption. I want to speak to those four topics: infertility, money, fear, and effort. I will probably step on some toes and for any unnecessary discomfort I apologize in advance. My intentions are to clear up some questions that I am all-too-familiar with myself. The next few days I will post on one topic at a time.

Adoption is so close to my heart. And maybe, just maybe, hidden in the words I write, some single soul might find a key that unlocks a question that unlocks a heart that opens wide into the arms of a child. If there is even a small chance- I write.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Baby Shower

 My mother and sisters put baby invitations in the mail! In a few days a lot of people are going to fall in love with Keza! Here's the text of the invites:

My name is Keza Jubilee. I just came home from Rwanda, Africa. It was a long trip but I'm glad I did it because now I have a family that’s crazy about me. My Daddy and Mommy are Wayne and Hanna Salmans and I love them so much! All my new relatives love me a lot, too and are going to throw me my first ever party!

I am 6 months old and am very cute and petite. I wear size 3-6 month clothes and size 1 shoes. My new doctor says I’m growing and so I should start getting some bigger sizes too. My mommy thinks I look pretty in every color but I really am not crazy about lots of pink and poofy. I'm more into rich, bold colors because I am the kind of girl that likes to make a statement. I also love accessories, especially headbands and hats, because I still have no hair and a girls gotta work with what she's got! Like most women, I like to shop and I will be frequenting Baby Gap and Once Upon a Child in Anchorage. Since my brothers are obsessed with trucks and trains I hope our toy collection expands to include some baby friendly items that the fairer sex can appreciate too! I am so excited to meet you at my baby shower and make new friends. I promise to be extra charming and try to not spit up on your clothes. Please come, it's going to be really fun! Find out more about my story and see what I look like on my mommy’s blog:

See you soon,

Dinner at Evangelo’s anyone???!!!
There is going to be a door prize drawing!
To get your name in the hat, just bring a package of diapers (I use them a lot!) size 2. Who knows?
Maybe your name will be picked for a dinner
out at Evangelo’s!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


TIME magazine made its way into my post office box as it does every month. I was mindlessly thumbing through the articles when the title of a particular story caught my eye: "When the Adopted Can't Adapt." See article here:,9171,1997439,00.html After reading the article, I immediately thought of the children at Home of Hope. I wondered what they would say if they could read, if they could understand. I thought of the lives of so many children that have been changed for the good and the hearts of so many moms and dads that would never trade for even a moment what they have been blessed with through adoption. So, I decided to let my hand speak for me and I sent a letter to the Editor. Who knows if they will publish it. Here's what I wrote:

As an American mother of a Rwandese child I was immediately interested in your article “When the Adopted Can’t Adapt” as it pertains to international adoption. Not surprisingly, I was disappointed to read, once again, another negative spin on adoption. Are there adoptions with difficult, painful residual effects, like the ones you so vividly described? Absolutely. But what the press never seems to cover are the thousands of international adoptions that have given the unloved, abandoned orphans of this world loving families who adjust reasonably, who thrive, who grow up as any other normal child. I wonder how many families will decide not to adopt after reading your article? I wonder how many children who have no one will lose what they never had?

Well, I'm a good story in the making. And so are many of you. Let's raise our voices and be heard in our own spheres.


Last night I spent some time going through the pictures from Africa with Keza sitting on my knee. I walked her through the pictures, despite her oblivion, and told her the story of when we met for the very first time. within minutes I had tears streaming down my face and was completely stunned all over again. Did this really happen? Did I seriously just adopted a child from Rwanda, Africa? Is she really here, in the flesh and blood, sitting on my knee? Can I really kiss her and love her and keep her forever as my own? It just feels like a dream.

A few hours later I ran across a verse that, of course, brought me to my knees and back to tears. To all of you who are still waiting- this is for you. Hold tight. It will happen.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, `Give them up!' and to the south, `Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.
 - Isaiah 43: 5-6

And...I had to add a few pictures of the most recent family birthday bash.
McKenna was born while I was in Africa. Welcome to the clan, baby girl!

Nephew Mason Abram. Don't you want to eat him?

Gideon longingly looking at life beyond the fenced porch.

Great Grandpa and baby Keza.

It is painful. Just painful. That's how adorable he is.

Oh, Jocelynn Rose, what a knock-out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Salmans Trio

Romeo and Juliet

 Do I not have the most beautiful kids in the world?

Us girls gotta stick together!

One of the gang!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chocolate and Brown Sugar

Keza is black. All of the other members of this family are not. (for now, anyway.) Somehow this difference was not noticed by either of my white children. I was surprised that through all of the pictures and videos that they viewed they never said anything. Nor did they notice when they met her. This entire week we have been home they have just been lovestruck by 'Baby Sister', as they should be. Wayne and I have decided not to bring the obvious difference to attention but to wait and see when they make the connection themselves and what their reactions might be. Today was that day for Gideon.

I was changing Keza on the couch when Gideon got up from the table where he had just eaten a chocolate flavored yogurt. He sat down beside me and I could tell he had something to say.
"Mommy, Keza is not purple."
"No, Gideon, she is not."
"Keza is not green either, Mommy."
"That's right Gideon. She's not green."
"Mommy, I wonder what color Keza is? Hmm. Let me think about it." Now he taps his finger on his head and assumes the 'thinker' position. "Mommy, Keza looks like my yogurt! She is brown!"
"That's right Gideon! Good job! She is beautiful-brown sugar-chocolate brown!"
"Ok, but mommy, lets not eat her."

Oh, for everything perfectly cute and adorable. I love my kids.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


i hear you humming
in the corners of our home

small voice
suspended in secrets

you are looking at her
while you sing

your eyes turning up at the sides
like you two know something

no one else does
the blue of them bluer

I wonder were they always
so deep

were they always
so blue

she is transfixed
ears standing on end

face pressing against
the small song

that you wrap
like a vow around her

does she listen
because you see her

does understanding suddenly
open in her eyes

a hidden flower
found by sun

when she realizes
she is among her own kind

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One of my final days in Nairobi I met a pastor from a Christian church in Texas. He was a really nice guy that was leading a missions trip to do work in Kenyan villages. Eventually our conversation turned to Keza and I relayed the shortened version of our adoption story. After he heard that she was from Rwanda, he immediately responded by asking, "So, is she Hutu or Tutsi?" I answered him by saying that in Rwanda people are trying to move past those labels and don't refer to themselves that way anymore. In fact, it's illegal. He thought about this one moment and said, "Well, OK, but I can tell just by looking at her face what she is."

Anger. Frustration. Annoyance. Rage. Disappointment. Just a few of the emotions that washed over me as I heard this man speak. He was careless with his thoughts, with his words, and it showed.

I expect people to be naive and ignorant about this. Even just a few years ago I was next to clueless about what happened in 1994 to a small country called Rwanda. I get that people have a hard time understanding genocide and the horror it holds. What I don't understand is how a pastor, a man that has given his life to sharing the freeing love of Christ, a man who is familiar and well acquainted with the Rwanda genocide, could be so narrow minded and wrong.

Those labels, Hutu and Tutsi, defined a genocide that caused almost a million people to die bloody, horrible, unimaginable deaths. Those names caused evil and division and nothing profitable. And this child, this sweet little baby girl that is sitting on my lap, is neither Hutu nor Tutsi. The lines of her face, the color of her skin, the build of her bones do not reveal what she is and who she is.

I've thought about that conversation daily since having it and many times I have wandered to a verse in Galatians that says: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, ( no Hutu or Tutsi),  for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The whole point of Christ coming and dieing was for us to be free, to love God and to be loved by Him and that love is what defines us.

Who is Keza? She is loved. That's who she is.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


PKeza and I are sitting at the dining room table in OUR HOUSE! Everyone else is still sleeping in after the late night, but apparently, our clocks are not on the same time-zone yet. So, we have been quietly looking through some of the photos taken at the airport last night and having a good cry!

The flight from Seattle to Anchorage could not have been short enough. I must have asked what time it was every 10 minutes. After what felt like an eternity we practically ran out of the plane in search for our family! We were welcomed by the Jennings family paparazzi! Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Siblings and friends all with cameras clicking away.

I am so happy to be home. Gideon must have told me he loves me 50 times last night. "Mommy, I love you. I love your back. I love your hands. I love your hair..." My boys looks so much older. It's amazing what happens in a month. AND they are in desperate need of a haircut! They both are loving little Keza. They had a great time on the way home trying to get her to smile and talk by making faces and showing her their toys.

I love my family. 

Here's a few photo's that capture one of my family's sweetest moments in the world:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

27 and Counting

This is hour 27 of our trek home. At the moment Keza is curled up in my sweater, sound asleep on the floor in the Washington DC airport. The iPhone is in mom's hand and she is giddily welcoming Internet back into her life with the swipe of a finger. I am sitting here, double-tall-nonfat-toffee-nut-latte in hand (how I missed you, Starbucks) and am trying to process the gamut of emotions that have coursed through me this day.

Today we said goodbye to Africa. I'll be honest, it was not hard to leave Nairobi. But, as we sat in Ethiopia awaiting our second flight, the intercom sounded the call to board a flight leaving for Kigali. My heart constricted. Part of me never wants to leave Rwanda. I love that country. I could live there. I could. I'm not sure when it happened or how, but I love her and am sad to leave her behind. I suppose in way, though, she is with me right now, wrapped up in a little bundle at my feet.

The first flight was difficult. Keza was exhausted but fought sleep like a ringed professional. She cried and screamed 1 1/2 hours of the two hour flight. The second flight was awesome, minus being delayed in Rome which added 2 hours to the already 17 hours we would be in the plane. We got the best seats in the house after first class. We had no one in front of us, lots of leg room to stretch our limbs (so our swollen legs look much less like 'cankles' than they did the first time around) and a bassinet for the baby to sleep in.

Customs and Immigration took a total of 3 minutes. I asked God to give me a male customs officer (Why are men ALWAYS nicer and more helpful?..OK, don't answer that) and I got the nicest one of them all, I am sure. He looked through my paperwork, said how beautiful Keza was, and sent us on our merry way. I said, "is that all? Am I supposed to go somewhere else?" He said "Nope. Just go home!" Walking away from that counter I had tears streaming down my face. 2 years of waiting and hoping and work, so much work. 2 years of planning and money and stress. 2 years of anticipation and yearning and hope and disappointment. All of it, all of the prep work, all of the adoption work, came down to that moment. The moment I brought my daughter HOME. She is in the United States of America. Free and clear. She is part of me, my family, my country. Everything was so taxing and so much work and then, a stamp on our paperwork and 'BAM', it's done. It just feels surreal, like it's all one big dream. May I never, ever wake up.

We still have a long way to go. DC to Seattle and Seattle to home. I can't wait to see my boys. Every time I close my eyes I see them running up to me, I hear them calling, "Mommy! Mommy!" Tonight. 9:30 PM. I'm almost home.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Adam Walsh, Baby!

Like cold water to a weary soul,
So is good news from a distant land.
                                             Proverbs 25:25

Tonight the phone rings. Mom wearily puts it to her ear and says hello. Suddenly her eyes widen, and she trips over her words when she realized who is on the other side of the line. "Hanna! It's Brad!"

I pick up the phone hoping that this is good news and not news of another delay. Brad hears my voice and says, "Well, I finally got through to the person that makes things happen just now (which means he is indeed working after-hours) and I have news that your Adam Walsh has cleared. You can pick up this Visa first thing in the morning!"

I burst into tears. Mom squeals like a pig-tailed little girl. Brad says, "Um, are you ok?"

Am I ok? I am WAY better than ok! I jump up and down and do a victory dance with Keza in my arms, who looks very startled at the sight of two crazed white women flopping and flailing around the room.

One month ago today I left my family and my home, boarded a plane as a mother of two children and flew halfway around the world into the biggest adventure of my life. Tomorrow I board a plane as a mother of three, my arms full, and my heart fuller.

THANK YOU, God, for answering our prayers and getting us on a plane before another weekend comes. Thank you friends, the many hundreds of you, who got on your knees and asked God to move on our behalf. I can't say He was early, but He is faithful and He helped us yet again.

Saturday night I will kiss my sweet little boys and introduce my husband to his brand-new, beautiful baby girl. Keza will meet her forever family and we will have every cause to thank God for all that He has done for us.

Slightest Cracks

If we are to get the Visa before the weekend we have one workday to complete it. The DC office opens in less than four hours. For two hours the Embassy here and Washington will have time to communicate before the United States of America closes shop in Kenya. In that two hours, my contact, his name is Brad, must call and have his call anwered. He must speak to the right person who has the clout or authority to understand the problem, correct the problem and issue an approval.

Please pray for Brad. He has been helpful, but he is not as concerned as we are. We are stuck in Nairobi with a problematic visa. He is not. We have a family split in two, he does not. Please pray that he will be motivated to do whatever is necessary and possible for him to do on this side of things. Pray that God blesses his conversations and directs clear paths to the right people at the right times.

Despite having an awesome discount on our hotel, we are averaging about 215$ a day between food, lodging, water (which is ridiculously expensive) and transport to and from the Embassy. This isn't counting Internet, phone or any other expenses that we might incur. That means that this oversight made by the Embassy and DC has already cost us an extra $1,500. Every day that increases. We would really love to check out of this hotel!

I was able to change our tickets (again) for tomorrow night. Pray we will be on that flight. Also, I have been very sick but am recovering. Keza, however, seems to be coming down with something. Since I've already given you several  prayers to work off of, maybe you can add that one to your ever-growing list.

I don't know why this is happening, but whatever the reason may be, God is still my Father. I hope He acts sooner than later and as his daughter I am asking (begging) for Him to move ASAP. But even if He doesn't open the doors at the rate I want them opened, I am going to try my hardest to trust Him and to have a heart of gratitude. In the meantime, I will push through every door that has the slightest crack!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Today we heard from Washington DC but it was not news of passing our John Walsh Clearance. The DC office contacted the Embassy to inform them that our file had been submitted improperly and that we would need to start the background check again. Window #10 didn't understand this, as he says he submitted our paperwork in the same way that he always submits paperwork, including the paperwork of the other families that have just gotten home with their kids. He said he would try to make personal contact with some individuals in D.C. Maybe they could find a solution.

I feel discouraged. If we have to wait the full time for this 2nd check to run its course we are talking the end of next week. I don't want to do that. I miss my children so badly. Gideon told me on the phone today that I needed to hurry and bring Jubilee (hasn't quite caught onto Keza yet) home to meet him. Sweet Gideon, I am trying.

People, would you pray? Would you petition for our Visa? We need to get home.

Sometimes it feels like everything about this adoption story has been ridiculously complicated. In fact, most details I have not included in this blog. They are many. Every step of the way we have had to fight to make this go through. But you know what? Keza is laying in a crib right next to me. She spent the evening sitting in my lap giggling and flopping her arms. She is growing. Even the hair on her head looks totally different than when I first met her. She is eating up a storm, getting nutrients, being touched and loved and cared for. I have to focus on that.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Window #10

Dear Window #10,

Every time I walk through the Consular doors I look for you above the sea of brown faces. If you are open I walk as quickly as possible past the cantankerous security guard, careful to keep my head down, and make a solid line to your window. Out of all the many windows at the Embassy, your window is my favorite.

You greet me with a smile and when you speak my English develops a crush on your English. There is no straining to understand your words, no sifting through a thick Swahili accent. Your meaning is evident and unforced. I want to stand there all day, basking in the ring of your words, listening to the sound of clear, crystal comprehension. But alas, I cannot stand there all day and you tell me to wait, you once again disappear into the folds of the embassy searching high and low for any sign of Adam Walsh.

I sit and know I look like a little pink person in this room. Maybe that is why it doesn't take the security guard long to spot me. I know she is agitated before I even look up. She wants me to wait in line. She wants to tell me when and to whom I must speak. But she doesn't understand, window #10, that I have to get your window. Not Window 8, or 4 or 3. She doesn't understand that hope comes from your window, that the last piece of the puzzle will pass through your glass and I will be free.

She clears her throat and I force my eyes up to meet hers. "Can I help you?" she asks holding onto the I, the emphasis straining to reach the next word. "Um, no thanks!" I smile as sweet as can be but she doesn't seem to notice the kind of grin that only $4000 of orthodontic work can produce. She digs both thumbs down behind her belt, juts her hip out and I recognize the signal because I've seen it before. I know that she is about to make me move and start over in the line that, like most things in Kenya, will last the better part of the day. So I chime in before she has a chance to clear her throat, "I actually have already been helped. Window #10 is cool with me being here. He said I could wait. But thanks!" She just stares at me a minute, brown eyes locking on blue and I have to bite my lip so that I won't laugh because it always feels like I am in a ring with Mike Tyson and for whatever reason that strikes me as funny, she slapping her gloves together and grunting into the air. Eventually she steps back, because what can she do, what power can she wield against window #10?

Today was not really different than any of the other days. But window #10, tomorrow I will find you once again. I will stand in front of your glass like a plaintiff standing before an English speaking judge. I will hold my breath as you tap, tap, tap on your computer. I will wait. And maybe tomorrow, for the first time, your eyes will spark. You will tell me that Adam Walsh has found no beef with me and I am clear. I'll hand you the passport and you will paste that $400 piece of paper, the one that this entire adoption has been working toward, onto the empty page. I will want to kiss you, Window 10, but the glass will restrain me, so instead I will thank you and remind you that to some people a Visa is worth everything.

Hanna Salmans

P.S. I know your name is Brad because your answering machine said so. So much for National Security.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

As Big As The Sky

Dear Gideon and Maddox,

I wake in the middle of the night every night. You are on my mind. I hate being a part from you. The first two weeks were hard, but they were bearable. I am into my fourth week away from you two now. And I cry every time I sit at the computer. This is too long. I never want to leave you for a month again.

I want you to know that I would do this, as hard as it is, for you too. If it were one of you halfway across the world, I would pack my bags and come for you. I would spend all the money in the world. I would leave my home and my family to find you. I love you boys so deeply. You are worth to me every bit that little Keza is.

Gideon Lee, you are my firstborn. A son. I wish you could understand what it's like to meet and hold your first child, what its like to love your child. It's deeper and different than any other human love. You will always be my son. I will always be your mama. Gideon, I love your heart and your spirited ways. I love the drama in you, even if it does drive me crazy sometimes. I love that what you love you LOVE.  Everything about you is passionate. Your name means Valiant Warrior. It's so fitting, Gideon. You are going to do great things in your life and I can't wait to see what they are. You are a fighter. You are persistent. You are a mover and shaker. And I love you so much, little boy.

Maddox Rey, when you were born I remember feeling completely humbled. I was shocked that your dad and I could create such a sweet, peaceful child. I remember thanking God, feeling like He had just bypassed our genes and created something that we never would have been capable of making. Your dad and I are both first children. We are crazy and have the attitudes to match. How did we end up with you, sweet boy? You are so kind. Whenever you see an animal or a baby or someone crying you notice. You go out of your way to touch them and to give to them. Your name means Good and Generous King. I know now that God was in your name. It wasn't just the name we picked out of the air. I can't wait to see how your life unfolds. You are wise, little Maddox. People will look up to you. And I am already so completely proud of you.

I am coming home soon, little guys. I am going to hug you so tight. I am going to build towers and drive cars and watch Dora and Diego with you. we are going to play in the sunshine and dig for worms in the shadows. I can't wait to see you. As Gideon would say, "I miss you so, so, so, so, so, so, so, BAD!" I do. Everything in me wants to be home with you.

I love you as big as the sky,


We have had an emotionally tumultuous couple of days. On Wednesday when we went to the Embassy to check on our Visas we were told that for whatever reason our families Adam Walsh Act had not been run. They had no record of our names ever having been put in the system. This was a mistake on the part of the Embassy in Kigali. So, what to do. They said to try back on Friday, the day we were supposed to leave. So Friday morning, with knots in my stomach, I made my way back to the Embassy.

It wasn't ready. We had no choice but to revert to plan B: chill out. I refuse to freak out about this. Adoption is not a science. It's not something that looks the same for every family. It's not predictable or controllable. We knew that going into it, so while I am VERY homesick for my three boys at home (words cannot describe how much I miss them), I am trying to remember that this is one of the biggest adventures of my life and it will be more enjoyable if I can roll with the punches. In the scheme of my life, or this year, or even a few months, a few extra days are not going to kill me. Who wants to be predictable anyway?!

Yesterday we said goodbye to the other families and to my sister Heidi who had to get back to work. I wasn't expecting it to be such an emotional moment. Especially hugging my sister goodbye, which seems ridiculous since I will probably see her in less than a week! There were many tears as we hugged Nyanja and she said her goodbyes to Keza, who she loves. The other families will be missed. I love my new friends and can't wait for the visits! The hotel feels empty and significantly quieter without the buzz of other adoptive families. When everyone was about to walk out the door the hotel surprised us with a cake that said 'Thank You' on it. The woman in charge told us that they have seen few people with hearts as big as ours and on behalf of the Safari Club Hotel, she thanked us for caring for the children of Africa. It was so unexpected and sweet and completely humbling.

We don't know when the Adam Wash Check will be complete. Hopefully Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, we are going to continue to see the sights there are to see. Tomorrow we have scheduled a trip to the Masai Ostrich Farm and Park where we will watch Ostrich races and get acquainted with the silly birds. Who knows, maybe we will be brave enough to ride one ourselves! Can you imagine me as an Ostrich Jockey!?

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Letter From Dad

Dear Keza,

I am feeling oddly trapped. I spent the last 24 hours in the hospital waiting for my cousins baby girl to be born while at the same time my own little girl, who I have never met, is a million miles away in Africa.

I feel like I am fighting back tears every day as I go through the motions of life. I am waiting constantly, waiting for my baby, my little girl, to get here. The meetings, the paper work, the noise of my life feels heavy and useless in the wait.

I can't wait to meet you Keza. I cant wait to tell you I love you, that I will always fight for you, protect you, hold you. Come home. You're safe now.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thank You

For Keza. Thank you that you knew, that you always knew her. Thank you for thinking of her before she even entered this world. Thank you for your compassion and your mercy toward her. Thank you that even when it seemed as though she was abandoned and alone, you were with her. You guided the man who found her. You made him look into the edges of the dark night. You opened his eyes to see her. You opened his arms to pick her up, out of the the ditch, out of a life that would have snapped shut suddenly. You inhabited his hands. You carried her, a little promise, in your palm and brought her to a Home of Hope.
Thank you for the sisters who loved her and spoke to her and touched her and fed her. Thank you that when they didn't have the time to really see her you saw her. Thank you for giving her a home with healthy food and water. Thank you for a home with clothing and medicine. Thank you for placing your heart in homes such as hers, in rooms lined with the fatherless. Thank you for being our Father.

Thank you for preparing me, for preparing Wayne for adoption. Thank you for giving me the adoption gene before I ever thought of children, for putting Africa in my husbands heart. Thank you for designing my family before it was a family. Thank you for Gideon, my sweet Gideon. Thank you for opening his little heart up, for giving him love for a sister he knows nothing of. And for Maddox, for giving me another boy when I thought I wanted a girl. Thank you for making two brothers when you gave me two sons.

For the right time, at the right place, thank you. For the months of waiting, for the setbacks and silence. Thank you for letting my file fall through the cracks long enough for Keza to be born and to grow strong enough and old enough to be adopted. Thank you for your patience with me when I don't trust you, when I stomp my feet and say in my heart that you don't see. You see everything. You saw her when I could not. You knew what my disappointment and frustration was worth and you led me even when I did not recognize that it was your hand leading.

Thank you for letting me and my family be one of the few that get to take part in such a beautiful thing. Thank you for choosing us. It doesn't make sense to me, why you bless me like you do. Sometimes I feel like what I have is beyond compare. I have a beautiful family. I have love. I have a home full of tonka trucks and bugs and boogers. I have three children who I love with every inch of my heart. And more than any of it, more than every good thing combined: I have a faithful Father who takes care of me, who will always take care of me, who knows me, who calls me by name. Thank you for choosing me too. You are good to your children.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll let these say it all:

Monday, May 31, 2010


Keza went to get her Medicals done today. Here's the scoop:

Keza is 23 inches long and weighs 11 1/2 pounds! I knew she was little, but somehow I still felt shocked when the nurse rattled off the numbers. 11 1/2 pounds at 5 months! My first baby was 10.6 pounds at birth, so as you can imagine, this feels so strange to me. I was feeling a little distressed about it and was imagining that the doctor would tell me how completely unhealthy or problematic she might be. I was pleasantly surprised.

The  doctor was a fiery red-head from Germany. She was a great doctor and it was obvious that she is very good at what she does. After examining Keza she told me that Keza looks awesome- better than most kids from institutions. She said that Keza is on the small side of things and whether or not that is due to living in the orphanage is unclear. What was clear was that Keza did not seem malnourished. According to her height she is in an OK weight range. She was pleased to see what an appetite Keza has and predicted that she will most likely gain weight pretty quickly. Keza was charming as usual and showed off her great social skills and responsiveness which the doctor was happy about.

I feel blessed. And reassured. And surprised. I was fully expecting that any child I was referred would undoubtedly have some health issues at first. Keza seems great at this point. I am excited to get home and see what my own wonderful doctor has to say about little Keza Noella.

Thank you, God, for good health and easy medicals.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Here and There

Keza Noella
My sweet baby girl
Hanging at Nairobi Java House
Hanna & Keza

Saturday, May 29, 2010


The last time we visited the orphanage was on Thursday when Keza and I went back to say our goodbyes. We had been to the Home of Hope many times and had by now frequented the baby room to pick Keza up for the day and then mournfully return her each night.

We walked with a Sister through the entire orphanage and adult home. I loved the men and women's wards. Old, wrinkly, mentally unstable, physically handicapped: the forgotten lined the rooms. The women and men alike had tears in thier eyes when they looked at Keza in my arms. We traveled to each bed and waited for a dry, wrinkled hand to touch her. One woman took my own hand and smelled it. Another kissed my arm. Another wouldn't let me go. It made me think of Rwanda, of the hundreds of thousands who have died, of a country where the median age is 18.5 because mothers and fathers are dead. These rare old souls, I realized, were once Rwanda. Now they are withered and confined. And how could they not love her, sweet little child that belongs to them, that started in them?

I loved the room of handicapped children. We all did. After leaving I thanked my mother for raising us the way she did. We were surrounded by the mentally and physically handicapped. We welcomed them into our home and cared for them. We were taught to be fearless, because they are people just as we are. Talking and touching these children my belief that God's holds people such as these in the center of His heart was magnified. They were so beautiful and so sweet.

The baby room was the hardest for me. Because Keza is only 5 months old, I didn't expect her to react a certain way while we were there. But, to my surprise, it was the hardest place for her as well. We walked into the room and were greeted by the workers and the cries of babies. Keza's lips and chin immediately started quivering and when the nuns and workers, sweet as they are, tried to hold her she burst into tears. It was obvious that she knew where she was, that she didn't want to be part of this room, that she was ready to leave. I held her tightly and whispered that she never would have to lay in this crib again and that she would always be mine. As I spoke to her I saw her brothers and sisters stacked in rows. Children that look just as she looks, that smell just as she smells, that sound just as she sounds, that need families just as she does.

The Sisters at Home of Hope are incredible. They love these children and care for them well. They do everything they can do. But it isn't enough. The babies never leave the room. They are held long enough to be fed and changed. How many hours might that take a day? One total? Maybe? And what of the other 23 hours? They lay on their backs, in a hot, stuffy, crowded, noisy room. They listen to the sounds of other children crying and being cared for. They don't have the kisses and the skin on skin. They don't have tickles and raspberries blown on their tummies. They don't have the security of parents and of family.

And I want them. I want them all.

After leaving the orphanage our Power of Attorney told me that every time she walks through the orphanage children ask her, "Are you going to bring me a family next?" I wonder if the little boy who held Heidi's hand asked that. I wonder if he knows he is HIV positive? I wonder if the little girl with the blue dress and bottomless brown eyes asked that? And I wonder, how many families could love these little ones if only would open thier eyes and see.

The sign in the courtyard of the Home of Hope says, "Make your life something beautiful for God." I've been thinking about that. I've been thinking that I have a lot to give, that I can bring something beautiful to dark places. And that I want my eyes to always be open.