Category Archives: Faith

The Day We Introduced Our Boy to the World

Four years ago this week I wrote a post that marked a significant turning point for our family. I remember wondering how we would share the unexpected news of our baby boy’s arrival in a way that could include all the beautiful parts of meeting him, the deep love and protection we immediately felt for him and the sincere trust we continued to have in our Heavenly Father. In Sam’s first two days, we called family and close friends to tell them the news. A simple It’s a BOY! message along with his name and stats was posted on Facebook, but no pictures accompanied it. Pete and I both needed time to process. And then, just before leaving the hospital while Sam stayed in the NICU, the words came. Without question, that was the day I was most thankful to have a blog. We could share the full story, all of our thoughts and emotions, along with photos of our beautiful boy. We wouldn’t need to repeat the story over and over and all details would be articulated. With a single click of the publish button, we shared our precious boy with the world.

I will always treasure the words I wrote in the quietness of my hospital room. All the fresh feelings of love and surprise and joy. It was the beginning of a journey I didn’t expect but am now incredibly thankful to be on. I can’t imagine life without the events of that night four years ago.

So again, four years later, I want to share those words along with a few more photos and follow-up notes. These are the words that introduced our Samuel with the world.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Things first began on Tuesday night (May 22) when I crawled into bed at about 10pm and I began to feel small contractions. They didn’t really catch my attention, though, since I had been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions (a sort of fake contraction) for about 15 weeks. A few of them did wake me during the night, though. On Wednesday morning I decided to go about my regular schedule and see what happened. While shopping at Target for a few last items for my hospital bag, I had to stop multiple times to lean on my cart and let a contraction pass. In the afternoon, Ella & I went to Becky’s to watch Malena & Maira while Becky went to the dentist. At that time, the contractions continued to strengthen and were only about 4 minutes apart. Let me tell you, it was not comfortable having the three little girls crawling all over me while the contractions hit. But it kept me somewhat distracted! After Becky got home, I paged Pete out of surgery, telling him things were getting more intense. I drove the 10 minutes to the hospital (perhaps I should not have been driving at that point, but I wasn’t completely convinced I was in labor) and let Pete drive me home. The beauty of being married to a doctor is that he was able to check my progress while we were home. Much to my relief, he confirmed that I surely was in labor and had made it to about 5cm. Yay! We took our time gathering the last things for the hospital and headed in.


After a brief stop at the store to pick up a plant (so nice to have in the room during labor) and a magazine (to fill the time during labor before the actual delivery), we arrived at the hospital at 7pm. I was definitely needing to breathe through the contractions at that point and even got to ride in a wheelchair to the OB floor. I dropped off the cupcakes I had made that afternoon for the nurses and settled into my room. I have to tell you that from the very moment I got to the room, I asked if an order could be put in for an epidural. I’ve never felt that I’m a mama who needs to go without meds, and I was worried we would miss the window if we didn’t get going on it. Shortly after that, Pete checked me again and I was between 7 and 8cm. Things were moving fast! Before 9pm…and before I was given an epidural…I hit the complete 10cm and my window for meds was closed. I have to honestly say that I wasn’t excited when I was told I would have to deliver without meds. It scared me, and I really wondered if I would be able to handle the pain. With Ella, I never made it past 6cm and, therefore, never got to push at all. The opportunity for a VBAC had come, and that did make me happy. I wanted to have the experience of pushing and breathing and being coached by Pete. I wanted to have a chance to push a baby into the world the way women have been doing it for years and years and years.

And push I did. For 2 1/2 hours I pushed. Without meds. That was a lot of work! I really focused on putting all of my energy into the pushing, not yelling or crying or cursing out my husband, as I’ve heard can easily happen. Instead, I felt incredibly close to Pete through the whole experience. He was an amazing coach. When I was discouraged, he looked right into my eyes and reassured me. I found a lot of strength in that. I also found myself talking to Jesus between contractions and pushing. I know He was giving me a great deal of strength. Everything looked like it was going well until we reached the 2 1/2 hour mark. Then our little one started to show signs of dropping oxygen levels and my cervix began to swell a great deal, to the point that it looked like it may actually be closing again. Pete & I jointly made the decision to do a c-section for the protection of the baby. I was taken down the elevator on a bed, groaning the entire way as super strong contractions ripped through me.

Though I ended up in another c-section, the entire experience was far different than when I had Ella. This time I completely dilated, pushed for a long time, tried many different positions, and really gave it everything I had. I got to experience everything I wanted to with child birth. It was time to get our baby out while he or she was still doing okay. So that’s what we did.

My mom made it to the hospital just in time to join us in the OR for the section. Pete stood next to me the entire time, looking over the sheet for the moment our little one would enter the world. I felt great peace in those moments before the birth. I was able to pray for the doctors in the room before the section began (most of whom I knew from the residency) and hummed one of my favorite camp songs about seeking Jesus’ face. Everything was perfect as I excitedly awaited the announcement of our little one’s arrival. And then it came! Pete proclaimed, “It’s a boy!” and we were both ecstatic as images of my dear Pete with his long-awaited son filled my head. I announced to all present that our son’s name would be Samuel Thomas Amani Olsen as I held back tears of joy. And then I realized how quiet the room was.

The doctors – our friends – huddled around our Samuel on the warming table while I heard only a small, weak, peep of a cry. It was a tiny sound. Though I felt peace, not concern, I asked one of the doctors to take a small step to the side so I could get my first glimpse of our little one. And that’s when I saw the first sign. His body wasn’t clenched like Ella had been when she was born. Sam’s arms were floppy. I asked Pete to bring him closer so I could see him. I longed for the first real view of my son. When Pete held him close, Samuel opened his eyes and looked right at me. And it was in that tiny instant that I knew it in my heart. Was it my mama instinct? Was it the fact that I had been carrying this beautiful little boy inside me for so many months prior to this moment of introduction? I don’t know, but it was instantly clear to me. Our little Samuel has Down syndrome.


I was wheeled into the recovery room while Pete and my mom and the other doctors took Sam up to the NICU to give him a complete exam. I don’t know how much time passed before Pete and my doctor, Maria, came through the door, quiet and serious. My thoughts were confirmed in that moment. In an instant, many things changed. But in that same instant, many things were peacefully confirmed within me. God is good. God has a plan. God created our little Samuel, and we were chosen to be his parents. What an honor.


The last 2 1/2 days have been the beginning of journey down what a doctor recognized yesterday as our “new normal.” Samuel remains in the NICU while he works through the transition from the warm, safe place of my womb to the outside world. His oxygen levels have needed the most time to adjust. He was most comfortable in a warm incubator without much handling the first 24 hours. We haven’t been able to have him in our room. We haven’t changed any of his diapers. And I just got the all-clear to try nursing him. So far he’s been getting my pumped milk through a feeding tube in his nose. Each little step he’s made forward, we’ve celebrated. Late last night, Pete sat with me as I held him on my chest. His sweet little eyes looked up at me a few times, completely melting every ounce of my heart. Pete held him for a little while, too, and Samuel eventually fell asleep cuddled with his daddy. It was so hard to leave him in the NICU to return to our room. There will soon come a time when we won’t have to leave him for a single moment. We’re praying that the time comes very, very soon.


I’m now packing and getting ready to head home…without my sweet little boy. First we’ll try nursing, though. Pete & I will both be back very often to rock Sammy and I’ll nurse him. Miss Ella is excited to see him, too. We tried having her visit him in the NICU two days ago, but it was all a bit too much for her. We’re praying Samuel will be discharged on Monday or Tuesday, though we have to keep a very open hand about that in case anything unexpected pops up.

Please pray with us for our little Samuel. Pray that his oxygen levels will get to a good place so he can breathe all on his own. Pray that he will quickly adapt to nursing. Pray that he’ll get to be home with us in the next few days. And please pray for Pete and I as we learn what this new beginning will entail and how all of this will draw us forward. Thank you!!



In the end, Sam spent two full weeks in the NICU. In that time, we continued to try to nurse, but his little jaw just wasn’t strong enough and there were so many distractions from the alarms and cords and other babies. (At that time, the NICU was a large, open space with 18 tiny babies. A year later, Sam & I attended the opening of the brand new, very private, NICU!) After 24 hours breathing successfully on his own, Sam came home. In the peace of his own room, we worked on nursing a little bit every day. A week later, he latched on and at seven weeks he had his first full feeding. After that, he was pretty much an eating champ! That was the first time he showed us his determination on his own timeline. Countless times since then, he has worked and worked and worked on a skill and eventually mastered it with great success. Sitting, clapping, crawling, and now he’s nearly walking. This darling boy has surely changed our pace of parenting and expectations. I think it’s safe to say he was born to be spectacular!


photo by Sara Montour Photography




Moving Toward Minimal

Just over a month ago, Pete told me he felt God was showing him a path that would take us another step toward Kenya and living more simply. This journey has been ongoing for us. We started by getting organized. Then we got a dumpster to clear out junk. Finally, we had an estate sale to sell everything but what we were using regularly. We sold the house and bought a furnished condo on the lake. Then we went down to one vehicle and had a six-month spending freeze. In the year-and-a-half we’ve been in the condo, we’ve tried to keep from accumulating more things, but let me tell you, it’s hard! We don’t intentionally go out to buy random things that will become clutter. In fact, we always have a “to be donated” box in our laundry room that fills faster than I expect it to. Friends and family have bought us experiences as gifts rather than little items, which we have loved and so greatly appreciate. Additionally, I go through nearly everything every couple months to keep our belongings under control. But even with all that, I was not at all surprised when Pete told me we need to pray about another step toward simplicity.

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So pray we did. And in that praying, we felt that the time had arrived to prepare our condo for renters. This is something we didn’t think we’d be doing until we were also packing our bags for Kenya. However, when we looked at the numbers, we realized this plan could cut our monthly budget tremendously by allowing renters to move in and pay our monthly mortgage. Once we felt that this really was something God was putting in front of us, I began looking for inexpensive rentals around town. After a week or two of searching, I found one sweet little rental that feels as though it’s been waiting for us. It has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a small kitchen, and a cozy living room, all in 1,000 square feet. It’s right along the Lakewalk, where we can ride bikes and go on runs and walk the five short blocks to my favorite local coffee shop. We’ll have a yard and a shared garage and the little house sits right along the route of Grandma’s Marathon, one of our favorite events of the year. It is exactly what we were looking for.

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We are leaving our condo furnished for renters, so nearly everything we put into our new place is temporary. I’ve had great luck finding a dresser and a bookshelf and bunk beds on Craigslist (which means Sammy is moving to a big bed!). All other items have come from IKEA, Target, Amazon, thrift stores or are things we don’t need to leave in the condo. It is our main goal to begin living even more minimally with this move. With very little closet space, we will all reduce our wardrobes. The kids already have a fairly small amount of toys and books, which helps. Our kitchen will be stocked only with what we use on a daily basis. Pete and I feel confident that we want to live minimally as we continue forward, and we are excited about it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this an easy thing to do.

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I do trust that this is what God has for us. My heart feels joyful with the idea of clearing more clutter from our home and our lives. But I love our condo. I love waking every morning and peering out over Lake Superior to discover her always-changing mood. Enormous ships move through her waters and sea planes fly over her surface. We fall asleep to the sound of the waves, even on these bitterly cold nights of winter. Our condo is new and beautifully furnished. We have space to host friends on a regular basis and to let the kids play freely. As much as I adore the space we call home this week, it does not compare with following every step that God puts in front of us. I have lived enough years and followed (or not followed) him enough times that I find it a bit easier, and certainly far more exciting, to follow his path and plan without as much questioning as I once did. So in one week, when Pete is off for the weekend, we will make our official move out of the condo and into our new house. Pete and I often sing to each other, “Home, let me come home // Home is wherever I’m with you.” And we believe that. Where we’re together, celebrating life and living our days, that is where our home is.

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As we get ready for this move, will you please be praying with us? We’re taking the step to move out and allow renters to come in, but we don’t yet have those renters. We’re working with a management company who is very familiar with our building, and we’re praying for the right renters to come in as soon as February 1. I will be working on preparing it for renters while Pete is away in New Mexico the remainder of this month. Also, please pray we settle well in our new home. I love to decorate and make a space cozy, so I’m really looking forward to that part. We first took Ella to the new house before New Years to help her mentally and emotionally begin the transition, and she’s gone shopping with me for her new bedding and such. She seems to be doing well with the idea of the move, and the promise of having the top bunk makes her want to be there already!

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So we’re off on a new adventure! We will surely keep you posted on our progress in the days ahead. I’ve said it before, and I certainly mean it…we are so happy to share this journey with you!



First Grade & Mama Fears

Last night, I wasn’t quite sure we would be getting any sleep at all. Ella was far too excited for her first day of first grade. She laid out her clothes for the morning, set out her new pink pony lunch bag, was tucked in by 8pm. Sleep, however, didn’t come for another two hours. Eventually, I cuddled in next to her to rub her back and sing in the hopes she would drift to sleep. At last, she did. And so did I.

Ella First Grade

This morning we were up bright and early, long before we needed to be. The two of us made breakfast together while Sam played at the table. I would like to say we had something lovely and maybe a bit fancy. Whole wheat pancakes with fresh blueberries perhaps, or fluffy Belgian waffles drowned in maple syrup. But no, we reheated a cinnamon roll from yesterday’s batch. Not homemade, mind you. They came from a can. But hey, we completely enjoyed that cinnamon roll together. I packed her lunch, put Sam in the stroller, and walked to the end of the street to wait for the bus. As we waited, she proudly posed for the first-day-of-school photos and then she was off! Her first day of first grade.

I do find it a bit hard to believe I have a first grader. Part of it is that I have very clear memories of first grade. My teacher Mrs Anderson, my first crush who definitely didn’t share my sentiments, playing for hours on end with my best friend Chanda. The fact that I can still remember such vivid details of the year I was six makes me realize that my girl is old enough to store away her own, as well. Memories that will last her entire life. She’ll remember how it feels to be invited to a friend’s birthday party, learn fascinating new things in school, and, heaven forbid, have her first crush. Sweet memories. But along with the sweet memories, she will inevitably have the not-so-sweet memories. Like being embarrassed by someone in her class or making a choice she wishes she hadn’t. My mama heart so dearly wants to protect her from those hard memories. I want to be shield her from the twinge of hurt that accompanies them for years after they initially took place. But that wouldn’t be fair, would it. Not when I consider how much I grew from those moments. How I learned who I was and who I didn’t want to be. And how I became stronger and smarter and kinder. Those are the qualities I want for my Ella. So I will let her grow and I will let her make her memories. Because mixed in with all those harder memories are really, really good ones. And those are the beautiful pieces she will place together when she remembers what it was like to be my little girl.

For those hard moments when I feel my mama heart truly worrying, I remember this verse from Isaiah. There is no reason to fear. He is with me and He is with my darling girl.



What are some of your favorite memories from your first years of school?


Trusting Through the Disappointment

I wasn’t planning on writing this post. I don’t even know what to say, really, but after three months of these thoughts sitting in my heart, I need to get them out. Writing is how I so often process my joys and my frustrations and my sadness. And I want you to know.

I want you to know about the little girl who danced in my dreams. I saw little glimpses of her running through the grass, twirling barefoot in the dirt, placing her dark little fingers inside my cream-colored hand.


For years and years I’ve wanted to adopt. When I met Pete and he shared the desire, I knew we would one day have a little one…or more…who would be born from another mama’s womb but who would grow up and learn to love in the arms of our family. We talked about the time and place and the ins and outs of how it might happen, until one day, not long after Sam was born, we felt the time had come. We would begin the journey of growing our family through adoption.

There was no question where our little one would be born. After all, we hope to live a good part of the rest of our days in Africa. We asked friends for recommendations of agencies and countries and plans, but when we discovered Lutheran Social Services (LSS) had a Kenya program, our hearts felt right. When I was fifteen, my parents adopted my youngest sister from Colombia through LSS. We would follow their path.

In the spring of 2014, we had our first meetings with case workers at LSS. They were very encouraging and knowledgeable about the process. They had led multiple families through the Kenya program, which isn’t a common occurrence as Kenya requires an 18-month in-country stay. That’s just not a possibility for most families. Perfect for ours, however, as our first stay will be two years. Our case worker gave us a whole lot of information and recommended we start the actual adoption process one year before our projected move to Kenya.

In the  year between our first contact with LSS and when we were told to start the paperwork process, Pete and I often spoke to each other about our future family. We decided to begin with a little girl, and planned to only request she be younger than five. We prayed a lot about whether or not we would pursue siblings, if there was a little girl with a brother or sister, and decided we would wait for God’s leading if that became a possibility. I looked all over Pinterest and Etsy for fun, unique ways to share the news with our families. We thought this fall would be good timing, as it wouldn’t be too terribly long before our sweet girl was in our arms. We were beginning to talk about photographers to help us make the announcement. So many dreams.

When we began to work through the paperwork again this past April, we were thrilled. We had shared the news of our planned adoption with just a few friends and some who would understand our early excitement and budding dreams. We also made sure WGM, our mission organization, would be okay with our plan of being matched with our little girl shortly after arriving in Kenya next summer. Multiple missionary families have adopted Kenyan children, and our coach and Kenyan team members were supportive of our plans. We completed our first packet of papers for LSS and were ready to send it off after signing our names on the lines marked adoptive father and adoptive mother. I decided to send a quick email to our case worker to let her know we were going to drop the documents in the mail the next day, but the response we got back from her was not what we had expected.

In her email, we learned that Kenya had closed its doors to all international adoptions. I read and re-read the US Department of State – Kenya Adoption webpage, praying it was a temporary mistake and would quickly be corrected. But no. The decision will likely not change for quite some time.

My heart broke. We had thought this was the right time, that God was leading us down this path as a way to grow our family. I had been dreaming of my little girl and how she would make us a family of five. I imagined her sharing a room with her big sister and learning to play alongside her big brother. I cried hard about this ending. I told Jesus my heart was hurting, that I was confused and mad. Why was this the timing? Why, when I know there are so many children all over this world who long to be loved and to be a part of a family, can we not bring them into our family? We have so much love and patience and joy, and we want to pour that all over our next little one. Or two. Or three. But for now we can’t. And I am sad.

Why would Kenya stop international adoptions? Well, it’s no secret that there is a lot of corruption in the world of adoption, especially in poor areas. Children are not always truly orphans when they are given to an orphanage. Some are taken with force from their homes, others are sold for money to support a desperate family. It is my understanding that many African countries are currently closed to international adoption until systems can be established to control and police these situations. I understand this, and I absolutely agree that families should be kept together if at all possible. But I also know that there are many motherless children who desperately want to be loved.

The opportunity to adopt in Kenya is not permanently out of the picture for us. If Kenya doesn’t open to international adoptions again in the near future, it may be possible for us to adopt as Kenyan residents once we’ve been there for a number of years. Three, I believe. It’s hard to imagine waiting that long, but we have no idea what God has for us. We are quite open to other adoption possibilities, but at this time, our options are minimal because of our hope to leave for Kenya in just twelve months. So we will continue to trust and keep our hands open to what he wants to do. We know that his eyes see the orphans of this world, and we ask for more of his heart to continue to live well on this path he has set for us.

Everyday I find myself needing to ask Jesus to comfort my heart. I am a part of a beautiful community of parents through Instagram and Facebook and blogs who are currently pursuing adoption, domestically and internationally. I love following their journeys and participating in their adoption fundraisers. I am truly, truly excited for each of them. But it hurts a bit. And when I see sweet photos on Instagram of families who have a beautiful palate of skin tones, I smile and ask God again to allow that for our family.

My heart wants to be the mother to so many. For now, I will continue to pray for the babes I have yet to hold and I will cuddle and and whisper wonderful promises to the two in my arms.



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