Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Blind Side

I rarely pay full price for movies. We wait until they end up at the dollar movie or on video. But this . . . this I will pay full price to see in a few weeks. I can't watch the trailer without crying. I think it will be an incredible message for so many of us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Holding the Line Part II

Where were we? Oh, yes, pregnant with 8 month old twins. I had just begun my senior year of college. I was due in May and the math worked out on my fingers. I wanted desperately to graduate, but could we keep the pace up?

The boys were becoming mobile and were still attending school with us. Robert was pastoring his first church and building a little house on a few acres way out in the country. Literally, he and his father were building a home for us to live in. We were both taking a full time class load in the hopes of meeting the requirements for graduation. It was a crazy time and we often felt stretched beyond our limits. Several times I would break down in tears in the scurry to get diaper bags and book bags packed for our morning commute to campus. I might have given up in those times had Robert not reminded me how close we were.

We faced all the difficulties newly married couples do. We worried about finances. The little Baptist church Robert pastored operated on a "free will offering". In other words, there was no set salary and no benefits. Whatever ended up in the pastor plate at the end of the service is what we took home - whether it was $10 or $100. We quickly learned to look to God for our provision. We bought building supplies as we could afford them. When we moved into the house, it was literally a shell with studs for walls, plywood floors, and an open ceiling that looked into the attic space. But it was our home and we were happy to have it.

Many people said starting a family so soon would rob us of our time together. I wonder about that logic now. Robert and I became a tuned machine, working together to meet the needs of one another and our little family. There were no "assigned jobs". We worked as a team to get done whatever needed doing - diaper duty, typing papers (on a typewriter no doubt!), cooking, cleaning. It's a philosophy that still rules our house. See a need - fill a need. We grew together because we needed one another.

This second pregnancy was easier. I didn't experience the morning sickness I had with the boys (severe morning sickness that put me in the hospital at one point). How much harder would a third baby be? We had a rhythm going and I was in the final stretch of school.

I began a negotiation with God in the Spring. "God, what is it going to take to let me finish school and graduate before this baby comes?" Surely He wouldn't let me come this far and not let me finish. He was teaching me about His perfect timing though. Each OBGYN check up was met with speculation from my doctor. He just couldn't be sure if the baby would come before or after graduation day. I took it easy in those final weeks, taking the three flights of stairs to my Lit class very slowly. Everyone around us encouraged us that the baby would wait, but we saw their fingers crossed behind their backs.

When graduation morning arrived and the baby hadn't, I thanked God. I was feeling a little sluggish, but the excitement of the day gave me the adrenaline push I needed to get going. We arrived at campus and were greeted with a record crowd. The auditorium was already filled to capacity with family and friends of the graduating class. Administrators made a last minute decision to have the graduates stand throughout the ceremony so there would be enough room for spectators.

It was a warm Mississippi May morning, I was nine months pregnant, and I was just told that I would be standing throughout the 3 hour service. Do you see the perfect storm brewing here?

It started with a subtle ache in my lower back. I shifted from one foot to the other. If I rested my hand on my lower back, it helped a little. The graduation candidate in front and behind me looked anxiously at my movements. "How you doing? Do you want to step out of line and sit down?" There was no way I was stepping out of that line. I smiled and shook my head to ease their discomfort since I couldn't ease mine. After the speeches had been given, the issuing of diplomas began and the line started to move. I thanked God again for marrying me to a Landrum and not to a Zimmerman.

Crossing the stage and taking that diploma was as good as hearing God audibly say, "I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I turned in my robes at the conclusion of the ceremony and headed to the hospital. "Well, it looks like you're going to have two major accomplishments today, Leslie," my doctor declared after examining me. Hannah was born later than night, just an hour shy of Mother's Day. Robert propped my degree up on one of the shelves in the birthing suite. Nurses would walk through and pause to gaze at the official looking document, shake their heads, and remind us that we were lucky that we had waited until graduation to have a baby.


And then when Hannah was less than a year old, I found out I was pregnant again. . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Landrum State of the Union Address Part I

It appears that I blundered by posting an ambiguous status update on my Facebook account a few days back. And while I didn't mean to stir the pot, it appeared as though I was sending some sort of veiled message about an upcoming announcement to my friends. Knowing me like most of you do, you probably guessed what I was thinking about when I wrote that status update. So let me address the question at hand: Are we planning on adding to our family?

The answer? Yes. Always. Whenever someone asks if were planning on adopting again, the answer is always an unhesitating "yes". But that's where the specifics tend to get hazy. Since we've brought Kristina home, three different children have come to our attention. Each time we considered and prayed about pursuing their adoptions. The last one was this past March; a little special needs girl who opened our heart to bringing a child with unique needs into our family. But a strange thing happened all three times, after we had chosen to move forward God provided a family for each of these children. Our hearts were bewildered and a little torn. There was a part of us confused about the outcome of events and a part joyful that three children would no longer be called orphans.

So in order to address the question at hand, I need to give you some background on how the Landum Family came to be. If you want a direct answer to the question, "Are you adopting? And if so, who and when?", chances are you'll have to tune in in a few days when I finish the background info. Don't feel compelled to stay. I'll get to it eventually. So lets start at the beginning. . .

Almost sixteen years ago during premarital counseling, our pastor asked us about our family plans. We both said we had discussed the issue and were on the same page: we both wanted children. Case closed, next item of business. But he probed further and asked us to truly examine our "family plans". After much prayer and talking, we made a decision that didn't receive a lot of support from friends and family. We would allow God to plan our family.

Our friends said we needed time for just the two of us, to get to know one another and grow as a couple. Three months into the marriage, I learned I was pregnant. A month later I learned it was twins. We were juniors in college - ecstatic and a little scarred. I figured that would be the end of my college pursuits, but I knew God's plans were perfect. I went into labor right before Christmas during exam week and for fear that it was false labor, I brought my Hebrew exegesis work with me to the hospital. If I wasn't having a baby (babies!), I was going to have to show up for that Hebrew language exam. The labor was real enough and later that night I gave birth to Samuel and Nathanael. Samuel ("Asked of God") because we had prayed that God would give us a child in His time and Nathanael ("Gift of God")- because we asked for one and God gave us another. :)

The boys arrived 8 days shy of our one year anniversary. By the time we were released from the hospital, Christmas break had commenced and we began the adjustment to being a family of 4 over the holiday break. During that time, I contemplated what our life would look like now that we had these precious boys. I couldn't possibly return to school with this new responsibility, so I resolved to put college off until much later when the children had begun school. When school commenced in January, Robert and I returned to campus to introduce the newest Landrums to the faculty and our friends and to drop all of my classes.

One of the offices we stopped at that morning was the office of the academic dean Dr. Larry Braidfoot. Robert and I had both been students in Dr Braidfoot's Intro to Christian Theology class. Holding one of the boys, he questioned me about my college plans. I stumbled a little at the line of questioning. Of course I would be dropping out of school. The boys were a priority and I couldn't be both a full time student and a full time mother. But Dr. Braidfoot saw something in me that I didn't, he said I didn't have to choose. "Follow me," he said as he locked his office door and headed out of the administration building. We followed him across the street to the School of Religion building and down one of the hallways to another office door. He unlocked the room and swung the door open to reveal a wood paneled office with desk, chair, and bookshelves from floor to ceiling. He walked about in the small space, scratching his chin and moving things about. "Do you have one of those portable play cribs?" he inquired. I nodded, confused about the direction he was going. "I can bring a lamp in to cut down on the glare of the fluorescent overhead lights and I have a rocking chair. The crib can fit over here," he said moving some boxes aside. Robert and I were stunned at his proposal. Rather than quit school, he was suggesting that we all come. Robert, me, and the boys. It was unorthodox. It was unconventional. And it was totally God.

So for the first year of the boys' lives, that little unused office of Dr Braidfoot's became our sanctuary. Robert and I managed to schedule classes opposite of each other so one of us was always in the office with the boys. They were good babies, rarely crying. I can still see Robert sitting at that heavy wooden desk under the glow of a lamp, a book in one hand, a sleeping baby over one shoulder, and another sleeping baby rocking gently in the baby carrier at his feet. And so this was the melody of our life for that first year. It wasn't without its challenges. During exam week, we took shifts sleeping, studying, and tending to the children. But the majority of our memories are of the peaceful sanctuary of that room, "Grandbecky" the secretary to the department chair who adopted all of us, the "thump, thump, thump" that echoed down the deserted corridors in the religion building as the boys crawled across the historic wooden floors, and the squeals of delight as they later clung to the wainscoting of those halls and took their first steps. I managed to take a full course load, maintain a 4.0, and be a full time mom. And it was all by the grace of God. It seemed that trusting God to plan our family had paid off.

And then when the boys were just 8 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Pics From the Birthday

Kristina received a new camera from my parents and she immediately wanted to use it (wonder where she gets that?). We rode our bikes to the park to work off the incredibly rich cake we had after lunch. Of course, I brought my camera too. The fading light worked against us, but I managed to get a few shots of her on this special day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Twice a Blessing

I can never get her to wear her hair down lately. "It's too frizzy. It's too big," she protests as she pulls it into the pony tail she wears to school most days. Some days she gets up extra early to use the straightener. Its a painstaking process that ends in her hair returning to its natural wave before she gets to the end of the street. But she's an American teenager now and she wants to blend in.

Last night I talked her into letting me do her hair for church this morning. It took some prodding, but I guilted her into doing it as part of her birthday present. Skeptically she perched on the edge of my bed with her mane hanging before her as I carefully dried and scrunched it into what I knew her hair was meant to be. "Done?" she asked as she marched into the bathroom to examine the results. She looked at herself for a long time, turning this way and that to get a look from different angles. "Okay?" I asked. "Okay," she smiled back. Her golden brown hair spilled in beautiful spirals around her face.

Today my daughter is 14 years old. I missed the first 12 years of her life, but God has made up for it in the blessings of the two years that we've had together. I thought of her biological mother this morning and mourned that she never got to see the beautiful woman her child is growing into. Regardless of the dark beginnings of this child's life, at some point she must have been a blessing to her mother. At some point her mother must have held her close, peered into her blue eyes behind the frame of brown ringlets, and known that God blessed her with at least this one thing. Now I know that blessing too. Not many children have the opportunity to bless two mothers in their lifetime. The gift of adoption wasn't just for Kristina. It was for all of us too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Same Couch, Different Kid

I picked up Hannah from school this afternoon and it appears as though she picked up Kristina's cold. Kristina, by the way, returned to school today and is her happy self once more. So now I guess it's Hannah's turn. Same symptoms: fever, headache, nausea. Two down, five to go? Let's hope not!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quotes from the Sick Ward

I picked Kristina up from school with a 102 temperature today. She changed into her winter pajamas, her thermal socks, her down jacket and then settled on the couch with the pillow and comforter from the bed. She dozed in and out for a few hours. Periodically she would wake up and say the strangest things like:

"I love this couch. I prayed for myself. The coffee talked to me. I feel better."

"My head hurts. Does this mean I have brain damage?"

"Dad said a bad word - habitual."

"My hair is soft."

"Dad, what are you doing? Wanna pass me the M&M's?"

"I'm not a magazine maker."

"What's the highest fever?"

"I think I'm going to go to bed." (rolls over and faces the couch.) "I don't think anyone heard that."

Of course, Robert took great pleasure in trying to carrying on a conversation with her in this state. He was sitting in his chair reading one of Calvin's commentaries. He told her she should try to read some of his books. She said, "No, I need lower books. Your books are high definition books."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Of Great Importance

This is cross posted from the wonderful Kaysers' blog. Adoptive families, please take a moment and do your part.

...And write your Representatives and Senators. This was a major reason we were able to adopt and I know for many families this did as well.

Making the Adoption Tax Credit Permanent
Adoption Action Alert
Taken from (

The federal adoption tax credit has helped thousands of families say "Yes!" to adopting a child. It's vital that this financial support stay in place to help families offset the costs and fees associated with adopting a child. Unfortunately, the tax credit is set to expire in December 2010 unless Congress votes to continue it. It's time to take action!

The Adoption Tax Relief Guarantee Act of 2009, H.R. 213 , will keep the adoption tax credit from being repealed, and may make the tax relief measure permanent. It only takes a few minutes to email or call your senators and congressmen it's important for them to hear from families impacted by the tax credit.

Currently, there are 76 State Senators and Representatives cosponsoring H.R. 213. However, there are 16 states that currently have no sponsors of this bill, including eight on the East Coast* (one of the largest areas of the US with internationally adopted children). H.R. 213 is currently in committee, where most bills die. It imperative that adoptive families, and all friends of children waiting for families, act now.

It only takes a few minutes to write, call, or email your representatives. Please do so today!
Email Representative:
Email Senator:

Currently, the following states have no cosponsors or commitments of support for H.R. 213:
West Virginia
Rhode Island
New Hampshire
South Dakota
New Mexico

The two states offering the greatest support are Texas & Georgia with 6 cosponsors each, closely followed by Pennsylvania with 5. Honorable mentions: Florida , Indiana , Illinois each with 4 sponsorships each.

Pass this on to friends and family, and ask for their help in writing, calling, and posting on blogs and facebook. To gain momentum, we must have an absolute ground swell of families lifting their voices together for the well-being of children throughout the world!


Hello my name is ___________ and I live in ___________. We recently finished our adoption of two new children. Our journey was amazing but also was very expensive. We were able to accomplish this partly due to the tax benefits that were provided. There are over 140 million orphans in the world today and anything that will help families give these kids homes. Please vote for the Adoption Tax Relief Guarantee Act of 2009, H.R. 213 , that will keep the adoption tax credit from being repealed, and may make the tax relief measure permanent. Thank you for your service and we pray for you and your colleagues daily. May God Bless you.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Out with the Old, In with the New

I can't believe its October. We had a "cold front" sweep through earlier this week and experienced the first hints of cooler weather. Technically "cold front" here means 65 at night, 85 during the day. We take what we can get though! My students trudged into class wearing long sleeves and complaining about the cool nip in the air. I love the promise of things to come though!

We are almost half way through the first nine weeks of school. I wish I could say that the wonderful routine we fell into this summer survived the demands of the return to school, but that's not exactly what happened. After teaching all day (and two nights a week at a local college), I just haven't been able to work the biking into my schedule. I hate it too. I felt great and was really experiencing a change in my health. And I miss biking. It was an activity that all of us could do together. I'm hoping I can balance out my schedule and regain some of the old routine soon.

We're all enjoying some new activities though. Hannah and Kristina are part of middle school girls' Bible study. Sam, Nathanael, & Joshua all made the boys volleyball team at school. We're excited to cheer them on at their first home game this week. Four of the kids are in the music program at school. Sam and Nathanael are in their third year of band. Hannah and Joshua joined this year and are loving it. Kristina wasn't interested at all though, so we respected her decision to opt for other electives.

Even I'm trying my hand at something new. I play three other instruments, but I've always wanted to learn guitar. With no money (or time) for an instrument or lessons, it just never happened. Last Christmas, a guitar made its way under the tree with my name on it though (thanks, Dad!), but I still couldn't swing the other half of the equation until a few weeks ago. It just so happens that there's a guitar class at school during my planning period. So most days, I squeeze my way into Andrea's classroom, grab an acoustic, and set myself between two 16 year olds who happen to be in my English class. There are about seven students in seventh period guitar class who have me for English class sometime earlier in the day. The first time I showed up, the kids raised their eyebrows. But now they make room for me and check my technique when I'm practicing chords. I take notes and tests right along side them and they seem to respect me for that. On Friday, Tabby popped her head in my classroom and shouted, "OMG, Mrs Landrum, did you practice for today's test? What song are you going to play???" I have to laugh at their enthusiasm because I share the same jitters and the same sore fingertips.

Some things never change though. The boys went off with Robert this morning and left me with the girls. We had good intentions to clean the house, but sometime (shortly after the boys left) Kristina successfully convinced me that she was in desperate need of a denim skirt. We set out for Ross (love Ross!) and didn't manage to find what we were looking for. We did however find a pair of "skinny jeans" that Kristina wanted for her birthday. Skinny jeans are the new must have obviously. She tried on about ten pairs before settling on a dark washed pair. She even convinced me to try on a pair. For future reference, skinny jeans are for skinny people! The girls said they loved them on me and tried to convince me get them. I explained that I worked with teenagers - the last thing I need is to try to look like one!