Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hey Kid: Eight

June 20 (Part Two)

Hey Kid,

On Saturday, when you were one day old but I didn't know it, I loaded up the van with everything I couldn't return. Every baby supply we'd been given. A swing. A bouncer. A baby bathtub. Toys. A swaddler. Dad spent the day turning the playroom turned Kate's room turned library turned your room into a game room. He installed a shelf in the closet and hooked up the boys video game system. I organized their games and pieces and moved the board games from the office into the new room. Your brothers loved it and, if we weren't going to be able to bring a baby home, we were happy to come up with something fun for the room. As Dad put the finishing touches on the room, I stared at the pictures I'd bought to hang on your wall, pictures of birds with the words Hope, Believe, Imagine, and Dream. "How did we end up here?" I wondered. I'd done all those things. I'd hoped, believed, imagined and dreamed and all I had left was a broken heart.

It wasn't that I didn't trust the Father, or that I was angry with what He'd decreed. I had actually reached a peace with the whole thing. I just knew I would always wonder where you were and how you were and what you were doing. I'd see you in every boy I passed on the street from now until forever. I struggled to process that piece of the baffling puzzle.

The next morning, on June 5, I transferred all the baby stuff that I'd loaded into the van into someone else's car--a woman at our church who is due in September. Save for a disassembled crib in our utility closet and a car seat and stroller that your Dad procrastinated on returning, we had no baby stuff left. We were done. This chapter of our lives had closed.

That afternoon, the boys were playing video games in their new game room. Dad and I were sitting on our bed together, talking about what the future would look like now. We were planning on going out for ice cream with our friends that night. At 3:56 pm, I received a text from our coordinator. You had been born on Friday. Your mom wanted us to come get you after all. I think I instantly started sobbing. I didn't know if it was real, if she was serious, if she would change her mind back, if I was dreaming.

I think I experienced every emotion known to man in a five minute span of time. I'd been ready for you for months. And then, suddenly, you were there and I wasn't ready for you. I had nothing here for you. I had only my own fear that it was all a dream I would wake up from.

The next 24 hours were insane, miraculous, terrifying, wonderful, emotional, heart wrenching, exhausting, and altogether quite impossible to describe. Your mom hadn't signed yet, so we decided that I would go alone. Dad would stay here with your brothers and we would hope for the best. We told them that I was going to "talk to a birth mom" and that "we'd see what happens" and we crossed our fingers and said a lot of prayers and I threw clothes into a suitcase. I tried not to get my hopes up. I knew the next day would pretty much be a coin toss. Would I end the day with three children or not? I tried not to fall in love with the idea of you all over again.

At 9:12 that night, I got this picture of you...


I suddenly couldn't believe I had to wait another minute to meet you and hold you. I loved you so much I wanted to get to California as fast as humanly possible. It was as though I had known you since always.

My flight left at 8:00 am on Monday morning. It was Dad's birthday. 

Grandma picked me up in San Diego and we drove to Riverside. With every turn of the wheels, I was closer to you. But so much was unknown. I wanted to hope but I was terrified. Denial seemed the easier choice. Or, in any case, the default setting. So much of me felt numb, a defense mechanism to use as a salve for the heart that had grieved long.

Your mom had been discharged the night before and the hospital you were born in didn't have a nursery, so you camped out in the NICU. As I entered the hospital, your mom was nearby, signing the paperwork to give you into my care. I scrubbed my hands and went in. You were so tiny--only 5 lbs 5 oz and 18.5 inches long--that when I picked you up it felt like the rest of you must have been in a different part of the NICU. It was as though I needed to find your pieces and assemble you. I held you and fed you and forgot to be numb and somewhere in the middle of that, I noticed our coordinator on the phone about 25 feet away.



My heart plummeted into my knees. What if she'd changed her mind again. What if I had held you and loved you and I was going to set you gently in your bassinet and walk away? Will, all you ever need to know is that if I had had to do that, a piece of my heart would have forever been with you and mine would never have beat the same way again. The coordinator hung up the phone and came toward me...

She was smiling.

Your mom signed.

Your dad signed.

They chose us for you.

We spent the next few hours saying painful goodbyes. Your mom and dad said goodbye. Your grandparents said goodbye, I promised them that, like your big brother, we would have open communication. We would celebrate your first family and they would never have to wonder where you were or what you were doing. Your life would not be a secret from them.

And then the hospital released you.

Into my home.

Into my heart.

For as long as I shall live.

It was, to be sure, the best birthday present your daddy has ever received. As we drove away, I sighed. There, in my mom's car, was the tiniest of bundles, a miracle so many eons in the making. And I would like to believe that your big sister was sitting on the knee of her Father as they watched the scene unfold. I would like to think that she smiled at Him, knowing, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that without first having her in my life, there never would have been you.

I don't know what the future holds. But I know that this family loves you huge. And I promise you, I will do my very best.

And they put you in my arms
And I realize in an instant
That I've known you all along
That I've wanted you forever
That I'll never do you wrong
And whatever this world comes to
And whatever comes our way
I will watch you, and protect you
I promise, kid, we'll be okay
We'll be okay
-If/Then Musical

I love you.

-Mama



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hey Kid: Seven

June 20

Hey Kid,

I never could have imagined so much time going by between letters. I never could have foreseen everything that would unfold between May 3 and June 6.

On May 25, your mom was scheduled to see a doctor. I was so hopeful that she would get an induction date so we would be able to prepare to travel to California to meet you. I waited, in excited anticipation, to hear something. She never checked in with the adoption coordinator that day. Our coordinator told me not to worry, It was normal for her to not check in, she was 100% committed to the adoption, and there were no red flags. Still, as that evening faded into night, I was sure. In those moments, I just knew she had changed her mind. And I began to grieve the loss of you. I had loved you for so long, I simply didn't know how a day would go by where I didn't think about you and wonder who you were and what you were becoming.

Thursday passed without word.

And then Friday.

I dreamed that you were gone from me forever. I woke up crying.

On Saturday, May 28, I took your brothers for a walk and it was then that I received confirmation. She had changed her mind. I was devastated. Your brothers knew nothing of what I was processing so I quietly reeled. I fought back the stinging tears. I praised God that He had placed it on our hearts not to tell them, so grateful that we were able to spare them shrapnel to the soul.

As that day continued, grief came and each stage fired through me. I landed--stuck in a swirling spiral of anger. I can't say who or what I was even angry with. Ultimately, I was just so furious that I had let myself hope. I had always said that I would never, ever fault a mother for choosing to parent. But that knowledge didn't stop the pain I felt from mourning another child gone or the anguish at knowing I'd lost both Kate and her brother.

That night I bagged up all the stuff I'd bought for you. Emotionally and financially, we were exhausted. I held your brothers a little tighter and decided that the past year and a half were just a lesson in being content with what I had. I told our coordinator we were finished. Adios. Farewell. Arrivederci. I asked for only one thing, a picture of you. I never got to see your sister's face. I was desperate to see yours.

On Tuesday, May 31, I spent the day returning clothes, sheets, and diapers. I fielded questions like, "Do you need a bigger size for your baby?" and, "Aren't you excited to have Gymboree store credit?" I cried alone in my car. It was miserable. I had loved you for so long. I had tried not to think of the future with you and had tried to guard my heart. It was still so hard to hand over all the things I thought you would wear, knowing that you would never actually be a part of this family.

The week dragged on. I cried and grieved and prayed and tried to move on. I thought about all the things I would get to do because I didn't have a newborn. Things like sleeping through the night. Everything I came up with was ridiculously superficial but I clung to them as a means to get me through each day. Silver linings, I called them. They weren't really silver linings but, in actuality, metallic paint slapped over a masterpiece I no longer had the privilege of looking at.

We told your brothers we were finished. It was time to stop waiting for a match. It was time to move on. They sobbed. Matthew clung to me in his bed, in the dark, and begged me to reconsider. "I'll do anything," he cried. "Please don't take our name out!"  I blurted that I'd take him to Disneyland instead. Please understand what a ridiculously awful consolation prize that was. Still, that was how I got the brothers to stop crying. Disneyland. "Am I tall enough to ride Indiana Jones?" the younger one asked through sorrowful hiccups. Don't take it personally. Someday you'll understand the pull that Disney has on a young boy.

On Friday, June 3, at 7:31 pm PST (8:31 Utah time), I chatted with friends at Dad's softball game. I remember the concrete bench beneath me and the sounds of your brothers' laughter. I remember the sun in my eyes as it set over the mountains. I remember that Dad's team lost, a lot to a little. I don't remember the details of your birth. I had no idea that, at that precise moment, in a hospital room in Riverside, CA, you had just come into the world...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hey Kid: Six

May 3

Hey Kid,

Will, I pray for you every time you are on my mind. It really kind of gives a whole new meaning to 1 Thessalonians 5:17. "...pray without ceasing." Because, little one, I think about you all the time. I'm trying to balance the fear, the excitement, and the contentment but it's really hard. I want to savor these moments that I have with your big brothers before you come screaming and kicking into the world. It's been just the four of us for seven years. That's a lot of years of falling into our patterns and our ways and you're going to be here before we know it. You're gonna mess/bless it all up. It's gonna be awesome.

I still worry every single day that your heart is going to beat its last before you ever get the opportunity to breathe. It sounds dramatic when I say that my arms are aching for you but it couldn't be a more realistic statement. I feel like I need you in my arms the way I need air. 

Six weeks. 8 million heartbeats. You're still 8 million heartbeats away. But every minute that passes by gets me one moment closer to you. I am longing to feel that heart beating under the weight of my own hand. Will, after the only time that I held your big sister, I wrote this about the experience: 

It was just my daughter and me. Suddenly I realized that my heart was thundering inside my chest as she rose and fell with my every breath. And when it pounded, for a moment, it was unclear whether it was hers or mine. 

My heart will beat for yours. You are safe in the arms of Jesus and so, here on earth, my heart will beat for both of us.

In that moment, mother's heart pounding while baby's holds still, I felt a peace wash over me. Suddenly I knew that I could grieve and dream, laugh and cry, stand still and run wild, all at the same time. I feel like God whispered into my soul that it is alright to hope. Good, even.

Will, you are that hope. I didn't know it then. I couldn't see the miraculous way God would orchestrate all of this. I couldn't see the way He would change my own desires. But here we are, wanting you as much as we've ever wanted anything.

When this card arrived in the mail, I couldn't get it opened fast enough. I didn't know what it would say or what would be inside, but I knew it was from your mama and I knew it held something of utmost importance.


Will, I think I knew, from the moment our facilitator told me you were alive more than five months ago, that whoever you were, whatever you were going to become, you were a part of this family. I tried to hold it all at a distance because of how scary it is. As though I would somehow be less devastated to lose you if I'd never held the idea of you close to my heart. But in all truthfulness, I considered you mine in those early minutes, pacing outside, listening and trying not to attach myself. Knowing, deep down, in a recess I couldn't even begin to explore, that in that one declaration of your existence, you were wound into and throughout my heart, occupying a place forever. In that instant, it was as though my heart knew. You're Kate's brother. You're already ours.

34 weeks of growing down, 6 weeks to go. I love you and I can't wait to feel your heart beating.

-Mama

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hey Kid: Five

April 1

Hey Kid,

I have a spending problem. And, I mean, it's totally your fault. See, I've rediscovered a major discrepancy between baby boy clothes and baby girl clothes. Namely, baby girl clothes take up 75% of the floor while baby boy clothes are relegated to the corner and consist of trucks, dinosaurs and puppies. Don't get me wrong, you're totally going to wear some of the aforementioned, I just don't want you getting the idea that you can only be a trucker, a paleontologist or a veterinarian.You, my son, can be anything you want to be. So when I see something irrationally cute, something in a different career path than the above mentioned monopoly of three, I pick it up.  You, can be...a turtle farmer?

 Or...you can run a rehabilitation center for wounded foxes.


You can be a park ranger or trail guide or thrill seeker. (As long as your thrill of choice is unlikely to kill you because I'm not okay with that.)


You can be an animator (or you can keep me up at night being a complicated little dragon, whichever way you're interpreting this onesie is fine by me).


And you can definitely be the Little Brother.


You have outfits and sleepers and blankets and diapers and wipes and formula and bottles. See, like I said, I have a major spending problem. It's like I somehow think that the more I spend, the quicker you'll get here. It's ridiculous logic. In actuality what's happening is my bank account is shrinking as you're growing. But what am I supposed to do? Force you to go everywhere in just a diaper? Hardly.


You have your very own dot blanket.


This is important. Your oldest brother loved loves his all blue dot blanket so much that, years ago, we bought a backup because we were just sure we'd leave it in some hotel on a road trip and the world would end with his wailing. Matthew has a blue and white dot blanket that he loves (less than Garrett loves his but still) a lot. We'd bought Kate a pink dot blanket just before we found out that she'd gone straight to Heaven without having to first pass through earth. So I was adamant that you needed your very own dot blanket. I finally found this one. I did a happy dance in the store and I'm sure the person watching the security camera was very impressed with my jig.

We've got the lawyers and the social worker involved. We've done all of our background checks and, good news, we're not child abusers in this state or any other and neither of us has a record! You'll be in good hands, kiddo. We're meeting with our social worker soon to update our home study and then we'll be ready--legally. We're already ready in every other way.

Ten weeks. It still seems like forever. It's still more than 14 million fetal heartbeats. I still worry myself sick. I still find myself handing my fear over to the Lord on a daily basis. I pray that you are physically, emotionally, and mentally strong. I pray that you are developing exactly as you should. I pray that everything continues to go well. And...I hope.

When I sat in the private room at the funeral home and sobbed, alone, with your sister in my arms, I believe that God spoke to me. It is alright to grieve and hope. That simple sentence became the springboard for a conversation I had with your dad a few nights later. "If we ever have another daughter, I want to name her Hope." God had spoken something similar to him and we settled on it then and there, in the heartache and devastation of your sister's loss. Another daughter would be named Hope. 

We're not going to saddle you with that, kid. 

And every boy name that means "hope" is pretty much awful so we're not going to do that to you either. I realized that by giving us a name for a hypothetical daughter, God essentially equipped us to be able to move out of our grief and into a place of hope. It wasn't necessarily a name He was giving us, but the very virtue we needed to cling to as we waited to know about you. And the virtue we still clutch as we wait to hold you in our arms.

I could never have imagined this journey. From the moment, years ago, that I believe I heard the Lord tell me that I would have a daughter one day, to losing that daughter, to finding a son I never knew I was waiting for. My whole adult life has been about letting go of the plans I thought I had and submitting myself to the amazing plans God has for my life.

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

This is all about hope. Yes. Indeed. And it is about the Lord's will being done in our lives.

And that is why we are going to name you William. And call you Will.

Love,
Mama


*It should be noted that all of these outfits were returned during the week and a half that we thought we were not going to get to have the joy of raising Will. But Troy went back out and bought the fox outfit and my sister-in-law picked back up the turtle one. I really miss the Night Fury outfit.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hey Kid: Four

March 2.

Hey Kid,

Today was a freak out day for me. Not outwardly. I managed to hold my crap together pretty well while I taught kindergarten and fought what I presume to be bronchitis. I must have done alright pretending I was okay because no one came up to me and said, "So, you must be keeping a big secret from the entire world right now because you're about to completely lose it." I'm handling my life just fine on the external, is what I'm saying. But inside I kinda lost my crap because I feel like I've known about you forever and it's only been 95 days.

And I have just over 100 to go. Also we're about to get our legal team involved. And probably our social worker. It just makes it all really real once all of those people are in place. It's not that I don't want you. It's that I do. I'm so afraid. Of everything. I'm afraid that each moment is your last heartbeat. Here's the thing. The fetal heart beats an average of 140 times per minute. If I multiply that times all the minutes until your due date, I get 20,361,600. Do you even understand that? (Of course you don't, you're a fetus.) But that means I am worried that just once out of over 20 million heartbeats, it might decide to stop.

I pray to God that He'll just keep orchestrating the miraculous and your heart will just go on working. Your brain will keep telling your heart to pump. Your body will keep working. If I could simply keep you alive by an act of my own will, you would live forever.

So I'm stressed. Incredibly.

But I'm excited, too. I've bought sleepers and onesies and a crib mattress pad and receiving blankets. I talk your Dad's ear off about names. I think we're narrowing it down and closing in. It might not even be Abednego Ruiz San Pedro Firefly. But then again, it might be. Your brothers are Garrett John and Matthew David Eric so it seems completely valid to bestow Abednego Ruiz San Pedro Firefly upon you because it totally flows with the others.

You're usually the very first thing I think about when I wake up. I wonder how I will ever wait another three and a third months to meet you. Every Sunday I check in with baby center and find out how big you are. Right now, you're the size of an average rutabaga. I'm not in the habit of purchasing rutabegas but it seems impossible that a baby the size of a vegetable root could ever live outside the womb. And yet, over 50% of babies born at 25 weeks gestation survive. Modern medicine is astounding.

The bottom line in all of this is that I can't wait for you. I mean, I will. Obviously. But I am ready for you to be here in my arms. Until then, I'll just keep posting things about how I'm freaking out. I love you, Kid. So much.

-Mama

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Hey Kid: Three

Hey Kid,

Hey, Kid, we're so excited just to know you'll soon be here. Say, Kid, we're both delighted though that may not seem so clear. -If/Then

It's February 4 and, listen, it's not that a Broadway musical has played any sort of role in your creation or in your being here on this planet at all. Because it has not. But it has played a significant role in my ending up with you. Its themes of loss and moving on and choosing to live every day got me through some really miserable grief with your sister. Its themes of tracing paths left untaken and following twists and turns led me to you.

We're delighted and, well, terrified.

Because, as we know too well, it only takes a second for a baby's heart to stop beating forever. And really, kid, I need yours to keep going. I'm really attached to you already. But I'd be lying if I said that this was how I saw any of this playing out.

Cuz here's the thing...


No. I mean, literally. There's the thing. Your thing. I promise not to put anymore pictures of your penis on my blog. That's the one and only image of your thing that the world will ever see unless you grow up and make some really bad choices. And, yes, let's take a moment to discuss how impressive it is because you are only 21 and a half weeks, kid. MY. HEAVENS. I mean, there are ultrasound pictures where I'm like, "Yeah, okay, maybe I can kind of see that that's a wee wiener but, really, it looks like a blob of umbilical cord or something." But in this case I was like, "Yeah, no. THAT IS DEFINITELY a penis." It was as if you thought to yourself, I'm going to clarify this once and for all. I'm a boy. Take me or leave me.

I've been thinking about your sister for 14 months. Waiting for her. Losing her. Thinking God would bring us another daughter. Honestly, another "thing" wasn't even on my radar. But then, there was you. And we didn't know if you were a boy or a girl but we knew you were Kate's. Her brother? Her sister? Her sibling. Her blood. And blood is hardly an important factor in this family. None of my boys share a drop. But because we love her so much, we instantly loved the idea of you. Boy. Girl. Green alien from Mars. It just didn't matter. I knew I needed to hold you and love you and God would make you what you were. His timing. His will.

Do you understand that even though we never started off with this plan, God did? And I believe that He brought Kate to us because we would never ever have been in a place and space and time to get to you without her. That's some serious orchestration.

He knit you together in your mother's womb and would you take a look at how fabulous you are.


There you are. And I don't know your name. I haven't come up with it yet. I have ideas, most of which your father has vetoed. Listen, he'll tell you that I'm just as picky and stubborn as he is. In fact, he'll try to convince you that I'm even worse. But you heard it here first and this is my blog and I can tell it like it is. (Or revisionist history--whatever.)

So we're planning on surprising everyone. Or, at least, almost everyone. But we'll see how long we can keep the whole thing a secret. At the moment, your grandparents know about you. And that's it. So, with a lot of prayer and a little luck and a forever of waiting, this tiny hand will be holding my finger when this blog goes live in four months.


Until then, I plan to blog the heck out of my feelings. Because I'm scared to death. And I'm excited. And June feels like it's 100 years away, even though I know you'll be here before I know it and I won't be able to remember my life without you.


I know that God has hand picked me for you. I don't know why except to say that in my home and in my heart you can be loud. You can wrestle and pretend to be in battle. You can dig in the mud and run around naked and dance and howl at the moon. You can build forts and play football and be rough and tumble.You can laugh at poop jokes. You'll be safe to grow into a man here. It's all been done before. I'm sure you'll think of something that surprises me but I can't think of what that'll be.

So grow and thrive and I'll see you in four months. I can't wait until you're in my arms.

-Mama

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Hey Kid: Two

Hey Kid,

It's January 27. So. I guess you could say I freaked out. Two and a half weeks ago, I found out that your mom left the place she was staying and moved into a place that we weren't terribly comfortable with. Infertility, contested adoption, adoption ending in stillbirth. This is my reality. I'm so ridiculously freaked out because THERE ARE  THINGS THAT HAVEN'T HAPPENED TO US YET. We've never had a mom decide to parent. We've never had one change her mind and choose someone else. We've never lost track of her halfway through. Not to mention, we could just repeat one of the things we've already done. THERE ARE LOADS OF THINGS THAT COULD HAPPEN AND I'M, APPARENTLY, INSANE.

If you're mine, kid, I'm sorry. Life has completely left me jaded. I promise I'll try to hide my paranoia from you.

So I freaked out and we backed out and I cried and I raged at God. (Really. Which was basically a first for me. Sure, I can handle all the above mentioned stress and still give God the glory but your mom relocating herself just about did me in. I didn't consult the Lord, I just stuffed earbuds in my ears and listened to Adele so that I couldn't hear Him if He tried to talk to me. It was quite the tantrum.) Then I decided to get out of bed and be happy with what He'd already blessed me with. My heart wants you, kid. It's just that my mind is in torment, counting all the terrible ways I could lose you.

But in that moment of making that one choice to back out, I realized how much I already love you. I was devastated. Well, devastated and pissed.

See, I was supposed to get to go with her to an ultrasound two weeks ago. But then she got upset with her living situation and moved and I was angry and backed out and so the ultrasound didn't happen. Last week, after two weeks of thinking we were out and you'd never be ours, we found out that the situation isn't as bad as we originally thought and your mom still wants it to be us. And we do too.

I'm just really scared. Because right now, I can't protect you. I can't do anything to keep you safe or, alive, even. I'm 100% out of control. You're just halfway there, is all. The size of a banana and not viable in the outside world. There's a lot of living for you to do before we could ever hold you. It scares me to death--frankly.

So we're praying right now. For peace from the Lord to move forward. If we move forward and lose you, it'll break our hearts. But if we don't move forward at all, I'll always wonder what if?

In two days, you're officially scheduled to be seen on an ultrasound. So here's the thing, please be healthy. Please be alright and then stay that way. We have a really long wait ahead of us but you don't know that. Just grow. And thrive. And be. And then maybe, if everything lines up just perfectly and our Lord chooses to bless me even though I don't deserve a bit of it, I'll get to meet you in four and a half months.

And you're an act of God's creation so I'm fine with all the doubt. -If/Then Musical

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hey Kid: One

Hey Kid is a series of letters, written over the last five and a half months, to my baby. 

Hey Kid,

It's December 29 and I've known that you're alive for four and a half weeks. You're growing in the same place Kate was. Sharing the womb that her tiny heart took it's first and last beat inside of. It's been a month of wondering if you're a boy or a girl. A month of wondering just how terrified and stressed I'll be every day for the next five and a half months if we all say yes to this. Will your body quit inside of hers? Will she change her mind? Will your father sign?

Kid, your sister died. At 32 and a half weeks gestation her little body quit. So it's scary. Scary to feel like I love you already when my brain screams that I need to be afraid and that I need to not love you right now. But I do. Moving forward or not moving forward, I already love you. Even if you don't end up in my arms. Even if you aren't supposed to be mine. I love you.

I'm ahead of myself. So far ahead. The cart is so dang far in front of the horse that we're barreling down the road and the horse is being dragged behind, broken and bloody, because that's what I do. I hope, even when all logic says I'm insane. So I'm praying now that God will show me if I'm not supposed to feel this way. My heart is pulling me in one direction and I'm gonna need Him to intervene in a ridiculously big way if He doesn't want us to go that way.

I was distracted with teaching and Christmas and winter snow storms. But sometimes now I can't stop thinking about you and praying for you and begging God to make you strong. May strength be heaped upon you physically and mentally. May your home be one of safety and care. Regardless of whether or not you ever become my kid, I'm longing for only the very best things for you.

Hey, kid, everyone's waiting on you, kid. Everyone's wondering what you'll do, kid. It's true, kid. Me too, kid. -If/Then Musical

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Story of Will

When we first decided to complete another adoption home study, we told our social worker that we wanted to adopt a waiting child from the system. A little girl. Between the ages of two and five ish. We were done with babies, we said.

And then God brought us Kate.

Then we lost her. My sweet daughter. My third child. Gone. I wanted another daughter. We waited. We were considered for situations but not chosen. We prayed about other situations but, for various reasons, felt led to say no.

It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. Troy had left for a mission trip to Haiti the day before and the boys and I were visiting our family in California. My phone rang. I saw that it was our adoption facilitator and I stepped outside. Kate's mom was pregnant again. She was only 11 weeks along but she wanted us to adopt the baby, if we wanted to.

Fear.

Fear that the same thing would happen again. Fear that it was so early. Fear that 22 million things could go wrong before that due date in June.

Desire.

I instantly wanted that baby. I instantly loved that baby.

On February 3, we found out that she was carrying a boy-child. Another son. We had started this journey expecting a toddler daughter. An infant son had not crossed our minds.

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts...'" Isaiah 55:8-9

Sometimes, we see a light at the top of a long stairway and we believe it to be an open door. It is not until we get to the top step that we realize the open door is at the end of a long hallway and what we believed to be a door was merely a mirror reflecting that far away light. We cannot walk through the mirror; neither could we have seen the light from the open door without it.

Once upon a time, I felt the voice of the Lord telling me that I would have a daughter. There were no details, just that whisper of an idea that turned into a dream. He never told me I would have another son. But without the journey of having and losing my sweet girl, I never would have known this blessing. I never would have been able to grasp how desperately I wanted him.

I still mourn my sweet Kate. I still wish I'd had the opportunity to raise a daughter. I'm still sad when I see little girl clothes hanging in stores and I grieve the loss of painted nails and tea parties. But that grief is very separate from the joy I have in being Will's mama. There was a time when I desperately wanted just ONE baby. To think that the Lord has blessed me with three boys is just spectacular. Why am I so blessed? Why have I found His favor? Why has He gifted me with the responsibility of shaping not one, not even two, but three men? I truly do not have answer. God gave me a daughter who I believe I will be with in Heaven. And He gave me three sons that I wouldn't trade for the world.

Please rejoice with us. Our Lord is exceedingly good.


***************************************

We chose to keep quiet. There was simply so much at risk for the hearts of our boys. They'd been shattered once. All I could think about was protecting them from all the unknowns and mighty risk factors of adoption. Keeping a secret from them meant keeping it from the world. Ultimately, this was a wise choice as, for two weeks at the end of the pregnancy, she changed her mind and wanted to parent. We are so thankful that, once he was born, she decided that she did want us to raise him, after all.

Financially, we've been incredibly blessed. God provided a large amount of substitute teaching opportunities for me that paid for most of the living expenses. A nice tax return helped us pay for a good portion of the legal fees. Adoption, however, has many costs. Legal fees often exceed the initial retainer and we're paying for three lawyers. There are filing fees and home study visit fees.

If you have a heart for adoption and feel led to contribute to our process, you can make a tax deductible donation by clicking on the AdoptTogether button. Or you can click here: https://www.adopttogether.org/troyandlori . We appreciate every dollar and every prayer. Thank you!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Never Tell a Girl...

Even though our weather is in the 80's and it's June and gardens are blooming (not mine, I can't grow anything outside of a pot. A pot. Important A there. I do not grow marijuana in my spare time.) and pools are open and summer has begun, my children are in school until July. But my best friend's children (who happen to be my children's best friends) got out yesterday. In honor of this splendid occasion, she invited us to the pool at their clubhouse for an afternoon swim.

It should be said that the seven-year-old and the eight-year-old swam pretty much non stop for nearly two hours. This story is not about them.

The nine-year-old and the ten-year-old did not. This is because Garrett, the nine-year-old, decided to hurt his leg at school. He was dramatically limping and complaining about how terribly his wounded leg hurt. I was growing increasingly concerned because my child does not miss an opportunity to play in the pool. Yet, there he was, lying on the deck, being surly and emotional. I should point out that, later in the day, after an Ibuprofen and some ice, he rallied and it looks like he'll live after all.

The ten-year-old, hers, as I do not yet have one, was acting like a teenage girl with PMS. I'm not judging. My older child often displays the same behavior. He was getting worked up over every little thing the baby brothers were doing and it finally landed him in a time out chair. There they sat, the best friends, the boys who have been involved in an intense bromance since they were three, lumps on the pool deck.

Eventually, when their hormonal and/or injured moping became too much for us, we pulled out all the stops. I called Garrett up onto my lounge chair and began rubbing his muscle, which, it turns out, was probably just sore from track practice. His best buddy sat on the end of his mom's chair. He was a grump. I tried to make him laugh. Nothing. We teased them about growing up to be Felix and Oscar where they would live together forever in their bachelor pad until they decided to get married. And then, they must find girls who would not mind spending their lifetimes living in an apartment with the other boy and his wife.

Finally, we asked the ten-year-old if he had PMS. He shot us a death--but curious--look. "What's that?"

I scrambled. "Um. Pre. Macho. Syndrome."

Garrett looked at us, blinking.

"But what is it really?" the ten-year-old asked.

My friend scrambled. She mumbled something about when girls are grumpy.

"But never tell a girl she has PMS," she finished.

Words of wisdom to my almost preteen son. NEVER TELL A GIRL SHE HAS PMS. But, apparently, we can tease our sons that they do.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Adoption Update

It's been a good long while since I've said anything about adoption and I figured it was time for an update. We've decided not to continue pursuing an independent adoption at this time. This is deeply personal and I'm only sharing it here and now because so many of you have partnered with us both financially and prayerfully. Many of you frequently ask me what's happening on the adoption front. An update is long overdue.

We have kept most of the past year to ourselves, keeping any potential situations quiet and treasuring them in our hearts.Throughout the past 16 months, we have had a few opportunities. We had mothers consider us and, ultimately, choose to go a different direction. We had a mother choose us and then decide to parent her child.

Our children do not know about anything since Kate. We protected them from any situation that might have caused them distress. It is because of their lack of knowledge that we only shared the details with a few individuals.We trust that you will understand our need to protect our boys and not ask us to talk about this or discuss details.

I just wanted to let everyone know that we have prayerfully chosen to be content with the children the Lord has blessed us with. We fully trust Him with our family's future. If He chooses to open a door, we will walk through it but we will not take a sledgehammer to a brick wall. Our children are amazing, incredible boys. We find great joy and blessing in calling them ours.

We thank you for your prayers and your support.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Technology Is Not My Strong Suit

I'm absolutely, down right, humiliated that it took me this long to figure out how to respond to blog comments. I used to have Disqus and then it went crazy and I couldn't figure out how to fix it because I am a computer moron. So I got rid of it. But then I couldn't respond to comments so people stopped commenting at all. Ever. Sometimes I would comment just beneath a comment but I knew they probably never, ever saw it. Tonight, I investigated and I figured it out and THERE WAS MUCH REJOICING IN MY OWN HEAD!

But back to me being a moron about computers.

I have grown up with computers. Think, Oregon Trail in 3rd grade with the tiny little green ox and the square that he pulled and everyone died of dysentery before we even made it to Independence Rock. And, okay, any time I had diarrhea as kid, I totally thought I was about to die of dysentery. But here's a thought: Can you even imagine having and/or dying of dysentery on THE OREGON TRAIL? It's not like having dysentery in the privacy of your own bathroom or, even, a hospital room. No. This was straight up, lay in the middle of your wagon with all the other wagons in your train only ten feet away, while you moan and groan and DIE OF DYSENTERY. So, in other words, THE STUFF NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF.

We got a computer when I was in middle school which was 100 years ago. Except actually, 21. Despite living most of my life with technology, I'm relatively device illiterate. When I'm teaching kindergarten and they ask if they can use the iPad, I secretly do a happy dance that they're usually password protected. Because it is embarrassing that five-year-olds know more about using an iPad than I do. Not that an iPad is actually a computer. (I just had to Google it because I typed that and thought, wait, maybe? But no. It's a tablet. Which I knew. I just didn't know if a tablet was considered a computer. Answer: no. At least according to Google. And Google knows everything.)

I spent time in 3rd grade last week and the lesson plans told me to pull in an alphasmarts cart and do keyboarding. This sounded technological and I was afraid. Not that I wouldn't be able to figure it out because I am not a complete moron (and, truth be told, it was ridiculously self explanatory) but because, more than kindergartners, 3rd graders would sense my weakness and prey on it like jungle cats in their prime.

This is why I am legitimately and irrationally terrified of 6th graders. And math beyond the 3rd grade.

Because while I have a college degree, the amount of math that I actually retained is limited to addition, subtraction, multiplication, division easy fractions and, occasionally, percentages. This is why I hang out mostly with kindergartners. Well, that and the fact that they're still stinkin' adorable and they don't usually say bad words or need deodorant.

All of this to say that today's youth should have been the ones to come over and take a look at my blogger page and teach me how to turn the reply to comments feature on. I'd have been able to say, "Hey! Thanks for your comment!" a long time ago. So, to all of you who have been leaving comments, THANK YOU! And to those who stopped because it seemed like I was ignoring them. I'M SORRY! I always replied to you in my head. I just couldn't seem to get the thoughts from my head into this new fangled notebook I do my writing on.

Yes, parents, I am responsible for shaping today's youth. But only every once in a while when their teachers are blowing their noses or attending training sessions or, heaven forbid, traveling the Oregon trail in a wagon and trying to avoid dysentery.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Dead End Path

I've noticed a correlation between my children's ages and the decline of blog posts. The older they get, the less I post. There are book reports and baseball games and track practice. Life is on the go and the posting is sporadic.

But there's another thing. I'd been working on a series which, maybe some day I will post. I was hoping to get to post it soon but life happened. It's no longer relevant. So, for now, the series will remain in draft form, dear to my heart but not available to my seven loyal readers--and the one lurker who thinks she knows the details of Matthew's adoption and leaves hateful comments even though she doesn't have a clue. 

Sometimes we're faced with a choice. It's a life altering, really enormous, gigantic choice. And we're standing at a crossroads looking down each way, unsure of what to do. One way is straight and we can see the end and it looks fine. It's comfortable. It's what we've always known. The other way is the path less taken and we cannot see the end but there's a promise that it's great. There are risks, to be sure, but we are continuously told that it will all turn out wonderfully in the end. We trust the people on the hill because they tell us they've been there before and everything looks great up ahead. There is an emotional toll. There may even be a financial toll. Still, we choose that path. We take the step. We walk boldly in the direction we chose. Because we have to know what's up there...

Sometimes, that path was a dead end. Someone had removed the sign long ago and we thought we were headed somewhere amazing. When we get to the dead end, we're pretty livid at all the walking we did, pretty annoyed that we climbed a hill to nowhere only to discover that there isn't even a view from here, pretty devastated, wishing we hadn't paid such high tolls. We examine ourselves. We ask why we went that way when the other option would have been infinitely better. But we remind ourselves that we never had a map. It was anyone's best guess. And we know that if we had gone the other way, we would never have known what was up that windy, steep hill and we always would have wondered.

And so we are angry. And we are sad. Because life didn't work out the way we thought it would. But at least we weren't left wondering.

Some day I may talk more about this winding path. Until then, wait on me. There's no need to ask others as this was, more or less, a personal and secret journey and others do not know.

See each choice you make is a kind of a loss
Each turn that you take
and each coin that you toss
You lose all the choices
you don't get to make
You wonder about 
all the turns you don't take
-If/Then

Saturday, May 21, 2016

#boymom v #momofboys

There is a difference between being a #boymom and being a #momofboys. Hear me out. If you have one, two, or even twelve sons, but you also have a daughter (or twelve) you are a mom of boy(s). You have them. You inherently understand the incessant obsession with battles and bugs and tree climbing. You know about that sweaty boy funk that settles in around third grade and never really leaves. At least, not until they make their acquaintance with a lady friend who won't come over if the gym socks are strewn about, stinking up the joint. You commiserate with every other mom of boys who has no idea how she's gonna feed them in a year. Or has already accepted a second job JUST so she can keep food in the refrigerator. If you have just one boy to love and raise, you get it.

You get the snuggles. You understand the quivering lip when he's struck out one too many times and he just needs a hug even though there's no crying in baseball. You know the privilege of raising these sweet little stink bombs.

But a boy mom is something different entirely.

A boy mom doesn't have daughters. Not even one. And it makes a difference. We wear our hashtag boymom label proudly because there is absolutely nothing to offset the testosterone that flings around our homes.

When my kids were itty bitty, my friend was in the thick of raising her four children. She has three boys and a girl. She knows weaponry and air soft. She knows video games and how to interpret grunts. She told me that the only thing that saved her sanity was having that girl. When she was plumb sick and tired of picking 32 towels up off the floor, that girl's towel was hung nicely on its rack. When she'd had a day and the boys came in barreling over one another and seeing who could fart the loudest, that girl sat down next to her on the couch and asked if she was alright. When everything smelled, that girl came down the hall wearing Cucumber Lime lotion from Bath and Body Works. She didn't love the girl any more than those boys. It's just that when she needed a break from the grease and the grime, she took the girl to the mall or they got a pedicure. Or both.

She is a #momofboy.

I am a #boymom. Strangely, no matter how often I clean my toilets, when I get down at their level for a good scrub, my nostrils are infiltrated by the festering smell of pee. I can't find it. Everything looks clean. But my house will, apparently forever, reek of urine. It's not that a "mom of boy" doesn't have this problem, but she's also got a teenage daughter burning a Sea Breeze candle in the other room or a little one squirting tests of perfume on her dainty wrist. THOSE SMELLS BALANCE THE PEE, Y'ALL.

We boy mom's got nothin'.

We've got baseball bags with stinky shirts wadded up in the bottom. We've got dirt and snips and snails and puppy dog tails. We've got BB guns and footballs and athletic cups lying in the middle of the floor. We've got time snowballing toward the day they will walk through the kitchen with armpit hair, mumbling a one word answer about how their day was while they grab all the food in the pantry on their way to their smelly man cave bedroom.

And we have all the joy of these sometimes mama boys, these tiny men who cling to us when they're sick or when their pride is wounded, these bed headed little wonders who look like Tasmanian devils while they're awake but angels while they sleep.

The truth is that we love these guys--irreparable pee smells and all--forever and for always. We feel pretty proud of the fact that God said, "You will parent only what you are not. I trust you with this. Good luck and Myspeed."

But since we don't get to balance all that testosterone with even a few, blessed drops of estrogen, can you let us have #boymom? We'll just be scrubbing mud out of the carpet (again) while we await your answer.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Love Languages

I've always been a sort of love language naysayer. It's not that I don't believe we have a way in which we prefer to give and receive love. It's just that I find it hard to believe there are only five. For example, I'm convinced that my love language is a good back rub. Sure, you might say this falls into the "Touch" category but I could really care less if someone is snuggling me or holding my hand. So, at the very least, these love languages have to have sub categories.

"What's your love language?"

"Touch. Sub category: Massage."

Another love language of mine--I totally have more than one--is chocolate.

All that said, I see elements of the whole love language phenomenon that are completely accurate and I try to give love the way I know my family needs to receive it.

I'm actually Acts of Service. Troy could buy me gifts, kiss me, spend time with me, and tell me he loves me until he's blue in the face but when that man gets down on the floor and scrubs it clean, my heart goes all a flutter.

I recently found an online quiz for kids. Matthew is technically too young but we did it anyway. The results were shocking to me. Troy and I would have bet the farm--if we had a farm to bet which we do not--that Garrett was Quality Time and Matthew was Touch. From the time he was a very little tyke, Garrett has just wanted to spend time with people. As much time as he possibly can. It's obnoxious because regardless of how much time you give that kid, he wants more. And, when he was little, Matthew may as well have climbed into my body because he simply couldn't get close enough to me to satisfy his need for physical touch.

I hadn't really thought about the fact that, as he's gotten older, Matthew's need to be held/snuggled/hugged constantly has waned. Garrett still wants to spend every waking moment with people and, when I tested them, Quality Time was high on his list. But, I was pretty surprised to see that...my boys were flipped.

Garrett's top love language was Touch. I suppose I should have seen it. He's nearly ten and still wants me to snuggle him every night. He'll still kiss both of his parents in public. He wants hugs. He'll reach over and take my hand and just hang onto it. He likes to be near people. Don't get me wrong, Quality Time is incredibly important to him and I think I need to do a better job of balancing both of these languages when I'm communicating love to him.

Matthew's love language came out as Quality Time. He's a different bird. Garrett's personality is a lot like mine and it's not terribly difficult for me to parent that--on most days. Matthew is the oil to my water. He's very different from me and I have to take a lot of steps back to figure out what works in parenting him. When I asked him to choose between the two choices in each scenario, he favored the Quality Time answer almost every time.

Initially, I was just doing it for fun, but I've decided that I can really use this new information--especially with Matthew. So, while I don't think the Five Love Languages are gospel truth or anything, they're definitely a tool to be used.

Especially when I need the floors cleaned.