"Every child deserves a home." --Harry Holt

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Piece of The Puzzle

On November 5th, my aunt was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL), a rare and aggressive form of Leukemia. She has been in the hospital for treatment. It has been a rough journey. Each time she takes a step forward, it seems she takes 2 and sometimes 3 steps backwards. We remain hopeful that recovery is in her future, but that is out of our hands. I'm writing this blog post for a couple of reasons. Would you please pray for my aunt and her family. She has a loving, devoted husband, and 2 teenaged children. They pray to have many more years with their mother, and we pray for that too.

I am also starting a 'puzzle fundraiser' in her honor. She has not been to work this past month and it remains uncertain when she will be able to go back as she is still in the hospital fighting to beat this. I am personalizing the puzzle and will post a picture when I have it completed. Essentially, it will be a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle. To buy or sponsor a puzzle piece you can use the paypal button on the top, right to donate $10 per puzzle piece. We will write your name on the back of the piece(s) you sponsor. Once the puzzle is complete, we will frame the puzzle in a double-sided glass frame, so that both the puzzle picture and the names of the sponsors can be viewed.

Thank you in advance. If you are finding this blog as a result of my aunt's CaringBridge site, the paypal button is on the top, right... I know I already said that, but I figured it couldn't hurt to repeat it. Blessings!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gratitude: Day 23-30

I fell off the thankful bandwagon pretty hard there... So, I'm combining the last 8 into 1. I'm efficient like that.

23- We have a little 14 month old walker in our house. Her little legs were low on muscle-tone (and her itty bitty feet don't help either. We thought it could be another couple of months before she took-off, but Cupcake doesn't let much get in her way when she is focused on it. So, for about 1.5 weeks, she has been walking all over the house. If I turn around for .5 seconds she is already on the 6th stair... My hair is going grey, but I'm so thankful for every little things Cupcake learns. Now, if she would just say, "mom."

24- I'm thankful for my family. It was incredible to have my cousin and her husband-to-be (in 18 days) come to play for Thanksgiving. We ate TOO MUCH FOOD. So, I'm grateful for food, and not worrying about how we will get our next meal.

25- When we put the nursery together, we gave up our 'office.' So, all of the 'office' stuff got junked in a room in the basement. That room has been a catchall, and it just needed some serious organizing. I needed some baskets/bins to really get started on the project. The husband found what I was looking for in a Black Friday add, and they were buy one, get one free. Cupcake was up at 5am, so he decided to take her shopping. The store he went to was out of carts, so he carried Cupcake (nevermind that he could have grabbed the stroller in the trunk...men), and he grabbed a garbage can with wheels and put his purchases in that. While waiting in line, he put the lid on the garbage can and let Cupcake sit on it. I was at home, blissfully asleep. I'm thankful for sleeping in and that I didn't have to hear about this crazy story until he was home, and it was all over. First world problems, I know...

26- I'm grateful for weekends, and extended breaks. I did tease the husband for taking some work calls and checking e-mail, but he tries to be engaged and present with us when he is home. It was so nice to have 4 days with him.

27- I'm grateful for Jesus's birthday celebration. Decorating the house soothes my soul. I'm only putting up 2 trees this year (because I was especially worried a newly walking Cupcake would tear them all down and drive me insane, but she is actually leaving them alone). The outside lights are up, there are FOUR stockings on my mantle (the handicapable dog gets one). I hadn't purchased a stocking for Cupcake, even though I was certain I had. So, we ventured out, and I was slightly annoyed that I couldn't find out to match the ones I already had, and it seemed a little ridiculous to purchase 4 new ones just because they would match. Cupcake ended up yanking a couple off of the shelves in the store and became completely enamored with one because it had jingle bells all over it. She would giggle and smile every time we shook it, so we bought that one. It just felt complete to hang that baby up there. 

28- I'm thankful for climbing white blood cell counts even if it is slower than we would all like for my beloved aunt, and I'm thankful for ER Dr.'s who 'pulled my uncle out of the tunnel." Yeah, there is a lot of junk going on, but I'm thankful to a God that hears our prayers.

29- I'm thankful that our beloved pooch, the handicapable Dog (Diogee), is cone and bandage free for the first time in 6 weeks. He 'broke his back' memorial weekend, and recovery took most of the summer, and then he needed a minor surgery in the middle of October, which led to infections and sores that wouldn't heal. He is so happy, happy, happy without the cone, and while it was a nice break from him trying to chew Cupcake's stuffed animals, I'm so thankful for the joy and companionship he brings to our family.

30- I'm thankful to be looking forward to a holiday season of friends and family. I bought lots of "gifts with a purpose" and I made some pretty fantastic DIY gifts. I'm just excited to celebrate the birth of Jesus and all that means, with the ones I love most in this world. I try not to wish my days away, but I was pretty excited to say good-bye to 2010 this year, and while 2011 brought one of the greatest joys of our adult lives (Cupcake), it has been a year of trials for our loved ones. I'm looking forward to a fresh start. I have a feeling 2012 has some pretty amazing things in store, and I don't think the Mayans were right... Thanks for reading along! I'll have to get a post up of Cupcake's recent pics, because let's be honest...that's why my 3 family members look at this blog... Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gratitude: Day 22

I'm thankful for laughter. All I can say is, the husband wants nothing more than to dress like 'cousin Eddie' for Christmas, and I intend to try to make that happen. I'm so thankful that he makes me laugh every day. 

Plus, he is wearing some pretty sweet, white loafers... oh yeah...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gratitude: Day 21

I'm thankful for CaringBridge. My #1 "wish" would be to move closer to family, especially when there is a medical 'issue' happening with a family member. I have a hard time 'sitting on my laurels" when I want to be delivering meals or doling out hugs to my loved ones in need. It seems like it has been 14 months of a 'family member in need,' with tiny (very tiny) breaks in between. Since I still live so far away from pretty much every.single.family.member, I'm grateful to CaringBridge. It really does bridge the gap. I can check-in on my loved ones and get the message of what is going on with them. It helps me to know how to specifically pray for that person. It is an easy way to leave  a loving, supportive message. I'll be thankful for the day when I am not waiting for an update on any family members, but until then, I'm thankful to CB for helping spread the word. 

Now, if you could, I'm just asking for prayers for my godmother/aunt who is battle APL Leukemia. It has been a tough road for her and her family the last couple of weeks, but she is not a quitter. She oozes love and positivity. We love that about her! We have faith that a complete recovery is in her not too distant future, but it is the 'getting there' part that is hard...

Gratitude: Day 20 (Late)

Whoops. I thought that I had posted and scheduled a few days longer than I had. Guess not! Yesterday, I was so thankful for the gorgeous fall day. It isn't out of the question that we could have a foot of snow in our yard before Thanksgiving, but this year, we definitely don't! Yipppeeee! It has snowed once for a couple of hours, but it was warm enough that it didn't stick around even an entire day. That's my kind of snowfall! With the nice weather, we were able to motivate and finally get out to rake up all of the leaves, put away the garden hose, trim down the hedges...that kind of thing. I'm just grateful to look out in my yard and not see a complete mess anymore. I love checking things off the to-do list!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gratitude: Day 19

Even though I've taken this year off from work, I still get just as excited for the weekends. So, I'm thankful it is Saturday! This Saturday, the husband and I don't have any plans (because my original plan was rescheduled), so it will be nice to just hang out as a family and see where the day takes us. Happy weekend to you and yours!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gratitude: Day 18

I'm thankful for Pinterest. No, seriously. I have stolen so many ideas from Pinterest! I've already made 2 Christmas presents from an idea that I 'borrowed.' I'm in the process of making 4 more. My family may not be as grateful for Pinterest after Christmas when they get my DIY presents. I would post pictures, but then they would know what they are getting! I've also purchased some 'gifts with a purpose,' which is gifts that help someone else. The husband should be grateful, because I'm staying WAAAAAAAAY under budget on Christmas presents. Everyone wins!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gratitude: Day 17

I am thankful for my 6 nieces. 5 of them were born prematurely and, this brings me back to being so thankful for healthcare in the United States. Today, is Prematurity Awareness Day, and I'm stealing this from my sister-in-law on the CaringBridge page for one of my adorable nieces. Auntie loves you all!

Every year, 1 in 8 babies is born too early.  That is more than half a million babies in the United States alone. Our country’s premature birth rate has risen by 36 percent over the last 25 years. Premature births cost more than $26 billion a year and takes such a toll on families that I can't even put it into words. Babies born just a few weeks early are at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities.  Premature birth is the number 1 killer of newborns. Sadly, many families know this pain all too well.

Today is National Prematurity Awareness day.  Please say a prayer for families you may know or may not know that are struggling to fight for their premature baby.  

When Kailey and Breley were born at 24 weeks, they were just barely viable outside the womb.  They were both 1 lb 6 oz and were 12 inches long.  Because of their weight and gestational age they were labled "MICROPREEMIES."  Just think of that name for a minute.....MICRO  PREEMIE.  It kind of makes your heart ache to think that so many babies are born so early that there is actually a name for them.  

Kai and Bre arrived 16 weeks early and as you all know, they had some major and life threatening health issues.  The amazing staff at Sanford did everything they could for our little girls and they had some great technology and life saving tools at their fingertips.  It is because of the awareness that more and more people donate to things like March of Dimes or Children's Miracle Network and it is because of your donations that doctors and nurses are able to save more and more babies that are born too early.   

Please take some time today to pray and to share the word about National Prematurity Day.  THANK YOU!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gratitude: Day 16

I'm thankful for Jesus and what He did for me (and you). Without that, the previous 15 thankfuls would be empty and pointless and unfulfilling. That is all, that is it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gratitude: Day 15

I honestly thought about writing how I'm grateful to be half way through with the 30 days of gratitude/thankfulness, because it is hard for me to remember to jot something down. Obviously, that would defeat the purpose of the whole exercise, because it is important to devote some time thinking about all of the blessings in my life. 

Family is definitely a theme here, but there is a specific group I need to point out. I have been blessed with 6 nieces. Whoa! They are all so smart and funny. They are all very different. Becoming an aunt was one of the great joys of my life, and I hope to have many more nieces, and I wouldn't mind a nephew or two, lol! 

Most importantly, I'm grateful for what each niece has taught me. They have each held a special lesson for me in their short lives, and for that I'm grateful. I'm grateful for the 'footprints' they have left on my heart. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gratitude: Day 14

It is no secret that I don't really LOVE living where I live. We have been here almost 6 years. For the first year, I spent the time outwardly resenting that I lived here. I found every excuse in the book to head 'home.' Many times, I cried when I had to head back here. I decided that I couldn't continue to make myself miserable to live here, because we just weren't going anywhere. I am and have always been thankful for my husband's job. It is what brought us here, and it is afforded us many, many opportunities. We have 2 vehicles, I went to graduate school, we own a house, we have no credit card debt, we were able to afford adoption expenses, we have been on a couple of vacations, our fridge is stocked, I could go on and on and on. 

There is nothing 'wrong' with where we live, but I would prefer to be closer to family and some of my dear friends. However, I'm incredibly grateful for my husband's job and all of the incredible friends we have made here. It has even come to the point where I would TERRIBLY miss some of the people here (if we ever moved, and it doesn't look like that will be happening to clarify), because they have taken me in and become my second family. You know who you are, and I'm grateful for you!!!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gratitude: Day 13

I'm grateful for prayer. I've grown much more thankful for prayer over the last year and a half than I ever had been before. I got me through some tough times, where everything was completely out of my control. I HATE that feeling. I like cause and effect situations much, much better. They are my comfort zone. For example, if I study hard for this test, I am likely to get a good grade. If I work, I get a paycheck. If I shower, I will feel clean. You get the picture. I like situations where I have some 'say' in how things turn out. 

There have been an incredible number of situations in the last year and a half, where no action I could take would influence the outcome. Enter, prayer. Admittedly, this is often the last thing on my mental checklist...bad, me. Now that I've opened that dialogue in a more meaningful and consistent manner, it eases those difficult situations. I'm thankful for those that have prayed for me, and for those people that gently remind me that prayer is something I can turn to. I don't so much like being 'told,' but I do appreciate the gentle reminder. Kinda like when my mom says, "I'll pray over that for you," and I'm like, "Hey, why didn't I think of that????" 

So, if you are struggling with something, or you know someone who is struggling with something and you aren't sure how you can help them, I encourage you to pray. There is no 'special formula' and it can feel awkward the first few times, but I have found that when I make it consistent, it becomes easier and more natural, and it changes me for the better from the inside out. It is amazing how it changes things around me as well. 

A couple of verses that have entered my life in a number of ways this week:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 
**Even in those times that we aren't sure what or how to pray, we can just meditate on it, or have 'wordless groans' as it says, and the spirit STILL intercedes on our behalf. Pretty amazing!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gratitude: Day 12

I'm sincerely grateful for nap time! I have been up for hours at night with this cold. Whether it is my head-pounding or the tickle in the my throat that causes me to cough every 7.6 seconds which doesn't allow me to sleep... just when I get all the 'kinks' figured out, and think I might be able to get back to sleep, Cupcake is awake and ready to play! The parenting hasn't been the most stellar, or interactive, unless you count me laying on the floor and Cupcake using me as a jungle gym. I have difficulty taking naps myself, but when Cupcake takes a decent nap, I can at least lay down and rest and pep-talk myself into making it through the rest of the day until K is home. I'm also thankful that he has made a sincere effort to come home early the last few days in order to allow me a break. Hopefully, once I kick this thing, everyone in this house will be healthy for once! Hooray!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gratitude: Day 11

This one goes out to an incredible friend of mine. She happens to be related to me (cousin). She knows everything about me, and she still likes me. Incredible! She is an amazing woman of faith. She is intelligent and hard-working. She has seen me fall, and we have fallen together. I adore her and appreciate that she is always quick with a kind and supportive word and action. I'm grateful to have her in my life and even more thankful that we are family. I'm immensely excited that she is getting married in just over 1 month, and that I get to stand up with her. Her fiance is amazing, and we are excited to call him family. Their wedding will give our entire family a reason to celebrate which is necessary in this season of chaos, illness and grief that we are currently stuck in. I LOVE YOU, CMW!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gratitude: Day 10

I'm STILL thankful for OTC cold medicine. Ugh! I can't wait to be grateful for a full night of sleep. Today, I'm thankful for friends. They have seen me through. I have left some of my closest friends since moving, but they still call or text or e-mail to check-in. They let me vent, and make me laugh. I've made some wonderful friends in our new 'home.' They are the only things keeping me sane 'round here. If I didn't have them to get out of the house with, I shudder to imagine what I would turn into! You know who you are, so thank you!!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gratitude: Day 9

In all fairness, my extended family isn't the only one I love. Did you know when you get married you get another family? Yeah, you do. Crazy! The husband has this family, and it is a little smaller than mine, but those people KNOW how to have a good time. I begged his brother and sister-in-law when they were pregnant with their first daughter to call me "Auntie" even though we were not married or even engaged at the time. They relented, and that almost 8 year old makes me so freaking proud. Smartest almost 8 year old on the planet, and the best fashion sense too. The husband's parents have extended me grace and kindness. He has a cousin that shares my first name, and she sometimes lets me steal her Christmas presents because we never quite know which one of us they are addressed to. I quickly claimed the husband's grandparents as my own, and I don't plan on giving them back anytime soon. What I'm thankful for most is what I've learned from all of them. The days, they haven't always been easy ones for this family, but they show a tenacity. "Giving up" does not seem to be in the vocabulary for most of them. At any rate. I'm grateful for these people. They have taught me much over the last 11 years. 
 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thankful: Day 8

I love, love, love my extended family. I recently wrote THIS post about how wonderful it was to grow up with my many aunts, uncles and cousins (and of course my parents, grandparents and siblings). My family is still fresh in the grief process over my wonderful Grandmother, but do you know what? They are the rallying type. They are the comeback kids. It is hard to keep them down. They are ready to stand behind each other and lift each other up. We must count ourselves blessed in this time of confusion and mourning, because another one of our own NEEDS us to. I love these people. Salt of the earth.

If this wasn't the month of thankfulness, this post would have been all about how stupid cancer is... 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gratitude: Day 7

Today, I'm grateful for over-the-counter cold medicine. I used to blame the middle school students I worked with for my colds. Now, I wonder where this one came from???? Now, how do I call in sick for a day from this whole mommy thing? Can I prepare for a substitute? I'll make really great lesson plans! Oh, no subs... okay, there should be some rockstar parenting going on here...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thankful: Day 6

I'm thankful for my parents. Thankful isn't even the right word. More like, I'm forever indebted. It's probably hard to believe that I wasn't perfect growing up, not like I am now. :) I was sassy, and not in a good, cute way. I heartily tested my limits. They STILL tell a story about how I was sitting in the living room chatting with my family, and I was laughing one minute and the next minute I was upset about something, and I stomped off yelling to my bedroom. I REALLY appreciate that they still tell the story. I don't even remember the situation, but it sure is FUN to 're-live' it anyway! I won't get into the backstory(s), but I distinctly remember being grounded to the house, from the phone and television, and getting caught on the phone anyway. I made coming home late an art form. I could go on, and on, an on, but I won't. The internet doesn't have enough space. Let's just say, I was not exactly a model citizen. 

Those parents of mine encouraged me, guided me, repeatedly helped me find a better path, celebrated me, taught me and prayed for me. I'm thankful to have some pretty great examples to emulate. Considering we went out to dinner on Friday and then grocery shopping, it is safe to say I just turned into them. Oy. 

So, there is no way that I did this post justice, but I have to save something for their Mother's Day and Father's Day cards. Thanks for EVERYTHING Mom and Dad!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thankful: Day 5

This is going to sound strange, but I'm thankful for the internet. It certainly has its time-sucking drawbacks, but we aren't focusing on that, right now (when I should be doing the dishes). The internet has allowed us to connect with other adoptive families, it allows us to remain in contact with friends and family members, it makes adoption research much, much easier, it is fun to shop when Cupcake is taking a nap, and it allows me to put this kind of crazy dribble out there for you to read. You.are.welcome. Maybe you are a little less sad for the internet now. Sorry 'bout that.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gratitude: Day 4

I am deeply grateful to have this year off from work. I was going to get 5 paid days of maternity leave and then would have ended up taking time unpaid. Instead, I took an entire year unpaid. Of course, the extra budgeting has been less than fun, but what a small price to pay. I'll admit, there are days when our routine at home feels monotonous, and I think about how nice it would be to be at work. Those moments don't last when I think about how work can be so stressful. Being at home has allowed Cupcake and I to create a pretty incredible bond. She has lived in 4 different places in her short life, and has had many caretakers. Each of her caretakers loved her, and I'm deeply grateful for that. Having me home has taught her that I am safe, I am trustworthy and I love her. She has also learned that I can be manipulated with silly farm animal noises, big smiles and tears. Darn, smarty pants... These last few months together are beginning to convince her that we are here to stay whether she likes it or not. 

I'm grateful to have been in the position to take a year leave, and to have it granted by my school district. I'm grateful to have a husband that encouraged me to do it. I'm just grateful...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful: Day 3

First Mother...

Cupcake has 2 mothers. Her first mother is the most beautiful and courageous soul I have ever met. I wish circumstance didn't keep us from communicating daily about the hilarious things Cupcake does. She also makes these facial expressions that I'm CERTAIN came from her first mother, and I want to just tell her all about it. Most of all, I'll never stop owing her first mother for the privilege to parent Cupcake. I'll forever be grateful, and I'll never stop looking for ways to communicate that to her. Thank you will never be enough, but it is nearly all I have. If you are the praying type, I know that Cupcake's first mother would appreciate the prayers. Without breaking her confidentiality, just know that God knows what she needs, and we just ask that you lift those up to him. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gratitude: Day 2

Yesterday morning, the husband and I 'woke' up after a week of very little sleep. Cupcake seemed to be having nightmares in the first half of the night. She would wake up crying which is rare for her. She would then be difficult to calm down and get back to sleep (even more rare). We investigated if she was eating something that was bothering her tummy, or if there was an issue with too much stimulation throughout the day. She loves to dance, so I had been playing music, etc. throughout the day which she seemed to love, but I thought maybe it was making sleep difficult. Prior to this happening, she would maybe wake up during the night about once a week, and she wasn't usually crying, but just needed a quick snuggle to get back to sleep. She was averaging between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night. It was bliss. After trying different things and nothing working out, I decided it was time to head to urgent care to make sure she didn't have something else going on. 

Cupcake and I were up extra early due to her difficulty sleeping, and so we had the privilege of being at urgent care when it opened! Turns out, she has a pretty bad ear infection in her left ear. Poor thing! Now, I feel like an idiot for not checking that out days earlier. Cupcake just gives no indication that something is bothering her (other than lack of sleep). She is happy all day long, she doesn't tug at her ears, no other clues. 

It was just amazing to me that I went to the Dr. and the pharmacy and was home again with a little girl started on antibiotics in an hour and a half. I could make this post complaints about the healthcare system and insurance coverage in this country, but the fact is, my family is part of the 1% and I'm grateful. There are children around the world dying and suffering from PREVENTABLE diseases. Our trip to the Dr. and pharmacy didn't break the bank and I didn't have to walk miles with a 1 year old to have her looked at. AMAZING. I'm so grateful. 

Maybe, just maybe, I can post tomorrow about how I'm grateful for a full night of sleep! The hardest part for me about getting up in the middle of the night is that once Cupcake is back to sleep, I can't fall asleep myself. So, if Cupcake is up for an hour, I'm up for three. I remind myself in the middle of the night what a privilege it is to get up with her. I'm so blessed to be the one to rock her back to sleep when she doesn't feel well. (That is harder to grasp at 3am, but I keep trying).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

THIS momma has 7 of her babies living under her roof. Come Spring (hopefully before???) she will have all 12 of her babies living under her roof. Her family is in process to bring 5 more 'babies' (I use that term loosely), into the family from Ethiopia. Sometimes, I'm struggling with just the 1 baby, so I pretty perk up my ears/eyes when she has an idea. THIS was her idea, and I thought I'd give it a try.   
You didn't click the links, did you? Know how I know? I'm often too lazy to click them either. It's like I'm afraid I'll get lost on the internet and never find my way back. Okay, well, her idea is to post something you and I are thankful of for the next 30 days, seeing as how it is the month of Thanksgiving and all. I'm certainly not worried about coming up with something I'm thankful every day. I'm simply worried I may be mocked and laughed at for the idiocy that I come up with. OH WELL. Wouldn't be the first time! Won't you join in? You can blog/tweet/facebook your thankfulness. Maybe it will make someone smile? Maybe it will make you smile? I spew lots of unimportantness onto this blog/journal and facebook, I might as well make some of it positive!  

Ready? Set. Go!  

Day 1: I'm going to start out easy. I am thankful for my cute lil' family of 3. The husband took the daughter trick-or-treating last night, while I sat in a friend's front yard and chatted. Of course, he wouldn't let me eat any of the candy afterwards because I didn't do any of the work, but he happily pushed Cupcake dressed as a cupcake around our friend's neighborhood. One of my greatest joys the last 3 months has been watching a man so deserving of fatherhood, completely thrive in the role of 'daddy.' He is silly and playful with our daughter and then when I jokingly tell him that he looks, "so manly pushing a cute little girl in a bright pink stroller with flowers all over it," he responds with the utmost serious response, "That's why I flex the whole time I'm pushing her, so my arms look buff and manly." Oh.my.word.  

Part 2 of this would be that so grateful for our daughter. She is a giggly, wiggly, precious pearl. I am beyond grateful to have taken a year off from work to stay home with her. She has changed every.single.aspect of my life. Those of you out there who have been parents for longer than 3 minutes are thinking, "DUH!" Well, I knew that it would happen, but I didn't know how it would actually FEEL. It is both amazing and exhausting. I saw a little kid's shirt today that said, "What did they do before me?" The shirt struck me. Truthfully? I didn't do anything nearly as important as I do now! How did I get through my days without singing the ABC's and melting into utter-hysterics when a 1 year old did the "piggy noise?" So, this paragraph doesn't cut it, but Cupcake and the husband bring enormous joy to my days. I am thankful/grateful/contented/appreciative/obliged/satisfied.   

Another adoptive momma found this costume at Old Navy. Pretty perfect for a kiddo we call Cupcake! I resist the urge to have her wear this costume at least 2x/week. Sweetest Cupcake ever...
 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Is It Because We Are a Trans-racial Family?

The last 3+ months have meant a lot of adjustments to us as a family. We added a child, so that would be the biggest adjustment right there. No more last minute dinners out, or randomly deciding to check out a movie in theaters. Basically, it feels as though every outing must be carefully planned. Snacks? Diapers? Stroller? Beco? Sippy cup? Check, check, check, check. 

Not having a child previously, I honestly wasn't sure if much of the attention we now garnered in public were simply because we now had the cutest little girl accompanying us everywhere we went, or if much of that attention was because the adorable little girl's skin color did not match our own, or if it was because she has the type of personality that draws everyone in. Almost all of the reactions we get in public have been positive. Mid-west people are good people, so normally if they have something negative to say, they don't come right out and say it to your face. Generally, they are either passive-agressive or they respectfully say bad things about you when you aren't in earshot. :) The only 'negative' experience I've had was being followed by an elderly lady in Target. At first, I thought she just needed help with something. I asked her multiple times if there was something I could reach for her, etc., but she never responded and then wouldn't make eye contact. She literally followed Cupcake and I from one end of the store to the other, and didn't put a single thing in her cart. She didn't say anything negative or bash my cart with hers, but she just kept staring. After she followed me into the 4th or 5th aisle, I decided it was just creepy. I still don't know though, was it because I am white and my daughter is not, or was she just bored and a little lonely and thought the baby was cute and entertaining while she tried to rip things off the shelves? Whatever, it just kind of unnerved me.

I recently asked 2 friends of mine who also have small children if nearly every elderly person they see in public comes up to talk to them and often touch the baby. They both responded with a resounding, "YES!" So, we can pretty much put that question away. Most of the attention is just because I now have a cute child in tow. 

Today, we had numerous Dr. appointments at the not too far Children's Hospital and Clinics. We are officially caught up on our immunization schedule, HOORAY! The pediatrician that we have been working with was very thorough and wanted to check everything out, so we have been busy running to various appointments to make sure we have all bases covered. We finished up the last of that today, too and are pleased to report, Cupcake is even healthier than we ever imagined, double HOORAY! 

A little story to go along with the blog post title. We were running behind this morning, and the Hospital is about a 35 minute drive. The place is enormous and even though I've been there a handful of times, I always get turned around and lost. We decided that K would get out of the car and grab Cupcake to make us less late, and I would park the car and could take my time figuring out which floor/hallway/office we were supposed to be in. We were also a little concerned because we had a tight window of time in between appointments to leave one and check-in at the next. Ugh! So, I wasn't with K and Cupcake when they checked in at the first appointment. So, this anecdote was told to me in the car on the way home. 

K gave the check-in receptionist all of Cupcake's pertinent information. She asked him several questions, and the last one was, "What is your relationship to the patient?" He said he got a little miffed and answered a bit rudely, "I'm the father." He was thinking in his head, how rude and clueless some people are, and just because he is white and Cupcake isn't doesn't mean that God doesn't create families in the most beautiful way. He didn't utter any of this to the receptionist, because he was born and raised in the mid-west, so he used passive-aggressive in this situation (and obviously we talked about her behind her back in the car on the way home, lol!). In the end, he decided the question had nothing to do with the fact that we are a trans-racial family, because the receptionist asked the very nice Asian woman with the very cute Asian son, "What is your relationship to the patient?" Clearly, we are a little more sensitive than need-be in many of these situations. I cracked up listening to the story. The fact is, we ARE trans-racial. We can't and won't avoid the topic, but I think we need to calm down a bit. So, any other trans-racial families have stories to make us feel a little better about your vigilance on the issue? How about a negative experience you have had? Maybe you should just leave me a comment so I don't think I'm out here talking to myself? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Grandma P

**This is REALLY long, but it was cathartic to write, so there ya go.**

I hate to brag, but I think I have the BEST extended family around. It took me a long, long time to understand the difference between extended family and immediate family concepts. Even as a graduate student, in my family counseling studies I found the concepts fuzzy in my brain, and not just because I'm dense about certain things (well, that might be part of it). *A quick note, maybe THIS is why my group project got a B+ in that class, if so, my apologies to Christy, Jade, Sarah and Steph. Wait, I'm still fairly confident that it was because the adjunct professor didn't watch our presentation and was thrown off by all of the big words in our paper. Okay, I feel better now (Clearly, I'm still bitter about that B+).

Back on point, I think the real reason I struggle with these concepts is that my cousins might as well have been my brothers and sisters. My uncles are like 2nd dads, my aunts like 2nd moms, and my grand-parents were the parents of ALL of us. We didn't live in the same house (or town), but we got together often (and still do), we laugh at our own jokes, a trait from my Grandpa, we love fully and completely. My childhood memories are wrapped up in these people. At the center of it all, was a Grandma. She was a strong lady (and you would need to be if you birthed and raised 7 boys, on little to no money). She was a loving lady. She was a hard-worker. She made the BEST food. Notice how I've used the word, was? That's because she died last week. She fought a tough stinking battle with congestive heart failure, and it was painful. It was painful to hear about and see. Growing up, and until last week, I'm pretty sure that I had convinced myself my Grandma was going to live FOREVER, because part of me just never wanted to imagine my life without my Grandma. I'm not one for 'platitudes' and it sometimes annoys me to no end when people constantly say, "She is in a better place." Yes, I believe that to be true, but I'm selfish, and I'd rather have my loved ones on earth WITH ME! Really, just a 'sorry, I love you," is more than enough. However, I truly am relieved in many ways that my Grandmother's earthly pain has come to an end. She really is dancing with her 4th born baby boy in heaven, and that is an incredible picture in my mind's eye. 

So, the theme of my Grandmother's incredible prayer service and funeral was FAITH. The quote that best applies, "PREACH THE GOSPEL AT ALL TIMES AND WHEN NECESSARY USE WORDS." --St. Francis of Assisi. My grandmother lived out the gospel in her love and service to her family and others. The best example of how she did this in my life relates to the adoption of Cupcake, though I could mention things like the times she cared for me when I was sick so that my mother didn't have to use child sick days. I think you get about .2 of those as a teacher... blah. Not allowed to have sick kids, I guess. Wow, again, I digress... sorry!

Well, we started the adoption process at the end of February 2010. We wanted to tell the majority of our family in person, but we live far from most of them (which I HATE). So, we hate to wait until July to really announce what we were doing. It was HARD to keep it to ourselves. I was a little nervous about telling my Grandparents (which in hindsight is LAUGHABLE). We had told a couple of family members, friends and co-workers (what, I'm not a MACHINE?! I had to talk about it!) Unfortunately, we didn't always receive positive and supportive remarks in return when we shared our news (which was heart-breaking). I was nervous that my Grandparents, being from a different generation, and surrounded by all  mostly white people would cause them to have a negative response when they heard A. We are adopting and B. The child will be black. I so desired their love and support. Worrying about the race issue was REALLY stupid on my part, because when I think about it, I have cousins that are part-Panamanian, and an aunt that is part Asian. I'm not colorblind, but I hadn't ever focused on that fact before. The worrying about 'adoption' being an issue was really a waste of time too. If I brought someone I met at the gas station to our Christmas gathering, my Grandma would somehow have a Christmas present all ready for them, and they would be hugging and chatting with her by the end of the day as if they had always been part of the family. I think my Grandmother's attitude toward making everyone she met part of her family is where the seed of adoption was first planted in my heart. So, in the end, my Grandmother gave me the BIGGEST hug and kiss upon hearing the news. She asked for all of the details and expressed her great joy for us. 

I was incredibly sad not to make the 2nd trip to Ethiopia to pick up Cupcake, but my mother came to take care of me and ended up bringing me to my childhood home 9.5 hours away at my request because I didn't want to sit home and miss my husband and daughter when I could be surrounded by family members. This provided me the opportunity to spend some time with my Grandma while she was hospitalized. She was feeling ROTTEN, but that woman told EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON. that walked into her hospital room about how her new great-granddaughter was coming home from Ethiopia and she was so excited. The poor nurses were probably so sick of hearing about it! I received e-mails from people about how my Grandmother would show off Cupcake's pictures and light up when she talked about her. HEART-WARMING! My grandmother had this talent. We have a big family, but she always made each one of us feel special. She supported and prayed us on this journey, and I'll forever be grateful. 

In August, we surprised my Grandparents with a trip home so they could meet Cupcake. The look on my Grandmother's face when we walked through the door with Cupcake will forever be one of my favorite memories. You wouldn't have guessed that she didn't feel well in that moment, because her face lit up and her eyes danced. It was the last time I say my Grandmother in person, and I will always remember the hug she gave me when we were saying our good-byes. I'm certain (now) she knew it was the probably the last hug she would give me. She gave me a giant squeeze and kiss. She whispered in my ear that He answered our prayers with Cupcake coming home, and she told me that she was certain I would have a beautiful life and be a fantastic mother. Thanks, Grandma. I will forever treasure your words and hugs. Love you!




Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cupcakes like Pumpkins

There were a handful of things that I pictured the Mister and I doing as parents. Getting up at odd hours of the night, and having mashed up, cooked carrots in our faces weren't exactly what I had in mind, but they have moments of parenting hilarity. I hadn't thought about this particular event for awhile, but was reminded this weekend. In 2008, K worked for a pretty fun and interesting department within his company. When someone asks me what K does for a living, I have a hard time explaining it, because frankly, I do not really understand what he does at work. I've been trying to figure it out for a good 6 years now. I digress. Anyway, the one thing I really enjoyed about K's work assignment in 2008 was the effort to involve spouses and families in their work community. An evening in October 2008 was spent at a nearby Pumpkin Patch. We watched pig races, went through the corn maze in the dark (which was creepy and took 2.5 hours), and enjoyed a nice dinner. I was reminded this evening of this ache I had on that October night in 2008. We had a fun night, but I kept thinking how I couldn't wait for us to enjoy those events with our kidlets. I'm pretty sure that every person hoping to be on the cusp of parenthood experiences those feelings at some point, in some way. 

All of that to say, we re-visited the very same pumpkin patch/farm this weekend WITH Cupcake. It was perfect. The weather was perfect, and so was the the afternoon just being a family. This weekend, one of my dreams came true, and I'm grateful. 

Ignore my head. Not so good at hiding, apparently...

Waiting for the piglet races. Kevin Bacon won. Cupcake started making this AWESOME piggy snort for the next 20 minutes. Can't get her to repeat it now, though...shucks...

Clearly, she wasn't a huge fan of the human scarecrow

Llama!!!!


This is the face she makes most often when she sees a camera. LOL

The Pumpkin Blaster was definitely K's highlight. Boys...

Family photo...too bad I'm eating my hair and Cupcake isn't looking...oh, well.

Babycakes

Earlier this week, I posted on my Facebook wall about a momma desperately trying to find a family for 5 precious kiddos. SHE desperately wanted to make them HER family, but for various reasons, it didn't look like it was going to happen. This momma was heartbroken. I could feel it in the words I read. It broke my heart. I think any person that has desperately wanted to be a mom or dad, or any person that has lost a child in some way, or any person with a beating heart, would have felt the pain radiating. 

Turns out, those 5 babies DO have a family. Hurrah! The sad momma isn't so sad anymore, because they ARE HER babies. Crazy, amazing. You can read about it here. So, in the coming months, those 5 babies are going to need airplane tickets to the US of A. That's what we like to call 'spensive. This momma, makes a little something called Babycakes. We use it every night on Cupcake's body, face (and sometimes hair), and then zip her up in jammies. She is smooth and soft every morning. We have had ZERO dry skin issues. The best part, Cupcake is pretty inquisitive like most 1 year olds, and she has gotten a quick lick or two of the babycakes, but the lotion is organic. I don't recommend her or any child eating it, but it's safe should they happen to get into it. I have a hard time keeping 'Diogee the handicapable dog's' tongue out of the jar, too. Again, I know the ingredients won't hurt him. So, the profits from Babycakes is now going toward adoption expenses, so it is kind of a win/win for buyer and seller. According to an app. on my phone and every department/big box store I've walked into in the last 2 weeks, Christmas is coming. Gifts with a purpose behind them are FUN. So, there ya go! Get all babycaked up.
I'm ashamed to admit that I perpetuated the commercialism of Christmas today, but I was sucked in by the idea of buying Cupcake a Christmas dress, and I had enough coupons to get it for almost 60% off. I'm WEAK...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Birthday Cake Remix

I think I stole that title from Cold Stone Creamery... Yummmm.

Well, it is official, we have a 1 year old in the family! Aye has been home 8 weeks, so it felt a little odd to already be having a birthday party...because in my mind...our family is only 8 weeks old. It was a great excuse to introduce Cupcake to extended family members and friends. We are still, 'cocooning' but admittedly, we have made some exceptions to this, and we feel that Cupcake has handled the times when we have broken the cocoon extremely well. She gives clear signals when she isn't ready or comfortable with something, and we work to honor that. We have about another 4 weeks to go, and then I am going to try out the gym daycare, and other craziness. :) 

Anyway, Cupcake has grown hair, she has gotten taller, and I would venture to guess that she has gained about 3lbs., we will get the official numbers at her well-check on Tuesday. She is happy, goofy, has learned how to give big, wet sloppy kisses (love), her leg strength has come A LONG way, she is now pulling up on furniture and just tonight was showing signs that she wants to start cruising furniture. We feel so blessed to call  her our daughter, and not a day goes by that we don't think about her first mother. She bestowed upon us a precious gift, we are forever honored. 

With that...let's see some bday pics! It was, of course, a CUPCAKE themed party. I apologize for the zillion pictures. Trust me, I didn't even post 1/4 of them. I just knew my family members would want to see these particular ones!

Our attempt to get a 1yo pic...

Dressed and ready to party!!

This is my Nana. She makes my mom put the phone on speaker every day so I can learn her voice...

This is my Uncle T. He came to Ethiopia to help my daddy get me to the USA. He is wearing his Ethiopian shirt... I loved seeing him!

This is my Grampa. I have the cutest yawn in the world...

Auntie K! I stick my tongue out all.the.time.

I played a little, get the ring on the cupcake candle, and my cousins helped me cheat...love them!

I got to meet H in person. Our mommies wouldn't mind if we got married (after college with good jobs:). H didn't want my mommy to hold both of us...

Daddy helped me open all of my presents. I just wanted to play with the toys, but didn't get to until after my nap. Sigh...

There were cupcakes, of course! Thanks Auntie A for bringing them. They were yummy!!!!

I don't know what a smash cake is, but I'm not too keen on the idea.

Well, it looks like my cousins aren't going to let me get away with not checking it out, so I'll just stick one finger in...

Oh, okay... I'm supposed to eat it...

It's pretty tasty, and a little sticky...

Yum, I'm trying to see if the 30 people standing around watching want to try some. I'm good at sharing like that.

No, you guys don't want any? Okay, more for me, I guess!

These people next to me are kinda crazy, but they sure know how to throw a fun party! They've never let me get all sugared up before!

I cannot believe I'm getting away with this...

For real, I'm going to eat the whole thing...

If Uncle T tells me to keep at it, I'm going to listen...I trust that guy. People call him Dr.

Seriously, this cake is delish!

Mommy, how do you laugh and cry at the same time like that?

Most.Fun.Ever.

Can we do this every Saturday???


That's my other Auntie K. We call her the baby whisperer. I'm freshly washed from the cake. The bath tub looked like a bad crime scene though...so did the high chair...and the kitchen floor.

I love me some auntie lovin...

That's my British Uncle S...

I had cake smashed to the BACK of my dress. I'm still sneezing frosting out of my nose (seriously)...Pink frosting...

This stuff is soaking in the washing machine...along with my favorite blankie that I puked all over a few hours later. My tummy hasn't been 'right' since the cake, but I haven't fussed a bit!
Thanks for all the birthday love, everyone! We felt blessed to mark this occassion as a family, and are looking forward to many more. We couldn't have come so far without all of the love and support that we treasured pre-adoption, during-adoption and now post-adoption. We are blessed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Home Help Sanitation Initiative"

Makes me want to smack, "Two Slice Hilly" in the mouth. Yeah, I said it.
Yes, I realize that 'The Help' was written by a white woman and is a (fictional) book giving the perspective of black, domestic workers in the south in 1963. (Also, if you haven't read the book, you should, but the 'Home Help Sanitation Initiative' is the brain-child on crack of the Junior League President herself, Hilly Holbrook, in which she not so chalantly (not a word) suggests that black woman 'the help' be constructed bathrooms or outhouses at the homes they work in, and not use the waterclosets in the home because they 'carry different diseases.' Gahhhh!). So, as I was saying, the book is written by a white woman, and there are some critics of that. I almost don't feel like I can even get in on that discussion because, really, I'm a white woman that adopted a black child. Just seems like I should keep my mouth shut all together on the subject, because I'll come out of the discussion a loser either way...

HERE is just one of the articles that I've recently read on all that is wrong with, "The Help." Also, I recently listened to THIS in which Viola Davis remarks on her experience deciding to play one of the main characters. What I can't help but think... at least we are having these discussions amongst friends, movie companions, in the media, book clubs, etc. Sure, the book got some things wrong and skipped right over details that were reportedly major problems for domestic workers in the civil-rights era, including sexual harassment.exploitation from their male employers. Yet, until I read this book (and watched the movie), I never considered THE FEAR that these amazing women struggled with every day. Fear of retribution, fear of their own safety and fear for their children, fear of falling in love with the white children in their charge, and teaching them, and then being employed by them. I could go on. I didn't live in the civil rights era, and I never sat down for 400+pages to really think through what life must have been like for a black, domestic worker. Now, I have at least one piece of the puzzle, even if it is from a fictional book, and it spurred me to read the criticisms and add in other pieces of the puzzle. So, I guess I lied...I chimed in... for me, as a white woman, with a black child, I think I got some things out of reading this book about black women written by a white woman. AND I CRIED AT THE MOVIE. It was GOOD. I just want to spend an afternoon with Mae Mobley!!!! I want to be BFF's with Minnie... and I already have a friend that might as well change her name to Celia Foote. I might just start calling her that...

So, did you read the book or see the movie? Let me know your thoughts. You can even tell me if you think I'm an idiot. Just do it nicely. You can even use my method when I have to give someone not so kind news (usually work related). Compliment me, then give me constructive criticism, then compliment me again. This way, I'm so confused, I don't realize that you really think I'm an idiot, but I can consider the criticism. 

**Thanks to the ladies that went with me to the movie! I've been wanting to see it since it came out!!!!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One Year Ago,

We woke up early as we had to head out early to get our fingerprints done for our USCIS application. We also awoke to the news that we had been blessed with 2 new nieces. They were both born at 1 lb. 6 oz. and 12 inches long. I remember the joy and fear being so intertwined in my heart and mind it was palpable. We made the 6 hour trek the very next day to meet these beauties. Thinking back on all that transpired during the 2 days of Breley's miraculous life makes it difficult to breathe, even a year later (how one small child changes lives of so many in such a short time may very well always boggle my mind). Kailey, when I think of you, I think of all that is amazing about this world. You make our lives brighter, just by being in them. Thank you.

I wrote these letters to our nieces after meeting them for the first time. Reading them a year later, makes me very sad, and yet hopeful. Hard to describe...


Dearest Angel Kailey,

I was able to see you today, but the NICU staff was providing you with the amazing medical attention that you deserve. I already know how strong you are, because it was difficult for me to watch, but you were most definitely handling it like a champion. I must say, you are an awesome sight even from afar. We love you "to the moon and back." You have been blessed with two sisters, and that is a bond that will guide and support you all of your life. Your big sister, Mya will without a doubt be there for advice, love and protection throughout your life. It is safe to say that she will forever be an incredible role model for both you and Breley. I picture you and Breley having the type of twin bond where you giggle as little girls together over things that only the two of you understand, and having a language together that is all your own. You have been blessed with such incredible parents, and in turn, they have been blessed with you. May you always know that you have aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins that wrap you in prayer along with your sisters and parents because we care so deeply for you. Continue the good fight, strong little one. Now that I've seen you in person, I am not sure how we all got along without the precious miracle that is you and your sister for all of these years. May you feel the love, faithfulness, strength and peace we have all been praying for from God. All my love.
Auntie L



To Precious Breley,

There were so many things I wanted to tell you when I first met you, but you took my breath away, and I couldn't get my mind and mouth to speak the words. All I could utter were the words, I love you, and maybe that was enough. Maybe in that tiny beating heart of yours, you already know how amazing you are. I could see the love in your mom and dad's eyes as they spoke of you. Such a lucky little girl to be born into such an amazing family. I keep thinking about how years from now, we will get to tell you about all of the people far and wide that prayed for your health and safety. What a beautiful gift that is, much as you are such a blessing from God. I have one sister in this world, and she is quite possibly my best friend. I was lucky enough to get such an amazing and strong sister-in-law as your mom. God has blessed you with 2 sisters, and that is a bond that cannot be adequately described with words. I have watched your big sister, Mya grow up in the last 6 years, and have no doubt that she is an incredible, little girl. She will always be there for you and provide you with advice, love and protection. Never forget that. I just need you to know that we continue to wrap you in prayer, so that God can continue his divine work in your life and provide you with the strength and peace that you need. All my love, dearest Breley.
 
 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

1 Month Together

Yesterday marked our 1 Month Famiversary. Today, we have our first post-placement visit with our social worker (then again at 3 months and 6 months). I'm actually excited for our social worker to visit. For starters, she is great. I also have a list of questions for her about adoption adjustment, and just parenting in general...let's face it, I have no idea what I'm doing 85% of the time, though I've managed to figure out a thing or two this last month. 

This last month has brought a change in sleeping patterns, a change in when we leave the house (never), a change in how we spend our evenings together, a change in the stuff that decorates our house (I'm staring at plastic toys that play crazy music all littering my floor). This last month has also brought a sense of contentment. Don't get me wrong, we still have moments of exhaustion, there are thoughts of how nice it would be to just run an errand and not have to pack up for any possible emergency, there are moments where it would be nice to just head on over to the movie theater, but then you look at Cupcake's mischievous smile and are reminded of the new purpose of our family. We have been blessed beyond measure, and we know it. I know from blog and book reading that attachment and bonding could be 2 million x harder than it has been so far, and I did my best to prepare myself mentally for the harder version (which is possibly why I read into every interaction that Cupcake has with us). 

We have been changed in ways that I could not have possibly imagined in the last month, as well. For example, I vacuumed the living room at 8am, and already had a load of laundry going. Normally, I would either have been at work or still sleeping at 8am if I didn't have to work. Also, I have NEVER been a morning person. My mom still reminds me how awful it was to wake me up in the morning. K doesn't complain if he needs to wake me up, because I think he likes to be married to me, and so he knows better than to complain about it (even though I've been known to snap when waking up, and my normal line when he says, "Good morning," is "What's so good about it?" I do become a kinder version within a few minutes of waking, but it takes me a little time to adjust and reset my mood. I don't know why. My father wakes up between 5 and 6am, my mom considers 8am sleeping in...I just like the night hours (I am most productive in the evening hours). Wow, that was quite a tangent there. My point was, prior to Cupcake and her schedule dictating how the house is run, I perform chores in the morning when that NEVER happened prior to her. Her daddy is a bit of a work-a-holic. It could have been worse, but he was the type of person to go to work early and leave late. Sometimes, he would come home, have dinner, chat with me for a bit, and then do a little work from home. He has only been back to work for a couple of weeks, but he goes into work at a more "on-time" rate than early, and he comes home earlier than he had previously. These are just a couple of the ways Cupcake has altered our lives, and probably all for the better. 

Thanks for following our journey! Just a quick reminder that there is still time to donate to Breley's fund using the button on the top, right corner (c'mon, you knew I was going to mention it). I am $15 away from my goal. FOVC and 'Ask 5 for 5' (both drought relief) are also still in the fundraising game if you are willing and able.



 

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