God's Child, Our Joy

An adoptive family's journey in faith and life


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Parenting: In the trenches

IMG_1488Here’s the truth…being a parent is HARD! I know this is nothing new. I know that so many parents come to this realization after finding themselves with one or more children and wonder, “what did I get myself into?” Parenting is not all flying kites, building sandcastles at the beach, baking cookies,  and sweet night time snuggles. It is calming your child when you made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when they only wanted jelly, it is asking your child for the 10th time to step away from the hot oven, it is finding your children hanging from the chandelier (yes, really!), it is screaming your child’s name as they run toward the street when you turn away for a fraction of a second, it is relentlessly putting an over tired child back in their room for the 20th time, it is still waking up in the middle of a night for a child 4 years after they have been “sleeping through the night,” it is sitting and letting them run circles or turning on the TV because you just don’t have the energy anymore, it is comforting your child when cliques start at preschool (really, already?), it is dinners thrown on the floor because it’s not what they want to eat, it is sitting up all night with sick children and then realizing you still have to make it through the next day…I could go on and on of course. Then of course there is everything you have to maintain a home and keep everyone dressed and fed: the endless laundry, the endless dishes, always having to think of what you’re making next for a healthy meal or snack, realizing only after you buy a new house how much yard work will be involved, putting toys away just so you are able to walk through a room, and that is of course the minimums. You rarely have a moment to yourself and for two introverts, that has become a source of resentment in a way. It makes finding quality time to spend as a couple nearly impossible. Then there’s the money…where does it go?! We went from a two income, two person family to a one income (mine is so negligible), four person family in a matter of 15 months. To maintain sanity, we eat out far more than we should. We bought a mini van to fit this family of 4 better for our long road trips to see family. We bought and moved to a bigger house and a much better school district…for the kids. We send them to preschool, which is of course more expensive down in this nicer area of town. The money stress is real. There’s always more too, whether it be a sick pet, a new medical diagnosis, impending surgery, new work obligations, etc, it never ends.

You may be thinking to yourself (since most of you are parents!), this is nothing new, we know this and deal with it every day. Here’s the kicker. I feel extremely guilty. We put so much work into becoming parents. We went through so much to adopt these two wonderful, adorable, smart, funny children. I don’t feel I have the right to feel overwhelmed or especially resentful. I should feel thankful and gracious that we have been given the gift to be these children’s parents. We were chosen, not only by God, but by a birth mother that loved them so much she knew she wanted the best for them and she wasn’t going to be able to provide that. I feel everyday that I just need to buck up and embrace the life I have been given…the life I wanted!…but it is sooo hard.  I chose to be a stay at home mom and I will never regret that decision, but I feel like I have lost a piece of myself. We have both struggled with depression off and on, trying to keep everything going and ultimately provide the most love and most opportunities we can for our children.

But, as Dory says, we “just keep swimming, just keep swimming” and try to keep our heads above water. The saving grace…our two beautiful children. That’s right, the thing that ultimately causes all the stress and struggles, they are the reason we keep going. It’s the joy on their faces when they see the beach for the first time. It’s the silly faces and dances they make up for you. It’s the “I love you” called out to you from their bedroom after you have tucked them in for the 5th time. It’s the cuddles and hugs. It’s the amazement on their faces when they learn something new. It’s the amazingly out of tune, but oh so cute, singing of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. So, here it is…parenting is hard, so very, very hard…BUT…parenting is the most rewarding job I will ever do and I love this family we have created. I love Scott even more than ever as we struggle through and support each other in this new stage of life together. There will be some days that are harder than others, but we must try to wake up each morning and try again. Here’s to all the other parents struggling out there. Please know you’re not alone and please know that it doesn’t mean you don’t love your children. If you find yourself struggling more days than not, please seek help. We all need a little help now and then, and your children and family deserve the best you that you can be.

 

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´╗┐Life in Full Swing


HELLO! As I look back to the last post I realize that it has been 17 months since our last post…where has the time gone?!? Here are a few things that have happened since we left you last:

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We Moved! – About the time of the last post, we realized that we would most likely send the kids to public school…then quickly realized that we would need to move to a better school district. We also realized that Eva could not bum on our bedroom floor every time Grandma and Grandpa came to visit, so a 4th bedroom became a must. We narrowed down our our preferred school districts, started going to open houses, and contacted a realtor. We put our house on the market March 5, 2014. We closed on our new house, June 12, 2015 and on our old house July 2, 2015. There were a few bumps along the way…and of course it was stressful…but we are incredibly happy in our new house! [Maybe Scott will update you all on the process some day when he has time…which may be in 15 years.]

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Quinton – Our twelve year old dog, Quinton, did not seem to handle the move well. He started throwing up on almost a daily basis and began losing weight. We finally took him to the vet (a new one because Scott waited 5 hours at our old vet without being seen) in August 2015. After blood work and an x-ray, it was decided to do exploratory surgery. They found that Quinton had swallowed the tip of a corn cob! After an extremely difficult post-op recovery that included another $1000 and 3 trips to the emergency vet, he was back to his old self. We noticed we was putting the weight back on a little too well and was always hungry. By December he had quite a large belly. In January he bit me while I was trying to wrestle some garbage away from him. Off to the vet we went, where he was diagnosed with Cushings Disease. He is much better with his twice daily med and we hope he has a few more good years in him.

Another baby?! – In February of 2015, we received the news that Eva & Eli’s birthmom was pregnant again. She had a new boyfriend that seemed serious, and a job. Her plan was to parent. Unfortunately, things started to spiral out of control again…she had a nasty break up and lost her job. She even had her utilities shut off for a while. In August we received a call from the agency, birthmom is considering adoption again. Once again, Scott got the call…thank God! He shared the news with me and I think I muttered the “F” word a few times. Keep in mind, this is August when we are also dealing with all of Quinton’s medical issues. We started contemplating if we were ready to welcome another child into our lives in October…so we made a list of questions and emailed it to the agency. Scott received another call…we weren’t being considered, birthmom felt we were dealing with too much already. Our hearts sunk…apparently we were ready to welcome another child. We took the kids to the hospital to meet the new baby in October and a few weeks later we got a call from our social worker…the new adoptive family wanted our contact information! We have met them for dinner and they are wonderful. We are so happy to be able to make them a part of our extended family.


 Eva – Eva turned 4 in December. She is a joy. She is smart, inquisitive, loving (she’s my little cuddle-bug!), empathetic, sensitive, friendly, and happy (most of the time), although she has still lived up to her nickname, Eva the Diva. She likes drawing, dancing, singing, Legos, Doc McStuffins, My Little Pony, Barbies, playing outside, chocolate milk, and antagonizing her little brother (and the next moment she’s hugging him). She goes to preschool 4 days a week, takes gymnastics still, and takes ballet (or creative movement at this stage!). I can’t believe how she has grown. These years really do go by so fast. Those huge smiles have stayed with her through the years and they warm my heart.


 Eli – Eli will be 3 in two weeks. You will often hear me say, “He is all boy!” and yet he also dresses up in princess gowns and plays Barbies ­čÖé He is smart, outgoing, funny (that boy can sure make you laugh!), energetic, opinionated, clumsy, and just fun to be around. His facial expressions crack me up! He likes dinosaurs, trains, Paw Patrol, music, dancing, reading, playing outside, jumping and climbing, very few foods, and antagonizing his sister right back. He goes to preschool 3 days a week (we tried 2, but he complained every time we dropped Eva off and didn’t drop him off too!) and take gymnastics. He keeps asking to take ballet with Eva ­čśŤ  Eli is no longer a baby, but he will always be my baby boy. He is not a hugger or cuddler, but that just makes his hugs all the more special.

Scott – Scott continues to work and then come home to work some more (aka being a parent). He helps out so much around here and we really share the load. Like most parents, trying to balance work, family, couple, and individual time leaves one severely sleep deprived. Hence, the reason this blog has gone un-updated as long as it has. The kids and I got him a basketball hoop for his birthday, and he finds it to be a great stress reliever (when the kids aren’t stealing the ball and playing keep away!).

Steph – I am stretched in a number of ways. My saving grace is the time the kids are in preschool and the fact I can still get them down for at least a quiet time most afternoons. I work two mornings a week doing the choir at the school I used to work at, I own a crafting business on Etsy and occasionally do craft fairs, I free lance as a musician playing gigs here and there (hasn’t been much lately), play in a volunteer symphony, am in the church choir, and take adult ballet for fun and fitness. This usually means I “go to work” in the evenings. I often sit back and realize that it’s way too much and I need to focus on being a mom and wife, but I’m afraid I will lose my identity…I am even considering if it’s time to go back to work…but that’s a post for another time! No matter what, I love my kids and family. I love that I have been able to take the time to be with them, and I don’t regret a moment of that. On top of all this, I was finally diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome…again, best to save for another post.

Well, that’s our last 17 months in a nutshell. I’m sure I have left something out, but it’s not coming to mind right now. Time marches on and we are just trying to hang on for the ride!


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Prepping for Number Two: Circum-sized Decision

I’m going to write this post in two sittings. This is the first sitting, where I write down all my knowledge and thoughts on circumcision before doing any research.

This is what I think I know:

I’m circumcised.

There is cutting involved.

I don’t remember mine, so I assumed the boy won’t remember if we do it.

These are the adoption related notes:

For the first 72 hours (or whichever point the birthparents sign the paperwork), we have no official say in the matter.

Birthparents can have him circumcised without our consent as they will still be the boy’s legal guardians.

We have a solid relationship with our birthparents, and birthmother would likely go with any decision that we made.

These are the things I don’t know:

Why do we circumcise?

What percentage of boys born in this country gets circumcised?

What does the role of religion fill in this decision?

What are the benefits of circumcision?

What are the negatives?

What is the value of a small piece of skin?

Will I see pictures that I don’t want to see while researching this topic?

You can probably move that last question from unknowns to facts, and the answer most assuredly will be yes.

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Ok, I’m back. The decision is so…unclear. Usually in moments like this, like a great leader, I defer to my wife.

“What do you think we should…”

“No no no, nice try! I don’t have one so this is all on you!”

Darn.

Here’s what my research has turned up, and by research I mean the internet (always the most reliable source.) Many people find the procedure to be barbaric, due to the pain and irrevicability of the procedure. The medical reasons for the procedure are few. Urinary Tract Infections are 1 in 1000 for circumcised, while 1 in 100 for non. STDs are more prevalent in non-circumcised, but this concern can be reduced by teaching the boy proper sexual behavior (let’s worry about that one later). However, the procedure itself can have minor complications as well.

About 60% of American men are being circumcised now (worldwide the number is lower). That percentage is dropping. The American Pediatric Association does not necessarily recommend, but does not discourage the procedure. Basically, many of the nurses and doctors I’ve read say the same thing. Either way is fine.

Argh.

I’m not making the decision to avoid pain now if it is in his best interest. However, I don’t know if the medical is worth it. What if you could cut the tip of your pinky to lower your chance of contracting an STD and getting a UTI? What if you could just practice safe sex and proper hygiene and achieve the same results?

Well, whatever we decide, we’ll be right and wrong. I lean towards no right now, but I’ve had 33 years of experience with the other way with no issues. In some ways I wish that the choice wasn’t ours, but when we met with our birth mother recently she said she would do what we wanted.

You don’t get to be a parent without making the tough choices.


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Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag

So I’ve written in the past about the challenge of bringing a child who is eleven months old to church and trying to stay sane. She brings so much energy with her, and it takes all my efforts to keep her entertained throughout. I rely on my bag of tricks to help, and by that I mean our diaper bag with toys and puffs.

This past Sunday I tried a new strategy. No bag at all. Just me. You may think I’m crazy, but I’m not. I’m absent minded. See, Steph left early to practice with the choir, so we came a little later. Only, I forgot to grab the bag.

It was raining that morning, so I was concerned about having an umbrella in the car, and a coffee in my cup holder to prevent eye lid contraction. I completely forgot the bag.

“At least you remembered the umbrella, how’d that work out?”

“I opened it up when I arrived and a half dozen metal pieces came flying out, making it impossible to open all the way.”

“So…”

“So Eva and I had to run through the rain, while hundreds (if not thousands) of people pointed at me and said ‘Who is this dad that does not have a umbrella to protect his child and has no bag with a change of clothes for her!’ While I didn’t see it or hear it, I’m sure it happened.”

We sit down and decloak from our wet coats. Eva drifts into her “New Place Coma”. In the flow chart, or in sitting, she must evaluate her new situation. Who’s here? What things are there? Where can I crawl to? All these things are evaluated while she sits in her coma. Then, the fidgeting starts. Will we make it?

We did.

There are two ways of keeping Eva quiet throughout a service. One, play with something. Two, “New Place Coma”. Crawling is mostly out, so this has to be done inside the pew. So, for entertainment we had two things. A hymnal and a hair band. The hymnal was quite entertaining, though lacking in pictures and fun words like “Peek a Zoo”.

The coma though is still the prefered method. While evaluating the situation, she may in fact be absorbing things such as words and learning how others act in church. There’s also less defense on my part, AKA keep Eva from bending, ripping or slobbering on the hymnal.

So the trick is to get Eva into that new place to restart the coma. We arrive and sit. We stand. We kneel. Sometimes she sits on my knee, other times on the pew itself, or maybe on the floor. When mommy comes back, she jumps over there and back again. All new situations, all requiring evaluations (although by the end of service that evaluation time is near nil).

So, it is theoretically possible to make it through service without a bag of tricks. I just don’t recommend it.


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Goal Achieved

For years I’ve submitted a picture for the work calendar. For years, I have failed to make it. I never gave up trying though, so when this year’s competition opened up again I submitted two pictures. I waited. So much in adoption and parenting is waiting and hoping. I adoption, it’s waiting for that call, hoping they don’t change their mind, waiting for finalization and hoping for continued positive relationships. With children, you wait for them to show, hope they are healthy, wait for them to sleep through the night, and hope they develop on schedule. There is no moment where you are not waiting and hoping for something. The point is to never give up hope, to not stop waiting, and never give up the faith. I received an email….they selected my picture this year.


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Advice for a new parent (from a new parent)

When I was going to become a parent, we knew there were many things we would need to learn. Friends and family would offer advice to us, some were the consistent “sleep when she sleeps” and some were cautionary, like “don’t have more children than you have arms”. The problem was that they all seem to be the same. It’s a problem with person to person contact, we are not inclined to list of a number of things, and we are restricted to what’s on our mind at that moment.

Well, after ten months we’ve gather a number of nuggets of wisdom for the new parent to read at their leisure (and for other parents to read, nod, and say “Yep!”

Everything is a season. With a new baby, they go through phases that often last a while. Then, they change. She will eventually sleep through the night, you just need to make it through the night feedings. However, it’s also true of the things you love. You can put her down now, but next season she’ll be crawling away.

It’s the little things. It’s about her little advances. Discovering a rattle, then discovering that she can make it rattle. My personal favorite was the time she discovered that a post card can have a different color on each side. She held it and rotated it back and forth just amazed.

You will be irrationally mad at her sometimes. This will most likely be because of lack of sleep. You are not a terrible parent for wanting to yell at her. (so long as it doesn’t happen much) Mine happened at three in the morning, when instead of falling back asleep, she looked at me and smiled. Smile?! Go to sleep!

There will be beautiful moments Like when she recognizes your voice for the first time.

It’s not like TV. She’ll babble “da” a million times before she means it.

Sleep Everyone says it, but it’s worth saying again. You will love sleep when you can get it.

Laundry Of course every time you get a chance to sleep, you do laundry. How is it that someone so small can create so much laundry?

Why won’t you just go to sleep?! The most common phrase the first couple of months.

Food Anytime anyone offers you food, take it. Easily the most desired thing those first weeks, yet so easily forgotten about. When you’re both exhausted, dinner seems so difficult, or you just forget altogether that it’s dinner time. We fell into the McDonalds trap, which isn’t a good thing (unless it’s Monopoly, then it’s an awesome thing!)

Clothes Anytime anyone offers you clothing, take them. Used clothing is hardly used, and having extra clothes spreads out trips to laundry, and gives you insurance on those spit-up and/or diarrhea days.

She grows Don’t get attached to any outfit because she will outgrow it by the next time you want her to wear it. Which also leads to…

Capture it If there is a moment or outfit you want to capture, capture it right away because tomorrow she will have moved on, or outgrown it.

Take pictures No one has ever said I took way too many pictures of my daughter.

Life sabbatical Just accept that whatever your hobby is, whatever things you used to do, you are going to be taking a two year sabbatical. Any moment you have for them is a special blessing.

You’re special too The knowledge that you recognize that this child is immensely special and that God has chosen you to make sure she grows up safe, secure and prosperous makes you pretty special too.

The monotony Wake up, change diaper, feed, play, nap, wake-up, diaper, play, nap, wake-up, diaper, feed, sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Mental breaks Take five minutes for yourself, make sure you do something where you can turn your brain off. If its watching a baseball game, or reading the paper, or just sitting on your porch. Your mind needs a break.

God may have rested on the 7th day, but you don’t get to There are no days off in child care. She needs food, diaper changes, naps, love, and protection every day, multiple times a day. You may get breaks, but almost never a day off.

The Master Plan You have a plan on how things will go. They will not all go that way, and it’s okay. The plan is only a guide for the direction you want to go. Your plan is like the Mississippi River. It will flow to its final destination (the gulf, adulthood), but it’s not going to follow that straight path you had in your mind.

Everything that is black is white. Time is slow and fast at the same time. You can’t wait for her to sleep through the night, and yet the first time she does, it scares you to death.

Consistency can scare you Only because it eventually changes. A number of times we have thought that she had died in her sleep because she changed her routine. The night she went from 2 hour sleeping blocks to 4 hour sleeping blocks, or 4 to 8, we woke up, looked at the clock, assumed we slept through her screaming or that she had passed, only to find her sleeping peacefully (that is, until we woke her to reassure ourselves.)

Splitting the duties Some days you will think you do all the work. At the same time your spouse will be thinking the same thing.

Your death is irrelevant Your spouse will suddenly not care about you dying on the floor as much. This one needs explaining. One day Steph tried to call me at work, only I was in a meeting and unable to respond. This happened a couple times over a few hours. ┬áHer mind sped to the scenario that I had had some tragedy happen at home before leaving for work, like a heart attack or a seizure where I was down and unable to do anything. Her first worry was not about my well-being, but that of Eva, who would have still been at home waiting to be dropped off at daycare. She’d be at home hungry, scared, maybe eating Quinton’s food, etc. When she later told me this story, I was not mad that she glossed over my potential death. This is when you know you’re a parent. When you’re not as concerned about your spouse’s health and they are cool with it.

You rock One day you’ll be standing in church, and you’ll be rocking back and forth, only you won’t be holding her.

Mom? Dad? When did I become you? It happened to me just recently. Eva fell asleep on the way home, so after we arrived at home, I went back and said the same line I had heard a number of times growing up. “Wake up, it’s time to go to sleep”

You can’t prepare for poop The times they step in their own waste, or worse it spreads up the back. There is no way to prepare for that first time you try to pull off her onesie without getting anything in her hair. You’re doing this at the mall with that pull down shelf that has popcorn in it, the garbage can is just far enough away that you can’t use it without moving away from your baby, and you just need one more hand but your spouse can’t help because they’re not the same gender. Or worse yet, you have to text your spouse to go get more wipes, diapers, clothes, the fire department, and a priest…just kidding about those last two of course, but you might actually want them! ┬áBest advice, wing it the best you can and hope she isn’t scarred for life.

My last piece of advice

Call home Call your mom and dad and anyone who cared for you those first few months. Say thanks. Thanks mom for not smothering me when I wouldn’t stop crying and go to sleep.


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We Be Old

I’ve been a parent for all of nine months now, and I’ve made some realizations.

1. You can never get enough sleep. You learn how to deal with the lack of sleep, then when you get enough you feel more tired than ever. It’s like you’ve reminded your body how much it really needs and wants more.

2. About a day after you’ve fallen into a routine, it will change. Oh, she’s slept until 7:00 am for a week straight, and bottles happen every four hours on the dot? Tomorrow she’ll get up at 5:45, and want bottles randomly.

3. It’s probably not true, but it sure seems like they grow an inch overnight.

4. With kids, you age in dog years. Before I was a parent, I was 27 going on 28, now I’m 33 going on 44.

I know that I’ve aged about 10 years in the last nine months. I feel it in my knees, I feel it in my work, and I show it in my face. Here’s the before and after:

And after….

The addition of Eva to the family has also been a lot to take in for Quinton. The once center of our attention now has to compete for it. Our living room is full of toys that he’s not allowed to play with, and while he’s protective of her, he’s got to be on alert for grabbing hands.

Look how gray he is now

“Don’t let Eva play with your ear”

And look at Mommy

“What do you mean look at mommy?”

“I’m just saying you look more mature.”

“What does that mean? Are you saying I look old!”

“No, no, you look younger than ever!”