No I Don’t Want a White Kitchen, but I’ll Take the Farmhouse Sink.

I’ve realized that I rarely use my blog as an outlet for my opinion. That’s because over the years I’ve desired to be a peacemaker, be able to see all sides of something, and even if my opinion differs I don’t tend to make it known as the only opinion. But seriously people, we’ve got a problem on our hands in this country.  I am not talking about the dangerous politics zone, but rather the more poisonous disease of being like everyone else.  I remember the first time I tried to be like everyone else was in elementary school. I went to a private school because the public schools in our area were terrible. My family was not one of great means, and when the most popular girl befriended me the trade-off was that she and everyone else in that school expected you to wear Espirit and Benetton and every other trendy brand of the era.  We crimped our hair and wore side ponytails. But what I really learned in error was that to be liked I had to be like everyone else.  This went against the very essence of my personality because I liked to be unique. Those years I look back on with disgust and breathe a huge sigh of relief that I was released from that when my family moved and I went to a much less catty public school. There was serious damage done and so one of my greatest hopes for my children is that they learn it is okay to be themselves at an early age. It’s already started for my son who is only 6 and came home from school begging me for “tie shoes.” This went on for weeks until I cured him of it by telling him in order to get tie shoes he first needed to put his Velcro sneakers on properly without help, instead of the usual lazy way of shoving your foot in without undoing the Velcro. End discussion about needing tie shoes for sure! Never mind the fact that they don’t make tie shoes in his size in very many brands.

Fast forward to what I consider a pivotal year in my life, where I am about to turn 40 and most of the time don’t really care what other people think anymore.  There is this idea now that bothers me. Where for example all the cool moms have to run out and buy white kitchens with farmhouse sinks and actually your whole house has to white. Dare you like color, you can throw a few accents into the white on white, but not too much.  Scroll through home design on Instagram and all you see is farmhouse style this and that, when less than 1% of these people actually live in a farmhouse.  And seriously, have you ever had an all white anything? Remember that white shirt you loved until you spilled something on it the first time you wore it?  Well your house is only all white for 5 minutes if you really live in it, too.  Our first apartment after we were married had an all white bathroom which no amount of scrubbing the grout with a toothbrush and Kaboom could ever keep white.  And one piece of hair on the floor and your tile looked awful.  It was a lost cause and the very reason that when we redid our bathroom in our own home, I chose a biscuit toilet and sink so that they would hide dirt.  Best decision for sure.

Throw caution to the wind and decorate with what speaks to you, not “everyone” else on Instagram. And then there is my beloved Joanna, whom I feel like I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with and carry on an easy conversation as if we were besties in real life.  I love her presence, her ability to be noble, and most of all her desire to use her business to help others.  But truth be told, I don’t need to be Joanna, and you don’t need to either. Be yourself. Don’t go buy whatever she just put into the latest Fixer Upper just because she put it in there. If you like it, yes go buy it, by all means. I admit I want to make my own pilgrimage to Texas. But don’t fall into the trap of desperately trying to have a home like everyone else’s….or what you think everyone else’s home looks like. 

Instead, my advice on home decorating, and life itself, is to find what reflects and speaks to you.  Don’t care if your best friend hates it or thinks it’s tacky.  It’s your life, your house, your chance to reflect who you are to the world.  We were all created differently, that’s what makes us beautiful, and yet so many times we fall into the pattern of trying to be like everyone else.  And dare I go on. This mentality IS seeping into politics where whatever your opinion is, now some feel the right to tell everyone else they must have the same opinion about everything, right or wrong. 

Don’t go buy a reproduction dough bowl. If you’re going for that vintage look, go buy the real deal.  My love of all many things old is probably genetic. And for me it’s about having a piece of my family’s past that makes me love old things. The stories behind them make a normal every day object have meaning and value.  When I get out my grandmother’s strawberry tablecloth, I’m immediately back sitting at her table as a child.  Most people are knocking down all of their walls for an open concept, and me I am standing my ground on practicality and keeping my dining room wall. Why? One because I like having an actual dining room, and two because practically speaking in my small house I would lose a lot of space if we knocked it down. Our plan instead is to go back in time and add a built-in that looks original and gives us much more storage for a room that is actually my office, our dining room, and often a play area as well. For the love of everything, just be yourself. Simple words, but not so simple to live by.  I don’t want our world to be full of cloned me.  I want our world to be a beautiful compilation of everyone being themselves. Yes, that means sometimes we might disagree. Sometimes I will really not like what a friend says. Sometimes people won’t get me. But I have one life given to be by God. One chance to find my purpose and fulfill it, and by golly I will never do this by painting my whole house white, sticking a Magnolia wreath on the front door, and agreeing with everything you say. You are the only person that can be You, now go do it!

Meet Grown Up Dinner: A Crown Me Frugal Mama Tip

It’s one of those days where I am trying my very best at supermom. The hub’s car didn’t start this morning so he had to take mine, meaning that my one day this week without appointments and therapies for my … Continue reading

Boxed (gasp) Wine: Crown Me A Frugal Foodie

bota box pic

 

This is a Crown Me Frugal AND a Crown Me Foodie Tip about our “house” wine. I am continuing with my new Crown Me Mama tips. If you missed it, read about my Permanent Packing List here. In the past we would only have wine on hand for a special occasion, because otherwise, we wouldn’t think to buy it.  Ironically, now that we have children we drink wine more often than we used to at home.  It replaces going out because let’s face it, parents of young children don’t really go out.  Further, parents with young children don’t think to buy wine, they just realize they don’t have any in the house and would love a glass. That’s where Bota Box comes in.  A boxed wine for anti-boxed wine people. When you think of boxed wine don’t automatically think it’s awful and only for great Aunt so and so.   Tucked right next to the gross boxed wine section of your store is a section entitled, “Premium Boxed Wine.” Premium boxed wines actually tastes good, in fact great. I would compare it to a house wine at a restaurant or the homes of Italy, and now it is our house wine, too.  It’s not the wine you’ll drink on your birthday (Although you certainly could with dignity), however, it’s a very decent, actually award winning wine.  In a blind taste test, Bota Box has actually won several awards and people thought it was from a bottle. On the box it boasts 47 Gold Medals and 19 Best buys Awards.  Trust me book club will never be the same without a Bota Box on hand.

Here’s why you should buy it (and let me say I’m not famous enough for someone to pay me to say any of this – so this is free advice with no strings attached):

  1. Ever think that once you open a bottle you have to find someone to drink it with you or it will go skunky on you? You can have one glass and not go back another day to a partial bottle of terribly ruined wine. It has a vacuum bag inside the box that keeps the air out and the wine fresh for up to a few months.
  2. It’s in an environmentally friendly cardboard box made from recycled materials. And it’s BPA free.
  3. It has the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine in one box.
  4. They even make cute mini boxes to pack in a suitcase, take on a picnic, or throw in your purse for a BYOB. In other words, you won’t worry that you’ll arrive with a purse full of broken glass.
  5. There are other premium wines worth trying, but this is the brand that made premium boxed wine a Thing.
  6. You like red, your partner likes white? No problem, you can have a box of each on hand. If friends stop by you can offer them either.
  7. And of course, the price is more affordable than buying 4 bottles of decent, not special occasion wine. Depending on if there is a sale, it’s about $20 to $22. So, that’s about $5 a “bottle.” When is the last time you had a $5 bottle of wine that tasted good?

I’ll admit the first time I was offered a Bota Box glass of wine, I was skeptical. But as soon as I took a sip, I was sold. And honestly, besides special occasions, this is what we have on hand. Excuse me while I go have an inch of a lovely 2014 Pinot Noir, yep from a Bota Box.

 

*I really want to make it clear that if you have a drinking problem, I don’t recommend buying a box of wine (or obviously keeping alcohol in your house period). If you find yourself drinking more wine than you normally would after buying this to an extreme, then perhaps you should think about not buying it again. All of the normal rules apply: don’t drink and drive; please don’t drink when your pregnant even if your doctor claims a glass of wine is fine (it’s really not, I go to trainings on these things); and please don’t drink if you can’t stop. And please make your own opinion, but respect mine.

Crown Me Traveler Tip : Permanent Packing List

I’d like to take my blog in a specific direction for at least the foreseeable future in hopes that I write more often, share my random life hacks, and be more concise. Thus, I present you with Crown Me Tips.  … Continue reading

Perfect Bargain Throw Pillows and The Couch I Almost Hated

Our first couch was a hand-me-down, actually a loveseat left over from my husband’s dorm room.  If that isn’t bad enough, it had half a table top under the cushions holding it up just enough that you wouldn’t end up … Continue reading

Starting Over – A New Adventure

It’s been an emotional week for sure. Downsized is my word of the week – from a job of 7 years. I thought we all left this in 2008, but sadly I add to a number of friends and family I know who have lost their jobs because of the current falsely hopeful economy. When I first got the news, strangely my first reaction was relief. I felt a 50-pound weight be lifted from me.  Sure I am worried about how we will pay our bills, but mostly I’m glad that the crazy treadmill speed I have had to run on is stopping before I just fly off the back and crash.  In this first week, I found myself rushing and rushing around the house, rushing to get the kids dressed, rushing to get to the doctor’s, rushing just like I always do.  Then it dawned on me, I don’t need to rush anymore.  Here I have been rushing around feeling like I can’t possibly get it all done unless I run, for way too long. That feeling gnawed away at me and I knew I had it, but recognizing it out of the daily grind was scary.  It is eye-opening to realize I was feeling that way ALL the time. I was losing that battle every single day!  This morning on the way back from my son’s school I was reflecting and likened it to going back to the factory settings on a computer and starting over.  (and strangely I got home and read a very similar analogy on my friend Mandy D’s blog! When I sense a pattern in my life, that’s when I know I am learning) That’s how I feel, and I don’t really know how to do it. I don’t know which programs to reload, because I don’t know what programs I need and which ones I can do without. I don’t know how to be a stay-at-home mom. I don’t know if that will be for one week, one month, one year or forever.  I do know that it feels weird to be home after I had finally accepted that I was a working mom, and was no longer bitter about not being able to be home with my kids.  Maybe that is the point, who knows.

You see, for months, okay years, my husband and I have been praying nightly for something to give. We accepted at least a year ago that we would not tell God how to answer our prayer, but that we would just pray for him to take over the situation. Since we didn’t know even what to pray for, we just prayed for God to just work it all out. It was all getting to be too much for me to be working a fulltime job, a contract job, and then trying to get my daughter to all her appointments etc.  She was still coming to work with me after a short-lived disastrous stint at a babysitter’s house. Being a full-time employee and a full-time mom was starting to wear on me and my daughter. We couldn’t afford to put her in daycare, but we couldn’t afford for me to stay home.  So, here we are strangely relieved to know that something is happening, even if we have no idea what.  When you ask God to move a mountain out of your way, don’t be surprised when he does.

When my husband accepted a lateral move for the sake of a quality-of-life improvement this summer, we knew it was the start of something greater for our family, but felt like just a glimpse. That is when I accepted that the answer wasn’t going to be that he was going to be leaping to a salary that would not require my income, and that the whole daycare thing would just have to work out some other way. I was okay with that and found that I knew so many others in my situation, working and running all day every day.

So, here on the other side of the downsize, I am trying to learn about this whole stay-at-home mom thing, at least for the time being. Quite frankly, my house is still messier than I like it (except for our bedroom is newly uncluttered and spotless and I’ve reverted to the clean freak I used to be where I don’t like anything left out at the end of the night). When my daughter’s therapists come it is no longer a day that I also work from home.  I can fully be present for her treatment.  I am not commuting 8 hours a week.  I have savored the spontaneous hugs from my son, hugs that someone else was getting every day.

I have acknowledged that I never want to feel that trapped in stress again, feeling like I can’t possibly run any faster before I am thrown from the treadmill in defeat. But what’s next I don’t know. I have a crazy excitement about it. I know whatever it is, it is better than where I am coming from. I am sad to leave this job that I was so passionate about.  It was truly the job of a lifetime, where I saw all of my passions and experience come together.  It was a big part of my life.  It made having my son in daycare feel tolerable because I was doing something to help people that spoke to my heart. If I have to work for a living it has to be something that makes up for missing out on time with my children. I do fear that I will still be stuck making either the choice to take a job that requires me to go back to a crazy schedule, or not doing that and not being able to pay our bills.  I have the potential and skills to work in the corporate grind, but I lack the desire at this threshold.  I am more in the business of helping people, and a non-profit veteran. I know it will be difficult to find that socially-minded job with a paycheck big enough to cover daycare. But maybe that’s not my answer.

I felt that I have been preparing for this season in life for some time. But I’ll save those details for another blog entry for fear of once again being too wordy. I feel God’s peace overwhelm me and hear friends and family sounding more fearful about our situation than I actually feel. To say it feels like a much needed vacation sums it up.  I don’t yet know how to reprogram. I feel like there is some healing that needs to come from all that stress before I can effectively start over. For these first few weeks, I am just going to get up and see what happens (I am a planner so that in itself tells me I am in need of rest).  I do have very part time work at my former company that does give a little structure to my otherwise wandering schedule.  When we told my son that he would have to leave his school, I cried; he cried. We sat down and made a list of things that we would like to do together.  It felt like the right start to this adventure.  It felt good to be able to make plans and know that I could at least start to reprogram there. I can’t help but feel that even though so many of our plans have been turned upside down that I am once again right where I am supposed to be…and back to my word of the year BUILD. I don’t know if that will still include our dream of a fixer upper home for our family. For now, that has to be on hold. I am not sad that our plans are gone because I’ve been here before, right in the place. And this place has always meant that God was about to do something extraordinary.  And these children that I now have the privilege to be home with at least for now, are two of those something extraordinaries. So, knock me upside the head if I forget this perspective down the road, because at this point in my life I have been through enough valleys to know that God always gets me back up on that mountaintop.  And someday soon I’ll be there again celebrating how he rewrote this part of my story.

Build

It is rare that I have a blog title that is one word, because I always have so much to say. Let me take a step back and say that I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions. Partly because they are cliché, partly because I don’t like the idea of setting myself up to fail.  But last year I chose a word instead and stuck with it to change my lifestyle permanently. Simplify.  That word has carried me from a place I didn’t know I was going to a place I crawled through to a place of acceptance and possibility.  This past year was hard and yet easier than it would have been if I hadn’t been working already on Simplifying.  My daughter was diagnosed with some special needs and it has been a year of being busier than I ever thought possible.  We were already busy as all families with young children are. Being a two parent working family means running literally sometimes from one place to another.  It means that at the end of the day there is never any time to just relax before you have to get up and do it all over again.  Sometimes I am in a place of joy and confidence as I soar through all that I juggle on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes I let the enemy win, and that joy is hidden and I feel overwhelmed, flattened, tired of tiring to get it all done.

Simplifying my life started in the beginning of the year when I really had no idea that there would be big changes for our family and our schedules. For me it was really about the realization that I wanted more time with my family that I waited so long to have.  This is what simplifying looked like for me:

  • It meant saying no to friends who asked to go out for coffee, dinner, whatever.
  • It meant no more phones at the dinner table or in hand from when I walk in the door until the kids go to bed. If I am on the phone with someone, when I pull into the driveway I get off the phone. This is time for my kids, the precious little hour as a family of 4 and 2 hours as a family of 3 per day. I will not let go of that for any reason.
  • It meant getting rid of a lot of stuff in my house to make room for the stuff that really mattered. I really don’t own any grown up books anymore because I don’t have time to read them and I need the space for my kids’ books.
  • It meant cooking meals ahead and freezing them.
  • It meant finding ways to spend time together as a family without spending a lot of money. The zoo membership and other experience gifts we gave and received helped with this step. We go to the zoo usually about once a month after church and can be home for nap.
  • It also meant learning to ignore things…gasp! Yes, learning that if there are still dishes in the sink or no clean laundry or a burned out light bulb that sometimes my husband and I still collapsed on the couch for a half an hour or an hour and watched a show on Netflix. Because really this leads into my next step…
  • Self-care. It meant learning to start taking care of ourselves better so that we can take better care of our children. I’ve had to fight a lot of battles to get my daughter what she needs. I loathe confrontation and consider myself pretty resourceful, but fighting against a broken system to get help and answers for my daughter has taken more than I have to give. I have never lost my patience on the phone so much as I have this year with people who quite frankly don’t want to help or don’t really care. On a regular basis all I can muster to say reaching out in desperate prayer is, “Jesus!”
  • For my husband, it meant taking a pay cut to leave a company of 20 + years to make a quality of life switch to a job with much less stress and incredible health insurance. Well, that’s a raise in itself! Going back to self-care, that also allowed him and me to afford to take care of some health problems our old terrible insurance didn’t cover. Taking the time to go to the doctor and physical therapy was tough, but meant self-care for a greater goal.
  • It also meant taking a step back from saying yes and starting to say no when people asked me to volunteer for things. I stopped feeling guilty for saying no as well. I knew that my largest cause, for lack of a better word, is my family.
  • It unfortunately also meant not traveling to see family as much as we would like to.

On the whole, it also meant not being the greatest friend or extended family member, making people mad at me, disappointing others, and coming across as cold or uncaring. But honestly, it was the best thing I could have done in preparation for what was to come our way as a family. I am an open person and have always tried to share what I was going through good or bad with others. Over the years, I have seen that this has been a way I can help and encourage others, from our struggle with infertility, to the adoption journey, to building relationships with our children’s birth families, to budgeting and saving money, and on it goes. *The one area that I have had trouble deciding to share on my blog is my daughter’s health.  It isn’t that I don’t want anyone to know her struggles. It is more so that I feel I have an obligation to let her story be her own to share or not to share as she gets older. Being adopted adds another layer to it because so many people assume that my daughter’s health issues must be a result of something her mother did wrong during pregnancy. News flash – they are wrong! This is all had the same odds of happening to her if she was a biological child of mine. But I think it sounds worse when I try not to share.*

It was in March and April that everything came down on us.  I knew for a long time that my daughter had some delays.  I had mentioned them several times to the doctors but it was just too early to declare something was wrong.  At our nine month visit, I brought them up again and I knew when our very easy going doctor who normalizes everything said yes, let’s get them checked out by both Early Intervention and outpatient specialists, that something was wrong.  The next three months were quite a blur of first getting a generally diagnosis of global developmental delays and then getting more specific diagnoses of hypotonia, ligament laxity and muscle weakness. What that is stemming from if anything, has yet to be determined.  If this is isolated and the infantile version and not associated with anything else, then she with lots of therapy may eventually overcome these things. But there are over 18 different special needs associated with hypotonia.  If it were up to me I don’t really care what anyone calls her special needs, my goal is to just help her reach her fullest potential. However, it has been really important to get her checked out by every specialist under the sun so that we can make sure we aren’t missing something.  In the whole scheme of things her needs are what some would call minor, which is of course a matter of perspective. However, on a daily basis they seem major to me and my husband.  Just simply carrying a 28 pound child who cannot hold onto you and who will fall if you don’t support her is exhausting, for example. I say this not in any way to complain, but to show that God knew I needed to simplify in preparation for caring for my daughter.  He knew that I would be running sometimes literally from work to appointments and therapies, 5 hours now 6 of therapies and treatment, trading off children in the parking lot with my husband, spending evenings split as a family between physical therapy and dinner, and all of the other things that go along with this. Simplify.  Yes, simplify.  I really needed to simplify.  The Veterans of America have received many loads from us and more to come in the coming weeks.  But more importantly than cleaning out our house, we have cleaned out the clutter in our mind, bodies and spirits.

This year I felt quietly that my word might be Build. Then sitting in church last week and hearing the pastor speak and mentioning the word build, I knew it was for sure.  I have a strong desire to find the time to build something with my own two hands physically. We desire to move into a fixer upper and build it into our family home.  I am ready to work on building on relationships with others, building on what we started last year and building up my strength to continue to help my family.  I still have to simplify, that will be a constant process.  But I can now build only because I simplified. Sometimes in the quiet moments – ha no quiet moments in most people’s lives – sometimes in the loudness of your everyday life, you have that ah-ha moment that shapes your year. Even if you have to yell out “Jesus” to make it through your day like me sometimes, I encourage you to find your word. You won’t fail like a new year’s resolution because it is a lifestyle change, and is a process, there is no end to it, only a beginning…

Our Children’s Magnets

Someone recently asked me if I adopted through the special needs program or the healthy program. I hesitated as I answered, because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to answer in order to be appropriate, and knowing it wasn’t an appropriate question in the first place. Many of you know that my daughter has some medical needs that we have been working on treating and diagnosing properly. The person asking me this does not know my children or know that I have a child with “special needs.” The first thing that comes to my mind in response to that question now that I couldn’t think of at the time was that ALL children have special needs. I don’t mean to say this to minimize the needs that some of our children have. Instead, what I mean is that each of our children has a different need within their soul that can only be met by you, their parent. It’s a magnet that sometimes sends us in polar opposites if we don’t respond right, but that can also connect us in deep ways we never thought possible when we manage to respond in the right way.

My son is one of those kids who was born to test my limits. Kids memorize our buttons and learn how and when to push them and he is no different. He is that kid who one minute can send me cracking up and rolling on the floor in laughter, but also possesses the same level of passion to push me in the other direction to where I can’t see straight. He knows how to make me cry and his 4.5 year old mind doesn’t possess the ability to stop himself sometimes. He usually is remorseful and throws out the, “I love you’s” immediately afterward trying to undo the damage. Does he have a special need? Well, yes he does, but not in the traditional way. He just needs us as his parents to show him how to grow and mature into a boy with a purpose in life…like every other kid in this world. We’ve been through the gamut of “normal” challenging toddler struggles with this one: hugs that turned into biting friends at school, or say the refusal to wear jeans or eat meat as early as age 2. We actually offer him extra vegetables if he will eat his meat. I asked the pediatrician at what point I should be concerned about the biting and he said, “Never.” Food for thought, right, because my first instinct is to find the problem and try to fix it? But what if there is no real problem except that I can’t get my magnet to work? With the exception of the No good, Horrible, Terrible Very Bad Daycare, he first attended, his teachers have used his spunk for good, and have helped him onto the road to using his power for good not evil. Coming from a special needs and social services background I have been around more children with “special needs” that “typical” children. That being said, I am learning that beyond labels and whether or not your child has one/needs one (topic for another time or place) is the simple fact that you are the magnet your child’s behavior seeks. You are the only person in the world who has the ability to do this. That is why your child is YOUR child. If I find the right side of my magnet, then all is well and my son and daughter will thrive and grow and hopefully eventually figure out how to flip their magnet around to the correct side as well and viola we will connect once in a while. Isn’t that what every parent wishes for their child? I’m not deeming life to be happy ever after with no tantrums, I hate you Mom or you’re the worst parent ever, but let’s hope my theory will minimize these slips of the tongue from our youngins. You are probably already doing this better than me, but at this ah-ha moment for myself, I thought I would share in case someone else needs that little encouragement today.

I will stop and indulge in that contagious laughter because someone said the letter “p” and he thinks they meant it in the potty word sense. I will take a moment to soak in the beauty of simple humor. I will make myself pause, slow down and find a way even when my child pretends he can’t put his own shoes on and I am already standing with 30 pounds of stuff and a 24 pound baby with keys in hand already late for work. I read a lot of books on parenting children from hard places and have been to my share of trainings on this as well. I can tell you that these same techniques work for all kids and all parents. The idea that we cannot take our child’s behavior personally is a harder concept for me than I thought it would have been… probably because I am more tired than I ever thought possible, and when someone told me I would never go to the bathroom in peace again they didn’t tell me I would never watch another movie, and never have a moment just to sit on the couch at the end of the night unless I was ignoring some other chore that needed to get done like say packing lunches or find the dang camp t-shirt that he has to wear tomorrow. I digress… Anyway, when I remember to stop taking the negative behavior as a personal attack on my psyche, I am able to respond in a special way, a way that is catered to the needs of my child and not my needs. I can laugh, make funny noises, talk in a funny voice or sing to redirect, ask him to shake out his grumpiness, and guess what I calm down too.  Yes – I am writing this as really plain self-discovery.

For my sweet daughter, who I don’t yet know what exactly your special need is in a diagnosable or undiagnosable way, I can only promise that I will find it. If it is laughter that you need, I got that one covered. However, my guess your need is different than you brothers. If I need to stand on my head to get your attention, so be it. Now that I am over the initial shock of your medical needs, sometimes your medical needs are easier to address than the emotional needs of your brother, because there is a label you have been given that has a formula for treatment. I can take you to your appointments, and we can work on the homework that the therapists give us, and we can go to every doctor that is recommended and then I see you respond and thrive. That part is straightforward. But your real special needs, the ones that don’t have a name, those personalized emotional needs, your magnet, I’ve not yet discovered. And that is the biggest mountain a parent faces. To find the way to make my magnet connect with yours in a way that doesn’t send either of us in opposite directions. I pray that God gives me the courage to find the way because this path is daunting.

I accidentally, ok it probably was divine intervention not accidentally, but anyway, I accidentally stumbled on a song on You Tube not once but three times in one day when searching out another song to play in the background while I worked. The song is “It Is Well” by Bethel and is a song that spoke to my soul. These words, “Through it all… my eyes are on you and it is well….let go my soul and trust in Him. The wind and the waves still know his name…and this mountain that’s in front of me, will be thrown into the midst of the sea” In my own personal strength my magnet never works. When I ask God to help me, guess what, my magnet starts to work. Sometimes it is my daughter’s needs that break me, and sometimes my son’s, but either way I just gotta trust that God chose these very children to connect with only my magnet and so therefore it can be done. So join me in this crazy adventure and let’s see if we can’t get every child’s magnet to finally work. Because really our children’s special needs are their special strengths and we need them to use them for good not evil. I want nothing more than for my children to find what makes their hearts tick and to find their purpose in life and this is how we start to do that. P.S. I promise I am going to write about something lighter next time!

In Defense of Open Adoption – This might be part 2

When it comes to adoption I often hear: “Do you have to have contact with the birth family?” “Now is this one of those situations where you share her with the birth family?” “You’re better than me, I could never do what you do.” “You’re a saint.” Or my favorite, “I don’t know how you do it.”(Certainly that phrase is a topic for another blog post because it strikes a chord with me)  I’m no saint. I actually fail miserably at this thing called open adoption. To be quite honest, there are days when I’d like to shut my door and stop all communication with our birth families.  Not most days, but certainly some days.  But then again, who can say that family relationships are easy? Have you ever rolled your eyes at a family member, your own “flesh and blood?”  I’ve heard your stories of family drama.

I’m still learning how to do this, and make mistakes all the time. There are times when the husband and I have to give ourselves a pep talks on the way to a visit with our birth mom.  Then we decompress on the way home about the hurtful things she said or the inappropriate way she treated us or our children. But in the end, if I have to soul search I recall something I said once in a job interview.  I was asked why I wanted the job.  I went on to reply that I could see myself doing a lot of different jobs, but when it came down to it, what really mattered to me is that I do something that helps people. That’s how I see open adoption.  I could do just plain do adoption, but when it comes down to it I wouldn’t be helping my kids if I didn’t work at loving their whole family.  This job sort of came to me by accident, a collision of fight and fate in my life that led me to fall in love with a my first child’s birth family that then led me to desire an open adoption with whomever my second child’s birth family would be.  I just felt like I would be losing part of my child if I didn’t have their birth family in our lives.

The long and short of it is, open adoption isn’t easy. It’s not always warm and fuzzy (but sometimes it really is), sometimes it really hurts me. Sometimes it even hurts my kids. But more often I am blessed by open adoption if I choose to change my expectations. Sometimes that blessing comes directly like today when my daughter’s birth grandpa, with tears streaming down his face, thanked us once again for sharing photos and coming for visits even in the midst of trying to diagnose and care for some medical needs our daughter has. He went on to say that he understands what we are going through as parents.  His acknowledgment of our struggles as parents and our efforts to include them in her life validated what we are doing, or at least what we are trying to do. It made me think that sometimes we get it right. Moreover, I was struck but what he said to his daughter, our child’s birth mom, during our visit: “They love her as much as you do.”  That is a phrase I will try to remember on the flipside: Her birth mom loves her as much as we do.  If that is true, and it is, then how should we respond?

Monday: I’m getting ready to head out the door to work while my daughter is raking in Cheerios and blueberries, and my son is busying himself doing exactly the opposite of whatever I ask of him. It’s the typical morning, only it’s not. It’s my daughter’s first birthday. She’s one. Really? She’s one.  I hear the text blurp and note that my daughter’s birth grandmother is saying a package is on the way. To back up a little, I am caught off guard by this because based on a somewhat recent not-so-pleasant phone call with her I got the sense that I would never hear from her again. Without going into detail for the sake of my daughter’s privacy, it was one of those calls that left me feeling so sad and so sick to my stomach. It was a call where I had to say no to her about something, which meant doing the absolutely right thing still left me the bad guy according to her.  Long story short, she had all but told me that she no longer wished to be considered a grandparent of my child, but that she still loved us blah, blah, blah.  Hard conversations ending in a package that arrived simply signed with first names. No longer the addition of a grandparent title on the signature. This is adoption. This is the sad side. This is the side I don’t know how to explain to my children.

Tuesday night: I was just crawling into bed and my phone rang with an out of state number. “Hello?” I said. “Hi baby!” the voice on the other end exclaims.  I’m tired and I want to sleep because my daughter never does and it’s my night to get up with her, but that voice immediately makes me smile. It’s the voice of my son’s birth grandma.  She’s spunky, loud, outgoing, frank, hilarious and why quite obviously a very good combination of my son and myself!  I fell in love with her long before I ever laid eyes on my son.  She adopted me long before my son was born as her “other daughter.” For those that know me personally, having not had a living mom since I was 15, this was no small feat because I don’t let just anyone adopt me.  She notices fatigue in my voice, and says, “You sound tired.” I explain.  We chat casually for a few minutes. She catches me up on the latest news. She is calling in response to a photo I just texted her where I told her that her grandson, my son, insists upon sleeping with the blue bunny she sent in a package at Easter, and that I often have to go searching for it because he claims he cannot sleep without it.  She laughs and says to tell him she’ll send a bunny in every color she can find, and I know she means it. That’s because it’s a connection, any connection, to her grandson, and she loves him madly – just like all of her grandchildren. Except she has had to love him silently from a far for many years out of respect for my son’s birth mom who for a while didn’t want contact, and didn’t want her mom to have contact either.  To have this woman back in my life (I know I still owe you that blog post, but I just haven’t found the right way to explain it yet) is not only a miracle, it’s a gift. I see her in my son every day and know this is how he will be when he is older.  This is family. This is adoption. This is the sad side. This is the happy side. This is the easy side.

Thursday night: I have a headache, and we are scrambling to clean the house and get ready for our visit with Girlfriend’s birth family this weekend.  I get a phone call from my child’s birth mom. She’s calling about the visit, telling me about the birthday cake she ordered and all of the gifts she carefully picked out for our daughter. She’s gone overboard even though we had already agreed on a toy I suggested and another previously decided small sentimental item. She’s animated with the excitement of the visit, where I feel a small dose of anxiety surface. The truth is our visits aren’t easy.  Sometimes she wants to erase my existence because she is still mourning not being able to parent her daughter.  Most of the time, it takes a great deal of energy to enjoy our time together. It pains me to say this because it isn’t how I want to react. I won’t defend myself because I don’t have to.  You’re going to have to trust me that my feelings (again without going into detail blah, blah, blah) are in response to actual inappropriate behaviors and words that transpire during our visits. I can suck it up and pretend our time together is beautiful for the sake of my child’s birth mom and for the sake of my children.  But I struggle with finding a way to stop her from hurting my children in the meanwhile. How do you tell someone that they are hurtful when they don’t see it, when they cannot see it, when they will not ever see it? This is adoption. This is the confusing side. This is the sad side. This is the side I want to be happy.

I sit her typing while my daughter plays on the floor over an hour after her bedtime, and my husband is half asleep on the floor next to her. She’s refusing to sleep and after an hour fight we’ve given ourselves a break even though it’s against our better judgment. So here she sits playing away. It’s been a weird day, and it’s looking like it will be another long night. But when I go to bed tonight I will answer the text message from my child’s birth mom with grace that I actually feel tonight.  When she says that she had a great time etc. I will tell that we did to and that we are so glad she did.  And it will be the truth. At least for today.  And that’s all I can promise or hope for.  I don’t know how to do open adoption. I don’t know how I do it. I don’t do it sometimes. But on a day like today, when I ignored the hurtful statements and the mixed messages, I actually did have a good time, and in doing so I helped my children, their birth family and myself. If I close my door and shut them out, I will lose part of my children and in the end I will lose part of myself.

This year we will get on a plane and fly out to see my son’s grandma for this first time since he was 7 days old.  I will introduce him to his half-brother, and watch them terrorize the neighborhood together. We will cry tears of joy over this reunion.  I will easily have a good time. Grandma will joke with my husband, who she also adores.  I will get called Baby a hundred times.  We will feel fully part of this crazy, loud, strangely fun family. She will be crazy and wild, and I will not care.  My son will eat things he normally isn’t allowed to and probably stay up way too late.  I will romanticize all of this in my head whether it is true or not.  And I will dream that one day we will have a glimpse of the ease of this relationship with other members of my children’s birth families. I will remember that this could all be invisible to me if we didn’t have an open adoption.  This is adoption. This is the happy side. This is the hard side. This is the easy side. This is adoption. We will get this right, or we will die trying.

Crown Me Mama has been crowned again! – how we were chosen by a birth mom and had an unexpected twist in our adoption

My last post was April 23 just a couple of days before life changed once again. We got THE CALL on a Friday at exactly noon. I was sitting at my desk at work just as I was for our son’s match. My heart beat so fast as I almost couldn’t answer the phone because I was shaking so much when I saw my adoption agency’s number on the caller I.D. This is the call we had been waiting for. The one where we expected to be told we were chosen and then given the details of who, what, and when. It seemed like a lifetime while I waited for the adoption coordinator to get my husband on the line as well. Just like that I went from a 10 to a 1 in excitement. It felt like there had been some mistake. Our coordinator was saying we actually weren’t being automatically matched, that we actually had to let the agency know if we wanted to proceed. We just weren’t expecting this. It wasn’t actually a warm fuzzy call that we had hoped for. Instead of an automatic match we were told that a birth mom chose us, desperately wanted our family, and insisted that no one else would do for her child, but that it didn’t match our profile for 5 or so different reasons. Therefore, we would have 48 hours to decide if we wanted to accept the match with her.

There was a bit more thinking and praying involved in the situation we were presented with than we expected. Without sharing personal details (and we do this with our children to protect their stories and allow them to tell them if they want to when they are older) there are many items that you decide on prior to match that make it so you are only shown to birth moms that match your criteria. Some of those things include your budget: how much many you have to spend (or borrow), and things like where the birth mom is located: because of legal ramifications and things like that. Those were some of the things that didn’t match with us in addition to a few others. However, our agency didn’t present us to this mom, but our profile could be seen on the internet by anyone. And out of all of the families looking to adopt in the world, she wanted us, and somehow was led to our profile at our particular agency. That is both flattering and nerve-wracking all at once. You have heard me say time and time again that I am a woman of faith in God. I don’t believe that my son is my son by accident. I don’t believe in just drifting aimlessly through life. I don’t believe that we have infertility because of anything we did wrong. I believe rather that our family has infertility because there were children that could simply not come from our biology that were destined to be in our very family. (this is not the reason for all people with infertity obviously those reasons differ) So, all through this process my husband and I have prayed every night that God would help the right birth family find us. I don’t think we quite understood the depth of those prayers. We did however, keep coming back to this prayer when we were considering the situation. There just seemed like so many obstacles in our way and so many things that woudl be more complicated legally and financially if we moved forward.

How did we decide? It came down to this – We knew we would regret it the rest of our lives if we said no. We just simply couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t say yes. We needed to say yes. We had to say yes. We said yes!

As soon as we said yes, all the joy we had hoped to feel when matched poured into our lives! We had just several weeks to prepare for our daughter’s arrival (oh, yes, by the way, she was a she. We had said we were open to either gender). We spent those weeks nesting and running back and forth to visit our daughter’s birth family and start building a relationship with them. I say all this not to make our story sound negative or overwhelming, but rather just the opposite. Here it is just a few months since my last post and I have been crowned a Mama again. That’s just crazy. In a matter of months we went from still waiting to be matched, to being matched, receiving the placement and finalizing our adoption. Lickity split just like that we went from waiting and wanting to home and happy. Expect the unexpected in life. Prepare to be flexible in the adoption process, and certainly prepare to be wowed when it all falls into place in the end.
I won’t say that this family is done, even thought that is how I know we feel. It has been over a 9 year journey to build this family, and certainly we are ready to be done with the baby chase. I will instead say that I am done and if God chooses to bring another child into our family, he’d better just drop him or her off on our doorstep. I am grateful for the Mama God has made me and for the beautiful son and daughter he has given me. I might just have to pinch myself now and then to believe that all my dreams really came true.