Friday, December 31, 2010

Of late, I have come to the realization that my children are going to read this blog. In fact, sometimes Toby reads it over my shoulder and drives me NUTS. "What does precocious mean?"

Anyway, I expect some grief from an awkward preteen Brynn about this one.

My mom is staying with us for a few months, and has taken on potty-training Brynn as her most ambitious goal, second only to getting the kitchen floor clean. Either one of those things would send me into a joyous frenzy, but honestly, the potty training is the stuff of dreams.

I've tried, you know. God knows I've tried. To my memory, this is the 5th or 6th serious attempt. It always starts with her showing a vague interest on her own, which thrills me, and so I go and buy potty seats and little training pants and princess wipes and such, and she kills it for a day. Then she decides to take a more casual approach, and stop by the bathroom immediately after she technically needs to have been there.

I once continued a campaign for 3 weeks. In my mind, I thought eventually it would kick in and she'd get it. I refused to put her in a diaper. After 3 weeks, I quit. I quit with a vengeance.

So Mama comes and she has strategies, involving guilt and peer pressure and eternal vigilance. I threw in a bribe of a ballerina music box, which Brynn won after several days of no accidents. Since she got the music box, things have gone downhill. I repo'd the music box. Now she thinks it works like she can get the box back every success, and then just trade it in for the luxury of an accident. This kid.

She is smart. Really, really smart, so it's not about intelligence, or her prematurity. I don't know what it is, but somehow, we are going to win this one. OR, we will quit and wait for her preteen friends to SHAME her into it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Last week I drove to a doctor's appointment that was in November. In my defense, I did get the DAY right. I just happened to be 30 days late. They aren't terribly flexible about dates, these doctors.

I also forgot to pay the bills. We were rich for a few days, there, before I remembered. I have run across text messages that are days old, emails I thought I answered.

Today I took R2 to an Endocrine appointment that was an Ophthalmology appointment. Luckily, they were in the same building and I was 20 minutes early, since I had forgotten what time his appointment was.

I write extensive grocery lists and leave them at home. I often find myself in a room, wondering why I am there. I lose my phone multiple times every day. I write reminders on scraps of paper and throw them away.

I've always relied heavily on my memory, doing all our bookkeeping in my head and just remembering appointments, even when R2 was going multiple times a week.

I think something just broke. Is it being 32? Is it the 4th kid? Is it the not sleeping thing? I don't know, or at least I can't remember.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last night I picked up my 4 year old for the last time. In deep sleep, his weight pulled at my arms and made me stumble a little. His arms wrapped sleepily around my neck, and his long legs hung down past my sides. I laid him in his bed, surprised at the leanness of his features. Where did the baby fat go? His long eyelashes drifting over flushed cheeks are the only remnant of the baby that changed me.

Today, he is 5, and 5 is different, you know. I've already begun to feel the separation as he watches and emulates his dad, instead of me. He is becoming a man, and the process will take about another decade and a half.

Oh, I prayed for him. I laid in a bed for 17 weeks and hoped beyond hope that he would wait to be born, and that he would stay with me. And then, he was. I don't think I put him down for months. He slept, wrapped in my arms, my dream baby. Then he got brave and independent and busy busy, and I marveled at every milestone.

Many mornings, he climbs in my bed and tells me how much he loves me. Other days, he asks me questions about God that make my head spin, and more questions and more. His heart is soft, and it's easy to hurt his feelings. I know him and I'm learning him.

He still cries a lot, and I find myself demanding that he "act like a big boy", all the while telling myself to shut up because this is IT, this is the last baby thing and I should just hold him every time he cries, because very, very soon I won't be able to pick him up anymore.

Happy birthday to my baby boy, my 4th son. You are always, and ever a joy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm going to type this as quickly as I can, because Sir Tristan the Valiant doesn't sleep much, and is not such the fan of alone time.

We finalized Tristan's adoption on Monday. What that means is, it's done. All the legal work and risk periods and such are over, and he is now legally our son. Also, his name is legally changed to ours and we are put as his parents on his birth certificate. (not sure how I feel about that one)

The hearing was at 3, so we had an early lunch and then put everybody down for quiet time, and started assembling outfits. I found a couple of dress shirts, one suit jacket, one clip-on tie. Everything was a little bit too small, or had something wrong with it, but I figured it was at least a nod at dressing up... Once I started dressing them, there was much excitement in the land. Brynn thought we were going back to Hannah's wedding, and Toby had a LOT of questions about judges. They turned the volume level up to eleven and eventually the subject, heretofore known as Tristan Clark, eventually woke up and decided he was starving and had NO intention of sitting in a carseat while I spit-bathed his siblings and tried to convince them to stop hanging on my arm like a monkey so I could get their tights on for goodness sake.

Eventually, they were all basically dressed and ready, except for the MOG, who was mixing his CD in the basement with fierce dedication to his craft, to be interrupted by no man, or toddler. He strolled up at 2:30 in his white t-shirt and skinny jeans. "What?" he says. "I thought I looked pretty nice."

All of us, including my mom, piled into our minivan, aka the McDonald's dumpster, and drifted into traffic. We were running late, the baby was panicking and the GPS was not aware of a courthouse. (Side Note: if Apple ever makes a stand-alone GPS, I will pay any price, because it will be SMART)

If anybody had asked Tristan at that moment if he was cool with staying with this family FOREVER, it might have been iffy. We made it to court, and all the medium-smalls sat with Grandma while the teeny-small came up with us to the front part, heretefore called the judgy-microphone-table-thingy.

There was quite a bit of legal talk between our attorney and the judge and the social worker, while the MOG and I sat too close to a microphone to say any of our good jokes. Once it was our turn to be interviewed by our lawyer, Tristan woke up and showed the utmost disrespect to the court, but no one knew but me, because I could smell it. Upon his protest, he was whisked away by Grandma to the hall, and we said we'd take care of him, and we knew adoption was permanent, and so on, and then His Honor signed papers and we took a picture and went downstairs to file paperwork. So.

It's done, and I'm glad. He's been my baby since 5 minutes after he was born, but it feels good to give him our name. It's strange, too, because it feels different, looking at him and knowing he's permanent. I wouldn't have thought it would. We are so blessed to be his parents.

Susan met us at the van on the way out with bags and bags of Christmas presents from the birthfamily for him and the other kids. What an amazing journey we're walking out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Making traditions is more of a challenge than one might think. I have these ideas, you know, of sitting around a fire stringing popcorn with the MOG and kids, carols playing softly in the background. Gingerbread houses and making gifts for the neighbors...

I think it’s harder for lazy tired people to make traditions, because you have to do them every year. So far, these are some of our traditions.

• Get out the Christmas box on or around December 1st. Put up Dancing Santa. Dancing Santa unplugged and abducted by small people. Realize most of our Christmas stuff is broken, go to dollar store and purchase more. Lament our lack of sentimental/homemade ornaments. Toy with the idea of buying or making clay and handcrafting ornaments with the kids. Get tired.

• Get a tree. Eventually. Put it up crooked. Make plans to straighten it.

• Eggnog! This one we have managed to do every year. High achievers, we.

• Look everywhere for giant mound of Christmas lights, then buy more. Upon opening new boxes, find box with 14 years worth of previously purchased lights.

• Buy outdoor lights. Plan for outdoor decorating. Get tired. Lose lights.

• Spontaneously decide to make Christmas cookies with kids. Initial excitement fades as we realize most of the ingredients are missing. Purchase ingredients. Begin cookie making at dinner time, to the sound of acute emotional crisis in preschoolers. Crisis averted by consumption of large amounts of powdered sugar. Break up fights over cookie cutters. Remember we have 2 of every cookie cutter, because of this. Redistribute wealth. Finish cookies past bedtime, send sugar-high kids to bed and close the door. Try not to wince at the crashing sounds. Eat too many cookies while kids are “sleeping”. (I think we’ve pulled this one off twice, so, tradition.)

• Continually remind myself that these are memories, darn it, and they will recount to their children how I yelled at everyone and threatened not to get them any toys, ever, if they kept waving their spoon in a threatening manner at their sister. Remember, and put on a smile and Mr. Roger's voice.

This year is so special, with Tristan being here and the "big kids" being so aware of everything going on. I feel so blessed. It's going to be a very Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's been one year since my friend Melissa died. I thought it would be fitting to run this one again. Original post here. It still seems surreal that she's gone.

My childhood friend died today. We were part of a group of comrades from kindergarten until about 10th grade, when life changes, with boyfriends and adulthood sneaking in and pulling us apart.

She was always the beauty, with her black curls springing out like unsuppressed laughter, and her long fingernails, the envy of us all. Around 4th grade, she started wearing her hair in the tightest possible ponytails, smashing the curls down with gel and water, then wrestling it into her control and holding all together with a scrunchie that matched our garish green plaid uniforms. I would argue, fight for the freedom of that glorious hair, but nobody told Melissa what to do.

We linked arms and ran across playgrounds. We gathered in groups of awkward arms and legs, sprawling across pink blankets, eating popcorn in the middle of the night, and laughing. Oh, she laughed. Early on, it was ungainly, childish chuckles, coming from her middle and spilling out the wide smile she tried to hide. Later, it was more controlled with its metal boundaries and self-conscious awareness. But always, laughing.

We lost touch, changed paths. We found each other again in recent years, sharing the weight of years of gain and loss, and I reveled in seeing her smile break across the smudged screen of my computer. She was always the beauty.

I called you birdleg
You called me nerd

And life, and life, and life

Husbands and children
Love and loss
The threads of childhood always
Holding us tenuously together

Oh, beauty
I hope your hair is loose
Laugh loud, so we can hear you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Well. That was a GREAT wedding. We’ve known Hannah for 10 years or something, and she’s been a Radiant for 8 years or so, and then lived with us for the last 2 years… all my numbers might be off, but you get the gist. Our friendship is too legit to quit.

When she asked me to be a bridesmaid, I was so honored and excited to suit up and join the wedding party, because I’m crazy about her and I really wanted to stand beside her on her happiest day.

So the wedding was this weekend, and we drove to Texas with bridesmaid dresses and tiny tuxes crammed in the back window. At the rehearsal, it was revealed that there would be choreography. This may come as a shock to you, but I am not so graceful. In fact, I am a klutz. Luckily it was a pretty simple Celtic skip-thingy, which I still messed up, but the wedding was so noisy and joyful that it didn’t really matter. At least I think it didn’t. Han, if I’m dead to you, let me know. Thanks.
Han has become one of my closest friends, and we have spent YEARS wearing yoga pants together in vans. She was far from Yoga Pant Han on Sunday. She was Totally Wedding Day Han. I mean, gorgeous. She wore a strapless white dress that was so perfect for her and we all wore various bridesmaidy dresses in Marine Blue. Oh, and my hair and makeup were awesome. Somebody said I was Snow White, which I loved because I was Cinderella in Han’s sister (Lindsey’s) wedding. It’s so fun to be fancy.

After the attendants, my kids wandered haphazardly down the way with their ring pillows and flower baskets, and then Han and her dad danced down the aisle. You kinda had to be there… It was so great, such a bright celebration of love and family, and when her dad came to the end of the aisle, he danced around her sort of spontaneously. As a parent, that was so powerful to watch a father rejoice over his child, and to show such pride and honor for her. By the end, she was dancing too, and we were all crying and cheering.

It was a beautiful, light day, a covenant-honoring and covenant-making day. When they left, they ran through a tunnel of their friends and family ringing tiny bells and singing “Gloria in excelsis deo”, which, as far as I could tell from armpit height in the middle of a large crowd, was a totally spontaneous song choice.

I am so proud of Hannah, and so thrilled that she found JM, who could not be more perfect for her. It was a honor to be a part of their wedding. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Richy and I have a lot of road trips in our history. In the early days we traveled with Praise Band, which became Found, which became Radiant Worship. We have traversed most of the States via van, with a trailer full of musical gear. These days we travel by minivan with a wide selection of baby equipment and large amounts of popcorn and trail mix in baggies.

Some things stay the same. I see a road trip as a perfect opportunity to improve our marriage. He sees a trip as a task to be blazed through, as quickly and loudly as possible. I'm lucky he has a miniature bladder, or we might never stop at all. 

Conflict is maximized in the confines of a vehicle for 12+ hours. I like to discuss our relationship after I miss exits or hit traffic cones, because those are emotionally heightened times. Our hearts are on our sleeves, so to speak, when the MOG is awakened from a nap as I cross 4 lanes, pseudo-cursing. This kind of opportunity to talk about our feelings can't be ignored, and no topic is off limits. 

These intense fellowships are typically followed by times of personal reflection, where we put earbuds in and stare darkly out into the night. 

Usually, the brief period of contemplation is broken by a need to eat, which restores high spirits all around. With my confidence in the strength of our union complete, we can then celebrate by plugging in the MOGs iPod and rocking to obscure British bands with the occasional pan-pipe soliloquy from a Target cd thrown in and preschoolers yelling things like "Mom! MOMMOMOM!!!!!! ......uh, does pretend cats likes dog food?" 

This is the life. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

We're driving "home" this weekend for a Radiant wedding. Really, home is wherever we are, together, so technically home is this minivan. But also, home is where your mama is, so that's Texas for a few more days. Then my mama will come and live with us for a few months, so that will make it very homey. 

Typically, I get all maudlin about being in Texas and belonging but not belonging, but I don't have time for that this weekend. We'll be swooping in, suiting up in formal gear, crying a tiny tear or two, and then swooping back to KC. 

Currently, I have convinced the MOG to give my eardrums a break and so the van is relatively quiet, due in part to my wearing decoy earbuds so all the mini-people think I can't hear them. 

We've made this drive a lot, and it seems to get longer every time. This is Tristan's first trip... so far he's mostly slept, with one pull over to the shoulder and feed me NOW demand. 

I'm typing this on my phone, so great is my dedication.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nutrition is so important. Kids today are eating so much sugar and fat and preservatives, and who doesn't have a 4 year old Happy Meal cheeseburger not rotting in a lunchbox? Balanced meals are more valuable than ever. That's why I feed my kids something every day. I buy food at the store and I give it to them, because they are hungry all the time. 

A key to knowing when your children are hungry: when the sporadic violence becomes consistent, it is time to feed them. A tool for making meals justifiable is relativism. If you, like me, live in a community where 23 year old mothers of 4 bake fresh bread from stone ground barley flour every morning and homemade yogurt with flax berries or something for snacks, then you have to maintain perspective. The goal is fullness. I want them to be so full that they cease screaming and live productive lives. Another goal is ease. Sometimes, most of the time, I don't feel like standing up and chopping vegetables. Maybe my dream kitchen will have a sit-down workspace, so I can get up to 400 pounds while I cook. Anyway, that's why I can look at a frozen pizza and think cheese, meat, protein. Total win for me! Hey, some moms feed their kids Coke in their bottles! Relativism.

I went through a brief phase where I was making chicken or fish every day, and reading ingredients and steaming vegetables and such. That was a productive few weeks, and I might do that again someday. In the meantime, McDonald's has meat and cheese! Hey, some moms beat their kids. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I know, I haven't posted in days and now I'm throwing you a rerun. Hey, just be thankful you get a blog at all. Some children in Africa would LOVE to have a blog to read, or something. I might get my brain together any minute now and write some new stuff... or maybe I'll sleep.

Original posting: I take on Proverbs 31

That Proverbs 31 chick has always gotten on my nerves. I mean, sure, sure, when I get to heaven maybe she'll be so great and I'll be like, Oh, I'm so sorry I dissed you on my blog! But this is not that day.

13 She selects cotton, primarily, and Elmo underpants, and works with eager relatively cheerful hands, because the laundry room is in the basement, and if she can just get it over with, then she won’t have to hear, “I'm gonna look like a homeless man leading worship, or, where are my UNDEEEEEEEEZ I can't FIND them”.

14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar, because Wal-Mart is like, 15 miles away or something, and parking is a nightmare.

15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food iPhone games (while she snags another 15 minutes) for her family 
and portions for her servant girls. Wait just a darn minute….

16 She considers a chair and buys it at the thrift store; out of her savings she buys a Coke from Sonic.

17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. Then she wakes up and thinks, MAN. I need to get to the Y, soon.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable, when she offers a broken ipod for her iphone and the 2 year old falls for it, and her lamp does not go out at night, because that is the time when she gets to read a novel without anybody sticking their diaper in her face and requesting a change.

19 In her hand she holds the wipes and grasps the elbow of the naked fugitive with her fingers.

20 She opens her futon to the poor and extends her beans and rice to the needy.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are indoors with the heater blasting. She does not go outdoors when it is cold.

22 She makes coverings for her bed; because all the comforters have been peed on, and she has to gather many, many baby blankets to cover the square footage. She is clothed in fine linen and purple, or denim and black with accents of snot and flour, generally.

23 Her husband is respected out on the porch, where he takes his seat among various angelic beings. His respectors yell at him through the window, “See me? See, see me? I’m a CALLIPILLAR ON THE WINDOW! SEE ME?”

24 She makes linen garments and chunks them, as her sewing is pretty weak, and supplies the merchants with donations of shoes that were a noble idea, but not her thing, really.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (I didn’t change this one, I like it too much)

26 She speaks with wisdom a percentage of the time, for example, "If you run away from me at Wal-mart, then you will get smashed by a cart and probably bleed", and snark is usually on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household, after she sprays the children with Off and pushes them out the back door, she watches the affairs of her household from the window and does not eat the bread of idleness, unless you count Facebook as idleness. Hey, shut it.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed at 6 o clock in the morning; her husband also, and he praises her: although his praise tends to be a little on the risqué side….

29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all, or a couple at least. Good effort!"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cross-posted at Moral Outcry

As we’ve walked through the adoption process, 2 topics tend to weigh heavily on people’s minds, money and openness.

There are a lot of misconceptions about open adoption, helped along by TV and movies, and the occasional horror story given lots of airtime on the news. Think about that for a minute. Would you watch a story about a basic, smooth adoption with no real crises or snags? Most people wouldn’t. Just like you wouldn’t call the Better Business Bureau to report an excellent online transaction. We humans like to complain.

So, open adoption. It can range from semi-open, which usually means cards, letters, or pictures passed through a third party like an attorney or agency, to fully open, where both parties know each others last names, and meet in person on occasion, to any variance in between those.

We initially were more comfortable with the idea of semi open. When Tristan’s birthparents asked to meet us, prior to his birth, we adjusted to that idea, and spent a few hours with them. Once we were face to face, everything changed. These were real people, real parents trying to make the best decision for their child. In reality, we fell in love with them.

I went into that meeting armed with some understanding of a couple of things that matter to women making adoption plans for their children:

1) Post-adoption, they want to know the baby is okay. They want to see he is accepted and loved and safe.

That doesn’t mean they want weekly updates, or they want to watch your house from the street. It means, simply, that the child they kept alive for 9 months+ still matters to them, and it makes them feel like they made the right decision when they see a picture of him in his new family.

2) They want his name, his birthname to be honored, to some degree.

That doesn’t mean they want to be in control of what you call him. It does mean they want to give him the gift of a name; that he matters enough to them to call him by name.

No adoption is the same, and so every one will have different elements that matter, different traditions. For us, we met Tristan’s birthparents and extended family for our initial meeting, and then later on I went to an ultrasound and to lunch with them, and brought my preschoolers. There were awkward moments, and more than once I felt like a predator looming over her womb, but I know for their family, it was healing to see us, to know us and to imagine the future, their child with us.

Next, we met at the hospital, were in the delivery room until the real birthing began, and then spent 2 more days together, meeting in NICU hallways and getting to know their extended family and friends. Our ongoing relationship will develop with time. Currently we email and text infrequently, and I post cute pictures on a blog I’ve set up for them. We plan on meeting again, in person, at some time in the future.

I’ll write more about this, but this is already a long entry. In the meantime, tell me: what are some questions/concerns you have about open adoption?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When we started the process of adopting Tristan, we were pretty intimidated by the idea of a fully open adoption. I knew from a lot of reading that openness is becoming the norm, and that there's a spectrum of openness, from exchanging letters or pictures through a third party to actual in person visits before and after the baby's birth.

There's no "normal", necessarily, because no 2 adoptions will be the same. If you're in the process of adopting, you would be wise to develop a very flexible attitude, about everything.

We were tentatively matched 3 or 4 times before we met Tristan's birthfamily. We met one other expectant mom in person, and she decided to parent her baby. So when we got the call about Tristan, we had settled into a wait-and-see mentality, just because that's the nature of this stuff. You're dealing with real people, their lives and emotions, and their children. It's reasonable that they would be invested in who they are choosing to parent their child forever.

I'm no expert, I'm new to all this... but I can tell you this much. Women who choose adoption for their babies love their babies. So for us, once we met Tristan's birthfamily, it was not a struggle to love them, and to want to find ways to make their tremendous sacrifice easier.

I'll keep talking about open adoption, because it's fascinating to me, and this is my blog, after all. I just can't talk about it any more tonight, because it's taken me 6 hours to write this entry, due to certain people who have decided they prefer to never be put down, ever, even when they are sleeping. So more later, Lord and Tristan willin.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I forgot about sleep. Well, really, I forgot about the lack of sleep. I talked myself through it months ago... "Listen, self. In a few months, there will be a baby, and you will never sleep at all, and you will feel like you're going insane and maybe you need a divorce or at least a facelift and you will ask yourself where have all the flowers gone, but it will be because of NOT SLEEPING, so tell yourself to take it easy on yourself for a few months, and then it will get easier." That's a little glimpse into a veteran parent self pep-talk.

Despite my prep work, I forgot. Tristan sleeps 2 or 3 hours at a time, sometimes even more. Some of my other children ate every hour and a half, so this seems reasonable. And there I am, awake in the middle of the night, over and over, checking to see if anybody else is awake on Facebook and feeling okay. Really, in the middle of the night I feel like, no big deal, I'm awake now, I will be awake in 3 hours and then I will be awake all day, and it won't be hard.

Then, at 7 am-ish, the other children come, with their sagging diapers and burning questions about the nature of God and eating habits of beavers, and demands for cereal. Lately, they've given up hope and started eating cheese sticks until some adult staggers downstairs. I lay there, with the baby now sleeping soundly and peacefully, and think, wow. This is gonna be tired.

I remember being mad, when the other kids were babies. Being awake made me angry. I don't so much have that, this time. I just have denial. I feel fine, I tell myself. Totally normal. And then I find myself standing in front of the pantry, thinking. For a long time. And I could eat crackers, but they're just so much work. Or I assess Toby, wearing jeans that are 2 sizes and 6 inches too small with a t-shirt and a pinstriped blazer, and shoes with no socks. It's 34 degrees, I think, but that is kind of a jacket. Okay, that looks fine. I start sentences and can't

I'm tired. I'm trying to be normal and write blogs and cook food, but it is so tired. It is so very worth it, and so very tired.

Monday, November 29, 2010

If you're new around here, you might not know that I am a celebrator, married to a non-celebrator, when it comes to Christmas. He celebrates plenty when his new multi-channel snake with titanium overlays or banana clips or something comes via UPS. He celebrates when he, in a continual pursuit of studio excellence, finds a faux snare that sounds like a Europop band in his digital setup. But the birth of our LORD, not so much.

As a child, I would begin preliminary drafts of my Christmas list in August. My dad and I would get the tree as soon as Thanksgiving was over and the check wouldn't bounce. Once the MOG and I started dating, we pulled him into all the holiday customs, with the eggnog and the cinnamon rolls and the utter disdain for artificial trees, and the chopping trees down at a tree farm and so on. He would come along, because he liked us and me, specifically. It wasn't until we were married a few years that I figured out his secret. He wasn't that into Christmas.

Would I have married him, knowing that? Well, yes. I broke up with him for bankrupting my dad at Monopoly, but honestly, I was hooked on the guy and accepted his lame apology for that, so I doubt anything would have swayed me.

A few years ago, somewhere around the time that our radio station started playing Christmas carols from Thanksgiving day through New Years, he threw down an ultimatum. Christmas could not begin prior to December 1st. I, being all kinds of submissive, accepted. Then I stepped it UP as soon as December came around. All carols, all the time. Homemade cinnamon potpourri. Christmas lights inside and outside. The tallest, fattest tree I could find, covered in lights and tinsel. A 2 foot dancing Santa, singing Jingle Bell Rock and gyrating on the mantle.

Then Toby happened. Toby is all about celebration. He wakes up screaming with excitement for Valentine's Day. "A special EVENT! It's a special EVENT TODAY!!" He has no idea of the mythological elements of Santa Claus, just that he is the Christmas guy and anything that has to do with Christmas is SO EXCITING.  Brynn is following in his footsteps, cheering the female (?) Santa at McDonald's and singing songs about snowmen...The MOG is weakening. He let us buy outdoor lights at Target, even with the implication that he would be putting them up. And when we found an all-Christmas station the day after Thanksgiving, he let it stay. "FELIZ NAVIDAD!" cry Toby and Brynn. So it begins.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

All babies are strangers. They come to us, with their mysterious knowledge of the womb, disturbed by our bright world of noise and busyness. They carry a stillness that we aren’t familiar with. They cry, and we have to figure out why. Some babies sleep on their backs, some on their tummies. Mine likes to be held, all the time. You never know a new baby. You learn them.

So this one, who I did not carry in my body, is no more or less of a stranger than the ones I delivered. I remember trying to settle in to Toby’s name, trying it on my tongue for days after he was born, seeing if that’s who he was. He wasn’t, not for a little while.

I’m only speaking for myself, but usually when I do that, people say they feel, or felt the same way, and I imagine this is the same. Loving a baby is very easy, even with their demands and their neediness. They need you, and you love them, and then they love you.

In the morning, the sun is finally up and I look over to see two serious blue half-moon eyes looking at me. This world is new to him, and he’s going to teach me all about it. I put my hand on his tiny chest and he curls his whole hand around my finger. I am his, and he is safe. Now we begin our day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

In years past, I have waxed poetic about Thanksgiving. We usually celebrate with family, in multiple households. We go a couple of places on Thursday and eat like Americans, and then on the weekend we eat something non-patriotic with Viking Granny, since she's not from here.

This year, we got a baby and stayed in Missouri for Thanksgiving. I got homesick and cried on Wednesday, but Thursday, I was busy eating. I cooked like a grownup for us and a few friends, and we even ate on real plates. The MOG and I made an executive decision and banned turkey, green beans and cranberry sauce, because we don't like them.

It was one of those beautiful, sleepy days, and I had the realization that we are a family. That we're making traditions and memories that these kids will treasure and maybe even carry on. Who knows, maybe someday turkey will be eradicated from the Clark family lines forever? It's a crazy dream, I know.

Also yesterday, the furnace died. It's being replaced now, but it was 21 degrees last night, so we bundled everybody up and camped out in our room with 3 space heaters. It was sweet going to sleep with all of us in the same space. It was less romantic when they all started waking up and only had the one room to use while getting out their wiggles. The house outside our room is FRIGID. I'm trying to hunker in place, but a trip to the outside world is likely. YIKES.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Moms gotta cope. Some of you might use meth, or salsa dancing. I use a computer. That is, I give my children to a computer, and they play PBS kids or Starfall or what have you for hours, if necessary. In the meantime, I read books and write blogs and even, on occasion, do housework. During certain seasons of my life, I have leaned more heavily than others. It's coping, folks, and it has worked. Until now.

Upon arriving home with my 4th child, the MacMini died. Just kaput. Gave up the ghost. Kicked the proverbial bucket. Now, in its defense, it is very old, and it has been through a lot, like having 3 DVDs shoved in it at one time, having popsicle sticks lodged in the CD drive, and being dropped and vigorously unplugged, as a defensive tactic. It lived a good life.

I, on the other hand, face new challenges. Like most young and neglectful parents, I had intended on setting some boundaries and locking down on computer time really, really soon, just not the first week home with a newborn. I had even expressed to the MOG that I was planning to totally phone it in this week and let them veg, for the sake of my own sleep and sanity.

But no. God in heaven laughed at my plans, and reached out and smote my MacMini. I would be in a crisis of faith, but I'm too tired. The 3 big kids have decided to spend the time formerly given to PBS to me, alternately sitting on me and jumping on my organs, and petting the baby, and reading my text messages over my shoulder with commentary. They've also given themselves to the pursuit of finding their own snacks, and have eaten most of a 72 pack of American cheese slices. They made birthday cards for Liz, using an inkstamp on the paper, the table, and their hands, and decorated their faces with markers. They experimented with pouring a bag of popcorn on the floor and kicking it around. They made "snow" in the sunroom out of a large block of styrofoam, which is evidently impervious to being swept up or vacuumed.

Lucky for them and me, I am not such the housekeeper and find their antics amusing, for the most part, unless those antics involve throwing Hot Wheels cars high into the air in my general direction.

Tomorrow, I think I will give them my laptop and hide under the bed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I tend to view my children's lives through the scope of a future therapist. I've never been to a therapist, personally, but you know, it might have helped a couple of times... But anyway, back to my kids. I try not to say things like, "Quit crying, you're a BOY!" or "You can't wear that, because it looks ugly..." or "No one will want to be your friend if you pick your nose and eat your boogers." I have said all of those things, but I was kicking my mental self in the head at the same time. 

So bringing a new baby home, I've tried to be vigilant about what I did not want to say. Basically anything that would get my kid on a psychiatrist's couch, crying gentle tears and repeating, "Get off the couch, you're shaking the baby...." or "For heaven's sake GO OUT OF THIS ROOM WHILE HE'S SLEEPING..." 

I have failed. Oprah will hold Toby's hand, liquid brown eyes and mutant eyelashes wide. They will put pictures of me up on the big screen, scowling. Chunky women with frosted hair will shake their heads and hold back tears. Brynn's book, "You're Not Getting Anything, This Gift Card Is For the Baby" will set records on the Bestseller lists. 

I think we'll make it. Either I will figure out how to make everybody feel important and loved. More importantly, I will figure out how to feed everyone simultaneously, and before they are falling apart. OR, we will have a reality show. Toss-up. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I have 4 children. So far, I've only had 4 at one time for about an hour. That was a pretty wild hour... I don't see a lot of sleep in my future.

Directly after Tristan turned 3 days old, the little guys arrived at the hotel. They blew into the room like a hurricane, demanding to "see it". To this point Tristan's world had primarily been adults, petting his face and talking softly, occasionally laying hands on him and weeping while quoting Isaiah or whatever. The onslaught of sound that is his siblings came as a surprise, but he handled it well.

Brynn held him for a long time, seeming to have a natural knack for babying. "Lookit his little hands! OOH, look at his little face." Once the boys had a turn holding him, she went and found a pacifier and stood at the ready."When he cries, I will PUT this in." she told us. We had to prevent her several times from forcibly shoving the paci in his mouth.

Toby held him for a minute, and seemed to really like him, and then took a few experimental swipes at him, claiming they were "pats". I tried to intervene and hold Toby, sure that his heart was breaking at being replaced, but he was pretty busy. Later he told me he was ready for our own family to live at our own house. Me too, bud. Me too.

R2 was a little resistant about being given a baby, but he settled in after a little and looked very closely at the squawking bundle of human in his arms.

There's probably a deep psychological edge running here about acceptance and rejection and grace and family loving each other, but there's time for that. For that one night, as chaotic as it was, we were all together, and it was beautiful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

At some point in the future, I will write all about this week, and the journey to Tristan, and all of the emotion and the depth. Not today, though, because I'm tired and I've watched a LOT of TV.

See, the thing is, Tristan is a Kansan. He's grafted into Texas, and we receive him, but he was born in Kansas, and we live in Missouri. So there are all these rules about adopting a baby out of state. The sending state and the receiving state have to both sign documents sending and receiving said baby, and it's all Fed-Ex and government offices and so on, and it takes 7-10 days.

During that time, he can't cross the state line. And this might shock you, but you can't leave kids alone. (Sometimes, when I walk outside to check the mail alone, Toby warns me not to get caught by the police) So I am staying in Kansas with Tristan, in a hotel room. At first, I was like WOOO party about a week vacation from the children that I LOVE, but then I sat in a hotel room with a sleeping baby for 2 days and figured out that babies don't do much. So Tristan and I have settled into a routine of eating every few hours, catching a nap and watching excessive amounts of Everybody Loves Raymond and The Cosby Show.

In the evening, the MOG comes to us and tries to take the remote and watch things about the birth habits of eels, or the history of the AK-47, told by Irish fishermen who survived the Titanic.

But about the baby. He is GREAT. He's so sweet and snuggly, and now that he's figured out there's a difference between sleeping on me and sleeping in his playpen, he has decided his playpen is so passe'. So I have been holding him for most of the day and most of the night, and he has been waving his long fingers and making little faces and in general, being heartbreakingly adorable.

Last night he met his siblings. But that is a story for another day, unless there's something good on TV.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

(Cross-posted at Moral Outcry)

I am sitting in a hotel room with a sleeping newborn. The last 3 days have been such a whirlwind, I can’t think where to begin. So I’ll start with when I met my son in a hallway.

One of the things that plagued me the last few months was the fear of not bonding, not connecting with an adopted baby. What if I saw him and felt nothing? I wondered.

We spent the day in the delivery room with the birthfamily, alternately making conversation and just being. Around 6:30, we decided to grab a sandwich while C (our baby’s mom) slept. By the time we got back with our sandwiches, it was go time. We stood in the hallway, waiting to hear his first cry. And we waited. Finally, the chaos built and then he sang his birth song. Richy and I and Susan, the social worker, were just frozen in the hall, listening to him.

Several minutes later, they whisked him down the hall to the NICU, because he had some issues with his heart that needed to be monitored. We were standing in the hall with his birth grandmas and tried to snap a picture as he passed, when one of his grandmothers called out and stopped the nurses.

To my complete surprise, they stopped everything and put him in my arms. I don’t know if I’m skilled enough to explain what went through my head, my heart in those seconds.
Will I love him?
You are mine, and I am yours.

In a span of seconds, my heart was captured. I don’t know how, or what or why God put it together this way. I just know they handed me a stranger and he was my flesh.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

my kinda 40, or 12
Now, I don't have a lot of vices, at least as far as you know. I could be drinking a 40 right now with a guy in a tux stuffed in the back of my minivan, and you'd have no idea, unless you asked Toby. I'm not. In fact, I have had very few drinks in my life, and I'm good with that. My secret sins all primarily have to do with watching questionable musical television, but that's between me and the Lord and Toby.

All that to say, I was enticed into a wager last night by my mother-in-law. Now, Viking Granny, as you know her, has like 143 grandchildren and is therefore an expert on most things child-related. In the unfolding story of the new baby, she feels cocky and confident that he will arrive at or after November 19th, and will have the exact birthweight of 7 lbs 3 oz. Later, she waffled and changed her bet to November 17th or later, and 7.3 or MORE. Did she get scared? Maybe so. Who knows what makes people waffle... could be weakness, or fear... or something else.

So, dinner at Rancho Grande is going to happen. The question is, who will pay? Will it be me, with my baby born prior to 11/16, weighing less than 7.3? Or will it be the increasingly less confident Viking Granny, with a grandbaby born after 11/17 and weighing in at 7.3 or more? I'll give you this much insider info, he was 6.12 at his ultrasound Tuesday. Shoot! Now I'm waffling. Or AM I?

And what should he be NAMED? Throw in your vote in the comments!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My husband came back today. He was gone for a week, either visiting his other families in New Mexico and Arizona, or rocking out for Jesus. I choose to believe that his band wouldn't be down for 20 hour driving days just to visit Richy's secret kids.

Anyway, he's home today and I have been so, so glad all day that I'm married to a guy I  like so much and that he is in the same city as me. He took an overnight flight to be here this morning since I was pretty much breaking down via baby stress, and I knew the lack of sleep was going to put him out of commission. The MOG has a very delicate time-meter. He is deeply affected by time zone changes and things like Daylight Savings.

Two kinds of people in this world: those who take naps and those who don't. I imagine in some couples, there are 2 nappers, and every day there is a cozy little 15 minute siesta where everyone wakes up cheerful. We are not that couple. For the first 10 years, I fought the nap. "You don't need a nap." I would say sardonically. (what a delicious word) He would argue that indeed, he did need a nap, and then he would go lay down and I would slam cabinets and play music. If this kind of rebellion rocks you to the core, wait a couple years. Marriage makes you happy, and marriage makes you mean.

Eventually, I gave up. I don't fight the nap, and he tries to nap somewhere I won't see. It works. Today, we ran errands for a long time, and also there have been 2 naps. Really, he flew overnight from a different time zone, plus he just got off a tour, and Daylight Savings. For some people, that's like traveling back 30 years in a Delorian, kind of dating your mom, saving the clock tower and then coming back. Exhausting. I expect him to be back to normal by Sunday. Then the baby will come and no one will sleep ever again, at least where I can see them.

In other news: baby presents! (not pictured: the gift card from Randy &Crystal- thanks!!) If you want to send something for the baby, the link is over on upper left sidebar- I'm sure he'll appreciate it when he does things besides sleeping and crying. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dear Brynn:
This is your last week to be the baby, and even in my excitement about your little brother, I’ve got a little lump in my throat thinking about how it might feel to stop being the baby, at least at first.

When I found out I was pregnant with Brynn, Toby was 6 months old. He had blown my mind by being born relatively healthy and then being developmentally on track, not to mention totally capturing my heart, and so I was thrilled to be pregnant and still, in a strange way, resentful of this new baby coming and stealing his thunder so quickly.

No one could have explained to me the way thunder can’t really be stolen. The new baby came in with her daintiness and her drama and totally wrecked us, and still, Toby thundered. And always, in the deepest places, there is such a passion for my R2, with his challenges and his woundedness and his triumph. No one could have explained to me how 3 different children can all individually hold a death-grip on my heart, how taking care of them, loving them, would become as natural as breathing.

The dynamic does change, though. Sometime in the next week, a new little person will become my baby. And my current baby will have to grow up, a little bit.

For the last few days, I’ve been holding her a little bit closer, letting her act like a baby, and trying very, very hard not to tell her to take a hike when she does very, very annoying things. I know these moments are so fleeting, and I'm trying not to waste them.

My girl. My baby. You will always have your place in my heart, even if my lap is taken. Also, there's perks! I’m getting you a GREAT baby.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I saw my baby today. At least, I'm almost positive he's my baby, and I saw him on an ultrasound. He looks beautiful. He has a very cute little nose...

I'm struggling some, here, to embrace the moment and enjoy the ride to this baby. It's so emotionally complicated, and awkward. How do I think of him as mine and embrace the moment without seeming like the predator looming over her uterus? Geez. I have every adoption book known to man and they don't cover the whole predator-vibe. Or the insensitive clown-vibe. I like to kid around, you know? So there's mutual kidding going on with dad and grandma, and part of me is like, hey, that girl is in serious discomfort, plus the whole imminent loss thing, and I'm over here having Comedy Hour... maybe not such a good idea.

I'm trying to play it cool, but I really, really want this baby. Last night, we were sure he was coming. After I got the call, I was shaking so much, and panicking. Everything is ready for him to live here, theoretically, but nothing is really ready for the hospital. I walked in circles for quite a while. We were walking in to the hospital and had enlisted all our helper troops when we got the false alarm message. My hands were still shaking when I woke up after a whopping 20 minutes of sleep.

Had lunch after the ultrasound with both parents and both grandmas. I had Toby and Brynn with me, and I think that helped break the ice, although at the end, Toby was kinda nuts and may have compromised my parenting rep. At least he didn't say anything awful, unless he did it while I was at the buffet, loading his plate with crab puffs, per his demands.

So. There will be a baby, in a few days. And everything is pointing to him being mine. I will take the hint from the universe, and pack a bag full of blue pjs with puppies on them, cause we're hardcore and that's how we roll.
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