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.
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