Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday, Owen Pete!

My Sweet Owen,

Happy birthday! It’s finally here, after asking almost every day since your brother’s birthday if it was your turn. I’m writing this after having almost a week at home while you recovered from a stomach bug that had you too “sick” to go to school, but not sick enough to change your energy level or attitude. It was wonderful to have that one-on-one time.

You have the sweetest voice, and every time you tell me a story or ask me a question, it’s like music to my ears. I want to record your voice, just like it is, so I can always hear the innocence and the curiosity and capture this time as a “little” boy. You’ve been telling me over and over lately how you’re not “wittle” anymore and “I’m a BIG boy now”. And you certainly are. You’ve always been my quiet one, always been one that prefers your brother find out the answers. He tells your great big stories and you listen, responding with “ok”. But you certainly don’t watch life from the sidelines. And you want mommy in a front row seat – your “watch dis, Mommy” keeps me on my toes!

You are the definition of BOY. You like getting dirty, you prefer playing outside, and you love to play and watch ball. Any kind of ball, really, but you’re pretty convinced you’ll be a basketball player when you grow up like cousin Mason. I can rarely get you to watch more than 15 minutes of a movie (you prefer Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Mickey). You’re a builder, and for your birthday we practically mortgaged the house to get you the magnet tiles you love building with at school. But it’s worth it to watch you create in such a focused way.

You love playing dress up, and you’re still fascinated with big trucks. So the Fireman and Policeman costume you got for Christmas was just perfect. You wave and say hi to all public servants we see at the store or restaurants. And you love seeing their trucks with the lights on.

You’re still an early riser and just about every morning I hear you wake over the monitor. I can hear you stir, and you usually start with a song or talking to your baby or Pooh bear. Then it escalates into a loud, clear “MOMMY! I AWAKE NOW! MOMMY! COME GET ME!”. And, looking for even 10 more minutes I go to get you and bring you under the covers between me and Daddy. And for those 10 minutes you’re the calmest, quiestest, and most loving you’ll be all day. You snuggle in my arms and breathe quietly, and I bury my face in your fine, blonde hair. It doesn’t last long, but I cherish those few minutes before the sun rises more than you’ll ever know.

I didn’t think any little boy could love being with his family more than your brother – but I think you just might. Your favorite thing in the world is to have your “WHOLE famiwy ALL togever”. You’re happiest when surrounded by those your love. Every night we sing “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” and list each member of our family. You never let me forget even one. And you still sing about Great Grandma, even though she went to live with Jesus a few months ago. You tell me you dream about her, and I have a feeling she talks to you that way. When I get sad, you quickly remind me that she’s in Heaven so we don’t need to be sad. I am so thankful for your every day reminders of innocence, dreams, and Heaven.

I love you, Owen Pete. I will always say that you’re the best surprise I ever received. I thank God for giving you, perfect you, to complete our family.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Colton is Four!

My Dearest Colton,

You are FOUR! It's hard to believe you're only just now 4, as you've been quite convinced that you've been 4 for months. It wasn't until the last few weeks that I convinced you that you were still 3...mostly because if you were already 4, you could not have a birthday party. You were READY for your birthday party.

Oh, Colton, how you've grown since this day last year. I think what will stand out to me during the year you were three is your imagination. It exploded this year, and I've spent more nights than I can count pretending to be asleep as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty as I awaited a handsome Prince Charming to kiss me awake. You get lost in fairy tales, wrapped up in stories. You believe wholeheartedly that you are Superman, flying in to rescue your brother or your mommy. I'm never bored.

Your brother would live outside if he could. And you enjoy playing outside, but you will sit cozied up with me under a quilt watching movies, any old movie will do (you prefer "real people" movies). You'll discuss storylines with me, point out all the "naughty" words, and then quote lines from the movie after one viewing...just like your dad.

Your Great-Grandmother has always told people that you never forget a thing. And you don't. You can remember experiences, conversations, names from before you were two years old. You can hear a story one time and detect any change in detail on the retelling...which actually has caused a lot of frustration since half the stories we tell you are made up as we go!

You are, as the saying goes, an old soul. Empathy and curiosity pours from your eyes, reflects in your voice. Your compassion is truly astounding. I will remember so much about 2012. A beautiful year where we took our first family vacation to Destin, FL and watched sunsets on the beach with snow cones and sandcastles; where we got rainboots and took every opportunity to splash in puddles; where you discovered dress-up and learned how to be anything you wanted to be. But, I'll be honest with you, I am still raw from the great loss we endured the last few weeks.

Oh, Colton, we lost your Great-Grandma. I was not all prepared. And you and Owen and Daddy watched as I drove back and forth to Missouri for weeks as she tried to recover from heart surgery. You encouraged me to go and take care of her, just like I take care of you when you are sick. We counted our blessings over Thanksgiving, celebrating with Great-Grandma in the hospital where you made her laugh and squeezed her hand and kissed her tired face. YOU, my darling, YOU healed her heart. You truly made her last few days of life full of joy. She wanted so badly to watch you grow, she had that surgery for you and for Owen.

I was so proud of you at her funeral. You shook hands with most of the people waiting in line to visit our family and to offer condolences. You smiled and hugged and led your brother to each person. My heart soared, and I KNOW that you made her proud, too. You and Owen were the joys of her life and you couldn't have honored her any better.

We have conversations now, Colton. We discuss God, and sharing, and fairness, and friends. Your heart has been hurt by being left out, and you've turned that into being open and inviting to others. We talk about how bad things happen in the world. And you, frankly, scare me a little bit when you ask me to remove the devil and the monsters from your closet. "The devil doesn't belong in this house" you say each night. I pray you will always banish him in this way.

Your favorite thing in the whole world, even before Snow White, is having your "WHOOOOOOOLE family" together. You're happiest when everyone you love is in one room.

I feel so heavy right now, wishing I had written this letter earlier. But, oh my sweet boy, yesterday morning you woke up crying. I tucked you in next to me and you grabbed my hand, nuzzled your head in my neck, and told me how much you love me. You take care of me.

I am thankful for this day, this December 16th, as one of the three best days of my life. And this year, we couldn't be celebrating your birthday at a better time. We're all healing and this gave us something to look forward to. YOU are taking care of your family, at the tender age of four.

We have Santa and Christmas lights and Christmas cookies and presents and hot chocolate to look forward to. Lots of family coming to visit. And then we will welcome in another beautiful year. With you by my side, I can't imagine anything but laughter and joy.

Thank you for being the funniest, spunkiest, kindest, sweetest, most compassionate, and imaginitive boy I've ever know. Happy Birthday, Sugarbear. You're my everything.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Something is Missing

Oh, my. 2012 sure hasn't turned out like I expected.

I lost a huge piece of my heart last week. My beloved grandma waged a valiant battle after heart surgery. We all had so much hope that she would be stronger than ever. But she just grew tired in recovery and her body fought back against her will. She passed away peacefully with my mom and sister at her side. I still can't quite believe she's actually gone.

Our family is forever changed. And though so many wonderful moments have come and gone in this year, it will be marked forever in my history book as the year we were one less. After several years of adding to our family, this year we lost our heart and soul.

I will write more about her, as I heal. When it becomes easier to say "I remember" instead of "I wish".

But I just felt like  my heart aches to mark how I'm feeling right now. How much I miss her voice and laugh and her hugs and her hand in mine. And how much I am dreading the next few weeks. I've never spent Christmas without her, my whole life we've been together.

I am blessed to have had her as long as I did, to carry on with her soulmate, my grandpa. And with two other grandparents. And I have peace in knowing we will meet again, and how much joy there will be when we do. But it doesn't make it any easier to not have her here.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. ~Psalm 116:15"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where are we?

Ai yi yi...left that post up for way too long! Guess I should update with what's been going on since!
  • First, Operation Organization was, in my opinion, a success for me. I did get so many things rearranged and cleaned out. I have a long way to go (like, um, my CLOSET) so I wouldn't say that I followed the program as closely as I should have, but I got a lot done.
  • I know I talked about this before, but after using vinegar/dawn mix to clean my shower, it makes me SO happy. I love walking in there and looking at the shower, love getting in in the morning. I just can't describe how bad it was, and how I felt like I had no control. Doesn't everyone have one area of their home that just gets away from them? also, I've noticed that it makes a difference in the time I spend at home. I get fewer migraines...I think the mildew and soap scum was making me sick. I'm just...if that was the only thing I accomplished that month I'd be thrilled.
  • We also cleaned the outside of our windows for the first time since we moved in...what a HUGE difference it's made in the light coming into our house.
  • Every Sunday we eat donuts before church, and we usually have a stretch of 20-30 minutes between breakfast and church. So we drive a handful of neighborhoods that we love, just to see if any houses are up for sale. Well, this past Sunday we found THE perfect house. it was on a lot we loved, with gorgeous trees and landscaping, in the perfect neighborhood. We were so compelled after looking it up on Zillow that we called and made an appointment that day to see it. We spent over an hour with the homeowner falling in love with this house. I could tell you all about the window seats, the remodeled kitchen, the huge windows in the dining room, the huge bedrooms...but ultimately it wasn't the right timing. We hadn't even thought of putting our house on the market, and we didn't want to jump into anything. Ultimately it made us sit down and go through the projects we want to do on our precious house NOW so that we can enjoy it until the time is right to move. I don't want to buy new carpet for someone else...I want to enjoy it now!
  • As if God was reassuring us about this decision, last night we came home and the boys played until long past their bedtime in the front yard. Our neighbors came out and we gabbed. Other neighbors from 3 houses down came by that we'd never met, and introduced their 3-and-4-year-olds to our kids. The sun was shining, our grass looked greener than ever and we had great company. We love where we live.
  • Also, on the note of the last post...after more than a year of hearing nothing, we got a call from our agency that N (Colt's birthmom) reached out and was requesting pictures. So weird that when i really start thinking about her, wondering about her, praying about her...there she is. She did not want a visit, just wanted pictures and a letter. So I sent it, and included my phone number on there in case she'd lost it.
What's coming up?
  • Well, of course more work travel. It wouldn't be a day that ends in "y" without work travel! In fact, so much piled up on me a few weeks ago that I freaked out. I was slightly tired and emotional. all these trips to the airport and I never get to bring my boys. We needed time away, just the four of us. We needed to be together and have an adventure. So...we booked a vacation!
  • I probably went bigger than I should have, but I didn't go Disney or anything (not that I didn't look, just couldn't afford it on such a short timetable). I know the boys would have been more than fine with going to Great Wolf Lodge, or Branson, or even a hotel down the street with a pool as long as it was nonstop time with Mommy and Daddy. But I wanted to go somewhere special, and they have an obsession with the beach. And airplanes. So, we decided on Destin, FL. It will be Owen's first plane ride, Colt's first that he'll remember, and their first time to the sand and waves. We have a condo right on the beach...just going to relax and have fun and be together. It's what's getting me through the next few tough, long weeks!
  • Other than that, life it ticking along. We're enjoying this incredible, beautiful weather. We're enjoying the funny things Colt is saying, and LOVING having conversations with Owen. We have plans to decorate our master bedroom and I got a new flat screen TV for that room! YAY! No complaints...just loving our present and excited for our future!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grandparents in Open Adoption

I haven't written about adoption in a long time. But I still follow so many blogs of people who have or are planning to adopt. I have such a passion for adoption and the way to support all three members of the "triad" (birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee)

Most of you know we adopted our oldest, Colt, in 2008. We are technically in an open relationship with his birthmother, but we haven't heard from N in a long time. She has a daughter that is Owen's age, but we haven't met her or talked to N since she was born. Among several other things, I think this is probably the primary reason for the silence. Though I don't have any proof, I imagine having a new baby 14 months after placing Colt with us meant a rush of emotions. But we remain open and available when she is ready.

I've followed Heather and the Open Adoption Roundtable for a long time, written a few times when the prompts strike me. But, again, it has been a while. But today's prompt spoke to me. It said write about grandparents. That's all. Grandparents in open adoption.

Last week we met with several couples at our church to talk about how to support and minister to families looking to adopt. It was a refreshing conversation, and honestly we hadn't talked that much about adoption or pieces of our stories in a long time.

One of the things that came up was having people in our church family able to speak about different situations: international adoption, fostering, domestic, grandparents role in adoption, etc. Especially with interracial adoption, it seems that we need more and more grandparents speaking about their experience.

I know when we considered adoption, one of the things that weighed on our hearts was how would our parents react? How would they treat our child? We knew WE would be able to love a child that came to us through adoption, but would that be the case with our parents? Adoption was not just a decision for US, but one that truly involved our whole family. We're so close to our parents and sisters, we needed to be assured they would love this child as we would.

Of course, we had no problems. But as we considered what kind of situation we were open to (open vs. closed; race; exposure to drugs or alcohol; special needs; health issues; etc,) we prayerfully considered each scenario with our entire family on our minds. For us, the role of a grandparent was that important.

Today, one of my greatest joys is to see our boys interact and love on their grandparents and great-grandparents. They have unbridled joy and excitement when they talk to them, see them, or stay with them. Their grandparents don't hesitate to watch them, pitch in when they're sick, read to their classes at school, film Christmas programs, and rock them to sleep. They are an extension of my arms, of John's arms. They are a blessing like none other in our lives.

Same for great-grandparents. My grandmother will take my call every day to hear some silly little story about things one of them has said or done. Where others may half-listen or not share my amusement, she wants to hear everything. Every parent needs someone like that in their life - children are meant to be shared!

I'm so, so thankful for the support our parents showed us when we were choosing adoption. Just recently, Colt began asking about who came from who's belly. I knew that the adoption conversation would be just around the corner. While we've celebrated Gotcha Days, been to our agency's Christmas parties, and read books...he still isn't totally "getting it". We talked to each of our parents individually to let them know that he's talking about birth, and that we would start conversations about N. That they didn't need to be nervous or hesitent to mention her name. They all smiled and seemed fine with it...we're so grateful that they are.

Grandparents also played a huge role on N's side, as well. N was living with her grandmother while she was pregnant, and her grandmother had supported her throughout her pregnancy and decision to choose adoption. We heard about her Grandma from the very first phone call. And we had the outstanding privilege to meet her on several occasions.

We first met her the same time we met N: in the hospital. When we walked into the room that day, her Grandmother saw us and immediately told John "the baby looks just like you". And he does. But she broke the ice, helped make us comfortable. She stroked N's hair as she told us how great N had been during labor, how much pain she'd been in the night before. She talked our ear off about the family tree and how proud she was of N and her sister.

She accompanied N out of the hospital the next day. They came by our room, wheeling the little bed with a sleeping Colt on there. N had tears in her eyes, but she smiled. Her grandmother hugged me so tight and asked us both to take good care of him, that he was so loved. She hugged N's shoulders as they left and said "it's hard, but it's the right decision". She wasn't pushy, she wasn't insistent, she was so caring and supportive. I was so grateful that N had her in her life.

A few months later, we traveled to Grandma's house. We visited there in her living room for several hours, N snuggling on Colt and everyone listening to his happy squeals. Grandmother kept the conversation going, making it easier for us to fit in and for N to come out of her shell. It was a great day and we captured lots of pictures of her holding Colt.

Not long after that we received a call from our caseworker at the agency. N's grandma had passed away. She had several health problems and her time had come. I cried and cried after that call. I cried for N. I cried for Colt. I cried for us.

We've seen N one time since her grandma passed. Between her passing, the birth of a new baby, and a marriage I'm sure N is unsure of how to balance an open adoption relationship. Her grandmother was her rock, her support, her guidance. I KNOW she must miss her. We miss her, too. We miss all that she did for Colt, miss her love for him.

I'm so thankful Colt (and Owen) have always been surrounded by such amazing grandparents.

Operation Organization: Guest/Kids Bath

This time I did not take before pictures, but there really wasn't a lot to be done. Last Thanksgiving I took 3 days off work and deep cleaned my house and organized several spots. The guest/kids bath was one. So really, I just cleaned it (with vinegar - my favorite new cleaning tool!) and moved a few things around. It only took 20 minutes from top to bottom including cleaning the tub and dusting blinds.

A look into the bathroom from the hallway.

A nice, shiny, clean bathtub and bathmat! I cleared out a lot of the toys and put them in baskets above the bath (the frog pod) and in the cabinets. But that car ramp won't fit anywhere else!

One cabinet has extra towels, extra toys, and a basket full of travel size shampoo, body wash, plus lotion and such. The drawer above this has all the hand towels and washcloths we use for bathtime.
Sidenote: I cannot WAIT until my husband gets his act together and decides to touch up the paint on baseboards and on the cabinets in here. The chipped paint is literally driving me crazy. Literally.

LOTS of space under the sink. A few baby towels I can't get rid of, but there was enough room to store the potty chair until Owen is ready to use it. Colt is full-on big boy these days.

Under the other cabinet is extra towels, extra bathmats (you can never have too many of either, especially with young children who get sick). The drawer above this has kids ointments, eye drops, bandaids, etc. Their liquid cough medicines and such are in the kitchen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Operation Organization: Laundry Room

After a week of being exceptionally tired and lazy, yesterday I was hit with an urge to clean and organize. I got two new rooms finished, finished up cleaning our bathroom (floors still needed to be done) AND we changed out our air filters and vacuumed out the bathroom vents. John helped me a lot on this evening, and I was grateful for his involvement!

As I mentioned in the video, there were several "selling points" with this house when we bought it 5 years ago. The laundry room was one of them. Huge, spacious, lots of storage. It's a lot like a mudroom because it's connected to the garage, where we always come in. Our coats are hung here (I didn't get a picture of the coat rack on the wall to the right).

But because it's also a mud room, it's where most of our 'stuff' ends up. Papers from the day, mail, odds and ends, shoes, etc. It is a constant mess. It also houses the only junk drawer in the house...and it's pretty junky. I was both looking forward to cleaning/organizing, also dreading it.

Ugh. Yes. This is typically what it looks like. And clothes are covering up so much of the other mess. Paperwork was everywhere...
THE JUNK DRAWER. Can't find anything in here.
The cabinet above the junk drawer was a mess of cords, checks, and junk. The top shelf was mostly jars and candles, but still needed some work.
This is the game cabinet under the junk drawer.
And, after! Aaaahhhh....nice and clean. Clear. Under control.
The junk drawer. Still a junk drawer, but makes a little more sense. Our small electronics and checks come with such good little boxes. Perfect for organizing the small things like keys, batteries, iphone/pod accessories, and small tools. I know it will get junky again, but I hope to continue to have "places" for things to go.

The upper cabinet is now organized! The top shelf really didn't have much to be cleaned. All my tealights live in Mason jars that are used for various things. Also up top are now small decorations and ornaments that didn't get put away before Christmas decorations went back in the attic. The bottom shelf now has the huge, awkward firesafe, Bibles, and checks/envelopes. Thinking I might start a bill-paying area at some point...
I didn't take a before pic of under the sink cabinet, but it was full of diaper boxes that had bills/junk mail that need to be shredded. My next project is to actually separate the trash from the paper that has personal info and get it shredded so I removed all those boxes. Now, an old laptop box holds all our warranties/manuals, all our flashlights are in one box, and a few other things with no real home ended up here.
Here is the game cabinet, now a true game cabinet! You  can see them all, and on the bottom is a bag of CD's, a CD player, and a humidifier. I KNOW I should get rid of the CDs, especially since we have everything digitally now. I'll get there. Doesn't it look better?! Also, I got rid of those World War II VHS tapes...where did those come from?! Why were we keeping them?!

I did not take pictures of the cabinets above the washer and dryer. One is just our laundry supplies. The other is full of ironing supplies, picture albums and boxes of pictures. It's organized, I assure you. So that's the laundry room transformation... 2 1/2 bags of trash later.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Fairness Factor

So, I have a very real question. For those of you that are married, do you struggle with the "fairness" factor in your relationship? I do. It manifests itself in several ways for me. Primarily, household responsibilities and time to do what I want away from home.

I've recognized this problem of mine for several years now. I'd say it peaked after having kids, and I think that's why it continues to be a struggle for me. Before kids, I could claim household responsibilities (cleaning, mostly) as something I enjoyed and had plenty of time to do. Before kids, John could golf every night of the week and all day Saturday and it meant more TV time for me, or cleaning time, or friend time or shopping time for me.

I very recently may have been guilty of keeping a running tally in my head of the number of days/times/hours that John was away doing what he wanted to do (golf) while I was scrubbing floors/rocking a fussy baby/cleaning up dishes. It was a huge divide in our relationship, and certainly wasn't what I thought parenthood would be like.

The way cheesy story? I prayed about it. And continue to pray about it. And then when I prayed about it, it gave me time to calm down. So praying or just taking a moment to process your thoughts, whatever works for you, it's the best advice I've been able to follow at this point. Because, then I was able to communicate to John calmly. We had open conversation. In fact, when my deep-seeded anger for all things unfair reached it's head, we had really, really tough conversations about it.

He had no idea. He was used to me liking cleaning. He didn't know that it bothered me to be solely responsible for looking after our house. And the more the martyr in me spouted off the gazillion things I did around the house, the more defensive he became. And I was slapped in the face with all kinds of things I hadn't considered. Things he did that I don't even think about.

He cares for the lawn, the cars, the budget. He may not remember or feel responsible for making the kid's well baby checkups, but he makes sure we have the money in our bank account to cover co-pays. He may not think about new meal ideas and grocery shop, but he orders the pizza every time it needs to be ordered (I'm a phone-phone! I hate ordering things on the phone!). He may not dump out the milk in his cereal bowl, but he fixes the garbage disposal any time it acts up.

So, I guess we BOTH work pretty hard. I imagine no matter your situation, whether you are two working parents or one of you stays at home, you have this argument. I don't have an answer for you. Just last night John was asked to go golfing this Saturday and I whipped out "if you think you're golfing this weekend you're'll be working all day next Saturday and golfing all the the next". Luckily, he laughed at me since he knew that was a reaction borne out of the discussion coming up in the car, nowhere for me to go calm down before talking about it. And honestly, the boys get easier and easier to take care of as a single parent on the weekend, so both of us are in better places to "allow" time away.

But I'm curious if anyone else has fights that really come right down to fairness. What do you do to try and get over that? It will never be fair, it's so personal. We've done little things like assign certain chores to John (that I nag him about), we will both often wait to go out until after the kids are in bed, we got two DVR's so that we can have some alone time. But it's a constant, every day battle with me that I really don't like fighting!

Sidenote: I know this is TOTALLY random, but Operation Organization is showing me how much I miss blogging and all the things I could talk about that won't fit on Twitter. So for now, I'm posting with no plan or schedule or thought. Just the randomness from days of yore.