Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My Newest Niece

When my brother in law Graeme first brought Jami with him to the "Kid's Weekend" in Big Bear, we totally connected. She has an awesome personality, a great heart for helping, and was super easy to talk to.During the years of their dating, while they were getting closer, so were Jami and I. We did yoga together, we ran together, we ran races together, painted together, did karaoke and line dancing together, to name a few.

I was thrilled when they announced their engagement, and so happy that Jami would now be a part of our family officially, as she had been unofficially for years. It was extremely hard when we learned that Graeme's job would take them away to St. Louis.

But we did our best to still stay connected. Busy lives meant that our Facetime conversations didn't happen as often as we wished, but we made sure that they happened when we could, and the conversations were great when we did.

So, when I found out she was pregnant, I told her that if she wanted me there, I would be there, irregardless of distance. Various talks through the last few months of pregnancy confirmed that it would mean a lot to her to have family with her, and especially since I encouraged her through our races, she felt that I could encourage her through her birth.

This, of course, is easier said than done. Babies are notorious for arriving on their schedule, and so for the last few weeks headed towards her due date, I was constantly on edge waiting for notice that she was starting labor, and could tell you what flight I was going to try to take at any given moment. Officially I had a flight booked for February 28th, with her due date of March 3rd, but was ready, literally with a bag packed, to leave earlier.

Jami was keeping us (my mother-in-law and I) posted on her symptoms and check ups, and on February 24th, my mother-in-law called me, and said she didn't think that Jami and baby were going to wait till our flights on the 28th (due to certain symptoms), and that she was planning on flying out on the 25th. After much indecision, I eventually decided that flying out on Saturday would be better, so I followed her lead, and changed my flight as well. It should be stated, for the record, that my mother-in-law has an amazing God given intuition, and there have been numerous incidents where she just has a feeling about something... that turns out to be legit. For example, even though we didn't tell people I was in labor, she and Kris woke up shortly before Remington's birth and were praying for me and him at the moment he was born... even though they weren't told at all.

Anyways, her intuition was spot on. We were in the airport, Saturday morning, waiting for our two different flights (I wasn't able to get her flight), and we got a call, from Graeme and Jami, who were headed to the hospital. At the time, they didn't realize that her water had broken, and thought they would be headed back home later. By the time I boarded, they knew that they weren't getting to go back home.

I wished them all the best, and told them to keep me posted. On my layover, I got the text that she was dilated to 4cm (10 is baby time, for anyone who doesn't know), and all I could think as I flew was that I hoped I could make it in time to help, at least a little. To me, it wasn't about being there for the birth moment as much as it was a desperate race to try to help and support my friend and sister-in-law who meant so much to me, during such a challenging time.

When I landed, she was at 6cm, and I literally took a taxi from the airport to the hospital (thankfully only 15 minutes away). On my layover, I had been reading about more ways to help, and I had read about this peanut ball, and that it could help labor if it wasn't progressing. So, when I arrived, and got to the room, and said hi to everyone, I noticed it sitting in the corner of her birthing room, unused. So I talked about it to the group, they checked with the nurse, who was very enthusiastic about using it, and was happy to get Jami set up with it.

The situation at the time was that they were concerned she wasn't progressing, and had informed everyone that if she didn't keep going, they would need to medically move the progress along. Well, that peanut ball worked as talked about online... because it jumped her up to 8cm fairly quickly.

That was my biggest contribution as far as something I could provide that possibly someone else couldn't, but other than that, my role was just support and encouragement. Just being with her, chatting with her, helping the time pass, and I am so thankful that thanks to Lori's intuition, we already had flights to help us be there on time. Jami's mom booked after the call, but she made it on time too, but when she was at 10cm, and was in the waiting to push time.

Jami's team at the hospital was great too, letting her body be ready to push instead of forcing the issue before it was needed, and her doctor had them laughing in between pushes too! Jami did great once the time to push came, and their baby was born after just 12 minutes of pushing, Sunday, February 26th!

Graeme had the honor of telling Jami it was a girl in the delivery room, and telling the two moms and I in the waiting room too, which was such a surreal, special moment. We had to wait before visiting, as they were giving them some time with their new baby girl, Finley Elizabeth, but it was such a blessing to see and hold and love on my newest niece once it was time.

In the next several days, I was able to provide support both at the hospital and at their house, and I am so thankful to my husband and my parents for providing support at my house to let me have that time there. At the hospital, I took turns holding Finley, to let Jami and Graeme have much needed rest, including staying late on Sunday, even after "the moms" had headed back to the house. But I also just was there for company, helping time pass at the hospital, especially when Graeme had some appointments to go to. At their house I did some cleaning, grocery shopping, and filled their freezer with meals, feeling good about being able to bless their family, even when I had to fly back home.

I even was designated as the person to drive Jami and Finley home from the hospital, which was such an honor, and I was there for their first night home too. By this point, Wednesday, I was starting to feel homesick, but it didn't make it better when I had to say my goodbyes to Finley and Jami, both of which were very emotion filled. Jami has been great about keeping me stocked with cute pictures, but I still miss them so much! I look forward to the next time I will get to see them in person, and hug that sweet little girl again, whenever that may be.

Pictures (so, I have forgotten how to reduce the size of these... so enjoy supersize pictures?):

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Timing is Everything

I love to plan. I am the kind of person that plans out my day with my kids, my meals two weeks out, and my races about a year out. I have two different physical planners, a wall calendar, and a google calendar, all to make sure that I know what is going on with my family, our sports, and our various activities.

I like the order that comes with knowing what is coming up. I like planning my vacations months, if not a year, ahead of time. And with my family, Blake and I had a plan too.

Our cozy plan, hatched back in 2009, was for me to finish clearing my credential, then get pregnant, then a few years later, adopt a second child. It was a good plan, well laid out, very logical.

Trouble was, it definitely wasn't God's plan. As it became apparent that our "get pregnant" plan wasn't working, we shifted gears, deciding to adopt first, and then worry about a possible biological child later.

Our first, well laid, great plan, was to adopt from foster care. I personally have always had a heart for kids in the foster care system, and we knew it was a less expensive process, and potentially faster too. So we went to the foster care orientation in 2010, thinking this was the right thing to do.

After that meeting, we felt like it wasn't the right way to go for us. There was too much involvement with the birth parents, too much uncertainty about whether the child you were caring for could become your child. Our child would be the first grandchild on both sides, and we wanted him or her to be someone that they could all celebrate and attach to. So yet again, we put aside our plan, to go a different direction, this time towards international adoption.

The cost for international adoptions is definitely prohibitive, so, we decided that we needed to put some time into just working and saving. We felt we had enough to start the process in January of 2011.

Think what you will, but this timing is important to me. See, Grace, who we had no idea about yet at this point, will be born in October of this year. Her conception, far away in Ghana, took place shortly after we started the process. We didn't know God's plan yet, and had only picked an agency and a country at this point, but God knew. As we filled out paperwork, and did homestudies, and did fingerprints, she was growing inside her birth mother. As we checked the boxes that said we would be open to a child with medical needs, she was developing into a little baby girl that had medical needs.

It is heart wrenching for me to think about any mother leaving behind her daughter, and there are times that I wonder if she would be a less stressed and emotional little girl if she had never had to deal with the trauma of separating from her birth mother, and the time of neglect and hunger in the orphanage, but then I remember her medical issues, and I know the statistics are not good for someone with her conditions in Ghana.

Her birth mother might just have saved her life by giving her up to a nurse, and starting that path that led her to us.

It was a long road for both of us- we were discouraged by the length of time it was taking to get a match, and Grace, in Ghana, was already waiting in an orphanage, where, according to her paperwork, some couples considered adopting her as a young infant... but then changed their minds when they learned about her health.

The story, as most of you know, turned around in 2012, when she was on a list of waiting children on an e-mail, that we read, and decided to tell our agency that we wanted her. In spite of her needs, we wanted her.

If the story stopped there, with the conclusion of our family building being that she came home in March of 2013, we would have a nice family. We would love her, and take care of her, and we would be blessed.

Lately, we have been seeing more of her past showing up in her anger and frustration and even sadness that she can't control, and we are loving her through it. But I don't think she would have had a sibling, if it was all up to us (adopting a second, or actively trying to get pregnant or doing any reproductive assistance).

She needs a lot of attention. She doesn't like to share, and she can be mean to her brother in ways that make us sad for him. We know why, we have read the books, but it doesn't help in the moment. I just don't think we would have tried to purposely bring another child in when we started seeing her tantrums and needs.

But this post isn't about our plans, but about God's.

After a year of trying, and a few more years of not trying or preventing, we got pregnant in the start of 2013 (again, this you know). Why? Why then? Why not when it was our timing back in 2009, why not later, when we could have had more time with just her?

Because God's timing is right, not too fast or too slow. If we had gotten pregnant when we first tried, who knows what would have happened to Grace. If we had gotten pregnant before our match, we might have put the adoption on hold, we might have not wanted to say yes to a 10 month old, adding a second baby to our family. Maybe someone else would have picked her... but maybe she would have been continued to be passed over, again and again, and be one of the heart breaking cases of kids that age out of the "adoptable age." I hope not, but that is the sad reality. If she had even lived long enough, considering her medical needs, and lack of care and malnourishment she had there.

On the other side, if she had come home first, we might have decided to start preventing, because she did have a lot of issues, we might have decided we really didn't want another child right then. Or maybe we would have continued to let things happen, but they would be farther apart in age, not as willing to play together on the good times.

I see now, with the benefit of hindsight, that Remington arrived right on time.

Grace was supposed to be in our family. Remington was supposed to be in our family. In good times, they do great together, and if it had been in our hands, who know what would have happened, because goodness knows that neither of them was "according to plan."

I'm reflective on this lately because we are going through some storms with Grace, and it makes us hurt for the fact that she can't have 100% of our attention, though we wish we could give her as much as she needs. It makes us hurt that Remington probably gets less than 50% because we have to focus so much on her. But at the end of the day, I remind myself that they were both, very precisely, placed into our family, and there was no accident or mistake about it. To those of you reading this, we love your prayers and your support, and appreciate your continued prayers for wisdom for how to handle our storms, but we will continue to take it one step at a time, with our two biggest blessings.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Look Back at 2016

This was the fastest year of my life. Obviously, I haven't found a way to speed up how long it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun, but it was undeniably the fastest year yet.

Time is a perception, as well as a set, discernible measure. Two minutes in front of the microwave waiting for your food can seem like forever, while a two minute commercial break is not enough time to get done what you wanted to in the break. Hours with a friend pass so quickly, you wish they were longer, and 30 minutes stuck in traffic seems like hours.

I'm not positive what set this year on fast forward for me, but I have a few guesses. One hypothesis is that it has to do with the fact that naps met their end this year. Oh, how I miss naps. See, naps were my thirty minutes to an hour of MY time. Not keep kids happy while I do something time, not do something with the whole family, not even Blake and I time. All of those times can be good too... but they aren't MY time. My time to relax, and sit with a novel, that doesn't get interrupted fifty times for all the little things that kids need me for while they are playing "independently." Or my time to work on a family photo book of pictures from 2015... (which, by the way, didn't get done... now I'm behind a year). Or my time to try to make some money for the family, or write my great picture book... etc.

To be fair, Blake would have no problem with me doing these things at night, after the kids go to bed. He would even leave me alone to do it if I asked. But it typically doesn't happen because 1-I'm too tired and 2-I like watching shows or playing video games with him.

So, I literally lost some time this year, and I think that made me feel way more crunched into the time I did have.

The kids also started activities in earnest this year, between hockey/skating lessons, gymnastics, and baseball. Time driving them to activities, the activities themselves and the crunched nights after all their things definitely made the year feel faster, as every day zipped by.

Anyways, on to my annual photo of my jar of tickets. The bibs no longer live in the jar, but will continued to be featured as long as I still run races.

I actually cut down on my runs this year... but went way over what I had intended. Races, unfortunately, are not free. It takes a lot of people to make them happen, and someone needs to pay their salaries, so Blake and I had talked about my budget for races being cut down... i.e. run less.

Plus, I have a particular fondness in my heart for Ragnar races...which cost more... especially out of state (hotel, more gas, etc.). I had a ton of fun on my third Ragnar, this year in Arizona, and I know I will run another Ragnar again someday, but it was supposed to be my only race for the year.

Then, on the way back from the race I had a moment where I realized that I never run half marathons alone, I always ran them with somebody, except for my very first one. I was never working on improving my time, because I was always with someone else who typically slowed me down. So, I made a goal to improve my time, and try to get under a 2 hour half... and signed up for the O.C. Half. Okay, two races, not so bad...

I really intended to be good, and stick with those, and have my next race be in January of 2017. Except I am now seen as a runner, so during the summer I got asked again, and again, and again, "When is your next race?" I got asked that enough times that I finally broke down, and talked to Blake about it, and we decided to let me run both the Long Beach Half and Surf City in February because then when added with my O.C. Half, I can get a special medal for doing all three.

I would have stuck with that... except my sweet dad offered to sponsor my Disney Avengers Race, since he knows Disney races are my favorite (and way out of budget).
Good news for two of those three half marathons is that I did improve. So my best solo half marathon before this year was 2:14. My O.C. Half I got down to 2:06, and my Avengers race was 2:01:54 (yes those six seconds count). My Long beach half between them was a bad race- hot, slow, and miserable (2:15).

In 2016, so far, my race calendar just has the Surf City Half, but it seems that I will at least do a few more than that over the year, but I'll decide later what those will be. (And because I am a major slacker who let 1- busted toenails [you don't want to know] and 2- colds and 3- enjoying sleeping in, stop me from running, I am really not feeling great about breaking 2 hours on that race either).

Sports continue to feature in our family's life, with a bunch of Ducks games and some Angels games this year, and the kids are getting more fun to see the games with too. We hit up the classic, local theme parks for them, seeing Disneyland a few times, and Legoland and Knotts each once. We went to the Aquarium, and to a few movies this year with the kids too!

I got a few more musicals in than a typical year, which was really fun, and Blake and I even went to our first concert in years- Lindsey Stirling (and loved it). Blake and I also celebrated our 10 year anniversary this summer! The trip was fun, and special, and we look forward to our next trip.

Another big highlight of 2016 is that I became an aunt! Little Livvie arrived in March, and it has been so fun to see her grow up (though still snuggly and small, and I can't get enough of her). We also learned that we will become an aunt/uncle again in 2017, which is exciting, and approaching fast!

Remington started preschool, which is great, and heartbreaking all at the same time! I can't believe how fast he has grown, and it just doesn't seem right he is old enough for school now. Flip side is that I have had a few subbing days, which definitely pay better than my couple of random things I do for pay otherwise.

Coming up in 2017:
I will continue subbing when I can, writing when I can, and selling stuff on e-bay when I can. I will be flying out to be there (or as close to be there) as I can for my niece or nephew's birth in St. Louis. I will run my next half in February, and see where the year takes me as far as other races go.

Remington will continue to take skating/hockey lessons for now, but will be starting on a team sometime this year. He also is going to do another season of baseball, and was super excited to open his bat and ball and tee for Christmas. He will finish his first year of preschool, and start his second in September of 2017.

Grace starts a new crazy elite class in January in gymnastics (as in had to have coach referral, followed by two formal evaluations, but she made it). The website class description says

"This program is for those who have extraordinary talent and desire a more intense training"

 and her second evaluator, who also told me she thinks Grace would be good for the program, said that she sees that Grace has "raw potential." The biggest deal about this class is that it is on the "competitive track," in other words, grooming the kids in the class into gymnasts who are good enough to compete. She is not on a team yet. Of all the craziness, she is now trying to show the coaches that she is good enough for the next step- "pre-devo." (This is the step Grace is looking forward to on the short term, because it means she gets a matching leotard with the other girls). Then, if she does well enough in that, she gets bumped up to "devo" and girls good enough in "devo" get invited to join the team... that apparently wins state competitions. All of these steps are completely on Grace and her skills, not about age (except you have to be six to compete on the team, but that is several steps away anyways), so we will see where she is this time next year. 

 Overall, I hope that 2017 is a fun filled, happy year, with happy families! Happy New Year!

Here are some September photos... I was trying to go through more months, but it is late, and my computer isn't cooperating:


Friday, October 14, 2016

Sports Family

When I thought about eventually being a mom and having kids, one of things I looked forward to was putting them in sports, and activities and seeing them learn, and flourish in their new activities. Even before we brought Grace home from Ghana, I was already looking up different things for 18 month olds that we could do in our area. 

When Grace first started sports (soccer), Remington started begging to be on a team as well. He was too young for even the youngest sports at that time, but we told him to wait till he was a little older, and then he could be on a team as well. When she started taking private lessons for roller hockey and skating, we decided to let Remington take them too (since the private nature of the lessons meant that even my little 2 year old could join). 

Fast forward to today. He is now old enough for baseball...ish. He is part of something called Miteball, which is even younger and less pressure than T-ball. The parents stay in the outfield with the kids, there are no outs, and every kid just hits once, runs one base, and when all the kids have hit, the inning ends (with the last kid "scoring" a homerun... though there are no scores). 

He seems to enjoy doing it, though it is a big long for him, with hour games and hour practices. But even so, he is doing better than some of the other three year olds who cry when they don't get the ball, or run the wrong way on the bases, or steal other kids balls. Our next decision will be if we put him in it for spring or not. We have long prided ourselves on letting our kids steer their own lives when it comes to extra curricular activities like that, and if you ask him if he wants to do it again... he says no. However, if you watch him when he plays, he is smiling, and he really seems to be enjoying it.Plus, he does well at it, especially for only three, and both Blake and I think that the skill of listening to a coach and practicing and playing with a team are all really good things for him to learn and practice. 

Plus, in addition to his practice day and game day, he also is still taking private hockey lessons once a week, and doing great there too! As a matter of fact, his coach said that though kids usually start the youth hockey team at four, depending on how Remington continues to improve, he might recommend him starting at three and a half. As much as Remington enjoys baseball, he LOVES hockey. Both he and Grace are likely to pick up sticks and play in the house on any given day. Last night they were cracking Blake and I up as they would pretend to fight... and then put themselves in the penalty box! They also, without prompting, would say, "Face off!" or "Time for intermission!" Can you tell that we watch hockey at home?

Though, to be fair, Remington also set up his own tee and ball in the house, gave himself bases, and was playing his own baseball game in the house yesterday as well. Plus, when we drop off Grace at school, he and I play pretend baseball (and soccer, football, hockey, swordfighting, and others). He will designate both of our positions, usually I am the pitcher and he is the batter, and he almost always hits a homerun. But sometimes I get to be the batter... just so he can tag me out at first. But playing "real" baseball with his team has broadened his imaginary play to include him being in the outfield, catching pop flies to get me out as well. 

Grace continues to flourish as a gymnast, taking a class at two different gyms (long story). At one gym she is in the advanced preschool class, and at the other she is in the level 2 class for the kids aged 4-6. She shines the most at floor work, and has an amazing cartwheel... to the point that last week her coach said that she will be starting to work on a one-handed cartwheel soon. What? Craziness (especially for this momma, who can't even do a straight leg cartwheel to save her life). Her bridge is her most recent accomplishment... gonna have to get a picture of that soon. She still loves it, and looks forward to both of her classes, and we will see how that road goes, but it looks like she is headed towards getting on competitive gymnastic teams at some point...once she is old enough. 

As for me, I continue to run, and am working hard to try to improve my times on my half marathons. I had a really disappointing run last Sunday, running way slower than my fastest. It was hot, but I am really kicking myself for not staying with the pacer or with my running club friends... at one point I ran ahead of them, because I was feeling good... only to watch them pass me and I had nothing left to catch them. I have another half next month, and I am really hoping that I can get a personal record on that once, and have upped my training to try to get it. 

When all is said and done, Remington has a sport Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, Grace has her practices Monday and Thursday, and I run Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and sometimes Fridays (before dawn). What about Blake, you might be wondering? While he isn't currently in a physical sport, he sure does a lot of fantasy sports-baseball, football, hockey, and basketball.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Grace's Ghana Art Auction

So, for Grace's birthday, I asked who she wanted to help (like Remington was helping Orange County Children's Hospital with his birthday). Without any additional prompting, she immediately said she wanted to help people in Ghana.

I love her heart so much! She knows parts of how hard life was for her, and she wants to make it easier for people who are still there. Trouble is, this is a situation where sending anything but money is actually more difficult and a waste of resources because it costs so much to ship it.

The way that we are going to tie this in is Grace is going to be having an art auction to raise money for Ghana. :-D She has been hard at work making unique, one of a kind, Hello Kitty art. I will be putting these up for bid on ebay, click the link here, the auction will last ten days from this post, with all of the proceeds going to the charities in Ghana. Keep checking back, I will keep adding more till her birthday at the end of October.

Honestly, I am having a hard time deciding which one to give to, so I have linked below the four that I will be deciding between and their donation website in case someone misses out on the artwork, or want to support a charity that directly helps kids currently in Ghana.

Here are some of her pieces she (and Remington) will be selling to raise money to help these kids!