Saturday, June 24, 2017

It goes so fast

It is so cliche, isn't it?

"It goes by so fast."

The worst part about it is that you can never get it at the moment. Tell a mother who has been living on minimal sleep that it goes so fast, and she is likely to bite your head off... till a year or two goes by, and she can look back and see that the baby time is truly so short.

My favorite quote, that my dad says often, is that "The days are long but the years are short."

We have had days where we are so... very... ready for the kids to go to bed at the end of the day. We are just drained from trying to keep an active 3 and 5 year old happy, and get them to obey, just a little. And yet, I cannot explain it to anyone who hasn't been there, how crazy it is to me that Grace is done with preschool.






How it is possible that my little girl is going to Kindergarten? Plus, Remington is so far from my baby... he has already finished a year of preschool. No. Not possible... right?


 Even if I someday have another (not that any are currently planned), I will never have their baby/ toddler times back. On the one hand, it is heartbreaking to me to see that time go- and yet... there is a flip side.

See, while it is true that I feel like their time of being little is slipping through my fingers, it is also true that I love seeing the new phases too. Remington will be old enough to be on a hockey team soon, and Grace is working through the steps to someday join the gymnastics team at our gym (it is a several year process, but she is on the track). She is starting to figure out how to read short words, which is thrilling to me as a teacher and a reader... seeing my daughter... learn to read! Remington has recently figured out how to go through the night without a pull up... meaning he is officially, completely out of diapers!

They both have incredible imaginations and will happily make up a complete story for their little characters. Grace has recently become our little artist, who loves drawing, drawing with people and is working on covering her walls of her room with her own art. Remington loves Legos, and even though he is not yet four, he has the necessary dexterity to make many of his own designs, and will happily explain them to you. Yay! A master builder!

As much as I miss the littles, I can't wait to see what they grow up to be, who they grow up to marry, how they grow as people, and all the other steps of watching your children grow. I don't want them to stop growing... but a part of me will always miss the times when they were smaller. I know too, that this process doesn't stop, and someday I will be looking back at this post, wondering at my kindergartner and preschooler and wondering how they became these teenagers in my home.




Tell Your Story

  Who lives?
  Who dies?
  Who tells your story?
...
 But when you're gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame, who tells your story?
The above are lyrics from Hamilton, but I have been recently made acutely aware of the depth of truth in these beautiful lyrics. (Have you heard Hamilton yet? No... then go listen to it, the musical is just amazing, join my obsession).

I first signed up for ancestry.com in 2013, to start working on my family tree. I had an interest in it, and more than that, my dad had mentioned how it was something that he would love to learn more about. Now, for anyone keeping track, you know that 2013 was the year our family grew... and then grew again, and before Remington was born, I had canceled my subscription because I knew if I didn't have time for ancestry with one little, I definitely wasn't going to make that happen with two.

In 2015, I signed back up again, as the kids have gotten older and I am better able to find time for hobbies like digging deep into the past of our family tree. Plus, I truly find it addicting, especially when I uncover something new, a new ancestor, or the best- a part of their story. Names are great, jobs are better, but to find someone who wrote about who they are, or a newspaper article on them, or finding an ancestor well known enough to have a story about them by an actual history is priceless.

So, it is without exaggeration that I can say that I was given a priceless treasure on Memorial Day this year. See, as I dig deeper, and deeper and ask questions, I started asking about the primary sources of our family. Wondering where are the documents that our family has saved? My dad took the time to go to my grandma's house, and found this amazing box filled with my great grandfather's writings.

This great grandfather was a preacher, and he clearly loved to write, and edit his writings, and write some more. One of the key items in this box was his life story, hand written, several times, I think I counted about six. His editions vary somewhat, including different details, but all of them recount his rather astounding story of leaving Germany, at the age of 15, following a friend, seeking a new life in America- where he knew no one,  and didn't speak the language. He managed to get a job at a farm, and later went to seminary and became a preacher. This alone would be amazing, but this box had more.

There are more life stories. He clearly was obsessed with life stories, and I am so grateful he was. He apparently convinced several family members to also write their stories, also hand written, allowing me glimpses into all of their lives that I wouldn't have otherwise had. For family members that were already passed, he, apparently wanting to be thorough, wrote those too. He wrote of an ancestor who lost out on a great job because he couldn't read English well enough to pass the new test required... though he had been doing well at the job before... just while speaking and reading German. This ancestor then lost his home, because he couldn't afford it anymore, bringing new light to the plight of immigrants. Another ancestor dreamed of having a farm and land to raise chickens, and he bought the land, but sadly died before he ever was able to build a house on it.Where could I have learned these things about people in my family tree without my great grandfather giving us this record?

Believe it or not, those aren't the best part either. My favorite item in this box are his yearly journals. For several years, we have his journals, starting in 1945. I truly feel like I am getting to meet this man who died long before I was born through these journals. He was most consistent with his brief report of the daily weather, making himself an almanac of sorts for a time before the internet kept track of the typical weather. He wrote about who he visited and this pastor was extremely reliant about recording the text that the weekly church sermon was on, as well as a few notes about the service.

But he also gave his thoughts on the current events. Like how he had a hard time believing the "German atrocities" (his words) that were being reported, and he questioned the validity of those news reports, thinking them American propaganda justifying bombing German women and children.

He was distraught over the reports of the treatment of the German prisoners of war, and said, "Oh tolerance, oh democracy, where art thou?"

I truly never looked at World War 2 through the eyes of people like my great grandfather, who had immigrated from Germany. He is clear in his dislike of Hitler... but at the same time defensive about the German people as a whole. Germans are not the enemies as a unit, they were also his parents, his siblings, his aunts and uncles. Real people who were kind, farmers far away from all of the craziness who likely didn't like what was going on in their nation any more than people in America did.

I loved being able to read his journal entry on the day we had victory in Europe. He was excited, they went to a special church in thanks of it ... and he also planted tomatoes that day. So very normal, life goes on in the midst of amazing historical events. He wrote every time my grandfather, who was in the armed forces, sent a letter during the war, and I teared up reading the entry on the date that "Willy came home today."

At the same time, there was so much normal drama too- a Pastor at church doing a secret baptism after he was let go, one of his sons having to go to the hospital, his somewhat snarky comment of "Baseball players on strike? Whoever heard of that?- Something new under the sun," and countless others that make me feel connected with him.

It has me more reflective on my story, my parents stories, and all of my relatives. This blog, when I write in it, is a legacy that I am leaving my kids someday. They will be able to look back in the archives and see what I was thinking about as we went through the adoption process, her first weeks at home, the last days of pregnancy. Every time I take the time to write, I am not just writing for an audience, though it is a public domain, I am also taking the opportunity to tell my story.

Most nights, I write a tiny bit in a journal about my kids. This too, is like my great grandfather, and it is another priceless item in my house. If there was a fire, it would be on my short list to save, and when I have written in it for five years (almost there), I intend to scan the whole thing, and save it digitally as well. The memories range from funny to sad, but it is fun to look back on the last several years, and even if I miss a few days, the days I do write are well worth the time it takes to do it.

I also take the time to sort through photos and make a physical book out of the best ones for the year. It is time consuming, and I get way behind on these yearbooks, but knowing that there is an easier way for the kids to see their photos as they grow up besides looking on my computer makes it worth it. As a bonus, it keeps those photos safe on the shutterfly website, in case of something catastrophic happening to my computer and digital copies.

I do have the best of intentions on this blog, perhaps I can do better... but I have said that before too. But I wanted to share all of this as my way to encourage you, whoever you are, find a way to tell your story. Type it out, make a scrapbook, write a journal, give your kids and future descendants a way to know you generations after you are gone. Who tells your story?

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.