Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday Daybook

A photo I took at Antietam Battlefield

Outside my window . . . .

It is a beautiful sunny day! It is windy and cold too, but the colors outside my window just cannot be beat.

I plan to . . . 


Well, I HAD planned to go to mass today.  But after dropping the boys off at their tutorial and then coming home to get Thomas dressed for mass (he is the only one that I cannot seem to get out of his pajamas in time), I could not find a pair of shoes for him!  I found three of his shoes. Three different shoes and I was fully prepared to take him to mass with two different shoes on (all pride is gone), but there was only one problem. Every single shoe I found was for the right foot!! So, somewhere in our house, or in one of the vans, are three left shoes.  Pray I find them otherwise he will have to start wearing his sister's shoes!


I am thinking . . . .

Too much really.  I am thinking about one of my sons who struggles with school.  He is the sweetest boy ever and it breaks my heart that, when it comes to school, not much of it comes easy to him.  Over the next few months, we will have to make some decisions about whether it is best for him to stay at the tutorial he attends or whether we should bring him back home for straight homeschooling next year.  It would break his heart to come back home, as he is my social bug and he would miss the interaction with the other kids at the tutorial.

Facebook . . .  I gave it up as a fast right before the election. I got back on after the election and I have realized something.  I think it is toxic in so many ways. The political posts that are flying back and forth on both sides is stressful in many ways and is chatter that I do not need to see.  I miss the days when most of what you saw on Facebook was simple pictures of friends' kids.  Instead, it seems to have become a place where people sound off and are angry.  The only thing that has brought some levity to FB seems to be the Biden Memes.  I do not care who you voted for in the election . . . . those memes are funny! But, when all is said and done, I think it is time for me to step away from the crazy that is FB. 


About Balance . .. . A friend once wrote on Facebook that balance is like a unicorn . . . you always search for it, but never quite find it.  I think she is right.  A few years ago, I would have laughed at that statement and said that balance was pretty simple . . . it just takes a lot of discipline.  But, that was long before I had three kids under 3; all three still fairly new to this "living in a family with boundaries" thing.  Now, no matter how hard I try, prayer times are squeezed in, runs are often left unrun, and dinner, well let's just say that I am so grateful for my Instapot, because we would be eating out more than our budget would allow! 

                 All of that is to say that I am working on learning to extend myself and our whole family a lot of grace.   I truly believed that I should have had it all together already; Hope should be sleeping through the night; I should be back to my pre-pregnancy weight and in good shape; I should be able to be on top of all the boys' school work and everything else, and, of course, our house should be clean . . . but none of those are a reality right now.  And I think that was all a part of God's plan in this.  I am over 40 years old and I am finally learning to extend myself some grace . . ..

 I am listening to . . . 

Thomas playing on his LeapFrog alphabet computer.


I was hoping to be listening to Michael Corsini's debut CD "All Things Hoped For."  It is an CD for Advent and the song that I heard as a preview was BEAUTIFUL.  The CD comes out digitally today!  I am hoping to have a full review and giveaway of a CD when the CDs are available for sale in two weeks.  

I am making . . . 




I am planning on making more bracelets that will be in the "Let Us Begin" fundraiser shop.  I have some St. Andrew Novena bracelets that will be added.  I am in love with Swarovski Crystal Pearl Beads right now and cannot wait to get a spare moment to make some more bracelets with those too. Making bracelets is very therapeutic and a great stress reliever for me.  15% of the sale of the bracelets will be donated Little Flower Projects.

Speaking of . ..

I have a shirt sale going on as a fundraiser for Little Flower Projects.  It features one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa.  If I get some time, I plan to write a post about my thoughts on Moher Teresa and this quote.  But, for this moment, the shirts will be on sale (pre-order) until November 30 here.  100% of the proceeds of the shirts go to Little Flower Projects.


From the school room . . .

The boys are at their tutorial today.  I am thankful that we only have one more day of school before Thanksgiving.  I am looking forward to the break!

I am praying. . . .

For my sister in love who is battling cancer and will start chemo soon.

For a friend's son who just graduated from Coast Guard boot camp and will be headed to his first assignment after Thanksgiving.

For our nation.

For all orphans.



Have a great week all!




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Two Years Ago . . .

Two years ago today, I was on the other side of the world.  I woke up too early.  Too excited and anxious to sleep.  My husband and I lay in bed, chatting about the day ahead of us.  After years of hoping and praying, the day that felt like it would only ever be in my dreams, was finally here.  It was really real.  And when a dream comes true, and you are in awe of God changing hearts and moving mountains to bring you to a moment, there is little more to do than to pray and praise.  And so, we moved our conversation from our hotel room to the Catholic Church across the street.  Yes, in a land where so few have ANY belief system, God saw it fitting to place us in a hotel that just happened to be across from a Catholic Church.  And so we knelt in the back, as the faithful in the front, finished what must have been the rosary, and prayed.  We prayed our own silent prayers as our ears were filled with the melodious sound of a rhythmic prayer in Mandarin.

As we crossed the street to head back to our hotel to eat breakfast, the reality truly hit.  We were hours from holding her.  Our daughter.  I had envisioned this day for a long time.  I knew how I wanted it to go, but also knew how it could go.  We ate in silence.  What do you say, when you are filled with all sorts of emotions, that you can barely comprehend it all yourself?  And so we ate, then headed to our room to grab the diaper bag and the gifts for the staff and made our way to the lobby to meet our guide.  When we got to the lobby, we met up with the other couple who was there to meet their son.  Their faces felt like mirrors to me; like I was looking at myself.  We were all feeling the same things . . . . even if we couldn't verbalize it.  We waited for, what felt like an hour, for our guide.  She entered the front door of the hotel, smiled warmly at us and ushered us out to the van to take us to the orphanage.

We were told that we were about 15 minutes away from the orphanage, so I remember being glued to the window at about 10 minutes into the drive.  Maybe, just maybe, after the next turn, I would see the orphanage.  When we finally pulled through the gate of the orphanage, my stomach was in knots.  We were only many minutes away from our daughter now.

We were taken to a room upstairs and as we were ushered there, I  tried to peer through the many doorways we passed . . . . was she in there?  Was my daughter in THAT room?  I remember sitting in that nice room, signing paper after paper.  It was all in Mandarin and I had no idea what I was signing.  I just remember I wanted to sign it all as fast as I could so we could get to HER!




The paperwork done, our guide left the room.  I am not really sure where I thought she went, I really was only thinking, "Why won't someone tell us when we will get our daughter!"

And then footsteps in the hall . . .  and our guide was back.  Holding the sweetest little girl. Our little Felicity!



And the tears that I thought would fill my eyes, never came.  I held her and laughed!



I am in a bible study and we just studied Sarah and how she laughed when she heard a stranger tell Abraham that she would have a son.  I have thought a lot about her laughter and mine too.  There is a part of me that thinks some of Sarah's laughter was a burst of joy.  The impossible being breathed.  When she was faced with the possibility of a long held dream happening, maybe it was just a gut reaction. A laugh of awe at the goodness of God.

That is what I felt in the moment.  I held Felicity and I laughed that this moment, that I so desperately wanted for YEARS, was here.  God had made it all happen.

I didn't cry as I expected.  And neither did she.  She fell asleep within 10 minutes of being in my arms.   She snuggled into me, hid her head and slept.



Looking back now, I recognize that this was partly because it may have been her nap time, but mostly because it was her way of dealing with the overwhelming and little-to-be-understood circumstances she was going through.  A stranger (our guide) picked her up from her only home, and walked her away from it all to more strangers and handed her over. Felicity spent most of that day distant, quiet and sleeping.
 
It would take days before we would get glimmers of her silliness and sassiness that we now love and adore so much.




We walked out of the orphanage that day with arms and hearts full . . .

Three days later we walked back through the doors of the orphanage.  Felicity would say good bye to all that she knew and we would get to see the place that she called home for 19 months of her life.


On that day, we were taken into the play room.  I took my shoes off and walked up to only one child. A little boy in blue.  I talked to him and he smiled at me.  And now his story is ours too . . .



What is remarkable, is that he smiled at me.  This little boy, Thomas, who I later came to learn, did not like strangers too much and usually shied away from them all, hiding in the protection of his nannies.  But, he smiled at me that day;  a stranger that was to become his mom.   Only God.




And now, two years later, I write this post and the emotions come flooding back as if it were just days ago.  The awe and wonder have not gone away; thanking God today on this Gotcha Day Anniversary!  Happy family day my sweet daughter Felicity!  And happy "first day I met you" Thomas!  Love you both and praising the One who brought you to us!









Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Got Hope?


She was born on a Tuesday during Primary season of the presidential election.  Once settled into my room, I remember the TV being on and the news was all about secured presidential nominations.  The following morning, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and there was a great deal of incredulity.  Despair and hopelessness even.  I quickly turned away from it and struggled to get out of the bed, to begin my c-section recovery.  I had a precious little baby, Hope, to take care of after all.  I couldn't get swept up in the emotions of the what is going on in our nation, in the upcoming election.



And since Hope's birth, there have been many crazy, hard to believe, tragic events.  And during that time, my main focus has been on this precious life, on Hope.  It has been amazing how focused I have been on Hope and my job as her mother.

I need to nurse Hope.

Help Hope grow. 

Love Hope.

Nurture Hope.

Cuddle Hope.

I need to hold on to Hope.


As I heard the news about the tragedy in Orlando, I was nursing Hope. 

When I prayed for all those affected by the tragedy in Dallas, I rocked Hope to sleep.

And as I watched the reports of the tragedy in Nice, France, I was holding on to Hope, cradling her in my arms.  She began to coo.  Hope was seeking my attention. I looked at her, she smiled at me. 



Hope smiled as she so often does.  She is such a sweet, happy baby.  And in that moment, I knew what God was teaching me, having a child named Hope.  

Hope.

Hope is a world changer. 
(Hope (upper-case H, Hope) has already changed ours and I frequently call her a world changer)

My focus needs to be hope.  There is much evil, but my focus as a Christian HAS to be hope.  

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

It is my responsibility to hold on to hope, to nurture it, to make it grow in this world.  It is so, so easy to fall into despair, hopelessness.  This world is full of hate and evil.  Incomprehensible hate, brokenness and hurt.  Yet, there is Hope.  Hope is embodied in our home and the only way it will be embodied in our world, is if we nurture it, allow it to grow and hold tightly to it.  


Over the last 11 weeks, Pete and I have often talked about how amazing it is to have a baby named Hope.  How it changes us, in a way we never thought it would.  Each day, Hope cries, pleads for our attention.  There are times, when I am knee deep in parenting toddlers who have come from great loss and brokenness, weariness starts to creep in;  and then Hope cries out.  And I am snapped out of it.  Hope needs me and in that moment I am reminded that there is always hope. Hope that needs to be nurtured and grow.



I am so thankful for Hope and hope that Christ gave so freely.  I pray that I can help hope to grow in this world.


I need to be the instrument of hope in this world.  Because if I do not let it grow, who will?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Quick update


It has been a while since I have come here to update you all on life.  Even friends in real life say they don't see me much (I don't leave the house that often) and many only get to see Thomas and Hope through photos on Facebook.  I recognize that this is just our state in life right now.  I knew, in a way, that this time would feel like we were on a high speed train and it truly does.  The days are busy with playing with and reading to toddlers, nursing Hope and just staring at her when she is giving her smiles and coos, and conversing with our three oldest (and shuttling them to different activities).  But, I am slowing things down for a moment to share a little in this space . . . 

Hope is 7 weeks old!  She is only 7 weeks old, still so young, yet I already miss the tiny newborn stage.  Last week, I had to put away all of the newborn clothes we had for her and switch it with 3 month clothes and I started to get all nostalgic for the teeny tiny newborn I had just a few weeks ago (I am weird, I know).  I just love having a baby again. I love baby grunts, baby smiles and baby coos; which she has been happily supplying us with for a few weeks now.  I love the way she scrunches up her body and face when you pick her up while she is sleeping.  And I adore how all of her brothers and sister adore her too.  



We celebrated 4 months with Thomas just yesterday!   That boy is just a tank of joy and we all are so smitten with him.  He is adjusting well and seems to know we are his family.  As time has passed and we have emerged from cocooning, we are seeing some issues come up here and there.  Nothing that we are too concerned about, but we won't be making family trips to the pool or spending too much time in large social situations with our little man.  In the mean time, we continue to spend lots of time at home, allowing him to grow into our family more and more.


At the beginning of the month we baptized Hope and Thomas.  We had a triple baptism with Thomas' God parents who had a baby girl just weeks before Hope was born.  I could not wait for the day.  It was beautiful and so special  After having such a rough road in bringing theses two souls into our family, I was so ready to witness them come into our church family.  I had two favorite moments of the day.  The first was the moment I first saw Thomas in his baptismal outfit.  Pete had gotten him dressed in the hall next to the chapel while I had gone to the car to get something.  I closed up the car,turned around, and there was my son in his white Chinese outfit, ready for his special day.  Seeing him, ready to be baptized, looking so so handsome, made me cry with joy.  I scooped him up and held him, thanking God for the promise of this life coming into our family.  My favorite part of the baptism was probably not what you would think . . . .it was the moment when our pastor asked is "What names have you given your children?"  There was something so amazing about hearing "names." Plural.  More than one. BOTH my children, long prayed for, long hoped for, were in our family, in our arms.  In that moment, I was in awe of the mercy of our God who allowed for the day to come; for these gifts given.  



I am doing well.  There is lots of hard and I am working to get used to it all. I think I am handling all the adjustments fairly well.  I wish I had more time to spend with each child, individually, but, I know this is just a season.  I am working to embrace the constant laundry and dishes that need to be done, and the mess of toys that is so frequently found on my floors. I often feel bad that I am not getting my kids to more activities, sports, library story times, etc, but it is good that I am not too.  It is teaching me that the most important moments in parenting aren't the activities you have your kids in, trips you take them on, or gifts you give them, but it is your presence.  It is rubbing your toddler son's back as he falls asleep.  It is sitting in your almost teen son's bedroom, chatting about his day.  It the smiles and laughs shared.  Those are the things that matter most. 

This time also feels very lonely at times too.   As mentioned before, I stay home A LOT.  The longer Thomas has been home, the more I realize that I cannot be as attentive to his needs as I need to be if we are in social situations.  Most people probably wouldn't even notice the subtle changes in his behavior etc, that I see, but I do see them and I know that he needs more time separated from social situations, than I need to be out of this house, so we stay home.  We take cocooning very seriously.  We know this time is precious and so needed and so we sacrifice to do what is best for this precious boy.  I try to remember that on the days that I just want to be at the pool, chatting with friends.  And all I need to do is look at Thomas for more than a second, and I melt. Yep, totally worth it!

So, this blog may be really quiet for a while, as lots of life happens on the other side of the computer screen.  But, I will try to update it every so often.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hope's Birth Story

When it comes to birth stories, most women do not write up, nor do I think they want to read about, scheduled c-sections. But, I want to remember the day and if I do not write it here to publish, it is unlikely that I will sit down for my own sake, and write, so bear with me as I recount the day.

As with most scheduled, repeat c-sections, the date was scheduled months in advanced.  I knew that Hope would arrive on May 3 unless she decided to surprise us and my body would decide to go into labor for the first time ever.  Although I am older and anything is possible, I thought it highly unlikely, so I was not too worried that she would be born any sooner that May 3rd.

The hospital that I deliver at has started something called the "Family Centered C-Section."  If you are having a scheduled, routine, c-section, you can elect to have a family centered c-section.  Basically, they allow you to have some of the experiences that you miss in a c-section that you have in a natural birth.  Instead of the baby being whisked away, out of the OR right after birth, the baby is given to the mom to hold giving the baby the all important skin-to-skin contact.  If desired, you can request a clear surgical drape so that you can see the birth of the baby.  And, your husband can cut the umbilical cord.  Although I did not elect to have a clear drape (let's be honest, I wanted to see Hope being born, but really did not want to see myself cut open . . . Pete was able to take photos of it all and they are NOT for the squeamish), I did want to be able to experience some of the things that I longed for in the birth of my sons' but never experienced. So, we planned for a family centered birth and I just hoped that I would not go into labor early to thwart my plans.

On the Saturday before the scheduled c-section (and the day before Andrew's First Communion)  I woke up to contractions.  They were inconsistent, but coming with a frequency that made me uneasy.  I timed them and began to GUZZLE water (since dehydration can cause contractions).  Thankfully, by mid afternoon, the contractions had slowed and were infrequent, but they continued on through the next two days.

My c-section was scheduled for 10:30 AM on Tuesday, so we headed to the hospital bright and early in the morning.  Once checked in, we were greeted by our pre-op nurse, who took us to our pre-op room.  Time seemed to fly by.  She got me ready for the c-section. My OB came in.  We met with the anesthesiologist and before we knew it, our OB was saying that it was time to head back to the OR.  I was pretty calm at this point.  Our pre-op nurse (who would be with us during the whole c-section), my OB, and the anesthesiologist were incredible.  They were friendly, sweet, and kind and put me at ease. Our pre-op nurse said, "Let's get this birthday party started!" as we walked down to the OR.

Once in the OR, they prepped me for the spinal.  It is the thing I have been the most nervous about in all my c-sections.  It is also the thing that, mentally, I tell myself, if I can get through the spinal, the rest will be ok.  The spinal was completed without any problems and before I knew it, I was laying down, with very numb legs.  All of the nurses, my OB and the assisting OB began to move around in a flurry of activity. Yet, during all of this one or more of the staff continued to talk to me and ask me questions.  The anesthesiologist asked me about how many "babies" I had had.  That naturally led into a conversation about our kids and adoption.  My OB chimed in that she was adopted and thought adoption was just the best.  Her parents had 5 biological children and then adopted her and one of her sisters as well.  Then, the music came on.  Our nurse had asked me what music I would like in the OR and she put on contemporary christian music.  This is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickman filled the OR.  One of the nurses began to sing and my OB thought it was me signing.  She said that would have been a first!  To be honest, at that moment, I was so calm and at peace that I could have been singing at that moment. I am not sure if it was because of all of the prayers of others, all we had been through to get to this day, or the incredible people I was surrounded by who were taking care of me or the perfect combination of all of it, but I truly was so peaceful about this c-section and birth; more than I had ever been with my other children.  




Before I knew it, my OB told Pete to get the camera ready, Hope was about to be born.  I could feel the tugs.  Pete said, "I see her.  She's beautiful!"  I can still see the excitement and joy on his face.  And then I could hear her scream.  I started to cry a little and just could not wait to see her and hold her.  One of the nurses asked me if I minded if they cleaned her up just a bit before they gave her to me, and I was fine with that.  Only moments passed, and they brought her over to me and they placed her on my chest.  Hope had been screaming the whole time, but the minute she was placed on my chest, she just stopped and was so content.  It was such a gift to be able to hold her right away.  My boys had been brought to me bundled in a towel and I was able to look at them for a moment before the nurses took them out of the OR and to the recovery room, with Pete following.  And with each of those three c-sections, I was left alone while the OB finished up.  This time,I got to hold Hope until my OB had finished, Pete by my side.  The time went quickly as Pete and I just gazed at our beautiful little daughter and chatted.  Before I knew it, they took down the surgical drape, my OB came to talk to Pete and I and then the three of us (Pete, Hope and I) headed to recovery.







That was a week ago today.  And this has been, by far, my best and easiest c-section recovery.  The irony of that is not lost on me.  Just a few months ago I thought I might be having a high risk c-section delivery, and instead I had the best c-section experience with recovery of all four.  I could not have hoped for a better birth experience with Hope and recovery since.  I am grateful for all of the prayers over the last several months and for the amazing staff at AAMC who made the day so memorable and special.