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Five!

Five.  A whole hand.  Guys, my little man is really growing up.

He informed me that he got to do whatever he wanted to do today since it was his birthday.  That included eating three donut holes for breakfast, wearing his pajamas to school, going out for dinner at Pizza Street and getting two desserts there, going for a walk to the neighborhood pond, and ending the day with a Nerf Gun war.

I genuinely enjoy his company.  He’s still my silly little boy, who makes up languages and does the naked dance and giggles every time he farts.  But I see that young man in him.  I see it when he shares something he really wants.  I see it when he pauses to carefully select his words.  I see it when he furrows his brow, thinking of just the right thing to make for someone he loves.  He’s the coolest kid and I love him so much!

Maclin, here are the things I want to remember about right now:

You love to create.  Sometimes you spend hours at the dining room table, painting and drawing and writing.  Then you get scissors and scotch tape and hang your masterpieces up all around the house; the other day I was surprised to not only find drawings on the inside of the cabinet but also in the bathtub.

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You also like to create games.  All kinds of games.  Recently you were very excited about a board game you drew.  You insisted the entire family play, and sat us down and explained all these nonsensical rules that resulted in you winning the game.  Lord have mercy on your older siblings who mostly humor you (at least, after they receive our evil glances silently threatening punishment if they mess up your games).

Every night at bedtime you stay in your room entertaining yourself.  When you’re ready for bed you holler “FIVE MINUTES IS STARTING!”  This is our cue to check on you in five minutes; if you’re asleep we’re to leave a small snack in your closet.  You wake up in the middle of the night to eat said snack, then go back to bed.  One time we forgot and you woke us up at 3AM screaming as if you had seen the devil himself.

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You don’t usually fall asleep standing up.

Speaking of nighttime- for the past two years you’ve snuck into our bed nearly every night.  We finally decided to do something about this, so we bribed you…if you stay in your bed at night, you get a sticker.  Five stickers earns you a selection from the “Treasure Chest”, filled with goodies from the Dollar Tree and Mimi’s work.  It worked like a charm; we’ve been doing that for maybe a month now and you’ve only been in our bed twice.

A friend gave us a hand me down bike and you’ve been riding it (without training wheels) for six months now.  You just figured out how to use the brakes and you are very excited about this.  You like to walk to the neighborhood pond, where you throw rocks and watch the geese.

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You’re finally wiping your own butt.  This is fantastic.

I’m hoping you get the musical genes I always wish I had.  I have the piano keys labeled, and I’ll write the notes on sheet music.  You love to play the songs.  You also like to make up your own songs.  Sample lyrics:  “This thing in your heart, it might be true, or it might be fake, but you’ve got it in yooooooouuuuuu”.  I make up my own songs but you always remind me that “the moves matter just as much as the song, mom.”

You started swimming this summer and man, you are a fish.  And you have no fear.

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You’re extroverted and talk to people wherever we go.  For the last month, every time we run into someone (the parent at the park, the checker at the grocery store, people at the table next to us) you tell them: “My name is Wiggles. W-I-G-G-L-E-S.  I’m 4 and a half.  I’m going to be 5 on April 18.  That’s X days from now.”

You’re such a good big brother.  Sassypants is not an easy little sister to have, but you’re always willing to share with her, are so patient with her, and are the first to try to calm her when she’s upset.  Which is often.

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Your best friend at school is Veda.  You had me write her name on a piece of paper, tape it to the wall, and then write “Marry her” underneath it so that you wouldn’t forget.  Then you told me that when you’re 16, you guys are going to get married, live in the woods behind the school, and get guns to kill animals for food.

You get really into games.  Earlier it was Trouble, you would play it at Supersonic speed by yourself constantly.  Then it was Go Fish.  You can play this for hours, no matter where we are.  I keep a deck of cards in my purse.

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You’re my little buddy.  You love to do things with me, and I love your company.  You love to help in the kitchen (and actually, you love to create your own concoctions in the kitchen as well, which you say are delicious but actually aren’t edible).  You are always volunteering to run errands with me.  One time I asked you if you liked to go to the store and you said “No, I just like being with you.”  Queue heart swoon.

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You’re going to kindergarten in the fall.  I’m not a super emotional person, and I always thought the fact that I would be saving thousands and thousands of dollars a year would far outweigh any sad feelings I had about you growing up.  I was wrong.  It’s really bumming me out that you’re going to elementary school, that you’ll be riding the bus with those rowdy big kids, that you’ll have lots of unhealthy lunch options to choose from, that you’ll be out of our protective little utopia of home and a montessori-esque school.  But you’re ready.  You’re so ready.  You’re going to kill it.

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You’re a little ornery and when I act sad about you growing up you giggle and tell me that you’re never going to stop growing until you’re a grown up.  But then you tell me that you’ll always be my baby, even when you have your own kids.  What else can I ask for?

I love you Wiggles.  Happy fifth birthday!

 

 

 

 

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Three Years Home!

Today’s a very special day in our family- it’s the third anniversary of the day our family was completed!

We celebrated by eating giant lemon poppyseed muffins for breakfast and going out to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner.  The kids brought treats to school, and their teachers read books we sent about adoption (I Wished For You and Just Really Joseph– great gifts for adoptive families, btw).  We gave the kids small gifts. Smiles got a customized water bottle with pictures of his Ethiopian and American families.  Last year Diva wrote a story about her life for a PTA contest.  It won first prize at her school, and then first prize at the state level!  It has been sent on to the national contest.  We put that into a Shutterfly book with pictures.  She loved it and was so proud to read it to her class!

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As I reflected on today I went back and read many old blog entries, including the first day home, the one year anniversary, and the two year anniversary.  This year’s anniversary has hit me hard, as Wiggles is now nearly the exact age that Diva was when she came home.  Not only that, but Sassypants is just a little older than Diva was when she went to live in the orphanage.

I can’t quite express how that makes me feel. When we brought Smiles and Diva home, we had not quite two years of parenting experience.  A nearly five year old felt ancient, so independent and capable.  Today when I look at Wiggles, my little man, and imagine him doing the things I expected Diva to do, I can’t even.  Wiggles is my baby.  If Wiggles was sent to a far away country, adopted into a family he couldn’t communicate with, and expected to do so many things for himself…he would struggle.  And if Sassypants had spent the last several months- those months where her brain is in a crazy development stage- toiling her days away at an orphanage with minimal stimulation- she would not be the person she is today.  As my biological kids hit the ages my adopted children were when they come home, the gravity of what my adopted children have been through hits me hard.  It gives me a new kind of respect for the bravery they had no choice but to demonstrate.

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Our day to day lives are not that exciting, not any different than any family with kids this age.  We haven’t been overly busy- as a working parent, I really value down time at home over many activities, but as the kids get older we’ll see if that changes.  Our house is always chaotic.  It’s very loud, there’s usually either a kid screaming, Nerf bullets flying around, furniture being rearranged for a fort, neighborhood kids in and out, crayons all over the floor, or some combination of these things.  It’s next to impossible to have an adult conversation and by the end of the day I am spent.  But I’m guessing there’s many non-adoptive moms out there who hear me, yes?

An update on adoption-specific things….School.  Both kids have been working extra hard at school and it’s paying off!  Diva’s writing is mostly legible and she loves writing stories.  She progressed something like a zillion reading levels and is now reading on grade level- a huge milestone!  But, she does struggle with reading and doesn’t really enjoy it.  She does really love math and science.  She’s a good student and charms teachers.  Smiles has worked super hard.  As I read through those old blogs I was reminded of how overwhelming his schooling needs were, but this is not something I worry about anymore.  He’s still behind, but things are really starting to click and he’s closing that gap fast.  He’s really rocking math and is getting confident in his school work. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it- I have zero doubts about having him repeat a grade.

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We started sending pictures back to their birth family.  Actually, we thought we had already been doing that, but found out last year it wasn’t really happening.  Ethiopia requires an annual adoption report.  These are supposed to be kept on file at the orphanage and be accessible to the birth families.  Long story short, we connected with the director of their old orphanage mid last year and learned he never received any of the reports we sent.  So, we contacted the searcher we had used before.  We sent her a package full of pictures, drawings, a letter, and even a necklace with the kids’ pictures on it.  The searcher delivered it and sent us back pictures of the family.  What a priceless gift!  The kids really treasured having current pictures of their birth family!  We just sent another package and are expecting more pictures any day now.

We talk about adoption a LOT.  Diva is all too happy to talk about it; last summer we found her in a hotel hot tub telling a stranger lady how she had spent two years in the orphanage.  Smiles, not so much.  He hates to talk about it, and even yells at Diva when she does.  Over the course of the last year that wall has started to come down.  He still has a ways to go, but he no longer completely shuts down when he hears the word “Ethiopia”.  He also started sharing some memories.  I won’t put them on here as they are his stories to tell, but he remembers quite a bit about his years in Ethiopia.  Some memories are good, others not so much. We have been talking about making a trip back in a few years and he has no desire to go.  He shared the other day that he is worried his birth family will want him to stay.  He’s a typical guy, getting him to talk about his feelings or anything beyond surface level is a major feat, but we’ll continue to work on this issue over the coming years.

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We’re lucky in that our kids came from a loving background.  For our situation, I’m very much a believer in sharing as much information as possible and having an open and ongoing dialogue about adoption.  I was so encouraged when Smiles was willing to let his teacher read the adoption book and even have a discussion around adoption today.  This would not have happened in the past.

The latest issue we’ve been dealing with is sibling jealousy.  It’s not uncommon for adopted children to be jealous of biological children for all the reasons you’d think- biological children look like their parents, they don’t have the struggles adopted children have, etc.  Complicating our case is the fact that our biological children are younger than our adopted children, so I sometimes overlook things with my bios that I don’t with my adopteds. Complicating it further is the fact that Wiggles is super book smart but socially immature, so Diva sees him as an intellectual equal and doesn’t understand why he throws fits when his dinner isn’t served on the orange plate…and why I try to be patient with him when he throws said fits.

I go to an adoption conference every winter and walk away from it so filled (if you are any type of adoptive or foster parent, I highly recommend it).  I am reminded of what a special path adopted kids take, and how my job as their mommy stretches far beyond my biomommy responsibilities.  I’m far from perfect- like, really far- but I walk away remembering that each child is created in God’s image and what an awesome honor it is to parent them.

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Sassypants is Three!

You guys, my baby, my last baby is THREE!

The year of two is an interesting year.  When a baby turns two they are still very much a baby, but by the time they turn three they might as well be going to college.  They’re so big.

I’m having a hard time with this because as we’ve left diapers, nursing, and soon to be nap time in the past, I feel a chapter in my life coming to an end.  In some ways that’s a happy feeling.  It’s so much easier to do things these days, we’re looking forward to traveling again, I don’t feel so bad asking for babysitting help. Life’s so much more manageable now than it was a year or three ago and that’s great.  But I also know these very precious moments are limited.  It feels like we just got started and I’m not quite ready to close that chapter yet.

If you’re a new reader, I refer to my children by “blog names” because I want them to be able to Google themselves someday without being tied to all my stories about them.  I’ve always referred to my youngest as “The Baby” but since she’s not really a baby anymore I’ll call her “Sassypants”….and if you know her in real life, you’ll know why that’s her moniker.

So Sassypants, Happy Birthday!  Are you really three?!  You are such a special little girl.  When I was growing up I got a lot of flak for being bossy and I see that in you, too.  But you know what?  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a girl knowing what she wants and telling other people how to make that happen.  We just need a little polishing!  You challenge me in a way that none of my other children do, probably because we’re very similar.  But even when you’re driving me crazy, I see a special little spark in your eyes, and I promise I will do everything I can to help you develop that into something great.  Here are the things I want to remember about you right now:

When you tell a story, you cock your head to the side, twinkle your eyes, and nod in confirmation of your own story.

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I’ve never met a kid who was so determined to do things on their own.  If I had a penny for every time you shouted “NO!  I DO IT!” I’d be a millionaire.  Sometimes I have to apologize to older kids on the playground; you bite their heads off when they try to help you do something.

You’re an okay eater with a major sweet tooth.  You really like to eat peas, baked beans, ketchup, fish, spaghetti, most fruits, and anything in the “treat” category.

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You suck your index and middle fingers on your right hand constantly.  I’m sure you’ll have bad teeth.  I used to think it was cute but I’ve been nagging you lately to stop.  You kept telling me you’d stop when you turned three, but today you told me you’d stop when you turn four.

You love to snuggle.  You make your snuggle bed kind of like a dog makes their bed.  You force me to lie down in just the right way, move around a lot, press on my belly several times, and finally make your pillow on my stomach.

You adore your older siblings.  Gammie asked what you wanted for your birthday and I honestly couldn’t think of anything you were into, because mostly you just copy whatever they’re doing.  You do a lot of pretend play- things like putting us or your stuffed animals to bed, making us dinner, building forts, etc, that don’t require a lot of toys.

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A couple months ago we switched you from your pack and play (which you’ve pretty much slept in since birth) to a big girl bed- a bunk bed in a room shared with Diva. You used to be a wonderful sleeper.  Now you are a TERRIBLE sleeper.  You climb around, get up, go potty, whine, and do anything you can do delay bedtime.  But the most entertaining thing is how you strip completely naked most nights.  The first several times this happened I tried to put a diaper on you, but this required me climbing on the top bunk and trying not to wake you up, so I just started letting you sleep butt naked.  You haven’t wet the bed yet…let’s keep that up.

You have one volume- loud.  Very loud.  All the time loud.

At preschool you get a stamp if you’ve had a good day.  You rarely get stamps.  Your most common offenses are telling your teachers no, not listening, and throwing fits….but a couple weeks ago you lost your stamp for getting naked during class.

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You love to comb my hair.

You have your Daddy wrapped around your finger.  He adores you and you get away with way more things than any other child.  He also watches you way more closely than any other child.

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You’re not shy.  When we pass people on walks or at stores you often yell out “Hi, what’s your name?”  When they ask your name in return, you reply with your full name- first, middle, last.

You can spell your first name and say the days of the week.

You are very brave, you love to jump off things, climb on things, and explore the world around you.  We need to get you enrolled in gymnastics soon!

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Sassypants, you keep right on being you.  You’ve had a great three years and I’m so excited to see what the next year holds for you.

 

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Seven!

What a busy spring we’ve had!  Between The Baby’s birthday, Wiggle’s birthday, our adoption anniversary, and our Tuner dying I’ve almost forgotten the blog is supposed to be on a break.  Alas, after today things should return to the normal humdrum of life.  But first can we talk about Miss Diva!  The girl is seven today!

I don’t think a sweeter girl has ever been made. But that wasn’t always the case!  Diva, after meeting you for the first time we sure were worried.  Daddy was convinced you’d need therapy for life.  We thought you were so hateful and rude, but now we know you were just scared.  In fact, now when we ask you why you were so mean back then, you just shrug and say “Because I don’t know you” as if it’s the most obvious answer in the world.  That thought both makes me smile (at your spunk) and cry (that you had to go through such a scary time).  In any case, I don’t even remember a time in your whole sixth year when you were hateful and rude.  I do remember…

  • How we watched Fuller House together every week while I did your hair.  And how I finally got good at doing your hair!
  • Your inability to feel pain.  Seriously, I think you are missing some nerves.  I know you’re not because the other day you got stung by a wasp and you were not very happy about that, but every time we go to the doctor you offer up your arm even if you’re not scheduled for shots, and every time a tooth is the slightest bit wiggly you follow Daddy around with a pair of pliers until you finally convince him to pull it out. download
  • How you always, ALWAYS share with others.  I can’t get over your generosity; it often makes me think of how selfish I am!  Even if you’ve been looking forward to getting something for a whole week, you’ll give it away to someone else.  Without hesitation.
  • When you got $15 cash for your birthday on Saturday you planned to give every last penny to the church on Sunday.  But you forgot the $5 and decided to buy an Elsa crown instead.
  • Your crazy crazy laugh.
  • You’re my best little helper.  I don’t even know how to roll enchiladas or stuff pasta shells anymore because I haven’t done it for two years.download (5)
  • You USED to be my best baby-sitter, but the other day you were in charge of watching Wiggles and The Baby while I took a shower.  I noticed the room was suspiciously quiet so got out early and found you playing outside with the kids.  You were so upset that I was so upset that you cried hysterically (seriously, we could hear you everywhere in the house) under your bed for an hour.  No more babysitting for you.
  • Did I mention that you’re super sensitive and that I both love and hate this about you?
  • My sister and one of my best friends recently had babies.  You LOVE babies and would hold them all day if you could.  Every time we leave you tell me about how you can’t wait to be a mom.  Then later, you see me stressed out about something…you rub my back and tell me you can wait to be a mom because being a mom is such hard work. download (2)
  • Last year we went to Worlds of Fun.  You have to be 48″ to ride most of the thrill rides.  You were about 47.5″ and refused to stretch the truth to go on the rides.  I don’t know who is more excited about going this year, you or Daddy!  He’s been waiting for a roller coaster riding partner for 10 years now.
  • Smiles started play therapy recently and sometimes you go with me when I take him.  You know there are Barbies and dress up clothes back there and you get SO mad that you don’t get to go to therapy too.  You literally beg me to go.download (4)
  • You really have very few faults, but the two major ones you can’t shake are your extreme messiness/forgetfulness and your inability to tell a short story in less than 25 minutes.
  • You really like to be thought of as a girly girl and get offended if anyone thinks you’re a tomboy, but you still come home with holes in the knees of all your leggings.download (6)
  • You like all foods.  I literally can’t think of anything you don’t like.  This is such an extreme opposite of how I was at your age.  You like weird combinations too, you often make yourself things like a chicken peanut butter pasta pickle mustard sandwich.

But why should I keep talking?  Let’s see what you had to say:

What is your favorite color?
Pink sparkles.

What is your favorite thing to do?
Eat ice cream with my family and I really like to go to Oceans of Fun.

What is your favorite song?
God songs.

What are you most proud of?
I’m really proud I’m level H (in reading) because I moved up a level and I’m almost catched up with my class.

What is your favorite food?
Princess cupcakes.

What is your least favorite food?
I can’t think of anything I don’t like.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
An artist.  I love artists and I want to paint and be just like (my art teacher).

What do you want to do when you’re seven?
Get ice cream with my family.

Who is your hero?
My family because they always help me. Except The Baby because she screams at me and is rude.

What is your favorite game?
Decorating Barbies.

Who is your best friend?
Jenna and Haley and Corbin and Winston

What’s your favorite subject in school?
Art

If you could do anything all day, what would you do?
Art

What’s your birthday wish?
That I could spend all day with my family and also that no one is poor.  I love making clothes and being an artist and if I see a poor person being outside I want to bring them to my house and make clothes for them.

Happy birthday sweet girl.  You are such a blessing to this family, thanks for making us all nicer!

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Little Man is Four!

My first born is four years old today!

Wiggles, you were an answer to prayer.  You made us parents.  Today you are crazy and rowdy and ornery as all get out, but you’re also sweet and smart and snuggly.  Here are some things I want to remember about right now:

  • You  go to sleep every night in your bed.  But by the time I go to bed, I usually find you on the floor…and by the time I wake up, you’ve made your way into our bed.  You just crawl right on in, usually without us noticing.  You tell us you’re going to stop doing that once you turn 4, but you also told us you were going to start using the potty when you turned 3 and we all know how that went.download (1)
  • You LOVE having older siblings.  You constantly play with and pick on them.  You and Smiles are always chasing each and wrestling, while you and Diva like to play Jake the Pirates and do art.  The other day someone said “No one is perfect” and you countered with “Diva is perfect at art.”  mac
  • You like to play mermaids in the bath with Diva.  And she likes to dress you up like a girl.  I love that you have sisters.4
  • You are fearless when it comes to physical activity, and will ride your balance bike downhill at approximately 70 mph.download
  • You are not so fearless when it comes to the dark or someone using a “spooky voice.”
  • You are a perfectionist.  You get really angry when things don’t go your way and you make sure everyone knows it.  Usually you rattle off your favorite insults and call whoever crosses your path during this time “Idiot stupid meanie.”2
  • You’re also really into rules and order.  You constantly have a plan for how many turns people should have, what should happen next, and how things should be done.  You make sure everyone knows each step of your plan before you start the activity.
  • You LOVE to read and amaze us with how well you can do it.  I think you’ve really benefited from all the work we’ve put in with Smiles and Diva.  You memorized dozens of sight words right along with them and are now getting pretty good at sounding out words- and you make Diva mad when you help her with a word in a book she’s reading.3
  • Sometimes you can be super sweet, like when you stop what you’re doing just to tell me that you love me or when you rub my back or when you share with your siblings.  But sometimes you can be a straight up jerk, like when you randomly hit people or tell them you don’t like them.
  • I have a secret that I’m a little afraid to share online.  In the morning when you don’t want to get up, I tell you that I hope you don’t go potty because I don’t want your wiener germs.  This makes you instantly bounce out of bed, use the potty, then chase me down to give me wiener germs.  You tell me you’ll stop this when you’re 13 (you’re into rules and order and plans, remember?) but I sincerely hope this stops long before then.  I hope what started off as a funny way to get you around in the morning doesn’t scar you for life.

 

I gave you a survey on your 4th birthday.  Here’s how you answered:

What’s your favorite color?
Blue.  It used to be all the colors but blue is my very favorite now.

What do you like to do?
Play with blocks and train tracks and everything outside.

What’s your favorite song?
Kidbopz

What are you most proud of?
You because I just like you.

What’s your favorite food?
Pizza.

What’s your least favorite food?
Hot sauce.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
An art teacher.

What do you want to do when you’re four?
Play and eat ice cream and cake and cinnamon rolls and sleep all day.

Who is your hero?
Batman.

What’s your favorite game?
Sequence.

Who are your best friends?
Everyone at school except for (3 “mean” kids who shall not be named publicly) and my family and everyone who is nice except for bad guys and strangers.

What’s your favorite thing to do at school?
Play and math.

If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do all day?
Play outside and ride my bike.

Happy birthday to the little man who showed us a new type of love.  You are so special to us!

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A Good Bye Letter To My Favorite Dog

Dear Turner (aka Turn Turn)-

You may not know it from watching me now, but there was a time in my life when I didn’t know how to care for other souls.  I didn’t know how to nurture, wasn’t that responsible, and definitely didn’t know how to cook.  At the ripe old age of 20 I got my first apartment, and shortly after that  I got you.  You were my first baby, my baby before I had babies.

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Back in those days your daddy and I were very involved in the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, both holding exec board seats and going to many events each month.  We formed a tight group of friends, and you kind of became the mascot.  You went with us everywhere- to the quad, on numerous camping and float trips, to our friends’ houses. If for some reason you couldn’t go we had many people volunteer to “baby-sit” you.  You had dozens of people watch you over the course of those college years, and I think you still have a special place in many of their hearts.  (But probably not in Daddy’s old roommates’ hearts.  They always got mad when I brought you over).  You grew up right alongside us.  You learned how to sit and stay as we learned how to pay bills and drink responsibly.

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You were so ornery back then.  I remember the first night I got you.  I was spending the night at my roommate’s parent’s house.  I wanted to cuddle with you all night long but was afraid you’d pee on the floor, so I put your kennel on a desk chair, scooted the chair over to the bed, and fell asleep with my fingers laced through the door.  That wasn’t enough for you, though. You wanted out of that kennel so badly you wiggled until you knocked it right onto the floor.  I was afraid we’d wake her whole house up!

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Six months old at the lake. Please don’t mind the Pepto Bismol jump suit and political hoodie.

You were always a runner and I was so sure you’d meet your eventual death by way of the car. As people have recounted their memories of you over these last days, nearly all of them involve chasing you.  Our nephew once told your Daddy that he was faster than Lightning McQueen when he was chasing you, but you were faster!  One time we had about 20 people from the business fraternity over to practice a homecoming skit.  You escaped and the entire practice was put on hold as college students chased you in circles around the townhouse.  Our friend Tommy once let you outside at night, started chasing you after you darted, and came back to the house drenched from the sprinklers he ran through.  But my favorite running story is the time you got loose at my parent’s house.  Four grown adults chased you for what felt like two hours, until Grandpa finally sprayed a mist of bear spray.  You ran through it and finally came to a stop.  You didn’t run away so much after that.

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Back in your younger days you liked to chew on hangers and we always found you stuck in the middle of them.  You also liked to chew the TV cord and I was scared you’d die of electrocution if a car didn’t get you first.

You were there when Daddy proposed.

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After he graduated he moved to Kansas City, but I still had a semester of school left.  Neither one of us could imagine going a week without seeing you, so we split custody.  One of us would get you Sunday through Wednesday. We’d meet in Concordia for dinner Wednesday night and the other would keep you Wednesday through Friday.  You were one loved little dog.

And you were there when we got married.  I really wanted you to be in the wedding but that idea got vetoed (you really didn’t listen very well and you had a barking problem).  About two minutes before I walked down the aisle I was waiting in the stairway of the church when I heard you upstairs, scratching and whining at the door.  I had to frantically motion to the closest person nearby, my uncle, to take you somewhere so you wouldn’t disrupt the whole service.  So rude of you.

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You were there as we started our lives together.  You lived in 8 different apartments/houses with us!  You were so spoiled.  You slept in our bed every night.  You took regular trips to the dog park. You liked to sit on the back of the couch and lick Daddy’s head (weirdo).

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And you were there as I tried to pretend to play the piano.

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I even got super into healthy foods and started making your dog food, using real beef and veggies and organs.  You were in heaven.  We loved you and you loved us right back.  I remember our lives got a little easier when we discovered that if I screamed as if I was in trouble, you would come running over  to protect me even if you had escaped.

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You were there as we grew our family, first with more fur babies and then with human babies.

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Those human babies changed your life. As it often goes, your status was demoted.  But you never complained, except when those human babies pulled your fur.  But even then, you were so gentle with these small terrors.  Turner, we’ve been through a lot with you.  Thank you for adapting to it all and for so lovingly putting up with all the stuff that has been unfavorable to you.

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You haven’t been acting like yourself for several months now.  There were times we let you outside and you wouldn’t come back in.  We’d go find you standing in the middle of the yard looking lost.  You’ve always LOVED walks, but lately we couldn’t even drag you on them.  You’ve been drinking a ton of water and sometimes peeing on the floor.  In hindsight we should have been more concerned about these things, but at the time we chalked it up to old age.  But when you stopped eating and started sleeping more we grew worried and took you to the vet.  It was time for your yearly check up anyways.  I wasn’t that worried.  I figured the vet would tell us you had the doggy flu or something.  I wasn’t prepared for him to tell me that you were dying.

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As the vet rambled on about kidney failure and your enlarged liver and heart, my eyes filled with tears and I wondered how did we get here?  I skipped your teeth cleaning last year.  Maybe if I had gotten it done you’d be healthy today.  I’ve been lax on the HeartGard I used to give you religiously.  Should I have taken you in earlier?  Now I know you’ve been sick for longer than we’ve realized, and I’m kicking myself for not paying more attention sooner.  I’m so, so sorry if I’ve failed you.

The vet thought you’d be gone in a day or two but you held on for nine.  I’m so thankful for that extra time.  We cuddled more than we had in years and you ate better than ever before- ham and roast beef and turkey.  You were lethargic, but you barked a few more barks, went on a few more walks in the wagon, and climbed the stairs til the very end.  I carried you around in my Ergo and slept with you on the floor.

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Late this week you started to go downhill, and this morning you let us know it was time.  We took you to the vet.  You were getting your belly rubbed as you died in my arms.

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Turner, I’ve never been an adult and not had you by my side.  I haven’t lost a pet since I was a young child, and I didn’t know it could hurt this bad.  Thank you, buddy, for being such a great pal over the last 12 years.  Thank you for being patient with me when I didn’t know what I was doing, and thank you for loving us even when life got busy.  Thank you for the way you greeted us at the door, for your cute little handshakes, for the way you’d try to  roll over but spin in a circle instead.  I love you so much it hurts; it hurts a lot right now.  You’re an old man and you’ve had a good life.  I will miss you terribly.  We’ll have other dogs again some day, but we’ll never have another dog grow up with us.  That title belongs to you alone.

T, I know you’ve been freed from your old body.  I hope you’ll run like you used to in doggy heaven.  I hope they have lots of peanut butter, lots of tummy scratches, and lots of shoes for you to hump up there.  Most of all, I hope you know how very much you were loved and how much you meant to our family.

Love

Mommy

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Two Years Home!

Two years ago today Diva and Smiles stepped off of an airplane and into our lives.  They left behind everything they ever knew to enter a world that was completely unfamiliar.  I still can’t believe how brave they are!

We knew we would be in for a tough transition.  Back then, we often dreamed about how easy things would be 2 years in the future, when we didn’t have a newborn and all our kids could speak English- and now here we are.  I wouldn’t say things are easy, but they are most definitely without a doubt easier than they were back then!

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To celebrate adoption day, the kids brought an adoption book (I Wished For You– if you know someone who is adopting, give them this book as a present) and treats to school.  We knew this might spur some questions from their classmates, so we’ve spent the last few weeks role playing with them and telling them it’s okay to say “I don’t want to talk about that” if something uncomfortable comes up.  They both were able to talk and celebrate with their classes!  We had activities tonight so our family celebration was pretty low key. I actually got them presents this year, but I hid them several weeks ago and now I can’t find one of them, so we will have another adoption day celebration when it reappears! We did sugar them up, looked through their adoption books (I made them, similar to a baby book), and talked a lot about how far they’ve come.

And how far they’ve come!  Here’s a shake down of where they’re at these days:

Personalities:
Smiles:  Such a jokester!  He uses humor to diffuse situations, and if you laugh at his jokes you’ll be his friend forever.
Diva: This girl has the emotional maturity of an 85 year old wrapped up in her cute little 6-year-old body.  I’ve seriously never met another small person who is as compassionate, empathetic, and helpful as she is.  She is constantly thinking of other people and will sacrifice her own desires to make someone else’s life better.

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Activities:
Smiles:  His love for sports continues.   We wrapped up basketball season a few weeks ago and now have baseball practice twice a week.  He’s pretty dedicated; most day he does conditioning on his own at home and sometimes even turns down treats in an effort to be healthy.  He loves pitching and he’s pretty good!
Diva:  She did Tball last year, but apparently all the athletic genes in their biological family went to Smiles (I’m sort of a feminist and I really hate this).  She’s just not interested.  She’s not currently in any activities except Awana at the church, but we are looking into gymnastics, piano lessons, or art lessons.  I just can’t get very motivated to do anything because I really value down time at home.

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Interests:
Smiles:  Sports and friends.  We moved away from some great neighbors, but we keep in touch and see them regularly.  He’s just recently made new neighborhood friends, but tonight he called Wiggles an a**hole.  He had zero idea that was a bad word and told me he learned it from those friends, so now I’m questioning this friendship!  Friends are really important to him and he walks with a swagger when he feels loved. He likes playing basketball or practicing hitting out front.  He wants to go fishing more often, likes playing Minecraft and Temple Run on the iPad, and loves to put things like Legos together.
Diva:  Art and fashion.  She wants to be an art teacher when she grows up, except for the days she wants to be a fashion designer.  She’s always drawing; I can keep her entertained for hours with a notebook and a pencil.  She mostly draws princesses and pretty dresses.  She likes watching the YouTube instructional videos.  She’ll watch, pause it while she draws, then watch some more.  She’s young enough that she’s really into imaginative play.  Her and Wiggles pass lots of time building forts (they call them campers), mixing concoctions in the kitchen, or acting out Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

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School:
Smiles: You may remember how we decided to repeat the third grade, and I’m SO glad we did!! I never question this decision.  He was just so far behind, but this year has been really transformational for him.  He gets pulled out twice a day, once for reading and once for ESL support with all the other subjects.  The speed at which this kid is learning how to read is amazing.  If his progress continues, by the end of the school year he’ll be reading at a late 2nd grade level- so just one grade level behind.  Can you even imagine moving to a foreign country, not knowing a single letter of their language, and then being nearly caught up just 24 short months later?  He’s keeping up with the other subjects too. He’s multiplying and dividing, learning about the government, and can tell you the different parts of the water cycle.  Two years ago he knew literally nothing.  I remember practicing ABC flashcards for hours and repeating the spelling of his name hundreds of times until he memorized it.  When a kid starts off that far behind it is completely overwhelming, but he’s putting in the work and we couldn’t be prouder.  He does get graded now, but we don’t worry about that just yet.  I’m guessing he’ll be totally caught up to grade level by late elementary school.
Diva: Diva had a huge advantage in schooling- she started off in kindergarten, where everyone is learning such basic skills that a lack of prior schooling doesn’t make that huge of an impact.  That being said, she is most definitely behind her classmates but not to the degree Smiles is. She loves to write stories, but her spelling is so bad I need help reading most of them.  She’s a natural student and enjoys school.

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Struggles:
Smiles:  We had a really tough first year with Smiles.  He struggled for a long time with respecting authority, following rules, and just behaving normally.  But it’s like he grew up about 5 years over the past 18 months.  He’s a brand new kid!  He still pushes buttons, blames others when he’s irresponsible, has bad attitudes about certain things, and antagonizes his siblings, but hey- he’s a kid!
Diva:  Diva is without a doubt my easiest child.  I think I’d be able to say that if I had 1,000 children- she’s just very well behaved.  But, she is incredibly messy, totally forgetful, and would watch TV 23.5 hours a day if we let her.

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Moving night with some of our best friends from Ethiopia.  We’re so lucky to know them!

Transition:
Smiles:  Smiles hates to talk about his past.  It’s not something he’s proud of.  I think in his mind he says “this is over with, I’m going to lock it away and never think about it again.”  If you ask him questions about Ethiopia or look at old pictures he just completely shuts down; you can almost visibly see the wall go up.  I’m happy he’s so happy here, but I also think that most issues adults have stem from childhood problems that weren’t dealt with properly, so I am determined to help him acknowledge and accept his beginnings.  We do this in a couple of ways.  First, we talk about it all the time.  I know he hates it and he rolls his eyes every time I bring it up, but we keep doing it anyway.  And it’s working, because little by little he is starting to open up.  Second, we started him in play therapy recently.  We found a lady who specializes in adoption and she’s just fantastic.  It’s too early to tell what long term impacts this will have, but I want him to have a place outside the home that’s safe to talk about the feelings he’s having- and I also want to force him to feel and work though those feelings.  One of my greatest fears is that if we don’t get him to accept the past now, it will manifest in teenage or later years in ways I don’t want to deal with.  So, this is still an issue, but we’re working through it and seeing really positive strides.
Diva:  Diva is the opposite of Smiles.  I’m not a professional, but I think she deals with her past in a very healthy way.  She’ll tell anyone who asks about her life in Ethiopia.  She talks about her birth family often and is constantly giving me things to send to them.  Our beloved dog is dying and I’ve been really bummed about it.  The other day I was crying and she told me “Don’t worry Mommy.  Even when he dies he will still live in your heart, just like my Ethiopia family lives in my heart.”  Did I mention SHE’S SIX?!

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So there you have it.

We did a lot of research going into adoption and were prepared to face all sorts of issues. Honestly, our kids aren’t perfect, but considering the instability they faced for several years it’s really incredible how perfectly they’ve fit into our family.  I feel so lucky and blessed to call them son and daughter.

 

 

 

 

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