Baby Girl is Two!

The next month brings a slew of milestones:  The Baby turned 2 yesterday, Wiggles and Diva have birthdays in April, and we celebrate 2 years post adoption in a couple weeks!  These types of posts are my favorite to write and my favorite to later look back on, so the blog is temporarily resumed for this busy season!

I was shopping at Hobby Lobby the other day and saw a sign that read “Though she may be little, she is FIERCE.”  It took every ounce of my being not to buy it for our fourth child.  She may be the smallest member of this family, but she doesn’t let that stop her from being heard!

Baby, you’re a sweet little fireball.  You drive us crazy and you make us laugh.  Here’s what I want to remember about right now:

  • You are pretty much the best sleeper in the whole wide world.  Every time I put you to bed, you immediately roll over, stick two fingers in your mouth to suck, and fall asleep in approximately 4.2 seconds.

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  • You’re a somewhat picky eater with a major sweet tooth.  You’ll barely let anything green (exception: peas) come within 3 feet of your body, but you will eat 12 marshmallows in 5 seconds flat.
  • Sometimes you eat six bananas in one day.

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  • When you’re not happy with your food selection you let us know by chucking it halfway across the room.  Our dogs love you.
  • When you have food not at the table the dogs follow you around, which makes you go berserk.  You scream “NO” and slap the poor dogs across the room.  You ain’t afraid of a 13 pound dog.
  • You really like to sing songs, but mostly just “Row row” and “Down by the Bay” with the occasional “ABC” thrown in.  Sometimes you tell me what to sing, I start singing it, and then you yell at me. This is really confusing.
  • You constantly take your shoes off.  I don’t think we’ve ever arrived at a destination with your shoes still on.
  • But you love to put other peoples shoes on.
  • And clothes.  If there are clothes in your eyesight you are going to layer them on until you can’t walk anymore.  None of them will be put on correctly but you will refuse all help.

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  • When you’re not layering you are very opinionated about what you wear, and just like with song selections you often yell at me for putting on what you just told me to put on you.
  • You have an awesome mullet with bangs so long they cover your eyes, but you don’t like to wear bows, headbands, or hair ties.
  • You also don’t like to brush your teeth, and with all the other kids I don’t have the energy to fight you on this one.  Every night I try, and every night you swat my hand away and brush your nose or hair instead.  Then you throw your toothbrush on the floor.  If you grow up and have bad teeth I want the record to show this is your fault, not mine.
  • Your eye twinkle.
  • We have to keep the doors to the bathrooms closed because you like to take the rolls of extra toilet paper and throw them in the toilet.  The next time you do this it’s coming out of your college fund.
  • While we’re speaking about potty behavior, every time you go to the bathroom you bring us the wipes, a fresh diaper, and tell us “I pooped.”  We still have PTSD from trying to train your brother so we haven’t tried with you yet, but hopefully you’ll be easier.
  • What’s up with you taking a wipe and wiping yourself for 15 minutes?
  • You don’t like to lay down for diaper changes.  You prefer to stand up, spreading your legs almost to a full split.
  • For the first 22 months of your life you pooped 95% of the time you were in the water, including baths (which meant you were rarely bathed), but I think you finally have this habit kicked.
  • Every time you give us a kiss you suck your cheeks in like a fish face instead of puckering your lips out.  They’re the best kisses ever.
  • You know all your uppercase and lower case letters and can name all your colors.
  • You’re talking a lot.  Me and Daddy can understand a fair amount of what you say, but I don’t think the average joe could.  Your most frequently used words, beside “no”, is “please help” or “me help!”
  • You love being goofy with your big siblings and have no trouble keeping up with them!

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Baby girl, thanks for 2 great years- can’t wait to see how you’ll grow this year!

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Swan Song

It is with mixed emotions that I tell you this will be my last regular blog post.

I didn’t plan on it working out this way. Quite the opposite, in fact.  One of my New Year’s goals was to post more often;  my eventual goal was to make the blog profitable. After six years I’ve established a solid following, and I thought with a little extra effort I could gain the readership that would appeal to advertisers and affiliates.  So I’ve spent the last few weeks studying just how to do that.  Now I know…but with that knowledge came a realization- I just don’t have the time it takes to do it right.

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You see, our last six years have been JAM PACKED with life stuff.  Infertility.  The decision to adopt.  Opening our hearts to older kids.  A surprise pregnancy.  A revoked referral.  A precious baby boy.  Another surprise pregnancy.  Our referral call just two days later.  Convincing the adoption agency to let us continue our journey.  Our trip to Ethiopia.  Our adoption delays.  A beautiful baby girl.  And finally, bringing our kids home.  (Actually, all of that was over the course of just 4 years…the last 2 have been spent adjusting from our normal lives to our crazy lives).

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It’s been quite the journey, and I’ve really enjoyed documenting it via the blog.  So much happened that it was EASY to fill the blog with updates. The blog has been a great outlet for my emotions, it serves as a solid reference when we look backwards, but mostly it’s been a fabulous connection tool.  It’s allowed me to share our story with family and friends, even at the times it was too difficult to talk about in person.  It’s connected me with strangers who are going through similar things.  And it’s allowed me to form friendships with people I would not have otherwise known.  I love it.  I feel an emotional connection to this blog- to my diary- and I’m sad to call it quits.

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But the blog was started to document building our family- and our family is now built.  It has served its purpose.  As we have progressed from an unknown future to the daily humdrum of family life, I have found that updating my blog is not nearly as enjoyable as it once was.  In fact, it has become another chore- right up there with laundry, walking the dog, and working out.  When you have 4 young children there are a LOT of daily chores, and it is just no longer worthwhile for me to spend the time and energy on something that doesn’t bring me joy…or at least leave me with a clean house/happy family/someday-gonna-be-hot body.

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So this is it, friends.  I’ll likely do an occasional post on special occasions, milestones, or when something happens that’s just too long for a Facebook post…but I expect those to be few and far between.  Thank you for reading all these years.  Thank you for reaching out.  Thank you for encouraging us.  Thank you for stopping me in public to share that you like my writing.  Thank you for not judging us, even when we deserved it (remember when we locked 4 year old Diva, 1 week after she was adopted, in her room when she was terrified?  Major parenting fail but you guys loved us anyway).  It’s been a great joy to share with you. Thanks for allowing me to fill your computer screens for so many years.  Friend me on Facebook if we’re not already buds.

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There were many times I thought I’d never be here- living in our forever house, working at a job that I love, with a toddler napping upstairs while there are 5 kids (friends are over) playing Wii  (very loudly) in the basement.  But here I am.  Thanks for seeing me here.

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Highs and Lows

Another week, another rounds of highs and lows.

Highs:  Family visit

The Husband has some family that we don’t get to see very often at all- it’s been at least 3 years.  They came to visit last weekend and it was great to see them!  They got to watch Smiles score a basket that turned the game around, took us out to eat at Pizza Street (every kid’s dream) and spoiled us all with presents!  We had a really fun day with them.

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Low:  Date Night

The Husband and I were gifted some tickets to a dinner theater and couldn’t have been more excited- who doesn’t love date night when you have 4 kids at home?  Me, apparently.  The show was great, the food was good, but I just wasn’t feeling it that day.  The kids had driven me crazy that morning and I never recovered.  I was bummed I didn’t enjoy myself more and bummed to waste a somewhat rare opportunity.

High:  Last Basketball Practice

Look, I love putting my kids in sports.  Smiles specifically has a fondness for them.  They are teaching him discipline, teamwork, and dedication- all lessons he really needs!  I’m happy he plays on teams, and plan to keep him enrolled in whatever sports interest him for years to come.  That being said….I LOVE THE TIME IN BETWEEN SEASONS!   I hate having plans on weekdays and am so excited to have Monday nights free again.  (Mostly because, The Bachelor).

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Low:  Dog Bath, Laundry, Nasty Bathroom, etc

I usually try to keep our weekends relatively low key, because weekends are when I get all my stuff around the house done.  But we’ve had a couple of busy ones in a row which means my dog smells like he rolled in a pile of poop (he probably did), my pile of laundry is taller than my toddler, my bath tub has had a ring around it for a week, my dining room table has been covered in Valentine’s Day craft stuff for a week…I feel perpetually behind. But hey, if you’re caught up with housework then you probably need to reexamine your life priorities (this is what I tell myself to make me feel better).

High:  Fireplace Cuddles

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Since my big kids just learned their alphabet less than 2 years ago, they’re not exactly at the stage where they cuddle up with a good book for hours.  I try to do everything in my power to encourage them to get there someday, and most recently it was story time in front of the fire place.  I hope these little moments are the ones I remember years from now when the decibel level of our house is back in the normal range and I don’t need a hazmat suit to clean.

That was my week…how was yours?

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My Thoughts on MO 1599, Missouri Adoptee Rights Bill

This is a big week for adoption in Missouri.  This week lawmakers are hearing arguments for and against MO 1599, commonly known as the Missouri Adoptee Rights Bill.  A decision will be made in the coming weeks.  So just what is this bill?

In Missouri, as in most other states, adoptees have no right to their original birth certificates  (OBCs). (Our friends in Kansas are just one of six states that allow adoptees over the age of 18 full unrestricted access to their OBCs. A handful of others allow access with several restrictions).  Adoptees are issued alternative birth certificates, but these can be confusing as they often list the adoptive parents as the birth parents, and often list the city the adoptive parents live in as the place of the birth.  In other words, they’re not really certificates of birth at all.

This is a problem.  Not only is it denying adult adoptees a basic document about their lives, but it can also make it harder for them to get things like passports, drivers licenses, or insurance coverage for genetic testing.  It can be another reminder that they’re not like most people.

 

Currently an adult adoptee in Missouri who wants information about their OBC must get permission from their biological parent(s). This can be a problem if they don’t know who those parents are.  Many hire searchers- just like we’re doing in Ethiopia.  Sometimes, the birth parents don’t want any contact and deny the request.

But requesting an OBC is NOT the same as requesting a relationship with a birth parent.  A relationship is a two way street.  If the birth parent doesn’t want to participate in a relationship, they are within their rights not to do so.  A certificate is a piece of paper about a person.  It’s not right for someone else to control that piece of paper.

What does the other side say?  The other side says that birth parents make the decision to give their child up under the promise of privacy.  But if this is happening, it’s only an implied promise.  Agencies need to carefully choose how they represent adoption.  Until the adoption is finalized- which often takes months- the OBC is public record.  If the adoptive parents have great foresight, they can request the OBC then.  It’s only after the adoption is complete that the record is sealed.  I do understand that women who make the decision for adoption- often poor, young, scared women- want it kept private.  And I feel for that; I truly do.  But I don’t believe their “right” to privacy is greater than an adoptees right to documents about themselves.

One of my fears when I first started researching this is that if there is no hope for privacy, these birth mothers- again, often poor, young, and scared- may choose abortion instead of adoption.  But data shows that that’s not the case.  The states that have always allowed unrestricted access to OBCs have lower abortion rates than surrounding states, and the states that have recently opened up OBCs have seen abortion rates drop.  Here’s an article that goes into more detail and provides sources.

I don’t like secrets.  I think the world would be a better place if we were all a little more honest with each other.  And adoptees deserve honesty about their beginnings.

 

 

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Highs and Lows

Does anyone else feel like the weeks just fly by before you’ve even had a chance to blink?  Sometimes I feel like I’m in a race car and life is just whizzing by.  It’s all I can do to buckle up and hold on.

Sometimes at dinner we’ll talk about the best and the worst parts of our days.  In an effort to slow down, think, and reflect on my weeks I’m going to try blogging weekly about the highs and lows I’ve experienced over the past 7 days (ish…because let’s be honest, it won’t be exactly every 7 days).

High:  Closing my first big deal!

I made a complete career switch a year ago, leaving the corporate world for commercial real estate.  I love what I do now, but starting anything new is hard. There were times I struggled with insecurity over being the new girl, but  I think I had a good first year overall.  I closed 7 deals, most of which I dug up myself.  However, most were pretty small.  I leased a 545 SF retail space.  I leased a 1200 SF office.  I even leased a storage closet!  I’m fine with the small deals as they’re a great way for me to learn, but on Friday I landed my first sizeable deal- The commission from that one deal is 20% of my annual goal.  The adrenaline rush was awesome; I was smiling all day!  Hope I get a few more of those this year 🙂

Low:  Losing a deal.

I’ve been working with a local business man for many months trying to find him a perfect retail space, and we finally did!  We went back and forth on terms, defined the scope of construction, drew up a contract, had the attorneys review the contract, submitted the changes to the owner….and then he put the brakes on the deal.  It was a reminder that no deal is complete until the papers are signed.  I understood his reasoning and respected his decision, but it stunk to put time and energy into a deal that ultimately didn’t go anywhere.

High:  Meeting other adoptive parents!

In March I’m going to an adoption conference.  What do you do at an adoption conference, you ask?  Well, friends, it should be quite fun.  It’s a faith based conference so there will be prayer and worship time.  There will be a panel of adult adoptees.  There will be keynote speeches by experts in the field, and there will be break out sessions over things like attachment, discipline, ways to support orphan care, etc.  I’m excited for many things about this conference, but most of all I’m excited to meet other families like ours.  THESE WOMEN ARE JUST AS CRAZY OR MORE SO THAN I AM!  There’s a Facebook group for the conference and all these women are doing introductions like “Hey, I adopted 4,313 kids from foster care” or “Hi there, I had 3 biological kids and then we adopted 1 internationally and then a few years later their 4 siblings were relinquished so we adopted them too!”  I love it. I don’t know anyone else going.   Earlier this week there was a dinner for moms from the KC area attending the conference, and it was so great to meet them!

Low:  The Baby.

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You guys.  The Baby (I really need to figure out a new blog name for her since she’s nearly 2) may be possessed.  By demons.  For real.  She is cray cray right now.  She’s happy, she screams.  She’s sad, she screams.  She’s hurt, she screams.  She’s excited, she screams.  She’s angry, she screams.  She’s frustrated, she screams.  THERE IS SO MUCH SCREAMING.

High: Friends.

When I first moved to Kansas City in 2006 I had almost no friends.  The husband had some from high school; but we were settling down and they were still pretty rowdy at the time.  We eventually joined a small group at our church and ended up meeting some of our very best friends.  Everyone’s lives have changed significantly since we first met, but we’ve been diligent about getting together regularly even as we’ve had kids, changed jobs, left the church, etc.  I can’t really explain how much these people mean to me, and how lucky I feel that we’ve maintained our friendships over all these years.  We had an impromptu get together this week and I just loved enjoying a drink while watching each others kids and talking about our lives.  Good stuff.

Low:  The Refrigerator

We inherited our refrigerator when we moved to this house in May.  Although it was built in 1927, I have a certain fondness for it.  Mostly because of this:

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This nifty little door allows us to get milk, or whatever else, without opening the fridge.  It’s awesome and retro and practical and I just love it.  But our poor fridge has been leaking over the past several weeks.  We (okay, The Husband) has tried his very hardest to fix it, but it’s just time.  We had to buy a new fridge this week.  Bye bye, nifty little door.  And bye bye, savings.

So, those are my highs and lows from the past week- what are yours?

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Updating Our Birth Family

Here’s a great thing about living in America:  Things work.

Cars go where they are supposed to go.  Packages get delivered where they’re supposed to get delivered.  Water comes out when you turn the faucet, electricity doesn’t randomly go out, and when you order a Sprite they don’t bring you a Coke.

This is not true in many developing countries, Ethiopia included.  I LOVE my children’s birth country, but goodness it’s frustrating when things don’t work as they’re supposed to.

You have to do updates several times during the first year after you adopt from Ethiopia.  The social worker comes over, we hang out, and then she goes home and writes about how wonderful the kids are.  While she’s writing we have to gather pictures of the kids, tape them to a piece of paper just so, and then send 3 copies back to our adoption agency.  The agency keeps one, one goes to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs that oversees adoption in Ethiopia, and one goes back to the orphanage so the birth family can access it.  Every time we’ve sent one of these reports, I’ve included printed pictures that our kids’ families can take back with them, along with some drawings and writings from the kids.

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You might remember our adoption was a bit messy.  Our kids’ birth mom loves her kids and although she willingly relinquished them- something we had to make very sure of- it was a hard decision for her.  When we met her I looked into her tear-stained eyes and promised myself that I would take good care of her kids and that I would keep her updated on them.  This is a promise I was, and am, serious about.

A couple of months ago I came across the direct contact info for their orphanage.  I emailed the director and, long story short, realized HE HAD NEVER RECEIVED OUR PACKAGES!

Here’s what went down from there:

  1. I’M SO MAD I’M GOING TO MURDER OUR AGENCY!
  2. It’s probably not our agency’s fault, you know how the mail system works there.
  3. Let’s ask him for the address so I can send him packages directly
  4. Found out that the area he’s from literally has no street addresses.
  5. Call our local DSL to see if they can deliver to a small village in Ethiopia with just a name and contact number.  Sounds odd, but things work differently there.
  6. Nope.
  7. Cry thinking about this poor birth mom who has heard zero from us in nearly two years.
  8. Become DETERMINED to get her some sort of update, asap

So I start connecting with my adoption network and find out that many of them have dealt with this too.  Their solution?  They hire a searcher.  Although Ethiopia’s system seems foreign and complicated to me, there are plenty of people who get it and they make a living for themselves by tracking people down.

We already had experience with a searcher.  You might remember we had to hire one back when our case got complicated.  I emailed her immediately to see if she could help us with this case.  This would be ideal because she has already tracked down our birth family once, so it’s easier (and cheaper) for her to simply deliver things and take pictures now.  Simple solution, right?

Except that after replying to my first couple of emails she’s went cold.  I haven’t heard from her in days and I can’t get these pictures sent over quick enough.  I just keep thinking about their poor birth mother, wondering what on Earth happened to her babies.  If she could only see how tall they are, how long Diva’s hair is, how bright Smiles’s smile is.  If she could only know they’re both reading, that Smiles knows how to multiply, that Diva spends hours drawing princess pictures.  If she could only know that they are happy and healthy.  I have failed by this measure.  I must figure this out asap!

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to the World, Layla

Two weeks ago the world got a very special gift:  My new niece!  I thought I’d celebrate this milestone birthday by recapping our trip to meet her.

My niece was born on January 6th.  My sister was late and had to be induced, but the labor was incredibly quick and everyone did great!  Even though she was late, she was just a little tiny thing at 6 pounds 8 oz but 20 inches long…maybe she’ll be a tall skinny model.

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She was born on a Wednesday. Since my sister lives nearly 3 hours away, I had to fight every urge I had to just hop in the car and drive immediately down.  I had to wait all the way til Friday after work/school to visit for the first time.  The wait nearly killed me.

We had a few other things going on that weekend so The Husband stayed home with Smiles while I drove down with the 3 little kids.  Managing a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old by myself all weekend was an adventure.  Wiggles got carsick on the way down.  He puked once on the floor of the gas station.  Really makes you feel great as you stand there helplessly as your preschooler pukes on the ground and the only thing you can do is stop your toddler from running through it.  I tried to express my sorrow for the teenage clerk, but being 16 she just couldn’t understand…so we just left as quickly as we could.  Sorry, teenage girl.  Look at it as birth control?  Then he puked again later in the car.  Luckily I keep a trash can in my car, but I didn’t realize it got on his clothes until an hour later when his uncle said “Is this vomit on his shirt?”

I’m totally qualified to handle these kids by myself, y’all.

Minus the puke, the kids were good. They especially liked jumping on the hotel bed.

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This is the best I could do.

 

And swimming in the pool.

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But mostly we just hung out with the precious new baby.  Every time I’m around a newborn I’m shocked at how tiny they are.  They get big so fast!  I just can’t get over the little baby forehead wrinkles, the pitiful little cries, the cute startle reflex, the long little fingers, the tiny little toes.  I want to lose track of all my responsibilities and snuggle them all day long.  Especially when they’re as cute and perfect as my new niece.

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Diva felt the same way.  As she was laying with her new cousin on her chest she sighed heavily and said “I just want to be a mommy.”

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Wiggles likes babies and enjoyed staring at her.

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The Baby mostly said “Baby.  Baby.  Baby.  Baby.  Baby. Baby. Baby.”  I didn’t let her get too close because she really likes to point to and name body parts and I was afraid she would gauge out the new baby’s eye.

Don’t even get me started on how much her big sister loves her.  Is there anything cuter than sibling love?

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It almost makes me want another baby.  Almost.  But because that would be a HORRIBLE idea, I will settle for a big congratulations to my sis and bro in law!!  We love you guys and are so so happy for you!  (And for us)!

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