Monday, December 10, 2012

Goodbye, Saint

We've had some trauma here lately at Casa Long.

We've had our dog, Saint, for about six years. The King and I got him from the Humane Society just after we moved into our house. He is a beautiful dog. Shiny and black, with the build of a lab mixed with a great dane. He's very big. He has all the typical annoying dog traits. He drools, he barks at bunnies out the window, his tail hurts LIKE THE DICKENS if you get in it's way, he sheds what appears to be all his hair every. single. day. But he is a comfort when I'm home alone. He loves the girls and has always been gentle and kind with them.

In early November, I was in my bath room putting on make up. I did not know that Squeeze had grabbed a bag of Halloween candy off the table and was going to town sitting on the floor in the dining room. Saint laid down beside her for his share. Squiggled walked in and saw Saint with the candy. Being the oldest daughter that she is, she reached to take it from him. And he growled, barked, and bit her. She ran screaming into my room. The kind of screaming where she couldn't catch her breath. I had heard the growl and bark, so I feared the worst.

Sure enough. Squiggle had blood on her lip, under her eye, and near her temple. It actually didn't bleed too much, but it looked scary. The puncture wound near her temple looked so deep I felt like I was looking at her skull. (I wasn't.) Under her eye was like a slit of open skin, and her lip seemed just like a little scratch.

After some phone calls to my mom, The King, and our pediatrician, I threw everyone in the car and we headed to the ER. Squeeze stayed with Grandma, and The King went with us. It was a long day, as it always is, at the ER. In the end, Squiggle got five stitches. It was traumatic. She was such a good little patient, but getting stitches in your face is no fun. There was lots of holding down, freaking out, and tears from all of us.

During all this trauma in the ER, in all our parenting wisdom, we ended up telling Squiggle that we probably would not be able to keep Saint. Her eyes grew three times their size, filled with tears, and her heart broken voice said, "Why can't we KEEP him?" I have no idea what we were thinking. It was terrible timing. We like to be honest with our kids, but there's nothing wrong with saving your honesty for the right moment.

It was a miserable week after that. Deciding what to do with our dog, and still having to take care of him was difficult. For the first couple days, every time I looked at him I cried. I was mad at him, and I was worried about what to do with him.

I cried a LOT that week. Home should be a haven. Pets should be life enriching additions to our families. My child was bit in the face, in our home, by our family dog. The trauma of it was unsettling for me. Squiggle appeared to bounce back well, like lots of kids do. We are thankful the bite wasn't worse, and thankful that he didn't bite Squeeze instead. Eight hours in the ER with a two year old would have been WAY worse.

Squiggle was a great patient.
We made the decision to say goodbye to Saint, forever (if you know what I'm saying). Our vet was supportive, our friends were supportive, it seemed the responsible thing to do. But a neighbor of a friend heard our sad story, and asked if we'd be interested in re-homeing him with her instead. She had experience with large dogs who needed rehabilitation, and was looking for a guard dog and companion. It seemed the perfect scenario so we did it. Sadly, it did not go well. So now we are really saying goodbye, (if you know what I'm saying). However, if Squiggle or Squeeze ask, Saint is at Joanne's house, (if you know what I'm saying).

Squiggle seems fine with the whole thing. She has said, "I miss Saint." But she has also said, "I'm glad Saint's gone. So we can get a new dog someday." Squeeze seems ok, too. I'm worried she will be afraid of dogs since I believe she witnessed the whole event, but so far so good. We have friends with a large german shephard, and we plan on letting her spend time with her to hopefully help prevent the fear. We don't plan on getting a new dog any time soon. Although I do have an entire Pinterest board called "Dogs".

The storm has passed and settled now. But, oi, it was a bit of a doozy. I wouldn't have expected it to be so difficult, but it really was. I'm so glad it's over. What kind of pet storms have you been through?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Works For Me: Getting Out The Door

In place of sharing things I'd like to do with my girls, and then falling short on my plans and looking stupid, (here's one)  I thought I'd share some little mom tricks that actually work for me, because I actually do them. Not just plan to do them from ideas I found on Pinterest.

Getting out the door on time with a two year old and a four year old is tricky. Doable, but tricky. Sometimes when I show up at an event, I kind of expect an award to be handed to me as I walk through the door just for getting us all there alive. And dressed in more than Rapunzel panties.

Here's how I do it. I get the girls ready first. Clothes on, hair brushed, shoes and socks ON, extra clothes packed in my purse, faces wiped clean. Then I let them play or watch tv while I get myself ready. You see, I've been getting myself ready for thirty years. I know how long it will take me. I can manage that time well. Even when I'm short on time, I know what make up item to skip so I'm in the car on time, and if I need a pony tail instead of finished hair. My girls, on the other hand, are all kinds of unpredictable. I may think I can get them ready in 20 minutes or less. Some days that works. But other days, I can't find their shoes. Or Squiggle needs her hair brushed and that curly mess was rattier than I thought. Or Squeeze has an opinion on what shirt she wants to wear, and I have picked NONE of them. Or the book they are looking at is WAY more interesting than obeying their mother and coming to the bathroom. Or someone trips on carpet and smacks their nose on the little pink stool. Things happen.

If I am all ready to go out the door and am just waiting on them, things get frustrating. There are usually tears. I don't always use kind words. I get annoyed at them when they're just being kids. It's not pretty. A two year old and a four year old can not be trusted to be ready in ten minutes. Unless you're overly prepared, which I never am. Getting the girls ready first allows me to go more at their pace, and not freak out when something comes up. They still have to obey, but I am much more reasonable with them. Less yelling, and more peace. Always a mother's goal, right?

Heads up, this didn't work when the girls were babies. If I got them ready first, they inevitably pooped or puked on their cute outfit before we got out the door. But it works for my toddler and preschooler. How do you get out the door?

Friday, October 12, 2012

When You're Pregnant Without a Due Date

Being pregnant is no walk in the park. I was not one of those women who glowed through every trimester. I was sick all through the first, enjoyed the second, and hated the third. I wanted to be one of those women who loved it, but I wasn't.

You know what was great about being pregnant, though? Having a due date. Knowing this will all end, one way or another, at a predictable time. Feeling the baby move rocks, too. On those days when I felt fat, and exhausted, and rather whiny, all I needed was a little tiny flutter of a knee or elbow to remind me it was worth it.

I am not frustrated, not even antsy about our adoption. I am just wondering. Wondering with a little, tiny ache in my heart. When is this baby going to come? Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying the HECK out of Squiggle and Squeeze right now. They are both growing up so much, leaving babyhood behind them and becoming so much easier to care for. Squiggle and I have actual conversations. Squeeze can express to me what she wants. It's awesome. But when I walk by teeny, tiny newborn clothes at Target my heart aches for a baby to fill them.

This ache is two fold, I realize. The first fold is an ache I will always have. I think most women, for most of their lives, are either longing for, or remembering, tiny babies. Teeny tiny baby clothes will always be adorable, and will always make me think of when my girls were teeny tiny. They will always make me squeal on the inside. But the second fold of that ache is a tangible desire for our third child to join the family.

The ache for Number Three was really getting to me recently. So much so that I thought to myself, "You know...we could just get pregnant." (Yes, I'm oversharing again.) How nice would it be to know exactly when the baby was coming? And to know it would be a teeny, tiny newborn. And to be able to breast feed. And to know exactly what kind of in utero experience the baby had. And to spend two glorious days in that hotel of a hospital breathing in new baby smell.

*At this point I would like to point out how EXTREMELY personal this decision is. What we decide as a family, is simply what we decide. In the exact same scenario, your family may come to a different conclusion and it will be the exactly right decision for you. Also, I'm aware that this dilema is not extremely common among adoptive families. Many families who decide to adopt come to the decision from a place of infertility. I want you to know that I am aware that the fact that I could just decide on a whim to have a baby biologically is annoying to you. It's ok, you have the right to be annoyed.*

Squiggle at the zoo that day.
So here's how cool God is. I woke up one morning thinking, "I want to have a baby so bad. If we're supposed to keep waiting to adopt I need God to, like, give me a sign or something. I need some confirmation that we're doing the right thing." I didn't actually ASK Him for a sign, I just half thought it. And, you know what? God heard my half thought.

So am I pregnant? No. Did we get THE call from our agency? No. That would be a really great ending to this story, wouldn't it?

Nope. Here's what happened... That day I went to the zoo. And at the zoo I ran into a lady I met months ago at an adoption information meeting hosted by Kara Higgins. And not just that one lady. She was with two other adoptive moms. Between the three of them, they had five or six awesome boys from Ethiopia running around their feet. We didn't say much. I updated her on where we were at in our adoption journey. She was so glad I stopped her to say hi. That was it. And that was all I needed. When I told The King this story he said, somewhat disappointedly, "So that was your sign?"

Yes. Yes, it was. I know God led my steps that day so I would run into her...and feel my baby move.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Random Life Updates

Switching Squeeze (she turns two in November) to her big girl bed has been crazy easy. I'm kind of bummed because I have no great stories to tell. We had one day of training her, and have had zero problems since. I was nervous it may be more difficult since the girls share a room. But Squiggle (she turns four in November) has been really good about it, as well. The first few nights we would occasionally hear Squiggle say to Squeeze, "Get back in bed." Pretty cute.

Wondering how we did during our first 8 weeks of home school? Ummmmm...there were some things that worked and some things that didn't. Basically, if I didn't plan the week on Sunday night, then we didn't end up doing any purposeful activities. Plan. Plan. Plan. That was my number one lesson learned through failure. I had multiple reminders on my phone to do Bible each morning, Spanish class every afternoon, and read a book to Nola every afternoon. But I didn't have a plan for any of those things so I never did them. On the weeks I made plans, though, we always did them. That surprised me a little. Everyone is different. I learned that for me planning=success.

So what worked? Scripture memorization. Squiggle caught on so quickly to memorization. It's easier to pull of than I thought, too. All we had to do was recite the verse together about three times a day. We would say it at eating times, in the car, before bed, etc. Squiggle memorized Psalm 19:1 and John 3:16. She could've done more if I'd PLANNED. :) Toward the end of the eight weeks we just kept reciting the ones she'd learned to commit them more solidly to her memory. Scripture memorization was easy to do while doing things that were already in our routine. I think that's why it worked so well.

We love our zoo!

Best dad ever.
A snuggly day for Squeeze.

In Chicago with my sister, Serenity.

We have already started our next eight week session, and I'm already behind. We just came off two very busy weekends and I'm in lay low mode. I have to pull myself together or we'll never get anything done. Things I plan to focus on are Spanish lessons, and planning plenty of quiet time activities for Squiggle's afternoon rest time. Much to my chagrin, she does not take an afternoon nap. It's obvious she needs down time, though. Watching tv or movies is an easy solution, but I'm not sure it's actually helping her little brain rest. Any quiet time ideas for me?

We are still waiting for a referral from foster care. I pray for our baby often, but do not feel frantic about getting the baby here. I feel quite peaceful that God is going to work everything together. We are enjoying the season with just Squeeze and Squiggle, and trusting God's timing.

I started running. Stop laughing. I found a Couch to 5K running plan on Pinterest and am following that. I am actually really enjoying it. I feel great on the days I go for a run. I am hoping that once I complete the entire 10 week training program I will have earned myself a cute runner girl outfit. *Update. I got sick halfway through the ten weeks and stopped running. But I am still planning on jumping in again! I loved it so much. For real.

My husband is still a great dad. And looks hot when he plays the bass. He is still helping friends make indie short films, and other various video projects.

Overall, we are loving our life. How's yours?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Squeeze's Big Girl Bed

Yesterday afternoon we took the side off Squeeze's crib and put up the toddler rail. We did this because 1) we may need her crib for a new baby and 2) she's getting too heavy to heave in and out of that thing! When I was pregnant with Squeeze (our second), we moved Squiggle (our first) to a toddler bed at a pretty early age. I had heard that it might be better for a child who's handing their bed down to a younger sibling, to not make the change at the same time as the baby's arrival. Baby comes home from hospital, big sister gets the boot. Traumatizing. Makes sense.

Squiggle did great with the change. We had zero problems with her. No tears. No fighting. We joked that somehow she still thought she couldn't get out. Eventually she did figure out how to get up and turn her light on so she could read books and play. We often didn't discover her until WE were going to bed at 10! Sometimes, her light would be on and we would go in to turn it off and she would be sound asleep in her bed. Overall, so easy with her.

Squeeze is a different person. She enjoys life. She likes her independence. She likes to run. She likes to get reactions out of us. She likes to try things.

The first night went fairly well. Two seconds after closing their door for the night, Squeeze came running down the hallway with this look on her face that said, "Sweet! I can get out of here!" We told her otherwise. She was disappointed. We had to go in maybe twice more? Both girls were asleep in under an hour. This morning, Squeeze let herself out of her room half asleep. It wasn't much earlier than normal, but I think we may be in for a few early mornings with her in the future.

We are in the middle of the first nap time now. I have had to lay her down three times, I think. Poor thing was crying as if she didn't know what to do with herself. New boundaries are scary.

I think she is finally asleep...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why Do You Blog?

Do you want to know why I blog?

I started because my mother told me I was a wonderful writer and should definitely get a blog. She has also told me I could be President if I wanted. And she may have once mentioned that I would make a great rhythm gymnast. She's a believer.

Once I started, I realized most of my blogs were about being a mom. So I decided to focus in and write mostly on that topic. It has evolved into a slightly personal journal that I publish on the internet for all the world to read. If you've read my blog a while, you know that I occasionally get on a soap box and tell you how best to live your life. But, mostly I write the stories of my life with my husband and my girls.

The funny thing is, I would never keep a journal if it was a notebook on my nightstand for no one to see until I'm gone. Knowing you all occasionally peek into my life motivates me to keep writing. I can't wait to hear your commentary on my life. If for no other reason than to show off, I write. And that's just the honest truth.

Sometimes I worry that my readers will think this is the only reason I write. To show off. (This thinking shows you how full of myself I am, assuming you think my girls and my life are brilliant.) But it's worth it to me. Because, in the end, even if my undercurrent motives are showing off, I still have this record of my life that is invaluable to me. I already read old posts and reminisce about the girls as tiny babies. I can't wait until they are older and can read the posts I've written about how much I love their dad. The posts I love most are the ones with the super boring details of our days that probably make you guys stab your eyeballs in boredom. They are gold to me.

I keep writing because I can't wait to hear what you think about my potty trained 19 month old. I am dying to hear your comments on the crazy thing Squiggle said to me the other day. I'm assuming you care. So I keep writing. And I'm so thankful that I do.

One of my grandmothers is 92. She is still in good spirits, but often does talk of wondering when she will get to go Home. A lot of her memories have slipped away, although she still recognizes people. She knows who my mom and dad are, but she has no recollection of being at their wedding. I have heard her say, "I wish I remembered all these stories you're all talking about!"

That is why I blog. Someday, I might not remember.

I don't care if I never have more than 100 readers. I'll keep writing. For me. For my girls. But I do need you 100 readers to stick with me. Let me show off a little. When I'm 90, I will be thanking you for listening so I had some good reading to get me through my last few years here.

And, Lord, please don't let the Internet break.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Getting Calls

My husband, Ryan, and I were licensed as foster parents in May. We are hoping to adopt an infant through the foster care system. We are willing to foster and see where the road leads, but in the end we are hoping we will be a forever family for some one.

So far we have gotten three calls. The first time we didn't have a chance to say yes or no. The second time we said no. The third time we said yes.

The first call came at 2 o'clock in the morning on a Saturday night. I hadn't seen the number before on my phone. My groggy self assumed it was a wrong number. But I couldn't fall asleep thinking it might be foster care calling. I sent a text to the number and they responded immediately. I stumbled into the kitchen to call them back. They were looking to place a baby and a child. We would have said no, but while I was on the phone the lady received a text and the kids were covered. It was nice to not have to say no for our first call. We would have said no because we don't feel our family is prepared to care for any children older than our youngest, for the long term. But it was nice to have the experience of getting a call without having to say yes or no. The next morning I told Ryan, "We got our first call last night." He thought I was joking. He slept through the whole thing. At first, I didn't think the call upset me too much, but as the day wore on I found myself a little shaken. Just knowing that somewhere in my city, in the middle of the night, two little kids were taken from their home because it wasn't safe. It's heartbreaking. I felt sad for the kids, and for the parents.

The second call came on a Thursday afternoon. I was in a meeting planning the dates and venue for a concert we'll be doing to celebrate the release of my first album. I apologetically excused myself saying, "This might be foster care." They were looking for a home for a toddler girl, whose case was moving towards adoption. I called Ryan. We decided the age difference between the toddler and Squeeze wasn't quite enough. I called back and told them no.

I then proceeded to feel like crap all afternoon.

I thought of a million ways we could make it work. I thought through all our reasons for the age difference, and questioned every single one of them. I knew it was the right decision for our family but thought, "Who's going to make the right decision for her?" The need overwhelmed me, even though I knew, deep down, it wasn't our need to fill. Ry and my sister reminded me that a little toddler girl was probably some other foster family's exact hope. By evening, I was ok with it all. I felt peaceful about our decision, and confident that the girl had been placed. We are, after all, not the only foster parents in this city. It was an emotional few hours. I hadn't expected it would be so difficult to say no.

The very next Friday we received our third call. I was in the check out line at Hy-Vee and ignored the call. I checked the voice mail as soon as I got in the van. This time they were looking to place an infant girl with some medical issues. I called them right back. She was definitely young enough for our family, and I was a little excited. Her medical issues seemed manageable. I called Ry, and he had some hesitations due to her medical issues, but his sister, who is a nurse, was with him and he got advice from her. I went to see my sister, who has handled similar medical issues with her preemie. A good friend who is a nurse, was also there and they both made me feel quite capable that we could handle it. With this baby's case we also knew that it was foster only, it was not moving towards adoption. For some reason I just felt we were supposed to say yes anyway. Ryan agreed and I called them to say yes. They told us that there was another family interested, and they would call us one way or the other. I hadn't really thought of that. As you can tell from my emotional reaction after our second call, in the heat of the moment I seem to think I am the only foster parent in this entire city. Even though I know this is not true because I'm friends with quite a few awesome foster parents. To make a long, few hours of washing baby clothes and making sure I had directions to the baby's daycare, short...they didn't choose us.

I was disappointed, and, honestly, a little relieved. I was a little let down, but happy to be just us and the girls for a little while longer. I felt a tiny tinge of sadness, but was so happy to know there was another family who wanted her. What a blessing it would be if our city was so over loaded with foster parents, there was always ten homes for every child.  By evening, I was tired from the emotional roller coaster, but I was fine.

Getting calls reminds me to take advantage of every day I have just me and the girls. We could get THE call any second. I'll continue to pray for the baby who will be placed with us, and their parents. It'll happen. I believe God has a perfect plan. Yeah, I'm cheesy like that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Planning Ahead

Remember when I planned just one activity for each daughter, for every day, that one week? That was such a great idea. With not so great follow through. But I'm doing it again! Yesiree! And this time we will do it more than one week. Stop laughing. I'm thinking at least two. Actually, my goal is eight weeks of consistent, purposeful activity for Squiggle and Squeeze. Again, your giggles are not helpful.

My husband and I are leaning towards home schooling Squiggle for kindergarten. She is still three years out from that time, so we are still mulling things over. I thought preschool would be a great time to give it a try and see if it's something I enjoy, or hate. So I scheduled ourselves a school year from the beginning of July until the very end of April. (I read somewhere that if you live in a place that is HOT in the summertime, you should schedule your big summer break in Spring instead. Genius.) I planned it with a pattern of 8 weeks on, one week off. So it's like a year round school schedule, with a short summer break. Remember, this is all just one big test run.

I wrote down some goals I have for Squiggle and Squeeze this year. Things like recognizing the alphabet for Squiggle and naming colors for Squeeze. I also have some broader goals like scripture memorization for Squiggle, and reading the Jesus Storybook Bible to them both in the mornings. Spanish lessons are another big goal I have. Both girls are at a perfect stage for absorbing a second language and I want to jump on that.

I am planning one week at a time so I don't get too ahead of myself. I'm just using Google calendar to plan things. I just browse Pinterest and my favorite Mom blogs, consult my list of goals for the girls, and just pick some activities. I actually really like the planning part. Then I have a lesson planner to write down what we actually did each day. I know I need to keep some sort of records when we are in real school, so I thought this might be a good method to try out.

I'm nerding out about the whole thing, really. I hope I stick with it. At least for the first 8 weeks. I'm glad I have this time to try home school out without the pressure that my girls need to ACTUALLY be learning something. Like, important dates from the Revolutionary War. At the same time, I realize this won't be an entirely accurate picture of what it would be like to home school my girls in the future. But it will be a nice test of how well I can follow through and be consistent.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Squeeze and Elimination Communication: 19 Month Update

My daughter, Squeeze, now has 19 months of life under her belt. She also has about 18 moths of pottying under her belt. She is doing awesome. (I always get nervous when I write these update posts on elimination communication because EVERY time I do, I end up changing poopy pants that day. I swear. EVERY time. Fingers crossed this time I don't jinx it.)

Squeeze wears Gerber training pants during the day. For a while we were wearing those nasty plastic pants to try and contain wet messes. But I decided I'd rather clean up a mess once or twice a day, than have to pull those awful pants up and down her legs ten million times a day. Squeeze averages one wet accident, or miss, a day. She doesn't always volunteer that she needs to pee, but if you ask her she does know if she needs to or not. That is really helpful. She always volunteers that she needs to poop. We haven't had a poopy diaper since...I can't even remember. Probably since the last time I posted bragging about how long it had been since she pooped her pants.

This photo was taken in May. Isn't Squeeze a doll?

Squeeze is especially reliable when we are out running errands or doing something fun like the zoo. I no longer bring ten extra pairs of clothes in the diaper bag. She doesn't need to go every half hour while we are out, either. She can go almost two hours at a time without using the bathroom when we are out. She does a much better job of telling us she needs to go when we are out, as well. AND she says "Potty" now, rather than patting her crotch and saying "Boop". So much more socially acceptable.

When we are just hanging at home, we have more misses. My husband and I lose track of time, she's having fun playing, and she's more relaxed. But, still, not too many and no poop misses.

A newer development lately has been Squeeze keeping her pants dry at nap time and even overnight. She's pretty consistent with staying dry at nap. She has had a lot of dry diapers in the morning these past couple of weeks, too. That excites me. It means we are one step closer to making the smell of a pee filled diaper a distant memory. Until the next baby comes...

Overall, elimination communication with Squeeze has been awesome. I'm so glad I tried it a second time. Squiggle, my three year old, did great with elimination communication, but the second time around with Squeeze has been even better. I've been way more relaxed about it this time around, I started sooner, and have had a more rewarding experience.

I'll let you know if Squeeze poops her pants today after all this bragging.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fake Names

When we have foster babies in our home I am not able to post their picture anywhere on the internet or release their real name. This is for their protection and privacy. I am happy to comply.

So I figured it might be time to give all my loveys fake names for the blog. I need your help. I'd like to give them cute names, rather than just writing initials. And I'd rather it not be a nick name we actually call our girls. That kind of defeats the purpose. I'm thinking of calling Violet, Squeeze. I have no ideas for Nola. I'll probably fake name our foster babies as we get them. Nola wants to "name our new baby sister Bubble Grass." We'll see about that one.

Ideas for me?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Something You Should Know

I realized recently I've been writing posts about adoption and foster care with absolutely no life experience to back it up. So, take everything I say with a grain of salt, will you? I have a feeling I may look back at these posts one day and say to myself, "What was I thinking?!" Running the risk of someday realizing I had no idea what I was talking about...there is one more little thing I've been wanting to share with you about our family's decision to adopt.

When I tell people we are entering the world of foster care and hoping to adopt, I get some varied reactions. People who have any sort of experience with either fostering or adoption tend to congratulate us and say it's awesome. Or they give a little warning about how hard, yet rewarding, it will be. Others who have no experience with it often seem at odds for how to react. They're not sure to be happy or concerned for us. One guy said to us, "Exciting!...Right? Exciting is the thing to say?" That was a sweet one. Occasionally when I talk about it, I feel as if the person I'm talking to suddenly feels guilty. As if I'm preaching to them. In reference to the fostering part of our journey, the one thing I hear most often is, "Oh, good for you! I could never do that!

Because I am a Christian, most people assume I am doing this out of a desire to obey the scripture in James 1:27 that says, "Pure and real religion is this: take care of orphans and widows, and don't let the world corrupt you." (That's my paraphrase. Don't use it for your kids' memory verse this month or put it in your church bulletin for Sunday.) While that assumption is true, it is only part of my story. I do feel that every Christian should ask God how He wants them to live this scripture out in real life. But I am not adopting in order to tick off one of the boxes of good deeds that will get me into heaven.

Don't get me wrong. I am moved by the plight of the orphan around the world. It makes me sad to think of all those children in orphanages or foster homes. It's unfair that I have so much while they have so little. I hate that they are stuck in limbo land while I revel in steady permanence. But that's not why I'm adopting. Initially, it was the reason I asked Ryan if we could go on this journey together. But then, in all the considerations of where to adopt and how to adopt and can we adopt and is this even helpful...I stopped hearing the cries of orphans.

I heard my daughter crying for her mom.

That, my friends, changes everything. I'm telling you, I'm practically lactating it's so real to me. I don't feel like a Saint taking care of orphans. I feel like a mother on a desperate search to get to her child. And if you could hear what I hear, you could do it. The word never would not even be a consideration. When a mother hears her child crying, she can not stop herself from responding. I'm not a hero. I'm a mom.

In the end, I'm not adopting an orphan. I'm adopting my son. (Or my daughter. We did not put a gender preference on our application.) I heard one adoptive dad explain it like this: He has a biological son who was born prematurely. His son is a miracle, and while it is an amazing story, he does not introduce that son as "our preemie son Johnny". In the same way, he doesn't introduce his adopted son that way, either. Adoption is just the way a child enters a family. After the grand entrance, they're just in. I have also heard Kristen Howerton say, "You can save a child once. After that it's called parenting."

If you haven't heard that cry in your heart, don't feel weird when someone else tells you they have. Don't feel like you're not a good enough person to do it. Instead, sponsor a child. Give some time or money to a local crisis center in your city. Or help fund my friend Rachel's adoption. These are extremely important and valid ways to help orphans around the world. And, most definitely something you should consider. Adoption is not for everyone. I don't mean that in the way that not everyone is strong enough or heroic enough to adopt. I mean it in the same way as...not every baby is supposed to be born in October. Or, not every family is supposed to have ten children.

So I guess this is me letting you off the hook. There are so many ways to give care to orphaned children. Pick one. And if you're looking to grow your family, adoption is one beautiful way you could do that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

School for Nola

So Nola is 3 1/2 and doesn't usually take a nap anymore. She tries. She really does lay nicely. Only talks to herself quietly and maybe acts out a few scenes from Diego with whatever animal she's sleeping with. So I decided it might be time to let her stay up a little longer in the afternoons. After I lay Violet down for her afternoon nap, I spend time with Nola doing "school". We haven't been doing it long. So far it has consisted of writing letters from a pre-school activity book we bought. It's a bilingual activity book which is cool. All the directions are in English and Spanish, and each letter has a word that starts with that letter in each language. The letter "E" is for elephant/elefante. The letter "F" is for flower/flor. The letter "L" for lemon/limon. It's cute.

I had heard you shouldn't push kids to write too soon. Because of this, I'd kept the workbook in the closet for a long time because it's mostly just writing worksheets. But we keep it very low key and I try not to correct her too much. I just let her effort be the goal. Sometimes she wants to keep going to a new letter, but I say no. Short and sweet is my goal. I want it to remain a happy, fun, stress free time. 

I got an awesome book from the library called WOW! I'm Reading! It has very simple activities that feel like games, but have a purpose in preparing your child for reading. I love it. We've done a couple of the activities so far, and Nola has enjoyed them.

We usually read together after the worksheet. Reading a book with your kid is never a waste of time in my opinion. And I love it. I wasn't a huge reader growing up, but Nola seems to really love it. I hope I can encourage her to keep loving it.

I have loved getting a few minutes of Nola to myself each day. Spending time just the two of us reminds me just how awesome she is. There's a whole lot of awesome springing out of those curls, I tell 'ya.

P.S. Ryan and his dad made that super cute picnic table. Isn't it great? That's where we have school.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Violet's 17 Months EC Update

With both my girls I have taken care of their lovely toilet needs with elimination communication. I started taking Nola potty at 7 months, and started with Violet around 2 weeks. Elimination Communication is not potty training. So don't ask me how to get your 2 year old to use the potty. I have no idea. All I know about is taking babies potty and saving yourself some nasty poop clean up. Yes, people think I'm crazy. Yes, people think it's too time consuming. Yes, people think I'm an over achiever. But I love it anyway.

So Violet is 17 months old now. Not an entirely unheard of age to try out traditional potty training. I don't get as many strange looks when taking her potty in public places. She hasn't made any huge changes since my last update at 15 months. I would say that in general she is staying dryer, communicating her needs more often before she goes, and we are cleaning up less wet training pants. The last time we cleaned up a Numero Dos, was a Friday morning. I heard she was awake, but I laid in bed ignoring her longer than she was able to contain her bowels. When I finally got up I knew she would be poopy. A good pre-breakfast poop is usually part of her routine.

We are still using good ol' Gerber training pants in an 18 month size. We also have some Green Sprouts training pants. They are thicker and have a layer of wet resistance, which doesn't really do much after so many washings, but they hold a little more pee than the Gerber. On average, she only pees her pants once or twice a day.

I'm really proud of Vee! If you have questions for us about EC, leave a comment below.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mixed Emotions

"Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?"

Nehemiah 4:2 

Our home study was completed this week. I know our agency probably has a lot of work to put it together now, but our part is done. Before the social worker came, I thought she was coming to our home for just a preliminary visit. I thought the big, scary home study was down the road. I'm glad I thought that. I saved myself from a lot of stressful cleaning. As she was heading out the door we asked her when our in-depth home study would be and she replied, "This was it." Sweet. When actual adoption comes across our path there will be more home visits, but technically she says we're done.

We felt like celebrating! I posted as my Facebook status, "Our home has been officially studied. We will be licensed for two. Bring on the babies!" 63 friends liked my status and 22 friends commented. That's some serious celebration.

But then that felt weird.

As we anticipate the joy of adding another child to our home, somewhere a mother is about to experience a deep loss. It's possible that somewhere our baby is not being thought of as good news. Somewhere a mom is breaking. A relationship is being torn apart. Circumstances are about to cave in on someone and bury them in brokenness. And, somehow, God is going to reach into that situation, pull from it the most beautiful charred stone, and give it to us.

Adoption is a beautiful redemption of a broken situation. Beauty from Ashes. It's hard to know when to grieve the ashes, and when to revel in the beauty.

When our baby does come to us, I hope I know when to grieve with them and when to celebrate with them. I hope I can make them understand how badly they are wanted by us, while still giving worth and respect to their beginning. I hope they will know that God saw them while they were being knitted together in their mother's womb, even though that womb was not mine.

And I hope, if God brings redemption to the whole situation, that we will be able to release our precious gem back to their first family knowing that God is a better author than we are. It may not be the story we would've written. And it will hurt our hearts to only be a blip in Scene Two when we wanted to be the best supporting actors of Act One. But God knows better than we do. We will make it the best Scene Two any baby has ever seen, gosh darn it! And then we will slip back stage, and most likely miss the rest of the Play.

Don't feel bad for us.  Every baby should get a great Scene Two! We're happy to do it. Someday, there will be a baby who needs us for all of Act One. What a reward that will be. But I hear the journey will be full of ups and downs. One foster/adoptive mother told me, "You gotta become a faster and a prayer to do this, girl!"

I always hated roller coasters as a child. This may be the scariest, and most exhilarating one yet.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Short Story

Ryan and I are in the middle of classes to become certified and licensed foster parents. We feel our next child is going to come to our family through the miracle of adoption. After much prayer, thought, consideration, and advice from our parents and friends we decided to go the route of foster adopt in the United States. While there is great need all around the world for families to care for orphans, I feel in my heart that our next child is here in the States. We've decided the best fit for our family is to only bring children into our home who are younger than our youngest, 16 month old Violet. The greatest need for foster and adoption in the US right now is older children. However, there are infants who need families. It's not as common, but it happens. We are in no hurry to have a child in our home, so we are just getting everything ready, getting approved and checked out, and buying lockable cabinets and fire extinguishers. So when the time comes that there is an infant who needs a home, we are on the list.

We have decided to foster babies who are likely to be available for adoption. What that means is that we aren't waiting for an infant whose parents' parental rights have already been terminated, making the baby immediately available for adoption. We will foster them and see where their road leads. It may lead to reunification with their parents or another one of their family members may decide to adopt them. This is risky for our hearts and we know that. It's also a risk we are asking our girls to take and we know that as well. But we feel it's fair risk to ask of our girls. Love is always risky. Even if we get babies who don't stay with us forever, we know that the time we give to them is priceless. They won't remember us, but however much time we can give them in a home of peace and stability will affect their lives forever. We truly believe that.

I haven't blogged about this yet for a couple reasons. First, it's kind of like saying "Hey! Me and Ry are trying for a baby!" And, yeah, that's awkward and personal to tell the world. Secondly, it's a big step. I wanted to make sure we had really thought it through, talked with our parents and friends, and received advice from people in our life we love and trust. This is not something we have decided on a whim. And it's not something we would be able to do without our community of friends and family.

There is a chance that through the course of foster care classes we may decide to do things differently, maybe take a different path with adoption. I'll be glad to share the journey with you. Honestly, I hope that maybe it will inspire you to do something you've always dreamt of but it seemed too hard or risky or just didn't quite fit inside your white picket fence.

After discussion back and forth with my family about adoption, and the risks and myths, and the possible heartache of foster care, my dad said this to me:

"Do the hard thing, baby. You will never regret it in the long run."


Monday, March 5, 2012

Violet's 15 Months EC Update

Big news here on the elimination communication front. Violet has begun communicating! Yay! It started with her communicating that she had already peed her pants. She freezes, looks at us, pats the front of her diaper and says, "Uh?!" We take her to the potty and discover a freshly warm, wet diaper. How's that mental picture working out for 'ya?

The even better news is that she does occasionally tell us before she pees! And she often tells us before she poops! She always poops in the potty, but she doesn't always tell us she needs to go she just always holds it until we offer the potty. She hasn't pooped her diaper in ages. I can't remember the last time she did. Now that I've said that, she will poop her pants soon, of course.  Update: I was lazy one Saturday morning and didn't get her up when I heard her. I reached her too late and she had pooped in her diaper. When a girls gotta go, a girls gotta go.

I am very excited about this new development. Although the point of elimination communication is not to have your child traditionally potty trained earlier than normal, it is very rewarding when it seems like that will happen!

I am so proud of Violet. I just really wish I had taught her a more socially acceptable sign for potty.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Random Details

My little Lovies are finally asleep. Mondays are usually pretty grouchy. I'm always thankful for nap time. While they sleep I thought I'd take a minute and journal some random details about their lives.

Nola has become quite musical lately. I used to think she didn't enjoy it much. When Ryan and I would sit down at the piano to sing or write she would protest and complain. But suddenly she has begun singing and dancing while we play. She makes up her own little songs, usually about scary monsters, and sings phrases from songs she's heard at church or on the radio. She likes a song on the radio called "Hold Me" by Jamie Grace. It's so cute to hear her say from the back seat, "Turn it up, mom. I like this song." It seems so old to me, for Nola to like a song. She has entered the "Why" phase. That's buckets of fun. Ryan has discovered if you give her an incredibly long, over her head, detailed answer to the initial "Why?" she won't keep going with ten more.

Violet has grown up so much lately. Doesn't it seem like kids hit these bursts where they grow leaps and bounds overnight?  She is just not a baby anymore. She is walking quite well, and even has this cute little gallop move when she really gets going. She has been telling us when she potties in her diaper. She just smacks her diaper in front and says, "Uh?!" We should have worked harder at teaching her a more appropriate sign. Oh well. She's not saying much. She says "Dad" and "dog". The little stinker doesn't even say "mommy".  She fell face first off the potty today. That was traumatic. Her hair is getting so full and long. She has discovered what I call the "stink face" and Ryan calls "giving crusties". When she doesn't get her way she furrows her eybrows and squints her little eyes into slits and stares you down. It's quite menacing. She has recently discovered an intense love for bananas and mandarin oranges.

I'm still loving being their mom. They are two very special girls and I'm blessed to have them.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

We Still Believe

Disclosure. The video at the end of this post is very sad. Seriously. If you are sitting at Starbucks you might want to watch it later. Or just listen, but don't watch. I am not kidding you. Grab tissues, my friend. If you are already in any sort of fragile emotional state it may bring out the ugly cry.

When I first heard this song, "We Still Believe" by Kathryn Scott. I thought to myself, "Has she heard my story?! Does she know what I've been through? It's like she has read from the pages of my soul!" Then I thought, "Man, I'd love to do this in church, but it's really so specific to my situation..."

Wow. Self-centered much there, Char? I hope I'm not alone in this. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own pain, we get so proud of our own stories, that we forget we're not alone on our journeys. We forget that, honestly, our story may not be that original.

Because here's the thing, everybody has gone through some serious crap in their lives. Everyone. Yes, some stories are a little hairier than others. A little more scary, sad, or serious. And some journeys have happier endings than others. You may think your story truly takes the cake, or you may feel like your stories are insignificant compared to other's. But no story discounts anyone else's. Your pain is your pain. The mountain that you're climbing is your mountain to climb. And we all have them. All of us. We're not alone in our pain. Someone, somewhere has traveled the same dark valleys you have traveled. And at the end of it, they either ran to Jesus or they gave up on Him.

I could list my mountains here. I could give you an earful of painful things that have happened to me, but I won't. Maybe I will another day. But today I'm caught up in this thought...

We still believe.

Through it all. The really bad things and the really good things. Somehow God has captured my heart in such a way that I could never let go. Every tragedy and every wound has eventually brought me closer to Him. He has thoroughly and completely won me. There's no hope for me now. Except what I've found in Him. I know I'm not alone in that.

Yes, my pain was awful. So was yours. And, honestly, it's probably not over. But...

We still believe.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Elimination Communication With My 14 Month Old

Violet wore her Gerber training pants one day last week and kept them dry the entire day! She wore a diaper for nap. The girls had a hard time settling down at nap time so I went in a half hour after laying them down and changed Violet's diaper before laying the smack down. But when she woke up from nap her diaper was dry! I am feeling quite proud. As long as I stay relaxed and don't expect too much from her nobody gets stressed out. The Gerber training pants didn't hold much pee the first few times she wore them, but after being washed quite a few times they are doing well at preventing pee from getting all the way down her legs and to the carpet when she has a little miss.

She still doesn't tell us she needs to go. So far she does well with the potty being offered frequently. I totally understand the people who say, "She's not potty trained, you're potty trained!" I agree. I like to add the word "independently" to the phrase potty trained. Violet is not independently potty trained. But she does know how to use the toilet. To me that is worth the effort. This may be reaching, but go with me and think of it this way...we don't refuse to feed our children until they can figure out how to use a fork and spoon all by themselves and are able to clearly say the words, "Mom, I'm hungry." Babies and toddlers are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for. Some things are just annoying to let them do themselves. One of the things I hang onto is Violet feeding herself her oatmeal in the morning. She probably could be learning that skill, but I don't want to deal with the mess so I always do it for her.

Back to pottying...One funny thing is that Violet keeps her pants dry better when we are out running errands than when we are at home all day. Somehow she holds it between errands, up to an hour or more, knowing I'll take her at the next stop. At home those times aren't as defined, I guess. So she wets her diaper a lot more at home.

So if you're an EC mama looking down the road ahead, I'll tell you that the Gerber Training pants in 18 month size (usually this size is only online) are working fairly well when I'm in the mood to let her wear panties. They fit her well and after a few washings they are absorbing enough to keep mess off the floor. (Violet is 14 months and just under 20 pounds). Soon I'd like to get a few of these for going out because they're waterproof. They're actually swim diapers, but they're padded just enough to hold one missed pee and they come in a very small size for Violet's tiny buns. And they are quite a bit cheaper than waterproof training pants.

Are you an EC mommy? Share the love in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just Do Something

One of the difficulties of being a stay at home mom, for me, is being self motivated. I don't have a boss coming around the corner to my cubicle every so often to keep me on task. I don't even have a deadline for a project to keep me moving. Everything I do needs done again in five minutes. My husband, Ryan, comes home everyday at about 3:45. This is sometimes a kick in the butt for me. Sometimes I'll notice the clock says 3:10 and think, "Crap! I've got to get something clean before he gets here!" or "Holiness. I need to go brush my teeth." But that's the closest I come to having someone else keep me on track. Mostly, it's up to me to be productive. There may, or may not, have been two days in the not so distant past in which we stayed in our pajamas until lunch time and then proceeded to throw ourselves into the car and drive through Taco Bell, in said pajamas.

Lately, I've been feeling that of all the things I'm not getting done, the thing I've neglected most is educating my two girls. Both Nola and Violet are very good at playing by themselves. This is an awesome skill and one I will continue to encourage. But I've found that I've spent a lot of mornings lately telling them to "Just wait a minute. I'll read to you after I get the kitchen clean" or "Just let me flip this load of laundry then we'll play animals". I need reminded that the reason I stay home is for my girls. Our family has decided that in our situation, me being home is the best thing for Nola and Violet.

I don't stay home to clean the house. I stay home to raise my children.

So I did a really simple thing. On Saturday night, I sat down at my computer and chose a really simple activity for each girl for every day of this week. Just one. I wrote it in my Google Calendar. That way I get a message in my inbox in the morning saying "Reminder: Glue Cheerios to Index Cards" or "Reminder: Sing the Body Parts Song". Some days there is one age appropriate activity for each girl, and some days I chose an activity that they could both do together. Tuesday's activity was going to the Omaha Children's Museum. And Friday we're going clean our big sliding door with shaving cream.

I got lots of my ideas from Pinterest. I stumbled across this blog that is practically an entire curriculum of ideas for children under six. I checked this science book out from the library and I highly recommend it. The projects are very simple and achievable.

My goal was to accomplish just one thing with them every day. I resisted the urge to go all teacher and categorize these activites in search of one activity each of reading, math, social studies, art, and music. I just kept it simple and reminded myself that one thing is better than nothing. Children learn so much just by living life. I just needed to make sure I was taking advantage of every moment I have with them, and being intentional with our short time together. I'll let you know how it goes.

"There will always be worthwhile causes, but not always a two year old in your lap."
Freda Ingle Briggs