Adoption vs. Birth

I went into adoption absolutely certain that I could and would love children born to another woman.

I was right.

I knew long before I met my girls that my love could run as deep, steady and strong for a child I chose through adoption as a child I gave birth to.

But there was also a lot I didn’t understand until I gave birth to my son.

Before we adopted I naively thought that love for my daughters would come instantly and feel deeply maternal.

I was wrong.

While I did fall instantly in love with my daughters, it was a very different kind of love than the love I felt when I gave birth to my son a  year and a half later.

It took day in, day out, month after month after long month of choosing to love my daughters before those feelings of natural, instinctive, maternal love came to me.

In theory I loved them fully and intimately, but realistically

we were strangers

and we needed to get to know each other.

I hadn’t spent nine months feeling the stirrings under my heart.  I hadn’t held them for those first breaths and watched each tiny movement.  I hadn’t witnessed the steady growth and development and learned what experiences formed in them their character and who they had become.

I have missed so much and I grieve that deeply.

When my son was born his innocence and purity took my breath away.  He was…and still is…so unscarred by this world.

My daughters never had that experience.  Even prenatally they struggled against circumstances beyond their control.

They fought for survival even before their first breaths.

I would give anything to give them the innocence my son got to experience, but I can’t and that is hard.

It is hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and see longing there as she says, “Mommy, I wish I grew in your tummy.”

Or to hold her shuddering little body as she cries tears of grief and loss for her birth mother…tears that she can’t even understand they are so complex and raw.

When my daughters came to me at 7 and 5 years old, they had personalities, character traits and a whole life that I knew very little about.

Sometimes that still gets in the way.

Sometimes I see fear, and I don’t know why it’s there.

Sometimes I see pain, and I don’t know what it’s about.

Sometimes there are vivid memories of people and places that I don’t know and I have no way of knowing if these memories are accurate and true or distorted by a child’s memory.

They’re looking to me for answers and I don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I see anger and resentment and I have no words to unravel the pain behind it all.

Sometimes I am the one battling the deep feelings of loss, of insecurity, of resentment and of exhaustion.

It is so tiring to constantly battle the layers upon layers of grief, fear, loss and trauma written on the hearts of children who have seen and heard and felt the unimaginable.

There is always always an unknown factor to consider.

Just because I chose this doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s not always fun.

Hurt makes people hurt.

Fear makes people push away.

Betrayal makes hearts break and the healing is slow and painful.

Sometimes I just want a normal family.

Yes, it’s true and I said that out loud.

Sometimes the guilt of that tears me apart.

But so many other times I see love, and I feel honoured to be their mother.

I see happiness and it overwhelms me with joy.

I see healing and it makes me fall to my knees in worship to the One who can bring redemption out of so much pain.

So many people see all the hurt and pain that often goes along with adoption and they decide they could never do it.

Too many risks.

And it’s true…after having experienced both adoption and natural birth, I will atest to the fact that giving birth is probably easier.

It’s the natural way to receive a child, the way our Creator first designed for families to be born.

It’s beautiful.

But what about when the original design falls apart?

What about when pain and destruction and sin enter in?

Ripping, tearing, breaking;

leaving wounds upon both the innocent and the guilty?

Then what?

Is there any hope of redemption?

Yes!

A thousand times yes!

I cannot begin to pour enough passion into these words.

To let you see,

to let you feel

the incredible grace

that our Father pours upon those who choose to engage the pain.

How he takes the ashes and creates beauty from them.

How he takes the broken and uses the scars to proclaim His glory.

How he bathes us in grace upon grace.

How he heals and transforms and gifts.

How we see the gospel through this thing we call adoption.

It is probably true that nothing quite prepares you to face the pain of this.

But it is absolutely true that nothing will prepare you for the rewards you will experience and the victories you will be a part of.

Nothing will prepare you for the small things that will bring you joy,

the grace you will receive

and maybe most of all the love that will grow strong in your heart for these children you’ve chosen as yours.

Yes, yours.

It will become their identity.

Your children.

It’s my favourite thing to say.

My daughters.

One of my favourite narratives in scripture is the account told in Hosea of God lavishly loving upon the people who had turned their backs on him.

Hosea 2:23 says,

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

When I read these words, there is something that resounds within my heart.

I will say to those who were once not my own

“You are mine!”

I will choose, despite all odds, to

lavishly love

upon these people who were once strangers to me.

And in it all, the unthinkable will occur…

we will become one.

A family.

A home.

A testimony of grace and redemption.

So even though adoption can be hard and messy and complicated

it is so worth it and in it’s own way

it is so beautiful.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

AF

Valentines & My Love

Yesterday was Valentines Day.

It also happens to be my husband’s birthday.

To me, that makes it the day I get to celebrate the two most important things in my life.

Him.

And our Love.

I don’t usually write about him here…because he’s not the kind of man to broadcast his life to the world.

But this one is for you, Kirby.

I want the world to know that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Because I am…because of you.

How do you describe the kind of man who makes you feel like the Queen of his universe?

Who fights for me daily, loves my broken places and pieces my dreams together with his calloused hands.

Who gentles the wild in me and quiets the chaos,

all while celebrating my passion and spirit.

How do I begin to explain someone who has more of myself than I do locked in his heart?

Whose soul seems interchangeable with my own?

Who lights up every room when he walks in, just because his presence fills the empty places in me?

He is everything I love,

more than I need

and all I’ve ever wanted.

I adore him.

Without him, I wouldn’t be me.

He’s my best friend, my safe place; my Lover and my Home.

He has taught me to be brave, to be honest and to be free.

Every single day he makes the choice to love, and because of that he is the rock I know will never crumble beneath me.

His love does not depend on what life brings us or what I can offer in return.

It doesn’t ebb and flow with the tides of change that seem to be so constant in our lives.

It’s been a decade of Love.

Always together.

We’ve laughed together through our favourite movies and sang our favourite songs.

We’ve done marathon movie nights together, played sexy date night games together, ate too many gummy candies together and driven too many long hours together.

We’ve spent hours planning, waiting, dreaming and praying our daughters into our lives.

We’ve crawled on our rooftop and laid beneath the stars.

We’ve been stuck in Mexico together, listening to the huge waves crashing on the shore as we slept in our seaside palapa.

We’ve created a child together and you were the one by my side staring in awe and amazement as he entered the world, a beautiful testament of the two of us, forever entwined by this tiny one.

We’ve sat in comfortable silence together and screamed side by side down the dip of a huge roller coaster together.

We’ve stared in exhausted, shell shocked silence at each other at the end of a long day.

We’ve given away our hearts and cried together as we said goodbye to the first little child who made us parents.

We’ve slept crammed on a single size hospital bed and rotated through bleary night time feedings.

We’ve sat together by the bedside of a tiny little boy fighting for his life and took turns stroking his trembling body.

We’ve talked late into the night, tangled in each other’s arms and hearts.

We’ve knelt together in front of the toilet, you holding my hair as my body hurled every last ounce of strength from me.

All the best and probably worst moments of my life have been with you.

I love doing life with you, Babe.

You are an incredible man.

Thank you for all the times you give your heart, your space, your time and your love to me and our children.

Thank you for creating a home for us that is safe, fun and so full of love.

Thank you for working so hard to provide for us and for letting me stay home to be a mother to our children.

Thank you for loving me even when I am so unlovable and for being proud of me even when I fail.

Thank you for leading me and our children closer to Christ through your life and example and for guarding His presence in our home with courage and zeal.

Thank you for riding this crazy roller coaster we call life with me and for throwing your hands up alongside mine while we careen out of control!

I love you more than I can ever say!

~Yours

Foster Care

It’s official.

We are back on the “call” list for our local foster care agency.

Any day now we could have another little person walk through our doors and stay for a night, a week, a month, a year…or forever.

We did not predict that we would be ready this quickly.  Less than two years after our daughters’ placement in our home and just over 3 months after our son’s birth, we are jumping back in.

I can see the raised eye brows,

the widening eyes.

I can hear all the questions you are asking.  I’ve asked them too.

I can hear you saying that we have no idea what we’re getting into; that we are putting our children’s lives in jeopardy; that we should draw our limits.

But there’s something you need to know.

We don’t get to choose.

When we dedicated our lives, our home and our family to Jesus Christ, we surrendered the right to choose how, when and what we do as well as the right to follow whatever our feelings dictate.

God has made it very clear to us in the past month that it is time.

It’s time to jump back in.

It’s time to serve.

It’s time to love.

It’s time to once again offer our home and our family as His hands and feet.

And even though it doesn’t make sense; even though we have every reason to say no, I trust Him.

My girls are ecstatic.  Naive, but ecstatic all the same.

They know what it is like to be in foster care.

To feel alone, unwanted, unloved and frightened by life itself.  So their hearts are jumping at the chance to show another child what family can be.

In our home we don’t just play “house” or “dolls”, we play “foster care”, “adoption” and a pretend life that is shadowed with the tragedies most children aren’t yet aware of.  Our dolls have been hurt and abandoned.  Our play phones ring with calls at 2 am from social workers.  Our precious little babies leave us at a moment’s notice and return to biological parents.  They’ve suffered head injuries, malnutrition, long hospitalizations, broken limbs and bruises.  They cry and throw tantrums.

This is our reality.  We’ve been there.  As the kids in care and as the foster parents loving them.

This time around I have battled a lot of intense emotions and fears that I didn’t experience the first time we entered foster care.  Three and a half years ago when we started fostering I was so excited, so confidant and so ready.  This time?  Well, I’m still filled with all those feelings, because God’s been nudging my heart for a while now and preparing me for this.  But I’m also incredibly overwhelmed, exhausted and fearful heading into this new season of our lives, because this time there is so much more at stake.  It feels like there is so much more to lose.

I am keenly and painfully aware that I am throwing my three children into chaos.  Painful, challenging, heartbreaking chaos.

Foster care is no walk in the park.

It’s hard.

It hurts.

It’s intense.

It’s unpredictable.

It takes a lot of time and effort.

The truth is, I don’t want them to have to give up the secure, predictable environment we’ve worked so hard to create in our home for them.  I don’t want them to have to share their clothes, their games, their stuffies, their rooms, their parents and their home.  I hate that this might mean I have less time, less energy and less patience for them.  I don’t like the idea of putting extra strain on our marriage.

I’m afraid I will crash and burn physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I’m afraid I will not be able to be the Mommy, the wife, the home schooling mom or the foster mom that I want to be.

I’m afraid my daughter’s education will suffer.

I’m afraid we will fall back into old patterns and habits that go along with insecurity and change in this home.

I’m afraid I will not get to enjoy my beautiful baby boy the way I want to.

 I’m afraid I will not possibly be able to love another as much as I love these three.

 I’m afraid I will fail.

Miserably.

I am so aware of my own short comings and my own limitations.  In the eyes of the world and all it’s logic we are not prepared!

Yet God says,

“Go.”

While I stumble through the questions and fears in my heart and mind I hear Him say:

“Have you forgotten so quickly who sustains you?

Have you forgotten how small you are?

Are these three precious little people I’ve placed in your home and your life more important than all the rest I have made?

Have you forgotten they all belong to me?

In your weakness, I can best show My strength and glory.

It is not out of confidence, ability, power or strength that you serve.

It is out of gratitude.

Humble gratitude for all I have done for you.”

So what can I say?

To the One who intricately formed each of my children, as well as the child who will walk through our doors next.  To the One who loves them each the same with His everlasting, unbreakable love.

To the One who can give me strength and energy for each long day and night.

To the One who is waiting to pour His love into the gaps my own heart cannot fill.

To the One who has given us everything we have and blessed us with abundantly more than we could ever need or want.

All I can possibly say is YES.

I will go.

I will serve.

I will love.

I have no promises that this will be easy or that we will not have to sacrifice anything dear to us.  In fact, I am quite confidant that it will most definitely be very challenging and that we will have to sacrifice some things that are very dear to us.  But I also know that if He is calling me, He will provide enough for each day and that I would rather live in the center of His will than in my own carefully crafted security bubble.

So are we ready?

No.

We are not ready…and yet…we are more ready than we’ve ever been.

We understand things we never did before.

We have more love to offer in the shape of two young hearts who have gone through their own journeys.  They are so eager to love, and I am humbled by that and reminded what exactly my job as their Mom is.

My job is not to shield them from all hurt…though I wish so much I could.

It is not to give them everything they want, but to have the wisdom to see what they really need and realize that sometimes this includes hardship; hardship that produces character and spiritual maturity.

It is not to make them the center of our home and world, but to point them to Jesus, the One who needs to be the final Voice in all our decisions as a family and the center of our home and our lives.

It is not to teach them to weigh pros and cons, as if life is all just a big game where we are all looking out for ourselves alone…but to teach them that we are here to serve those around us.

“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”                Matthew 25:34-36

“And whatsoever you have done to least of these my brethren you have done unto me.”  Matthew 25:40

“”And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:42

“In humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:3-4

 

 

 

 

We Are Home Schooling!

Yes, you read that right.

Me and my littlest A are homeschooling!  It’s been 2 weeks and maybe we are just honeymooning but it has been AWESOME!   I love it!

Now I can just about see some of you rolling your eyes, making that skeptical face and going…yeah whatever.

I get it.

I never wanted to home school, either.

In fact, until I read through my daughters’ adoption files I always said that I would never do it because I would have hated it as a child, myself!  I thought that home schooling was for really large families who like to hide away from the world or display their family on TV shows!  I thought children who were home schooled were all really smart, a little socially impaired and just not normal!  As you can see, I really hadn’t spent much time thinking about it or taking a look at people who actually did home school!  These were just my misguided perceptions, which I am thoroughly embarrassed of now.

But when special needs walks into the picture, everything changes.  Suddenly I could see that even though I loved school and it would have made me miserable to be at home, for some children it may be the exact opposite!

For some kids, school causes so much stress that they spend all their time just trying to cope!  This may be a result of trauma, attachment issues, learning disabilities or any number of other special needs.

There are tons of supports available, but you have to fight for them and it’ll take time.  I certainly don’t recommend that every parent experiencing difficulties with their child at school should just pull them out without exploring their options, but sometimes all the support and time in the world won’t meet the real needs of your child.   This is especially true in adoption.

For months, I had been saying…we’ll just give it some more time.  Or, I’m not ready yet so that’s just where she needs to be.

In truth I wasn’t confidant enough that I was ready to commit to this journey or that it was the right path for my daughter.  For some reason I was really afraid that I would pull her out of school and then fall flat on my face!  I was afraid she wouldn’t learn, that it would all be a mess and that we would all hate it!

But somehow God has a way of making things clear and as things got worse at school my mind lingered more and more on the idea of home schooling.  Part of me fought it…simply because I love school!  I love the specific school my daughters were attending, and where my oldest daughter still is.  I love the community.  I love the staff.  I love the atmosphere and all the kids.  I love the special projects and events that are connected to school.  I love the opportunities school brings to experience life alongside others and to have a broader view of the world.  I just love it.  I am a teacher, after all.

However, God began to speak to my heart and show me that my daughter needed something different.  My husband and I had always promised that we would make decisions about our children’s education according to what was best for each child, one year at a time.  We could no longer claim that we were doing that, and that bothered me!  Even worse, I was scared and discouraged as I watched my daughter start to fall back into behaviors and patterns that we hadn’t seen in a long time!  I felt like we were losing ground instead of gaining, and I missed my happy little girl.  Though we had a great team at school and communicated regularly, I realized that my daughter didn’t need a teacher.  She needed her Mommy.  She needed me.

So in some ways I chose to home school out of desperation and because school was not working…but even more I chose to home school because I realized that I wanted to!

I missed the first four and a half years of my daughter’s life.  I want to spend more time with her!  I want to be there all day, every day, even though it truly does drive me crazy sometimes!  I want to know every little thing that happened in her day, and to be the constant that she comes back to.   I want to be the one who laughs with her, gets frustrated with her, explores the world with her and watches her learn and grow.  Because even after 18 months together, I’m still getting to know her.  I’m still trying to figure out who she is and how she thinks.  I’m still learning her challenges, her strengths and her learning styles.  I am still figuring out her love language and her sense of humor.  I am still proving to her little heart that I am her Mommy and I will always love her; that even though others have come and gone I am here to stay.  There is nothing that can replace TIME.

So, here goes nothing!

The next half year is a bit of an experiment, but I am so excited.  I am excited to be able to focus on the things my little girl is good at, and remove some of the things she is not yet ready to handle.  I am excited to use the teaching skills I have to figure out how she learns and to make learning fun for her.  Choosing to home school a special needs child is completely different than choosing to home school a child who is gifted or even just average.  For the special needs child, you need to lay aside curriculum expectations, most typical teaching styles and any methods that conflict with your child’s exceptionalities.  I have to fight against the temptation to follow a book, accomplish too much in one day or copy other’s home school structures.  Home schooling is all about finding what works for your child and your family.  Once you embrace that, there is immense freedom!  It is wide open from there!  You get to decide what you study, how much, how long, where and when.  You get to decide everything.  This can feel scary, but chances are if you set out on this venture your gut will let you know the answers to these questions.

 So far, it has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

I have my little girl back.

I’m seeing peace where I saw frustration and agitation.  I’m seeing happiness where I saw a constant edginess.  I’m seeing success where I saw failure academically.  I’m seeing gentleness where I saw anger.  I’m seeing a glowing pride in her bright blue eyes where I saw confusion.

It’s not all perfect, and I’m still figuring out how we’re going to handle all this.  I don’t know how long we’ll be doing this, but for right now it’s the right thing.  I am sure of that.

I was given some great advice from another home schooling mom.

Pray.

Pray over everything you do.  Pray over the math, the spelling, the reading books and the colouring.  Pray for wisdom, pray for patience, pray for grace and perseverence.  Pray for courage and a sense of humor.  Pray for yourself, your child, your husband and your other children.  Pray blessings over your child and their school work.  Pray blessings over your home and family.

Know that this work you have chosen to do…been called to do…is valuable and important in the eyes of God.  At the end of the day, you are Kingdom building, not just teaching ABC’s.

This is the perspective I want to embrace as we dive into this new venture.  I want to teach my daughter out of a sense of gratitude, and hand all the work of our hands over to the One who can make it beautiful and valuable.

 

 

Family of 5

So…in the space of a week my husband and I officially, legally became the parents of 3 children!

First, our 2 gorgeous daughters, whose adoption was finalized on October 16, 2015.

Second, the birth of our son on October 22, 2015.

And then we were a family of 5.

And they lived happily ever after!

Right?

Oh, except for…

crazy hormones,

sleepless nights…which turn into harried mornings where we miss the bus,

attachment issues revisited,

the barrage of colds and flus on stressed out bodies,

the physical recovery after being stretched to 10 cm (have you looked at that on a ruler!?  10 cm!!)

The impossible balance of learning how to divide your time between 3 little people and realizing that means you’re never, ever alone!

The never ending “Can I hold Karter?”…which turns into a competition of

“Is it my turn yet?”

“I think he wants me.”

“Mommy, she won’t give me a turn!”

“Don’t pull his arms!”

“Stop!”

and the inevitable cry of a baby.

Lest you all jump to the conclusion after my last two posts that we are living in some sort of sparkle land filled with rainbows and unicorns I thought I better fill you in on the realities of life around here.

Let me clarify.

We are incredibly blessed and over the moon in love with our little man, but the arrival of a new little person in a home invariably means adjustments for all involved and we are no different.

Throw adoption in the mix and some of you will understand very well what I mean when I say that a new baby triggers all kinds of emotions, memories and insecurities that make their appearance in all kinds of erratic behaviour!  (Aka: a little bird chirping in its nest…really?!?!  Sigh.  Don’t even ask.)  Despite one’s deepest determination to be sensitive and kind and gentle and patient…the notes home, phone calls from school, jealousy, defiance…it all gets old really fast even when you know your child is struggling with feelings of insecurity.  It’s so much easier to say that you’re going to pick your battles and leave the ones that don’t matter.  So much easier.  I’d like to say I’ve responded perfectly every time in the last month, but that would be lying.  I’m never a perfect parent and lack of sleep apparently doesn’t make it easier!

And then there’s the hormones.

They’re actually real!

I really never thought I’d be that Mom that was flooded with all kinds of thoughts and emotions that to anyone else seem completely irrational!

Leaving the hospital I totally had “that” moment.  The one where I froze inside and went, “They’re actually letting me take him home?!”  Which was followed by the intense desire to run back the other way and keep my newborn safe inside the hospital walls.

I had to force myself to let other people hold him the first few days and I could hardly bear to watch him lying somewhere not being held even if he was perfectly peaceful and content.

I didn’t turn off the lamp in the nursery at night for at least a week…just because it felt so dark!

Karter slept in his crib instead of his bassinet for the very first time last night.  One month old.  The difference being only that the bassinet is small and cozy and the crib is just so, so big!

I’ve cried.  A lot.

I’ve been irritable and easily overwhelmed.

I’ve called my sister at 5 o’clock in the afternoon in tears with the words, “I’m a terrible Mom!” and “I am so tired!”

And the crazy thing?

I’ve had such an easy baby!   All this with the sweetest little angel on the planet.  He is so chill and just such a happy, content little guy.

But you know what?

It’s still an adjustment.  It’s still a huge life change.  You’re still inevitably going to go through that moment where you panic mentally and go, “What have I done?!  Can I handle this?!”

But I knew that was coming.  I’ve experienced that moment of panic every single time a new child has entered our home.  And it’s perfectly ok.

What’s made a huge difference is something a friend of mine told me…no, showed me.

With her third child she made a conscious decision while she was pregnant that no matter what, she was going to enjoy this baby!  She was going to hold him as much as possible.  She was not going to complain about the sleepless nights and the aching breasts and the dirty diapers.  She was going to choose to see this tiny human being as God sees him…a wonderfully, beautifully crafted gift meant to be treasured.

I watched her love her little boy so beautifully over the next year, and I saw Jesus in her.

That made a huge impression on me, and I knew I wanted to do that…to feel that.

I wanted to be the Mommy who sees my children as blessings.

To see every moment as one of a kind; a gift I get to enjoy.

So I’ve been trying really hard.

When it’s 2:15 am and I’m bleary eyed in the rocking chair, I’m trying to remember to look down at that little boy and trace the lines of his face.

When I hear his cry while I’m busy I am trying to remember that he is so much more important than anything else I could be doing.

When he poops all over the clean diaper I am just about to put on, the change table, the floor, the door, my hands…I am trying to grin and just shake my head that he got me…again!

When I can hardly see over the car seat perched on my shopping cart I am trying to take the time to notice the joy in the eyes of the old woman who stops to peek at my precious cargo.

I am trying.

To see my children as Jesus saw the ones He scooped up in His arms and loved.

To love my children and offer them grace even when they don’t comply with my schedule or my plans.

To remember that my daughters are still healing, still growing, still learning my love is limitless.

To face the realities of children damaged by trauma and prenatal alcohol exposure with courage and unwavering optimism even when the trenches feel dark.

I am trying to say yes more than no; to ask “Does it really matter?”

To draw her body close for a cuddle even though my personal bubble is screaming not to be touched!

To cheerfully repeat instructions the third, fourth, fifth, tenth time.

And most of all I am trying to count my blessings every day.

I am so incredibly blessed.

That is the one thing I want to sing to the world.  I want everyone that sees me to see in my eyes that these little people are valued.  That their lives are cherished and nurtured.  That I believe they were created in the image of God.

Yes, God.

He has been so good to me.

So are we blissfully revelling in a happily ever after wonderland?

No.

But we are very blessed and honestly…

I wouldn’t trade any of it.

It’s mine, and I’m blessed to own each and every little flaw of our life’s canvas.

We’re real, we’re scarred and we’re a little cranky some days.

Still a masterpiece in the making!

AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Grow Up So Fast

I am transitioning into a new phase and it’s taking the wind right out of me at times!

My daughters are now 9 and almost 7…and they are growing up so fast.

Last September I was walking my girls down the hill to school every day and watching until the last possible second as they would go inside with their classes.  If I turned my back too quickly my oldest daughter would have a meltdown, crying and screaming at the sight of me walking away.  She was terrified I was leaving her forever.  I will never forget the hard knot in my chest having to walk away as she screamed and cried, trying to run after me down the sidewalk.  It was one the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  My littlest A didn’t struggle with anxiety over me leaving, but her little soul was still struggling furiously to figure out what had happened to the safe little life she’d loved so well.  We had a long year full of discouraging ups and downs, never being quite sure what was going on inside her little mind.  Daily check ins with an incredible teacher were my lifesaver.  I needed to know what was going on in her world so I could figure out what was going on in her heart.  It tore me apart watching her struggle and feeling like I had no idea what to do!

This September, we are walking triple the distance to a brand new school that all the kids from two old schools in town have moved to.  The old school just down the street is sitting vacant and quiet, and it takes a lot more work for me to wander by my daughters’ school at recess time just to make sure they’re ok.  As if the distance alone isn’t enough to discourage me, the load I’m carrying on my feet these days is substantially more as well!  At 8 months pregnant, walking is getting less and less appealing.

So this August, as the first day of school approached, I was in a pickle.

Last year I spent tons of time at school; volunteering, checking in, bringing whatever it was that had been forgotten.  Barely a day went by when I wasn’t in the school for some reason or another, and it was reassuring to be able to check in on my daughters while I was there, even if they didn’t see me.  With only a bit over a month to go until Baby arrives, I knew that this year was going to look very different than last!  All summer I heard murmurs about bussing schedules and numbers to call to check if your kids were eligible for the bus.  I, however, pushed them aside and firmly stuck to my guns.  We would walk or bike or drive.  I didn’t want to lose that daily connection and I couldn’t quite fathom sending my kids off on the bus every morning and very possibly never walking into the school yard at all for weeks at a time!  On top of that, we weren’t able to find out who my kids’ teachers would be until the first day of school.  I tried to stuff down the worry, but I was concerned.

A week before school started, I got a call from the board of transportation, letting me know my daughters were eligible for bussing and that Bus #534 would be stopping at the bottom of Logan’s Lane every morning at 8:15.

I kept this news to myself, knowing in my gut what both my daughters and my husband would say if I were to bring it up.  Until this point I had not known for sure if we were far enough away to be eligible for transportation.  Now I knew and the picture suddenly seemed pretty clear.

By mid October I would have a newborn, and shortly after that the weather would turn cold.  Snow would bog up the sidewalks and I would be leaving the house twice a day with an infant to pick up the girls in the van.  This would mean lugging a car seat in and out of the house twice a day, leaving the house on time and still only really gaining a peek at the school, not connection with the teachers.

Or…

We could enjoy the nice weather while it lasted, walking and biking, and have a short walk down the hill to the bus stop all winter long while the snow and cold took over.  Baby could stay snug and warm inside as the girls walked up and down the street to the bus twice a day.  No car seat hauling, baby bundling, or interrupted naps…unless I felt up to it.

Sigh.

But oh I fought it.

When I finally admitted to my husband the call I’d received he laughed out loud and said with no room for discussion the girls would indeed be taking the bus all winter and that I had better get them on it ASAP so they know how to use it when Baby comes on the scene!

The girls were thrilled!  They loved the idea of using the bus and immediately wanted to try it out!

So that is how I found myself watching them climb onto that big yellow bus on the second day of school…the first I insisted on walking them!  Big smiles, calling “I love you”, all excitement and confidence.  Since then they’ve gone on the bus a handful of times, though I’ve encouraged that we enjoy this beautiful weather and walk or bike most days.  I need the exercise even if they don’t, and even though they enjoy their independence they do love having me there, too.

Since my ever-growing weed of a 9 year old is a pretty fast biker, I’ve even cut the apron strings and let her go ahead of us all the way to school!  There are two small, quiet streets to cross alone and then one busy one that has a crossing guard.  It nearly made my Mommy heart panic the first time she sailed off out of sight alone, but I also knew in my heart that she was completely capable and I needed to let go!

What amazes me every single day is the huge difference I see from last September, and every day I go away absolutely in awe, praising God for what He’s done for us.  It’s incredible!

Akeisha is thriving on her newfound independence and wants to bike to school alone every day!  Her confidence and enthusiasm makes me so proud.  She is so not my little girl anymore.  In her words, “Mommy, I feel like I’m growing up so fast!”  She truly has grown and matured so much in the last year and the security she feels now has given her wings to soar!  It is beautiful watching her thrive.  I know she is going to love being a big sister to our newest little addition, and I am enjoying watching her grow up even if it tears at my heart some days.  Happiness looks gorgeous on you, my girl!  You have no idea how my breath has caught in my throat these past few weeks as I watch you take on the world with all the confidence and grace you possess.  I will always be cheering you on, and I’m trying hard to keep up to you!  I’ll try to give you the wings you need to fly!

Since Akeisha wants to bike, Alexa sometimes goes on the bus all by herself, which makes her feel about 10 feet tall!  I have to admit I am holding on to her for dear life seeing Akeisha take flight from my little nest!  It’s nice to still have someone who wants me to be there with her, and she readily admits she needs Mommy to be there at the bus stop morning and night.  I love seeing her happy little face beaming at me through the window and waving furiously as the bus pulls away.  Admittedly this is enough to bring a few tears some mornings, which we will definitely blame on pregnancy hormones 🙂  On our walks I revel in those moments when she takes my hand in her little one and squeezes our code: 3 squeezes for “I love you.”  Then I look down and she’s looking up at me with those big blue eyes so innocent and vulnerable and my heart skips a beat.  She is so happy these days, and even though life and especially school will never be bump free for Alexa, I love seeing her so happy.  For 15 min all the way to school and 15 min home she chatters non stop to me and I just keep thinking that too soon it will end.  Too soon she won’t want to hold my hand or squeeze me so tight it hurts.  Too soon the chatter will change and knowledge will take over that sweet innocence she carries.  Maybe when it comes I’ll be ready, but for now I am so in love with my little girl.

Both girls are learning how to help pack their lunches, bike and play out on the street without me there watching and sign out books at the library all by themselves.

The first year of adoption we cling so tight, struggling to learn how to be a family and that we belong to each other.  Now in this second year, I see it is changing so much.  They are so much more settled.  They’re ready to grow a bit.

Life looks pretty bright these days.

We are so excited to meet our baby and become 5.  My nesting instincts have kicked in and I am trying to prepare as much as possible on the limited energy I have.

We are so blessed.

My heart feels full and overflowing with gratitude for the grace God has shown to us this past year.  Only He could have accomplished this.  There is nowhere else I’d rather be than here.  Part of me wishes we could just freeze this moment in time.

My girls laugh when I sing this song to them, but it’s one of my favourites these days.

Don’t Grow Up So Fast

You want it all right now, let’s hurry up and wait
Girl, you’re right on time, trust me, you’re not too late
I hate to see you rain, those mascara tears
But you can drown in the water beyond your yearsJust don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
You will get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
So don’t grow up so fast

The world will turn, shadows fall
There’s your pencil marks in the corner on the kitchen wall
Yeah, to remind us all

Just don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
You will get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
So don’t grow up so fast, ooh

Just don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
We all get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
There’s only so much sand in the hour glass
So don’t grow up so fast, ooh

I Am Loved

I look up and there she is.

Positioned just like me on the couch, at my side with pen in hand, pretending to do Sudoku like Mommy as she makes little markings and scribblings in her Activity Book.

She wants to be just like me.

I am so blessed.

I look up and there she is.

Smiling at me with those sparkling brown eyes…no filter, no block.  I’m looking straight into her soul and she trusts me implicitly with all that is there.

I am her everything.

I am so blessed.

I fall down exhausted and disgruntled at the end of a long, hot day.  I close my eyes and soon I hear footsteps pattering toward my place on the couch.  I sigh inwardly, wishing for a moment alone and expecting her constant chatter to start any minute.  Instead I feel gentle hands caress my hair and rub my back…soothing, loving, tender little motions.  A soft kiss lands on my cheek and a blanket falls gently on my shoulders.  I smile and stay very still.

She adores me.

I am so blessed.

I open my eyes after a nap and see two little girl bodies huddled at my kitchen sink before my pile of dirty dishes.  I had left them there to do later.  The dishwasher was full and it was too hot to stand with my hands in hot, soapy water.  But there they are and I hear;

“We should do these dishes for Mommy ’cause she’s really tired and she had a rough day!”

“She did?”

“Well yeah, it was really hot and I usually get frustrated when it’s so hot so she probably does too!”

“Oh!  Okay.”

And there they are; scrubbing, brushing, rinsing and drying.  One too small to reach the sink so she stands on a stool by her big sister’s side.

They are loving me with every stroke of that brush.

I am so blessed.

I roll over in bed at the sound of the door as he creeps in to kiss me goodbye.  There’s a glass of chocolate milk in his hands.  He smiles at me and my heart fills up in an instant.  I savor his kiss, his unshaven face against mine, the firm muscles of his back under my hands and the chocolate milk, filling my stomach so I won’t be nauseous later.

I am the love of his life.

He’d do anything for me.

I am so blessed.

Every time I am caught in these moments I feel so incredibly humbled.  I am far from the perfect…or even ideal wife or mother.  I fail miserably on a daily basis.  They hear my sharp tones, they see my angry eyes, they feel my rough hands pushing them away.  They watch me choose myself over them so many times.

Yet they love me so unconditionally and forgive me so completely, even when I am so undeserving.

In their eyes, their touch, their voices of love I see glimpses of my Heavenly Father.

A love that covers a multitude of wrongdoings and places them as far as the east is from the west.

A grace that washes me clean and keeps no record of my wrongs.

They offer me hope for my humanity.

Thank you for loving me.

I love you more than life itself.

XOXO

AF