October 5, 2015


I have a small close nit group of four friends. In the past three years, in what seems like a cruel uncanny circumstance, three of the four of us have each lost a parent: two fathers and one mother. All were too young to have left this world. 

My dear friend who is experiencing the most recent loss of her father gave me something to contemplate during one of our many conversations. She said that she can't help but feel how we are finally becoming the next generation. We are the adults now. We are now who we remember our parents to be when we had been children. I understood what she meant but I didn't actually feel the same until today.

I saw my grandfather this morning for what may possibly be the last time. Longevity is a gift in my family and at 87 years old he has lived a full and blessed life. He and my grandmother have been married 65 years with two daughters (my mom and my aunt), four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren as living proof of a lifetime of love and God's blessings.

There is so much I can say about my grandpa - my Papa - that it would take thousands upon thousands of pages to share what all he accomplished in his lifetime. He has always been one of the smartest men I've known and his faithfulness and diligence to his family and his walk with the Lord is one of the greatest examples I've had in my life. But after all the awards, accolades and accomplishments he will be known for in the world, the one thing that will always stand out to me is how much he loved his family.

Today, just before I planned to say my goodbyes, I watched as my grandmother was brought into the room where my grandfather lay. At 89, my grandmother has had her share of health problems to where it has been somewhat surprising that she will outlive her husband. She may have trouble remembering who her children and grandchildren are but I don't believe she could ever forget her Joe.

I watched as the at-home nurse brought her into to the room and placed her hand on his. Her sweetheart. The way she looked at him was with the innocence of a child; so much love transferring between them by just the touch of their hands and the way she gazed on him. I don't think I realized until then how much my grandfather treasured her. He cared for her until he couldn't physically do it himself and I imagine he held on as long as he did because he needed to know she would be looked after.

"I really love you," she said. There were other words overheard but to see what love looks like and sounds like after 65 years was sobering. Was she remembering back to when they were young and married? Back to when they welcomed their first daughter, my mom, or their second daughter, my aunt who was also present in the room? Back to when they saw their first grandbaby or celebrated the birth of their first great-grandchild? A lifetime of memories surrounding us...I can only hope to accomplish what they have. They made it look easy.

It was here that I realized what my best friend had been saying all along. Whereas many of my friends have already said goodbye to their grandparents, this season of my life is just now beginning. Suddenly my dad, my aunt and uncle, my in laws, etc. are the oldest generation and the time to keep and establish our family is now.

I will greatly miss my grandfather. We have so much to be thankful for because of him; a patriarch if there ever was one. His diligence to Christ has blessed our families for generations to come more than I can possibly say or imagine. Speaking as just one of his grandchildren, I know we all hope to continue to make him proud.

June 11, 2015

The Decline of Brain Activity

As most moms in my group of friends say, I'm "in the trenches". A 3- and 2-year-old to chase after while caring for my infant daughter all takes a beating in more ways than one.

To name a few:
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of downtime
- Messy house
- Fewer showers
- An avalanche of laundry
- Mom brain

I was well prepared for the technical aspects of motherhood after years of clocking hours babysitting and working in daycare. I even managed to experience many other aspects that most women don't even think of just by observing the realities of my closest friends who were all done having babies by the time we started.

I can get over all the things I listed above, except for "mom brain". To be precise, mom brain in regards to stimulating my intellectual side by reading, writing and blogging. 

I miss it!

Have I tried reading? Yes. Although I cannot remember the last book I was able to finish.
Have I tried blogging? Only once in a while when the mood strikes.
Have I tried writing? Not a chance.

I have a great circle of friends and family all who enjoy reading and it grinds my gears that I can't keep up! So many books, so little time.

So there's no great point to this particular blog post, no memory to preserve or lesson to be learned. I'll just continue adding to my reading wish list, missing out on writing assignments and inspired blog posts in hopes that one day my brain will get off the endless hamster wheel it's on. 

In the meantime, any good books that I should check out in five years time?

- Mom Without A Brain

May 22, 2015

Five Minutes

The baby is awake. She took a lengthy three-hour nap, which is beginning to become a rare occurrence. I run the tap water in the kitchen waiting for it to heat up so I can make a fast bottle. I forgot to pre-warm six ounces of filtered water in anticipation of her waking. I should really use filtered water more often. 

Thankfully she's well-rested and cooing and talking happily as she waits but obviously she's going to be hungry. The water isn't warming fast enough.

My two-year-old comes screaming toward me like he's having bamboo shoots shoved up his fingernails and cowers between my legs. His big brother, three, follows closely yelling the same repetitive nonsense that always sets the house in a rampage. He knows how to torment his brother so well at such a young age.

The water finally warms and I can make the bottle. I try to measure out the three scoops of formula without losing count because the noise volume in the kitchen has reached epic proportions. Even counting to three is a challenge since I have mom brain. I'm also attempting to pour the formula without missing the mouth of the bottle due to the barrage of bumping and shaking from my youngest son who now sounds like he's dying. 

Screw on the top, shake and I'm ready go. Wait. I need a bib and burp cloth since we're now playing upstairs as part of our "rotate the house to not get bored" campaign. 

I finally turn and in one firm word - STOP - my oldest quits yelling. I switch my gaze to the spider monkey locked on my legs so I can briefly comfort him but also reprimand him for the dramatics.

The baby is still jabbering over the monitor.

I head for the stairs and get two steps up when my firstborn tosses his trucks into the large box we emptied early this morning. Thank God for free shipping on baby formula!

"I'm taking this box upstairs," he announces. 

I back pedal the two steps and poke my head around the corner. "That's Mommy's box and it's staying down here." There, that was easy. Turning to go back upstairs toward the baby, I hear, "Mom! I have to go potty!"

Freeze. Sigh. 

"Ok, go potty and let me know if you need help." 

He doesn't put up his usual fight to get me to come with him. As he heads for the bathroom, my littlest son heads for the box of trucks. 

Oldest son stops his potty train of thought when he sees his brother and "Nooooo!! He's getting my trucks!"

Still with bottle in hand, "Your trucks are still yours AFTER you go potty. Go!" Pause for a moment...what was I doing? 

Then I hear the baby who is now no longer content. 

"Don't touch your brother's trucks," I command my youngest as I head for the stairwell once more." He smirks at me as only a stubborn, mischievous two-year-old can. Oh, I'll give you a reason to wipe that look off your face. Crazy turkey. My middle child.


Argh! What now? I only made it four steps that time.

"There's pee out the front!"

Now the baby is crying. Poor thing is so hungry!

Pass the littlest boy and give him the "I'm warning you" point with my finger. Frustratingly I set the bottle, bib and burp cloth down and peek in on my kid who won't move from the toilet because there's pee and it could get on him. I do a rudimentary job of cleaning just to get him out of there. I'll remember to come back and sanitize. I will!

Crap. Where did I put the bottle? 

I find it quickly, which is lucky, and run upstairs followed by the two boys. Shutting the door behind me, and probably in their face, I get to my sweet baby whose whimpering turns to smiles when she sees me.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

"Please stop banging on the door"

Thump. Thump. Thump.

"Stop banging on the door!"

The trucks have reappeared as ramming rods on my bedroom door. Does the noise ever stop! I stumble/trip over them, making my way to the big boys room and their rocker.

Baby girl proceeds to only eat one ounce and not a drop more. So much for being hungry.

March 27, 2015

(no title)

"The only person I really wanted to talk to about Augustus Waters' death was Augustus Waters."
- John Green

I read The Fault in Our Stars not long after my mom passed away. If you know the story, whether from the novel or film, it's centered on characters living with and  dealing with loss from cancer. (Spoiler alert: I just spoiled the ending. Sorry.) 

You might ask why I put myself through those emotions so soon again but honestly, I couldn't tell you. It's not like the rawness of losing my mom had ceased. However, what I discovered was that this book somehow broke through all the jumbled thoughts and emotions that were in my head and put them in words I hadn't been able to express.

I've always been good with words when it comes to writing. Speaking on a whim or from the heart has never been my strong point. With writing you can express your thoughts but also go back to edit them to where they're cohesive and make sense and the words convey what you really want to say. I almost never know what to say in person. 

So when I read this book, I suddenly had an explanation for a lot of my own personal feelings regarding my mom's death. 

Now, go back to the top of this post and reread that quote.

There were a couple of other quotes but this one was the most self-revealing. My mom was gone. I couldn't call her, I couldn't text her. My family and friends were there but the only person that I immediately thought to talk to about my mom dying was...my mom. That desire to text or the brief excitement hearing about something she would love to know about; it's still there. 

This whole week has been a countdown to today. Each day memories resurface of where I was and what was happening at this time last year. Some memories are still painful to revisit, like the picture of my brother and I just sitting with my mom watching her favorite TV shows with her late at night in the hospital. That was two days before she died. Our mom and her two children; just like we had always been no matter how much we had grown. Then I think of how we spilled her lemonade we had brought her from Sonic - one of the only sweet things she could stand to drink during chemo. The floor was still sticky two days later.

Today, at just before 2:30pm, I will remember watching her go. I know other people were in the room but I had this tunnel vision that only focused in on her. I remember holding her hand and not wanting to let go.

I can't believe a year has gone by. Every time I see a picture of my mom, it feels like another lifetime. Of the few things we've brought home that were hers, eventually her scent has faded or the idea of holding onto some things seems less important. The void left by her leaving can be ominous and heartbreaking one day and unrealized the next.

I don't have any regrets but I do have my wishes:

- I wish we had taken that last mother/daughter cruise. I thought my children wouldn't survive a few days without me so we delayed. Now, I encourage all my friends who are moms or daughters to take that cruise! Do something! I would give anything to be in that place, that moment with her again.

- I wish I had spent less time stressing and venting when she came to visit. We talked about everything under the sun but as a SAHM with little adult interaction, I have a habit of getting all my gripes out to the people I most trust. She was my listener and confidante and always allowed me to get things off my chest.

- I wish she could have met Charlotte. The latter half of this year has been a whirlwind of up and down emotions. From the excitement of us welcoming Baby #3 and finding out that it's a girl, to the realization that my mom didn't get to share with me the joy of finally having a girl. Yes, I know you that you can say that she was rejoicing from Heaven, but it is not the same. Charlotte is the only grandchild who will not have a photo with her Grandma. I grieve for my daughter to have missed out on knowing my mom and for me to be able to share with her the experience of having a daughter. There will be years of traditions ahead of us that I had always hoped to share if I ever had a daughter, all traditions carried on by my mom that now only two generations will continue instead of three.

There are good days and bad days still, but now mostly good days. And I don't want to write about how my mom is "in a better place" or how we know that she is in Heaven, which she is. I just want to be real and the reality is that I miss my mom. I didn't know how we would survive this first year with all the holidays and birthdays and whatnot, but we did. And we will the next year and the next.

I love you, Mom. I miss you more than I can ever express. Thank you for raising me to be the woman I am today. I hope I make you proud.

February 28, 2015

A Heart Session

The moment I found out that Charlotte was a girl, I knew that I wanted to be completely cliche and have some professional newborn pictures done.

You only live once!

Even before coming a mom, I have always enjoyed taking pictures for myself. When the kids started coming along, the amount of storage space on my camera and my computer began to fill up quickly. I love being able to get that perfect shot of my kids. I don't know a whole lot of photog jargon or tips and tricks, but I know how to take photos that I love. Therefore, prior to Charlotte joining the family, the husband wasn't exactly keen on my paying for professional pics of the boys when he felt that my own photos in and of themselves were actually good. (What he said. Not just patting myself on the back.)

However, having a girl changed that and I was determined to have them done right!

I called a friend of mine whom I have known since she was months old. She herself was adopted as a baby from Korea and we have kept in touch for many many years. She'll be pleased to know that even though I was technically shopping around for a photographer, I was 99% sure that I would use her regardless of price. I love being able to provide business to my friends as a client but on the plus side, I was already happy with the work she's done on newborn sessions.

As we began discussing options, I was excited to let her in on the secret about the adoption (since we weren't announcing on social media yet). That's when she began to tell me about Red Thread Sessions. As a member of their site, she would be able to donate her session to us because it was an adoption! A free professional session - heck yes!

Red Thread Sessions is specifically for adoptive families. Photographers can join to donate their time in order to capture a moment in an adoptive family's journey to creating their forever family whether it's at placement, at the airport or the final court date. As an adoptive mom, the idea of this organization just blesses my heart! Most adoptive families have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in order to adopt and become parents. So to have a team of people that recognize the gift that adoption is and to want to donate their time and effort to capture the beginnings or growth of a new family at little to no cost is beyond amazing. Adoptive parents don't even need to be familiar with a specific photographer. They can search the site and find one locally that is available!

Obviously, any purchases we wanted to make after the fact would still be out of pocket but by then we were just over the moon with the results that we had to purchase the rights to everything on top of a photo package.

Miss Charlotte was barely three weeks old when we visited the studio and even big brothers Noah and Aaron came along for the ride. If we were going to do professional pics, we might as well try to get them in as well! The one photo I want to share below is special to me because it is what we will be sending to our birth mom. At Charlotte's placement, I had a gift for our birth mom that was one part of a set of necklaces.

Our birth mom's necklace is a circle with a heart cut out of it...
which is what makes Charlotte's necklace: the heart.

February 1, 2015

The Story of Charlotte

We have a running joke with our caseworker at Gladney. She is not to call us out of the blue. Not even to wish us a Merry Christmas or to casually check in. Since we finalized our adoption with Aaron the summer of 2013, all correspondence is usually through email. If you know our story, then you know why.

Caseworker calls on Christmas Eve 2011 - Surprise! You have a baby boy!
Caseworker calls on Noah's 1st birthday 2012 - Surprise! Another baby on the way!

So you can see how our little inside joke about surprise calls from the agency usually results in a baby coming home with us. Fast forward to August of 2014...I'm in the middle of putting the boys down for nap when my phone rings.

I know that number. My heart stops.

Rather than interrupt the process of nap, I get the boys in bed, take a deep breath and check my voice mail. Of course she won't leave any details on the phone; just a "Hope you're well. Hey, call me back. I have some news."

In the movies, there's always that line in the script, "Are you sitting down?" or "You need to sit down". I believe I experienced why characters feel the need to say such things. Since only a few minutes had passed, I called back hoping to catch her before lunch and she picks up right away.

"So...we heard from your birth mom. She's pregnant and wants to make an adoption plan."

I sat down mid-stairway. Hello, heart pounding!

What we came to find out was that our birth parents were expecting to do the adoption but they didn't necessarily want to ask us; they didn't want to assume that we would say yes. Gladney called us to get a feel for where we would stand on the matter and I am so thankful they did! We took a few days to pray and talk (even though the husband's answer was immediate) and called Gladney back with our intent to move forward with the adoption should our birth parents want to do so.

Almost in a reverse situation of when we first learned of Noah - that we had already been chosen before saying yes - we had said yes to baby #3 and our birth parents before they realized we were an option! We waited another two weeks to hear back and finally the call from Gladney came that they were sending paperwork our way and we were officially in the process. Our birth parents were thrilled that we wanted this baby.

Obviously by now, we're pros at adoption paperwork. It took us no time to collect everything and send it back off to the agency. The difficult part was the waiting. Noah's placement had been almost immediate and from the time we learned of Aaron to when he was born, it was only five weeks. Baby #3 wasn't due until January! Five months goes by achingly slow.

One other aspect was the sex of the baby. It felt like pulling teeth waiting and waiting to find out. Finally, we heard from our birth mom! She has never sent anything to us until this baby - her sonogram pictures! Since it was just a technician doing the sonogram, there wasn't an official doctor's stamp on whether boy or girl. But from what we were given and told, the technician was certain the baby was a boy. The photos even came with a blue card.

I think we felt like any parent in that we mostly were hoping that the baby was healthy. I love my two rascally guys and to add a third would have been smooth sailing. Besides, I love my momma's boys! But obviously, to have a girl was so strong a desire that my heart was bursting at the seams, waiting for the news, in hopes that this time around we would be so lucky.

Waiting for a baby to be born, that you yourself are not birthing, is such a strange position in and of itself. We go about our daily lives and really there isn't much to do to prepare. Honestly, there were days that I had to remind myself that there was a baby coming.

Finally, we got an official due date - January 22nd. Which coincidentally happens to be Aaron's birthday as well. We were also told that our birth mom was sending another package that would reveal the sex of the baby. She didn't want us to find out over the phone. She wanted it to be something a little more special. I tried not to speculate that that meant she was having a girl, but it was difficult not to read too much into it when some other friends and family thought the same thing.

A week went by...no letter. Another week...no letter.

I called the agency and found out that her letter had been returned. Something about the wrong zip code. So we waited again. At this point, the arrival of the letter on the second attempt would culminate while my mother-in-law and I went on our weekend cruise in November. (So now you see, the purpose of the cruise was to get some time off before baby #3 came!) No letter arrived before our trip and on our return, there was no letter waiting for me either. Once again, we found out that her package had been returned! Desperation was truly kicking in! If you've known me personally for a while, then you know that I like to plan and that I don't like suspense. Obviously, the lack of news was killing me.

A couple more weeks passed and I get a call from our caseworker. Our birth mom had given her permission to call us and tell us over the phone all the details of her last doctor appointment and the sex of the baby! The husband wasn't with me but I had her tell me anyhow. My plan was to go out and buy an outfit or something representative of the baby as a fun way to tell the husband. The following day was perfect! The husband ended up working from home and as a result I convinced him and I to get lunch together.
That is when I gave him this:

IT'S A GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My first text to my closest friends was that "daddy was going to be so broke" along with the above picture. Unlike our other adoptions, we were more open with telling a small group of people outside of our family and closest friends with the typical instruction to keep the news off social media. Although we felt like this would be a for sure thing, it's always been my preference to wait. As a reminder, Texas law states that a birth parent cannot sign any adoption paperwork until the baby is 48 hours old. Nothing would be set in stone until then.

As for the fact that we were having a girl, I could go forever on what the news truly meant to me, but I think that's something I'll save just for Baby Girl to read about one day. In the meantime, I had literally sold all of our baby gear once Aaron grew out of it. So piece by piece, I began to buy some items back along with a steadily growing wardrobe full of pink.

Fast forward through the holidays and seeing that January 22nd was around the corner, I felt like three weeks was plenty of time to still get things done around the house and whatnot. I had had my mom-cation, we upgraded to a minivan to be able to seat three kids in car seats, the husband and I took our CPR class and other educational courses, we bought beds for the boys in anticipation of them sharing a room, we bought a swing set for the backyard to keep them entertained, and we were taking advantage of all that we could do as a family of four.

Just shy of New Years, our caseworker calls with an update: our birth mom's due date was moved up to Jan 15th. Huh?! Suddenly, three weeks became two and anxiety set in. My other mom friends said I was just nesting, but isn't all nesting just wanting to get stuff done before you can't anymore? At least not as easily as before.

One week and a few days later we get another call that our birth mom was being induced on the 14th. It's one thing to hang around and wait for the call that your birth mom went into labor and had the baby (as was the case with Aaron). It's another thing to know the day and time.

I did not let my phone out of sight on the 14th. I even held back and didn't check in until sometime after lunch to ask for an update. Finally, that afternoon we learned of the birth of a baby girl! (Yes, even until then I had my fingers crossed) Born 6lbs 8oz and 18 1/2 inches long. Healthy baby and healthy mom!

Our plan was to drive the next day to Kerrville, which is where all our babies were born, stay the night, and the expectation was that papers would be signed right at 48 hours and we would then head home. We brought the boys with us (which in hindsight, I'm still not sure whether I'm glad we did or not) but what was different about this trip compared to when we went to pick Aaron up from the hospital, was that Gladney and the local social worker offered to let me stay at the hospital that second night with the baby. It's a risk that I thought about and decided I was willing to take. The underlying difficulty would be if our birth parents changed their minds and wanted to parent the baby, I would risk getting attached and make myself emotionally vulnerable should that situation arise. To me it was worth it. Worth it just to be able to meet her and love on Noah and Aaron's little sister for one night.

The husband dropped me off at the hospital that night and right away they wheeled her into our own little room. She looked just like Noah at first sight until I caught a glimpse of that gorgeous jet black hair. I've never stayed at a hospital before so the experience was interesting but definitely not something I'd care to repeat. And just like a newborn, the baby decided to party until 3:00am. Once I'd had enough, the nursing staff came and took her to the nursery so I could get a couple hours of sleep. Everything comes back to you very quickly with caring for a baby but I was thankful for that first night to have a refresher all on my own.

The next day was spent coming in and out of the hospital. Since the baby couldn't leave, someone representing the baby had to be there at all times so either myself or our birth parent's caseworker would be at the hospital. When I got the text that our birth parents had signed their papers, the husband brought the boys up and we started the long process of taking some pictures and then signing our own book of papers, all while corralling two boys who had cabin fever. Then at about 3:30pm, just like that, we were a family of five packing up and heading home.

We didn't quite make it home in one sitting. For all our sanity's sake, we stopped overnight and then continued home the following day. Since coming home, it's been a whirlwind of emotions and finding a new routine and pace to what will be every day life. I look at her and am amazed that she is ours. I have a daughter! I also want to soak in every moment because I believe that she will be our last and I don't want to lose track of this stage. I already know how quickly it goes.

As for her name, we had Charlotte picked out at the time when Aaron was born and it has carried over in our hearts for two years as we waited for her to arrive. The boys call her Charlee and it's a nickname we had planned for as well. Her middle name is Michelle Jeanette. While I've never been a huge fan of additional names, in her case, this was important to us. For each of our children, we have kept the middle name that their birth mother gave them: all names that start with J. So Jeanette was her given middle name. However, we will never be able express how indebted we are to our birth mom so it made all the sense in the world to gift our daughter with a part of who her first mommy was...and that is her name, Michelle.

So here we are with three amazingly beautiful children, all gifted to us from the same birth mom. It means everything to know that they are biological siblings and that they will have each other as they grow older. As in the past, we did not get a chance to meet our birth parents, but more specifically, our birth mom. We love her and she knows that we are willing and waiting to meet her when she is ready. Since announcing to friends and family and even talking to strangers in passing, I've heard so many comments (from strangers mostly) regarding why our birth mom was pregnant again for the third time so close to the other two. Comments about her ability to not get pregnant or whether she's going to have more. Even comments about if she'd heard of Planned Parenthood. While I am not easily offended and I love to tell our adoption story, I can tell you this: I am extremely protective of our birth mom and without her I would not have the family I have today. She is a part of us. When people hear of our story, I don't ever want the focus to be on why our birth mom this, or why our birth mom that. I want our story to reflect on the fact that this mom made the most selfless decision a woman can make. Not once but three times! She is stronger than I will ever know and because of her, I am a mommy to my sons and now to my beautiful daughter, Charlotte.

October 3, 2014

Cheeky Baby

Aaron was dutifully annoying his brother today buy pulling out all of the books from the kids' book shelf and pulling out baskets from tables and cubbies, etc.

Noah was trying his best to put everything back when he suddenly yelled, "STOP IT, you cheeky baby!"

Apparently we've been watching way too much Peppa Pig.