August 28, 2008

Rebuilding the Family Mold

Friends - I've debated heavily about sharing this tender portion of my life with you. So for my sake - please no J.A.B - Judgement, Advice, or Blame. Let me use this blog as a place for support and expression and a moment to get my feelings typed out. I know you will - because you always do - but listen with your heart open and allow me to be me, as you always have...

My baby boy who I love with my whole heart, is stubborn - to put it bluntly. He's got the iron will of a brick wall. He takes me to the mat everyday - testing me, stretching me, making me prove that I'm worthy of his respect. He is nine months old and can bring me to tears - his mother, who was also created incredibly headstrong. He doesn't blindly follow any instruction. Instead, he goes rigid - arching his back and crying when he doesn't get his way. The slightest correction results in tears and anger. The gentlest reprimand brings an onslaught of frustration and temper.

He's stubborn. He's strong willed. Two types of children: the compliant child and the strong willed child. One loves to please, and the other loves to challenge. I have a challenge. I had it all planned and plotted out and...let me check..yes, yes...I'm pretty sure I checked the "Compliant Child, Please" box...but guess what?

AB and I have been in research mode - learning mode - sponge mode. Soaking up all the knowledge we can to respond appropriately to our son's growing temperament. Learning to let things go, and choose our battles carefully. Learning how to correct and discipline and how to love him and guide him. How to diminish the strong will, but not the spirit. Never the spirit. It's what helped him to survive. It's what got him to me.

On his good days, he is a charming delight - full of laughter, easy going and fun natured. Easy to laugh and sweet to be around. But when he is feeling the, shall we say "opposite" way - and no one can predict it - he is so difficult to comfort. He will not have it. He will only have his way - and that generally entails crying jags that can last all day. Tantrums that rival some terrible two's I've witnessed. Rigid behavior that makes you want to weep.

Everyday I wake up and ask the Lord to help me be the best mom that I can be to Quint for that day. Just for that day. Because I never know what kind of day it will be. It changes all the time. One day a great day, and the next leaves me exhausted and spent and doubting myself.

I love him beyond measure and what I can express here does not do it justice. He is the light of our lives and AB can attest to being just as in love as I am. He is the best thing that happened to us, since...well, since us. But he is a challenge in ways we didn't expect. He doesn't fit in the box we had been fantasizing about on the other side of adoption. Into the false perfect family life we had envisioned.

Instead, my headstrong boy blazes his own trail for our family and shows us everyday that we cannot sit idle and watch him play with toys while we delight in the picture of our new perfectness. No. Instead, he challenges - no, demands, that we step up our game and come to each day ready to learn how to be the best parents we can be. Everyday. And he's worth every minute of it.

Some days I am so tired of fighting him and his stubborn will that I exasperatedly ask him "what do you want from me?!?" He looks at me with a longing so deep, that I am broken for him - moved with compassion for his many losses at such a young age and I'm challenged to meet him in his need. As if he's saying to us "prove to me that I should love you back".

Other days, he is so charming as he lays his head on my shoulder before bedtime - and I say "I love you so much". He pulls his head up and meets my gaze with a smile as if to say "me too..hang in there".

This is what they don't tell you on the other side. You don't even give it much thought - because how can you deal with something that is not your own reality? We deal with things as they arise. And maybe for some, it's lots of love and happiness and peace. Maybe for some it's hard work, and hard times, but lots of love and later some peace and then happiness.

For us it's one day at a time. And again, I say this to reach that one person that is either there also or will be. It's worth speaking out if just one person feels heard or understood or not alone. Or maybe after your own adoption is complete and you find that you too, have a strong willed child who takes you to the mat every day to see what you've got in you - then you can remember that you are not alone.

It's the underbelly of parenting. No one wants to admit they are having a hard time - or struggling. No one wants to readily say "me, over here! I'm crying because my nine month old is stubborn and strong willed!" Yeah, that's not exactly the most popular parenting posture you can take.

But I'm here to tell you - this parenting gig - there's just some stuff they don't cover in that "What to Expect..." book and this is sort of it: That not everyday is roses and sunshine and cute outfits and an adorable nursery. Not everyday is happy and fun-filled and laughter and giggles. Not every night is a sweet kiss goodnight and a lullaby. Sometimes - but not every day.

No, sometimes it's crying and tantrums (even at 9 months folks) and meltdowns in public, and more tears and arching the back, throwing the bowl of food, and refusing to nap, repeatedly touching something that's off limits, kicking, screaming, and even pinching and scratching. This from the little boy who clings to us relentlessly - clearly attached, but struggling to find his will being bent.

We have found that you can beat yourself up, but here's the reality: no two children are alike. And the fact of the matter is - it's not an indication of bad parenting (despite what society would have us believe) when a child is strong willed. It's part of who they are and part of who they will be. Take into account the many families with more than one child. They parent all the children to the same guidelines and standards, and yet some kids break away as stubborn and strong willed and a complete challenge to their parents - while another child might be the more compliant and tender child of the family. We are all born with traits and personality. It doesn't have to be a bad thing - but weeding through the hard parts are some of the toughest days in my short parenting book of experience. We are too quick to judge, I think, when we see a strong willed child in action. We blame the parents, and say "they must be doing this or that wrong" and justify our judgments by the behavior we see. The reality is - these children are extremely challenging, as we're learning - and it can take years to find solutions to the challenges that they bring to the table.

And when that perfect mold you've been building for years gets busted you have to pick up the pieces that are scattered around and through your broken vision, rebuild - one day at a time - using reality and your instincts to create the life you were always meant to have. Mind you, it's probably different than what you thought it would look like. But it's still the one you were meant for.

And don't feel bad if you cry. It's ok. I've been there. Not every day can be Pollyanna - and that's just life.

The good news and the redeeming truth of all of this - is that through it all, it's still the best and most incredible feeling in the world to be his mom. To love him and get to love him, and get to watch him grow up. It's just the most rewarding feeling in my life to know that we are in this together, the three of us. Trudging along and learning everyday from each other. Trusting and learning to love each other just as we are. Learning to be a family - all of us in our own way. He's such a blessing to me - and there's not an ounce of cliche in that statement. There's not a day that goes by that we don't hug and kiss all over him and tell him what a wonderful boy he is.

It's still the most miraculous thing I've ever done in my life.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

That should be enough encouragement for anyone.

August 26, 2008

OH, how I long to post...

alas life will not let me...


So much to say...and I'm just robbed of time and resources and energy with which to do it...


I have to work now...bye friends...until tomorrow and maybe I can convince my mind to stay awake for a blogger session?

sniffle. miss you all.

August 24, 2008

Fay...Curse and a Blessing

Well, you just can't plan to have too much fun when you're flying into a hurricane - now can you? That's not to say I had NO fun - but just to say that even when you're at a nice resort, and have a great agenda planned with nice dinners and fun activities - you can only do so much when there's a massive storm outside the door. I've never seen such heavy wind in my life. It was crazy. But we still managed to brave Disney and the Magic Kingdom on Friday and because of the storm - we didn't really have to stand in line or wait for anything. We just walked on and off pretty much everything.

Still had a nice room...very comfortable - slept like a brick...

View from my room window on the last and only day when the sun popped out...sigh.

The lovely Miss Keira (just a coincidence folks) - she was too cute!

So we braved it and it POURED off and on all day. But most all of the rides are indoor and quite frankly, hats off to Disney who didn't close down ANY of the rides due to weather. We went on everything. Quite a feat in the rain with a three year old. This is my pal and co-worker Laura. We were friends before we worked together, so we've been living "life" as you say for a while.

Keira is Laura's daughter and a total dare-devil. She had NO FEAR and was just 40 inches tall - so nothing was off limits except Space Mountain. Oh well, next time! Her favorites were Pirates, Splash Mountain, and Thunder Mountain Railroad - which I have to say, I turned around to make sure she was doing ok - and that little stinker had her hands up in the air and was laughing like her sides were splitting. 3 years old people. That's what I'm talking about!

Buddies! I've been taking care of Keira off and on since she was 5 months old. It was a total treat to get to experience Disney with her - even the rained out kind.

Last year on my first trip to DisneyWorld with AB - we bought him this Pirates shirt...guess what I saw this time?!? Quinty size! TOOO CUTE! (But I didn't buy it because I was feeling too frugal and it was $50. Yikes!)

Ok, we are just soaked here. No way around it. It was raining BUCKETS on main street and here were are parked under an alcove trying to wait it out. Jeesh!

I was so happy to get home and see my boys - it was wonderful and I was weepy to see little Q. He just snuggled right in and after squeeling (which made the people around us giggle) he nestled in on my shoulder and stayed put. My boy! Wish I had a picture but I was just tired and baked. We stopped by the Rain Forrest Cafe for lunch on the way home and I didn't remember my camera from the car...LAME. He loved it though. He was wide eyed and ate so well. He loved looking at all the animals and sights and sounds. Too fun! Then we made haste for home and I was sooooo happy to lay on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. Ahhhh....

While I was laying there, AB got tied up on the phone and I had my camera in my hand - so I took a silly self portrait. See, told you so...omg...I look just like my sister. Wow.

TTFN friends...back later with more thought provoking topics like my personal countdown for the movie "Twilight", finding any possible use or purpose for bibs that don't catch anything, and raising a strong willed and stubborn child. (omg!!)

August 19, 2008

I'm off..

I'm off to Orlando for a business trip - it's actually more of a "fun" trip because it's at a beautiful resort (free of charge), we get wined and dined daily, and on Friday I've finagled my way into feeding my lifelong addiction and visiting the Magic Kingdom. Whoo hoo! So excited!

I'm going with friends - so I know it'll be fun. I'm going to miss AB and the little man so much - and I've said a hundred times that I wish they were going too - but alas, not this time. Maybe when we have both kids home and their just a little older.

Meanwhile - I'll try and do some posting from Hurricane Central and let you know if I make it out...(just kidding Mom - don't start panicking - I'll be FINE)

More to come...(did I mention I'm going to Disneyworld?!?!?! Yeeeee HAW!)

August 17, 2008

Give Mommy a Kiss...

Quint is a Momma's boy. There - I've said it. It's out. It's a phase, I'm sure. As soon as he realizes that Daddy is the pushover and much kinder than I, he will get his act together and switch sides. But in the meantime - he's blissfully happy to sit on my lap, pull at my cheeks, play with my hair, cuddle close, and when I'm least expecting it - plant a big juicy baby kiss on my chin, cheeks, eyes or even lips. What's cute about this is that he hold the position...and waits for me to make the "ahhhhh" sound and then pulls away and smiles as if to say "didn't see that coming, did ya?...I'm a romantic, Mom...just you wait and see!" And it's true...I melt into a 100 little squishy pieces and then he does it over and over, because he loves the praise. I always say "thank you!!" and he loves to hear that.

He's also mastered waving "bye-bye" and he usually performs this newest feat while eating in his highchair. Is he telling us to leave the food and go?

He's sprouted yet another tooth - so we're up to two. One on top and one on bottom. That's my boy - full of surprises. I've got a feeling we're due for another any day now - he's drooling like a leaky faucet.

He loves to stand up...can't go anywhere when he does and he usually falls back down quite unceremoniously, but he loves it just the same. We also noticed that our little man is Lightening McQueen on all fours. I mean, this kid can MOVE. He is the fastest crawler in Texas. Jeesh! You literally have to run to keep up with him. It's the funniest thing we've ever seen...(insert new parent moment here).

He's got a temper. Yes, you know me...have to tell it like it is. This kid is discovering his very, very opinionated self. All communication is currently done in grunting noises and body gestures. For instance, if I tell him that he must not get into my trash can and pull all the trash out to liter the entire living room floor with - just at being told mind you, he will immediately stick his bottom lip out, begin sobbing as if he is mortally wounded, and cry the biggest crocodile tears you've ever seen. To add insult to injury - if I then move him away from said trash can and put him back in the range of his play area and toys - he ARCHS his back (won't sit down) and cries hysterically - because he is so angry at having been moved. He clenches his'd have to see it to believe that such a cute little man can raise such a ruckus. Just take my word for it...boy has a very strong will. Gonna have to nip that arching the back in the bud. It's pretty amazing to see such a little person have such a big fit.

But he's still the cutest, most amazing and wonderful boy in the world. Ah, the joys of motherhood...

Did I mention he's a momma's boy?


August 14, 2008

So, while I long to write witty repartee...

Yesterday we had our first post placement visit with the social worker. Since we have a relationship that has spanned three years with this woman - we felt comfortable. I didn't rush around like mad to clean house. I didn't even bother to self-beautify. We were casual and relaxed and the baby's toys were all over the living room floor. An image I felt was more healthy than a spotless home. I sat on the floor playing with Quint for the duration of the visit (2 hours!) and we had a great time chatting and exploring how far we've actually come since she first met us, back in 2005, for our very first homestudy for China. What a long journey it's been to get here. We're parents - yet not at all to the child we anticipated when we started down this road.

Two days ago, I was pondering this very thing. I thought about how God had miraculously led us and guided us - even when we were feeling stubborn or scared. It is ever apparent when staring at our son, or interacting with him, how humbled we truly are for who he is and how much we love him. Let me be clear - there is a reason why God does the ultimate matching. Do you know why I know this? Because if they had let Anton and I walk into that orphanage and pick whoever we wanted - we would have missed Quint. (shudder) We might have seen him - we might have even thought he was cute - but I'm not 100% sure we would have been smart enough to know that in that little corner, the tiny little 14lb. 6 month old was truly OUR son. Thank GOD He knew before time began that Quint would be our son and that we would be his parents. Before I uttered a word or was even formed in my mother's womb - He knew Quint would be my son. How miraculous is that? And friends, I'm here to testify (can I get an amen?) that this little boy is exactly who we needed, wanted, and as it turns out is the perfect fit for our family. Save for the minor difference of skin color - he is our son in every way and could have been molded from our side. He is kind, but stubborn. Loving and cuddly, yet strong willed. He is his father and he is his mother. Who, but God, could match better than that?

We often find ourselves telling others "we don't deserve him" or "we aren't sure what we did to deserve him" or even "he's too good". This doesn't stem from a perfectly well behaved child (trust me on this one) or from the foolish notion that we are bad people who didn't deserve Quint. It's from a newfound but deep-rooted love for someone that you don't feel you deserve in your lifetime - but by God's grace were blessed with just the same. Why? Because that little person, in this case, manages to encompass all that is good and right and lovely in the world. All the things we rush to avoid, pass by, or even ignore - those are things that Quint is busy learning about - memorizing - taking in - enjoying. Each day with him is a day to see things as he sees them. Fresh, new, and unencumbered by the flailing world around. Simple things bring him joy - like when I kiss his cheek and he smiles. Not at me - but instead to himself. He's happy from the experience of having been kissed and how that made him feel. At nine months old - he is feeling love and maybe for the first time in his life - he is enjoying that feeling. What an amazing thing to watch unfold in your sons eyes.

I've tried repeatedly to come up with clever or funny things to post about - but I must admit to being overwhelmingly upside down in my life at this time.

On the one hand - work is a huge challenge for me right now and so is managing my new life with a child. I'm working from home and my "office" is in the living room where Quint must play while I work - or attempt to rather. It's a fantastic job and I'm so grateful to have it - but I am bulldozed by trying to fit it all in. Such a hard thing to swallow when I was so sure it would all be "fine".

Then there is the fact that AB will return to teaching next week and with him will go our summer and the first few months of sharing the tremendous joy we had in learning about our sweet boy together from sun-up to sundown.

There are still the remains of the days we spent in Ethiopia lingering in my heart and mind - I'm still trying to come to terms with the fact that our trip was less than pleasant. But I'm also finding that I'm making peace with that fact - and even replacing those bad times in my mind with all the wonderful good that came from that trip.

I've grappled almost daily with the change of role my fur-babies have taken on. It's hard to shift your love around - but I think, inevitable. Coming to terms with my own shift of affection has been hard - because of the guilt it brings me. Plainly put - and please, no condemnation, I am much less consumed with my furry kids than I was before. Of course, I still love them. But it simply cannot be compared to the love I have for my son. Despite what some might think - it was a startling revelation for both AB and myself to find that when we returned from Africa...we had two dogs and a cat. Not three daughters. It sounds harsh - but when a child who now calls you Mom is crying on your shoulder and has survived total abandonment, fairly severe undernourishment, and prolonged sickness - and you are now their hope for having all of that improved- your perspective shifts. Sadly, it shifts dramatically.

I have tried very hard to improve the routine of my days - but it's still out of whack. My home is tornado-'d daily and I am the clean up crew. We are starting to get a routine down and AB will go back to work next week and it will all change again. Sigh.

I'm traveling for business this month and that puts a strain on AB to return to work and find care for QB. It's taken care of - but just the bottom line of being separated from each other and missing each other - all three of us - it's hard.

In the background of all the daily struggles - I must keep in mind that Keira is coming home. She's technically on her way. By that, I mean we are down to what will likely be our last eight months without her. A year ago, I would have jumped up and down at having that prospect - but right now, I'm still trying to get a handle on life with one new baby. (who crawls and stands, and falls down, and eats with his two little teeth, and is in to everything he can get his chubby little baby hands on) I'm trying to emotionally get myself prepared for having two in the same age group (or close to it). Don't hate me - all my fellow waiting moms. We set it up this way - but reality is a fickle friend - and slaps you around once in a while. I'm trying to get my bearings from baby number #1 and baby #2 is on the home stretch. And a trip back overseas. Gulp.

So, while I long to write witty repartee, I am left with being basic and honest about where we are. I'm left with having to tell you that I'm not perfect - sob! I'm left with telling that you every single day we look at each other and say "we don't deserve him". There is a really wonderful thing happening in our house over here - we are in love with a little boy. In the most vulnerable and heart shaking, inspirational making, ooey gooey dripping way. We are struggling to get our new life in order to make way for our second new life that starts in about 8 months. We are outgrowing our cute little house. We are desperate to have more time. We are upside down in life and flipped on our ears in love with Quint. It's the best of times and the worst of times.

That's the truth. Naked and blaring for all to read...

I've heard people say that the wait melts away once you hold your child - and that's sort of true for me. But I do remember very well the wait and the pain and the absolute feeling that somehow, it would never happen. That I would never be a mom. But I must tell you - we don't deserve them....either one of our kids - they're too good. Quint is and Keira will be. And all the waiting you will do, and all the preparations you will make - all the long traveling you will do, the sacrifices you will find yourself in the middle of, the work you will have to do, the money you will force yourself to save to afford the adoption, the life you put on hold, the tears you will have while waiting, the disappointment you will feel while your wait extends or the tired nights you will sit up in her room wishing she was there - my friends - she is worth so much more than the very most you could do on this end for her. You must believe me...worth so much more...

Five days with Quint would have been worth more than all the time, energy, and strength I put into my entire wait for both of them.

That's what's waiting for you on the other side. Upside down life included, free of charge. But that's what's waiting...

You can do it.

August 10, 2008

First Surgery

Sorry for the silence - among other hectic things taking place with work, AB's return to school, and two trips I have planned this month - Quint had surgery on Wednesday. We had a corrective procedure done that we had been anticipating taking care of since we returned from Africa. The knowing you're doing it is the easy part. The handing your 9 month old baby over to a nurse and watching him walk through big hospital doors and disappear through the glass - terribly difficult. I cried. Oh yes. I did.

But he was returned to us safe and sound in recovery a little (forever and a day it seemed - but actually very short) while later, and mama got to hold her little man again. He was groggy, a little cranky, and still had an IV in his ankle. His little toe was wrapped with a C02/heart monitor and he was cold. Other than that - he was thirsty and sucked down two small bottles in record time. That and he wanted Mommy. (Flutter, flutter, my heart did...) The nurses playfully argued over who got to hold him pre and post operatively and we admitted that we still have that same struggle at home.

He was given a spinal block of sorts and so he had trouble sitting up and moving around for a bit. Once we were able to leave, he slept soundly in the car all the way home. He's doing just fine and his recovery has been amazing.

Ok - we've been through surgery with our child. Mother checklist number 147. Gulp. Be back with more...

August 8, 2008

Family Pictures

I know the blog has a few of our pictures adorning its creative corners - but I wanted to share with you some that hit the cutting room floor for the blog, but still grace the frames of our home. We are so pleased with how our first family portrait session turned out. My heartfelt thanks to Jael over at Jael DeYoung Photography for making our first official family pics so warm and beautiful. Enjoy!

August 5, 2008

Once again - honesty prevails

Friends - please go over and give my M3 Sista some love on her most recent post


And remember what I've been saying (all those expectant moms out there) - I'm so relived to see TRUTH prevail...

Even when it's hard to believe, the process and the wait are the easier part. Slap me for saying it - but it's like believing that the pregnancy is harder than the post delivery five months of sleeplessness and 3am feedings.

When I see these types of posts, I am filled with relief and also with renewed vigor to help women prepare for what is coming. I just said to myself this morning - you can't know until you do it - but maybe you can be a little more prepared through the journeys of others.

Just maybe...

It's good to know we're not alone. Just normal Moms trying to make it post adoption. (or birth)

Wowza, he's cute!