January 31, 2011

Mr. Puppy & Miss Kitty

So Mr. Q was invited to a birthday party, wherein he was treated to his very first Build-A-Bear experience.  And at first I was all “yay” and “wow” and “isn’t this fun” – and then he was all “ack” and “whaaaaaa” and “me have cake”.  So yeah.  It was kind of wrought with tantrums and being too tired from not getting a nap and being hungry and then only eating cake and ice-cream.  So, that part  - was the not so fun Build-A-Bear adventure. 

However, after selecting, adding a heart, and “building” Mr. Puppy and then fully clothing him (people, he has underwear…let that soak in for a minute) and puppy size black high-top wannabe Converse…(sigh) Quint came to an earth-shattering stand-still.  What about “sissy”?  She had to have one too.  She had to.  I mean, we were not leaving that store without SOMETHING for her.  He was convinced.  And the more I thought about it, I realized it was a bit unfair to go home with fully clothed adorable Mr. Puppy – and nothing for little sister to hold on to.  And she’s a lover.  I mean, this girl LIVES for her stuffed animals and lovies.  I could already see the fighting and vying for Mr. Puppy and my arms moved faster than a jack-rabbit to comply. 

And so that is how Miss Kitty came to be Keira’s.  Not as fully-clothed Miss Kitty.  No shoes.  Just jammies.  No undies.  (really?  underwears for stuffed animals?)  Ok. 

So here’s the bottom line.  Mr. Puppy and Miss Kitty are like, MAJOR over here.  Like, carry everywhere you go…sleep with, call for, sit with, ride in the car unless Mom says “nada’ – major.  So despite feeling how deeply effective the marketing strategy of Build-A-Bear is (cough)….{underwear!?} – they do have an audience.  A rapt one.  Just see for yourself…





Mom and Dad?  Send Build-A-Bear clothes.  We apparently need to have outfits.  One is not enough.  Apparently.  (We need to keep Mr. Puppy in clean underwear, and let’s face it – Miss Kitty is all like, commando going on a week now. Girlfriend needs some chonies.)

January 29, 2011

On baking…

I don’t.  I mean, for the most part – I steer as clear of the kitchen as much as is humanly possible.  Unless I am forced to be in there for one reason or another – say dishes, cleanup, general grazing throughout the day. 

But I do make one thing that I am usually exceptionally proud of, and that is this: my Banana Walnut Bread Extraordinaire.  Yes.  It’s that good. Yes.  Those are chocolate chips you are looking at.  You're welcome. 

But don’t thank me – thank Betty Crocker.  And some tweaking. (Ok, thank me for the tweaking)  Moist.  Dense.  Warm.  Amazing.  Made with oodles of bananas and “stuff”. 


Wanna come over?  I’ll put the coffee on. 


January 24, 2011

A Year with Keira Joy

I have a whole post in the wings to talk about my sweetheart.  To talk about the last year of her life.  To share with you all that she has accomplished, and all that she has already blossomed into.  To share what she still struggles with and to delight in what she has overcome. 

But I wanted to take at least a moment to celebrate the simple fact that a year has passed with my beauty in my arms.  And to say how much she has changed and grown and developed so wonderfully that it leaves us in awe of her every day.

It was a year on the 18th.  But I’m not holding myself too tightly to precise dates for the blogging.  It’s been 12 months since we started learning to be mother and daughter.  And I’ve got two things that stand out the most…

She was just as much my daughter then, as she is today – 
trials, heartache, pain, and resounding Joy
My love for her grows deeper by the hour

IMG_0660-rev glamour

And, she’s just as stunningly beautiful to me now, as she was then
and will be tomorrow and for all of her days


The rest to come…

January 22, 2011

Keep On

I woke up to the sound of my son fumbling around in his room, far too early.  And let’s clarify that 5:30am is, by definition, “far too early”.  I looked it up.  Not really. 

I heard him, back and forth.  Moving here and there.  Turning on and off his light.  Calling for his father.  Tossing a toy in that corner or reading a book a little too loudly.  In such a way that we both knew would not keep his sister asleep much longer.  His patience (and mine) worn thin – I  went to him.  “You have to keep it down, son…it’s not time to get up yet.  You can play quietly…you can read…you can (yawwwwwwn) try to go back to sleep (me first!) or whatever, but you must be a bit more quiet.”  And he stared at me with that look.  The 3-year old look.  The one that says “Yes, I hear you.  No, I will not be complying any time soon.  My apologies to the management.”  I shut his door softly and heard him return to his imaginary world of play.  His child's voice following me down the hall and into my bedroom.

A half hour later, tossing and turning, listening to him invoke all types of torture on his Scooby and Shaggy figures, I slid out of my warm bed and loafed into my slippers.  Yawning and sighing and shuffling down the hall, I met my husband in the living room for a light passing touch and a weary “good morning”. 

I had been procrastinating on starting a personal Bible study.  Excusing myself daily from the new routine I would need to set up in order to make it happen.  Finding reasons why I could not possibly carve another free moment out of my days.  I decided this was a good time.  I grabbed my Bible, grabbed my new study and made a comfortable corner of the couch ready.  I started to feel that getting out of bed so early had some advantages – albeit few – but one of which was clearly the opportunity I had been avoiding.   Taking care of me.  Of myself.  Indeed, maybe it would be a productive and good day, for a change?

I think I had made it five minutes into my reading when I heard him calling to me.  To us.  Come get me.  I’m all done playing.  Me get up now.  I admit that my reaction was a rolling of the eyes.  A tsk of the tongue.  And I continued reading.  There are worse things than being asked to stay in your room and play with toys, I reasoned.  I made a second attempt and made it through page 2, but he beckoned and beckoned until we both agreed it was time. 

I tried again to continue while his father tended to him.  But as luck would have it, half way down page three he approached me.  “Hi Mommy”.  Hi, son.  “Me watch Scooby.”  No, not right now.  You’ll need to play for a little bit while Mommy finishes her study.  Only a couple more pages.  “Nooooooooooooo.  Me watch Scooby” (in that whiny, pre-tantrum voice that so many of us know and love.  Not really.) And so we went on this way for a few minutes and I realized that today – like so many of the days before it – would not be the day I would get to my Bible Study.  And I sighed heavily, and put aside my books.  Put aside me.

I needed coffee.  In an urgent and life-saving way.  So I found myself yawning again and making my way to the kitchen.  Pouring the water.  Scooping the heavenly aroma out of the can.  Watching it percolate.  Waiting with flavored creamer and thick coffee mug in hand.  And I savored each sip.  Slowly.  Carefully.  Plotting out how my day would go from here. 

I heard baby-girl…talking to herself, sitting in her crib probably holding her blanket or her elephant…giving them intermittent kisses mixed with stern babbling about this or that.  I heard that and I entered her room to start her day.  I changed her diaper, dressed her, kissed her face and told her “good morning sissy”.  Meanwhile,  brother began his daily ritual of climbing the walls of our home.  Like Spider Man.  Climbing and climbing and to reach him you have to climb too.  Only I’m mostly too old and too tired, I tell myself, to climb up there.  So I shout from the carpeted floor and say “enough of this…now come down…Mommy is tired and old!”  I don’t know where his energy comes from.  I only know it makes me feel old.  Old and tired.

During breakfast (and after a world war over who got the pink plate and who got the purple plate, and then who got their milk in the Lightening McQueen cup and who had to be stuck with the plain old green cup, had ended)  I start mapping out my day.  Nothing like scrambled eggs to get the brain fired up.  Sort of.  Not really.

I recalled a recent online search I had done to find the “best tips for staying on top of your housework”.  Mine had become ridiculously out of control.  Much like my life.  Spinning and spinning out of my reach.  Appointments and school and errands and a new job and writing and designing and chores and laundry had all had their way with me.  All of that and being a wife.  All of that and being a wife and mother to two toddlers.  I didn’t remember when in my life I would have considered googling about organizing housework.  I wrote the proverbial book on organizing housework – back in my pre- tired and old days.   It was shameful.  I reminded my husband that all areas of the house would be barely tolerable today in conjunction with my completely inadequate housekeeping skills.  Right up there with all of the other areas of my life which felt, coincidentally, inadequate. 

That person who said “you’ll always have laundry but the kids are only little for a short while” – to that person I would like to tip my hat and say how woefully right they were.  Are.  Blah blah about the kids being little for a blink and all that.  Woe.  Woe to the pro-creating laundry.  It’s true, in fact, that I will always have it.  Yes, really.


So I thought for my day I would try the cleaning tip that really stuck out in my mind.  15 minutes.  She said “set the timer”.  You have 15 minutes to clean or “tidy” up a room.  Limit yourself and you will be amazed at what you can get done.  We’re not talking deep cleaning, she said.  We’re talking – run through and get it picked up and move on with your day.  You’ll feel better, she said.  You’ll feel better than better.  You’ll feel accomplished.  Lord knows I could use some “accomplished” somehwere in there on the inside.

So I set the children to their task of playing nicely, and I set the timer to 15 minutes for myself.  I was thinking “don’t panic”.  This kitchen job was bigger than 15 minutes.  But I was willing to try and condense my thinking – get it down to the size that would allow for 15 minutes of guilt free – walk away – feel happy that you did it – kind of cleaning.  Wipe it up, rinse it off, load it up and be done.  (wipes hands on hips) 

And so this countdown to feel better was interrupted at 13 minutes, 22 seconds.  “Mommy, me go potty”.  Ok, so go.  “No, mommy come”.  Why?  Is it numero dos?  “Yes”.  Feeling I should get my whole 15 minutes worth, I noted the time and stopped the timer.  We sat in the bathroom staring at the blue wall and the dead ants that gathered where I last sprayed my organic bug spray.  All curled up.  Dead as dead.  Waiting to be ushered into the dark recesses of my vacuum bag.

When I finally returned to the kitchen, I reset the timer.  12:41 and GO.  “Mommy, me go outside and pway”.  You wanna play in the backyard?  He loves to play outside and the timing was perfect, really.  Occupy Spiderman while I worked at reclaiming my defeated attitude from the rubble of too many dirty dishes and too many dust bunnies to escape personal embarrassment.  I stopped the timer yet again,  and I dressed him with rushed hands – pulling the zipper quickly into place and asking him if he would like some gloves.  “No…me no wear gloves”.  Shoes on – one at at time.  Why did we buy the ones with laces?  And off he went to do what little boys do in their imagination and a big backyard full of nothing.

At 11 minutes and 3 seconds, he was crying at the back door.  “Me need gwoves.  Me fweezing”  So gloves and a hat and ear muffs and a scarf were added to counter measure any more hiccups in my timer.  Do you have everything you need?  Are you good this time?  He was.  And so I heard myself repeating the line “Have fun”.  And I hoped he would – for both our sakes.  I raced back to my kitchen – intent on getting through this fifteen minutes and seeing what could be done.  But at 9 minutes and 8 seconds, he was crying at the door again.  Instead of allowing my head to pop off – I stopped the timer and ran to the door. 

And I said it too harshly, but said it just the same.  What is it?  What could you possibly need now?  Mommy is trying so hard to clean up this wreck of a house.  One room.  One Bible Study.  One peaceful sleep.  One personal moment.  Though I think I only said “one room” out-loud for him to hear.  The rest was a silent reverberation in my mind. 

He didn’t need anything.  Just that he had decided after two plus minutes that he didn’t want to play outside after all.  And so he came in.  I could no longer remember where I had stopped the clock.  Only that I had long since passed the fifteen minutes.  Closer to an hour.  And I had accomplished nothing.  Neither peaceful sleep, nor a quiet morning studying my Bible, nor a moment to absorb myself in dirty dishes.  Nothing.

For some reason, they began to bicker.  Which melted into fighting.  Which became a full blown cry-fest of one child hitting while another bit down on the other.  And screaming and crying filled the air and  resonated.  And it took a moment, but I soon realized it was me.  Screaming.  Crying.  Saying “stop this!  why do you do this?  why does it have to go like this day in and day out?” and really saying the words to myself more than to them.  I cried harder.  And I left the room.  Went to my bedroom and fell onto my bed.  Cried and cried.  Thinking and then saying “I can’t do this.  I don’t know how to do this”.  Cried because that 15-minute plan to being happier and feeling better had only left me feeling more inadequate and deeply unaccomplished.  I can’t even get dirty dishes rinsed off, I thought to myself.  What have I become?  And hearing in my heart “yes you can do this” and “you do know how…you do know how to do this”.

I heard the guest bathroom toilet flush and heard giggling accompanying it.   Even in my despair, I could not risk having to afford a plumber.  And so, through tears – I began the inquisition.  What did you flush?  Socks?  Underwear again?  A toy?  No.  Just water, Spider Man said.  And sister looked on with cherry cheeks and giggled in delight.  I wiped my eyes and rubbed at my nose.  Don’t flush anything down the toilet.  We’ve talked about this.   No more!  Do you understand me?  And again, the look of understanding followed by a full salute of “not on your life”.

I ran back to my room.  Fresh tears falling.  I went to the bathroom and sat on the closed lid of the toilet.  Letting myself feel bad.  Letting myself feel overwhelmed and letting all those inadequacies creep up around my neck and start to choke me.  I can’t keep the house clean.  I’m a miserable mother who is crying over dirty dishes.  I can’t get my spiritual life prioritized.  I can’t make things happen.  I’m just buried in life and stuff and to-do’s.  Up, up, they rose – and I instinctively brought my head up to stare ahead.  The image hitting my eyes was harsh and fed my fire.


The laundry.  I can’t even keep up with the laundry.  More tears flowing freely.  I rested my head on the wall beside the toilet.  Sniffling.  Wiping my eyes.  Closing my eyes and then opening them.  The laundry staring me down.

The children ambled in and surrounded me.  One pat on the cheek and one on the leg.  “Mommy rye?”  Yes, Mommy cry.  It’s ok, it happens.  We all need a good cry now and then.  “Mommy, me want choco milk”  I sniffled and had to laugh.  Even in my most vulnerable state, my children – unaware of the reason for the drama unraveling before them – continued to take care of their own needs.  Because it’s what they do.  They just keep on. 

And somehow, that spoke to me.  I heard it almost audibly.  Christie – stand up.  Get up.  Keep on.   And so I did.  I returned to my kitchen and mixed a tall cup of chocolate milk for my son.  And then for my daughter.  And I watched as they greedily sucked it down in utter happiness.  Then I turned and began my work.  First the dishes and then the counters.  And it took much longer than fifteen minutes.  It took an hour and a half before I could step back and look at that space and feel good about it.  But I did.  Feel good.  Feeling slightly more accomplished seeing my kitchen return to its cleaner state.  And I wiped my hands on my hips and moved on to the next room.  And the next.  Until, the cleaning part was finally over.  Little people following me from room to room as the day progressed and sometimes helping, sometimes whining, sometimes playing together so well I had to stop and admire them before I would move on.    And together – as together as you can be raising little ones and trying to balance the whole world of being wife, mother, housekeeper, employee, and daughter to the King on one hand while trying to keep your feet firmly planted on solid ground.  Trying to be it all.  Do it all.  And do it all well

The moral is not – feel sorry for me.  Pity me.  Or even thank your lucky stars if you can still get laundry done.  Not really. I don’t need pity and I require no pats on the back of “oh honey” or “it will get better”.  This is mostly in part to already knowing that it will get better.  And worse.  And better.  In intermittent shifts as the years progress.  And I’ve come to make peace with that – slowly.  With some obvious regression on days like today.  And then remission, on days like today.

The moral is – look around you.  Sister.  Friend.  Mother.  We are surrounded by those who are just the same.  Those who wake up, like me today, and forget how to do it.  How to put one foot in front of the other.  Who temporarily lose a sense of self.  Who have regrets and fears and inadequacies pulling at their heals.  Who cry on their pillows and wonder what God was thinking when He entrusted these little beings into their care.  Who meltdown and come undone over dirty dishes and piles of laundry and get sucked into the endless vortex of worry – about losing ones self and waking up one day and of disappearing all together.  Feeling too tired and too old. 

I am proof.  You are not alone.  I am not alone.  We are many.  I am certain.  And God knew that too.  Before we ever became mothers.  He was counting on us to look around.  To garner support from each other.   To reach out and to be reached, through the veil of what we think it should look like into the reality that sometimes bites and nips at us, and sometimes resonates with beauty.  The ultimate juxtaposition in motherhood.  Beauty and pain.  Either way – supported and encouraged that we are not alone and that others have been there.  Have done that.  Have felt this. 

Reminded through this network of cohesive and gentle camaraderie to stand back up

Get up

Keep on

January 18, 2011

Reliving the Moments–Part 3

I think I woke up with a sense of excitement.  I remember feeling nervous, but not completely.  Just unsure about the unknown…

I know we went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.  But I was too amped up to eat much.

I remember methodically putting things in order.  The diaper bag and all its contents.  The clothes I had been carefully worshipping over the course of five years.  The bottles I was sure she would love.  The toys I thought wouldn’t over stimulate, but instead would fascinate and entertain her.  Putting them in order and organizing our hotel room.   Making up her bed with things I thought she might like.  A stuffed elephant.  A rattle with dangling teethers.  A warm and very pink blanket. 

I showered.  I prepared myself to meet my daughter.  Tried to make myself look nice for her.  Anton was there – organizing paperwork and preparing cameras.  Calm.  Nervous.  A combination of the two.

We met our guide and the other eight travel families in the lobby of the hotel.  Bright and early.  It was really remarkable how much tension, excitement and palpable feeling was in the air amongst all of us. 


We boarded a bus and sat in complete eagerness and raw nerves.  There was quite a bit of picture taking, even on the ride over.  There was anxious chatter among the families.  Nervous laughter.  And I sat, looking out the window…wondering how my life was about to change again.  Remembering how much it had changed just a year and a half earlier with my amazing little son.  Wondering if this would be the same.   But feeling like all would be well.  That she, Keira, would be fine.  Too young to know and all that.  Too young to be overly anything, really. 


Every step took forever.  I remember getting off the bus and feeling rather “been there, done that” with the experience.  Thinking I knew what to expect.  Thinking I was prepared.  Which, as it turned out, was really foolish thinking.  I had neither been there…nor done what I was about to. 


Walking into the building, riding a cramped elevator, walking around corners or through a hallway.  Into a small conference type room.  All of us filing in and moving to certain spots.  Hearing each name being called and each family moving forward to grasp hold of a new life.  And finally, Anton saying “here she is” before I could move into place. 



At first, I thought “is that her?”  It was hard to tell.  But then the cheeks – you couldn’t really mistake those delicious cheeks.  It was her, and she was beautiful.  And so very unhappy. 

we’ve come to a portion of my remembering wherein I will only say that this story was written in great detail last year.  You can re-live our bonding experience by clicking the following links:

It was a difficult journey for us.  Riddled with pain and adjustments.  Covered in love from home, comfort from our travel families, and the great commission we gave to ourselves which pretty much equaled just getting through and getting back home.

Still, I get to look at these pictures today with such greater perspective.  And a remarkable love for a remarkable little girl that lives deep in my heart.  Someone who grieved deeply, because she knew what love was.   And I am so thankful.  Because she loves deeply today. 

IMG_0535 IMG_0536 IMG_0537
IMG_0538 IMG_0542 IMG_0543

I look at that pain in her face – fear, grief…and I wish I could soak it all up for her.  On the other hand, I know deep in my heart – it was her journey.  Just like mine was to love her. 

IMG_0544 IMG_0555 IMG_0559
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And I remember this day with a sense of bittersweet emotion. 

So lovely, because she became part of us
Sad, because she grieved so much…so hard
Lovely because we finally had our sweet little girl in our arms after so long
Sad, because she rejected us on so many levels those first weeks
Lovely because I believed in my heart it would get better
Sad, because of everything she lost that day – things I don’t think I can ever give back to her
Lovely….so lovely…because of everything we all gained that day – despite the pain and sadness and brokenness we were all feeling. 


And today?  Well, that’s for tomorrow.  I’m happy to show you how Keira is doing one year later.  Excited to show you and tell you all that she has accomplished.  Happy to be her proud Momma. 

But for today, I’m just remembering how much it cost her to be here with us.  Remembering the pain this day brought all of us.  And the great joy that this day ultimately represents.  Because painful though it was, it was most notably the day we became the family we are today.  And that’s so worth remembering.

And how much we love her.  Remembering that most of all…

Happy One Year Home sweet baby…I am moved with compassion for your life and your loss.  And so thankful to God above for sending you to me. 

January 17, 2011

Reliving the Moments – Part 2

It’s hard really to put it into words.  The way I feel when I see these pictures, just a year after they were snapped.  How it makes me sad, just a little.  Happy, just a bit.  How it makes me long to do it over – do it better.  How it makes me glad it’s behind me and that I can’t quite remember just how much it hurt.  That I can finally see the distance between me and those moments.  Distance that has taken careful and long and short months to put into place. 

How wonderful it was.  And how hard it was.

Our travel group – who I miss all the time.  Who I still think of and wish I could see.  Looking at these pictures brings them back to me in a warm, comfortable, anchor sort of way.  Because that’s what they were to me – so many thousands of miles from home.  An anchor.   You’re not alone.  We’re in this together.  If you feel alone or miserable or scared, lean on me.  And I did.  If you’re happy or amazed or excited, lean on me.  And so I did.  And they and their children were such a wonderful group of people, that I still feel sad that this was our one moment.  Those 16 days where we were experiencing this same life altering experience.  This cement that slides between you and says “you and I, we did this together” and you can’t erase that.  It’s not just the girls that brought us together – though that’s the core.  It was the moments.  All the little moments that made up that entire trip.  Living life together for those few weeks.  Sharing most meals together.  Walking the streets together.  Seeing new things, experiencing a new country, becoming parents (again) together.  Passing each other in the hotel hallways and smiling the knowing smiles that say “here we go” or “I’m so tired” or “this is really hard”.  Reaching out a hand.  Sitting in a circle in the those same hallways, babies in our laps, laughing that we had made it this far – could have come so far for so long – and here we were…trying to fit into our new lives.  Together.  Anchors.  I miss them so much.  Sometimes I think they are the only people who really, truly understand everything that trip was for us. 


Miss you, K!  So much…


The culture was a lot to take in.  Mostly amazing.  Mostly beautiful.  And when we walked a few blocks to this store, I was probably too happy…too shocked…when I saw Double Stuffed Chocolate Covered Oreos on the shelf.  I might have bought two packages.  I said “might”.  This was our first day in Changsha.  We were finally in the city where our daughter would be brought to us.  It was exhilarating.  Shopping was the last thing on my mind.  But Oreos.  Well, enough said. 

There was this tangible nervous energy flowing around – from family to family.  And we would run into other families – clearly American – and they would say “when did you arrive” or “what day are you on” or “congratulations! you made it!”.  We would exchange pleasant conversation with families who we would pass in our hotel lobby, or restaurant.  We would say “how did you like the city?” or “isn’t she beautiful” when we would see them sitting with their new daughters – looking a little overwhelmed or too tired.   Which strangely, did not alert us to what might be coming our own way.  Strangely did not worry us a bit. 


I remember clearly, checking into our hotel room – walking off the elevators and seeing a line of cribs, as we approached our room for the first time.  The room we would spend a solid week in.  The room our daughter would get to know us in.  The hotel room in which, our lives would take a sharp turn.  Realizing we were – all nine families – on the same floor.  Our rooms one right after the other.  Later to be of so much comfort to me, that it makes me weepy to remember.  Having each mother there – within reach.  Strength in our numbers.  Some of us stronger in those moments.  Some of us, not.  But all of us, bonded through a shared experience and a sense of knowing.  Listening to the sounds of our new friends, adjusting to their new lives.  Adjusting and making do – so many miles from home – with what we had.  Listening and taking comfort in the sounds of mother or fathers walking the hallways, late at night, humming quietly to their babies.  Comforting them.  Comforting me without knowing it. 


Trying to be excited, when what I really felt was nauseous.  Not figuratively.  I was truly sick.  And somehow these huge moments that I had seen unfold on so many blogs before mine, somehow they were anti-climatic to me.  Which I took to mean that I was doing something wrong.  I saw the crib.  Saw our future coming full barrel at us.  Saw myself being a mother to two.  And oddly enough, I couldn’t be overtly excited about it – because I was too busy fighting the nausea and fatigue I was feeling.  I was too busy fighting the sense of dread I had carried with me – all the way from home.  From my safe place.  And it had followed me right into those moments.  And I’ve joked for years that my intuition is sharp as nails.  So this did not comfort me.  My dread was heavy and I was weak.  And I wanted all of that to be untrue.  To be as far away from me as I could find it.  But instead, it was my constant.  And I still have guilt in my heart about this.  That I wasn’t jumping up and down.  That I was, sedate.  Nonchalant.  Tired.  And sick.   And it’s not at all the happy memory I want it to be.  The pretty, lovely, wonderful moment that I had been building in my mind’s eye for so long.  But this is what was.  And the truth is more important.


And that little crib?  That little crib would be full within 24-hours of this picture.  It would hold a little baby girl.  One that I now kiss and hold and snuggle and cuddle every day.  Several times a day.  One that follows me everywhere I go shouting “my mommy!” and one who has twisted the hearts of her older brother and oh-so-willing Daddy right around her perfectly formed fingers. 

And that little girl?  I remember her wanting nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with me.  That little girl in that little crib…just 24 hours later, was first going to unintentionally break my heart.  But I had no idea it was coming.

These are the things I remember…

January 15, 2011

Reliving the Moments – Part 1

One year ago.  January 15th.  2010.  Our first official day in China.  Beijing, to be exact.  And it was so cold.  That’s the one thing I remember so clearly (ok, among many other things) but it was so cold.  I think maybe 20 degrees at the high and 12 at night.  We had arrived the night before after 23 hours of travel.  Exhausted, overwhelmed and depleted.  Nervous and excited and missing Quint so badly that it physically hurt our hearts to bear the separation.  Still…

I remember being sick.  Too sick.  Trying to will myself to enjoy every second, and fighting this ridiculous nagging sickness that had arrived only the night before we were to fly out.   Convincing AB that I would be fine.  That it would all be fine.  Knowing that I was probably wrong.  Sickness creeping up on me like an unwanted darkness.

I look at these pictures and I remember so much of what I was feeling.  So much.  More than I can convey in writing – but I’ll try anyway.  Fear.  Hope.  Cold (ahem).  Anxiousness.  Some sadness.  Some happiness.  Dread.  Excitement.  On and on.  Like it was last week.  I remember clearly standing for this picture.  Just outside the Forbidden City.  Drawing attention from the locals.  Slipping around on the ice covered ground.  Being so cold.  Did I mention that?  Getting to know our travel mates.  Learning about Chinese culture and trying so hard to take it all in.  Being fascinated and thinking “we must come back here someday”.  When it’s not as cold, of course.

Climbing the Great Wall…such a rush and at the same time…wanting to move on to the part where we had our long-awaited daughter in our arms.

Look at my sweet husband.  Smiling and proud and happy to be right where he was .  So happy.  Such a rock for me in those moments and in the coming days…

Such a journey…





January 11, 2011


I know.  I know. 

Like sands through the hourglass...so are the design changes to this blog!

But hey - it's fun, I love to do it (Hello?  I have a Design Business!?) and I couldn't look at that Christmas design for another day.  Or force you to.  Ahem. 

Because it ain't Christmas anymore, honey, and actually...


I love me some Valentines. 

And what kind of Blog Designer would I be if I kept old holiday designs on here anyway? Pshaw.

So here we have a new, lovey, hearty, pinky look - and I love it mucho.  I don't know how soon I can part with this one...might be a while.

You know you want one.  Come visit me and get started on your new design.

Mmmm, makes me want a mocha and a cupcake pretty bad...

January 10, 2011

Texas Weather

Most people think of Texas as Hot.  Humid.  Miserable.  Dry.  Flat. Tumbleweeds. 

I disagree, but only because we have lived here quite happily for over seven years.  I might have been one of those people looking out the car window as we drove into town, looking around for ranches, dudes, and people chewing on the end of a piece of hay.  Maybe.  I was to be disappointed in that.  There were no such things where we moved.  Only lovely suburbia (if that’s your thing).  And it’s mine.  I love having a Chipotle, Target Great-Land, and Carter’s all within arms reach.  I’m just sayin.

But there are many wonderful things about where we live, not the least of which is fun, predictable hot summers wherein you can slather sunscreen on and jump in a deliciously refreshing pool or eating watermelon and gallivanting about in flip-flops for several months.  On the other hand?

I really, really love having all four seasons.  And we get that too…and I never had that before we moved here – California native and all.  Summers weren’t quite hot enough or long enough, and Winter was never more than a lot of rain and maybe some iced over windshields.  Enough to be miserable, but no added fun.

Texas.  I heart you.  That’s the bottom line.  And the beauty of this?  It will be gone in a few days.  And life returns to normal.  No shoveling.  No being snowed in.  No interruption to life.  Just fun…for just long enough. 


Keira - 1st Snow


January 7, 2011

An Open Letter to an Adopting Mother

I could do what everyone else is doing and write a simple line...

"you can do this" or "you'll be fine" or "it will be the most amazing time of your life"

I got so many of those comments, and they were well-intentioned, but left me feeling empty.

I could do that for you.  And it will actually ALL be true.  You can, in fact, do this.  You will be fine.  And it will be the most amazing time of your life. For better or worse.

But let’s prepare you for real.  Because there is nothing worse (at least to me) than all that well-meaning advice that turns out to be fluff.  When the reality often bites you so hard and you feel so alone – because no one wanted to say the hard stuff.  And you find yourself wishing someone, anyone, had just said “this is going to be so freaking hard…” so that when you felt you were falling apart, you wouldn’t feel so alone in your desperation.

So I’m going to.  I'm going to speak truth.  

I would be lying to you if I said that your fears were unfounded.  It's beyond fear.  Totally and utterly beyond that.  I was practically dry-heaving in the bathroom in China the day we got Keira.  As in AFTER we got her.  Not because I was "nervous" - because I was PETRIFIED and sick to my stomach and feeling like the entire world had collapsed on my shoulders.  It felt like the biggest mistake of my life.  There is a tremendous amount of gravity to taking on the responsibility for another human being.  This is not trite obligatory observation – it’s a completely surreal experience.  And it doesn’t really slap you across the face as much as the moment they hand you the baby and you realize…no one is taking this child back from my arms.  Ever.  Now I’m a parent.  Now I’m responsible.  And if I’m not, I better figure out how to be really quick.  There's something to say for messing up your own life.  Making bad choices and swallowing the consequences.  But for messing up the life of a child - there seems to be a special parenting hell (in your mind) for people who do that.  And so goes this heavy emotion of caring selflessly for another...

There are moments of frustration, fear, and overwhelming inadequacy.  I cannot lie.  It’s the hardest thing you will ever do in your life.  This is actual truth and not something tired mothers just say to garner sympathy.  (As I once thought)  This is an actual commission to love another person and lay the “self” aside.  The most selfless love and duty you have ever taken on.  Your every waking and often sleeping moment will be about her.  Period.  Your Mommy clock will turn on the minute she’s in your arms – and this will not change.  Hear me – and don’t listen to the people who are well-meaning but don’t want to scare you.  My dear, this will not change.  My advice to you is to accept your new role in whatever stages you can.  As you are able.  Make peace with it however you can.  But don’t expect too much of yourself.  This, it turns out, is really, really hard to do actually.  You will have the most unfair expectations of yourself.  You just will. 

Thinking you had all this time to prepare and wondering why you aren’t more ready – just as you are feeling now.  But try hard to let these thoughts go.  Release them.  They don’t help anything or change anything and instead take up valuable mental bandwidth that you won’t have to spare.  

Never mind the preparedness.  It’s impossible.  You can neither ride a bike nor swim from someone else telling you how.  You must ride that bike – fall down – and get back up before you master it.  Over and over.  You must feel the water go over your head and the panic before the self-preservation kicks in and you fight for your surface to gulp in the air.  You will wonder, am I doing this right?  Am I messing this poor child’s life up?  Was I really meant to do this…be this…feel this?  You were.  You are.  But it’s the most challenging role and relationship of your life.  Not like marriage.  Not like being a child to your own parents.  Nothing compares.  This is “rock your world” hard. 

Sleep as you know it is probably over for a while.  Your days.  Your nights.  The way you live.  The way you go here or do this or do that.  All different now.  Leaving the house will take on new challenges – things that include remembering diapers and creams and sippy cups and extra this and that.  Showering might be a challenge.  Putting two sentences together into a cohesive thought?  Yes, might be a challenge.  This is the way it’s been for all mothers forever and will continue to be.  From that you can draw courage.  You are certainly not alone.  The way is paved well ahead of you.  Take comfort in knowing this is coming and that it’s a stage of your life, just as the past several years of being without children have been.  A season.  A stage.  All passing.  The days are long.  The years, much too fast. 

You’re not supposed to breathe a word about being sad to see your life as you know it go away.  It’s taboo.  To admit that you have a nice life.  That things are OK.  That you and your husband and maybe your fur-babies are ALREADY a family.  That baby-girl is a nice addition to that family – but she neither makes it or forms it.  She joins it. It's not starting now.  It's already been in motion for some time. 

You’re not allowed to say “wait, stop!  I’m not ready!” because people only want to see excitement, happiness, joy.  The reality – your instincts – scream “STOP!  NOT YET!” when the moment is upon you.  But the world says “why on earth are you complaining?  What are you worried about? or "I thought this is what you have wanted for so long?" or "You’ll be fine”.

And you will.  They are right about that.  You will be fine.  But you can take it from me that you might be fine right away or your fine might take a while to show up.  You might have a beautiful experience  – loving it and enjoying it.  You might have an amazing “Gotcha” moment (I pray you do!) and you might find that you slip naturally and easily into motherhood.  This is often the case for many women.  But accept now that you might not.  Start preparing yourself to accept and make peace with whatever the outcome may be.  For better or worse.  That she might reject you at first.  That you might not have a dream moment.  And it might amaze and blow you away how dreamy it is. 

In Ethiopia, despite all the sickness, jet-lag, and overwhelming poverty – I was in love.  It was surreal and I still look back on it as the most amazing blessing.  That moment and the days we were there still feel surreal to me.  It was so natural with Quint.  So loving.  So wonderful.  I was completely smitten with him and my heart felt like it would explode from the love I felt for him.  The dream.

In China, in her province, in that hotel room…I sat on the bathroom floor and cried.  Sobbed, actually.  I felt complete despair.  What should have been happy was overwhelmingly sad.  This is my truth.  Well-intentioned people said “it will get better” or “she’ll warm up”.  But our minds can’t wrap around the idea of delayed gratification very well.  When they said “it will get better” my mind was counting the minutes.  Hours.  Better?  When?  Any minute now, right?  Instead, the reality said several months and lots of hard work and tears and stress "kind-of-later", and then it did get better and she did warm up.  This was the reality.  A friend had to remind me “you promised to love and care for her…start with care and the love will come later”.  She was right.  So, so right.

That nagging fear you have - what if I don't love her?  You are going to love your baby.  Not like anything else.  Maybe not right away.  Or maybe right away.  You might feel like strangers and truthfully, you are.  You might feel like you’ve known her always.  Loved her always.  But no matter what - you will love her.  It will show up.  It does come.  And you won’t know how breathtaking that is until your smack dab in the midst of it – so I won’t waste time trying to draw comparisons.  God set this kind of love up long ago – and it spans the ages.  This is the real thing.  And it’s mind-blowing how all-consuming it is. 

She will do something to make you smile every. single. day.  She will fill you with love.  She will make you want to be a better person.  She will make you try harder.  She will bring out your best and maybe your worst on some harder days.  She will teach you.  She will love you.   

For all the difficult milestones, all of the tough transitions…for shedding the old life and the trying so hard to adapt to your new one…I promise you this:  you will soon not be able to imagine life without her.  You won’t want to.  As hard as the hard days are – your primal mother mode is full force.  Life without your babies seems implausible.  You will remember your previous life…how you could sleep when you needed to – shower when it occurred to you – eat whenever – shop whenever.  You will remember date nights.  You will remember all of this fondly and sometimes with sadness.  Don’t let anyone tell you not to.  It’s certainly a stage of grief you will need to move through to let it go. 

But her.  Somehow, in the intricate design of giving up yourself completely and living for another so unselfishly – you will be amazed how the love you bear her will sustain you when it matters most.  On the worst, most difficult, most horrible days of motherhood – your love for her will sustain you.  Some way.  I can’t say I understand how it works – but it just does.  And frankly, I have lots of hard days.  Lots of days where I recall the “old” life and miss it.  But then you get a chubby hand on your face and a small voice that says “mommy, me wuv you”…

And somehow?  That makes all the bad stuff, the hard stuff, what feels unbearable – fade away.  Truly, it does.  I would not lie to you.

You?  You can do this.  Have faith in you.

January 4, 2011

The Gold Medal

Just for fun...

My someone.

It's not just silly imitation when I say he "had me at 'hello'", because he really did...hook, line, and sinker.

And he didn't know it.  He didn't even really know I existed, if you must know.

I had already met him once before - at a school function.  He was the new teacher at my sisters private school.  And boy was he the cat's meow.  But he didn't really get to soak up that first meeting - because it was back to school night and he was busy.

Then I had seen him around and about when I would show up to pick her up, etc.  Always kind of trying to shamelessly catch his eye.  What?  A girl can hope, right?!

So when my someone showed up at the same place as me unexpectedly a couple months later, which led to introductions and how-do-you-do's, I really tried to use my feminine mind ju-ju to send those waves that say "Hello, I love you...marry me?"  Ok, not really.  Well, sort of. 

Things went well.  He seemed...interested.  Well enough that a week later I called him up.  Yes.  I did.  21st Century and all that stuff.  Called him up and asked him out for coffee.

Honestly?  He didn't remember who I was.


Which hit me in a sort of ego-shattering/this is all in my head kind of way.  The shame!  But after a little memory jogging, he seemed to recall, sort-of, and agreed that he could meet me a couple of days later.

I pinned zero hope on this date.  Other than the fact that he did eventually remember who was babbling incoherently on the phone about who she was and how he knew her and would he meet for coffee.

Now there are all these little details I am going to intentionally leave out - because for crying out loud, we don't have all day.  Do we?  Ok, we don't.  So let me skip to the part that really gets us both in the gut - even eleven years later.

We did meet for coffee.  And it was a magical night.  Magical.  And I kissed him, (GASP) for the record.  And it was romantic and lovely and ooooooooooooh aaaaaaaaaaaaahh.  A perfect first date.

Yes, my someone was wonderful.  He was .  He was amazing.  Handsome.  Charming.  The dimple on his cheek.  (Oh, don't get me started on that dimple...still slays me a decade later)  Just tall and funny and yum.

There was only one weensy problem.  My someone was, admittedly, not accustomed to dating anyone seriously.  At that stage in his life, he had just been dating casually and focusing on his career in teaching.

Now, I don't mind telling you that this presented a huge problem for me - because he was my someone.  And even if he hadn't figured that part out - he was the one.  He was.

Things were going well.  Too well.

And then it happened.  One night he announced rather suddenly that he needed to talk to me.    Though he thought very "highly" of me, and had a great time with me...he felt we were better suited as "friends".  He felt he had important things pertaining to his career and church involvement that he needed to work on and that dating someone with any degree of seriousness took his attention away from that.  But something in his words seemed off.  Rehearsed.  And from that I took hope.  Because this was just the usual way in which he moved on.

I was calm on the outside, but I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't a little panicked on the inside.  Not because I needed a relationship...but because I knew he was the one.  I knew.  People are you with me?  I knew.

So I let the week go by and out of the blue, he called me up and asked me to dinner.  You know, as "friends" or whatever.  And let's just all focus on the fact that this man had for all intents broken up with me the previous week.  But you see...hope.

And so I agreed.  And I played it very, very cool (pats self on back) if I do say so myself.  Yes, girls.  I didn't even flinch when he said how pretty I looked, or casually held my hand at the table. (swoon!)  I tried very hard to stay  focused on the task.  Had to avoid looking at the dimple altogether.  The task being: prove to him that I was the one too.  By being removed and casual (trails off)...I don't know, it seemed to make sense at the time.  I knew I couldn't keep it up.  He was much too charming for that.

I knew I had to have my own "talk" with him - because casually dating someone who had given me the proverbial "dump" only a handful of days before would not do.  Especially when I felt so deep in my gut that he could be so much more to me.

So I let a few days pass and decided to have him over for a chat.  Of sorts.  Skeptical, he agreed.  And he was at my door, right on time.

I sat him down on the couch and told him I needed to talk to him about something that was bothering me.  He looked perplexed.

And this is what I told him.  And it should go down in the folklore of our family (she says with pounding fist) because it's the GLUE.  It's THE moment.  It really is...

Let it be known that on the inside I was shaking.  I wanted to throw up.  I was playing poker now, and I was going all in and praying it worked.  On the outside, I was calm.  Cool.  Collected.  Confident.

I told him that I really liked him.  That he was a wonderful guy and that after dating him for a few months, I could see that he had a lot of potential to be someone very special to me.  That I thought with our personalities, we could be a dynamic couple.  Yes, I went there. 

And then I went and did it.  I proclaimed as boldly and beautifully and smoothly as I could...

"I don't know how many good girls you've passed by...maybe even let go of...but I'm not going to be one of them.  I'm the Gold Medal.  I'm the TOP of the Food Chain.  You've arrivedThis is it.  And you seem like a great guy - but I'm not playing anymore.  I'm too old for this and I'm too young for this.  You either commit to moving this forward or you leave here and never, ever call me again.  I don't need any more friends.  I have plenty of great friends.  The position for friend has been filled.  We are now interviewing for husband."

Deep breath.

My cheeks were flushed.  I was dry in the mouth.  But I got it all out with confidence.  And I looked him dead in the eye while I said every word.

Maybe you're laughing, because frankly - I still do sometimes.  I don't know what in the world came over me to say those things to him.  I truly don't.  Because quite honestly, I certainly didn't believe all of those things at the time.

But something happened.  Right then.  And I couldn't put my finger on it at all.  But he was different.

And he'll tell you today that it was the single moment when he knew he was in love with me.  The pivotal change in his heart when he went from being on the fence about this new girl in his life, to being moved with love for me and for the possibility of "us".

He looked at me with a perplexed expression.  "Do I have to decide right now?"

"Yes.  I'm afraid so.  You're almost thirty years old.  You should be able to tell me if you want to move this forward or not".

"So I have to make up my mind now?  Ok.  Let me make sure I understand.  Either I leave here and never call you again or I have a girlfriend. I'm in a relationship and we're full steam ahead."

"Yes.  That's right."

And friends?  I envisioned him standing up.  Apologizing.  Telling me again what a nice girl I was.  How he wished things could be different or saying "it's not you, it's me..."  That he wished we could be friends.  I saw him walking out the door and out of my life, and my heart beat like the sound of cymbals crashing all around and I was sure he could hear every one of them.  I was gambling with my someone.  And it felt reckless and nuts...and so right.

He smiled.  And that gorgeous dimple popped up and slayed me all over again.  He looked me in the eyes and I thought my heart would melt.

And he spoke...

"Well then...I guess I've got a girlfriend..."

From that moment forward,  we were and have never, never been apart.

And true to his words, he gave more than 110% to loving me.  He put everything he was and had into us and still does.  So much that his love for me overwhelmed me.  I never expected my someone to be...to love me...I don't know the words...to devote themselves so wholly to me the way he did from that moment on.  It humbled me and still so often does.

And truly, he got so much more than a girlfriend with those words...

We both did.