Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter 2014

Holidays with kids is so fun! This year, Easter was a blast with Ethan. We talked with anticipation about the Easter Bunny, and he did not disappoint.

First, we wrote the Easter Bunny a letter…

It reads:
Dear Easter Bunny,

I am so excited. Thank you for coming.



**So sweet, right?**

Then, we laid out the letter with some grass for the bunny to eat..

The next morning, Ethan had a letter waiting for him, alone with some Easter goodies.

Included were some surprise super hero, angry bird, and skylander eggs. Also, bubbles and a Ninjago lego set.

Can we just talk for a sec about how expensive legos are? Sheesh! You wouldn't believe what I paid for that tiny set.

I promise he looked super cute in his dress pants and button up shirt. Pretty sure that outfit came off 2 seconds after we got home from church!

I'm grateful for Easter, and the fun the Easter Bunny provided. I'm most grateful for a Savior who loves me and my family.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tulip Festival

What kind of festivals do you go to when you're married with child?
Tulip festivals, of course!

The Woodburn Tulip Festival was one of the first truly Oregon things I did the first year we moved to Oregon. Funny Story:

I was 9 months pregnant, and really REALLY hoping I would go into labor early. I was in that last month, and uncomfortable all the time, couldn't sleep, etc. (by the way, if I would have known that would be my only time pregnant, I would have tried to enjoy it so much more. This has been such a good lesson in being grateful.) Back to my Funny Story: My mom came up to Salem a week before my due date, and we tried to stay busy. She suggested we go to the Tulip Festival. What the heck is a Tulip Festival? - I asked. 

Well, I soon found out.

We drove up to Woodburn and parked the car. We got in one of those carts that's pulled by a four-wheeler. This poor, unsuspecting gentleman was driving it, and warned us it was going to be a bumpy ride. On the way, I casually mentioned to him that I could go into labor any second, and that the bumpy ride could certainly start my labor. Let me just tell you, that man was scared! Gave us a good laugh :) No labor pains that day, but my breath WAS taken away by the Sheer Beauty of this endless field of tulips.

We go every year, and I never get tired of the sight. I was fortunate to bring my sister to the Tulips this year. I love taking new people! It was wonderful…

Here we are in a covered cart, driving out to the tulip fields. 
There's a disturbing trend of terrible selfies - just to warn you.

Terrible selfie time!

My love..

We brought one of Ethan's BFF's to join us in our adventure. 
X is so well-behaved, and those two have so much fun together!

One last parting shot before we left.

As those of you with kids know, stuff like this is short-lived. While I would have liked to stay in those fields forever, those boys were not having it! We promptly got back in our covered cart and headed back to the parking lot. The boys then amused themselves with raised sand boxes (GENIUS! No pee), slides, and ducky races.

It was a wonderful day.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Adoption Guest Blogger: Katt (Birth Mother)

For those not familiar with the adoption world, there's a huge internet community for it. You can find support in forums, websites, etc. I met Katt through an adoption forum, and was drawn toward her warm and positive nature. She is the person who actually gave me the idea to do these guest blog posts. 

I saw how understanding all parts of adoption could really help educate our society on adoption. 
By showing all the good that can come from adoption, as well as the hardship and heartache, I think we can help remove the negative stigma.

What Katt wrote is honest and heart-breaking, but it's also a story of resilience and redemption.
We are so thankful she shared her story with us…

I never thought of myself to be the type of person to choose adoption.  Nobody sits around as a little girl and thinks, "One day I want to be a birthmother!"  I had always considered women who chose adoption to be weak.  

The process has taught me quite the opposite.  Everyone involved in adoption is strong.  Stronger than an outsider may realize. As I try to recall my story, I realize how much I have grown and how much stronger I become everyday. Some of it is kind of a blur now. I think I have just hazed a lot of it out. But here is what I remember:  

When I got pregnant, my initial emotions consisted of fear and confusion.  My boyfriend at the time and I considered all of our options. We thought about abortion, and I could not bring myself to do it.  Although I am pro-choice in SOME situations, that is not the choice that I would choose to make.   Eventually, we decided we would keep the baby, although that was obviously not the end result.  I was living with him at his parents' house, at the time (in Maryland).  He had just finished school and started on his career path.  

We were clearly not ready to care for a child, but at the time we decided we would try.  Eventually, I could not stay at his parents' house any longer, and I moved back home to California and stayed with my Dad.  (My child's father and I were in a long distance relationship for 2 years or so, and lived on opposite sides of the country.)  Our plan was for him to work double-time and save up money; then I would move back out there
 to give birth and raise the baby.  History told me that this would likely not work out, because when we were long distance there was always conflict and tension.  I remained hopeful though, and went through the motions.  

Not too long in, the fighting began, and a month or 2 later, he abruptly stopped speaking to me.  I was absolutely devastated.  I felt completely betrayed and alone.  Eventually we spoke again, and he told me that he wanted me to get an abortion. I said "absolutely not."  I was about 5-6 months into my pregnancy.  I had seen my baby on ultra-sounds.  I had bonded with her.  I told him we could discuss adoption, because it seemed like some sort of middle ground.  

I know I am, or was, the mother; and I have the ultimate say; but I strongly believe in 50/50 (or as I say 100/100).  I did not want to be raising a child by myself, simply because I didn't have the means.  It was 100% not that I didn't WANT to.. but rather, I felt I couldn't.  Or knew I couldn't.  My family was not very supportive.  Supportive of me, yes.  But of my keeping my daughter - not so much.  I pushed forward alone.  At some point, I ended up moving in with my Grandparents.  I was there for a few months when I was told that I had to either consider adoption or move into a shelter.

After a few weeks of thinking, I decided to search adoption on google in my hometown.  I wanted to be completely informed of the entire process before even considering diving into that.  I ended up calling a local adoption facilitator.  She told me she would like to meet me, and invited me out to a cafe for lunch and drinks.  I was nervous, but she made me somewhat more comfortable in her presence.  She showed me potential adoptive parents' profiles, and explained the me what the process was like.  I was handed the initial paperwork, but I refused to sign or give out any information that was too personal until I knew more, or decided that this was something I may want to do.  

That night she called me, and she told me that she had a great couple she wanted me to meet 2 days from now.  I had just explained to her that I wasn't even sure I wanted any part in this, so I thought it was a little bit intrusive and quick.  I called my daughter's father and asked him his opinion.  He said he wanted me to go and meet them, and just see what they were like.  I called my facilitator back and told her I would consider it, but I probably didn't want to.  The day came quickly, and spur of the moment, I decided I would go meet them.  They were an amazing couple.  Literally two of the most caring, compassionate, and intelligent people I had ever met.  We had tons of things in common.  They brought me a box of belgian chocolates from their recent trip to Vegas, and shared photos and dvds of their life with me.  In fact, I still have that box that the chocolates came in, displayed on a shelf in my living room.  The man was a similar racial background as me, and the woman was the same zodiac sign. (I'm into that sort of thing).  

My facilitator explained to them that I was unsure still; and that I would consider everything.  Absolutely no promises were made.  My grandmother encouraged me to see/look at other couples, but I really didn't want to.  I liked this couple a lot.  On her advice though, I looked through a few more profiles.  Something was wrong with all of the other couples to me.  I am a bit picky and controlling.  Imagine how picky I was about who might potentially adopt my daughter.  I started talking to them more regularly, and begin to form a great/strong relationship with them.

If you can't guess on your own.  I ended up "relinquishing" my daughter to that couple.  The very first, and only couple I met.  It is kinda like falling in love.  When you meet the right person (or people in this case), you "JUST KNOW."  My eventual AP's were very supportive of me.  I had honestly felt more alone that I ever had in my life prior to meeting them.  They were a huge support system for me, and I don't think I would have made it through that part of my life without them.  Multiple times, they came to visit me.  (They are from Southern California, and I am from Northern California).  We would go out to eat, shop, and most importantly get to know eachother; finding more and more we had in common.  

After a week or two, we did a conference call with the birthfather, where he was able to sort of meet them too.  He liked them also.  At first, I still would not to commit to adoption; but after a couple months of thinking, we called them together and told them that we would like them to adopt our daughter.  The APs were there for me through everything.  Issues with my family, problems with the birthfather, and most importantly, all the crazy stuff that happens during pregnancy.  They were extremely generous and caring towards me.  They went above and beyond to be there for me throughout everything.  

A few days before my due date, they flew out and stayed in a hotel out here so they could be there when I gave birth.  We hungout everyday that they were here, and went to a birth coach to prepare. My water broke on my due date early in the morning.  I called the APs right away.  As panicked as I was inside, I stayed pretty calm, took a shower, ate breakfast.  I may have seemed fine, but I was freaking out waiting for them to pick me up to take me to the hospital.  We were there ALLLLL day.  Longest day of my life.  Since my water had broken and I wasn't going into active labor, they gave me a pill to help it along.  The APs left for a bit to have dinner at my Grandparent's house, since things weren't happening right away.  While they were gone my contractions started.  I had them bring my brother over, and he visited me for a bit.  

Giving birth was traumatizing to me.  I was there for over 24hrs, and it is seriously the most painful, hardest thing I have ever done.  Not to mention all the physical changes that happen.  Although I wasn't sure if I wanted one, I ended up getting an epidural.  That made everything so much easier and smoother.  I
 didn't start pushing until that night, and early that morning I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  The cutest and most beautiful girl I had ever seen.  Nobody can prepare you for the emotion you feel when you give birth to a baby.  I remember just thinking "WOW, I made that." - as weird as that sounds.

The APs stayed in the hospital with me for the next 2 days.  We even shared a room.  It was a little hard for me sleeping next to them, having them take care of my daughter when she woke up in the middle of the night, etc.  In the end, I think it was good for me though.  The day after I gave birth, my facilitator and family visited me.  That was also the day I signed the papers.  The social worker I had working with me the whole time was there with me to help me sign.  I had no lawyer with me.  Apparently there was some sort of mix-up, which I won't go into.  Either way, things turned out okay.  On the last day, they drove me back to my Grandparent's house and said goodbye.  I said goodbye to my daughter, and to them.  I think the feeling of separating from your child, and not knowing when you will see them again, is the most devastating and heartbreaking feeling in the world.  It is really hard for me to even write about.  I got inside, went to my room, and cried for hours.  Nothing in the entire world can compare to the profound, deep sadness that you feel afterward.

Fast forward a bit.  I moved to Illinois, tried to start my life over.  Went through tons of depression.  Tons of issues with the birthfather.  Moved back to California with my uncle, after the passing of his girlfriend of 8 years.  A lot has happened.

Do you believe in fate or destiny?  Adoption has made me believe.  My daughter is adopted by the first couple I met.  I ended up finding out that the AF's (Adoptive Father's) friend was an adoption lawyer.  The APs told them they wanted an asian baby, and a girl.  They said "that's impossible, you are going to have to be less picky.".  (I am half asian, and obviously had a girl).  The lawyer introduced them to my facilitator who rapidly flew them out here a few days after connecting with them.  And they adopted the first birthmother's baby that they met.  (for many APs the process can take YEARS).  More importantly, it has turned out the be a perfect match.  I am still in touch with them.  

We have a semi-open adoption where I receive photos and videos and updates, and eventual visits.  They always say they feel like they adopted me too.  I love my APs.  They have taught me so much, and done a lot of things for me that most people would not do.  The greatest thing of all though, is that my daughter is happy and healthy.  They are wonderful parents, and she is in the best hands.  I have never received counseling, but after over a year of dealing with the depression that comes along with adoption, I am in a good place.  I am now engaged to the birthfather, and living with him.  I am happy.  And although you never "move on," I am moving forward.  Adoption always brings pain for everyone involved.  There is no way around that.  You just keep moving forward, and remembering why you made the decision you did.  I gave the greatest gift in the world to THREE of the most deserving people.  A gift that all the money in the world can never buy.  Family.  

In the end, I also gained extended family.  And I am growing and getting stronger everyday.  Even on the tough ones.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Adoption Guest Blogger: Andrea (Adoptive Parent)

I am so excited, because today I get to unveil a project I have had in the works for a while.
About a month ago, I was searching the internet, researching adoption from all parts of the triad. That includes Birth Parents, Adoptive Children, and Adoptive Parents.

I realized I have quite a few people in my life that meet that criteria! I thought of how helpful it would be to have them all guest blog from time to time about their experiences. 

This first guest blogger was one of the first people I met when we moved to Salem. I had no idea at the time, but about 8 months before we moved here, she adopted her 5 year-old son.
Andrea has been a great friend through this adoption process, and was one of the only people I counseled with when we were deciding if adoption was the path we should walk.

Did I mention she's a great writer?

Adoption became a dream for me in 2002, when I was working in a home with neglected children. I fell in love with their youngest baby and realized that I could easily see myself scooping her up and never returning. I knew then that I had a heart that was soft and open enough to welcome someone else's baby into.

Adoption became a necessity for us in 2007, when we desperately wanted to grow our family, but my body refused to cooperate. At the time, we had 3-year-old daughter and I thought obsessively about all that she was missing in life as an only child. As I look back, I realize that she was fine and we were fine and everything was going to be ok. But, at the time, every month felt another insurmountable chasm between us and the noisy, boisterous family that I wanted to be.

We completed a home study through LDSFS and waited for the call. It came - twice - but both birthmothers decided to keep their babies. Good for them, extremely sad for us. In October 2007, a therapist friend in Utah told us about a little boy on her caseload that she thought would fit perfectly in our family. He was five, which was much older than we had initially considered, but we read about him and prayed about him. We felt positive, so we proceeded. The rest was a haphazard, rush of events...even now I feel dizzy thinking about it. We went to Utah in December to pick up our son - that first meeting was just about the most nerve-wracking event that I have ever lived through. I can only imagine how terrifying it was for him. He was this little person that had experienced so much chaos and was living in a group home with 7 or 8 other little kids. Now, he was being guided down a hallway to meet his new parents. It's a wonder that any of us made it through that. We left the state with him two days later.  

Those first few days and weeks were so challenging. Imagine plucking a random child off the street and bringing him into your most intimate spaces. There were moments of joy, but many more of doubt, frustration, and sadness. My son says he doesn't remember much about that time, so I can't tell you what he was feeling. I hope that we will be able to unravel those feelings together at some point. One tremendous blessing: he came to us desperate for love and belonging. He wanted to be part of us. Our adoption was finalized in June 2008 and we were sealed in the temple a short time later. That was an incredible day and deserves a whole different blog entry.

Today, it's been six years. Some days, it feels like a week has passed. Other days, I feel like we have been working on solidifying our relationship for a lifetime. There are a few things I have learned:

       *We saved our son from a group home, but he is saving us every day. Having him in my life is how I have learned Christ-like love. 
       *The bonds created during the early days of infancy and childhood are absolutely critical. I have had two babies since adopting my son and I have marveled at how much time I spend gazing, smiling, and cooing at them. My heart is broken that he and I don't have that foundation.
       *Life is a series of miracles. We have only witnessed a few of them. Our adopted son is part of a bigger world and family, that we have yet to discover. He has a past, a heritage, and a destiny that we get the privilege of being part of.

I wouldn't recommend adoption for everyone. I wouldn't recommend parenthood for everyone. You need a sense of adventure, a love of mankind, and a habit of prayer. I am grateful that adoption is part of my life. I feel privileged and blessed to be part of my son's story, and that he now has a world of possibilities at his fingertips.

Friday, January 3, 2014

When Adoption Hurts

New Year's Eve was hard this year. This was the 4th New Year's Eve we have spent yearning for another little one for our family. Every year, I've looked with anticipation upon the next year, thinking "Next New Year's Eve, we're going to have another little munchkin running around!"

This year, I spent the day kind of being a negative nancy. I usually try to stay upbeat. I've learned that I can create my own happiness; but it was really hard to stay positive when realizing that this #1 goal in our lives still has not been achieved. I ended up canceling our plans and just spending time with the people who really matter - our little family. And reflecting on the big decision we made in 2013: That we would try to adopt!

When we embarked on our adoption journey, we knew it would be hard. I had read books, researched it thoroughly (it's just what I do, people), talked to friends and family, prayed about it - the whole 9 yards. 

We just had no idea HOW hard it would be.

How hard it would be to really connect with a wonderful person, and then not hear from her again. 
How hard it would be to have someone tell us they want to meet us, and then block our phone #.
How hard it would be to try and adopt a sweet baby girl, and instead, have that sweet baby girl be put in foster care.
How hard it would be to think we would be taking a baby boy home the week before Christmas, and be left with silence at the last minute, with no answers. 

What we remind ourselves is that our story will end with joy. 
That the future mother to the child we adopt - she will experience hardship we can't know. 
She will be the one left to pick up the pieces when all is said and done.
I hope that we can use our experiences through this journey to exercise compassion toward this mom.

We have certainly not given up yet, but we'd be lying if we said we weren't a bit down-trodden this month. As we've said before, we feel so lucky when we meet any mother that is dipping her toe in the water while considering adoption. We have come across some truly amazing people. We cannot wait to welcome a baby, as well as this wonderful baby's mother.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was spent picking up my parents from the airport. Since we were already in NE Portland, we decided to go on a hike I've wanted to go on since we moved here: Multnomah Falls.

It's over a mile hike all the way up to the top, and it's worth every. single. step.
Seriously - go - It's so worth it.

This was our view from just a little ways up. It was really foggy, so the visibility wasn't great. We couldn't see to the top at this point.

This was our view just as we hiked past the fog. The moss and greenery everywhere was breathtaking against the fog.

Again, our view from just above the fog. I believe the Columbia River Gorge is below those clouds.

Mom being brave, touching the moss. I believe she SAID it felt soft - but I'll just have to take her word for it.

When we got to the top of the hike, the trail first took us to the creek above the waterfall. Dad decided to give us all a heart-attack and walk out on a slippery log. Why he has a death wish, I'll never know.

There was a lookout ledge (with a rail) on top of the falls. Scariest thing I've ever done! This was our breathtaking view.

Our view, minus the waterfall.

One more shot of the top of the waterfall. Absolutely breathtaking, and as I said - totally worth the hike!

Selfie time!

We had some nice gentlemen take a pic of us with the creek in the background, since the fog created too much backlight. We were all sweaty, but definitely happy after that hike.

We were treated to beautiful views on our way down from the waterfall - Moss and greenery through the fog.

After we got home, we celebrated Christmas Eve at Billy's mom's house with some wonderful prime rib. Then, we headed back to our house to open presents and prepare for Santa's arrival.

Of all his gifts, Rudolph's light-up nose was his favorite! Typical…

Family pic in front of the fireplace, just before sending Ethan to bed. He fell asleep surprisingly fast, amidst all the excitement about presents in the morning.

We left Santa's footprints in magic dust, along with Ethan's stocking right by the fireplace. Ethan loved it!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Preschool Party

Ethan's preschool had a Christmas party, and Ethan was so excited! We had a countdown the past few weeks. Every morning he'd wake up, and ask "how many more sleeps" until the Christmas party.

First, they played a little duck duck goose.
Then, they chose a present (each student brought a present to share with classmates).
After they opened their gifts, they had snacks and juice, and then got to play a little bit more. Full disclosure - Ethan wasn't happy about his gift at first. All the other kids got super heroes, and he got a Jenga set. It wasn't until AFTER we got home that he realized how COOL his gift was! He's been building stuff with it ever since :)

I love that I get to volunteer in his class! It's really cool to see him in this kind of environment. He's so outgoing and social.

Ethan with two of his closest friends. Getting 2 out of 3 kids to look at the camera is a huge feat! 

This was the moment Ethan realized how cool his gift was! It's so adorable that he sticks out his tongue whenever he's concentrating.

That day was so fun - being able to volunteer at his classroom, and then going home and playing all day with his new game. Spending time with this little man is the best feeling in the whole world!

"Every child you encounter is a divine appointment."
Wess Stafford, President, Compassion International