Thursday, June 9, 2011

Grounded

Little Leo is the most dramatic, passionate, delightful, headstrong, endearing, charming, confident, SMARTEST one year old I have ever met. Today at the Library, he was getting the evil eye from another mother while he was throwing a huge fit on the ground. Within seconds, he had her wrapped around his finger with a nose scrunch, a smile, and a "wook at dat". She was all of the sudden head over heels in love with the kid. I just sat back, and thought "wow, that boy is good".

This little Leo grounds me. I will be stressed, trying to handle his outbursts/ mischeviousness/hunger/biting/hitting (or whatever else he was up to that day). But then at night I put him to bed, and he falls asleep in my arms without a fight. He wraps his chubby little arms around my neck, his sticky fingers pat my back, and he breathes softly into my ear. All of the sudden my feet reach the ground, and I see how far he has come. We struggled the first few months with putting him to bed, because he would fight us and cry out in his sleep. But now... He falls into our arms. It reminds me of the game "Trust", and I realize that he was challenging me all day because he was testing me. Then he just falls into my arms at the end of the day, because I passed all of his challenges and he still trusts me.

Every night I think about how much he grounds me. When I am putting him to bed, I realize he has brought me exactly where I want to be... Both feet on the ground, rocking back and forth, enjoying my baby boy. Sticky hands and all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

One Year Ago...

It's hard to think that a year ago one of the most important men in my life left me, and shortly after another important man entered. The two men have never crossed paths, but I have spoken before of my thoughts about their resemblance. They are two peas in a pod. Leo is just like his Grandpa Grady. He is just as mischievous, stubborn, and playful as his Grandpa was. He likes his cookies, and he teases puppies to NO end! And I know that he is being watched over closely by his Grandpa.

This last year has been full for me. It has been full of joy and full of sadness. This year has been full of grief and full of new life. It's amazing to think of the many transformations that can take place. How one day can change it all. One year ago today my thoughts were consumed with trying to bring Leo home. Not realizing that I only had moments left with my Dad. How many times do I wish I could go back to those last moments? Honestly, probably too many to count. But my focus goes back to trudging through this first year. And I often am amazed at how far my family has come.

This past year our family has struggled through the holidays, the mundane days, and the celebrations. We celebrated my Dad’s 60th birthday the day of his funeral, and we enjoyed his favorite Oreos. We even found some of his hidden chocolate in the garage freezer. I then warned Mom that she was going to find hidden candy all over the house. We struggled through Father's Day, thinking of the one card we wanted to buy.

We had two new boys enter our family, both named for the one person we all miss. Every day we wished that Dad could see his two newest grandsons, and still be there to see his older grandchildren grow. Some of the kids asked difficult questions, others assumed that Grandpa was in the sky with balloons (that was Miss E, she was on a big “Up” kick at the time).

The holiday season loomed over us like a dark, stormy cloud. However, Dad sent us a message at Christmas that told us loud and clear that he is happy where he is. In January we learned that my Mom, who may not have looked at it in years, would be sure to start searching for her wedding album when we had snatched it for a surprise on their 40th wedding anniversary.

We have laughed, we have cried, but most of all we have survived. Something that this time last year, we weren’t sure was going to happen. This past year passed in a haze. There are months I don’t remember, summer flew by in a blur. Special times stand out in my memory: meeting my son for the first time; bringing him home; introducing my two children to each other; finally introducing Leo to his grandparents and extended family. All of these moments so special, but something was missing from all of those moments. A piece of me was gone.

However, I look at our family today and I see healing taking place. We all are walking around with a little bit of relief, a relief that is generated from the realization that we made it through all of the firsts. Our survival mode is slowly going away, replaced by confidence. A confidence that comes from the awareness that, although we miss him terribly, we can make it through the day… the week… and the year…

Dad, we miss you. We would love to have you back here on earth with us, but we know that your time is not our time. Thank you to you and Mom for creating a wonderful family. Our family may be missing an important link, but we now hold a newfound strength. Thank you for giving us that strength to carry on without you. We feel your presence as our lives change, and please know that we need you here with us as much as you can be. We will love you forever, and we will miss you always.


video

Monday, May 9, 2011

For All the Mama's in Our Life...

This post was for yesterday, but I never got around to writing it. It kept rolling around my head, so I had to let it out...

I wanted to thank all of the Mother's in my life. So many of you have shaped me into the person I am today. I have learned something from all the mother's that surround me. And I don't know if I would be the Mom that I am without their influence. I wanted to personally thank some very special mother's that help not only me, but my children as well.


First and foremost, my Mother. She is an amazing woman who gave everything for her children. She is the ultimate Mom, who has so many more children than the four of us. Growing up, I can't even count the number of times my friends would count my Mom as their Mom too. She is there to sympathize when we need sympathy, to pick us up when we are down, and to push us on when we seem stuck. Thank you Mom for being the amazing woman you are. Your support, your strength, and your love is what has kept me going for 30 years. I love you!


Next up, my Mother-in-Law. My children are so lucky to have this strong, compassionate woman to call "Grandma" (Trent and I are pretty lucky too). We truly appreciate her assistance in raising our family. She has always stood behind our family, advocating for us and cheering us along the way. She is always the first to be at our house when we need help, and she is always asking to do more. We wouldn't be the family that we are today without your help. Thank you Kathy for showing me that unconditional love for your children will not just stop when they are young, that it only strengthens as your children (and their families) grow up.


There is one amazing Mom in my life that I probably quote about 5 times a week. She is a full time Mom, that is always working for her children. Her insight into parenthood, health, and the Royal Wedding are profound. This is the woman I call right after my own Mom, and she has known me just as long. She is the one I always wanted to be when I grow up (I still do). She is the one that will listen to me complain, who will listen to me cry, and the one I have clung to through the most difficult times in my life. She makes me laugh, she makes me cook (because she has some pretty amazing recipes), and she makes me want to be a better Mother. Thank you Cindy for being such a great sister, friend, and Mother!


I have one friend that has been with me from the beginning of my journey through motherhood (as I have been there for hers). We have experienced pregnancies together, an adoption, children's ear infections, children's constipation, discipline issues, and major life changes. Although we have only known each other for 4.5 years, it feels as though we have known each other so much longer than that. It has been amazing to have a confidante in motherhood. Someone that knows just as much about my kids as I do. Someone that can walk into my house, sit down with my kids, and know exactly what they need. Thank you Katy for such a great friend (and you can copy me whenever you want)!


My Book Club Mom's have become such important women in my life. Each one an amazing Mom (except for Audrey), and each one giving me support in various parts of my life (except for Audrey). Just kidding Audrey, you are an amazing Mom and I am so happy to have you in my life! But don't let it get out that I said anything about you being "amazing". Jess, you are so... so... so RELIABLE! You are a strong person, a GREAT friend, and fun person to see... at every event! If you stop reading the books, then we will have to stop calling it "book club" because the rest of us aren't as reliable! To Peyton, who has the patience of a saint and is such a FUN person to talk to. Your support and guidance has been amazing, and Miss E. still asks for you about every other day! Becky, you are the nicest person I know (it's probably because we're distantly related). You have an amazing family, and your passion for your job is SO admirable! Anna, you are so much fun to talk to about so many different topics. And I am humbled to be able to call a chieftess (sp?) a friend (do we have to bow down to you, or not? I always forget). And most recently Sara! My kids love you SO much, and I truly appreciate your help as we have transitioned to a family of four. I'm so excited you have joined our amazing group that we call "book club"... Although it would be more appropriate to call it "Mom's Club that meets monthly to get us out of the house on Sundays".


There is one Mom that has been my adoption partner in crime. We talk on the phone at least weekly. We discuss hard topics like adoption, trans racial families, infertility, and potty training. We met by chance, and we have become forever friends. I'm pretty sure if we lived in the same town we would never leave each other's side. Thank you Nikki for the late night phone calls, for the great advice, and for the Gap money from God (He is truly giving, isn't He?!?). I can't wait for Baby I to come home!


Lastly, I wanted to say thank you to my oldest and dearest friends. All the amazing Mom's that I don't get to see as much as I like. But when we do see each other, we can always pick up on each other's life. You are all amazing women that have been with me from way back. We have some pretty fun memories, and we are always creating better ones every time we get together. I love seeing you become some of the most amazing Mom's, Mom's to be, and practically Mom's I have ever met. Happy Mother's Day Jill, Roni, Sarah, Jill, Sonia, Brandi, and Nikki'! We've come a long way from Carey's (although we would all go back in a second if it meant cheap beer, our pajama's, the dueling banjos, and the best dart games ever).


There are so many more women I could list off right now, but I would never stop! It's true when the say that "it takes a village to raise a child", because I don't know if I would have made it this far without MY village. All of these amazing women (and many more) have made me more patient, more creative, more smarter (just kidding... I think), and more compassionate. Thank you to every single one of you. You are all truly amazing women that I aspire to be!

To all the amazing Mama's in my life, and across the world, I hope you felt the immense love that surrounds you as we celebrated Motherhood yesterday. I wish you joy in your journey as a Mother, I wish you peace in your decisions, and I wish you perseverance in the hardest job known to humankind. Happy Day After Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Every Mother Counts

Within the last week I have been learning more about Christy Turlington Burns' upcoming documentary "No Woman, No Cry". It follows the maternal health crisis worldwide.

One night, when I was seven months pregnant, I woke with a start. I was panicking because I realized that women actually die in childbirth (this thought was news to me for some reason). What if that were me? How would Trent handle it? What if I never met my baby? I quickly calmed myself. Because really, women haven't died from childbirth since the early 1900's, right? After a trip to the bathroom (and a stop for some tums) I slipped back into my dreams repeating "no one dies in childbirth anymore, NO ONE dies in childbirth anymore."

"No Woman, No Cry" has one startling (to me) statistic. Every 90 seconds, a woman dies as a result of childbirth. I can't help but remind myself that I was almost that woman. Thankfully I had access to a wonderful medical team that acted quickly and effectively. Because of that AMAZING medical team I am here to hold my daughter's hand, to rock my son to sleep, to snuggle up to my husband and discuss our future. A future that almost didn't involve me.

It is difficult for me to talk of pregnancy for too long, only because I think about my experience every day. Somedays, I have to admit, that I'm angry that I can't get pregnant like every one else. Other times I am thankful, because I know that if I WERE to get pregnant I would be scared that the same thing was going to happen again. Other times, I feel selfish because I should be happy to have experienced pregnancy once. And if it weren't for the hysterectomy, would I have my little Leo with me now? Probably not. I would give anything (including my uterus) to have both of my kids with me now. Every night, no matter what my emotions are, I feel lucky. Lucky to be alive, lucky to kiss my husband, and LUCKY to have had the chance to get to know my children one day more.

I am not trying to write this post for sympathy or attention. I am trying to bring AWARENESS to the extremely IMPORTANT topic of maternal health. Because every day I learn of someone new that has experienced hemorrhaging, or placenta previa, or fetal distress. It brings to light that the number of women experiencing complications from childbirth is much larger than I ever thought.

Did you know that 90% of those maternal deaths are preventable? So what happens to the women who DON'T have access to medical care? I think about those women constantly. Because EVERY mother deserves a chance to live to see her child born. The chance to see her child grow. The chance to watch her child become everything she ever dreamed they could be.

As Mother's Day approaches, I want to honor the mother's that will never be. These are the mother's I cry for, I advocate for, and I pray for. Because I believe with my whole being that Every Mother Counts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We are Back!

This week marked my first week back to part time. Oh, I missed my babies! The past three months have been tough on all of us. We struggled as a family, and I struggled with a lot of things on a personal level.

One of the positive challenges I had was participating in a "friendly" round of Biggest Loser (oh my aunt can be super nast... lovely! She can be LOVELY). I have struggled with my weight since Emme was born, and then once Leo came home I gained some baby weight back again. My Aunt lead us through a tough 11 week competition. I was challenged every week physically, and I never knew if I was going to complete the challenges. But I am proud to say that I was the Biggest Loser with a total weight loss of 20 pounds in 11 weeks. It was hard, but it was also a great stress reliever for me! And because of this competition I have completed my first 5k, and I am training for my second coming up in a few weeks. Now to some a 5k isn't a big deal. But if you knew about my allergic reaction I generally have to running, a 5k is like an ultra marathon! And the fact that I get in 3-5 runs a week is practically jaw dropping. I'm not at my "goal" weight, but I am at a good activity level that I want to maintain for the years to come.

Our biggest family struggle has been with Little Man. We took some major steps back in the attachment arena, especially between Leo and me. We then realized that I started working full time when he was exceeding the length of time he was in the Care Center (6 months). He was nervous because the last time he lived somewhere for 6 months, he had a pretty drastic move. And at the same time, his main caretaker (me) was gone much more. So as a result, he started REALLY pushing me away (biting and scratching as he was pushing).

Ugh, it was bad. We had lots of crying bouts (both of us), and went round and around with each other. We made contact with an attachment therapist, and we have rebounded much quicker than I thought was possible! The first few weeks he was not responding to the therapy, but then gradually we worked together a little better every day. And now, I have this little Mama's boy. Oh man, the sloppy kisses I have gotten today have been AMAZING! Trent and I have agreed that this is only the first set back we will have in attachment. Leo will go through phases. We can only stay on top of the issue, and work as a family towards a solution.

The attachment issues really took a hit on my confidence with my parenting. I questioned everything I have ever done. With Emme, I never doubted a decision in my parenting. In parenting Leo, I feel like (at times) I am constantly changing my own behavior. I am slightly, oh how can I say... Stubborn?!? So it can be hard to admit defeat and change how I am used to doing something. But the changes have been good for Leo AND myself (and Emme is doing wonderful too)! It's amazing how hindsight is 20/20. I would go through everything again, if it means that I get the huge hugs, and sloppy kisses from my sweet little boy.

Speaking of Trent (just kidding... about Trent being the sweet little boy, not the sloppy kisses). My husband has been a great partner through this all. He listens to my complaining, he takes the kids when I need to run, and he gives me a shoulder to cry on (that shoulder has been pretty wet the last few months). Our family has gone through so many (drastic) changes this past year, and we are still trying to navigate through this new life. We have more changes coming our way, but we are facing our future together as a stronger, happier, more enlightened family of four!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Out of Service...

That is the sign that I should post on this blog! I have started working full time for a couple of months, so work has cut into my family/house cleaning/laundry/reading/blogging time. I don't know if I will have too much to post in the next month or two, so here are a couple of pictures to tide you over...

Monday, January 17, 2011

We're Goin' on a Kitty Hunt!

This is how we spend our cold winter nights nowadays...

video

Things my daughter says...


While Miss E was dancing with her Dad, she twirled out and waited... Trent said "Emme are you coming back?" Emme replied "Daddy, Daddy... Jazz Hands!" And the funniest part was watching Trent pull out his Jazz Hands for his little girl!

"Ee-yo pizza is from Aprica" (translation: Leo Habsisa is from Africa) When asked where she is from, she usually says "I from Aprica too!" And I usually respond with "No, you are from Mommy's tummy." One day she said "Oh, I get it... I from Mommy's tummy, and Ee-yo is from Daddy's butt!" Uhh, could someone please discuss this with her a little better? Because I can't keep a straight face when she says things like this!

One day she got in trouble at daycare for spitting. When asked why she got in trouble that day, she said "I spit on my Buddy, and I yiked it."

At the Ethiopian restaurant, she stood on the stage singing "Someday my Pince Yill Come!" And then she yelled out to me "Mommy, 'mere! Yet's be preety bayeenas!" (translation: Let's be pretty ballerinas".

And randomly throughout the day, she will say "Mommy, someday my Pince YILL come!" Like I don't believe her Prince will come, so she has to remind me of that fact while we are walking to the car, or going potty, or when she is avoiding going to sleep.

"Oh My! She is SO Preety!" This is said ABOUT twenty times a day, and it can be in reference to her dolls, her princess movie, or even when Leo is ready for the day!

"Mommy, I YIKE Ee-yo!" And I responded with "I am so gladd that you like Leo! Do you LOVE Leo?" I was met with silence on that question...

Oh this funny, FUNNY little girl sure does keep us on our toes!

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm not a good person...

I'm not a good person just because I have adopted a child. I'm not a pillar of the community, and you should NOT look to me for inspiration in your life. I'm just a Mom, standing in front of her son, asking him to love her... Okay that might sound like Notting Hill, but I really do look to Julia Roberts for inspiration in most of my life.

All kidding aside, I get tired of everyone telling me how good I am. The last thing I feel when I am still in pajamas at 11:00 am, with boogers smeared on my shirt, a milk soaked sock on & the beautiful aroma of dirty diapers lingering in the air, is like a good person. Now you can say stuff about how absolutely gorgeous I am, or how seemingly organized I am (especially when I'm standing in the WalMart parking lot frantically searching for my keys, that are actually in my coat pocket), or you can tell me that I have never looked more tired happy...

But PLEASE don't tell me that I should be commended for adopting. I just wanted to be a Mom. No one commends me on parenting Miss E, who at times can be WAY more demanding than Little Leo! This is probably the most common comment we get when we are in public, and it has really surprised me how much we hear it. Currently, the comments go in one ear and out the other.

But I worry about when Leo is older, and he understands what is being said. I don't want him to feel that he owes us anything for parenting him. We are the ones who brought him into this family, it wasn't his decision. So he should not be thanking us for the decision we made. He will most likely deal with a lot of grief. Some grief I don't know if I can begin to comprehend. Because I know my birth family, I was never removed from my birth culture, and I never lost close ties to people that loved me at an early age. And just because he was an infant when he lost these things, doesn't mean that he will not grieve the loss at some point. Just today I was playing a children's cd that we bought in Ethiopia. Once the music started Leo stared at the stereo, and clung to me. It brought tears to my eyes that he seemed so scared and clingy when listening to this music from his birth country.

So yes, I get a little annoyed when people try to tell me that I am savior to this child. Because I sure don't feel like one when I see him scared like that, or when I think of the loss this little boy had to go through at such a young age. Because in fact WE are the lucky ones, he is the one who saved this Momma from going crazy with want for a little baby boy. We are so lucky to have this amazing little man in our lives, and I hope I can repay him someday for all of the joy he has brought into our lives.