Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Things Have Changed!

Blogging on an iPhone is not very fun. But I just had to reflect on some changes in my life over the last year. Last year around this time we were getting ready to take a trip - heading to Las Vegas for vacation. I packed pretty simply and had everything that I needed planned out several days in advance (I'm a little OCD that way - don't judge!) My airline liquids bag going through security had makeup, hairspray and hand sanitizer (I'm a nurse - don't judge!) And I had a couple of nice books to enjoy by the pool of our Hilton resort pool.
We recently had to fly with The Little One and my liquids bag had butt paste, infant Tylenol, gas drops, oragel, hand sanitizer and a random tube of lip gloss. Things have changed! You can see the suitcase situation yesterday. TLO's suitcase was almost completely packed and mine was completely empty. I had a list made out of what I needed to pack for TLO and had very little idea of what I was taking for myself. Things have changed! But now all the suitcases are packed and loaded in the car, TLO has a bag of toys she will hopefully enjoy for about 10 hours and I have a stash of baby/parenting magazines stashed in the glove box to enjoy in between times of placating/entertaining TLO. Things have changed! And I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Thank You Lord for change!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shopping, Money Saving and Pictures - Randomness!

Last summer my husband and got dressed nicely, went and spent an hour outside and smiled at each other and at others around us. We sat in the dirt, we sat on rocks, we made each other laugh. No, we weren't on a date...we were taking pictures to put in our profile book to tell a birthmother about us.  And I must admit that as cute as we were just the 2 of us, we are so much cuter with The Little One in the mix! 

But, now is the time I've been waiting for. We get to take our first official, professional family picture! We're not taking the pictures for another couple of weeks, but since we'll be traveling for part of that time I wanted to get something very important figured out ahead of time - what we all wear!?!? Yes, those are very important details!  LOL! Now my husband's wardrobe is easy - I simply need to choose a polo that will coordinate with mine and TLO's outfits. Easy. We'll put that off until later. But us girls have got to spend a little time thinking about our stuff! So I've been enjoying the convenience of online shopping today and have narrowed the options down to 2 choices for both of us, however my choice will be made by which ever dress she ends up wearing, which will probably be decided by which one fits when they get here and/or which one gets a spit-up stain on it as we head out the door! Now that I'm only working 1 day a week I'm always looking for ways to save money or make a little extra. So in under 5 minutes I completed my check-outs at 3 different online stores, had coupon codes for all 3 plus I will be getting cash-back rewards from . I love ShopAtHome! If you go through their website to access your favorite store (they don't have all stores but they do have a HUGE selection) you can get a percentage of cash back on your purchase. Usually it's something like 3% which isn't much, but sometimes it's 6% or 10%. And once you have $20 available for cash back they send you a check. Since I started using it in August I've received over $200 in checks. Not bad considering I would have been spending all that money anyway. This is one of the ways I've found to help us save money but I also do things like using the Target debit card when I shop there to get 5% discounts and free shipping and have become a couponer, ad scourer and online price researcher.  If you'd like more information about ShopAtHome or other ways I save/make money, let me know (I do mystery shopping to get free meals and other stuff too and have iPhone apps that make money!) 

But anyway, the convenience of online shopping...we live in a small town which doesn't feature very many of my favorite stores. My husband thought I would spend less money shopping when we moved here since I don't like having to drive an hour for shopping very frequently. I have proved him so wrong on so many occasions! I look forward to sharing our first official, professional picture here next month by my new friend (and mother to TLO's sweet new friend too!) Allison Harms. Local friends, go check out her facebook page! She just moved to here but takes beautiful photos! Tell her Lana sent you! 

Well, that's the end of my rambling about pictures, shopping and money saving. Now go forth and save some money! And go schedule your family pictures - preserve those sweet faces of your family!

Thank You Lord for the blessings you have given me. Thank You for showing me ways to better use the resources you have so richly blessed me with! Always help me to remember that everything I have is from You and that I should use it all wisely. Amen.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My First Mother's Day

April 10, 2012, adoption finalized!

I am 34 (*gulp!*) and this is my first Mother’s Day. It is one of those days that for the last 2 years I dreaded. I came to hate the second Sunday of May. Maybe we can leave town for the weekend. Maybe I could ignore my alarm and oversleep and we would miss Church services. Maybe I’ll wake up with a fever or throwing up. Maybe everyone else forget what today is. Maybe the sermon won’t focus on mothers and there won’t be the usual flowers given out to each mother. Maybe if there are flowers given out the kid giving them out won’t try to hand me one like they did last year.

Yes, those are the thoughts that go through the mind of a woman who is NOT a mother on Mother’s Day. Well, maybe not all women who aren’t, but at least those who so desperately want to be  typically think at least one of those thoughts. For a woman who is either trying to get pregnant or going through the journey of infertility it can be an unbearable day. I vividly remember in 2010 how we had just received news of infertility the week before and how it felt like salt being rubbed into a wound to just be around so many happy people that day.  Most people don't understand the feeling of NOT wanting to worship on Sundays with your church family, but there are days when that is the case.

On October 24, 2011 my identity changed. I became a MOTHER. I love that day, I love the phone call I got while at work, the panic as I tried to find a way to get to Arizona as fast as possible, I love the text message that will forever be saved saying "had the baby at 3:46pm. 5lbs, 6oz. Cute, CUTE baby!", and I love that first time I got to hold her!
Self-taken picture to send to Daddy telling him to "drive faster, your daughter wants to meet you!"

This year I am thankful to my sweet co-worker who switched days with me so I could be off work for my first Mother’s Day. This year I am so excited to be able to celebrate The Little One in our life and all the things God has done in my life. This year my eyes will probably "leak" a little while we're at church as I praise God for my blessing. But I want to be mindful of my sisters in pain who may read this and encourage you to be mindful as well. There are women grieving the loss of a child who will despise today, women who long to be pregnant who will resent those who are, women who have lost children this year, women who are waiting for their precious adoption match, women who had a failed adoption who are only reminded how empty their arms are, and women who have placed a child for adoption who remember the sacrifice they made and the loneliness they feel. I pray I will never forget those feelings I had during the dark times so I can encourage and offer my love to those who still hurt. I pray I will never forget the feeling of tears dripping down my cheeks as I sat in a church auditorium and looked at all the smiling mothers and wondered when it would be my turn. I pray I will be able to help ease the pain of those who still suffer.
Laura Story sings a song "Blessings" that made me pull my car to the side of the road the first time I heard it because it had me in tears. I can't express it any better than the chorus of her song and am so thankful for it's truth.
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?’

Father, You have given me a great gift this year and I can never use words to express my gratitude. Help me to use my life and my action to show my gratitude instead. But more importantly, I need to fall on my knees as I praise You for the dark times You brought me through, for the fire of refinement my spirit had to go through. I thank You for those times, Lord and ask that you help me to  remember those experiences today and through the years and that I will be a testament to Your great power of healing and the miracles that only You can work in our lives. Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

BirthMother's Day

Saturday is a day that women and families across the U.S. are celebrating. A day that comes with so many more emotions than Sunday's celebrations will have. Today’s celebration is part grief, part joy. Today is a day to recognize the women who knew our children so intimately before we did – they gave life to our child, felt their first kick and comforted our child with their heartbeat. Today is a day to recognize the women who made a choice to save a life and allow that life to be placed in the arms of another family. Saturday, May 12, is Birth Mother’s Day.

First celebrated in 1990, Birth Mother’s Day was created by group of birthmothers who recognized that Mother’s Day is very hard for them and wanted to celebrate the adoption decisions they made on a day separate from that. It is celebrated each year the day before Mother’s Day (on Saturday). There is some controversy in the adoption community about Birth Mother’s Day as some birthmother’s may not want to celebrate - they want to grieve, or in many adoption situations there is no known birth-mother (such as with international and some domestic adoptions) or the adoption came through foster care and parental rights were terminated against their will. Whatever the reason and whether it’s a day for celebrating or grieving, I view it as a day to think and pray for those women who carried a child for 9 months and now have empty arms.

Let me assure you that I think of, pray for and celebrate our Little One’s birthmother every day. Knowing that all our hopes and dreams came true at another woman’s expense is…well, I haven’t really been able to put words on that experience (maybe another blog post for another day?).  I think of the tears she shed as she kissed her sweet child and handed her to me one last time. I think of the sacrifice she made so our Little One could have what she didn’t have and couldn’t offer. I think of her, her smile, her laugh, her face, her heart. But today I offer this simple offering of thanks to a beautiful woman who chose life for her child over abortion and brought joy beyond imagine to our lives. If you know someone who has placed a child for adoption, do something special for them today – give them a hug, take them flowers, take them out to eat or just say a special prayer of thanksgiving, comfort and peace for them.

I wrote this poem just after our Little One was born, as I was flying out to meet her. I wrote this for her birthmother, but maybe it will help you understand the place a birthmother can have in the heart of an adoptive mother.

You gave a gift to our family,
A life that we couldn’t give;
And so forever in our hearts,
A piece of you will live.

You gave her life and breath,
We’ll give her a home and love;
And each day we’ll be thankful,
Giving praise to our God above.

To express the way we feel
Is so impossible…and yet
This sacrifice you are making
Is one we will never ever forget.

The days to come may be trying
But I hope that now you see
We have a connection now,
Beautiful baby, you and me.

Father God, Jehova Rapha our healer, thank You for the woman who gave our Little One life. I ask that You place Your hand of comfort on her, Father. Give her peace and healing. Let her face look upon You and know that she is not alone. Let her know that this child is loved, happy and healthy. And Lord, please bless our efforts in raising this child to know You, love You, and serve You. Thank You Father. Amen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Race and Generational Differences

I had a conversation today that shocked, enlightened and saddened me. I was caring for a patient who was in her 90's. She began telling me about her daughters - telling me about their adoptions. I hadn't told her about The Little One in our family, so I shared that I had a 6 month old daughter who was adopted and that adoption was a special gift in my heart. She proceeded to talk to me about adoption and asked me when we would tell her she was adopted. I kind of chuckled and said "well, she's African-American, so we will always be open about it, in fact I already talk to her about it." Imagine the look on my face when this woman who had just an hour before been visiting with her minister asked me "honey, why in the world did you choose an African-American baby?"  The only response I had (and I thank God for helping me keep my wits and supply my answer) was "I didn't choose her, she was chosen specially for us by God." "Well surely you look at her and feel differently about her because she's African-American?!"  "I look at her and see a beautiful child of God. I see my daughter."

At that point, I had thankfully finished my task at hand because I really needed some space. This was such a sweet lady and I didn't want to hear these things from her. But I walked out of the room reminding myself of the generation in which this woman was raised. And then I realized that she was the same age as my paternal grandmother would have been, was born just a month before my grandmother, and ironically used to live in Iowa just as my grandmother did. My grandmother was the most color-blind woman I have ever known. She raised foster children of different races, worked at a children's home as a relief house parent with children of different races, became a "grandma" to children in her neighborhood of different races. So how can 2 women born within a month of each other, raised in the same state with similar education backgrounds have such drastically different views? It is a question for the ages I guess. I don't have any angry thoughts for the woman I took care of today and I know I may never see her again. But I do have sadness.

I don't have any really grand thoughts on this (I did work for 12 hours today after all!) but this stuck in my heart and mind and I needed to write about it. It reminded me how much I have to learn and how big my job is with TLO in letting her know that she is a beautiful child of God and that no once can take that from her or belittle her or in any way change her wonderful potential. There is a book I have been planning to order and just haven't done it but tonight I will. Brown Babies Pink Parents is described as a "practical guide to transracial parenting." 'Practical,' that's me! 'Pink Parent,' that's me too! 'Brown baby,' that's my beautiful Little One.

Please don't leave negative comments regarding this incident or this woman, only kind words and prayers that some day our world won't care how what color of skin a person has. "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world."

Thank You dear Lord for giving me the words I needed to say, for the calm you gave me in my soul to continue to do my job today. Thank You for our sweet child, my sweet brown child. I ask that You help me to strengthen me and help me grow, help me to be able to take on the job You've given me and to be able to help my child grow in Your spirit and Your word. Amen.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Where Is Her Owner's Manual?

Why does every computer we have, every cell phone, radio, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, toaster and coffee maker have an owner’s manual but I was handed a child without one?  Seriously, if I’m working in Microsoft Word I can simply hit F1 and a little box pops up where I can type in my question.  On my iPhone I can do a simple search by word of phrase and find almost any answer imaginable.  But I have a child who is crying and I can’t seem to find her F1 button, she has no pop-up question boxes and no search fields.  She doesn’t have an index to flip through for trouble-shooting or a customer service representative.  

I was 33 when I became a mother.  For years I had been paying attention to what other mothers did with their children so I would be prepared.  I baby-sat, helped in the church nursery, and held every baby I could get my hands on I also had a few years under my belt as a Registered Nurse, so surely I would know what I was doing, right?  Uh, yeah…I know what I’m doing…yeah…  At least that’s what I keep telling The Little One! 

No, I don’t have an owner’s manual for my child and there is no help button. But I did read the Babywise book (worked GREAT for us, thanks to my sister-in-law for that recommendation!), watched The Happiest Baby on theBlock videos and read numerous books, websites and more. I have also found amazing blogs and message boards to help me learn new things (thank you Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care!) I have friends and family who are willing to support me when I ask for advice.  And most importantly I have my Lord who listens when I am down on my knees saying “Lord, I’m tired and weary and don’t know what to do to help my child.  I promised to comfort her and keep her safe, and I feel like I’m letting her down.  Show me Your way, Lord.  Teach me how to do this and provide us both with comfort.  Show me how I can help her be happy today.” 

And in just a few short months I have learned that a simple prayer like that will often be answered with laughter.  And that laughter will be mine (although I’m sure God is having a good chuckle too!)  A few days ago I said that prayer and then put TLO in her high chair to eat dinner.  She kept reaching to put her hands in her food and I kept moving it away. Because of course if she got her hands in it there would be a huge mess.  However, the maker of the mess was me.  I wiped her face in between bites and as my arm came back my elbow landed squarely on the side of the plate, sending the whole plate of rice cereal and squash flying through the air.  Um, yeah God, comfort?  Okay, but she’s happy – some of the food landed on her high chair tray and she’s feeding herself!

See, she's happy!

Lord, thank You for the gift of laughter to break my moods. Sometimes the laughter is mine, sometimes it belongs to our little one and sometimes I think it’s Yours! I Thank You for the showing me the times when I need to drop to my knees and ask for Your help and for the help You have placed in my life to support me through my journey. Thank You for reminding me that I may not have an owner’s manual but I do have a 24 help-line available at the drop of a knee. And Lord, help keep me laughing! Amen.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

You Are Beautiful! -

All hair is not created equal. Seriously. I really had no idea how different hair can be! I remember when I first found out The Little One would be joining our lives and one of my African-American co-workers replied “I hope she has good hair!” I laughed and said something along the lines of “I’m sure she will!” I didn’t really understand what it meant to have “good hair” or “bad hair” except in terms of my “good hair days” when my hair cooperated and stayed how I wanted it or “bad hair days” when it frizzed to high Heaven and then clung limply to my face! But how can hair be inherently good or bad? Here’s my version of a culture lesson to all my fellow fair-skinned people. (This is a huge generalization, so forgive me for that!) African-American hair is DRY by nature. It is coarse and it is curly. It doesn’t grow out, it typically grows around and around.
 I came across this chart of hair types and these types are referred to all the time on discussion boards I’m part of. You’ll see someone say “my daughter has 4a hair and I’m trying to figure out how to…” Well that’s something I was not used to seeing! But it’s just another example of how God made us all so different! Whether you have type 1 hair or 4c hair, you are a child of God.

Maybe I’m a little biased here, but my daughter is beautiful. She is and I can’t take any credit for her external beauty. But I plan to instill the values of internal beauty to her as well and well, I’ll take a little credit when that happens! :)  For now, she has a beauty that melts my heart. However, with that beauty comes her hair. Don’t get me wrong, I love her pretty little curls and someday I will feel confident in fixing those curls. For now, I have a go-to website called Chocolate Hair/Vanilla Care! Catchy name, huh? But it was created by a woman just like me raising an African-American child. Did you know that there were butters for your hair? Milk for your hair? Or that olive oil and coconut oil make the best moisturizers? Yeah, me either! The first time I put olive oil in TLO’s hair she smelled like she was ready to be put in a frying pan! I’ve gotten a little better since then and now she just smells lightly basted! :) I only put that on at night and during the day we use the fruity, tropical smelling moisturizing cream so you just can’t but want to smooch on her!

Here’s part 2 of my version of your culture lesson: all those little braids and twists and styles you see on the beautiful black children, those are done out of necessity, not just for fun. If the hair is not braided, twisted or otherwise controlled it will dry out even more, tangle and break. Broken hair means short hair and short hair is just not the goal (the ‘why’ behind that will have to come in another cultural lesson!) So hair needs to be put in protective styles in order to grow. Sometimes those protective styles come in the form of cornrows, sometimes in other braids, twists or puffs (think little pony tails with poofy hair). A couple of weeks ago I moved out of my comfort zone of just keeping TLO’s hair moisturized and detangled, putting a bow or headband in it and calling it done. I moved on to finger coils!
 Don’t get me wrong, it was cute, but it only lasted 1 day. Now part of my goal in doing TLO’s hair now is also to get her used to sitting *mostly* still while she gets her hair done because this will be part of our routine for years to come. But there was no way I could ask her to do that every day while I re-did her little coils. So I would do them on the go – literally, she was playing on the floor and I’m sitting over her with our hair milk trying to twist that little section of hair before she rolled over! (good thing we don’t have video of that!) We repeated this fiasco for a week. (At this point I became very jealous and bitter of my friends with their little fair-skinned babies who only require a headband with a flower or bow! Dont worry, I'm past that now! Love you guys!) Then I was told try doing it while she was asleep. Yeah right, no way that will work! Wrong. 2 days ago I twisted the whole front half of her hair into little fake cornrows while she slept! 

I did it complete with little elastic bands! This helped it stay in place and looked so cute when we went to the botanic garden to take her 6 month pictures!
Sweet Little One, you are beautiful, but you are getting too big too fast!!!!!

I will someday soon learn to do more exciting hairstyles for her, but for now I'll take pride in the small steps I’ve made. And I continue to teach TLO how beautiful she is inside and out. For now she sits on the counter looking into the mirror and I tell her she is beautiful, she is blessing in my life and she is my child. You see, we may put a numbering system on hair types and call one “good” and one “bad” but God doesn’t do that. No, my Father stands behind me as I look into a mirror and tells me I am beautiful. He tells me I am created in His image and therefore there is nothing wrong with me. He tells me I am His child.

Father, thank you for creating each one of us to be uniquely created in Your image. Thank You for the beautiful children you have created in every color with every hair type. I ask you Lord to help me as I try to raise my sweet child with an understanding of her outer beauty and respecting the ways she may look different from others around her, while placing true value on her inner beauty and recognizing that her value comes from You. And selfishly Lord, I have to ask…please help my fumbling fingers learn to move in the ways the need to in order to braid, twist and fix her hair in the many ways she will want it done in the years to come! Thank You! Amen.