Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Joy of Anticipation

Weeks ago, when we began to slowly and cautiously share our baby news, one of my often quoted friends Lauren said, "Oh Michelle.  I am so excited that you get to experience anticipating this baby."

"Stop.  What?  All I want is for the next five months to be over and have that little squish in my arms!" is what I thought.  But instead replied, "Yeah, I guess me too."

As she often is - she was right.  "Walking through" this pregnancy with the E-mom (E) has been redeeming for me in so many ways. We each signed up for The Bump and have enjoyed texting each other every week, commenting on the baby's eggplant size or developing ear lobes.  E has been so faithful to text me every day - "So many kicks today," "Heartburn sucks," or "Do you want to talk about my hospital plan?"  In every choice she makes, she considers me, more than she would have to.  I can't speak highly enough of her integrity in this journey.

There are ultrasound pictures.  I have three that E has so thoughtfully texted to me.  It amazes me to see the growth and the development of facial features.

When I look back on our waiting time for Levi, I remember the angst.  I was NOT a joyful waiter.  I was not content.  I was heartbroken and desperate and miserable.  And then when he was in my arms it all changed.  To quote Mater's Tall Tails, "You remember, you was there."

At the beginning of our second adoption, I was so nervous about whether or not the feelings of anxiety and baby-desperation would return.  God is so GOOD - they did not.  Even now, in a 5 month match process (that's what the time is called between when you are picked by an expectant mom and the baby is actually born) my heart is content.  This is the kind of peace that passes understanding.  I get that verse now.

I'm so excited for the calendar to turn to September and know the baby could come any day, but I'm genuinely enjoying getting ready for her.  If I feel like working on the nursery, I do.  If I feel like dropping $25 at Target on baby gear, I do.  I have enough time to spread out purchases so nothing feels like a huge hit.  And yet, we still have 2 1/2 months to go, so there are not any rushed feelings  (yet). 

We were walking out to the car and Levi said with a sigh, "Oh mom.... I just can't stop thinking about that baby."

Me neither, buddy. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


On my favorite episode of my favorite show, there is a wedding.  Pam tells Jim that because wedding days fly by, they should take mental snapshots of moments throughout the day.  This morning I woke up thinking about some very specific moments of our own wedding day, which was nine years ago today.  You know - the moments that weren't captured by the photographer, and not captured by a smartphone (it was nine years ago), and are burned in my memory simply because of their significance - or significant insignificance?

Waking up at 4 am and spent the next two hours journaling, shaving my legs really well, just bidding my time till the bridesmaids woke up, too.

The moment my sister noticed I was awake way too early and got up to hang out with me.  We talked and walked laps around the hotel parking lot.  That just might be my very favorite sister moment.

Standing in the church bathroom with my mom, both of us dolled up, feeling the most beautiful I have ever felt, and hearing my mom affirm those feelings.

Waiting, nervously, in the hallway as the clarinet choir played.  Jocelyn came to fix my veil and when our eyes met, we both crumbled into a ball of tearful emotion.

Walking, arm and arm, with my dad, feeling all eyes on me.  Walking past all the friends and family who came to support us seemed so fitting - like every person had helped me along the journey which ended at the alter meeting Herb.  I wanted to hug everyone I passed and shout, "Thank you!"

Herb gently holding my hand at the alter and turning it over to see the terrible result of a spray tan on the palm of my hands.

Exchanging vows and choking out the words "in sickness."  How far we had already come at that point, and how much more we've endured since then.

Sitting in the chairs after the ceremony, waiting for pictures, my brother came over to admire my rings.  It was the first time I looked at them together.  We marveled at their beauty and had a tender moment of congratulations.

Posing for pictures and feeling awkward.  I just knew these posed pictures could not be looking good - I was right.  Our posed couple pictures are super awkward.  (Don't make big chested girls in strapless dresses try to sit on the lap of their equally sized husbands.  It's just weird.)

Hearing the jazz band at our reception and wishing I had offered to pay my friend and have them play for more than three songs.  In all fairness, I hadn't really been to any weddings that had dancing/music and wasn't sure how to structure the event.

Dancing with my dad and him remarking, "I had no idea this day would be like this.  This is so wonderful.  You did such a good job."

Trying to direct everyone who was helping clean up and my mother and sister-in-law telling me to just leave already - they had it handled.

Flopping face down on the bed at the hotel room while Herb carried in our luggage.  Tears of nervousness and excitement stung my eyes.

Sitting in Red Lobster later that night because of course we didn't eat anything at the most expensive meal my parents had ever purchased.  It was almost closing time and it was freezing.  But we were starving and it was the most delicious meal ever.

Feeling incredibly awkward the next morning when my in-laws drove us to the airport.  They knew what we DID the night before.  Haha.

Today I am going to hook up the VCR and show Levi our wedding video.  I wonder what moments I have forgotten?

Just last week, Lauren asked me how I felt about where God was leading our family.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  Remembering the fear of loneliness and the relief of finding the love of my life I replied, "I never thought I would be here and look what God has done.  I am happy to follow Him in whatever comes next."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Oh boy. I mean girl?

There have been so many easter eggs, dropped clues, vague-gramming/blogging/booking, and secrets I've wanted to spill on social media.  How do I recover?  Where do I even begin?  How do I spill the beans that there's going to be a little bean?

Oops, I just did.

I remember when we were matched with Jen, I didn't sleep for about a week out of sheer excitement.  And at first, this match was exactly the same.  But there is no earthly way I'm going to maintain that for months. Yes, I said MONTHS.

In almost every way, this situation is different than Levi's adoption.  Not better, not worse, just totally different.  And isn't that just the plight of the second child?

The expectant mom (E-Mom) that has chosen us is a friend of a friend.  So, we did a little something I've coined "BYOBM" - bring your own birth mom.  She picked us to parent her unborn child, and then she met with a  social worker from our agency.  

When we were chosen by Levi's birth family, we had only three weeks to prepare (and ultimately actually only a twelve hour notice).  It was completely what I had been hoping for - spontaneous parenthood!  

This time - E-Mom made her adoption plan fairly early in her pregnancy, hooked up with us early in her second trimester, and seven weeks later, we met face to face.  That was yesterday.  If you're doing math - E-mom is currently 25 weeks pregnant and due October 2.  

Levi was seven weeks old when we brought him home.  He slept through the night and had a pretty wonderful schedule.  He was a content and calm baby with whom I was very spoiled.  

This time, I have been invited in to the delivery room.  Lord willing, I will be in her life from day one, minute one, second one, not to mention the joy of anticipation.  E-mom shares a wonderful amount of information with me as she walks through this pregnancy.  We have signed up for the bump weekly emails and we text each other, marveling at the new things the baby is developing.  It's almost like experiencing pregnancy, just without all the painful side effects.

Oh, and did you catch the other big difference?  Go back and read the last paragraph.

I said HER.

This time, it's a girl.  This time, it's pink and purple, fuzzy and princess-y.  This time it's hair bows and braids, glitter and dresses.

Oh friends, I can't even touch the tip of the iceburg with what it means to be "expecting" a daughter.  The work God has done in my heart and my life as a woman and the joy I feel knowing I can impart that on someone else.  OH man, that's a whole other post for another day.

A few months ago, we found out our social worker was pregnant with triplets and due in May. I said, "I fully expect when she goes out on maternity leave and the office is busiest, we'll get the call.  We'll get matched in May."  The first day I talked to E-mom on the phone was May 1.

And yet, we want to be sensitive.  I want to be guarded.  I want to remember that she's still got 15 weeks to go.  That's a long time in the adoption world.  This is the kind of match I dreaded for fear of the obvious, and yet, I want to continue to be transparent.  I want to look back on this time of waiting knowing I trusted God with my family's future.  If this is to be, I want to be able to look back on this time of expectancy with joy, knowing I celebrated our daughter from the moment I knew of her existence.  This is why I have not shared yet.  But as another adoptive momma reminded me, there is no amount of guardedness that can prepare you for a disruption.  If this falls through, it's going to hurt, whether I've been guarded or not.

So, instead of worrying or stressing, I'm thinking what an incredible opportunity it is to get to know E-mom and E-dad and their families.  Because, if I have learned anything in the last five years, it's that adoption is so much more than gaining a child.  It's a beautiful chance to gain a whole extra part of extended family.  And it's freaking amazing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

30 Rocked

On Friday I turned 31.  I spent the day reflecting on the days leading up to turning 30 (thanks Facebook memories reminder) and the actual day I spent celebrating last year.  I kept using the hashtag #30rocks because my oh-so generous family + friends threw me a birthday party with that theme.

Friday night, looking back on the last year, I felt strongly about the fact that, indeed, thirty rocked.  I was dreading the decade change, but eventually I embraced it.  Thirty brought a new found confidence in my abilities and appearance.  I started working out, I stopped wearing make up.  I decided that I liked wearing knit dresses and leggings better than jeans and a tee.  

On my thirtieth birthday, I prayed the bridge of "Oceans" - "I want this of my year," I asked.

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would guide me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior"

I got choked up when I realized how faithful He had been (why does this ever/always surprise me?!). This year I had the opportunity to expand my music studio.  I decided to take control of my weight (ugh, this is going so slow right now).  My husband began working on a Master's degree (that's a whole other topic entirely, but even though he's doing all the work, I feel like this has to be a group effort).   I found forgiveness.  We are doing pretty good on our budget, and really trying to get out of debt.  We continue to move forward towards adoption number two (isn't waiting, fun?).  Parenting, in general, is majorly proving to be a time where my trust needs to be without borders.

If I had set out to make all these changes, life steps a year ago, I would have been overwhelmed.  In fact, lots all of those things stress me out when I think about them.  I'm so thankful for God's grace and provision.  Thankful that in this season of transition, change, excitement, and preparation, that He has promised to sustain me.

Thirty rocked, but it's looking like thirty-one is going to be a pretty amazing year, too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Unknowingly Sentimental

Levi and I have compiled a summer adventure list.  One of the things on our list was to take the bus from Manheim to Lancaster city, which after several postponements, we planned to do today.  We would visit the market, the splash fountain, the library, go out for lunch, and then I promised him I'd show him the courthouse where his adoption was.

At the bus stop
Imagine my delight when I realized that today was, in fact, the fourth anniversary of his adoption!  Looking back, that was easily the happiest day of my life.  I expected something so anti-climatic, after all, we had been parenting Levi for 7 months at that point.  But it was such a beautiful experience - and one I look forward to experiencing again.

Lunch date

We did all the things I mentioned while we were in Lancaster today, complete with tasty donuts from market.  At one point I wished Levi a "Happy Adoption Day," and he said, "Happy Adoption Day to you, too, mommy."  

Watching him splash in the same fountain that he did on this day four years ago filled me with so much joy.  What an honor, what a joy these last four years have been.  

May 26, 2011
May 26, 2015

Oh, happy adoption day to me, too.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Love Grows

Two years ago, when we were beginning to discuss a second adoption,  one of my biggest concerns was about our desire for open adoption, if possible.  I care so deeply for Levi's birth family, and not just his birth mother and sister, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and family friends.  I was having trouble imagining how we could possibly balance another special relationship like that.  Would our second child's first family get the shaft?  Would we somehow not have enough time/energy/love to maintain contact with Levi's first family?

As we began to pursue domestic infant adoption, I pushed these fears down and tried to just focus on one thing at a time.  But then last week it hit me - love grows.

You don't NOT have more kids because you can't love any more.  You don't NOT make new friends because you can't love any more.  There is always more love to give.  Why wouldn't another birth family be the same?

Bringing another child in to our family will mean so much more than simply adding another person to our little family of four.  We will be adding a whole new extension.  Another group of people who we care deeply about and with whom we want to invest time and love.  Another group of people who love my kid(s).

Open adoption is strange.  Boy do I know that.  It's so hard for people on the outside to understand these relationships.  But when you let go of social norms and follow God's leading, love grows.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I should be praying.  I should be sleeping.  I should be cleaning.  I should be exercising.  I should be doing anything except what I've been doing - hulu, Facebook, and blog reading.  When life gets overwhelming, in a positive or negative way, I flock to a screen.  I drown out the voices and the deadlines and take a minute (or an hour) (or two) to just turn all the sounds off.

I should be blogging.

This is my coping mechanism.  This is my place to sort out, to unwind, to gain clarity.

But this is so public.

So, I will be vague (and subsequently share a post from Instagram).

Herb and I are standing on the edge of the next season of our lives in so many ways, from career moves to school changes.  Our family dynamics are ever changing, and we are facing a long summer vacation with an active four year old who is capable, willing, and excited to go on many adventures.

I want to cherish this season of life.  I want to jump into the coming weeks and months with abandon and full of trust in the One who encouraged the leap and will catch us if we fall.

Oh, so much hope fulfilled.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Copy Them

I once heard somewhere that men function best in conversation that does not involve eye contact.  Want to know your husbands heart?  Work shoulder to shoulder with him on a project and then he'll start talking.  Want to know your son's deep thoughts?  Snuggle him at bedtime when the lights are off.  Car rides work well for this, too.

Levi's best conversations happen at bedtime and in the car.  By far.  He's looking out the window and thinking and talking, thinking and talking.  He's making up songs, he's asking 1.5 million questions. (Please tell me, at what age does the constant questioning stop?  I mean, I KNOW this is him forming thoughts in his little brilliant brain, but it makes my brain hurt.)

One of his favorite car activities is rhyming.  Most recently, he started chanting,

"Amen, copy them."

He was so proud of himself for coming up with the rhyme, "Mom, let's end all of our prayers like that."

"Mmmm hmmm, sure."  I said, only half paying attention.

So I should not have been surprised when, at both dinner and bedtime, he ended his prayers, "Amen!  Copy them!"

Herb and I exchanged a look and stifled a giggle.  I shrugged my shoulders and told Herb about the rhyme.

And then copy them didn't go away.  After several more days of of the Amen coda, I finally asked Levi what it meant - because maybe, just maybe, it was more important that a rhyme.

"Mooooom," he said said in three syllables, "you know.  We're copying God and Jesus 'cause they're so kind."

Amen, copy them.  May it be so.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Broken Shells

This weekend we were at a conference within 45 minutes of Rehoboth Beach.  In my world, you can't be that close to the beach and not go, even if the time spent on the beach is equal or less than the amount of time it takes to get to the beach.  Case in point, last summer, we rode the subway for an hour from NYC just to walk on Coney Island for 15 minutes and grab dinner at Nathan's Hot Dogs, because THE BEACH!*

*Coney Island is disgusting, and the hot dogs and carousel were really it's only saving grace.

The beach is an emotional place for me.  Many happy memories are tied there, and some pinnacle game changing moments (I wrote all about that once). Lots of soul searching and reflection can do that to a person, and the beach is great for just that.  But yesterday's beach visit brought a wave of memories tucked away in a dark corner.

The year was half a lifetime ago, and to be honest, the details don't matter.  I was in a destructive and toxic relationship and had surrounded myself with people who weren't necessarily encouraging in the way I needed.  I was "walking with Jesus," but on this beach trip, I was playing with fire.

I have long since forgotten the days and weeks surrounding that trip, but now, looking back, I can point to God's divine protection over my heart, and even my life, in that season.  But, oh, how I ache for that girl.  Not that I regret the choices I made (or seriously considered making), but sad for how broken she was.  Sad that she couldn't see her worth, sad that she didn't realize how much more she was treasured.

I wish I could hold her hand and say, "Run. Get out of here.  You deserve more than this.  You are more than this." So many lies were rooted in my heart - I was not good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, talented enough.

Oh, but praise Jesus, He is enough, what He has done is enough, He, dwelling in me, makes me enough.

I shared this sadness with a friend last night, "Have you ever just felt like you had to mourn for your younger self?"

"But that's why God is so good," she quickly texted back, "He takes those broken pieces and makes beautiful things."

Just to demonstrate His faithfulness, now, instead of painful memories of this particular plot of sand, I have these:

Sharing an hour at sunset with the love of my life.  The one God called me to.  The one who started as my best friend and remains that today.  The one who encourages and never pressures.  The one who leads with love, not force.  The one who has smelled my terrible morning breath and lived through my PMS.  The one who has shared the journey in to parenthood.

On that beach, he and I watched, with satisfaction, as the one we call "son" squealed with joy, daring to chase the frigid waves, finding broken seashells, building sand castles, and enjoying our company.

God saved me from myself.  I gave Him my brokenness, I begged Him for restoration (in so many more words that were so much less clear).  He gave me security, comfort, redemption.

And then, as an added bonus, He blessed me with two guys who sit at dinner and argue about who loves me more, and trap me in a web of blankets, me getting snuggled from both sides.

I can't go back to that broken Chelle, but I can say it to you.  Girl, run.  You are worth so much more than the mess you're in.   Give God your broken pieces and let Him make something beautiful.  Let Him redeem it; He already has.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reality Check Update

I posted last month about Reality Check 2015 - my quest to, once again, take control of my body and health.  Ugh, I really even hate admitting that I'm trying to lose weight.  In addition to that "resolution," I have several others written down and posted on my fridge:

  • Actually stick to our budget
  • No new credit card debt
  • Eat better
  • Less screen time for everybody
  • More activity for Levi

The list goes on, but those were the biggest ones.  We're six weeks in and things are going really well.  I feel like all of the areas I'm working on affect each other, so if I can keep all the balls in the air, all the balls actually stay in the air.  We stayed within our means last month financially. Weight loss is happening slowly, steadily, and healthfully.  We have eaten out less and cooked more.

One change in our lives has helped me with all of those areas.  It's helped me be more active, eat better, spend less money, keep my Levi more active.

Are you ready for the secret?

Our gym membership.

Seriously, it has been the BEST thing for me in the last two months.  I made a commitment to Herb and my doctor about my fitness goals and how often I realistically would go to the gym.  I have only missed one or two "appointments" in the last two months.  Making working out such a priority caused me to want to eat better - why would I kill myself on the elliptical and then stuff my face with crap?

We spend so much time working out (Levi goes to kid's club) and then swimming in the pool, that I really don't have time to go shopping.  The rec center is 2 miles from Target, and I haven't stepped inside that wonderful establishment at all this year.  If there's something I really need (wedding gifts, vitamins, etc), I buy it from and get free shipping with my red card.  I still get my Target deals, I just don't have anything else sneaking in to my cart.

And the swimming, oh the swimming.   I'll admit, getting all ready for a morning at the pool is a lot of work, but sometimes the mommy guilt of dropping my kid off so I can go exercise really gets to me and knowing we are going to have 1:1 time in the pool helps me justify it.  We try to get Levi in the water at least two times a week, and it has been INCREDIBLY fruitful.  His preschool teachers have some concerns about his motor skills and muscle development, so all this extra activity has been really good for him.  When we first started going to the pool, he wouldn't let go of me, even in the very shallow water.  After weeks of consistency, he is now a goggle-wearing underwater-swimming fishy who also can float on his back.  All on his own - no formal swim lessons (yet).  He is still afraid of "deep water" but I put on goggles sometimes too and I can see that he's actually swimming underwater, not touching the bottom at all in the 3 foot deep pool.  It's so freaking exciting to watch this new skill develop.  We're hoping to enroll him in swimming lessons this spring or summer.

The gym is expensive, this I know.  We were so blessed to be given a year membership, and I cannot take that for granted.  I'm praying that we can continue to become a more healthy family!