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 Target.com 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!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Unexpected Tears

I've been there many times before.  Every time I pull in the parking lot, I drive by the signs that say "for laboring mothers."  I walk by women in the parking lot - some older, some new moms huffing an infant carrier, some career women taking a personal day, some young girls that should be sitting in English class rather than be at the doctor.  Everyone there's got a story, and I would be lying if I said I didn't try to figure each one out as I sit silently waiting for my name to be called.

For the women who has never been pregnant, the waiting room of the ob/gyn is pure torture.

Gosh, I wish I was past this.  I wish I could hitch up my big girl panties and own our infertility.  I wish I could celebrate all the new life being nurtured in that office instead of judging the age or life situation of the expectant mothers.  I wish that my visits with the doctor were for new life being created, rather than making sure my life and health isn't being destroyed by cancer.

My last few yearly visits have gone off without a hitch.  At first, I got to share news of our new baby (Levi), and that joy sustained me through several years of The Waiting Room.  Who cares that I missed out on pregnancy - I had a baby!  A toddler!  A preschooler!  No lump in my throat, very minimal judgy feelings.

Today was so different and I was caught completely off guard.

Today I was also an expectant mom in the waiting room.

An expectant mom without a due date.

The knot formed in my throat when I walked back the hall.  The blood pressure cuff almost caused me an anxiety attack.  "I could just get up and leave right now.  I could just go home," I actually thought.  When the nurse closed the door and it was time for me to change, I shed my clothes and my tears.  When the doctor asked about family planning, my eyes would stop leaking.

Why are we so ashamed of our tears?  Why do we fight so badly to hold them back and hide them?  When they sneak out of our eyes and down our cheek, why are we so quick to apologize for them?

You know what I learned about tears today?  They revealed the truth in my heart.  The refreshing bittersweet longing that I knew was there but hadn't really felt  or yet admitted the extent.  The truth that we have already been moving towards but seems so intangible at times...

I want a baby.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Closer Than Yesterday

The situation letters keep rolling in...one rejection is quickly followed by another possibility.  Are there more expectant mothers than there were five years ago or is this waiting momma's heart just a little more patient?

"Sometimes it feels like we're never going to get a baby," Levi whined on Christmas Eve.

With a chuckle I retold the story to my family at Christmas Dinner.

"But Michelle," my brother quickly chimed in sympathetically, "you have to remember that this is the first time Levi has been through this."

Bless his little heart.  Uncle Josh was right.

We all know I was a HOT MESS for 18 months before I added the title "Mother" to my list.  Levi's little heart is just going through the stages of hope right now, too.

I'm glad he's excited and anxious.  It will make the transition that much more joyful for him when a baby does come.  Don't get me wrong, I know there will be plenty of difficulties in his transition from only child to big brother, but I'm so happy that he is old enough to realize what an amazing thing God has brought us to.

And, as an unexpected bonus, my little guy who notices and internalizes all the interactions around him, is watching his parents go through the adoption process again and is able to ask a lot of very poignant and good questions about his own adoption.  This is one of the best things that we could be doing to help him understand.  He's been asking a lot about the day we brought him home and we looked at pictures and videos from that day last week.  In the file of hundreds of jpegs I found this picture of my mom holding Levi that I never really noticed before; the way his gaze is captured in her face, her look of hope fulfilled.

But alas, tonight was the first time I felt an intense twinge of guilt.  I know it's normal.  I know it's probably the feeling that my friend Sam has when she cuddles her 18 month old with one hand while her other hand grazes her swollen belly.  We love our first babies so much - how could we ever love someone else the same?  Will Levi or Charlotte feel like they are getting replaced?

I know a mother's love multiplies, not divides, but on this side of the equation, the math seems impossible, and that's a little scary.

So I am grateful for Levi's excitement.

We are one day closer to bringing home Levi's baby brother or sister than we were yesterday.  I don't know how many more days or weeks or months or years it will be, but today we're a little bit closer.  Anticipation is building.  Logistics are being more deeply discussed.  Reality is beginning to settle.

Little baby number two, we are all so ready for you.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reality Check 2015

I'm about to get real here.  Don't judge me.

A few weeks ago an amazing blessing fell into our laps - a year membership at the local rec center.  This is something I've dreamed of, but have yet to find room for in the budget.  So Levi and I started going fairly regularly - he'd go to the kid's club and play while I worked out, then we'd swim.

As the days turned in to weeks I realized that it was kind of dumb for me to be actually working out but not be watching what I ate at all - and when I check the scale, my realization was confirmed - I had gained 6 pounds in the first three weeks we were members!  In my defense - it was literally Christmas over those weeks.

So, the calendar changed to 2015 and the scale had tipped to the highest number I had ever seen.  Ironically, I was at the gym when I saw the number, so I casually thought, "Eh, at least I'm at the right place."

Then slowly my heart started to get tugged and I started realizing maybe it's time to try a.g.a.i.n.  I asked God to keep tugging at my heart - to show me what a big deal my weight is.  Because quite honestly, I am confident and happy, which is a place I've worked so hard to be, despite my BMI.

Asking for guidance and expecting some conviction I every so slowly started thinking about jumping back on the weight loss train.  Funny enough, it was January 3 and so was everyone else in the world.      I was praying for a reality check.  I needed to see the weight of my weight.

The gym offered a free body composition analysis (% of body fat) and I made an appointment with my doctor and gave him free reign to yell at me.  He gave me labs for blood work and said some disturbingly serious and urgent words to me about my health.   A lump in my throat formed and I said, "Yes, keep talking, that's exactly what I need to hear."

So, here we are.  Again.  It's embarrassing to try again.  But I'm out of options, and I see reality pretty freaking clearly now.  I have a gym plan, I have a food plan, I have a supportive family, I have a free gym membership, I have a doctor who wants to support and follow up in a  few weeks.  What I don't have anymore is excuses.

I realized part of my hesitation in trying to lose weight is all the times I have failed before and being simply overwhelmed at the amount of weight I need to lose.  But that's not for me to worry about right now.  Today I need to worry about today.  Tomorrow I will worry about tomorrow.  One foot in front of the other.

And bonus - Herb reminded me that this will be a great baby fever distraction. :)

I covet your prayers as I try to take control of something that has been spiraling for as long as I can remember.  If you see me, feel free to ask me how it's going and call me out on that ice cream you see me holding.

(Just kidding about the ice cream - God, in his amazing sovereignty, has allowed my body to start to hate lactose, which is sad and yet super helpful.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tyler Florence Is A Genius

from the archives...a draft I wrote and never posted

It's no secret I have food issues.  But by God's grace, and with the help of this book, and this book, I am definitely working through them.  One of the things that was a wake up call to me was when Levi started eating solids.  I find myself really concerned that what he is eating hits all the nutrients he needs to grow his little body and develop his little brain.  I started wondering how I could be so concerned about what was fueling him, but not fueling myself. It's time for a whole family food make-over. 

Levi has also had issues with lots of spit up, so we've been through the gamut with formula and food combinations. What works for us is feeding him solids and formula staggered throughout the day. Now that we have the times to eat figured out, I have been trying to focus on what to feed him.

Enter Tyler Florence.  As much as I love food, I don't particularly love cooking, so when he was on the Today show several weeks ago, I hardly paid attention.  Until he said his new book was all about healthfully feeding your kids.

The book is called "Start Fresh: Your Child's Jump Start to Lifelong Healthy Eating." You can see the video of that interview here.

Because I am not that great of a cook and kind of hate doing it (but I'm at least trying), it took me another week or two to actually get around to sitting down and using the book once it arrived. But then yesterday I decided I was going to cook through the book (I've never done that before), and I picked out four recipes to start with.  And boy am I excited about the results!

The book is broken down into five chapters: Getting Started, Stage 1 (4-6 months), Stage 2 (6-8 months), Stage 3 (9-12 months), and Stage 4 (12 months and beyond).  Stage 4 is actually meals created for the entire family that can be blended down when necessary to feed your less developed chewers.

Stage 1: Single Ingredient Purees : : Sweet Potato Puree

  • This one is so easy.  I cut up 2 sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes, steamed them, put them in the blender with a little bit of the water from steaming, and then put it into ice cube trays for freezing.
  • Total cost: $1.58 for 16 ounces of baby food, compared to about $4.50 for the same amount of store bought stage one food. 
  • As you can see, Levi was pretty excited about the sweet potatoes.

From Stage 2: Flavor Combos : : Spinach and Banana Puree 

  • I was not terribly excited about this one, but my friend Sammy is always trying to get me to drink a green monster, so I thought I'd give it a try.
  • Combine 12 ounces of spinach, 2 bananas, 1/4 cup of whole-fat plain yogurt, and 1/4 unfiltered apple juice in a blender.
  • Of course, I didn't do everything as directed... I used frozen spinach, nonfat yogurt I already had, and apple juice I already had.
  • It is delicious!
  • Total cost, just under $2.00 for 16 ounces.

From Stage 2: Flavor Combos : :  Roasted Bananas and Blueberries

  • Arrange 3 unpeeled bananas and 1 pint of blueberries on baking sheet.  Roast at 350 for 20 minutes.  Let cool.  Peel bananas, place everthing in a blender.
  • Roasting the bananas and blueberries gives it a little bit of a different texture and flavor than straight up raw fruits.  I think it was sweeter and a little more like gelatin.  Honestly, I would have ate this whole thing by myself!!
  • Again, I couldn't find fresh blueberries at Target, so I just used frozen ones.
  • Total cost, $3.27 for 16 ounces.  At little more expensive, but still cheaper than store bought!

Tomorrow I am going to try a recipe from Stage 4!

And ironically, this is a Tuesday, so I can share my first recipe for Tasty Tuesday at Beauty and Bedlam!