Friday, May 27, 2011

I Snow Here

When I was in high school, one of my teachers had a poster that looked like this:


When you read that, what do you see?


I guess now you know if you are a pessimist, optimist, or lunatic.  Can you guess which one I noticed first?

Anyway...awkward transition...

That brings me to my new blog.  Or should I say brings YOU to my new blog.  The address is:

Do you see "My Hopeful Filled?"

Or maybe, "My, hopeful, fill Ed."

The correct answer is...

Go ahead, give that cool little logo a click!

The teacher who had the opportunity poster in his classroom lived across the hall from the teacher who told me to write what I know.  What I know is God is good.  I know that I have a crazy awesome story of how I became a mom, but I have an equally awesome story of my journey to wifehood, too. 

When pertinent, I will still write about the adventures of open adoption and parenthood.  But I also want to go back to the beginning and tell you how Prince Charming earned his title.  Maybe about the time I almost dropped out of college, and the time I almost died.  And if it's not too awkward, I will share some crafts, bargains, and DIY stuff here and there.

But mostly, this is going to serve as my place to remember all the blessings in my life.

If you subscribe already to my blog, nothing will change for you.  In fact, whatever way you use to get to this site, please continue (Facebook, a reader, email deliveries, typing in our adoption blog address). 

Thanks for supporting me on Our Adoption Adventure, now please join me on the Happily Ever After.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Finale Finally

And now, the rest of the story.

Albeit a bit hectic, this has been one of the best days of my life.  And it's only four o'clock.

The day started off around seven when Herb, Levi, and I snuggled in bed for a few minutes before breakfast.  We enjoyed some coffee with Herb's mom and step dad who had come into town last night for the adoption and wedding extravaganzas.  Despite our best efforts, we were still running late, and to add insult to injury, it is the hottest day of the year thus far.  So by 8:45 when we piled into the car, I was a sweat hog, and stressed out.  And then the low fuel light came on.

We made it to the courthouse on time, and luckily didn't run out of gas. Phew!  Levi was dressed to impress in an outfit gifted to him by his Grandpa and Grandma S.  We waited outside the courtroom, and by the grace of God, every single member of our 17 person adoption party made it to the courthouse on time (huge feat for my family).

There was my mom and step-dad, my dad and step-mom, Herb's mom and step-dad, my sister-in-law and niece, our friends Lynne, Matt, Erin, Ethan, and Adin, and our two social workers.

Once they called us into the courtroom (which really looked the way it does on TV), the judge went over our intentions and the previous parental termination by Levi's birth parents.  One weird thing was at the beginning of the hearing, the judge kept referring to Levi by his birth name, which was Jeffrey.

Next, Herb took the stand.  He was asked about his age, name, place of work, our anniversary, Levi's birthday, Levi's "Gotcha Day," and his intention to raise Levi as a child that would have been born to us.  Herb nailed all the questions!  At the end, the judge asked, "If this adoption is decreed, what name would you like to give the child?"

I felt the hot sting of tears.  I started thinking about this little baby who wasn't supposed to live, and now here he is 30 years later passing on his namesake to his very own son. 

Proudly, Herb replied, "Herbert Levi Suereth V."

Throughout the courtroom there was a stifled chuckle, as I'm sure everyone was thinking, "What a big name for such a small baby."

Next, I was called to the stand.  I walked up to the chair, worried the back of my dress may have been tucked into my underwear.  (Don't worry, it wasn't.)  When they asked me if I promised to tell the truth, I purposefully said, "I do," rather than "Yes."

I didn't get quite the same grilling as Herb.  I had to state my name (to which I almost said Michelle DeeAnn Stoltzfus - WHAT?!), age (I stuttered), my occupation (proudly SAHM, plus piano lessons), and if I promised to raise Levi as if he were my biological child.  Around this point, my dear sister-in-law Jocelyn caught my attention from the front row of the gallery.

Oh dear, I should not have looked at her.  She was starting to do the ugly cry.  It resembled this:

I was already on the edge of my emotions, and then I lost it.  I knew the next question they asked  would be about the name we would like to give the baby, and again, I just thought of how proud my husband and his family must be of this namesake.

With many tears and a huge lump in my through, I eeked out his name, but I won't be surprised if the court records show something kind of unrecognizable mumbling for my kid's new name.

After I gathered myself together and sat back down with our attorney, the judge went over our home study, the adoption process, the fees paid, the openness requested by Levi's birth family, and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember.  Finally, he gave his ruling, and the verdict was...


The judge came over to shake our hands, and then offered to pose with us for some pictures.

Lynne walked around and took some more pictures. Please notice everyone it a little teary!

Then we went for a big group picture.  I so treasure each one of these people more than words can say.  At our lunch adoption party, we took some time to tell each one what their support has meant to us in the last two years.  Of course, more tears again!

We headed over to Isaac's for a delicious lunch after a quick detour to Binn's Park to let the kids play in the fountain.

The only downside of lunch was that I forgot to bring the cake I made for Levi's big day!  Oh well, we just enjoyed it when we got home.

From the bottom of my heart, I really really want to thank each one of you who read this blog.  I know we have been so covered in prayer and very encouraged by more people than I can count.  This is the end of our adoption adventure (at least for now, wink wink), but not the end of this blog.  I will keep writing about our journey as (adoptive)parents, but it probably won't be my focus all the time.  I hope you'll check back tomorrow to see what's new!  I've got some fun stuff up my sleeve.

Love to you all.  And thanks be to God.

And so it ends....

We did it! Our adoption adventure has officially come to a close as of 10:15am! More details to come....for now time to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

From Spin the Bottle to Diapers and Bottles

It's hard to believe a decade has passed since we stayed up late gabbing about boys and fantasizing about prom.  We talked about the Juliana Theory, college plans, dream jobs, and husbands, but we never talked about kids.

{Post Prom 2001}

Back then, you know in the early 2000s, a fun night was a 10pm trip to Wal-Mart. We were sworn to secrecy about that time we played spin the bottle and each had our first kiss (oops, not a secret anymore). We played truth or dare and watched chick flicks.

{Midnight at Wal-Mart, 2002}

These are the same gals who surprised me last year with a baby shower after a particularly rough week, while we were in the midst of waiting for a match. 

{Baby Shower 2010}

And now, here we are, just a year later.  Ashley had Tristyn in December and Steph is baking a baby girl due in September (Megan, you're next!).

{Mommas! 2011}

I think it's funny that we never talked about our dreams for motherhood, yet here we all are with kids born within about a year of each other. We don't all get to see each other more than about 2 or 3 times a year, but when we do, it's like we haven't missed a minute.  I love those kind of friends.  I love these friends.

When did we all grow up?!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More Than A Tree

For Christmas three years ago, Herb's mom gave me a necklace that had a pendant called "The Tree of Life."  I just thought it was a neat piece of jewelry, but as we trudged through the adoption process, the jewelry began to have special meaning to me, especially when my cousin June shared this verse:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. ~ Proverbs 13:12

Photo Source: Here
I know I have beat this verse into the ground, but it is just so awesome.  When we were waiting to be selected by a birth mother, I felt like my hope was constantly being deferred until the next situation arose.  When the Great Disruption of 2010 happened, the hope was REALLY deferred; yet not extinguished.  And when sweet Levi was put into my arms on October 12, I knew I had finally met my tree of life.

Now when I wear my tree of life necklace, I am reminded of the hope fulfilled.  Having Levi has given fresh life to our family, renewed my faith, driven me to want to be a better person, and healed emotional baggage {and not just in me}.  It is not Levi who is actually doing those things, but God has graciously used Levi in our lives.

The Tree of Life also makes me think about J, his birth mom.  The LIFE she chose to give him; the life she chose to give us.  The interconnectedness of the branches symbolize how our lives will always be intertwined with hers.  The tree represents family.  Someday Levi's third grade teacher will ask him to make a family tree, he'll say, "Which family?" and I'll help him make some kind of hybrid tree that represents all of us.  His family tree may not be "traditional," but because of the openness of our adoption, he will never have to wonder where his roots began.

And that, my friends, is the beauty of open adoption.

Tonight we had dinner with J and several other family members.  I got to meet Levi's birth grandma, aunt, cousin, and half sibling for the first time.  Picnic food was devoured, about one thousand pictures were snapped.  A little awkward?  Sure. Time I will treasure forever?  Definitely.

In preparation for tonight, I hunted for the perfect gift and keepsake to give J.  The original plan was to give her something when Levi was born, but never happened because of the way things went down.  I was thinking I'd go the route of Levi's birthstone on a necklace, but when I found another "Tree Of Life" necklace this week, I knew that was the perfect thing.  Of course, I accompanied it with a letter. I told her about the hope, the life, the family, the roots.

There may or may not have been tears shed {I am sworn to secrecy}.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Don't Want To Forget

Just to preface, in the next week leading up to Levi's big day and the closing of the chapter called "Our Adoption Adventure,"  I plan to do as much introspective, sappy writing as possible.

You've been warned.

Now, moving on.  From time to time I go back and watch the video we used to tell the world our news of the upcoming arrival of Levi.  It never fails to bring me to tears and to my knees, overcome with gratitude.

I never want to forget this feeling. 

In the Old Testament, there are were times when the Israelites would build altars to God at various places.  God prompted them to do so, because He knows of our oh-so-forgetful mind.  These altars served as reminders to the Israelites of specific times He provided for them, delivered them from capivity, or was just all together faithful.

The video above serves as one of my "altars."  In the wee hours of the night, when my husband and son are snoring away, I sneak into the office, but Michael Buble on repeat, and just watch this video over and over.  The feelings of hope fulfilled mixed with intrepidation overwhelm me.  Watching this video helps me remember to be grateful.  It brings back the feelings of despair that were replaced with joy. 

Remembering what God has done for me in the past is the best way for me to combat worry and fears for the future (such as moving to Lancaster, getting rid of this house, living on one income, future family planning, the loss of Michael Scott...just kidding).

So, do any of you out there in blog world have "grateful triggers?"  Things you do to remind yourself how blessed you are? 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You're Nine and Mine

Well, we are certainly moving right along with these monthly birthdays, aren't we?!  Today Levi is nine months old, which means he's been out longer than he was in!  (TMI?)

Okay, so here he was then:

And here he is now:

SO BIG!  And cuter, too.

Okay, so the facts are that he is still in the 85th percentile for height, weight, and head circumference.  He lost two pounds by my calculations, but the doctor said it's fine since he's moving and working out some digestive stuff right now.  Since he is still in a far above average percentile, no worries.

Levi is busy!  He started crawling yesterday, just one day short of 9 months old.  One morning last week he woke up and said, "da da la la ga ga ka ka ya ya," or something like that.  He is exploring his voice and all the different sounds it can make.  His 5th and 6th teeth are about to break through his bottom gum.  He is a champ at sitting and standing in the crib and pulling himself up on things.

Sleeping has been an issue.  Or at least, falling asleep.  Once he's out, he's out for good, but it is consistently taking 30-45 minutes to get him to calm down.  I guess when you can move for the first time, you really want to do so!

He still LOVES his bath time.  Clothing, shoes, and diapers sizes have not really changed this month, but I'm thinking in the next few weeks we will be moving to the next size up.

He seems to be enjoying being around other children.  Except he puts his hands right in their faces.  That is normal okay, unless it's a smaller baby, then I feel bad! 

Wow, this is going fast!  Happy birthday, buggy!

White Out!

The slate is now blank.  Well, it's blank, reformatted, and has some cool new buttons and gadgets.

In preparation for my big new blog launch (only 10 more days), I have wiped out my background and my header, and started tweaking a few things.

One of my favorite new features will be email subscriptions.  This is for all you stalker-ish people who don't use a dashboard or a feed burner but have to find my blog through facebook or google every time you want to read about something cute Levi has done.

{Yes, Mom, Denise, Lynne, Jocelyn, and Herb, I'm talking to you.}

Here's how it works:

Click on this link right here, and you will be instructed to enter your email address.

Enter your email address in the form on the right side of my blog.

Then, every time I write a new blog post, it will arrive in your inbox! 

No need to come to my site - I'm coming to you!

Go ahead, give it a try!! Also, you can also follow me through facebook, "like" any of my posts, or subscribe in a good old reader. 

(Yes, I put a random picture of my kid in the post to liven it up!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Poor poor Levi.  He was placed in a family that has an affinity for terrible baseball team loyalty.

I know I said (on multiple occasions) that I hate sporting events, but the idea of taking in a ball game on a sunny afternoon with the two loves in my life actually is growing on me.  And I know how happy taking Levi to games will be for Herb, so that is motivating, too.

In the meantime, I just really enjoy making my husband and son dress in matching outfits.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And We're Off!!

Off the market that is.  And not in a good way.  After having our house listed for six weeks with absolutely no interest, we're taking it off.  I know six weeks sounds like not too long, but in that six weeks we have had an open house to which nobody showed up, and zero showings. Our realtor is suggesting we drop our price by $10,000, but if we do that, we will be upside down on our mortgage.  Because of adoption expenses, that's just not an option. 

The new plan is to turn our house over to a property management group, pray for an awesome renter, and pray for a cheap rental for ourselves in Lancaster.

Herb said he has always wanted to rent out a property, and he is excited about the prospect of having this current home make money for us.  I am just excited to move so that we stop giving all our hard earned money to Sheetz and Turkey Hill and Sunoco.

It's so hard to know the right thing to do. 

Did I feel a strong calling to quit my job, despite the financial overhaul of our lives it would require? YES! 

Did Herb feel an unquestionable calling into music ministry and *happen* to get offered a job just 4 miles from his current day job in Manheim?  YES! 

(Are the people at the new church incredible?  YES!)

All that being said...why isn't our house selling?  I know God's best for us does not include racking up credit card debt, so we are really learning true thriftiness, which is ironic because I already felt like I was probably the cheapest person in the world.  What really gets me is that every time someone new comes in our house (friends, property management people, etc), the reaction is always a positive, resounding, "Wow!  This is how much?!"

Yet, I am still choosing to not be stressed over it all.  I have had a few moments of minor meltdowns, but when I look into these big brown eyes, those chubby arms reaching up for me, and the little voice that calls, "ma ma ma ma ma ma ma,"  I KNOW God's faithfulness. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Made Me Mom

Many are the thoughts swirling around my head.  Celebrating a holiday from a new perspective this year has made me quite introspective.  I think back to where we were in the adoption process last year on Mother's Day.  Around that time there was a baby dedication at church and it felt so unattainable to me, that was one of the first times I felt like it would never happen for us.

(Speaking of baby dedications, sorry the pictures were a horrible mess in this post.  Now you know I have zero to no knowledge of cleaning up html.)

My friend Denyel always said that when you have a new car in mind that you want to buy, suddenly you notice that car everywhere, as if 90% of the people in the world are driving it.  I feel that way about Mother's Day.  Now that I am a mom, it seems like Hollywood and Hallmark are making an extra big deal about the simple holiday this year.  The road side flower stands have multiplied.  The radio song dedications are sweeter.  And my tears flow much more easily than ever before.  I know the truth is that in the past two years I was probably just blocking the holiday out, but oh how satisfying it is to be part of the club this year.

And I wouldn't have my club membership if it weren't for J.  They say today, the day before Mother's Day, is Birthmother's Day.   I'm kind of kicking myself now for not sending J a gift or even a card, but something in me felt like it would be a painful reminder of the holiday she isn't celebrating with Levi tomorrow.  I hope she knows how special she is to me, and how I owe every sappy tear of joy to her.

I did a scrapbook page of pictures from our visit with J, and when I look at her holding Levi, my heart breaks in a different (and somehow worse) way than it did over our own infertility.  How can you love your child so much to choose adoption?  It is not "giving up a baby" or "giving away," it is pure love, total self sacrifice.  I love you so much, I am choosing to change your life situation.  Can you even imagine the gut wrenching, tear filled, sobering nights of decision making? 

Her life's biggest pain has been my life's greatest joy.

And, in a way, God is using the birth mother-adoptive mother relationship to teach me about the sacrifices that he made on the cross, also for me.

I am so delighted to not only celebrate my mom as my mom tomorrow, but also as grandma!!!  And I'm so thankful for the additional Godly women who surround me that fill motherly roles.

But this mother's day, I am most grateful for the woman God put in my life who made me "Mom."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baby Dedication

Our Family!
We had grandiose plans for Levi's adoption and baby dedication.  Whenever we received our official court date we planned to schedule Levi's baby dedication for the following Sunday, with a H U G E picnic party after church to celebrate these two events.  We were going to invite everyone we ever knew and eat cupcakes until we exploded.

I'll tell you why this didn't work out.  Our court date is May 26.  This is just a few days shy of the big family wedding (Herb's sister is getting married) which falls on Memorial Day.  Because I am a bridesmaid and the cake maker, throwing a dedication and adoption party into the mix of the weekend was a big fat NO.  Not to mention the rudeness it would have been to rain on the wedding parade.  But on the bright side, the wedding weekend adoption hearing means that Herb's mom can join us since she will be in town already!

Levi & My Dad

We realized that the next possible time to do the baby dedication (when Herb's family from Pittsburgh would be in town) was this past Sunday, May 1.  We threw the whole thing together in about a week, and amazingly all of Levi's grandparents, one great grandparent, most of his aunts and uncles, and some very special friends, all made it on short notice. Our family increased the church population by 20%!
Anyway, Pastor Dennis did a fabulous job of tying Levi's adoption into the service.  I felt like it was a totally appropriate thing to do, given the fact that we are all adopted by God.  The fact that Levi is adopted isn't who he IS, but it is a part of his life and a part of ours.  I got emotional when the pastor talked about how special it is that we CHOSE Levi (really, the beauty of adoption), just like God has chosen us (you're welcome, Herb).

Cousins: Levi & Joelle
One of the members of the congregation gave a 5-10 minute talk about Levi and the Levites from the Bible.  Although the name Levi means "joined together," it was also noted that the Levites are "Set Apart" by God. 

If you're not familiar with a baby dedication, it's something we do in place of baby baptism.  Herb and I believe that baptism is a decision you make on your own, a public declaration of faith after you have accepted Jesus as Savior.  I was baptized at 11, and Herb was baptized as a baby, but then re-baptized when he was 25 (so technically, Herb is an anabaptist. My family is happy I did marry an anabaptist boy after all, haha). 

My brother Josh and niece Joelle

So, the baby dedication was more or less a public commitment made by Herb and I to raise Levi in the Christian faith.  We promised to purse God and grow in our own personal relationships with Him, and to pursue each other as well.  We dedicated ourselves to leading by example and teaching Levi the foundations of truth.  

Luckily, Levi didn't melt down until after church (as seen below).  My mom, whom I will now refer to as "the baby whisperer," got him to sleep just before the dedication.
Levi's post-church meltdown

Following the church service, most of the gang went to a pizza buffet.  We know how to party. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Too Soon

Little Levi has been having some trouble at bedtime.  He's too excited at the ability to sit up and look around.  Usually we've been going into his room about four times to get him laying down, give him a Nuk again, and quietly sneak out.
It seems like he's finally getting the swing of things, and figuring out how to lay himself back down.

I thought.

Then, VERY EARLY Wednesday morning, around 2 am, I awoke to the biggest screams I've ever heard.  This, coming from the child who has woken me in the middle of the night on fewer times than I can count on one hand.

I bolted into his room to find this...

As Levi got situated back into a cuddly cocoon, I couldn't help but think with a panic that this is all happening to fast.  Wasn't I just longing for a baby?  Didn't we just get this amazing surprise of a son? 

And now he's turning into more of a little boy than a baby!

(I should note that the pictures are from a nap yesterday.  My son does not sleep in jeans.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Livin' La Vida Levi

I had a very very helpful assistant to draw a winning name for our contest....

The winner is Cyndi!!!  Cyndi's new blog title suggestion was "Livin' La Vida Levi!"  Very clever! 

Cyndi, please email me at bassc440 (at) hotmail (dot) com and I will ship the book "Adoption Nation" to you this week.  Thanks everyone else for playing along, and for your suggestions.

We've had a crazy weekend at Casa Suereth - Royal Wedding, Family Wedding Shower, Baby Dedication (which I will tell you about this week), seeing lots of family, and a car casualty in the middle of a busy intersection an hour away from home.

And thus, today has been a day of sleep and recovery for an almost-mobile 8 month old and his exhausted mother.