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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chapter 12: Will You?

It's been a while - catch up with Chapter 11, or start at the beginning.

Chapter 12: Will You?

The transplant was still six weeks away, and another infection landed Herb in the hospital for a long weekend "getaway."  By this point, Herb was just a comfortable in a hospital bed as he was at home.  Lancaster General was Herb's Club Med.  He was concentrating on getting better, or at least maintaining functionality until the transplant, and was managing to stay very positive about he whole ordeal.

I however, was focused on my ring finger - or the lack of jewelry on said finger.

He sat in the hospital bed, watching "Law and Order," I cleared my throat.  "Do you still want to get married?" I asked with hesitation.

"Of course I do," Herb answered.  "I'm kinda occupied these days if you didn't notice."

"I just thought you said we'd get engaged in the fall, and I wasn't sure if you meant like when marching band was over, or when the semester was over, or when the fall season was officially over.  I just feel like it's getting close to the end of  fall and we're not engaged."

In true realist-Herb fashion he replied, "Fall's not over yet, is it?"

"No...." The lump formed in my throat and tears stung my eyes.  "I  guess I just wanted to make sure you still wanted to marry me."

"Of course I do!!"  Herb reassured me with a hand squeeze and a smile.

As soon as his infection was on the road to recovery, Herb was released from the hospital, and he spent the next three days doing lots of work.  He procured a diamond ring from his parents, he made an appoint with a jeweler to have the diamond reset, he called my parents, and had dinner with each of them individually.

And of course, I knew about each of these things each step of the way.  Herb and I are both HORRIBLE at secrets from each other.  We just get so excited!  I mean seriously, I practically knew what my ring was going to look like because Herb wanted to tell me all about it after he designed it.

One thing we agreed on was that he would surprise me with the actual proposal.

Ironically, this huge milestone in our lives was about to take place, and the time of year was again Thanksgiving.  To recap: Thanksgiving 2003, I realized he was the man of my dreams.  Thanksgiving 2004, we had been broken up but decided to get back together.  Would Thanksgiving 2005 include an engagement?!  In all of our discussions, even though I new the ring was finished, Herb told me I would not be getting a ring before the actual holiday (much to my dismay, I wanted to be the center of attention at the big family meal, or better yet, maybe he could pop the question at the dinner table!!).

On Saturday morning, November 26, Herb picked up the ring from the jeweler.  I was spending the weekend at his parents house, but had to go to a bridal shower that morning.  I knew while I was gone he would probably go get the ring (it was the only time we were going to be apart).

His plan was to hold on to the ring until Monday night.  On Monday night, we would be at Wind Ensemble rehearsal and he planned to tell the band he had an announcement, come to the podium and propose tot he first chair clarinet player in front of all her peers and closest friends.

But on Saturday night, we went out to dinner, and the ring was practically burning a whole in his pocket.  The knowledge of his having the engagement ring in his possession was affecting us as if we were Golum and the engagement ring had a special power over us.  We sat there saying, "Maybe we should just get engaged right now over fried chicken."  "But no, that would be a terrible story."  "Oh whatever, let's just do it."  "Yeah, who cares."  "No, we should wait."  We went back and forth like this all night, the suspense was killing both of us.

Side note:  Our friends, Justin and Steph, had recently got engaged on a hot air balloon ride with the proposal being written below on the ground.  It was amazingly romantic, and thus, Herb felt a lot of pressure to have a "good story."  I kept trying to tell him it didn't matter how we got engaged, because whatever he did would be our story.

Somehow, we restrained ourselves on Saturday.  At the end of the day, Herb hooked himself to his dialysis machine, and I resigned myself to the guest room next door.  As I fell asleep in the loft bed, gazing up at the glow in the dark stars that were on the ceiling three feet from my face, I couldn't help but imagine all the different scenarios of proposal that Herb might have been planning.

I drifted off to sleep but soon heard, "Michelle, wake up."

I turned over, and there stood Herb.  His stood eye level with my head on the loft, and the sun was just beginning to pierce the darkness outside.

"Oh, hey," I said groggily.  "What are you doing here?"

"I can't sleep."

"Why not?" I was panicked, "Are you okay?"

"No...my heart is bursting." Herb said with a smile.

I sat up (as much as I could in my three foot crawl space).

"I've been up all night.  I know this isn't a great story, but I can't wait anymore... And I thought this is fitting because it's morning and neither one of us will look great right now, and if we can love each other with messed up hair and bad breath we can love each other anytime.  But the morning is significant because it's a new beginning.  And also, I want to spend all my mornings with you.  I really love you."

He brought his hand up to the loft and opened up the antique looking green box with a gold clasp.  Inside was the most shiny platinum and diamond creation I had ever seen.  The metal was so lustrous that I couldn't tell where the band stopped and the diamonds started.

"Do you like it?" He asked with tone that told me he was so proud of the way he designed it.

"Yes, it's beautiful!"

"Well?  Do you want it?  You didn't say anything," Herb questioned.

"But, Herb, you didn't actually ask me anything," I said with a laugh.

"Oh, yeah, well...will you have me?"

"Of course!!!"

I moved my "True Love Waits" ring to my right hand.  Herb slid the engagement ring on my finger, and it fit as if it was created just for me (and it was!).

I came down from the loft, and we hugged and kissed.  It was 6:30 am.


At this point, Herb's parents came out from their bedroom and took our picture.  His mom said, "I can't believe you did this right now."  I think she expected a "better story" from him.  I thought it was perfectly romantic.

 


"I would love to keep celebrating," Herb interrupted, "but I actually have one more cycle of dialysis to finish before I get up."

Herb got back into bed and hooked himself up to the machine, and I called my parents.

 

That morning, Herb and I were on the worship team at church with my brother and his girlfriend (my bestie).  When we got there, I turned my ring backwards as to hide the diamond.  At the time of the service where people shared praise reports and prayer requests, Herb and I got up and said we had one of each.  We asked for prayers over the upcoming kidney transplant and shared our praise -

"We got engaged this morning!"

Jocelyn squealed, and then got mad for not telling her earlier, and then squealed again.

It was an awesome morning.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Son's First Mom

I'm finding our culture to be so accepting of adoption, and really making a good effort to wrap their brains around open adoption, but there is one part of our story that always raises eyebrows.  It seems strange and unnatural to most, and that is the relationship between first mom and second mom. Birth mom and adoptive mom.  One who has suffered great loss, and one who has experienced intense joy.

And honestly, for me, that's been the most difficult thing to hash out.  But in the grand scheme, it is vital to a successful open adoption and raising my son to be proud of who he his and from where he came.

God is good, and He has brought a caring, intelligent, and funny gal named Jen into our lives.  Jen is open and has Levi's best interests in mind, too.  We have discussed our relationship from time to time, and we don't always know how to handle it, either.  It's called experiential learning!

The beauty of it is that we can talk about it, the door is open, and each time we get together it is a little less awkward.  I appreciate her so much more every time we see her; a legit friendship is growing.

I feel like our friendship is being built backwards though.  First she gave me the utmost trust, and now we are getting to know each other.  I cared for the baby that she gave life to, and then we became facebook friends.

The catch 22 is this: the closer we become, the more real it is.  I feel more of her pain, I sense her loss, I am sad for what she's gone through.  She is more than my son's birthmother; she is becoming my friend.   And with friendship comes a whole new level empathy.

Maybe I shouldn't have, but I shared this conundrum with Jen recently.  And yes, she said, there will always be a sting and some degree of hurt over the loss of Levi.  She will always love him.  But ultimately, she shared that she is grateful for the way the situation has panned out, and especially for the blessing he is in our lives.

I am so glad open adoption gives her the opportunity to see how treasured he is.

Part of this is knowing that God has orchestrated our family - from bringing Herb and I together, to bringing Levi in our life - and Levi's birth family is now a very new and special extended part of our family.  And it's a beautiful thing.

I'm really happy to get to know Jen and her family better (through get togethers, phone calls, and the wonder that is facebook), and I am so excited for our family and friends to get to see what wonderful people they are at Levi's birthday party next month.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Levi On Canvas

Check out these awesome canvases!
Recently, I was offered a free canvas print, and you know with a kiddo as cute as Levi, I could not turn them down!  The website, called Easy Canvas Prints, offers a variety of sizes (8"x10", 8" x 8", 16"x 20", etc).

Of course, the hardest part was picking out a picture of Levi to use - there are so many of him I love.  I finally settled on one of the pictures my talented brother took for our Mother's Day photo shoot at Long's Park.  This is the original picture of Levi at 8 months old:


To order a canvas print was a pretty easy process.


Choose a size, upload an image, select border options, add image and color effects, pay, and ship!

The print arrived in about one week, and I am in love!!  I chose an 8"x10" canvas wrap, a 0.75" border, with the photo continuing on to the border.  Because I think the picture is amazing as is, I didn't add an image or color effects.


The canvas is a great gallery quality (certainly thicker than the stretched canvases I buy at the store for crafty things).  The colors are sharp and accurate.


The wrapped canvas with printing on the sides really give the picture a fun three dimensional effect when hanging on the wall.


My only complaint is that I wish I could offer each of my readers a free canvas print, too, because I know shelling out $40 for some wall art isn't always feasible.  But, for the price, you'll get something to hang on your walls of phenomenal quality that will last a very long time.  If you are interested in purchasing your own canvas print, you can get 50% off!  Just go to their facebook fan page (here) and click "like," and you will get 50% off your order and free shipping, which is a pretty slamming deal!

Thanks for some special wall art, ECP!


Anyone else have a favorite thing hanging on their walls?  A favorite picture they've had blown up?

**Goods were exchanged for this review, but the opinions are all mine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

11 Months Old

Welp, yesterday was officially Levi's last birthday that I'll celebrate before his first real one (did that make sense?). In thirty more days, we'll be measuring his age with years instead of months.  Craziness folks.  But let's not jump the gun. Here's the stats on my almost one-year-old:

Age:
11 months             Present Weight of Child: 24.5 lbs
Height: 30ish?”                                      Formula now use: Similac Advance (store brand)  

Eating and Sleeping Habits:
No changes here, except maybe sleeping a little longer than normal at times because of teething.  I am enjoying trying new recipes for baby food, and Levi enjoys eating them!

Development at this time:
 His bottom two molars have surfaced, which puts the tooth count at 9.  He has stood alone for up to 20 seconds, but mostly just walks along holding onto things or crawls to get where he wants to go.  The majority of his crawling is still with one leg dragging on the floor while the other one pushes up with the foot.  He babbles all the time and is putting two sounds together.  He tries to echo us sometimes, but mostly just copies our inflections. I think he said "choo-choo" yesterday.

Physical appearance: Levi wears 18 month and is stretching out now from all his activity.  His hair was long enough to trim up this month around his ears; not an official first hair cut yet, just a few hairs around the ears.  His feet are growing too, he wears a size three now (still small in 
proportion to the rest of his lanky little body).



Personality:  
Hide and seek is becoming a great game for Levi, he loves to peek around the corner and then look away again.  He is all about getting tickled and trying to grab power cables.  He is still a little clingy and follows us around when we leave the room.

In general, this kid is awesome and I am finding that I really do think each new phase/age is the most fun!


Gotta run, there's a birthday party to be planned!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Giggles and Snuggles Fix Everything

This afternoon I attended a baby shower for one of my friends from our new church, Ashley.  Baby Judah is scheduled to arrive in September, and I am expecting he and Levi to be best little "tribes of Israel" buddies.  {Side note:  It cracks me up to find other babies with names that come from the tribes of Israel.  So now he'll have a friend named Judah to add to his other buddy Benjamin.}

I was caught totally off guard when I felt a little sadness at the shower. I'm kind of disgusted that infertility and missing out on pregnancy can still get to me.  Somewhere between thinking about infertility and my precious little baby turning into a toddler, I really started feeling sorry for myself.  I know, I'm shallow.

I guess I was thinking about the anticipation and hope and excitement pregnancy brings and how when you're adopting, those feelings are still there, but laced with a little extra fear and need for patience.  I don't think I was actually jealous of Ashley's pregnancy, but was mourning a little bit again for what we missed out on.

The excitement of preparing for a newborn.... I'm kind of sad that that part of my life is over.  Sure we may have other children, but it's never the same as the first time.  I'm putting away baby swings, slings, and rear-facing car seats. I'm packing up onesies, booties, and zip-up pajamas...

Levi went to bed about an hour ago, but after 20 minutes, he was still fussing. I went in and rocked him.  I tickled and snuggled him, he nuzzled his face into my neck.  We fought over his pacifier, sang songs, and giggled together.

These are the important moments.  This kid means the world to me.  What a joy it is to be his mama, and to watch him turn from a helpless infant to an inquisitive and happy toddler.  When I see his big brown eyes gazing up at me, body relaxed in my arms, I can see the bigger picture.  In that very moment, all is right with the world.

Dear Lord, please forgive me for my selfishness.  I am so grateful this little miracle You have brought into our lives.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Living Out Happily Ever After

This week I've been reading about God's desire to restore our virtue and dignity...to turn our ashes into beauty.  When Beth Moore described the four dreams that most little girls dream of, she really hit close to home.  For most women, those dreams are to be a bride, be beautiful, be fruitful, and live happily ever after.

I am most certainly not trying to ruffle any feathers, so if any or all of those four things are not your dreams, that is fine!!  You have another purpose. To quote Beth directly, "...if a woman's heart belongs entirely to God and she does not long to be married or long to have children, she is probably called to singleness or childlessness in order to pursue other purposes for God."

 I, however, fall under the "Big Four" dream category.  When I look back on my life and see where God's hand moved in the most powerful ways and the things I am most grateful for, it was during the seasons of my life related to feeling beautiful, praying for a husband, and longing to be a mother.

If I had read this chapter of Breaking Free eight years ago when I felt disgusting and unlovable, seven years ago when I wondered if I would ever find a mate, or one year ago when my arms ached for a baby, I would have ended up in a puddle of tears.  During those times, I put my trust in God and found my worth in Jesus.  It gave me joy in knowing that He had my back, but the patience was a struggle!  I had joy, but not always happiness in my circumstances.

But what gave me hope was knowing the truth in Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Beth writes, " I don't believe God allows surrendered hearts to continue to long for things He will not ultimately grant in one way or another. Our disappointment with God is often the result of our small thinking."


I couldn't have said it better!!  What I loved reading this week was that if you have those big God-sized dreams like I did, and you are living your life fully surrendered to Jesus Christ, those dreams are there for a purpose!  Those desires are God-breathed.

It is so awesome (and faith-building) to see firsthand how God has fulfilled my dreams with His reality.

Now we're working on dream four: to live happily ever after.

For this season of my life, this applies to the necessary financial and social sacrifices needed in order to stay home with my son.  God is asking me to follow Him to land uncharted for Herb and I, but I can't wait to see what lessons and deeper relationships He has for us there.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tyler Florence Is A Genius

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!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chapter 11: The Sticky Situation

Well, it's been about 10 days, how about the next part of the story, already?  Catch up starting at Chapter 1, or refresh yourself with Chapter 10.  And now, moving on...

Chapter 11: The Sticky Situation

We were driving on route 322, on our way to Creation, windows rolled down, music blaring, when a 
Harrisburg phone number came up on my phone.

It was the transplant office.  The blood work was in, and the results were great.  Herb had the choice of two kidneys.  One was Denise, the woman who had known Herb since birth and considered him to be like one of her own kids, and one was me.

Just a week before we left for Creation, I had finally convinced Herb to let me get tested to see if we were the same blood type.  On the day of my testing, Denise, the family friend, also got tested.  The testing entailed seven vials of blood, some low key counseling, and a delicious breakfast.

After finding out about two potential matches, Herb had a grueling decision to make; this was one he could not take lightly.  I tried to convince him that I was the best candidate for the job since I was his girlfriend, but in his mind, that was exactly what had complicated things. The straw that broke the camel’s back was that the doctors said because technology has advanced so much since his last transplant, if all went well, his next kidney could outlive him.  The other potential donor was in her fifties and I was in my twenties, making the choice clear.

From there, the whole situation got a bit sticky. 

Some people asked, “What if you break up, and he has your kidney?”

The only answer I could give was, “We’re not going to break up.”

“You have to give her a ring before she gives you a kidney,” our pastor bluntly counseled Herb. 

Herb said, “I was already planning to.”

I didn’t want it to look like I was trading body parts for marriage, and Herb didn’t want to put me through the trouble of a painful surgery. But we trusted God and modern medicine and decided to move forward.  Surgery was scheduled for December 20, 2005. 

The humid summer gave way to cooler weather, and Herb and I scrambled to finish up our classes.  He was doing a music store internship, and I had several gen eds to finish before student teaching.  We began to discuss a marriage timeline, and made plans for a wedding the following summer after graduation, which was less than a year away.  I told Herb if he wanted to marry me in the summer, I needed to be able to have at least six months to plan a wedding.

Herb said we’d be engaged by “the end of fall.”

I worried how we would pay for a wedding, and out of nowhere, a part-time music teaching job literally fell into my lap.  It was at a Catholic school in York, and because it was private, they didn’t mind my lack of a teaching certificate.  This job was a wonderful chance for me to experience a classroom of my own before I did my student teaching, and it ended up providing the funds for most of our wedding expenses.

During this semester, we both commuted from home, 45 minutes in opposite directions of Millersville.  Herb needed the comforts of home for his nighttime dialysis ritual.  I needed to save money and be closer to my family; my dad had just been diagnosed with stage-four lymphoma.  Luckily, my new job was close to Herb’s house, so we still managed to see each other several times a week despite the 50 mile difference.


Honestly, between health issues, finishing school, working extra jobs, and planning our future, the upcoming transplant seemed like the least of our worries.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Nada

The last four days have been beautifully relaxing.  We have "staycationed" at a gorgeous townhouse in West York.  In addition to movies upon movies and delicious home cooked meals, we have been training our dear son the meaning of "no."

The hand squeeze and firm voice was only producing a giggle from our little munchkin, so following the recommendation of my IRL-Mommy-Blogger-Friend, Lauren, I have been lightly flicking Levi's fingers when he grabs for the gross trash can or the t.v. cords.

And it's working!

In the meantime, Levi is figuring out his own uses for "no."  At this point they are prompted, but non verbal.  Pretty stinkin' adorable if you ask me.  Check out the video to see what I mean!