Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Breaking the Record

I picked Noah up a couple hours early from school yesterday for an appointment.  As he walked into the office where I was waiting, he said, "Have you heard?"

I assumed the worst of course because he has pulled all sorts of shenanigans at school. But this time I hadn't heard a thing. 

"Heard what?"

"Heard that I'm now the school record-holder for holding the plank.  I planked for 40 minutes and three seconds today."

I started laughing.  "You mean four minutes?"

"No.  40!"

I spent the next 20 minutes on our drive to the appointment asking about 5000 questions to make sure I was hearing him right.  "Are you sure?"  "Are you sore?"  "Was anyone there to watch this?"  "Does you PE teacher know?"  "How hard was it?"  "What hurt the most?"  "Were you sweaty?"  "What came over you?"  "Why did you do that?"  "You sure you didn't take any breaks?"  "Was it boring?"  And on and on.

He shocks me on the daily.  But I'm pretty sure this one takes the cake.

I am in pretty good plank-shape.  I take a class each week at the gym and we work on our planks.  Plus I do them here and there at home when I feel like it.  So I am completely aware of what it takes to hold a long plank.  And two-three minutes is very difficult.  Try it!  You'll agree!

He said that around minute-16 his back was in severe pain and he was dripping with sweat.  That's when he started meditating and doing slow and deep breaths.

(And here he's been telling me meditation doesn't help him with anything!  Mom is always right!)

His whole class was doing the challenge.  The second place person held her plank for 6 minutes, for perspective.  It was time for his class to go to lunch, so they all left except for one girl who was asked to time him with a stopwatch and support him through the ordeal.  The PE teacher started teaching a second grade class that came into the gym for PE.  Eventually some of his friends finished lunch and came back to cheer him on for his final minutes.  The second-graders cheered for him too.  But the girl sitting with him really encouraged him, he said.

There was another 5th grader in another class who held his plank for 38 minutes a few days ago.  All the kids were freaking out over that, and Noah figured he could give him a run for his money, so he told himself he would not drop his knees under any circumstance until he had reached 40 minutes.

That's the kind of kid he has.  Noah has many, many challenges and weaknesses.  Some things in life do not come easily for him.  He either really struggles or is really exceptional.  He really isn't average at much.  (However, he is average at math and he would admit that it is so nice to be average!  When you are average at something you don't have to struggle to do it, but you don't have any internal or external pressure to plank for FORTY minutes either.)

The reason I'm typing this out is because I wanted to post about this accomplishment on facebook.  I probably still will.  But I know that by doing so, it's bragging and it makes it seem like I'm competitive -- or that he is.  Neither one of us is particularly competitive, but I've noticed that other people sure are (especially with him because he has so many talents).  And that puts me into a really awkward position.  For one thing, I could never have imagined he would do something like that, so it's fun to share.  Plus it's awesome!  And inspiring!  But "bragging" about kids makes other parents feel inadequate and I wish that weren't the case. 

Two principles are really true with Noah.  "God giveth and God taketh away."  And "Where much is given, much is required."  God has given Noah so many talents it's just crazy.  Before I met him I had no frame of reference for what it meant to be gifted.  I came from an average family and I think average is wonderful!  We didn't struggle with much and we all did... average.  And average has turned out great for me and my siblings.  I would imagine most "successful" people are average.

But then Noah was born and I was like, "Holy crap!  This kid is not average!  What do I do?"  Meanwhile, God has also given Noah challenges that many kids don't have.  Lots of kids have challenges, so I know he isn't the only one.  But he does struggle, unfortunately.  But as he struggles through life, he does some really remarkable things.  Things I don't really see other kids doing.  God giveth and God taketh away.  Where much is given, much is required.

So it's a shame that we spend so much comparing.  And assuming.  We assume that if someone does something awesome, than it came easily for them.  Or that everything comes easily for them.  I don't think we should do that.  We shouldn't feel inadequate when someone's child does something out of the ordinary.  We shouldn't feel uncomfortable if someone is the best.  We should feel grateful. 

I think we should assume that if a child can hold a plank for that long, he has pretty good practice holding planks.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Identity Crisis

I was listening to an interview today the lady was talking about how unproductive she feels being a stay-at-home mom of little kids.  She has 5 kids ages 1-7, so no wonder she feels that way!

She suggested that instead of making a list of things to do that day, make a list at the end of the day of what you accomplished.  I'm a list-maker, so that idea sounded brilliant. 

I make a list each day but 95% of the things I do each day are not things that could be crossed off a to-do list.  They are either things that I couldn't expect would pop up (cleaning up spilled smoothie -- oh wait, that is pretty predictable), they are a expected already every day (meal prep and clean up several times a day), they are not-negotiable (get the kids to where they need to be on time), they are scheduled on my calendar and don't get attended to the to-do list (attend a meeting), or then it's all the nurturing that a mother just does (reading a book to a child, or listening to my husband's day, or saying hi to a neighbor).  I know this is the case for every single person.  We all are busy and usually the task list is un-done each night. 

This interview was timely because I've been pondering how lame my life is lately and I've been trying to re-evaluate how I spend my time each day.  This all started because -- well my life IS rather dull and simple.  And most of the time I really love it like this.  I've worked hard to eliminate people and things from life that were a drain.  But my 20-year high school reunion is coming up and I've wondered if I've simplified too much.  Or if I've squandered my "potential."  I have accomplished several of the things I expected I would that night I got my HS diploma.  That night I wrapped up my childhood, delivered that commencement address to my fellow graduating class, and moved on to adulthood and bigger and better things.  I'm doing now what I thought I'd be doing 20 years later.

It just feels a lot different than I thought it would feel.  Motherhood is much, much, MUCH harder, for one thing.  It's much more boring and isolating -- which I don't mind actually most of the time.  It's much more exhausting.  It's much more confusing.  It's much more expensive.  It's much more competitive.  It's much louder.  And although we live in a progressive time, stay-at-home moms are considered boring, lazy, lame, uneducated, incapable, passive, rich, weak, unproductive, to name a few, by many.  Or maybe it's just me that wonders if that's what I am.

Interestingly enough, during this time of self-reflection, I also had a lengthy conversation with one of G's long-time friends.  He and I were also friends and students together in college.  We spent many long hours in the newsroom at BYU learning the ropes of broadcast and print journalism.  He worked in NYC (my dream) and currently has a master's degree and works at media company.  (His wife is finishing up her second bachelor's degree -- nursing this time -- w
hile working outside the home and while mothering three children.  She graduated back when we did with her first degree.)  I trust his judgment and counsel considering he knew me during my "moving up in the world days" and his wife is not a a stay-at-home mom.

"In this era women can do anything.  And since they can do anything, they feel like they need to do everything.  And when they don't do everything, they feel like they aren't doing anything."

That's what he said.  And I liked that.

So I've been taking some time to reflect on my identity and what I do all day.  (Currently I'm sitting on my front porch in my workout clothes soaking up some serious vitamin D and typing on my laptop.  Being a stay-at-home mom isn't ALL tedious.)

I want to be a champion of all women and their choices. And I want to teach my sons to appreciate women who know who they are.

I can't exactly do that if I'm uncertain of who I am.

I'm trying to remember that my identity has nothing to do with my status as a mother.  It has nothing to do with my religion.  It has nothing to do with my job (or lack thereof).  It has nothing to do with my degree.  It has nothing to do with my talents.  It has nothing to do with my looks or size.  It has nothing to do with my hobbies (or lack thereof).  It has nothing to do with my marital status.  It has nothing to do with my confidence.  It has nothing to do with my interests.  It has nothing to do with my friends (or lack thereof).  It has nothing to do with my kids and their talents, successes, or behavior.

Those are some empowering things to understand.  And yet they are also very easy to forget.

This blog post has helped me to sort through all this.  And my sister has suggested I read Eckhart Tolle for more truth and guidance.

What is your identity?

Next up:  I will make a list of the things I'm proud of accomplishing on a given day.  And what I'm proud of accomplishing in the past year or so.  You should too. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rudy's Birth Story--Part 5--Placement Day

We woke up a couple hours after going to sleep.  It was Sunday morning.  Our kids were going to church with my parents.  My mom was supposed to speak that day, which meant my dad would be in charge of wrangling the two boys.  I was a little worried about that.  But otherwise, everything seemed right and good.  We got ready and left for the hospital.  It was eery and surreal and slightly awkward to be walking in with an empty carseat and a armful of gifts and huge grins on our faces.  Luckily the hospital was pretty quiet so we didn't stand out too much.  We texted R when we got there and said we would wait until she was ready for us to come in to see her.  We didn't really know what to expect.  This was our first time doing a hospital placement and we hadn't ironed out any details with her, so we were just planning to go with the flow.

She asked us to come to her room right away.  When we walked in, the room was filled with peace and love.  Her friends from church were still there.  Everyone was calm and quiet.  We talked casually for a little while, then her caseworker arrived.  We talked for a long time more.  Maybe even a couple hours.  Mostly we watched R holding him, rubbing his tummy, nursing him, and doing all the things a new mother does with her brand new baby.

Eventually we left so she could take pictures.  We left our nice camera with her, which turned out to be really cool because we got all the pictures she took.  After she took pictures, she read through all her paperwork, then relinquished her parental rights.  Her caseworker later told us that she was very thorough and read through every word, making she she understood everything.  The language in those legal documents is harsh and final.  Meanwhile, we sat and waited about an hour in the lactation room there in the hospital.  We were so excited and so nervous.

After awhile, another caseworker came to get us.  We stood waiting outside the door for a little while while R said goodbye to her baby.  We made small talk because we hadn't met that particular caseworker before, then shared with her the miracles of us getting to this point.  She shared some of her trials in life.  Even though we had done placement two other times, nothing prepares you for that experience.  And actually, since we had done it twice before, I think we stood there with extra trepidation.  We knew exactly what was happening behind that closed door, just ten feet from where we stood.  And we knew what was about to take place as soon as they opened the door to say they were ready.  It is a humbling experience to watch a  mother muster that much courage.  It is excruciating to watch a mother suffer so much grief and fear.  We felt so much guilt, so much fear, so much excitement, so much awe, and so much peace all at once as we stood there. 

Just then we saw Santa and several firefighters from the local fire department come out of the hospital room next door.  It wasn't our place to suggest they skip R's room, but on the other hand, she was kissing her baby goodbye at that precise moment and certainly the last thing she wanted to do was get interrupted to take pictures with Jolly St. Nick.  And see us standing there waiting for her.  But as luck would have it, her caseworker opened the door right then and said she was ready.  The firefighters said they were coming around to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to take baby's first picture with Santa.  Surprisingly, R welcomed them readily into her room.  She said she wanted us in the picture, so G and I gathered around her hospital bed.  I was shaking like crazy and was so overwhelmed.  The irony of the good cheer those firemen brought was overwhelming and I couldn't contain my tears any longer when Santa said, "What a wonderful gift you've received this Christmas!"  Immediately R sprung from her bed and came and gave me and G a tight hug.  I could physically feel her strength and confidence.  I knew she was broken-hearted, but she trusted us.  I knew that she was doing this for her baby, and she could handle it.

Santa Claus was obviously very confused at the sudden tears from everyone in the room and made his way out in a hurry.  Later her caseworker told me that she had gone out in the hall to explain to them that the baby's mother was moments away from placing her baby into our arms.  I wonder if those firemen went back to the station and talked about the service they performed that day.  I wonder if those firemen went home and told their families about the love they saw that day. I hope so and I hope they continue visiting new babies at the hospital.  That memory means a lot to our family.

The next part is almost a blur.  It's surreal.  It's so difficult to watch someone grieve like that.  All her friends and the caseworkers left and we gave her gifts.  She said her goodbyes and rocked him and wept.

After a little while she told the caseworkers and friends we were ready  She wrapped him in a blanket and handed him to me.

It was time for us to leave the room, leaving her alone.  I was shaking so badly I couldn't push him in the bassinet out of the room.  It seemed cruel to be the one to walk away from her with her baby.

We were taken back to the lactation room so we could sign our papers.  We were so nervous and overwhelmed we could hardly even look at him.  G held him.  I was still a little to shaken up.  The caseworkers read through all the paperwork, we signed everything.  We took a picture there in that tiny room, then out in the hall in front of the Christmas tree.  By then I had taken enough deep breaths that I had relaxed quite a bit.  Then the nurse watched us change his diaper and put him in his carseat.  A different nurse escorted us out to the car and watched us put him in.

Our first photo right after our papers were signed.  Still a little shaky and overwhelmed.

Our second photo in front of the Christmas tree on the maternity floor.

We drove home. When we got home we facetimed with G's parents and re-learned how to mix formula.  Our boys and parents and brother arrived an hour or so after we did.  We were so excited to have our older boys come home to meet him.  They had suffered so much too, waiting and hoping and nearly giving up hope they'd ever get their baby.  Shortly after they arrived with my parents, my brother and his family came, bringing chili, and then a friend visited that night.  It was all so unbelievable.  Just two short weeks before, I had fasted to know what to do because we didn't have it in us to hope for a miracle that might not happen.

We spent the next week in pure bliss, still very tender though. My favorite thing in the whole world is to snuggle a newborn baby on the couch for hours and days and weeks on end.  I loved every minute with him.  And he was perfect.  He was snugly and warm and peaceful. 

It took me a few days to kiss him.  I loved him and felt like he was mine immediately.  But I was terrified of falling in love with him.  He was too good to be true!  But as the days went by, and as his birthmom texted us reassuring us that she would be OK, my fears subsided finally and I felt more confident. 

We loved him so much.  Wow, it was love from my dreams, honestly.  I just can't articulate how much love I felt for him and how much my love for my other two boys grew, watching how much they adored him too.

Some of the details and emotion of this story probably seem exaggerated.  But it feels good to have it completely written out, even after two years have passed.  Especially because it is a reminder that God is good and loves all of his children.  Despite five long posts detailing how it all unfolded, there are still sacred details to this story that make it even more remarkable.  I hope I never forget.  I hope I never forget that fear and hopeless feeling.  I hope I never forget how nuzzling his cheeks (that still smell like sugar) fills me with joy equal to the despair we all once felt.  And I also hope I never forget that it doesn't take much to get ready for a baby.  We didn't have strong feelings on his name and it worked out.  We started washing bottles and clothes 12 hours before we brought him home and it all worked out.  His room is still not decorated -- 2 years later.  And it doesn't matter.  All that mattered was love.  That's so cliche, but it's true. 

We are so thankful God didn't rush, but brought him to us on the right day.  He was born one day after G's "deadline."  Had he been born any sooner and his birth father would likely have intervened and not allowed placement.  Had he been born any later and our family wouldn't have been available. 

Neal A. Maxwell said, "The cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy."

Next I'll have to write about what a delight he has been these past two years.  Andrew=Best Baby Ever.  

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pocket Notes

Sam is very enthusiastic about school and everything he learns.  He has been frustrated more than once when he's arrived home and tried to tell me some wonderful fact or procedure, but couldn't remember all the details.  So imagine my delight when one day he came home and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket.  The paper had notes from what they learned that day, things like what serrated means, that a starfish is now called a sea star, large numbers he learned how to write, how many days left until a big vacation, his table partner's last name so they can join the same baseball team -- you know, things that shall be remembered past the school day.

The past few weeks they have had a special instructor coming to their class to teach everyone how to make glass.  He has LOVED this and has meticulously written down the process and supplies needed in hopes that he can become a glass-maker at home.  (He said he hopes all the supplies can be purchased from Costco.  Ha!)  His birth-grandma informed me that glass-making happens to be one of the most expensive form of art, which just figures.

A note I found in Sam's pocket counting down to our Thanskgiving North Carolina beach vacation.

Sam's teacher is wonderful.  I adore her love of learning!  She has been studying the brain and showed the kids a video this week, teaching them the science behind the idea that if they believe in themselves, they can do more than if they don't.  Sam was thrilled because we talk about the brain quite a bit in our family, so he knew what they were learning would be of interest to our family.  When he came home he told us that he had the solution to all of our problems.  "I learned some things about the brain that will be able to help you.  I just know you will feel better if you do these things:  drink lots of water, exercise, and eat healthy food.  And I didn’t learn this part at school, but I think you should do meditation too because I know it can help your brain a lot too.  If you do that you will grow more neurons in your brain and will be able to make better choices.” 

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of most of these notes but I should take some because they are pretty awesome.

Noah has never done this.  I'd imagine most kids haven't.

But I was cleaning out pockets for laundry a few weeks ago and ran across this gem from Noah's pocket.  It goes without saying, Noah has been trying to convince me to let him wear his new Vans hat to school since Christmas.

Sadly, when I asked Noah about it later, he thought it was a victory -- that his teacher was on his side.  But I let him know I hadn't been worried about him wearing it outside... 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Happy Birthday

 The view from my window on my birthday.  Lovely!

We just wrapped up birthday season at our house.  Five birthdays within a month. 

There were some huge highlights to my big day.

The weather was lovely for winter.  I love Oregon's temperate winter weather since I hate being cold.  It was sunny with black skies.  Those stereotypes about the grey skies, even when it's sunny are true.  And sorry-but I love that.

First thing when I woke up and came downstairs, Sam said he needed to tell me something.  I expected birthday greetings, or something like that.  Instead he whispered, "I have an idea for our last hiding spot for our elf.  Tonight I think you should hide him in the basket of ornaments on the black table."  Now this was particularly funny because the ONLY reason we have "elf on the shelf" is because of Sam.  Noah hasn't believed in Santa or any sort of elf for years.  And while Andrew loved looking for the elf every morning, he was barely two and certainly doesn't "get it."  As far as I knew, Sam was our only "believer."  Apparently we have no believers and I have no idea how/when that happened.  And furthermore, I am so curious about why he whispered.  Did he think Noah believes?

Another joy was asking the kids pick out some costumes for our nativity later that with cousins.  Noah came into my room to tell me something and was wearing an old Captain Jack Sparrow costume he loved when he was 4 (seven years ago) -- reincarnated as a shepherd.  He may be a tween in all it's glory, but he still is creative and a little boy, I love that about him. 

Every year for Mother's Day and my birthday I tell the kids I want "peace and quiet."  They aren't super good at giving that particular gift because... HAVE YOU MET MY KIDS?!  But then I ran across this quote on Brene Brown's facebook page and I thought it was beautiful.  I know I can control the level of peace in my life. And so I enjoyed peace from within that day.  And it was super nice.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


My two older boys have gotten along really well for the most part.  I know it's unusual and I know quarreling children is a source of stress and exhaustion for other parents.  So rather than bragging about it, I willingly admit I'm very fortunate.  It's a blessing that I can take NO credit for.  They are four years a part, their personalities are vastly different, and they share quite a few common interests, so they enjoy playing together.  Plus Noah is (used to be) very patient and Sam is very mature.  So they are a brotherly match made in heaven.

However, Noah has started getting annoyed with Sam in the last few months.  It's really sad because they used to have so much fun together.  Yesterday I got tired of it.  They'll be spending a lot of time together over the Christmas break, which helps them get along better.  And I wanted to make sure they did have a chance to re-connect right away.  So I decided to start the Christmas break off by having Noah make a list of all the things he loves about Sam.  He ended up with a list of 63 things (he had to add a few extra for non-compliance at first).  He had to read this list to Sam while holding both of Sam's hands.  He was not thrilled at first, but he did it and they've had a great day together, as expected.

His list is so funny.  He describes Sam with perfect detail.  But this list tells just as much about Noah as it does Sam. 

63 Things I Love About Sam:
  1. He's funny
  2. He's fun (occasionally)
  3. He's adopted like me
  4. He's great at Legos
  5. He goes birding (when he's not annoying and when he actually likes the birds we see)
  6. He's nice
  7. He's cute (that's what you say)
  8. He's good at having good boundaries with me, other people, and our family
  9. He is easy to talk to 
  10. He is responsible
  11. He isn't mean
  12. He isn't a person who would make fun of you for your mistakes
  13. He really doesn't care about what you do to make a fool of yourself and he doesn't care when you accidentally make a mistake
  14. He is a good reader
  15. He is a good writer
  16. He is good at math
  17. He is a good learner
  18. He is funny
  19. He is kind
  20. He is patient
  21. He likes what I like
  22. His birth family likes me
  23. He does lots of service
  24. He's helpful
  25. He's a good eater
  26. He's good at Legos
  27. He doesn't make fun of me
  28. He likes you for what you are
  29. He doesn't care how you look
  30. He's awesome
  31. He's a artist
  32. He's kind and nice
  33. He likes animals
  34. He's good at using binoculars
  35. He's smart
  36. He's creative
  37. He's good at drawing
  38. He's good at painting
  39. He's a safe person
  40. He's a good brother
  41. He's friendly
  42. He's a person with integrity
  43. He's a good babysitter (that sucks for me)
  44. He's cool
  45. He's responsible
  46. He's good with tools
  47. He's easy to talk with
  48. He would make a good police
  49. He cares about me
  50. He wants me to accomplish my goals
  51. He's helpful
  52. He's swag
  53. He's loving
  54. He's good at sharing
  55. He's fun to hang out with
  56. He's more responsible than me
  57. He has a lot of friends
  58. He's easy to make friends with
  59. He's good at skateboarding
  60. He's good at biking
  61. He's good at coming up with lies
  62. He's a good listener
  63. He's good at everything


I haven't blogged in over a year, despite having more "material" and things to talk about than ever before.  I want to make more time to document the adventures of parenting.  My kids are so much fun and so hilarious and such crazy kids that I feel it a huge shame I don't write all this stuff down.  Plus I have ideas and thoughts that I'd like to write out somewhere.  And bottom line, I enjoy writing!  It clears out the clutter in my head and gives me a sense of accomplishment to have done something with my day and life. 

I don't care if anyone reads or comments.  In fact, the only reason I am going to make this public or write on a blog rather than just writing a journal, is to hold myself accountable to actually do it.  Plus I hope it encourages other people (family:  I'm looking at you!) to write too. 

And lastly, I'm not keeping my kids' pseudonyms.  The biggest reason I had them before is because we were actively looking for potential birthparents for years and there were/are lots of scammers and creepy people online preying on families hoping to adopt.  I felt like my kids and my parenting were vulnerable enough.  I wasn't afraid for our safety, just careful to keep some of our antics private.  Now that we have three birth families that we know and trust, I don't have the same need to hide as many details of our family online.

The good news is, I've composed the final installment of Andrew/Rudy's birth story.  Yay!  Just in time to celebrate him turning two last week.  I will publish it as soon as I add a few pictures. 

The picture above relates to nothing, but I'm using G's laptop to type and he only has pics from his GoPro on this computer.  And this was a cool one.   That's Sam and his eyelashes really are that long. 

Merry Christmas!  And Happy Birthday to Noah, Sam, G, Andrew, and Me.