Sunday, December 30, 2007

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation

This has been the busiest vacation I have ever had! We have slept in 3 different beds in the last 3 days. Not that I'm complaining mind you but this has been a whirlwind. We flew home Friday night and due to flight delays arrived at our house at midnight. Just in time to crash in our own beds, open the suitcases, throw out the dirty clothes and re-pack clean clothes before hitting the road to Bend yesterday morning. Jeff decided to take the long, easy road in order to avoid the snowy pass. It took a little longer but was worth it. We arrived in Bend in time to grab dinner with Lillian's birthmom which was such a treat. Then today, we met a new birthmom and began forging a relationship. "Forging a relationship?!" That makes it sound like work which couldn't be further from reality.

We met this birthmom and the counselor at 10:30am and didn't stop chatting until the restaurant closed at 2pm. (We met in a little mom & pop restaurant in a small town outside of Bend so they keep their own hours I guess.) At around noon the counselor excused herself saying that we clearly didn't need her around. The conversation flowed naturally as we exchanged pictures and stories. We just adore her! She must like us too because she invited us to her doctor's appointment on Friday. So, back we go. We'll attend her doctor's appointment and then meet the counselor for a second mediation session.

It seems so real and so surreal all at the same time. We've got to call our pediatrician and call our lawyer and re-decorate the nursery in boy colors and install the car seat and...and...and... Oh well, it'll all get done. I know there is always a risk that this adoption may not go through. But we've decided to throw our whole heart into it with the hope that it goes well. Every baby deserves parents who are excitedly anticipating his/her arrival. I refuse to wait until it is "safe" to start loving this little boy.

The prayer requests are all praises today. Praise God for our safe travel. Praise God for this brave birthmom. Praise God for this beautiful baby. Praise God for bringing families together in many different ways.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Call

WE GOT THE CALL!!!! I think my sister and mom are good luck charms. Three years ago, we got "the call" about Lillian when the three of us were in a car together. And today, as we were having a girls lunch in Arizona, we got "the call" about Lillian's brother. Yep, it's a boy!

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, I should explain that this is just the call to tell us that we have been selected to meet a birthparent. The next step will be to meet each other in a mediation session. If that goes well, we'll arrange another mediation session a few days later. Typically there is more time between mediation sessions but this will be a fast timeline as this baby is due on January 19th! Then there is the birth and paperwork to finalize the placement. Basically there are a lot of steps before this is official but in the meanwhile, I'm excited at the prospect of a new baby.

As usual, there are random and sometimes quirky connections that drew the birthmom to us. She loves the fact that Jeff is a stay-at-home Dad because she is very close to her father. She also likes that I am a career woman as that is her goal as well. The counselor describes her as a smart, go-getter who always thinks of other people first. In fact, we have been "on hold" for a while as this birthmother was interested in us but has been struggling with the decision and wanted to be sure before we were contacted. She sounds like a very special person and I can't wait to meet her.

We return to Oregon tomorrow and will arrange the 2 mediation meetings. They will take place around the Bend area as that is where the birthmom lives. So pray that the snow lightens up so we can make the drive. Please pray also that it would be clear whether we would be a good match for a lifelong commitment. I could easily get caught up in the excitement and want to make sure we're all making sound decisions. And pray for health and happiness for this little boy and his birthmom.

As the counselor said, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Biggest Loser

Did anyone else watch the season finale of "The Biggest Loser" last night? Holy moly those people looked good! Many of them lost over 100 lbs and cut their weight by more than 40%. Incredible. A bit extreme in just a few months but incredible nonetheless.

Since college, my weight has always been up and down. One of my heaviest times was when I worked for a particularly demanding company which I like to refer to as "Satan's Lair." I was working 10-12 hour days and most weekends. All to get yelled at or praised for yesterday's business. I was only as good as the numbers that I posted each day. Since my identity was completely wrapped up in my career, this misery took it's toll and it showed on the scale. I was too tired to assert will power. I was too unhappy to care. And to make matters worse, I didn't really notice the weight when I looked in the mirror. It wasn't until I found myself shopping in the women's department instead of the misses department that I realized how many extra pounds I was lugging around. Once I realized there was more to life than work and gained a balanced sense of my identity, I started working out and eating better.

My weight still bounced around depending on whether I prioritized working out (which I hate) or eating right (that's no fun either). But I was never as heavy as my days at "Satan's Lair." Until now that is.

I am officially topping the scales at the heaviest I've ever been. AHHHHHH!!! Lillian's illness and death have been beyond painful but it's not the same misery as I felt while working at "Satan's Lair." It's not that I'm too tired or that I don't care. I guess I just feel entitled. I hear this little person on my shoulder whispering "Hey you've been through a lot, treat yourself. C'mon you deserve that cookie/ice cream/pile of chips/etc."

That's part of the concern I mentioned before about letting cancer define me. I want to be Lillian's mommy. The mom who spent 2 wonderful years with a healthy child and 6 months with a sick child. The mom who can talk about her sweet girl without making people uncomfortable. I don't want to limit my identity as only the mom of a cancer kid. And I don't want my identity so wrapped up in one monumental event that I once again lose sight of a balanced sense of myself.

Last October I challenged Jeff to a Biggest Loser competition. He reluctantly agreed and spurred on by the competition, I lost 8 lbs the first week. That also happened to be the same week that Lillian was diagnosed with cancer. Needless to say the challenge fell by the wayside. As I've blogged about before, the hospital was not friendly to my waistline. And as I've also blogged about before, I tried to work out but that too quickly fizzled. I think it's gonna take a little friendly competition to motivate me to drop these extra lbs.

Soooooo, I'm issuing a challenge. Do you want to take a bite out of that muffin top? Do you want to stop those chicken wings from flapping? Do you want to silence the chub rub? Then join me in our own BIGGEST LOSER competition!!

We'll kick this off by submitting your weight via e-mail on January 1st. (Yep, you gotta share the digits peeps. We'll only share the numbers among the contestants. And you don't have to be local, we'll use the honor system.)

For those with short attention spans, we'll weigh in on April Fools Day and declare a winner.

For those who want to go the distance, double down at the 4/1 check point and continue to competition through the 4th of July. Then on July 4th, we'll celebrate our independence from love handles with a final weigh in and announce the winner based on the full 6 month period!

What do you win? (Aside from health and a longer life that is.) Well, if you want to be a contestant in this Biggest Loser competition, you've got to put your money where your mouth is. Each person has to pony up $100. And if you want to double down for 6 months, you'll have to dig deep and throw in $100 for EACH 3 month period. We'll pool the money and the person with the highest % of weight lost, wins it all after each checkpoint. It may sound like a steep entrance fee but to really motivate us, it has to be painful enough to lose and exciting enough to win, right?!

So grab some friends cause we want this pile of cash to be huge. And don't forget to snap a gruesome "before" pic cause we're all gonna want to celebrate your transformation on July 4th.

If you want to compete, e-mail us at biggestloser08@gmail.com. I'm counting on you to be my motivation! (Guilt and cash prizes! Now that's what I call a competition.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lori & Jeff Plus XX

I had the rare treat of getting a mani/pedi last week and the manicurist made the mistake of asking me if I had kids. After the initial awkward banter, we moved into talk of the impending adoption. She kept telling me that she had a "feeling" we would end up with twins. The funny thing is that I've heard that from quite a few people. Couple that with my recent obsession with tv shows about large families (Jon & Kate +8, Kids By The Dozen, etc) and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm being prepared for "something." Maybe it's twice the wait for twice the kids. Or maybe that's just how I'm coping with the anticipation.

Regardless, I'm actually feeling okay with the wait right now...whether I'm waiting for one baby or an entire basketball team of babies. A ringing phone doesn't stop my heart anymore. I can even go an entire day without thinking about the adoption. Now that's progress!

I've got the room ready, bag packed and bottles washed leaving nothing to do but enjoy sleeping in. Cause when Dora & Diego...or the basketball team of babies...or one sweet baby arrives, I'm sure sleep will be nothing but a distant memory.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Shopping Therapy

Ugh, no news yet. I'm resorting to periodic shopping therapy. How cute are these???

Bragging Time

I just have to take a minute and brag on a couple of my dear cancer kids. Maddie Colley and her mom were featured as part of the Children's Cancer Association spot on AM Northwest talking about the fundraising event this weekend at Bridgeport Village. Click on this link to watch the video. Isn't Maddie the sweetest little girl? She spent MONTHS at a time in the hospital. We'd come and go but the Colley family would still be there in their beautiful pink room. They created a home away from home. What impressed me most about their family was their smiles. I can't think of a time that they weren't smiling! They truly know how to celebrate God's blessings.

The other dear kiddo I want to brag on is a cancer angel, Chelsea Rae. The band Kutless formed a connection with her after she was diagnosed and even performed some acoustic songs for her in her hospital room. Chelsea's faith has been an inspiration to so many people. And through this tribute that Kutless posted on their website, Chelsea will continue to impact people for Christ.

I may not understand the purpose of cancer but I celebrate that God works through ALL things.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Marinating

Usually I can burp out a blog posting in no time. It just flows out and in a few minutes, I'm done. But for some reason I've been wrestling with a post all week and it still doesn't feel right.

I had a whole paragraph about all the people who have asked lately if I had kids or how Lillian is doing (3 people in 4 days). And I came up with some entertaining examples of the different types of reactions I receive after people hear the news of her death. But it just feels...I don't know...whiny maybe? Or judgmental? I can't put my finger on it. Regardless, if I don't know what point I'm trying to make then it can't be worth sharing with you! Or maybe it just needs a bit more time to marinate.


I will share something that has been on my mind a lot. Lately I've been feeling defined by Lillian's cancer. It's like my life began the day Lillian was diagnosed. It has shaped the way I experience everything so I guess it's fair to say it has forever changed me. But I want this experience to refine me, not define me. Does that make sense? The problem is that I have no idea how to move from one to the other. Maybe it comes with time...

Huh, I guess this point is going to require some more marinating as well.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Couch Potato

Well, it's official. One of my biggest fears has happened. I have become lazy again. You know that selfish, lazy existence that occurs when you can do what you want when you want? You wake up when you want. You lounge around watching tv when you want. You go to the bathroom when you want (without anyone watching). Well, that's where I am once again. I feel a little bad about lamenting my state. After all, I know a ton of very busy moms & dads that would kill for a day of selfish laziness. But lemme tell ya, the novelty wears off quickly. And I don't mean to say it's a bad thing either. I just know that it's temporary and will be tough to let go of again. Let me explain...

One of the most difficult transitions of motherhood for me was the loss of freedom. Before Lillian came into our lives, I would work all day then come home and flop on the couch. I awoke to the sound of the alarm clock and could choose to press snooze several times for "just five more minutes" of sleep. After becoming a mom, I soon realized that all of that changes. I mean I knew it in theory but reality was a totally different story.

I remember being soooooo tired one Sunday after a particularly grueling night of getting up with a teething child. When she awoke at her normal 6am, I was simultaneously impressed by her ability to wake up happy and full of energy despite a sleepless night for both of us and depressed that I too had to get up and start the day so early. Around 11am I was ready to drop. Every fiber of my being was screaming for a nap. My head felt like it was floating above my body. And yet, here was this happy little person just wanting to play so my nap would have to wait until her nap time.

I adjusted to this new world after time. I think it's like any change, a new normal settles in and pushes out any memories of what used to be. And beyond just accepting this new normal, I grew to love it. Yes, parenting is a 24 hour a day job. And yes, it can be exhausting. But every age came with new discoveries and new joy that made it worthwhile.

After Lillian passed away, we decided to remodel the house partially because it would keep our evenings busy. And I'm still trying to keep my evenings full with bible study or visiting with friends or trying out a new recipe. Anything to avoid settling into that laziness because once we have another child, the freedom that I've enjoyed yet again will be difficult to relinquish.

But it has happened. This new yet all too familiar normal has taken hold. How do I know? I've been wearing a pedometer to track my steps. On average I walk about 2,900 steps a day. A far cry from the recommended 10,000 but each day I make small changes to ramp that number up. That is until yesterday. A leisurely four day weekend culminated in the ultimate couch potato day where I logged a measly 373 steps. ::gasp:: How's that for lazy?

At this point, I need to learn to appreciate this little hiatus. Soon enough it will be but a faint memory and I'll be longing for a 373 step day. Because it's all too likely that I'll have many 373 step NIGHTS. So as much as I miss bath time and story time and rocking my dear baby to sleep, I will try to make the most of this short time. To not spend all my energy wishing for what was or what will be but just enjoying what is. As hard as that may be.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Crazy Pies

Faithful readers, forgive me. It has been 19 days since my last post. I wish I had some brilliant excuse. Like travelling to an exotic locale or accomplishing some heroic task at work. But sadly, I just haven't had much to say. Shocking, I know! Hopefully this extra-long post will make up for my absence.


As the lines in the grocery stores would indicate, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It's strange for me to celebrate a holiday that has been boiled down to devouring meat followed by watching football. Two things I rarely do. Scratch that, two things I NEVER do. But hey, I'm not one to complain about having four days off. Especially considering that until 2 years ago, most of my adult life was spent working on the day after Thanksgiving.

The infamous Black Friday. Just keep in mind that in order to facilitate the shopping orgy that you all enjoy so much, there are poor saps such as myself that have to climb out of bed at 4am to man a cash register or put away discarded try-ons or restock a shelf. So let's take a moment to salute those valiant retailers that sacrifice so much to satisfy our craving for a bargain. Now that I've made the switch to the wholesale side of our business, I am no longer a slave to Black Friday. For that, I am grateful. And I will show my gratitude by NOT stepping foot into a store on that fateful day. But in support of my livelihood which is still dependent upon your consumerism, I would encourage you to shop til you drop!

My family is soaking up the warmth of an Arizona Thanksgiving and Jeff's family is celebrating in their usual laid back style. So when our dear friend Cody invited us to join her family for Thanksgiving, we said "why not?". We met Cody around this time last year in Doernbecher where she works as a Chaplain. One of the many things we love about Cody is that she is a foodie. Listening to her describe preparing a laborious family recipe for lemon meringue pie was such a welcome distraction as we settled in to our hospital room for Thanksgiving last year. This year we are blessed to join forces in celebration of our mutual love of cooking. In fact, just last night we had a marathon pie making session. A few weeks earlier we did a test run at pie making and learned a lot. For example, if you want a top and bottom crust, you need to double the recipe. Freezing the dough for 15 minutes is not the same as refrigerating it for 30 minutes. You know, that kind of thing. With these valuable lessons in our arsenal, we were ready for battle. After four hours of pie making mayhem, we managed to make a pecan tart and caramel apple pie with streusel topping. I know it's an absurd amount of time to make just 2 pies but therein lies the fun.

I tackled the pecan tart while Cody began preparations for the apple pie. The recipes both called for a butter based crust to be made in a mixer. We watched Paula Deen make pie crust and she advised to do it by hand and not over work the dough. And in my book, what Paula says about butter and baking must be true.

Modification #1, no mixer for us!

My recipe said to make the dough, roll it out, press it into the tart form and then freeze. Cody's recipe said to make the dough, refrigerate and then roll it out. After cutting together the ingredients with a fork, I formed it into a ball with my hands. So far, so good. Then I rolled it out on a floured surface but the dough was so soft that it stuck to the counter and the rolling pin despite generous flouring.

Modification #2, form the dough back into a ball and press it into the tart form. Cody completed her dough, wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.


While I finished up the pecan pie, Jeff sliced the apples and Cody moved on to making the caramel sauce. Time was of the essence as we didn't want the apples to brown so we were moving quickly. The recipe called for water and sugar to boil rapidly until it turned amber. Five minutes later, we had not a beautiful amber lake of liquid sugar but a crystallized block.

Modification #3, let's not stir but swirl occasionally. Again, a crystallized block.

Modification #4, let's follow a different recipe and stir constantly with a different ratio of water & sugar. This recipe also called for butter, brown sugar, half-and-half, red wine and a vanilla bean. Cody miraculously had a vanilla bean and heavy cream in her car from earlier grocery shopping and Jeff was happy to crack open a bottle of wine so we thought we'd give it a try. Again, a crystallized block.

Modification #5, new recipe for caramel candy involving no water or white sugar. We halve the recipe and combine the ingredients into a saucepan. Then we notice that the recipe is supposed to take 45-60 minutes for the candy to come to hard ball state. Oh heck no. By now it's 9:30pm and we are not about to spend another hour getting this silly caramel to work.

Modification #6, follow a similar caramel sauce recipe by adding cornstarch and water, bringing to a boil and simmering for 2 minutes to thicken. We don't have any cornstarch?! You've got to be kidding.

Modification #7, use kuzu root in place of cornstarch. It's a relatively flavorless organic thickener which should work just like cornstarch. After simmering for a couple minutes, it still looks a little thin.

Modification #8, we keep it on the heat a bit longer. Looking good, now for the vanilla.

Modification #9, the recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla but we had already split and scraped the vanilla bean so in it goes. It's a little clumpy but a good whisking takes care of that.


Cody moves on to rolling out the dough. I give the caramel a few more minutes to thicken and then pour it over the apples. It smells delicious, that's a good sign. We each try an apple. Mmmmm, heaven. Cody masterfully rolls the dough and places it into the pie plate. We pour in the caramel apples.

"Shoot, we still need to make the streusel topping," I said.
"I already made it," Cody smiled triumphantly.
God bless her.

I retrieve the streusel from the fridge and we sprinkle it on top. Cody's not sure she likes the streusel recipe of butter, sugar, flour and spices. "Shouldn't it have oatmeal in it?" she asks. Oh well, we throw it in the oven as is. An hour later our second masterpiece is complete. By now it's 11pm and even though I think it could use another couple minutes to brown up, we pull it out anyway.


Cody had to go after the pie went in the oven so I sent her a picture of it today. She wrote back that she still thinks the streusel needs oatmeal. I just happen to have an oatmeal streusel type mixture in the fridge left over from a bar cookie recipe I made the night before.

Modification #10, tomorrow we're going to sprinkle some of the oatmeal mixture on the pie, bake for another 10 minutes to re-heat and brown the topping.

Phew, that is a lot of modifications! Typically a failed recipe would really irritate me. I would be impatient and frustrated and grumpy. But going through this with a friend made it fun. We agreed that the "do-overs" made for comic relief. And bouncing ideas off each other for variances to the recipe made these pies more personal.

So let's see, among many other things, this year I'm thankful for...

  • ...not working on Black Friday.
  • ...those who shop on Black Friday.
  • ...foodies.
  • ...do-overs.
  • ...dear friends.
  • ...a husband who does the dishes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Waiting Families

I pictured the waiting families gathering a little something like this...

Several nervous couples lounging on the floor on over sized pillows gazing up at me in reverent silence as I expounded the virtues of open adoption. They would all be novices in this voyage but I would be their anchor. No, their lighthouse. Yes, a lighthouse stoically illuminating their path through the hazy waters. I would be that voice of experience that would calm their fears. We would build lifelong friendships out of this common journey to parenthood. And I...I would be the founder of this tight knit group.



Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech. Hi Reality, good to see you! Who invited you to the party?



I'm not sure why I thought we would be the only second timers in the crowd. Or why our experience would be relevant to the pre-selected topics of last minute placements and entrustment ceremonies. We had neither.

Let me remind you that we did not attend these gatherings during our last adoption process. But we thought we'd give it a shot this time. Part of the reason we attended was to be a reference tool for the other families. My other hope was that these discussions would calm my escalating anxiety.

We arrived at the host's home to discover that they had adopted a son in September of 2004, just one month before Lillian was born. Then in walked another mom with her three year old. We recognized her from the adoption seminar we both attended in January of 2004. Rounding out our little gathering was a couple soon to be in pool and three couples who joined the pool around the same time as we did.

Suddenly the pool seemed a whole lot more crowded. These are all eager, bright, loving couples who want the same thing as we do.

The host family casually mentioned that had been in the pool for a year. Pause here for my blood curdling scream: AAAAHHHH! I told Jeff that I would have to video conference into the waiting families gathering a year from now...from the funny farm. I will be mentally unstable if I wait a year. Did I mention...AAAAHHHHH! So much for calming my escalating anxiety.

The discussion began with the counselor asking if any of us had experienced a last minute placement. One mom told us about adopting a four-month old in a last minute placement. They were kayaking in the San Juan's when they got the call. The met the birthfamily on July 4th and were told to return the next day ready to take home their little girl. They didn't have a car seat. They only had infant clothes. They had formula but this child was allergic to dairy. She said they ran to the only store open at 8:30pm on the 4th of July and frantically grabbed other mothers in the aisles to ask what size a 4-month old would wear. After the counselor commented that many people get the call while taking a "last vacation," I suggested that we all go kayaking this weekend.

The families had many questions about the logistics of a last minute placement. How does the birthmother select an adoptive family? Do you go through mediation I & II? Are there ever disruptions in a last minute placement? How does insurance work? We sat and listened and picked up a couple of new pieces of information.

Then the conversation turned to entrustment ceremonies. These take a variety of forms but are generally the expression of both the adoptive and birth families' feelings prior to departing the hospital. The counselor said that almost every family has some sort of entrustment ceremony. (Huh, we didn't have an entrustment ceremony. Lillian's birthmom didn't think we needed something formal and we agreed.) Then the counselor remarked that these ceremonies are a very important part of the process. (We certainly didn't feel like anything was missing in our adoption process.) After she went on for some time about the value of being able to tell the child about this important ceremony, something in my head snapped. How dare she assert that those of us who did not conduct some tear filled gesture would not be able to tell our child how loved they are by their family. So I piped up and boldly remarked that we did not have an entrustment ceremony and didn't feel like we missed out on anything. The counselor asked how we left each other at the hospital. I told her that we took pictures together in the lobby, hugged everyone, promised to call once we got home, got in our cars and left. She just kind of smiled sadly and continued on about the importance of this exchange of emotions. The guy sitting next to me whispered conspiratorially that he didn't want to have a ceremony. Oh well, even if the counselor didn't agree with our process, it was satisfying to the people involved which is more important. AND these waiting families were able to hear an alternative point of view. I guess our experience was a valuable contribution to the evening after all.

After an hour and a half, our gathering came to a close. We said our goodbyes and jumped in our cars without exchanging so much as an e-mail address. Guess we won't be lifelong friends.

On the way home I told Jeff that I didn't want to go to another one of these gatherings except for the fact that I offered to host the next one! Well, I can continue to hope that by the time January rolls around, we will no longer be a waiting family and I will be relieved of my hosting duties. I'm beginning to have my doubts but a girl can hope...and pray.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Call Us!

It's been 2 weeks and I'm getting really sick of talking to telemarketers. But "no call goes unanswered," that's our motto. Even if it reads out "1-800-Ask4Monee" on the caller id, we answer. (Apparently in my mind, telemarketers can't spell...or count to 7.) Which means I've had the distinct pleasure of talking to some very interesting people. Last night, after I told the guy for the third time that I was not going to give him any money, he hung up on me. The nerve! How dare he hang up on ME! Especially when I was about to hang up on him. I hate it when my ideas are stolen.

RIIIIIIINNNNNG darn it.

Okay, I'm getting a little anxious. I know it's only been 2 weeks. And for the first 13 days, I was calm. Suddenly last night, the little switch in my brain flipped and I am on high alert. I think I'm even starting to imagine the phone ringing.

Next Tuesday we're going to attend the waiting families gathering through our agency. That way we can commiserate together...or whatever one does at these gatherings. I can only imagine the group reaction to a cell phone ringing in that meeting! I also offered to host one of these gatherings while secretly hoping that by the time they called on us to host we would no longer be a waiting family.

I'm plenty busy and there is much left to do on the house so it's not as though I sit around staring longingly at the phone. Calling the land line from my cell and my cell from the land line just to make sure they're working. Willing them to ring darn it, RING! Nope, none of that for me. I'm busy, busy, busy. I know God's timing is perfect so I will try to be patient. As you know, that is not my strong point so it will require great effort though. Ugh.

In the meanwhile, I am controlling...ahem, I mean influencing...what I can. Through a process of stalking that stops just short of a restraining order, I have managed to get our dear birthparent letter published on the website! Okay, it was just one little e-mail innocently inquiring as to whether they got all the requisite information for the posting. They confirmed that they got it. And the next day, voila! It's published. With that kind of marketing, I'm sure the phone will ring soon.

I said, I'M SURE THE PHONE WILL RING SOON.

COME ON, RING ALREADY!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dear Lori (Part 3)

Dear Lori,

What happens in the event that you get picked by more than one family? Do you get to adopt multiple babies?

Signed,
Lindsay

Dear Lindsay,

No such luck. Unless this little baby happened to have requested a double instead of a single room, we have to wait a year between adoptions. In fact, our contract with the agency requires us to contact them if we get pregnant or adopt from another agency. They want adoptive parents to have dedicated time with their baby and birthfamily before jumping into the process again.

Funny enough, if you had asked me that question last time, I wouldn't have known the answer. I never thought to ask! This time we asked whether we could adopt from two birthfamilies at once. We're not getting any younger and as naive as this might sound, I think it would be easier to have twins than babies a year apart. At least with twins they are at the same developmental milestones. (I'm sure parents of multiples are getting a good chuckle out of my innocence.)

Most families in the pool are willing to adopt twins and we are no exception. The instances of twin adoptions are fairly rare at our agency which is not surprising considering that in the US, the odds of conceiving twins without fertility drugs is 12 per 1000. Despite the odds, with our last adoption, a birthfamily expecting twin boys pulled our profile but did not select us.

If a birthparent pulls our profile, the agency continues to send out our letter but flags our name internally. This indicates that a counselor should contact the counselor of the birthparent who pulled our profile before sending further information to their birthparent. Make sense? I can't imagine how, even I'm confused! But suffice it to say that the agency has ways of ensuring that the process is not overwhelming and that birthfamilies aren't fighting over us. Hey, it could happen...

Thanks for the question!
Lori

The Backseat Experiment

I've recently realized that the backseat of my car is a window into my life. A week ago, it was a chaotic mess filled with random stuff. And I felt chaotic and messy and random. Today, this is what it looks like:



A bit more orderly with a quilt conveniently hiding the desperate need of vacuuming. Here's an inventory of the stuff:

  • A bible - Easy to grab for church on Saturday night or bible study on Tuesday night, I keep this bible in it's grey wool cover in the car
  • Grout - I need to grout between the tile and transition pieces in our hallway
  • A sympathy card - Another sweet cancer kid went to be with Jesus last week (Labri)
  • Diapers, formula, baby wipes - I'm ready for the call!!!
  • Washcloths - Restocking the new bathroom

That's a pretty accurate summary of my life right now! I'm curious if I am (as usual) an anomaly or if this phenomenon is the same for other people. So indulge me as I conduct an informal survey aptly titled "The Backseat Experiment." There is only one question in this survey and there are no wrong answers. Tell me...what's in your backseat?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Hills Are Alive

Today I showered for the first time in our new bathroom (which I have dubbed "the locker room"). While this may not seem blog-worthy on the surface, you have to dig deeper to really appreciate this milestone.

For the past 3 months, we have been showering in a tub-shower combo. The aforementioned tub-shower is in Lillian's bathroom so on the wall there is a frog pod which is a brilliant toy storage device despite the fact it takes up much of the limited standing room.


Combine that with the shower curtain which blows in and sticks to your legs and it makes for a pretty tight squeeze. So today as I stood in the middle of our new 6'x5'6" shower (hence the name "the locker room"), I was tempted to spin around, arms extended like Maria in the Sound of Music.




I didn't. And even if I did, I wouldn't tell you. Okay...I would tell you...but I didn't. But boy do I LOVE my new shower!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Pool

First, the results of the last poll!!! Drum roll please...


How long will we wait before being matched with a birthfamily?

65% - 1-3 months, about the same as last time
17% - 3-6 months, you'll have time to finish all the projects at home
13% - Less than a month, stock up on diapers today!
1% - 6-12 months, average is good
0% - A year or more, plenty of time to catch up on sleep


Generally an optimistic crowd! I like the way you think.


We received the "dear birthparent" packet last week along with the official letter welcoming us to the pool. This is the same packet of letters that is given to any birthparent that contacts the agency. It is sorted in chronological order with those who have been in the pool the longest at the beginning. And lemme tell ya, I devour this packet like some sort of starving animal. This is my process. First, I flip through and look at the photos to get a feel for the competition.


(I know it's terrible that I think of it as a competition. Take comfort in the knowledge that all of these deserving parents will have a baby to love eventually. So it's really not a competition in that we all have our own finish line and prize awaiting us. Now that I've justified my poor sportsmanship, I'll get back to the point.)


Next, I dissect the pool statistically. What can I say? I'm the daughter of a math teacher. We like numbers.

  • There are 53 waiting families in the pool right now.
  • 26 are gay or lesbian couples (49%)
  • 17 are male/female couples with a child (32%)
  • 7 are male/female couples with no children (13%)
  • 3 are single (6%)

Finally I read each of their letters. And I don't mind telling you that I want to be adopted by some of these families. (No offense Mom & Dad. You were still my first choice.) They are each amazing and different and yet joined by this collective desire to be parents. Also interestingly, at least 3 of the families with a child were in the pool with us last time.

Well, that is my summation of the pool. I imagine that a birthparent goes through a similar process. Checking out the photos. Choosing the family make-up that they like best (gay, straight, single, have children, etc). Then reading the letters with awe, sadness and hope. What a sense of responsibility to know that they hold someone else's happiness in the palm of their hand (or the womb of their body in this case). I am constantly humbled by their courage and generosity.

The other interesting part of the pool is discovering that a few families have specified a specific gender. We were cautioned in our first adoption that specifying a gender dramatically reduces your odds for a match. About 1/3 of the birthparents haven't found out what they are having. And another 1/3 are having the opposite gender. So you've effectively narrowed your available choices by 2/3. We still picture ourselves with a girl because that's what we're used to. But we will be thrilled with any child (or children) that God blesses us with. What gender do you think we'll have? Mark your answer on this week's poll.

Monday, October 29, 2007

You're Rrrrrr....rrrrrr...rrright.

Phew, that's tough to say. What's even harder is "I was wrrrrrr..." Oh, you get the picture. In this case, I wasn't entirely wrong. I mean, how can fiscal responsibility be wrong?

When my hubby suggested that I buy a new car several months ago, I did the fiscally responsible thing and said no. After all, my car is only 5 years old and has logged 60k miles. In my family, that car would be considered practically new. Or at least only half way through it's lifespan. So even though I could already catch a whiff of that new car smell, I resisted.

That was 3 months and about five grand ago. The car has been in the shop no less than four separate occasions most of which were for several days. Lemme tell ya, I have definitely milked that power train warranty for all it's worth. But between the deductible and other non-covered expenses, keeping this car has not turned out to be a fiscally responsible as I thought it would be.

Now to be fair, I did try to buy a new car. The hybrid I want is extinct. How can a brand new car be extinct? Don't ask me. Ask the rocket scientists at Toyota. If I produced a high-demand product and ran out of supply half way through the year, I would be fired. (Well maybe not fired but I would at least receive some sort of written disciplinary action.) In this case, Toyota "re-designed" this vehicle and was trying to sell down the old model to make way for the new which was promised to be released in the fall. Okay, I get it, that makes sense. But the new model has now been delayed several times leaving them out of stock in the hybrid model for months. At this rate, I'm will have spent so much money trying to keep my old car running that I could have just splurged for the luxury hybrid instead. Maybe I should as it appears that my car is not yet done sucking my bank account dry.

I just got the car out of the shop yet again. A few days later, a friend who knew I had been looking asked when I was getting a new car. With a deep sigh, I responded "soon." Then I got in my car, turned the key and boom, on came the "check engine" light. Like a little yellow neon sign flashing "I'm not done with you yet Harris." This has happened so many times that the dealer just tells me to drive it for a few days to see if it will turn off on it's own. What is the point of this light if it turns on and off for no reason? I HATE THIS CAR. Now, on top of everything else, I can't get rid of it until that silly light turns off. I think it's on to my plan...

So as you can plainly see, I wasn't wrong per se. My hubby just had uncanny timing. Which makes him a little more right than I was. Or something. I dunno know.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Oblivious Babies R Us Lady

Jeff and I were in Babies R Us on Wednesday buying a cartload of bottles, diapers and onesies. Neither of us could remember how many bottles we needed so I did the quick math. Let's see, they eat every 3 hours so that's 8 bottles per day. HOLY COW! How quickly we forget! But I digress, that's not the story I wanted to share.

While browsing in the health care aisle, I said to Jeff "I think we need another pair of nail clippers."

"You're kidding," he replied.

"Well, they get dull pretty quickly."

A young woman with a petite baby bump holding 2 pair of nail clippers and looking a little lost said, "do you already have a child?"

"Yes, we did." I reply cautiously.

::Silence::

"She actually passed away last April," I add.

"Oh, well did you get to clip her nails?" she asks. [Ed note: Clearly she has a one-track mind.]

"Yes, of course."

"Well, do you really need these clippers or can you just use what you've got at home?" she asked.

"Well, you can certainly use what you've got at home as long as they're small enough to cut tiny fingernails and big enough to get a good grip. It's kind of hard to hold on to squirming little hands and nail clippers at the same time."

"Oh." She still looks perplexed.

"When are you due?" I asked, trying to be polite.

"I'm 36 weeks along." she replies beaming.

Stunned that this adorable little bump could house a 36 week old baby I regroup and reply, "Wow, not much longer then huh? You'll have a great Christmas present."

"Yep, we're actually hoping for Thanksgiving even though my doctor is going to be on vacation."

"Good luck!" I say encouragingly.

"Thanks. When are you due?" she asks.

::Silence::

"Uh, we're adopting so it could be anytime."

"Oh great! Congratulations! Good luck!!!" she responds with enthusiasm and rounds the corner out of view.

Clearly I need work out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

SPLASH!!!


We're in!!! (And we've never looked better if you believe that this picture is us...) It will probably take a week or two before our letter is on the website but the hardcopy is being presented to birthfamilies right now! It's hard to believe we're so close to having another baby in our home.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me remind you that the average wait in the pool is 10 1/2 months. We waited about a month before being selected by Lillian's birthmom who was 6 months pregnant at the time. The wait is the hardest part so let's keep busy with some good old fashioned guessing games. First one, how long will we wait? Check out the poll to enter your guess.

Prayer requests:
  • Patience, patience and more patience for us as we wait
  • Wisdom and courage for the birthfamily

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Making the Drop

Shhhhh...I'm making the drop. Okay, it's not a covert operation but I am handing off a non-descript manila envelope today. AT THE ADOPTION AGENCY! Yipee!!! 200 glorious copies of our "dear birthparent" letter and 15 copies of our photo collage. I'll mail another 100 copies of the letter and 5 copies of the photo collage to the Seattle office. I decided to hand deliver the copies to the Portland office because it's seems a waste to mail them such a short distance...and it's just more fun to drop them off in person. With this delivery, our work prior to entering the pool will be complete. Once our counselor completes her portion of the profile, we'll be in the pool. SPLASH! She works Mon, Tues and every other Wednesday so I would guess we will be in the pool sometime next week.


Since I'm sure you're just dying to know what they look like, here is our letter and collage. Do you think it accurately represents us? Sometimes I feel like I'm talking about somebody else. It's just strange to try to market yourself. How do you describe your life and your beliefs in 1 page? And how do you sum up your life in 5 pages of photos? Well, this is our attempt. What do you think?

Transcript of the letter so you can actually read it:
Dear birthparents,

We are Jeff and Lori, high school sweethearts who have been together for 18 years and have been married for 13 of those years. We are thankful that we have had so much time together already to build a stable and loving relationship. And we look forward to many happy years together with our growing family.

We struggled with infertility for some time before we decided that what we really want is to be parents rather than pregnant. We were thrilled to welcome a beautiful baby girl into our lives in 2004, through open adoption. After two wonderful years, our hearts were broken when she passed away from a rare brain tumor. Lillian was a delight in every sense and we miss her terribly. But she taught us not to waste a minute of this precious life, so we are looking forward to welcoming another child into our family.

Jeff has been busy completing a major remodel of our home. Through that process, he uncovered skills he didn’t know he had! Whether scooting up and down the river in his jet boat or walking through a forest, he is happiest when he is among nature. And he is looking forward to sharing his love of the outdoors with our child. Since we believe that a child’s early development is best served by parental care and attention, Jeff will be a stay at home dad again.

Lori is a strategic planning director for a large sport and fitness company in Oregon. She enjoys the responsibilities of leadership and believes that many of the same skills apply to being a parent as well. Her greatest joy was being a mommy and she is looking forward to sharing giggles and stories with another child. When she is not working, she likes to explore her creative side. Lori is a member of our church’s drama group where she writes and performs plays and sketches.

As a couple, we enjoy camping, entertaining and playing all types of games. We both enjoy cooking and will offer our children diverse and healthy food choices including meat and vegetarian dishes. From large holiday gatherings to impromptu activities, we also spend a lot of time with our families. Most of our extended family is local and they all look forward to welcoming the new members of our family, including you.

Our home is in a family friendly suburb. It is on a large lot complete with a new play structure. Our children will also enjoy a large playroom which is filled with toys and books. We want to offer our children opportunities and experiences that allow them to explore their talents and find what makes them truly happy. As committed Christians, we look forward to raising our children with the strong values and loving beliefs of our faith.

Once again, we are choosing open adoption because it is focused on what is healthiest for the child. We still enjoy a close relationship with Lillian’s birthmom and birth grandparents. Similarly, we will honor and respect your relationship with your child. We are inspired by your courage in making a plan for your child and want to thank you for considering open adoption.

Best wishes,
Jeff & Lori

Friday, October 12, 2007

Happy Birthday

My dear Lilybean,

Happy birthday!!! I can't believe it's been 3 years since we raced to the hospital to meet you. We were expecting a little bald bundle and out you came with thick brown hair. You surprised us right from the start, didn't you? You didn't spend a single second out of someone's arms for your first three days on earth. You were just passed between all of the people who love you so much. No one wanted to put you down! If you wanna know the truth, you really weren't set down for the first three months of your life. Daddy and I took turns holding you instead of putting you in a crib. I guess God knew we wouldn't have much time with you so He told us to snuggle with you lots and lots.

Remember your birthday party last year? Nana, Papa, Grandpa and Auntie M all came to the hospital to celebrate. You loved that yummy ice cream cake. You just gobbled it up! (I suppose the steroids might have had something to do with that too.) Even though we were all in the hospital, it was a special birthday. Everyday with you was special. I really wanted to throw you a super-duper birthday party this year. Even though I can plan pretty big parties, I think you're gonna have an even better party in heaven. I'll bet there's nothing like hearing the angels sing "happy birthday."

Lilybean, I am so sorry for all you had to go through last year. I know you felt yucky and I would have done anything to make it all better. But through it all, you were so brave little one. I am very proud of you. And I am so happy that you are healthy once again. This battle you fought on earth was just a blink in time compared with a blissful eternity in heaven. I can't wait to see you when I get there. To give you a big hug and smother you with kisses. To tell you stories about the animals at the zoo. To read books with you and have tea parties. And tell you again what a special treat it is to be your mommy. I love you forever!!!

Love,
Mommy

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Individual Appointment

On an interview or first date, you try to put your best foot forward and in doing so, you show a tenth of the person you truly are. You reveal just the parts that you think the other person will be attracted to. But sooner or later, things "stop being polite and start getting real." (You like that MTV Real World reference?) We don't want that reality to hit with a birthfamily after a baby is born. We want to find a mutual attraction right off the bat that builds into an organic relationship. We don't want to find ourselves forcing visits to meet our contractual agreement. We want to truly enjoy each other's company. So we looked forward to each meeting with our counselor as an opportunity to reveal more of ourselves.

Last time we were anticipating these adoption meetings, it was with a great deal of apprehension and uncertainty. I think we expected that we were being judged. Like our counselor was taking some sort of uber-complete inventory of our parenting abilities that would culminate in the delivery of her verdict.

With a slight nod of her head, she proclaimed "Yes, you have been deemed to be fit parents. Here is your baby now go forth and parent well."

Fortunately that couldn't be further from the truth. Our individual meetings were as painless and invasive as all the prior meetings. Our counselor used the historical information from the last adoption and just asked us questions where she felt there might be updates. She asked us about our parenting experience and our grieving process.

In my individual meeting, we reached the end and I was silently patting myself on the back for holding it together despite these emotional questions. But just as quickly as she said "I think that's it," she changed her mind and said "oh, just one more thing." Darn it, so close! Then she dropped the bomb. "The answer to this question might be different than last time. What are you most proud of? Or what is your greatest accomplishment?" And with that, the floodgates were opened. LILLIAN!!!! I'm most proud of my beautiful, strong, brave little girl!!! Nothing else in my life compares to the joy of being her mommy. Now I can sit through entire meetings and carry on productive conversations with tears streaming down my cheeks so I'm completely used to this by now. Sympathetically, our dear counselor told me to take a minute. Oh boy, a minute is never quite long enough. So I told her that we were gonna have to power through. And with that, the individual meeting came to an unceremonious end. Oh well, that's the way this roller coaster goes!

The good news is she thinks we will be in the pool in just a couple of weeks!!! We can't believe how quickly things are moving this time around. And as I told Jeff, I have been holding back on the baby shopping but once we're in the pool, we will need to re-stock the necessities. Just diapers, formula, bottles, etc. but even those simple supplies will be such fun to buy again.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Milestones

It's amazing how some dates just stick in your mind. I will always remember Lillian's birthday, the day she was diagnosed and the day she died. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Lillian's diagnosis. When life changed in an instant. We knew something was seriously wrong and I even suspected a brain tumor since an internet search revealed a perfect match of symptoms. But nothing could have prepared us for the words "we've found something." Just look at this picture taken the day before her diagnosis. Does this look like a kid with cancer?


From here out, it will just be milestone after milestone. I hope to honor Lillian's battle by reading her blog as each entry was posted a year prior. At this moment last year, Lillian was in surgery to remove the tumor. Jeff and I ran home to pack having arrived at the hospital the day before with nothing but the clothes on our back. We wouldn't return home for 9 days, the day after her 2nd birthday. And that was after convincing the rehabilitation staff at Emmanuel and the insurance staff that Lillian would be better off sleeping in her own bed and commuting for 4 hours of daily rehab.


What pains us most is the memories of all she had to endure. The shots, surgeries and stem cell transplants not to mention chemo. It's so contrary to your every instinct as a parent to allow your child to be tortured. And yet, we were willing participants. We let her suffer for the hope that she might live.


As one cancer mom said, "you see so much suffering. I always knew it was out there but now I see it firsthand." I may have the privilege of knowing firsthand a dozen or so kids battling cancer. God has uniquely equipped me to stand alongside them during their fight and for that I am grateful. But there are thousands more suffering in the name of hope. Over 40,000 kids are battling cancer right now. And the incidence of childhood cancer is growing with no explanation. It is the number one killer of children by disease, more than asthma, cystic fibrosis and pediatric AIDS combined. Yet the funding for childhood cancer research is nominal and has been cut! I gotta tell ya, I'm not okay with that. So I joined an online advocacy network on http://www.curesearch.org/. They notify me of any cancer related bills so I can send a pre-written e-mail to my elected officials. Couldn't be easier.


Right now there is an effort for $150 million federal investment to find a cure for childhood cancer called The Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. Visit curesearch to send a letter to your congressman encouraging them to support this vital piece of legislation.


The bright spot in my day yesterday was watching one of the kids in my cancer community, Boey, get a brand new house courtesy of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. What a blessing to see another deserving cancer kid receive such a generous gift on this memorial day! Maddie, Alley, Lexie and Maddy also had cameo appearances. Check out this video of Boey talking about The Childhood Cancer Act.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Will this ever end?


The remodel has slowed to a snail's pace. I've been busy at work so I have not been able to hound the contractors in my usual polite way. So, they just haven't shown up. WHO DOES THAT?! Should I just not come to work unless my boss calls me everyday? I wouldn't get paid and I certainly wouldn't keep my job for long. So how do contractors get away with it? And more importantly, why am I paying them? I guess it's one of those life mysteries that we'll never really understand. ::sigh::

  • The plumbers (yes, we're still having plumbing woes) showed up for the final install on Thursday but left after only a few hours. They haven't been back since.
  • The cabinet maker, who is usually very prompt, has not returned our calls since Saturday.
  • And tile guy is supposed to do the back splash this week. He went to Disneyland over the weekend and we haven't been able to reach him since.
  • Finally, the icing on the cake, our cork flooring is officially a bust. Jeff tried to install the "easy click" floor planks with no success. We then decided to hire a professional who declared it impossible after just a few hours. Vindication for Jeff but frustrating for everyone.

The next time I consider buying a fixer-upper, would somebody smack me? It seems that this will never end. I'm sure after time has passed, I'll feel differently but until then, I JUST WANT THIS DONE.

On the upside, the granite is in and it is gorgeous. We debated whether to spend the dough for granite and I think we made the right choice. And the company returned the cork flooring, cut pieces and all. We know have a strand bamboo floor acclimating before installation the end of the week.
Once we get some contractors back on the job, this thing should really get moving. If I squint really hard and sort of tilt my head to the side, I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Home Visit(s)

On Sunday afternoon, I slumped in a chair and told Jeff we needed to postpone the home visit. We were both exhausted. We had already admitted defeat on the "easy to install" cork floors. The counter tops wouldn't be in. The sinks, faucets, appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc wouldn't be in. And I had just spent the last 2 hours cleaning the dining room. We still had the play room, living room, bedroom, Lillian's room and 2 bathrooms left to clean. At 2 hours each, there just was not enough time to get ready for the home visit. Fortunately Jeff talked me off the ledge and busied himself with the playroom. I got a 2nd...or 3rd...or 20th wind and went to work on our bedroom. By the time our heads hit the pillows that night, we were nearly ready.


Which brings me to today. The good news is we completed the home visit. The great news is that our counselor has spent the last 6 years remodeling every surface of her own home and could easily relate to our partial state of completion. The excellent news is that we got BOTH home visits done today. Wooohoooo! Generally they do 2 home visits because it takes about 4 hours to gather all the information for the profile. But because much of our info hasn't changed from last time, we could just fill in any gaps from the past couple of years. Here's a partial list of what we discussed:


  • Our childhood experience
  • A typical day in our house
  • A typical weekend
  • What we like to do as a couple
  • What we appreciate about each other
  • Religion
  • Values
  • Parenting philosophy
  • Discipline strategy
  • Financial situation
  • Neighborhood
  • Detailed description of our home and property
  • Jobs including travel and daily schedule

Now you can see why it takes 4 hours! Adoption is certainly not an overnight decision. It requires a lot of soul searching preparation. If only all parents had to spend this kind of time thinking about how they would parent...

The final discussion today was also the screening tool. Adoptive families outline their openness to everything from race to gender to exposure to a variety of drugs and alcohol. This list is then cross referenced to potential birthfamilies. Only birthfamilies who match our preferences will receive our letter and profile.


With both home visits completed, that just leaves our individual meetings. We have scheduled those for October 8th (Lori) and 9th (Jeff). Then we wait for our counselor to complete the profile before we will officially be in the pool! I can't believe it's moving so quickly. By the end of the month, we will likely be in the pool. And then the nerve racking wait really begins.


Adoption is a bitter sweet process. Our joy comes from someone else's pain. Lately I've imagined a young woman distraught to discover that she is pregnant. And she is making this incredible decision on what to do next. I pray that somehow she finds out about open adoption. I pray she is brave enough to choose adoption. I pray God brings us together.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Angel Baby


It's been a rough few days. Work is crazy, the house is crazy so I have been...yep, you guessed it...crazy. I think the stress has made me more emotional. Or it's just one of those weeks. I don't know. But I find my thoughts drifting to Lillian more than usual. (I didn't know it was even possible since I think about her all the time!) Some of the time it's happy memories of my sweet, smiling girl. Other times it is sad memories of the pain she endured. And then the doubts creep in. Should we have done something differently? Did we not pray hard enough? Could we have protected her somehow? These daggers absolutely pierce my heart.

As these questions and memories were swirling in my head, I got an e-mail about another brave cancer fighter. When I read his story, I realized that while Lillian was fighting for her life in the PICU of one hospital, he was doing the same at another. Their symptoms were shockingly similar. Our prayer requests were identical. Ultimately on the day Lillian went to heaven, this other cancer kiddo experienced a miraculous and dramatic change for the better. Which brought yet another question to my mind: Why does God spare one child and not another?

Last night, I got the news that sweet baby Lexie went to be with Jesus. And again, questions of WHY shot into my head. This beautiful baby fought cancer every single day of her 10 months on earth. Even though the odds were stacked against her, she was winning. She was beating cancer. We all thought she would be the miracle that we all pray about. And why shouldn't she be?

Lexie was a miracle to all who knew her. It's through Lexie that I met McKenna, McKayla, Gabriel, Frederick and so many more wonderful kids and their families. She blessed us by connecting us. I didn't know how much I needed these other families. And really, how much I needed to be needed. But Lexie taught me that even through my grief, I could reach out and make a small difference to another cancer fighter. So I may not know the answers to all of the why's. But I do know that Lexie was a blessing to me. I thank God for bringing her family into my life. And I honor her beautiful gift of connecting people.

Please pray that God would comfort Lexie's parents, Robyn and Chris, as they miss their baby desperately. This picture of their sweet girl was taken just hours before she earned her heavenly wings. What a beautiful tribute to their angel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Looking Fine

Well, I forwarded the "zen garden" picture to our counselor for approval. Her overwhelming response was "I think the picture looks fine." Ahhhhh, such enthusiasm! Um, does she not realize that we spent hours wandering around campus looking for the perfect location? And then we conducted an online poll to select the perfect shot? And what do I get after all that? "I think the picture looks fine." Oh well, she looks a dozens of these photos every year so I suppose I can't expect her to do back flips.

We're still tracking toward the home visit on the 25th. I'm beginning to resign myself to the reality that our house will be only semi-complete. For example, the bathroom will be tiled but there will be no shower door yet. And the counter tops will be in but not the back splash. That kind of thing. Our counselor said that would be fine but I like things to be just so. Oh well, she'll see the finished product at the 2nd home visit.

Speaking of which, here's a quick outline of the rest of the process.

  • Home visit on the 25th.
  • An individual meeting with the counselor for both of us.
  • Another home visit.
  • Wait for profile to be completed.
  • IN THE POOL

Basically being "in the pool" means that our letter and profile are being presented to birthfamilies. That's also the point at which every ring of the phone stops my heart. When I got the call that Lillian's birthmom had selected us, I was merging from one highway to another with my mom and sister in the car. It was a bit of a miracle that I managed to answer the phone, change lanes and write down the relevant info without crashing the car. You know, I think cars should come with reader boards for such an occasion. I should push a button and a sign should pop up on the roof that says "It's THE call." Then all the other cars should just move out of my way allowing for any appropriate reckless maneuvers on my part. Or I could just pull over next time. Or tell them I call back in a minute. Nah, I like the sign idea.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Great White Hunter

About a year ago, Jeff shuffled down the hall to get his morning coffee when he saw a winding, berry stained trail leading from my freshly baked pie, which was cooling overnight on the kitchen counter, to a nibbled out hole in a cabinet in the playroom. This was our first evidence that we had "critters". That particular critter was likely a squirrel which, unlike other critters, are adorable in their natural habitat but, like other critters, are not quite so cute when they're invading mine. And don't forget that we were now without so much as a forkful of comforting berry pie!

So Jeff set out with a vengeance to eradicate any "critter entrances" into the house. Every hole, crack or gap was efficiently sealed with wire mesh or foam insulation. All attic and crawl space accesses were outfitted with traps. Even a pocket door was removed and sealed. Thanks to the "Great White Hunter," as I like to call Jeff, our house was once again critter-free.

Unfortunately remodeling involves creating new holes. In the walls, in the floors, everywhere! And generally those holes are granting work access and thus cannot be immediately filled. Which brings us to today's story.
Yesterday, as I was putting a can of paint back in the pile in our kitchen, I heard a loud noise in the corner. I glanced around but after seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I shrugged it off and went back to my work. I was bringing a ladder into the kitchen when I heard another noise. This time it was distinguishably a scurrying sound. Quickly I saw the source as a little brown squirrel peeked around the corner of one of our unplaced kitchen cabinets. In a flash, I turned, opened the front door and met Jeff on the porch with a hasty "there'sasquirrelinthehouse!" Clearly he didn't understand the urgency because he stopped in his tracks, paused a moment and then started chuckling.

"There's a squirrel in the house?" he drawled with an amused expression.
"YES, IN THE KITCHEN!"

He slowly set down the piece of plywood he was carrying, picked up a broom and non-chalantly sauntered into the kitchen.
"THERE, IT'S IN THE PLAYROOM!" I shouted.

He strolled down the hallway and into the playroom where I promptly closed the door behind him effectively trapping the Great White Hunter and his prey. Through the door I shouted, "open the sliding glass door and maybe he'll jump out."

"Hey, you're on the wrong side of the door," he replied.
"No, I'm definitely on the right side," I quipped.

I hear him whistling at the squirrel like he was calling a dog.

"Uh, it's not a dog you nut."
"C'mon little fella, the door's open."
"Are you talking to a squirrel?"
"Good job buddy."
"What happened? Is he gone? Jeff???"

I hear the sliding glass door close and moments later the GWH emerges victoriously.
"He jumped from the house to the fence in one leap!"

Clearly the GWH was impressed by his nemesis. I'm not quite as impressed.

"He was probably thinking, 'Hey, there were snacks last time I was here, what the heck!'," I comment.
"Yeah, he was probably looking for some more pie," Jeff responds.

Stupid pie eating squirrel, I'll show him! I put tile scraps over every hole in the kitchen. Stepping back to survey my hasty work, I wonder whether it will be enough. Considering the master bathroom is missing about 50% of it's floor right now, I'm fairly certain it's not gonna be completely effective. Ugh, how much longer until this remodel is DONE?

Ya know, I could really go for some pie right now...

No animals were harmed in the making of this story.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Postponing the Home Visit

Well, I pushed out the home visit to the 25th. That gives us 19 days to get the house in some semblance of normalcy. I can see that without some sort of deadline, a remodel could last indefinitely. But I'm learning that contractor time is sort of like dog years. Just multiply whatever they tell you by 3.

In the meanwhile, we wait and edit some paperwork.

  • Dear birthparent letter: Thanks for voting on the photos! It was really valuable to have other people's perspective. We could choose the one we like but ultimately it's a marketing tool designed to attract the right birthfamily. So it's really more important that other people think it represents us well. I've updated the dear birthparent letter with the "zen garden" pic.


  • Autobiographies: Our counselor sent back our autobiographies with some minor edits. We'll make the changes and then check that one off the list as well.
Other than that, we're working hard to get the house ready. We've decided to hire some of the work done to speed up the process. Now I'm just waiting to see how much that decision is going to cost.

Oh and we're talking about names and expectations and all the other stuff that parents-to-be think about. I'd like to convince people that we're gonna have twins and name them Diego and Dora but I can't seem to keep a straight face. (If you don't know who Dora and Diego are, you need to hang around more 3 year olds. Lillian loved Diego.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Making Fire Pretty

Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news about this @#$* remodel. The good news is the plumbers finally showed up on Tuesday! YEAH!!! The bad news is they forgot to mention that the work would have to be inspected before we drywall. Why is that bad news? Well, we can't make the template for the granite until the cabinets are installed. And we can't install the cabinets until the drywall is up. AND, we can't drywall until the plumbing is inspected. So, we had to push out our timeline yet again.

Now for more good news! I finished the fireplace. Now all that awaits is a gas insert. Ahhh, fire at the flick of a switch. Is there anything better? Now I know how the cavemen felt when they discovered fire. Well, sort of... Anyway, check out the progress over the long weekend:

Before: Painted exposed brick fireplace

(apparently the painting cost a pretty penny back in the day)

Step 1: Dry wall above the mantel &
scratch coat/grind the brick to level below the mantel

Step 2: Lay the tile
(might I add that there is not 1 single full tile in this whole project,
every stupid tile had to be cut)


Step 3: Grout & admire


iGive

Let me start by saying I'm not asking you for any money. But, I have a great fundraiser for Relay for Life...and it won't cost you a cent. (Yep, already starting the fundraising train for next year!) If you sign up for free with iGive and select "Walking with Angels - Relay for Life" as your cause, everytime you shop at one of the participating online stores, a portion of your purchase price will automatically be donated to Relay for Life. And we're talking GREAT stores like iTunes, Baby Gap, Delta Airlines, Eddie Bauer, Home Depot, Nordstrom, Overstock.com, REI, Target and hundreds more! So please, sign up and select Walking with Angels as your cause. And just think, now you have an excuse to go shopping online (as if you really needed one).

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Episode 5: The Apprentice w/Ronald Bump,

Our church drama team did a spoof of "The Apprentice" a couple summer's ago to set up a sermon series on the seven deadly sins. You know, back when "The Apprentice" was in it's prime. We had a blast writing and performing this series. And now, you too can share in the fun as it was just published on You Tube. There are 7 total episodes and here's the 5th. I love this one because Jenn really nails the "gluttony" sin. Watch and enjoy. Then check out the whole series to see who wins!!!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Stupid Plumber Part 2


The new plumber didn't show up! I called and they answered which is an improvement over the last company. They had 3 guys call in sick today. Convenient that they're "sick" on the Friday of a holiday weekend. So, they can't start the job until Tuesday.
Feel my pain.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Photo

Why, oh why, must we take another picture? The last one is only a few years old. And it was taken in my pre-hospital-weight years. *Sigh* Those were the days. But, rules are rules so off we went.
  • Photographer - We begged. We pleaded. We bribed. And finally, the world renowned photographer that took the photo for our last adoption agreed to come out of retirement and shoot us again. Okay, it's Jeff's sister and it only took one phone call. Thanks Michelle!
  • Wardrobe - We lacked inspiration in the wardrobe department and elected to don the same ensembles as last time. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • Location - Don't laugh...we decided to shoot at the campus where Michelle and I work. They pay a ton of cash to keep the campus beautiful so why not take advantage of the scenery?
  • The Result - We got 3 decent choices before the battery ran dead on our camera. Vote for your fav using the poll at the right and maybe, just maybe, your choice could end up on our "dear birthparent" letter. Act now! Time is limited.

Some restrictions apply. No purchase necessary. Void in Maine, Delaware and Rhode Island. See package for details. Limited to supply on hand. Despite all of these warnings, there is no real prize in this contest. Just the satisfaction of getting a vote.


Option 1 (the park bench)


Option 2 (the wind blown look)


Option 3 (the zen garden)

The winner by a hair...THE ZEN GARDEN. (Get it, by a hair? Cause it just beat the windblown look. That's funny stuff.)

The park bench (4%)

The wind blown look (41%)

The zen garden (54%)

Stupid Plumber

I don't know where to post this. The remodel stuff has spilled over into the adoption blog because right now, they are wound together. But to try to keep the adoption blog about...well...the adoption, I've decided to give the dreaded remodel update here.


After MUCH drama (which I don't think you really want to know about), our plumber did not show up. I suspected it was going to happen since they had not returned any of my many messages or e-mails. Thursday night my dread hit a crescendo but there was still a nagging hope that they might appear Friday as scheduled. Friday afternoon I began negotiating with myself to give them "just one more hour." The mental negotiation began at around noon and finally, at 4pm, I officially gave up. Fortunately, another plumber who had bid on the job is able to start next Friday putting us just 1 week behind. (If you don't count the 6 weeks we waited for the last plumber to start.) Admitting defeat is tough for me but somehow I'm finding peace with it. What's a week in the scheme of things? Ugh, don't answer that question.

Last night as we doodled on the paper tablecloth at our favorite little neighborhood Italian place, I kicked off a game of hangman. The answer was "stupid plumber." Jeff got it after only 5 guesses...clearly we're both thinking the same thing. As my final act of vengeance (as if evil thoughts and hateful hangman answers weren't enough), may I encourage all of you to ban Prestige Services, Inc.

The weekend hasn't been a waste by any means. I'm working on refacing a brick fireplace and Jeff has been tearing out a soffit in the living room. The soffit was one of those things that several contractors knocked on and said it would be no problem to remove. Once Jeff tore off the drywall and exposed the ceiling joists, we realized they were very wrong. That sucker was load bearing. Ugh again. But the rest of the room has exposed beams so we decided to lift it to the ceiling to match the other beams. With some expert help from our neighbor (who happens to be a contractor), the beam was in place in a matter of hours. It's so nice to sit on the couch and have an unobstructed view of the tree tops through the now visible skylights. And it really opens the room.

Despite this setback, we continue to move forward. Here are some recent pics of the chaos that is our home.


Goodbye soffit, hello skylights!


Cabinets with crown molding. That space on the right is for our monster sized fridge and freezer! Yipee!!


Replaced a slider with french doors. Oh, and the pool is gone. In about 10 years, our kids are gonna be really mad when they find out there was a pool out there!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Question of the Week

Last summer I was fortunate enough to attend a conference about arts ministries. In that conference, I participated in a breakout session entitled "Writing Realistic Dialogue." The instructor, an accomplished writer and actor, gave us this assignment to complete before arriving at the conference:

Write the first 15-20 lines of the following scenario.

SCENARIO: In 2005, Jane, an interior designer, did a remodel for a wealthy friend, who paid her an extra $5000 on the side, and told her to consider it a tip. The wealthy friend did not report it to the IRS, and Jane is wondering if she should report it on her tax returns. She and her husband John fought about it last night (she doesn't want to report it, but he thinks she should) and the fight ended by John telling her he would live with her decision but he had to know first thing the next morning.

The scene takes place that next morning.

In those first 15-20 lines, make sure you include the following:

1. The basic exposition: Your audience doesn't know anything about
Jane and John or their situation.

2. Jane's decision: Jane needs to reveal her decision to report the
money or not, depending on which way you want to go.


I'm used to writing happy endings. When writing sketches for our church services, we usually keep things light and funny. It makes for an easier transition into the sermon for our pastor and it makes the congregation laugh. So when I saw this assignment, I followed my traditional formula and came up with this:

(Jane enters with John sitting at the breakfast table reading the paper.)

Jane: Morning

John: Morning (without looking up from paper)

Jane: (awkward silence as she gets a cup of coffee and sits down slowly. Softly says) John, I’ve made a decision.

John: (Puts down paper and looks up expecting bad news) And?

Jane: (clearly rehearsed) Ok first, tips are common in interior design. I talked to several other designers and none of them report tips. Second, Sharon isn’t reporting it on her taxes so if I do she might get audited. I don’t want to get our friend in trouble just for being generous. Third, because she gave me $5,000, it would be taxed as a bonus which is 50%. All of my hard work and Uncle Sam gets half. Fourth, we need…

John: (interrupts, annoyed) Jane! We talked about all of this last night. I told you I’d live with your decision, just tell me what it is already.

Jane: (calmly) Sure you’ll live with my decision. But I want you to agree. It shouldn’t be all on me.

John: You said it yourself. It’s your money so it’s your decision.

Jane: If it’s my decision, why are you mad?

John: (angrily) I’m not mad.

Jane: Huh, could’ve fooled me.

John: (sighs) I’m not mad. (Jane raises her eyebrows) I’m not. I’m just… I’m frustrated. Look, I know it’s a hard decision. Lots of people don’t report tips. And you worked hard for that money. It just doesn’t feel very honest to take the money under the table.

Jane: I know. That’s why decided to report it.

John: What?

Jane: I’m reporting the $5000 on our taxes. It’s the right thing to do.

John: Why didn’t you tell me that 5 minutes ago?

Jane: I would have but you interrupted me. This worked out better anyway. You were making it such a black and white decision. I needed you to see the gray. To see why this was a hard call.

John: But in the end, I was right.

Jane: In the end, I made the decision that I could live with.

John: Yeah but I was right.

Jane: It was my call.

John: But I was right.

Jane: For crying out loud. Is that all you care about?

John: Hey, I don’t get to hear it that often. Come on. Say it.

Jane: Fine. You were right. (John gives her a big hug.) Right about marrying me.


I know, I know...ahhhhhhh. Isn't that adorable? After a day at this inspirational conference, I wasn't feeling quite as confident in the script. I felt that it was realistic but just a bit too tidy. So, on the spur of the moment about 10 minutes before this breakout session, I grabbed my laptop and hammered out this second version:

(Jane enters with John sitting at the breakfast table reading the paper.)

Jane: Morning

John: Morning (without looking up from paper)

Jane: (awkward silence as she gets a cup of coffee and sits down slowly. Softly says) John, I’ve made a decision.

John: (Puts down paper and looks up expecting bad news) And?

Jane: And I’m sticking with my decision.

John: Fine (puts paper back up)

Jane: Fine.

John: (after a long pause, drops the paper down) No, it’s not fine.

Jane: Hey, you said it was my decision. I’ve decided not to report the $5,000 on our taxes.

John: But Jane; it’s wrong and you know it.

Jane: No, l don’t know it so don’t tell me what to think.

John: C’mon. Sharon gave you the money and told you to consider it a tip. Not a gift, a tip. You’re supposed to report tips, they’re just another form of income.

Jane: Look, I’ve asked a lot of other interior designers and they don’t report tips so why should I?

John: Um, let’s see. Because it’s the right thing to do? Because it’s the honest thing to do? Because it’s the law?!

Jane: Please, we’re not going to get audited. Sharon isn’t reporting it. In fact, if I report it and she doesn’t then she could get audited. I’m not going to punish our friend for being generous.

John: You’ve obviously made up your mind and nothing I’m going to say is going to change it.

Jane: Stop making this so black and white. You’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion. I mean you act like I’m stealing or something.

John: (stands up) You know what Jane, you’re right. You’re not stealing. You’re just lying…again. (leaves the room)

I like that it leaves the audience guessing and that it layers in a sub-plot. Parts still seem a little contrived but it's hard to communicate the exposition without it feeling forced.

Ultimately the class volunteered their scripts to be read in class for the instructor to critique. Because I didn't have a hard copy of either script, I wasn't able to volunteer. But I was very interested to see the various approaches to the same scene. Some were very light and superficial, too much in fact. Most were quite good. The instructor particularly favored one involving a description of what was being prepared for breakfast. It was a good lesson in the art of painting a picture with words. I tend to get to the point in my writing and may forget the many virtues of setting the scene. The point is, I learned a great deal from this little class. Both from my own experience with 2 versions of the same scene and from other's approaches.

For a myriad of reasons, the writing opportunities I have enjoyed with my church are slowing up if not disappearing. This was a very important ministry to me personally. It helped me get involved in a new church. It helped me find my voice artistically. And it helped me reach people for Christ. I don't want to lose that. So if any of you need something written, I'm your girl. Seriously, you never know when you might need a script. I've written and produced two small pieces for work. Heck, even if you just want to be entertained, give me a scene description and I'll throw something together. I'm looking for ways to keep this writing muscle in shape!

Which brings me to the question of the week:

Which version of this scene do you prefer? Why?
I'm not looking for glowing praise (thought I wouldn't stop you if you truly felt the need). I'm truly interested in which version you find more interesting. Or if you have another idea for the scene, I'd love to hear that too.

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