Got Jokes!

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My Grandpa is being laid to rest tomorrow.  This man who walked me down the aisle and laughed his behind off at (to his face) the preacher who started the wedding ceremony without me, is resting in Heaven.  My heart broke to say goodbye, but I know he is saved, and I know that we will get through this pain….probably with inappropriate humor.

This is life.

My grandparents lived hard, my mom lived hard, for the first half of my life….I lived hard.  And in a way I still do.  Parenting six children (four having special needs) is hard.  So how do we get through this life without being swallowed up whole by the sting?

We laugh in my family y’all.

We laugh A LOT.

I’m so thankful that I married a man with a good sense of humor.  Life would be too hard without laughter. God gave us the gift of humor for a reason.  I know that not everything in life is humorous.  However, we can find the lighthearted silver lining in most situations. If my husband had been a boring potato, I might not have survived this long.

At the end, in the hospice bed, my grandpa had jokes!

I love that man.  He could poke fun at just about anyone or anything including himself.  He was never too serious, and boy am I glad to have inherited that trait.  It isn’t easy to get up a million times at night, have a migraine, have two kids literally screaming all day, one kid puking, and one kid smear feces everywhere to punish you.  Those days are tough.  And sometimes they require potty humor.  Like literal potty humor, some prayer, some grace, and a lot of cleaning supplies.

Jesus and laughter my friends.

Through the tears my family was able to sit around and find a way to roll with laughter.  We sat there and grew closer, relied on the strength of one another, and celebrated life.

Celebrate life people. It is a gift and it is fragile and it will pass by quickly.

Life is hard.  In the end we can only hold on to two definites.

Jesus is the way to eternal life.

What doesn’t kill us makes us funnier.

33 And No Hard Feelings

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So here I am, writing another marriage post this week.

It’s my blog, I can write what I want.  Also, it’s my birthday so…..

I LOVE birthdays! I love celebrating people, and really try to make those around me feel special on their birthdays.  My kids all get a special date with just me, that I really try to make memorable.  I bake a fancy cake and make a decadent meal.  For the hubs, I take the children to get him gifts and have them make cards, as well as try to find something I know he will like.  I just love birthdays so much.  We live a good life worth celebrating. Any life that is rooted in Jesus has good reason to celebrate.

Now, as much as I love doing the birthday thing….I married a man who fails basically every year at this.

Let me tell you how.

Today, he had to work so I knew there would be no celebration to speak of.  However, he did manage to stop this morning and get me a card.  BUT this afternoon he spent the last 20 minutes before work having the children call his dad and sing happy birthday to him (his birthday was yesterday), and there I was…..

I plan for his birthday months in advance, like literally planning now.

I stopped last week and bought steaks for him to grill me at some point in the future (he did marinade them).  I picked out a gift a few months ago that is basically something we needed for the house.  He just doesn’t have it in him to succeed on this day.

This used to hurt my feelings.

When we were first married and well, for about 8 years, this was something that really bothered me.  I felt like he didn’t care enough to try for me like I did for him.  It hurt.  And then time went on, and I began to put aside the hurt and understand my husband.

He would NEVER intentionally hurt my feelings.  In fact, he spends his life trying to please me.

He is just wired differently.

There are random times throughout the year that he will come home with a dozen roses (my favorite) just to brighten my day.  He rallied last week with the care of the home and kids as well as trying to keep everything clean the way I like it, so that I didn’t carry more burden with the hurt I had from losing my grandpa.  If he sees me struggling emotionally, he will do whatever he can to help me.  If he sees me struggling physically, he will do whatever he can to help….sometimes  he doesn’t see (he is wired differently), and those moments are also times when I try not to get hurt.  Again, this has taken years to mature to this level.  I really had to learn to look past my hurt to see him  for who he is.

He really and truly cares.

He really and truly stinks at birthday and Mother’s day.

Today when I spent the day alone dealing with whining kids and wiping butts (and a nauseating migraine), I had to laugh when instead of having the children sing to me, he had them call his dad.  It was just classic John.  He said the same, “I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything, life has just been crazy this week.”

I could choose to feel hurt.  I could say he doesn’t value me enough to make my special day something special since I do spend so much time doing it for others.  I could be mad.

But then what would I gain?  A brief moment of self indignation and time to wallow in self pity?

I choose instead to see his true heart and understand his failures are not intentional hurt.  I choose to know that he does value me in the way that he cares for me, and to know that he has a disconnect with holidays (oh yeah, he’s pretty bad with Christmas to lol).  I choose to love him and forgive him instead of holding a grudge.  I choose to put my marriage above my own briefly damaged pride, and I choose to understand beyond just the presenting circumstances.

It took a long time to develop this understanding and appreciation for one another.  I am so glad that we were able to not give up on each other for all of the hurt we caused; as we muddled through that first year decade, of learning how to be married to another human being with all of their own flaws/thoughts/opinions.

I am 33 today…. I think I may have finally grown up 😉

 

Hard Broke Inspiring Marriage

This man didn’t always make her light shine brighter.  In fact, for many many years, he was an alcoholic.  He fell into the Christmas tree, she picked it up and redecorated.  They were poor and still he drank. He stepped out to the brothel….she stayed. She forgave.  She found herself in one of those marriages that everyone dreams about…..after decades of hard.

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They were poor.

They lost a child.

They lived hard.

But they lived.

My Mawmaw prayed for my Poppy to come to Jesus for nearly five decades.  He was a recovered alcoholic for the last 40+ years, he worked his whole life, and he was an example of true redemption.  Alcoholism can eat a person to death with it’s relentless pull to the bottle.  Just one more drink, always just one more.

He triumphed.

Her capacity for forgiveness is beyond my comprehension.  Why would she forgive him?  If we listened to today’s marriage wisdom (when the divorce rate is over 52%), if he wasn’t fulfilling ALL of her needs, well then, they should have just called it quits.

Marriage is hard.  They took vows, for better or for worse.  Sometimes worse happens.  Sometimes people get lost.  They do not make you  your best self, they do not cheer you on, they do not fulfill you.  My Mawmaw had Jesus for that.  Sometimes people get depressed and it presents as anger and selfishness, yet they are being swallowed up inside.  If we listened to today’s wisdom, we would drop that marriage because it isn’t “healthy” and it doesn’t benefit us.  We should always do what makes us happy at all times….right?

I always wondered why she stayed.

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As I watched him and her say goodbye this week, I finally realized why she stayed.  They took vows.  They took them to heart, and if she hadn’t stayed, she would have robbed herself of the miracle.

You see, my Poppy stopped drinking four decades ago.  He became a family man.  Somewhere around a decade ago, he became the happiest saved man you’ve ever seen.  He rejoiced, he told everyone, he prayed and he went to church with her….something she spent 40+ years hoping for.  She stayed and she got the husband she always hoped for.  She stayed and she got to witness God at work.  She stayed and she built a testimony to the power or prayer and devotion. She stayed and built memories as Mawmaw and Poppy, and loved us grandkids with everything they had.

I’m not sure I would have stayed.  He wasn’t violent, but still….

She stayed and this week she said goodbye after 60 years together.

In 60 years he was not good for her, I’m sure at times she was not good for him.  They saw deep financial hardships, loss of their sweet baby, and so much more that would tear a marriage right in two.

They had hard…..real hard.

But they triumphed.

This week they said goodbye to each other as my grandpa slipped away this morning to go be with Jesus, to wait for her.  They said goodbye and thank you for the 60 years, the love, and everyone could feel it permeate the air of that little hospital room.

She loved him.

And he loved her.

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So maybe marriage isn’t about how one makes the other feel and if they both feel good all of the time.

Maybe it’s about the love.

Maybe it’s about the vows and keeping your word.

But after watching they way they looked at each other and the way they loved each other….I’m pretty sure it’s about the love.  It may not always be shown, said, or felt…but it’s there….and it’s pretty powerful.  He was the best Grandpa a person could ever ask for.  He walked me down the aisle, he loved me, and I feel blessed to have been able to be a part of their journey because it truly was(is) powerful. This world may have lost one of the very best people to ever have walked it’s surface, but Heaven gained a new joyful resident….and she would tell you that she can’t wait to see him there again.

Spring

Six years ago, almost to this week, we found this place by chance.  This home that I was very apprehensive about, that was put on the market the day before we saw it.  The place that we were sent photos of, well photos of the garage.  John took one look at the garage, the 11 acres, and he was sold….

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I had to see it for myself.

As we drove ALLLLLLLL of the way out here, my hope for the place waned quite a bit.  It is far. Very very far.

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However, we pulled into the driveway, stepped out of the car, and instantly took in a deep breath of peace.  It literally was a huge breath of tranquility.  I didn’t even need to see the inside of the house.  I was sold.  Adorable decorative trees that I assume are growing right since I do not have a green thumb or outdoor caretaker gene, a creek running through, and amazing foliage all around.  The quiet of nature everywhere is all encompassing.  Ample opportunity provided for our children to run around free, explore, and learn good work ethic in the splendor of God’s creation.

We offered asking price right then and there.

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What followed was that brief month of no-where-to-live since our old house sold to the first buyers as well, and this house took some time to close on…but we made it….and then we multiplied 😉 We started working the ground, learning lessons, and this became home….refuge.

I adore Spring around here.  We can open the doors, allow the sun and air to pour through the house, get our feet damp in the grass, and just bask in the blooming of new life all around.  It is a true blessing.

 

One Month Home

I cannot believe that one month ago, we were basically surviving the most horrific, ear splitting, exhausting trip home.  Yet, here we are, one months later…..alive and…well?

I kid.

We are doing well.

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There have been approximately 1, 456, 743, 222 screaming, raging, kicking, full on tantrums around here over the last month. This child has good lungs. She definitely has a “force to be reckoned with” personality.  Her stubborn streak beats many, but I have experience and determination, so we are a match.

Let’s see, what can I say…..

Medically, Glory has checked out well.  We still have a sedated MRI and appointments with neurology as well as ophthalmology and ENT, but so far, it has been all good news.  She does not have a brain bleed anymore, she does not (as far as they could see with a singular scan) have fluid on her brain, although they still say hydrocephalus due to her head size and ventricles. Developmentally, she was as behind as you would expect any orphan from a third world country to be.  Everything is rolling along medically, and so far, looking very good.

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She LOVES taking a BATH now!

I know, we took all of those fully clothed baths, and thought that perhaps she would never get fully cleaned.  Now, you can’t keep her out of the tub though.  We have to constantly tell her to back up when we are bathing Grace and Zeke.

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She LOVES to EAT now!

Well, she loves to eat seconds, therefore is motivated to eat the vegetables that I put on her plate. It’s crazy to think that just one month ago, we were in the hospital because she was so stubborn and mad, that she refused to eat.  Now, she easily clears a second plate. Once she realized that mom was not going to give in to her tantrums, that screaming actually gets you nothing especially a second plate when you haven’t eaten the food on the first,  that she landed in a house where the mom is a great cook, and that all of these different kinds of food are really tasty and fun to eat…..she decided to just eat.  I have a few tips and tricks for how we have progressed, that I will share later.  Let’s just say that we didn’t just jump into it right away, there was a week that she only ate spaghetti and bananas.

Glory and Zeke

The other children have begun to warm up to her.  At first, she spent a lot of time pulling their hair, throwing stuff at them, hitting them, and filling the air with loud screams.  She has stopped hitting them (except Andy and I think she’s playing with them), and we had to teach her that she could rub their hair, not pull.  As she adjusted, they began to see her personality outside of the screaming.

When she gets to laughing, it is an infectious full of feeling laugh.  She fills the room with joy.  The kids will find ways to make her laugh, because in turn, they start to laugh as well.  It is contagious.  They love to make her smile.  They also have no problem walking away when she throws a tantrum and ignoring it until she decides to chill.

I think kids understand that other kids have bigger emotions than their vocabulary.

Sometimes, I have bigger emotions than my vocabulary.

Zeke is also three, and let’s say, he has big emotions as well.  When he throws a fit, Glory walks over and points at him as if to say, “look y’all he’s doing it to.”

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Do ya’ll know how hard it is to get 6 children to sit still, look at the camera, and smile at the same time…

This last month has been a very long month, but a very good one over all.  I would say that we are learning and growing.  Glory is VERY attached to me, almost maybe overly attached.  She follows me, stares at me, sits next to me, and has a giant cow if I am out of sight.  We have begun to make more of those moments now where I am not her main caretaker, as we were were advised by our post-adoption clinic social worker.  It is normal what she is doing, Anna went through the very same thing.  It is smothering, I am not going to LIE, but it is also flattering and rewarding.  I get to actually mother this child who never had a mom.  She is digging having a mom.  I mean someone who you can’t steam roll to get what you want, who still hugs and loves on you, who kisses your boo boo’s, and is silly enough to pick you up and dance around the living room with….but also wipes your butt.

That’s a win in life for sure.

I have to say that we feel complete as a family and so thrilled with our final little member.  She keeps us on our toes and crying for ear plugs, but also forces us to grow and stretch as humans.  Watching her overcome her fear of baths, embrace this new life as well as she has, and still have smiles….that’s powerful stuff.  It actually is a true blessing.

 

The First Week

Glory and I landed in America 9 days ago.  What a whirlwind it has been.  This child was not happy (ha that is the biggest understatement of the century) about being contained in a seatbelt on a plane.  She screamed for hours.  She tormented the ears of all on the plane. It was exhausting, the most exhausted I’ve ever been in my life.

We made it though.

We made it home to a sick household.

I took her to the doctor for the very foul smelling ear that she has had her whole life, and due to her lethargy, we were sent to the Children’s hospital three hours away.  She spent the night, had some pictures taken of her brain, and was detected to have severely low blood sugar.

The good news was that her brain does not have a hemorrhage.  She has enlarged ventricles and decreased brain matter as well as a large skull, but nothing that was in dire need of medical intervention at that time.  We will get a better diagnosis and idea of what the prognosis is once she spends the day with the neurosurgeon team.

Her blood sugar was cause for her lethargy.  She was given glucose in an IV and kept overnight for observation.  When she was discharged we were given ear drops and anti-fungal meds.  The ear drops have been a life changer for her! She finally knows what it’s like to be without ear pain after ALL of those ear infections.

She is integrating into the house as we all build around her as well.  As it stands, she has severe separation anxiety with me.  If I go to the bathroom and shut the door, she throws a screaming fit.  The first few days she also threw a fit if she was told no, but she’s learned that fits to get what you want will get you nowhere.  However, she has also learned that even naughty behavior still leaves you with parents who love you and give you hugs.

I’m sleeping in the girls’ room right now.  Glory doesn’t get up every hour to cry anymore, but she does get up to check that I’m there.  We have decided not to rush this one.  She has built attachment and now she needs to build security.  It will come.

The best part is that she is taking baths! Well okay, today was the first day she took a bath willingly and SAT down in the tub.  She did it all on her own.  Then she proceeded to pour water on her belly and laugh and laugh.  She’s quite the character, and that was a true joy to witness.  It took weeks of partially clothed stand up baths to get to this point, but now it’s as if she has always taken them and loves the water.

Food wise, we have quite the opposite of what we experienced with our other two.  Anna and Tanner came home with severe food obsessions.  Food issues that we are still battling, seven years later.  They will still eat far past the vomit point if allowed, they will still eat such big bites that we have to do the Heimlich, Tanner will steal food if the opportunity presents itself, and so on and so forth.

We expected this with Glory, but we have just the opposite.  She doesn’t want to eat food.  That is how we ended up in the hospital.  She refused food for so long that her blood sugar crashed.  However, we have developed a list of things she will eat.  She is up to bananas, oranges, toast, bacon (yeah she thought it was like gold or magic or something), AND spaghetti.  She will eat spaghetti however many times you will give it to her.  We now make giant pots to have on hand.  She is eating whole wheat pasta, homemade sauce, and extra mean in her spaghetti though, so at least she is getting some nutrition.  She also ate a piece of cake last night.

Now, let us talk about personality.  I LOVE this child! Oh man she’s a tiny little ball of fire and giggles.  One minute she’s melting down because she threw all of the books on the floor and has been told that she has to pick them up and the next minute she’s cracking up into big ole belly laughs over something.  She has been pretty mean to the other children, but then she’s also hugged and kissed on them.  I think having parented a three year old before (twice) and having another one in the house helps to know what we should freak out over or not.  Having parented previously orphaned kids also helps.  We went into this adoption expecting the absolute worst, thankfully what we have in our little girl, is most definitely not that.  She’s just amazing.  I am so grateful that she gets to be in our family, her infectious laughter fills our home with extra life.

I would say it has been a great first week home…..but I have had RSV and my husband had to be gone half of it, plus we had that overnight in the hospital….so it has been exhausting and challenging….but still pretty great.  I am so glad to have her home.

Discounted 

This child is amazing! I’m sure I’ve said that right? I was not looking for her. I called about a child in Haiti, I had no idea that Ethiopia was so I g adoptions still.

When I heard that Haiti would take 17 months, I voiced my concern over the wait. I was told about this little girl that no one would accept the referral of. 

I understand. Her head was so large and her body so small. John never hesitated about her, we thought she would be home in 12 months. 

Nothing fell into place and it took 2 years. It seemed almost hopeless. 

She was dicounted by others though and I could not give up.  She was our daughter.

She was looked at and denied but oh is she a smart gal. She sings her alphabet in English, has picked up so many English words in just a week, dresses herself, and studies things intently in order to do them herself. She has battled her head size and weight, chronic ear infections, and being an Ethiopian orphan….and yet she triumphs. What a spirit she has. We never thought she would walk and she runs, we never thought she would talk and she sings. 

She is not one to be underestimated or discounted. I am proud to be her mom. I can’t wait for her to meet her brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, and grandparents 🙂 

Who’s in charge here?

We are together, she and I, in a room for the weekend with nowhere to be. After the tylenol, hydration, and a bath, we are at that point now where we establish that mommy is more than a name. 

She feels great-ish and now she wonders if she has any boundaries. Children need boundaries, even children who have severe special needs and have been orphans for years. Boundaries make them feel secure. 

So when she threw the iPad and I took it away, I let her throw a fit without much acknowlegement. At the foster home, the nannies didn’t want her to cry in my presence so they often pacified or coddled her. I don’t mind a fit, it doesn’t freak me out, this ain’t my first rodeo. 

She decided the fit would get her nowhere and we should cuddle. She is testing what she can do, grabbing things she shouldn’t and laughing. Throwing herself down and then screaming when I pick her up and move her out of danger. Shoving her hand down her diaper or smashing the phone…it’s a test.

We take this test strategically.  I am Mommy, I am safe, she trusts me. We have to maintain that security while establishing that mommy is not a pushover. So I pick my battles. She wants to brush her teeth a million times, that’s fine. She runs in to get the soap, not an issue. She wants to play soccer with a can of nuts in the bathroom while I’m using it….hey why not.  She pummels me with said can of nuts, nope…not okay. 

I believe she is coming to realize that I am in charge and that the tantrums will get her nowhere. She is also undertaking something extremely frightening. As adoptive parents we often bubble over with excitement at finally “getting our kid.” 

This kid already had a life though. No matter what that life is like, it is a familiar for them, and we are the unfamiliar. We are enthusiastic and some parents feel like they are “rescuing” a child so the child should be happy. 

No.

This child of mine has been handed over to a woman that doesn’t look anything like her caregivers did. This woman doesn’t even talk right. The specifics are cloudy but she was put in a car and poof….. Life is completely different forever.

On top of that, her ears are draining and she is congested. She is getting lots of water which is good, but it takes a toll on the digestive system. So many things are going on for this small child. 

So she loves me. I am safe. I am Mommy. But she also hates me. I took her away from her home. I took her away from everything she has ever known. 

This is okay. This is normal. We will gently establish that Mommy is a caregiver with firm boundaries and lots of love. We will slowly work through grief and anger as we build a new life together. It takes time. 

We have time. 

First Bath

How do you teach a child to not be afraid of the bath?

This is day 3 of Glory being in my care. She has screamed every time I tried to get her near the bath tub. Last night I did something I did NOT want to do. I undressed and got into a tub of yellow water….the color of the water here. She stood at the side of the tub with wide eyes. I wonder if this fluffy super pale naked woman or the bath was more scary?…

So that was her introduction. She watched everything with fierce intent. 

Then today I I had her wash her hands with the tub faucet. Then let it fill a bit more with just tepid water, and gave her a cup to play. I showed her how to splash and she did well. 

She would not let me undress her so….

I got into the tub fully clothed and splashed and jumped like a fool.

She thought it was funny and decided to get in as well. I lifted her into the tub and first she would just stand. She didn’t like getting her pants wet so she let me take her pants and diaper off.

Finally she sat down to play in the water but with her shirt on. 

I scrubbed her good while she played even under her shirt. 

When I got her out she let me take her shirt off and ran off butt naked to get a pile of socks…must always have your feet covered you know. Eventually she let me lotion her and dress her and hey….her clothes today got a good wash.

Her favorite jammies were dry, and her boots were ready lol. 

It was worth soaking our clothes and a yellow bath to help her understand that a good scrub can make you feel amazing. I was able to get her some Tylenol today so I’d say it’s a very good day. 

You never think about there being people out there who have never had a bath. A real bath. Puts things into perspective. 

Court Date!!!

Due to some interesting circumstances, John and I are both going to Ethiopia tomorrow….well we won’t arrive until Monday after 30 hours of flight/layover time….just in time for court on Tuesday!!!!

Finall after two years, finally we will be a family of 8!

I can’t even believe this is happening. We had to arrange some crazy kid scheduling and I had to do laundry and pack like crazy today. I am so excited. When both adults are finally back in this house, Glory will be here to! All of the tears, setbacks, financial hurdles, prayers, whew….all of it will mean something in just four days when she is legally our daughter. 

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support.