Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mostly Just...............

.....loads & loads of pictures.

We sent this to Tyler last year in our final care package to Taiwan when it became apparent that he would not make it home for Christmas.

How can I even express how it feels this year to see him snuggling with that very bear in his own home with us.

I love the look of jubilation on her face nestled in with all the Santa goodies!

I so enjoy that our best girl still relishes getting "gussied" up for special occasions & outings.

Our Christmas angel...................

Such pure happiness at receiving her much desired & long awaited snowboard.

Showing off her two most beloved and wished for gifts from Santa ~ Street Flyer Heelies & that rascal, the elusive Zhu Zhu Hamster.

And our littlest angel was simply delighted with the very first gift he opened ~ his remote control car. He was content to leave the rest of his presents for later in the morning. :) I also propped him next to this special bag ~ it was first used with our nephew who is now 18 years old and has been used by every child since. Special indeed......... & somehow impervious to time!

Ho! Ho~ Ho!
Tyler LOVED sitting among all the presents for our family Christmas later in the day. If he only knew how appropriate it was: our best gift of the season among all the others.

When your kiddos are 6 years apart and opposite genders, its thrilling to find something that coordinates ~ even jammies!!

This is for my friend Jen in Tenn., who I know likes to see our trees. (Hi Jen!!) Lauren receives special ornaments each year and has graduated over time to this medium sized gem to accommodate her growing collection. I love that she matches her tree in this pic.!! LOL
Also thanks to Jules for the tip on the tree skirt ~ a tu tu is inspired!!
Oh my goodness, it has been a magical Christmas season & though much of the "hustle" of the season is behind us, much of the "bustle" still remains! Hustling after two eager munchkins intent on trying out ALL the new treats & treasures while all the while attempting to unpack, dash to the grocery store, spend a bit of time outdoors with a special little lady & her new snowboard ~ and then there's the new treasures to blend into our home ~ well let's just say there is much yet to do...... AND OH YES, visiting all of your blogs and relishing your Christmas morning joys! Magic indeed! And though I have not made it around to everyone just yet, I am LOVING the glimpses into your blessed holidays & outings.

I had hoped to create a slide show with some of our favorite Christmas season photos, but time just isn't gonna allow it! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO above are simply a few (er...more than a few) of our faves. We just could not have wished for a more beautiful season, shared with family, friends & our two miracles. This time last year, one child awaited us in have them both home this year ~ to celebrate a First Christmas with Tyler and remember back to our very first with our precious Lauren was indescribable. I know some of my bloggy friends still await their sweet babes and I hope they know my thoughts & prayers are sent their way ~ for I know well the pain of an absent loved one at Christmastime and later the joy of celebrating their homecoming. ((hugs))

Wishing you all a Happy & Joyous New Year!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Over The River and Through The Woods...............

To Grandmother's house we go.........................
I wish each of you a blessed holiday season, filled with joyful tidings, much laughter, love & dreams come true. May the true spirit of Christmas find you each day throughout the year.
I promise to check in on you all again later next week ~ I will be anxious to see your glowing Christmas (holiday) photos and hear about your beautiful celebrations. You all know I can't stay away for too long........... :)
Peace & love to you all,
Scott, Lisa, Lauren & Tyler

Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Oh. My. Word.

Where oh where has the time gotten to? What a sneaky speedy month December has turned out to be thus far! And such irony for we blogging Mamas ~ SO MUCH material for posts and absolutely NO TIME to share it all! Rest assured that our family has relished these past few weeks of merriment and filled our days handily with gingerbread baking, tree trimming, parties & outings ~ we even squeezed in a birthday party for our lovely niece who celebrated her Sweet Sixteen!

Evenings of blogging however have given way to frantic wrapping, last minute dashes to the stores, various events & celebrations and a sprinkling of sickness dust too ~ achoo! I had hoped to journal(share) this all, as its especially magical having Tyler home with us this year to share in our traditions and joy! But time slipped away......

Life with 2 dumplings & a somewhat hectic household means flexibility, right? :) SO my new intention is to share a quick silly story or two and a Christmas greeting (above) AND put together a small video of our December happenings next week! Surely the advent of the New Year will bring balance....right? :)


Are you wondering about the title of this post? LOL Well, a few years ago our precocious girl sprang this MONSTER question on me while we deposited our gifts in the Toys 4 Tots bin.

Lauren: Mama, why are we giving these toys again?

Me: (distractedly) Oh honey, you remember ~ for the kiddos who otherwise wouldn't have gifts at Christmastime.

Lauren: But Mama, doesn't Santa bring presents FOR ALL the good boys & girls?

Me: Ummmmm............ (yes folks, quite the wordsmith under pressure) LOL

Lauren: Mama?

Me: Well, of course Santa brings presents for all the children but his sleigh is only so big and can only bring so many to each child. Remember that you receive extra presents from Mama & Daddy, Lexi, Aunt Beth & the Grandmas & Grandpas......some families are not as fortunate and cannot afford to give extras.

Lauren: O.K.

Yes, she was 4 years old when we discussed that.

THIS year, at age 7 & in First Grade she came home and asked me point blank if Santa was real.

NO WAY should the magic be under fire at this tender age!! How? Why? Uh huh.......seems Wyatt ( classmate) has an older brother who is a fountain of knowledge. I told Lauren to run like the wind(away from Wyatt) if words like "the birds & the bees" or "Tooth Fairy" ever pass Wyatt's lips. (grin)

SO I said, "well honey, what do you think?" (Hey, it always works on T.V. ~ reverse psychology and all......)

Lauren: I don't know ~ what do you think? ( drat, she's smarter than me!)

Me: I believe in the spirit of Christmas & Santa. ( I can't lie to her face BUT I DO believe in the spirit of Christmas)

Lauren: O.K. I believe too. Mom?

Me: ( smugly thinking I have dodged a bullet) Hmmmmm?

Lauren: What about the Easter Bunny?

Me: (silently cursing Wyatt's older brother) :)


2 Fridays ago we attended movie night at Lauren's school. It was a wonderful evening and the kids were encouraged to wear jammies, bring snacks, blankets, etc. and enjoy classic Christmas flicks with their families and friends. Santa was scheduled to make an appearance ~ Ho~ Ho~Ho!

Our family pulled into the lot about 15 minutes before the event. We parked and were gathering up blankets & such when Lauren hollers this out:

Lauren: OH. MY. LANDS. Look, Santa drives a Dodge Ram!

Yes, we had pulled up right next to Santa's Helper himself and were all privy to him parking, leaping out of his pick-up and yes folks, adjusting himself right in front of our family roadster. LOL Thankfully only we adults saw the latter. Ha! Ha~ Ho! ;)

Well, at least he didn't spit. Heh, heh,he........

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Outtakes 2009

Holiday festivities are well under way & YES the Christmas cards have been mailed! Each year we go a slightly different direction with our cards and this year we attempted to snap a picture of the kids following a light dusting of snow. Pretty much the same old adage held true~ when one was looking spot one, the other glanced down ~ one would smile, the other sported a grimace ~ maybe a great shot, but one set of eyes closed...... & so on! LOL We didn't even attempt to include Lexi.
In the end we went a slightly different way :) but we were able to use a variation of the shots from this day(not featured above). I also find myself really treasuring these photos regardless ( there are many more VERY similar to these!) as they captured a moment in time AND feature both of our kiddos together!
But next year? We either start earlier or seek professional help. (grin)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Don't Ever Wish To Forget

Today our little man is seventeen months old! I don't always update at each monthly milestone & heavens knows I should be wrapping a few packages or addressing our Christmas cards, but these are but a few of the things that I don't wish to forget at this magical time of year with our magical baby boy!
* The look of utter amazement each day last week when you awoke from your nap to find Christmas decorations nestled around the house, in every nook & cranny! Something new each day as Mama worked to decorate!
* The way you whispered, "up pees" and wanted Mama to walk you all around the house to see the new things and name each one. You patted my shoulder and pressed your cheek to mine as we explored all the new treasures. You sighed and asked for "mo mo" at the end.......and Mama took you about one more time!
* The way your eyes danced & you clapped & clapped when we lit our tree & outside lights for the first time.
* Your sweet voice ringing out "Ho Ho Ho" when you spot a Santa Claus!
* How you found a new buddy(vintage Santa pictured above) under the tree and visit him each day.......many many times throughout the day! You even shared your precious cookies with him! Our generous boy.
* Your pure bliss witnessing your first snow ~ oh my, we are well on our way now to having a foot of snow on the ground ~ but you love it when its flurries AND when its storming.
*The way you call snow "no".
*How you dance and shimmy to our favorite Christmas songs.......and then wait patiently until we all clap for you! :)
* How you laughed with abandon when we first pulled you in your new red sleigh. ( photos to come!) AND later how you shrieked with joy when your Big Sis pulled you all the way home after we picked her up from school. I'll never ever forget her look of joy & pride either!
* Your big heart as you wish the little Christmas tree in your bedroom "night night" each night ~ you won't go to sleep until every stuffed animal or favored toy has been wished good night.
*Your innocence and sweet delight ~ just this morning you pointed to our Nativity scene and said "baby" pointing to Baby Jesus.....then you blew him a kiss. Somehow you just know he is special.
You amaze us each & every day baby boy. How VERY lucky we are to have you! How VERY lucky we are to have both of our babies!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Scarves, Hats & Mittens......OH MY!

At some point yesterday between blocks, stories and diapers it happened.......our first snow flurries of the season! A first snow for Tyler! Well, technically yes, he did observe snow last February and even into March of last year, but as an infant, his participation was limited to being bundled into a cozy snowsuit, covered in a blanket and being dashed to & fro in our arms during errand time! He was always curious about it but gosh, there were SO MANY new things for him to absorb, I'm sure a snow covered landscape was just one item more in a giant list of changes!

He was just enthralled with it all, so naturally we grabbed the first things handy (yes, camera too!) and dashed outside to check it all out! His reaction? Pure bliss........course it would have been nice if the boots we had purchased last month actually fit :( and we need a few more winter worthy items to complete the was just flurries after all and we will be better prepared next time! Tricky mild November lulled us into complacency! :)

And today? We awoke to a light dusting much to Lauren and Tyler's everlasting glee! We even pulled Tyler in his new baby sled ( blankets & all!) walking to school. Poor Lauren is petrified its all going to melt away before she is home again.....and it just might! But more will come and in the meantime I thought I'd share a slice of Tyler's first official romp in the flurries......with a surprise thrown in at the end! Let it snow.....let it snow.....let it snow......

Ummm...remember we just threw stuff on to race outside before the flurries stopped! LOL He loved it all! AND you don't want to know what I was wearing! Ha!

Joyful running.........

Someone else wanted to come out and play too. Don't worry, she got to come & play also! And she has a winter coat to come later!

Hey, what is this white stuff anyways??

Is this a prank Mama or the real deal? :) Well, it was pretty slim pickings....very light flurries to say the least! LOL
Last year this is as close to snow as Tyler was able to get. Oh, my sweet baby boy......

And because NO ONE loves snow more than Lauren, a couple of her from last year! OH, she still needed her 2 front teeth for Christmas!

Wishing you all a glorious weekend!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Art 101

During the long months spent waiting for word of our Rulings and subsequent travel to bring Tyler home, one lifeline was the arrival of our monthly updates which included among other things, photos and a short video. Oh, how we cherished and studied these with great scrutiny and care. I know of at least one month that we viewed our video, all 1 minute of it, 50 times and that's a conservative estimate! And though it was bittersweet, often marking the swift changes in our baby boy that were taking place without us, we treasured these incredible keepsakes and still do!

Early on we noted in the videos that Tyler appeared to favor his left hand. We wondered and speculated whether this indicated a tendency towards lefthandness. Being all "righties" LOL we marveled at this and spent many a chat musing over this mystery. Once home we just were not certain. At barely 7 months he was using both hands equally and mastering new skills with both.

Now its true that with your second child, said munchkin will in all likelihood be introduced to certain things sooner than with your first. I know for a fact that while I started Lauren using crayons and markers at an early age, it was not quite as soon as with Tyler. But of course he is always always watching his beloved big sis and SO wishes to do all the big kid stuff that she can do. Hence he was introduced to markers, coloring books, crayons, etc. months & months ago! And..........

Our little man simply loves to draw! Before he even took his first wobbly steps, he had grasped a piece of sidewalk chalk outside and began sweeping it across the pavement. Sidewalk art remains his favorite, though it may have more to do with being outside than the actual medium. :) Inside, Tyler colors with markers or crayons almost everyday and YES, he uses his left hand! This is interesting because we had just about decided he was in fact a "righty" as he feeds himself with his spoon using his right hand. What a fun discovery it has been!

BUT OH, when he draws ~ it is something to see. Our little guy, normally a whirling dervish of activity at 16 months can attend to it for upwards of 40 minutes or more. I mean he REALLY loves it! AND he will be drawing outside, take a step back as if studying the "big picture" of his work in progress, then step forward adding some small slash or mark before nodding his head & moving on. Its a hoot! His love of coloring has helped him to learn a few colors already too ~ Tyler can say and indentify both yellow & purple.....well,most of the time anyways! Ok, Ok, some of the time anyways.......LOL. AND red he calls, "Mo Mo", short for Elmo. Woe be the guest who arrives wearing red only to have Tyler label them "Elmo". LOL And it can be messy too! OH yes, it can!! :) Will he be an artist one day? Who knows? But it sure is fun being on this side of the video and wondering about his aptitudes than on the other side looking in!

And one more indulgence, er story, since we are chatting about art: This past weekend while visiting at my folks, all of us ladies/girls spent some time in the madness, shopping their downtown area. At one point we popped into an art gallery of local artists.....very neat stuff! I was a bit behind the group so when I entered I was immediately called over to a viewing bench in front of one collection by both Lauren and our niece Alyssa. They were so insistent and excited...."Mama, Mama" ~ "Aunt Lisa" they shouted in chorus; please come have a look.

Well, of course inside my Mama's heart just swelled to gigantic proportions. Ah, I thought, look at their deep appreciation for this artist's work ~ look at their joy of this piece of self expression. How proud I was feeling. I expected & anticipated that they wished to show me a piece of this work.....................not so much. :)~

Yes my friends, I was called over with such urgency to witness the "bum" impressions they had made on the faux leather cushions on said bench.Nothing was said about the art. Oh, that is until they stumbled onto the nude in the corner. LOL Ah well.....I suppose its just another form of art appreciation! ;)

Enjoy a few art pics and an indulgence or 2 also!

Yes, Tyler has discovered that while markers are not toxic, they are in fact NOT so tasty either. I also call this, "Groucho Marx".

And a sweet lil bear came to our house to draw one day. Please just ignore my art contributions on the pavement. Its funny too, cuz Tyler always has "to add to" or "correct" Mama's art too!

This one is for you Wanda........mighty cute tush, chalk & all! See, he already suffers for his art! LOL
I can't hardly catch him in my frame as he is SO busy looking for that new canvas. Actually I can hardly catch him on film at all anymore......he's way too quick!
And a few "fun ones" just cuz.
Have you spotted the rarely seen Taiwan dragon in your backyard? Don't worry, he's harmless and oh so sweet!! He only has 8 teeth afterall!! :)
And of course our best girl, doing something she loves best!

I wonder where she is running to?? LOL
OH, and it IS starting to look a bit like Christmas around here. I have been SO relishing seeing snippets of Christmas on your blogs. I promise some soon too!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving from Us Turkeys!

But who REALLY is the Turkey?

Is it these 2 mini gobblers who tolerated an impromptu photo shoot on a brilliant mild November Day? Or their parents who didn't realize that the background was not such a swell choice AND failed to rub off the fingerprint on the camera lens? LOL
Are these two the turkeys for wanting to run and play on a sunny day? Or the parents who forgot to holler out "watch out for the landmines" as they ran with abandon? :0 Please note the wee Turkey is VERY intent on something close to the ground??????? Turkey droppings perhaps???? Ack!

Is HE the Turkey? Well, yes...... but did you see the larger, far goofier "Turketta" dashing about behind the photographer pretending to sneeze, stumble and whatever it takes for a pair of matching grins......just one pair of matching grins, with both looking right at the camera & no neighboring homes in the background?? Hmmm......maybe the big Turkeys should have picked a day when fewer neighbors were home to witness the spectacle! ;) *chortle chortle, snort*

Turkeys aplenty on this day, but the 2 biggest Turkeys should have remembered that sometimes the wee Turkeys speak their own language & bring the best impromptu moments.....what do you imagine they are saying to one another?

Aha! The Turkeys both looking & in the same direction...... but alas, one big male Turkey forgot to keep the furry canine Turkey indoors and she stole the (attentions) show by frolicking too close to a feline Turkey prowling about "the hood"....... Meow!

Yep, when its all said & done, I think we know who the REAL Turkeys are. Hey, if the feather fits & all...... :)
& Yep, Thanksgiving DOES Rock and we have so much to be thankful for this year!
Wishing you all a peaceful & splendid Thanksgiving with your family & friends ~ no matter who wears the feathers in your family!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Conversation With an Eight Year Old

It was just about year ago, as we still awaited our son, that we girls found ourselves playing outside on a brilliant mild Autumn day. One of those days that gifts you with the lingering taste of fading summer ~ a small reprieve before the North wind becomes our companion once again.

On this day, like so many before, I found myself anchored in the middle of our culdesac while Lauren and her friends rode their bikes with glee around & around the sidewalk circle. We are fortunate to have a handful of girls on our block all within a few years of one another and on this day I was the "Mom on Duty".

M came a bit late to the activities that day and I remember Lauren dashing over to excitedly exclaim that her "new baby brother" would be home soon. ( oh, if only........) M, a quiet, sweet child of a successful immigrant family, reacted to this news with a look of confusion and a shake of her head. This went unnoticed by my child who had already been called back to the melee of bikes & squeals of joy from the curbside. I could see a flicker of indecision cross M's face and I wondered why she wasn't joining the others; I wondered why she was hesitating when so clearly she had come to play.

What I didn't know in just that moment ~ what I couldn't have known was that a conversation would follow that would test me in new ways..........a conversation that I never expected to have with an 8 year old (almost 9 ) that wasn't my own. But I'm getting ahead of myself is a bit of that year old conversation.

M :(taking a deep breath) Mrs. Lauren's Mom ( yes, she insists on calling me that! LOL ), how can a new baby be on the way? You aren't pregnant. (M has a much younger baby brother too and knows well what an expectant (pregnant) Mom looks like.)

Mrs. Lauren's Mom : (also taking a deep breath, smiling...) We are adopting a baby boy from Taiwan. He is 3 months old & we cannot wait to bring him home!

M: (furrowed brow) What's adoption? What does that mean?

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: ( surprised by this Q., but tucking that surprise away, while a quiet debate rages inside about whether this conversation would be best between M and her folks....) Hmmmmmmm..........well,

M: (insistent now ) I don't understand. Does that mean pregnancy?

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: Yes, in part, but not my pregnancy. All babies are born to a Mama (& Daddy) but sometimes they are not able to take care of a baby (any baby) and a new family is found to love, care for and cherish that baby.

M: Why can't they take care of it?(baby)

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: Oh, there can be lots of reasons. M, do you remember when your baby brother was born and how much attention he needed? ~ how many things he needed and how all of you helped to keep him happy and healthy. I know you were a big help to your Mom. I know you still are.

M: He cried all the time and needed TONS of stuff ~ diapers(really stinky), toys, bottles, this point M goes off on a tangent about how now her brother gets into all her stuff now and how frustrating he is! :)

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: What if a new Mama didn't have any help or didn't have those things that the baby needs?

M: That would be hard. Why wouldn't she?

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: ( checking to see that L & her buddies are still riding their bikes and are safe.........wishing at this point M could have simply asked where babies come from? j/k ;)~ ) Not everyone is as fortunate as our families are. You have studied about poverty in school and I remember when your family helped deliver toys for children that didn't have any. Not everyone has someone who can help.

M: (face brightening ) Oh, why can't you just give her the money?

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: ( Did anyone else feel the earth tilt a moment ago??) Silently......struggling to define for this innocent child concepts of government quotas and government corruption...struggling internally to explain a lack of social supports around the world in some countries...struggling to define the prejudices that some birth mothers face ~ prejudices that will extend to their child if kept & raised.........struggling to explain disease and death........choices.......struggling to explain abandonment......relinquishment.

So I said, Oh honey, we have donated to those in need and always will. We do sponsor a child left back in Kazakhstan who still awaits their forever family........this baby's Mama has made a plan & a very hard and courageous decision that we will be the ones to raise this beautiful boy & forever nurture and cherish him ~ to give him all the things that she cannot. We feel so blessed & lucky and simply cannot wait to welcome him home.

M: Is there something wrong with him? There must be.

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: ( Am I still standing up? Did I stumble?) He's absolutely perfect.

M: (stubborn expression) Hey? Will he look like you?

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: He has big chubby cheeks, dimples, lots of beautiful dark hair and almond shaped eyes but his heart is just like mine & just like yours.

M: (staring hard, finally turning to the girls who are still riding like the wind)..........Here I come...........see ya later Mrs. Lauren's Mom!

Mrs. Lauren's Mom: silently watching on...........deep in thought........

And as I watched my precious girl play on with her friends, I knew (really knew then) that these type of questions & assumptions might always follow her (and Tyler) throughout their lives. It may sometimes go unspoken, it may unfold in many different ways, but it would someday surface, testing their self-esteem, their self-worth and their view of the world & our place in it.

I knew too that M and maybe her family had little experience or exposure to adoptive families and that all of her questions sprang only from a child's' sweet innocence and simple curiosity.

Now clearly this conversation and my responses to it called for a simplified approach.( I had no time to prepare for it.) And just as I understand that the unyielding love we feel for our children is simple......... I understand just as readily that the complexities of adoption are not. A gentle hand was called for on this day.........

In the days following that conversation I thought about it a great deal. From time to time it still surfaces and in many ways I'm thankful for it. Until that day, those types of questions and assumptions, stemming from a child as these did, were only something in theory or something discussed in a book I had read. It opened my eyes a bit wider and pushed me to step up my efforts with Lauren on how our family was going to change and what sorts of comments or speculation we might be the recipients of or her individually. Not to say that I was previously unprepared or complacent, but certainly this gave me the push I needed in the right direction ~ to be more proactive.

And please don't think for one minute that I'm going to conclude my week long celebration on a somewhat sad note..................... no way! :)

2 months after arriving home with Tyler we had our first truly Springlike day and I bumped into M again while the 3 of us (Lauren, Tyler and I ) were taking a walk. She clearly had already spotted us and had anticipated our passing by her house. She dashed out to give Lauren a big hug, listened with rapt delight as Lauren proudly introduced her new brother and then gave Lauren a beautiful picture she had drawn as a welcome home baby gift. It was a picture of the 5 of us (Lexi dog too ya know!) all looking like ourselves ( in other words completely different from one another) but each us with a GIANT red heart, all the same size and matching GIANT smiles. M said this & it will forever be with guys may all look different and come from different places, but where it counts, you are all the same. And Mrs. Lauren's Mom? Yeah, she felt that earth tilt again ( just a bit) and cried just a few happy tears later that night when she thought once again about that conversation and the grand capacity for love & understanding that exists in us all. How beautiful it is!

So my friends, as this week concludes please always be good to yourselves & to those around you.

When one of us stumbles or loses their way, reach out with understanding and support ~ with compassion.

Stand tall against a media that assaults us with atrocities like "The Orphan" (movie ) and shows like "Who's Your Daddy?" Against those who tell us we don't count. Use your words, wisdom or use your pocket book to bring about change. That change can begin with one conversation or one instance of really listening to another viewpoint.

Offer the hand of kinship to an adult adoptee that might be hurting. Remember that when one of our babies/children is hurting, it affects us all.

LOVE the best way you can each & every day and don't ever forget that you are not alone ~ not by a long shot!

Remember M's words.............where it counts, we are all the same.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sweet Dreams Baby Girl

First I wish to preface this post with a huge thanks of gratitude for the private emails spilling in regarding my recent posts. When I disabled the comments I knew I would miss your much valued voices mingled in with my own, but I didn't realize that it might also impact the direction of my thoughts this week. Some of you have asked more specifically about Lauren's life story and it is my privilege to share a modified generation(only certain portions of it to protect her privacy) of it with you all. I say generation because certainly this is not the same story that began in the Spring of 2003, just as we are not the same family. Parts of her story have become more fluid in response to her contributions and involvement within it, while other aspects remain as they were so many years ago. Its far from perfect and I've never really written it in its entire form before. How different it is to speak it, rather than see parts of it in print!

It may also seem remiss that I seemingly am leaving our littlest treasure out in much of this discussion and something that has thrilled me has been Lauren's involvement in Tyler's life story. Right away she was enchanted with the notion of participating in the details of his early history and the richness she has added to it cannot be measured. It was an unexpected gift to watch her transition from the subject of a story to the actual story weaver. Tyler's story is still unfolding and we are still finding our footing...............therefore today I share a portion of Lauren's story.........or rather a portion of the rich history that has helped shape the multi-faceted, incredible girl reflected today.

Italicized portions below are my own thoughts( or details), not yet shared or are in response to her questions.

In a faraway land of great beauty & gracious people, as dawn broke on a crisp Autumn day ~ a beautiful baby girl, of brown eyes and hair, was born to a strong young woman. This young woman, your birth mother, could not care for a baby (any baby) as she was alone in the world and unable to provide what she most desired for this precious innocent life: a family ~ a home ~ a loving life. A life free of prejudices, one of educational opportunities….. of stability. We know from the caregiver who glimpsed her that she was tall, with luxurious sable hued hair & very beautiful. She likely has the same whiskey colored eyes as you & I imagine her laugh to be just as yours is ~ bells ringing on a clear day. I think I catch glimpses of her in your profile and the way you crinkle your nose when you giggle or concentrate deeply on something. I see her in your determined spirit & stubborn streak! And yes, baby girl, I see bits of myself in you too!

She (your birth mother ) was born to a Ukrainian family, a very small minority in Kazakhstan. We believe your birth father may have been all or part Kazakh. She made a plan for you to be placed into a Babyhouse, to be cared for and nurtured, until a forever family could be found for you………until you found us ~ and us you.......... and made us family. It could not have been easy for her(anguish!) & yet her courage & decision to allow you to be placed out of country, made our family possible. How grateful we are!

Three days after your birth you were carried 10 miles on foot from the hospital to a Babyhouse in the arms of a special caregiver who considered herself your honorary Godmother. Yes baby, this was almost unheard of and she watched over you with great love and dedication right up until the day we walked out of that very Babyhouse a new family of 3. She was determined you be placed with a family & she checked us out with great care. She cried joyous tears that you were going home and whispered sweet blessings in your ear. She cried tears of loss too… were her favorite and we are forever grateful for the special care she gave you. She asked only that we send photos of you back to them from time time.....we pray they have reached her throughout the years.

For over 6 months you lived on the 3rd floor of the K********* Babyhouse in a small room with up to 6 other baby girls in your room. Early on you would have grown used to hearing their comforting baby coos and sweet sounds. Your crib was against a far wall (the warmest spot in the room) and you favored laying on your right side so that you could see into the crib next to yours.That baby’s(the one nearest to you) shy smile broke my heart the day we were allowed to see your crib & room. You were not the oldest baby in the room, but you were twice the size of some of the others.(even babies older than you) The bottles you were fed with were old fashioned( & glass) and initially they would have been propped up with a rolled towel; later you held your own bottles at feeding time ( my god, you had to and had to learn early to drink quickly or possibly go without) and you delighted at being touched and held during changing & bath times.

You were always dressed in many layers, with no diaper. On Fridays the caregivers played Kazakh or Russian music in the hallway outside your room and likely that was the beginnings of your love of music. On either side of your shared room there were rooms filled with toddlers and older babies. When your door was open you would have heard the babbling of the other children and the quiet murmurs of the workers. The smells of cooking ( often cabbage & Kasha) filled the air, though you were still only taking bottles. There were no crib toys or murals in your room. The only toy (to be shared by all the babies in your room) was broken. Yes love, one of our gifts to your First home was a toy for all 25 babies on your wing & toddler toys for sharing. I wish it could have been more and in the years since we first went, other families have left gifts and made donations that have improved the conditions for the children left behind. Our monetary donation was used to help purchase the only clothes dryer for the entire orphanage.

The winter you turned 4 months the Babyhouse lost their heat for 3 weeks and sickness spread among the staff and children. All the children on your floor were moved the south facing room at the very end of the wing as it was the warmest & sunniest. This was the same room that we spent our first two weeks together for our daily visits. It looked out over the magnificent Tien Shien mountains and herds of cattle grazed in the distance. We could see no other structures, homes or signs of life for miles around.

During this scary time, you, by the grace of God, remained healthy and often pulled or tugged off the face masks worn by the staff (to contain the spread of the sickness). It was important to you, even then, to see their faces & expressions and hear their familiar voices. That must have been a frightening time for you and reminds your Daddy and I of your strength and resiliency… were a fighter & that spirit has taken you far.

Each month a male doctor came to check on all the children and babies. He would have been the only male you would have seen and you were naturally intrigued by him. We are told you often tried to reach for his mouth (whiskers!) and always made him laugh with your antics! He spoke to you in Russian while most of your daily caregivers spoke to you in Kazakh. or a mix of both languages.

The tiny wonder you were, grew under the watchful eye of the Babyhouse staff into a chubby cheeked beauty, destined for another in America. At 6 1/2 months(as our visits began) you were already trying to sit up (despite spending much of your day prone in your crib ) and when no one was looking, your new Daddy and I spread blankets on the floor and allowed you to roll with abandon on the floor. This delighted you time & again and reflected your determination and joy of discovery & movement. You were so fascinated with the toys we brought along and during our 2 weeks of visits you favored the crinkly books, finger puppets and being held to the window to peek outdoors to watch the older children play games on the grounds. No my sweet, there was no playground or equipment for the children to play on............they played with one another or simply ran with abandon, so happy to be outside following a long, snowbound winter. Some of them paused to wave at you, (and at us ) this sweet precious baby and you watched them with such intensity! Early on we noticed your empathy & keen curiousity towards others ~ even then we could see you would often be the child in the group who would be looking out for others. Your heart is so big!

The day we left with you, the only home you had ever known, the caregivers/staff gathered to hold you one last time. We witnessed the blessings and wishes they whispered in your ear and they relished touching your fresh new clothing. You did not like your new clothes at all and struggled mightily to yank your shoes off! Such determination even then! You had known love ~ had been loved and cared for as well as feasible, despite very limited resources and as we walked from the building we understood the incredible gift bestowed to us. You didn't cry during your first car trip at barely 7 months and your loving nature allowed you to open your heart to us completely and to one day trust us as your parents. Oh the joy you have brought us each & every day litle one!

You were growing to love us................while our love for you had been growing all along...........

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Life in Words

Early on in our first adoption journey, all those many years ago, we received two priceless pearls of unsolicited advice and how thankful I am for them!

In essence we were encouraged to begin telling our daughter's life story early on and often and to consider our time in Kazakhstan, in part, as one of fact finding, uncovering as many threads of her history & past as we were able to.

If you have previously read my depiction of our journey & time in Kazakhstan you better understand the challenging task that laid before us in uncovering the scant details of our daughter's earliest moments. Our champion came in a most unexpected place, as one of the caregivers favored our precious baby and considered herself an honorary Godmother ~ a very unique status & gift afforded our daughter in this remote land. Through this angel in disguise we were afforded a stable first hand account of Lauren's most earliest days and a priceless description of her birth mother, whom this caregiver had glimpsed in the days following Lauren's birth. This remains our only tangible link to her birth mother, that didn't exist on paper or within our imaginations and we hold it close, fully aware of this blessing.

It is these threads, the stories told by our daughter's caregivers, the information acquired by our adoption agency, our referral & our own experiences/impressions while in Kazakhstan that have been woven together to create Lauren's life story ~ (her early) life in words.

Weeks after returning home with our beautiful infant daughter I found myself in her nursery, rocking (soothing) away her anxieties late into the night, when I began first sharing her story in my own way. Initially I felt just this side of crazy, openly talking about adoption, the details of her birth & earliest moments with this precious innocent gazing into my eyes and being lulled more by the cadence of my voice, rather than the content of the story. There were moments I considered putting it aside, wishing to justify it away with thoughts of "she's too young" or "certainly there is time later". I am so thankful that I pushed on and heeded that early advice.........for along the way and through many surprises, a purpose was found & a tradition born.

.........along the way I grew up a bit and began ambling along the path to the true Mama's heart that I wear today. I was becoming not just a Mama..........but a mother to this baby, whose past would always be only a story to me, whose earliest moments could never include me........I was becoming a Mama to not only the 7 month old we had brought home(whom I was delighting in discovering!) but to ALL of her. I was beginning to understand the legacy of another Mother, one who first gazed into the eyes of our daughter and held so many dreams and hopes for her............along the way I embraced the idea that truly this first Mother would always walk beside me, if only in spirit, as I guided this child through life's lessons.......along the way I gained strength in that understanding.

.........along the way, I stumbled over what language I wished to use, trying new words as if they were different flavors, discarding the ones that just didn't feel right & befriending those that did. ............along the way I conquered much of the fear I had in the telling of the story...........along the way I allowed myself to grieve for those lost months and the MANY details of our daughter's history that were forever lost to us ~ forever lost to her.................along the way, there were difficult moments ~ moments that forced me to look hard within myself and acknowledge hard truths...............along the way there were times I could barely choke out the word adoption, not because of shame, doubt(NEVER!) or really anything related to me at all, but because I intuited that one day it might be a burden for our daughter to carry ~ a child more precious to me than my own life, whom above all I wanted to protect from pain, loss & heartache...........along the way, I wondered if one day this word would cause confusion or sadness for her ~ I knew it set us apart from many other Mamas and their babies............along the way I fell in love with the spirit of that difference and our unique origins.

............along the way I prayed that this story in words, shared on occasion, would help to insulate her from some of that pain or misunderstanding...........along the way I fervently hoped our story would shield us from many of the assumptions surrounding adoption or at least the most hurtful of them.............along the way much joy of the telling was discovered and many tears and laughter shared..........along the way I found peace.

..........along the way many surprises awaited us as the story changed to reflect her better understanding of adoption and her own life story........along the way, the patina of our tale has become richer with her contributions, questions and reflections.........along the way we have relished the supporting materials of her actual life book, videos/photos of our journey and more, but our nighttime storytelling remains our most cherished.

Along the way, I found my voice.............I found it for myself and more importantly............ I found it for her.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Spirit of Adoption


So often assumptions surround us, coloring every aspect of our daily lives. Often times the assumptions we carry with us or are subject to from others are harmless or even accurate on occasion. At other times, the assumptions made by others or even our own are flawed and at best scrape the surface of a real issue or at worse may stifle a voice & perpetuate a stereotype.

In the video, No Orphans of God, a chord is struck and its both a moving and devastating reminder of the crushing need that still exits today to find loving homes for true orphans. I do wish to clarify however that not all orphans are legally available for adoption or are in need of a family placement. Some live with extended family, while still others have not been relinquished (and thereby are not legally available for adoption) by a parent, despite that parent being unable to care for that child or provide a home. Others are placed into public care temporarily and will one day be welcomed back into a family. But for those who truly are in need...............the alternatives of inaction are tragic. And while I fervently believe a wish to "rescue" or "save" a child in need is NEVER a rationale for adoption, I do believe just as passionately that every child deserves a loving home. ...........Perhaps someday just enough voices, resources, support, prayers and understanding will lend themselves to just this cause and Mothers that wish to parent their child will have that chance and the most vulnerable among us, the children in need, will find their place in a loving family. And how lucky those families will be to have them!! ........ That maybe compassion, unity & hope will be the voices heard, not assumptions. For me that is the true Spirit of Adoption.

Assumptions in adoption.......these are just a few that I have encountered over the years and wish to dispel.

Please don't assume.......................

that all birth parents are young, uneducated or unmarried. Or that their child was unwanted.

that all adoptive couples arrive at a wish to adopt based on infertility and only after exhausting all medical alternatives.

that adoption is a second choice or Plan B.

that the love we feel for our children & families is anything less than that of every other family.

that adoptive parents arrive at adoption from a place of desperation. Adoption, like the decision to have a baby, is a carefully thought out, planned for and much anticipated event.

that our children are kept in the dark regarding our status as an adoptive family. For most of us, it is both vital and a privilege to embrace all the aspects of our family's unique journey and we honor and celebrate the blending of heritages and cultural influences. We openly talk with our children about adoption and try to foster strong open communication about that topic and so many others!

BUT please don't assume that we wish to answer any & all questions regarding our children & their adoptive histories simply because someone has the need (or nerve) to ask. Of course we are overjoyed to share news of our miracles & happy to assist families considering adoption ~ but please exercise common sense and value our privacy too.

that all adoptive parents fear that a biological parent may someday seek a reunion or that we would not support our children searching for their biological roots if that is their wish. We love our kids and support their wishes & dreams, wherever that may lead. Period.

Please don't assume that our children have anything less than limitless potential and abilities & that its not despite their beginnings.............

Please understand that adoption is a part of our whole...........but not ALL of it. Our family, like all healthy families, is one defined by dreams, challenges, triumphs, discourse, commitment, faith, missteps, hope, compromise & unconditional love. Not more or less than another family, but simply uniquely ours. Our happily ever after..........

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Celebration of National Adoption Awareness Month

In celebration of National Adoption Awareness Month my hope is to share multiple posts throughout this coming week to honor families everywhere whose lives have been touched by the miracle & gift of adoption. This is ambitious for a gal like me who generally only finds the time to post once every week ( or so ) but for so many reasons, not the least of which are our two incredible blessings (Lauren & Tyler), I pledge to try. For the duration of these contributions I am disabling my comments section, but will welcome comments at the conclusion of my week's ramblings. :) Please know that I both adore & cherish your thoughts & comments(I always have!!), but for this week (or most of it ) I am choosing to disable that function to allow anyone wishing to visit to read at their own pace ~ in their own way.

Last year at this time I commemorated this month, with Lauren's help, by sharing our favorite culturally diverse toys & books. Again this year, Lauren will be my right hand gal in the form of a ghost author and much of what I plan to journal is done with her express permission. Always my contributions will be modified to protect her privacy ( or Tyler's ) ~ for truly it is the children who deserve to be celebrated during this poignant month!

Below is a video I wish to both inspires me and breaks my heart just a bit (more) each time I view it........... I thank you all and can't imagine a more ideal month to celebrate these children than one that heralds Thanksgiving.........we all have so much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Deconstructing The Road Trip and a Green Gator

*100th Post*

Home, home again & I want to thank you all for the wonderful (coping), creative ideas for keeping Little Man content in the car......and in all the cases for the moral support and positive "vibage" sent our way. :)

I had meant to go a slightly different direction for my *100th post* (100th?? Wha? Wha?*gasp*), but after reading the ideas and noting that many of you also were seeking sage pearls to manage babies/toddlers in the car, I decided to give y'all the skinny on our most recent road trip AND recap Lauren's First-Ever soccer season as a member of the Green Gators...........grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr/SNAP! Happily both sagas have a happy ending & naturally I've included some glimpses! :)

BIZNESS first........ Our previous road trips with Tyler had always included both Scott and I with Scott as driver and me often as co-pilot, relegated to the middle row for better 'grability' and access to said munchkin. Previously our 4 hour trip had broken down into the following 4 segments, each about 1 hour in length: First hour: Lauren reads/sketches & doodles & or listens to a book on c.d. , while simultaneously gobbling every morsel of preplanned snacks, crumbs & all ~ Tyler (hour 1) watchful, pointing and babbling at passing scenery and vehicles, passing interest in books Mama is reading aloud to him. Second hour: Lauren, hungry again, now requesting her music (much to Daddy's dismay), playing D.S games ~ Tyler (hour 2) napping.......angelic.....(code: Mama reading a book or catching up with hubster) SCREECH......Tyler wakes up completely refreshed and ready to rumba at EXACTLY the halfway point of hour begins the fun. :) Hour 3 (following a nice break and potty stop) Lauren, happily engaged in a DVD ~ Tyler, frustrated by car seat restraints, pulling off shoes and socks, batting away offered snacks, CRYING for 2 minute intervals at a time. Hour 4: Lauren's movie ends......back to books and endless refrains of "are we there yet?" Also possibly rummaging through my bag to play with mirror and various sundries. ~ Tyler, mildly amused by my frantic efforts to sing, engage in patty cake/itsy bitsy spider, etc. but mostly READY to be outta the car...........ditto Mama and Daddy! Oh, BTW, add one tiny furry girl, cowering in the back, coming out only to bark at passing semis. Ack!

Now fast forward 5 months and YES, it has gotten easier! Yay! This time Dadddy had to stay home, so Lauren took the seat next to Tyler and maybe its the age, maybe its the familiarity with said travels, maybe it was the secret weapon otherwise known as "Lauren".........but it was a much improved journey and with more road trips to come as the holidays approach, just label this Mama as fact, consider it my new middle name! ;)

So what did we do? Snacks baby, snacks......LOL I'm not super comfortable giving Tyler snacks when I'm not right there, so we had to pick special (i.e. small and yummy) ones that Lauren could dispense as needed. M&M's ( hey, it was a first and kept the tears at bay!) VERY teeny tiny pieces of cut up purple grapes ( a HUGE treat for Tyler) & Ritz crackers (one for each hand!) Why Ritz? I have no idea, but he LOVES LOVES 'em and that's good enough for me!

We also played kids music, 2 kid books on c.d. for all to hear, watched snippets of Baby Einstein/ a movie pick of Lauren's choice, enjoyed Big Sis reading many of Tyler's favorite board books, took a longer than usual break half way through AND sang lots of silly songs.

The frustration factor was way down for us all and even though Tyler still only napped for exactly 23 1/2 minutes (yes, I timed it!) everyone was much happier! Many of these ideas were also shared by some of you in my last post and I encourage everyone to take a peek at the comments, as there were some GREAT ideas! For both car trips and plane travel!

I also dug out one old time, long forgotten idea from our days of travel with Baby Lauren ( who was much more easygoing in the car!) almost empty water bottle, with the cap screwed on VERY baby's hands its an instrument, a crinkle toy, a scientific experiment AND you can add small pebbles, beads, etc. later in the ride to keep it fresh! HE LOVED IT!

Now if I can just figure out how to help Tyler sleep better when we travel AND if anyone knows of a set of magic elves for hire who unpack luggage and help organize AFTER the journey, please forward their contact information to me! :)

Finally, Lauren participated in her first season on a soccer team and we all had fun at her Saturday a.m. games and weekly practices. I think the pictures/captions can tell the story for me & already she is anticipating her Spring soccer season with the same team/coach. Go Green Gators!
How lucky that they had virtually the same soccer uniform for Lauren's look-a-like! Can you tell which one is the real doll? :)

Our Very Own Green Gator standing ready for the game to begin. I call this her "game face"!

While the color green was SO NOT her first choice for uniform "flavors" our Fancy Nancy always managed to add a splash of her own style! :) Don't you love her pink/black cleats! So fun!
The team's biggest(& smallest) fan & we even found a soccer tee in green to support the team! Of course his eyes weren't always ON the game field! LOL

Close-up of the action and often she would kick the ball, dash by us on the sideline, wave & smile....LOL....don't think the coach approved, but we sure thought it was cute!

Sometimes the games got long for Little Man................and chilly near the end of the season. We found ways to amuse him and keep him off the field which is where we really wanted to be!
Joyful celebration after the game! We always included a brief stop at the playground & always celebrated win, lose or draw! :)
P.S. We had a wonderful wonderful time at my folks: our destination for this road trip! Its always worth the effort to get there! Always! Thanks for everything Mom & Dad!