Friday, May 10, 2019

Bye, Crib.

I was only 27, and we didn't have much money, but on the brink of becoming a Mommy I spent a ridiculous amount of time picking out a crib. 

This was before the days of Pinterest, so I had to do the hard thing and actually search websites. On my own. Without influencers telling me all my options. 


I wanted it to be white, but not too white. I wanted it to be a warm white, but not yellowish. I wanted the rails to be simple, not ornate. I wanted it to look solid, like an heirloom piece that we could use for all of our future kids. I wanted it to be affordable, but not cheap.


I got what I wanted, at a good price.

Three babes of ours have used this piece of furniture. That's all it really is - just a piece of furniture. Some wood and glue and screws. That's all it is, tangibly.


But this piece of furniture that was once in pristine condition now has teethmarks on the top rail.


I placed all three kids in this crib on their first days home. I stared in awe that this once empty crib now held the toddler I've only just met. I marveled at how tiny our fresh babies were as they laid on the mattress that suddenly seemed so large. I rocked all three babies and laid their limp, sleepy bodies down in this piece of furniture.


When they were sick, I'd sit outside their crib and watch them to make sure they were okay. When we had a rough day, I'd do the same. Did I damage them too much today? Look how sweet she is - how could I ever be mad at her? How could I ever get frustrated with him?



Today, we're saying goodbye to this piece of furniture. Our family has outgrown it. And as much as I want to embrace growth, this one hurts a little. This is just a piece of furniture, but it feels like so much more than that. It feels like part of us.


I've been sharing with Jake this is weirdly hard for me. I feel sad about it.


Babies are easy.

Yes, they cry and fuss and haven't figured out how to sleep through the night or wipe their own body parts. Dealing with all of that can be hard.

But when I look into the eyes of my almost-four-year-old as she asks me "What does dead mean?" I'd be glad to go back to the restless nights of teething. When my big fourth grader is dealing with all kinds of emotions that he can't tell us about and I can't understand, I'd love nothing more than to wrap him in his blanket and rock him to sleep.

With babies, everything is better after a little snuggle and a little nap.

With big kids, it is not so.

 

When they were babies, I felt successful because they ate their squash and made it through a morning of errands without crying.

Now that they're big kids, I feel like I've failed by 9:00am every day. They are incredible kids - all three of them, but I sometimes can't keep up with them. They have so many questions - needs - demands - and am I doing this right?!

This one wants a snack, that one needs help in the bathroom, this one has playdoh smashed in his hair, that one wants to play dolls with me and she's asking so sweetly, that one just spilled his water, this sensitive one needs some snuggles because he pinched his finger, oh - and it's almost time for dinner but I forgot to start the slow cooker 5 hours ago so I guess we'll just eat a plate of fruit and cheese and call it charcuterie.

Am I doing this right?


Sometimes it feels like a big mess and a snuggle in the crib won't fix that.

That's why I'm sad. It's not the crib, it's the season.

Bye, easy babies. Bye, snuggles that fix everything. Bye, cribs that keep us safe and comfortable and contained and small.

Yesterday when I was lamenting about how sad this is, Jake jokingly asked if I wanted him to reverse his vasectomy. My response (in gif form) was "HELL TO THE NO". This is not about wanting more babies. This is about grieving a season that's quickly ending. If I grieve this well, I believe I can dive into the big kid season with even more passion.

So, the crib is gone. But the pictures and the memories and the feels are here to stay.


Sweet Gibson babies, snuggling you was one of the greatest joys of my life. And helping you grow into excellent kids will be even better, I'm sure of it.

But snuggling your mom once in a while won't hurt. Go easy on me, kids. I've got much to learn.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Top 10 of 2018

As I sat down to gather pictures for my annual "Top 10ish" post, I intended to grab about 10 pictures. Ten-ish. I ended up with 48. This is what usually happens, but this year I just couldn't narrow it down any more. I couldn't get rid of over 30 pictures to just give you 10.

With that in mind, we're doing something a little different this year. We're changing it up. Instead of giving you the Top 10ish PHOTOS of 2018, I present to you:

The Top 10ish ADVENTURES of 2018. 

1. EXPANDING OUR COMMUNITY
This year, we did so much with others and alongside others. As our kids grow and mature, this becomes not easier, but more doable. 



SO many of our favorite adventures of 2018 include people that don't live within our four walls. But EVERY adventure includes all five of us. 

This has been the year of understanding our well-oiled machine is constantly changing and growing, and how do we adapt ourselves to all those moving parts? How do we set ourselves up for success, so we (and our kids) can kill it every single time?


Adventuring with friends and family might look like 5 sun kissed kids on a boat, or it might look like homemade pizza night with popcorn and a movie, or maybe a campfire out back after the kids go to bed.

Whatever it looks like, I want to continue growing together with those around me.

2. SIBLING LOVE

Watching our three kids learn how to uniquely love each other has been the most unexpected adventure of the year. I've been taking notes and learning from the little redheaded one. The blondie has a lot to teach me, too. Oh, and the Ukrainian. His love for others usually stops me dead in my tracks.


It's not all sunshine and rainbows. We'll forever be working out the kinks as we understand more about ourselves and others. But seeing these three show love in the hardest moments makes my mommy heart so proud.




3. SEASONS ENDING

At this very moment, our baby is just a few months shy of his second birthday. We've officially left the baby stage behind. All the baby gear has been sold or given away.


One part of babyhood that I really enjoyed was wrapping/carrying my babies. I've got one ring sling still hanging in the closet, maybe for a rainy day when I have a sick kid that needs snuggling. Soon that will be gone, too. 

Oh...and that other thing. That thing that has rails and is white and has teethmarks etched on the wood...you know that thing. That thing that all three of my babies have slept in for the past 7 years. What's that called? 

Oh, right. The crib. Soon, very soon, that will be gone too. I'm already preparing myself for that goodbye.



I might sound sad, and maybe I am a little bit. I'm a sentimental person. But really, I'm happy to be done with the 'having babies' stage and I'm really excited to be in the 'raising kids' stage. 

There are so many good things ahead. 

4. NEW THINGS

See? There are good things ahead. I'm seeing them already. This little lady was doodling away in her notebook as I prepped dinner one day. "Mom! COME HERE!!! I think I just drawed my name!!".

Sure enough.


It's a funny thing, having an oldest child with special needs. Everything we've ever tried to teach Carter (consciously) has been taught, taught, tested, planned, taught, drilled, taught, tested, re-planned, drilled, drilled, and drilled some more. Then, maybe - just maybe, he's been able to develop that specific skill. But this is a whole new world - because Macy just grabs on to new things and absorbs ideas and concepts and skills so quickly.

But then I stumble upon this picture from the spring and it reminds me of that one time, with very little prep or planning, we went on our first family bike ride. We fully expected Carter to HATE every second.

Looks like he enjoyed himself! What do we know?!


Yes, even Carter can learn new things and try something different without falling apart.

(Read more about our first bike ride HERE)

Macy is also willing to try new things with very little hesitation, as we learned at the Milwaukee Zoo this year. She made a new friend (Coach, the pony) and surprised us all as she saddled up with very little fear in her eyes.


Confident, bold kids - they just go all in.

5. DISCOVERING NEW, ENJOYING OLD

Twenty-eighteen may only have 4 months of warmth, but it was definitely the year of the beach. All three kids love the sand in their toes and the sun on their backs. We've got our old favorite beaches that we went back to week after week, but we also had fun trying new places.


I'd say we mastered our process for loading up the van (toys! towels! dry clothes/diaper!) and prepping dinner (burgers! chicken! jalapeƱo poppers! popsicles! chips & salsa or guac! plenty of drinks and napkins!) and sending out an all-call to whoever was available to join us. We'd beach it up until bedtime, and pull into the driveway just as eyes were getting heavy.

Summer perfection.





6. CARTER'S 2018 ADVENTURES

Life with Carter is one giant adventure that begins the moment he opens his eyes each morning until the moment he drifts off to sleep. Carter does not have an off button - he is always on, every second of the day. I'm learning that this is good for me - because I have no room to drift. I need to be on top of my game every moment.


I've heard special needs moms say that they are always on 'high alert', and that special needs moms have the same amount of stress as those in active combat.

Sometimes it feels that way, but I'm learning it shouldn't. It doesn't have to. When I'm my best, Carter follows suit. I don't need to be on high alert when I'm engaged and feeling him.


The theme of Carter's year was probably growth. Physically, he is growing stronger and taller. 

But he's also grown in his ability to verbalize his thoughts and feelings, like when he tells us "Scares me".  Or share things like "I want Bananas AND strawberries snack" instead of just saying "want bananas". 

We've seen tons of growth in his independence - this guy can get his own milk (grab cup from cupboard, take off top, get milk, unscrew cap, pour into cup, wipe up the overflow, put away milk...look at all those steps!), he can be mostly independent in the bathroom (mom still needs to pop in to be sure he's on task!), he can help with household chores (and actually be helpful), when we say "go get dressed" he can go to his closet and grab clothes (mickey mouse jammie pants are a fave!) and put them on. 

Even now as I sit and write this out, I'm realizing this guy can do so much more than he could last year. 


7. MACY'S 2018 ADVENTURES

Sister extraordinaire, Macy loves to serve. It seems like she's constantly thinking of new ways to serve, and if there's not a need right now, she will create one. This is something we're working on :)


For me, 2018 was the year of allowing Macy to embrace her quirks. She's got a few of them and I don't ever want to squelch them or make her feel like the things she likes are wrong or weird.

Be weird, little one. Just go all in.


7. SILAS'S 2018 ADVENTURES

Little man used 2018 to ditch baby life and he dove in head first to big boy life. It looks good on him, I think. Blonde hair, blue eyes, face just like his daddy.


And although he LOOKS like his daddy, his favorite person is mommy. Sometimes I feel over-touched by 9am and I wonder why the baby of the family is so dang mom-crazy. If I'm in the room, he's next to me. If I'm making dinner, he's either on the counter, in a chair, or on my hip. And if he's not helping me make dinner, he's standing on the floor crying.

We've realized that he wants to be where the music is, and the music usually follows me. He's great at bringing the noise - it's up to us to adjust and turn that noise into music.

I'm learning :)


I think if Silas could share his biggest adventures from 2018, they'd be:
1) Using a kitchen appliance (food processor, juicer, and blender are all great options).
2) Eating a snack (basically anything that anyone else has will do).
3) Grabbing things I shouldn't have (someones phone, remote control, electric meat thermometer) and waiting for mom to see me, and then running away as fast as I can as soon as she notices.

Tender little guy, with so many big feels. Someday he'll change the world.


8. EATING FOR NOURISHMENT

What an adventure this has been. Food was my number one source of comfort for as long as I can remember. We've all shifted our thinking and we now see food as nourishment. What I eat should help my body, NOT hurt my body.

Guess what? It still tastes amazing. But it definitely takes more planning and prep work on my part. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and a lot of time planning how I'll spend my time in the kitchen.


This lifestyle change was not an easy one, and it's changed and evolved over time. But I've discovered that feeding my family nutritious food is a passion of mine and I've enjoyed this journey so much.


9. ENJOYING DISCOMFORT

While this has been an overarching theme for 2018, I'd say this one event is a great visual of what it looks like to enjoy discomfort. In the fall, Jake completed his first 5k. He finished 5th in his age group, and beat his personal best by over 2 minutes.


A large group of family and friends came to cheer him on and show their support, and we all enjoyed this super fun, super exciting day.

But what nobody else saw was the sacrifice of time and energy to get to this point.


Jake spent almost every-other night running for months. In the cold, he'd run. In the rain, he'd run. In the heat, he'd run. In the humidity, he'd run. I don't think he particularly enjoyed the act of running. He'd be sore and winded and dripping with sweat each time he'd walk in the door. It definitely didn't look like he was having fun.


Oh, and me! I sacrificed too! Because often when he was out running, I was home prepping dinner or giving baths or putting kids in bed.

He didn't get here by accident. But I believe crossing the finish line with his family and friends screaming for him might have made it all worth it. And then ringing the personal record bell, well, I think that put him over the top.

Jake started running as a way to connect with Carter, because Carter loves to run.

Below might be the best photo of 2018.

On the left - Jake and I in Ukraine, fall of 2011. Jake was the heaviest he'd ever been (as best we can remember).

And on the right - Jake and Carter ringing the personal record bell, over 150 pounds lighter.

This didn't happen on accident. Such an uncomfortable year.

9. LET LOVE GROW

I'm not going to say much about this adventure, because I've said so many words about it already. This is an adventure I never saw coming, but I can't imagine not experiencing.


To read this four-part series, start HERE.

10. GROW-AWAYS

This year, Jake and I finally understood the value of going away together without our three little treasures. But we don't want to just go away, we want to grow-away. We're not interested in just vegging out or checking out. We want to invest in each other and in our marriage.

Sometimes grow-aways are uncomfortable. Actually, the BEST grow-aways are uncomfortable.


Sometimes we go away for a whole weekend! Other times it's just a dinner date. This year we've got a week-long grow-away planned! But this is important for us AND our kids.

((So there are 11 adventures. Remember, I did say ten-ISH.))

Last but not least....

11. HERE'S TO THE HELPERS

In order for us to get out of the house without kids, someone needs to be here watching our kids! We've got so many people who love us in this way. Many people ask us if we realize how lucky we are.

YES! Yes we do.


And it's not just family who watch our kids so we can go on dates or weekends away. It's so much more. These people love our kids so well, they use their vacation days to spend extra time with them. They understand what our kids like and join them in it.


They get on the floor and play the same game over and over again, even though their knees creak and they question whether they'll be able to get back up. They unload dishwashers, put away laundry, bring over hot meals, and send fun mail to the kids.


All the stuff they do for us is nice. SO nice. But the best part about all of this is our kids are surrounded by so much love. Our kids are so loved by so many people, and I believe they feel it.

These kids have grandparents coming out of their ears, and I can't think of a better way to spend a childhood.



That was our year, in a (large and wordy) nutshell.

Twenty-eighteen. The year of discomfort, growth, and community. The year of doing things that I didn't really feeeeeel like doing, but then looking back and thinking "I'm SO GLAD I did that!!".

Here's to 2019 - I see so many good things ahead. I'm going all in.





Thursday, November 01, 2018

PART 4: Let Love Grow

*This is PART 4 in a four-part series. To read PARTS 1, 2 or 3, click below.*

PART 1: The Gift of Adoption
PART 2: Jump Towards Hope
PART 3: Slow The Crap Down

++++++++

LET LOVE GROW

This is the part of the story where I look back and say THANK GOD I decided to jump. Thank God I didn't dig my heels in for more than 5 minutes. Thank God I have people in my life who helped me slow down.

And then I decided to dig my heels in.

We all messaged back and forth over the next month or so. This was safe and easy and comfortable. And, I did the hard thing! So, yay for me! Now I can just sit here and be comfortable.

In a message dated SOMETIME IN MAY, my pesky baby brother said "I'm just going to say what we're all thinking. When can we meet up?". I can't actually find this message, but I'm convinced it exists.

Well, crap. I'm faced with another choice - sit or jump.

Jake could tell that I was feeling stuck. I remember him asking me what I envisioned for our reunion. Because I couldn't say "I want it exactly like all the fairytale stories on that 'My Adoption Story' show!!" I just told him I wanted nice weather so we could sit outside.

Uhh, okay...?!

I just happened to have another coffee date with Betty, in which she asked me "What are you waiting for...?" with a blank look on her face.

Well, ideally I'd be waiting for my life to be exactly as I want it so I can just add this new birth family in without hiccup or flaw. So.....

....yeah, that's not going to work.

Let's jump.

++++++++

Later that week I messaged my brother and birth mom. It was the end of May, and I gave them all the Saturday's we were available throughout the whole summer. I thought they'd definitely pick a weekend near the end of summer. Moments later I got a message from Matthew.

"How about this Saturday?!"

 Well, crap. That's not much time to get my whole life together.

"The weather is supposed to be nice, though!" said Jake. Hardy-har-har.

Whatever. This is me. This is us. This is our life. I can't think of any aspect of our life that fits into a neat little mold. The concept of 'family' is no exception.

"Okay, I've got a sitter for the kids. I'll see you Saturday."

What in the name of all that's good is going on.

The next several days, I had many opportunities to practice slowing down and being in the moment. I remember thinking that what I was about to do was not just for me, but also for my kids. It's their story, too. As Saturday got closer, my nervousness faded into excitement.

Being 'excited' doesn't come naturally for me. But I believe Jake helped me prepare for this day and truly enjoy the moment. This day is about me. I can live this day and be completely selfish.

I remember thinking that not everyone will understand what's going to happen on Saturday. Maybe there are people who won't like it. There may even be people who feel bad about Saturday. And that's okay. I can't control how people feel. I don't want to even attempt to control how people feel. I want this chapter of my book to be about giving up control, which means others might feel uncomfortable.

Because I care deeply, I wrote a letter to my mom, explaining that I was incredibly grateful for her and all the ways she loved me. I wanted to do everything in my power to be clear: my birth family will never replace her. I'm so thankful that she understands this, and has supported me on this journey.

Saturday came, and we shipped the kids off to different sitters, and then waited. The tension built and we talked about all the ways this reunion could turn out. Remember when I said that this AncestryDNA kit might change the rest of the book? This is the day that I realized my that the plot of my life had taken a course much different than I expected. The book would end differently than I thought it would.

And I had never been more okay with that in my life.

At this point, we're basically strangers. We have this connection with each other that nobody else has, but we know almost nothing about each other. So I expected awkward. I expected lulls in the conversation. I expected lots of questions being asked and answered.

But what I didn't expect was an instant connection that I can only describe as an unconscious. I was immediately settled. I knew her. There was some awkwardness, yes. But the awkwardness was that it wasn't awkward. The lulls in conversation were because we were all so at ease. The questions and answers were love.

Also, it was beautiful weather, but we didn't sit outside. And it didn't even matter one tiny bit.

My brother said it well, when he said "Meeting up today was the last thing I wanted to do, but I did it because I want to get to what's next."

Yep. I totally get it. Let's get on with life. Together.


Was the meeting like "My Adoption Story"? YES. Actually, it was better. We talked, we looked through photo albums, we went to get lunch (where Matthew and I awkwardly discovered that we're both obsessive about our food not touching) and planned to meet up again a few weeks later for Matthew's birthday.

I don't have a single photo from that birthday gathering, possibly because our three kids were running around, busy with excitement. During this second visit we also got to meet my brothers amazing girlfriend, Morgan. To say I like her would be an understatement.

During our visit, Macy asked me "What's HER name?" as she pointed to my birth mom.

Well, Macy, that's a good question. Just calling her "Lisa" didn't seem right.

"Macy, how about Grandma Lisa?"

"Yeah! Gramma Weesa, can you walk in the forest with me?"

"Gramma Weesa! Watch me on the swing!"

And also..."Uncle Maffew, see me runnin'?"

This is jumping and flailing and flying freely.

++++++++

A few weeks later, I got a voicemail from my brother. He said that my birth dad (if you're confused, this is also Matthew's dad) wanted to see me. So in August we drove to my brothers house just south of us and reunited.

It was another instant connection. He has so many similarities to my dad. His mannerisms, his personality, his facade.


He shared a photo on Facebook afterwards, and what he expressed hit me so deep. He said "33 years ago I kissed my beautiful daughter goodbye, today I got to kiss her hello." I think it reminded me that these have been full-circle moments not just for me, but for them as well.

I imagine that as much as I've wondered about them, they've wondered about me. I always wanted to believe that, but maybe I never allowed myself to really go there.

And here's where I realize that my book didn't start on the day I was adopted. My book started long before that, and the first few chapters were a mystery to me until this year.

When we left that get-together in August, just as we always do, we talked about the next time we'd all be together. My birthday was 6 weeks away, and I said that I'd be BEYOND thrilled if everyone would come to our house for my birthday.

Everyone?! Like, everyone??

Everyone.

I knew this would be outside of what was comfortable. I knew it had the potential to be epically awkward (I strongly dislike the word 'epic', but I think this is one time that it fits). I knew that some people may want to say 'no thanks' and I was okay with that.

But instead of "no thanks" everyone said "I'll be there!".

Everyone.

So for my 34th birthday, all the people who helped get me to this place gathered together. All the people who love me, love our kids, and allow us to love them. Under one roof. To celebrate me.

The only people missing were my two dads. I believe that both would have been here with bells on, if they could have.


This whole journey has been weird. I've used that word a lot over the past year as I'm telling this very story. Because right now I don't know what other word to use.

This thing that I thought only happened to 'other people' has now happened to me. I have felt as though I'm the center of a story that is in the process of being written. I'm the main character, but I'm also the writer. I get to decide where I go and how I handle things.

This life really is up to me. I'm responsible for myself. My thought process is my responsibility. If I'm scared and reluctant and timid and hesitant because - WHAT IF - then it's nobody's fault but my own. I believe that I could have sat on this, and that would have been okay. Jake would have eventually piped down about it, and I'd be going on with my comfortable, safe life.

It's my story, so nobody could have told me I was wrong.

But then I see this, and I know it's so right.


Because of these women, I'm here. They've each contributed to who I am in their own unique ways, and I love each of them uniquely.

I don't believe they are competing against each other or battling each other. I believe they're each confident in the uniqueness that they bring.


That sign behind us was something I picked up a few years ago from a 50% off sale at Hobby Lobby. But that's the title of this chapter. Let Love Grow.

This is what it looks like to let love grow. I wanted to squelch it. I wanted to dig it up.

THANK GOD I just let it grow.

++++++++

There are more women who aren't in the picture above - some related to me by blood, some related to me by love. All these women who love me, and allow me to love them. Sometimes I just can't believe how good this story is turning out. And other times, I'm the one person who stands in the way of anything good happening. I sabotage my own story. I show up as the villain and make a mess of everything.

Let this be a reminder for myself. This is what happens when I get out of the way and let love grow.

And the woman in the story who jumps freely into the hard and scary thing?


It's her. She's the one who taught me to run and jump and flail and do it with wild abandon.

When we were adopting Carter I referenced a quote frequently from Mary Oliver. She said "Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?". What I planned to do 7 years ago is much different than my plans of today.

Today, my plan starts with giving up control so that I can jump and fly. This is not the easiest thing I've ever done, and I'm still learning. I've got so much to learn.

To everyone who has invested in me, I thank you. I owe many people, and I believe the best way to pay them back is to use what they've given to me and make more with it.

I want the end of my book to be all about making more by loving and being loved by others.

Closing this chapter a little sadly, as it was such an amazing one in which things happened swiftly and good things kept coming. I believe this is one chapter I'll look back on frequently and think "Man, those were good times."

But I also believe that good times are ahead. Doing life together sounds so good.

Life together, for everyone.

Everyone?! 

Everyone.




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