Sunday, November 27, 2005

Eleven Years and Counting

Just this weekend, Mark and I celebrated 11 years together since our first date. It's fun to remember how we were back then, how young and naive (I was 20 and Mark was 19). How did we get to that point? Let me tell you. :)

Mark and I "knew" each other in childhood. We grew up attending the same church, and our families were very active. So, Mark and I were involved in a lot of the same activities at church. But we didn't go to the same elementary or middle schools, and Mark was a grade behind me. Although we knew each other through church, we weren't friends... yet.

In my senior year of high school, I became heavily involved in our church's Youth Group. Mark did, too. We both had a very good work ethic, and were part of a core team who led the group. We got to know each other more personally, and began to "hang out" together at school as well. We would find each other before school and talk in the library, or walk "the loop" in the main building. Meeting in the morning became a regular thing with us, although we never spoke of it. Soon, I found that I had a crush on Mark and wanted him to ask me out.

I was not subtle about my crush, but I was also very cautious. Something inside said, "this could be serious - don't mess it up!!" So I showed interest, but not too much. And Mark showed interest, but didn't ask me out.

I remember that he would brush the snow off my car after Youth Group meetings, even though we were "just friends." And we would always end up sitting next to each other at the meetings. We had inside jokes that only we understood. All the signs were there that we were a good match. But Mark didn't ask me out.

After months of this, I figured he wasn't all that into me or something would have happened. So I started a relationship with another guy, just before graduation. The relationship lasted almost 3 years, during which I didn't see much of Mark at all (Mark went away to school, and I stayed home). But I never forgot him.

Toward the end of my relationship, I realized there was lots of things I needed in my partner that he couldn't provide. And I remembered how many of those things Mark had (or showed promise of having) when we were in high school. Mark was the most caring and sensitive young man I had known, and I could foresee what he would be as a husband and father to my children. He had strong faith, the same faith I had. He was hard-working, careful, giving, intelligent, funny. He became a yardstick by which I measured other men. I decided to end the relationship with my boyfriend. And then fate [*God*] intervened.

Mark was home from school for Thanksgiving break, which I knew because I had friendships with his younger brother and sister. A group of us from church decided to get together for a night of games and fun, and I invited Mark. I decided (with lots of encouragement from my big sister Becky) that I would use that night to ask Mark on a date for the next day. During the party, the time ticked on and I couldn't find the courage to ask. Becky called me on the phone periodically to find out if I had asked yet... and to provide me the kick in the pants I needed when she heard I hadn't. The party was ending, and I was chickening out. But, I knew if I didn't do it, there would be heck to pay with Becky. So, as Mark was heading out the door, I casually asked if he wanted to see a movie the next day. He accepted.

The date went great, and we caught up on so much that had happened in 3 years. It was comfortable and fun and casual and sweet and EASY. And I knew that we were starting where we left off, but we were starting as adults and not children, and that the stakes this time were much higher. And that "this really could be serious - so don't mess it up!!"

Thanks to God, I didn't.

Cousin Lovin' (part 2)

We've been having such a fun month! Over Thanksgiving, we were fortunate to see my sister Bobbi's family from out of state. The kids loved having them visit for Thanksgiving lasagna (we were having a traditional Thanksgiving the next day, and I didn't want us to get turkeyed-out). Abby's and Ethan's cousins range from 13 to 17 years old. It was great to see them!!

Abby with her cousin, Erik. It was shocking to me that he is now taller than I am! He looks so cute with his longer hair, even if you can only see one eye. ;)

Aubrey (Bree) had fun playing with Ethan. She is growing into such an impressive young woman!

Abby and Ethan were playing "knock all of the computer cartridges onto the floor" with Ben and Erik. Uncle Leif was the pick-up man.
Ben is a kid-magnet, Ethan had such a blast with him! Mark was happy to realize he and Ben have the same geek-sense. I'll have a few words of warning for his future wife! :)

Kelsey had fun showing Abby how to play on the computer. Abby can learn a thing or two from her bright and focused cousin!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cousin Lovin' (part 1)

Well, we are in the last week of the visit from Tracy, Lana, and David (see this post for details). Yesterday, Tracy's husband Jeremy flew in for a 4 day visit as well (yeah!!) We've been having so much fun playing together, and we were so excited to have the 3 of them spend 4 nights at our house. The kids just love to get together, and 3 toddlers playing provides lots of opportunity to practice sharing {smile}. Here are some pictures from our visit so far.

Abby's giving Lana a "head-hug." It's rare to have them sitting still for long enough to get a picture, so this was precious!

Ethan and Lana were walking and holding hands at a farm we went to. Soooo cute!

Abby is such a little mommy! She is always holding out her hands to hold David, and loves to make him laugh. Ethan is giving him a hug, too.

Ethan LOVES David (or, "baby!" as he likes to say). He thinks "Day-did" is so funny.

Abby is helping David play the piano. She is very concerned that he's having fun.

Abby is getting ready to shower Lana with leaves.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mark's Wish Comes True

Picture this: it's the middle of winter, and a blanket of white snow has been laid upon the ground. It's perfect, wet, packing snow. A man stands in a yard, surveying a very large "snow ogre." Adding the final touches, he hears a car slow down behind him. The driver rolls down his window and says, "it got too cold for the kids, huh?" The man smiles and laughs in reply, and the car drives away.

That man is my husband, Mark. This happened 4 years ago. And the reality is - there weren't any kids that it "got too cold" for. Mark was outside building a snowman by himself! He's always loved to play in the snow, whether he's 5 or 30. And he's always wished for kids that want to do the same (he discovered early on that it wasn't going to be his wife that shared his passion).

Today, the first flakes of snow hit the ground at our house. Abby noticed right away and cried out, "it's snowing!" Last spring, when the snow no longer flew, Abby was distressed for a month. She would look at me with baleful eyes and question, "snow?" I had to explain that the snow was gone, but would be back. She looked skeptical, but today proved it to her.

Abby turned to Daddy and said "snowman!" She ran to get her boots, coat and mittens. She, Daddy and Ethan donned their snow attire quickly. Before the snow had been falling for 10 minutes, they were outside in the backyard, treking through a dusting of snow, braving the horrible winds that we get here. But Abby was in heaven. When 5 minutes had passed, Mark brought them in because it was so bitter. And Abby cried. She's her Daddy's girl, and her Daddy is so excited that this winter will be his most fun yet.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Living in "The Twos"

I am the youngest of four girls... by a landslide. My sisters are 13, 12 and 10 years older than I am. In some ways, it has made me feel I was missing out on the closeness they share, the growing-up-together they did. In many ways, I was like an only child because my childhood was so seperated from theirs. But, despite being jealous of having siblings close in age, having *much* older sisters is ultimately a blessing. They have all "been there" before me, and I can learn from them. They impart their wisdom upon me, which I appreciate.

My sisters are all excellent moms (I'm not just saying that because they might be reading this!) They are all loving, nurturing, involved parents with awesome children. Their parenting styles are very different from one another, but each has aspects of their parenting that Mark and I admire and try to incorporate into our parenting. Becky is intimately involved with at least one activity with each child (boy scouts/soccer/religion classes/etc.), and always has been. With five kids, that's certainly not easy to do, but she makes time for all of them. Bobbi is one of the most family-focused people I know. Her kids never have to guess if they're a priority, because Bobbi is always looking out for their best interests in whatever she does. And my youngest sister, Bonnie, has such calmness with her kids. Even when she is at her wits end, she is calm and controlled with my nephew and niece (how did she do it during "the twos"?). My sisters are now and always have been an important source of wisdom for me.

Yesterday, I spoke with my middle sister, Bobbi. I was filling her in on the latest antics of the kids, exasperated about the things they've gotten into lately. She told me to soak in every minute, good and bad, because this time is over so quickly.

Over so quickly? Abby started "the twos" at 18 months, and is in this stage full-swing. Ethan is just at the cusp of this period, starting to test me at every turn. It hardly feels quick when you're in it. But, of course, my older and wiser sister is right. If I blink, it will be over and I will yearn for those days of innocence again.

So here is a tribute to the recent activities of Abby and Ethan in "the twos." Sometimes, the moments are terrible. And others are terrific. I'm just trying to soak them all in.
Abby was very upset because I asked her to say cheese. She didn't want to.
Ethan has perfected the scowly face.
Abby figured out how to open doors this last week, so we had to buy doorknob covers (which she is trying to figure out in this picture). Earlier this week, I found her (with her cousin, Lana) halfway down the basement stairs.Ethan likes to climb up and stand on things like this chest - the kitchen table has also become a favorite.

Our little nudist like to take off her clothes when no one's looking.

But just when I'm about to pull out more of my hair, there is an impromptu kiss through the slider door. Too precious.

And I came running when I heard the giggling to find these two "twos" spontaneously dancing in the living room.

I have to grin when I see Ethan's smiling "scrunchy-face."

And Abby's laugh makes everyone join in.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Play area non-fun

We want to know what you think! Please comment to this post!
Our family loves to go to the play area at the mall. It's a great place for the kids to burn off some energy. It's a good environment for the kids to learn how to cooperate with other kids. And best of all, it's FREE!

We went to a play area this evening that we frequent. It has tunnels, things to climb on, and best of all (in Abby's opinion) 2 fast-moving slides. What more could you ask for? Tonight, the play area was fairly busy with kids. And, the level of inappropriate play was off the charts. There were 5 kids climbing UP the slides while other kids were waiting to go down. There was pushing and shoving on the stairs. There was unexplained screams of pain coming from tunnels. It was outrageous. After a couple of minutes of watching kids climb up slides without consequence, Mark and I united and began to take control of the situation. These kids parents were nowhere to be found, or if they were there, they were doing nothing while their children hurt other children or played unfairly.

We started with the 10 year old boy - "It's against the rules to climb the slides." Moving on to the 8 year old girl - "You cannot cut in line in front of 0ther kids who are waiting." We stopped the slide-climbers in their tracks and things began to run more smoothly.

After about 15 minutes, Mark found himself face-to-face with an angry mom. You see, her school-aged son had been climbing up the slide and pushed an unsteady toddler off the side in his ascent. The little girl fell from 2 or 3 feet, and began to cry. While her mother tended to her, Mark immediately told the boy that he couldn't climb the slide and that he needed to watch out for other children.

The boy's mom was angry. She walked up to Mark and told him to stop telling her boy what to do, and that she can't help that his daughter is so clumsy(?!). Mark explained that the boy had pushed her off the slide, and she wasn't even his daughter but he felt someone had to step in. The mother retorted, "this is a play area, and he was just playing." Then, the mother of the toddler came to Mark's aid and reiterated that the boy had pushed her daughter, and why wasn't he being watched anyway? The boy's mother backed down and told her son "we have to go now," and off they went. The boy didn't apologize to the toddler or her mother. His mom didn't apologize either.

My question is this: what should Mark and I do in this type of situation? Our children have been pushed, hit, cut in front of, climbed on, sat on, and hugged aggressively at public play areas. We also witness children doing dangerous things to other children. Sometimes, the parent comes over and disciplines their child or apologizes for their behavior when this happens. If not, we ALWAYS tell the other child to stop hurting our children (or other children). It is a rare parent that actually sees us "discipline" their child in this way, actually, because they are either not present or not paying attention to their child.

There are lots of ways to handle these situations, we realize. And I'm sure there are lots of opinions about the best ways or the right ways to handle them. I'm guessing there are some out there who are appalled that we would step in with children who are not our own. We want to know what you think!! Please, please comment on this post by clicking the "comment" link at the bottom of it (if you like, you can comment anonymously). I want to see lots and lots and lots of feedback on this topic, from parents and non-parents, old and young, male and female. This is an important issue that can be very controversial, and we want weigh your opinions. Thanks!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I don't have the stretch marks to prove it

It seems that once you're a MOM, you start associating yourself with other moms. No matter where you go, you seek other moms out and they seek you out. You give a knowing smile when someone's child is acting up in the grocery store. You join mothers' groups. You see moms at the playground. You tell other moms how cute their kids are when walking through the mall. Moms are everywhere, and you are now one of them!

One of the main mommy topics is: giving birth. I hear moms talking in almost any setting about their children's birth stories. Were they induced? Did they receive any pain medication, and how "natural" was the birth? Did they have a home birth? How long was labor? Did they tear (what a pleasant topic of conversation)? Was a c-section required or even pre-scheduled? Every aspect of birthing is fair game for a mom-to-mom discussion.

I cannot participate in these discussions. I have never given birth. In fact, I have never been pregnant. I've done research on pregnancy, read countless books and articles on the topic, listened to many moms discuss their pregnancies. I know what to expect should I become pregnant. I know what to expect should I be required to deliver a baby (Lord knows the other moms have filled me in on all the gory details). I'm very well "prepared" should anything happen in that area. But after almost 6 years of not preventing pregnancy (to no avail), I'm pretty sure that pregnancy is not in my future.

Early on, when we realized that pregnancy was unlikely, I was sad. Sad that our plan was not being realized (at least, the first part of the plan - we were hoping to have 1 or 2 biological children first, and then adopt). I was mostly heartbroken that it didn't appear I would experience the joy of pregnancy (kicking babies!) and the after-joy of nursing. These would be things I couldn't cross off of my "To Do Before I Die" list. Sigh.

But coming to the decision to adopt was easy for Mark and I. We had discussed adoption early on in our dating, and both viewed it as a meaningful way to grow our family. We were uncomfortable with most treatments to make ourselves "fertile." So adoption was something we were excited to pursuit - it wasn't mearly a last resort when all other fertility treatments failed. We jumped into the adoption arena with both feet! I do not grieve over my inability to achieve pregnancy anymore - I celebrate our ability to parent through adoption.

I rejoice in other moms' pregnancies and deliveries - these are God-given miracles and gifts. And I wouldn't lessen their experiences by asking that they not speak of them in front of me. I am extremely comfortable with and proud of how we've become a family. I believe that my God-given gift is the gift of being an adoptive parent. I am meant to be an adoptive mom. I "click" with our kids' birthfamilies. I am not threatened by the level of openness they want with my children. I cannot imagine that I would be threatened by the level of openness my children want with their birthfamilies. I am their mom. Their birthfamilies love them, too, and there can NEVER be too many people to love my kids. I love my children's birthfamilies, and feel that God has brought us all together for a reason.

So keep talking, moms! Tell me about the contractions, the back-pain, the crowning, all of it. And I will tell you about how it felt to get the phone call telling me we were parents for the first time. Or how amazing it was to be invited to witness my son's birth. These are my birth stories.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Just Lion Around with Cookie Monster

Here are a few pictures of our Halloween trick-or-treaters. Abby is fanatical about lions right now, and was so excited about her costume (especially her painted nose). Ethan is a big fan of Cookie Monster, so he had to be the blue monster for Halloween (complete with cookie jar treat holder).

We have a ton of candy left over, plus what the kids collected in the neighborhood. So if you notice Mark and I gaining 10 pounds in the next month, you'll know why! And if you're in the neighborhood, drop by and yell Trick-or-Treat - we're sure to have a few goodies for you. ;)