Sunday, November 28, 2010

open adoption three years later...

There is no doubt God had an amazing plan for our family long before we ever knew it.

It was exactly three years ago (on Thanksgiving weekend!) that we sat across the table from a 21 year old girl named Megan and her 2 yr. old son, Brayden, for the first time. As she sat down in her chair, I couldn't help but look down at her pregnant tummy and wonder, "Could THAT be my baby?" Quickly I shrugged off those thoughts. Just focus on loving this girl and this baby boy sitting in front of you, Amy. THAT'S who the Lord has placed in your life to love right now. Since Megan was the age of many of our college students, it wasn't hard to sit, listen to her heart, and love her.

She had just found out she was 4 1/2 months pregnant. First she had been told Caroline was a boy, but the week of Thanksgiving she found out the baby was a girl. The birthfather (same as Brayden's) was no longer in the picture and not even helping out with Brayden financially. She was desperately trying to figure out how she would make ends meet with a 2nd child. Though she knew realistically it couldn't happen, her heart was fighting her otherwise. As we listened to this beautiful girl talk, my heart broke for her. Like any mom, she wanted to keep her daughter and give her all the love she could.

(Adoption isn't a plan that a birthmom takes lightly. It is a painful, painful grieving process to realize and admit that you can't do it. I remember Megan having to remind herself through the pregnancy that her desires-- to keep the baby & love her-- were not as important as her baby's needs. That's quite a sacrificial love, if you ask me!)

As we said our goodbyes and drove away from that first meeting, I honestly thought that it would be the last time I would ever see Megan and Brayden. But hopefully our conversation was some kind of help to her, I remember thinking, whether she keeps the baby or places her for adoption with someone. Hopefully we were able to minister to her in her pain, even if we never see her again. As we recapped the conversation at the restaurant, we couldn't help dream of the "what if's" and so we guessed our "chances" of Megan's baby actually becoming our own in less than 4 months.

"I give it a 20% chance," Marc said.
"I give it 10%." (always the optomist that I am...) ha ha :)

Well, God already knew that was a 100%. Looking back, it is beautiful how he used that first meeting to unite our families together in love. And now three YEARS later, my heart still leaps with joy at God's gracious plan! That beautiful girl, Megan, and her son, Brayden, who were strangers three years ago are quite an important part of our extended family.

I know it is probably hard for most people to fathom the dynamic between an adoptive mom and a birthmom being one of mutual respect and joy, (usually the movies or the false stereotypes picture it as otherwise) but we truly rejoice at the times we are able to reunite again like yesterday and celebrate God's faithfulness and provision for us all!!

My sweet daughter knows her "Mommy Megan."
She knows she came out of Mommy Megan's tummy.
And she already knows that it was God's special plan for Megan to pick Mommy & Daddy to be her forever parents.

Open adoption is beautiful:

1. For Marc & I: We get to raise and love a precious child. (WE are the luckiest ones out of this deal!) We love knowing there's another mom out there that is just as proud and heartbroken along with us. She isn't in our "business" or wanting to steal our child away. Nope- she's eternally grateful and a wonderful cheerleader! And over the past year as medical questions have risen, it has been so helpful to be able to talk to Megan about family history stuff and we are both able to grieve this health process together. (it has also been another confirmation to us all of God's plan for placing Caroline in our family)

2. For Megan: She gets to watch her daughter grow up, knowing that she gave her the life she wanted her to have. She doesn't have to WONDER. She can just check the blog or call us anytime. She gets a relationship with her daughter, even if it is long-distance.

3. For Caroline: She gets love from ALL sides!! She doesn't have to WONDER where she came from, or go through an identity crisis surrounding her adoption. She just KNOWS.

Plus, she gets an extra Grandma out of the deal, too!!! :) (who wouldn't want that?)

Here are more pics from our fun day together:

We praise God for how he united our families together.

We love you and are so proud of you, Mommy Megan. We have a feeling you feel the same way... :)
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

when in texas, do like the texans...

Howdy, y'all! For Thanksgiving, we lived it up Texas-style!

When we got off the plane, can you believe my Pop had a stretch limo waiting just for us!?! (Alright, so it wasn't just for us. We had 7 people in our family that needed a ride from the airport at the same time, so Pop splurged a little to have us all picked up. But still. A first limo ride at 2 years old??)

Now Pop, you realize I'll expect this kind of treatment ALL the time... :)

Before we picked up my cousins, you better believe we turned up the music and I did some DANCING! So fun!

All of the cousins together! Trevor (9), Tyson (6), Me (almost 3), & Erik (18 months). (I'm the favorite granddaughter in this family of BOYS! he he)

My Pop & Mamie loved having all their grandkids together. (and so did we!)

I have the coolest cousins.

So, when in Texas, do like the Texans.
We shimmied on down to the Ft. Worth Stockyards and watched the historic cattle drive.
We ate Texas barbecue.
We ate Tex-Mex.
We tried on cowboy & cowgirl hats.
(did I mention we ATE?)

We moseyed on over to this HUGE Christmas tree for a quick photo op... again, everything's bigger in.....)

And what could be more Texas than to go to a RODEO!!! (yee-haw!) Okay, so I (Caroline) missed out on this part of the trip, but my cousins Trev & Ty had a BLAST!

And I didn't have such a bad time myself either. See y'all back at the ranch!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

when nanny comes...

When my Nanny blows into town for just 2 days, you wouldn't BELIEVE the things that get done around here...

I get LOTS of lovin' and play time.

All our clothes get cleaned and folded. Daddy's office is spotless. (um, that's quite a feat) Furniture was painted. Our basement has been reclaimed from the RUF meeting room to MY playroom again! (RUF will now be meeting in a new location next semester-- behind the Muse Coffee House on Kemper Street)

Our house got all ready for Christmas!


AND... the best part?? I got a NEW bed and a NEW room!! More pictures coming later, but we'll give you guys a sneak preview..

I LOVED it! (here I am about to take my first nap in my new bed)

Whew! Thank you SO much for all of your help, Nanny & Papa! We love you!
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Your kingdom and mine...

Your kingdom is not like mine.

In my kingdom, perfect lighting and perfect photoshoping make my heart leap. Your kingdom is not concerned with the fleeting beauties of today. In it is the ugly. The unlovely. The aggravating. The downcast. The liars. The needy. The cripple. The heartbroken. The sick.

You see all of those things and call them BEAUTIFUL.

I know that what may not be visually beautiful in my kingdom, Lord, is stunning and valuable in Yours. Whereas I find worship in what my eyes can feast upon, You delight in things beyond my vision: Love. Mercy. Service. Humility.

Whereas this holiday season I am tempted to love and crave MORE, the point of the holiday we celebrate is that you value LESS. I value being full. You value emptying. I value acquiring possessions. You value the LACK of them. I value gaining respect and status. You were satisfied with none. (!!)

You want more for me than a nice house with a 2 car garage. You want more for my daughter than a charming smile and a head full of shining hair. Your dreams for my family are bigger than my own. And You want US.

Your goodness abounds not where there is blessing and wealth, but where there is pain. When I am lacking. And I feel my need and dependence. You are there all along, but that's when you love to show up.

You love the unlovely.
You love the needy.
You love the doubter.
You love the have-nots.

You were born in a cattle trough, where no picture would be taken, edited, and perfected to boast about. Your facebook profile picture would make no one click "like." The picture was too dark. It was blurry. It was without makeup or even a smile. It was filthy, with dirt and sweat and feces. It looked repulsive and crazy. It was of a poor girl in excruciating pain. She was lonely, finding comfort only in a barn among the animals. No one welcomed. No one respected. There just wasn't any room.

where you show up in our lives. Immanuel.

You deserved fine perfume, yet you chose to get dirty.
You deserved a throne for a king, yet you chose a stinky trough.
You deserved a mansion, yet you chose a "house" that no human would desire.
You deserved a feast, yet you chose to be hungry.
You deserved all the attention and loud praises from all of mankind, yet you chose silence in the middle of the night when no one would notice.
You deserved presents of wealth, yet you chose grave cloths and funeral spices.
You deserved all the royalty to come and bow before you, yet you chose the lowly and meek.

Your kingdom is not like mine.

I deserve no home, yet you promise me a mansion in glory.
I deserve to hunger, yet you feed me with your Word.
I deserve condemnation, yet you grant me righteousness and a place in your FAMILY!
I deserve no gifts, yet in you, I am beyond rich.

Father, daily my eyes deceive me and I base my justification and my happiness upon images that fade away. Help me to see and delight in the beauty of Your kingdom above my own.

Friday, November 12, 2010

hair, shmair...

Today marks one year since the first hairs began falling out of my daughter's head. I remember finding her pacifier in her crib completely covered in beautiful dark brown hair and wondering what that was about. I remember her picking at hairs between her fingers as they'd fall into her food at mealtimes. I had no idea what was happening at the time or why it was happening. For whatever reason, I wasn't even all that worried at the time. (I guess that didn't come until later...)

I certainly didn't expect my child would be completely bald in 10 months, or that a year later I still wouldn't really know the why of all of this. Or that I'd be cooking gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, low sugar meals for her.

My, how things change in a year!

I don't even know where to begin. We've had so many ups and downs that I'm honestly left questioning whether I even know what "normal" is anymore! I mean, I don't have any other kids to compare things, and I'm just sooo weary trying to be the detective, the chef, the nutritionist, the doctor, and the wife and mom as well.

Before this past year, I used to think health issues were so concrete. So fixable. I trusted physicians and big hospitals to KNOW and help. I thought I could eat well and feed my child "well," and just deal with the normal stuff that comes along in life. I never knew what a year of discouragement and heartache I would have to face. I didn't know what it was like to cry so hard that you think you're gonna puke. I've never experienced the moments of hopelessness and despair as I have this year. It is just so hard for a mom not to be able to "fix" it.

It's been a year filled with grieving lots of little things: bows in the hair, eating as a family at the ice cream stand, playing with regular playdough, etc. It may sound so dumb and I know in the grand scheme of life, it could be SOOO much worse. Nevertheless it is still very painful.

And I still don't know the why of everything. Last week our doctor suggested we begin looking nationwide for a specialized immunologist that would know auto immune conditions and the connections with dermatology. (hair & skin issues) We are waiting on her referral as she is looking into possible physicians. It felt like such a blow to hear her say, "I've been in peds for 30 years and have never seen a case like this."

I just don't understand. I don't understand why my kid is never really sick (haven't needed to give her tylenol or ibuprofin for almost a year!), she's as strong & happy a kid as you've ever met, she's growing like a weed, she communicates similar to a child twice her age, and yet she's supposedly the "sick" kid?? I just don't see it. I don't know what I'm supposed to do to help her. And apparently no one does.

What has also been discouraging is that my own vertigo issues have recently come back as well. (some of you remember I struggled all last winter with it.) Three weeks ago I woke out of bed and everything was out of control-- it was as if I was on a rocking boat in the middle of a terrible storm, and I had to grab the wall to keep from falling. Thankfully the dizziness only lasted for about 30 seconds before the nausea and vomiting set in. Since that episode, I have struggled with the constant sense of being "off kilter" and having an almost continuous vestibular migraine-- not anything that has kept me from normal functioning, but has certainly decreased my quality of life. Please, please, PLEASE count it a blessing if you are able to feel like your head is in balance with your body! It is such a gift. I beg the Lord will give that back to me soon.

My symptoms have been particularly aggravated this time around by looking at the computer screen. (which is why I have written this entire post out on paper first & am looking away as I type this as much as possible) With just one minute of looking at the computer or tv screen, I feel a headache and dizziness/spaciness come on. Ugh. Can I just try to get my daughter well without everyone's health in my family falling apart???

Speaking of everyone's health issues, Marc has gone back ON gluten for the past several weeks as he'll be having an endoscopy in a week or so to check for celiac disease. (his brother has it and so it makes everyone in his family prone to it) You might remember that he was feeling SO good when he went gluten free for a month or so. Back on gluten, he is fighting all of his old symptoms again-- fatigue, lack of energy, mental cloudiness, gastro issues, allergies & itching, etc. These were ALL much improved off of gluten. He says regardless of this test's results, (which requires you to be on gluten for 6 weeks) he will be going gluten free. I think for him, he's wondering if he'll be gluten free because he wants to or because he has to.

He's eager to be gluten free again and says that there is NO food worth eating if it makes him feel like this. Amazing, huh? But since he has to be on the stuff for it to show up on his endoscopy, we've been enjoying a "farewell gluten" tour together! (Pizzas and breads and some junk food! yummm!) Too bad he won't still be on it over the holidays! :) I'll keep you guys posted. If it weren't for Caroline's health issues, I don't think Marc would ever have figured out his own issues with gluten, so even for that, we can be thankful.

Yes, it's been the hardest year of my life.
It's also been the best year of my life, too.

Watching my little girl grow and blossom into a little person is the highlight of my life. I just love to watch her little brain tick as she learns and discovers all that life has to offer. I have a husband who is so, so good to me and we suffer through this together. We are the best of friends and marriage is even better after 11 years than it was at year one. God is growing me in ways I never dreamed. And suffering, as awful as it feels, just humbles you, you know?

I love my little family. We are richly blessed. With so much more than hair. Hair, shmair.

I know God is at work in our lives, especially when we're suffering. He works through the suffering, not in spite of it. Many of you have prayed for us and loved us in so many different ways over this past year. Thank you. Thank you for the cards, the emails, the gifts, the meals, the toddler hats, :) the hugs, and the prayers. This Thanksgiving, we have much for which to be thankful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

at 32 months...

I'm four months away from my 3rd birthday, folks, and I can't stop TALKING about it! (Someone asked me, "How old are you?" I said, "I'm 2. But I'm trying to turn 3!") And you know why I'm trying so hard to turn 3?

"I get a birthday cake!!!" (you see, it's not really as much about the EATING the cake part as much as it is the singing "Happy Birthday" & blowing out the THAT'S the fun part to me!) And yesterday when Mommy asked me what I wanted on my birthday cake, guess what I said?

"Okay, what kind of animals do you want?"
"Piglets? Um, okay. What other animal do you want on your cake?"
"A giraffe!"

Hmmm. This will certainly be an interesting birthday theme with piglets and giraffes. :)

Besides talking about my birthday every day, here's what else I'm up to:

  • I LOVE board games with little pieces! Now, I'm not actually PLAYING the game (obviously) but I love to play with all the little pieces. Dropping in the "checkers" into Connect 4, lining up letters on the Scrabble tray, putting Chinese checkers into the holes, etc. etc. (yes, the kinds of things that end up scattered ALL over your house and under your couches... ugh)
  • I am singing, singing, singing!! Every week I learn a new hymn or two and now I'm starting to belt them out at church and RUF! (it's so sweet to hear this little voice right on pitch!)

  • I'm a pro at my tricycle now! (no, we're not wearing shorts around here anymore- this was taken a few weeks ago on an unusually warm day) :) I can push the pedals and ride, ride, RIDE!
  • Lest you think that everything I do is perfect, Mommy wants to make sure it is known that I am a strong willed girl, and it is becoming increasingly harder and harder to get me to obey...

  • Now, Mommy & Daddy don't let me do this all that often, so it's a little creepy how quickly I've caught on to using my own mouse to play some toddler games online. ( has some good ones) AND somehow (Mommy & Daddy didn't teach me, so they don't know how this happened) I can type my own name on a Word document. (Um, Mommy wants to know if you are supposed to be doing this at TWO?!)

  • Our small church plant just started a Sunday School class for 2 & 3 year olds like me! I love going to my class and on the way home from church, I tell Mommy ALL about the things I learned.

  • Mommy's getting excited about putting together my big girl bed soon! (here's a little sneak preview!) And check out the name of the most likely paint color for my room... is it meant to be or WHAT?! :)

  • I am a sweet, sweet girl with a big vocabulary and an even bigger heart. I like to say, "Daddy, I'm SO proud of you!!!"
Well, our sweet Caroline, I'll have to admit we're pretty stinkin' proud of you, too. :)
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

musical like mom...

We've got a budding musician in our house! You wouldn't believe how well this girl can really sing, and watch out Mommy-- it won't be too long before she catches up with YOU! :)

(p.s. Mommy is getting sooooo aggravated that literally EVERY time we go to the grocery store, at least 2 or 3 people refer to me as a boy or a "fellow"!!! It happened one time while wearing this outfit... geez, and it was the first time I wore some blue!! Here's a clue, people: look for PINK. And if you don't know, don't say ANYTHING, okay? Thanks.)

Is there any need to say how much I love my Nanny & Papa?? We're so glad you came to see us this weekend!
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

hands of love #12...

Through all of the challenges that this past year has brought into our life, one of the greatest benefits has been learning about foods and about nutrition in a way I (Amy) never even CARED about before. I used to go to a grocery store, look at the food, & just bought whatever was the cheapest at the time, as opposed to now buying what is the best for our bodies, even when the organic cucumber is $2.97... (grrrr....) This really has been life changing for our family. A year ago, my sister offered me some kind of kitchen gadget in which you could make homemade salad dressing, and I remember telling her, "I don't need that! Why would I make a salad dressing when I can just go buy a bottle of it?"

My. How times have changed. :)

Caroline, I hope that you not only see these pictures of food as evidences of MY deep love and commitment to you, but as evidences of God's AMAZING grace and transformation in your mommy's heart. He is guiding us each step of the way. Of that I am sure.

Prepared for you with hands of love...

A roasted chicken. (I never knew it was soooo easy to do. I also never knew how important it was to eat organic chicken until slight levels of arsenic(!) showed up in my daughter's bloodwork)

  • Take out the "bag" of stuff from inside the chicken's cavity. (I don't even know what that stuff is, but thankfully it's in a bag & I don't have to touch it or deal with it. Gross.)
  • Chop up a lemon into quarters. Chop up 1/2 an onion into quarters. Chop several cloves of garlic in half. Throw all of that into the cavity of the chicken with some sea salt, pepper, and any fresh or dried herb you want. (rosemary, basil, etc.)
  • Rub the entire outside of the chicken with extra virgin olive oil & put salt & pepper on the outside as well.
  • That's it! Put it on a pan into a 375 degree oven for about an hour & waa-lah! Comfort food.
(You can pull off any leftover pieces of chicken & use in another dish for later... curry, quesadillas, soup, salad, etc. Also save the bones to make some super nutritious homemade broth!)

Kale chips. (thanks for the idea, Ames!) They were surprisingly YUMMY-- crunchy & salty. Google "kale chip recipes" and you can figure out how to make 'em.

Steak tacos on corn tortillas.

Then we used the leftover steak on top of a delicious salad. Caroline, you gobbled this all up and asked for more!

And here's something HUGE I've learned lately. Apparently our bodies don't digest grains all that well....breads, pastas, etc. And they especially aren't digesting the grains that we are eating today in our American diet. (which are different from the grains used in past generations) I had no idea about any of this before, but all grains are covered in something called phytic acid which prevents good digestion. (It also binds to vitamins, too, so if you're like me & are taking your vitamins with your breakfast cereal, it probably isn't absorbing because the phytic acid in the cereal will soak it up first!) The way to break up that phytic acid is to soak your grains (oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat groats, millet, etc.) for several hours (usually 7 or overnight) and that releases the bond of the phytic acid from the grain you're eating. (the exception to this is rice b/c it doesn't have as much phytic acid as the others.) Soaking your grains also makes the enzymes in the grain come "alive" and begin sprouting, which not only makes the grain extremely easier to digest, but SO much better for your body to get some nutrition from it, too.

So this is wierd to most of you-- I get that. But hey- if it could possibly help any of you out there, I'm just gonna put myself out there and risk being labeled a freak. Here I've got a cup of quinoa soaking in a cup of warm, filtered water overnight. (here I was also soaking some raw nuts with salt water, as this soaking/sprouting stuff also applies to raw nuts--- after they've soaked, you put them in a warm oven at 150 degrees for 12 hours to make them dry & crispy. They'll keep in an airtight container for months.)

The next morning... take a look...

If you look close or click on this picture, you'll see my quinoa grains literally sprouted! (kinda wierd, but cool, isn't it?!) Then I drained and rinsed them under cold running water, and then cooked them just as I normally would on the stovetop. (they actually take a little less time to cook with this process) Now the food is working FOR you and is prepared like it would've been in generations past.

Soaking your grains isn't hard. It just requires planning. (which also never happened in my house before until all of this hit, so I understand...)

Here's another crazy one to try (if you dare), especially with your young kids to sneak in another veggie...

Flourless, Chocolate-less Peanut Butter Squash "Brownies"!! (Caroline calls this her "cake") :)

  • 1 cup of almond butter (or peanut butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup cooked, pureed butternut squash or beets
  • nuts (optional)
Mix all ingredients. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

And is it any wonder why you, my sweet girl, are now showing quite the interest in cooking and serving your own food?? Really? Is this MY kid??? :) What can I say-- God is good.
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