Thursday, July 18, 2013

adoption update??

we are still adopting again.

i haven't written much about it, namely because there's not much to say. after deciding to pursue another adoption, we were in a holding pattern for a bit waiting to make sure one aspect of the children's circumstances wouldn't prevent them from being adoptable. after that issue got cleared up, i found out that i had another ovarian cyst. we went through all the emotions of last time where we had to wonder if i was going to get a cancer diagnosis (it's scary to find out you've got something abnormal growing anywhere in your body, but especially on your ovary). after meeting with a gynecological oncologist, we felt more confident that the cyst was benign, but we didn't get confirmation until after surgery last week. thankfully, the cyst was nowhere near as large as last time, so my ovary was preserved. the doctor told me i'm at a slightly increased risk to get another one of these cysts, but there's no correlation between the cysts and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

honestly, a second cyst and a second surgery really put me in a funk in terms of "family planning." we knew we wanted to continue on with adoption, but suddenly, pregnancy seemed like an urgent thing. i knew it would be CRAZY around here if we transitioned three new kids to our family -- a newborn, an adopted toddler, and an adopted preschooler -- all within a short time of each other. i finally had to realize that God was sovereign over all of this -- that he knew when i met our children in uganda that i would face another surgery and the possibility of subsequent cysts after that (the doctor said a third cyst would merit a discussion about removing my ovary). 

despite longing to experience pregnancy and knowing what it's like to have a baby from day one, i've always believed that the two children i already have (and the two who are waiting for us in uganda) are my children. there's not a hole in my heart that can only be filled by a biological child, and i don't feel like any less of a mother for not having birthed my children. so instead of making the decision to adopt AND get pregnant (which, at least for me, would have been a decision driven mostly by fear), we are continuing on with our adoption and will come back to the possibility of pregnancy later. as my husband so wisely (and gently) said to me, our calling to adopt didn't change just because the circumstances of our life and the plans we might have had for ourselves did.

so that's a little of my heart on all of this. once i get over the sheer exhaustion surgery has caused me, i'm going to get back to the grind of adoption paperwork. i'm hoping we'll start seeing some real forward motion once we get started on our home study.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

stitch fix 2

i got my second stitch fix yesterday! as i'm currently five days post surgery for another ovarian cyst, my body is a little funky (read: bloated and puffy). SO, i think everyone will understand why i chose not to have my picture taken wearing the clothes this time around. i did try everything on, though i pretty much knew what i liked and what i didn't as soon as each piece came out of the box.

first up, this gem.

if this is something you would ever wear, you probably shouldn't read the rest of my commentary. where to begin? this shirt looks like something a rich grandmother would wear for a casual day at the country club. it also looks like a pre-schooler's paint set threw up all over it...way too many primary colors (with the exception of the green background). and despite knowing that green and red are complimentary colors (and do, in some instances, look really good together), i can't take the blunt combo of the bright green and bright red. this shirt was never in a million years a contender anyway, but it's also too big. verdict: send back.

next, this dress.

i liked it out of the box, but i knew it would probably look like a sack on me (and i was right). i even tried it with a skinny belt at the waist to try and give it more definition, but it just didn't look right. i think the stylist was trying to send me something that would be kid-friendly, and the fabric is definitely right on target. i also like that it would be a great dress for all seasons (pair it with sandals in the summer, boots and tights for the fall/winter). but it's way too frumpy on me, not to mention that the red buttons with the navy background/white stripes is a little too patriotic for me. verdict: send back.

third was this shirt.

amazing. nothing too crazy, but also unique in its own way. i loved it out of the box, and i loved it after trying it on. my favorite thing is the pop of aqua at the top (though, since it's sheer up there, i'd have to wear a strapless bra). this is one of those shirts that is fitted where it should be, but also has a little flow at the bottom. i also liked that it's multi-seasonal thanks to the 3/4-length sleeves. BUT i don't really know what bottoms to pair it with other than jeans, which i feel like would be too much dark blue. i'm probably over-thinking this, but i decided, for the price, it wasn't worth it. verdict: send back.

next, this shirt.

i liked this shirt when i took it out of the box, but then it started reminding me of a maternity shirt because of the ruching on the side. it was cute on, but the price tag is...$88. i would never pay that much for a casual shirt like this. verdict: send back.

and lastly, this necklace.

i actually asked not to be sent accessories, but this necklace still made its way into my fix. it's a simple, gold necklace with little leaves on it. i really love it for it's versatility, and the price was very reasonable. verdict: keep it.

overall, this second fix bummed me a little, though i feel like it's going to take a few times for them to really "get" what i like and don't like. since i only kept the necklace, i decided to try one more time before taking a break until fall. we have family pictures coming up next month, so i asked to be sent five dresses. again, in full disclosure, i get a referral credit for anyone who signs up to try stitch fix using my link. so if you're interested in joining the fun (and it really is pretty fun!), go here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

stitch fix review

i'm jumping on the bandwagon of bloggers who are writing about their experiences with stitch fix. after reading about stitch fix on several blogs, i decided to give it a try. while i'm not a super fashion-forward person, i do enjoy clothes and splurging every now and then on something fun. the thing that drew me to stitch fix is that it broadens your access to lots of different clothes, but it also makes shopping easier because someone else is essentially doing it for you. all you have to do to get started is answer several questions about your clothing style (what you like and don't like, what you'd like to incorporate more of in your wardrobe) and your lifestyle (if you're a mom, if you have a specific dress code where you work, if you go to lots of special occasions). when you're ready to get a box of clothes (and after you've filled out your style profile), you pay a $20 styling fee, which counts as a credit towards anything you buy. the box contains five items of clothing (you can dictate in your style profile what you'd like to see in your box. for example, i requested dresses or tops). you have three days to try on the clothes and decide what to keep and what to send back (they include in the box a very convenient, pre-addressed bag for the return items), then you check out on the stitch fix website. you also get a chance at check out to give feedback on the clothing in your box so that the stylists get a better idea of what works for you.

i got my first box on saturday, a couple of days earlier than expected, which was a fun surprise. i immediately opened the box and saw this dress first (please excuse that i decided to pose so awkwardly for this picture. you can't even see the front of the dress because i'm holding hands with myself).

i liked it, though it did occur to me that some might think it looks a little prairie girlish (a la laura ingalls wilder). the crochet back is fun, and i like the subtle, floral pattern. the fabric is also really lightweight and comfy. the problem is, it's way too big on top, and i'm not sure it flatters me. after trying it on several times (including once for my friend, erin), i started to like it less and less (and erin's daughter, MC, was actually pretty disgusted by the crochet). it's also fairly pricey for a dress that i wouldn't just throw on to run errands or play at home with the kids. verdict: send back.

the second thing i pulled out of the box was this shirt.

my first thought was, "ummm, did the stylist see on my profile where i said i'm a mom?" seriously, can't you just see this pretty white shirt getting ruined by grimy kid hands? (no offense to my children) i do own white shirts, but none that seem this delicate. the sheer panel at the top of the shirt makes it necessary to wear a strapless bra, which is a little annoying, but i honestly i'm not totally turned off by the sheer. erin, however, insisted this is a shirt that requires something under it, which, to me, takes away from the look of the whole shirt. but since it's not a kid-friendly shirt (and thus not worth the price for the wear i'd get out of it), i don't have to worry about all that :) verdict: send back.

this shirt was the third item out of the box.

i was pretty indifferent to this shirt when i pulled it out, and i'm not sure why. i like the chevron pattern, but i think this is maybe too bold for me. the shirt fits great, and erin (and MC) really liked it for me. but again, this isn't a shirt that i'd put on any random time, and i didn't like it enough to splurge on it even for a special occasion. verdict: send back.

the fourth item was this shirt.

i recognized it pretty quickly as the same shirt (only in a different color and without some mesh detailing) erin got in her first box. this is not a shirt i'd ever gravitate to in a store, mostly because the colors aren't my normal palate. it's definitely an edgier floral print (sorry it's hard to see the print in the picture). i like the way the shirt looks on me, especially because it finds that very happy place between fitted and flowy. the fabric is also a great balance between silky (which i associate with clothes meant for fancier occasions) and knit (which i think is super casual). the price of this top was very reasonable considering i can get a lot of wear out of it. verdict: keep. (i actually wore it today!)

and lastly, this shirt.

i'm a real sucker for chambray. i love chambray because it can go with almost anything, so the versatility of this shirt is undeniable. but BUMMER, it's too big on me. i kept trying to convince myself it was meant to be a little billowy, but i finally had to listen to jamie and erin and realize that the fit of this shirt doesn't flatter me. i'm hoping that i might get a more fitted chambray shirt in a future box. verdict: send back.

since i didn't go crazy with this first box (and since it's my birthday this month), i went ahead and scheduled another box to arrive in a couple of weeks. i told the stylist that i'd love to see something with mint green in it, because i'm really loving that color these days. i also said i have a grass green skirt that needs a pop of color on top, so maybe i'll get some options for that. in the feedback i left on my first box, i said i'd like to see lower price points and more clothing fitted to my "mom lifestyle" in future boxes.

in full disclosure, i can get a $25 referral credit for anyone who signs up to receive a box using this link. so if this all sounds fun to you, get started and help me out at the same time!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

how we got here

i announced on facebook that we're adopting again, but i wanted to share a little more.

when i went to uganda in march, i didn't have adoption on my radar. we were a couple months away from celebrating one year home with kal and buma, and it just didn't seem like we were ready to grow in that way again any time soon. we were, however, ready to try a go at pregnancy. since having a basketball-sized cyst and my right ovary removed in september, i'd been fretting about my health and whether my other ovary would hold out long enough to have a biological child. so after talking with my doctor, we resolved to start trying to get pregnant as soon as i returned from uganda.

let me pause here and tell you how planning to get pregnant has worked for us in the past. when we had been married about six months, we started talking about having children and decided we'd start trying to get pregnant after we'd been married a year. about a month after that discussion, we started feeling a tug toward adoption and never looked back. three years after that, kal and buma came home.

so it seemed kinda funny when i got to uganda and started feeling that little voice in my heart speaking to me about adoption. the second day we were there, we visited the baby's home where my friends, scott and erin, volunteered in 2006 and eventually adopted two of their children from. my experience there was a re-awakening of sorts. i'd been in the business of daily mothering and really had forgotten the reality of orphans. i think it happens to most of adoptive parents -- once your kids our home, once they aren't orphans any more, once they do normal kid stuff that drives you crazy, forget that many, many children still live this utterly devastating existence of orphanage life. what i mean by that is that you forget that kids aren't being loved every hour of every day by a mom and dad. so when i had kids fighting each other to sit on my lap, and crying hysterically when i'd have to put them down, i started feeling convicted about how crappily i parent my kids much i forgot that they were once kids just like the ones i saw in the baby's home in uganda. i also felt convicted about the fact that i'd written adoption off as something we "might do again one day, but certainly not any time soon" as if we were immune from being called again because "we'd already done our part."

it wasn't until the last stop we made in uganda that the calling to adopt was really solidified in my heart. we visited a baby's home run by a friend of scott and erin's in a little, tiny town a couple hours from kampala. scott and erin's non-profit, the mighty river project, had been helping with a few benevolence projects in and around the town, so we went there to check up on things. the director of the baby's home had been telling erin about these two children who she thought erin should adopt, and when we got there, she immediately placed one of the kids in erin's arms and said, "here's your son." we went around to find the other child (his older sister), and when we saw her sitting on a blanket eating lunch, all i could think was, "wow, she looks just like kal."

i don't believe in romantic love at first sight, but i'm now solidly a believer in love at first sight in the family sense. the holy spirit began planting seeds in my heart about those kids from the moment i saw that little girl. and when we got to interact -- when she sat on my lap every chance she could get, when she gave the biggest pouting face in the evening when i had to leave her to go eat dinner, when she cried when the other kids crowded around me and she couldn't get through to me -- i knew God was doing something special. but i was scared and admittedly thought adopting two more was insane. so, despite what i felt in my heart, i posted on facebook and resolved to advocate for them until a family was found.

the morning we were leaving, i went out to tell her goodbye. she had watched our luggage being taken out as she sat on my lap, and erin had heard her asking in luganda if we'd be coming back. she also heard her say about me, "mommy mine." we had fred, our ugandan friend, tell her i'd be leaving to go back to america. she got a sullen look on her face, one that kal gets a lot when you know she wants to cry but is trying not to. and then she held on to me for dear life and had to be peeled off by a nanny. in that moment, i could hear my heart screaming john 14:6 "i will not leave you as orphans, i will come to you." i wanted to promise her that. but as erin and fred said goodbye to all the nannies and the rest of the children, i just stood by the van, out of her sight, in tears. in the van, erin said to me, "i've never cried about a kid i've had to leave in africa except the two that are mine."

when i got home, jamie and i talked a lot. he (understandably) wanted to make sure what i was feeling wasn't like the high you get when you go to summer camp with your youth group. he asked me a lot of questions about how i knew we were supposed to adopt the little girl and her brother and not any of the other children i'd met while in uganda. we discussed how this would impact kal and buma. we had a huge parenting disagreement about a situation with buma that led to more questions about if we are really cut out to be "adoptive parents." we wondered about money. what we concluded was simply God was calling us. the wise counsel we sought was overwhelmingly encouraging about moving forward. i never "came off the mountain" in terms of what i felt for the kids and what had happened in my heart those last couple of days in uganda. and we saw the chunk of our adoption tax credit we'll get as part of our tax refund this year as a huge financial confirmation.

this adoption process will probably look nothing like our first. we'll be doing what's considered an independent adoption and using a lawyer in uganda to facilitate the ugandan side of things (which is totally ethical if done with care taken to ensure the lawyer you are working with has a good reputation, and we know ours does), while we essentially do all the US paperwork without the help of an agency (except for the home study part, which we are about to start work on). as i said, we will be able to cover a large portion of adoption costs with our tax credit, but we will be fundraising for travel, so we'd love it if people started giving us their junk for a yard sale :)

i do want to say that (a) we'd still like to have a biological child at some point (subpoint...we never planned to have this many kids), so i don't want anyone thinking we think everyone should give up or delay pregnancy to adopt (ie, this is our story and our calling) (b) we don't think all people who adopt have to adopt two at the same time (again, our story, our calling) and (c) we aren't rock stars or anything, and i'm being really honest when i say that i still crappily parent kal and buma sometimes and see this adoption not only as God's plan for growing our family, but also as a refining process for me to become the mother i need to be for all my children.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

a plea to adoptive parents

i was just scrolling through a facebook group for ethiopia adoptive moms and noticed a decent amount of agency or adoption-program bashing taking place in the comments.

"that agency is bad news."
"that agency is so unethical."
"that country is rife with trafficking. no one could have an ethical adoption from there."

i'm not saying there aren't problems with some agencies or some adoption programs. but honestly, i'm tired of the generalizations and the accusations. i'm frustrated with how quickly people criticize another family's agency or adoption without sure, hard facts.

some people think our former agency, cwa, was pretty bad (in fact, one of the "bad news" comments was about cwa). cwa got some bad press a few years ago. cwa filed bankruptcy and closed recently. i'm sure some people had crappy things happen with their adoptions through cwa (which, you know, people tend to blame on the agency rather than the beast that is international adoption). we had issues with cwa on a few occasions and readily admit that the stateside staff sucked at communication. but i won't -- without sure, hard facts -- say cwa was unethical or bad news.

so here's why i'm writing today: i'm pleading with adoptive parents -- but everyone, really -- to stop the bashing. to not say anything at all unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's true. if someone asks you what you think of a certain agency or a certain country's adoption program, share your experiences or the experiences of people you know. but, for the love, don't spread the hear say.

i've been on both sides of this issue -- on one side as a gossiper and slanderer, and on the other side as one hurt by others' comments. the reason i make this plea particularly to adoptive parents is that we spend so much time trying to preserve and protect our kids' stories, yet don't hold our tongues when it comes to false or exaggerated (yet often juicy) information that has a direct impact on another child's story. when i read or hear things about cwa, i hurt for my kids because i fear that one person's gossip will be the thing that makes them question everything about their past. bottom line: if i worry for my kids, i should watch what i say for the sake of someone else's kids.

so again, i'm not saying we can't ever say anything negative. i'm just asking that we all keep our mouths shut unless we know something to be absolutely true and have proof to back it up. that way, people like me won't read something and almost have a panic attack or existential crisis about adoption.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

march, you're a big one.

two big firsts for me this month:

1. i'm going to uganda! it's my first time to uganda, and the first time i've (a) gone to a foreign country without jamie and (b) left my kids for several days. our dearest friends, scott and erin, started a non-profit called the mighty river project a couple of years ago that serves ugandan women and their children. the vision of tmrp is simple: empower women, prevent orphans. right now, they are fundraising to be able to move there and serve full-time. in the meantime, they buy products from four women and pay them a fair wage salary each month, then sell those products in the states to raise funds for tmrp. those funds will ultimately help them get on the ground there, but the money is also used towards benevolence projects in uganda. you can read more about tmrp (and you should definitely visit the store!) by clicking the button over on my sidebar. erin and i will be in uganda for nine days meeting with the women tmrp currently supports, checking in on families and individuals who have been served through the various benevolence projects, and making connections with others who may become part of tmrp in the future. i'm also hoping to visit a family who went to our church but who now serve at an orphanage/school in uganda.

unsurprisingly, there are lots of nerves about this trip in our house right now (mostly me for the kids and vice versa), but i'm so excited for this trip. you can't really be friends with scott and erin without starting to love uganda yourself, even if you've never been there, because their love for it is so contagious and real.  three things that give me a lot of joy about this trip:

-- sitting at the feet of ugandan women and hearing their stories (something i really wished we'd gotten to do more of in ethiopia, because i think that's really how you get to know a country and a culture). we had a pretty insulated experience of ethiopia (though, not totally, since we did have the opportunity to visit korah, the neighborhood located within addis ababa's trash dump...and, well, just riding down the streets of addis is startling in many ways), but i look forward to being with people in their homes, in their villages, etc and seeing how daily life is lived in uganda.
-- getting out of the mommy-box. i love my children and love staying home with them, but i get so excited just thinking about getting to serve and give to and love and minister to someone other than them for a bit. stay-at-home mothering can feel all-encompassing sometimes, and i like knowing that this trip will be an outlet of sorts for me to do something else i feel passionate about.
-- laying over in ethiopia on the way there and back (we're flying ethiopian air). maybe it sounds silly, but there's an emotional little spot in my heart that looks forward to being on ethiopian soil, even if it's just in the airport, for a small amount of time and being able to see the land that means so much to our family.

obviously, erin and i would love prayers for our travels and for our time in uganda to be fruitful. because scott and erin are only able to travel over there a couple of times a year, lots needs to get done while we're in country (you can also pray for tmrp and consider giving since being fully funded would entail scott and erin being able to move over there and serve full-time). but i'd also love prayers for my kids and jamie as he's with them most of the time i'm gone (with some help from my mom). these types of things aren't easy for most kids, but they're especially difficult for kids who have a lot of baggage and trauma around a parent leaving (because, obviously, our kids wouldn't be our kids if that parent had come back).

and now, something nowhere near as exciting or as significant as going to uganda, but still a big deal for me...

2. i'm running my first 5k! i emailed one of my college roommates recently and said, "i really wish all the girls could see me now since i wasn't much of an athelete...or an exerciser for that matter. i think a lot of the reason why i didn't play sports or even really exercise was that i lacked a lot of self-confidence (and i could get away with it because i had really good metabolism and walked a lot around campus). after having a basketball-sized ovarian cyst removed last september, i wanted to commit to exercising regularly for my health. i started out using our elliptical, but then i saw a blog post about the color me rad 5k, and i knew i wanted to try it. i've been following a couch to 5k plan since january with some girls in my small group, and i have been amazed at what a little commitment and discipline can do. before i started, i was convinced there'd be no way i could run three miles in a decent amount of time. now that i've done it a few times, i've gotten over the psychological hurdle of "i can't do this" and am now working on bettering my time. i've actually realized that i enjoy running, and my confidence has grown enough that i think i want to shoot for a longer race in the future.

cheers to march!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

on not homeschooling

today was an exciting day in the dean house, because it's official:

kal is going to school! [in august :)]

we have been talking about homeschooling since before our kids came home. we had a lot of reasons why we wanted to do it, and a lot of those reasons still stand (meaning that we haven't ruled out homeschooling for the future).

but right now, we have a kid who has been asking about "going to school" for quite some time now. she's an extrovert (she doesn't get that from me), and the more we've come out of the cocoon we've been living in the last nine months, the more i've seen that the community of a more traditional classroom might be good for her.

it's been hard to make this decision, especially because (for me, at least) pride is involved. from an adoption standpoint, i want to shout, "my child is attached enough to do this! i love her even though i'm sending her to school! she won't think her school is an orphanage, or her teacher is her new mommy!" (and if she does, we will pull her out. duh.) from a we-said-we-were-gonna-homeschool-but-now-we're-not standpoint, i want to shout, "we didn't decide this because homeschooling was too hard! we didn't just 'see the light' and realize homeschooling is crazy! we might still homeschool kal or buma or any future children!"

i just realize how much i care what people think about me, even when i'm still confident in the decision i'm making.

but enough about pride, let me tell you about this awesome school.

it's called the children's center, and i've loved this school since i worked in the daycare there for a summer in 2008. the school primarily serves children from birth to elementary age who have physical and/or developmental disabilities. however, they also have integrated classrooms where typically-developing children learn alongside children with disabilities. recently, the school added a kindergarten class for typically-developing children. because the school is part of the county school system, the curriculum is the same as any other public school kindergarten (thus, kal would be on track if we eventually switch her to a public school). however, because the school serves children with special needs, it gets a lot of unique special programming that the children in the typically-developing kindergarten class also benefit from.

for us, this is perfect. we knew if we were going to choose something other than homeschooling, it would have to be a little off the beaten path. we love that kal will go to school with lots of kids who don't look like her, kids who she can learn from and vice versa. diversity (not just racially, but in other ways) is important to us. it also seems perfect for our family, as disability is part of our family's identity (since jamie is blind). we want kal to see disability in positive ways. but we also love that while she will get a traditional education in some ways, she will be exposed to a lot of different "specialities" that she may not get in a traditional public school.

there are also benefits for our whole family in this. buma is still behind in language development and probably needs more one-on-one time with me, perhaps even some therapy. we have talked seriously about adding to our family sooner rather than later due to the fact that i'm at an increased risk to develop another huge ovarian cyst (and have already lost one ovary). so while i could homeschool with all that going on, i think this (for now) helps every child (even future ones, if there are any) get the most of mommy.

even though this is not what we planned on, we are so excited. i literally got teary-eyed as i walked through the school today because what is happening there is so beautiful, and i can't wait for kal to be part of it.