To my daughters…

To my daughters…

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I had fallen asleep at school that day. When I told Daddy, he was convinced that our dream was coming true.  I agreed to take a test, and 3 minutes later, we saw those 2 little lines appear. Those lines that meant you were on the way.  Those lines that meant finally, after all the waiting and wondering, we would be parents. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Even though it was 11 at night, we called Mamaw and Papa and Gammy and Granpa right away.  We even jumped in the car and drove to tell our friends. They were excited too after they woke up and got out of bed.  You, our baby, were all Daddy and I could think about.

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DSC_0174We had wanted another baby for so long. My heart was longing to hold a precious little one close, to feel a baby’s soft cheeks brush mine, to cradle a tiny one in my arms.  Daddy and I had talked. We had prayed. We knew God would bring a baby at his time and in his way.  And He put adoption in our hearts.  The day we decided we would adopt, you became real to me.  I knew we would get our baby, and I am so thankful that baby is you. I began to dream of you. I imagined what you would look like and when you would come.  Joy had filled my heart.

 

DSC_0003We went to the doctor for my sonogram and my heart felt like it would burst.  Sitting in the waiting room, I felt like time had stopped.  All I could do was watch the hand ticking slowly around the face of the clock. I couldn’t wait for the official word that you, my child, were real.  When I saw that little morsel on the black and white screen, tears filled my eyes. You were real, and you were coming!

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DSC_0174We went to Gladney to begin our journey which would lead us to you.  I was so nervous. I couldn’t decide what to wear. I wanted to look perfect, to act perfect, for everything to be perfect.  It had to be – because this was the first step toward our baby. We learned so much at orientation – what the process would look like, what we needed to complete. And we learned that we would have to wait.  I had no idea then how hard the waiting would be.

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DSC_0003When we heard your heartbeat for the first time I couldn’t believe how beautiful it sounded.  A tiny little heart beating inside a tiny little body.  Beating so fast – pumping blood to all your tiny parts. The doctor said your heart sounded perfect – of course I already knew you were.  My days were spent dreaming of you, wondering if you would be Claire or Connor,  planning every little detail of your nursery. I didn’t have a clue how much you would change our lives – how you would fill it up with joy and laughter, and how much I would learn from being your mommy.

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DSC_0174As soon as we got home from Gladney, we started the paperwork.  The huge binder full of papers.  As we answered questions about our jobs, our family, our marriage, our health, our house, all I could think about was you.  Each doctor visit, each fingerprinting session, each interview, was just a stepping stone to our destination.  Spending late evening hours at the kitchen table, with papers spread out in front of us, was a joy – because it meant you were on the way.

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DSC_0003I couldn’t wait for my stomach to grow. I started wearing maternity clothes out of desire, not need.  With each week that passed, I could see little changes, and they thrilled my heart. As time passed and I felt you move, my love for you grew even more.  I loved the connection that we already had, you living in me. I loved my big stomach, and the promise that it held.

 

DSC_0174I didn’t think our house would ever be clean enough for our home study visit.  I wanted the caseworker to see how much we wanted you.  To see how our hearts already loved you and were planning for you. As we made our profile books, we imagined your birthmom.  We wondered what she would be like, what her story would be.  We wondered what she would think of us as she looked through our book and read our story.  Would she think we were good enough?  We didn’t know then what a beautiful, amazing, strong woman she would be and how much we would connect with her, right from the start.

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DSC_0003In the final month with me as your home, I got huge. I was achy and swollen and just so ready to see your face.  Every morning in the shower I would pray that today would be the day. Every evening Daddy and I would sit on the couch, poking my swollen calves, and trying to set records for how long it would take for the poking marks to raise back up. I was tired of waiting. I wanted to hold you in my arms and stroke your cheek and kiss your head.  I wanted you.

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DSC_0174The 10 months we waited for you felt like an eternity. Every single day I thought this could be the day.  Every single day for 10 months, it wasn’t.  Every single day we prayed for you.  Every single day we dreamed of you. Every single day we checked our phones over and over, hoping for a call.  There were a few days when the phone did ring, but the calls weren’t about you. It wasn’t time yet. Toward the end I got really anxious. I cried.  I prayed harder.  I wished for you and my heart ached, missing you.  And then, the call came.  Our baby girl had been born, and she was waiting for us.  Finally, it was time.

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DSC_0003I woke up at 3:45 with heavy contractions that Tuesday morning.  I was sure it was a false alarm and decided to take my time on a shower, doing my hair, and putting on my makeup.  At 5 o’clock we decided it was time to go to the hospital.  After waiting awhile, I got admitted and the journey of labor began. Through the process, through the pain, I knew you were waiting.  You were the reward.  At 1:21 that afternoon, as I held you in my arms for the first time, with tears filling my eyes and joy filling my heart, the journey of the last 9 months came to a close. And a brand new journey began.

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DSC_0174We walked down the hall at Gladney, where we had walked two times before.  This time, though, it was different.  You were waiting at the end of that hallway.  Not just the dream of you, or the hope of you.  You – flesh and bones – were waiting for us.  In just a few minutes, I knew you would be in my arms.  And then, you were.  You were in my arms, with my lips brushing your hair.  You were in my arms, with tears streaming down my face. You were in my arms, and you were perfect.  You were meant to be. You were wanted. You were chosen. You were ours. The long, hard, journey to bring you home had come to a close.  And a brand new journey began.

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Claire

The first night home from the hospital Claire stayed awake for eight hours.  Eight. Straight. Hours.  I didn’t know what we would do.  Up until then we had been running on adrenaline and pride, because, hey, we had just created the most beautiful creature to have ever graced the face of this planet.  And then – the night from hell.  At about 3:30 in the morning I called the nursery at the hospital to tell them that our baby was defective and could they offer some advice or maybe just keep her for the rest of the night.  They couldn’t.

And so it went.  You see, nobody tells you this before your baby is born, but there is no bedtime in the womb.  Yes, babies just party it up in there with no regards to what time it is or what they should be doing.  And then they are born and they think, Who are you, Mother, to tell me what to do?  I have been living my way in my cozy dark cavern and doing as I please.  I don’t intend to stop now.  And Chris and I thought, We are the parents.  We will win this battle.  And I printed up my schedule and carried my clipboard around and read Baby Wise 17 times, and yes, Claire learned to sleep.  At night and in her own bed.  Bless the Lord.

I remember at about 6 weeks into this adventure, looking around and saying to myself, This cannot go on any longer.  Life has to feel normal again.  And I moved the stacks of diapers from our dresser into a drawer.  And I found a cute little box for my nursing pads.  And I washed the sheets that had baby poop on them from a midnight diaper changing explosion.  And I felt like we would make it.

Life was changed forever, and life with Claire became normal.  And it was beautiful and hard and exhausting and rewarding and all I hoped it would be.

I love being a mom.  I love the milestones and the smiles and the memories.  Being a mom is the hardest job of all and the best.  The truth is, when you love someone with your whole heart, it’s a little bit scary and a little bit dangerous.  But it’s so worth it – to love that way – to hold nothing back and truly love.

It’s hard to believe it’s been four years that we’ve had our precious girl.  Sometimes I can’t believe how big she is.  You know how “old” people always say, “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it”?  Well now I am old, and I want to tell you that it is true.  It is so true.  Claire’s life is like a blur in my mind – it’s like thumbing through four years worth of photos and they all turn into a blurry picture of this little life.  Her life – her beautiful, divinely created life – made up of months, made up of weeks, made up of days, made up of moments.

Those individual moments – fragments of time.  Most of them so ordinary, so day-to-day – sleeping, brushing her teeth, running errands with her in the backseat.  And then there are those moments that seem to stop the earth’s spinning and silence the clock’s ticking.  Those moments that leave an imprint on your heart you know will be there for the rest of your life.

Those moments late at night in the rocking chair when she would gaze into my face with those big brown eyes, just watching me.

When she smiled for the first time – so perfectly – and I knew it wasn’t just gas.

The moment when she stopped eating her blueberries, looked right into my eyes, and said, “Mama”.  Her first word.

Afternoons when she would see me pull up in front of the babysitter’s house and stand at the door, smiling and waving, so happy for me to be there.

The moments snuggled up under the covers, reading together – laughing at Curious George’s silly escapades and wondering about Carl the dog’s amazing baby-sitting skills, and imagining taking a rest in The Napping House.

That special moment when she asked Jesus into her heart and to be her friend forever and ever.

When we sat in her room playing babies and I heard her speak so tenderly and sweetly to her dolls.

The moments when her face lit up with wonder and she got it –  she understood something  brand new for the first time.

When she asked me why I’m proud of her and I got to tell her.

Times spent at the park together – digging and sliding and swinging and laughing.

The moment when she prayed, “Jesus, thank you for letting those soldiers be mean to you and kill you.  And please help all the mean people in the whole wide earth to be nice.”

Watching her face beam with pride as she rode her big girl bike for the very first time.

That afternoon when she said, “I wish I could take Jesus out of my heart so I can give him a big hug.”

Times spent in the kitchen together – with her flipping pancakes, or mixing brownies, or stirring banana bread batter by my side.

When she said, “Mommy, I miss our baby.  It’s so hard to wait.”

That moment when she kissed my palm and told me to press it to my cheek when I missed her and even when I washed my hand with soap, and even when I couldn’t feel the kiss, the love would still be there.

These precious, beautiful moments, that make up this precious, beautiful life.  I am so thankful to share in these moments, and thrilled to imagine the moments that are to come.  Other sweet moments like these, and so many more – different and new.  I’ll blink again and she’ll be 8, and again, and my daughter is a teenager, and then, a woman.  And I’ll sit back and remember when she was just 4 and wonder where the time went.  But in my heart I’ll always hold onto the moments.

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Mother’s Day

As I’ve mentioned before, I am not an artistic or craftsy person.  Most of the time when I try a new project with Claire that I’ve seen someone else do or seen on Pinterest (evil, evil Pinterest), they turn out with me swiftly exiting the kitchen into the laundry room to do some deep breathing and get myself under control.  (I try to ensure that Claire’s proximity to my wall punching and yelling is at least one room away.)  I tend to plan crafts that look very simple but are not.   Plus, Claire is 3 and I’m pretty sure that most of the pinned projects that claim they’re done by children are actually performed by said children’s mothers.  Just my opinion, of course.

I am happy to say that for Mother’s Day this year I successfully completed a pinterest project with 20 first graders AND completed 2 projects with Claire.  All of this, and only one trip to the laundry room!  I am growing.  Please, be impressed.

For my mom and my MIL, Claire painted canvases.  This was actually not inspired by Pinterest, but inspired by my recent trip to Pinot’s Palette.  Imagine that – real life inspiring a craft!  How strange.  Anyway, we bought a two-pack of canvases at Wal-Mart for $5 and let Claire do her thing.  We used Tempera paint, little paint brushes, and a paper plate – easy peasy!  She decided to paint a rainbow for Mamaw (my mom), and 3 sunshines for Gammy (my MIL).  As we began, Claire scribbled with a pencil on one canvas and I simultaneously dropped a huge glob of green paint onto it.  (Cue trip to laundry room while Chris tries to clean up the mess.)  The canvas cleaned up very nicely, and after the painting was finished, I can barely make out one of the pencil marks.  I loved just watching Claire go to town on her paintings.  She did such a good job, and  her grandmothers love them!

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The best part is that Chris saw how excited I got over these and secretly bought more supplies so that Claire could paint one for me.  They also sent me for a pedicure.  So sweet, those two.

My first graders made their moms the sweetest cards.  They each wrote a letter to glue inside, and then we painted the front of the card.  We tried the ‘painting flowers with the bottoms of soda bottles’ idea, and it was simple and successful.  (We also did this at home for Claire’s teacher appreciation cards, and they looked pretty cute too.)  I cannot tell you how triumphant I felt on the day we worked on these.  Really, when you’re a non-crafter like me, you have to celebrate these small victories!

Here’s how the front of my kids’ cards turned out.

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And here’s one of the letters that I thought was so sweet.  The translation is below if needed.

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Dear Mom,
Happy Mother’s Day!  Thank you for everything I have.  You’re the best. You’re so sweet.  You are so helpful.  You are the most kind person I know.  You are so awesome!  There’s no way I can make it without you.
From,
<Student>

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Dear Mommy,
Happy Mother’s day.  You are a blessing to me.  Have a good Mother’s day!  You are the best Mommy in the world!  I love your smoothies.  You are loving.  You are caring!  I love you with all my heart and bones.
Love,
<Student>

I love you with all my heart and bones???  Can you get more precious?

Then there’s this letter.

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Dear Mom
I miss you a lot infinity and beyond and you live in <City> and it is a long time to get there.  I miss you infinity and beyond.  Mom you are nice a lot cuz I never see you in a long time ago.
Love,
<Student>

My heart breaks for sweet babies like this.  I just want to take this child home with me and make the world right for him.  I want to love him so much that all the pain in his life turns to joy.  Kids shouldn’t have to miss their moms to infinity and beyond.  They shouldn’t have to say they’ve never seen them since a long time ago.  These precious children are carrying burdens that would break an adult’s heart.  Lord, help us.

I am so very blessed.  I have an incredible mom.  Throughout my life she has been a constant source of love, support, and encouragement.  She loves her family fiercely and always pushed us to be the best we could be.  Everything I learned about being a mom I learned from her example, and I am thankful beyond words that God made me her daughter.

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I’m also blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law who has welcomed me into her family and made me feel so loved.  She is such a godly woman – always lifting us up in prayer.  She is full of joy and shares it with everyone around her.  I am so grateful for her!

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Of course you know how I feel about Claire.  I don’t even know how to express how deep my love is for this sweet girl.  Every single day she makes me laugh, makes me proud, makes my heart feel like it’s just too full of love.  I never knew how strongly, fiercely, passionately I would love as a mother, but now I do, and I love how much I love her.

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This Mother’s Day there was another special woman on my heart.  I’ve never met her and I don’t know what she looks like.  I don’t even know her name, but soon she will change our family more than anyone else ever has.  She is our birthmom.  When I think of her, I pray for courage and wisdom for her, and strength as she makes the decision she will.  Most of all, I pray a prayer of thanks for the love that she has for the child that will someday be mine.