Sunday, May 31, 2015

Changing family

My blog has been quiet lately, but I have been documenting more than I ever have before over the last few months, but in a private journal. We've had experiences too sacred and close to the heart to share publicly. It has been an amazing journey with feelings of faith and doubt, trust and fear, but ultimately love. I think a lot of my close friends and family had already caught wind that this was in the works, but now that things are more official, we thought it was time we make the announcement. This is an email I sent to my family a few days ago. It's probably more information than you wanted, but hopefully this will answer some of the questions you may (or may not) have.

Dear family,

I've spoken to a few people about this, but because of so many mixed reactions, have decided to keep it mostly to ourselves. I know we'll still get some negative reactions, though I hope by sending this, it will help answer some questions. Dennis and I are in the process of adopting a 10 year old girl from China. We received our pre-approval from China this morning to move forward with the adoption.

We've talked casually about adoption for the past several years, but over the past six months we've received some undeniable promptings that have made us realize that we needed to look into it seriously. I imagine some of you might have some of the same questions and concerns that people have expressed to us. I believe that most of the misgivings come from love and concern for our family. The unknown is always frightening, and there is a wide spectrum of feelings regarding adoption. I get how bizarre it seems, especially at this point in our lives. Had I not had some of the experiences I've had over the past 6 months, I would have likely doubted it as well. I'll try to address some of the concerns people have expressed to us as best as I can. I apologize if it's seems like we're going on the defensive right off the bat. That's certainly not our intent, but we learned quickly that people have lots of questions and some skepticism about what brought us to this point.

You don't know what you're getting into. You're absolutely right. We don't. But I can't think of a single major decision when we've really known what we were getting into. We've spent hours upon hours studying the adoption process, her medical condition, and what to expect in terms of bonding with an adopted child.  We've consulted with many other adoptive parents, participated in webinars, and done online classes. And we will continue to do so even long after she's home; and yet, I don't think we will ever be fully prepared. But I can say that out of all the decisions I've made in my life (even combined), this is the one decision I have studied, prayed, and fasted about the most. I have spent more hours on my knees praying for clarity and insight than I ever have in my life.

It's going to be hard. Like, really hard. Again, you're probably right. I'd be shocked if it wasn't. Children who have suffered this level of abandonment and neglect have endured more heartache in their few years of life than most of us do in a lifetime. This is bound to affect their relationships with others, especially those who are closest to them. But I know, without a doubt, that just because something is hard- sometimes painfully so- that it doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. The scriptures are full of stories of God commanding people to do hard things. Sometimes it's hard all along the way, and this might not be any different. But I learned long ago, that Heavenly Father never asks us to do something that we aren't capable of doing, or that He won't qualify us to do.

You're going to regret it and want to send her back. There might be times when we wonder, "What are we doing?!" I've already thought plenty of times.  I look at my little family that in so many ways seems so ideal, and worry about how this will all play out. Will she like us? Will she like me? Will she resent us for taking her away from her friends, culture, and everything she knows? Attachment and bonding with an older adopt children can span over many difficult years. These worries never leave me. Believe me, we are under no delusions. It is said that with adoption you should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst- and that is what we are trying to do, to the best of our ability.

Why are you adopting a Chinese child? There are plenty of American children who need good homes. Yes, there are a heart-breaking number of American children who also need homes, and adopting an older American child is virtually free. Our first choice was to adopt domestically. We've looked extensively into adopting out of the U.S. foster system, but were told, in no uncertain terms, that because we aren't looking to adopt a newborn baby, with our family size and the ages of our children, we would not be considered as candidates for many, many years. While a domestic adoption might be something we consider later on down the road, it simply isn't an option for us right now, and we feel like the prompting is for us to act now. We studied the Chinese adoption program, their orphanage and fostering culture, people's past experiences with adopting from China, and decided it was the best fit for us.

Why don't you just become foster parents? We've explored this option extensively as well. There is certainly a desperate need for them. We've attended informational meetings, spoken to parents who have fostered, researched it; and somehow it has never felt right to either of us.

You can't afford this. You're absolutely right. We don't have the money to bring her home. Adopting internationally is very expensive. But we do have the financial means to raise another child, albeit on a stretched budget. Even after doing extensive fund-raising, we will probably have to drain the little savings we have remaining after building our house. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it. But when I think of my children, there is nothing I wouldn't do, or a price I wouldn't  pay to bring them home- biological or adopted.

If you want to grow your family, why don't you just have more of your own? Growing our family is not, nor has it ever been, our intent with this adoption. With five children, our quiver is full, believe me. In fact, it's 2 more than I ever thought we'd have. I passed the "crazy lady with all the kids" threshold long ago, but there's not a luxury in the world that I would trade for any of my children.

Your kids are going to think that they aren't good enough for you, and so you had to go to China to find someone better. No kidding... someone actually said this. All of our children have been involved in the process since day one. I've told them all along that their opinions matter very much, and that if at any point they decide they don't want to do this, that we simply won't.  This is as much their decision as it is mine or Dennis'. They have sat next to me reading profiles and discussed how this child or that child might fit into our family. We've asked them to pray about the decision individually, and as far as I know, they have. They are all fully in agreement, though to be fair, I'm not sure how much they understand the full impact or longevity of this decision.

Why don't you just wait a few years? We are well aware that it would be easier if we waited until Mila is 5 or 6 years old, and then adopted younger than her. Adopting, so as not to disrupt birth order, is typically the ideal. But I've learned that the Lord's timing rarely seems logical or convenient to us. I've spoken to many, many people who have successfully adopted older children and/or disrupted birth order, and have even gone on to do it many times over.

What are you trying to prove? This one was the hardest to hear. Absolutely nothing. If this process proves anything, it will be to prove how reliant I am on the Lord to be a decent human being. I've never been more aware of my short-comings as I have been over the past few months.  Soon after we made our decision to move forward with the adoption, I was overcome with feelings of doubt about my inadequacies. But something from the scriptures came to my  mind as clearly as a thought ever had. "I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it." And I can't deny the series of events and feelings that have led us to this point.

I realize that this letter might not change some of your minds, and that's okay. We hope for your support in our decision, but respect that you still may have your reservations and doubts, and that certainly is your prerogative. We ask, however, that any lingering feelings of negativity be taken up with us, and not passed on to her. In the end, she is just a child who needs a family, and we are willing to be that family for her. Please feel free to give us a call if you want to talk it over with us.

Love,
Rita

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Disneyland

Several months ago, my kids donated the money they had been saving for over a year to go to Disneyland, to the Idaho Food Bank. We were watching the news one morning, and saw they were taking donations. We drove down together as a family, taking their jar of coins and a few dollar bills. It was a hard sacrifice for them, but I was proud of their decision to do it.

About a month later, the news station contacted me and asked if they could come to our house and surprise our kids with tickets to Disneyland. Of course!!! Here is a link to the clip they played on the news that night.


Fast forward a few months later, and we're on our way! I apologize for the picture overload, but a lot of people have asked us how our much awaited Disneyland trip was. Here are a few of our favorite pictures.
Starting the 15 hour drive






Becoming Wilderness Adventurers

Big brother giving his little sis a ride when she got tired of walking
This is how we felt by the time we were done riding the swinging ferris wheel...


Meeting Anna and Elsa were at the top of the girls' list of priorities.
We waited in line for almost an hour to see them,
which is a relatively short wait, from what I hear. 

And wouldn't you know it, my cell phone camera
mal-functioned just as they posed to take the picture.



At 39.5 inches, she was mercilessly denied riding
the rides that required a minimum height of 40 inches.
 Poor little thing... to say that she was ticked off
would be an understatement.

So we settled for riding the Winnie the Pooh ride
 over and over and over (and over) again.


Camden and I must have ridden California Screamin'
at least 10 times. It was his favorite ride,
and I was the only one who would tag along.
Thunder Mountain- the kids' favorite ride.

Poor Luke, he will never live down his "I'm beginning to think Disneyland is for babies" comment.
Famous last words...
The girls and I had a lot of time to kill while the boys went
on all the rides that they couldn't go on because of their height.
 Lauren, our little dare devil, was quite disappointed.





This little girl's expressions crack me up. She is by far our most expressive child. This was at Legoland aquarium, as she watched the sharks swim by.
We weren't as impressed with the rides at Legoland,
but the Lego displays were phenomenal!

It was a wonderful trip. The weather was perfect- low 70's, and the lines were short- on average 15 minutes. It was as close to perfect conditions as I think you could ever get. Probably more than anything though, we just enjoyed being away from schedules, homework, chores, and all the other things that can make us uptight. It made me realize how much nicer of a mom I am when I'm away from all of our responsibilities.

We were on a tight budget, so we lived off sandwiches almost the entire time (with a few exceptions), and stayed in a cheap hotel. But I don't think the kids even noticed. That's part of what made the trip so special. I loved the talks we'd have as we walked back to our hotel in the dark each night, stopping for pie or ice cream for a late night treat. You look at your kids with different eyes when you're away from the routine of every day.

I loved watching my kids enjoy the beach for the few hours we were there, and the simplicity of the joy that it brings people of all ages. It saddened me to realize that something I loved so much as a kid is not part of my children's childhood. Luke made me promise I'd take him back to the beach at least once a year, and that's a promise I plan on keeping.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life according to my phone

(I borrowed the name of this blog post from a friend. Thanks, Cherilyn!)

I've been feeling bad that my last post was such a downer. After over a month of not blogging, my bad day was what I blogged about?! I've been tempted to delete it, but then I've stopped myself. I don't want to whitewash my life, nor do I want my kids to think that unless life is smooth-sailing, that something is wrong. Just because things in life aren't always perfect, it doesn't lessen life itself. It's usually the hard things in life that in the end bring about our biggest blessings.

As a family, we've been writing in a Blessing Journal every night. We each take turns, writing down something that blessed our life that day. I've noticed that it's the small things that bring me so much joy. Like the way I can look out our large windows and see the valley coming to life again after a cold and gray winter. It's the way Calista has named me as her blessing every night for the past month. It's my allergies that have miraculously subsided, allowing me to enjoy the spring and to have a cat in the house. It's watching my girls wiggle into their ballet suits every Thursday afternoon. It's listening to the way Luke's giggle fills a room. It's Camden's tenderness. Life is so good.

Here are some of the things that have blessed my life lately:

Last week on our date night, Dennis and I went out to dinner and had the worst service we've ever had from a waitress. This morning I was looking over our receipts and noticed that even after our waitress' sour sense of humor, messed up dinner order, and everything else that went wrong, Dennis had still tipped her well. I love that man.

This is the only picture that wasn't taken with my phone, but I love this one of him.


Camden and Dennis worked ever so hard on this year's Pinewood Derby car, as it was his last year competing before moving out of Cubscouts. They researched and schemed how to build the fastest car, and spent hours sanding and perfecting it. I loved seeing the smile on Camden's face as he walked through the door with the ribbon for first-place.


This past weekend, a friend and I took our boys on a Mother/Sons weekend to Sun Valley. We spent the weekend swimming, playing games, and exploring; all with a no-electronics rule. It was an absolute blast. One day we spent three hours along a river building a large teepee. How I adore these little boys. It has been my highlight of the year so far.


Celebrating my boyfriend's birthday. I have to be careful when I call Dennis that around the kids. My kids have started telling their friends that their Mom has both a boyfriend a husband.

Lauren's fearlessness always impresses and amazes me. When her first tooth became wiggly and was ready to come out, she grabbed a string, opened her mouth, and asked her dad to yank it out. She didn't even flinch when her tooth when bouncing across the room. She has brought me string several times since then and has asked me to pull out her other teeth. When I ask her why she wants them out, she reminds me that the Tooth Fairy pays double on Wednesdays and that she needs some cash.



One Saturday afternoon, we heard the thump on our window and found the lifeless body of a quail outside our window. Ever the resourceful one, Dennis took the opportunity to teach our children about the anatomy of a bird and how to prepare it for consumption. He cooked it up and ate all 3 chewy bites of it.


I joined Camden for the fifth grade ski night. It was another one of the highlights of my year as we skiied side-by-side on the darkened slopes and rode the ski lift, laughing at the tiny little skiiers below us.


A few months ago we were able to meet some of the team of our local news channel. They invited us back to take a tour of the station. Such kind a genuine people. We are so blessed to live in such an amazing community.


I'm sure people on Instagram will get tired of me posting the sunrises that I see outside my kitchen window, but I could live here for a million years and never get tired of watching them.


Camden won 4th place in the backwards jump-rope competitition for several schools in the district. He was so proud! Dennis and I had to hold back smiles at the randomness of the event.

What would a girl do without her friends? We laughed until we cried, and then we laughed some more.


My favorite thing about waking up in the morning: their epic bedhead.

Luke takes Wacky Wednesday at school so seriously, and scours the house. Ironically, he usually takes it off 5 minutes after getting to school.


Dennis seems to be constantly caught away in meetings lately, and it takes its toll on me. I'm grateful for my wonderful friend, Angie, who invited us to come over and insisted on taking the girls for a ride one evening when I was at the end of my rope.


Yes, life has been good to me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Disappointment and Patience

Today I went to the physical therapist and was told that I should consider hanging up my running shoes for good. After a year and a half of back and hip pain from my last pregnancy, I can't say I'm surprised. Disappointed though? Very much so.

Dammit.

Perhaps it makes me less of a lady for saying it, but there just aren't any other words. I cried on the drive home. Sometimes it's hard to remember to take a deep breath and keep things in perspective. I love motherhood, I really do, and there's nothing I'd rather be doing with my life. But sometimes the loss of freedoms that come with it becomes overwhelming. Running was one of the few remaining freedoms I enjoyed- the fresh air on my face, my feet in rhythm with my breaths, and my thoughts gloriously quiet.

I came across this quote yesterday, perhaps as divine preparation for what was to come today. “Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something … even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well! Patience means accepting that which cannot be changed and facing it with courage, grace, and faith." -Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Apparently I'm not doing too well with the last three words of that quote.

Funny how our personal mantras change throughout our life. In my 20's, it was, "I can do anything."

Now in my 30's, maybe it needs to change to, "My limitations do not define me."

Some days I miss the lady I used to be when I look at old pictures. She seems so long ago and so far removed. But in her place, is someone that I think I like more. Albeit a few pounds heavier and not as swift on her feet. No, my limitations don't define me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dear man from the gym,

I'm flattered... really. You have to understand that in the past thirteen and a half years since I've been married, I've only really been picked up on maybe a total of four times. And three of those times came from Mexican men who were delirious from pain killers, when I worked at the hospital.

I was in the weight room at the gym this morning when you looked over with a smile and said something flirty. I wasn't wearing my wedding ring so there's no way you could have known that I'm married. You probably thought I was Heartless Hagatha when I popped me earbuds in and walked away. I apologize for what was blatant rudeness on my part, by any standard.

As a mother of five, it's hard to feel attractive sometimes, and I would be lying if I didn't say I was flattered by the fact that I was even noticed. To your credit, you aren't bad looking. Had I been single, I might have even smiled back and said something in return. But there's something about me you don't know. A lot actually.

There's a man in my life. Not just in it, but at the heart of it. He's a small-town farm boy with calloused hands and an old pick-up truck. He loved me when I was seventeen, with braces, dyed red hair, and a unibrow. He prayed and patiently waited for over a year for me to return his love. We've gone through college together, lived in and remodeled run-down homes together, and had five children. He's listened to me when I've been a babbling idiot and loved me when I've been a hormonal lunatic. He stroked my hair and rubbed my feet when I was writhing in labor pains. He's rocked my babies to sleep and cooked dinner for me more times than I can count. He writes me love notes on my bathroom mirror. When I say he can build anything, I mean anything. In every room and corner of the house, there are things he has built that remind me of how much he loves our family. We've built a life together in the past thirteen and a half years that has more love and memories than I ever thought I'd have in a lifetime. He says he's never thought of himself as a handsome man, but to me, he is the most attractive man on Earth, and my very best friend.

Now do you see why I wouldn't- couldn't- give you the time of day? I would be the world's most delirious woman to even think that there could be greener pastures than the one I already have. I know a lot of married people who enjoy the thrill of what they see as harmless flirting. But to me, there's no such thing.

I hope your pride wasn't too wounded by my rudeness this morning. As Paul Newman once said when referring to his wife, "I have steak at home. Why should I go out for hamburger?" I'm sure being compared to hamburger when you obviously take great pride in your physique is a blow, but don't take it personally. If you knew my steak, you'd understand.

Again, my apologies.

Sincerely,

Heartless Hagatha from the gym




Thursday, January 1, 2015

As weak things become strong

The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster ride. We've realized that perhaps the Lord has things in store for us that we had never before imagined. This realization has brought with it several awakenings, mostly of doubt and feelings of inadequacy within myself. How can the Lord expect more of me when I feel like my grasp on what I have already at times feels so weak?

No one is more painfully aware of my short-comings than I am. I could write a book on all the ways in which I should be better... need to be better. I can be impulsive, short-tempered, short-sighted, overly emotional, and a laundry list of other less than stellar qualities.

But I insist on self-honesty with myself, as painful as it can be. As much as I try to improve on them, my weaknesses don't define or lessen me, they are just a part of me, just the way my nose and my eyes are a part of my face.

Since becoming a mother, my favorite scripture has become, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

And yet I think how ungrateful we are whenever we dwell on our weaknesses, while failing to recognize the countless ways in which He has made us stronger.

The other day Lauren was helping me clean around the house with a duster. That little girl is a cleaning machine, I tell you. But her ambition got the best of her and before I knew it, my beautiful new vase was lying shattered in a million pieces on the floor- a victim of her enthusiastic dusting- with a chip out of our brand-new hardwood floor to prove it. Instinctively I felt my blood pressure rising along with my frustration. Almost in slow-motion, I watched her apprehensive little face as she watched for my reaction, with tears welling up in her eyes.  Everything inside of me wanted to scold her for her carelessness, but I knew from past experience how much I would regret it if I did. Through gritted teeth I forced myself to kneel beside her and hug her. It took a few seconds before I was able to tell her how much I appreciated her good cleaning and that the vase was just a vase that could easily be replaced. I certainly didn't want to say it, but I did anyway. Slowly, her face melted into a smile and she hugged me before skipping away.

"I passed the test," I thought, "...barely." One of my weaknesses is becoming stronger- surely, albeit slowly.

It's those types of things that make me think that maybe I can do this. Surely those whom the Lord calls to do hard things, He qualifies. Unfortunately He'll have a whole lot of qualifying to do with me, but He has in the past, I know He will in things to come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

People of Walmart

Dear Walmart Man,

Your timing was impeccable, it really was.  It was a hot July afternoon and I had just exited our neighborhood Walmart with my newborn baby and 4 small children in tow.  It was well over 100 degrees and the heat radiating from the parking lot, and the stiff wind that had just picked up made it feel like the world's largest convection oven. The children were hot, tired, and whining endlessly from having had to go with me, and I was on the verge of losing the little sanity I had left.

Listening to a screaming baby, I loaded my groceries in the trunk of my car as quickly as I could and looked around for the nearest cart corral.

I wanted to cuss.  There, parked right in front of the nearest cart corral, blocking all access to it, was a pimped out Dodge Neon.  You know, the low-rider with the chrome wheels and the ridiculous, over-sized spoiler on the back.  That *$%&@... He was using the cart corral like a parking spot, with his back end sticking several feet out into the parking lot.

I couldn't just leave my cart in the parking lot because the wind would have blown it into another car. The next cart corral was further than I could go, leaving a hot car full of kids and groceries unattended. The thought crossed my mind to take a picture of the *$%&@'s car and send it into "The People of Walmart", the website that showcases the trashiest people who shop there.  And I won't lie... with it came the urge to key the punk's pimped out paint job.

This is where your impeccable timing comes in. I heard your blaring country music first, and then saw you bumping and thumping down the parking lot in your rusty, old pick-up truck.  I saw you park and get out of your car: tight Wranglers, mullet hair, missing teeth, funny walk...

Bitterly, I thought, "There's another person whose picture I could take and send in with Mr. Dodge Neon."

And then you did something that stopped me dead in my pissy, judgmental tracks.  You walked with your awkward, limping gait across the parking lot and cheerfully asked if it would be helpful if you took my cart back to the store for me.

Caught completely off-guard and flustered by this turn of events, I said it would be wonderful and thanked you for your kindness.  Still dumbfounded, I got in my car and watched you for several minutes as you made your way towards the front of the store.   Along the way, you stopped at each person who was loading their car and asked if you could take their cart.  By the time you reached the front of the store, you were pushing about a half dozen carts.

I was so ashamed of myself, I wanted to cry.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of the Dodge Neon blocking the cart corral.

I've thought of you several times since that day.

Yesterday, I was in the parking lot of a grocery store, trying to load a 50 pound bag of flour into the back of my car. I struggled for several minutes, trying to find a way to do it without hurting my already injured back. I finally got it in and looked up to see a man, whose picture could have also been on the "People of Walmart" website, hurrying toward me.

"I'm sorry I didn't get here in time to help you ma'am.  I saw you struggling and wanted to help you.  Next time I hope I'll be around to help." I thought of you again and remembered your kindness just a few months before.

I'm not sure why people like me scoff at those we cruelly label as the "people of Walmart," as if they were a species of their own.  Maybe it's to make ourselves feel better about our own pathetic short-comings.  Maybe by seeing someone who looks like their life is falling apart, we feel like we have it more together than we thought.  Maybe we think it washes away all the classless, trashy things we do and say.

But judging by the thoughts that went through my head that day in that Walmart parking lot, who was really the one without any class?

Thank you for reminding me that we can't ever judge people by a snap-shot moment- not even several of them.  Because there are countless snap-shot moments in my own life that I hope and pray people don't judge me by.

Thank you for reminding me that although we are members of the human race, that we are not actually in a race.  Maybe the word "race" makes us think that this is all a competition and that we're all in it against each other.  But even if it were a race, I would have to say that on that hot July day you were, in fact, the winner.

God bless you, Mr. Walmart.


Sincerely,

A very thankful mother of 5