Friday, February 10, 2017

One Small Piece

Two weeks ago, my best friend JJ shared that her family had some of the greatest news they could share, short of actually bringing their daughter home: their dossier has finally been submitted to the IBESR in Haiti, and they are no longer waiting in line to wait in line. They are actually in the line!

While this is great news, it's still yet more waiting for them—it will be another 18 to 24 months before they actually receive a referral for a child. But at least they are in that short waiting timeframe, comparatively, as opposed to having their dossier wind its way through the miles and miles of red tape that characterize international adoptions. I know my friend, and while the end is still so far away, it's now so close she can almost touch it.

Waiting is hard.

Waiting is hard even when you're a naturally patient person. Neither she nor I falls into that category. God did not gift us with large amounts of patience when he put us together. (I think that gives him an endless sort of amusement with us at times.)

I've heard of things that military wives do when facing their husbands' deployment: buy a six-pack of soda and drink one each month while he's gone, for instance, to help mark and pass the time.

JJ and her family are taking a different tack.

They're putting together a puzzle, one piece at a time. It's a big one, 1000 pieces.

Each piece doesn't represent a day, though. Each piece represents $5 towards bringing their daughter home.

And as each donation rolls in, the name of the person who donated goes on the back of a puzzle piece. One day, their daughter will come home, and she'll have a beautiful finished puzzle waiting for her...and on the back, the names of all the people who believed in her and her forever family enough to help bring her home.

Hubby and I don't have a whole lot of spare cash rolling around these days, but this is important to us, so we've sponsored our piece. Your $5 will help give a little girl the world.
These pieces have already been donated!

Really.

It's her family. That's her whole world, right there.

The hyperlink above will give you the direct link to give, or you can click on the puzzle picture in my sidebar.

Thanks in advance from all of us at Team Baby Shelton.

Monday, February 6, 2017

That's My Girl

On our way to church yesterday, after stopping at the store for donuts, this happened:

Middle: *belches*

Middle: Excuse me, I love donuts.

My middle child, ladies and gentlemen. 

The Donut Bet

"Daddy wants snuggles!" Hubby bellowed yesterday morning, still laying in bed, not yet up and moving around before getting ready to go to church.

The kids were all downstairs and didn't hear them, so I went to the stairs and called down to the kids. "Hey, girls? Daddy wants snuggles!"

"Oh, geez," I heard Oldest say. But she trooped upstairs and to our room, and then half-heartedly leaned into Hubby for a quasi-hug.

"This is all I get?" Hubby asked. "A measly half-hug?"

Oldest giggled a little. She's in youth group now, you know, and so she's too cool for snuggles. But she leaned in again before leaving the room.

I went back out to the stairs. "Hey! Daddy wants snuggles! Where are you?"

Youngest scrambled up the steps and raced into our room, sprawling across Hubby's chest. "Are we gonna get donuts this morning?"

"Don't we always get donuts on the way to church?" He gave her a cheeky grin as he reminded her of what's become a Sunday morning tradition over the last several weeks.

Youngest smiled.

"I tell you what," Hubby said conspiratorially, "since you're not dressed yet, I'll bet you that I can get dressed faster than you."

Youngest looked at him skeptically.

"If I get dressed first, you have to buy the donuts this morning. But if you get dressed first, I'll buy the donuts."

Youngest's eyes lit up at the thought of a challenge.

"Are you gonna go? 'Cause I'm gonna get up and get dressed! You'd better get moving!"

Youngest hightailed it out of the room, squealing that she was going to win.

Hubby rolled over, tucked the comforter up under his neck, and grinned at me. "I'm not moving."

I just laughed.

Within five minutes, Youngest was back in our room, fully dressed, tailed by Middle, who sprawls on top of Hubby.

"You're not dressed, Daddy! I'm gonna win!" Youngest shrieks with delight.

This caused Middle to launch off her father and grab a pair of white tube socks out of his dresser. She started yanking one onto his left foot. "Win! Win! Win! Win! Win! Win! WIN! WIN! WIN! WIN!"

As his foot was getting jerked around, Hubby gave me something of a bumfuzzled look. By then, I was laughing so hard that tears were leaking out of my eyes. Middle continued to chant "WIN!" at the top of her lungs.

"You're writing this, right?" Hubby asked between my hoots of laughter.

"Oh, heck yes," I gasped out.

Youngest had, in the height of the sock-pulling-on melee, departed the room and returned...now wearing her winter coat. Really ready to go.

"She's not done yet; her hair's not brushed!" Middle complained.

"I won!" Youngest countered.

"Daddy, she's not done yet. Her hair's not brushed! You win!"

Hubby chuckled as he met my gaze. "I've got a sock on. I'm ready to go to church!"

Youngest squealed. "Ew, Daddy, no!"

"Why not? I'm dressed. I've got a sock on. I can go to church just like this!"

"Daddy!"

He shooed them out of the room so we could get dressed.

And, yes, he made good on the bet.

He bought the donuts.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Two Weddings and an Apartment

"Hey, Momma," Middle asked as she strode purposefully into the living room this morning, "can Oldest and I use this box, since she emptied it out?"

I tend to greet such requests with suspicion, because they usually result in vague answers of I don't know which almost always spell trouble with a capital T.

"What are you going to use it for?"

"A house for a married couple."

Say what?

"A house for a married couple?"

"Yeah, Oldest's stuffed animals."

"Which stuffed animals are married?"

"They're not married yet. They're getting married today, and they need their own house."

And then I remembered the animated soliloquy Middle had given to me about this, about how Duckie was going to be the best man, and Duckie's alter egos would fill other roles.

Which Middle was explaining. Again. Short-form, this time.

"One of my ducks is going to be the best man, one is going to be the usher, and one is going to be the priest."

How she came up with priest, I'm not entirely sure, as we're Protestant, and the only weddings we've been to have been officiated by pastors. But I digress.

"Then the rest of my ducks"—and they are legion, let me tell you—"are coming, too, because their family is the best man, and the usher, and the priest."

Okay then.

"Well, this still doesn't tell me which of Oldest's stuffed animals are getting married."

"A bear and a turtle, and a rabbit and a rabbit."

"Two weddings?"

"Yeah! And my ducks are going to be at both."

Allrightythen.

"Yes, you can use the box."

"I'm gonna go tell Oldest."

And she bounced out of the room.

While I was pondering the blog post this story was about to become, and feeling more than a little amused by it, Middle stopped short in the doorway to the living room on her way upstairs.

"Sad, sad," she announced. "Rabbit/Rabbit broke up, so there's only going to be one wedding."

I nodded with appropriate soberness, and she hardly skipped a beat before continuing up the stairs.

At least I can be assured that we now won't have a bunch of little tiny stuffed rabbits bouncing around the house any time soon. *chuckle*

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hezekiah

When we got home from church last night, it was well past the kids' normal bedtime. As we walked into the kitchen, Hubby announced to the girls their time limit for getting ready for bed.

Now, before you freak out about the short amount of time that I'm about to quote Hubby as giving them, you need to understand that, despite threats and hovering and timing and almost everything, getting ready for bed has become a process for them that takes about three times as long as it should. And that's on a good night. So, we've started to get creative...

"All right, you have six minutes to get ready for bed, or I'm going to make you write out the entire book of Hezekiah!" Hubby proclaimed. "And it's a long one!"

Three heads swiveled in my direction, and I nodded as soberly as I could.

The girls dashed upstairs while Hubby and I grinned at each other and muffled snickers.

For my readers who might not be as biblically-savvy as we are, I'll point out that Hezekiah was a king of Judah many, many, many moons ago, not a prophet, and there are no books named after him. But his name sounds impressive enough that it fits right in with Old Testament book names like Jeremiah and Habakkuk and Zechariah.

Hee.

Middle came downstairs a few minutes later, to get some of her medication that she often takes at bedtime. As she mixed it up, the Inquisitor popped out.

"Mom? Have you read through the whole Bible?"

"Yes, I have."

"Have you read it through twice?"

"I don't know that I've read every book twice. Some I've read more than others. I've read the book of Isaiah a lot. I love Isaiah."

"What about Hezekiah? Have you read that?"

Great. I'm going to have to lie here.

"Yeah, I have." I swallowed my smirk.

Middle reached for her Bible, on the kitchen island. "Maybe I can find it tonight!"

"No! We don't have time for that tonight. You have to go to bed."

Middle looked momentarily crestfallen, and then she brightened up. "I'll look for it tomorrow morning. Maybe I can find a verse to put in my S.O.A.P. journal!"

Now I really had to stop myself from laughing. "Go to bed."

She gave me a hug. "G'night, Momma."

As she scampered up the stairs, I wandered into the den, where Hubby had settled in on the couch and was watching something on Netflix.

"I just had to lie to our daughter."

"Oh?"

I related our conversation, and he chuckled.

Middle is our elephant-memory child, so if anyone was going to remember to look for Hezekiah in the Bible the next morning, it would be her.

"So," I said, "you might want to get up in the morning just to see if she remembers."

As it turned out, she didn't say anything about Hezekiah this morning. I'm kind of surprised.

And a little disappointed.

The reaction would have been priceless.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

National Adoption Month

Adoption is, as a subject, very close to my heart, for obvious reasons.

First and foremost, it's because, without it, I would have no place in the family of God. That adoption shows the reality of the hidden cost we often forget in the happiness of adoption and the creation of families: that adoption is, at its heart, redemption, and redemption does not come without a price, and sometimes, a terrible one. Without the terrible price of Jesus's life, my position as a fully adopted and invested daughter of God would not exist. It reminds me that Hubby and I are not the only ones who paid a price for the lives of our family. God paid the ultimate one to have us belong to Him.

Adoption is the reason why we have enjoyed sharing our lives with a parade of fabulous felines, some of whom we've had to say goodbye to entirely too soon. We traded a life without cat hair and hairballs and feline kleptomania for one where cat hair is a condiment, all the best seats are taken, alarm "clocks" with no snooze buttons who want to play at 4 a.m., and under-the-bed sneak attacks. I miss those we've lost—Popoki, our gentle giantess; Keiki, who liked to talk to herself and could sound like a herd of elephants when she ran across pine floors; Pa'ani, with his Edsel purr, who never met a stranger, just a new friend; and sweet Minou, whose gentle heart graced us all with her presence. I am supremely grateful for those who still share our hearts and lives: Mika, who, at 17, still thrives and is still my watch-cat and nursemaid; Koa, who has spent most of the last 15 and a half years trying to take over the world, and is also our resident klepto; Kimo, who helped us heal after our sudden loss of Pa'ani; and Makaha, who has both grown into the lofty name we gave him and still lives up to his kittenhood nickname of "Crackhead" (bestowed upon him by Special Edition), who gave me purpose and a reason to keep moving after we lost Dad so suddenly last year.

Adoption is the reason we have a house, not an apartment. It's the reason I hear pinging from a video game right now. It's the reason for an overabundance of Halloween candy in my home. It's the reason I have all of my children.

Back in the beginning, we had no idea we would end up here. We had no idea this would be the start of an adoption journey.

I remember, about a month into our parenthood experiment, when my parents came out to babysit for an evening to give Hubby and me a much-needed night off. When we returned home to my poor, exhausted parents, Hubby looked at my mom and asked, "Mom, tell me the truth. How long do you think we're going to have the girls?"

Mom didn't bat an eyelash. "Eighteen years."

Hubby's eyes bugged. "No, seriously, Mom."

"Eighteen years."

As it turned out, as it has on many occasions, Mom was right. After a little over a year, we found ourselves in the position of needing to do the unthinkable: defend the girls from those who should be protecting them but were instead placing them in direct danger. We filed suit for full custody of the girls, along with a special relief petition to keep them in our care until our custody suit was resolved.

It took 14 months for us to wind through the court process: presentation of the custody case, establishing visitation schedules, scheduling a hearing, the first continuation, the filing of the girls' biological mother's attorney to be relieved as counsel of record, reassignment to a new judge (to our great relief), a second continuation, a very pointless reconciliation hearing in which nothing got reconciled, a third continuation (this time on our part, due to the short duration of time our hearing was scheduled for; there was no way we could present all of our evidence in that amount of time and still allow for the other parties to present as well), a fourth continuation (this one and the first two were all at the bio mom's request), and then finally arriving at the hearing...and this was just the hearing on our special relief petition, not the custody case. Our attorney asked the judge to make a summary judgment on our case, based on the fact that the evidence we presented that day for the special relief petition hearing was the same evidence we would present at the custody hearing.

Our judge was relatively new, just having been elected the prior November and ascending to the bench in January of that year. But as a former county prosecutor, she knew her stuff. What we didn't know yet was how she would rule and when she would rule on our case, because our attorney didn't have enough experience with her yet. My parents were present in the courtroom; they both believed they needed to stand up for their grandchildren who could not fight for themselves, even when it meant stepping into a legal fray that now pitted two of their children against each other. My mother even testified on our behalf. She watched my testimony on the stand after the lunch break, and said afterward that she thought the judge was writing her opinion and the order as I testified. (My father called my time on the stand "magnificent" and he said he was sorry for doubting me.) And we were all astonished when the judge ruled that day.

Her order gave us primary physical custody of the girls, along with shared legal custody (which meant we had an obligation to share things like school grades when asked, to discuss major healthcare decisions, things like that), and imposed strict regulations on visitation for both biological parents. It was the best possible decision that we could have hoped for that day. It gave legal standing to what we had been doing now for more than two years. We had spent all this time acting in loco parentis, which is what gave us the legal standing to bring our case to court in the first place. Now we had the official rank of legal guardianship, formal custodianship, of these children we thought of as ours, who we were raising with all the love as if they were indeed ours.

That's only the first part of our journey, and a bare summation at that. As National Adoption Month continues, I hope to be able to share more of the ups and downs of our adoption story. Every adoption story is unique, and ours is no different. What comes at the "end" of each story—although it is so hard to call an adoption hearing the end, for it's a new beginning—is the ultimate goal of adoption and redemption.

Family.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Adventures in Babysitting

Last week, it didn't take me long to realize that the sinus infection I'd felt brewing for a good ten days had been given a kick in the pants by Oldest's nasty case of bronchitis the week before. I have been volunteering at the church office since the secretary retired, and so I went in on Monday to take care of my responsibilities, picked up Hubby from work later that afternoon, and announced I was going to bed. I slept for the better part of the next 12 hours.

Tuesday morning, I woke to find that my already-low voice had dropped an octave and a half. Hubby had to work, the twins had counseling appointments, so did I, and so adulting was going to be necessary for several hours. I don't think I'd said more than two sentences to Hubby before he determined I needed to see a doctor, and soon. Yeah, he was probably right.

So I squeezed in a run to the urgent care nearby between the twins' counseling sessions and mine. Sinus infection and antibiotics and a trip to the pharmacy. Yes, I sound terrible. I feel terrible. It's a matched set. I told my counselor she got the warmed-up voice that had moved a few steps back up the scale.

Then I went home and crashed until it was time to pick up Hubby, dozing through the kids getting home from school.

On Wednesday, I had never been so glad that I did not have anywhere to go. I got up long enough to get the kids off to school; that was it. As I sat half-comatose in the kitchen, waiting for the twins to head out to the bus stop momentarily so that I could go back to bed, Middle said, "Oh! I need to get my duck!"

She'd better hurry. Almost time to go. Almost time for me to fall over.

Middle dashed back into the kitchen. "Mom, will you babysit my duck today?"

Long-time readers will know this is a sacred charge. And I haven't been asked to babysit Duckie in weeks. Months, maybe.

I suspected this was less about me babysitting Duckie and more about Duckie babysitting me, since I was sick. Middle was giving me her best friend to help me feel better.

It warmed my heart, if not the cockles of my lungs.

"Let me know if he's bad!" Middle shouted as she zipped out the door.

I coughed, hobbled over to close the door behind them, and shuffled back to bed.

When Hubby woke awhile later to head to work, he observed, "There's a duck in our bed."

"I know," I hacked. "Middle asked me to babysit. Think it's more the other way around."

I drifted back to sleep and blearily looked at the world again around 1 p.m., and forced myself to get up and dressed. I needed food, and tucked Duckie in my jeans pocket as I moseyed to the kitchen.

I messaged Waffle about my companion and Middle's parting shout.

"I propose that Duckie be naughty and get caught on photo," she replied.

Well, now.

That sounded like more fun than anything I'd done all week, including trying to liberate my own lungs from my chest. Even if I was still exhausted.

What mischief can a small stuffed duckie with a rattle in its bum get into?

Lots, as it turns out.

He tried to eat my lunch.

Then he tried to steal my mini m&ms.

He attacked Koa with a fork.

He dove head-first into a gift bag that wasn't his.

He tried to ride Mika. (Poor Mika.)

He partied and tried to dance with a flower.

He trophy-hunted a Cootie in the hallway.

Vanity, thy name is Duckie.

After all that adventuring, we were quite tired.


So we took a nap.

Incidentally, Middle howled when I showed her these pictures.

I can't wait to be asked to babysit Duckie again.