Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Ten years ago, at this very moment, I was crammed into a minivan with five other bodies and lots and lots of stuff.

After all, tiny tykes come with not-so-tiny amounts of cups...plastic seats...more clothes...more diapers...more toys...more diapers...strollers...

...and no small amount of scawwies, love, hugs, kisses, tears, stories, and more love.

That first night, I had no idea of what lay ahead of us.

I think I might have thrown up if I had.

I almost did, as it was. I was no parent. I could keep the cats alive, sure. They were self-cleaning and all of them were very well trained according to the rules of the house. I was thirty-two years old and had no clue how I was supposed to handle three little girls come morning.

Enter my dad, who decided "suddenly" to stay as he probably just mentally acknowledged that my mom's advice before he'd left home the previous day, before we picked up the girls, was right: Stay overnight a second night. They're going to need you.

The girls adapted quickly, and soon were amazingly comfortable with us.

Oh, we learned so much in those early days...

  • Kitties could "bite" toes from the next room.
  • Snack and juice at 10 a.m. made getting to lunch without the crankies a lot easier.
  • Mika would lower himself to eat French toast, but Popoki wouldn't.
  • Middle loved all things squishy and stuffed.
  • Oldest loved to dress up.
  • Youngest had baby radar. (And a baby was anyone younger than her.)
  • Disney princesses can perform amazing feats.
  • Talking Veggies are fun.
Mom and Dad came out about a month into this Experiment to give Hubby and I a date night, and we went out to dinner, promising ourselves we wouldn't be one of those couples who only talk about the kids.

We only talked about the kids.

Except for Hubby's comment about the motel nearest to the hospital, and his wondering if it rented rooms by the hour. Because, you see, we were both so tired that a movie didn't appeal, but a two-hour nap sure did.

That was the night Hubby asked my mother the question. "Mom, how long do you think the girls are going to be with us?" This was, after all, supposed to be a three-month gig.

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

"No, really, Mom. Seriously. How long are the girls going to be with us."

"Eighteen years."

As it turned out, she wasn't wrong.

We learned unpleasant things, too, like how underweight the girls were. How much they didn't expect regular meals. (It took them six months to realize hungry meant food is coming soon. Heartbreaking.) They were all developmentally behind. 

We got them help. A developmental therapist came and worked in our home with the twins for an entire year. A physical therapist also came to work with Youngest, who didn't walk independently on her own until she was 20 months old. Oldest entered speech therapy.

So much has happened over the last ten years that I hardly know where to begin.

  • We filed suit for custody of the girls in June of 2009, after they had been with us more than a year, because my brother and ex-sister-in-law's planned move for the girls would have put them directly in harm's way. We also filed a petition of special relief, to keep the girls in our custody until the custody suit hearing.
  • I was in a terrible car accident in July of 2009, and the girls and I moved in with Mom and Dad for two and a half months.
  • Hubby left his ministry position and began the search for a new one.
  • We went to Daytona Beach, FL, with my parents in 2010.
  • During the time it took us to reach a hearing, there countless visitations both in person (Bro) and via Skype (Ex-SIL), fourteen months, five continuances, two judges, and one pointless conciliation hearing. But, on August 6, 2010, we were as shocked as my brother and his now ex-wife when the judge handed down her verdict that day, awarding us full physical custody and guardianship, along with shared legal custody with Bro and Ex-SIL. We spent the next week in Ocean City, MD, on a planned vacation with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew.
  • We enrolled Oldest in Kindergarten in 2010.
  • Hubby found a new ministry position in 2011, and we enrolled the twins in preschool.
  • We bought a house and moved to a smaller town north of where we lived when the girls first came to us.
  • We enrolled the twins in Kingergarten in 2012.
  • We traveled to Ocean City, MD, during the summer of 2012 with my parents.
  • We've said some sad goodbyes to dear family members: Popoki and Keiki (2012), Pa'ani (2014), Minouchette (2016), Koa and Mika (2017).
  • We went back to Daytona Beach on vacation in 2013.
  • We filed a petition for termination of rights for Bro and Ex-SIL in December 2013, after long silences by both of those parties, so that we could pursue what we all now wanted: adoption, the legal acknowledgement of our family.
  • We said goodbye to Youngest's tonsils and adenoids in the spring of 2014, making her the first of the girls to undergo surgery.
  • The termination of rights hearing was held in front of our custody judge (from 2010) in April 2014. My brother pursued appeals all the way to our state Supreme Court, on the grounds that we had not bonded to these girls who, by now, had been calling us Mom and Dad for several years (we were originally Auntie and Uncle), and had not seen him in nearly two years by the date of the termination hearing.
  • We invaded Daytona Beach for the third time in 2014, also working in a few days in Orlando, where we got to see Mickey!
  • On April 9, 2015, our judge granted our adoption petitions, and we became legally what we had been from the very beginning: a family.
  • Oldest also said goodbye to her tonsils and adenoids in May 2016. There was much rejoicing.
  • Special Edition joined our family on May 28, 2015, in a move we'd been hoping she'd make. 
  • We visited the Gulf side of Florida with my parents, staying at their place there in 2015.
  • We weathered the toughest loss of all in June 2015 after our Florida trip, the girls' beloved Poppa, my dad.
  • In the firm belief that chocolate cures many things, we went to Hershey Park.
  • We visited our nephew's family in Virginia in the fall of 2015 and spent a couple days seeing museums around D.C.
  • Middle had eye surgery (she's an overachiever like that) not once but twice, correcting a vision abnormality she had (2016-2017).
  • We discovered a nearby (ish) lake that was so much fun we visited it two summers running.
  • Middle sustained a concussion and learned she was a heart patient this year.
Today, we are ten years a family.


Our school year wraps up on Friday. We'll have an 8th grader (Oldest) and two sixth-graders (Middle and Youngest). The summer promises to be an adventure already: Oldest turns 13, everyone has
camp, the twins have summer band lessons, we're spending a few days visiting Special Edition and Mr. Nurse, and we plan to do something fun to celebrate marking a decade together.

I can't wait for the adventures of the next decade.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Today, We Celebrate

Special Edition does not know I'm going to make a big deal of this, but I am.

Because three years ago today, she joined our family and made us complete.

Three years.

Sometimes it seems like a lifetime, others not nearly long enough.

We have walked through all kinds of crazy together. From the first moment I met you, I knew. It wouldn't matter how crazy, I would be there.

Baby girl, I know the road has been long and hard. I know it's been rough. But your dad and I would not trade having you in our family for anything. You are worth it all.

We love you.

And we're so glad you're a part of our family. You belong here.

Okay, gooshy moment over. You can go back to your regularly scheduled programming, sweetheart.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cool Ranch Doritos and Other Cool Things

Hubby currently works for a well-known local gas station/convenience store chain in our area, having stepped out of ministry for a sort of sabbatical about two and a half years ago after my father's sudden death. It's a crazy workplace, and he says it's perfect for him and his ADHD because there's always something new to do. He likes his coworkers and it's become increasingly obvious why this chain is one of the top 100 employers in the country.

He likes his job.

This makes him happy, which makes me happy.

Innyhoo. His store is busy, sitting in a location where a divided highway joins back together just on the other side of the store's property. Lots of local traffic, and lots of regular customers.

Among these regulars is a mom and her two young sons.

Now, Hubby has always thought, from a customer-service standpoint, if he can make the kids smile and giggle, he'll please the parents, who are always the customers. He feels that way about our own girls: if someone can make them laugh and smile, his day is made. So he turns that around and applies that to the customers who come in with their kids.

So he talks to the kids who come to his counter when he's on register. They'll hand up candy. "Is that for me?" Inevitably, the kids giggle and correct him. They'll hand up chips. "Oh, those have to be for me!" More giggling. "No, those are for my sister!"

The kids love him.

The parents are happy.

The mom and her two boys are, according to Hubby, in the store nearly every day. He's built a rapport with the boys. "Oh, you've got Cool Ranch Doritos. I love Cool Ranch Doritos! Are those for me?"

Giggles and silly shrieks. "No, those are ours!"

Yesterday, the mom and her boys came into the store and got in Hubby's line. Once again, he interacted with the boys. "Cool Ranch Doritos! Are those for me?"

I can only imagine the look on his face when those little boys (about six and seven, he says) happily told him, "Yes, those are for you!"

The boys, it turns out, go to one of the local Christian schools, the one that's less than half a mile from Hubby's store. They've been learning about sharing, caring, and doing kind things.

They told their mom they wanted to get Cool Ranch Doritos just for Hubby. They wanted to do something nice for him, specifically.

Hubby said his first instinct was to say no, that he couldn't accept them, but then he realized what they were trying to do, and he gave in, and enjoyed his chips with the pizza he had later on his dinner break.

That little moment made his entire day.

You know, as long as there are parents raising kids like this, as long as we are teaching that kindness to anyone is a true virtue, the future is in good hands.

A Little Less Conversation

The very merry month of May has begun, and I think something in the air has infected the short people in my house.

Or something.

Scene: Dinner Table
May 1

Oldest: I think I'm done drinking chocolate milk...for today.

Note: We have no chocolate milk in the house.

Me: How much have you had?

Oldest: Ten bottles.

Me: How do you get ten bottles of chocolate milk?

This must have happened at school.

Oldest: People give them to me. They drop them on my tray as they go to throw trash away. So I had ten, and my friend had ten, and we had a chocolate milk drinking challenge, which I won, of course.

Me: Oh, of course. <pause>  Do you think that you're going to fade if you don't drink enough? Your skin color, I mean?

Oldest [laughing]: No.

Middle: Wait, that can happen? Is that why you don't drink chocolate milk?

I sat there and shook my head vigorously and tried not to laugh, but I don't think I convinced her that drinking chocolate milk is the way to keep up her skin tone, or that I avoid it so I won't turn brown. (I just don't like milk.)

[It occurs to me now that I should have told her I eat enough chocolate ice cream to have affected my skin color, but alas, my retort comes too late.]

I must admit that I rather like our new dinner tradition, where the kids clean up and put away the leftovers (on the pitifully rare occasions that we have them, which we did this night) if I've cooked dinner. It's nice.

So, shortly after this...

Oldest: Can you please pass the chicken?

Me: No! You've had two full plates of food!

Middle: Then can I be excused? To go to the bathroom?

Me: Yes, as long as you come back and take care of the dishes and stuff. I will take care of the chicken, because I don't trust you to not sneak another piece [Middle had had five] while putting it away.

Middle: We probably would.

Scene: Dinner Table
May 2

Middle: You have to remember that I am weird. With a capital W. And a capital I. And E. And R. And D.

Me [amused]: Not in that order.

Middle [almost simultaneously]: I think I got that right. Oh. The other way, then.

Scene: Kitchen

I'm looking for the canister of knock-off Pringles Hubby bought the other night when I asked him to also get me something to eat when he stopped at the store for something else on his way home from work. They were on the island, and I can't find them. I've had a rough few days with my ankle giving me fits, so it was fend-for-yourself night here. I figured I'd make a sandwich and have some of those chips, even though they felt kinda wrong. (They're about twice the thickness of actual Pringles.) Hubby had, after all, bought some Fritos for himself. I can't eat Fritos anymore. Well, I can, but not without great consequence, so I don't. So I asked the girls if they had seen my canister of chips, which had last been spotted on the island.

They're all shaking their heads.

Oldest: I last saw them here.

Yes, well, there's just a whole lot of here here on the island now. No fat Pringles.

Youngest: I haven't seen any chips.

Middle: Maybe Dad...

And she left the room, presumably going up to Special Edition's room, where Hubby likes to play games on the Xbox when Special Edition isn't living here at home.

I searched the pantry until Middle returned, still not finding chips.

Middle [stepping from stairs into kitchen]: We have a body.

Then she handed me the empty canister.

This kid.

Please, by all means, come to dinner at my house. You never know what's going to happen.