Friday, May 30, 2014

On Interruptions and Miracles

This is the Parsons family. I've told their amazing story here before. They adopted Zion almost three years ago. 

I remember the call. They were vacationing as a family and I called interrupting birthday celebrations.

"Do you have a minute? I'm calling because there's a baby in the hospital who needs a family..."

I went on to tell them about a little guy, less than three pounds who was left alone in a hospital NICU. His birth mother was not in a season to parent and didn't even know she was pregnant when she went into labor 11 weeks early. 

I remember talking with Jeremy and Ashley very candidly about how fragile he was and all of the unknowns of his future. They knew exactly what they were walking into when I led them several days later up to a little isolette in the NICU to meet their son, Zion for the first time.

And I watched as instantaneously they fell in love with him.

That phone call three years ago interrupted Jeremy and Ashley's lives in more ways than they could have imagined. Since then they have almost lost Zioncelebrated Zion's ability to hear when they thought he might be deaf, and have gone through countless therapies, surgeries, and treatments.

And at their last doctor's appointment, they got the diagnosis they anticipated but was still earth-shattering: Zion has cerebral palsy.  (You can read more about his diagnosis here.) 

But Zion coming into their lives in the surprising way he did has never been an interruption to their family. This little guy is so loved and cherished by his parents and doting and protective big brothers. When they received the call that changed their lives forever they had no idea what was ahead. But Ashley will tell you in a heartbeat that she wouldn't change being Zion's mama for anything.

As the gravity of this diagnosis continues to sink in, so has the revelation of the further care that Zion will need and their desire to provide the best possible support for him. And it's costly. In addition to the medical bills they are facing, the school that would provide the best care and therapy for Zion is expensive.

As Ashley wrote last week:

We have no control here. We don’t hold the cards. We don’t get to call all the shots. We can’t predict the future or change the past. We can’t even change the hearts of the social workers so they want to help our son instead of just win the money battle. We can’t make $700 appear magically each month so we can send him to the school where his therapies would continue and he could be around other kids like him. We look at the sign on my wall and realize it’s not completely true. because we can’t do this. The only way we are going to keep Zion alive, parent Zion well, and see his needs met is if God does all of this for us and through us – moving mountains we can’t move, and giving hope we can’t find within our own efforts.

I wanted to share a way we can help. We can partner with God and this amazing family in moving mountains for Zion. Ashley, Jeremy, and Zion could use prayers from all over the world. His life has already been one miracle after another. And you can check out a practical way to help here. For more of their story, you can follow their blog at We Are the Parsons.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

In Their Own Words: Watch Your Mouth

Carrie is an adoptive mama with spunk. She and her husband, Tory recently adopted their daughter this spring and have been enjoying parenthood. Throughout their journey to becoming parents, she blogged openly and honestly about the challenges they faced. I wanted to share her thoughts from her blog, Recipes for Lemons, about what to say (and maybe more importantly what NOT to say) to a couple adopting...

I think every infertility blogger at some point has a post on what to say/not say to people struggling with infertility. The "just relax and it will happen" is one comment that is ridiculously common and likely makes the recipient want to punch something.  

Less often, I see blog posts on what to not say to people going through the adoption process or those that have already adopted. Yet, I feel this area is just ripe for insensitive, malicious, or simply uneducated comments. I'm probably more open right now to talking about our adoption plans with strangers than friends...more than likely because I won't have to backtrack if there is ultimately a disruption. I can have more unadulterated excitement. So when my dental hygienist yesterday was asking if we had kids, she received a whole mouthful (in awesome mumbling fashion, given my state) of our plans. She was the nicest person ever, but said so many stupid things that it made me want to write this post as soon as possible.

Many of these don't apply to close friends. One, we know how to shut you down or correct your language if necessary. Two, we've discussed our whole journey in such lengths to you that we know exactly why you may ask something. But realize your openness with us may not apply to someone else you know less well, so these are still very valid concerns. 

So off we go:

Did you try to have your own children?  

Alternative versions:
"Did you try to have a real child?" 
"Are you sad you're not having your own child/a real child?"      
"Aren't you excited to finally have your own child/real child?" (to someone pregnant after adopting their first)

No. No, no, no. Our adopted child WILL be our own child. We will love her unconditionally, nurture her, fight for her, kiss her boo boos, discipline her, become frustrated with her, and bond with her so much our insides will ache when she is hurting in any way. She will be our child, our parents' grandchild, our siblings' niece.  While she will always know her adoption story, her relationship to us will not be defined by that.  

If for some crazy reason we ever have a biological child, there will be no difference between them besides how they scientifically are connected to us. We would never differentiate them to anyone. Yes, our adopted child will have a birth family that is very important to us, but that birth family will also be very important to a biological child in that case. They will be extended family to our ENTIRE family.

I understand the intent behind the question, and if I'm open to talking about our infertility struggles, I will certainly acknowledge that.  But "own" is not the appropriate modifier to use ever.  And I can't even comment the use of a "real child" without throwing up.  Yes, this adopted child is not real.  Her poops will be rainbows, and she'll fly away to her home in the clouds every night.

You know you'll get pregnant now that you've adopted.

Probably not. If we do, it was going to happen whether or not we've adopted. But we love kids and want kids and, as stated above, they would all be our kids. Many people active in the adoption process have worked through painful infertility issues, so please be cognizant that this comment belittles that struggle. We have worked very hard to grieve for our loss of the pregnancy experience and move on. Let us.

How much did she cost?

Ouch. Icky. What do I say to that? "She was $5 - they gave us a 10% discount because she didn't have blue eyes." Yes, the adoption process costs a bundle. Our child won't cost us anything (beyond diapers, formula, clothes, extracurricular activities, ER co-pays for broken arms, college education, and our sanity.)

If you are genuinely looking into adoption, I'll happily walk you through the costs and what drives them. If you are just grotesquely interested, I'll certainly note the process can be costly, but it is worth it. If your response is that the birth mother must be happy because she is getting so much money (from said dental hygienist above), I will try to squelch the desire to stop talking to you and remember that you just simply don't know.

For education, the majority of our expenses (like 90% worth) never see the birth mother at all.  They are agency fees, legal fees, travel expenses, state paperwork, etc.  The birth mother receives some money related to specifically identifiable expenses related to the carrying of the child.  It is not that much, and she sure as hell isn't able to change her lifestyle because of them.

Is the birth mother young/a deadbeat/a drug addict/mentally unstable/a one-armed albino?
I get curiosity, especially if one has or desires children in his or her own family. But this question is none of your business, especially if you are a stranger to me. Granted, somehow the fact that I am adopting/have adopted has come up to elicit this question, so I get it is a normal one. But a birth mother is a person with emotions, struggles and triumphs like the rest of us. She is not just a piece of paper with checkboxes, and her motives are complex. Her life decisions are her own, and not for you nor I to judge. My answer will be that she does not have the stability in her life right now that she needs.  

That's so cool. I totally think I'm going to adopt my third child. Especially if I have another boy - I can get a girl that way!

Great for you! Please just go down to the adoption superstore and pick one out! They are having a blowout sale on girls! Adoption is a difficult, stressful, expensive, mind-numbing journey. It involves multiple people and their struggles. The baby doesn't just pop up from nowhere.

I'll just smile and nod to this one.

Any sort of adoption advice from someone who hasn't gone through it.  

This one is tricky because it does include my lovely friends. But I just sat through someone explaining to me that FMLA exists and I can use it for taking adoption leave. And another at work who literally just today forwarded me the adoption policies from our employer intranet, and was excited to tell me she found information for me (bless her heart). You can trust that I have done every ounce of research there is, and if you found something by searching "adoption" and clicking on the first or second link, you have not discovered anything I don't know.


I'm sure I'll have a bunch more down the line, but these are the ones that stirred me up recently. Also, I haven't remotely delved into those that are related to transracial or international adoption families (the expectant couple we are matched with are both Caucasian), but I implore you to especially think before you speak in those cases. 

But to offset, here are some of the totally fine (and some lovely!) comments I've received (again using "strangers" as the measuring stick. I expect nothing less of my good friends and family, wink, wink).

Are you able to meet the birth parents? How does that work? (or after placement- asking how communication is going is perfectly okay)

How long does the process take? 

Are you planning to be open with the child about the adoption? Will she be able to meet her birth family?

I am so happy for you and your family. I will keep you and the birth family in my prayers.

I think you guys will be such awesome parents.   

I can't wait to meet my granddaughter. (thanks mom!)

You are going to be so blessed.  Yeah, I know.  

For more information on using positive adoption language, click this link.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A New Name

This is Aubrey.  Last week, she was given a new name. This sweet girl came into Jon and Erin's lives nine months ago and they just celebrated her adoption finalization.  

I've shared before how significant an adoption finalization is for a family. At this court hearing, testimonies are made that an adoption is in the best interests of the child, a judge ensures that all of the legal requirements have been met, and a Decree of Adoption is issued. 

Last week Jon and Erin became Aubrey's legal parents; a new birth certificate was issued with their names noted as father and mother. It's the last step finalizing what began in their hearts long ago. Aubrey is now their daughter; she now has their last name and a rich inheritance of love in this family.

Enjoy this glimpse into the day their daughter became theirs forever.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Congratulations Matt and Becca

Matt and Becca called me in August last year about starting their adoption journey. 

Matt and Becca did their homework. They had been on the journey to grow their family for awhile and when they decided adoption was the route to go, they wanted to make sure they did things right. They asked a ton of great questions on the front side of their process:
What home study agency is the best around? 
How do we go about finding a good placing agency?  
Who is an ethical attorney we can use?

How do we know the birth family is getting all the care and counsel they need? 

Is there anything we can do to keep the risks as low as possible?

When they chose to go with Christian Adoption Consultants to help them on their journey, they dove in. Matt and Becca were able to get all of their questions answered and support along they way. I connected them with a home study social worker and two months later their home study was complete. Then, after connecting them to adoption agencies, they were matched just two months after that.

And a few weeks ago, this sweet face entered the world.

It's been such a joy to watch this family through the entire process; as they diligently worked through their home study, as they wrestled with possible situations and prayed through what was the right fit for the family, and even as they decorated and prepared their nursery for a little one.

In the end, Matt and Becca's hard work paid off.

Their wait was worth it.

And I'm sure their journey to their daughter will turn out to be only the beginning of many wonderful adventures as a family...

Monday, May 19, 2014

In Their Own Words: An Adoption Story Q&A

Maria and her family have a sweet place in my heart. Cole and Maria have an amazing story of how their sweet son came to them last summer.  Maria has recently shared more of their adoption story and answered many common questions about the entire adoption process (you can find the original post here). I appreciate her honesty and transparency, honor for Xavier's birth mother and his own story, and acknowledgement that adoption is always a mix of beauty and grief.   

An Adoption Story
June 2013, less than two weeks old in Austin, Texas.

This has been a difficult post for me to compose. I have been mentally writing it for almost a year. It was hard to know what to share and what to keep private. This isn't just our story but also Xavi's birth mother's story and I want to both honor and respect her. 

An Adoption Story

I felt the best way for me to finally get this written was to do a Q&A post. A big Thank You to those of you that responded to my plea for questions! They were instrumental.

What inspired you to adopt? I'd love to know how you initially began tackling the subject? 
We knew we always wanted to adopt and even when we were dating in college we always imagined a family of two biological children and two adopted children. After trying on and off for seven years to get pregnant (doing all kinds of fertility treatments including three IVF cycles) and being stuck with the diagnosis of unexplained infertility, I found a specialist in Chicago that was known for explaining the unexplained. In August 2012, we drove to Chicago and had a final round of fertility test done and a whole lot of blood drawn. At this point, I just wanted answers. I wanted to know why, so I could grieve and move on. Well, we got our answer and then some. It turns out that aside from my autoimmune issues (Hashimoto's) I also had a bunch of random hereditary issues that combined created a perfect storm of infertility. In other words, it would take a miracle to get pregnant and sustain the pregnancy, which if it even got that far, could majorly jeopardize my health. We finally had our answers but that didn't make it any easier to swallow. For the next few months, we both grieved our loss. At that point we had already been through years of pain and loss, but we still needed the time to fully grasp what it all meant and how it effected our hearts. By January 2013 we were ready to go ahead with our plan to adopt. 

What type of adoption did you do? Once you decided on adoption, how did you decide between international and domestic, private, or with an agency? 
We chose a domestic adoption, which means adopting a child within the United States, and we were open to all races, ethnicities and genders. Several years ago we thought about doing an international adoption. I had heard so many horror stories and myths about domestic adoption that the whole process frightened me. I was terrified of the birth parents changing their minds, I thought they could come back at any point in the child's life to get them back, I was worried about sharing the title of parent. But when we really got serious about starting the process and once I did more research, I realized my fears where unfounded. Yes, there are a few days after the baby is born that the birth parents can decided not to place their baby. And since Xavi's birth father couldn't be located, we did have to wait thirty days before his parental rights were terminated. I won't lie, those two days in the hospital felt like an eternity with our love for Xavi growing hourly and for the month after his birth I kept wondering if Xavi's birth father would come forward, but those were the risks we had to take.

The biggest reason I wanted to go forward with a domestic adoption was that I felt a strong need to help a child within the US. There are so many children that spend their whole lives in foster care that I wanted to help in any way. It was also important to us that our future child have the chance to have a relationship with their birth family.

An Adoption Story
1. Our first night out of the hospital in our hotel    2. Xavi's first bath
3. Coping with the heat in Austin     4. At the Alamo

How'd you get started? What kind of research did you do? Could, please share how you selected an agency. 
We looked into adoption many times over the years. Like I said, it's been on our mind since we were dating back in college. We went to several different agency information meetings while we lived in Massachusetts and when we first moved to Minnesota, but the timing never felt right and the agencies never felt like a good fit. When we were finally ready, I was lucky to find a fellow adoptive mom, vintage seller and blogger, Maria, through instagram. I knew that Maria had recently adopted and I was curious to know who she worked with and how it all went. She was a lifesaver and directed me to Susan at Christian Adoption Consultants. Working with a consultant was a game changer.

Do you guys want more children? Do you plan to adopt again? 
Yes, we do! But sometimes we're just so happy and fulfilled being Xavi's parents that it's hard to imagine adding anyone else to the mix. Also, there's the financial impact of adoption to consider. If we are fortunate enough, we would love to adopt again in a few years. I also have a dream of adopting an older child or teenager from foster care when Xavi is in high school or college, and when I have more practical parenting skills to take on an older child. Most people don't realize that foster children are kicked out of foster care when they turn 18. That could be while they're still in high school and then they are all on their own. Needing to make money, find a place to live, finish school and somehow survive. I remember what 18 felt like, how confused and lost I was and I had the help of a loving family there to support me. So the thought of an 18 year old being kicked out of the foster care system, with no safety net, really gets me crazy. 

If you were to adopt again, would you go the same route as with Xavi? 
Yes, we would. Cutting out the middle man (the agency) really sped up the timeline. I loved working with our adoption consultant, Susan. She was a great support and had a wealth of knowledge. She also helped up create our family profile book (which is what the birth mother looks at).

An Adoption Story
Xavi's first plane ride flying home to Minnesota.

Can you share the cost of your adoption and maybe break out costs? If that is not too intrusive. 
The published average cost of a domestic adoption is $34,012. These costs can vary depending on many different factors. I won't go into the specific cost for us, but I'll tell you that adoption expenses are well above the average. Here's the breakdown of what you need money for if you go this route: the consultant fee, the cost of printing and shipping family profiles, the home study fee, the agency fee once you're matched, travel costs for airfare, hotel, food, etc, the post placement visits with the social worker, the lawyer fees and random fees for legal documents, certificates, etc. The biggest are the agency fee, travel expenses, and lawyer, with the consultant, home study and post placement fees coming in second. There are however lots of ways to finance an adoption. The government gives a tax credit of $13,000 and some companies even match that (Cole's thankfully does). If you adopt a waiting child in foster care, the costs are minimal and I believe you only are required to pay lawyer fees. There are also many ways to raise money and save. We weren't too clever with that, since I truly didn't think it would all amount to so much, but next time we'll be better prepared. It's also been tricky since our finalization took so long, we haven't been able to submit our taxes and get reimbursed. We're still waiting on Xavi's social security card and both the government and Cole's company won't reimburse us till we have it. One of the things, I've learned through adoption is how terribly slow and backwards our government, adoption agencies and lawyers function. Grrr. 

Did you know your son's birth mother prior to adopting him? Any chance of adopting from the same birth mother? 
We knew Xavi's birth mom only briefly. The time between our match with Xavi's birth mother and his birth was only three weeks. We did have a phone conversation with her before we flew down to Texas and had dinner with her the night before her c-section. However, we were fortunate to really spend time with her in the hospital after Xavi's birth and the remaining weeks that we were in Texas. Getting to know and love Xavi's birth mom and siblings is a gift we will forever cherish and it helped us create a relationship that I hope will last for Xavi's whole life. The choice is always with the birth mom. If she was to choose us again, then yes we would.

Was there a kind of mental/spiritual connection prior to holding him for the first time? 
Yes! I had a huge, instantaneous connection the moment I read Xavi's birth mother's profile. It was crazy how strong it was. The minute I saw her picture and read her information, I got goosebumps. I immediately called Cole at work and told him he had to read her profile. He also felt strongly that she was the birth mother of our dreams.

An Adoption Story

What was your son's birth like? Were you there in the room when he was born? How did they hand him to you?
The whole hospital situation was chaotic. The doctors and staff were pretty awful and treated Xavi's birth mom terribly. She had expressed her wishes to have me in the room during her c-section and for me to cut Xavi's umbilical cord. When they wheeled her out to get prepped for surgery, the nurses told me to put the scrubs on and they'd be back in five minutes. With shaking hands, I quickly threw on the scrubs, face mask, hat and shoe covers and proceeded to wait for twenty minutes. Those twenty minutes were some of the longest of my life. I was in a panic and the whole time I was waiting, there was a incessant beeping coming from a machine in the room. I thought I was going to lose my mind. I finally went into the hallway to see what was going on. Two of the nurses saw me and came and got me, their expression was something close to "oh, you're still here." They had already started the operation and Xavi's birth mama was laying there alone and upset. I thought I could scream I was so mad at the staff. Instead, I held her hand while we both cried. When it was time for Xavi to come out, I was supposed to get a picture and cut the cord but they didn't give me the option. They just whisked him out and cut the cord before even asking. I felt that everything that his birth mom wanted was being ignored. But there he was healthy and screaming as they quickly wiped him down and wrapped him up. First, they held him up to his birth mom's face and then they handed him to me. I could barely see through my fogged up glasses I was crying so hard. I held him close to her while she asked me to always love him and I said I always would.

An Adoption Story
1. Alone, waiting to go int into the delivery room  2. He arrived healthy and screaming
3. Cleaned off and sleeping in the nursery       4. First car ride leaving the hospital

At what point did holding your child feel real? 
This is a tough one. The whole time in the hospital felt so scary, overwhelming, stressful and surreal that I don't think I had time or really allowed myself to fully bond with Xavi. I was so worried that he wouldn't be ours and I knew I already loved him so much. I would say it grew more real with time. Especially once we were out of the hospital and in our hotel for a few weeks post birth. All those long sleepless nights helped make it feel real. But there are still times when I look at my amazing son and think "is this real, am I truly his mom?" The fact that he's in our lives...just takes my breath away.

An Adoption Story
Early July 2013, back in Minnesota and snuggling with my wee baby.

How long did Xavi's adoption take from start to finish?
We signed up with Christian Adoption Consultants at the end of January 2013. Started our home study paper work, got physical exams, fingerprints and back ground checks in February. Met with our social worker in mid March. Were home study approved on May 9th. We were emailed our son's birth mother profile that same day. Found out she had chosen us on May 20th, while we were in Paris. Found out Xavi's c-section was moved from June 17th to June 10th. Flew down to Texas on June 9th. Xavi was born June 10th. He was placed in our care on June 12th. Discharged from the hospital on June 15th. We left Texas and were back in Minnesota on July 1st. We finalized Xavi's adoption at the courthouse on April 7, 2014. Aside from waiting months for the finalization, it was all incredibly fast. I just kept telling myself through all the paper work and meetings with the social worker that I hoped we had a match in a year and if we were lucky a baby by December. Xavi was six months old this past December. It's just too amazing to think about how blessed we were that we got matched so fast and with the first birth mother of our choice and that the adoption didn't fall through. 
An Adoption Story
April 7, 2014 our Forever Family day. Before and After the court hearing.

How did you pick out Xavi's name? 
Once we looked at Xavi's birth mother's profile and submitted our family profile to her agency in Texas, we started thinking about names. It was probably premature, but it helped me focus and feel proactive. We knew she was having a boy and that Xavi would be 3/4 Mexican American and 1/4 African American, so it was really important to us that we chose a name that respected his heritage. I had a short list of names with Hugo and Xavier at the top. Cole really didn't like Hugo, so we both decided to temporarily choose Xavier and see how we felt about it after some time. We soon left for Cole's business trip (which I called our babymoon) to Paris. Once we arrived we kept seeing and hearing his name everywhere we went. There was the Saint Fran├žois Xavier metro station in Paris and while we were in Nice we kept seeing soccer jerseys with the name Xavi on the back. It felt like a sign. We both decided that we really did want the name Xavier (pronounced Zayv-yur) and would use the nickname Xavi (Zay-vee). When we shared our name choice with our family, we found out that Cole's great-great grandfather was named, Xavier. It was such a strange coincidence and we had no clue! During our first phone call with Xavi's birth mom, she asked if we had any names that we liked. We told her that we really like Xavier and she said that was her youngest son's name. I got goosebumps and immediately asked if that would be weird if we used the same name. She said no and that she liked that we wanted it. I asked her if there were any names she liked and she said Jacob. I told her that we also liked Jacob and were thinking about using that as his middle name since we knew from her profile that it's his birth father's name. Even though his birth father isn't in the picture and we've never met him, we felt it was important for Xavi to have a piece of him.

Will you tell him why he's so incredibly special...the whole story? 
Yes, I do practically every day! We want Xavi's adoption story to always be an open dialogue, something he's been used to talking about from the beginning. It will never be a shock or source of fear for him. And even though there will be times when he'll struggle with being adopted, we will always be there to walk with him and help guide him. Plus, I hope that by maintaining a relationship with his birth family, Xavi will never wonder where he came from. He will know them and love them, the same that we do.

An Adoption Story

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Congratulations Eric and Tricia

Eric and Tricia have had a unique adoption experience from the very beginning. They began their journey to adopt in Thailand where they serve as missionaries with their two little ones. Knowing that God called them to domestic adoption but unsure how to go about the process while they were overseas, they called Christian Adoption Consultants to see if it was even possible. Could they adopt from the U.S. while on furlough for a short season? 

The questions kept building...

Could they complete a home study while in Thailand?
Would they be able to afford an adoption as missionaries?
Could the adoption happen in the short time frame they had while still in the States?

The short answer was "yes." I've helped families overseas (serving in the military or as missionaries) in the adoption process before. So through Skype calls we began their adoption journey together. They completed a home study in Thailand and later arrived on U.S. soil and worked to finance their adoption. Then the real wait began.

But too quickly time was running out. The clock was ticking for them to return home and still there was no adoption; no baby. I talked to Tricia on a Monday, when the discouragement was setting in and it looked like they would need to begin talking about returning to Thailand without a baby. We talked of God's faithfulness and perfect timing. We talked about God's sovereignty. But we were both unsure; how would God make it all work?

Luckily, our God is good at the impossible.

The next day Eric and Tricia heard about a baby due a month later. They decided they wanted the birth mama to see their profile. Friday Eric and Tricia got the call; they had been chosen. AND their son had been born that day. There had been a mix up in due dates and their sweet son was waiting for them. They immediately packed up their family of four (soon to be five) and traveled to meet their son. What a difference a few days made!

In the end, God had all the answers to the questions. He had perfect timing. And he made the seemingly impossible possible.

Congrats, Eric and Tricia on your son. Impossible dreams are the best ones when they're fulfilled.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Daddy Daughter Beach Ball

If anyone remembers last year, there was a Daddy Daughter Dance that never happened. Although clearly my brother is a rock star, I wasn't about to let that happen again so I was put in charge of the whole thing (actually, those two events are completely unrelated).

Isabelle's school has an annual Daddy Daughter Dance that's become eagerly anticipated by all the girls in elementary and middle school. I worked with an amazing committee all year to transform a local church gym into a "Beach Ball" for this year's event. It was hosted by "Frankie and Annette" complete with a DJ, dance instructor, tiki snack bar, and even a synchronized swimming routine by some of the dads. 

There's something magical that happens when you host such a special event for daddies and their daughters. Watching them dance and laugh and be silly; enjoying each other and creating memories that will be tucked down deep into hearts for years. It was so magical that you could find some of the mamas weeping into their little mocktails with umbrellas at various points during the evening.

At one point during the night, I caught a special moment between Jamy and Isabelle. They were slow dancing and Jamy had picked her off the ground for a hug; him with tears in his eyes and her with a huge smile on her face (now I'm included with the other weepy mamas). 

Our family is incredibly blessed that our kids go to a school that not only sees the value in events like these, but creates a student body where celebration is a natural overflow of our community as a school family. It's not just our kids who are making friendship I pray will last a lifetime, but we are too.

My team who worked all year to put on this amazing event (side note: don't wear green if posing in front of a green screen - it makes for some awkward pictures).

Until next year...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What I Do

I recently had a friend tell me I have her dream job. I smiled, wanting to be humble but silently agreeing wholeheartedly with her. When I started a career after college, I had no idea what God had in store for me.

As an adoption consultant, it's my job to walk with families on their journey to adoption by offering education, guidance, support, and counsel. Someone once called me a wedding coordinator for adoptions and they're not too far off. I help families find the best fit for them when it comes to finding an good agency that provides excellent services (for them and the birth family), identifying an ethical attorney, working through openness issues with the birth family, and navigating the complex adoption process.

I partner with adoptive families for the entirety of their adoption: starting with the home study and sometimes for years afterwards. I'm blessed that these families are not just my clients, but become dear friends. We've even started to gather for yearly family reunions. I watch in awe as they pray, wait, dream, and work to answer the call they have to adopt. We pray together for birth mamas and babies. We laugh together at God's crazy timing and overwhelming faithfulness.

My desk full of some of my favorite faces

Not only does my job allow me to serve other families, it allows me to serve my own. I work from home at my dining room table (or near a fireplace at Panera) balancing phone calls, emails, and laundry. I get to be a mama available for field trips and sick days and can meet up with my husband for a lunch date.

Honestly, my job isn't picture perfect. Although I get to make the call that a family has been chosen and celebrate adoption finalizations, I also cry with my families when there's heartbreak and loss. Adoption is always bittersweet. 

But working as an adoption consultant goes far beyond a killer flexible schedule, an Instagram feed full of sweet baby faces, or even helping create families through adoption.

On a small scale, I'm partnering with God and his redemptive and healing work.

I get to see his faithfulness on a grand scale as he does miracles through timing and finances and babies.

Couples are answering his call to adopt. Families are created. Birth families are loved. Children find homes. 

I do have a dream job. But only because God's doing the work. I just get a front row seat to watch it all unfold in front of me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Congratulations Maurice and Kim

Maurice and Kim started with Christian Adoption Consultants at the end of February. I was able to help them locate a home study agency and they dove into the adoption process. Just three weeks later as they were waiting for their home study to be completed, they heard about an expectant mom. Maurice and Kim seemed to be a perfect fit but they held their breath, knowing this could just be first possibility and the beginning of a long wait.

But just four weeks after they started the adoption process, they were matched. They switched gears from completing their home study to preparing for the arrival of a little one and investing in a relationship with their expectant mom.

And 5 weeks after that they welcomed another son into their family.

It's always such an honor to have a front row seat to see how God creates families through adoption.

I've watched as Maurice and Kim dove head first into the adoption process willing to do the hard work of filling out paperwork and investing their finances. I've seens how Maurice and Kim have worked to build a relationship with their birth mother, wanting to honor her role in their son's life. And I get to see updates as their new family of four were home to celebrate Easter and have plans to celebrate Mother's Day in a very special way this year with a very special birth mother.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Turning 7

Turning 7 is a big deal for a little boy. So we decided to celebrate big. This year instead of throwing a party we created a day full of memories.

We spent the day celebrating Jackson playing in the water at Great Wolf Lodge and dinner and games at Dave and Busters. Jack was in heaven and I was thrilled at not having a big party to plan.

We invited our closest friends and celebrated a boy who burst into our lives seven years ago.

This boy has been such a bright spot in our lives with his passion, wit, energy, and ninja moves. His belly laugh is one of the best sounds on the planet. The kid has the ability to pick up any sport and excel (a gift that was clearly not genetic). This year it's been amazing to watch his tender heart and compassion for others grow. And what year would be complete for Jackson without a broken arm?

Happy birthday, Jackson. You'll always be my favorite boy.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Confessions of an Ex Runner

If you've been tracking with me in the last year, you know I've been running trying to run. I've gone from 0.0 to 5K but it's been a painful journey.

This week actually marks one year since I set out to do something I hadn't even thought about since middle school gym class. I took up running knowing I needed to strive to be healthier and take better care of myself. I anticipated that I would hate it less, love it more, and even look forward to it. I believed people when they told me it would get better and I would come to love running. All lies and never happened. I still dread donning my running shoes and hitting the pavement (or the treadmill). It's still a struggle to keep at it.

Then everything stopped six weeks ago with an emergency abdominal surgery. (Days earlier had you asked me if I would have jumped at any excuse to quit running I would have laughed and told you I would in a heartbeat.) But one of my first questions for the doctor when he told me how bad things were was if/when I could run again. Please note: this was the closest out of body experience I've had to date. (Ummm, is that the same girl on the doctor's table who loves Cheetos and lounging in yoga pants? She looks like me but it can't be...)

Little to say, it's been surprising. These last few weeks not being able to run.

Confession time: I miss it.

I actually miss running. The rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement, the fresh air, the free space to clear my mind, the good ache afterwards. I miss the feeling of accomplishment I have doing something that takes so much discipline for me to complete every time I run 5K. I missed out on running Rock the Parkway and wished I could have run it (there's a few words strung together I never thought would come out of my mouth).

Since I've been at this, I've run a few races. And one was actually fun. I've learned some good lessons along the way. And I have been healthier. I feel better when I run and I've lost 20 pounds. I've run a total of 321 miles to date. Real runners scoff all you want at that small number. But to the rest of you, this earns me lots of Cheetos, does it not?

So there you have it. Next week I'm hoping to get an all clear from my doctor and hit the trails.

And in two weeks you'll probably hear more about the lies that running is amazing. 

But for this brief moment in time - I love running. Let's pray it sticks.
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