Monday, April 29, 2013

Update on Bun-Bun

Much has happened. My BIL and SIL decided not to pursue Bun-Bun after all, but as it turns out, several other families stepped forward. However, each of them was interested in adoption. When the mother was approached again to confirm that she wanted to place her daughter with a foster family and possibly adoption, her answer was an adamant no. She decided instead to send her daughter back to the U.S. to live with her mother, who is also caring for her three older children. In the end, all of my angst was for naught.

Or was it? Bun-Bun's story confirmed that my heart is still there, in foster care or adoption. I had convinced myself that my dream was dead and a new dream would come. I think Bun-Bun's gift to me was the truth that it is still my dream, but it is not time yet. I may never bring another child into my home, but one day I believe that I will help children like Bun-Bun, somehow.

Habakkuk 2:3 "But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed." (NLT)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Moving Jitters

Only two more days before we leave. There are so many questions swirling through my mind.

Will we like it there?
Will I be able to keep Raccoon's allergies under control?
Will the house be cold (and expensive to heat)?
Will we get along with my family?
Will we see my family often enough?
Will Raccoon forget all of his Spanish?
Will others understand Raccoon and his quirks?
Will I find a doctor I like for them, who is readily available and not too expensive?
Will I remember to bring everything important with us?
Will we see a bear in our yard? (this one is also Raccoon's hope and fear)
Will we all be able to switch cultures successfully?
Will we be able to live in the house for longer than the summer?
Will Raccoon adjust to sitting in the back seat by himself?
Will Raccoon like school, which he'll start in the fall?
Will I gain weight like I have every other time we've been in the States?
Will we each be able to make friends?
Will I find another group of moms to hang out with?
Will we be accepted?

I am feeling excited, overwhelmed, anxious, and happy all at the same time. Stay tuned for...

Adventures and Trials in Washington State!!!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pass the Baby

This is a post about Robin. It's high time she gets one at three months (tomorrow!), but the truth of the matter is that she is an easy baby. I promised her before she was born that no matter what she was like, I wouldn't take her for granted. Mostly, I wanted this to mean that I would still spend time and invest in her even if she wasn't screaming for it (like her brother, ahem).

These last two days she has earned a baby medal, sitting in her carseat for hours while going with me on all sorts of errands. She did it all with a smile on her face (or asleep), what a gift!

But there is one thing that I don't know how to navigate with her because she is so mellow. When our other two were babies, SB and Raccoon, we rarely let others hold them. With SB, it was because she was blind and easily scared. With Raccoon, he just didn't really like other people. It was easy to say no when people asked to hold them since we knew they would both cry instantly. But Robin is such a different baby that I've been passing her around pretty much since birth, enjoying being able to say yes.

One afternoon she was out of sorts, and my husband made an offhand remark, something like, "Of course she's feeling cranky, you've been passing her around all day." I instantly felt guilty because I had seen her little questioning face go by several times as my sisters-in-law held her and passed her around. She occasionally smiles at someone unknown, but she mostly she saves her ear to ear grins for me or Raccoon.

So this is my public apology to you, Robin, and my commitment that I will not pass you to strangers (to you) just so that I can get things done. Even though you don't scream about it, I know that you still just want to be with your family, for now.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Full Circle

Standing in our park, holding Robin and pushing Raccoon on the swings, I suddenly realized that exactly a year ago (give or take a day), I was standing in that same spot. Then I wanted to be pregnant, I was probably asleep-on-my-feet tired, and despite my blessings, life seemed a little flat.

Today, I felt full of wonder, holding my 3 month old (on Sunday) baby and pushing my big little man. We are only four days away from a life-changing move, and I am ready for it. I felt reborn this morning, like my eyes had been opened and hope returned. It was a magical moment in the park, holding my two children on my lap, the bright sun, the soft wind, the vibrantly green grass. I have so much to celebrate. I am so thankful.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Last Box

Anyone who moves frequently knows what I'm talking about. It's that one box (or more) that you vaguely know what the contents are, but run out of time at the end to actually sort through it, so it gets moved from place to place as is.

For me, that box contains papers. I am not sentimental about large things like furniture or kitchen items. I have moved too many times for that to be practical. But I do hoard paper. I save all sorts of random scraps that have touched my life in one way or another. Over the last 7 years that we have lived in this house, my miscellaneous paper box grew and overflowed into five.

I sorted and packed away everything else first because I knew I didn't want to face those boxes. Partly this is because looking through papers is tedious, each one needing to be examined to see it's worth. This also means that a million choices have to be made one after the other. Keep or throw or give away. Keep or throw or give away. Keep or throw or give away. Keep or throw or give away. Keep or throw or give away. It made me tired just thinking about it.

But I am PROUD to announce that this move, I actually did it. I sorted through ALL of my boxes of paperwork. Little by little, I went through years of Raccoon's artwork (of course I'd saved every scribble!), receipts, medical records, and much more. Surprisingly, I found myself ready to let much of it go and I reduced five boxes to two. But there was one box left, the last last box. I knew what was in this one. SB's life.

All I have left of my first daughter are pictures, a lock of hair, and endless paperwork chronicling my time with her. There were three folders of legal documents to gain custody, a folder of therapy ideas, a folder of early childhood intervention meetings, two folders and a notebook of medical records, and every single thing we tried to help her get better. As I handled each piece of paper, I began to relive everything. I saw the CD with her brain scan and the report that told us she had little tissue left. I read the notes from the pediatrician's office "Family more than exhausted, requesting sleep aid for SB." It was all there, the hard part of life, and our steady journey from hope into despair. The most optimistic document in the bunch was the physical therapist's lists of goals, including her rolling over in a year. She never even had the strength to hold her head up. There would be no "getting better" for our first daughter. We loved her as she was, but had hoped for so much more.

The days that I spent sorting through her papers, I was stuck in a foggy world, lost somewhere between the past and the present. That pain was the exact reason that I had been avoiding her box for the 6 years since her death. Deciding to throw some of the papers away felt like betrayal. They are the only tangible record I have left, a connection to  - and proof of - her life. I still kept most of them, putting them away until another move. heart lays open and says, "This is my offering. 
I would do it again. I'll keep doing it." And only He knows
what that really means to me...and what it really costs. 
And only I know how grateful I am that He sees,
and I wonder if I will ever forget that caring for
this precious child is a sacred act of worship.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Still Packing

The happy sounds and the mess at the dining room table are steadily growing, but these days I encourage any reasonable self-entertaining activity that allows me time to finish sorting/packing/storing. I have five days left and am the closest to done packing that I've ever been this many days before. Usually it's an hour before we leave for the airport when I'm finally "done." This procrastination rehabilitation was thanks to a repeated dream in which it is time to go to the airport and I am desperately not ready. I have now lived through that anxiety five times in dream world and have no desire to repeat it in real life. Thank-you motivation. I am now officially done with everything that will be stored and everything else is either going or will be given away by my mother-in-law after we leave.

Unfortunately, because of sentence #1, my house still looks like it was hit by a natural disaster. But we are all fairly happy and peaceful today, so I am pretending to be oblivious.

Only three suitcases, two carry-ons and one family left to get ready.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Secret Messages, Part 3

More thoughts in my subtext series, inspired by Angie...

I tell Raccoon I love him, but lately with the stress of moving and less "just us" time with the new baby, there has been a lot of angry faces flying back and forth between us. I didn't realize how negative everything was getting until Raccoon told me to stop yelling at him all the time. He perceived my comments - don't squish the baby, stop whining, stop hitting, don't do that - as anger directed at him and he was mirroring it back to me.

He soaks up all of our family stress, which is high right now, and then doesn't know how to handle it so his behavior becomes intolerable. If I, with 31 years of coping strategies, am feeling overwhelmed by our move next week, it's no wonder that my three year old is falling apart. This move is going to be a good thing for our family, I believe that, but right now this transition stage stinks for all of us.

So my heart wants Raccoon to know that I love him, but the message he's receiving is closer to "I'm too busy for you right now" and "I can't handle your bad behavior!" I cried myself to sleep the night before last because this is not how I want things to be.

Today, I set a goal for myself  - give Raccoon five loving faces that show pleasure and how much I enjoy being with him. I'm trying to slow things down a bit and snuggle more. He's also been feeling sick which doesn't improve his behavior any. We snuggled so much this morning that he fell asleep, something he never does! So now I'm off to pack...

But one more triumph first. I've mentioned the heart message of persevering before. What I usually end up telling him to do is give up because I get so upset at his freak-outs and meltdowns when he's trying to do something. I also want him to know that I care about his problems, but the message I've been sending is just the opposite.

This morning, I tried a strategy I read about (not sure where) to mirror what he's feeling back to him since he doesn't have enough words or self-awareness yet to express it himself. "It seems like you're starting to get frustrated. You're whining and hitting. I can tell that this is important to you." He came over to snuggle and I asked him if it was a lot important or a little. "A little? Okay, then let's have a little fussing." He thought this was very funny so I again asked him to fuss a little more. "Okay, now what did you try? Did it work? What went wrong? What could we try now?" And MIRACLE of MIRACLES he came up with an idea to fix the problem himself!

It didn't work perfectly so then he had another meltdown, but I feel like he made some progress. In the middle, I was getting annoyed/frustrated by his whining and fussing pat way through and I was about to send the give up message again, but the thought popped into my head, "This is not my problem (he was trying to find something to sit on inside of a big box to do a puppet show). It's a repetitive scenario in our home - Raccoon wants to do something but it doesn't work the first time so he freaks out while my husband or I try to fix it. But no matter what we offer or do, it's not good enough and the meltdown goes on and on and on. It was very freeing to think today, "This is not my problem, it is his problem. My job is to help him stay as calm as possible while we work towards a satisfactory solution."

Packing? Hmmmm. Maybe I'll get a snack instead. :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Choice Fatigue

I am planning on taking a week's supply of diapers, wipes, favorite safe snacks, etc. with me to the States for this very reason:

"In a famous study with jam two booths were set up. One had 24 options for free samples and the other had 6. After sampling the jam people were taking to the selection where they could buy a bottle if they choose. More people were drawn to the bigger sample size but less ended up buying. Over-information gets an audience but the act of making a decision between too many choices is daunting. The result is often indecision and lack of action [Iyengar study]." (source)

I have named the paralysis that comes with walking into a U.S. store "choice fatigue" which can lead to ineffective or crisis-inducing shopping trips. My coping strategies are:

1) Start small - go to the store just to buy a pair of sneakers.
2) Me vs. the store - make a list before I go. If I buy only what is on my list, I win. If I cave in and buy more, they win.
3) Have some fun money to just buy whatever once in awhile.
4) Read every label. With so many allergies, we can't eat most things anyway.
5) One treat per person to avoid, as the Berenstein Bears call it, the "galloping greedy gimmies."
6) Review my cart before checking out. Remove those sneaky nonessential items (sorry restockers!).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On Being Afraid

Horrible events like the Boston Marathon bombs bring home the truth that there is evil in this world. There is no way to keep all of our loved ones safe all of the time. Nightmares happen. As a mother, my heart is walking around outside my body, waiting to be yet hoping that it won't be broken. Loving someone else makes us so vulnerable, yet also incredibly strong. We do things for others that we would never do for ourselves. 

Someday, when Raccoon or Robin ask me why bad things happen, I will probably say, "I don't know. I just don't know." But what I do know is that this world is not my home, nor theirs. It is a daring experiment gone terribly wrong, but allowed to continue because there is redemption coming. Even though I don't know why, I trust that it all counts. When we're on the flipside it will profoundly matter.

Someone asked the question on International Women's Day, "What would you do if you weren't afraid." Mama CEO

Love more. Be open. And finish what I've started.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


...turns what we have into enough, and more. Melody Beattie

The last eight years that I have lived here in South America have not turned out the way I imagined at the beginning. Sorting through all of my memories as I pack has been hard. Sometimes the grief I feel threatens to overwhelm me.

What I really want out of this move is a new beginning for our family, the start of new dreams. This time, we may stay in the States and not come back. And for the first time in my life, I'm okay with that.

I saw this quote on facebook, and it sums up a choice I have made, to be grateful for what these years and this country have given to me. I have two beautiful children, and I am wiser. I choose to let go of my regrets, to forgive myself, and to celebrate the fact that even though I failed at many things, I tried. I have two weeks to finish what I started, to end this part of my journey well, and to leave behind what is weighing me down. When I step off that plane onto U.S. soil, I am going to celebrate that spring has come.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

42 Months

I can't believe he's in the 40s. :) It's a downhill slide from here to 48 months. Soon we will be celebrating four years with my little man, the light of my life, the first sign that the winter of my life was thawing and spring would come. The last of the baby years are gone.

I see a lot of monthly posts about kids up through a year, but rarely past that. I haven't done one every month, but I wanted to pause today and just celebrate our everyday life. 42 months may not seem like a normal milestone, but it's the longest I've had any child yet. SB lived with us for 13 months while N and J stayed for 17. Robin is just at two months, so new that I forgot to put her name on a birthday card today.

Some Non-Typical Milestones to Remember:

*I love how he starts counting at four. One, two and three are so overrated.
*He's going through a mommy phase. After Robin was born he was all about Daddy, but he's switched back to wanting to do something's with me now that she has a routine.
*I've heard him singing lately, a sign that my non-smiley son is nevertheless happy.
*He gave up naps last month.
*I can let him go into another room at playgroup without anything catastrophic happening. He has begun to play and share and take turns. Way to go, little man!

I have two children. I am doing this! On the rare days that we split the kids between me and the hubby, one seems so easy now. I wonder if that is the way a mother of ten feels about five. :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I have a...


Three weeks from today will be our first full day in our new home in WA. The feelings of panic and I'm-not-ready-for-this have already settled themselves like a rock in my stomach. Everywhere I look in my house is a mess of decisions waiting to be made. I am quickly running out of storage space because "just a few boxes" has turned into many more than I expected. Decision fatigue has stepped in. I wonder, if I just threw all those random papers away, would I miss any of them? Probably not.

As I was standing in my son's room feeling overwhelmed, I came up with THE PLAN. I am going to put stuff in his suitcase that I know is going. The rest of the things that need to be sorted (keep/sell/give away), I am going to move into the guest bedroom. I plan to do this with each room so that there will be only one room I need to face and I can walk around the rest of my house in peace.

There are some rooms where I cannot do this, like the kitchen. Some of the things that we use everyday I can't pack away until the end, but I have to sort everything else by our April 21st yard sale.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Notes: The Truth About Butterflies

There have been times that both of my children would only stay asleep by lying on my chest, close to my heart. It is for times like these that I signed up for BookBub. Reading is like breathing for me. My mom taught me to read when I was four, so I feel like books have always been an important part of my life. And if anyone out there is wondering how I find time to read with two small children, I will just reply that I read very quickly!

I chose to receive a daily e-mail with free books in the categories of biography, memoirs, religious, inspirational, and children's fiction. The Truth About Butterflies by Nancy Stephan is a memoir about a mother's journey to and through the loss of her daughter. The last chapter, about a box of memories that she discovered after her daughter's death, is very powerful.

"But she can hear Me."

Read the book.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dear Peanut Butter

How I've missed you.
An Allergy Mom

With Raccoon having most of the other major food allergies out there, I figured "Why risk giving him peanut butter?" Since I was nursing, this meant me too. Last year when we visited the States, I gave him his first taste at two and a half years old. I figured if he was going to have a reaction, it was better for it to happen in a country with a working ambulance service. No reaction.

I couldn't really believe I had any luck in the food department with my son so I waited another year, until yesterday. He'd heard of peanut butter on a cartoon and wanted to try it. So just days shy of him being 3 and a half, I made him his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He ate about a fourth of it with me carefully watching him. Everything was okay, so I had a slice of bread with peanut butter too.

Google does not have a definitive answer on nursing moms and peanut butter, so it won't be a regular thing for me. But bide your time pb, you and I will meet again.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Zero TV Households

This doesn't mean that they aren't watching anything, but that they use the Internet and devices instead of a traditional TV and cable or satellite plan. I like what one person said about how it allows her to control the media she consumes and not get sucked into time-wasting shows.

This is exactly what I want for my family as we return to the States. The main reason that I currently use DVDs and YouTube with my son is because I don't want him watching commercials. I also want the program and its timing to be our choice, not someone else's. I've written about my TV worries before, but moving to the U.S. makes it a whole new ball game.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Excited Again

Robin was having trouble going to sleep tonight, nurse/burp/doze/wake-up and repeat, so I amused myself by looking up things to do in the Seattle area. There are so many places that I can't wait to explore with Raccoon and her.

Okay Robin, it's 11 pm and my excitement is fading into exhaustion, please go to sleep... I love you.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I'd forgotten about the elephant...

in the room.

My son has anxiety, anger, and sensory issues. He has improved by leaps and bounds these last few months, even with the arrival of a baby sister, so I had almost convinced myself that things were "normal" in our household. I thought that maybe he'd grown out of those issues. Maybe I wouldn't have so much explaining to do to my side of the family who hasn't seen us in 7 years. But upon learning that we're moving to the U.S., Raccoon seems to be unravelling. It is a huge change, and he can grasp just enough of the ramifications to be excited and terrified. He needs my attention all.the.time. He's acting as if we're going to leave him behind if he lets his guard down.

How it all plays out: interrupted sleep, less eating, refusing hygiene tasks, whiny, meltdowns, anger, hitting, noncompliance, freaking out... and that's just by 9 am. Needless to say, our days have become loooooooooong and frustrating.

If I tell him to do something (like put his shoes where they belong) then he says,"You're being mean to me." After a particularly rough evening, he sat on my lap crying and saying that I didn't love him. What!? Where did that come from? I ALWAYS tell him that I love him no matter what, when he's good, when he's bad, when he's happy, when he's mad, etc. We apparently have a love language problem here, but I also try to hug him, spend time with him, and do things for him, as much as I can with a new baby. But at night he cries for me in his sleep, so obviously it's not enough.

Our family has officially moved to Crazytown. Only 26 more days to go. Because of course actually arriving in the States is going to cure everything...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Homeward Bound... Sort Of

We leave for the States on April 30! We've been planning this for awhile, but now the tickets are bought and it's official. I have moved 20+ times in my life, so getting out my suitcase is almost a comforting feeling. We are off to Washington State, to see what this next year holds for us.

Needless to say, I don't really have one particular place that I call home. For me, home is where my family is. The house, the place, doesn't matter, but walking into my parent's arms, wherever they are, is how I know I'm home.

Adventure here we come.