Sunday, June 3, 2012

Diamonds in the Rough

This weekend, Hank and I had the opportunity to go to Carmel overnight, thanks to Gram for her generous monetary Christmas gift, and Karen and Jordan, who watched the kids. I was reminded how important it is for us as parents to get away just the two of us. It's good for our relationship, but it's also good for the kids. In that we have a break from them and come back ready to face them again. Sam was a little standoffish at first. He gets angry when either of us leaves him for too long. But then he was back to his sweet self, hugging and giving air kisses. I told Henry I missed him while we were away and he happily said, "I missed you, too, Mommy!" and then asked Karen for more corn flakes. But that was yesterday. Today we are back to normal. Henry is in his bed working himself into a frenzy because I wouldn't give him his sticker book to take to bed. In reality, if I had, he would be working himself into a frenzy about something else. Sam did a lot of throwing. He ran around to the back of a chair when I wanted to change his diaper and pressed himself against the wall where I couldn't reach him. Those of you who have followed me on Facebook for a few years might remember Henry jumping off the couch after I told him not to, and hitting the ottoman eye first. Or Rose and Sam running toward oncoming traffic in different directions at Fulton Mall. Or the ash incident. But you also might remember Henry spontaneously saying, "I love you, Mommy." Or scratching my itch, even though I did not ask him to. Or Sam throwing his arms around me, or stroking my face, looking into my eyes. Or Henry trying to follow Daddy to work, picking up his toy laptop, kissing me on the head, and saying, "Bye, Mommy." Sam has brought me countless books, looked up at me, lifted his arms, and said, "Up" to read him a story. Henry has shared countless plane, helicopter, bug, train, and bus sightings with me. Although I know mathematically it doesn't seem possible, somehow the very small, few and far between moments like that outweigh the huge, constant struggles and disobedience. Even though I want to scream more than I want to laugh, somehow it works out in the end. Those sweet moments are like little diamonds, and the every day grind is like ore. Those diamonds are so valuable that you are willing to mine through the rough to get to it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Blessing

A friend adopted a son several years ago. Their first week as a family in church was Fast Sunday and Testimony Meeting. She stood up and I remember her words clearly. She said, "We couldn't be happier." 

When we met Rose and Sam, we knew they were foster children, but I fell in love with those two. They called me Mommy, and I loved them as though they were my own. But I remember that I didn't have that feeling of "we couldn't be happier." The celebration at bringing Sam and Rose into our lives was based on something that could not be. Rose and Sam could not be ours. 

After Rose and Sam left, we had a few months of quiet, just the two of us. We were happy, but I was really ready for us to be a family of more than two. We got a few potential matches, but no callbacks. I was getting discouraged, because I didn't know if we would wait a few days, a few weeks, or a few years for a match. I started to doubt my choices in going with Foster Care for adoption. We began thinking about private adoption. Literally the same day we started to get serious about choosing another route, I got a call from our social worker, Sharla. She said they had a potential match. She said she wasn't sure if I even wanted to hear it because she knew I wanted a girl. The match was two boys. I told Sharla to go ahead and tell me, and as she spoke, I felt the small seed of something. They were not at all what we were looking for or thought we wanted. I didn't want to get my hopes up. I asked her to submit us, and I called Hank, and he felt good about the match, too. Pam and Hank were here visting when I got the call, and they told my parents, and everyone was getting all worked up because they were babies, something we weren't expecting. Pam and Hank were still here when I got the second call. I was shaking. Sharla said the boys' social worker wanted to meet us. I told her we were going to Mexico, and it was horrible to have to wait, but we really were looking forward to our vacation the next week. We made plans to meet Kimberly, their social worker when we got back from Mexico. 

While we were in Mexico, I still didn't want to get my hopes up. We did buy a guayabera for the toddler and a blanket for the baby, but I wouldn't say, "when we get the kids," but "if we get the kids." 

We met with Kimberly, and I was feeling really good about everything, but I still wouldn't get my hopes up. I asked her how many other families she was interviewing. She told us they had just come from one...but she already knew she wanted us to have the boys. At that point, I let myself start to get excited. I told her we had bought gifts for them, in relief. She said she felt even better about the match, knowing that. The memories run together as we met the kids, and Kimberly brought them to live with us. 

When I walked into the visitor's room at our first meeting, I knew Henry was mine. I glanced over at the baby, said hello, and went to sit on the floor with Henry while Hank held Sam. 

They had a few more visits with their biological parents, then rights were terminated, but I felt like I couldn't breathe easy until I had their new birth certificates in my hand. 

I love Rose and Sam, and I think about them every day, but my experience with them was nothing like it was with Henry and Sam. 

I have been praying for these babies for ten years. Their biological parents, whether I was one of them or not. That they would find me, and that the things they would have to go through before they found me would be minimal. I feel like my prayers were heard and answered. I feel that maybe they were watched out for before they made their way home, to us. I know they are mine, though I am breathing easier since the birth certificates came.

When I think of Henry and Sam, I think of the song, "A Thousand Years," "Darlin' don't be afraid. I have loved you for a thousand years, I'll love you for a thousand more...I will not let anything take away what's standing in front of me. Every breath, every hour has come to this."

When I first went through the temple, my stake president said, "This is graduation day." Everything has come to this. I thought, that's weird. But it's true. That was the end of one thing, and the start of a new.

Today is graduation day. Today is the last step. They have found their home, they have been formally adopted, and today they will receive their names and blessings and be welcomed into our family by the ordinance.

I look forward to the rest of our lives as a family.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Greatest Love Story of All TIme

With a title like this, you must be a little suspicious. I am not talking about my own relationship with the love of my life, Hank. I am not talking about some epic but fictitious love story. I am not talking about the love story of two people who have been together for 75 years and are still in love. What I am talking about I will get to later.

First, the worst love stories of all time:

Remember, this is not based on entertainment value, just sick and twisted "love," Some other suggestions include Beauty and the Beast, Leaving Las Vegas, Natural Born Killers, Love Story, Silence of the Lambs, My Fair Lady, Oedipus, Closer, Leap Year, the Bounty Hunter, and "my first marriage" (not mine, someone else's), but these are my personal favorites:

5: Gone With The Wind

Some people consider this a great love story. It's a great story. It is historical and we see the transformation of a beautiful, naive, selfish southern belle turned into a hard working alcoholic who finds "true love" with a man who, in the end, she can't have. She treated him badly, pined after another woman's husband, and ultimately lost her husband when she finally realized she loved him. The two, of course, are Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler. Rhett scorned her, mocked her, made unwanted and inappropriate advances toward Scarlet and others, but truly wanted her. He finally made her his wife, and they continued a marriage full of infidelity, callousness, and ridicule. Scarlet realizes, when she is basically offered Ashley, by his dying wife, that it was never him she wanted. He is weak, but Rhett is strong, and has awakened in her desires she never knew she had. These desires might be what we would call sadistic. Let's not overlook the fact that he not only raped her, but threw her down a flight of stairs causing her to miscarry his child. Sadistic, doomed, and selfish. Also, one of my favorite books and movies.

4: Pretty Woman

Julia Roberts is a hooker, and Richard Gere is a very wealthy businessman who picks her up one night. He is divorced and recently split from a girlfriend. He doesn't have time for a relationship, but somehow falls for a prostitute, who turns out to be intelligent, doesn't use drugs, and is classy when he dresses her up from clothing stores on Rodeo Drive. How romantic. He has a fear of heights, yet climbs up the fire escape of her apartment to rescue her from life on the streets. This does not happen in real life. Richard Gere's character will never be able to sustain a healthy relationship, and it is unlikely that Julia Robert's character will either, but most especially with each other. Wealthy, attractive, successful men do not fall for prostitutes. Completely unbelievable and glorifies an occupation that is ugly and born out of desperation on both sides.

3. Romeo and Julie

My favorite Shakespeare play. The debate on this play is lust vs. love. I studied Shakespeare at BYU with a man who's name was William Shakespeare, I kid you not. He went by Bill, and tried to be a P.E. teacher because he could not bear to be an English teacher with a name like that, but English, and Shakespeare in particular was his first love and won in the end. He argued on the love side. I tend to agree, because if the author says it's love, it's love. But, as my sister pointed out, the author may be expressing sarcasm in their "true love." This is a valid point, because Romeo is madly in love with Rosaline as the play opens, hopelessly pining after her even as he lays eyes on Juliet and decides she is "the one." Now, I do believe in love at first sight, and I also know that love does not conquer all, so I am first and foremost a believer in taking your time to get to know each other before jumping into marriage. Romeo and Juliet quickly marry, although their families are bitter enemies. Long story short, Juliet fakes her death, the messenger tells Romeo she's actually dead, he poisons himself next to her body, she awakes, and stabs herself in the heart. The true message of this story is not love, is not lust, but is the ridiculousness of such a feud. However, this kind of "love" is poison, quite literally in this case. True love does not cause one to kill ones self at the other's demise.

2. Grease

We all know the movie, the songs are extremely catchy. Summer love between Sandy and Danny. When they get back to school he is too cool for her, and she is very naive and chaste. He is hurtful, but they still like each other. In the end, she basically dresses loosely, which she thinks he would like, and he's hot for that. She completely changes who she is, which, mind you, is the person he actually fell in love with. This is gross. NEVER change yourself for a man. Or a woman. It's not real, it won't make you happy. Advocating this kind of "love" is despicable and I will never forgive Grease for it. I will always remember Mr. Brown saying, "This school will never do Grease as long as I'm here. Changing yourself for a man...ridiculous." He was grumbling to himself, but I heard it. He was the music teacher, constantly disagreeing with the theater director.

1. Twilight

Hands down, the worst love story of all time. There are so many, many reasons. I will just highlight a few. I've read all the books. They kept me hooked although I thought the writing was bad and the characters completely unloveable. I won't talk about underdeveloped characters or the way Bella unrealistically flies off the handle at the smallest nothing. It's Edward's obsession, invading her life by watching her sleep and trying to read her mind. And Bella's obsession toward him spiraling her into a ridiculous depression when he leaves, without a trace or explanation. Now, I was once a teenager in love and my 17-year-old depression of losing my boyfriend was scary when I think about my rational adult reactions to loss. But she doesn't DO ANYTHING and never completely gets over it. When someone good finally comes into her life and she starts maybe allowing herself to have some feelings for a guy who has her best interest at heart (Jacob), Edward flies back into her life, and they're back. An obsessed, sick couple again. Edward is possessive, and overprotective. She foolishly puts herself in harm's way causing the whole vampire family to have to battle and fight for her. She puts everyone in danger in her selfish need to be with Edward at all times. I could go on. I can only imagine the look of disgust on my face at nearly every page I read of this series.

The Greatest Love Story of all Time

I wanted to blog about the worst, and then decided I needed to counter with the best. I thought about it and it came to me in the last couple of weeks. There are a few lines of songs that I believe illustrate true, unselfish, uncompromising, unconditional love. The whole song may not necessarily be true for me, but these lines hit me very strongly recently.

"God Only Knows" - "I may not always love you, but as long as there are stars above you you'll never need to doubt it, I'll make you so sure about it."

"Until Now" - "I thought that I knew everything about love until now. Words to describe it I could always think of until now..."Cause I never loved anyone like you until now. I never met, and I never kissed, and I never loved anyone like this, until now."

"You are the Sunshine of my LIfe" - "You are the sunshine of my life, that's why I'll always be around. You are the apple of my eye, forever you'll stay in my heart. I feel like this is the beginning, though I've loved you for a million years."

"Annie's Song" - "Come let me love you, let me give my life to you, let me drown in your laughter...Let me always be with you. Come let me love you...You fill up my senses, come fill me again."

Some of you may recognize this kind of love, or have other words or songs to describe it. This is the kind of love I have for my children. I waited and waited for them to find me. But I have loved them for a million years while I waited. They are the sunshine of my life as crazy as they make me. I could not have explained this kind of love before I finally met them, it's all new. The total dependence they have on me is sweet in a frustrating way. The unconditional love they reflect back to me, and the way I know they were meant to be mine is like nothing I have ever known, and could not have been prepared for.

It's been different for me than for a lot of moms, including adoptive moms. But make no mistake. I love these kids in a way that is unconditional and makes me put their needs first, and, yes, I would lay down my life for them, but not in an unhealthy, selfish or suicidal fashion. I want them to be happy more than I want to BE happy, and will do whatever I can to make it happen.

When I first saw Henry I knew he was mine, and the first time I held Sam I became a mom, or Mom-mom, as I am known around here. And there is nothing else like it.

Half Dome-Guest Contributor

This post is by a guest contributor, my own mother, Stacey Thacker. I asked her to write about this experience because I knew that there were details in it that I was interested in exploring myself-no, one of them is NOT to take this hike or any others.

It was on my Bucket List to climb Half Dome. About a decade ago, Karen and I hiked to the top of the falls on the Mist Trail and discovered that the trail head for Half Dome started there. Since then, she and I have talked about hiking it. As I have aged (53 now) I realized I would need to make the hike in two rather than one day. (As it was it took me three). And as I had no experience backpacking, I would also need someone to come who did. That's how it started that Jordan, Hank and I backpacked and climbed Half Dome on July 9, 2009. Karen had hoped to go but had to work. It was hard to go without her but I knew if I didn't do it now, I would run the risk of not doing it ever. Hank estimated about 1 in 50 people on the hike were near my age... I think there is a reason for that!

I can't begin to express what an awesome experience this was for me. In part because it was on my Bucket List (things to do before I die) and in a larger part because of the unique experience of having this adventure with my two new sons-in-law. I had loved them already but this hike brought into a very clear focus why it is that my daughters love them and chose them for husbands and fathers of their future families.

It seemed that their whole focus was on my being successful at this climb. We planned for weeks. I trained for several months in preparation and was so glad that I did. Hank went up the night before to get in line for the wilderness permit. I rented my equipment from REI and we bought food. Jordan and I rode with Hank driving up to Yosemite National Park and began our backpacking experience at Glacier Point and the Panorama Trail. It was amazingly beautiful.

That night we camped at Little Yosemite Wilderness area. I really enjoyed the company of these two remarkable men who helped to keep me motivated and spirited with stories, jokes and puns. We slept in a tent and the next morning after breakfast started the ascent to Half Dome.

We saw a bear outside our camp with her baby. They were beautiful and I strangely felt no fear. As we began our hike, I started to worry about what was ahead. I was reminded of the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." I immediately argued with the Spirit that this scripture is about missionary work and not about my wanting to hike to the top of Half Dome. But I was gently reminded that I am important to Heavenly Father and this was important to me, thereby making it important to Him.

I had been warned about the emotional response many experience when they first see the cables. They give the illusion of being straight up, although it is not much of an illusion. They are much longer than I had anticipated. I sat down and began a dialogue with the guys that went something like this, in a very calm voice. "I am rethinking this. Perhaps I will take this off my Bucket List. I have seen some amazing views over the past two days, I can't imagine I will see anything more spectacular. I am 53 and this is not looking like a good idea". Jordan took on Karen's role of pep talk and Hank patiently waited, knowing I was working through something.

Then two men appeared, neither of whom I knew. The taller one, calling me by name, said "Stacey, you are already physically fit enough to make this climb. The only thing left to conquer now is your fear." I turned to Hank and said "God sent him". We stood up and went to the top. I loved it!

Standing on top of the world is an incredible feeling. As I reached the top I exclaimed "I did it! I am 53 and I did it!" People cheered. We had lunch on top but I still had some trepidation about climbing down the cables which looked more frightening than coming up. But I did it.

When we arrived back at camp, I knew I could not go down the mountain. I prayed that Jordan and Hank would know this and not try to convince me otherwise. I said nothing. Jordan suggested I rest in the tent for an hour and then we would discuss a plan. By the time we were finished resting, they had decided that Jordan would go down, meet John who would have more food for us and bring it half way up to Hank who would bring it up for he and me. John would take Jordan home.

To say that these two became my heroes would be a very accurate statement. Not once did they say anything or act like this was an inconvenience to either of them. I was so appreciative.

To say that this hike has left me changed in many ways is also true. I have felt more of a willingness to confront my own fears. I flew without medication the next week 6 times, something I had not been able to do since I had a panic attack on the plane when Sam was still alive. I confronted some parts of myself in Vermont the next week that involved my having to walk into that place of fear. I can truly see that fear is to be embraced AND that in the end, it must be overcome because faith and fear can not coexist.

A knowledge that God lives, loves me, is mindful of me, was once again confirmed. And a deep and eternal love for my two sons-in-law without whom this experience could not have happened.

[Note from Andrea: The Sam mentioned in this post is my brother Sam, for whom my own little Sammy was named. He died at the age of 11 of a terminal illness]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healing the Holes

Last night I realized that although I have so many things that I wanted, there are some things that I've wanted that I was never, and will never be able to achieve. I always thought those kinds of things would be filled with other things or in other ways, but what I find is that I have big, gaping holes that can't be filled by anything else.

I wonder if everyone feels this way? Do you have a husband who didn't turn out to be the person you thought he was? Or maybe you have no partner at all, and it's something you want. Do you lack a true friend who is there for you, no matter what? Did you miss your chance to have children? Sometimes we willingly give these things up, but that doesn't mean it's not painful. And sometimes we don't have a choice. And those holes in our lives can't be filled.

***Disclaimer: These are just examples. I have many true friends, and a husband who is exactly who I thought he was and more.

I think the older I get the younger I feel, but also, I'm getting wiser, and sometimes that's hard. I lose some of the optimism of being even younger. I remember being about 6 years old, and thinking my 16 year old babysitter was the perfect age. Not too old, and she could drive, date, and she was beautiful. I couldn't wait to be 16, and be beautiful and wear make up and drive myself wherever I wanted to go. This desire to be 16 continued until I was 16, and it was almost everything I hoped it would be.

I thought 30 was really old. Now that I'm 31, I realize how young I am. The only thing I'm too old for is playing in the balls at Chuck E. Cheese's, which is something I do still kind of want to do. I can even order from a children's menu, and pretend it's for my kids. I still plan on getting my Master's degree, starting a new career, traveling, retiring early, and spend the rest of my days seeing the world and loving my grandkids. But first I want to spend the days with the little ones while they are still little.

I'm making choices and giving things up, and embracing other things. The choices I make effect me and my family, and sometimes my friends. I have two little ones that I have to think of when I make decisions. I make compromises that are sometimes win-lose, lose-win, or lose-lose. Compromises are almost never win-win. And some of these compromises have left holes in my life. They are open wounds, and they hurt. Sometimes they heal a little, but continue to exist, and sometimes they close and are reopened.

We can have wonderful, full lives. Plans change and we want different things. Circumstances prevent us from having or doing some of the things we want. I haven't found anything that can heal the holes of loss and disappointment.

I know who I am, I like who I am, I have a great support system, and a full life. These things help, but the holes are still there.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Do I Love Being a Mom?

Someone asked me recently if I loved being a mom, and I said, "I love the kids..."

But when I pick up Sam and he kicks in delight, and Henry excitedly says, "Mom-mom!" to me, I guess I love being a mom.

I read women's magazines and they annoy me to no end. I won't go into this now (see According to them, "having it all" is having a partner, children, a social life, and a good, fulfilling job. The implied part is the money, expensive clothes and handbags, and great sex.

So can we have it all? What does it really mean? For me, there are lots of things I want, but I'm staying away from the temporal things, and going for the quality of life things. I wanted a husband, a couple of kids, and a job. That's pretty standard. I got the husband and we had a great couple years together while we both worked. Then came the kids, and I gave up my job. Why? Because as I told my husband, "I do not intend to send my kids to daycare." His mother was a stay-at-home mom, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and I respect other stay-at-home moms. Then I found that I liked the financial fulfillment and personal satisfaction of having a job. I miss my job. I miss bringing home some bacon. I miss buying nice things for myself, and being able to donate money to (mainly local) charities and non-profits of my choice. I made a sacrifice, and I chose giving up the job (something good) for something better (staying home with the kids). This was a personal decision between my husband and me, and not necessarily the "right" decision, and certainly not the "best" decision for many.

So do I feel like I have it all? No. I want to go to school so I can get my Masters and work at the job I want to retire from someday. I also want to stay home with my kids because I know they will never be these ages again. I already missed Henry being a baby, and Sam is going to be a year old in a few weeks. People always say it goes so fast, but I literally feel like it's slipping away even as I watch them. It's kind of how I feel about Christmas. I love Christmas so much, that once it's December, I am depressed because it's almost over. It's hard to enjoy the moments, so with Christmas as my guideline, I try to snuggle with Henry as much as possible while I still can, and allow Sam a little more flexibility in his naughty baby ways, because soon enough he'll understand what the time out chair is really for.

I chose to make these sacrifices, in part because I waited so long for these babies to find me, and now that they have, I don't want to miss a moment.