Friday, November 10, 2017

7 Quick Takes - End of Summer

I can't believe I haven't written a QT in well over a year.  Yikes!  I'm really glad, however, that Kelly over at her blog still hosts them and so, for old time's sake, I'm linking up with her today.  Thanks, Kelly!

So, considering this blog left off with this little guy's adoption/birth story, I feel it only appropriate to dedicate this first QT to his birthday.  The end of summer brought the end of our first year with him, and what a year it was.  It absolutely flew by and I am missing those baby days oh so much. At 14 months now, he is rapidly turning into a toddler and is walking, trying to run, trying to talk, and into everything. He will have no trouble keeping up with his big brothers soon. I am so blessed to have this little one in my life. He has been a super easy baby (a big answer to prayers) and is full of laughter and curiosity. He brings us so much joy everyday and was truly worth all the pain and waiting that it took to get him here.  Knowing he is likely our last baby makes him extra special, and I will have a very hard time not spoiling him!

Getting on now to more mundane things.  As winter approaches, life in the woods means being inundated with furry little critters trying to find warmth and shelter in which to ride out the next few months. Deer mice have decided to invade our warm abode and stash their treasures of acorns and sunflower seeds in the nooks and crannies of our home, leaving of course, their calling cards to mark their trail.  After trying every mouse trap available, and being outsmarted by mice that lick the bait off the trap but never trip the triggers, we decided to design a better mouse trap.  We were particularly challenged by a mouse that spent each night partying on our kitchen table, and dining on the crumbs left in Dominic's high chair, and I was losing patience as I spent every morning disinfecting our table and high chair. After trying multiple traps, we came up with this design, inspired by the time that we inadvertently found dead mice in our garage inside the bottom of a bucket.  My engineering husband placed a 5 gallon bucket on a kitchen chair next to the table, then put a paint stirring stick on top, with some sunflower seeds to serve as bait. The first night we tried it, it worked! The next night, it caught another mouse. So, now when we have to pull out the "big guns" to outsmart a tricky mouse that isn't lured in by the standard snap traps, we use this design.  Now, we just need to figure out how to outsmart the coons trying to get our chickens!

Summer brought the usual gardening chores and our garden did very well this year, thanks to the deer-proof fence that we and my father helped build last winter.  This year, I tackled growing mushrooms for the first time.  It was really pretty easy but after months and months of watching my "mushroom logs" do nothing, I was about to give up.  Then, one day last September, after three days of steady rain (thank you, Hurricane Irma), I walked out and saw this!  Oyster mushrooms!  Since then, my mushroom log has produced another batch and my shiitake mushroom log is also showing signs of fruiting for the first time.  I'm definitely hooked now on growing my own mushrooms and it's fun not knowing exactly when they'll pop out!

Although summer gardening is over, our fall garden is still going strong. Fall gardening is my favorite kind of gardening, partly because greens and broccoli are my favorite veggies (and who doesn't love a salad picked fresh from the garden), and partly because I don't have to fight the bugs, heat, and weeds.  I'm lucky enough to live in an area where we can harvest fall garden produce usually until Christmas and sometimes, even winter-over a few things like our kale. I know some people prefer to grow tomatoes and peppers but give me kale and spinach any day!

The autumn colors here were much later than usual, to the point where we didn't reach peak color until the last week of October, which is about 2 weeks later than usual. But, my oh my, they were well worth waiting for.  I believe that this year's fall color show was one of the best ones yet.  It was certainly the best one I could remember. The red maples, hickory, sweet gums, beech, sassafras, black gum, sumac and sourwoods all put on a spectacular show.  We went on a few hikes to immerse ourselves in all the beauty, knowing that in a week or so, it would all be gone.  Now, as I write this post, the leaves have mostly all fallen, and we have entered into the gray, damp, chilly days of Appalachian winter, and hikes into the forest are not nearly as enticing as sitting next to the warmth of the wood stove.

We said goodbye to October with the usual Halloween festivities. We skipped the trick-or-treating, however, and instead, enjoyed a quiet evening of dessert, some candy, and "The Great Pumpkin".  The next day, the boys wore their saint costumes to Mass and we celebrated the feast day with "Saint Bingo" and more dessert.  John really enjoyed making his St. George costume with me this year, and I love learning and teaching them about the saints this way.  Joah was St. Francis of Assisi, and Dominic was his namesake, St. Dominic. Getting a photo of my little St. Dominic proved to be the challenge of the evening, however, and this one is the best I could do!  He would not stand still, not even for a second, nor keep his shoes on, stop pulling off his rosary, etc.  By the time mass was over, all three of my little saints had become "holy terrors". In my experience, evening masses and small children do not go well together, and by the time the night was over, we'd all been through a bit of mortification!

We've also been trying to remember to pray for the Poor Souls during this month and took a special trip to see the grave of a dear friend on All Souls' Day.  Her death was actually on All Souls' Day a couple of years ago, and I wrote about it here.  It's one of my favorite posts and sums up, for me, what God is trying to tell us each year when he sends us the the fall colors.  Even in death, there is often beauty.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Born On A Sunday (An Adoption Birth Story) - Conclusion

This story is long because this journey was long. Four years long. I share it here for Dominic, but also for all those who may still be on the long road to adopting. May it bring encouragement to all those who are patiently waiting for an answer to their prayers.


For Dominic.

We made the drive home slowly, going only a few hours each day. You did not enjoy the car seat very much and got fussy quite a bit. Your brothers were so excited to be heading back to Kentucky. This had been a hard journey for all of us, especially Joah. After a period of extreme behavior issues, he had broken down and started sobbing just a few days before, and finally confessed that he was broken-hearted because he didn’t think he’d ever see his Kentucky home or his Grandpa again. For your brothers, the fun had been over for a long time and it no longer felt like a vacation. Your father and I had under-estimated just how much anxiety all the activity surrounding the trip and the events around your birth had caused in your brothers. Knowing that they were finally going back home, after a month-long journey with no end in sight, brought their little hearts great comfort.

After traveling across 900 miles, we finally left the freeway and started winding our way up north through the hills of Tennessee and onto the Cumberland Plateau. I was amazed at how much the landscape had changed during our absence. Goldenrod and blooming asters now lined the roadsides, and I rolled down the window and let the scent of pine woods and countryside fill my head. It felt so good to be home again and to be introducing you to my favorite corner of the world, far from the pavement and smog and oppressive heat that we’d experienced in Houston.

The welcome home was wonderful. A few friends came by to see you and bring food and gifts. Cards and packages began to arrive in the mail. Church friends, in particular, were beyond excited to have us back and were enthusiastically planning your baby shower. Grandma and Grandpa couldn’t wait to hold you and our little dog jumped for joy.  We were home!

And you…you thrived. The first month flew by and on October 2nd, the Feast of the Angels, we had you baptized. It was not lost on me that it was in October that we had initially felt the call to adopt and four years later, in that same month, we had found completion of that calling. God had finally brought you to us, and we were now joyfully bringing you to God.

Those first few months with you were like one big happy dream-come-true. You and I cuddled often and we spent hours at night one-on-one. Your brothers couldn’t get enough of you and Joah was kissing you constantly.  One of them always wanted to play with you and sit next to you and hold you. Your daddy was always there to help me, even in the wee hours of the morning, with diaper changes and warming up food for you. You fit into our life perfectly, and all the years of waiting just melted away.

On May 22, 2017, we were able to finalize your adoption. Four years and seven months it took us from the time we decided we wanted to adopt again until the day it was finally all over. Many of the steps along the way were painful, frustrating, and discouraging. So many times during that long wait, we questioned if we were following God’s will in our desire and pursuit of adopting again. Even now, I feel a bit resentful that we had to wait for four years for an adoption, but I know that without the wait, we wouldn't have you.

And when the time finally did come, as I look back at the unfolding of events, I can see that God and his saints were helping us along our way. There are the little things that are too numerous to merely be coincidences. Such as the fact that your father and brother both share St. John the Baptist as their patron saints, and that it was on the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist that we were officially matched with your birthmother.  Fast forward two months later, to when you were overdue by nine days and it was anyone's guess at that point when you would be born. Had we realized it at the time, however, we should have known that St. John the Baptist would intercede for us yet again, for it was on the vigil of the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist that you were born, and on that same feast day 24 hours later that your birthmother miraculously regained consciousness.  I have no doubt that this great saint interceded for us and saved her life and brought us to you.

And your name? Little did we realize when we chose it for you that the name Dominic has traditionally been given to boys who are born on a Sunday, and as if God had planned it that way, you were born on a Sunday. The day that belongs to our Lord. The day of the resurrection and a new beginning. The day that is meant to remind us each week that there is always hope, and that the culmination of pain and trial and waiting, when coupled with prayer and trust in God, is joy and rebirth. I believe it is a great honor to be born on a Sunday and I pray that, as your name suggests, you always belong to Him.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Born On A Sunday (An Adoption Birth Story) - Pt. 5

This story is long because this journey was long. Four years long. I share it here for Dominic, but also for all those who may still be on the long road to adopting. May it bring encouragement to all those who are patiently waiting for an answer to their prayers.
Part 5 of 6

For Dominic.

The emptiness in the pit of my stomach hit hard. Your birthmother was in serious trouble, and we could do nothing about it. She’d failed to inform anyone at the hospital of her intentions to place you for adoption before she’d lost consciousness and now your fate was unknown. If the worst case scenario unfolded, you would most likely go directly into foster care and perhaps never get to come home with us. Our only hope was that she would regain consciousness, but the doctors could not assure us that would be the case. She had experienced multiple organ failures and was on a respirator. It was every fear I’d had a week earlier being realized. Meanwhile, you lay in the nursery and had yet to feel a mother’s arms, and my heart longed to be with you.

The next morning, we went straight to the ICU waiting room. Our social worker had managed to find the hospital social worker and gather a little more information about your birthmother's condition. The prognosis was not encouraging. Your birthmother was still on a respirator and unconscious. We were told that they would not begin weaning her off the respirator until 36 hours had passed.  Hopefully, at that point, she would regain consciousness. But even if all that went well, there was still a lot of uncertainty.

We were still not allowed to see you either, although we did sneak up to the nursery at one point and peered through the glass window at the babies, trying to guess which one might be you. We saw your birthmother's name on one of the bassinets and knew then that we had found you. You were sleeping peacefully and seeing you behind that glass made you feel so close but also, so very far away. I wanted to break through that glass window so badly and just wrap you up in my arms. With nothing left that we could do, we returned to our hotel.  It would be at least another day before we'd know if your birthmother was going to recover.

But God had other plans. That evening of August 29th, as I was calling a friend and asking her for prayers, a message from your birthmother suddenly appeared on my phone. It was in broken English and did not make very much sense. I wondered if it was a joke. Did someone steal her phone and start sending me messages? I contacted our social worker and he said that he had just received a message from her, too. It really was her! She wanted to know where we were and what had happened. Twenty-four hours after losing consciousness, to the surprise of even the doctors, your birthmother had awaken on her own and started asking for us. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the miracle we had been praying for and my heart soared!

The next morning, we rushed to the ICU and counted down the minutes until visiting hours so that we could see her. At last, we were able to give her a much anticipated hug and being with her felt like the biggest blessing. She had the sweetest smile in spite of all the trauma she'd just been through, and she asked me if I had been with you. When I sadly told her that I had not been allowed, she was visibly disappointed. Soon after, she signed papers that allowed me to be with you, although, due to hospital regulations, I was only allowed to do so under direct supervision of the hospital security guards. Tears welled up in my eyes when I first held you in my arms. The thought of you not being with a mother during your first day and a half of life broke my heart, and I was determined to make up for the lost time.  I put your skin against mine and rocked you for as long as the nurses would allow.

The next couple of days were spent alternating between spending time with you and with your birthmother. As we all got to know each other, she seemed genuinely happy that we would be your family. Four days after you were born, she signed consent giving us permission to be your guardians and bring you home with us. Soon after, she was discharged and went home. We said our farewells to her, and she held you and kissed you goodbye. Little did we know that we would be seeing her again soon.

You and your brothers and your father and I, along with Grandma and Grandpa, who’d driven to Houston from Missouri a few days before your birth, spent time in the hotel, bonding and getting to know you. I began breastfeeding you and supplementing with formula. Your grandparents visited for a day with you before heading back home. Your brothers adored you! We slowly adjusted to having a new baby in our midst.

Unfortunately, just a few days after your birthmother got home, she began experiencing health issues again related to the birth. She returned to the hospital and I went quickly to be with her, arriving just before she was taken to emergency surgery. She was in terrible pain and her eyes looked up at me in the most pitiful way. I will never forget that look, and I still see it every time I see you looking up at me when you are hurting. I see her in you so much. She made enormous sacrifices to bring you into this world and into our family.

The next day, I visited her and she was doing much better. No longer in pain, she seemed to be stronger. She was sad over the events that had transpired over the previous few days, yet she still spoke to me as a friend. I shared stories with her about you, and we chuckled over how much you liked to eat!  A couple of days later, we said goodbye to her again. Ironically, the day that she left the hospital was the same day that the state of Texas gave us permission to take you back to Kentucky. We felt that there was no coincidence in the fact that the amount of time that it had taken for us to be granted clearance by the courts was exactly the same amount of time it took for your birthmother to recover and be released from the hospital, and we saw God’s hand in that. That timing had allowed us to be there with her when she needed us and now, eleven days after you had been born, she and we were ready to start the next chapter of our lives.