Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So Long, 2013!

Holy smokes, what a roller coaster of a year! The highs were really high and the lows were massively low. But who likes to end a year focusing on the lows? Without further ado--and in no particular order--here are my Top 10 high points of 2013.

1. Finalizing the adoption of our three girls in January. The court date didn't really change anything, but it sure was nice to have the paperwork in hand and to no longer have to report to DCF every month.

2. A long road trip over the summer to spend time with family and a few close friends, and to introduce the girls to everyone. TONS of memories made.

3. Snapper's 5th grade graduation and a more than successful transition into middle school.

4. The birth of my nephew Lucas (April) and niece Hazel (June)!

5. Seeing God miraculously provide for our family on many occasions.

6. Getting to go to the Daytona 500, meet my favorite NASCAR driver, Jimmie Johnson, and watch him win the race!

7. Two of my three girls released from therapy because they no longer needed it!

8. Snapper's regional swimming championship in August--1st place overall 10 & Under girl (out of approximately 125 girls...not too shabby)!

9. Watching my husband relax and have an easier time with life as he participates in two cool activities--karate and community theater

10. Hands-down, the best moment was 2013 was finding out about the impending arrival of another daughter, this time a homegrown kiddo! After many years of infertility, this surprise is also a tremendous blessing.

Farewell, 2013. I am not sad to see you go. I wonder what 2014 will hold.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Props and Punks

Props to Snapper for making Superintendent's Honor Roll for the 2nd quarter. This means all A's, with her only "low" grade being in Computer (a 92 average). Does anyone else think it's weird that 25% of the grade was based on typing speed? Snapper has never really done any typing. In elementary, all her work had to be hand-written. The kids who have been at this school all the way through have done keyboarding since the lower grades. Tough challenge for Snapper to overcome. She was much happier to get A+ in History, Honors English, and Bible. She just barely missed an A+ in Honors Math, too.

Punk is Sunny, who decided it would  be a good idea to steal Piper's new Wedding Ken doll out of Piper's room and style his hair...WITH SPIT.

Props to Pepper for mastering two challenging bracelet patterns on his new Rainb0w L0om.

Punk is Sunny, who broke the head off Snapper's new Barbie this morning.

Props to Piper for keeping her bedroom in apple pie order since Christmas!

Punk is Sunny, who decided to use her new Rainb0w L0om as a step stool to get into Bubbles' Barbies. Fortunately, the l0om broke in half before she could get into the Barbie box. Epic fail.

Props to Snapper for learning one of the songs from Frozen, and singing it beautifully.

Punk is Sunny, who decided day before yesterday that it would be a good idea to get into Pepper's toolbox and use his power drill to drill holes in our nice book case.

I think we'll rename Sunny...CAPTAIN DESTRUCTO. That's what I should have titled this post...CAPTAIN DESTRUCTO STRIKES AGAIN...AND AGAIN...AND AGAIN.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thoughts About Meat

Bubbles is 9 years old. Before she came into foster care at age 6 1/2, the only meat she had ever been exposed to was pink goo burgers and "chicken" nuggets from McD0nalds. She was exposed to all kinds of different foods in her foster home, but she always had a difficult time with meat. We are pretty relaxed about food here in our home, mainly because we don't want to create food issues for these kids who already struggle with food on so many levels. We ask that they try three bites of everything on their plates. That is all we require.

Can I just take a second to say what huge issues food deprivation creates? It has taken us 18 months to overcome the gorging problems the girls had. They have finally learned to listen to their bodies, and have learned when they feel full. They have learned that they can stop eating when they feel full, knowing that there will always be food at the next meal. And they've learned that when they feel worried about food, all they have to do is tell me and I'll give them a snack.

Anyhoo, learning about different kinds of food has been a big deal for all three of the girls. They didn't have a clue that veggies and fruits grew on plants. Even going strawberry picking didn't make it sink in that a strawberry grew on a plant. They think that milk is made in a factory. I have been asked how they put the shell on the egg without breaking the yolk. And meat? That's where it gets really funny.

Even though Bubbles is 9, she hasn't made the connection that:

  • Turkey comes from a turkey
  • Chicken comes from a chicken
  • Fish comes from a fish
We can understand why she might not know that:
  • Beef comes from a cow
  • Pork comes from a pig
  • Bacon and sausage are usually pork
  • Steak is usually beef
But really...chicken? And turkey?

Today she declined potatoes at dinner because "I'm not in the mood to eat meat today."

Because a potato once had legs and a beating heart, apparently. Oooh...I know! I'll write a new smash hit pop song and call it "What Does The Potato Say?"

And last night we were out at a Christmas festival where smoked turkey legs were on the menu. Bubbles declined, saying, "Are turkey legs made out of steak? Because if they are, I don't want one!"

I think that possibly a trip to a farm is in order. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Christmas morning started off very rough, with my two youngest girls breaking family rules, getting up at 5:30, and emptying all the stockings. Then they went and woke up their siblings and told them what was in their stockings. I was awakened by three tearful older kids who had the surprise of their stockings ruined by their two disobedient little sisters. I cried with them...made me so mad! Especially since the last thing I told them before they went to bed last night was to stay in bed until Daddy came in to get them, and absolutely not to touch the stockings and presents. Sigh.

After birthday breakfast for Jesus, things turned around. We didn't start right into gifts. We took time to do some reading and reflecting on what Christmas is really about. We also talked with the kids about thankfulness, and not taking Christmas gifts for granted. We opened gifts slowly, savoring each one. We took time to talk about the giver of each gift, too. It ended up being very sweet, even if the start of the day was marred.

We have friends coming over for Christmas dinner. The turkey is done. The mashed potatoes are in the crock pot keeping warm. The green bean casserole is in the oven keeping warm. The cranberries and cider are back in the fridge. Our friends are an hour late. If they don't arrive soon, I think we'll just go ahead and eat.

I plan to spend the rest of the day just relaxing and enjoying the Christmas glow. I hope your Christmas was beautiful and peaceful, and a time of joy with your family. I'll leave you with a new photo of me. I'm 24 weeks pregnant today, and this little one continues to be incredibly active. I'm enjoying feeling her dancing inside of me. Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Snapper's Speech

Snapper gave her "Adoption Christmas" speech in class yesterday. The first thing she said to me when she got in the car at pick-up time was, "I just love public speaking!"

HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!! She definitely got that from her Daddy and not from me. Because of my years of public speaking in 4-H, I'm a decent public speaker. But man...do I loathe it. My hubby not only is great at it, but he loves it, too. Snapper gets that from him.

She blew her speech out of the water. She tells me that her English teacher was completely in tears, to the point of having to get a tissue to wipe off her running mascara and blow her nose. Several of the kids in the class were moved to tears, too. One of the tougher boys was crying and Snapper teased him about it. His joking reply was, "I can't help it if you made my eyes sweat!"

The general buzz is that Snapper will be one of the three in her class who will advance to the next level of competition. She is delighted and very excited, and is already planning ways she can tighten up her speech and add more expression and emotion to it.

This little project of hers has birthed a new prayer in my heart. She is such a passionate child, so full of love, conviction, and wisdom. Take this unique personality and mix it with a cause, and she will be dynamite. Her heart for adoption is incredible. As an adoptive big sister to older, special needs kids, she has strong ground to stand on an experiences to share. My prayer is that God would give her a platform so she can use her passion to help others. This is a good start!

She'll find out tomorrow if she advances to the next level.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kid Funnies

Because who doesn't love the funny things that kids say?

Sweetie obviously can't say anything yet. But I already know she is a cute little girl, full of spice and energy. She's going to have to be a character to keep up with five, much older siblings! She's a tiny dancer, spinning and kicking away inside of me. At 23 weeks, she's finally big enough to make my belly move. Yesterday, my kitty, Pixie, was all stretched out on my belly. Pixie is our playful cat. She loves to pounce on anything that is moving along the ground. When I sit in bed and move my feet under the blankets, she goes crazy. She is such a fun cat! Yesterday, Sweetie started kicking like crazy, making my belly twitch and jump. Pixie's eyes got all dilated, and she reached out and swatted my belly. I got a good laugh out of that!

The other day I was driving in the car with Bubbles (9). When we stopped at the fourth red light in a row, she cried out in exasperation, "What is wrong with the people who are controlling the stop lights? They must all recognize our car and totally hate us. How mean can you get?" She genuinely thought there was a person sitting somewhere, controlling each light. LOL!!!!!

Sunny (5) is a piece of work. She is completely bent on opposing me. She will often do the direct opposite of what I want her to do, even if it means doing something she hates, just to get a reaction from me. It is very challenging to parent this child, and she keeps me on my toes and wears me out every day. Unfortunately for her, all the monkey business results in unpleasant consequences. She frequently finds herself sitting on her bed, doing extra chores, losing privileges, or going to bed early. She is still learning that the consequences are entirely the result of her own choices. The other night she had the bad fortune of earning early bedtime, and loss of getting to enjoy a favorite meal with us (due to early bedtime), and having to clean the bathroom sink during playtime (that's what you get when you decorate with toothpaste!). She was so mad that she blurted out, "Mommy, you punish me so much that you're making my hands fall off! Can't you see what a poor kid I am?" HA!

That same child, in a fit of rage, had the balls to call me "Poo-faced meanie." For the first several hours following the incident, I was equal parts p'd off and amused. Now I'm just amused. Oh, the expression on her face when she said it! And the instant scrambling to try to retrieve her words. And the frantic, lame attempt to explain that she meant to call me "pretty-faced mommy," but those words just accidentally came out. BWA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

Feel free to just call me PFM from now on. You can pick what the letters stand for.

Piper (almost 8) had an interesting conversation with Pepper (7 1/2) and Sunny (5) the other day. She insisted that Sunny would soon be older than Piper and Pepper. She figured that in just three years, Sunny would be 8, which is older than Piper and Pepper. She also figured that in eight years, Sunny would pass Snapper (11), and be the oldest kid in our family! Pepper rolled his eyes, smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand, and reminded Piper that Sunny will not be getting older all by herself. The rest of the kids will be getting older, too. It took Piper a few minutes to figure this out. I had to leave the room to keep from laughing.

Last weekend, all five kids played a rousing game of "Wilderness Survival" in our front yard. In order to survive, they had to hunt, kill, and eat water buffalo, llama deer (whatever the heck those are), and they had to find and harvest "the apples of serenity." I was thoroughly entertained, watching them slink around the yard, stalking and shooting imaginary beasts. They conversed in a variety of accents. Snapper has mastered the Bristish accent. Piper easily slips back into her Southern drawl. Sunny talks baby talk and thinks she sounds like Snapper. The best part of the game, though, was watching them dive onto the ground screaming, "VELOCIRAPTOR!" every time a car drove by. We live on a fairly busy street, so this happened often.

Piper, looking at a snowman ornament on our Christmas tree, made up and sang this little song, not knowing that I was listening: Five little snowmans hanging on the tree. Snowmans are dumb cuz they don't got knees. And snowmans are weird cuz they can't go pee. Why is that snowman staring at me? And now I'm all creeped out. And all that rhymed except the last line.

A present arrived in the mail for baby Sweetie. Bubbles (9) looked at the present and asked, "Will Sweetie have to wait until after she's born before she knows what her present is?"
I'm still trying to figure out the reasoning behind that question.

The same child asked me if people could ride on any animal, like cats, back in the days when Baby Jesus was born. Because apparently she thinks that cats were the same size as donkeys back then...

Oh yes, and this same child announced at Awana last Wednesday that the wisemen brought gifts of "gold, Frankie's pants, and molasses" to Baby Jesus. Wow...

Perhaps my favorite of all, though, was Pepper's latest Bible verse. When he was in kindergarten he memorized Proverbs 20:11--"Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right." A few weeks ago, another child recited that verse and Pepper was very excited that he remembered it, too. He wanted to recite it to me, so he did. Like this:
"Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his condom is pure and right!"
Me: "Don't you mean conduct, Buddy?"
Pepper: "Of course! That's what I said!"
Oh, the innocence of childhood!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Going Home

I'm sitting on pins and needles. Every time my phone buzzes, I jump. I'm waiting for The Call, the horrible, wonderful call that will tell me my precious Granny has finally stepped over the threshold of eternity, a place where she has been hovering for the last week. On one hand I hate it, because she will exist only in our memories here in this world. On the other hand, I want to jump up and down and rejoice. Why? Because 96 is OLD, and she has been trapped in a useless body and worn-out mind for the last few years.

Meet my beautiful Granny, Flora. She was born in 1917 in Amoy, China, where her father was a German customs officer. She spent her early years there in China, in a beautiful home by the bay. When her father passed away, she moved to Germany with her mother and sister for a short time, before settling in the United States. She and my Grandpa met on the campus of Stanford University many many years ago. It didn't take long before they fell in love and were married.

She worked hard, lived frugally, and cared meticulously for her husband while he went through Stanford Medical School. After he graduated, they bought a tiny house in a tiny town on the edge of the country, and Grandpa set up his medical practice. They welcomed their first child--my Uncle Jack--in 1944. My Auntie Maggie was born in 1947, followed by my mom, Lotte, in 1949. Grandpa was beloved by all, and was well known throughout the town and surrounding area. Behind the scenes, enabling him to be successful, was a quiet, gentle, faithful woman: my Granny. He called her Schatzi--a German term of endearment meaning "sweetheart." I don't believe I have ever seen a woman more devoted to her husband. To say she adored Grandpa is an understatement! He was equally devoted to her. They loved to do just about anything together. Their favorite pastimes, though, were ballroom dancing (they danced beautifully), political activism, and world travel. They especially loved to take cruises.

They also loved their grandchildren, of which I am the 5th of 6. My memories of them are rich and plentiful, due to their active involvement in my life. I could go on all day about the memories, but because no one wants to read a whole book, I'll just share a few of the most important.

This photo was taken on my adoption day in 1980.

My parents struggled with infertility for years, and were finally told they would never have biological children. Granny knew how badly my parents wanted children, so she took matters into her own hands. Because of Grandpa's medical practice, he and Granny knew many doctors. Granny contacted an OBGYN whom she greatly respected, and asked him if he ever had babies become available for adoption in his practice. She told the doctor about my parents, and he agreed to keep his ears open. Nine months later I went home with my forever mom and dad. All because of Granny. I don't know where I would be without her. I've always been extra special to her because of the role she played in bringing me into our family. Grandpa called me Eminy. Granny called me Emmy-Angel.

When I was very little, I used to love it when Granny came over because she would play tea party with me. She made real tea for my tiny tea set, and she knew the names of my dolls. She would help me divide up Cheerios and raisins among my dolls and stuffed animals so they could party with us. Then, she'd help me eat up all the treats, using special voices for each doll or animal.

She was a brilliant seamstress, crafting lovely clothing. She made many beautiful dresses for me. My favorite things that she sewed, though, were the soft flannel nightgowns she made for me every Christmas. When I got a little older, she made matching nightgowns for me American Girl doll and me. My daughters still wear and play with those nightgowns!

One day when I was around 5 or 6 years old, I got in trouble for eating one cookie more than I was supposed to at a family party. I went out to my playhouse in the backyard and cried. I felt like my mom was being totally unfair to me, and I was unwilling to admit my wrong. Granny went into my bedroom and found a specific book that she knew I had. It was the story of a little girl who stole her sister's brownie, ate it, and then blamed it in the dog. The mom knew what had really happened, and the little girl got in trouble. The story walked through the little girl's emotions as she faced the reality of what she had done. It finished with explaining 1 John 1:9--"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Granny squeezed into my little playhouse with me. She held me close and read me that book. She talked about the freedom that comes from confessing our wrongdoings to God, asking for forgiveness, and making things right. She prayed with me and for me. She helped me memorize that verse. And she went with me and held my hand while I apologized to my mom for disobeying and for having a hard heart. I will never forget that. Not ever!

Another fond memory is going dancing at the American Legion Hall with Granny and Grandpa. Once a month the hall served a delicious roast beef dinner and hosted a band to come play wonderful old dance music. All of us cousins were often invited to go dancing with Granny and Grandpa. Safe and secure in Grandpa's strong arms, I learned ballroom dancing. Not the stuff you see on the TV shows, but classic old ballroom. Granny instructed me on how to hold myself, and how to let the man do the leading. She also danced with me when we did line dances. How I loved those evenings!

Granny and Grandpa came to everything we did. They were at all my piano recitals, orchestra concerts, vaulting competitions, graduations, and goat shows. They were at every birthday party, school function, and holiday. They always came over on Christmas Day. Grandpa always wore the plaid wool pants that Granny had made for him. She usually wore a coordinating scarf. Grandpa played with my sister and her new toys. Granny snuggled with me on the couch, read my new Christmas books to me, and helped me eat the chocolate out of my stocking. She loved chocolate. She always brought us persimmon cookies, which were pretty much the most disgusting things ever! Ha ha!

She wasn't a great cook...at all. However, there were a few things she made really well, things I still cook in my own home and remember her by. Bread pudding. Split pea soup. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Ham with raisin sauce and scalloped potatoes. Milkshakes. When I'd sleep over at her house, she always made Malt-0-Meal for breakfast, and she let me put in as much brown sugar as I wanted.

She taught me how to sew, starting when I was 7 years old. By the time I was 13, I was a proficient seamstress. I still love to sew, and I attribute that to Granny. For my 12th birthday, she made me the most beautiful dress with huge puffed sleeves (I was in an Anne of Green Gables phase). In this photo, I'm wearing the dress. You can't really see it because I'm behind my cousins, but you get the idea.

In 1997, Grandpa had heart surgery, followed by a stroke. His personality changed (for the worse). His balance became poor. He could no longer take food by mouth. He required round-the-clock care. Granny would not allow nursing help to come into the home. For two long years she tenderly cared for Grandpa, forgiving his crabbiness and meeting his every need. When my grandpa died in 1999, Granny just shrunk into herself. All her confidence and zest for life melted away. It didn't help that at the same time, my mom--Granny's youngest child--was battling ovarian cancer. Granny really began to age that year. She requested a copy of the eulogy I wrote for Grandpa and carried it everywhere with her. She gave away copies of it. She read and reread her copy until it fell apart. I don't think it was anything that special, but it meant a lot to her.

Granny loves her great-grandchildren. We went to California this summer and spent some good, quality time with her. Here's a photo of her with my kids.

Now Granny's time has come. All of her family has gotten to either visit her or Facetime with her to say goodbye. She has peace with God and the blessing of her two living children, six grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. Great-grands #17 and #18 (mine and my cousin John's) are both due on April 17th. Her life has been rich and full, and no one could ask for more than that. She is fading fast. Last night hospice informed our family that Granny will slip away within the next 24 hours. It is time for her to go. Oh, how I wish I could see her entry into Heaven! My heart hopes that my mom and Grandpa will be waiting at Heaven's gates for her. My cousin wrote in her blog that she thinks Grandpa will come running out, and will waltz Granny into Heaven. There are 14 great-grandchildren waiting there, too--babies that my cousins and I have lost through miscarriage and stillbirth. Will they be there with my mom and Grandpa, too? What joy!

I cry because Granny's passing ends a season that has been constant in my life since I was born. I cry because I will miss her sweet, gentle presence. But I rejoice in a life lived well. I love you, Granny. As I said on Facebook the other day, thank you for loving me so well.

All my love,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our Adoption Christmas

Our Adoption Christmas
a speech for 6th grade Honors English
by Snapper B, age 11

Every Christmas morning I wake with a yawn and a good, long stretch. And then I realize it's Christmas morning! I walk down the hall.
  • Presents packed under the tree
  • Stockings bulging with treats
  • Lights glowing with Christmas spirit
  • A tree sparkling with family memories
  • Cinnamon rolls in the oven, baking away
  • Joyous laughter and loving conversation
  • Celebrating the birth of Jesus
Christmas morning is a time of love, celebration, and remembering Jesus. This is my Christmas!

Now, imagine waking up on the cold, hard floor. Your back aches and you stiffly stretch. You realize it is Christmas morning. You walk down the hall.
  • No stockings hanging anywhere
  • No gifts under the tree, only broken promises
  • Wait...there isn't even a tree
  • No lights
  • No comforting smells
  • Possibly no breakfast at all
  • No laughter or love
  • No Jesus
Christmas is like any other day, full of fear, defensiveness, and despair. Christmas morning is a time of broken hearts. This was Christmas for my little sisters for the first several years of their lives.

And then God rescued them. He sent them to live with a loving foster family. The judge saw that their parents would never become safe parents. The girls became legal orphans. And then God introduced our family to those little girls. He said, "You are a match made in Heaven!" Our family adopted those girls in January, and now they are my sisters. Our family is a miracle.

On Christmas morning my sisters and I will wake up in our warm, comfy beds. We will yawn and have a good stretch. We might break a rule and sprint down the hall together. My Christmas is now their Christmas. The love of my family is now theirs. Jesus, my Savior, has saved them, too! This Christmas will be more full of love and joy than any other Christmas any of us have ever experienced! This is our adoption Christmas!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gift Baby

It has been four months since I announced to the whole world that God had chosen to overturn the doctor's diagnosis of sterility and infertility. There's a little gift baby growing in me. A little girl baby, who already has a beautiful name. I don't share my kids' real names here, but I'm working on coming up with a blog name for this little one, who is due April 17th.

I wanted to take a few moments today and post about this pregnancy, this miracle pregnancy. I'm too busy with my other five kids to keep a detailed pregnancy journal like I did with Snapper and Pepper's pregnancies. But I don't want to forget.

Part of the reason I even thought to take a pregnancy test was because I was feeling really queasy all the time. By the end of Week 5, the queasy had accelerated to plain ol' SICK. I developed the strongest sense of smell known to humankind. I could have joined TSA's team of drug sniffing dogs, because if there was something to smell, I could smell it. And if I could smell it, it made me puke. Our bathroom began working overtime and I think our water bill doubled in September because of the amount of morning sick that found its way into our septic system. In mid-September I ended up spending 4 days in the hospital, with an official diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum. In plain English, HG means "vomit your guts and bowels and brains out every 20 seconds or so around the clock." Dehydration. Extreme weight loss...as in 17 pounds lost in three weeks. I was in bad shape. I could hardly even sleep in the same room as Matt because the smell of his skin, his breath, his very existence, made me want to vomit. Poor man! We had to switch to unscented deodorant and body wash because the scents were overpowering. We tried three anti-nausea meds--all of which didn't work and gave me migraines--before we finally found a cocktail of three that worked together to stop the puking and decrease some of the nausea. I still struggled to eat, though. My weight loss didn't stop until I was 17 weeks along, and I didn't start to gain weight back until 20 weeks.

Here's what I survived on for the first 20 weeks of this pregnancy:

  • El M0nterey beef & bean burritos
  • Bagels with loads of whipped cream cheese
  • Steamed rice with nothing on it
  • Fuji apple slices
  • Ice chips
  • Cherry 7-Up
Health food, I know. But when everything that goes in your mouth comes up within 15 minutes, you settle for whatever will stay down.

I experienced a host of other miserable symptoms, too. Headache, severe back pain, bloating, extreme fatigue (3 hours of naps per day, plus 12 hours of sleep at night), dizziness, CRANKY, stuffy nose, itchy, dry skin.

Every single day, though, I thanked God for the symptoms, because I've experienced five pregnancies with few symptoms. Five pregnancies that ended by 12 weeks. When I was at my sickest, I thanked God for the baby who was growing securely in me. I tried not to complain, and I think I did really well.

At 11 weeks I had a huge scare--a large gush of bloody fluid. I called my doctor in a total panic. When she learned that I had no cramping or fresh bleeding, she wasn't too worried. She took a peek at my ultrasound from 8 weeks and reminded me that there had been a pocket of blood in my uterus then. She said the gush was likely my uterus releasing that pocket of blood, which was unrelated to my pregnancy. I went in the next morning to listen for baby's heartbeat and wept tears of relief when I heard a strong, steady heartbeat. At 12 weeks I had another ultrasound, and the doctor was able to confirm that baby was just fine and growing normally. The pocket of blood was gone.

At Week 13 I felt the first little flutters in my belly, a wonderful reminder of the miracle.

At 16 weeks my bio momma gave me the wonderful birthday gift of an early gender determination ultrasound at a 3D ultrasound boutique. We all wore the color representing our individual guesses at the baby's gender. Matt and Snapper wore blue. The rest of us wore pink. On that wonderful day, we discovered that our extremely active baby is Girl #5 for our family! While a boy would have balanced out our family a bit more, we're all thrilled to be welcoming another precious girl.

From Week 12-17 I developed a strong desire for salty foods. I just wanted to suck the salt off potato chips and to drink pickle juice. Not because I wanted pickles, but because the pickle juice satisfied my need for salt. 

I'm carrying very differently this time. With Snapper my pants got tight around 12 weeks. With Pepper I was in maternity pants at 9 weeks. This time I'm very small, and didn't need maternity pants until 18 weeks. Other places expanded pretty quickly, though...

I had the anatomy ultrasound at 20 weeks. The tech was able to confirm right away that our little one is, without a doubt, a little girl. And she looks perfect! She is a very active baby, making the ultrasound very difficult for the tech, who spent 30 minutes trying to pin her down for measurements. In the end, she was not able to get a good look at baby's heart or hands...which means I get another ultrasound at my 24-week appointment! I'll never complain about getting sneak peaks at my little sweetie. Sweetie! That's what her blog name will be!

Here's a "photo" of Sweetie at 20 weeks.

Three days before Thanksgiving I woke up, prepared to limp into the kitchen and try to stuff a bagel down my throat with my morning meds, in hopes of avoiding a day of puking awesomeness. I stood up slowly, waiting for the gag to start. It didn't. All morning I moved cautiously around the house, waiting for the inevitable sick to slam me. It never did. And poof, just like that, it was gone! Just in time for Thanksgiving! YAY!

Matt and all the kids have gotten to feel Sweetie's kicks in the last week. My little Sunny's eyes got huge and she said, "Hey! There really is a baby in there!" The kids ask me all the time if they can feel Sweetie kicking.

I am 21 weeks pregnant today. I'm sitting in my big chair, enjoying my morning coffee and having a silent conversation with my little Sweetie. She apparently has a very full schedule today, because she is hustling and bustling all over the place. With every kick and roll, I marvel again at this miracle. This wasn't supposed to ever happen again for me. I just can't get over it. My belly has "blossomed" in the last week, and I am starting to get comments and congratulations and when-are-you-due from random strangers. I can hardly believe it. If this pregnancy ends like my other two pregnancies, it will not be 19 weeks until we meet Sweetie...it will be more like 17 weeks. That's just over four months, y'all!

This morning on the way to school, Snapper and I got to talking about Sweetie. We both have the same emotions, but at differing levels, of course. She is really enjoying this pregnancy. It is so much fun having a middle schooler, can I just say that? She is a delightful kid. She understands so much about pregnancy this time around, and she marvels in it right along with me. She came with us to the anatomy ultrasound and she was full of awesome questions for the tech. I believe Snapper will one day have some sort of career in the medical field. She loves to talk to Sweetie. I'm considering letting her be in the room for the birth. She's excited to see what Sweetie looks like, what her personality is going to be, who she is. We got a little bit giddy talking about it together.

My belly hurt from the stretching ligaments. I have to get up two or three times a night to use the bathroom. My skin is a mess. I get tired really easily. My gag reflex is hypersensitive, even though I don't feel sick. I still smell EVERYTHING. But it's okay. It's all worth it. This pregnancy--while it has been very challenging--is so very good. I can't wait until April!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Power of Smell

The sweet fragrance of pink jasmine. It carries me back to my vaulting years. My coach had pink jasmine growing all over the front of the barn. When I smell pink jasmine, I can close my eyes and I'm instantly transported back to that time and place.

Mothballs in wool. I'm hugging my grandpa again. Most people hate the smell of mothballs. Not me!

Constant Comment tea. It's Saturday morning and my dad is making breakfast. He and I both love Constant Comment tea. If I close my eyes and inhale the sweetness of the tea, my Daddy might just appear beside me with our two special tea mugs.

Wood smoke in warm air. It's a winter morning and I am stretched out in from of the wood burning stove in the living room of my childhood home, doing my schoolwork.

Hospital. They all smell the same. It doesn't make me feel panicky, but it does flood me with a sense of caution. I spent many, many months in hospital rooms. First with my grandpa after his heart surgery and stroke. Then with my mom as she battled cancer. I still get a check in my spirit when I smell hospital.

There are many fragrances that have the power to turn my emotions upside-down and inside-out. Lots of them are associated with wonderful memories. Many are associated with pain. I have found this to be especially true with my adopted girls.

Cigarette smoke lingering on a person is a smell trigger for Piper. Her walls instantly go up and her body language gets defensive. It reminds her of bio mom, and for Piper, it is not a good thing.

Damp concrete with a touch of mildew is a smell trigger for Bubbles. "Is there a prison around here? It smells like when we had to go visit my first dad in prison. Nasty smell." Again, not a good thing.

Brewing Luzianne tea on the stove for sweet tea is a smell trigger for Bubbles. Her bio grandma used to make sweet tea. Grandma's house was a safe haven of love for Bubbles. It's a good memory.

A whiff of marijuana smoke is a smell trigger for Sunny. "I smell happy juice!" Not because it makes her happy, but because that's what her bio parents called it. I don't know what kind of memory it brings up for Sunny, because she had just turned 3 when she was removed from her bio parents. But it brings up enough of a memory for her to comment on. She doesn't have any reaction, negative or otherwise.

When we first got our girls, we noticed that they had a lot of negative smell triggers. We wanted to make sure to create positive smell associations for them, so we have been very intentional over the last 18 months in our use of smells. We're seeing results.

Last year was the girls' first Christmas with us, and their second Christmas away from their bio family. We knew that their bio family didn't do much in the way of holiday celebrations, so we tried to create positive smell associations for them. We left our artificial tree in the attic and bought the most fragrant tree we could find. When we went to the tree lot again this weekend, Bubbles threw back her head, inhaled deeply and proclaimed, "Now THAT smells just like last year! I love the smell of Christmas!"

When we first started corresponding with the girls while they were still in foster care, I would spray every letter I sent them with my body spray--L0ve $pell from Victor*a's $ecret. Whenever I use that spray now, Sunny and Piper will sniff me all over like a curious puppy saying, "It's the Mommy Smell!"

I burn cinnamon candles in my house year-round because it is my favorite scent, and always has been. I've burned cinnamon candles in my house year-round for the last 8 years. Whenever any of my kids smells cinnamon, they'll comment that it "smells like home."

Piper has no sleep problems at night as long as she has one of Daddy's shirts to sleep with...a shirt that has been sprayed with Daddy's cologne.

I make hashbrown casserole for every holiday, and as requested by Snapper and Bubbles for their birthdays. I also make it every year to eat for dinner after we decorate our Christmas tree. Last night Bubbles came in from outside and smelled the casserole cooking. She shouted, "YUM YUM! It smells like a special occasion in here!!!"

Good smells create security for a child. I was reminded of the importance of this over the weekend. I need to continue to be intentional about creating positive smell associations for my kiddos, especially the ones who come from hard places. One more powerful, positive smell=a safer, more secure kiddo.