Friday, July 1, 2016

To our children: Thank you for keeping our son's memory alive.

Today, July 1st, our first born son, Riley, would’ve been 12 years old. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long ago. It’s something that never leaves you. Though I have to admit there were many times I didn’t want to remember. It hurt too much to think about it, and all I wanted to do was forget.
Sometimes adopting can be a very difficult choice, but not for us. Ted and I already talked about adopting our 2nd child when we first started talking about having children. I really had no desire to attempt another pregnancy and relive my experience. The child I wanted was gone, and we were never going to recreate that same child.
We had so many almost-adoptions that there was a time I feared I would never be a parent. BUT one day we got a call about Nick, and we knew. It was still a scary process, but what a relief when Nick was finally officially ours!
I had no idea that Nick, someone who’s never even met our first born, would keep his memory alive. Nick always had a way of questioning things (like all kids) about his brother who only lived for a day, but he did it in such a caring and loving way that it wasn’t painful for me to answer those questions. I realized our son’s memory was always going to kept alive by Nick. He never lets a week go by in the 6 1/2 years that he’s been with us. Though they never met, Nick envisions meeting his brother one day. He loves talking about what they’d do together, and no words can express how much I love that.
That’s just Nick’s part of the story. His sister has her own part in it. She carries the name. Many of you know the story, but just in case you don’t know. Here it is.
I just have to thank my beautiful children for helping me be brave and remember, for helping me keep his memory close to my heart and for helping me envision my family of five together one day. I love you!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Surgery Time...and a whole lot of waiting!

Pre-Surgery - Someone is getting tried of waiting!
This will be Riley's sixth surgery in her five years of life. Not really fair in her mind, but thank goodness it's available for her. She'll have a palate revision, which involves her palate and throat. We have the best doctor around and he explains it well, I do not. Since this is probably one of the more invasive surgeries she'll be staying overnight at the Hershey's Children's Hospital.

Pre-Surgery - Her brother insisted on staying with her as he is her best entertainer. 
We did a TON of preparing for this surgery. Meaning that we talked with Riley about what to expect.

  • Yes, it'll hurt, but we have medicine that'll help.
  • Yes, you'll feel "weird" when you come out of the surgery, but mommy will be there waiting.
  • Yes, you'll only eat soft foods for 3 weeks, but we'll have fun picking tasty new things to eat.

The waiting was tough as it would be for any child, but it's been much smoother then the previous surgeries. I really think it helped that she was able to understand and knew what to expect. It probably helped that the new Children's hospital is now open. They had so many cool activities to pass the time, plus watching their favorite movies on the big screen.
On our way to surgery with the team.
Riley's surgeon was very happy with the outcome. He met with us prior to the surgery and felt strongly that we should do a slight lip revision while she was under. I guess he was really giving it some thought since our last visit with him. We agreed, though I didn't like that I wasn't able to prepare her for this. She did much better in the recovery room compared to previous surgeries. They allowed me to come back as soon as she was taken out of surgery. She would open her eyes, look for me, then back to sleep. In past surgeries I was not aloud back with her until she was awake, so by the time I got back to her, she was hysterical!

Side note: Her nurse had two adoptive children, one from China! We could've chatted all night. Well, I guess we kinda did. 

Our view from Riley's overnight recovery room. It's hard to see,
but we had a perfect view of the lit sculpture in front of the hospital

Riley was pretty out of it most of the night, but was woken up every few hours for her medication. She was hungry (which she always is) and thirsty pretty quickly, which made the doctors and nurses happy. I got to sleep next to her in a comfy chair/bed. It wasn't horrible. Though my expectations were low. I didn't expect to get any sleep, but I surprisingly did. I think being in super-mommy-mode helped. It exhausted me. Her room had a HUGE flat screen with endless kid's movies, so we watched all her favorites. I turned off the TV sometime in the middle of the night and she woke up and got my attention and pointed at the TV. In a quiet little voice she said, "movie please?" You get anything you want tonight little girl! In these situations limited TV time does not apply. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hershey Chocolate & Ronald McDonald House go GREAT together!

This will be our little Riley's 6th surgery. She has a pretty serious case of medical anxiety. Can't blame her one tiny bit. I got a bright idea (occasionally happens) that we sneak in a day of fun before Riley's surgery. We had some extra funds available from our kiddos' Post Adoption Services, so I contacted our social worker and asked if we could use it towards a family day. And we could!! It was a dose of happiness, giggles and chocolate...perfect meditation to calm any anxiety!

Hello Hershey's Chocolate World! We're ready to go!

We meet a family friend that we didn't see in YEARS! She took this photo for us. 
The kids had the opportunity to make their own personalized Candy Bars! I think their faces say it all. These kids are too much fun! They even gave us parents and taste and I'd say that fresh made chocolate bars are YUMMY!

Making their own candy bars!

Posing with their candy bars!

Our Trolley awaits!

Our last ride was on the Hershey Trolley Works. Lets just say we were all pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed learning about the rich history of Hershey, and the man who started it all. Amazing! There were so many things I did not know about a place I grew up exploring. We thought it was super cool that Milton Hershey and his wife also had a love for caring for foster children. 

We knew we'd have to stay two nights for Riley's surgery since we now live 2 hours away instead of the convenient 35 minutes. We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to stay at the Ronald McDonald House!! We didn't know if they'd have openings until the very morning we left, but we're so thankful they had a spot available for us. It's not easy living off of one income AND now that my hubby was off work due to his hand injury. Well, it really made things pretty tough financially. This was a HUGE help!!! Not to mention it was an absolute dream for the kids! 

Riley posing in the Ronald McDonald Play Room in her comfy PJs. It was a good day. 

Gigantic french fries rule the room! If you're granted passage you may jump onto the pile of super, plush stuffed animals!

Therapy pets visit. My sweet little Riley made a new friend with another little girl named, Rylee who is right beside her. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

We're In Again...but not everyone is settled.

We're finally getting settled into our new place! Finally. If you've ever moved, you know this is a huge feeling of relief for us adults. But it often is not the case for our children, especially our adopted children. Change can be a gigantic, and can open up an flood gate of past emotions. Those deep, dark emotions that have no words.

As you may have read in our past posts our move was not a simple one. Yeah, but who's is, right? Moving two and half hours away, selling our house, and finding a new home was not an easy task. Thank goodness for the help of our parents whom allowed us to stay with them while we organized this multiple step move! I love you mom and dad! Thank you, dear sister, for your endless hours of entertaining my busy bees while we packed, unpacked, packed and finally unpacked again!

It was a sense of pure joy getting settled into our new place. No, it's not a dream house by the beach or a even a house for that matter. It's an apartment which I never I'd imagined we'd seek out. It's not big or new, but it's a place we can turn into a home. It's comfy. It's peaceful with views of trees and grass and possibly just as exciting, Target, Trader Joe's and Starbucks is less then a mile away! Oh yeah. I like it.

We prepped and prepared the kids for months prior to the move. It was actually a blessing to make the big move and end up at my parents' for awhile. They LOVED that. But I wasn't prepared for the changes I'd see in my children. I was relieved and ready to start fresh, but my kids were feeling it like it was the end of everything they knew.

You know how sometimes you're in so deep that you can't really get a clear view of what's going on? Especially when you're expecting all to be all honky-dory? Yep, that was me. I have contact with a wonderful post adoption social worker who lets me freely express my concerns and fears. Thank goodness. She gets it. She ever so kindly explained that maybe our kiddos were still in the honeymoon phase of the move while at my parent's home. Now the true feelings and anxieties are coming out since we're officially in our new home. Totally made sense!

Just knowing can be a tremendous help. A relief. A few days ago my son asked me how long we're staying here? I was so taken back, so surprised by his simple question. We explained numerous times what "our plan" was and even though he understood it He just needed to hear it again, loud and clear that we're staying here for a long time. He didn't need to hear that it was forever, just that he was able to let his guard down...if that's possible...but enough to let himself relax a bit.

It's not easy, especially moving two weeks before the winter break. We tried to keep the schedules tight with not much change, but no school, no work still really rocks the boat for these little ones. Tomorrow is back to the normal grind, but normal is just what the doctor ordered for this family! Cannot wait.

Reminder to self:  Change takes time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting Settled...into a fresh, new start!

The Beautiful Juniata River
"Getting settled" can mean so many things. Not only are we moving, but we're temporarily moving! Seriously? As if moving isn't hard enough? We're waiting for the sale of our house and waiting for our next home to be available...and not sure when everything will fall into place. Then of course all the adjustment moving to a new area, new job, new school and well, new everything.

Then on top of it we're moving from a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home to a 2 bedroom, 1 bath APARTMENT! Yes, we're insane. What American family chooses to downsize when the rest of the nation feels bigger is better? Looks like we do. Ya know what? It feels SO GOOD to downsize, to minimize, to simplify! I love it. I mean, apartment living really is not my thing. Yes, I'd rather have a house. A small house, but most definitely a house. But we have a great opportunity to save a few bucks (which we desperately need!) through my hubby's job, so we're making it work...for now.

The ever changing view from our temporary living. Amazing, right?

I'm choosing (well, attempting) not to think of all the hassle and headache that comes with moving twice. I'm choosing to be grateful. I'm feeling very fortunate that my parents are allowing us to stay with them. I'm thankful my children are able to spend this very special, very intimate time with my family. I'm grateful to spend quality time with my sweet, little sister whom my children adore. I'm very grateful for the wonderful and absolutely delicious food they provide for us. (Trying not to freak out about gaining weight! Yikes.) I'm grateful for the amazing view from every window in their home. I'm grateful for the help of family.

Morning bike ride with Aunt Ashley.
Sure moving is stressful. Even mentioning the word "MOVE" and it kinda makes ya flinch! But I'm giving it my very best effort to think of this as a turning point in my/our life. An exciting adventure. A fresh new start in thinking. I have to admit that being surrounded by nature is like much needed medicine for the mind and body. I didn't realize how city-living drained me. Basically it took the spring out of my step. Not that I don't love visiting the art galleries, dropping in for some coffee at our favorite Cafe, or grabbing goodies at city square farmers market. But nature does some serious healing to the soul and I got lots of catching up to do!

Finding new favorites! Like this awesome swing at an Airport themed playground!

Making exciting memories with Aunt Ashley and Grandpa giving them a good spin at another new playground.
 We made many sacrifices over the last years, and had more obstacles and hardship then most have in an entire lifetime. They say challenges build character? Oh, mercy. We must be filled with a whole lot of character! Being a one income family has not been easy in any shape or form. Money is very tight. Vacations are limited to camping trips. The kids don't have a playroom over flowing with toys. We have very old cars.  And now we're downsizing to an apartment.  There is something very important that I need to keep in mind. We did it for the kids, not for us.

We're able to supply our children with time for attention and all the love they can get! Adoptive kids are a lot like other kids, but they also have many other layers that other children do not have. Plain and simple. It makes no sense to hide it. I'm so grateful that I have the energy and time to help ease them into this new transition. Our children are amazing, creative, inspiring and loving-beings. I'm excited for them! I'm excited for us. I'm so grateful for each day with have together.

A bike ride break! A rare photo of the four of us. Love them!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prepping and Preparing and Good-Byes

Moving is never an easy transition for anyone. Moving for an adoptive child can bring up many, many emotions...any transition can. I've been bracing for this life changing event for some time now. Prepping and preparing the kids. Not to mention preparing the house to show. It's never been so clean!

It's not just moving from one house to the next. Oh, if it where only that easy! My dear hubby got a job 2 1/2 hours away in the town we wanted to move to. Terrific, right?! Yes, it is. BUT it will also be a huge adjustment not having Daddy around while I get our lives in order back here at the homestead preparing to move.

Us parents worry constantly about our children. How they will handle stress? Are they scared? Are they angry? Do they think we'll leave them behind? What are they thinking? We worry about them worrying! Then if we have time, we worry about the adult problems, like will our house sell? That's a big one. I think it's okay for the kids to see me stressed once and awhile. I don't want them to think I handle everything perfectly with grace. I wish I did. But I don't. I want them to feel free to talk, cry, vent and even scream once and a while. Things happen in life that will make us feel uncomfortable and out-of-control. All we can do is be there and work through it.

Even though there is so many uncertainties involved we gave it our best attempt to make it fun and adventure! We did tons of playdates (playdates are this mom's therapy!), ice cream shops, favorite parks and anything to keep them in a positive frame of mind. We got books about moving at the library. We even found a book about the town we're moving to! That was perfect! The good-byes are always tough, so I choose not to think of them as good-byes. I reminded our kiddos that we're always close enough for visits! It's still difficult though. We're leaving lots of room for adjustment!

Saved this for our last stop. They thought they were dreaming...all kinds of candy everywhere!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Past, Present & Now

Life always seems a bit calmer on a walk. Melts my heart to see them holding hands.

Wow. Thankful for so much in our lives! It's been a very difficult, very rough year, but in so many ways it has been the most rewarding. I want to have a separate post to talk about the challenges and struggles to finally be adoptive parents. It is no easy task to say the least. Right now this is only about our two wonderful kiddos. I'm SO thankful they have such a tight brother/sister bond. Dare I say it was almost immediate? She seemed so comfortable with him the very first time they met in the hot and stuffy China Courthouse. Then in the hotel he was able to get her to smile, no wait, LAUGH for the very first time! I'll never forget it. It was our first time seeing those beautiful dimples of hers!

Daddy is showing them a sand flea. Riley was very hesitant. I love how she has one hand on Nick's head and hand for protection!

Of course they argue and fight just like any siblings, but they get along entirely better then I ever could imagined. My two beauties are exceptionally imaginative, sensitive, creative, active and sometimes a bit melancholy, especially Nicholas. Maybe they formed such a close bond because they share the same broken heart that all adoptive children share? I know for sure it's partly because they both have an extremely silly sense of humor! Thank goodness for laughter. It heals so many things in us all.

An unexpected Car Show visit! It was a tiny car show, but the kids loved it! 

I was an only child up until I was 13 years old. I remember longing for a sibling and many of my daydreams included me finding a long lost brother or sister. Finally, at the age of 13 my mom had a baby girl! A surprise to us all! My world as an only child finally changed!

Precious moments! 

We've had a wide arrange of obstacles this year. Some of the stuff we couldn't have dreamed up! I often hesitated telling anyone about our challenges because I feared they wouldn't believe me. Or worse, they would be believe me and they'd pity us. So I often kept my mouth shut. Unfortunately, most folks do not like to listen to those with a long list of troubles. Truthfully, does it really matter if anyone knows? Not really.

And ALWAYS silly!


Recently one of Nick's school mates was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The mother happened to be our classroom mentor and she was absolutely fabulous! One of those people who you immediately like and feel at ease with. Her daughter, Olivia, is full of spunk and personality and has beautiful twinkling eyes. It was devastating news for all.

I'd have to say it changed me as a mom hearing this news. I always attempted to take things slow and to treasure those special moments like any mom. But something was different. It brought back those feelings of fear when my hubby was ill and how I felt when I was ill. The emotions I experienced then were some that brought me to my knees! I also remembered the moments of complete contentment and peace I had from living in the present. I had to live in the moment or else I'd fall apart thinking about the "what ifs." Those moments of present-ness were bliss.

Life can grab you and carry you away with its business and constant chatter! Before you know it that wonderful ability of keeping focus, that living in the moment you once cherished, is gone out the window. You're caught up in life...until one day you're brought to a screeching halt by life changing, devastating news. No one wants to be that person. I know, because it happened to me.

Thinking in the present is hard work, especially in the world that we live in. It is a constant struggle and takes practice. The rewards of this simple (but oh, so difficult!) practice is endless. It not only helps your mental and physical well-being, it helps everyone that you interact with! I can already see the difference in my children as they experience my full attention. I really, really deeply appreciate and swallow up those little smiles, giggles and excitement that comes from young children on a level that I didn't before. This isn't just for me and my children. It's also for Olivia and her mother. It's a human-beings worst fear to have a child so sick. No one knows what each days holds for us. I'm not wasting it with worry any longer. It's my duty to treasure these special moments in life. It's my job as a mom.

Olivia's Journey
Olivia's mom generously shares a journal of their journey. Please read about this amazing and brave child and her beautiful family!
Please visit at

My little gems!

I hope to be able to blog our life experiences more often! Not just about adoption, but everything. Learning, loving and living everyday.