Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Live Your Love Loud

I keep starting this post over and over, trying to find just the right words to say. I think I've finally settled on an approach that is just simple. Short and sweet. Here goes:

We live in a broken, depraved, tragic world. Things happen that are beyond our control. Sad, horrible things.

I have had the honor and privilege of meeting a woman who has seen the face of tragedy and decided to truly make beauty from ashes. I am so humbled by her grace and courage and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with her on this amazing project.

Today we are launching a non-profit in honor of her husband, CW3 Frank Buoniconti. I never had the chance to meet Frank in this world, but he must have been on AMAZING man from the stories that I have heard. Frank had a heart for those who were hurting and broken. Especially for the fatherless. How ironic that his own children would soon be the very ones that he had such a passion for.

Please, please take a moment to check out this website. I am honored to be working with Kryste Buoniconti as her Assistant Director for Live Your Love Loud. She is determined to "take back the 12th" and turn tragedy into triumph.

I think the website speaks for itself in explaining what LYLL is all about, and if you have a moment (and a box of tissues) click on the link to Kryste's blog and read all about her amazing story. And if you are compelled to give we would really appreciate it. Kryste (and I) want to bless the socks off some amazing military families who are adopting.

Live Your Love Loud

This isn't about a sad story, it's about hope. It's about continuing a legacy that Frank left behind.

Please keep this sweet family in your prayers as they go through another difficult day and another difficult holiday season.

Love you all,

Em

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chaos

It has been a busy few weeks since Ben has arrived home. Some of the craziness was expected, some was not. Before I tell you about some of that I first want to say how AMAZING it has been to have Ben back home. Seriously, I am so blessed to have such an incredible husband who is also the world's best daddy! I'm pretty sure that we are all guilty of taking our spouses for granted sometimes but doing life alone for an extended period will certainly remind you of how much you need him/her! Hunter has been beyond thrilled to have his daddy back and all of the reintegration couldn't have gone any smoother. So grateful for that!!! It has been one whole month that he has been home and we have been relishing every moment.

Within a week of Ben arriving back here we received a phone call from our agency about a 6 year old boy who needed a home. We agreed that we would certainly consider taking him if he was legally free. Unfortunately he was not and it was quite a messy situation as he was born and raised in Mexico, brought to WA and then his parents were deported and now he was stuck here in the U.S. as a citizen. I'm telling you, this system is SUCH a mess!!! Anyway, we had to say no since we knew that we would probably be leaving WA before he would be legally free and that would be a lot of trouble for all of us. Little did we know...

The Monday before Thanksgiving Ben got a call from his branch manager. He offered Ben his choice of two positions teaching ROTC (one in Missouri, the other in Arkansas) because he knew that we were really hoping for this particular job. Ben and I talked about it right away and we both agreed that Missouri would be great! So he called and accepted the job. God had other plans for us though and Tuesday we found out that he wasn't going to get that position but the Arkansas one was still available. The ROTC Battalion operates out of University of Central Arkansas which is in Conway, AR and we researched the area and decided that Conway looked wonderful! So we said YES! The paperwork got started and we continued doing research on the area. After a day or so we realized that not only was UCA involved in this ROTC Battalion, but there were three other schools as well. One in Russellville and two in Arkadelphia. We immediately looked at both towns and thought "I sure hope we don't have to go to Arkadelphia." God has such a sense of humor though! And so we are heading to Arkadelphia, Arkansas!

Here's the REALLY crazy part... we are leaving in less than two weeks! Because of the Thanksgiving holiday it took a little while to get Ben's orders and he needs to start the new job in January. We realized that it would actually make the most sense if we just drove home for Christmas on our way to AR so that's what we are doing. It's crazy here. Seriously crazy! We are cleaning, organizing, getting Ben's stuff together so that he can clear post here (i.e. sorting through piles and piles of camo stuff to turn in), tons of paperwork, figuring out how to turn off all the utilities, hold our mail, Christmas shop... the list is endless.

So, we are celebrating Christmas this Saturday, trying to soak up as much time with as many friends as we can and just muddle through this chaos. The packers are scheduled to come on December 17, the truck should hopefully be loaded on the 18th (happy anniversary to us!) and then we will start the LONG drive to Illinois as soon as we can. It is going to be quite the adventure.

I really wish I could write so much more about how all this craziness came to be and some of the incredible connections we have already made in Arkadoo but for right now I need to focus on all the stuff that needs to get done around here. I am so so sad to be leaving behind some of the most amazing friends here in WA, but we are also so excited to see what God has in store for us in AR!

Okay, I'm off to get some stuff done. I will try to post more soon, but no promises!

Love you all, please be praying for us as we get through the next few weeks and the many, many hours of travel that we have coming up. It's going to be a crazy ride and we have never moved before without having a house ahead of time so it's going to be interesting. We are trusting that God will be in all the details, He certainly has been so far!

Love,

B, E & H

P.S. I guess I didn't really mention what we are doing in Arkadelphia, AR! Ben will be an instructor for the ROTC program there teaching level 4 military science to cadets. We are super excited about this job as it's something that he has been wanting to do for a while now. He will also be recruiting for the ROTC program from the local high schools. It's going to be a huge change for us since it's not a military town and we will be living a pretty "civilian" lifestyle, but we are certainly looking forward to it!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Homecoming

 While being a military family is sometimes tough THIS makes every moment worth it!

my handsome little Soldier
waiting for our Soldier
words cannot describe Hunter's excitement at this moment
WELCOME HOME!!!

 
And this is for all my amazing mil spouse friends, grab a tissue and read this:YOU ROCK

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Be Anxious for Nothing

I'm really working on taking that to heart. Not being anxious for anything, I mean. Some days are much easier than others! It's been another rough week around here. It amazes me how we are so vunerable to attack when our spouse isn't around.

So that I don't sound like a total complainer I'll give you all a quick highlight of my week before I ask you for prayers for a few things :)

Tuesday morning, while having coffee and chatting with two of my favorite friends, my home phone rang. Which usually means someone soliciting or some annoying political poll. Despite my misgivings I decided to answer it just in case it was my mom or Ben. On the other end of the line I heard a familiar voice that I haven't heard for probably 7 years! It was Brother Ed Phelan, asking if I was free to meet for lunch that very day!!!

Now, if you don't know who I'm talking about (which probably most of you wouldn't!) I'll back up and give you a quick story. After graduating college I joined the LaSallian Volunteers, which was a division of Americorp Volunteers. This meant that in July, after graduation, I moved to the Bronx, NY to live with three De LaSalle Christian Brothers, and four other volunteers. We all lived in this big, beautiful old Victorian style house right in the Bronx and worked at various places in NYC. A couple of the volunteers worked at the Christian Brothers high school because they had teaching degrees, I worked at Highbridge Community Life Center with Br. Ed. At Highbridge I had two jobs; I was the assistant to the executive director (Br. Ed himself!) and after 3:00 I went over to help with the after school program where I tutored and worked with 1st-3rd grade underprivileged students. It was an AMAZING experience both living in a community as well as working at Highbridge. I still claim that I was the only blonde in the Bronx.

Anyway, Br. Ed was my boss and he was also my house mate so he was a large part of my life in the Bronx. All eight of my house mates made it out to our wedding and after Ben and I got married we made it out to NYC to visit once, but that was in the first year of our marriage and it was the last time that I spoke to Br. Ed other than email. So to hear his voice was quite a surprise! And the best part is that I was actually free to have lunch with him!!!

We met and had a couple minutes before I had to drop Hunter off at school. Then Br. Ed and I sat down at my favorite local restaurant and chatted for hours. Literally. Seven years is a long time to have to catch up on! I filled Br. Ed in on all this adoption stuff and he told me about his travels and how not much has really changed in NY. Boy did it make me want to visit the Bronx!

During the course of our conversation and explaining the foster system and adoption and all of that it really became so crystal clear just exactly how broken the system is. I really wish I knew where to start and how to "fix" the system. The problem is that I really don't think that there is a way. Where human nature is involved things are just messy. And there is no way that you can write laws and create a system that allows for each individual case to be considered in the way that it should be. And unfortunately that puts a lot of the decision making into the hands of the social workers and judges who become so desensitized to all of it. It's so hard to determine when to keep giving the birth parents more and more chances, and when to just cut ties and allow the child to become legally free. I'm glad that I don't have to be the one responsible for those decisions. Of course it would be wonderful to see the birth parents solve whatever issue was keeping them from successfully parenting and see each child returned to their parents. That would be amazing. However, it is seldom the case that it happens that way. Instead the children are bounced around through the system for years and years and by the time the decision is finally made to legally free the child from the birth parents the child is 12 or older and has a much greater chance of aging out of the system than being adopted. Heart breaking. Really.

So, please be praying for opportunities for us to make a change. I don't yet know how. Or what exactly it will look like. But I do know that this isn't right. It's not fair to the children. And that's the greatest concern.

I'll get off my soapbox now and just say that it was such an awesome surprise to get to visit with an old friend! Especially when it was so unexpected! Truly a blessing.

Like I said before, I have still been feeling so attacked. This week nothing has broken (praise Jesus!) but so far it has been just as crazy! I'll spare you all the details and just ask that you be praying. I actually think that I'm handling it all pretty well but I am ready for it to be over. Also please be praying for Ben. He's been super busy and we haven't talked to him in quite a while. I get an occasional short email so I know that he's fine, but he has been really busy and I'm sure he has to be exhausted.

Thank you for the prayers!

Love you all!

B, E & H



Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sigh...

Three months. Today makes three months that Ben has been gone. Hopefully just one more! I can't really complain since four months is an amazingly short deployment. Almost a year shorter than the last, ha! But wow, I'm still amazed at how hard it has been and how much chaos has been crammed into these three crazy months since he has been gone.

It's been a bit of a rough week around here. We were super busy, which is usually great because it helps the time pass, but for some reason both Hunter and I have just been really struggling through this week. Our poor neighbors were witnesses to some of it tonight as Hunter had a COMPLETE meltdown when I told him that we were going to go home in a minute. Usually he's totally fine and cooperates with no problem. On a bad night he might whine about it. Tonight, it was a screaming, crying fit that lasted all the way home, up the stairs and commenced with him getting in big trouble. Not exactly the way that I wanted to end a nice evening with friends. Sigh...

I have to admit that I kinda understand his feelings because I often feel the same way. All these emotions just get stuck inside and then you reach this tipping point where one little (usually completely unrelated) thing sets you off into a crying, screaming mess. All week Hunter has been extra sensitive about missing his daddy. I don't know why this week is worse than last, or if he heard or thought of something that has got him upset, but it has been a constant battle for him this week. Take yesterday for example. I was co-hosting a baby shower for a dear friend and Hunter was invited to hang out with the men and kids from our small group. They went to Cabela's, played arcade games and had lunch at Panera (Hunter's choice!). He had a great time and I am so blessed to have men that are willing to invest time in Hunter while Ben is away. As soon as I got home Hunter asked to go to the park to play football. I quickly changed out of high heels and into tennis shoes and we went to the park. About 2 minutes into our football game Hunter sat down in the grass and put his head in his hands. I went over and asked him what was wrong. "I miss daddy." Again, sigh... Mom's can't play football like dad can.

That's just one example of how the whole week has gone. And it's wearing on me too. Boy is it tough to be a parent. And man is it ever tough to be both parents! What a reminder of the beautiful thing that God has created in marriage. And to any of you who are a single parent for any reason, YOU ROCK.

One thing that has really been impressed upon me over and over this week is that I am so grateful that God knows what is best for us. I don't know how I would have made it through with another child, especially one that had some issues of his own. What a beautiful mess we live in.

The other thing that I keep realizing is exactly how blessed I really am. I am so blessed to have a husband who is so amazing. I'm so blessed that he is a wonderful father to our son and that Hunter can't wait to have his daddy back home with him. I am so blessed to be surrounded by the most amazing people who love on us and are willing to take care of us even when we aren't lovely. I am so blessed in so many, many countless ways. I don't want to let the tough times overshadow the blessings. I want to take the hard days and use them to make the blessings shine.

Please keep praying for all of us, that Hunter's little heart doesn't hurt so much. That Ben is home safely, and soon.

We love you all,

B, E & H

Thursday, October 4, 2012

So glad that I'm not in charge

A couple of days ago I received a call from our social worker with our agency. I wasn't able to answer right away since I was dropping Hunter off at school, but my initial reaction when I saw her number appear on my phone was one of complete frustration. Luckily for her I had a few minutes to gather my thoughts on the drive home before I returned her call. I hate to admit that I immediately became defensive upon seeing her number on my cell, but it has been over a month since we last were in contact and in my opinion that is too long! However, I called her back and had a decent conversation about how and why everything fell apart with V.

In the course of our conversation a few interesting things came up. First, I was able to voice my frustration with one particular person involved in the case. Turns out that this person had also managed to step on the toes of my agency as well. So, we discussed where to go from here and my worker should be getting back with me regarding someone who I can file a complaint with. My goal is not necessarily to get this person in trouble, but I just don't want any other families to be treated the way that we were treated.

My SW also asked me if we wanted to be put back on the list as an eligible family. First, I didn't know that we weren't on the list, but I guess that's okay since I really don't want to go through that again with Ben gone. We had a very frank discussion about how to proceed, but the answer is honestly that I just don't know. Here is what I do know right now:

-Ben will get home sometime next month. I do not want to bring a child into our home before Ben gets back. Also, there is a period of reintegration after Ben's homecoming which I want to get through before we consider adding another family member. We also bought tickets to go home for Christmas so we really can't take a child until after the new year.
-We have no idea if/when we will be moving. Ben has recieved some conflicting information regarding this which means we could be moving anytime from about February on. Again, not great news for adopting.
-Washington state requires that the child live with us for a minimum of 6 months before we can finalize an adoption.
-A new (interesting?) fact that I found out is that IF we have a child placed with us and get orders to move we can request that the state allow us to take the child with us. However, this scares me. The few times we have tried to do something "out of the ordinary" so far it hasn't worked out well. So while this is good information to know, it's not something that I want to count on. The state could certainly deny our request and then we could be right back where we are now. While we will store this information, for right now we don't really feel like it's something that we want to intentionally do.

So, what does all this mean? I'm glad you asked!

True to self, it means that I begin freaking out, wondering what in the world we are supposed to do. It seems almost impossible that we will be able to adopt in WA, but there is a very good chance that our next move (or possibly even the next two moves) will be for fairly short periods of time since one of those should involve an Army school that is about a year long. With my mind whirring I quickly realized that the bottom line is that it will most likely be years before we can actually adopt. So naturally, I panic. Which mostly means that I start sending frantic emails to Ben (in hindsight I bet he actually is glad that he isn't here sometimes because the worst I can do is email him right now! ha!)

A while back (months ago actually) I impulsively bought a book that has been sitting on my nightstand ever since. After finishing a series and really mostly because I had nothing else to read I grabbed this book and dove in. Oh. My. Goodness. As usual God met me right where I was at, right in the moment that I needed a big flashing neon sign telling me to just slow down and sit. Line after line, scripture after scripture this amazing book was laying out everything that I needed to hear at the very moment that I was most open to it. I'm trying to resist copying sections of the book for you to see what I mean, but the overall point is this: We are created to be a part of God's plan. We can not mess this up. We are called to wait on Him and enjoy his peace and joy. God does not need us to meddle in His plans. He does not need us to accomplish His purposes in our lives. We are to sit back and wait for his guidance.

See what I mean???

I confess that I am only halfway through the book, but this is GOOD STUFF. I am trying to soak it all in. And I'm pretty sure that when I finish it I will open it right back up to the beginning and read it again just to make sure that I retain a little bit of the wisdom that it contains.

I am so glad to serve this amazing God who daily meets me where I am and gently reminds me who I am. I am a child of God, created by Him. He loves me. And He doesn't expect me to do everything on my own. He will equip me for the things that I am to accomplish. And if I go astray, as I am bound to do, He is a God of second chances. WHAT A MIGHTY GOD WE SERVE!!!

So here I am today. Enjoying a moment of peace and quiet after having three amazing kiddos terrorizing my house this morning. The house is a mess, there are probably a ton of other things I should be doing, but for this moment I am going to bask in the peace and the joy of my Creator. And I know that no matter what happens, if we have the opportunity to add another wonderful child to our family or if we remain a family of three, I am only responsible for answering the call of God when I hear it. The details? Those are all up to Him! (sigh...) What a relief!

Love you all!

B, E & H

P.S. Quick update: The truck seems to be doing okay! The tire is holding air and it has been consistently starting up. YAY! The washing machine also seems to be holding up too. Ben's computer seems to pretty much be dead, but we will deal with that when he gets back. The grass is also dead, so the lawnmower can wait until springtime. And thank you for your prayers because nothing else has broken! Thank God for miracles!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Our new normal

So now that life has calmed down from all the craziness of the summer and school has started I'm struggling to find "normal" again. In some ways I feel like everything we have just gone through has sort of shaken my world so much that I just can't seem to settle back into a routine. It's really difficult to explain, but I guess I just sort of feel like there is now good way to go through something big and emotionally draining like that and not come out as a different person. That's kind of where I'm at now. Just trying to discover exactly who I am, what I am supposed to be doing with my life.

A year ago I imagined that by now we would have added at least one more child to our family. It's almost surreal to me that I have been doing this blog thing for 14 months now. When I started chronicling our journey this way it was mostly because we had a feeling that we were heading toward adoption. Now I honestly have no idea where we are heading, but as usual I am going to try to enjoy this crazy ride.

It's been a challenging couple of weeks around here. Thank goodness, not challenging in the way that this adoption business has been challenging. I don't think I could handle much more of that! No, instead I have just been feeling so attacked. Which isn't unusual at all during deployments, but boy am I glad that all of this stuff waited until AFTER the situation with V was over. Praise Jesus for miracles like that!

Anyway, lately it just seems like everything is falling apart. And I do mean that literally. I think that the first thing was that my lawn mower decided not to work. Argh. At least it hasn't rained and the grass is dead and I have the most AWESOME neighbors that took care of one final mowing for me.

Then the truck died. Oh, the truck. Let me preface this by saying that Ben's truck and I have a love-hate relationship. Except that it's mostly just hate. Ha!  But seriously, this truck and I just don't get along very well and so the prospect of caring for it while Ben was gone was quite a daunting task for me. In case you haven't seen this thing, let me try to explain a little better. The truck (a.k.a. Brutus) was once a 1999 Toyota 4runner. Now it's part 4runner, part monster truck and mostly a big pain that requires a whole lotta maintenance. I've been taking Brutus for a drive once a week just to keep him running and all of that. When I went to drive him a week or two ago he didn't start. At all. It's times like this that I am so grateful that Ben has learned so much about vehicles and my dad is a guru as well. After running some diagnostics (and feeling quite impressed with myself that I could test the alternator, check for shorts in the wires AND replace and recharge the battery) I still had no idea. Let me also mention that in order to even open the hood I have to get up on the ladder. Pretty sure my neighbors all think that I am nuts since I have been standing on a ladder, rummaging under the hood of this crazy truck for the past week or so. After mustering up all my vehicle knowledge I convinced Autozone to replace the battery for me since it is under warranty still. So far it seems that fixed the problem. Woohoo!

Next it was the washing machine. It's making crazy noises. One swift kick and the noises miraculously stopped! Yay! Me - 1, Washing Machine - 0. I'm hoping that it was just unbalanced and will remain better now. I guess only time will tell!

Then Ben's computer crashed. Completely dead. So now we have to use calling cards to talk, or he can go and use the phones that the Army provides, but you only get 10 minutes and it just makes it hard to even talk when you're just waiting for the little voice to come on and say, "this call will end in 30 seconds." We knew his computer was having some issues but we were really hoping that it would just hang on through this deployment. Sigh...

Imagine my surprise when I pulled out of my driveway this afternoon and noticed that Brutus had a super flat tire. Really, the truck hates me. This evening I managed to get it filled up to about 15 psi and tomorrow I will see if it has held any of the air. If it has I'll fight with it to see if I can get it to fill up the rest of the way. I have no idea what was going on with it tonight but the air compressor seemed to be running on fumes (which is impossible since it's electric!)

I can't wait to see what surprises are in store for me next week!

Sometimes it's really hard being the one who has to take care of everything while Ben is away. Oh, who am I kidding, it's ALWAYS hard. I can't wait for my hubby to get back. I'm sure things break just as often when he's here but it just somehow seems so much more manageable when I'm not the only one who can take care of it.

And just so you don't think that I'm completely whining, let me wrap this up by saying that I love this life. It's a mess, and it's hard, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am so incredibly proud of my husband and what he does. He is amazing and I am so proud to be an Army wife! It is an honor to serve beside him and I wouldn't want it any other way! HOOAH!

Love you all!

B, E & H

P.S. I should have also mentioned that I am sooooooooo grateful for the opportunity to miss my hubby and to really appreciate what he does for our family! Love that man!!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Where does the time go?

Well friends, since my last post we have just been muddling through life, trying to enjoy everything that we can and count down the days until my sweet hubby gets to be back home with us! It's hard to believe that it has only been two months since he left. The past couple of months have felt like an eternity. I am so incredibly grateful that this is only a 4 month deployment, I don't think that my heart could handle much more than that.

One thing that I am grateful during this time is that it has really been such a time for growth, both for Ben and I. We certainly have been tried and tested and I feel like I have come away from all of this as a much stronger person. That's not to say that I would like to do it over, but at least I can see that there has been a positive change. One thing that I really have been thinking about the past few days is that this has helped me to get over myself (so to speak). Oh, that's not to say that I won't have plenty of selfish moments still. We are all human and it's so natural for us to be self-absorbed. But what I mean is that this has helped me to really see beyond my own little world into the world of those around me. Yes, this has been a difficult season. Yes, I wish my husband was home and that this sweet child were a part of our family. BUT, it could be worse. It could always be worse. And I am so overjoyed to know that there is hope for a future with no suffering. I long for heaven in a way that I have never longed for it before.

Part of this realization is also a friendship that I have developed over the past few months. Really, I can't chalk this up to anything other than divine intervention. Hunter and I were at the park about a month before Ben deployed and Hunter began playing with a couple other little boys there. The mother of these boys struck up a conversation with me (I had already noticed that she was wearing an adoption shirt) and through the course of that conversation I found out that she was the widow of one of the helicopter pilots that was killed here at Fort Lewis in December of this year. That particular night Ben's Company had been the responders that helped secure the crash site, so although I didn't know what was happening that night, I had been praying for her family from the time that Ben got a call, threw on his uniform and disappeared out the front door. This family had just finalized an adoption of a little boy with some severe medical issues and days later lost their father. Wow. Anyway, the point of telling you this is that she has been such an inspiration to me. It's really hard to feel sorry for yourself over something like my own experience when clearly it is trivial compared to a loss like theirs. Which is not to say that she is in anyway asking for pity. Oh, no! It's quite the opposite. Instead she is choosing to do just what I have been wanting so badly. She is creating beauty out of those ashes and she is using her story to help others. I am so honored to be helping her do this and I would love if you would join us as well. The organization that she is starting is called LiveYourLoveLoud and the mission is basically just to help those who can't help themselves - specifically widows and orphans. We are still working out kinks and trying to figure out how to get a webpage going, etc but for this month the funds raised will go toward putting a roof on a clinic in Bugabo, Africa. If you would be interested in helping do this please check out my friend's blog (and read her story while you are there. She is an AMAZING writer!) Here's the link: Holding Fast

Thank you for all the support you have given us so far. Honestly, it has been just amazing to have so many people behind us. It makes all the difference in the world.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have to tend to a dead truck. I tell ya, if it's not one thing it's another around here! At least the truck had the decency to wait to die until life had become a little calmer. Ha!

Oh, and one more thing! Here's a little "kindergarten cuteness" for you!

Love,
B, E & H

 




Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hard things

This morning, while I was talking to Ben on my cell phone, the house phone rang. Usually it's just some sort of advertisement or my university trying to coerce me into signing up for more classes (seriously, they called every day for a week and when I tried to sign up we discovered that none of the classes offered in the obscure mid-semester that they were trying to recruit me for fit into my line of study, sheesh!) so I decided to ignore the phone under the assumption that if it was someone important they would leave a message. Besides, talking to my hubby is pretty darn important!

Naturally, it was the CASA (court appointed special advocate) wanting to talk about V. You know, it has been a full month since anyone has called me about him? I digress... After I got off the phone with Ben I called her back right away to see what she needed although I already had a pretty good idea what she was about to ask. She wanted to know if we would consider taking V in and waiting out this situation.

It's times like this that I am extraordinarily grateful that Ben and I have been able to talk a lot during this deployment. Because of his job and because communications are getting a lot better we have been able to chat almost daily and it has been such a lifesaver since there has been so much craziness since he left. We had anticipated this call coming at some point so we had already talked through what we should do if/when it happened. Boy am I grateful for that. But, it sure didn't make it any easier.

I had to say no.

Trust me, I wanted to say yes. But there are soooooooooo many variables in this case that just make it so messy and so difficult. First, we said from the beginning that we wanted no part in dealing with "the state" and "the system." It was never our desire to fight to take a child from their parents. We wanted it to be cleaner than that and we wanted a child who had already been legally freed from any and all parental ties. That was not all what we were dealing with here. Instead we had numerous people fighting to gain control of this child and it sure was messy. Another huge red flag is the timeline. There is a very very small chance that things could go to court next month, parent's rights could be terminated and we could finalize an adoption six months after that. However, there is a very real possibility that this could continue to drag out for many more months and that we could end up moving before we ever had a chance to even talk about adoption. I don't see how that scenario could possibly be a benefit to any of us involved. Finally, this is so much harder to do alone than I ever imagined it would be. I've been a single parent before, but I've never been a single parent to a child that I don't know how to parent. Being a parent is the hardest job I have ever done, but doing it alone makes it so much harder. And parenting a child with special needs and traumas... wow. The combination was far more difficult than I thought it would be and I just don't know if I can do it for a couple of months alone. Plus, trying to bring in another parent and going through all of that adjustment will also make things difficult. Because of all of these things and many more we agreed that until V is legally free and Ben is home we can't say yes to taking him, or any other child, into our home.

Please understand that this decision has been meticulously thought through, prayed over and reevaluated numerous times. That doesn't mean that it was easy for me to say no. I've been pretty distraught over it all morning and more than anything I wish I could talk to Ben about it. It is so hard to turn down something that we have desired for so long now, but I know that it was the right decision for all of us. This situation was not a positive situation for V, for Hunter, for Ben and I... Now I am praying that God will put V into an amazing home and that he will have the opportunity to be loved and feel wanted and go on to do great things. It breaks my heart to know that we will probably never know what happens to him. Wow. But I know that his journey isn't over, and neither is ours.

I'm still content. Sad, but content. God has great plans for us and for V. I hope that you can understand our decision, and if not, please trust that we did not make this decision lightly.

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 
'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 
Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.'
Jeremiah 29:11-13

I'm clinging to the hope and future that God has for us. This situation felt much more like calamity than it felt like hope. I want to rest in God and rest in His hope.

Love you all,

B, E & H

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Contentment

Here's a confession. I am one of those people. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones that are always trying to be perfect, control freak, over-achieve at everything, never satisfied with anything. That's me.

Here's another confession... I don't want to be like that anymore. It's amazing how much this incredibly crazy journey toward adoption has changed my view of life in general. In many ways I don't even feel like the same person that started this ride 18 months ago. There have been soooooooooo many lessons that Ben and I have both learned along the way, but the biggest lesson, the one that I needed so desperately is this:

BE CONTENT

Not just settle for whatever you are handed. Not just make due with what you have been given. No. Instead, really, truly, with every fiber of your being learn to embrace and love the life that you have been given. 

We have made so many mistakes along this road so far, but the mistake that we need to correct the most is that we need to be content. Stop searching for something that will "fill a void" or "make us complete." We already have that. Christ has already given us everything we could ever ask for. We need to set aside all selfishness and greed and rest in His abundance which He pours out for us daily. What a concept, huh?

I had already been mulling over this idea when lo and behold our pastor preached an entire sermon today on this very topic. God sure knows how to meet us right where we are. A few things that were said today really caught my attention and I would love to pass them along to you. First, discontentment is about ignoring the beauty of what you do have while fixating on what you don't have. Ouch! My mind is racing back through all of my thoughts, actions, blog posts... I am pretty certain that I have not done very well at this. I am so incredibly blessed with an amazing, heroic, selfless husband and the most adorable, caring son. We have a wonderful marriage and lack for nothing. And yet, here I am focusing on the fact that we would love to bring another child in to our home (certainly not a crime) while completely overlooking the beautiful family that God has so graciously provided me with. What a reality check. My desire to grow our family is in no way wrong, but the way that I was viewing what I had been given already was completely out of line.

A second thing that really struck a chord with me is that contentment is learned. Now stick with me here for a moment. Can it be true? Are we really naturally discontent? I'd have to say that the answer (unfortunately!) is yes! Wow. It's so sad that here we live in the richest country in the world, and have so much and yet we find ourselves always wanting more and more. I want to break out of that. I want to learn to be content with what I have. I want to learn the secret of being content in any situation, no matter how bleak the outcome may look.

Finally, contentment is not a lack of ambition. There is a difference between laziness and contentment. Laziness is apathy toward your situation. Contentment is finding the joy in what you have. There is room to be excited, to be ambitious, but yet be content.

So, what now? For me, the answer is just enjoy life. I want to relish every moment I have with my family. I want to spend more time playing with Hunter. I want to go on dates with my husband and not talk about the future, or adoption, but just enjoy being together and living in the moment. I want to know what true contentment feels like. Want to know what the most encouraging thing about contentment is? The thing that really gets me excited? Being content gives me permission to give God all the control and know that He is good and he will take care of me. It lets me break out of the mindset that I have to be perfect. Instead, I can rest in His perfection. Oh happy day!!!

It's funny. You'd think that after all of the craziness that we have gone through in the past couple months that I would be at a peak of discontentment, but I'm not. At first I was pretty discouraged, but strangely that discouragement slowly morphed into a newfound freedom and excitement. A sense that for the first time in a long time I could focus on what I enjoy and what makes me happy. Now that I didn't have to focus on paperwork, reading books on how to care for children who have been broken down by the world, frantically finishing up classes, juggling social workers, you get the idea... Now that I was relieved of some of that I felt free to be myself and for the first time in a long time I felt content. I'm excited to see what God has in store for us next!

I have no idea what the future will hold. I don't know if we will have to move shortly after Ben gets back from Afghanistan, I don't know if and when we will be adding more kids into our family. I don't even know what we are having for dinner tomorrow! But I do know this much: God is good. And I can rely on Him no matter what happens. This, and this alone, is what makes me content.

Love you all,

B, E & H

I have learned that in whatever situation I am to be content. 
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. 
In any and every circumstance,
 I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, 
abundance and need. 
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Phillipians 4:11b-13

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Picking up the pieces

So, while "officially" I am still being told by my agency that we are a the prospective adoptive family for V, I have plenty of unofficial information saying otherwise. It is unbelievably frustrating to know that somewhere there is a major miscommunication and I don't know how to fix it. I'm hoping that it's unintentional, but it's kind of difficult to believe how that could be. So, while I'm waiting for that to get sorted out I have been making strides to move forward with life as "normal." Whatever that is.

Today Hunter and I did some major cleaning and organizing and one of our big projects was to put away all of the clothes and stuff that I had taken out for V. We took down V's library reading chart and cleaned his toys out of the cubby in his bunk bed. It was so sad to put it all away, but yet I really needed to take down a lot of those little reminders of what we don't have so that I can keep focusing on what we do have.

Trying to focus on the present has been a struggle for me (I can't help it! I always want to hurry along to the next big thing) but it has been a rewarding struggle so far. On Friday I promised Hunter that we would spend a few hours together, just him and I. I put the phone down and didn't answer a single call or text. Hunter wanted to pull out a science kit that he had gotten for Christmas and we did all sorts of great little experiments together (only my kid, right?). But the best part was just spending time with this incredible little boy that I am so blessed to call my own! It has been far too long since I have just sat down and enjoyed being with him. I really need to do that more. And if you are a parent, you probably should as well! These kids grow up so quickly and I don't want to miss anymore of these precious moments.

Hunter starts kindergarten on Thursday (eek!!!) so we have been scrambling to get all of his stuff together. I just found out that he will have afternoon class, and while I'm a little disappointed it will be just fine. I'm quickly filling up my time with lots of volunteer work which makes my heart so happy. With all of the craziness of the adoption world I hadn't felt comfortable signing up for something that I knew I wouldn't be able to fully commit to. Now I have some freedom and I am so excited to be able to give my time to things that I believe in! I'm the new treasurer for the brigade FRG (family readiness group), helping out with AWANA, thinking about doing PTA, maybe taking another class and hopefully helping a friend launch a non-profit in honor of her husband. And I'm sure that there is more to come! It feels good to finally feel a little freedom in my ability to jump in and do some stuff like that. For the past couple years it has felt like my life has been on hold while we waited to see what would happen next, but now I have to admit that there is finally a little bit of light at the end of this tunnel. And I can't wait to see where it will lead!

That's life in a nutshell right now. Confusion, chaos, sadness and some hope. Thank God for the hope.

 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. 
It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,  
where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. 
Hebrews 6:19-20a

Love,

B, E & H


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Uncertainty

Well... I've been putting off writing a post in hopes that I would have a little more information to update you all with, but right now it seems that is asking for too much so I'll just have to tell you what I know and leave it at that. I also wanted to wait because I didn't want to write anything that I may regret saying later, so I needed a little time to sort through all of my feelings and emotions on everything happening before I could say it publicly.

First, I have to admit that I truly have NO IDEA what is going on. I'm getting conflicting stories from different people, and the only person who can answer my questions hasn't returned my phone calls. I guess the last time I wrote it seemed like things were up in the air, but not impossible. They are beginning to look pretty impossible now. Which is heartbreaking, and so incredibly frustrating in so many ways. First, it sounds like V's foster family is probably going to move him into another home. I don't know if this home would be a potential adoptive family or just another foster home with no intentions of adopting him if and when that time came. Either way, it sounds like there will be a minimum 6-9 month period for the state to sort out some of the things that have come up lately and that really makes it almost impossible for us to take V. We have really thought it through and we just don't feel at all comfortable moving him into our home until we have a little more guidance on what will happen in this situation. We never intended to be foster parents, and if we had any idea that things would go the way they have we would have never even asked to meet V. It's all so complicated and so hard to explain, but our intent was to bring a child into our home and call him/her OURS. All of the preparation we have done was with that mindset, and we have prepped Hunter with the same mindset. He already is referring to V as his "brother" and it absolutely breaks my heart. I can't put him through the pain of bringing V into our home and then having him taken away either by the state or by the Army moving our family before we are able to adopt him.

So right now all we can do is wait. I'm not sure what we are waiting for and I have to admit that it is absolutely tearing me up inside. Honestly, I can't hardly think about it for more than a few minutes before I have to move on to something else because it is just so stinkin' difficult! I'm sad, angry, heart-broken, frustrated, upset and generally just sick over this whole situation. I feel like I have so much to say, but I don't even know how to say it all. I keep hoping for someone to give me some sort of clue as to what is going on with this case and what my role is, but no one seems to know or at least they certainly aren't sharing any information with me if they do know.

There are a few things that I do know right now and that's all I can cling to. First, I know that I absolutely can not take another child into our home while Ben is gone. I thought I could do it. I really wanted to do it. I wanted to be so strong, but I'm just not strong enough. This has absolutely been one of the most difficult times in my life and I just can't do it again. Going into this adoption thing, I knew it would be difficult. I prepared myself for so many different things, but the one thing that I did not prepare for was taking a child in and having that torn from us. From the very beginning we said that we only wanted to consider children who were already legally free, and this was exactly why.  I really wish I were stronger, but I just can't go through this again, not alone. Hunter is still crying over missing his daddy (and I honestly don't expect that to change until Ben is back home) and I just can't stomach the thought of tearing a sibling away from him too. Not to mention the fact that I need a shoulder to lean on as well. We have the most amazing friends and family supporting us, but when things are going horribly here at home it would be so wonderful to know that my husband will be home soon so I can have a break, or at least be able to walk away for a minute and know that things are still under control. So, for right now we are just going to wait this case out, but I can't even begin to think about taking in yet another child.

Second, we know that God still wants to use us, but we are choosing to be content to let God start directing our paths. We will sit back and be obedient, but we are not going to keep chasing after things. This has been one heck of a lesson to learn, and a super painful one too. Ben described it very well when he said that he feels like we have broken noses from the door slamming in our faces so many times. Most of you may not know it, but V is the 6th, yes SIXTH, child that we have very seriously considered bringing into our family. And of those six children we have not turned down one. Each child has been placed into another family or the parent chose not to give the child up for adoption after all. It has been a very painful process and it's time for us to start focusing on the bigger picture. Each time we start to consider a child it seems that child consumes our lives for a period of time. It's all we talk about, all we plan for... quite honestly, it's not healthy! Every spare moment of our time is committed to a child that isn't ours and that never receives any of the benefits of all of our worry and care, and it's time for that to change. I feel like we have missed large chunks of the past 18 months of our lives as we have allowed so much of them to revolve around this adoption process. We really want to start focusing on the bigger picture, start doing something that will actually make a difference here and now. And we are praying that God will honor that commitment to helping those around us and the rest will fall into place. Does this mean that we won't be adopting? Absolutely not! We would still love to adopt, but it does mean that we are going to make a conscious choice to start living in the moment and stop looking to the future. The stories that glorify God aren't the ones that we do, they are the ones that HE does. So we want to watch God work and move and simply be obedient to His call when we need to be. If and when God chooses a child for our family we will be ready to say "YES!!!"

I'm sure that is enough for you to have to read for right now. I feel like there is so much more to say, but I'm not even sure how to say it all. Please keep praying for us, especially for Hunter as he doesn't seem to understand that we don't know if we will get to see V again. Every time I open Hunter's closet it hurts me to see the clothes that I hung in there for V. And Hunter is still sleeping on the top bunk of bunk beds that are completely pointless with just one child in them. There are so many daily reminders of what we don't have, and it really does hurt. I don't know what God has in store for us. I really don't. But I have to keep trusting that God is good. He is. And He loves us and knows what we need even if we don't yet know it.

We really appreciate all of your love and prayers,

B, E & H

Monday, August 6, 2012

When the going gets tough...

THE TOUGH HEAD HOME TO MOMMY AND DADDY!

Well, at least that's what I'm doing. My parents were planning to head here in just a couple weeks, but Hunter and I are packing up and heading there in just a couple days. This has been a pretty rough week and it just seemed like it was a good time to take a break, enjoy seeing family and friends and get away before school starts for Hunter. So, we are going for it! Our tickets are booked and I'm working out the details and getting everything in order to head out on Thursday. I can't wait!

Thank you all for all the prayers and encouragement through all of this. We are really hoping to have a little better understanding of what is going on, but for right now I have to be content to just wait and see. (Seems to be a theme here, right?) Anyway, there really isn't anything I can do to change it. I have certainly been struggling with a lot of feelings of failure, selfishness, disappointment... the list goes on and on. But I'm trying to stay positive and remember that God is in control and He knows what our future holds. I have been sooooooooooooooo blessed by all the encouraging words, thoughtful gifts, letters... so amazed by my AWESOME friends and family. You all really do make this so much easier!

I love you all, and to my friends and family back "home," SEE YOU SOON!!!

Love,

B, E & H

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just trying to take it all in

So, here is where we stand right now. The (amazing!) foster parents are willing to keep caring for V while all of this stuff gets sorted out. We all agree that it really wouldn't benefit V to transfer him to our home right now for numerous reasons, the top reason being that he has a difficult time with change and there are many changes happening right now for him so a new home, family, school, etc. is certainly not in his best interest at this particular time. Honestly, it is so heartbreaking to see how the system works and how the rights of family members are granted priority over the rights and needs of the child or children involved. Not to mention the rights and needs of the family who has been caring for this child for nearly half his life!

V is at our house right now and has been here since yesterday afternoon. It was pretty horrible timing because he arrived not long before a lot of this stuff came to light and so it has been a pretty rough time. I'm trying my best to make everything as normal as possible for both boys, but I have asked the foster parents if we can cut this visit short (he was supposed to stay until Tuesday evening) because I just need some time to process all of this and figure out how to explain to Hunter that V won't be moving in with us like we expected. It's going to be a pretty hard blow for Hunter, especially since Daddy is gone too. If I had any idea that this would happen I would never have told Hunter that V was coming to live with us, but at the time there was no question that it was happening and it also helped Hunter feel a little better about not having his Daddy around. However, this has been a huge shock to everyone involved and so there isn't much we can do to change what has already happened.

As much as I have tried to keep things "normal" around here, it has been a rough weekend. Hearing and seeing these two boys playing together has changed from beautiful to feeling like rubbing salt in an open wound. We adore this child and want so badly for him to be with us, but right now I just need a break to process and figure out how to take this all in. I'm sure the boys can sense my frustration as well as tonight V had a rough time. As I noted before, he has difficulty with adaptibility and transition and tonight was no exception. He became upset with me because I apparently chose underwear that he didn't like, and the night ended with him spitting his medicine on me, kicking, screaming... not exactly a lot of fun. And I'm sad to say that I was far more frustrated with him than I would like to admit, but it just solidifies in my mind the fact that we all need to step back and figure this out. Although it took FOREVER for both boys to get settled into bed tonight, we made it there and I'm hoping that tomorrow will be a new day for all of us. It certainly doesn't help that it is almost 80 degrees in my house at nearly midnight.

Right now the plan is to keep having visits with V, but not put a timeline on if and when he will move in with our family. This accomplishes a few things. First, it lets us continue to get to know him and let him become more comfortable with our home and family. Second, it gives the foster parents a little break here and there. Third, it keeps us available to be an adoptive home for him if and when the need arises. The downfall is that by doing this we can't guarantee that we will have the opportunity to adopt V (or any other child for that matter) in whatever time we have left in Washington state. Obviously, our goal was not to be foster parents, but to be adoptive parents. However, we really enjoy this child and would love to be available to him if he needs a forever family. Also, I feel like the stress of all this, combined with the deployment, is enough for right now and taking another (different) child into our home right now is just not something that sounds appealing or smart. I know that it will be really difficult for Hunter to deal with the fact that V isn't going to be moving in soon, and I just don't think that it is fair to put any more loss on him right now. And quite frankly, I don't know how much more I can handle either. So, for the good of everyone involved it makes sense to wait this out, provide care for V when we can, and see what happens from there. From what I have been told we are realistically looking at about 6 months or so before we will know anything much.

I hope I explained that well, and I hope that you all don't think less of us because we aren't going to rush into finding another potential placement. I'm not yet ready to give up on this one, and I just don't feel like it's fair to anyone to start over right now.

We are just going to take this one day at a time, and I'm trying to be strong for Hunter's sake. My heart is broken, and not just for myself but also for Hunter, for this child, for V's family, for the foster parents who want what is best for V... the list goes on. I have literally felt physically ill over this since I first heard that things were happening with this case. I knew that adoption wouldn't be easy, but part of me thought that maybe the biggest hurdle right now would be doing it on my own. Guess I was sorely mistaken!

Please be praying for everyone involved in this. Pray for a quick resolution. And if it's God's will that there is a way for this sweet boy to be with his family, that would be amazing! It would be so neat to witness a miracle and see this child returned "home" if everyone is capable and willing to care for him. Really, that would be ideal. But, if that isn't going to happen I pray that it becomes apparent quickly so that he can be placed in a permanent home where he can learn to feel safe and secure and overcome some of these adaptive issues that he has.

Love you all,

B, E & H



Friday, August 3, 2012

At a loss for words

I really don't even know what to say so I'm just going to keep this post short and sweet. Over the course of the past 24 hours I found out that things aren't always what they seem. I can't give details but it looks like this process is going to be a LOT harder than we imagined. There are a few different things going on with V's family situation and right now it looks like it will be quite a while before any of these things are resolved. As a result he will not be moving in with us in 10 days like we expected.

I honestly don't even know what to make of all this or where to go from here. I have literally been on the phone ALL DAY and had my conversation with Ben cut short this morning. Before I can give you a better idea of what is going on I need to talk with my hubby and see what he thinks. I really appreciate all of your prayers right now, and any encouragement is so welcomed. However, please be patient with me if I can't return your calls, texts or emails as I have both boys this weekend and I'm just trying to keep it together.

Thanks for sticking with us through this process. I am trying to remember that God has this all under control and HE is in charge.

Love,

B, E & H

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, 
who have been called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:28

Friday, July 27, 2012

Clinging to my sanity...

Oh, friends! I feel like there is SOOOOOOOOOOOO much to share and I just don't even know where to begin!!! Since I last blogged we had our first overnight visit with "V" (I don't know what the blogging guidelines are and I certainly don't want to compromise anything so for now I will just use V to denote this sweet boy) I wanted to blog that first night, but I have to be honest with you, I just didn't have it in me. We had a good evening together but going to bed was, well, interesting! However, we survived it and I am certainly learning a lot!!!

So, we had V overnight and got to spend the entire day with him the next day. While bedtime was a bit of a disaster (one that reduced me to tears, though right now it just doesn't take much for that to happen) we had a pretty good day the next day. The boys play together so wonderfully, honestly, way better than I would ever have imagined! I know that won't last forever and as they spend more time together they will probably grow tired of one another, but for right now it's so incredible to hear two little boys playing and having fun! We did have a few meltdowns and I am quickly coming to the realization that it is going to take a LOT of patience on my part and a LOT of planning. I think that the biggest thing will be sticking to what I say no matter what. Even if it takes sitting in a friend's bathroom for 20 minutes waiting for V to try going potty before we go home (thank you, Jenny for letting us do that!!!)

He is a fantastic kiddo and we have been soooooooooooo blessed that he has been in the most amazing foster family. Seriously, these people are just incredible and have worked so hard and made so much progress it is awesome. We just couldn't be happier that he has spent the last year and a half with them and that they have loved him as one of their own! We also have an awesome CASA who came this morning and spent a few hours here (did I mention that she is AWESOME???) reading books with Hunter, playing legos, chatting with me... incredible! As for some other key players (who will remain anonymous) we will just say that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. 'Nough said.

V is with us today and will be here until Monday morning. So far, so good! We have played trains, had snacks and started some banana bread (the boys took turns adding ingredients and stirring, melts my heart!!!) V was pretty sad when he arrived here after his visit with his bio mom, but he perked up after a bit and seems to be totally fine now.

As for what will happen next, we honestly don't know. One week from today I was invited to a meeting with all the social workers, attorneys, bio parents, etc. I'm dreading meeting his mother, just because it is so strange! But who knows if she will even show up. I really don't know what to expect from this meeting but it will be good to see how it goes. From there on out we are either waiting for mom to relinquish her rights or for the court to terminate parental rights. I'm praying for mom to relinquish because it would mean that we could have some contact with her and I really feel like that could be good for V, especailly in the future. However, it's so hard to know what is best and we will just have to wait and see. There is always the chance that a judge could also decide to give mom more time or even increase her visitation, etc. Which of course is really scary, but there really isn't anything we can do about it other than pour into this child and hope that everything will work out for the best for him. I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is not about us. Which is sometimes so hard to remember!

As for me, I'm doing the best I can right now. I will admit that I have had a few moments where I have questioned if I can do this. It certainly isn't how I imagined it. Not that I didn't expect it to be difficult. But when I pictured meeting our future child I imagined that my sweet hubby would be there too. It kills me that he isn't home for all of this. I mean, I could really use the extra help, but more than that it breaks my heart to know that he won't know his own son! I have to keep trusting that God had all of this planned out long before we even knew that we would be doing this and He has it all in His hands. Thankfully I have the MOST AMAZING friends and family who have been so incredibly supportive and helpful so far. I'm hoping that they won't bail on me! I really couldn't do this without all of you checking in on me, offering to take the boys, taking Hunter and I out to dinner, offering to make us dinner, offering to fly out and help, letting me have a total meltdown... the list goes on and on!!! I thank God each and every day for all of you. You really help me feel like I'm not so alone in all of this craziness!!! I still miss my hubby like crazy, and nothing would make me happier than to have him home, but for now I have to be content knowing that all of this will just help me to grow and become a stronger person.

I'm sure there is so much more that I should be sharing with all of you, but the boys are playing nicely and I need to go check on that banana bread and keep working on my 15 page research paper. I can't wait to be done with class so I can focus on these boys!

Love you all, please keep praying!!!

B, E & H (& V!!!)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A not so beautiful mess

Adoption is weird. I mean, I absolutely love the idea of it, but it's so weird. When you're pregnant, at least after a certain point, it becomes obvious to everyone that you are preparing to welcome a new child into your life and home. Not so much with adoption. I feel like I'm a walking disaster and there is no obvious explanation for my state of chaos! From the time we found out about this boy to the time that he will move in with us it will only be ONE MONTH. Not nine! I feel like I have pregnancy brain in hyperdrive! And it's causing me to be a mess. I'm clinging to the idea of turning this mess into a beautiful mess, but boy, it sure is hard!

For one, I fluctuate between being so excited and daydreaming of the day that we can walk into the courthouse and sign the adoption paperwork and make this sweet boy ours! And the next moment I am in a sheer panic about the fact that I need to fix a million things, I have no idea how to do any of the paperwork (I'm assuming there is paperwork I need to do...), worrying about whether this child will ever really become ours, trying to build bunk beds, move armoires, move bookshelves, rearrange Hunter's closet... you get the picture. I think the worst part is doing all of it alone. I miss my husband. I need his strength, emotionally and physically! I need to fix a couple things on the bunk beds. Wouldn't be a huge issue if Ben were here, but by myself it's a monumental task. I had to move a huge armoire (complete with a super heavy TV which I dropped on my foot!) which would have been a breeze if Ben were around. All this while processing the craziness of being a single parent to two four year old boys!

Please don't get me wrong. I am soooooooooooo excited that we have FINALLY made it to this point! I absolutely adore this child and I can't believe that he is going to be moving in with us soon. I feel so blessed and happy as well as scared. This is exactly what we have been praying for and I wouldn't change it for the world. I know that in the end this will only help to strengthen me and I am so grateful for that lesson.

I have been barreling through my class work so that I can be prepared for anything that life might throw at me once we begin this transition. So far I have been doing okay, but to be honest, my goal right now is simply to pass the class and be done! Which is sad since I love doing it, but it is definitely not my top priority right now.

Tomorrow Hunter and I are going to get lots of stuff ready and start preparing for our first overnight visit. Tuesday is our first overnight, and from then on we will have him for increasing amounts of time until he "officially" moves in on August 13! I think that I'm still in shock. How incredibly crazy is all of this???  Ben has only been gone for two weeks and I am bringing a new child into our family. I know that this is going to take strength that is so far beyond my meager human capabilities and I am so grateful for a God who loves me enough to bear my burden. I really don't know any other way that we can make it through this crazy life!

I know that I had so many more thoughts bouncing around my mind, but right now I have no idea what they were. Please keep praying for us as we make this transition. Hunter is still having a hard time and is missing his Daddy terribly. The deployment is starting to hit me too, and I don't have time to really process all of those emotions right now. I'm resting in God's all encompassing grace and peace and I know that will be my sustenance right now.

Love to you all!

B, E & H

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Overflowing

I don't know how else to describe it, but my heart is overflowing. Today Hunter and I had the chance to spend the entire day with this sweet boy (he was able to come to visit at our house ALL DAY!) and I just couldn't be happier. He is sweet, and adorable, and he and Hunter played together perfectly! I am not naive enough to think that will always be the case, but it sure is nice to see them playing and giggling together.

Yesterday I went and got bunk beds for the boys since I knew that we will have the chance to start doing overnight visits soon and I wanted to be ready. I had been looking around a bit and Ben actually found a set on Craigslist that he sent me the link to. I emailed and the seller called me within a few hours. He was able to meet me right away! Which is quite a miracle in itself. I guess I really shouldn't be surprised anymore when this happens, but when I met him to see the bed he had his two sons with him, one biological son and one adopted son! Oh, how AWESOME is that!!! Just another affirmation that we really are traveling the right path. Turns out he and his wife adopted their son from Ethiopia a few years ago. What a crazy, amazing twist in our story. Needless to say, we got the bunk beds and they are perfect! They even match the other furniture in Hunter's room. And I got them built today with the help of two sweet, four-year-old boys!

So, what can I tell you about today... the boys played and played for the first hour or two. Then we had lunch (which they insisted on eating outside, in the empty swimming pool) and went to the park for a while. Then they played some more, helped me with the beds, colored and went outside while I made dinner. We had leftover pizza and I made some broccoli as well. Wouldn't you know it, two little boys with plates of pizza and broccoli and they BOTH ate the broccoli and asked for seconds before either of them touched the pizza!!! What a pair!

Of course I took pictures, but I assume that I can't post any for you to see. So sorry! I will tell you that as far as appearance goes he is quite the opposite of Hunter. They are both pale, but while Hunter is stocky and tall, he is slight and short. Hunter is blond and blue-eyed, he is brown-haired and brown-eyed (BIG brown eyes... I have ALWAYS wanted a brown-eyed child!!!)  Personality wise they are pretty similar though, which is super nice and helped them to play together well. I really couldn't have asked for a better child!

So now we just have to begin the transition from his foster home to our home. I think that he will do pretty well with the transition, but he is quite attached to his foster parents because he has been with them for a while now and so when we move all his stuff here I do anticipate him having a rough time for a while. We will do our best though to try to make it as easy as possible on him and I am so glad that we have such a wonderful foster family to work with. They will certainly make this whole process a LOT easier for me!

I would love to write more and more, but I have to go and take an exam. Trying to finish this class in record time so that I can focus on our sweet - growing! - family.

Love you all! And as always, thank you for all the prayers and support!!!

B, E & H

P.S. I guess I should mention that Ben is doing well, has a room and internet and a job!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Eek!

Wow... where to start?!?

Tonight we got to meet the most adorable, sweet little boy (not that I am biased in any way...) and I am sooooooooo excited to start the process of making him OURS! I honestly feel so strange saying that since I feel like we have been on this journey for so long now with no progress. It's been 18 months since we contacted the first agency.

Want to know something strange? My whole life the number 18 has been my favorite number. I have no good reason for it, I just love the number 18! Anyway, somehow the number 18 always pops up in the strangest places for me. Like the fact that Ben and I got married on the 18th, even though it wasn't our original wedding date and it certainly wasn't our first choice. I mean, who gets married one week before Christmas?!?! And Hunter was born on the 18th. Didn't plan that one! So, 18 months after starting the process to adopt I get to meet our (hopeful!) future son on... THE 18TH!!! Coincidence??? I don't believe in coincidence. Although I really didn't plan for it that way, it just happened that Wednesday evening was the best time to meet. But how fun is that?!?

Anyway, it looks like everything is set to move forward, now I just have to wait on the social worker to come and do a home visit so that we can have the opportunity to start having this sweet child come and spend some time at our house and begin the transition. Obviously, it would be great to have the transition made before school starts. I am hoping that everyone else involved will also agree. I can hardly believe that this family will become a family of four! I honestly don't know how long it will take before we will be able to adopt him (all of that is assuming that his parents rights are eventually terminated) but I have faith that it will happen. It seems that the state does as well since they want to transfer him to our family as a foster-adopt family. Yay!

Okay, there is so much for me to take in and think about, and I want to get to talk to Ben about everything too so I am off to send him an email and start the search for bunk beds! Oh, and I guess I should do homework too. That's just not nearly as fun.

Love you all!

B, E & H

Friday, July 13, 2012

Really?!?!

Last night I emailed the foster parents of this sweet little boy that we are VERY interested in meeting. To my surprise I got an email back from the foster mom right away! She sent me some more pictures and lots more information about his behavior and personality. I'm really trying not to get to excited to quickly, but he sounds like he really could be an amazing fit for our family (and he is cute as a button as well!) I really wish I could share pictures with you, but I can't :( So you'll just have to believe me that he's a doll and we can't wait to meet him.

The best part is that the foster parents invited Hunter and I over this Wednesday for a BBQ and the chance to meet him for a little while! Isn't that awesome?!?! No worries, I checked with our social worker and she said that while it was usual for this to happen it was perfectly acceptable and that we could attend. I am blown away by their willingness to open their home to us just to help us meet him in a setting that he is comfortable in. I feel so blessed! We would have been able to meet him even sooner but the family is away for the weekend and there were other things going on until Wednesday. But it's not too far away!

You will never believe it, but I got phone call from ANOTHER social worker this afternoon. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello?
Social Worker: Hello, I'm so-and-so with such-and-such and your agency told me that you would be interested in a 9 year old girl?
Me: Well, we are seriously concidering a 4 year old boy right now, I'm so sorry.
SW: You are licensed for two children though.
Me: Um, yes... but my husband just left for Afghanistan less than a week ago and my son is having a hard time with that so I'm not sure that it would be great timing for me to take in two children with different backgrounds.
SW: (silence) I see. I have a 3 year old boy who needs respite care for two weeks.
Me: Okay... when is that?
SW: Starting tomorrow.
Me: Yeah, I don't think that is going to work. Sorry.

Oh. My. Goodness. I felt so bad telling him that I couldn't take either of these kids, but I honestly feel like it would have been far too much for Hunter (and myself for that matter!) to deal with right now. We are doing good, but it has been an adjustment and I just don't think it would be fair to any of us to try to handle much more than we are already doing. I'm scrambling to finish up my 8 week course in record time in case we start transitioning this boy into our family. I don't want to have to be worrying about coursework as well. And taking in more children at the same time? I sure wish I could but I just don't know where my super hero cape is!

It's so crazy to me that everything would start happening right as Ben leaves, but I guess that's just how it goes! Speaking of Ben, he is still trying to figure out what his job will be over there and get a room to stay in other than the temporary lodging. We have been able to talk on the phone the last two days but we are limited to 10 minute conversations so it's really difficult to talk through some of this craziness that is going on! However, he is very excited to see what happens and at least he has been able to read the emails from social workers and from the foster mother.

Please pray for the children that I had to turn down today. There are so many kids that need families and it is heartbreaking to have to say no to any child.

I will keep you all updated as we find out more, but now it is time to go and do some homework!

Love you all!

B, E & H

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Quick Update

So, this morning at 9:30 am (just a half an hour before I expected the social worker to arrive) he called to say that he had to cancel because the other worker that needs to come with him couldn't make it. So now I have a clean house and no one to show it to! :)

On a positive note Ben called this morning after reading my frantic email and agreed that it sounds like this little boy could be a good fit for our family. Yay! I assumed he would say that, but it's a strange thing to tell someone that you would be happy to (potentially) bring a child into your family without talking with your husband first. Just one of those things...

Now I'm just waiting to see when they will reschedule with me. I'm really hoping for sooner rather than later because I'm anxious to meet this boy and see what he is like! The fun part is that I now have an email address for his foster mother so I will be contacting her to find out some more about what he likes/dislikes, personality, etc. I am so anxious to get to know him!

That's the update for now. Ben is probably in Afghanistan by now and I'm hoping that he can get his internet hooked up soon. We really don't know what to expect since he doesn't really know exactly what his job will be, so please keep praying for him as he transitions. Also, please be praying for Hunter. He is really missing his daddy. Today we were at the splash park and he was so sad because his daddy is gone, he cried the whole way home. He's being so brave and doing a great job, but it is really affecting him. Before his t-ball game tonight he said, "I'm going to throw the ball all the way to Afghanistan so Daddy can catch it!" :) He melts my heart!

Love you all!

E & H (and Ben!)

I forgot to mention that today my dashboard light came on indicating that my tire pressure was low. I'm very proud to say that I fixed it all my myself! Woohoo!!! :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beautiful Mess

I love things that don't normally fit together, for example studying science and religion. So needless to say I love the concept of a beautiful mess. And more and more I am striving to embody this idea. Right now I know that I have the mess part down pretty well, I'm really hoping that the beautiful part will naturally follow!

Those of you who know me pretty well can probably attest to the fact that I am a typical "type A" personality (perfectionist, over-achiever, always in a rush... you get the point!) More and more I feel God REALLY challenging me to just let go and watch what he can do when I stop meddling and trying to make everything perfect on my own. Today is a pretty amazing example of that!

If you have kept up with us over the past week you know that Ben is on his way to Afghanistan. I honestly don't know exactly where he is right now (for security reasons he can't tell me, and if I knew I certainly couldn't tell you either) but I did receive a phone call from him at about 5:30 am today. He told me that he isn't yet in Afghanistan, but instead he is stuck somewhere in between and will likely be there for a few days. Poor guy! Because of this I have no idea if I will hear from him or if he will be able to gain internet access, etc. I'm sure that he is in desperate need of a shower! I digress...

This afternoon (while trying to entertain Hunter and simultaneously work on some class work) the house phone rings. I have to admit, I was a little grumpy with the guy on the other end because I had just sat down to do some reading and I certainly didn't need another interruption. I really should know better though, and of course it was a social worker from DSHS (department of social and human services) calling to see if we would be interested in possibly taking in a little boy who is 4 years old. Oh my!

In the course of our conversation he asked about Ben and I had to admit that I actually have no idea where my husband is or how to get in touch with him. I'm sure that is just what a social worker wants to hear from a prospective adoptive parent!!! However, he was gracious and we hung up with the promise that he would call one of the boy's other workers to find out about a potential home visit. He also sent me a very brief bit of information about this sweet boy, although I'm dying to find out more!

After what seemed like an eternity (and leaving him a voicemail to remind him that I was oh so patiently waiting) I got a call back. He wanted to know if he can come visit tomorrow morning and see the house so maybe this child can come visit with us this weekend or next. Here is where the mess part comes in. Since Ben has left I haven't really been focusing on my household duties. I have been working hard to keep Hunter happy and take care of my class work so the house hasn't really been my top priority. Needless to say it is not exactly in the condition that I would like it to be in for a visit with a social worker!!! So naturally I panicked :) Isn't that what any logical person would do??? I have to say, it is amazing what can be accomplished in a short amount of time when one is determined! Phew! House is clean and the social worker will be by sometime between 10 and 11 tomorrow.

I can't really give any details about this boy, which is also partially because I don't have many details. One big catch is that he is not yet legally free, meaning that he is still technically a dependant of the state and so there are a few complications with that. There is also a little more risk involved because there is always a chance that a judge could decide not to terminate the rights of the parents. However, it sounds like things are heading in a direction where it is anticipated that he will soon be legally free, which is why they are looking for a foster-adopt home for him. It also sounds like he is delayed in some areas (which is completely normal for children who are in the system) so that will be an additional challenge, but one which we were fully anticipating. As of right now we are the only family that they are considering for this boy (they had narrowed it down from 8 to just us!) so that adds a little pressure, but I am planning to take this one step at a time and just see what God has in store for us. I am praying that we can turn this situation into a beautiful mess!

So, that's our crazy life in a nutshell. There really never is a dull moment around here and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am being stretched in ways that I would have never dreamed were possible and I cannot wait to see the outcome of all of this. Please pray for Ben, for encouragement and for safety. And that he gets my frantic email about this boy, ha! It makes me smile to even think that he could come home to a family of four :) How amazingly blessed are we?!?!

I would love to keep writing, but I'm sure you are sick of reading and I need to keep plugging away at this class in case I have another sweet child to tend to soon. See what I mean about that mess? Only God can take a situation like this and turn it into something beautiful.

Love to you all!

E & H (and Ben too, wherever he is!)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Just the two of us

And it begins... Ben is on his way to Afghanistan and so it's just Hunter and I for the next few months. It is so weird this time around because it's for a MUCH shorter time than we have ever had to prepare for, so it's almost hard to really think of it as a deployment. Not that three or four months isn't important, but it really is much better than a year or more! We did everything that we could to help prepare Hunter for this time, but I'm not sure that there really is any good way to prepare a child for their parent being gone for so long. His favorite thing that we did was go to Build-A-Bear so that he could make an animal to sleep with while daddy is away. He was allowed to pick any animal and any clothing he wanted, so naturally he choose a bunny rabbit that is dressed in a combat uniform (complete with a Kevlar helmet, dog tags and black boots!) The BEST part is that we were able to put a little sound box in the paw that has a recording of Ben telling Hunter that he loves him. I'm pretty sure that the button will be worn out by next week!

Hunter has been taking it pretty hard so far, but we were able to talk to Ben both yesterday and today and that seemed to help. The first night we were alone Hunter got up FIVE times crying that he missed his daddy :( I did everything I could think of! We prayed, we wrote letters to daddy (twice!), we hung a picture of daddy in his room... Tonight he seems to be doing much better which is a huge relief since I need the time at night to work on my class.

I feel like I'm doing pretty well so far, but maybe I'm a little more sensitive than usual because while reading responses to my class discussion board one of the responses almost made me cry! Oh, the joys of deployment!!! To top it off, I went downstairs to make sure that the house was locked up for the night and discovered that our pet goldfish, Nemo, appears to be dead. Just what I needed... an already sad little boy with a dead fish. I suspect that we will be taking a trip to the pet store tomorrow morning!

If you think of it, please pray for safe travels for Ben. So far he hasn't had a great experience (I can give more details once he is safe and sound in Afghanistan) I'm hoping for his sake that he can get there quickly and get settled into a routine.

No news on the adoption front. I'm trying not to get frustrated with the system, but it really is difficult sometimes!

Thanks so much for all the AMAZING responses to all of the craziness we have put everyone through so far. We appreciate every little encouragement more than you will ever know! It blesses us so much to know that we have so much support in this process.

Love you all!!!

E & H (and Ben too)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Breaking News...

First, please excuse any typos or grammar as I am typing this from the banks of the Nisqually river while watching my favorite salmon fisherman and his little helper :)

After what seemed like the longest wait EVER we finally got a call from the social worker. She was so sweet, but she informed us that they made a very tough decision and chose the other family to be the adoptive family for this wonderful little boy. She certainly let us down easy and told me that he had an awesome time with both families and that it was a very tough decision for everyone involved. Apparently they even concidered having him spend a week with each family to aid in the decision process but decided that would be too difficult for everyone (I have to say that I am glad for their decision in that regard, we never would have wanted to lose him after a whole week together!)

In the end it is out of our hands and I'm grateful to have even been considered as a potential family for this boy. We will keep praying for him and for his new family (apparently they are military as well! How fun!) We know that God has a plan for our family and we will just have to continue to be patient as we keep waiting for that plan to be revealed!

Love to you all,

B, E & H

Murphy's Law

Dear friends, sometimes it seems like we just can't catch a break, doesn't it? It's been like that around here lately. Nothing horrible, just little things that just seem to keep going wrong (and I know from experience that it will probably only get worse after Ben leaves, somehow Murphy always gets us when there's no one around to help!) Ha!

Anyway, I just wanted to give you all a super quick update and hopefully I can update you again sometime later today as well. Ben will be heading out very soon, and the poor guy is battling an awful virus. We are still trying to enjoy the time before he goes though and he's doing a great job of suffering silently so that we can have some fun as a family. We had a wonderful cookout on the 4th with our incredible neighbors (who knew that ladderball could be so fun!?!?!) and Hunter thought that the fireworks were just magical. It melted my heart to see the excitement on his face! However, yesterday he showed me his "yucky boo boo" on his leg. Looks like he has some kind of infection (probably a staph infection like he had a year or two ago) from a mosquito bite. So we are off to the doctor in a couple hours!

To top it all off, yesterday I missed a phone call from the social worker. ALL DAY I checked my phone about every 15 minutes while we were out enjoying the sunshine at an amazing wildlife park. Naturally, I left my phone in my purse while we were at t-ball practice last night and missed the call that came in around 6:00 pm. She left a message (yay!) but didn't give us any information (boo!) so  I have been analyzing and trying to read into every nuance and inflection of her message. I mean, that's what everyone would do, right? Despite my best efforts to discern some sort of hidden message within the voicemail we are waiting for a call back to let us know if we will become the parents of a bouncing, nearly 10 year old boy!!! Life is crazy, isn't it?

So, that's the quick update for now. Please keep us in your prayers as we wait for this call, hope for Hunter's infection to be something simple, get Ben healed before he gets on a plane to Afghanistan and try to make the most of the couple days we have left of this summer as a family of three!!!

Love you all,

B, E & H

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Overcome

Dear friends, I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you as we get deeper and deeper into this adoption process. The best way that I can explain how I'm feeling right now is overcome. I am overcome in good ways, bad ways... and ways that I don't even yet know how to process! I'll try to explain a bit, but please bear with me because I just have no idea how to really put into words what I am experiencing.

First, I'm overcome with an amazing feeling of gratitude for the MANY friends and family who care so much about our family and who have continually supported us on this journey. It is so incredible to have people reaching out, asking how things are going, making us feel so loved! We are truly blessed to have the most incredible support group and I pray that you will all stick around as things threaten to get even crazier!!!

I am overcome with so many mixed emotions about this potential adoption of this sweet, 9 year old boy. First, it breaks my heart to have experienced life with him this weekend and come to the realization that he has maybe never really felt loved. We were probably the first people to ever read him stories before bedtime... and he is so deserving of love and respect! I honestly can't even wrap my head around what it must be like to not truly feel loved and feel like you belong somewhere. Oh, what a broken world we live in!!! I'm also so excited about the prospect of him joining our family. It feels like we have been waiting so long that it really has just become this proverbial carrot dangling there, but I was honestly beginning to wonder if we would ever catch it! And now it is so close! Of course, I'm cautiously guarding myself as well since there is another family involved, and no matter how it plays out, one of us will be disappointed in the end.

I am overcome with a certain type of sadness or grief as well; grief over the loss of our family of three, but yet it is also overshadowed with joy over becoming a family of four! It's such a strange emotion and I don't know if people experience it when they are expecting their second child? Maybe it's completely normal, I have no idea! I absolutely adore our little family, and while I know that we have been called to be adoptive parents, it's also a little sad to know that things will change.

And while I hate to admit it, I'm also overcome by fear. I am scared of parenting alone, especially parenting a child that I hardly know! While it isn't my first time to be a single parent, it's so different to know that I could be responsible for a child who I don't even know what foods he does and doesn't like. It scares me to think that I will not have Ben around if I need a break, especially during the summer months when there is no school. I'm scared for Hunter who is already upset about his daddy leaving. He cries everytime Ben leaves the house, whether he is in uniform or not. And every tear breaks my heart in two! How am I supposed to deal with that while also caring for a child who has been abandoned by everyone he has ever loved. I'm afraid that many of our friends will not want to spend time with us when we have a child who has come from a difficult past and needs a little extra care and attention. Not only that, but as silly as it sounds, I am overcome with fear of how to get class work done while caring for two children on my own!

Finally, I am overcome with the realization that all of this is so much bigger than us. This is completely out of our hands and it would be the greatest blessing of our lives to have the privledge of raising a child that we didn't give birth to. Even in just the short time that we had with this boy we were able to see glimpes of how amazing our God is, and just how much he must love us since we are his adopted children. I am overcome with gratitude for a Father who loves us and cares about each and every one of us enough to help us through these tough things. How could we possibly deny this child a place in our family??? Every difficult moment will just serve as a reminder that our God loves us no matter how difficult we are and he gives us GRACE no matter what.

I'm overcome by so many thoughts, feelings, emotions... Some moments I feel like I have it together and I can conquer the world! Other moments I just want to run away and hide from life. I wanted this blog to be an accurate portrayal of what our family is experiencing through this adoption process. I hope that this gives you a little more of a glimpse into what we are feeling right now.

Please keep praying, asking, encouraging... we need it! We would really love nothing more than for this child to become ours, but we know that it can only happen by God's grace. And that grace will sustain us through any and all difficult times that are to come.

Love you all!

B, E & H