Thursday, November 9, 2017

World Adoption Day

Happy World Adoption Day from a family fresh in the game. 

We are fresh in the insecurities and unknowns.  Fresh in the waiting.  Fresh in the excitement. Fresh in the learning.

Only a few months deep and we are already learning how to wait and trust.  We are learning to trust the process and the people.  Learning to trust that God has known our family make up long before we even arrived at this decision.

Days like today are such tangible reminders that we are not the firsts to walk this road, nor will we be the last.  There are many others that chose this hard road and that have sat in the low valleys and high mountaintops that comprise the complexity of adoption.

This process takes grit. We have been blessed with opportunities in our life to strengthen our grit.  Those blessings were painful and hard.  Losing my mom and walking this year with Jon's job loss and process has broken us down to the studs and foundation. Complete rehab.  Big questions and not a lot of answers.  I am so thankful for a firm and strong foundation that did not break or even tremble in those seasons.  I am thankful for our joint foundation that was big enough to hold a lot of tears and heartbreak, while still clinging to hope and goodness.

So we are counting on that foundation and rehab to be able to weather the ups and downs of this storm with grace and sarcasm.  Because that's how we do.  Gotta cope somehow.

Despite being told we would have an interview by now for the child we pursued... we have not.  And even though we hauled you know what to submit all of our home study paperwork to help it go as quickly as possible, our social worker did not have availability that matched with ours until November 17, over three weeks after we submitted everything and paid for our home study.  The pieces we thought we could control and expedite feel so, so slow. 

But it doesn't matter.  We are here.  Sitting in the mess and the process.  We will do our part and cling to hope that if this wee one is ours, that they will be in our arms at the exact moment they are meant to be. And if we are not the family for them, it is because our son or daughter is still in the world.

It is well.

With our home study nearly complete, we are asking if you would be wiling or able to partner with us in prayer and tangible ways.  We are working on firming up a venue for a raffle fundraiser in February.  Do you or someone you know have items we could raffle? Do you own your own small business and could you put together a basket? Willing to share your vacation home or season tickets with us?  Do you know businesses willing to donate that you would be willing to share with me?  Want to host something in your home for us? We are having a garage sale in the first or second week of June.  Do you have anything you would be willing to part with for us to sell?  Would you be willing to contribute to our tax deductible fundraiser through adopt together? These are humongous, uncomfortable asks for this humongous, uncomfortable process we are undertaking.

I am thankful to have a community to pose these questions to. I am thankful that life is not meant to be lived alone, and journeys are meant to be walked arm in arm. 

So today we celebrate a day and join hands and smiles with many families further ahead.  May we link arms with them and may they pull us forward with encouragement and hope, and remind us of the treasure at the end of the journey. For those who this journey is not meant for; can you continue to shove us along and cheer us on from the sidelines as we get tired and our sarcasm outweighs our grace?  Remind us we are not alone, and together we can do big, good things.

In our family we believe love will win, all lives have value, and children belong in families.  We have been given an abundance, and abundance is meant to be shared.

Happy World Adoption Day!

Adopt Together

PS we do still have Asher but he is sick and refused to participate in our photo-op :)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stepping on the Roller Coaster

It has begun.

The ups and downs of an adoption journey that we knew we would have, but were of course subconsciously hoping we would avoid.  (Yes we know this is silly.)

In a whirlwind of crazy timing we are pursuing a child that was about to be posted to the "waiting children's website."  Normally after your home study is completed it takes 4-6 months to be matched.  We are in the interview process of our home study, so this was a wee bit sooner than we would have thought we would be in this type of predicament.

After reviewing this babe's chart, which comes with a complicated history, we consulted both with my pediatrician friends, as well as the adoption clinic from University of Chicago.  We were given a lot of "we just don't know" answers.  (Side note, the only time I have ever been to the University of Chicago Hospital was for my mom...and it is the only clinic within the city recommended by our agency.  I never wanted to go there ever again. Ever. But God is again bringing healing to the fractured areas of my heart.  The place where my mom was baptized will be where we bring our child to be cared for first. It is well.)

After I had initially read the chart, as incredibly cliche as it sounds, I felt like we had found the dear one we were meant to bring into our family. We had inquired about two kiddos about to be posted to the waiting list, and I didn't even want to read the other chart.  There was no need to.

Here in lies the difference between how Jon and I process and hear whispers from God.  I hear them, Jon then gets onboard after a lot of research and confirmation. After two weeks of mulling and praying and "can we do this?" questions, we were a go.  We emailed our excited responses back to the agency and were told that another family was also pursuing the same child.

Say what now?!?!?

So we again ask for your prayers and for you to rally around us.  We have a 50/50 shot.  I want to ask you to pray that God aligns the necessary steps for us to be this child's forever family.  But truly you should pray God places this child where they are meant to be.  In the family that can help them reach their full potential.  We just submitted our responses to the most intense questionnaire ever, where you doubt yourself the whole way through, hoping you come across in the way that you intend.

We now wait "a couple of weeks" while social workers read our answers and interview us and ultimately decide who would be best for this kiddo.

It's us.  Just sayin.

But if not, then may our child, who is likely either born or will be born in the next couple months, be surrounded by love from a foster family.  May their birth parents experience peace in their grief that surpasses human understanding.  And may we wait with patience and perseverance pursing what God has laid on our hearts.

May this child be guided exactly where they need to be.

Many people have asked about the crowd funding site... The link is on my side bar where it says "donate."

If you have time, talents, or gifts that you would be willing to donate for an auction/raffle, could you reach out to me as we start to brainstorm our main fundraiser?

And thank you. For all the encouragement thus far.  We are so, so grateful.

Monday, October 16, 2017

2017 Family Update

Honestly, I was doubtful that God could redeem 2017 in my eyes for myself and our family. Outside of losing my mom, this has been our most challenging season in our marriage and in my faith. This year has been painful and lonely. I have been running towards 2018 since early this year just trying to emotionally survive; just wanting to close the book on 2017 and feel like it was permanently in the past. I was, and am, trusting that time and grace can truly heal all wounds.

As many people know, we left the only church I’ve known in March of this year.  While it was mutual in the end, and many factors played into this decision, the process and loss of our community has been incredibly hard.

We will forever be grateful to the people from our community that reached out and loved us in amazing ways in those few months.  Your words, love, prayers, and incredibly generous gifts were blessings that we never could have imagined.

Earlier this year, in the same phone call that Jon told me he would be leaving the church, I told him we were expecting and the baby was due on his birthday. Amongst the fear of instability in finances, our community, and my faith in general, that pregnancy represented hope. And I was holding onto that thread of hope with every fiber in my being. 

And then I miscarried. 

As an OB nurse I know the commonality of miscarriage. I was not devastated by the loss of a pregnancy per se, but what it represented. What I had made it to be.  Mix that with a little bit of guilt from the relief of not bringing a new child into our lives at such a chaotic and unstable time,  and I had a nice cocktail of confusion and hurt to pour out on a nightly basis.

If Jon had remained on staff at the church, we would have again tried to get pregnant.  With so many unknowns before us, that seemed like an irresponsible choice. We chose to postpone having any more children, and my heartache continued to grow for a multitude of reasons. 

Years ago I was reading a book and it told the story of someone going to pick up their adopted children somewhere in Africa.  I read this while I was nursing sweet Asher.  In that moment, I clearly knew that we were meant to adopt one day.  I shared this with the mom’s group I was reading the book with, and I informed Jon.  8 years deep into marriage and he is no longer shocked by the things I tell him. “Hey babe, we need to adopt one day.”  (Said while chasing our toddler and nursing a newborn).  “Sure Jaci, we will talk about it later.” (Him hoping I’m kidding, but knowing that I’m not). How, when, or where did not matter since I knew it would not be immediate in that crazy season of babies…but I knew there were children in the world that needed a home, and that our family was not yet complete.  So I tucked that deep in my soul, knowing one day we would revisit it, likely for baby number 4.

After celebrating Asher’s 3rd birthday, Jon came to me one night after realizing that if we continued to wait to get pregnant, Asher would be leaving high school while our third child would be starting…and he was concerned for future Jon and the implications of that.  While we do not have complete control over the spacing of our children, we both always thought we would have them all close in age.  I’m grateful that God can use Jon’s concern for future Jon’s soul to soften his heart toward what I already knew to be true.  It was that night that Jon said that we should start inquiring about adoption with intention.  We had attended meetings in the past and for multiple reasons had taken it off the table the year before, but this time, his heart was as ready as mine.

Many conversations with different agencies led us to where we are now; pursuing the adoption of a child from South Korea. 

Herein lies the redemption of 2017 and an example of God’s goodness.  In this decision for our family, a small piece of my fractured heart has started to heal.  We have gotten many levels of confirmation that this is the path we are meant to be on, despite the many challenges it presents. And I’m so grateful that my broken heart and messy life can still be an instrument of goodness in the world.  We know the road ahead is long and difficult, but in this area of our lives, we have so much peace.  We never saw this coming.  While I knew adoption was going to be a piece of our story, I never imagined it being international or following the months that started 2017.  

With our home study nearly complete, we are finally ready to share this news and are hoping that community will come alongside us.  We do not want to walk this journey alone.  We know there will be ups and downs along the way, and it is easier to walk the hills and climb the mountains with your people.  It also significantly more fun to roll down the hills and celebrate the victories with people in your corner.

This will be a long process and we would love to invite you along.   While we have taken some time to really turn in, grieve, and process as a family, we are excited to again reach out and open up, to be able to share in this journey, and to continue to let God use us to make earth more like heaven.

I am only able to write when I have something to process, and I can guarantee that there will be much to process over the next year or more as we wade deep into these waters.  

It is projected to cost us around $36,000 to bring our son or daughter home from Korea. I'm not sure many of us have that readily available. While asking for money feels awkward and hard, not starting this process feels harder. We intend to apply for every grant and scholarship available to us, but we also humbly ask if you would be willing to support us in this venture. We are establishing a crowd funding site with our story, and intend to hold a large garage sale in the summer.  We are trying to plan a raffle night as well when we can have a "gender reveal" open house party after we are officially matched with a child.  If you have any sports tickets, would donate your time doing something you love, or items we could raffle off, that would be amazing. We are prepared for the long haul with another child in our family, likely a child with some medical or developmental needs, but would be forever grateful if our community is willing to help us bridge the gap to be able to bring them home.

I am still astounded that we are here, but we are so excited.  While we are still trying to find our footing in other areas of our life, we are completely confident in taking these steps.  Our family is not yet complete, and we know that adoption is how we are to complete it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


My oldest is a super social kid.  He typically has multiple playmates following him around, playing whatever ridiculous game he concocts, at every playground he goes to.  He’s only three, so everything might change, but at this point he seems like the leader type.  It is essential that I get this kid on the straight and narrow so he doesn’t lead other kids into crazy town. 
I thought preschool was going to be a breeze.  I thought he would cry when I picked him up and beg to go more.  This kid has pleaded to go to school for the last year.  He has been dropped off in multiple settings, without a problem, for a long time.  I’m the mom who throws my sweet lovely newborn in the wonderful nursery at church at week three.  You want to snuggle a baby?  Deal.  I want an hour without someone touching me.  Call if he needs to eat. 
Because I must have been due for my weekly dose of humility, Grayson threw me a total curve ball and preschool drop off has been awful.  Do I know this is normal?  Yes.  Do I care? No.  It sucks.  Having someone peel your kid off your leg while they scream for you and look like they are getting kidnapped by the boogie man, is just freaking awful.  When I go check on him 10 minutes later he is playing with the other kids, but he seems so timid and reserved for him.  This may not actually be reality.  It could just be the one way glass and my heart broken lenses I’m looking through.
Logically I know he is fine and this is a transition.  My PMS queen is reigning high this week and that B won’t move out of the thrown of my emotions.   I cried the entire car ride home last Tuesday.
Sunday rolled around and we had a rough morning.  Lots of time outs and lots of snuggles.  He kept crying that he didn’t want to go to church.  I honestly didn’t have one more emotional hand off in me.  So he came into big church with me…which was fine during the music but rough immediately following as sitting still or being quiet aren't really his strong suits.  So I grabbed Asher and we all left early.  I was pretty much ready for the day to be over at 10 am.

Being inside with my children on a hard parenting day is the pits.  So we went to a new park.  I tried to forget the small fact that we live in Chicago and soon this park thing will be a season of the past.  While I was not in a headspace to meet God at church, I was able to meet Him here. 

It was September 11 and the Salvation Army was putting on a multilingual church service in the Ampi Theater next to the park.  You could hear all the music while I chased around my two buggers who just needed a morning with their mom. The weather was perfect, and all the kids G played with got along so well.  It was 2 hours of redemption that I so desperately needed.

 I’ve been so hungry for a morning with my mom.  For someone to process all this preschool crap with.  Grief sneaks in when you least expect it three years out.  After I sobbed about the drop off last Tuesday I just continued my sob fest about the fact that my mom isn't here.   

I’m hoping this weekend can again be redemptive and fill my capacity for preschool drop off back up.  Monday Grayson bit someone (which is the first time he has since he was 1, so that’s awesome). Tuesday we did the peel off.  Wednesday he stayed begrudgingly without sobbing.  So Asher swept in and screamed for a solid 10 minutes about leaving his brother and the toy trains and tried to jump out of my  arms while I wrestled him out of the building.  So over it. 

Here’s to hoping for a weekend of nurturing moments that fill up my soul and mend my heart.   If anyone wants to join my support group at 9:20 Monday-Wednesday after pre school drop off, give me a holler.  I’ll make mimosas and we can all keep our sunglasses on.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tree Tunnels and Vanity

As a vain pre teen I often found my mom annoying and embarrassing.  Did she always have to say the same thing at bedtime everynight?
Sleep tight.
See you in the morning.
I love you.
Did she have to leave notes in my lunchbox? I wasn't 5 anymore!
Why were normal things so fascinating to her?  I can vividly remember her making a huge deal out of the "tree tunnel" street.  I can't remember where we were going, but I know she would go out of her way get lost in the "tree tunnel."  I was not sure why trees that encompassed the road were so fascinating, but to her, they were.
My insecurities often held hostage my ability to question, explore, enjoy, and have fun as an adolescent. Never did I let lose and dance at a junior high dance.  What other people thought of me was significantly more important than any truth about my identity.  If I my peers considered me pretty, popular, and skinny, I was set. 
Junior high students don't have fully developed frontal lobes, and clearly mine was lagging.  Even thinking about this makes me want to go back in time and shake some sense into that little insecure girl.  I'm pretty sure my best friend almost divorced me in junior high due to the insane amount of energy I put into myself and my status.  Barf.
That same girl who was too cool for love and inclusion was the same girl that believed in Santa until 5th grade.  I never understood how our family could afford Christmas.  Santa was the explanation.
After much push back from my friends I asked my mom point blank about old St. Nick. I crushed a little bit of her soul with that question.  She knew it was coming.  She did a graceful dance about the spirit of Christmas that Santa represents, and how she believes in the magic of Christmas even if there isn't a fat man lording over toy making elves. 
I wanted to believe in the magic of Christmas.  I wanted my heart and my thoughts and myself to be bigger than my insecurities.  But in that season, the insecurities won more battles than they lost.  
Luckily my frontal lobe eventually caught up.  Life blessed me with some challenges to walk through.  My internal voice grew in size, as did my trust in it. Trusted people in my life spoke truth to me in a direct and loving way.  I have come along way from that insecure and self obsessed girl, and I know I have a ways to go.   
Today we were driving down a road that just happens to be a "tree tunnel."  I was explaining to the boys how much I loved this road, and how I couldn't wait to see it covered in snow again.
My desire to create magical experiences for my children runs deep in my bones.  My mother blessed me with magic seeking and grey hair genetics. 
Grayson then blurts out that he wants to see his big girl friend.  But he can't tell me her name because its a secret.  She loves tree tunnels and he wants her to see it.  He wants to give her a big hug, but she is too far away.  I ask him who he is talking about, and he tells me, "its her birthday next."  (We frequently talk about who's birthdays are coming up in relation to his.  First it was Asher's, then Jude's, then Grayson's.)   Never have I mentioned that it's my mom's birthday next.  It is on Wednesday.  
At this point the tears stream down my face.  I'm not sure how God gave my three year old the words I've been wanting to say for the last week, but He did.  
I too want to give my mom and hug, and experience the little things with her again.  What I wouldn't give for another birthday.  
I didn't probe.  I didn't ask for more.  I didn't want to ruin or explain away the little gift I had just received.  So instead I let the tears fall again, for the first time in a long time.  Life has gotten full, and I no longer need to grieve daily or weekly for the loss of my mom.  The wound is not as deep, and it doesn't sting as much.  
But today I remembered that its still there.  I miss her, so.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Children and Ego Shattering

I am not sure where I acquired the misconception that I was going to be God's gift to my children and them a gift to me. In so many ways they are special and wonderful gifts. In other ways they are awful and ego shattering. Please hear me out, and don't write me off as the worst parent ever.

My love for my children is fierce. I needed a good dose of humility and soul crushing. So God gave me Grayson. 
I often joke that Grayson was God's humbling gift to me. Its funny, because its true. 

This little politician is a riot, and he can win over almost anyone. He has no sense of personal space or volume control. We had a 14 year old girl move in with us for a period of time through an organization called Safe Families. Grayson broke the ice in about 10 seconds flat. It's hard to stay isolated when you have a persistent 3 year old banging on your door. He was essential in her feeling like a part of our home and our family and helped us to dig in and get messy, fast.

I know many little boys are crazy, fearless, energetic, and nutty. I love the dirt and the grime and the fact that my boys can play outside from sun up till sun down. 

But here's the thing I started noticing. Boys will be boys. But if lined up next to ten others, Grayson was usually the king of the crazy circus.

Jon and I have read articles upon articles about parenting. We have asked professionals within our circle for advice and ideas to help G succeed. To help him learn, listen, and actually hear us. We noticed that if we aren't ten steps ahead of Grayson, we were losing. 

Parenting is the most important responsibility we have. 

We have never felt so ineffective in our lives.

The host of my mom's group sent out a group text asking us to talk to our kids about taking care of their basement and toys. My heart sank. She was being honest, and I was immediately wondering what I had to replace. I was 99% sure it was something my kid had done. He is almost always "that kid." There are few places I feel comfortable outside of our home and the great outdoors. This group had been one of them, and I was afraid I just lost it. 

We have stayed with friends twice now while going on trips. I no longer will refer to traveling with my children as vacation because that is just utter bologna. Both times we stayed with close friends who we trust and love. Both times by the time we left we wanted to curl in a hole and never come out. Our friends may have not felt the tension and despair with the same intensity as us. Add some less that ideal sleeping nights on top of our already crazy children, and it was a recipe for disaster. It didn't help that Grayson's playmate was a typical rule-following first born. Sure, they might have to teach him to be flexible and break rules when he grows up. I have to teach my 3 year old how to not be a giant turd today. I wanted their problem. My insecurities glowed like a flood lamp in the night. My already fragile heart cracked a little bit more.

I have trouble faking it. Major trouble. I am a truth teller to a fault. So when people come up and ask me how we are doing, I want to tell them that my insides are reeling. I want to tell them that what appears like a picturesque family feels like a complete facade. I want to tell them that we are only surviving this season. It is making us question whether we are capable of a third child or adoption. I want to unload all these thoughts and feelings that flow through me like a babbling brook. They trickle in the distance and wash away the pebbles of joy I am trying to collect.

And then there are the good days. Like this exact moment where both of my children are playing with Play-doh on our back porch. No one is crying, no one is fighting, no one is screaming. And in this brief moment I feel like I nailed it, and I fist pump the air like I own this parenting crap. The good moments make me question how dramatic I am about all the hard moments. Why do hard moments seem to be much more frequent and significantly more powerful? I want to minimize the challenges we had just the weekend before. They feel like a painful reminder that I am not enough, and that despite my best effort I might fail.

And then I remember. Children are blessings. I remember that those big brown eyes that test me and push my buttons all day long were grown within me. They are mine to nurture and look deep into. Those boys' souls are ours to develop. It is our responsibility, and we are capable. I cling to the support God has put in our lives like I cling onto my postpartum fat cells. The friends I can be so truthful with and those who love our boys unconditionally carry me through the week. I am not alone. 

So there is this fine line we are walking, where we tell the truth about the hard days and the challenges we see in our kids. But we also allow ourselves to be completely overwhelmed by the joy we can find in the small moments. I celebrate every small victory by rewarding myself with some sort of dessert. Both kids napped today: cookie. Made it 30 minutes without someone in timeout: lemon heads. Rewarding myself with every little victory is rotting my teeth out.

I have never been more aware of my own soul's need for redemption. It was not my mother's heart attack or passing that broke me. Instead the sweet and spicy little gremlins I grew and delivered have brought me to my knees. As painful and challenging as this season is, I know we need it. I know our marriage will be deeper and capable of more as time continues to move forward. I know my patience is growing. At a snail's pace, but growing none the less. I know that I have to trust that God knew what he was doing when he entrusted us with these boys. He loves them more than we do. 

So please forgive my emotional vomit in the playground conversation. While your sweet, angel children take turns on the slide mine will continue to chuck wood chips in the air and pretend the sand is snow. I am trying my absolute best. And please don't tell me that boys will be boys. I know this, and I am still losing my ever loving mind. Don't tell me how fast this season goes. The years may go quick, but my days feel so long I should have 30,000 steps on this stupid Fitbit. Please feel free to sit with me in this mess, but keep the advice giving to a minimum. We are seeking advice from professionals. G has a sleep study coming up because he snores like a fat man. We have reached out to our pediatrician and have some next steps. We are sitting in the tender space of wanting answers and solutions. But we do not actually want anything to be wrong with our babe. We are getting advice from the experts, and what we need are friends. Friends that can not only tolerate us in this mess, but who can jump in with us. If you are a mom needing a friend who will let you say that parenting can be ego crushing and at times emotionally debilitating, I'm your girl. I will share my cookies, candy, and wine. I am sure the challenges will continue in different ways through the years as wee ones grow into big ones. But today I will sit in this space. I will give myself grace. I will divvy up time-outs equally between myself and my children. I will snuggle my littles when they let me and hold onto the pebbles of joy we collect on our treasure hunt. I will trust that God is creating something beautiful from what feels like a disaster within me. One time-out at a time. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

It's been a long time...

Cue Aailyah and Timberland lyrics.

I shouldn't have left.  I shouldn't have left writing.  I miss it desperately.

So despite the fact that I have lost any readership or credibility, I've decided to come back.

Now two kids later and completely humbled by parenting, I'm a hot mess and I'm back.  Maybe sporadically at first, but I am trying to dig in and get disciplined in an arena that serves my heart and my soul so well.  If anyone is still out there, I look forward to connecting with you again.  If not, I look forward to getting my heart again on paper to be able to better process and share my soul.