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 The one we had been waiting 4 months for.  The call only lasted 18 minutes, but those 18 minutes were packed with information that we were not expecting at all.

Just in case you’re unaware of our situation, let me catch you up. We found out in September that Natalie’s birth mother was pregnant, considering placing the baby for adoption and placing the baby with us. She was due at the end of December and had not yet made a decision. So we waited.

When the call came, the first thing the social worker said was, “I’m afraid I’m not calling with good news. In fact, I’ve got bad, complicated news.”

When you hear the words “bad” and “complicated” news it is never good.

The baby boy was born on Saturday, December 21st and Natalie’s birth mother wanted to parent him, choosing NOT to place him for adoption. There are some other, much more complicated details that I can’t share publicly, but just know that Natalie’s birth mother and this little baby boy desperately need your prayers.

Please also pray for us as we seek God’s plan for our family. As you may know, this is the third adoption that has fallen through for us this year.

 

Advent is known as the season of waiting. Waiting with great anticipation for the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Or, for many of us, waiting until we get to eat lots of food and open lots of presents, if we’re being real.

But this season of Advent has brought about more waiting than I am really comfortable with. You see, we are waiting for a baby to be born too. Obviously not baby Jesus, [spoiler alert] He was born over two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem. It was glorious, magnificent, humble and beautiful. No, the baby that we are waiting for, could potentially be ours…..

In September of 2013, we learned that Natalie’s birth mom is pregnant. She is considering placing this baby for adoption, but will only place with us. Then we found out that she was due the end of December and she is having a boy! OMG people, that’s like NEXT WEEK!

She was hoping to be able to make a decision by the end of October about whether to parent or place the baby for adoption. Well, the past couple of months have been wrought with turmoil with the birth father and with her family. It has been a real struggle for her. She said, “it’s worse than ‘up in the air’….. it is terrible.”

So, we wait….

We wait to get an email.

We wait to get a phone call.

We wait to find out when the baby is born

We wait to learn of her decision.

We wait to find out if this little baby boy will join our family.

We wait, knowing no matter what happens, we will know this little boy as we continue to see Natalie’s birth mom in years to come.

We wait, knowing that God has a plan for our family.

We wait, just as a young girl waited for her son to be born over 2,000 years ago.

With an aching, and often anxious heart, we wait……

 

November is National Adoption Month. Anyone who sees our family or looks at our pictures can probably make an educated guess that we are an adoptive family. We know we stand out. We get looks. People ask rude and invasive questions. We’ve gotten used to it. It’s part of our life, but more than that, adoption, for us, is a calling. When people ask the question (one of many), “Did you ‘have’ to adopt or was it a choice?” I answer “Yes! I had to adopt because it is what I was created to do. And, YES, it was a choice….adoption is always a choice.”

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For as long as I can remember, I knew I would be an adoptive mom. So much so, that on my first date with Aaron, I asked him his thoughts on adoption. Was it too early? Maybe. But I knew if he wasn’t open to being an adoptive parent, then I could just move on. Lucky for him, he WAS open, so he got a second date!

Nine years later, we are married and have two beautiful children that look nothing like us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are fabulous, fascinating, and so much fun! Elijah and Natalie make our family more interesting. And though I didn’t birth them, they are my babies and I love them more than I ever imagined possible.

In honor of National Adoption Month, I thought I’d share about the newest adventure that Aaron and I are taking. While life is crazy and busy and often insane with two children, we know that we want ONE MORE! After much prayer, talking and research, we have decided to pursue the Foster-to-Adopt process. On November 14th we will begin several weeks of training to become certified as foster parents in DC. The homestudy process is very similar to what we’ve done before, but the certification process is intense – 27 hours of training, CPR classes, fire inspection, lead paint testing, etc. So many things! Once we’re put through the wringer, then we’ll be ready to have a child placed with us. The joke is you can be approved at 5:00PM and get a call at 5:01PM to have a child placed with you….so, you better be ready!

We’re excited about this new adventure and we’re also hopeful that God will present us with the right situations to bless children, either permanently or for just a little while.

We will certainly keep people posted as we travel on this journey. It could be smooth sailing or there could be some really rough waters, but we invite everyone to join our family as we take this new adventure.

CRASH!

So yesterday was Elijah’s end of the year ceremony at his pre-school. The school referred to it as a “stepping up” ceremony, but most of the parents and families treated it as a graduation. Now, I’m all about celebrating milestones in life and even love a little end of the year celebration, but going from pre-school (3 years olds) to Pre-K (4 year olds) is NOT a graduation!

We live in a VERY diverse part of DC and Elijah’s preschool is like a model UN. There are kids from all different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures. I actually really love it, but it was very apparent there was a CRASH of cultures yesterday. If you’ve seen the movie Crash then you will get where I’m going with this. Basically, people are just being who they are, how they know to be and celebrating in the way they are comfortable. But in an environment where there are so many different cultures, this can be a fascinating study of sociology….or it can be a complete nightmare!

For me, it was a completely nightmare! Now, I’ll admit the past couple of weeks of living in the city have been tough on me for a variety of reasons, so maybe things were just building up. However, this experience was frustrating, appalling, laughable, and discouraging for me.

First of all, thank goodness I dressed half-way decent instead of wearing my typical jeans and a cotton shirt. Most parents and family members were dressed to the nines….there were hats, sequins and three piece suits in some cases.

Secondly, there were balloons. Not just balloons for decorations on the stage, but there were “Happy Graduation” balloons or “Congratulations Graduate” balloons carried by families. Seriously? Most of these kids can’t even read yet!!! One mom even tried to tie balloons onto her child as he was processing in.

Third, yes, there was a processional. Cannon in D – the remix version apparently. At least it wasn’t Pomp and Circumstance. I don’t think I could’ve stomached that!

Next, the audience. They were loud and obnoxious. I figured, it’s fine to chat and have conversation, albeit loud, when nothing’s going on, but things should settle down a bit when the kids perform. WRONG! I couldn’t believe that those around us never got quiet. The parents were having a wild and crazy party while the ceremony was happening on stage. They would video something and then enjoy watching it while everyone around them strained to hear or see their children on stage. The parents would listen when their child was on stage, but did not respect the others around them enough to be quiet when other children were on stage. It was loud and crazy chaos!

Then, the principal asked the parents to please move back or sit down….that didn’t happen. People were literally standing directly in front of the stage taking pictures of their child, blocking the view of everyone else. How do we ever expect the kids to listen if their parents won’t?!?!?

Last, I recognized my own culture in the midst of it all. I felt like a character out of Downton Abbey that had been catapulted into an episode of Samford and Son. I’m sure people were thinking, “That white woman needs to loosen up and have some fun! She’s sittin’ so  stiff and trying to be all proper. Who does she think she is?”

All I was thinking was, “This is a nightmare and it is only the beginning of many cultural CRASHES as my children continue to interact with the education system in DC. How will I ever make it through?”

I’m sure this post can’t quite convey the anxiety, frustration, comedy, and discouragement that I felt yesterday, but I had to write something. Most of the time we celebrate the diversity in our city, our neighborhood and in Elijah’s classroom….but yesterday was not one of those days for me!

Nonetheless, here’s a couple of pictures of my sweet boy “graduating” (ridiculous) from preschool….heading to PreKindergarten!

 

Cannon in D (remix) processional with his teacher, Ms. Lewis – she’s awesome!

Elijah walking with his friends, Lucien and Brian. And, yes, I kept him in his school uniform…didn’t even dress him “properly”

 

On stage with his friends….and, nope, we can’t hear a thing!

Got his “diploma!”   Only 14 more years until he gets the real thing! :)

 

 

 

Has it really been six months since I’ve been on here? WOW! So much has happened in the last six months, it’s difficult to know where to begin. I’ll just give a quick run down.

January – Winter missed DC this year! Mostly awesome, except I REALLY like snow, so kind of a bummer for me!

February – Church, Church, and More Church. Lots of new people every week! A little overwhelming, but still fantastic! Oh yes, and thanks to a good friend who threw a wine tasting party so I could figure out which wine is my favorite, I now have a favorite red wine – Syrah.

March - BIG NEWS!!! My mom left her home state of 70 years and moved to Leesburg, VA…only an hour away from us! It’s been great to have her just down the road.

April – Birthday Month!! Aaron and Natalie both have Birthdays. Natalie turned one!!

 

May - Month of travel! I was so thankful to attend the Christian Alliance for Orphans in Orange County, CA. It was so inspiring and informative. Had a wonderful time. THEN, Aaron and I got to go to NYC for a weekend. We saw my friend Chauntee play Nala in The Lion King on Broadway. She was AWESOME! We also just had a lot of fun walking…all OVER the city!!

June – The month has only just begun, but so far Hand, Foot and Mouth has been the theme. Poor Natalie has been sick so much this year, and once again she’s got some awful virus….NOT FUN! We literally just had the worst night of our married lives. Natalie was awake, screaming the entire night….and by the sound of it, it seems like tonight might be very similar.

There’s so much more that I could share….but hopefully I’ll be a little more consistent starting today! :)

We’ll see….

This Season’s Tale

When October rolls around each year, I start getting REALLY excited, because I realize I’m just one month away from my favorite time of the year. November 1st through December 31st, is absolutely the Most Wonderful Time of the Year to me. I love everything about it: the music, the foods, the smells, the anticipation, the excitement, the parties, being with family, the quiet evenings, the movies, etc. Everything about this season makes me really happy.

November 1, 2011 was no different. However, this year has played out differently than most and has became a time that I hope I never experience again.

For me, Christmas music starts around November 15th and this year was no different. That may seem really early for some, but I actually have to hold myself back from not starting to listen sooner. Around the time Christmas music started playing in our house, Elijah, Natalie, and Aaron all got a terrible stomach flu. It only lasted 24-36 hours, but it was enough to cause a lot of chaos in our family. Since our home is also our “church building” during the week, we have people in and out of our house all the time, which meant that many people from our church also got infected with the stomach flu. Normally, a sickness like this wouldn’t be so bad, but my kids had been sick with colds and viruses on and off since September 1st. I was DONE with sickness!

My birthday is November 21st and I was so excited to get a special treat this year. I got to take a trip with my friend Erika to the Dominican Republic. It was a very quick trip, but a much needed respite. We got back on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Before I left for our trip, I had prepared everything to have a few people over for Thanksgiving dinner. It was going to be a bit of a potluck, which was a good plan. While I was away, my mother-in-law came up to help Aaron with the kids. Like others in our church, she got infected with the stomach flu too. So, she and my father-in-law were unable to spend Thanksgiving with us, they just went back home. We ended up having a nice dinner and enjoyed some very low key time together with our friends.

The Friday after Thanksgiving every year I beg Aaron to let me put up the Christmas decorations. He’s always a little reluctant, saying “It’s too early!” But, I always remind him that we’ve been listening to Christmas music for two weeks, so it’s not really THAT early. On Black Friday, while everyone was shopping, we were putting up our Christmas decorations on the inside of our house. We decided to wait to put up the outside decorations on the following day.

Everything looked beautiful, the family seemed to be fairly healthy for the first time in a LONG time, and the Christmas season had officially begun!

We finished the outside lights and decorations around 5PM on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Just in time to have worship practice at our house that night for our Thanksgiving service. 

We had just about finished up worship practice when I got “The Call” about my dad. What a sudden shock and difficult thing to experience, especially during what is usually the most wonderful time of the year. We packed up our stuff and headed to WV  with the kids for a week of funeral preparations, financial details, bills, and uncovering the “Rosetta Stone” that was my dad’s financial situation. It was a bit of a haze or a fog…..stay tuned for the blog post on what to do or not to do for a family who’s lost a loved one. 

We returned home, thankful that our house was nicely decorated for the holidays and we could try to somewhat return to life as normal. And life did just that, returned to normal. People in and out of our house for newcomers dinners, worship practice, small groups, church meetings, individual meetings, parties, etc, all things I normally LOVE! It was life as normal at the Graham house….which actually was not helpful at all. I had no time to process; no time to grieve; no time to really absorb everything that had just happened in my life. Of course, with little kids, you rarely have time to process things like this anyway, but there was very little space to think, pray, cry, or just be.

The week before Christmas my mom drove over to spend the holidays with our family. I was really glad that she was coming a little early so she could be with me, my family, and others leading up to the holidays. Elijah had two weeks in preschool between the week we were in WV and the Holiday break….just enough time to pick up yet another sickness!

When my mom arrived, Elijah was already sick. It was mild, but he was definitely sick. He was also a little demanding because he was used to being in school and having a lot of structure. I don’t have the same level of structure for him at home….which makes life very difficult, especially with two kids.

We had a party at our house Sunday night the 18th, and one on Monday night the 19th. Both for church and both really wonderful. BUT, both took some prep time and energy from me, while taking care of two kids and trying to make sure mom wasn’t overwhelmed.

Tuesday night was the Marshall Bowl game, which they won (Go Herd!), but my mom and I decided we just couldn’t watch it. It would be too emotional. Marshall’s last game, which actually led them to the bowl game, was the last game my dad ever attended….and we just couldn’t handle it. So, we cleaned out our basement, which was kind of a nightmare, but also very therapeutic.

We got through the next couple of days as Elijah seemed to get worse with his sickness and Natalie started showing signs of sickness.

On Friday, December 23rd, we headed to my brother’s house in Leesburg, VA for the holidays. The day was filled with keeping Elijah entertained and realizing he and Natalie didn’t feel very good.

Christmas Eve was going to be a tough day. Aaron and I had to leave at 2PM to go into DC to get ready for our church’s Christmas Eve service. Natalie was NOT feeling well, but I also know when babies are that young, there’s not much you can do except try to comfort them. Elijah was doing better, but he will play through just about anything.

I love our church and I love my family, but this Christmas has been tough. I felt as though I was having to choose between the two. Normally on Christmas Eve I spend a lot of time with family, eating, talking, playing games, watching movies, going to church together, and looking at Christmas lights. This year, I don’t think I completely thought through all the details of the weekend. Aaron and I ended up spending 7 hours away from my family doing Christmas Eve stuff for our church (traveling, setting up, having the service, and tearing down). We got back to my brother’s in time to chat and watch most of a movie together, but I didn’t get to spend much of the day with my kids at all. AND, mentioning my kids, Natalie was MISERABLE! She was inconsolable most of the day and my mom didn’t really know what to do for her. Besides the fact that my mom and sister-in-law were starting to feel sick AND my whole family was emotionally drained from trying to cope with Natalie’s crying.

We woke up Christmas morning to do the traditional opening of presents and nice breakfast together. Elijah had a great time and got some fun toys. There was definitely a “Thomas the Train” theme going on! 

Things were going well, until Natalie finally woke up. Her eyes were glued shut, she had a fever, she was retracting (very labored breathing), and where most babies her age breath 40 breaths a minute, she was breathing 75 times a minute. It was getting serious, so I called the Urgent Care and got a 12PM appointment.

While my family was enjoying the day (and worrying about Natalie), Natalie and I spent 5 hours at the Urgent Care. The doctor REALLY wanted to admit her to the hospital Christmas night, but she did give me the option to take her home and bring her back at 9:15AM the next morning. I decided to take her home (now realizing, I probably should have gone ahead and taken her to the hospital). We went back to my brother’s house, with an IV in Natalie arm (which I now know is a BIG no-no) and did a breathing treatment…and she went to bed. She slept well, but still had all the afore mentioned symptoms, including the labored breathing. 

December 26th, we went back to the Urgent Care. At 10:15am, the nurse came in and said that the doctor that was on duty for adults and pediatrics (there was only one) did not come in….so they had to reroute everyone. Yes, this is turning into a nightmare.

We were supposed to go to Richmond this day, but it was looking more and more like our Christmas plans were definitely NOT what we had in mind. We loaded up the car at my brother’s and headed back into DC to the Urgent Care in the city. Natalie and I headed off to a 2PM appointment. After waiting for an hour and a half to see the doctor, she too wanted to admit Natalie to Children’s Hospital.

We waited another hour for treatment and paperwork, and then headed to the hospital. We had to go through Children’s Hospital ER, which was actually pretty efficient initially. We arrived at 5PM and Natalie received a treatment around 6:30PM. It wasn’t until 9PM when we actually moved from the ER and made it to a room. THANK GOODNESS, I had a sweet, sweet friend, Lauren, from our church who came to the hospital, brought me dinner, and even SPENT THE NIGHT with me. She was AWESOME! I’m so thankful to have her in my life. It made our stay at the hospital so much more bearable.

Natalie definitely started improving after the treatment she received, but they needed to monitor her. We knew that we would have to wait until the following afternoon before we saw the main doctor, who made the decision about discharge. Sure enough at 2PM on December 27th, we saw the doctor and at 3PM we were discharged and on our way home.

Now, Natalie is still sick; Elijah is still sick;  my mom is very sick and had to cut her trip short; my sister-in-law is sick; and Aaron is sick as well. What is normally the most wonderful time of the year has been a complete nightmare and I’m so ready for it to all be over.

God did bless us yesterday, by letting us know that He is indeed still with us and His promises are are true as He covered our house with a rainbow. So, I’m very hopeful that 2012 will be a better year, full of health and joy!

Thank you God, I really needed that!

2011 Christmas Card

I had every intention of getting a family Christmas card in the mail early this year. I was really looking forward to more formally announcing the addition of Natalie Rose to our family. But the taking of our family photo never got on the calendar. Then there were other things….I was hoping to have a hair cut before the photo was taken; I went on a mini-vacation; and  Thanksgiving happened. Then, my dad passed away, and things got all out of whack!

On to “Plan B” I thought. That plan consisted of Aaron being out of town and me, in my pajamas, taking pictures of the kids all dressed up on Saturday morning in my “make-shift photo studio,” our living room – thank goodness it was our living room since I was in my pajamas.  Well, I thought I’m going to take all of these pictures on my fancy new iPhone. After all, it’s supposed to have an amazing camera on it. I got some great shots. The kids were in a good mood and cooperative. It was awesome…..until I went to do something with them on the computer. They were all REALLY grainy. Nothing like I had hoped. They looked o.k. on Facebook, but were NOT good enough to do a Christmas card. Apparently the iPhone camera is great for outdoor photos and it is a great camera for a PHONE camera, but it doesn’t replace a real camera.

So, on to “Plan C,” recreate the “make-shift photo studio” on another day and time when the kids might be cooperative and in a good mood (a near impossible task); take new photos, similar to the others, with our good camera; find a picture for our Christmas card and get them printed ASAP! Aaron was here, and helped make “Plan C” happen. The poses for the pictures weren’t as cute as in “Plan B” but there were a couple that we could make work.

So, putting “Plan C” into further motion, I must find a Christmas Card template to put our picture in. Well, several years ago there were like 150 template choices, now there’s a bazillion! After spending WAY too much time on this task, I finally found one that I liked. Then I went to order it…..

Well, before I ordered any, I called Aaron.

Me: “How many should we order?”

Aaron: “How many did we get last year?”

Me: “No idea.”

Aaron: “I like having a card for everyone in our church.”

Me: “REALLY?” – I’m thinking, that may have worked when we had 25 people in our church, but we’re running 240 each week….this doesn’t include family and friends who don’t go to our church or live in DC!

The conversation ended with us deciding maybe buying Christmas cards online and sending them out this year is not such a good idea. We’d be rushed. We’d have to decide who to give cards to and who not to. And, we’d really only be doing it to keep up with the Jones,’ which is certainly not a motivating factor in our family!

So,  on to “Plan D!” …send our card electronically via our blog and other lists. This way, LOTS of people can enjoy our Christmas card!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce our 2011 Christmas Card

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