Baby Shower Gifts

I hosted my sister’s baby shower last weekend. She’s due mid-September with her first baby. It’s been 5 years since my baby shower and there are already new, cool gadgets and baby items out there. I wish I’d had some of them!

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Of course, what I thought I needed at the time and what I really needed were not always the same thing. Wouldn’t parenting be easier if we knew what our baby would be like before he or she would be born?

Watching my sister play the party games and open gifts, I was struck by how clueless she was about what was to come. Life will change forever and irreversibly in about 5 weeks. But all she was thinking about was holding the baby and dressing him in cute little clothes and taking pictures of his firsts. She’s excited to meet him and become a mom.

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That’s why I love baby showers. They remind me of the time before my daughter was born, when motherhood was a wonderful mystery. When every kick and flutter was amazing. When I was scared and excited all at the same time. All moms need a dose of that new baby excitement once in a while. I went home and hugged my big girl, snuggling her like I would have if she’d let me as a cranky baby.

And you know what I realized? I love her more than I did when she was a baby. All the excitement I felt was warranted. My life has changed in so many wonderful and unexpected ways. The fear was warranted too. Not everything has gone how I envisioned. I love giving my sister the gift of a shower, but she gave me the gift of renewed appreciation for my “baby” too.

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Celebrating Family

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This past weekend was bittersweet for me as I arrived in Texas for a family reunion with my dad’s side of the family, but then wound up having to say a final good-bye to my mom’s last living uncle who happened to live in the same town.

It was a blessing to see my uncle one last time. To give him a hug, smooth back his hair as he lay in his hospital bed, look in his gentle eyes and say a prayer with him.

It’s been a blessing catching up with cousins I haven’t seen in years. Talking about our kids and our lives. Sharing laughs about old times and making new memories.
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cousin love

This weekend has been a true picture of what family is all about. Helping each other through difficult times. Celebrating good times. Advice and guidance when faced with troubles. Support through good and bad. There have been ups and downs, squabbles and tears. But more importantly, there’s been love. Lots and lots of love.

So today, as I move from my aunt’s house to the RWA National Conference hotel, I leave with the certainty that I’m writing for the perfect genre. Romance novels are about love and healthy relationships conquering conflict and doubt and the ugliness of the world.

Our novels celebrate what we want for our kids: happiness, strength, peace and love. Lots and lots of love.
family love

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Today, I say: Go hug your kids, call your mom or dad or aunt or cousin, send a simple “I Love You” text to someone you haven’t in a while. Celebrate your family. Life is short. Your list of loved ones doesn’t have to be. 🙂

RIP My beloved Tio Pablo, te quiero mucho!
Tio Pablo

Oh, the Things You Can Do

“Hi, this is Danger*. He has autism.”

This is becoming a common introduction in my day. And while ago it’s one I couldn’t have managed to make so easily. But as time and acceptance have gone on its become easier to simply say the words that will help other people relate to my son.

When I think back on the journey I can see how far I’ve come. How far we have all come. For some reason I was always afraid I would have a child with autism. It was the thing I didn’t want to deal with. The thing I prayed I would be spared. I don’t know why, I only know that the idea of it terrified me. That the thought of raising a child with those particular special needs seemed bleak.

The diagnosis came slowly, starting with an evaluation when he was not quite two that left us with the evaluator saying: he shows characteristics in keeping with other children who have mild to moderate autism.

I remember sitting on the floor and holding him, crying. Because I knew then. I knew that this was the path we would walk no matter how much it scared me. No matter how much I had hoped, even before having children, that this would not be my life.

But then I realized that he was still the same child I had held in my arms only two hours before. Before those words were spoken. Before any diagnosis was made. A lot of the fear that I had felt, a lot of the crushing worry over the realization that I did have a child with autism was eased. Because I knew this child. And I already loved him.

I think it’s easy to look around at the hardships other people face and think that we could never endure that. That they must be particularly strong, or brave. But I think what it comes down to is that those of us who can face our fears and come out the other side not only surviving, but thriving do so because of love.

I think of myself as a normal parent. I am a normal parent. A normal person.

I’m stumbling through the same as anyone else, making mistakes, sometimes feeling sorry for myself, readjusting my expectations, readjusting my perspective.

But we aren’t just surviving, we are thriving. Autism isn’t something I have to endure. It isn’t something that has come into my life to steal the joy, as I imagined it would be. I didn’t think I would be up to this challenge, but my perspective on it was all wrong. Like all parenting, like all of life, it is a daily challenge. Sometimes we get knocked down by it, but then we get back up and keep going because it’s all anyone can do.

I look back on the frightened mother that I was, holding her child, feeling like the weight of all her deepest fears was resting on her and I can only be happy that I was wrong about my future. Because it was not something to be endured, but something to be embraced.

I’ve learned that when love crashes into a challenge, that challenge doesn’t stand a chance. Love makes so many hard things easy. It makes walking into the frightening things possible. I suppose this is why the greatest is love.

You all know from previous blog posts that this isn’t always easy, but nothing is. We all have challenges whether they’re small ones on any given day, or marathon challenges the stretch on for months, years. But it is amazing what we can do. It is amazing what we can do with a smile on our faces.

I know I’m amazed at how something that terrified me so much, something I was afraid would destroy everything I had, has become a part of our lives in such a way that I can’t even imagine it lifting out. It’s a part of what makes the shape of our family. A family that is imperfect, but held together by love.

Life presents us with so many unexpected challenges, and it’s tempting to sit down sometimes and cry. That’s what I did. But in the end I got back up. And that’s the important part.

Whatever your challenges, keep moving. Keep going. Keep loving. You are stronger than you think you are.

*the names of the Dangerous have been changed

The love I wasn’t expecting

10447061_469921366444635_6776470002636467206_nLong before I became a mother, before I got married, before we started trying and then doing fertility treatments, before the failed adoption and then ultimately he successful one…I know that I would have no problem loving kiddos. No matter how they fell into my life, I knew that I had a heart for kids. I’ve always been that girl, you probably went to school with someone like me, or maybe you were the one like me, the one who loved children and who mothered all her friends.

Then the girls came, dropped into our lives like tiny explosions, and I loved them immediately. Or perhaps I merely felt protective of them. Even when it was so hard and The Professor and I would cry and wonder what we had done to our lives, I knew no matter how hard it was, we would be their constant. They’d already had so much, too much, in their little lives. We would be the ones who never left, no matter what. Just as we had made a commitment to each other on our wedding day, the day we accepted those girls into our house, we made a commitment to them.

And just as any family, we’ve had highs and lows, challenges and successes (yeah, Babybee is finally potty trained!!!). And I love them. Oh, how I love them with a fierceness that takes my breath away. It doesn’t surprise me, that love, even the depth of it. Sometimes I think I always loved them, the love was there just waiting for them to absorb it. But there is something that surprises me and that is the fierceness at how they love me.

Perhaps that’s silly, or perhaps you too have been surprised by the love of your own children. Sometimes Babybee will hug me so tightly, squeezing my neck with her little arms and she’ll whisper in my ear, “Mommy, I love you so much.” Then Busybee with give me one of her brilliant smiles and giggle and tell me we’re having so much fun & she loves me to the moon. I can say without a shred of arrogance that I am the center of their universe (The Professor too, but this is my blog…) As unconditionally as I love them, they love me in return and for whatever reason, I never once considered this when I thought about becoming a mother. And frankly it thrills me and terrifies me (it’s a lot of pressure to live up to the way they see me) and it takes my breath away.

Moms, You Matter

I don’t feel all that confident that I’m a great mom. Sometimes Princess Galen says something that makes me doubt myself. Sometimes my husband says something. Sometimes everyone seems to think I’m doing wonderfully, but inside I feel like I should be doing X or Y. Moms, we have to stop being so hard on ourselves.  This Mother’s Day, try to think about all the things you do RIGHT. That’s my homework too.

This video is three minutes. I promise it’s worth the time it will take you to watch.

No genetics necessary

So Ellie’s post the other day got me thinking about my own kids and the ways in which they’re like The Professor and I. It’s funny how adoption works, you see families with kids that look just like their adoptive parents. For our family, I’ve certainly had people tell me that both of my daughters favor me – I don’t see it, but I know that the stuff underneath, there’s a whole lot in common.

Yeah, we could say it’s all nurture, but I don’t think that explains all of it. Some of it is simply divine matching – the way The Professor and I found our girls – out of all the couples in the world and all the kids in the world, we somehow found each other. And they are OUR kids. Sometimes I even forget they aren’t of our blood.

$T2eC16JHJIEFHSoyF!lCBSJo)wv8RQ~~60_35For example, Busybee, well, she and I aren’t a lot alike. She’s an extrovert and full of energy and smiles and joy. I’m not saying I’m a grump, but I’m more quiet and reflective. But there’s this one way in which we are totally alike and it kinda cracks me up. I noticed it first a few years ago when I bought them the Thanksgiving Little People play set. The box they came in is a reusable one so we keep them in there and on the top is a picture of the playset all set up. Busybee would look at the box and set everything up just so and get kind of anxious if her sister came along and changed things. More recently this has manifested itself in play with her sister – Babybee is a free spirit in many ways and has an imagination a mile long – so she will try to correct and manage how her sister is playing to make sure she does it the “right” way. I can totally relate to this, I get it, I’m the same way, but Babybee, she’s not like that – she does her own thing. So I try to remind Busybee that her sister can play however she wants even if that means pretending her mermaid is actually a blue elephant. 🙂

 

So I don’t have the same outlandish imagination that Babybee has, but we have other similarities. She’s an introvert, doesn’t care for crowds. But she’s also really precise. Even when she was really little, she was very specific about the way she did things. Where her creative play is bold and colors outside the lines, if you will, her artistic techniques are linear and clear. I can give her and Busybee the same art project, leave the room and come back and know just which one Babybee has done, all of her stickers will be perfect aligned. She’s the only kiddo in her classroom at Mother’s Day Out who is allowed to do the glueing herself on her art projects because she does it just so. She even sits like me, with her legs crossed over one another just like I do, just like my grandmother sat.

They have similarities with The Professor too. It’s crazy to me how perfectly they match us, how perfectly the fit in our family, how they create our family. Family life is messy and hectic and amazing and exhausting and everything in between. But family, no matter how you create yours, is a miracle and I am one blessed mama.

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Refilling Your Emotional Well

As a writer I’ve heard this phrase many times before, usually in a talk or presentation about creativity and tapping into your artistic or creative side. But I’ve also found that it’s an important phrase for life in general.

What I mean is, we’ve all read or written blogs about the busy-ness of life or about finding “me” time as an adult and a mom. Especially those of us who unrealistically try to be Supermom. ☺

But I also think the idea of refilling our emotional well is an important concept to teach our kids, too.

Oftentimes today our kids are overbooked, overscheduled, over-involved…over a lot of things. Sure, trying your hand at a variety of things can be a great way to develop and discover new talents, interests and skills. At the same time, doing too much can lead our kids to feel just like we do after a hectic day at the office, followed by an evening taxi-ing our kids to different activities, cooking dinner and washing dishes, capped off with a writing session in front of the computer. No wonder there are days when we feel frazzled, frayed or bamboozled.

So, just as we need a little “me” time, so do our kids. Think of it this way, if we teach our girls how to recognize when they’re getting to a point where everything seems too much when they’re young, maybe they’ll be better at balancing their responsibilities or at least doing so in a healthy way when they’re older.

Whether it’s curling up with a good book in a corner on the couch or under a tree in the back yard, or coloring with crayons, or going to the beach to have fun in the sun and surf…Whatever it is that makes them truly happy. That helps them feel re-energized and rejuvenated. Whatever brings a silly grin to their face.

Whatever refills their emotional well.

For me, that’s a day relaxing on the beach with a good book. A nap in my back yard with my puppy sniffing around for lizards. Watching a chickflick with family and friends. A day of baking gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies with my girls. Going salsa dancing. Putting on my music and going for a run.

How about for you, what helps refill your emotional well?

This makes for great dinner table conversation with your loved ones. Try it, and maybe someone will surprise you by their response.

I’d love to hear how it goes for you if you give it a try!

One Word to Change A Life

The day after Christmas, I sat down with pencil and paper and all these words started pouring out of me. Quickly I realized I had the guts of a blog, including an awesome title: New Year’s Confession. I still like … Continue reading

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and the 23rd of November is known as Adoption Day. Many families adopting from the foster-care system choose to adopt on this day and lots of courts do special things to celebrate this amazing day. I read this article yesterday that this year more than 4500 children from the system were adoption on Adoption Day.

Y’all know this is cause near and dear to my heart so I like to periodically shine a spotlight, if you will, on it in the hopes that I can reach maybe one family and talk them into considering this as an option for growing their family. So I’d like to share a few statistics with you:

* there are more than 100,000 children in the foster care system that are waiting for forever families

* nearly 25,000 children age out of the system every year – stop and think about this one a moment. That means that every year a quarter of the kids available for adoption become “too old” for state care and they literally become individuals without families. Meaning they have nowhere to go for the holidays, no one to call if they get married or get a great job and if they make it to college (which most don’t because of the lack of familial support), they have no one to invite to parent’s weekend. I’m sorry, but that just sucks!

* One statistic stated that of the children waiting for adoption, 40% are Caucasian, 28% are AFrican American and 22% are Hispanic.

Now I’d like to share some general info I’ve learned since being in the “system” (so to speak).

* special needs is a term that states use for a variety of scenarios, yes, it can mean that a child has learning disabilities or medical problems, but it also can mean that it’s a sibling group – like my girls were considered special needs, or that the child is a minority.

* there is a huge misconception that there are no young children in the foster-care system that are available for adoption. This is so wrong. Yes, in some cases (like ours) we had to foster for 6 months before we could adopt) but there are many ways in which you can adopt from the system and there are lots of littles available. That being said, don’t be fooled into thinking that if you go young that means you skip all the scary behavioral problems. We were presented with one group of kiddos where the three year old had been diagnosed with RAD (reactive-attachment disorder). Adoption is really not much different that having your own children, you really can’t ever know what you’re going to get with your kids.

* one of the cool things for our girls – frankly the only benefit they get from having been in in the foster-care system – is that they get benefits from the state. They have their medical insurance paid, they will have their college tuition paid (at a state university) and we get a monthly stipend to help pay for their schooling and extras. Furthermore, we didn’t have to pay for any of the adoption court costs. So the myth about adoption being too expensive – not relevant  to foster-care adoption. That being said, every state is different.

Check here for information about foster-care adoption.