Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End.

I've never been much for New Year's Resolutions......not because I have some deep seeded problem with them.......but because I just always forget about them come January 18th and I'm one of those anal individuals that has a difficult time starting something new mid-stream.  So, if I didn't start it and keep with it at the beginning I'll just have to wait until the next new beginning comes around.  Plus,  New Year's always seems to creep up on me and I haven't had any time to think about what I really want my resolutions to be.

My dream resolution list would look something like this:

1.  Lose the 10 lbs. I sadly found.
2.  Do more yoga and Pilates.
3.  Learn to love vegetables and fruit.
4.  Be ready for the day before Georgia gets up so we can hit the ground running.
5.  Save money on groceries by only buying what I write on a list instead of being tempted by that new cheese that I have no idea what to do with but it looks "oh so pretty" in that crinkly paper with that Italian label.
6.  Read more books that actually teach me something.
7.  Buy fewer clothes.........who needs seventy five tank tops and long sleeved t's?  Hence, I should probably stay away from Target too.
8.  Take swimming lessons with Georgia.
9.  Get better at shooting in manual on my camera.
10.  Learn to balance being type A and laid back.
11.  Worry less.
12.  Travel more.
13.  Love everyone.
14.  Work for world peace.
15.  March in a rally.

Yeah.........the list kind of fell apart at number 10.  But that's what always happens with New Year's resolutions.  Sometimes I feel like keeping them is as lofty a goal as achieving world peace. Puke.

So instead, I think it's more fun to look back at the year that was and the incredibly amazing things that happened............and look forward to another batch of pictures a year from now.............

The blizzard.  Although, according to the news anchors here in Grand Rapids every flurry or sprinkle is a weather event of 'end-of-days' proportion.  So......we just call it, "we live in Michigan and it snows, so let's have fun in it."

Our amazing sitter Kelli took this last winter one day while her and G were holed up in the house together to escape the snow. I love the look in her eyes, her messy hair, her cute kitty shirt, and the fact that she's mine.  I know what she smells like, what her cool little cheeks feel like, and I can probably guess what she was saying.  Love her to pieces.  

Hanging out with these girls............they're pretty fantastic. And........apparently I was wearing a see-thru shirt.

Not the most amazing picture of any of us, and this weekend wasn't what it was supposed to be, but it proved what a fighter my amazing sister is and we learned a few of which.......sleeping in hotel bathtubs is surprisingly comfortable.

Georgia's second birthday.  Hello Kitty of course.

Somewhere in Kentucky on the way to Florida for spring break.  If you've never taken a road trip to Florida.......DO IT.   It's fun, and the experiences on the way down can't be reproduced in an airplane.....and you might not know it, but the south is still winning the war of northern aggression in backwoods Alabama..........promise.

First time touching the ocean for G.  When we left to go to dinner Georgia cried and said she wanted to stay in Florida longer.  It was so cute and so sad in a way to think that in her little mind we'd driven all that way to see the ocean for a few minutes and now we were leaving with no concept that we'd be back tomorrow.  (And clearly--my lens needed a good cleaning before someone shot this....yikes with the lint).

The baby-fat that is present in this picture is now gone.  Look at her wrists..........they're all skinny and grown up now.  

One of my favorite family pictures we've ever taken impromptu. 

Petting a llama at the zoo on Memorial Day weekend. They totally spit right?  I'm sure we were moments from it.  His lips are even pursed.

Bangs.  I finally did it right before Father's Day and I'm never going back.

Playing at the Children's Museum.  Check out Parker's pants.  Never even noticed those before.

Playing at Grand Haven on a cool summer night.

Georgia shopping on her "own" at the grocery store.  This was a highlight of her summer.  We did it a lot to escape the ninety degree July days.  A trip to pick up cat litter and diet coke turned into a two hour exploration of every aisle of the store.  

Michigan Adventure water park.  One of those days where you're hot, sticky, sun-burned, and your skin feels tight from chlorine at the end of it and you can't wait to be able to do it again because it was just so much fun.  And seriously--how tan is Georgia?  And that girl has 55 SPF on at all times when we're outside.  Who's jealous of their two year old?  This mom.  

If you want to do something really cool with your kids--buy an ant farm.  And plus--it's actually more fascinating for the adults.  I think I spent an hour a day staring at this thing.

End of summer......last time at the beach. 

Camping on Labor Day weekend.  Maybe one of my favorite pictures that I took all year.  I love how the two of them are bathed in sunshine and G has her butterfly net ready to catch some fairies with Gaga.  

The Mom Colored Glasses Artist Trading Card booth at Art Prize.  It was awesome to be involved in such a large scale community event and get to promote our web-site at the same time in such an interactive and family friendly way.  

Chris and Georgia enjoying the bridge installation at Art Prize.  

Beautiful fall days and walks in the woods behind our house, the camera self-timer, and just hanging with Georgia.  I love these pictures because it was just us hanging out--no big event, no real purpose, just  playing with my kiddo and loving those crunchy leaves.  

Playing in the leaves after brunch on a Sunday one day during our warmest Michigan fall we've ever had. 

This epitomizes Georgia's thoughts on her Halloween Dora costume---even though she begged for it.......therefore...........

We made a game-time decision to dress up as a fairy for trick-or-treating.  Much better. 

Chris took this one day while he was visiting his grand-parents on the family farm.  I love it.  She's concentrating so hard on her walk, the colors coordinate, and the sun is hitting her just perfect. 

Winning tickets at Larry's pizza.  Our new favorite place for 2011.  She's looking at Chris and I love that total adoration, I-want-to-marry-my-daddy look in her eyes.  

She made these place-cards for Thanksgiving and was so excited to put them out at everyone's place. 

Cutting down our Christmas tree at great Grandpa and Grandma Terryn's farm. 

A quiet December night.....holding my girl and thanking God for my best year yet.  

Happy New Year to you.  
See you in 2012..........we're starting off the year with some big changes.  I'll fill you in later.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hard Questions.

I’ve had this post written since August.  I’ve just been afraid to hit “publish.” There are a few reasons for this.........I don’t want to offend anyone, I don’t want to come across like I’m making a sweeping generalization, I don’t want to tempt fate, and I don’t know how hard it’d be to be on the other side of adoption.  
I only know what it’s like to be an adoptive mother.  I only know how incredibly fantastic open adoption can be and what it’s meant for Georgia’s birth mom and family........and Georgia, the most important person in the equation.  
However, in recent weeks I’ve heard a few stories, read a few other blogs, and felt a deeper conviction regarding my opinion on this topic and am more and more confused about why adoption is so infrequently chosen, thought of, or entertained.  I don’t understand why it’s not our societies ‘go to’ option when our teenagers find out they are pregnant. And I certainly don’t understand this country’s warped idea of what it means to take responsibility for one’s actions in regards to teen pregnancy.  
So, with all of those stirrings in mind I’ve decided to voice my opinion because that’s what it is....just an opinion.  It’s not based on inexperience though, it’s based on real life and almost three years of first hand knowledge of the open adoption process.......but it’s still an opinion, so take it with a grain of salt if you wish.........but I hope you don’t, especially if you’re raising kids.  
Hard Questions.
One of the things that come with people knowing your child is adopted are hard questions….and a lot of rude ones.
How much did she cost?  
Did you just want to take her and run when you saw her at the hospital?  
Do you think she looks like you even though she’s not yours?  This one infuriates me.  Not mine?  Not mine?  I spare no expense with my response to this one.  I truly believe that sometimes, with some people, insult is the cost of clarity.  Even though I know what they mean—it’s horrendously rude—bottom line.  
Do you feel like you missed out on some bonding with her because you didn’t deliver her? 
Will you tell her she’s adopted?  
These are the five that come to mind right off the bat.  And believe me, I have equally rude and touché answers for each of these questions all stored up in my head.   I mean, no one asks mothers who have birthed their children, “ So….do you think you’ll ever lose that baby weight—it’s really hanging on isn’t it?,  Are you bummed your son got your husband’s small eyes?, How are you guys coming on paying off your hospital bill—I heard it’s a big one, do you really think buying a new car is the best move right now?”
But there is one question that I’ve gotten a lot that is hard.  Not hard because I think it’s rude or inappropriate, just hard because it’s hard.  And, it’s a question that could really be asked of every mother but I think adoptive mothers get it more because of their experience with adoption.
If Georgia comes to you when she’s 16 and tells you that she’s pregnant….what would you advise her to do?
Hmmmm.  Gut check time. 
I’m a black and white person taking classes in how to become more gray…….in some things.  So, where three years ago I would have just blurted out without thinking, “Make an adoption plan of course,” I pause a little bit now.  I don’t pause because my answer is necessarily different.  I pause because I understand the weight of that answer and I don’t think it can just be tossed out haphazardly without thought and consideration, without compassion and empathy and without acknowledging what loving a child means…really means.
Before I continue I believe that I need to add a small disclaimer here.  Are there teenagers that choose to raise their children versus choosing adoption and have a good experience in the end because they have an extremely strong support system….I believe there are.  Are there scores of single parents who are hard-working adults that have chosen to raise kids on their own and things are also going well…..I believe there are.    I acknowledge that sometimes things turn out great..........and that is awesome.  

However, a lot of times they don't.  
And this is the reason for my post. 
If my daughter were to come to me and ask me what she should do I would need to be honest with her as her mother.   A wise woman, who happens to be Georgia’s birth grandma, once told me that when choosing adoption or not as a teenager, this has to be considered; the child that is born to you is not just an adorable baby—she’s a two year old who will need to be shown how not to have tantrums, she’s a five year old that wants her mommy to volunteer in her kindergarten classroom, he’s an eight year old that needs to have movie night with his mommy every Friday night, he’s a twelve year old that needs to be driven around every weekend for his travel soccer league, she’s a sixteen year old that desperately needs  you to place limits on her social activity so she has the best chance to turn into a responsible member of society that she can possibly be.  
Can a teenager and young twenty something do these things?  Sure.  Maybe.  I guess.  But here’s the thing; I don’t think they should have to.  I think when you’re eighteen you should be applying and going to college and not worrying about a two year old— and using that as a reason (a very real one) not to go to college, and I think when you’re eighteen you should be able to go to every football game or dance or sleepover at your friends house that life at that age has to offer, I think when you’re twenty-two you should be free to move wherever your new degree takes you—even if it’s to China for the job of your dreams where you won’t have to worry about where your seven year old will go to school, I think when you’re twenty eight your fourteen year old shouldn’t be an “issue” for someone you want to marry.  I know, I know…..people deal with it every day though and often without a problem; I’m thinking about my daughter right now, however, and how big my dreams are for her, just like the dreams any parent has for their kid.  
Some people read the above and think it sounds selfish.  They believe that it’s part of taking responsibility for their actions to keep a child no matter the age they are when they get pregnant or their life circumstance.  We all have hard things to over-come in life and they often work out just fine people think.  Yes.  That’s true I suppose.  But, when deciding how to best take responsibility for one’s actions the most effective choice has to be made and when choosing to take responsibility for an unplanned pregnancy as a teenager the ONLY person that really takes the stage as far as what should sway your decision is the baby........and what is best for them.  
I don’t think there is only one way to take responsibility for your actions.  And in this case I believe that taking responsibility for your actions means thinking about what is best for someone besides yourself—you definitely come in second when it comes to a decision like this.  And I believe that adoption is one of the most positive life-changing ways to take responsibility in the midst of a teenage pregnancy.  It’s NOT the easy choice; it’s not the selfish choice.  It’s the courageous, heart-wrenching, extremely mature choice.  
There are also statistics that can’t be ignored—statistics that transcend all socioeconomic groups in every part of this country..........
  • While teen pregnancy is down in the US, the rate is still eight times higher than it is in Japan, two times higher than it is in Canada and England, and the highest in the western industrialized world.  
  • Only one-third of adolescent mothers will graduate high school, and only slightly over 1 percent of those will earn a college degree before they turn 30. 
  • Children of teen moms do worse in school than those born to older parents — with half failing a grade. Those same children are less likely to finish high school then those from older mothers, and have a lower performance on standardized tests. Many children born to teen moms have behavioral problems, juvenile delinquency and conflict with authority. 
  • Two-thirds of families begun by a young unmarried mother are poor. More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager. 
  • Daughters of teen moms are three times more likely to become teenage mothers themselves. The sons of teen moms are two times more likely to end up in prison. 
  • Eight out of ten fathers in cases of teen pregnancy don't marry the mother of their child, and these absent fathers pay less than $800 annually for child support. Children who live apart from their fathers are also five times more likely to be poverty stricken than children with both parents at home. 
Additionally, Dr. Drew of MTV’s, “16 & Pregnant,” says, “Teen pregnancies change lives, usually not for the better. And let’s not forget the children. Kids have a better chance of making it when they have stable, mature moms and dads.”
So here’s the thing……It’s December 2011 and my daughter is two.  I have a lot of years before this conversation will even remotely be a possibility.  And what I think right now about this issue could absolutely change in the mean-time--although I hope not.  In the interim it’s my job as a parent to maintain an open line of communication with my daughter about all things related to sex and babies and growing up and the importance of being a kid so she CAN grow up in the best possible way.  And it’s my job to help guide her through really hard decisions….but decisions that can change her life and someone else’s life for years and years to come in the best, most amazing, most selfless way possible.  It’s my job to help her understand there are bigger things out there than her.  It’s my job to help her step outside of her comfort zone (and mine) when it means doing the right thing for someone besides yourself.  It’s my job to help her understand that doing the right thing for you might make you feel heart-broken for a while—but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision.  And it’s my job to love her no matter what and show her that love doesn’t always mean easy. 

So in answer to the question, “What would I tell my daughter to do if she told me she was pregnant?” I would tell her we needed to explore adoption.  I would tell her why I think it’s best for her because she has so much more life to live and learn from before she was ready to be a mom, I'd tell her why it was best for the baby, for another family, and for our family.  I would tell her it’s going to be hard—for everyone.  But, she’d know I’d be there with her every step of the way.  She’d know that she was entering the ranks of some of the most honorable women in the world….birth moms. 

We went and hung out with hers a couple nights ago at her house.  When we were getting ready to leave Tarah's house, Georgia said to me, "I love Tarah mommy."  We love her too G.......we think she's pretty spectacular!  

I love this picture above. Look at their skin.  It's identical.  And that is awesome.

We need to cultivate a culture of adoption in our country. It starts in our own heads though and our children need to hear it; they need to know adoption is amazing, they need to know adoption is the ultimate way to take responsibility, and they need to know that their parents support it.  There are millions of couples waiting to adopt domestically every year, about a million teenagers get pregnant each year, and shockingly only about 20,000 of these teenagers will make an adoption plan.

I'm forever thankful and indebted to the two that I know that chose adoption..........and their strong and selfless parents who supported them and encouraged them in this ultimate act of responsibility.............and love.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Christmas Re-Cap.

We're home.  Home from four solid days of staying up late, no naps, constant games, opening presents, un-loading and re-loading the dish-washer, eating more gingerbread cookies than Hansel and Gretel ever dreamed of, laughing, picture taking, living out of suitcases, not showering until noon, watching football, and making memories.  Christmas 2011 can be deemed a success and my living room, bedroom, kitchen island, and dining room table can attest to that.  They are all littered with random toys, new clothes, jewelry boxes, fresh packages of markers and construction paper, a lot of new Dora stuff (that makes noise), stocking stuffer items, games, and a disco ball (that's right.......Studio 54 here we come).

Georgia asked me this morning when I got her out of bed at 8:45, (let's say a big AMEN for the magic of sleeping in your own bed and finally sleeping in), if Christmas was really over.  "Yes," I said......even though we're heading over to Tarah's house tonight where there will probably be more presents yet.  She loved Christmas this year and even exclaimed things like, "I've been wanting this for a couple days," "I saw this at Target," "I love opening presents," and "I hope this isn't socks," often while ripping into perfectly and beautifully wrapped presents from my mom and sister.  She even shrieked while opening up her Dora guitar and I loved that.  Maybe my favorite reaction ever to watching her open up a present.

So here's a few of my favorite snaps from the last week.........hope you have just as many great ones of you and your family celebrating Christmas!

Happy Birthday cupcakes for "Cheez-its"...... my old youth pastor was the first person I knew to do this while growing up and still does this at Christmas and I love it! It's our family tradition now too.

Pictures of G eating are priceless............and appetizing.

The disco ball........sure to revolutionize Crazy Lights in one easy step........

Since our house is now controlled by Georgia's imaginary friends, Dorothy, the Tin Min, Glinda the Good Witch, the Scarecrow, and Toto my dad made some Wizard of Oz puppets with Georgia and his band-saw.  He's pretty awesome about doing stuff like that with G and she loves it!

I love this picture because it's so Georgia right now.  The personality oozes out of this little girl and it can hardly be tamed.

What's cool about this keyboard is that we heard it played for two and half hours in the car on the way home from Detroit last night.  That's right--Georgia is the only toddler who doesn't fall asleep in cars.  We've got seventeen hours of uninterrupted dialog on the way to Florida last year to prove that.

Enna's starting out G on Vera Bradley early.  No time to waste.

Georgia picked out matching snow-men necklaces for Enna and Gaga.  She could not be swayed and my dad almost had one too.

Jim made sure our Lion's house was stocked with Steeler terrible towels.........who knew what we'd been missing all these years?

And there is an appropriate way to wave them as he demonstrates above............

Because Christmas wouldn't be complete without some bottom issue concerning Georgia......we had another round of antibiotics to fight through, due to another bladder infection......poor girl.

A Christmas morning tradition--our matching pajama's.  

Enjoy those twinkling Christmas lights for the next few days.....or weeks if you're one of those......and even enjoy the debris that the toys and boxes and wrapping leave's just once a year.

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