Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quiet for Awhile

So...I've been quiet for awhile.  If you check my blog regularly you may have wondered what's going on...

Did she go on a stellar vacation to some exotic island?
Did she come down with a bug?
Did she decide to stop blogging for the summer?
Did she get writer's block?

The answer to all of those is no.  Although the top one would be my favorite reason out of all of them.  I've just been...I don't know...quiet.

May turned out to be quite the emotional month. 

Mother's day came with all its memories of wanting to be a mom in years past and the overwhelming emotions of being a mom now.  In addition to my own celebration of mother's day, I also remembered in my heart all those who are waiting to be mothers and the feelings they might be having on mother's day.

Shortly after that came Feven's birthday and the night before her birthday all I could think of was her birth mom.  So many tears thinking about the brokenness of the world as I prepared to celebrate Feven's birthday the next day.

Then it was Feven's birthday - a family celebration doing all her favorite things all day on her birthday.

Three days later was my birthday and as the day went on I began reflecting on the last year, the year ahead, and what I've accomplished with my life.  You know, light birthday thoughts kind of things. 

And in between Feven's birthday and mine came the news that made the world stop spinning.  An adoptive mama friend of mine, Amy, lost her 2-year-old daughter when she was struck by a car in a parking lot.  When I heard the news I was in utter disbelief and my heart ached and I cried.  I met Amy last summer on an adoption weekend retreat.  That weekend we traded stories about our daughters, about adoption and about life in general.  Looking at the photos of that retreat now, it's hard to imagine the innocence we had then and the devastation we all feel now.

I've been processing a lot since the death of sweet Marra.  The week immediately following her death I was depressed and didn't feel like doing anything.  I thought about what it would feel like to be Amy, thinking back on the last time she held Marra, not knowing that would be THE LAST.  The last time she dressed her, tickled her, bathed her, changed her diaper.  All those things we take for granted everyday.  After hearing of Marra's death, I found myself holding Feven more.  I savored our moments together more.  I cherished wiping her hands off after a meal, chasing her around the house to catch her to dress her, playing pretend with her, holding her and reading her books.  I was reminded that life is fleeting and fragile. 

And so I'm quiet.  I'm thinking, reflecting, wondering, praying, and crying.  Still crying. 

So I'm here...I've just been quiet for awhile.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Feven's Birthday Eve

I'm hit tonight by a flood of emotions, none of which I had expected to feel on the eve of Feven's birthday.  In the last few days I've been excited about the gift we're making her, the day we'll spend together as a family, the birthday gathering we'll have for her next week with our parents...but tonight my focus has shifted.  Tonight Feven's birth mother is on my mind.

11pm here...7am in Ethiopia.  As she wakes up is she thinking about Feven?  Is she remembering the labor pains from two years ago?  The first time she gazed upon Feven's sweet face?  Is she remembering how it felt to hold that little baby, to touch those tiny fingers and tickle those toes?  Does she remember the first time she called her by name, "Feven," and that little face turned to meet the eyes of the one whose voice she knew from 9 months in the womb?

My heart is weeping for the brokenness of the world.  It should be her birth mom who greets her with a hug and a kiss on her birthday morning.  It should be her birth mom who retells Feven the story of her birth.  It should be her birth mom by her side all day long.

But it's not.  It's me.  And while I feel honored and grateful to be the one to share this special day with Feven, I am also hurting for the reasons that brought her here.  I never knew that pain and joy could become so intertwined. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Few Photos

Here are a few photos of things we've been up to lately:

Feeding the babies...

 Having a lunch picnic...

Playing in the backyard...

Examining the yellow "flowers" (dandelions)...

Coloring a May Day gift...

We've been having some good times at the Harder House!  This week we are getting ready to celebrate Feven's second birthday.  How is it that much time has passed already?

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Best Way to Wash Dishes

Wednesday night found me standing at the sink with a towering mountain of dirty dishes on my right.  I dug in and was quickly swept away to utter dishwashing bliss.

Why, you ask?

Because a light rain began to fall outside around dishwashing time on Wednesday night.  The window above the sink was open, and through the open window came the soft, sleepy sound of rain mixed with a cool, gentle breeze.

I heard the rain landing on the lawn outside.  I heard the rain making the occasional "tink tink" as it his our gutters.  I heard the water rain running down the downspouts. 

Oh yeah, and I washed dishes. 

The only thing reminding me that I was washing dishes was the periodic use of the faucet as I rinsed now-clean dishes and moved them to the left side of the sink. 

If dishwashing was always this nice, I would gladly do dishes all day, forever.  Oh, what bliss!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Husband Gratitude List

I have a husband gratitude list.  Before you start making gagging sounds in your head or stop reading, listen to how it all came about.  It's not as nauseating as it sounds, I promise.

It wasn't something suggested to me in premarital counseling or at a marriage retreat.  It wasn't an idea from a self-help book or anything like that.  I started my husband gratitude list to gather facts.  And it wasn't even a husband gratitude list when it was started.

When it began, it was a list of compliments Zac gave me because I had a way of hearing his compliments and quickly forgetting them, which led me to believe the lie in my head that he didn't appreciate me or compliment me.  Ever.  You can see why this could be slightly irritating and frustrating to both of us.

I began to document the nice things he said to me so I could see the facts that he DOES say nice things about me and he DOES appreciate me.  It also served as a pick-me up when I was feeling down; I'd take my book and remember how deeply I was loved.

What surprised me about this gratitude list is how it transformed over the course of a few months.  It went from being a list of compliments about me to being a list of qualities I appreciate about Zac.  It happened so smoothly, so seamlessly, that it's hard to pinpoint the change if you read it straight through from beginning to end.  Only in excerpts is it apparent.

For example, a few of the first few entries read:
"He thanked me for the work I am doing to teach Feven letters and numbers."
"He thanked me for the yummy grilled cheese."
"He thanked me for the dedication I have to our family to run all those errands last night."

More recently, the entries read:
"He didn't protest once that we had company on his morning off - he is flexible and gracious."
"He took the time the last two nights when he was gone for work to call and talk to me.  The first night we talked for an hour and last night, even though he was tired, we talked for 45 minutes.  He is devoted."
"He helped me compose a difficult email and spoke truth to me in a way which told me he had been listening to me process the things I've been learning the last few weeks."

When I began, I just wrote down the things he said, word for word.  I am a deeply analytical person, so it didn't take long for me to begin seeing what he said and wondering why he said those things.  And then I moved on to observing his actions and looking for the heart behind them.

It was in this analyzing that I shifted from the words and actions to the character qualities those words and actions represented.  The list became a powerful testament to his character.  I got it in my head that I wanted to share this list with him.  I wanted him to know the good things I saw in him.  I decided to read the list to him the other night and he was surprised to hear some of the items there.  He didn't know how much certain things meant to me, or that they were even noticed.  It was special for both of us to look at that list together.

I'm grateful for the way it has shaped the way I interpret Zac's words and actions and the way it has strengthened our relationship. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

We Made It! (aka My Baby's Back)

Zac has spent 9 of the last 11 days in Mexico for work.  I think he has made close to ten trips now over the course of the last few years for this particular work project.  Feven and I are getting better and better about surviving (and thriving!) when he's gone, but his presence is always preferred to his absence.

I'm also getting better about lowering my expectations for when he's gone.  While there have been trips at the onset that I thought, "Wouldn't it be so fun if I got the kitchen painted while he's gone?  Wouldn't that be a fun surprise?" I now make it my goal to have Feven and I fed and clothed by the day's end.  Anything above that is strictly a bonus and not an expectation. I can't pinpoint what exactly is so hard about his absence, but there's something markedly different when he's gone. 

He returned yesterday afternoon, and Feven and I were outside in the front yard when his car pulled up.  She had a piece of sidewalk chalk in each hand and went careening toward his car as soon as she saw it.  With the biggest smile on her face she greeted him with, "Miss you!  Up!"  We all were pretty happy to see one another. 

I imagine if you would have seen the three of us, you would have thought you were catching the final scene of a Hallmark movie.  So be it.  My baby's back!