the two year mark

Two years ago we met the girls. But first, let me back up a little. On November 10th, 2010, we had some friends over for dinner. I think it was the first time we had Randy and Ashley over for dinner. We didn’t know them just real well at the time. How could we have known that they would be right there in our house when we got probably the most shocking news of our lives??

Phillip ran to get some ice or something for dinner and while he was out he got a call. The call was from someone at CPS telling us that our son, Micah, has two younger biological sisters. They would soon be free for adoption. Would we be interested in adopting them.

Phillip came in the house and shared that call with me…and our dinner guests. We were all shocked. Looking back on it now is so funny. Randy and Ashley felt kind of awkward. I think Randy asked if they should leave. It was just a very strange evening. I have no memory of what we ate or what we talked about…other than the girls.

So then a month later on December 10th, 2010, we drove to Mimi and Papa’s house and met the girls for the first time. But that month from Nov 10th to Dec 10th was filled with a great deal of turmoil for us. We weren’t seeking out any more children to adopt. I wanted to adopt one child again down the road and Phillip was fine with having two boys. Honestly, that month in between finding out about them and meeting them brought arguments, tears, paranoia, prayers, and worries. Phillip knew that once I saw the girls there would be no turning back. I was ready to jump in with both feet, blindfolded with rocks tied to my feet. Phillip was ready to run away. I thought it would be a dream come true and Phillip thought it would be a disaster.

But we were both very wrong. It wasn’t a dream come true and it wasn’t a disaster. Most days it was about survival, with a few wonderful moments and a few disastrous moments every day. The bad greatly outweighed the good for the first 6 months to a year or more. We were tested and overwhelmed beyond what we ever could have imagined.

That first 6 months or so, when the girls would go visit Mimi and Papa, the nostalgia of just being with the boys was painful. We longed for the way our life was before. We worried that things would never feel normal again. We worried that we might even be destroying our family by taking two more kids. Mikey regressed far more than I could have anticipated. The first 6 months to a year was pretty bad, folks. But when we were in the thick of it, I couldn’t really tell you just how bad it was. People were so excited about our “cool story,” but living it didn’t feel cool at all.

I think I may have had a harder time than Phillip because I was expecting bliss. I thought it was going to be glorious and it wasn’t. I thought I was going to have the time of my life, with the large family that I had always wanted, and I was miserable much of the time. His expectations were far more in line with reality than mine.

I have friends who are in the process of adopting. And other friends who feel led to adopt down the road. Adoption is a beautiful picture of love. But…it is NOT easy! You may not feel an instant magical love when that child is placed in your arms. Or you might at first, but then when the behavior issues start, you may realize the magic isn’t there like you thought. You may wish you had a time machine. You may be overcome with guilt because you don’t know how to love a child that you thought you could love. Some families require therapy to learn how to make their new family work. In hindsight, we probably should have received some kind of family therapy to help with the process. But when you’re in it, it’s about surviving through that day. It’s hard to be objective enough to see past the fog.

So why am I writing all of this? Why am I writing all of this negative stuff?? Shouldn’t I be writing a celebratory post at this two year mark? I’m writing it to show hope. We are two years from the date of meeting the girls. And while things still aren’t bliss, they are good. Our life feels normal. We are occasionally overwhelmed, but more often than not, we just roll with it. This is just our life. We find SO MANY more happy moments now than we did that first year. Our boys are deeply bonded with the girls and vice versa. And while Phillip and I perhaps still aren’t as deeply bonded with the girls as we are the boys, we’re getting there. We have all come so far! And we know we will continue to grow into an even deeper love for the girls and them for us. There was a time I didn’t know that, but I do now.

And on that note, I’m going to go curl up in my bed with Katie Fart and take a nap. My heart will soften a percentage or two more than yesterday as I pat her little butt and get her hair out of her eyes.

Our life is good. Adoption is a beautiful thing. But let’s be clear….it’s not easy! Oh yeah, and by the way, Randy and Ashley will be traveling in a few months to pick up their little girl from China.


Today I sat in the living room holding the little one while the other two little ones played and laughed together. Looking to me to see if I was noticing their silliness. The little one laughing at the other two. Three little kids that do not share my DNA and yet couldn’t be more mine. And in that moment I was just overcome by the feeling of being right in the middle of something grande. How blessed am I that I get to be their mom?

Hard questions.

This is the conversation Mikey and I had this morning on the way to my mom’s. Or at least, it’s my best recollection of the conversation Mikey and I had this morning on the way to drop him off with my mom. Mikey has been told that he’s adopted, but we’ve never really gone any deeper than that. I wasn’t expecting some of these questions for a while. He totally caught me off guard.

Mikey: Where was I before I was born? Was I in Heaven?
Jenny: No, you weren’t in Heaven. You just weren’t in this world yet. You weren’t anywhere.
M: How did I get to you? Did somebody bring me to you?
J: awkward pause…(The stork, Santa Clause, God…??) Yes, a man named Brandon brought you to our house.
M: He just brings lots of babies to their homes?
J: Yeah, kind of. He brings babies who don’t have a safe home to a safe home.
M: Did he get me out of a cage?
J: What? No!
M: Does he have babies in cages at his home and he takes them to another home?
J: No! You were not in a cage…. (Crap!! How do I deal with this??) You were born in a hospital just like every baby and then he brought you to our house.
M: How was I born?
J: (Dear Lord…) Do you remember when Brady was growing in Aunt Ashley’s tummy and her tummy got big?
M: Yes
J: Well, you grew big in another mommy’s tummy. You didn’t grow in my tummy. You were born and then Brandon brought you to our house.
M: Why did he bring me to you?
J: Well, that mommy didn’t know how to take care of babies so she let you go to a new mommy and daddy so you could be safe. You came to us and we adopted you.
M: Her tummy was scary?
J: (Well, yes but…) No, her tummy wasn’t scary. She just didn’t know how to take care of you and she knew that we did. She wanted you to be safe.
M: And you saw me and you loved me?
J: Yes.
M: Forever?
J: Absolutely. Forever.
M: Did Brandon bring Jackson to your house?
J: No, Jackson grew in my tummy. My tummy got big big big and he was born at the hospital and we brought him home.
(Here we went through SEVERAL members of our family and talked about how all of them were born in the hospital and their mommy’s brought them home.)
J: Did Brittany and Katie grow in my tummy?
M: No. Did they grow in Mimi and Poppa’s tummy? (The previous foster parents)
J: (trying not to laugh) No, they grew in the same mommy’s tummy that you grew in! That’s why they came to live with us. Because they’re your sisters!
M: Oh, they’re my sisters. I want some juice. Can I get some juice, please?

So there’s this baby.

So there’s this baby that we’ve known about since before she was born. Worried about. Prayed about. There’s this baby that we were asked to adopt. There’s this baby that we just couldn’t manage to take too. Because four kids is already a lot. She’s been a burden on my heart since the day I had to say “no.” This baby I’m talking about looks shockingly like this baby…

And then there’s this family. This amazing and kind family that we’ve been acquainted with for years. We go to the same church. We have a similar circle of friends and acquaintances. There’s this family who has wanted for a very long time to adopt a baby. They’ve had more disappointments and heartbreaks than I can imagine. They were almost ready to give up.

And now, much to my amazement, that little baby, who we just couldn’t take, has made her way to the arms of this sweet family. And the burden that I’ve felt since we said “no” has lifted and I am no longer worried about this baby. And all the while I was worrying and feeling guilty about this baby, God already had it all figured out. I worried that my kids would never know her. I worried that she would be alone in this world. I worried that someday she would be angry with us for saying “no.” That they would all be angry. And now this family, who we were only acquainted with before, will become lifelong friends, extended family even. How could they not?

For now she’s just the baby of some friends. She’s just a baby that we’ll get to hang out with and watch grow. She’s just a baby that my kids will play with. But someday, when their little minds can grasp it all, they will know the story of how their little sister came to live in the same town as them, go to the same church as them, and be surrounded by the same people who love them. Someday they will be told how the God who created them saw fit to give them the gift of friendship even though they will have different last names.

I stand in awe.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? РMatthew 6:25-27

“You heavenly Father loves you. He has a plan for your life. He is in control. You are not forgotten.” This is what I will tell my kids. This is what our friends will tell this baby. This is what I’m telling you now.

So, how does it feel?

Some have asked, “So, how does it feel?” How does what feel? Oh, right. I should feel something. I think what I feel is a bit of relief that there won’t be social workers coming to our house anymore. I think I feel a bit more relaxed about discipline, letting the kids get filthy, and the condition of my house. I think the girls maybe feel a little more “mine” than they did before Monday.

But, honestly, nothing magical happened Monday morning. And I don’t mean to sound so cynical. I’m glad they’re here. I’m glad they’re ours. I’m glad our names will now be on their birth certificates. I love them, but I loved them before Monday. But a switch did not flip that all of the sudden made everything seem like a fairy tale. I wish I could tell you otherwise. This is still the hardest thing we’ve ever done so far in our lives.

There was a funny tweet recently from Jim Gaffigan. It went something along the lines of “What does having four kids feel like? Imagine you’re drowning and someone hands you two more kids. It’s kind of like that.” We still have moments where we don’t think we can or even want to do this. But it’s infinitely better than it was 10 months ago. The word “daughter” still doesn’t roll off my tongue very easily, but I remember it felt weird to call Mikey my “son” for a while after his adoption too.

So, how does it feel? Well, it pretty much still feels like we’ve got three kids who can’t wipe their own noses or bottoms. Three kids who can’t snap their own pants or put on their own socks. It pretty much feels like we work from sunup until midnight every day. It feels like God has called us to do something we don’t feel yet equipped to do.

But in the midst of the hard, and it is hard, we laugh until we cry. We watch them all together and shake our heads and grin. We listen to their wacky conversations and know they are God ordained. Our four children are exactly where they are supposed to be. We have no doubt about that. And Phillip and I are doing the very difficult job that we have been called to do.

So I guess you could say that it just feels like family. And family is hard, but it’s worth it. And I guess you could say that it just feels “right.”

photos by Amanda Reich Photography

Where to begin…

Today we adopted the girls. Where do I begin? I’ve got hundreds of pictures and words that I *want* to share. How about I just begin at the beginning? But I don’t have time at this moment to write a novel or even really a decent story. But I do have time to post a picture of the very first time Brittany met her daddy. (It’s a phone pic) She warmed up to him in about 30 minutes.

And I have time to post one of the first pictures I ever took of Katie with her daddy.

And the first photos of our four kids together.

So we’ll just start there for today. We’ll have adoption pictures to share soon. Thanks for loving our family. Thanks for praying for us.

October 3rd, 2011

It looks like the girls’ adoption day will be early Monday morning, October 3rd. And then…more pictures of their faces will be posted here than anyone will even know what to do with. (Assuming I can find the time with four kids.) October 3rd is going to be a good day.

When love takes you in and everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you in

– Steven Curtis Chapman

Are they all yours?

“Are they all yours?” I got asked that this week for the first time. I didn’t even have Jackson with me. I just had the three littles. Due to poor meal planning, I had to take them to the store twice this week. Anyway, at the store a young man asked me, “Are they all yours?” I was caught a little off guard. I said, “Yes…sort of…it’s complicated.” I should have just said yes and left it at that. But when someone asks “Are they all yours?” what they mean is “Did you give birth to ALL those kids?!”

Did I give birth to them? No, thank goodness. Are they all mine? Yes, they are, thank you very much.