mom of boys

Going through it {Welcome Baby}

“ You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you’ve got to go through it. Uh-huh! We’re not scared.”

That little mantra comes from one of my kids’ favorites books and it has been on repeat in my head for the last several weeks with one exception. The kids from the book who are going on a bear hunt bravely declare that they are not scared, but with timidity, I kept thinking about just how scared I was. I finally took a sigh of relief this past Friday.

Let me back up to the day that little mantra started playing in my head. I was roller skating, yes, roller skating with a bunch of gangly fourth and fifth graders from my son’s class. As we wrapped up the event, I asked a teacher to take a picture of an unenthusiastic Greyson and me. As she handed my phone back I noticed I had a few missed calls. They were all from the same unknown number, and I had a voicemail. The kids took the bus back to their school and I hopped in my car to head home. I was thinking that I hated the smell roller rinks left on your clothes as I tapped the speaker button to play my message.

It took me a minute to register that it was a caseworker from an agency near Detroit asking me to call her back as she had good news to share with me. Now, I’ve heard that it’s typical for the labor and delivery process to get quicker with each child you have, but no one ever said that of an adoption process. Yet, we had been through a four year process with Charlie, to a thirteen month process for Sawyer and now it had been six short weeks since we began waiting in this adoption. Surely, this was not the good news the caseworker meant, but I intended to find out. I called her back immediately.

Thankfully, I was around the corner from Ron’s office so I pulled in and headed to find him. He wasn’t in his office, but I took a seat at his desk and began to furiously scribble notes as the caseworker talked. Ron walked in a few seconds later with a confused look on his face, and I mouthed the words “BABY!” and pointed at my phone. Sure enough, there was a pregnant women who wanted to meet with us, and could we drive across the state next week? We could, so we did, and there we met the birth mom of our fourth child.

When we started waiting in September I just had to ask the average wait of families at the agency. I was given the politically correct answer that of course they couldn’t ever really say, but it seemed to be somewhere around six to fourteen months. I did the math in my head and liked where that put us, past the busyness of the holidays, past the trip we had planned to take in January and into spring or summer where it’s easy to get out with a baby. Yet, here we were meeting a brave, spunky women who had needed to find a family quickly for her baby because she was due in four weeks. Again, I did the math and asked “Your due date is on Thanksgiving?”.

We didn’t even wait those four weeks to meet our baby. While I was still trying to wrap my head around it all, I got a text from the birth mom one Friday morning. She would be getting induced. … today. Which was a little more than a week prior to her due date. Sometimes I wonder if God thinks its fun to mess with me. Kinda seems like maybe He does. This whole scenario was so far away from what we had envisioned, and lets be honest, what I had planned. I kept telling people when we started the process “I have no expectations,” and I certainly didn’t expect THIS.

THIS being that this adoption was not a clear cut situation. THIS being that while we were able to be there an hour after the birth to meet our baby, he would not be coming home with us. Yes, we were allowed to stay in the hospital with him until he was released, but he would be going to a host care (think agency foster care) rather than home to our family. Goodness, I cried about that. It seemed unfair. I have grieved missing the first year of two of my kids’ lives, and swore that this time it would be different. It was different. We could visit everyday, but there were strict rules put into place. We couldn’t be with him longer than two hours a day, less than that on the weekends, and our kids were not allowed to meet him or visit with us. Of course they had gone over all of these scenarios with us, but we were told it was pretty rare for a baby to go to host care. I just didn’t expect for both his birth mom and his new family to be leaving the hospital without him. Again, the little mantra played over and over in my head. “You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, You’ve got to go through it.” And I felt scared.

There we sat; Ron and I in a hospital across the state falling madly in love with our tiny 5 pound 6 ounce baby, while his first family sat in another room just down the hall. We kept him with us at night, but he would visit her during the day. We visited with her too, met her parents, and her nana. We all cooed over the baby. It felt a little surreal. Then just like that it was time for her to head home. The lump in my throat grew as we wheeled the bassinet into her room for the goodbye. She picked him up and held him close, tears streaming down both our faces. Then she bravely handed him over to us and out she went. I can only describe this as the rawest form of true love I’ve ever witnessed. She put her own desires aside for the needs of her baby. She holds a piece of my heart.

We woke up the next morning in the hospital feeling anxious and discouraged. Today the host family would come to take our baby home. After a few restless hours, the caseworker walked in and immediately my lip began to tremble. “Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, got to go through it.”

Ron says I am being dramatic here, but I don’t know how else to define what happened next. An extreme presence of peace was ushered in with the host mom. It was like Jesus walked in with her. She had a warm, welcoming smile. She empathized with us and although I bawled when she put my baby in her car, I was certain he would be loved. God has been so good to us. Our wonderful host mom told us to come as often and as long as we wanted, she sent pictures and texts daily, and most importantly, she loved on my baby. I don’t know what kind of person signs up to take on a newborns schedule, but they are some kind of wonderful. It wasn’t an easy couple of weeks, but this family certainly lightened the load.

Our final step in this process was court, not for us, but for the birth parents. Without going into too much detail, this is where all the issues came into play. Legally, certain steps must be taken in order for our baby to be able to come home. We knew there were concerns, but the agency felt they had a good handle on the situation. Forty eight hours before paperwork had to be sent, I got a call. The caseworker explained that things had not gone as planned, it was proving more difficult to get everything in order than originally thought. They had had a meeting with their legal team. If things didn’t turn around in the next couple of hours, court would need to be rescheduled. The caseworker said “if you have people willing to pray, I’d contact them now”

That is exactly what we did. One of my prayer warriors said as she was praying, “ Thank you God that you are in the midst of the details, that nothing escapes your eye.” So yes, we were going through it, but we were certainly not going through it alone. I am so thankful for faithful friends and family who covered us in prayers, watched our children so we could make visits a reality, and constantly checked in on us to see how we were doing. They helped carry us through.

Nine hours after my original phone call from the caseworker, late in the evening, she called again. They had a break through, they had dug up new information, and just a few minutes before she called me, all the time sensitive paperwork was completed. Only God, only God. We give Him the Glory for moving on our behalf. One week later, this past Friday, court went on without a hitch, and our sweet boy came home to brothers ecstatic to meet him. I choke up just thinking about all the emotional ups and downs we have experienced these past five weeks. When I asked the birth mom the reasons she selected our family, one of them was that she wanted him to have a large family filled with boys. She said “I think he will fit in great with your crew.” We couldn’t agree more. Marge, maybe not as much.

God never ceases to amaze me with His plans, His purposes, and His timing. We give Him praise for our fourth son:

Bennett Ray-Isaac Cook

Accepting help is sometimes hard {for me}

I used to work at Cygnus restaurant before I got married. It was by chance that I got the job. I had gone to a mass interview process for jobs at the Devos Place and was pulled aside to interview for the hostess position at the upscale restaurant on the top of the Amway hotel. I got offered the job that day and worked there for about eighteen months leading up to my wedding. It ended up being a fun job.

Sometimes I witnessed a marriage proposal, often times families were out celebrating something special or business people were wining and dining their clients. The job was easy; just show the people to the table, smile and make sure you used the phrases they taught you in training like "my pleasure" and "certainly Mr. so-and-so." Never point your finger but always use your entire hand to gesture.  I came to recognize the executives high up in Amway that frequently dined with us. I learned the names and faces of our regular clients. One in particular always caught my attention.

He came in about once a month.  He always requested a particular table and dined in on a weeknight when we weren't as busy. He was curt, but polite and always carried a book. He just sat comfortably and read, enjoyed his dinner and left. I was told he tipped well. I always thought to myself " Who does that? Who has the time to come in every month to an expensive restaurant just because?" 

Tonight, that was me. I have actually never sat alone at a restaurant and eaten, but tonight I found myself with a good book and an even better glass of wine sitting at a table for one. A few nights ago, I dropped a full bottle of water on my toe. I immediately dropped to the ground and started sobbing. No joke.  I mean it actually hurt pretty bad, but sobbing is a little dramatic for a toe. My husband, who is a pretty smart guy, just let me cry it out. I went and took a hot shower and came out all blotchy, red-faced and swollen eyed. We sat next to each other for a few minutes before he broke the silence by telling me he had booked a hotel for two nights and he expected me to go, alone.

I said no. I gave every excuse in the book why this was impossible. He had work, I had to get a child to an appointment, there was a book report due, football practice, Sawyer has not been home very long, Charlie isn't sleeping and so on. He just sorta glanced at the water bottle then back at me. He said,  "I don't want to argue about this, but I think you could use a break." I still said no. But here I am, sitting in a hotel room with me, myself and I and it's a little awkward.

I don't think I have been by myself overnight anywhere for years. I've been away, I've had vacations but I have always been with someone.  I don't really know what to do, I have a hard time just sitting at home, so this is a struggle. Which sounds funny because I don't know how many days a week I think about just getting a few minutes alone and here I am alone. 

Last week at church we had a special guest, he was really good, and I keep thinking about what He spoke on. He taught about receiving and how it's just as important or maybe even more so than giving. After all, how can you give if you never receive anything? Of course, I had heard this before. You must be filled up spiritually in order to give to others. Quiet time with God is essential for getting through your day. Fill your tank so you can go somewhere etc. But he said something  that I have been thinking about since that service. In the context of the sermon, it was something close to " The inability to receive is actually a sign of arrogance." Hmph.  

He shared that God had been laying on his heart to start a community of generosity. His merchandise was available to buy after the service, if you couldn't afford it, but wanted it, just tell the people working the table.  They would simply give it to you. If you could afford it and afford to pay for someone else's, then do that. If you could afford it but God was telling you to receive one for free, then go ahead and do that. He told a story about a wealthy lady who had bought a bunch of merchandise for herself and had bought even more to donate. She went to leave but was physically unable to exit the building. Crying and in tears, she went back and asked for a free book. She had so much in life, she didn't feel she had the need to receive.

Receiving can be hard. I think, for me, it's hard because it means I am lacking something. Why is it so hard to ask for help? Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't be able to ask for help because my family is healthy, my husband has a stable job, we live in a nice house, we have food in our cupboards. I feel as though I really don't deserve to ask for help. And I don't know why I feel that way, but to me, it's a reflection of what I can't handle. My Type A personality really struggles not handling things. I have a real need to be doing something. Whether it be for God or others. I am always praying, "God, what can I can do for you?" I just didn't expect him to say, be still and receive. 

So when I heard that in certain terms not asking for help is a sign of arrogance, I felt a little twinge.  Could it be that my unwillingness to ask for help and taking the time to settle my soul is actually a sign of disobedience? When I thought about it that way, I agreed to a few days away.  My husband was being sensitive to the Holy Spirit when he set this up for me. (He is awesome)

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack for nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake

So could a dinner alone be an act of obedience? Can receiving a break for a few days away be steps in humility? And is it possible that just being still before God is really all He is asking of you right now? I think yes. What a Father! One that is able to understand my heart and my anxious thoughts. He adjusts my view and opinion not by condemnation, but in a quiet whisper.  I am so thankful for His help.

A bittersweet pang

Yesterday, I took all three kids for a walk after school.  We've had Sawyer home for nine days and I hadn't taken all three of them out together.  I certainly had not taken them out with Marge.  She is like an amazingly high maintenance fourth child.  One that requires a walk every day or she goes bonkers.  We have had a lot of rain which means not a lot of walks.  It was inevitable, I was either going to lose my mind or just bite the bullet and do it.  So, we headed to a park where Marge can run off of her leash and expel her boundless energy.

 

The walk was going okay, but then Sawyer didn’t want to be in his BOBA on my back anymore.  I let him down which decreased our speed.  Next, Charlie decided that his walking stick would be better used as a “whack your older brother in the head stick.”  And then chaos ensued.   All three were crying.  I kissed the head of one, took the stick from the other and tried to soothe the third.  Marge had gotten twenty-five minutes of running, that was enough!  I half dragged Charlie towards our car since he was throwing a fit about the stick, and as we rounded the curve, we all stopped a little short.  There in the parking lot and spilling over into the entrance of the park were souped up trucks, a large party bus and tons of teens dressed for prom.  My first thought included a four-letter word. 

 

I took a deep breath, got Marge on her leash and we all started walking toward the mass of tuxes and sparkles.  We walked past the group of kids and I felt a bittersweet pang.  I stepped outside myself and wondered how did I get here?  How did my Friday night outing become dragging three kids for a walk with the promise of pizza afterwards?  When did I become the mom?!?  I guess what they say it true, blink and ten years( give or take a few) have passed.  I can hardly remember what it was like to be carefree. 

 

 

When I was younger, I babysat all the time and it always amazed me how grateful the parents were when I would bathe the kids, put the dishes away and make sure the house was picked up before they got home.  The moms used to say that it was so nice to come home to a clean house. I didn’t get all the hype.  Driving home I would think about having a family someday and how I wanted a bunch of kids because taking care of kids was easy.  Then I would get home, lay down in my bed, and enjoy hours of uniterrupted sleep.   So naive and ignorant.

 

Parenting is the hardest job I have ever done. The shift lasts twenty-four hours, all three hundred and sixty-five days of the year.  Some days I wonder what I was thinking, picking this.  But I did pick it.  Eight years ago we decided to try for a baby and thirteen months later we were given the gift of Greyson.  Then five years later, after fighting tooth and nail, we were given the gift of Charlie.  And just three weeks ago and in really  unexpected ways, we were given the gift of Sawyer.  All three are true gifts, not really mine, but given to me to steward.  It’s a humbling thought.  One I don’t always remember to be grateful about.

 

There are days when I forget to let the seven-year-old be seven by telling another “hilarious” fart joke, quoting sports facts and asking me to watch just one more trick.  I forget that the three-year-old is just three.  The things he gets so worked up about are relative to his stage of life, his little hands are capable and strong but only so big and still require a lot of guidance.  The baby, so sweet but constantly taking apart drawers, emptying contents of cupboards or whatever else he can get his pudgy hands on.  I forget that he is learning, discovering his world by touch.  All I can think about some days is how many hours until bedtime.  When will I get a few minutes of quite and reminiscing, as I did the other night at the park, about being young and free? 

 

But that young and free was just a season, a gift of youth.  And this too is just a season.  These days, which are filled with messes and tears, but also giggles and silliness.  Just a season.  I am certain that in reflecting on my life today and thinking, "Wasn't I just the one getting ready for prom not too long ago?"  That in a flash, I will think back to these current days with fondness and also a bittersweet pang.  My oldest had some questions about the teenagers dressed up and I told him that in a few short years when he was in high school, he would get to go to prom.  And oh my goodness, he will.  How can that be? 

 

So this season of constantly being needed, of lack of sleep, of stepping on legos and trying to keep my patience but also one of open mouth, slobbery baby kisses, being given dandelion bouquets and reading bedtime stories to soapy-scented little bodies.  This exhausting season is a gift.  Today especially,  I am incredibly grateful to the One who gives me these gifts.  For His faithful love and care for me so that I can love and care for mine. 

 

This mom gig is not always so pretty, but it is beautiful.

Whatever season of motherhood you're in:  Happy Mothers Day!