Monday, November 25, 2013

it's almost been a year

i'm already thinking about nyla's first birthday.
not about a party or gifts, but of all the emotions that were encompassed in that week - almost a year ago - the week of her birth.
the day she was born - december 16, 2012 - i didn't even know she existed in this world,
that thought alone is enough to bowl me over and lose it.
i know some families miss so much more than a child's birth and first week of life - weeks, even years, but for us, the hours that fit into less than six full days felt long, so long.

our girl was born on a sunday and we came to know her on a wednesday.
we came to love her on that wednesday too.
not because we could see her, or smell her milk breath or touch her feather-soft black baby curls,
but because someone on the other end of the phone told us she was ours if we wanted her -

and oh - we wanted her.

from that moment on wednesday morning until the moment we first laid eyes on this tiny girl in a big carseat, dressed in red velvet and a white headband - we were obsessed with her.

that's the only way i can describe it. obsessed.

every thought i thought for the next three days was about her. what she was doing, how she looked, how much she would weigh in my arms.

i'm not exaggerating when i tell you that between wednesday morning's phone call and saturday morning i couldn't stomach more than a bite of food at every meal, more than a sip of coffee before nervous, excited, anxious jitters would consume my appetite, my mind, my entire body really.

sleeping pills were the only thing that helped me sleep those three nights when all i could do was stare at the one picture we'd been given of her - a closeup shot of her little face, fast asleep with a baby hat on.

but now, when i look at her, i don't see that baby everyday - i honestly don't even think about that week all that much anymore - now all i see is my daughter - my feisty, spunky, cuddly, emotional, stubborn beautiful daughter.

my brown-haired, brown-eyed, brown-skinned beauty and i barely remember the fact that i wasn't there on the day she was born, or on the day she was released from the hospital or there to rock her on her first night home, or to give her her first bottle.

i don't think about it much anymore, but today i do.

today, i remember and thank God for the firsts we do share. our first time hearing her name and seeing her picture on my phone. the first time we laid eyes on her in the flesh and the first time they handed her to me.

the first bottle i gave her in a columbus barnes and noble

and the first night she slept in our room.

there is so much to be thankful for amidst the loss that's also mingled with our gain. and it's thanksgiving week so now is as good a time as any to start remembering, right?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

worth sharing: a hard week in review

*despite the hard week, these two still make my heart beat fast and furious with love

last week most of my energy was spent frustrated, exhausted, angry, resentful, and just plain pooped.

Micah has hit a whole new level of insubordinate disobedience, rebellion, and anger. At some points last week i felt like i was being abused, all his emotional energy, frustration and anger was targeted at me. the yelling, hitting, screaming when not focused at his little sister, was spewed directly in my direction. It took all the energy i had not to explode right back at him during his outbursts. I admit i failed on more than one occasion. spankings were given, prayers were said, but day after day it all felt like one big ball of parental failure.

lunch with my mom and grandmother ended in me sitting with him outside the restaurant while they ate.

a bible study/playdate with a girlfriend was peppered by temper tantrums and tears.

by sunday i didn't even want to go to church. my energy - physical, emotional and spiritual felt zapped and drained. the well was dry, i felt empty to my toes. only in retrospect do i see that that is just the place God likes us. desperate, empty, pleading - no begging - for mercy, like the weakling in an unbalanced arm-wrestling match. that was me.

so despite wanting to stay in bed, buried in blankets we went.

and just like i should've expected both our kids were ridiculously crazy. nyla was trying to squirm out of my arms, only wanting to crawl on the ground, crying when i wouldn't let her roam free. micah wanted to stand "like his own" next to us but from experience he just wanted to find another miniature co-conspirator to his anarchy against sunday mornings. So in Curtis' arms he yelled and screamed to "get down" until he had no choice but to take him to the back. Eventually i was left there, in my seat, butt down on the chair while everyone else was standing and singing, and no doubt judging out lack of control with our mere two kids when many of them have oodles more, all well-behaved, singing along and honoring their mothers and fathers. (yeah, i know that's not what was actually happening, but it always feels like it doesn't it, when in fact, all the other parents of littles are probably in the same boat as us, thinking the same self-depricating thoughts as i) but either way, i was annoyed at my kids, annoyed at God for bringing us all the way to church to do this - discipline. crowd control. but definitely not worship. what was the point?

When we finally got both kids settled in their respective sunday school classes (the nursery for Nyla) we both breathed a sigh of relief. the sermon began by our friend jonathan, and it was good. on a passage i had never understood, so i read along and took notes.

not five minutes after it started i got a tap on my shoulder. Nyla was inconsolable in the nursery. i sighed. of course she was. as i was closing my bible to get up and get her, Curtis said, "you stay, i'll go get her." and so he did. and i stayed and listened.

the sermon was great, but it was something he said, almost unrelated to the passage but relevant to his application points at the end that hit me hardest. he said, "we've come to believe that we can't worship unless all our preverbal and preferential stars are aligned."

and then i was convicted. in that moment i knew my preferential stars were my kids. whether it be obeying, behaving, napping, being quiet, listening when i spoke, when they are none of those - even now and as i type and nyla cries - Jesus is calling me to worship despite all these seemingly out-of-my-control stars. when they aren't aligned but falling, and falling fast.

And then it was over. we got our two crazies and we went home, the sermon still swirling in my head.

Then a book i had ordered the week before came in the mail. It's called Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot. this is what the first page said,  it was merely part of the intro by Annie Keary (1825-1879):

"I think i find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hinderances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one's work. Then one can feel that perhaps one's true work - one's work for God - consists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one's day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted  to think, it is the most important part of the work day - the part one can best offer to God. After such a hinderance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it."

then mere hours later i read this in a book Curtis is reading that i just happened to pick up later in the day:

"How many moments of pain are wasted because we never sat still long enough to learn from them [...] the seed of God's word won't grow to fruitfulness without pruning for rest, quiet and calm." 
-from Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung

Since Micah was born i haven't been a reader like i was pre-children, but this week God knew not only that I needed to read, but also what i needed to read. Case-in-point, like these verses in Colossians during my (helter-skelter) bible study with my friend Katie yesterday morning (while surrounded by our four kids, all 2.5 and under - hence the helter-skelter part):

It said: "May you be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light [...] continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard..."
-Colossians 1: 11-12, 23

John Calvin said the human heart is "a thick forest of thorns," and i have found that to be true in me. over and over and over.

Elisabeth Elliot goes on to say:
"Our enemy delights in disquieting us. Our Savior and Helper delights in quieting us [...] The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances."

Amen and amen.

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure [...] The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance."
-Psalm 16:5-6

so maybe among the many thorns last week, a bud. i know it's not spring but it feels like somethings growing. and with growth, growing pains are inevitable, but definitely not a waste of time.

"It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted  to think, it is the most important part of the work day - the part one can best offer to God."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

and it is FINAL!

at 3pm June 24, 2013 (yesterday) we met our lawyer, stepped into this little courtroom and waited for the judge to rule the finalization of Nyla's adoption.

the questions started off easy, are you Jessica Penick? yes. Is (this) your current address? yes. Is this your signature on this form? yes. Then the questions got a little less straight forward. Were you convinced or coerced in any way to adopt this child? no. do you realize that after today, nyla will be your legal daughter and any costs associated with her, including medical fees, will be your responsibility? absolutely.

after a few more questions the judge looked at Micah who was sitting on Curtis' lap and said, "You must be the big brother. What is your name?" to which micah nervously and shyly started biting on his fingers. We responded for the court record, "this is Micah David Penick." The judge then asked, "Micah, how do you like being a big brother?" It was at that moment that micah smiled, turned to Nyla and said, "I love Nyla!" It was the perfect response to what each of us was thinking and feeling. She is our daughter and has been since the moment we heard she was ours on December 19, 2012, three days after she was born.

After the judge was through with his questioning, our lawyer asked us a list of questions, mostly yes or no, for the record. It was an interesting, but also a surprisingly short hearing for how monumental it felt for us.

At the very end he pronounced that Nyla Grace Penick's adoption was officially final. She would be given a social security number (instead of an adoption ID number) and her original birth certificate would be sealed and she will be issued a new birth certificate that has our names on it under mother and father. How amazing is that. On paper (and in our hearts) it's as though she was biologically born to us. so awesome!

We then took photos with the judge, which you can see above. Our lawyer took the shots as Curtis made a passing joke about her photography fees costing $750 like her services did.

Then we left with our friends who came to support & celebrate with us and headed out in the blazing heat to celebrate with ice cream.  then we said our goodbyes and headed back to Cleveland to start our new post-finalization life together.

And that my friends is the end of Nyla's adoption story. She is no longer our adopted daughter. She was adopted. Now she's just our daughter.

Monday, May 20, 2013

catching up. well, not really but i just found this cute update in my drafts folder.

i wrote the following right after i ended my series on the story of nyla's arrival. i guess in foggy mommy mode, i forgot to hit the publish button. it's funny how a few months can change so much...

we celebrated christmas as a new family of four
curtis turned 30
we rang in 2013 in bed, catching our zzzz's between feedings
we got into a new rhythm of normal (albeit a sleep-deprived, crazy type of normal)
we were up a lot in the night with no rest during the day
but now... oh, we've reached a good normal
our girl is two months old and she's been sleeping through the night all week
last night she slept almost 10 hours straight 
micah will be two years old on monday
and we have reached a new, steadier, normal with two kids

HA! now Nyla is 5 months old and Micah is well past 2. 
Curt's been 30 for months now and i'm 4 days away from 31. 
Nyla and Micah both sleep 12 hours a night and their afternoon nap gives me at least a couple hours of peace and quite.
It's a good life we've got - today after our second to last (!) social worker visit we spent the rest of the morning in the backyard, micah splashing away in the baby pool while nyla laid on a blanket under the shade of the umbrella. and i, well i sat close enough to nyla to entertain her while still getting my legs in the sun and close enough to micah to throw helicopter seeds at him in the pool and to remind him to stop drinking the water in the pool. 
It's going to be a fun summer with these two - not a lot of r&r, but as soon as i figure out the best way to take two kids to the city pool alone and we'll be set.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Don't be crazy, be happy.

a few Fridays ago we went to lunch with Nana (my grandma).

On the way there i told Micah that I wanted him to behave.

From the backseat he then asks, "behave means mommy?"

Instead of answering him I asked a question right back, as i've started to do a lot lately because his answers are both hilarious and usually spot on.

So i asked him what he thought behave meant:

He said, "don't be crazy, be happy."

Yup, that pretty much sums it up kid.

love these two

if you can't tell I love these little rugrats. like love LOVE them. 
for all the hard moments there are a hundred amazing, hilarious, endearing ones. 
they are awesome & make every day exciting.
sometimes during naptime or after they go to bed at night I look through the pictures of the day on my phone and just smile. 
or we'll lay in bed at night and I'll show curt the funny little videos I took. 
when the sleep I'm always glad for the break, but I gotta admit, sometimes I miss them. 
but when I do I can just sneak a peek at them on their little webcams in their rooms and watch their peaceful little faces as they snooze away. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

catching up, kinda...

Gosh it's been a while hasn't it.
Since my last post the boy turned two, the girl turned three months, now almost four, we limped our way through february and march weighed down by colds and pink eye for him and then me then the stomach flu for me and then both boys and then an array of sickness for the wee one that showed up in many ways, the most awful of which was thrush, which, even gosh, six weeks later we still are seeing and feeling the lingering affects which include refusing to eat, a lingering cough, perpetually runny nose.

The house is mostly better now, except Nyla who's still having a hard time eating some days. After a couple "better" weeks, the last couple days have been crummy again. Not much compared to the blood curdling screams and sobs that came with every feeding a mere few weeks ago, the ones that left me in a puddle on the floor, tears streaming for both of us, but still, frustrating to say the least.

At one point Micah, having witnessed my many low points both with anger and sadness came up and put his small hand on my back and rubbed it one afternoon during the worst of it, as I sat, Nyla in my lap, the both of us in tears.

"mommy sad." he said. "It otay mommy."

And it was when he said it, and still is.

For weeks I'd ask him before bed or nap what he wanted to pray for and he'd say, "dat nyla drink her bottle" because he'd heard me pray similar prayers throughout the long days spend couped up at home.

So yeah, that's where I've been lately. Holding down this fort of four. And I can't say that I've done it gracefully or joyfully most days. It's been a hard couple months to be honest.

For a while I kept thinking when spring comes all will be we'll again, but honestly, it's not about the weather. A sunny day helps but more than that it's just how I approach my lot. And candidly, and my husband can attest, I've done a piss poor job with it. I've said the f-word too many times to count, made dinner grumpily, fed bottles angrily.

but really it's not all bad when I step out of myself and peer in the widow to our home. There are lots of higgles and hugs and kissed amidst the tears and whining and pity parties.

We are making it with a lot of apologies and a heaping helping of grace.

Friday, March 22, 2013

just claiming my blog on bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

i heard the news that my dear google reader is going away this summer - so i switched it up and jumped on the bloglovin train before i forgot.

so if you wanna...come follow my blog on bloglovin...if you want :)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

an encouragement to me, and maybe an encouragement to you too

In light of her adoption, in light of our adoption too:

"But Zion said, 'the Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.'
'Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.' "

Isaiah 49:14-16

Saturday, February 16, 2013

two months

today this little girl is two months old,
and in two days this not-so-little boy will be two years old.
how in the world is that possible?

Friday, February 1, 2013

and the wait is over.

as soon as we got in the car we called our case worker, Megan, to let her know how the meeting went, to tell her we were on the road.
we estimated the time we'd reach columbus, since she would be the one meeting us at the Gentle Care offices go through our paperwork with us and to introduce us to foster mom and our daughter for the first time.
so we told her we'd be there in 2 1/2 hours and she said she'd call us as soon as she got word that Nyla's birth mom had finished her paperwork. the call should come in about 15-20 minutes. As we headed out of town we prayed for her - that there would be no doubt in her mind over the next few minutes, that she would have peace and not change her mind.

Curtis drove as i checked my voicemail. friends that had been praying for our meeting had called to pray for us over the phone, others wondering how the meeting went, the support was overwhelming. we also took photos and a video of us during the drive. you can see how happy were were.

Just as we were getting on the highway to head south, Megan called back. she had signed and everything was a go. whew. the flood of relief and pure joy was palpable in that car. this was really happening! in a little over 2 hours we would meet our daughter. unless we literally died on the way to columbus, she was ours.

we spent the next 2 1/2 hours returning phone calls, sending happy texts and just getting more and more excited.

at one point about an hour into our drive curtis stopped for food. my stomach was also growling for the first time in days. i didn't think i could eat yet, but he ordered me a little wrap anyways. it took me the rest of the trip to finish it but it was the first meal i'd had since tuesday night that i didn't want to throw up after one bite. it felt good to feel good again. not anxious or nervous - but just excited.

heading into columbus we counted the minutes according to our GPS that we'd get there. but closer to their office Megan told us that she was going to be mean and make us do our paperwork before she had  Nyla's foster mom bring her in. She knew that once she showed up with the baby we wouldn't want to go through the stack of paperwork, so she staggered our arrivals by a half an hour. we understood, but were understandably a bit disappointed.

When we pulled into the parking lot to their office i called Megan who had just gotten there to unlock the door. We got out of the car with the infant car seat. This was the last time it would be empty. when we got back in our car, she'd be with us. it was surreal.

She let us in the main entrance and led us to their sweet offices. Baby announcements and photographs of families that had adopted with their help lined every wall. I could have stood there for hours looking at ever family, but we had work to do - i wanted to sign the papers so we could meet our girl.

We hadn't seen Megan since we did our initial weekend of training almost a year and a half ago. she was pregnant then. we hugged and got down to business.

a stack of papers the size of our mortgage paperwork sat in front of her. luckily she had sent us all of them the day before so we had already read through everything and were ready to just sign sign sign.

Halfway through the stack foster mom called. she was outside, needing to be let in. my heart started to race but i felt so calm.

Megan went out to let her in the  main entrance and we followed her to the front door to their office not sure if we should follow her all the way out or not. curtis got out his phone. i'm not sure if he took photos or video but we were just giddy with the thought of finally meeting her.

then we saw them walking toward us, just a glass door separating us from our daughter. Foster mom was chatty, but all i was thinking was take that winter cover off that car seat, i want to see her.

then she did and the rest is history.

that initial picture we saw made her look so big and chubby, but she was tiny.
she had on a little red and silver christmas outfit and a little white headband on.

at one point i think curtis said something about her being so much cuter in person. i said nothing, or maybe i did and i just don't remember. i just remember thinking, i don't want to be rude but i want her out of this car seat. i want to hold her.

we all walked back to the office we were signing papers in and sat the carseat down on the ground. Curtis got her out and handed her to me. my girl.

i can't stress enough how completely surreal this moment was, yet so comfortable and natural.
i held her as we chatted with foster mom about her schedule and sleeping and how she was eating. i held her as we signed the rest of our paperwork, as we talked about everything and nothing at all.

then i changed my first of her itty bitty diapers. on a changing pad laid on the floor just like i do for micah. we took a few pictures with foster mom and her son and then that was it. we all put coats back on and Megan walked us to the front of their offices. she was probably staying to finalize some paperwork and lock up, but then, in the hallway, it was just us.

it was that same feeling we had as we were leaving the hospital with Micah. That you're-actually-letting-us-leave-here-with-him feeling. the same exact feeling. you mean we're actually allowed to just walk out of this building with our daughter.

before we left i had curtis stand next to the building directory sign that told where Adoption by Gentle Care was located.

then that was that. we got in the car and left.
but we weren't on our way home yet. while we were signing our paperwork one of my best girlfriends - Kate - and her family we driving up from Dayton to Columbus to meet us. We were headed to a nearby Barnes and Noble to introduce our girl to some of her honorary cousins, aunt and uncle. It was the perfect way to start our little journey home...

then it was time for her first feeding since we'd had her. my time to feed her. you can see how happy i am to do it.

and after a too short visit, they took our first two pictures of us all together and we were on our way home.

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