Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stuff Matthew Says, Part 2

I love this time in Matthew's life where he's still learning language. Here are some of my favorite "Matthewisms."

"Are you okay?" He says this if he gets hurt or does something that presumably could have hurt him (fall down, run into something, etc). He walks around and asks everyone in the vicinity, "Are you okay?" So sweet.

"Noonles" -Noodles

"Chicken" - "Kitchen." It's really cute to hear him tell me he is playing in his chicken.

"Easies"- Earrings. My mother in law likes to wear earrings so she has some in 99% of the time she sees him. Especially when Matthew was younger, he wanted to touch and handle them. She'd let him, but, trying to encourage him to be gentle, she'd say "easy" while he was doing it. He now thinks they're called "easies."

"Fishy Pants"-His swim trunks that have fish on them

"Hopter" - Helicopter

"Red bed" -the sheets on our bed are red, so he'll say "Mashu and mommy in the red bed?" when he wants to go in there and snuggle or jump on the bed

"Nuke" =Milk

"You want" and "Are you??"- He says things this way to refer to himself, presumably from hearing me ask him "are you..." or whatever. "You want nuke?" = "I want some milk." "Are you stinky?" = "My diaper is dirty." It's really funny though when he comes and says, "Mommy, are you stinky?"

"Mommy, are you talking to a beaver?" -He said this to me yesterday morning. I have no idea what it means and I didn't even know he knew what a beaver is (not something we see in Arizona), but it was too funny not to share.

Friday, July 26, 2013

When your child is THAT kid

Do you ever have one of those days? Those days where you don't recognize your own child? When you want to sink into the floor where you're standing or the chair where you're sitting? Where you're SURE everyone around is judging you for being a terrible parent because you belong to THAT child?

I had one of those weeks. Matthew has just been OFF and I've been struggling. Struggling with his attitude. Struggling with what other people must think of him and of me. Struggling that he's not learning as quickly as I'd like him to. Struggling when he displays his little sinful nature for all the world to see. Struggling with my own attitude when it happens.

A friend once told me that the half of any given age is harder than the whole. I agree. 2 was a piece of cake compared to 2 and a half.

Matthew has just been ornery. Just one example is that he landed in time out two or three separate times during one 30 minute swimming class because he just flat out decided not to obey his teacher and she had given him enough grace and was done. He fully deserved it and I was embarrassed. What parent doesn't like to see their child exceed and impress?

Couple that with the fact that he genuinely struggles with the course material, so we beat our heads in a brick wall and I just felt like a flop.

We've all had those moments, and we'll all have them again. It's life. So what can we do when we hit these moments? I have only been a parent for a few years so I can't say I have this all figured out. But this has been what has been helping me this week.

Pray for God to give you patience with your child and with yourself. Pray for God to open your eyes to new ways to instruct your child. Pray for grace for other parties involved who might be experiencing frustration with your child. Speak prayers of gratitude for them too. Pray for your child, that his heart would continue to be molded into one that wants the Lord, one that wants to obey God-given instruction in his life. Pray for creativity and discernment as you and your child tackle this journey together. Pray for strength and encouragement when you are weary. Speak prayers of gratitude and praise and wonderment to God for this little child who has been entrusted to you. Praying changes your focus, I promise.

Speak Scripture
Speak scripture to your child, and to yourself. Scripture is rich with wisdom. As my friend Diana points out, the Bible is the best parenting book you will ever read so glean from it and use it to teach your child. I find myself telling Matthew, "A cheerful heart is good medicine." And when I say it to him, it echoes in my own ears, too, and I check MY heart and its response to said exasperating situations. I'm reading through this book, and it's a wonderful resource.

Realize your child's limitations
Are there extenuating factors that are exacerbating your child's attitude? Is she overtired? Hungry? Overstimulated? Cold? Wet? Unable to communicate? While I believe an important lesson in childhood is to learn to function even under these circumstances, children ARE still learning this lesson. While it's appropriate to push them a little and help expand their capacities, we need to stop short of setting them up for failure and allow extra grace when there are circumstances beyond their control that are contributing to the problem. Matthew is going to swimming lessons 4 days a week. He's had a few late nights visiting with out of town family we only get to see once or twice a year. He's exhausted. We made the decision to prioritize that extra family time (or whatever) above getting to bed on time, but that means we have to be willing to accept the consequences, which include in our case, a crabby little dude, who generally requires a LOT of sleep. It's fine to break or bend the rules every now and then (for are we under the Law? No!), but make sure grace for your child accompanies that decision. It may also be true that your child has reached his maximum ability for a certain task or skill at the moment. Even if that is short of accurate execution, that's ok. Realize his limits.

Realize that you are not a bad parent
Do you love your child? Do you love the God who made him? Are his needs for food and shelter and clothing and medical care met as much as lies in your power? Is he safe in your home? If you're even evaluating your aptitude as a parent, then it's pretty safe to say you're not a bad parent. I think we're particularly bad at this as Americans, because we have the luxury to play these games with each other and with ourselves. A little perspective helps my attitude a lot. Stop with the mommy guilt and the mommy wars. Relax. We've all had bad days. All of our kids have had bad days. If anyone is judging you, then she is either not a parent, is a parent of a child too young to misbehave, or she is seriously delusional about how perfect her own child is. Most of us are so harried keeping our own kids in line while simultaneously maintaining our sanity, that we don't have time to think about judging you.

Realize it's ok for your child to fail
And along the same lines, it's ok for your child to not be the favorite, or the best at something, or the most likeable, or whatever other superlative you've conjured in your head as a worthwhile goal. This is hard to break free of especially if your child usually is that kid. There's nothing wrong with being that kid, if you keep it in perspective. But that pressure isn't fair to you, your child, the other children involved, or any other adults involved. Learning to struggle, learning to fail, learning to be humble, learning to resolve conflict, learning to deal with being unliked, learning your own limits and capacities for something, learning to lose graciously, learning to be disciplined and corrected are all as important or more important than whatever skill or situation your child is currently attempting.  Don't rescue your child from the chance to learn these lessons. Remembering the bigger picture helps makes the momentary embarrassment or frustration a little easier to bear.

Realize that this will soon be a distant memory, and that persistence will pay off
It took 20 lessons, countless hours of practice outside of class, numerous timeouts, some creativity, some tears, some frustration, but our hard work paid off and Matthew graduated the first level of swimming class. I think this is true in life.

Scripture tells us, "...We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4) Take heart that God is shaping your heart, and your child's heart, through this time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Free Shutterfly Book

Well that was fast. I posted just last night about creative ways to take advantage of free photo book offers.

Shutterfly posted an offer today on their facebook page. New customers can score a free photo book. Just click here (you may have to "like" Shutterfly) and then click the "Get Your Code" button. Shipping is $7 or $8--about the price of a regular kid's book.


Disclaimer: I get no incentive for this post or the one before it. I just like passing on good deals!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I'm a big fan of Shutterfly photo books. I made one for our pregnancy and one for Matthew's first 6 months of life. I made our adoption book as one and then when I wanted to send a copy to the Genetic Family, it was easy enough to go into my history and order another. I love that it saves my projects so I can go back to them at any time.

But I've also made a couple of less conventional books (ie non-Scrapbooks).

I made the first one when Matthew was starting to learn that pictures were of real people and things. Quite a lot of our family is long distance so I made him a book of "his people" so that he could learn the names and relationships of our family members even though he doesn't see many of them more than a few times a year.  I made an 8x8 20 page book and each page has one member of our family on it. I just called it "Matthew's Favorite People." It's so fun for him to flip through it and it really has helped him remember family members between visits.

I kept it really simple-just a large photo or two of each person that clearly showed his or her face, and his or her name printed in big, plain text. Here are the first two pages:

Then I made him a book called "Matthew's Favorite Things" and I chose an ABC Theme. Shutterfly made it easy because there are "stickers" in their book process that you can choose to put on each page, and they had a few ABC sets.

I was pretty tickled with how it came out. I made it more than a year ago and he still loves to look through it. I may do another when he gets older of some of his new obsessions.

You can see the book here or if I am doing this right, right here:

Here is my ABC List:

A: Airplanes
B: Bible, Books, Ball
C: Cat, Colors, Crayons
D: Daddy, Dog
E: Elephant
F: Frog, Flowers, Friends
G: Grandmas, Grandpas, Gears, Giraffes
H: Hugs
I: I Love You
J: Jesus
K: Kiss
L: Lion
M: Mommy, Matthew
N: Night night
O: Outside
P: Pineapple
Q: Quack (I totally cheated here)
R: Rocks
S: Scout, Strawberries
T: Truck
U: Us
V: Veggie Tales
W: Water
X: X (he LOVED to say the X when he was first learning his alphabet)
Y: Yellow
Z: Zoo, Zebra

You can easily enough do these same things with pictures and paper or traditional photo albums. The best thing about these two books? I only paid $8 shipping. Shutterfly runs specials ALL THE TIME for free photo books and all you pay is shipping. I also regularly see them and various other photo printing sites on Groupon and other similar daily deals sites. So if you wanted to do this, you could do it really inexpensively. You could even create the book now and save it in your account until you see a free offer.

 If you do create something, I'd love to see it! Have fun :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Toddler Songs

I think if I were to have to narrow it down, I think the thing that gives Matthew the most pleasure in life is music. Mommy and Daddy and books might be tied, but it's definitely in his top 3. He loves to sing it, listen to it, dance to it, watch it, experience it...anyway he can get it. So, we sing...a lot. We sing about everything. We sing praises, we sing about what we're doing, we sing about what we just did, we sing about our friends...whatever. If I can say it with a tune, I do. I throw in lots of "doo dahs" and "oh doo dah days" between my stentences. If a song about whatever it is already exists, even better.

So I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite songs and I hope you'll chime in (pun intended!) and do the same! We sing a lot of songs everyone knows like "Jesus Loves Me" and "You are My Sunshine" but these are some that are less common. I would love to learn some of yours.

I taught VBS recently and sung this song with the kids a lot and was asked for it by some adults. I have no idea what the original source was. I learned it when I was teaching preschool about 15 years ago. I tweaked it a bit to be about God's rainbow but for the most part, it's not mine.

The Colors Song
Tune: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Red and Orange and Green and Blue
Pink and Purple, Yellow too
All the colors that we know
Way up in God's bright rainbow
Red and Orange and Green and Blue
Pink and Purple, Yellow too

I made this one up for my little dude because he's not really a little teapot. Warning: a composer, I am not.

I'm a Little Dino
Tune: I'm a little teapot

I'm a little dino, short and stout,
Here is my tail and here is my snout
When I get excited hear me ROAR
Stomp around and then ROAR some more

His full name (first, two middle names, last) is within 1 syllable of "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" and people good naturedly sass us about his name length, so we sing that to him, too with this revision

Your name is very long
Whenever we go out, 
your friends are gonna shout
There goes 

We learned these songs at Gymboree Play and Music. I have no idea if they "wrote" them or not.

Pop Pop Pop
Tune: One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians

One little, two little, three little bubbles
Four little, five little, six little bubbles,
Seven little, eight little, nine little bubbles,
Ten little bubbles go Pop Pop Pop!

Bubbles Song
Tune: Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

There are bubbles in the air, in the air
There are bubbles in the air, in the air
There are bubbles in the air, there are bubbles everywhere,
There are bubbles in the air, in the air

There are bubbles way up high, way up high
There are bubbles way up high, way up high
There are bubbles way up high, there are bubbles in the sky
There are bubbles way up high, way up high

Can you catch a little bubble with your hand?
Can you catch a little bubble with your hand?
Can you catch a little bubble?
It won't be any trouble
Can you catch a little bubble with your hand?

Our favorite "real" music:
Veggie Tales Sunday School Songs
The Wiggles Yummy Yummy CD
The Colossal Coaster album I referenced yesterday
Absolute Modern Worship for Kids
Rockin Robin by Bobby Day
Splish Splash by Bobby Darin
Supercalifragilistic... from Mary Poppins
Jump! by Amber Sky Records (another VBS music song--REALLY fun for kids, hear it here)
Do-Re-Mi from Sound of Music
His Cheeseburger by Veggie Tales

At the suggestion of Ashley, we're trying out Steve Green's Hide Em in Your Heart. It just arrived, so I don't have a review or endorsement yet. I am also on the prowl for Psalty CDs.

So, what are your favorites? Made up songs, or "real" songs. Let's expand our repertoires!

Culture of Life Language

I pay a lot of attention to the language about life. Perhaps it's because I worked professionally in the pro-life field for 5 years. Or perhaps it's because of the very early stage of life my children are in when they join my family. Or it might be due to that little rant I went on in my high school classroom against the wishy-washy man running for the State Assembly that got me "gag ordered" for the rest of class and a candidate and an aide who wouldn't look me in the eye as they scurried out.  Whatever the reason, it's an issue I'm highly sensitive to.

Pro-life wars are fought and won or lost over language, much of the time. Petitions, legislation, and arguments have exceptionally nuanced language that either excuse or defend any number of actions on behalf of or in assault of innocent human life. In that spirit, I present a few phrases that I hear tossed around often, and I want to issue a challenge to reevaluate our use of these phrases.

"Soon to be mom/dad/child" I hear this type of language all the time when referring to a couple who is expecting but has not yet given birth. If we believe the unborn child IS an unborn child, then you are already a parent. That child is already your son or daughter. The way you have lovingly taken care of that child and your body (or your wife's body) throughout the pregnancy IS the act of parenting. The way you wait and pray and cheer on a birth mom after you sign those adoption papers IS parenting. Your job changes when the baby is born, but you are a parent now. Parenthood doesn't begin when the child is born. It begins when that child's life begins some 9 months earlier.

"Life begins at conception" Are you reading that and saying, "wait, WHAT? I thought life DID start at conception." This is a mistake that I even see pro-life organizations making on a regular basis. If, when you say this, you mean that life begins when the sperm meets the egg, you are correct. However, something we learned through all our transfers is that in the scientific and medical communities, "conception" means a fertilized egg that has successfully implanted. So by saying "life begins at conception," you're excluding the first 2 ish weeks of life. Now, this subtle difference doesn't mean anything to the average person on the street and they certainly know what you mean when you say it. But lawmakers, politicians, scientists, and doctors know exactly what they're saying when they use this language and laws, policies, and contracts are written accordingly. If you believe that life begins when the sperm pierces the egg, then life begins at fertilization.

"Give the embryo a chance at life" I actually hear this one a lot from embryo adoption parents and advocates. We believe that those tiny little ones are human beings and we believe they deserve the opportunity to grow. The problem with this language though is if we believe this, then those embryos already have a life. That life is suspended, but if we believe they're human beings, they already have life. Again, the average person knows what you mean, but if we want our words to really reflect what we believe about these babies, may I suggest "give them a chance to be born" or "a chance to continue living" or "a chance to grow."

What are your thoughts? Are there other phrases like this that you think we need to evaluate in our effort to build a culture of life?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Under Construction

I'm working on doing some refreshing of my look so if this blog changes on you eleventy times in the next few days, that's why!  It's time for a new look! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Favorite things: Toddler Edition

I love reading these posts on other blogs so I thought I'd post some of our favorite things for the enjoyment or help of other parents :)

Matthew is 2.5 and is all boy. His loves are music, books, and anything with wheels. I've shared his favorite books with you before, but here are some of our other favorite things. For toys, I try to buy toys that will last a long time, that are easy to clean, that are open-ended in their purpose, and that have a learning purpose. I also buy almost everything second-hand, which is a good indicator for me of how durable something is.

Thermos Foogo Phases Leak Proof Stainless Steel Straw Bottle

I found this cup by accident on clearance in tar-jay one day and I only wish I had more. It's my favorite cup for him, especially on the go. It's the only sippy cup that's never ever leaked on us. And it does AWESOME in our Arizona heat. He can take it in and out of stores and leave it in the hot car for HOURS (it's 115 OUTSIDE--you can guess what the interior temperature of the car is) and when we come back to it, his drink is still cold. It's seriously awesome. 

Little Tikes Handle Hauler
 These are hard to find new, but they're pretty easy to come across second hand for $3-$5. The handle makes them easy to push around and the truck is sturdy enough that the car doesn't tip up when he leans on it to push it. They really seem to have mastered the correct size and placement of the handle to make this a great push-car.

Discovery Kids mp3 Player Boombox

As far as I can tell, this little gem isn't made anymore. Boo! If you ever see one secondhand, snag it! I paid $6 for ours at a kid's secondhand store. This thing is awesome. I can sync it to my computer and load his songs on it. Right now he has about 3 hours of music on it and there is still plenty of room on it. It's awesome. He carts it from room to room and it acts as his personal soundtrack from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed. He knows how to turn it on, control the volume, skip a song, and turn it off. It's awesome because then I don't have to hear "more music!?" every 3 minutes throughout the day. I have a variety of songs on it--kids folk songs, hymns, Sunday School Songs, nursery rhymes, etc, so he can choose what he wants to listen to. And it's totally Matthew-proof. It's in a nice rubberized case so it can be dropped, sat on, kicked, whatever, and it keeps playing away. There's no proprietary software to install-just drag and drop your music files and unplug a standard Micro-USB cord. I have loaded both mp3s and WAV files on it.

Colossal Coaster Music Album from Lifeway Christian Books

I taught VBS for 2 year olds at a local church this summer and in my curriculum packet was a CD of the music. Matthew has fallen in love with the songs and so have I. The preschool album has 9 songs. One is instrumental. The other 8 are centered around the theme of the VBS unit, which was "facing fear, trusting God." The music is high quality, pleasant sounding, and fun for kids. Matthew can sing some of the songs now, and I think he'll enjoy it for several years as he continues to learn the others. There is an older kids version too but I am not as familiar with it. He listens to it at least 3 times a day and it doesn't even drive me nuts (unlike a band of middle aged British dudes whose name rhymes with Giggles!)

Magatiles are seriously, the coolest toy ever made, I think. We first encountered these at the Children's Museum. Each tile is a heavy-duty plastic. Each edge has a magnet between the front and back faces, all around each edge. That allows for the tiles to be able to be stacked and built together in any number of ways. Matthew uses them for sorting, building, counting, shape identification, and color identification. I love that they don't have a pre-determined way in which he's supposed to play with them. The only downside is that they're pretty pricey. A set of 32 is about $50. I hesitated buying them for a very long time because of the cost. Then Matthew's great-grandparents sent me a check for his birthday and asked us to choose something for him. I wanted it to be something he would have for many years, and these fit the bill.  At the Children's Museum, kids of all ages are always fighting over these things. All of Matthew's grandpas and his Uncle Jeff are as enamored with these as he is (well, almost). Recently we brought them with us to a friend's house, and her 20 year old son and his friend were practically drooling over them. They carried off with them and came back later with some 14-sided geometric shape that used all 32 pieces. You can get them on Amazon, from Magnatiles directly, or Lakeshore Learning sells them and allows you to use their 20% off coupon on them.  There is a "DX" Set that has different shapes that are only available in this particular set. I am hoping to one day get that set for him.  If you follow the company on twitter, they say they give away one set a month to a follower-I don't know when they did it last or if it is still current but it's still advertised.

Melissa and Doug Wooden Puzzles

Melissa and Doug Wooden Puzzles are great because their themes are timeless. They're not ridden with cartoon characters. They're well made. And they offer graduated steps. They offer big knobby ones for very little kids. The have big chunky pieces or smaller pegs for toddlers, and as you continue to graduate, they ultimately have traditional jigsaw puzzles. They're affordable and easy to find either second hand or at discount chains like Ross and TJ Maxx. Matthew has mastered the chunky ones (the two bottom ones shown) and when resources allow, we'll graduate him up to more difficult ones.

Musical Instruments
I don't have a specific product to recommend here because he pretty much likes instruments of all kinds. We have some that we've made. We have some that are plastic. We have others that are metal, and still more that are wooden. He loves them all.  I even brought out the Little Tikes piano and xylophone baby toys because while he outgrew them as bang-on-them baby toys, he now uses them for actual music. We spend a lot of each day marching, singing, dancing, playing. I wish I had actual music talent to teach him, but so far he's happy.

Gymboree Bubbles

My sister in law once told me, "Don't mess with any other bubbles. Just buy the Gymboree ones." I thought she was exaggerating. Bubbles are bubbles, right? Nope, they're not, as we discovered when we went through 3 other bottles of bubbles at Grandma's house one day, trying to get them to make bubbles. The Gymboree bubbles are neat because they're made with glycerin instead of soap. The wand has two ends. They make oodles of little tiny bubbles out of one end, or bigger, traditional bubbles out of the other. And they're strong enough that the kids can catch them, or for them to land on the ground or other surfaces without popping. Matthew loves to run around the room and pop every single one he sees. You can buy the kits in Gymboree clothing and Gymboree Play and Music stores and you can also buy refill bottles once you have the wand. You can also get them at

Leapfrog's My Pal Scout

In general, we like Leapfrog products. They're typically sweet, well made, and again, aren't adorned with cartoon characters or big-kid trends. We gave Scout to Matthew for his first birthday. At 2.5, Matthew still plays with Scout every day. Scout lives in his bed so Matthew plays with him before he falls to sleep and when he wakes up. Scout talks and sings about colors, letters, numbers, shapes, and animals. And you can sync him to your computer to personalize him with your child's name and favorite songs, food, color, and animal. There's a purple version called Violet if you prefer. Matthew talks and sings to and with Scout every day. Scout is his little buddy. It's so sweet to hear him over the baby monitor. And having Scout helps Matthew transition in or out of sleeping time slowly, which he very much seems to prefer.

There's our list for today at 2.5 years old! 

Do you know about eshakti?

Correction: I originally posted that the code below expired on July 9th. It actually expires July 15th!

It's hard to tell from reading a blog, but I'm really tall. As my almost-as-tall-as-I-am friend likes to say on her blog, "I'm taller than I appear on the internet." Ha! Isn't it funny how people get in their minds what you look like, what you sound like, and how tall you are? I do it too. In my mind's eye, everyone is short, because, well when you're as tall as I am, everyone is short by comparison. I am 6'2".

Being so tall makes shopping a bit difficult. Add to that retailer's propensity to make things that are immodestly short on even an average height person, and most dresses are mini shirts on me. Slight exaggeration. Not really though.

Then you add to the fact that I am more-than-pleasantly-plump, and that I carry most of my extra weight all in one place (my tummy), and finding clothes that are modest, well fitted, well made, AND cute is a challenge.


They make ALL of their garments sized by your height. AWESOME. They offer tops, skirts, and dresses. Many of their pieces have a retro flair, but they also have many classic stalwarts.

It gets better. For an additional $7.50, you can customize ALL of the dimensions of the piece. You enter in your height, your bust, your shoulder, your arm, and more measurements, all to help them make it awesome for you. And it's $7.50 total, not $7.50 per customization. Depending on the piece, you can also even change the sleeve length or the neckline.

And all of the dresses have pockets!  For a fee of nothing, you can request that the pockets be removed but really, WHO DOES THAT? I think they should charge for such insanity.

I ordered my dress for our 10th Anniversary. Last year, I went with a dress that was more slinky than sweet, in order to please my husband.  The dress was modest, but I still felt like I was pulling and tugging at it all night, and I didn't feel comfortable because it wasn't my personality. Some large women can pull off the curvacious look, and I am grateful that my husband finds me attractive even with my weight, but sultry is just not me

So this year, I set out to find something that was flattering and attractive, but still fitting to my personality and shape and place in life. I wanted something colorful (I'll never understand the black in spring/summer thing), something modest, something lightweight (it is eleventy billion degrees out, after all), and something feminine.

I found this most lovely dress, called the Victoria, on eshakti. It's currently out of stock in my color, but it comes in several others. And they replenish stock multiple times a week so keep checking if you really love it.

In the order process, it asks you how soon your need the dress by. I put my weekend in and crossed my fingers. 2 weeks later, the dress was in my hands. They had even DHL'd it 2-day mail (at no extra cost to me!) to make sure I received it in time. It's lovely. The color is beautiful, the fit is great, the product is well made, and it's super comfortable.

I sort of suck at tying bows so mine isn't so neat as the picture, and I wish I would have straightened out the ruffles, but here I am:

Plus, the dress was listed as "knee length." I have a short torso and long legs so even with my height, that wouldn't tell them where my knees were so I mentioned my disproportion in my order comments and asked them to err on the side of long. They wrote back and asked me for even more measurements and asked me for the exact length I wanted the dress. Wow! I loved that they paid attention to my comment section (really, what retailer does that anymore?) I later ordered a shirt, and I asked that its long sleeves be made short and that the shirt be made tunic length instead of waist length. It came out awesome, too.

Eshakti does this neat thing where they give credits for new customers. Usually it's about $25. However, they're running a promo right now where existing customers can refer friends and the friend receives a $40 credit off a $55 order. Plus, on your first item, they waive the $7.50 customization fee. This offer is good through July 15th.   If you want to take advantage of it, my eshakti coupon code is TJWR04JW

Here's a sample of what you could get:
$59.99 dress
$7.50 customization fee
-$40.00 credit
-$7.50 customization fee
$19.99 for a FULLY customized dress (plus shipping)

Go to You won't be sorry. Happy shopping!

Disclaimer: I did not receive an incentive to review this dress. I purchased it and wrote the review because I really like the product. I do receive a credit toward a future purchase if you use my code and the link above to their website is embedded with a referral for me. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Adoption Book

A lot of blogger friends are writing about or asking about books to tell their children the story of their adoption.

I made a book on Shutterfly for Matthew. I have included the text here in case it's helpful to any of you still working on your books.

Title: The Story of You

[Wedding Picture]
A long time ago, our family was just Daddy and Mommy. We loved each other very much.

[Picture of DH and I]
One day, we decided we wanted our family to get bigger. We wanted to have a baby that we could love and take care of. But God did not let us make a baby. God had a different plan for us.

[Picture of Genetic Family]
Far away, there was another Mommy and Daddy named ________________. They wanted to have babies in their family too. God makes all babies and He helped their doctor make babies for them. Those babies were very tiny like seeds from a flower. The doctor planted them in ________'s tummy, and they grew and grew until they were born. __________ and ___________ named their babies ____________, _____________, and ___________, and they were all very happy together.

But then _______ and _____ were sad because they could not finish growing the rest of their tiny babies, even though they wanted to very much. They were searching for a mommy and daddy who could grow the babies and love them and take care of them. God told ______________ that He would help them find the mommy and daddy for the babies.

[Picture of embryos]
God knew how very much we wanted a baby to love and He told us He would help us. He helped us learn about adoption and we learned that adopting someone is just like how God adopted you and Daddy and Mommy to be His children. We also learned that there was a special kind of adoption named Snowflake Adoption. Snowflake Adoption is about adopting the babies that are very tiny like flower seeds--babies just like ____ and ______'s tiny babies.

The little tiny babies are called "Snowflakes" because the babies are unique and delicate, just like flakes of snow. Daddy and Mommy thought for a long time and talked to God about adoption. God told us that He had Snowflake babies waiting for us somewhere. We could not wait to find them.

While we waited, Mommy liked to talk to her friends on the computer about how much we wanted to find our Snowflakes. The mommy named _____ talked to Mommy and asked her if we would visit her and _____. Mommy and Daddy said yes. When we visited, _____ and _____ told us about their tiny Snowflake Babies. They said that they loved them very much, but they could not finish growing them all the way. They wanted to find a family who could help the babies finish growing and who would love them very much.

Mommy and Daddy drove home and talked to God some more. _____ and _____ talked to God, too. God told Mommy and Daddy and ____________ that we could take very good care of the Snowflake Babies. ____________ asked Mommy and Daddy to adopt their Snowflakes. Mommy and Daddy said yes, and we were very thankful that they chose us.  Matthew, you were one of the Snowflake Babies!

[Pictures of doing paperwork and Matthew with our adoption worker]
We had to wait a long time for our Snowflakes. We had to mail a lot of papers to a lady named ______ who helped us with our adoption. ______ and ______ had to mail a lot of papers too. Then, the Snowflakes had to fly on an airplane and ride in a truck to Arizona to our doctor. One day after a long time of waiting, we learned that you were finally here!

[Picture with our doctor]
We went to the doctor and he planted you in Mommy's tummy so that you could finish growing. God helped you grow very big. You got bigger and bigger, and so did Mommy!

[Maternity Picture]

[Birth Pictures]
You got so big, that one day there wasn't room in Mommy's tummy for you anymore, and it was time for you to be born. We had loved you for a very long time already, but now we were finally going to get to see you. We were very excited. You were born and it was the very best day.

[Birth Announcement]

[Leaving Hospital Pictures]
We were so glad that we finally got to take you home. We waited such a very long time for you and we love you so much.

[Picture of GPs with Matthew]
After you were born, you got to meet many more people who love you. ____ and _____ and their son came all the way to our house just to tell you how much they love you. [Their other kids] love you too but they were too little to visit that day. ____ and _____ talk to God and to Mommy and Daddy a lot about how much they love you. They are glad that God helped you finish growing in Mommy's tummy so that now you can be a big boy. We are glad that they chose us to be your Mommy and Daddy. You are very special!

[Family Picture]
We are very happy that God chose this special way to bring you to our family. We love you very much.

[Picture of Matthew]
Matthew, God loves you most of all and He has more special plans for you every day!

Now a ways down the line, I still like a lot of the language in the book. I like the language about seeds, and I always want Matthew to know he is and was loved.

But, honestly, we haven't read this book in a very long time, because it's quite painful for me since so much of it has changed or turned out to be untrue. We don't have any plans to hide Matthew's origin from him or the special way he joined our family, and the people who allowed us to adopt him will always be a piece of his story but it's hard to tell him a story about how much they love him when they have hurt our family so very deeply because the two just don't match in my head and heart. To me, if they loved him as much as they say they do and had his best interests in mind, they never would have done what they did.

I don't know how I'll ever explain to him that they say they love him, but they took his brothers and sisters away from him.  (Edited to add: I don't doubt that they do love him, but I just don't understand their choices). I hope he never knows how awful all of this was, and we don't intend to tell him, but the fact that his siblings are gone is sort of unavoidable. 

One day when the pain is not so deep, we'll read this to him again. And right now, he doesn't understand it anyway, so I don't feel like we've lost any ground or time as far as him learning his story is concerned. We talk about him being a snowflake, but especially in Arizona, that's a little above his pay-grade. I don't know when kids start understanding adoption. I don't know. I know God will give me the words and wisdom to teach him about his story in a way that protects him and shows as much honor to everyone involved as possible, including them. I have no idea how we're ever going to sort this all out, but God does.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

God is Good

It's no secret to anyone that I'm in a valley right now. I spend a lot of time thinking about my pain, praying about my paint, and talking about my pain. It's helpful to process through it all because I feel like when I do, I leave that much more of it behind me.

But while those things can be helpful to dealing with heartache, they can also be detrimental to the rest of your soul. It's easy to be so consumed by your pain that you start defining the world, and God, through it, and that picture is never ever accurate.

So I've been trying to discipline myself to focus on Who God is, and praise Him accordingly. He Is Who He Is, independent of me and my circumstances. 

God is good
God is just
God is kind
God is merciful
God is faithful
God is trustworthy
God is creative
God is beautiful
God is intelligent
God is logical
God is compassionate
God is sovereign
God is omnipotent
God is omniscient
God is forgiving
God is gracious
God is Redeemer
God is friend
God is loving
God is jealous
God is creator
God is righteous
God is healer
God is patient
God is shepherd
God is life
God is mighty
God is strong
God is powerful
God is provider
God is generous
God is most high
God is everlasting
God is peace
God defends
God disciplines
God protects
God saves
God sanctifies
God is not wasteful
He knows the beginning from the end
He knows every hair on my head
God is worthy of my praise
God is Father
God is Spirit
God is Son
God is I Am
God is Lord


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Secondary" "Infertility"

Technically, our family struggles from secondary infertility, meaning, we are unable to conceive a child after successfully birthing a first child. But technically "secondary" doesn't really apply to us since there isn't a time when we ever weren't infertile and WE didn't conceive our first child. It's a weird place to be. Like this whole rest of our journey. Breaking the mold, y'all!

I remember before I had Matthew and I would hear people share their hurt over secondary infertility and my knee-jerk reaction was "So what? At least you have one child. Just be grateful." If you struggled with secondary IF during that time in my life, I probably thought those thoughts toward you. Please forgive me.

Now, that exact same sentiment is often sent our way as an effort to encourage--"At least you have Matthew!" And we do. Not one single day goes by when I don't realize what an amazing, precious, incredible little boy he is, and how immensely blessed we are to have him. But, you wouldn't tell a widow(er) to stop grieving the deceased spouse because at least they had X amount of years together. No amount of past or current blessing can replace what has been lost. Can make you stop missing it. I love Matthew completely and wholly. And my life is better now with him than it was before him. That is the only sense in which this second time around is "better." But Matthew's presence in my life will never ever make me stop missing his siblings. As each one is a unique person, each one had a different place in my heart and on this planet and in God's design. They're not interchangeable. To imply such invalidates their very nature as being created uniquely by God in His image. If you lost one of your born children, would you be comforted by "Well, at least you still have little Susie?" I don't know why people treat this situation any differently.

When you're grieving WITH a child, it's totally different than when you're grieving without one. It's not better or worse or harder or easier. It's just different. Now I carry grief for him, too. I miss what he will miss out on. I miss the relationships and memories and and experiences and family he won't have. I see him interacting with other children and I'm wistful of what could have been. I feel like in all of this, HE got the short end of the stick.

As a judgment on infertility or as an "encouragement" to grieving parents, that whole notion of "at least you have one," is just hard. It's true. It absolutely is. But to say that to someone hurting is not useful. Pain and joy are not mutually exclusive. Joy for the one does not satisfy the longing for the lost. Even Christ the Shepherd would leave the 99 sheep to rescue the 1 lost. Our family has a huge, gigantic, gaping hole in it and neither Matthew, or DH, nor I, nor any children in the future if some miracle were ever granted us, can fill the void they left.

The reality about secondary infertility is that no matter if you have one child or 20, it's hard to have your family choices made due to circumstances beyond your control. I'm not talking about a cosmic, none of us are really in control sort of way, but in the practical way.  We did not make any active decisions that resulted in the stunting of our family growth. To have that taken away from you is hard, regardless of how many children you do or don't have.

To all you IF sisters out there, primary OR secondary, this road just hurts, and I'm sorry for all of us.

It's long been a soapbox of mine that love is a choice. But I'm learning on this journey that trust is a choice, too. (You say, "DUH Jen.") I have to choose trust. Choose to trust that this hurt is not for naught. Choose to believe that this pain will not last one second longer than it needs to. Choose to believe that God is good and faithful and that He loves me. I hope you'll make that choice, too.

On Grief and Healing

It's been almost a month since we received the phone call that our transfer had failed and the babies had died. The following week brought the most excruciating physical pain I've experienced outside of labor as my body fought to cycle itself. I physically felt this loss in a frightening, overwhelming, exhausting way. It was actually harder than my only loss that is "technically" considered a miscarriage.

I cry. A lot. At least 3 or 4 times a week, even now. Every loss has been hard, and I've cried after every one. But I don't remember ever grieving like this. The tears just come without warning.

I think it's because I'm unraveling so much that has been smashed into this last month.

I still ache to my core for the babies that were ripped away from our family a year ago.
A woman who was trying to adopt them emailed me (good naturedly and well-intendedly). It really was surreal and forced me to come to terms with the fact that even if not her, someone out there is trying or will be trying to be my babies' mommy. That breaks my heart wide open every time I think about it.

I ache for all of the babies I have in Heaven. 7 now.

I ache for my son, who has lost 13 siblings already, and who will probably have no more.

I ache for the fact that I will probably never have any more children. I think about pregnancy and breastfeeding and snuggling a little tiny baby and first milestones and I realize that I'll never get to do any of it ever again. I look at the tubs of baby clothing in the garage, lovingly packed up for the brother that will never come. The next time I open them will probably be to give their contents away.

I ache that seemingly everyone else can have as many children as they do or don't want and we've had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way. I have really let go of that in recent years but it's all come back to me to smack me in the face again. It's so hard-all around us, people make a plan, and it happens. And our story is full of waiting and losing. Over and over again. It's so hard not to feel entitled for this to go our way. We waited for marriage to be intimate. We waited to get married until we were out of school. We waited to start trying to grow our family until we were financially stable and until our relationship was established. We did everything in the "right" order (whatever that is)--in the way we thought best honored God, and our marriage, and our children. And yet, babies are born to parents who don't want them or to people who can't provide for them all the time. And I try SO hard not to ask the "why" question or to tell myself that for those people, having a child is perhaps as much of an ache for them as not having a child is for me, but still, that question nags me in the back of my head. It taunts me.

And I am just broken. The tears and the grief consume me.

I saw a friend last week after I'd been crying and she asked me what was wrong. I told her that I was missing my babies. She replied that I was just tired and that our emotions are often tied to that. I snapped back at her that my fatigue has nothing to do with it. I hated that my grief was dismissed as an irrational response to a physical need. As if the fact that I have 7 dead children and 6 stolen ones isn't a legitimate reason to be broken. That same friend said a few weeks earlier that after thinking like it, she understood that this really was like a loss, even though she never thought of it that way before.

Which takes me to another source of heartache. People (in general) don't behave as if we've really lost children. We'll stand outside of abortion clinics and protest embryonic stem cell research and say life begins at conception (as well we should), but very few people behave as though my children have just died. And I know I'm more blessed than most because I did receive some flowers and a few condolence cards (thank you to those who sent things), where others in similar situation have received no acknowledgment. But for the most part, this is such a silent, lonely grief. No one offers to make you a meal. After a few days, most people stop asking how you are. You don't take time off of work. You're expected to keep up your regular responsibilities as if nothing has happened. You have nothing to show for your loss. No memories. No photos. No baby blanket. No funeral or headstone. Nothing. Nothing.

And then you feel like you have to scream at the top of your lungs, "EVERYONE JUST STOP FOR A SECOND! MY CHILDREN WERE HERE AND THEY MATTERED!"

I feel like a mom with an *. A mom who has to explain her kids. Defend them. Justify the right to grieve for them. And I'm so tired. I just want to be mom, period. I want people to automatically behave as though they're children, without me having to explain it or them having to realize it. It's not even that I really "campaign" for embryo adoption anymore, but even in my grief, I find myself on the defensive against a general attitude of, "Aren't you over this yet?" No one would say or think such a thing if I had lost a parent, or a spouse, or a born child. On a fundamental, subconscious level, people think of early life differently. I know this is a cultural phenomenon borne out of people's lack of exposure to life on such a technical, tiny level, and that it's not a conscious endorsement of the sentiment that early life is less-than. But it still hurts. And it hurts for every person in my shoes. I guess that's why I bring it up. If you know someone who has lost a baby, even in very early pregnancy, please acknowledge their child's life to them. It will mean the world to them.

Gosh, this post is depressing. Lest I give you the wrong impression, know I do not grieve as one who has no hope and I don't want any of you to (for I know too many in similar shoes), either. I believe that Jesus died and rose again, and I believe with all of my heart that I will be reunited one day in Heaven with my children (though in Heaven, they won't actually be my children anymore). I think part of the reason that this time around is so much harder is that I maybe did not grieve enough before (though I thought I did). But the finality of this time brings things to the surface that I've been carrying for years. But I believe the tears are healing. I believe God's Word where it is written that He collects all of my tears in a bottle. I know this grief and this pain is not wasted. I know that He will work all things together for good according to those who love Him. I know that He will bring ministry from pain. I know God will heal my heart. I know that now we see through a glass dimly, but then we shall see face to face. I know that now, faith, hope, and love remain. I know that God loves me. I know God loves my babies. I know that He will redeem this pain and I know that He holds me in His hand. I don't know much beyond all of that, but those things are enough.

I recently went and painted this. It was a tangible exercise to say, yes I really believe this. I painted and cried and painted and cried, all the while crying out, yes, I believe You.

I'm hanging on to that hope. This HAS to have a purpose. God wouldn't be God if it didn't because it would mean His character is cruel and chaotic, and it's not. So I hold onto hope that this has to mean something, even though I have no idea what that is and I find myself weary of waiting.

I had another breakdown at church and so I took my Bible and my tears to a quiet place to read. I came to Psalm 63 and I caught my breath in my chest as I read this:

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory. 
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings. 
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

I forced myself to read it out loud as I sobbed, and added this editorialization to verse 3: 

Because your love is better than life, even the lives of my babies,
    my lips will glorify you.

I can't really explain the pain I felt to confess that out loud. To choose to subordinate this pain, and my babies and my love for them, to God and His Will. To confess that He is enough. It was a spiritual pain and sacrifice that I'm not quite sure I've experienced before. But I cling to these words because I know they are true. God is good. God is true. God is faithful. God is trustworthy. God is loving. God is just. Amen.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Matthew has been exposed to PlayDo a couple of times and has always hated it. It sticks to his fingers, it's hard to manipulate, and I think he just really didn't see the point of all that trouble.

We love love LOVE the Children's Museum of Phoenix, which deserves, and will receive, a post entirely unto its own. They have this awesome art studio where children can come and play with all kinds of mediums. One day while Matthew was coloring, I noticed their dough. It was malleable and it was cohesive enough that it stuck to itself without crumbling, but it didn't stick to you. They're kind enough to give out their recipe for the dough. I hadn't made play dough in over 15 years so with no standing favorite, we gave theirs a try today.

First, it used all of my salt. I don't think I've ever run out of salt. Ever. I had to get creative to get enough, so I put some kosher salt in the Vitamix.

First, did you know that salt does this when its being ground? I didn't, either.

I eventually had enough salt and I got to making the dough. It requires some stovetop "cooking" but  it took only about 10 minutes, so I hardly think that counts.

I turned it out onto a cutting board to cool. In another 10 (maybe 15) minutes, it was cool enough for me to handle and knead.

I kneaded it and divided it in half. I let Matthew choose which colors he wanted. I tried to get him to help me knead it but at first, he didn't want to touch it. He got one little piece on his finger and did his "abassabassaba" noise that means "get it off me." So, he just watched.

He chose "red" and "blue and green."

I don't know if it was the addition of color or the fact that he watched me for a few minutes but pretty soon he wanted in on the fun. We took it to his little table with some cookie cutters and went to town. He really got into it and enjoyed stamping and punching different shapes. The dough was a little thick to roll out by hand without a rolling pin, but otherwise, it was perfect. Soft and not sticky, and cleanup was a breeze off of our hands, the table, and the bowls I made it in. I think the smile on his face shows that we have a winner.

Here is the recipe if you want to try it. Today is just the first day so I don't know how long it will last but so far, I've been pleased. Plus, it's totally non-toxic so it's safe in case anyone eats any of it (Matthew wouldn't, but I had to shoo Fiona out of the way several times!).

Children's Museum of Phoenix Play Dough Recipe

4 cups flour
2 cups salt
4 cups water
8 tsp cream of tartar
6 TBSP oil
food coloring

Mix together all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook until it holds together and pulls away from the pan. Cool and knead. Separate dough and add food coloring as desired. You can add peppermint or almond extract for scent if you'd like an extra sensory aspect.

National Doughnut Day

Today is National Doughnut Day, which means you can get a free doughnut (or is it donut?) at Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts locations. At Krispy Kreme, it's totally free-show up and get your doughnut (any variety). At Dunkin, you need to buy a beverage.

Matthew is a fan of this "holiday." This is his 'take the picture so I can get back to my doughnut' CHEESE expression.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer Boredom Buster - (aka that time I was glad I trusted my gut)

I am trying to expose Matthew to different textures. He's very particular about what he touches and if it's not on his terms, he won't do it. He particularly doesn't like it if something sticks to him. Like, he wouldn't play with stickers for months after I first introduced them to him. Like, he'll stick his hands in a puddle, but if any leaves or dirt from the puddle remain on his hands when he pulls them out, he's mad.

And like today. A friend and I both posted pictures on instagram of our 2 year olds playing in the mud. Her little girl, decked out in a darling little dress, was covered head to toe in mud and looked to be loving it. My little boy was standing NEXT to the mud, pouring water to make MORE mud, but not actually touching it.

And, we're still working to find creative things to fill the extra inside time. So, we tromped off to Walmart today for some supplies.

I bought a plastic tub with a lid, a shovel and a rake from the dollar bins, and a bag of rice, thinking I'd let him pour and shovel and rake through the rice to his heart's content, exposing him to a different (but not sticky!) texture, and letting him work on his coordination and motor skills at the same time. If you wanted to replicate this at home, you may have most of these things already.

The baby pool was a last-minute idea.

Best $10 I have spent in a long time

I'm glad I listened to my gut when it said "Self, this HE is going to make a gigantic mess. He won't play like those cute little kids on Pinterest who keep their activity in their neat little boxes (Who are those children!?) He'll dump and pour and fling and scoop all over the place." Mommy was right.

He still missed a few times, and he received a couple of stern "NO THANK YOUS" when he pitched some over the side on purpose, but overall, this was a breeze to clean up. He stayed in the pool, he played for nearly an hour with pouring and scooping and sifting, and then when we were done, I dumped the pool contents back into the tub and only had to run the little stick sweeper around the living room to get the stray pieces. My plan is to swap the rice for other textures like sand and corn and beans and fish tank pebbles throughout the summer. I rescued a couple of boxes full of packing peanuts from a package DH received too, intending to put them in the box sometimes. I intend to use the pool to contain all sorts of messes, throughout the summer.

Tip: I used a 10lb bag of rice and I opted for a wide shallow box so that he'd have some room to move the rice around. It was deep enough for him to scoop into but no so deep that he could make a gigantic mess. It was also *ALMOST* heavy enough to prevent him from moving the clear box the rice started in, (he tried to dump it over). As he pitched rice out, he could move it and would have dumped it if I had not stopped him, so I may make it a tiny bit heavier next time.

Reader Question: Do you make sensory boxes? What do you put in them? What have been hits and misses with your kids?

Here's one last picture just because they make me laugh. She was concerned about what he was doing, but she also REALLY wanted to eat the raw rice. Weird dog.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Painting with Pool Noodles

Matthew is a late sleeper generally (hallelujah!) but that means that by the time he wakes up, it's usually already too hot for him to be outside. So we're having to get more creative with inside activities to fill that extra time we would normally be out.

This week I picked up a pool noodle at the grocery store.

Today I brought it home and proceeded to slice it into little medallions. My trusty scissors and I went to work carving and whittling away different shapes into the foam and after about 20 minutes, I had 6 or 7 pieces.

I sat Matthew down with some paint and the shapes and we went to town.

I already had the paint and the paper. The noodle was $1.99 and I only used about a foot of it so I have the rest of it left for other projects. So using only 1/4th of it means that this project cost me an additional 50cents on top of what I had on hand. Not too shabby!

My tips:
Use sharp scissors and you'll get cleaner lines than I did.
Make sure your slices are straight otherwise the image won't stamp right.
Don't make your cuts too close together because it starts to shred the foam.
Wash them right away and you can use them again!

I'd welcome some suggestions for other shapes. The noodles I've seen so far have been perfectly round. I'm hoping to find one of the scalloped ones so I can make some flowers too.

Let me know if you try this!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes

Have I mentioned that my son is brilliant?

Well, not really. I mean he is really smart if I do say so myself, but I'm not talking about his academic prowess at the moment. But the things he says teach me and astound me on a regular basis.

One of the things I did through my pregnancy and since Matthew was born was pray over him. I really enjoy praying over his whole body. I pray for ears to hear God's Word and Spirit, feet to bring the Good News to people, hands to work hard and to serve, eyes to see people as Jesus sees them, knees to bow in humility, lips to speak the truth in love, a heart of compassion and tenderness, a sound mind to discern the will of God. When he was little and would fall asleep in my arms, I would move my hands around his body, praying those things for him.

God is answering my prayers beyond my imagination. He is crafting in my little boy a heart for the Lord that could only come from God. It moves me to tears and humility because I have so much to learn. I want to be the kind of mom who models those things too. I admit I'm farther away in that department. Much farther.

Matthew is teaching me so much.

At Christmastime, we did Advent activities with him each night. He was always so excited. He would come to me many times throughout the day and ask for Advent. He'd bring the Advent Bible and ask me to read it. He would ask me to play the story from his Advent ornament. His reminded me to remember Christ's birth and anticipate His return with enthusiasm and joy.

Before Easter, we were teaching him about Palm Sunday. I cut a palm frond from our tree and brought it inside, and we practiced shouting "Hosanna!" We read from the adult Bible, we read from his Bible with pictures and we even watched some youtube video clips from various movies that have reenacted it. It didn't seem to be penetrating and I figured that was ok since he was just barely two. Then one day many weeks later, we were out on a walk when he stopped suddenly. He pointed to a palm tree and yelled with a huge smile, "Hosanna!" He reminded me to see God in the every day.

He LOVES animals. LOVES them. So we do lots of things WITH animals...trips to the zoo, books with animals, apps on the tablet with animals, games and songs with animals, etc, etc, etc. One day we were looking at some pictures on an app, and a donkey came up. He's seen a donkey in a zillion different contexts. He excitedly pointed to it and yelled, "Jesus ride donkey!!" The next picture was a hippo. He said "no Jesus hippo."  He reminds me to filter EVERYTHING through God's Word and God's history, not just the big stuff, and even zoo animals.

Even though it's now almost June, he still asks to read his Easter books. He has 3 that he loves and we read them multiple times a week. When we arrive to the page with 3 crosses in one of the books, he tells me "Jesus died 3 days." When we turn the page to the empty tomb, he yells, "All gone Jesus!" which is 2 year old for "He is risen!"  He reminds me that Easter is true every day, and not just "on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox." 

He will sit with his Bible and "read" it for prolonged periods of time, all by himself. He knows it's different from his other books. He'll bring it to me and ask ME to read it and then he'll sit for as long as I'll read. When I read aloud from my Bible, even though he couldn't see the book, He knew it was God's word. He reminds me to feast on God's Word.

He loves to go to church. He is excited to go when I tell him that's where we're going. He is always thrilled to see his friends and greets them with hugs and kisses. When his teacher arrives in the nursery to pick them up and take them to class, he runs with enthusiasm to the door and waits for her to lead them so class can start. He loves to give a "fist bump" to the Pastor and last week, he asked if Pastor could come to Mother's Day lunch with us. He reminds me to not forsake meeting together, to greet others enthusiastically with the love of Christ, and to seek instruction in my faith, from those wiser than me. 
He recently prayed his first prayer that he initiated completely by himself. He said "Dear Jesus. Thank you Mommy. Thank you Daddy. Thank you Mommy. Thank you Feena [Fiona]. Thank you Daddy. Amen." His prayers since then have all been similar. He always says thank you for the people we are with. And then in his way that is both pure of heart and a little mischievous because he likes having "the floor" so to speak, he looks around the room and starts thanking God for things he sees. Sometimes, they're silly. Tonight, he thanked God for the table. Last night, he thanked Him for the wall. He thanks Him for toys and phones and french fries and milk and all sorts of things. He prays this way whether he is happy or sad. The other night, he prayed "Thank you bed. Thank you blanket. Thank you water." Wow. 3 things that much of the world doesn't have and which I don't regularly thank God for. He reminds me that even when I am tempted to feel forsaken, God cares for us. He meets our needs and has given us so much. A he reminds me to be thankful in all circumstances.

Matthew has this heart because of God's work in him and in spite of me. I believe God is answering our prayers for him. I'm such a poor example for him, and yet God is growing him and I am so thankful. I'm thankful that I get to see the faith of a child lived out before me each day so that I can learn to have that same full faith. I want very much to be the kind of parent who can shepherd such a heart as his.

My heart is still broken, but every day I thank God for this amazing little boy. He is such a joy to my heart and having him here eases some of my pain and through him the Holy Spirit tunes my heart toward God when pain deters me away.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Now?

Part of the way I process grief is to look ahead. It helps me to not dwell on my current feelings. The downside is it can lead me to rush through things, but by in large, it's helpful for me to just keep plodding along.

Naturally, my question is "What now?"

Part of why this is so hard this time around is that it's not just about what I have lost anymore, or what DH and I have lost together. It's also about what Matthew has lost. Last year, his siblings were ripped from him through no fault of his own. And now, two more have died.

Matthew. The sweetest, kindest, most loveable little boy I know.  The one who LOVES other children. The one who dotes on his friends with huge smiles and hugs and kisses. The one who would make the most amazing big brother. And I can't give him a sibling, nor could I protect the ones he had already.  My poor sweet baby.  I hurt so much for him.  I feel like he's being punished. I see photos that friends post of their big kids kissing their little babies and my heart just aches. I want another baby, but beyond that, I want him to have a sibling. So very much.

But I kind of felt going into this last transfer like this was it. I honestly feel like there's not enough of my heart left to risk another loss. And even if there was, it seems insurmountable. We've spent over $25,000 through all of this. To go through another Embryo Adoption will be another $10,500. If we go through a traditional adoption, we're looking at another $20,000. It feels insurmountable. I've never been one to be daunted by money when it comes to things of God. I've always believed that if it was in God's plan, He would provide the money for it. And somewhere, I still believe that. I know He was the one who provided the $25,000 we already spent.

But even if He did provide it again, it feels so far away. Like I'm standing at the bottom of Mount Everest, or on one side of the Grand Canyon with the instruction to just jump. And I'm so very weary. Our savings are dwindled, my body is tired from the hormones, and my husband's body is tired from working so hard all of the time. Matthew's not getting younger, and neither are we. By the time we could even round up enough money to do it yet again, it could be months or years from now. It just feels impossible. I know it isn't, but right now I'm having trouble pushing through my fatigue and my heartache to wrap my head around that.

And back to the grief. Even if I woke up tomorrow with a spare $25,000, I just can't fathom enduring another loss. I feel like I've reached my breaking point. Like the grief will consume me.  I'm sure it will lessen with time. It always does. And I know that one day I'll see purpose and sense and maybe even ministry in this. But right now? God, it hurts so much.

But God, I want another child.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Clinging to the Truth

Our beta was this morning. It was negative. I was expecting the call. I've been through a dozen or so of those little cheapy test strips and they all said the same thing. But how do you wait for the call confirming that your children have died? It's just absurd and surreal, like so much of this journey has been. But the words above give me great comfort.

I've been sorting through my feelings, having a hard time. The loss we endured last year was losing Matthew's siblings. The people we adopted our embryos from took the ones we had left (6) back. Their reasons are their reasons and I don't really want to elaborate more because their decision is not really the point of my story. I've really resisted putting it out there at all.

Like all of our losses, I think we shall always feel that one. It was different from our others because there is a chance that some of those children will be born to someone else and yet will never know us. To know they may be out there walking around some day, ignorant of my love for them or even my existence (or DH's and Matthew's), crushes me if I dwell on it. This pain sort of always feels unresolved, because it is.

We spent much of last year determining if we wanted to have any more children. It seemed unbearable to grow our family without the 6 we lost. I began to be ok with having only Matthew here on earth and I think we came to a place of contentment with our family of 3, or 14 minus 11 as another friend put it.

 At the end of the year, we felt like God was giving us a peace about another embryo adoption. We specifically asked to be matched to a family with only a small number of embryos. We didn't want to adopt a large amount, have many children eventually born as a result, and have Matthew be an "odd one out."

 We were matched to a lovely family in the Midwest, who chose us to adopt their two embryos. Those are the two we lost. That brings me to now.

The biggest feeling I've been having is confusion. We had come to a place of peace with just Matthew, so it's hard to understand why God moved us away from that place. Isn't contentment where we're supposed to be?

I confessed to DH that I was feeling "used." If He gave us the mind to adopt only two, and those two were bound for Heaven anyway, I was merely a vessel. A delivery mechanism to transport them from the freezer to God's presence. I didn't really understand why we went through the expense, the medical invasion, and the heartache, only to be right back where we started.

 As I'm verbalizing this to DH, I am convicted that isn't it the Christian's primary purpose in life to be "used" for whatever His purpose is? We are each called to be vessels to transport God's grace, with the ultimate goal of ushering many into God's presence.

I knew my conclusion was right, but still it felt very cold and impersonal and utilitarian to me. I felt unloved. It occurred to me that my problem was really with the pain. Why did MY purpose have to be carried out in such a wretchedly painful way? I am 32 years old. I have lost 13 children. I barely know what to do with that. And if they were Heaven-bound anyway, why were they delayed in frozen storage first? But I know I don't really have the right to ask Why, nor am I entitled to an answer.

I begged God to help me pray, to help me have faith, and to give me courage to cling to what I know is true in spite of my feelings. I begged God to help me want Him more than I wanted another child. He is gracious and He has given me all of those things, but I still struggle.

My head knows the Truth and bids the lies to depart from my heart. God's Word is full of promises and truths that refute each of these things. And He is patient while I continually try to submit the feelings to Him. I'm so not even a little bit there yet.  I am comforted by the scriptures below, and by the knowledge that my babies are with Jesus, but I still ache.

Grieving with a child is different. I am grieving for Matthew, too. He doesn't know what he has lost, but I do, and that's hard. I hurt for him. And I hurt that tonight, he had a mommy and daddy who were sad and he doesn't understand why. We spent the night having a picnic on the couch, watching a movie and snuggling. Tender mercies.

The scriptures I am clinging to are below. I'm posting them here to keep myself accountable because I tend to come back and read what I've written and I don't want to be tempted to stew in the lies my heart is struggling with right now when the Truth is before me:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." -Lamentations 3:22-23

"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" -Mark 9:24

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." -Isaiah 55:8-9

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." -Psalm 147:3

"For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalm 30:5

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." -Psalm 34:18

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." -Psalm 56:8

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:8

"And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
-Job 1:21
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." -Psalm 139:13-16

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." -1 Corinthians 13:12-13

"But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed." -Isaiah 53:5

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." -1 Peter 5:10-11

God's name be ever praised. Amen.

This statue is called "Memorial to Unborn Children." It takes my breath away.

I love you babies.

God, continue to give me strength for this delicate dance of joy and grief.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stuff Matthew Says

If I ever get around to scrapbooking, I want to make a page about the funny things Matthew says. Some of the things he says are downright humorous because of their content, and other things are cute or funny or sweet because of HOW he says them.

He has a big vocabulary, but his conversation is still pretty one-sided. He doesn't dialogue much yet. So most of his conversation is him narrating things. He talks in the third person most of the time.

He's such a dichotomy. I see his peers ahead of him in sentence construction and interactive dialogue, but then I'll hear him bust out with correct pronouns (excepting himself), accurate choice of singular or plural, and properly used adverbs and conjunctions like "too" and "and" and "then."  He has so much going on in his head behind the scenes and then he'll just spit a whole bunch of new things and surprise me.

His favorite thing right now is to exclaim "OH!" when he's really excited. Like when he sees daddy come home, it's, "OH! HI Daddy!"

He says his own name as "Mashu." It's seriously the cutest thing.

My favorite thing he says is "I too." I says that to mean, "I love you, too." I love it.

One thing you all missed when I wasn't blogging is that the little stinker wouldn't say mommy FOR.THE.LONGEST.TIME. He said Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa, the name of our dead dog, the names of my mom's dogs, the name of my brother's dog, the name of his little friend at church...the list went on and on and on. I was the baby equivalent of "Hey you!" Then one day, he started saying it, finally. And it's my second favorite thing he says. Right now he's sort of toying with "Mom" but I'm not giving up "Mommy" without a fight.

I often call DH, "Hunny." I rarely call him Todd, unless I'm speaking about him to someone else, or if he didn't hear me the first time. Sometimes, Matthew will go looking for him. It goes like this: "Daddy! DADDY!!! DADDY!  Hunny? TODD!!!" Cracks me up.

He used to say "yellow" as "yell-wee." I miss that.

Recently, he started barking. He barks around the house, he barks when we're on our walks, and he was barking in Target recently. After a couple of minutes, I told him, "All done barking." He looked at me, thought for a minute, and then said, "MEOW!!!!"  The fact that he's SO literal makes for some funny moments. It's like his mischief and his developmental stage collide into this hysterical combination.

Tonight he was watching doggies on youtube (one of his favorite treats). When we were done, he asked for more. I told him we were all done doggies. So he said, "Watch cats?" Nope. "Watch trucks?" Nope. "Watch goats?"  I busted out laughing. We've never sat down to watch a video of goats but in his mind, I only said no to the dogs, not no to anything else, so he was desperate to find something I would allow.

And then he has this thing he does, that we think is generic for "take this," or "here you go," and sometimes, "help you." He makes this sound, "A-baas-a-baas-a-baa?" He's not attempting to say any word-it's just this sound he makes. It's cute but I wonder what he thinks he's saying.

When he wants help, he says "Mommy help you."  Sometimes he'll specify, "Help you toys." It's sweet.

I had to stay up until midnight because I got off schedule with my meds (have to take them 4 hours apart). It's 12:03 and this pumpkin is going to bed! Makes for a lousy transition, but I'll leave you with a smile:

Post script: The title of this post is "Stuff Matthew says." But you should really read these posts, too. While this stuff isn't as cute as "Mashu," they have some really great things to say.
To Parents of Small Children, Let Me Be the One Who Says It Out Loud
10 Words that Describe Infertility
One Thing Your Daughter [or son] Doesn't Need You to Say