Friday, May 28, 2010

Highlights of the week

The kids were in rare form this week...just getting on each other's last nerve at every turn. OK, maybe that's not all that rare. But my patience had run out, and let's just say that I was ecstatic to see Wednesday come and go as our last day of babysitting for the school year.

On one of these particularly harrowing early days of the week, Olivia was being a complete nightmare and got put in "ultra time-out", which in our house means being confined to her booster chair (strapped in and tray on so she couldn't get out) and facing the corner. She is SOOO dramatic in time-out, wailing and flailing like it's the end of the world. I ignored her because I'd had just about enough that morning. But then I heard something unusual and came in to watch her. She was staring at the Holy Family icon on the wall in front of her and saying "Jesus, Mary, please help me! I don't wanna be in time-out. Help me behave, Jesus!" Tears streaming down her face. This was not a show she was putting on for my benefit. She had no idea I was watching her. This was really her talking to Jesus, her friend, represented by the icon on the wall. At such a tender age, she already seems to understand the point of prayer. My heart melted.

The first couple of days of "vacation" have been exhausting and relaxing. Olivia and I have been on the go, with errands and play and all sorts of activity. But without the other kids here, it seems to be less stressful.

Today we went over to the waterpark for the morning. Olivia insisted on walking from the parking lot, and as I watched her marching ahead of me with determination, it occurred to me that this sweet little child, so recently just a baby in my arms, is taking giant leaps toward independence from me. That is the goal, of raise kids to become more and more self-reliant and capable of making their own way in the world. But to watch my two-and-a-half-year-old wander among strangers and head with confidence and determination toward the gates of the park without any thought about whether Mommy was right behind her...well, it made me a little sad...

And then she got tired and insisted on riding in the stroller. I guess she still needs me after all!

We're headed into a busy Memorial Day weekend, and then we'll be leaving Olivia with Grandma and Grandpa for a week while we go to Omaha for surgery, etc. What a busy way to start summer...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No, they are not paying me for this.

Olivia and I visited Local Theme Park yesterday after the kids left and went straight to the waterpark, where Olivia insisted that we "go to the waves". She was referring, of course, to one of their two fabulous wave pools. She hated them last year, and now she can't get enough...just runs into the waves until they knock her down. She keeps me on my toes because she doesn't really know her limitations and that the force of those waves is much stronger than she is. Anyway, she had a blast (while I had a few terror-inducing scares...she is FAST...even in water). And it occurred to me that I LOVE this place. It rocks. Let me tell you why.

1. They have lots of free stuff. Free parking, for one. Although, why you would charge someone to enter a parking lot in order to pay you money to visit your fine establishment is beyond me. This one seems like a no-brainer to me.

2. Free soft drinks. All day. Every day. They have these self-serve drink stations all over the the restaurants but also at various spots in between. Soft drinks, coffee and tea are all free wherever you can find them. Some people have said this is crazy...after all, soft drinks provide, perhaps, the largest profit margin in a place like this. But this place has more concern for their guests than for the profit they can make on soft drinks. And I think it has paid great dividends by freeing people up to spend their money on other things, like games and food and gifts.

If you think about it, this idea is genius. Especially in an industry that does all it's business in the hot months of the year. I'm willing to bet that their first-aid station treats a lot fewer people for heat exhaustion and dehydration as a result.

Although, I will tell you that this has spoiled me. I now expect this everywhere. We went to the zoo a couple of months ago and I was appalled that they would charge $2.75 for a drink! Yeah, I'm absolutely spoiled.

Free drinks. ROCK!

3. Free sunscreen. Yep, that's right. They have at least two stations in the main park and two in the waterpark where you can "screen up". It's something like SPF 30 or above...I don't remember. But AWESOME. I can't tell you how many people used to forget their sunscreen and refuse to buy it and then would let their small children walk around with naked skin...which would be beet-red naked skin by the end of the day. I know...I worked at this same park for five summers in high school and college. I would cringe every time I saw these crispy red children walk by, knowing how they would suffer for DAYS because of it. Child abuse, I tell you. Anyway, Local Theme Park came up with a solution for that. They rock.

4. Free life jackets. I think you have to rent them in most parks. I can't say for sure...we don't visit a lot of other parks (why would we?). But this water park has these big bins where you can just pick one up and use it for the day. Very nice for parents of little daredevils like mine.

5. Your admission gets you access to two fabulous parks. Three top-ranked wooden roller coasters, including the #1 ranked wooden coaster. Lots of other fantastic rides. Their waterpark is stellar and (I think...don't quote me on this) one of the largest in the country. And they have TONS of kid rides and even a section for kids with a spray park and huge play structures and a kiddie roller coaster and a food stand that sells hot dogs and french fries. What more could a kid want?

6. Non-smoking (with designated "smoking areas"). They are SERIOUS about this family-friendly stuff.

I know you (my four readers...are you all still there?) want to come to this awesome place. If you do, let me know. We have season passes and would love to join you for a day (or more) of summer fun!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Facing the possibility of fertility

Sometime...maybe 2-3 years ago...after lots of trying-to-conceive and fertility evaluation, we came to the unspoken conclusion that pregnancy was pretty darn near impossible to achieve in our current state. We don't KNOW that, but knowing all of the medical problems and seeing the glaring evidence in the return of my cycle every single month led us to believe that we were in a state of severe infertility. And then we adopted Olivia. So we just left it at that.

In other words, we haven't been trying to conceive. But we haven't been trying to avoid conceiving either. While I keep up my charts daily, we haven't actually been using them for any sort of timing reason whatsoever. We didn't think there was really any point either way.

All of that is about to change. Next week, I go for surgery and diagnostic procedures to try to get a treatment plan for all that is wrong with me as a result of what is wrong with my hormones, etc. And it kind of occurred to me recently that could very well mean that we might actually have to start paying attention to the chart again soon.

I'm not counting on a return to fertility. It would be nice, yes. But there are some pretty wacky things wrong with me that are all conspiring against the idea of procreation. However, this guy is the best. I mean, the best of the best. He has been successful in overcoming some pretty crazy odds for a lot of couples.

And this means that, for the first time in years, we will need to be consciously aware of days of fertility and infertility. I'm not really used to that. I'm not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, I'm hopeful. On the other, I don't really relish the idea of setting myself up for month after month of hoping in vain. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what God has in mind.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just two weeks

I realized last night that two weeks from today I will be having surgery in Omaha. Actually, two weeks from right now I will be finished with surgery, probably having some saltines and Sprite while we wait out the "recovery" time in the hospital until we can go back to our hotel.

I've been looking forward to this trip for six months. That's right...LOOKING FORWARD to SURGERY. It's not a big deal surgery...just a couple tiny incisions and some scoping and lasering. But I know it will be painful, or at the VERY least uncomfortable and exhausting for days (we've done this before). And yet, I've been looking forward to it.

Maybe not so much looking forward to surgery. I don't relish the idea of that. The part I most dread is the IV. My hand hurts every time I think about it. It's a needle. IN YOUR HAND. Gah! But that needle delivers the lovely drugs that erase a good portion of the day from my conscious experience, so I suppose it's a necessary evil. Still, though, not exactly looking forward to that.

What I am looking forward to, though, is DOING something...actively pursuing answers to a host of health issues that we hope are all related and therefore diagnose-able in this one trip.

I'm also looking forward to a week away with my husband. Just my husband. I am going to miss Olivia terribly, but she's such a high-energy and high-needs child that sometimes she just drains the life right out of me and I'm not much fun by the time my husband comes home. And we all need a break now and then...just to breathe. I don't get much of that on a daily or weekly basis, so I'm hoping to squeeze some of that breathing time into this week of appointments and surgeries.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Family day at the park

On Saturday, we spent a lovely day at the Local Theme Park with another couple and their family. This couple adopted their first child six months before Olivia came along, and we've bonded with them on issues of adoption, politics, religion, etc.

This lovely couple now has quite a brood in tow. Between our two families, there were five kids under three. Two "big kids", two toddlers, one baby. Two mixed-race children, two caucasian children, one African-American child. Three adopted children (our one, their two), two foster children. All five are girls. Two double strollers and one single stroller. Four adults enjoying some conversation where they could, while also making sure this child didn't leap out of her stroller and that one didn't steal her sister's sippy.

I'm sure we drew some interested stares...we did make an interesting bunch. But what I enjoyed the most was just being with all the kids together. I held this one or that one while keeping an eye on mine and sometimes another one running around in the spray park or the pool. I bonded with one of their foster children, who wanted me to hold or play with her for much of the afternoon. My husband really enjoyed holding the baby, who was calm and sweet and not squirmy and impatient as Olivia was when she was that age. I loved watching Olivia share hugs with the other girls and adopt them as her newest favorite playmates.

It was chaos, but it was an absolutely delightful day. Exhausting, but beautiful.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday thoughts

It's Friday, and I'm feeling pretty good. I have only 8 more days of babysitting after today. The kids are all asleep. We're going to our parish social tonight and to Olivia's Favorite Playground tomorrow. Lots to look forward to this weekend.

Olivia has slept through the night for the past four nights. She used to do it every night, but since Easter she's been imagining monsters regularly again, and she seems to be afraid of the dark. It had become a nightly ritual for her to come wake me up around 2:00 a.m. and make me sleep with her until she was soundly asleep again. But after four nights without this nightly sleep disturbance, I feel pretty good. And kind of spoiled.

You'd think that all that uninterrupted sleep would make her more cooperative and well-behaved. You'd be wrong. She has been pretty out-of-control starting an hour before nap and then again about three hours before bed. I don't know...maybe she's growing and getting tired more quickly.

Another explanation (for the behavior and for the sleep disturbances of late) might be apnea. I've been considering the possibility of having her evaluated. She is a loud sleeper, always sounding congested and occasionally stops breathing for a few seconds, so I guess it's possible. I've read that toddler apnea is usually caused by large tonsils and adenoids inside a small head. If that's the case, it would be easily solved. But I'm putting this off until we get BACK from Omaha because we have enough medical stuff to deal with in the next three weeks.

I'll be posting a couple of new videos here as soon as they can load. The first one is of Olivia's recent bowling experience...the first one where she was allowed to try all by herself. She LOVED it. The second video is of her rockin' out with her new inflatable guitar. That kid cracks me up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


1. Olivia slept through the night last night, and the night before. That may not sound like earth-shattering news, but after weeks of putting her back to bed in the middle of the night when she woke up imagining monsters, it seems pretty huge to me. I don't know why she's sleeping better, but I hope it continues.

2. On the other hand, we were out and about last night and driving home after dark, and as soon as the inside of the car turned dark, Olivia started to get scared and talk about monsters. She has never been afraid of the inside of the car before. She seems to be really sensitive to the dark lately.

3. As futile as it has been, we've been trying to convince Olivia that monsters don't exist. This seems a little insincere to me, since I know that monsters DO exist, just not in the form that she imagines. But the monsters that exist in this world are unlikely to be in her bedroom at night. They are more likely to be snatching children in parking lots and grocery stores. At any rate, we've told her that monsters won't go where Jesus is, and she has a crucifix in her room, so she seems to get the concept.

4. I had to dismiss a kid from daycare for next school year. I felt so bad when I told her parents about her problems here and recommended that they find a new place for her to go next year. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to get her to behave. She's obviously bright and very energetic, but she is also aggressive, defiant and occasionally just mean. Recently, she has been throwing fits at the slightest reprimand and she has gone from hitting and pushing to biting, which I just can't tolerate. By nap time, I'm so frustrated from disciplining her that I'm yelling at everyone for everything and the whole house is full of tension. It's not fair to the other kids, and I don't think it's a healthy environment for the kid in question either. I'm sure there's someone out there who can handle her specific needs, but I've finally come to the conclusion that I'm not that person.

5. That kid is also having a sibling sometime in the fall, and I had to explain that I can't take on a baby right now anyway. Which, I think, came across as confusing to them because we are actively waiting for adoption #2, which will likely show up in the form of a very tiny baby, which is the same thing. But it isn't. Yes, having an infant AND caring for other people's toddlers is a lot of work, and yes, when the time comes it will require a lot of sacrifice of my time and stretch my patience. But I reserve the right to be willing to make sacrifices for a baby who will forever after be a part of our family and NOT make the same sacrifices to care for someone else's child while they work. I don't think that's unreasonable.

6. I am frazzled, disappointed, but most of all RELIEVED about these developments. I don't get paid enough to be this stressed out by one kid.

7. I have just ten more babysitting days (after today) until summer break. Not that I'm counting...

8. Did I mention that Olivia is exactly two-and-a-half years old TODAY?

That's two-and-a-half, going on five. My husband calls this her "Topps baseball card action photo"

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Thankful for the mother who made my motherhood possible

Today has been a full exhausting day. I will write more about it when my brain and heart have had a chance to fully process it. Because today was the day my daughter "met" her birthmother for the first time.

Olivia is too young to really understand this fully... we've just been talking about adoption in bits and pieces. We didn't tell her who Samantha was to her...just that we were meeting Miss Samantha for some play time and lunch. I figured that it would be easier to explain the connection to her if Olivia had a real life experience of the person who made the complicated decision to place her for adoption. I'm not really sure how to adequately explain the adoption triad to adults, let alone to a child. But I think this was a good first step.

We had a good day. Olivia played with Miss Samantha at the library, and then we had some lunch. Miss Samantha did Olivia's hair in braids (something I've been too afraid to attempt). Olivia warmed up immediately to Samantha and chatted easily with her throughout play time and lunch. She ended the visit by giving her a hug and kiss. Like it was natural. Like we were just meeting another member of our very large family. Which, in a way, we were.

Samantha talked about her life and the challenges she's currently facing. She has matured so much in two years. She talked about how she's making positive changes in her life and how happy she was to see Olivia thriving. And she said, again, how she has never questioned her decision that we should be Olivia's parents. She sees how happy she is and says that she never has to worry about how her life will be.

It was a good day for all of us.
Happy Mother's Day, Samantha. Thank you for choosing me to be Mom to your precious baby girl. You are in our prayers always.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Quickly, before I fall asleep.

Well. Olivia woke up at 2:45 a.m. this morning. She did not fall back asleep until 6:08 a.m. Which is very close to the time I have to get up. She spent more than three hours staring at the ceiling, unwilling or unable to give in to sleep. We took turns lying with her. (Because leaving her alone isn't an option unless we want to spend the rest of the night listening to her screeching as she runs back into our bedroom. Darn stupid bedroom monsters.)

Before she finally gave in and fell asleep, she became a weeping pile of goo at least twice, a sure sign that she was, indeed, exhausted. Letting her stay up was not an option if I wanted to survive to naptime. Letting her sleep all morning was not an option if I wanted to have any time at all to myself this afternoon (to sleep). Waking her too early would mean I'd have a monstrous and mean child to torment the other monstrous and mean children in my care. (If one is misbehaving, it's like a fast-spreading disease that infects the others. Summer cannot come fast enough.)

I opted to wake her at 8:30, and she behaved herself for about an hour after that. The rest of the morning was a challenge. To say the least. But now she is asleep. And there was much rejoicing.

One of the monstrous wee ones (other than Olivia) was particularly challenging today. At the end of one of her many time outs, after making promises that she would behave, she took off and less than a minute later the baby started screaming. She had been standing on him! What on God's green earth makes this kid do these things?

It's a darn good thing it's Friday. I need a break. And a nap.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This is where the title would go, if this post had enough continuity to pick one

Today is a gloriously beautiful day...the very essence of Spring perfection when it comes to weather. I took the kids outside and ENJOYED sneezing, wheezing or other pollen-related misery. The cold is also gone and I feel like a new person.

I also got on the elliptical machine for the first time in five weeks today. I can finally breathe. It felt very good to be back to "normal".

I got a call today from the Institute where I'm going to have surgery and other diagnostic procedures in a few weeks. The office that handles various dealings with insurance companies discovered that both the doctor and hospital are out-of-network for our insurance (not news to us). They were calling to let me know that they are drafting a letter to our insurance company explaining why Dr. Hilgers is different (and does surgery differently) than the dozens of other GYN surgeons in our network and is, therefore, the best possible option for our very unique case. They are arguing to be considered in-network for these procedures. I didn't even ask them to do this! Can I just say that they are totally awesome?! Whether it works or not, I think this is an AWESOME business practice.

The baby I watch is now eating baby food, and his mom has been sending these glass jars for about a week. I've been saving them and will be doing this with the kids tomorrow. I've been looking for an easy crafty Mother's Day gift that the kids could make for their moms this week, and I think this is perfect.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 3, 2010

To define "family"

On Friday, I spoke with Olivia's birthmom on the phone. It had been several months since I had talked to her, so we were on the phone for quite a while.

Once upon a time, I approached these phone calls with great trepidation. Part of that had to do with my sense of perceived inadequacy. I never, ever wanted her to regret her decision to place Olivia in our home.

Now, though, that trepidation is completely gone. Our conversation flows so easily. And I've learned a bit through our most recent conversation about how she feels about us, and I am completely secure in knowing that she believes that there is no better place for Olivia.

This most recent conversation revealed the following revelations:
1. Birthmom was actually presented with three couples during her pregnancy...we were the last one she met, and she picked us before our meeting was over. I had previously thought that we were the only couple she met and that she was ready to pick anyone who was willing to adopt this baby, but she rejected two other couples before meeting us. This was news to me.

2. Birthmom revealed that she picked us because something told her that we wanted to be parents for the right reasons and that Olivia would have everything she needed with us.

3. Birthmom has matured a great deal in two years, mostly due to learning from her own mistakes. It's like talking to a different person. She worries a lot about her kids because she lost them to foster care and is trying to clean up her act and get them back. She said "You know, I make myself sick worrying about my kids. I never, ever have to do that with Olivia because I know she's going to be OK. I trust you guys and know she has a good life, and I can't imagine what her life would be like if I would have kept her. I'm just so thankful that I don't ever have to worry about her and that she's happy."

We are hoping to plan a face-to-face meeting soon...maybe this Mother's Day weekend. I think it would be rather appropriate.

I've been thinking a lot about the importance to me of keeping in touch with Olivia's birthfamily. This weekend, a new facebook friend graduated from college...she is the firstborn child of one of my relatives, and this weekend, they reconnected at her graduation for the first time since she was born. She was placed for adoption at birth and grew up always knowing that she was adopted but never knowing her birthparents until they recently reconnected. That's just the way things were done back in the day. Now she's reconnecting with her birthparents, has friended a bunch of our family members on facebook, and might even meet all of us at a family gathering someday. It's causing me to look at the idea of adoption in a whole new way...this girl is not a part of our family any more, but she also IS a part of it. Her primary family, rightfully, is the one in which she grew up. But I think there is something deep inside that makes us all want to understand more about where we come from and how that affects who we are. And now that she has's almost as if she "belongs" to two families. But in a different way. It's hard to define, but I wonder how it feels from her perspective. And it makes me think about how Olivia might someday feel about her birth family and to what extent she will want to be connected to them.

This is what is on my mind today.