March 23, 2015

what's for dinner?

I was group texting with Clair and Lolly this morning when one of them asked for some new dinner ideas for the week.  Apparently, they forgot I was on the text.  I don’t cook.  And, when I say this to people, they are always, “Oh my gosh, me neither!” and I temporarily don’t feel so alone.  But then I’m at their house on a random Tuesday and they are “just whipping up” some seared ahi tuna with a beautiful remoulade served alongside caramelized shallots and candied beets. 

Liars.

Do you know how you can tell if someone cooks?  They recklessly use phrases like, “just pop in some (blah blah)” and “oh, just toss it over (whatever)” and “I just throw together whatever I have on hand.” They say this as if perhaps an infant could crawl up on the counter and cook if only they had the fine-motor skills.  Also, most of what they “whip up” includes foreign-to-me ingredients like roasted kale and pine nuts.  What does that even MEAN? Many times, friends have tried to convince me that cooking is SOO simple.  That I probably already have everything I need in my fridge/pantry.  You know what that means?  My family would be eating three bread and butter pickles over expired hummus paired with last week’s pizza sautéed in vanilla coffee creamer.  Canned fruit cocktail for dessert.  Beverage choices are whole milk, juice boxes or half and half.

My mom didn’t cook either, so maybe it’s genetic like blue eyes or heart disease.  When we got married, I was determined to learn and begin life as the domestic goddess I knew I had hidden inside.  I was a wife.  Wives cook. 

For a wedding gift, someone gave us the expensive crock pot we registered for along with a book called “135 Fail Proof Amazing Slow Cooker Recipes.”  Some of the recipes allowed you to cook the main dish AND a side all in the same fancy pot! (bonus: our high-end crock pot came with a tiny matching one, so I could even make desserts!!)   Each night when Matt came home to some new, beautiful, steaming feast, I hardly ate I was so impressed with myself.  I noticed his appetite seemed to be dwindling as the weeks went on.  Maybe he was secretly on a diet because he was planning to surprise me with a tropical getaway?  Finally one night after I plated my newest creation, he just sighed and gulped down some murky homemade tea.  (I couldn’t quite figure our Deluxe Mr. Coffee Instant Iced Tea Maker. Also a wedding gift.) 

Assuming it was a rhetorical question I asked, “Does everything taste alright?”  His cheeks got red.  Little beads of sweat appeared.  That’s what a hot, home cooked meal will do to a guy.

“Well, I just. I don’t know. It’s fine. No, it’s GOOD! I can’t believe how well you cook!  But. Is there a certain ingredient you've been using in every recipe?”

“No. We had cream cheese chicken alfredo Monday and bacon ranch ribs yesterday.  Obviously not.”

“But what about the barbecue sauce?” You know how I always mention Matt’s shifty nervous-y eyes when things are about to potentially go wrong?  That. 

“BARBEQUE SAUCE?” I was incredulous but not sure why yet.

“No. It’s not that. I love barbecue sauce.  But why are you using it every day?”

I wasn’t.  

So, like a mature WIFE (because I was a grown-up-married-person now), I dramatically threw my monogrammed (another wedding gift) onto our “every day” China and ran to our bedroom slamming the door behind me.

After waiting about four minutes, Matt tapped on our door.  “It’s FINE!” I wailed, my head under our new Pottery Barn pillow shams.  “I KNEW you hated it.  I KNEW I COULDN’T COOK!” 

He sat down on the bed beside me.  “Babe, no.  I’ve figured it out. It’s just the crock-pot.  Really! There is something wrong with it.  Every single thing you cook tastes like the exact same sour barbecue sauce. (boy, does he have a way with words!)  So it isn’t you, it's the crock pot that's terrible.”

You guys… this man is a saint! And also, a liar.


I pitched my beautiful, chrome, 4-automatic-settings crock-pot in the apartment dumpster on my way to work the next day. And I never looked back.

But, I am a MOM now.  Mills licked the chocolate off of a protein bar for breakfast this morning. So, while Clair and Lolly swapped delicious sophisticated-sounding recipes, I furiously took notes.  It's never too late to learn, right?

March 19, 2015

so you adopted because you couldn't get pregnant?

A lot of people ask me, “So, did you guys adopt because you couldn’t get pregnant?”  I think that’s the most common conclusion in terms of adoption. (at least with people who don’t have biological children.)  And while certain aspects of our adoption and infertility story do overlap, one was not a direct result of the other.  My story of infertility and Mills’ story are two very different things and it is important to me that they stay separate from one another.

We started trying to get pregnant seven years ago. (or ONE HUNDRED because it feels exactly the same)

I was so clueless and naïve that I actually CALLED my doctor’s office:

“Hi.  I just wanted to let you know that my husband and I are HAVING A BABY.”

“When did you test positive?” The nurse wasn’t the friendliest, but I had AMAZING news, so I was sure she’d come around.

“Oh, haha! We aren’t pregnant yet, but we are GOING to be.  We decided to have a baby and I took that ovulation test AND got a smiley face AND we, well, you KNOW, so….” I’m pretty sure I was giggling. Also, I talk in extreme run on sentences when I’m excited.

(total silence) And then, “Honey, what is it you are calling about?”

I felt a little sorry for her.  And confused.  Didn’t she know anything?? “BECAUSE we are going to have a baby.  (???) Don’t you want to put it on my chart? Or have me come in or something?”

And then laughter.  That woman laughed at me. “Why don’t you call me back when you get a positive pregnancy test.” (more laughing)

I was crushed.  I was angry.  And now, I look back and feel so sad for me… but I laugh too.  I did not know ONE SINGLE THING about all this.

Fast forward through four years of trying and waiting and crying and testing and SO.MANY.”NO”s. 

No, you aren’t pregnant this month. No, we don’t know what is wrong. No, insurance doesn’t cover that. Nope, still not pregnant. No, no, no no…

And the week before my 30th birthday, I was the one who said no.  Matt and I were sitting outside watching the sunset and I said, “Ok.  I’m done.  I don’t want to look back at our life and say, ‘those were the miserable years.’ So, no more.  If the children in our lives are simply those in the families around us that will be enough. I will be okay.”  And for the first time, I meant it.

It wasn’t one month later that my high school guidance counselor called and said, “Amanda, I was sitting in my front room reading my Bible and God told me to call you.” (When someone says God told them to call, you LISTEN!)  She went on to tell me that her daughter had just adopted from an agency who needed birth parents willing to adopt outside their race.  I listened and thanked her and that was all.

Here is what you need to know about adoption and me.  Throughout the years of trying I heard
Oh! You should adopt.  You know EVERYONE gets pregnant when they adopt.” And also, “God must not want you to have children.  You should adopt! It’s the right thing to do.  (To me, the "right thing to do" meant driving the speed limit, flossing, recycling?)  Again and again, this was spoken over me until I began to hate the word adoption and everything about it.  It seemed like second best.  A consolation prize.  So I made a vow.  I was sitting on Lolly’s floor crying and said these very words,

I will never buy a baby.  I WILL NEVER adopt.  God would have to literally drop a baby out of the sky and say ‘this one is yours!!’ for me to adopt.”
(I still cringe remembering those hurtful words)

You know what they say about never saying never?  Yes.  That.

I wish I could tell you the specifics about what happened next.  But there isn’t a logical explanation.  It simply seemed that God came rushing in, softened my hardened heart and changed Matt’s all at once.  We were riding in the car one day not long after my counselor called and Matt said, “Are we really going to say ‘no’ to children because they don’t come the way we thought they would?”

And after a tornado of miracles and suddenly “YES”es, (this is a whole other story), suddenly my son was in my arms.

This is what I can tell you now.  We didn’t adopt because we couldn’t get pregnant.  We couldn’t get pregnant because our first born son was to come to our family through adoption. 

Now that he is home, we know without a doubt that even before the world began, Mills was ours.  And that, God graciously allowed enough time to pass so we would open our hearts and walk into the plan that had always been.


It was always the plan. The first choice.  And because of it, I have actually come to treasure my years of infertility.  Isn’t it ironic? Infertility made me a mother. Not because  I ran out of options, but because all along it was the only option.

March 17, 2015

a letter to myself on the eve of infertility


Dear Amanda,

Tomorrow your life will change forever.  I wish I could protect you from everything you are about to experience, but in the strangest way, this will be the best thing that has ever happened to you. 
 
First thing’s first. 
Everything you think you know about getting pregnant? False. 
Your science classes, great aunts and MTV’s Teen Mom have failed you.  Lies…all lies.  I can’t tell you yet what DOES work, but I can give you a  few things that don’t. 
Take them off your list:
-“Just relax.”
-“Take a vacation!! “
-“Stop trying.  Everyone gets pregnant when they stop trying.”
-“Adopt.”
-“Lose weight/gain weight.”
-“Give up.  This is a sign that you aren’t meant to have children.” (heads up- the ones who say this one are nuts! Walk away.)
The people around you do not mean to be idiots.  Truly.  You will hear some of the worst advice imaginable in these next few years… but it’s only because no one knows what to do with you. You will hear the story of Abraham and Sarah on the regular.  You will yell and say terrible things about that particular story in the Bible.  Chances are, you won’t be 147 when you get pregnant, so try and let that one go.   Although you can’t see it now, your friends and family are hurting with you. Learn how to be gracious early on and save yourself one million tears.  And also- stop asking people what you should do.  Their ideas are terrible. Ask your doctor, talk to Matt… but step away from the masses.

The amount of weight and gray hair that comes with this process is a shock.  So, learn that you are beautiful.  It's important.

You don’t actually have a needle phobia.
The nurses don’t like wimps, so fake it til you make it. Before long they’ll know your name, and your best vein.  Your days of whining and passing out over a blood draw are long gone.  In time, you’ll be giving yourself shots in the stomach and losing half of your blood supply at every appointment without thinking twice.

Oh! You will lose your mind, yell at a nurse on the phone and file a complaint about her to “HR”.  You aren’t going to win her back over, so let that one go.  But don’t be “that girl” for long.

The nurses are YOUR PEOPLE!  Treat them well.  If they ever seem cold or unfriendly, it’s not about you.  They have an unbelievably stressful job.  Women are crazy to begin with.  Women pumped full of hormones trying to get pregnant? Psychotic.  These ladies see incredible pregnancy miracles, but they also walk families through inconceivable loss.  Just be sincere.  You’ve got a long road ahead, and some of these women will become friends for years to come.

Something about marriage
Sooner than you think, you and Matt will begin to feel like a science experiment gone wrong.  You will fight and cry and question every single thing…you will say terrible things and doubt each other and think this is one big mistake…you almost won’t make it through…but hold on to each other.  This thing can break you if you let it.  (but it doesn’t. trust me.)

Don’t hide.
Soon, most of your friends will become pregnant.  The majority of them started trying long after you.  You will watch them have their first, second and even third children as you wait.  Wait well.  Answer your phone, agree to a pedicure, or just let them come sit with you.  Infertility sucks.   Trying to do it by yourself is impossible. You have incredible people in your life. They can TAKE THIS! Learn to let them love you through the ugly. 

You are going to mess up.
Drop perfectionism quickly because you cannot IMAGINE the ways you’ll act.  You will be rude, insensitive, and distant.  You’ll miss important baby showers and christenings and birthday parties and do all the things you said you’d never do. It’s okay.  Grief is a monster and in time you’ll learn to separate your own sorrow from others’ joy. Forgive yourself, ask forgiveness and do better next time.

Hope.
Hear me say this.  You did NOT do anything wrong.  You are not being punished. God has not forgotten you.  Don’t compare your story to those around you, because you do have a story.  It reads like sci-fi horror right now, but it won’t always. 

Never give up, Amanda. Never.  You will announce that you don’t want kids after all, you will stop “trying”, but always hold a space in your heart for hope.

Pain is devastating and beautiful. And it makes people terribly uncomfortable. This thing you have is holy ground. Treat it that way.  Don’t let anyone in unless you are certain they can be trusted with your grief.  But soon you’ll see others stumbling around with your very same wound.  Take them in, share what you know… it eases the heartache.

I wish I could close this letter with, AND THEN YOU GET PREGNANT.  But you don’t. 
I don’t know what happens at the end of our story, but I know you are stronger than you’ve ever imagined.  I know that your story will help so many other women.  And I know that this is all worth it.

Amanda

March 16, 2015

when I remember we are different


When Mills first came home, I was extra sensitive about how people perceived our family. Immediately upon walking into a store or restaurant, I would scan the eyes of every patron trying to determine their reaction.  Eventually, I realized that they were staring mostly because I was a random woman hovering and glaring at them.  Creepy. 

I never wanted anyone to give us more/less attention because we are a transracial family and had a hard time adjusting early on.  But over the years, I feel like I have become exactly opposite of that. I think most adoptive families would agree after some amount of time, you actually forget your child is adopted.  In the most literal sense. For instance, it never fails to surprise me when others giggle as I reflect on how Mills looks so much more like me than Matt.  Sometimes when he reaches for my hand, I am shocked to see that our skin doesn't match.

I am not a hover-er or a panic-er when we are in public.  I have my bag of crazy in terms of mothering, but I’ve always given Mills space and freedom to move and explore.  (But, if you expose my child to one single television show apart from my “approved list”, I will have a mental breakdown.  Don’t you know that one episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants could change the trajectory of my child's life??  See? Crazy.)

Today was one of the first beautiful days since winter happened.  And because winter “happens” to me in the worst of ways, we have been cooped up, in our pajamas, losing our mind for months. In celebration of Spring and warmth and not-winter, I kept Mills home and we went to the zoo.  There is a playground he likes with tunnels and bridges and spots only tiny people can go, so I can’t see him as clearly as other playgrounds we visit.

Recently inspired (guilted) to put my phone away and just experience the moment, I watched as his little striped shirt came in and out of visibility.  His war-cry can been heard even amongst a bazillion kids because, he.is.so.loud, so I could hear him constantly.

Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t seen him in an unusual amount of time so I left my spot and waded through six hundred toddlers.  When I didn’t find him, I went back to my seat knowing that he’d surface sooner or later with demands of fruit snacks and milk.  (so gross)

Several more minutes passed and I still hadn’t seen him.  At this point, my brain kicked into over drive and made up for every relaxed moment I’ve had as a mom.  This was really happening and I had no idea what to do.  Blood rushed to my face and I couldn’t hear anything.  Frantically, I started yelling his name and running.  I don’t know where I ran, I just felt like I needed to be moving quickly. 

The next few moments were the scariest of motherhood so far. As adrenaline surged, I had the thought that someone could have taken my son and left the zoo.  I darted into a café a few hundred feet from the playground and several people started pointing to the front saying “there! He’s over there!”  Apparently the “I can’t find my child and I’m about to lose it” look is a universal one. 

My little man was quietly standing with a walkie-talkie-clad zoo worker.  “He's just fine. I was about to put out a call for you,” she said with the kindest blue eyes.  As I threw myself towards him, I thanked her and focused on not vomiting. "Where was he? Where WAS he?" I held my baby and started shaking all over.An elderly woman appeared in front of my face and said angrily, “You lost him.  He didn’t have parents around so I had to make sure he was safe. SHE took care of him." She pointed to the zoo worker.  
  

And in that moment, I remembered that we are different. Also, I almost punched some one's Mee-Maw. I am certain this lady had the best of intentions, but she took my child off of a playground because she didn’t see any adults who shared his skin color. 

I am feeling so many things as I write this, but mostly, I’m sad.  I’m sad that Mills won’t live a life where family seems simple and uncomplicated.  I am sad that someone can make a judgement about us by the way that we look.  I am sad that even when we forget we aren’t like everyone else, the world remembers.

So, even though my heart has forgotten I didn’t physically carry my son, my mind is heavy today.  What will his tomorrows look like?  Birthday parties, sports, MIDDLE SCHOOL???  Will he understand that his presence in our family is a literal miracle? Can he grasp that he was not “unwanted”, but doubly loved by his birth mother and me? 

These are the hard moments in adoption.  When I don’t have the answers and I am engulfed in fear.  So, I have to put it aside.  I have to ask God to remind me one hundred times a day that He has always known Mills was ours, and He will care for us in all of our tomorrows.

I am currently researching children’s “leashes”.  When I find one that says “birth to age seventeen”, I’m ordering it.  So, don’t judge me when you see my son tethered to me for the next fourteen years.  I can’t help it.

March 10, 2015

confession from an "auntie litter" parade drop out


Recently, Matt began a recycling initiative in our house.  This falls under the category of “things I cannot handle”, but apparently recycling is a passion of his and so, whatever… we’ll do it YOUR way!

I have been reprimanded many times since we came under the new law.  It seems that my idea of recyclable goods does not meet his standards.

I heard the familiar crunch of container on cement as he hauled the can up our driveway tonight.  Mr. Eco-friendly came thudding into the kitchen and glared at me.

“You are BANNED from the recycling bin, Amanda.  I mean it!  You may not put anything in it, or even TOUCH IT ANYMORE!”

First of all, I really thought he was going to say “BANNED from s-h-o-p-p-i-n-g”, so I was instantly relieved.  And also? I hate recycling.  I win.  But, I don’t like to be told I can’t do something, so I pressed in.

“What? I’ve been following all your ridiculous sorting policies! Seriously!”

“An ENTIRE CANDLE does not go in the recycling bin!”

Shocked, I began to laugh.   “Are you KIDDING ME? Do you know how many things you can make with melted wax?  Clearly you have never done any sort of craft, ever.”

“Neither have the people at the recycling plant, babe.”

There were other violations cited.  Not to be missed- food, unwanted clothing and Styrofoam. 

So…..I don’t know WHAT kind of system you people have in place… but I see some serious room for improvement.

March 9, 2015

a life lesson


When Mills and I got home from school today, we snuggled up and started our naptime routine.  But, he just seemed off.  Once I read a list that was something like “Questions to ask your kid so they learn how to communicate otherwise they will grow up to be a big-fat-jerk and fail at life.”
I’m pretty sure this was on that list.  “Did something make you feel sad today?”

His face burned red and his eyes filled with tears. 
(Who knew?? These lists actually work!)

“I pushed Emily today.” 

“You did what??”  I launched into the third degree.  Obviously he’d committed AT LEAST a Class C misdemeanor and I needed to take ACTION.

I was prepared to dole out allllll the life wisdom and set him straight. (or not.  But you’d better believe we won’t have people think we house a push-er under this roof.)

And then I looked back down at my son. 

He smelled like grass and cheese indicating he is a big boy, but his cheeks were all puffed out and that reminded me he is just a BABY.  And I went with that.  I wrapped my arms around him and squished him up to my face and began to tell him that he is so loved.  We talked about how we all make mistakes and the best we can do is try better next time. Enormous tears rolled down his beautiful face and I reminded him he is a good friend and a caring boy.  He picked his head up and said, “I not, Mama.  No I not.” And then he dropped that sweet head down in shame.

In that moment, a few things happened. 

My heart shattered in a billion pieces and I could not take a deep breath because everything was all tight and squeezy inside.  I should be feeding him a bottle right now, not talking about real-live STUFF.

I wanted to personally track down Emily and push her EVEN HARDER for making my child feel this way. (you know, because he pushed her.  #rational)

And, I got a glimpse of how God may feel about His children. 

So...I spent the last 3/4ths of my life thinking God was this stern angry-ish executive-type and generally unconcerned with me until I screwed up.  When I DID blow it, I pictured His blazing eyes burning down from above as he face palmed and said to the heavenly hosts, “Yall! Seriously?  This girl is a train wreck.  Please remove her from my line of vision.”

Until today.  Today, when my child cried over hurting someone else, I felt love.  That is all.  I was so proud of him for telling me his story.  I was overwhelmed with sadness in the wake of his pain.  And also, I wanted nothing more than to help him. 

And if I, with every single flaw and limitation known to man, responded that way… well, I may have this whole, angry-stern-God thing completely wrong.

Mills asked to paint Emily a picture tonight.  I watched him swirl the colors around and move out from under the burden of the day.  And it was beautiful.

March 8, 2015

express checkout


I am in the middle of writing a blog post on infertility and I just remembered the most hilarious story…

During the first few years of our marriage, people often said, “So, do you have any kids?” in small talk.  
No,” I would always reply. “Not yet.”
Some of them, feeling especially brave or bored would follow up with, “Why?? 
Most often, I’d shrug my shoulders and mumble some benign response to appease them.  (We want to wait a while, travel, save money…. Blah blah blah!) But sometimes they would catch me right in the middle of a fertility treatment, hopped up on hormones and coffee, and I just couldn’t any more. 
Because I CAN’T!”
I said that three word sentence time after time. 

And then one day…

One day I was checking out at the grocery store.  Geneva scanned my People magazine, chocolate and six pack of Diet Coke, and began the dreaded dialogue.  After I answered, her hand paused over the register.  Well honey?” she tilted her head and thought a moment longer, looking puzzled. “Are you sure you’re doing it right?”  I stared at her, my mouth hanging open.  You know… “doing” it right.” she emphasized while shaking her hips.  (And just trust me on this one, Geneva’s hips DO NOT LIE!)


I learned something from Geneva, though.  First, avoid her aisle at ALL costs.  But also, unsolicited advice is a dangerous thing.  When given recklessly, it becomes a weapon. (or, at best, a terrible sight someone can never unsee.  ever)  So I try and refrain whenever I can.  I think most people are probably already the expert on their situation by the time I enter the conversation.

And also? I wish I could tell you she was the only one to say this to me.  Not true.  So, if you are saying this to random women you meet in the grocery store… STOP IT! 

Carry on.



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