What Moving To A New City Taught Me About Life

When we made the decision to move from Minneapolis to Chicago, I don't think I had any comprehension of the storm that was about to hit. I had just had a baby five days before, had a 20 month old toddler clinging to my leg and must have been on some sort of post-partum drug I didn't know about to have agreed. It set in motion the hardest, most difficult year of my life thus far, but it also began a refining, purifying and growing process that I never would have experienced had I not gone through it.

Moving to a new city where you don't know anyone is certainly a leap of faith - and one that a lot of people are scared to do. But now on the other side, I can say that I think everyone should try it at least once, because the growth and life lessons gleaned along the way are invaluable. Here's what moving to a new city taught me about life:
  • Moving doesn't separate a family. In Minneapolis, I had most of my husband's family within a 20 minute drive, and my family was only three hours south in Iowa. While I first learned this lesson when I moved from Iowa to Minnesota, I learned it again when I moved again from Minnesota to Illinois and my closest family was suddenly five hours away. But if anything, some of my relationships have become deeper with the move because the time I do get to spend with them is so precious and we're so intentional with it. Plus, with video chat, FaceTime, Voxer and all the other amazing technology out there now, I keep in touch with some family members multiple times a day and my kids talk back and forth with their cousins all the time. Moving hasn't pulled us apart, if anything it's drawn us closer together as we strive to keep extended family a priority. 
  • The world is full of amazing people. One of the things I was most scared of was leaving the strong community I had built in Minneapolis. Leaving my mom-friends, old colleagues, church home and neighbors, I was fearful I wouldn't be able to find people like them again. But wouldn't you know, world is full of loving, kind, caring people and I've been amazed by the depth of the friendships I've already built. Great people live all over the globe, and I'm thankful to know a few more. 
  • Time helps you learn to like something. I really, really, really didn't like Chicago when I first got here. Many things looked and functioned differently - and I found myself picking apart everything from the way the streets were laid out to the quality of the parks to the grocery store options. I compared everything to what I used to have and decided on the spot that "It was worse." But being here for a year, knowing how to get around without GPS, and just getting more familiar with the area has completely changed my mind. Things are different, yes, but time has allowed me to stop comparing and to see and enjoy the good things about the city. And realize the things that are better - and that if I moved back, I probably wouldn't like. Ha!
  • Friends can be like family. I've always been blessed with really strong, supportive family relationships - even from my extended family. And I was fearful moving far away from family would leave me stranded and unsupported because there was no family member around that had a "duty" to help me. But I was so wrong. As I said, the world is full of amazing people, and slowly but surely friends are becoming like family to me. Whether it's bringing me meals and sweet gifts of encouragement, babysitting my kids in a pinch, or just hanging out and letting me cry or laugh until I cry (I'm a big crier, what can I say?) - some of the women I've built relationships with here are truly like family. 
  • You grow the most when life doesn't go to plan. When moving, everything is in chaos. There are a lot of things that don't go to plan, and for me, even the move wasn't part of "my plan." But the growth I experience over the past year - spiritual and emotional - has been exponential. (Thank goodness the growth has not been physical!) Moving ripped away my security blankets and forced me to figure out who I was and what I found my strength in. Because my identity could no longer be in my community, in my home, in my perfectly laid plans, and even in myself - who was verrrrry unreliable - I had to lean on my faith, in the one person who is unchanging, immovable, and loves me more than I could ever comprehend. 
  • You can't do it all, but you will get what needs to be done, done. It truly is a myth that "you can do it all." But, somehow, you will get the important things done. When moving, you're buried in things "to-do," and often it feels so overwhelming to leave one place and get settled in another. But things have a way of working out and while the buzz of stress was a familiar sound in the back of my mind, I learned to just "do the next thing," and my small efforts eventually paid off to where the tasks weren't coming quite so fast. It was weird, one day I felt like we were still "wrapping up the move," and the next I realized it was done! There was nothing left to do but to enjoy being "settled." 
  • You are more resilient than you know. During the move, there were so many days I just wanted to hide in an empty bathtub and just stare at a blank wall I was so tired and overwhelmed. And I confess, there were days that I did! But each time it happened, I got back up and dove back into life. Motherhood is a sure way to realize your resilience, but moving is another. I learned about my ability to bounce back and roll with life's punches, and I know I'm better for it. 
  • Home really is where your heart is. My family truly makes up my best friends and as long as I have them I'm home. Even when I didn't know a soul in my new city, I just had to look at my children or my husband and remember that I have everything that's important in life right next to me, and in the end, that was what mattered. 
  • Finding new opportunities takes risk. Moving has opened so many doors for me that I never would have had if we had not come to a new city. It was a risk to move, and it's also been a risk for me to put myself out there to meet new people, serve in my church and even start up new projects (like Risen Motherhood). But each time I've taken a leap of faith, I've been amazed by the doors that have opened. I'm so glad I've taken risks over the past year - beginning with the move - because there are so many opportunities I would not have experienced if I hadn't.
Basically, moving makes you feel indestructible. It solidifies who you are and makes you agile, adaptable, open to changing and moulding as you need to in life. And honestly? That's a pretty good skill set to have.  Many of you long-time readers have walked through this move with me, and you've see just how hard it was for me. There were some really dark, dark days in there, but you know what? The darkness has finally, generously, graciously lifted and it feels like now is the time to enjoy the sweetness of the light. Things are not perfect of course, there are still hard things, things I can't even talk about here on the blog. But overall I'm truly thankful that we've moved and the lessons I've learned along the way. 

In Which The Insane Act of Flying With Two Under Three Taught Me Resilience

Even three months later and I can't really figure out why I agreed to do it.

I willingly chose to fly with my two kids (ages 14 months and two months shy of three) alone on a three hour flight to Florida. When I told people what I was doing, most gave me a severely concerned look and told me I was ... brave. Others just spoke truth and said, "You're insane."

Looking back now, I fully endorse those that told me I was insane.

You see, initially I thought the actual flight would be the hardest part. The kids were missing their afternoon naps, and so I assumed they'd be crabby and cranky and that my toughest job would be trying to get my one year old to nap on me - even for 15 minutes (which is the exact amount of time she ended up doing so).

But in fact, the most difficult thing was getting on and off the plane.

Yes, that short window of time when one is preparing to board or has just finished deplaning is what now makes me swear off flights with little people forever.

Our stroller is a somewhat complicated double stroller. It's this one, if you're really curious. Which normally is a BOMB stroller - a smooth ride, skinny for doorways and sidewalks, lots of space for the kids, and the parent console is amazing (If you're a mom, I know you're nodding along with me and appreciating these benefits. If you're not a mom, you are now probably wondering if I have any friends.)

And in preparation for the flight (Including an obviously desperate email to all my mom-friends asking for tips/advice/gear for the trip.) I borrowed a carrying case for the stroller from a friend to store it in when I gate checked it. My plan was to bring the kids through security and the terminals in the stroller (Simply because I do not have the required six arms that one would need to care for two children and all their necessities.) then package it up at the gate to check it. And in this process, the stroller had to be broken down - not just in a couple of pieces, but in SEVEN PIECES. SEVEN PEICES. THE WHEELS COME OFF, PEOPLE.

When I practiced this at home, I thought it wouldn't be a huge deal, that it would be worth a little extra work to have the stroller while going through security and to not get it damaged when being gate checked.

But I didn't practice it with my two crazy children running around, all my luggage nearby and a few hundred people watching.

When I got off the flight after landing in Florida, they brought out my stroller last, after everyone had deplaned. There were about three different gates converging where I was standing, about 200 people sitting down and milling about, waiting for their own flights.

I was in the middle of the room with a toddler shouting, "Is this Florida? Where's Papa? I need snacks! My legs hurt. My toes are eating me! Colette is running away! Colette is drooling! Momma! Is this Florida?"

And my one year old was in fact running, er, crawling away as fast as she could accompanied by a high-pitched laugh of freedom.

When I got my stroller, I didn't even know what to do. I felt like I was on a stage with two maniacal, destructive side-kicks who's only job was to push me off the edge, brining the curtain, lights - the entire set - down in flames with me.

So I did the next thing. 

I set that stroller up in what had to be record time, maybe three minutes? And that's with stopping every 30 seconds to pull Colette back if she got too far out of my sight, or to answer Eli's burning, pressing, important  LOUD questions. The entire time I never looked up at the room, I was too embarrassed, too exhausted, too nervous to see how many people were actually watching me.

When I stood up and looked around, every eye in the room was on me.

Seriously. In my focus to set up the stroller, I hadn't even noticed how silent it had become in there besides my kid's announcements of their own needs.

I stood there, just looking around for a bit ...

And then I said to the entire terminal, "Sheesh, I feel like I need to bow or something."

And right there on the spot, I curtsied. And the room halfheartedly, applauded.

Then I loaded my whining toddler in the front seat of the stroller, my crap in the back seat, and carried my screaming, angry-to-be-held-again, daughter under one arm while pushing the stroller as fast as I could with the other.

***

I tell you this story, not because it's particularly good, or special. There was no random act of kindness from a stranger (although I experienced many throughout the two flights), no heroic move on my part, no sweet words with a deeper meaning from my toddler, or magical moment with an obvious mom-lesson. I don't even share this with you to scare you off from flying with two kids two and under (Although you should be - kidding. No seriously. Don't do it.), I share this because this is normal life. This was a real moment where I felt incredibly alone, humiliated, inadequate, embarrassed, and just plain wanted to melt into the floor instead of be where I was at.

But instead, I had to press on. I had no choice but to keep moving, keep setting up that stroller, answering questions, bringing my one year old back to safety. I had to keep moving forward even though everything in me wanted to give up.

And isn't this a lot of mom life? Sure, my inadequacy was highlighted by a particularly unfortunate situation (and a large crowd). But aren't we all pretty inadequate? Insufficient for the job? Aren't there so many moments every day where you don't know what the heck to do, and you just want to give up?

But I'm here to remind you, we moms are pretty resilient.

Motherhood is not glamorous. It's not fancy, or beautiful. Sure, there are some moments that are really moving and touching - but normally, motherhood is pretty mundane. It's setting up the stroller when you'd rather be anywhere else. It's chasing down your kids in the airport terminal over and over again, making the work you're doing take twice the amount of time. It's stares, judgements, going at it alone while people just gawk. It's not feeling understood or heard. It's wanting to explain yourself but not having the time or voice to do so.

Motherhood may allow us to bring life into the world, but we still have to figure out what our own life stands for. Because motherhood hits like a hurricane and unless you figure out who you are and know deep in your core that you're not defined by others, it'll drop you to your knees.

And among many, many other things, motherhood is about finding our own resilience, realizing our own ability to bounce back from difficult, embarrassing, awful situations. It's about figuring out who you are, what you stand for and believing for the first time that you don't owe anyone anything when it comes to your motherhood.

You'll mess up. You'll be embarrassed. You'll falter and question.

But you are resilient. You are durable. You are strong. And you are not defined by other's perceptions of you or the pressures they put on you. It's stubborn motherhood at its finest. Where we keep moving forward all the time, even when life does everything it can to beat us back. When you're lost, remember who you are and what you stand for, then just do the next thing.

Find your resilience.

Chicago Kitchen And Living Room - Details and Sources

Well it took me a million years, but I'm finally back to talk about the living room/kitchen (as promised) with a huge photo dump as I work you through the furniture and decor. I'm not going to list every single thing, but I'll try to hit a few of the things I've been asked about and highlight some of the process. If you missed it, here's the background on the renovation.

Also, I do want to give a huge shout-out to my dear friend, Joanna. She and I have been friends since I moved to Minneapolis and she has a great eye for design - which I used to my advantage as I began decorating our house. She and I are always swapping home ideas and talking about the latest decor trends, and she was a huge help in being someone to bounce ideas off of as I was working through decisions. I truly could not have done this without her! 

If you've been a long-time reader, you might remember our old house in Minneapolis - it was tiny. When we moved in, most of the rooms in this house were completely empty since it's so much larger. If you're wondering, most of our old living room furniture ended up in the front room (which isn't finished yet), but you'll spot few old things that did end up in these rooms.

You might recognize the card catalog, still my absolute favorite piece of furniture in my home and I knew I wanted it in a prominent spot in this house as well. It's fun to look back and see how many different ways it's been styled over the years! 


Every time I sit on this couch (from RH), I close my eyes and my tiny little heart flutters. We wanted something that was timeless and would stand up to the kiddos over the years. So far, so good - it's one of those things that just looks better with age.

Those white bookshelves are from Ikea. I spent a full week spray painting them from black to white - and wouldn't you know, one month later Ikea comes out with these shelves in white. I nearly died right there in aisle 1.

I filled the shelves with all sorts of things, some have meaning, some are just from the clearance racks at Home Goods, Crate & Barrel, Target, etc. It's not perfectly styled yet, but I figure it'll evolve over time as I find the right things. The baskets on the bottom are from Ikea, and each one is filled to be brim with toys or books - making them easily accessible for the kids.



A lot of people ask me how I can have "nice" things at the kid's level in the house and really, I've found that as long as I tell my kids "that's not a toy," they're really good about leaving stuff alone. I think it's good for kids to understand that everything in the world is not theirs to manhandle and do anything they want with, and as long as I'm diligent to teach them at the beginning, they understand. Every once in a while I'll find small toys in the vases, or cars lined up on the books, but I don't mind at all. Nothing in our home is too precious to break - if it was, we wouldn't have it!



The pillows on the grey chairs are from one of my new favorite Etsy shops, Thimble and Cloth. If you can't tell, I'm a little obsessed with indigo dyes and mudcloth. They're all over in this new house!





The pillows on the couch are from all over the place, Etsy shops, CB2, West Elm and - recycled from our old basement.

The mudcloth fabric over the back of the couch is also from Thimble and Cloth. I wanted something to break up the solid back of the couch and this worked perfectly to add interest, yet sill show off the leather. 


That black lamp is actually from Target - it's this white one, I just sprayed it a matte black finish to get the look I wanted. The vase is filled with eucalyptus from Trade Joes - it lasts a long time, but I need to figure out a more permeant solution as I don't like to have to go monthly just for one item. 

Although, it's probably worth it, right? I mean, look how pretty it is. 


I really wanted a round table in the kitchen as you can usually fit more people around it for the size, and I thought it would help break up all the rectangular shapes in two rooms. I found a tulip table knock-off on Amazon and it ended up being the perfect fit. We eat most of our meals around this table, we just pull up Colette's high chair (from Ikea) when it's time to eat. I removed the tray and she eats directly on the table, making clean up super easy.  


The kitchen hardware is from Home Depot. I originally wanted to go matte brass, but because we decided not to change the counters, I went with the safer, silver choice. The rug is an Ebay find. Searching for affordable and unique pillows and rugs on Ebay has become a new obsession of mine. I love the thrill of the hunt and finding something that's lived many lives before it comes to our house - which is also perfect with kids


The stools are Target - they spin to raise them higher, which I thought might be a nice feature for kids, but in reality, it's awful. Eli's favorite game is to set his toys on the seat and spin it as hard as he can until it flies off - denting the wall. I'm thinking we'll need to find some hardware we can add on so they don't spin anymore ...


The lights over the island are from West Elm and the wood blinds are crazy-affordable from Overstock, though what they lack in price is made up for in lack of function. They're a little hard to raise and lower, so you need a bit of patience. But most other roman shade options I looked into were well over $1,000 and these were $60. So, call me crazy, but I guess I'm willing to have to finagle them a little for the cost savings. 

Overall, I love the way this space functions so much. It's been a game-changer to have an open-concept house, and these two rooms work so, so hard for our family, it's been worth every ounce of work to renovate the space and the headaches I've faced while decorating it. And just for fun, I've included a few progress shots - so you can see how evolved over about the eight moths I was working on it. It just goes to show that decorating is hard, it's a slow process, and how it takes patience and time to find your style. Especially if you look at our old house compared to this house - my style is pretty different!








Looking back at these photos makes both my stomach churn remembering how hard it was sometimes, and makes me grateful it's all over! Don't get me wrong, it was worth the work, but it's so nice to be at a place where we can enjoy our home and I don't feel like I'm constantly tweaking it (at least these rooms, that is!)

Please let me know if you have any other questions and I'd be happy to answer!

Jonas Paul Eyewear + A Giveaway!

When Eli got his glasses at 14 months old, so much of me was afraid of how he'd look. In classic motherhood fashion, I didn't like his "beautiful blue eyes" covered up, and I didn't like the way they changed his look because he was so "perfect" already. But today, I almost don't recognize Eli without his glasses. They are so much apart of who he is and I LOVE the way he looks in his glasses. 

Over the past year since his strabismus surgery, we've had a lot of ups and downs with his vision. At his last appointment we found out his eyes were still not working together enough, so we're discussing patching and other types of vision therapy again, but right now we're just giving it a bit more time before making a decision. 
It's funny, because I know logically that his vision isn't the end of the world. No matter what, my baby boy is going to live a full and happy life, I know this is a small thing, a hurdle that we can, in fact, jump over together. But when you're a parent there's an element of wanting the easy path for your child. Of wanting them to have every opportunity, advancement and convenience that you can't help but mourn a little when you realize that won't be the case. 

And I think that's okay. It's okay to be sad for a moment, to let the feelings swim and settle in your soul for a bit. But then the time comes when it's time to let go. To remember you can't control your child's future, no matter how "perfect" they seem to be. To remember that really, this is their's to own and conquer. Your job as a parent is to teach them where to find their identity, to help them grow to be secure and confident in who they were made to be, and know that their value isn't found in their looks, performance or abilities. It's about teaching them resilience. To bounce back and charge on.  

And so I'm working on that. With each new update, each high and each low, I'm finding that I set the tone for Eli with how to respond. And I can choose to be upset. Or I can choose to be resilient. 
In the mean time, I'm so excited to say that we have found the most adorable pair of glasses for Eli - a pair that doesn't hide his eyes, but highlights them and makes him look even more adorable than he already is. (Self admitted #mombias here.) Eli is now a brand ambassador for Jonas Paul Eyewear (JPE), a company that makes the cutest children's glasses I have ever seen. I found JPE through another mom on Instagram. Her little boy is a little older than Eli, but the resemblance between the two of them is crazy! I was immediately obsessed with the glasses he was wearing so I reached out to her to find out where she got them. She pointed me to JPE and soon enough, they reached out to see if I would be willing to test them out with Eli and be a brand ambassador. 

I was so excited to get the free at-home try-on kit to test out all the glasses on Eli and he loved getting to try out different frames and pick the ones he liked best. Ultimately we went with the Paul in navy matte, which is Eli's favorite color, so he's completely obsessed because they're his, "favorrrrrite color!"

It's so funny, because when Eli first got glasses at 15 months, I can't tell you the number of comments I received about them. Most all of them were positive, talking about how adorable he was or just how cute it is to see just a little person wearing glasses. But eventually the comments slowed, we weren't stopped as often while out and about. But now, with his new JPE glasses, the comments are back full-force, all of them commenting about how much they love his glasses and how adorable he looks. It's so fun to hear so many people liking his glasses, and Eli loves telling them, "Thank you. They're my new blue glasses. They don't have a strap, see?" as he turns his head around. 

Originally we went with a different brand that was made of one piece of plastic and had a backstrap, which worked well for when Eli was really little, but it has been so nice to be able to upgrade to a more stylish pair of frames. At first, I was worried about them staying on without a backstrap, and while you can add one, I'm so happy to say they stay on perfectly without one! In addition, they are amazing at holding up to the rough toddler life. Eli loves to wrestle and play hard, and I've been so impressed by the durability. 

The other thing I love is that it's a company I want to get behind. I love the origin story of JPE. It was created by a mom and dad who have a son with vision impairments. They found a gap in the market for fashion-forward children's glasses, and created JPE to fill that void. In addition, JPE does a "Buy Sight, Give Sight" program, where for every pair of kids glasses purchased, they work to provide prescription glasses and corrective surgery to people in need. 

Pretty great, huh?
And JPE also makes non-prescription glasses and sunglasses. So even if your kiddo doesn't wear prescription glasses, you can still order awesome, stylish frames through them. 

So today, JPE and I are giving away one pair of prescription or non-prescription sunglasses (with 100 percent UV protection) for your little one - a $200 value! So ALL of you should enter, regardless if you have a child in glasses or not!

And in the meantime, if you want to order a pair of glasses from JPE they're giving all Oakland Avenue readers 10 percent off their order, just use the code "OaklandAvenue10," good through 5/12/16.


Enter to win in the rafflecopter widget below. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And just in case you missed it, here are some other posts I've written on children in glasses:

Other Posts on Oakland Avenue:
Eli Gets Glasses
Kids In Glasses: Frequently Asked Questions
Tips and Tricks for Introducing Glasses To Your Toddler For The First Time (And Get Them To Keep Them On.)

My writing on other websites about glasses:
Little Four Eyes Blog: The Benefits of a Second Opinion
Twin Cities Moms Blog: How To Tell If Your Child Needs Glasses

To My Daughter, On Her First Birthday

I wrote this on Colette's first birthday, but never published it. I thought I'd do it now so I'd always remember. 
This is one of those letters that feels impossible to write. For how does one ever sum up something that changes your life forever? It's been an entire year with you, and the fact that you arrived on New Year's Eve feels fitting - the whole world celebrates another year of life on your day, my love. They gather, party, applaud and dance - as they should - and you and I, we will always pretend that secretly, they are celebrating you. 

When you arrived, it was snowing outside our hospital window. You took your sweet time at first, but when you were ready, you were ready, moving me from a 6 to a 10 in less than 10 minutes, and 20 minutes of pushing later, you were making your presence known in my arms to the entire hospital.

The doctor commented on your strong lungs and she had no idea yet just how strong they were. You put those lungs to the test from the first night and haven't stopped since. Even though they weren't supposed to, the nurses even suggested we give you a paci and they take you to the nursery for a bit on the second night, because you did not want to sleep when the rest of the world slept. 

You're a fighter and that's a good thing. You needed to be as we spent the first five months of your life living in four different places, and even out of hotels for weeks at a time. You were never given the structure, routine, the cush reality of knowing what to expect and when to expect it. You were constantly being moved around from place to place, but you were always with me and I hope that was enough. 
I did fail you so much this year dear one. The mistakes I made with you were many, which makes me thankful that your long-term memory has yet to kick in. We cried so much together, you and I. You for reasons I don't think I'll ever understand and me for knowing that I was helpless with you. That I was failing you as a mother, but could do nothing to fix it. 

We had a hard first year, there's no denying that, but now that you're older and I'm beginning to see you morph from a baby to a toddler, I know deep in my core that I wouldn't have changed a moment with you. Because you changed me. You blew the roof off any expectations and pride I had in my mothering and brought me to my knees. You made me weak, powerless, exposing my fears and insecurities as a mother - as a person - and forced me to the cross. 

It is a heavy weight on my heart to be the one entrusted to raise you into a woman. This year brought to light just how inadequate I am for the job. You deserve more than me, my love. But you and I, we're what we've got, so I will do my best to give you all of me, teach you what I know and learn from you along the way.

As I look at your knees, red from crawling and your four adorable front teeth (Seriously, they kill me.) I'm reminded of just how fast time will go. Every once in a while I see glimpses of our future, of the beautiful young woman you will become and the sassy teenage 'tude that comes with. But today I just want to live in the here and now. Today, I want to remember the little girl that dances with her arms in the air every time the music comes on, the one that tilts her head back and forth while babbling in a very intense conversation that no one understands but her. I want to remember the baby girl that plays with my necklaces and tries to brush my hair, the one that blows zerberts and dribbles apple sauce down her chin while giggling. 

And what I'm realizing is that often, you will be the teacher and I will be the student. Because just like this past year of my life, you will teach me to love unconditionally, to cover my days in prayer and to release any pride that I can do this on my own. 

Only 12 months old and God is already using you in big ways to change hearts. 

I have a feeling this is only a glimpse into your future. 

And so, when we are lost and confused, when we can't figure each other out - as we spent so much of this past year - I will look in your eyes and you will look at mine, and then we will turn our gaze together to the sky. 

I will forever be yours and you will forever be mine, and together we will forever be His.  

Happy birthday babygirl. 

The Adoption Process: One Week In

* This post was written last November, when we first signed on with our adoption agency and I was completely overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions I wasn't prepared for. 

As I type this, I'm one week into being a PAP - a pre-adoptive parent. I didn't realize there was a term for me until someone just whipped it out on me during a phone call.

We signed some papers last week, put down a significant sum of money and suddenly, the process has started and I have a new title.

It was exciting at first, but fairly soon reality started to set and now I'm finding myself up all night thinking and worrying (read: completely freaking out) about the decision we've made. I know we feel called to this, absolutely, hands down, no questions ask, I know this is what's next for our family. But here's the honest truth, the truth I'm wondering if other PAPs feel on the daily once they take that first significant step to say, "We're doing this, we're all in." - I'm terrified we're making a mistake. That we're going to mess up our family by moving forward on this. I know that's frank, and definitely not PC, but deep in my core, that's everything my stress, worry, anxiety and freak out sessions boil down to.

I mean, not to brag, but we have a pretty good thing going here as a family of four: mom, dad, one boy, one girl - isn't that supposed to be the American dream? As I talk to more and more people and read more and more books and articles, everyone and everything talks about how hard adoption is, how much work it is to go through the adoption process, how expensive and time intensive it is. They tell you that many adoptions are unethical and total scams, and many people are left with the question if their matched child was forced from their family or if they were truly an orphan. (Just the idea of us adopting children that were coerced from their family absolutely makes my stomach turn - and makes me hesitant to engage in an overseas adoption - but that's another post for another day.)

Plus, they say once you cross the finish line of bringing your new children home, that's really only the beginning. Adoptive children require so much special care and attention: extra time for bonding, grieving and connecting with you, and they bring in many unexpected mental, physical and emotional needs that no one can truly prepare you for. Supposedly the first year (and maybe the second or third) is complete-family-lock-down-and-survival-mode. And even when you get through all that, even then - they say you never know when something might erupt - an adoptee's scars of injustice might open and bleed again at any moment. And in a transracial, international adoption, I know we'll face life-long challenges dealing with identity, heritage, and cultural differences. Plus, we have two biological children, which according to the experts - presents a whole additional set of challenges to deal with.

Is that - all that stuff up there - something I'm prepared for? Can I really handle that? What affects will adoption have on my biological children? Is this something I as their mother should put them through? Can we survive all this as a family? Are we just setting ourselves up for hardship and failure?

WHAT ARE WE DOING AGAIN?

These fears, these questions, they all feel so overwhelming and terrifying. My momma-bear instinct feels pulled in two, half of me saying, "No, no no! I must protect my bios! Adoption is too hard, too risky, too many unknowns and we shouldn't put our bios through this."

But the other half of me says, "No! We have been called! I know we have two more babies out there somewhere, and we must protect them! How are they being treated right now? Who's singing them to sleep at night and making breakfast for them in the morning? Do they have anyone that loves them now right now? Let's hurry up and begin! I don't care how hard this will be! They have been my children since the beginning of time, I need them here, in my arms - I MUST FIND THEM!"

It's been a hard week feeling this tug and pull. I have a feeling I'll be living with it for quite a while. But every time I feel overwhelmed by all work there is to be done, I remind myself of why our family is choosing to move forward with adoption: Because this is our call, this is our marching order from God - to care for the orphans, to rescue the helpless. And for our family that means tangibly rescuing two orphans and raising them just as they were blood, just as though I carried them for nine months, giving them all the same rights, love and care our biological children receive.

We will carry through with the risks of adoption because we know that God makes families in all different ways - race, location, age - they don't matter when it comes to a family. And now as a pre-adoptive parent, I know that my family looks like two colors, two countries, two cultures, two histories - all of our joys, sorrows, pain, grief and happiness mashed together for all of time with love covering our differences. And when you know God's plan for your family is for you to find your two children in another land, all of your fears don't matter. It's not that they go away, it's just you do what any mother would do and you fight to bring them home and make your family whole.

The truth is, I won't be able to do all that stuff up there - not well at least. But God is sufficient. He will carry us. It will be hard, but it will be good. And all good things are worth fighting for.

And when I truly think about it I know: What's best for my bio kids is what's best for my family. And what's best for my adopted kids is what's best for my family. All of my kids (and my husband and I!) will be better because of adoption. 

Let's do this.

Here's to starting the process and making our family whole.