Monday, November 28, 2011

"The best birthday ever!"

Over the weekend we had an impromptu birthday party for Shylee. Her actual birthday is on Wednesday and she's turning six years old, a fact that blows my mind so much that I like to pretend she's only turning four.

We didn't do much, just ate some cake and ice cream and let her open a few presents, but she went on and on about how it was the "best birthday ever!" The jewelry her aunt Randi gave her was the "beautifulest" jewelry she had ever seen in her whole life! Those boots and that nail polish? They were "magnificent", and we had the "most delicious cake in the whole wide world!"

May she always be so easy to please.

We love you so much Shylee Bug, and I can't imagine
my life without you in it. Happy birthday, kiddo!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A little less to worry about

Since Adam is working late tonight, I made the trip to pick Shylee up by myself today. After a brief conversation with her mom, Shylee and I walked back to the car hand-in-hand. As I pulled away from the little convenience store that has become our designated trade-off location, I looked at Shylee in the rearview mirror. It was a familiar scene: Shylee excitedly squirming in her seat, a giant mischievous grin plastered on her face.

Just a few miles into our trip I'd already heard about the Thanksgiving stories her teacher told the class, what foods the school served for lunch this week, her friend who has the "most beautiful dress", and another friend named Lincoln whose older brother is apparently kind of mean to the younger kids.

I'm used to this kind of thing; there's never a moment of silence when Shylee's in the car. I was nodding and saying "uh-huh" in all the appropriate places, but I have to admit that I was only kind of listening until she said something that really caught my attention.

"I don't think Lincoln's brother is really mean," she said. "I think that maybe he's just sad. Sometimes when people are sad it makes them be mean."

"That's very true," I said, surprised by her insight.

"So I like to ask what's going on, and then they tell me why they're sad. Mean kids need friends too, you know. So I like to be nice to them."

At this point, I was thoroughly impressed. "Shylee, that's a very nice thing to do. Where did you learn that?"

"From my mom and dad... and you, Jenny-mom."

I was suddenly all choked up. I wiped the tear off my cheek before I turned to tell her how special she is and how proud it makes me to hear that she's such a good friend. "That really means a lot," I told her.

The truth is, what she said means more to me than she'll ever know.

I worry about Shylee almost constantly. I worry that despite our best efforts this whole "split custody/having two families" thing will have a negative impact on her. I worry at times that we aren't doing right by her. I worry about her self-confidence. I worry that she'll be resentful. I worry that we could and should be better parents to her. I just worry.

But when she says things like she did tonight, I feel like just a little bit of that worry is taken away. Even more than the fact that she is becoming a very sweet little lady, it means that despite the trials and hurdles we've had to overcome in our effort to be a family, we (Adam and I, as well as Shylee's mother) must be doing something right.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You are smart, you are beautiful

One of my favorite things about working with the public is listening to the interesting conversations people have. Today I overheard two women discussing their children and during the course of their conversation one woman mentioned that she doesn't think it's appropriate or necessary to tell her son that he is "smart". Her reasoning was that she doesn't want to him to grow up thinking that he's smarter than others or that he's somehow better than other children because he's intelligent. The other mother agreed and said that she absolutely refuses to use words like "pretty" or "beautiful" to describe her daughters for similar reasons. She doesn't want them to be vain.

I quietly listened to these women as their conversation drifted to things like holiday shopping and what dish they were planning to bring to the upcoming church pot-luck, all the while keeping my eyes on my work, hoping they didn't realize I was eavesdropping. After they left I tried to forget what they said. Stop thinking about it, I told myself. You had no business even listening to them. But for some reason I was really bothered by what I heard.


Morgan and I have a nightly ritual that started several months ago. After she has brushed her teeth and we've said prayers, she lays down in the crib and I kneel on the floor next to her. I put one of my hands through the bars of the crib and while tickling her arm, I repeat this affirmation:

You are smart.
You are beautiful.
You are important.
You are kind.

I don't know why I initally chose those words in particular. I'm willing to bet that one night she was crying and in an attempt to calm her down, I just started talking. However it came to be, it has definitely stuck. We often talk about other things during the few minutes that I kneel by her crib but at some point before I leave the room I always, always say it:

You are smart.
You are beautiful.
You are important.
You are kind.

I understand that I only heard a few minutes of their conversation today, so I don't know the whole story behind why these women feel the way they do, but I do know that the way they said those words -- "smart" and "pretty" -- was if they were filthy, curse words.

I'm sure that in these women's opinion I'm ruining Morgan by telling her these things on a daily basis. How dare I tell her that she's beautiful! Don't I know there are more important things than beauty? And that fact that I tell her she's smart is surely going to make her treat other children as if they're stupid. I suppose I can just blame myself when she grows up to be a self-centered brat, what with all that "you're important" nonsense I fill her with. Right?

I just don't buy it. I don't believe that this kind of thing is damaging (if it's done with good intent and not taken to extremes). I personally think that it's perfectly acceptable to say these things to our kids, in fact, I think it's necessary. We are their parents and if they don't learn these things from us, where and when will they learn them? I personally know people who don't believe that they are pretty, or important, or intelligent, or worthy of love simply because no one has ever told them that they are. 

Children are so impressionable, I believe that now is the best time to to instill these beliefs in Morgan. It is my hope that constantly reinforcing positive thoughts and feelings can give her the confidence she'll need later in her life.

I hope that she will one day be faced with a problem and think, I can figure this out. I am smart.

If she's ever feeling unattractive because she didn't get asked to the school dance or she's tempted to go on a crazy crash diet with her friends I hope she'll think, I'm already beautiful just the way I am. 

I hope that continuously telling her that she is important can help her avoid feelings of worthlessness.

It is my dream that someday when she sees someone in need of a friend, she'll be the one to break away from the crowd and put her arm around them because she knows the importance of being kind.

You are smart.
Your are beautiful.
You are important.
You are kind.

I'm not trying to ruin her by telling her these things. On the contrary, I'm trying to help her realize who she can become and all the great things she'll experience in life if she believes in herself. I want to be sure she knows from an early age something that took me a lot of years to believe about myself: that she will always be loved - nothing she can do will ever change that - and she will always, always be "good enough".


What are your thoughts? Do you mind sharing them with me?
I really, really want to know what other people think about this subject.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just when I start thinking I might want another one

Yesterday was one of those rare times when Morgan was so ridiculously sweet and well-behaved that for a brief moment I began thinking that maybe (just maybe) those strange people who have 16 kids aren't as crazy as they seem. What? You don't know any of those people? Come to Utah. Meet my Mormon relatives and neighbors.

Most days I can't comprehend why anyone has more than one or two kids. That's probably because most days spent with a two year old are the emotional equivalent of being run over by a garbage truck, but yesterday was one of those beautiful exceptions where Morgan was happy ALL DAY LONG. More than once I found myself watching her and thinking maybe one day I could actually handle more than one of these things.

Fast forward to this morning.

Adam's cell phone went missing after Morgan had been playing with it, and because sometimes God likes to have a good laugh at my expense, the phone was on vibrate mode. When we called from my cell phone and heard a very quiet vibration coming from our room, we immediately began The Bedroom Demolition. We moved the entire bed, looked under the pillows, shook out all the blankets, drug the dresser away from the wall to look behind it, used a flashlight to peek under all the furniture, tore through the whole closet and dug through all the dresser drawers, and do you know what we found? Absolutely nothing. Well, we actually found an alarming number of toys, blankets and goldfish crackers that Morgan had stashed away in random places, but no phone. However, we could still hear it vibrating somewhere in the bedroom every time we dialed his number.

In the middle of tearing apart our bedroom, I realized a little too late that it had been a while since the puppy had gone outside. Fortunately, her piddle puddles are only about the size of a quarter. Unfortunately, I found four of those puddles. While I was cleaning them up, I heard Morgan open the refrigerator door which never leads to anything good, so I jumped up to see what she was getting into. By the time I reached the kitchen she had already managed to spill an entire bottle of coffee creamer down the front of her body as well as all over the kitchen floor. The white pool of liquid was slowly creeping underneath the fridge and oven. Adam immediately put some towels down and started cleaning the mess in the kitchen while I wiped Morgan's sticky body off with a wet rag and finished cleaning up the puppy's mess, stressing about Adam's missing phone the entire time.

Two hours and 58 phone calls later (I really, really wish I was kidding) we still hadn't found his phone, and the fact that we could hear it but not see it made things even more frustrating! Morgan had taken full advantage of her father and I being occupied with our search for the phone and there were now toys scattered across the entire living room floor. Frustrated and upset, we decided to stop looking long enough to eat something, hoping to regroup and come back stronger, more focused.

As Adam and I were in the kitchen getting lunch ready, Morgan casually walked in... WITH ADAM'S PHONE IN HER HAND. We have no absolutely idea where she found it. I'm blaming those thoughts I had yesterday on a momentary lapse of reason. Because those people with more than just a few kids? Clearly they're nuts!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And they call it Puppy Love

A few of you have asked how Adam reacted to our new puppy. To be honest, he didn't throw the tiniest fit about it. I didn't even have to play the truck card. "She's cute," he said, "and I'm glad she makes you happy."

Ummm... okay.

Part of me suspects that his reaction had something do with the text message I sent warning him that I'd done something naughty and asking him to please, please, please not be upset when he got home. Apparently while thinking about it on the ride home from work, he came to the conclusion that either a) I'd wrecked his truck or b) I was having an affair. So coming home to find a puppy (and nothing else) curled up in bed with me was a welcome relief.

A few things:

- We CANNOT decide on a name for this little gal. We've considered several, and we've even tried a few on for size, but nothing has stuck yet. She may be "The Puppy" for the rest of her life.

- Dixie suddenly seems impossibly huge! I've always considered her a "small" dog but compared to the puppy, she's enormous.

- The puppy spends about 20 hours a day sleeping and if she had it her way, she'd spend that 20 hours sleeping right in the crook of my neck. She absolutely loves to cuddle.

- Every other sentence out of my mouth is something like: Morgan, please don't drag the puppy by her ears. Morgan, the puppy can't breathe when you hug her that tightly. Morgan, please don't bite the puppy. Morgan, please don't put the puppy in the toilet; she goes potty outside.

- I have a feeling that potty training a two-year-old and house training a puppy at the same time might actually drive me crazy, so if you have any tips or advice please feel free to send them my way.

- Right now, as I'm typing this, the puppy is asleep on my lap. A minute ago I felt her move and thought she was repositioning herself. Turns out she was just so relaxed that she slid right off my leg like a slinky. It was awesome.

Monday, November 7, 2011

All I want for Christmas

... is for Adam to NOT freak out when he comes home from work and discovers the newest addition to our little family.

In my defense, this is nothing compared to that time he bought a new truck while I was in the hospital.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

National Adoption Month

When I learned that November is National Adoption Month, I knew that I wanted to post something about it here. As many of you already know, my sister and her husband adopted their two children. I could tell you that Halle and Miles are some of the cutest, funniest little kids I've ever known and I'm so incredibly grateful to be their aunt (though I don't get to see them nearly as often as I'd like). I could tell you that Chris and Teresa are absolutely amazing parents. I could go on and on about how I truly believe that Halle and Miles were always meant to be my sister's kids, but I won't. Not today.

There's something else that I just can't stop thinking about today: the courage, selflessness, sacrifice and pure love of not only Halle and Mile's birth mothers, but of so many other women as well. Since I don't have any personal experience in this area, I wanted to share with you something that Teresa wrote in a Mother's Day post earlier this year:

To these two amazing and strong young women I owe a debt of gratitude that I can truly never repay. Because of their heartbreak, my heart was healed. Because of their pain, I have happiness. Because of them I am a mother...

...I don't know if I could have had the bravery that these women did. I don't know if I could have had the strength to make the same choice. I love them. I admire them. I thank them. And on this day, every year, I recommit to be the best mother that I can be, not only for my children, but also to honor the decision of these birth mothers.

She is a mother. As a mother myself, I truly believe that is the greatest gift a person could give. So in honor of my sister and her sweet family, the countless children waiting to find a permanent home, and the strong women who bring children into this world and selflessly place them in the arms of another, I wanted to share a few things that you can do to help celebrate National Adoption Month.

   * Read the Presidential Proclamation. (That link will take you to this year's proclamation, but I personally like last year's even more, so here's the link to that one as well.)

  * Write a letter to your local newspaper about how adoption has blessed your own life or the life of someone you know.

 * Find and share songs or videos about adoption. I liked this one by Mark Schultz, written for and dedicated to his birth mother, whom he has never met.

   * Read an adoption story as a family.

   * Ask your local library to display adoption-related books.

   * Learn more about positive adoption language.

   * Write a blog post about adoption.

   * Spread the word about National Adoption Month on your blog or Facebook.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I hope you all had a great Halloween!
We sure did!

P.S. In case any of you were wondering, Adam and I are still married... he's just good enough at avoiding the camera that I seem like a single mom.