Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fanatical for Football

The three males in my home are becoming aliens. Mike, the oldest "boy", is head-coaching Grant's football team this year. This is Grant's first year playing (ever) and its hard to tell who is more excited. Dane will be playing Junior High Football this year. Suddenly, our home is full of new literature (playbooks) and a whole new vocabulary like "20 power through the 3 hole" and "I-right formation". ???

Yesterday evening, I found myself at a Parent Meeting for Junior High Football players. The coach explained to us the risks of death and injury, and then we all smiled as the boys headed up to be fitted for helmets. Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture? Death and injury.........."Head on up, Son." ?????????

In any case, high school football was a small part of my upbringing. Days getting shorter......school starting.......cool evenings..........football games........leaves crunching. Its all part of autumn in my mind. But still......as the youngest of three daughters, I can honestly say that I didn't realize that I was missing part of the experience. Now, to my autumn experiences, I guess I will have to add to the list the fact that my husband and sons turn into aliens in cleats, and my laundry room becomes filled with grass-stained football pants and sweaty socks, and every conversation turns into a discussion on football. Ahhhh.........BOYS!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Body part names

As I've already mentioned, Tiersten has an ability to put words together in ways that just crack us up. Last night, she came up with a new spin on this, which I will explain...

First of all, you have to understand that my husband, Mike, is a tad uncomfortable with the whole concept that his little girls are someday going to be women. He doesn't want to think about it, be reminded of it, or really......have to deal with it in any way at this point. Which generally works pretty well right now, considering that they are only ages 2 & 3.

However, last night as I was helping Tiersten out of the bath tub, she points to her nipple and says, "What's this?" I very matter-of-factly state, "That is your nipple," and continue to dry her off. She gets this very indignant look on her face and stomps out of the bathroom, leaving me standing there holding the towel. When I hollered after her and asked her where she was going, she yelled back over her shoulder, "Going to tell Daddy!" Of course, I followed her.

Mike was in the girls' room putting pajamas on Jennica, when in stomps Tiersten. She marched right up to him and said, "Daddy, this is NOT my body. This is called a nipple." And pointed at her chest. By this time, I'm standing in their bedroom door, having heard the whole thing, and am trying not to laugh.

Mike somehow managed to confirm that she was right with a very straight face, and she even made him apologize, I think, for having told her it was called her "body".

Oh...........out of the mouths of babes. :) I can hardly wait until she moves in the general direction of her feet.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Tiersten is our oldest daughter. Only one year and six days older than Jennica, they are as close as.......well........close. I never totally understood parents that described their daughters as something like, "4 going on 14". With Tiersten, I get it!! She is a little girl and "trying to be all grown up" all in the same package.

Tiersten joined our family at 16 months of age. Like Jennica, she was removed from birth parents at an early age. Despite a start in life that could be considered less than ideal, Tiersten has overcome it all and is a thriving three-year-old. She definitely keeps us on our toes!!

When thinking about Tiersten, a couple of things come to mind. First, she is the type of beautiful that makes you think "Age 13" and "locking her in a closet" all in the same thought. See photo above. I'll say no more. Second, Tiersten is one of those children who has the ability to come up with the most delightful phrases ever! I'm going to make a list of them below and add to them as they happen. We call them "tiersten-isms".

My favorite Tiersten-isms:

Absolutely #1: "I have a 'bless you' on my arm!!" (Right after sneezing on her arm.....YUK. But funny nonetheless.)

New One!! Added October 3, 2006: "This is called your 'trouble finger'!" (While holding up the middle finger all by itself. I'd love to know where she heard this one, but I didn't want to show any reaction, as then she would repeat it over and over and over!)

New One!! Added November 13, 2006: "Daddy, why isn't the 'yelling light' on?" (After a few questions, Mike figured out that the "yelling light" is our bathroom fan. We're not sure if she calls it the yelling light because we raise our voices to be heard over it, or because its noisy...but either way, its funny!)

Brothers for life

A friend and co-worker once gave me a little plaque that simply read, "Mothers of boys work from son up to son down." At this very moment, I can't find it and I miss it, for being a mother of my two boys is one of my greatest accomplishments to date.

First, there is Dane. He is 13 now, and very quickly nearing me in height. He is intelligent, funny, and reaching that point where he is really his own person. He is very good with his little sisters and his baby-sitting skills are invaluable. He is also outspoken and stubborn, with a passion for football that surprises me. During toddlerhood, he was so aggressive, that we worked hard at teaching him that it was inappropriate to express himself physically and that he needed to "use his words". By age five, he had swung far the other direction, and was horrified by children who hit and shoved in play. Now.......he seems to be finding a healthy balance in getting vast enjoyment out of smashing other people on the football field, while retaining his mild manners away from the game. Go figure!!

And then there is Grant. At age 11, he is known by others to be extremely quiet and reserved. He is brilliantly, frighteningly intelligent (especially in mathematics), but few people get a glimpse of it. At home, he is hilariously funny, and yet sensitive. He has little tolerance for people who can't get along, or people who can't abide by basic rules. He is always so excited about the future and is always looking toward the next adventure with relish--a trait we could all use more of.

Together, the boys are (and always have been) a strong pair. Oddly, they have never fought. Ever. They will, on very rare occasions, bicker about the move of some creature or other in some computerized game, but NEVER have I seen them fight. And if you take on one of them, you'd better be prepared to take them both on!!!

My boys are BROTHERS,in the strongest sense of the word. The best of friends and each others' fan club. Can we clone them??? :)

The most humbling day of my life

Through an unexpected series of events that I'll probably blog about at some point, my husband and I adopted our two young daughters through foster care. Each of them is a miracle in her own right, and has a miraculous story about how she joined our family, which I will also share at some point. But for this post, I want to focus on a single day of Jennica's life, the circumstances that led us to that place, and the profound effect that this single day had on the outlook I have about my life.

First of all, Jennica was removed from her birth family at the hospital when she was born and placed into foster care. At seven weeks of age, she came to live with us, as a foster child with a high chance for permanent adoption. We were a family looking to adopt a young toddler or infant. Hence, a perfect match. But, as there usually is with foster-adopt children, there were some risks. First, her birth parents were both developmentally disabled and there was a possibility that she would have inherited some developmental issues. Second, she was their third child and both of her siblings were in permanent placement with family members on the East Coast and both of them had varying levels of autism. And third, there was still a chance that the East Coast family members would have a chance to step forward and request custody of her at any time during the coming 12 months before her adoption could be complete with us. Scary? Absolutely!!! But after a devastating miscarriage and my subsequent infertility, we were desperate to raise a child and willing to take the risks. We saw the potential for disabilties as something that is a possibility with every pregnancy and every human being. If this was our biological child born disabled, we would certainly not reject them. So why reject this beautiful baby girl??? As for the family on the East Coast, we were just going to have to pray that they would make the decision to let her remain on the West Coast with us.

To make a long story short, Jennica had ups and downs through her first year. Her development proceeded in fits and starts, and we worried incessantly. We pursued every available avenue for infant testing, therapy, and developmental intervention. To say we were "pro-active" is probably putting it mildly. Our goal was simply to give this baby girl the absolute best chance at the highest functioning life she could ever have. If that was a normal life.....wonderful. If it was somewhat less than normal, we would give her every opportunity to excel to her utmost potential. And during the whole time, we continued to pray that the distant family she had never met would not express a desire to take her, and prayed that the adoption would proceed.

A full fourteen months after taking custody of her, the big day arrived. FINALLY, on August 19th, 2005, her birth name was changed to Jennica Angelie Stevens. Our angel baby was irrefutably and inarguably OUR DAUGHTER!!!

We had long planned that when she was 18 months old, we would return (we had already been there once with her) to our region's very best children's hospital for a developmental evaluation. The appointment was set, and the day arrived. Now, keep in mind...Jen is the youngest of four children. It is a rare occurence for us to be able to spend the entire day alone with just one of our children. So...we started out the day with a bit of a "party mood". Just us and Jen. WAHOO!!!

We traveled the hours from our home to the hospital, found our way to where we needed to be, and began the exasperating experience of a day of medical appointments with an impatient and strong-willed 18-month old. She's bored with the waiting and wants to run the hallways. She finds a toy truck somewhere and clings to it while she is weighed. (The nurse, bless her heart, wisely chooses not to wrestle the truck away and writes the weight in the chart with a note that states "including toy truck".) Jennica discovers that she can open the exam room door and bolts down the hallway at every opportunity, usually yelling at her greatest volume, as the hallway has the most delightful echo. And she is far more interested in wadding the exam room paper, which crackles and crinkles loudly, than she is in looking at the book that the therapist wants her to point out pictures in...

And suddenly, in the midst of my exasperation, I begin to notice the other children present in the waiting rooms and hallways. Wheelchairs abound. Facial features and limbs are "different" with disabilties that are unknown to me. And I begin to realize that some of these other parents may never chase their child down a hospital hallway. They may never see their child scream "MINE!!!" when a nurse thinks about taking a small toy away. And their lives are interrupted daily by therapy visits and hospital appointments. As our day continues, and Jennica becomes less and less patient, we begin to tire of passing her back and forth to try to entertain her. And then I suddenly realize how fortunate I am to share my parenting experience with a willing and involved father. I see another mother balancing 2 children and a diaper bag and a wheelchair alone and hope for her that there is at least someone to help at home. And I am humbled beyond tears with the child in my arms that is struggling to be put down, the husband beside me who is packing a juice cup and a diaper bag, and I think of the other three, healthy children we have at home. I think of our weekly schedule of football games, soccer games, etc. and feel guilty for the times when I have recently wished we could just have a quieter life. How many of these parents in this hospital will never see their child chase after a soccer ball?

When we left that day, Jen's attention was drawn to the shiny, mylar balloons at the gift shop on the first floor. Of course, we stopped and bought her one, tied it to her wrist, and watched her bounce across the parking lot outdoors, fascinated by the movement of the balloon above her head. While I smiled at her antics, I found myself also thinking of the parents in the windows above us who, just once, would like to see their child dance with a balloon.

We left that day with a healthy diagnosis. Jennica's development, now almost a year later, continues to be normal and on track. She is a rowdy, obnoxious, strong-willed 2-year old, with huge brown eyes and a smile that melts our hearts every single day. She is truly a miracle--the only member of her immediate biological family without major developmental delays.

To the parents that we saw that day, you touched my life forever and made me appreciate what I have. I was humbled by a brief glimpse into your daily lives. May you be blessed with love, peace, and wisdom. I still get exasperated, exhausted, and plain old worn-out sometimes from keeping up with our busy lives. But that day changed my life with a view of a much different perspective.

Michael Blaine

My first real post...Mike has no idea that I'm starting this blog and I don't intend to tell him until I get a few things on here. But, then again, I never seem to be able to keep things from him, so we'll see how I do. If this goes as planned, I'll tell him in a week or so, after I've written down some of the special things that we've experienced in the past few years.

In any case, I am so thankful to have this man in my life to share the chaos. There are very few people who know the entire story of how the "we" came into being, and one of the miracles of my life is that we are together at all. I hate to use worn-out phrases like "meant to be", but it took a monumental effort to move some of the necessary roadblocks to be where we are today. Out of that period of our lives, came a dedication to each other and an appreciation for what our love can endure, and for those things I am eternally grateful. To those who didn't understand the sacrifices, and still don't, I hope that someday you find a passion worth fighting for.

And to Michael, I love you yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Thank you for the times when you keep your mouth shut even when you don't want to, and thank you for the times when you open it and put something in perspective (even when I don't like it). Thank you for supporting me, when you agree with my decisions and even when you don't. Thank you for being the father you are to our children, and for the friend you will be in their future. Thank you for making mistakes and being a jerk sometimes, because it allows me permission to make mistakes and be a jerk sometimes. Three words, five phrases...every step of the way. Honey.....I think we jumped!!

And when I get irritable in the next few months while you're busy coaching football and get home late from practice and run out the door to work the next morning, and when I get downright bitchy after a game--Just know that I LOVE that you're coaching Grant's team. I enjoy watching you with the team, I enjoy watching the hours of effort you put into game plans and all that I see behind the scenes. I WANT you to coach--but trying to entertain two toddlers with enough snacks and juice to last a football game, without either of them falling off the bleachers, AND keeping up with the business and the house and all the other stuff we do, sometimes turns me into a grouch. Just give me a hug and a kiss, tell me you love me, and give me 30 minutes of peace and quiet, and I'll be ready for the next week of practices and games. :)