Life as MommyMo

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Whole Year

As I sit here to type, Baby Max is sitting in the exact spot next to the Christmas tree, playing with his toys, that Sam was when this photo was taken. It's hard to believe that it's already been a whole year since we got the phone call that we'd waited so long for.

I still remember the weeks leading up to Dec. 18, 2008. I knew in my gut that we'd be matched any day, but I was frustrated beyond words to wait so long. I did NOT want to go through Christmas still wondering who my baby was... I was at a meeting in Atlanta for a couple of days that week, and sat with my phone in my lap the entire time, ready to bolt from the room when I saw a number from Trenton on the Caller ID. I was incredibly disappointed to board a flight back home, knowing that the phone call hadn't come. I got off the plane and didn't step 10 feet into the gate before I checked voicemail, only to hear that I had no new messages. It was at that point that I decided to mentally adjust to enjoying Christmas with Sam and Rob and to stop worrying about the phone.

I left the airport and went straight to pick Sam up from school. It was a bit early, but I figured a bit of Toys R Us therapy and some Mommy/Sam time would make us both happy. I was driving down Route 38 when my phone rang. Pretty sure it was Rob, I went to grab it, wishing he'd waited just a few more seconds so I was in the parking lot (not that he would have known that!) I glanced down and realized that the phone number was from the Trenton area. I nearly drove off the road trying to answer!

Murielle, our branch director, asked me if it was a good time to talk. When I said, "of course... any time is a good time for a call from Holt!" she advised me to pull over and get to someplace safe. My stomach was in knots and my heart was racing.

She said, "Are you ready?!.... ..... .... I have great news. You have a son!"

It honestly took me a minute to process what she'd said. I was about 80% sure we'd be matched with a girl the second time, but we'd been very specific about saying that we had no gender preference. We figured it was up to God to match us with our child.

Murielle went on to tell me how cute he was, how big he was and all about his chubby cheeks! I sat in my car, trying to keep Sam from climbing out of the car and wiping the tears from my eyes.

Oddly, Sam and I still went into Toys R Us. I called Kim right away (right after I called Rob and my mom, of course!) and told her and Ted the fabulous news. Rob and I met up at home to check out the photos that Murielle had emailed while we settled Sam in with a new garbage trucks video. We instantly fell in love with a chubby, perfect little boy that we knew was meant for our family.

Rob had a dance to chaperone that night, so I went to Friendly's for dinner with my mom and Sam. We spent the entire afternoon and evening trying to figure out a baby name. I'd be so focused on girls' names that our list wasn't ready enough for a boy!

The name we'd figured we'd use for a boy, Henry, just didn't seem to fit when we looked at the photo. We struggled a bit, Rob wondering why I HAD to have him named, and decided to keep thinking that evening. I felt like I'd waited so long to know who my baby was that I NEEDED to be able to call him by the name we'd give him. We settled on Maxwell Owen at dinner, and I called Rob at the dance to be sure we were sticking with it. (I went on to call him Henry for about three weeks... oops!)

And that is the story of how my perfect little baby became a Becker. Waiting for him was the longest year of my life, but this past year has actually been one of the shortest. It's hard to believe he's already been here seven months and will be 17 months old tomorrow. He is making great progress with his therapy and has blossomed into a sweet, gentle, curious little boy.

I'm asked often how Sam is doing with him...The answer is that he's without exaggeration the best big brother I could have hoped he'd be. He's incredibly kind to Max and is always thinking of how to make him happy. Max, in turn, thinks Sam is about the coolest thing ever. I hope their relationship is always some version of this... Their bond is a beautiful thing.

Friday, November 27, 2009


It's been a week since we legally and officially completed our family. I remembered how emotional Sam's finalization ceremony was for me, but I was (and am still) surprised at how significant is has felt to know that Max is ours forever.

Of course, I knew he was MY baby the minute I laid eyes on him. And I trusted that the process was working as it should, meaning (as I've explained to Sam) that God knows exactly which babies belong with which mommies and daddies... It doesn't matter how He brings you together. Forever families are just meant to be.

The court date was special this time, too, because we were given the opportunity to take place in National Adoption Day festivities. We were one of 32 families (and 37 children) being finalized on November 20, in Camden County. The wait to see the judge was long, but we passed the time with other families who were just as excited as we were. There was even one family adopting six siblings at once, and they were all dressed in purple, the youngest daughter's favorite color. It was adorable and almost overwhelming to witness. I was moved beyond words when I saw the family come of out of the courtoom. The dad was practically turning cartwheels down the hall! It's hard to imagine how big their hearts must be. It was clear that they were all very lucky, and happy, to have each other forever.

In the days since Max's finalization, I've stopped more times than I can count to just look and him and think about what it means to be forever linked together. I feel blessed beyond description to have the family that I do. While I will never forget the pain and emotional turmoil trying to have a family caused us, it was worth every single tear and sleepless night along the way to end up where we did. We have the everyday struggles that any family does, but I think that's what makes it so special. It was the run-of-the-mill that I wanted. I never wanted anything more than anyone else does... I just wanted children to love and raise with the knowledge that they are the center of their parents' universe. And that's just what I got.

Sam has definitely thought lately about what adoption means and he seems to have a very healthy grasp of it. He accepts without pretense that he didn't grow inside his mommy and that other mommies have also been a part of his life. He pretty much talks about adoption just like he talks about the fact that the sky is blue and the grass is green. It's just a regular part of his life. The fact that Rob and I talk about how happy we are about it is just part of our family culture to him. It doesn't seem "special" to him and I think that's a very good thing.

In fact, adoption is so "regular" to him that when he asked if the new family next door had kids for him to play with and I said "no, they don't have children yet, he replied, "Oh... They still need to adopt theirs?"

He does, however, notice that we do look different from one another at this point. We explored this issue a bit yesterday. He told me that I don't look like him. When I asked in what way he meant, he said, "Well, your skin is kind of light and red. You should probably put it in the light more so that it can be brown like mine."

I asked how else we were different. He said, "Mommy, you're not Korean."

His explanation? "You don't wear glasses like me and you like to wear slippers on your feet. I like to have bare feet." I had no idea that those were the criteria for being Korean!

Our week of family festivities wrapped up with a truly great Thanksgiving yesterday. We had a smaller than usual gathering, but it was really a lot of fun. We just hung out, ate way too much food, and then laughed and talked and played games until it was time for bed. It was a perfect family day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's been a while

I have had a busy few month or so, and find myself not blogging like I'd like to when things are either crazy or not-so-great. The last couple of months have been both, for various reasons, but I miss just spilling my guts on occasion, so I'm not going anywhere.

I won't recap the last few months in detail, but they go something like this: new job, work stress, ear infections, school adjustment, travel, grad school balance, more paperwork. Does ANY of that sound exciting? Lest you say the travel would be nice, it was all for work...

I did just return from a few days in North Carolina where we filmed another episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The nice people at ABC rebuilt the house of a Relayer who desperately needed it. The family comes home today. I'm sure they will be thrilled! I'll keep you posted on an air date. Since the Relay we did was held in the midst of Hurricane Ida, you'll be hard pressed to pick me out of the masses of people wearing tacky navy blue rain gear purchased from Walmart.

Despite all of the stress of late, this past week has been a big blessing for our family. We baptized Max on Sunday, and the service was everything I'd hoped it would be. We are very blessed to attend a church that makes each baptism such a special and personal experience.

We're also finalizing Max's adoption on Friday. It's an even bigger relief this time than it was with Sam, probably because I know now we'll never have to do all of this hoop jumping again. We can just settle in as a family of four FOREVER! It's a formality to say that this is what Max a Becker, but it's still a very emotional time for us. We're also very proud that he'll soon be an American citizen. I promise to post pictures more than six weeks after the fact.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Conversation on the way to school

For the past few days, our family has been praying for the family of a little boy named Seth, who was adopted from Korea through the same adoption agency we used. We have gotten to know Seth and his parents, Liz and Scott, through the many functions that Holt adoptive families have hosted over the years. Liz is quite possibly the friendliest person ever born, and always makes sure to make us feel comfortable and welcome. For that reason, she was the very first person we ever met through Holt and we have stayed in touch for a long time.

We learned on Tuesday evening that Liz, Scott and Seth were in a horrible car accident on Sunday night. Sweet little Seth passed away and his mother is still critical and unaware that her son is gone. Scott is recovering at the hospital and forced to deal with this awful new reality alone at the moment (though I'm hearing many friends and family have been to see him...)

As we were driving to school today, the song "Jesus Take the Wheel" came on. There's a line in there about praying and Sam piped up and asked what "she" was praying for. We had a quick discussion about how you can really pray for anything... that's it's a way for you to talk to God no matter how you're feeling.

He replied, "I remember, Mommy. I've been praying for Seth and his family just like we talked about."

I started crying all over again, but was also so proud that my sweet little guy understands that prayer can bring comfort to people that you can't be with in a time of need.

Sam went on to say that he still prays for Ellie, the dog we lost a couple of years ago. I told him that was wonderful, and reminded him that you can pray for people that are still with you, too.

He said, "Right. Like firefighters."

I said, "Sure. We pray to keep them safe because their job is dangerous and to tell God we are thankful that they take care of us."

He said. "Well, I ask God to help them not be sweaty. It's hot in a fire."

Nothing like a little levity, even if it was not intentional!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Seeing clearly

Sam had his five-year-old check-up on Friday. Thanks to several factors over the years, we are more on a mid-way-through-the-year plan for his well visits...

It's now Sunday morning and I'm fairly sure I've still got a hearing loss as a result of this visit. I told Sam in the morning that I'd be picking him up from school early so he could go see the doctor. He immediately asked if he'd be getting any shots. I told him that I wasn't sure. He seemed to take it in stride.

We arrived at the office, and he asked the receptionist if he'd be getting any shots. She said she didn't know. Again, fine with him.

We get into the exam room, and he asks the nurse if he'd be getting any shots. She at first said she didn't know. Then, after his eye exam and blood pressure reading, he asked again. At that point, she reviewed his papers and saw that he was up to date, but had not had a flu shot yet. When I nodded that I did want him to have it, the freaking out began.


It took the doctor a while to come in and finish the visit, for which we were able to have no meaningful conversation, despite the fact that he'd been evaluated for ADHD since we were last there. The nice man took pity on me and just covered the basics, I think.

I did learn that he's grown two inches in the last year and gained four pounds. He's a whopping 37 pounds when dressed now!

I was also quite surprised to see that he failed his vision exam. I never would have guessed that would happen, but I stood there and watched as he consistently confused a circle shape with house and heart shapes. I came home and made an appointment with a pediatric opthalmologist and am guessing we'll end up needing to get him glasses.

The funny part is that his Daddy has terrible vision. If his glasses come anywhere near my face, they give me an instant headache. Sam keeps grabbing them and putting them on. I yell at Rob to not allow that since it's got to be bad for Sam's eyes. Now I'm guessing that they aren't nearly as annoying to Sam as they are to me since he actually needs some help with his vision.

That same afternoon I tried to make an endocrinologist appointment for Rob. A very short version of the current situation is that Rob's experiencing some unusual symptoms related to his thyroid, the likes of which we have not seen since he was diagnosed with cancer 12 years ago. Our family doctor has determined that a good endocrinologist needs to assess him. I, of course, am a little concerned, as is Rob. We're obviously hopeful that nothing major will come of this, but it's scary nonetheless.

Lucky for us, there is a gigantic perk in working for the American Cancer Society in that when I expressed a bit of concern to my boss, I was quickly ushered to the deputy chief medical officer, who completely assessed Rob's symptoms and history and was able to placate me, saying that he was fairly sure there's not a recurrence, but still an endocrine issue that needs addressing. He strongly recommended we see a doctor at Johns Hopkins who is known as the best thryoid cancer expert in the world right now. I called the next day and learned that what we thought was good health insurance isn't recognized by that health system. We still think it's important to get checked out by this doctor, so are going to fork over an obscene amount of money for a consult.

I follow the health care reform debate very closely and recognize that there are many factors involved in what people see as the best plan. I consistently analyze what I'm hearing and still believe that it's a basic human right to have health care, particularly if you live in a country where it is so readily available. I also agree with my pastor who makes the point that Christians are directed to love their neighbors as they love themselves. Ensuring that your neighbor, no matter their financial status, can access health care is a clear example of that directive.

I could not stop thinking of those without insurance or financial resources as I made Rob's appointment. We might as well not have insurance in this case. Luckily, we are able to scrap and sacrifice to afford the consult. Many people might not be so lucky. They might be able to call this fantastic doctor, only to learn that the very best in the field in within their sight, but cannot help them with an issue like a cancer scare (or worse) because they cannot afford to pay for the visit.

I do not believe that is right.

I have been pondering exactly how I want to change the world in the name of little Anna, who so beautifully changed the world in her short 80 days on this Earth. I am coming to the conclusion that I need to find a way to be more actively involved in helping people get health care. I will continue to be involved in the advocacy side of this, but I want to find a way to more practically provide help as well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I can't believe I haven't blogged lately given all that's going on.

Sam started kindergarten. The last big transition of the season that I'd been anticipating went quite well. Sam was eager to get to school on his first day. He bounced out of bed, tore through his breakfast, gladly hauled his heavy backpack and raced down the street to ride together with his friend Adam. He was excited that he got to play on the big kid playground before going inside... And then he saw the fifth graders.

These children are clearly not bred from the same stock as my child. Some were as tall as me! Sam took no notice at first, but when it came time to line up and he saw that these giant creatures were going the same place he was, he buried his head in my side and grabbed my hand.

I'd been holding myself together really well until that point. Since he'd already been going to daycare, I wasn't figuring I'd be one of the weepy moms at the point of departure. But when he grabbed me and I asked what was wrong, he replied, "Mommy. I think I might be a little nervous." And he looked at me with really wide, worried eyes. There wasn't much time for reassurance before his teacher whisked the kids away to go inside.

That's when I welled up. When most everyone else had composed themselves, I had huge tears in my eyes, all worried that every bit of gumption my kid had been blessed with was failing him when he needed it most. Luckily, I caught a glimpse of him as he was about to go inside, and he was already three inches from another child's face, surely asking "Do you want to be my friend?" in his sweet, innocent and overly enthusiastic way (that has been known to slightly frighten less outgoing youngsters.)

He came home that day acting like a teenager, unwilling to tell us what went on and claiming that school was "boring." He's since recanted that, but does complain that "they make us WORK there." Asked what that means, he says "we have to talk to each other. And write. And read stuff." All of this is clearly standing in the way of good recess time.

Max, too, has adjusted beautifully to daycare. He's done better than I ever would have expected. Yesterday was his eighth drop-off and he didn't shed a single tear. Nary a whimper. Just a look over at me, and then a glance back at the goldfish sitting in front of him. It does make my day easier to know he likes it there.

The big news from yesterday is that Max had his early intervention evaluation and definitely qualifies for services. What I'd suspected turned out to be true. He has very low muscle tone, but thankfully, nothing neurological or cognitive that we need to deal with. He just needs some baby Pilates, apparently!

We do have to start him in physical therapy and practice quite a few new techniques at home to that build up his core strength. At 14 months old (12 gestationally) he was determined to have the gross motor skills of a seven month old, the fine motor skills of an eight month old and delayed adaptive skills. All of them stem from his low tone, so he should catch up quickly once the therapy starts. I'm actually really relieved to know that this will be easily overcome. We, of course, would love him no matter what forever and always, but I think any parent would be relieved to learn that any significant challenges will not come to fruition. At least not these challenges...

I have, unfortunately, known and heard of several people lately to lose their precious infant children. I think of these families daily, and have definitely learned a great deal about cherishing each and every day, no matter what that day might bring. I've even taken on a particular challenge to find a new way to change the world in memory of little Anna. I am determined to find a significant response to that challenge.

I suppose I should get this day underway. We all have school/work, then Max's final post-placement visit (finalization is within reach now. YAY!) and the first of the pre-marriage classes Rob and I teach at church tonight.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Holding my breath

It dawned on me this morning that I have been walking around almost literally holding my breath for days now... It's a wonder I don't have fabulous abdominal muscles to show for it. Wait. I probably do. They're just "hidden."

Seriously, though. I will admit that I have a tendency to worry (you can enter your votes for my understatement-of-the-year prize now, thank you.) But I can't believe how many "big" things I have going on in my pea brain right now.

First, I'm a wee bit nervous that yesterday was a weird honeymoon thing and that Max will have a bad day again today. I'm slightly more comforted than I was 24 hours ago, but when we took him in today (we decided to take him in and pick him up together all week) he looked at me as if to say "Wait. I was ok with this little diversion yesterday, but WHAT do you MEAN you're leaving me here again?!" Miss Judy did seem to have him calm before we ever left the building, though.

Second, Sam will have his own huge adjustment to make next week. I just hope his teachers see him for the sweet, smart little guy he is, even if his energy level takes some getting used to. I also hope he won't get too frustrated trying to learn all kinds of new things in a new place. Again, I can find some comfort in a comment from his pre-K teacher. She told us that of all the students she's had over the years, Sam will be one of those she remembers forever. She described him as one of the sweetest children she's ever had. That's SO nice to hear!

Third, work is um, stressful to say the very least. I love my job, but like anyone else, the news of layoffs all around you leaves you a little nervous. I'm staying positive, but it's a *constant* source of conversation whenever I talk to anyone from the office.

Finally, there's a great deal of emotion and stress with a few family issues right now that has me sad and yes, worried, for sure. It doesn't really feel like something to discuss "out loud" at length, but I can't help but think about it on a very regular basis.

All of this leaves me thinking a few things. First, I have to remember that so far we've been blessed that all problems do work themselves out. Second, I have to swallow the bitter mommy pill... the one that tells you that your kids really are fine on their own to some degree and that it's good for them to learn to do things without you holding their little hands. I'm speaking more of Sam here... and I am constantly reminding myself that he's a spunky little boy who can find happiness no matter what. Finally, I really do need to commit myself to what I *can* do to keep unnecessary and pointless worry to a minimum. I'm going to do my best to channel my energy into getting recommitted to eating right and exercising every day. It takes a lot of planning for me to follow the right plan in that regard, so that should leave little time for me to fret!

Phil 4:13...........I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Max's Day

If you'd paid me yesterday to believe that Max would have a fabulous first day at daycare, I would have laughed at you (even though I know how rude that is) and turned away.

Well... Score one for Max's ability to surprise his mommy. I called daycare around 9:45 this morning for an update and was dismayed to hear "Umma... MaMA... MAMA... MAMAMAMAMA" in the background. That's code for "I'm miserable and want the heck out of here right this very instant." Surprisingly, the teacher said he'd actually been pretty good, but that he cried on and off.

Honestly, I wasn't totally convinced, but since I *wanted* to believe he was adjusting, I chose to believe it. She said that he just happened to cry as I called. Sure, lady. Likely story.

I was waiting to jump in the car as Rob came home so we could pick Max up together today. I darted in the door, holding my breath. First alarming issue: I didn't see Max anywhere and the nice young lady working in the room seemed to not know who we were. She quickly figured it out and told us he was outside on the swings and "He had a GREAT day." Again... Sure, lady. A minute ago you didn't recognize me. You probably don't even realize which kid is mine. He'd be the one who blubbered and hiccuped his way through the day, desperate for his mommy to return.

So... I get out the back door and find someone cradling Max and headed back toward the building. "See?" I thought. "He's STILL crying and needs to be brought inside to calm down."


He'd fallen asleep on the swings and was being brought inside to be laid down for a little extra nap time. (Turns out it was to be laid down for any nap, since he never really slept...)

The nice lady carrying him inside was effusive about what a great day he had. And get this: once he woke up and saw us, he just smiled and smiled and gestured toward the teacher as if to say "Hey, Mom and Dad. Check out this lovely woman who's been taking care of me today. She's nice. I will be happy to come back here every day while you work. Please stop worrying about me."

I was seriously almost giddy. I'm sure I walked around the school with a giant cheesy smile on my face. I am still slightly in shock that he did so well. I mean, I know he's a genius and has been through other trauma, but I fully expected the adjustment to take more than two hours. Even his gregarious older brother required more time to get used to life at Laurel Tree Academy.

So... here's hoping tomorrow goes so well. Seeing the little munchkin so happy is quite possibly the best answer to prayer I've had in a while. I guess I can move on to worrying about Sam's adjustment to kindergarten now.

Our Big Day

The day I've been dreading finally arrived. Max started daycare this morning.

I am very grateful that timing and my employer allowed him to be home with one of us since he arrived over four months ago, but it was still hard to leave him with someone else. I know he'll eventually be fine, but knowing him as well as I do now, I also have no doubt today will NOT be a happy day for him.

It breaks my heart to think he could be wondering whether or not we'll be back. After all, he has experienced that kind of profound loss before. We did prepare as best we could. Rob was stopping in the Chickadees room (how cute is THAT?!) to visit Miss Judy every day when Sam was in camp. It's not like Max has never seen the school or the teachers or even the other kids...

When we brought him in today, he was actually smiling and giggling while we were still there, a sure sign he recognizes the environment and even kind of likes it. He didn't seem to realize we'd be leaving, so it took him a few seconds after our staggered exit to start to cry. I'm splitting hairs when I say this, but I think he was slightly less traumatized than he is when we leave him at church (where he doesn't know the very nice people who watch him as well.)

It's taking every shred of self discipline I have not to start calling to check on him now. I figure it would be better to let him settle in and let the teachers focus on him rather than our phone calls. They told us he'd be watching a Baby Einstein video, having story time, singing songs and playing outside all before lunchtime at 11:30 a.m. After that, he'll go down for a nap, then some more play time before we get him the instant Rob is done at school at 3 p.m.

I keep telling myself that each day that we come back to get him reinforces that we always will and that he can relax and have fun. I hope it doesn't take too long, but at least I have Sam's experience at the school to tell me that he'll be loved and well cared for. Miss Judy is really one of the sweetest people I've ever met, so I have no doubt that she will dote on him. She'd already picked him up to soothe him as we were leaving, which wasn't the case when Sam first started. (He was in an "older" room and they had a more matter-of-fact approach.)

I'll check back in later to report how the day went. Let's hope I can immerse myself in all of the various edits I need to make to Relay materials today in order to keep my mind occupied. I'm treating myself by working downstairs where I can have CNN on all day. I so miss getting nonstop news when I'm upstairs. Now that the house is empty, I can at least feed my news habit while I wait for the boys to come home.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's been a while...

I know it's been a long time since I've updated here. I don't quite know why there are days when blogging seems easy, and others when it's seems like some huge task. It's not. I just think there has been enough going on at home and at work that I'm preoccupied most of the time. And I don't exactly feel like coming here to rehash the mundane and not-so-fun parts of my life. I really like my blog to be about memorable stuff with the kids... And those things still happen, so I really need to make it a point to focus on what's "right", and blog about it, more! (Thanks to everyone who has nudged me lately to keep up!)

I could attempt to review what's been going on since I was last here, but that might take a while. It's probably best to just re-start without too much looking back. In short, we did still end up being able to celebrate Max's first birthday (he chose pencils and rice from his Tol table), we took our first vacation as a family of four to Skaneateles and we welcomed our beautiful new niece Makalya to the world.

Oh, yeah. I went back to work, too. I think I might have said that before. If you're considering a leave from your job anytime soon... try not to come back at a time when the economy has your entire industry in turmoil. It's really not that fun. When you boil down what I do, I really have one of the most rewarding and happy jobs you could have if you're going to fight cancer for a living. Even that is dampened, though, when philanthropy is suffering like it is now. That's not just another post, though, I think that's a whole different blog, so I'll leave that subject alone here.

It definitely feels like fall is right around the corner. Not necessarily when you go outside (where it still TOTALLY feels like August) but when you consider our days are now spent filling out about a million forms for the various school programs both Sam and Max will be in, buying the vast amount of supplies kindergarteners need, and organizing clothes in the vain hope that it will cool off at some point. Oh, and football is starting. Rob's got his fantasy draft this afternoon... a sure sign that summer is ending in our world. (As someone who is admittedly not a big sports fan, I don't particularly enjoy the time of year when both baseball AND football are happening simultaneously!)

So... there it is. A real post. Finally. I sometimes get motivated while writing to think that I should try to do this every day. I quickly realize, though, that not even *I* could stomach reading about my own life that often. I'll spare anyone who reads this that misery but promise (again) to do a better job of keeping up!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Birthday Fail

For years I've dreamed about the fun first birthday parties I'd have for my kids. Attempt number one was foiled when Sam's travel didn't come through in time for him to be home with us. I distinctly remember moping around the house and office that day, feeling sorry for all of us that we couldn't be together the day he turned one. I recall especially whining that it seemed unfair (irrationally so, I know) that we missed his birth (for obvious reasons) and then couldn't even be with him on his first birthday. We certainly celebrated after he came home and his foster family did have a Tol celebration for him, but I was always a little disappointed to have missed a milestone that is so universally celebrated.

When we started the process for a second child and opted to enter the "regular program" this time, I was happy to know that we'd at least have #2 home for his or her first birthday. It was probably only days after we were matched with Max, then, that I started mentally planning what we'd do for his big day. I figured out very early on that not only would we be together, but that the day fell on a Sunday, so we'd be able to celebrate with everyone on the actual day. A small thing perhaps, but it was really important to me.

Well... obstacle number one came when we realized that a big party just wasn't "right" for our shy little guy. He's definitely still adjusting and crowds tend to unnerve him a bit. That one didn't upset me too much. We can still celebrate the big day with a smaller group of people.

I have spent several weeks figuring out the details of this party. I am not much of a cook, but was particularly excited to try cooking Korean food for the first time. I was also totally looking forward to setting up his Tol table. I'd decided exactly how I was going to set up the table and the toljabee ceremony...

A few days ago, Rob remarked that he thought Baby Max had gotten two pimples on his face. I checked them out and said that I didn't know what they were for sure, but that they didn't look like baby acne to me. I figured it would be odd for him to suddenly develop that and since he has eczema, I didn't really worry too much. We already use a ton of potions and lotions to take extra special care of his skin.

Yesterday morning Rob was the first to greet Max in the morning and I heard him say... "Uhhhhhh... Karen?? You might want to come here. I think Max has chicken pox."

I told him that he was being ridiculous. I was instantly in denial that the poor little guy had developed chicken pox after being vaccinated. After all, Sam had also gotten a few pox after the vaccine. I was told that it was so rare that I could not imagine that both of my kids would end up in the same boat.

Well, genius that I am, it took me a few more minutes to do mental math. He probably didn't get chicken pox from the vaccine. He got it from ME since I'd had shingles. That was the real reason he's already been vaccinated early.

I did what every panicky mom would do. I called the most experienced mom I know before the doctor's office opened to verify my fears, then made the call right at 9 a.m.

So... Rather than running around like a loony trying to get my kid's party ready or attending my nephew's fourth birthday party, I'm sitting at home with a whiny baby and whining myself about the whole situation. While Max isn't terribly miserable or covered in the rash, he's still contagious and we can't risk making my pregnant sister-in-law sick. I also don't think the little guy will fully enjoy the festivities in his current condition. His sore throat has not made eating fun, so I can't even imagine he'd want birthday cake. And it's just not right for a kid not to get to make a mess of his cake on his first birthday!

We'll certainly still do something at home tomorrow with Max so that we don't skip his birthday all together, and we've already rescheduled his party for next weekend. I just hope that it only takes that long to get over my SERIOUS case of mommy guilt. It's bad enough to have made my own child sick... I need to let go of the fact that it's interfered with his first birthday party, too!

Monday, July 13, 2009

First Day Back

Well... the fun had to end sometime. I went back to work full-time today. I can't really complain. I love my job AND get to do it from home, so it's not like I was far from Baby Max, even when I was tethered to my desk. All in all, it was a good first day back. I got to hear the voices of friends I'd missed and was warmly welcomed... I assume most of that is relief that I'll be taking over some of the projects that had been handed off, but for today we'll assume it was all about how much my sparkling personality was missed around the virtual hallways of the American Cancer Society.

The best and worst part of the day came at lunchtime. I ran downstairs between conference calls to find Rob and Max having lunch. Max lit up like the Fourth of July when he saw me. It was the cutest thing EVER, but heartbreaking, too. He kept touching my face as if to say "It's been so LONG, Mommy. Thank goodness you're finally BACK." Poor kid wasn't too happy 12 minutes later when I had to run back up to the office. I will try to take at least a little bit better lunch break going forward... I know 12 minutes isn't exactly healthy for anyone, but there was a lot to do on the first day back after three months, especially considering I left at the height of the fundraising season. Sorry again to all of my coworkers who thankfully never once made a peep about my ill-timed departure. They all smiled and wished me well and did a TON of work that wouldn't normally be theirs to do.

Sam also had his first day of camp today. He told us we ruined his day by coming to pick him up at 3 p.m. Apparently he needed more time out with his friends instead of home with his boring parents. He got his wish since he went three doors down to play the minute he got home, and came back to find another friend waiting to play for another hour.

We got Sam's kindergarten assignment in the mail this weekend. He's going to be in morning kindergarten with a teacher who's apparently been well-loved at Thomas Paine Elementary for more than twenty years. He's already excited to go. We picked out his backpack and lunchbox online this weekend. He can't wait to "look like a big kid."

I will sign off with this (relatively for me) short post. I have stuff to look up in order to be ready for Max's first birthday and Korean toljabee celebration this weekend. I've found recipes for bulgogi and jap chae that I'm going to try to make as well as a Korean cucumber salad. We'll pair that with burgers and hot dogs for the less adventurous members of the family. I'm also going to dive in to the construction of some of the intricate towers that decorate the Tol table. I've been planning to do this for our second child for years (Sam was still in Korea on his first birthday) so you'd think I'd be more organized by now. Not so much.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


A friend on one of my creative team forums asked me earlier this week how Max is doing, noting that I hadn't been updating my status much lately on Facebook. I explained that it's felt inappropriate to share fun, silly stories in the last few weeks... Suffice it to say that there has been enough going on that I now have shingles to show for it. The stress that I've apparently been sublimating is mostly outside the four walls of our own house, so it doesn't seem like my news to share. Cryptic, huh?! We'll be ok, though.

As for the shingles: OUCH. I had this once last year. It wasn't fun, but I chalked the experience up to what I've been told by my doctors is a high pain threshold and dealt with back pain for a few days. As one of my doctors has noted, for a girl who will never experience the pain of childbirth, I've managed to experience most of the handful of other things that can be said to be more painful (exploding pregnancy and a kidney stone among them.) Well, none of these things were ever SO painful that I cried (ok, so I went into shock with one... whatever.) Shingles have caused such intense pain that I've just stood in my own house and cried without warning. Not one. Not twice. Three times. AND, the doctor tells me that I'm probably still quite a few days out from the end of this little experience. The silver lining to all of this is that the drug I'm taking for itching is also a happy pill, so if I can get in just the right position in bed after taking said pill, I can just not care what's going on around me.

Ok. Enough whining. Other good things have happened in our lives, as always. Despite all the trauma and drama of late, you can't live with my two kids and not feel happy and blessed most of the time.

Our biggest news? Sam is officially a kindergartener now. He graduated from Pre-K, cap and gown and all. If you have never seen a 33 lb. child in a cap and gown, you have not seen cuteness I tell you. To our pleasant surprise, Sam stood still for most of the program and sang that songs almost perfectly. It was adorable. And, yes, I was one of the mommies that cried when it hit me that he's really growing up. He's definitely not a baby anymore.

Sam has been singing the songs from the graduation program nearly every waking minute since the ceremony took place. I think the kids were told not to sing them at home so they'd be a surprise for the parents. He didn't abide by that too closely, but we did hear some "new" songs during the ceremony. If you are feeling particularly patriotic anytime soon, feel free to stop by our house. You will inevitably catch Sam singing "America the Beautiful" at the top. of. his. lungs.

We also celebrated our fourth Airplane/Family/Gotcha Day with Sam. It was fun to see him understand the significance of the day this time. As usual, we watched "his movie" and just had some dedicated family time. And cake. The girl in the bakery looked at me like I had horns on my head when I requested "Happy Airplane Day" on the cake. Sam attempted to explain by showing her the plane on his shirt that day, but she didn't see the connection.

Max is continuing to adjust really well, too. His sleeping is by no means perfect, but just about every other part of his overall adjustment seems to have fallen into place. Once Rob is able to be home more consistently with him (the aforementioned "issues" have been keeping Rob on the go non-stop for a good portion of the time Max has been home with us) I think he'll even sleep pretty reliably. He's not the champion sleeper than Sam is, but I knew we couldn't possibly get that lucky twice. I'd also always vowed that I'd trade some of the sleeping skill Sam has for a bit of cooperation when it comes to food. I seem to be getting that wish granted with Max. I sure hope it sticks. Sam is five years old and still has the culinary repertoire of a toddler.

I should probably include here for posterity a photo of the lovely faux burgers we made for Father's Day this year. It took Kim and I about six hours with two kids in the house to construct these, but Rob's admiration of our creativity was worth every second.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My Eight

And no, that's not a reference to Jon and Kate +8. My other post was so serious today that I was happy to see myself tagged by Melissa to do this fun list...

8 Things I'm Looking Forward To
1. Our first vacation (to Skaneateles) as a family of four (thanks to Wendy!)
2. The possibility of a certain family moving VERY nearby
3. The day when Max has a real sleep schedule
4. Rob being off from school for the summer
5. Taking Sam and Max to Korea for a visit (totally stole this one from Melissa)
6. So You Think You Can Dance
7. Getting another dog (someday)
8. Relay For Life this weekend

8 Things I Did Yesterday
1. Went to a meeting about Sam's kindergarten after-care program
2. Sang the Itsy Bitsy Spider song about 50 times
3. Visited John at the farm
4. Learned that Sam will be learning Mandarin next year
5. Yelled at the dog for eating diaper cream. Again.
6. Stayed up too late watching So You Think You Can Dance
7. Scrapped
8. Switched over Max's wardrobe for summer

8 Things I Wish I Could Do
1. Sing
2. Stay organized
3. Sleep for an entire night without being woken up by screams or the phone
4. Cook better
5. Get another dog
6. Heli-hike in Banff
7. Stay healthy forever
8. Trade my Sienna for a Prius

8 Shows I Watch
1. So You Think You Can Dance
2. American Idol
3. Good Morning America
4. Desperate Housewives
5. Grey's Anatomy
6. The Rachel Maddow Show
7. Project Runway
8. The Daily Show

I'll tag: Kim, Kate, Kelli, Nicole, Shelley, and Jeff (you can use FB if you don't blog!)

A moment

I had a moment this morning, home with Max as usual, that keeps replaying itself. Actually, I think I've been emotionally working up to this point for some time without really trying.

I will preface the moment story by saying that I'm a bit tired, to put it mildly. I don't want to complain, because I come by this fatigue for good reason as well as reasons that are beyond my control (weeks of adjustment to a new baby in the house as well as more than one extended family crisis that demands daily attention from all of us...) I tend to be more emotional when I'm tired, but if that's the reason, I'm glad I didn't sleep last night...

Anyway, I was changing Max's diaper for the third time in three hours. As usual, I took the opportunity to help him "exercise" his legs and stomach muscles a bit by laying him down and only slightly helping him get back up (He's finally starting to do it on his own. Yay!) At one point, I pulled him back up, and rather than giggle with pride as he usually does, he just stopped and stared into my eyes. He had a free hand, and reached out for me. I knew he was asking to be picked up, so I pulled him onto my lap when he put his hand on my cheek, stared into my eyes, and then laid his head on my shoulder.

None of those things are necessarily all that significant, I suppose, but to me, I could just *feel* him thinking that he's happy. Of course, I want him to feel that way, so I'd probably not look further for a "reason" for those actions, but watching that thought cross his little brain and through his eyes just sent me into a totally emotional place. As an adoptive parent, we work so hard to help our babies attach to their new families. At times, it feels like a calculated process. For instance, I hold him in a specific way when putting him to sleep to force/encourage good eye contact. I am very specific about stroking his face and cuddling him, all while telling him that we love him and are so happy he's here every single time I am in the rocking chair with him.

Those kinds of actions are heartfelt for sure, but there's always a part of me thinking about what I need to do to reassure him.. to convince him... that we love him completely and that it's ok to trust us.

His display of his own emotion today caught me off guard and gave me such a comforting sense of accomplishment and calm. All at once, I thought: Wow. It's really working. He loves us, too. I sort of feel like I can stop worrying a bit about the "process" and just be his mommy now. That's not to say that I won't keep doing what I'm doing, but I instantly felt more relaxed about it all.

This comes on the heels of another revelation I had while watching Rob hold Max the other day. We often tell him (and have always told Sam) that we "feel so lucky to have found each other." It's our version of regularly expressing gratitude and reverence for their existence in our lives. Because of how our family has been created, we try to never take for granted all of the spiritual, cosmic things that have taken place to bring us together.

With Sam, we've had an amazing story to tell about seeing his picture online and falling in love with him before even knowing if we'd be allowed to pursue his adoption. The timing of his story in relation to pregnancies lost as well as other circumstances as we started the adoption process have always seemed too incredible for words. If anyone ever doubts that a family is meant to be together, I think Sam's "story" proves that no matter how a child comes to you, the ones meant for you (and the parents meant for them) end up together.

I've said since before we were matched with Max that I wasn't sure how I'd feel going through the "regular" process. To some degree, I felt like we were "waiting in line" for our baby. I am a spiritual person and trusted God's role, but it just didn't feel the same in the early stages.

As I watched Rob and Max together the other day, I realized that the "regular" process is a miracle in and of itself. You are forced to sit back and trust people and forces completely outside your control (and literally foreign to you) to determine the fate of your family. I thought about that, looked at Max, and marveled at how he could not be any more perfect for us. We had mistakenly assumed that we'd more than likely be matched with a girl... I looked at my sweet, calm little baby and heard my rambunctious five-year-old down in the basement. I stopped and thought about the kind, gentle soul that their Daddy is and, all at once, felt complete.

I'm Type A and like to be in control... No one that knows me would doubt that. But one of the many miracles adoption and my own children have shown me is that with a little faith, my life will turn out exactly as it should, even if I don't realize it while it's happening. I've always thought and planned to have two children, but wondered if I wouldn't feel that "hole" I've heard people talk about. Last Saturday, I specifically looked for it and felt confirmation that our family is complete. It's a feeling I can't describe, but even as hard as these last few weeks have been for many reasons, I am calm and I am happy.

Seeing Max look at me as if trying to tell me that he's happy, too, was the ribbon on the grand gift we've been given. Today, all of a sudden, on a regular day in my life, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and it's an amazing feeling.

(I just breathed a nice big sigh. It feels good to get the words out when I'm feeling such strong emotion, even if it's a lot to share with other people. If anyone has ever wondered why I choose to make public this kind of thing, it's because a) I want to capture these emotions for my kids to read some day and this is an easy way to do it, but more importantly b) I was scared that I might never have a family at one point in my life. If someone reads my somewhat private thoughts and can hold on to whatever it is they are waiting for for another day, I will feel like in some teeny way, I've been able to "repay" something for all of our many blessings.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Time Flies

It's hard to believe that my first baby is already five years old. With a new baby in the house, I've been reminded of Sam as a little toddler so much that it occasionally takes me aback when I look at him and realize that he's definitely NOT a baby anymore. Not in any way.

Case in point: I commented to my now five-year-old son the other day that he was "so cute." He replied, "Mom. I'm not cute. I'm awesome." In case you're wondering, he's also not handsome. He's cool. And cheek pinching is no longer allowed. That activity is strictly for Baby Max these days.

We celebrated Sam's fifth birthday with all of his school friends, his cousins and friends from church at Bounce U. You have not seen mayhem until you've seen 27 children and quite a few of their parents bouncing around on two-story slides. It was so loud and so fun for Sam. I think he'll be talking about it for months. It was at this party, too, that I realized that while still a virtual bundle of energy, Sam is not necessarily THE most hyper child I know. I saw several others that brought new meaning to the word "rambunctious." It's all good when it's at Bounce U, where that level of noise and activity is encouraged. I can't imagine how certain parents deal with it at their houses!

We asked Sam before Bounce U what he wanted to do for a special birthday dinner. Incredibly adventurous eater that he is, he wanted to go to Chik Fil-A. Since they're closed on Sundays, we went right after Bounce U. He and Ethan still had energy for the playroom there, and were quite happy to have dinner at their own table. I had a flash whilst they sat eating on their own, with their own little conversation going, of the two of them ten years from now, happy still to be at a separate table from their parents.

On his "actual birthday" (which he was quite aware of, mind you) we took him to Toys R Us to let him pick out a bike. It was a big surprise for him until we got there. We kept telling him we had a surprise outing, but didn't say what it was all day. As soon as we got on the right road, he started shouting "I know!! I know!! We're going to Toys R Us." Good guess, particularly since he'd said earlier that he thought his special gift was a "one-legged ostrich just for me."

Once in Toys R Us, we walked around, telling him that we were there to get him a Barbie chair or a Blue's Clues sandbox or some other toy. He just kept rolling his eyes, humoring us until we unveiled the "real" present. He was totally excited when we finally arrived at the bike section and he got to choose a red Hot Wheels "big kid bike" that makes the loudest revving noise of any bicycle he could find.

Sam also learned that with age comes responsibility. We'd been preparing him for weeks that things are different when you're five years old. Specifically, we were referring to new rules for picky eaters. He even told us yesterday that "the rules change when you're five."

Idiot parents that we are, Mommy and Daddy didn't finalize every detail of this new set of rules before dinner, when Mommy had to run out for one last thing. While I hadn't intended to make his actual birthday the day we made him stick to trying new food, Rob took me at my word and told him he was eating hot dogs or hamburgers or nothing. I arrived home to find him in hysterics and my husband flustered at how to manage the new mealtime protocol. Knowing our stubborn child and his readiness for the new rules, we knew better than to give in completely, but we did *try* to compromise, telling him he just had to have one bite of a hot dog, then could eat chicken nuggets for dinner. It took 90 minutes of blood-curdling screams before he put the minuscule bite into his mouth, only to immediately vomit it all over his carpet.

Luckily, the kid was fine within 3 seconds saying "I did it! I tried a new food!!" Not quite a homerun, but at least it didn't ruin his birthday.

After some renegotiation, the new rules allow him to select breakfast and lunch foods, but Mommy and Daddy choose dinner. We haven't gotten there yet today, so we'll see how it goes.

In true Sam fashion he did ask if it was fair for him to get to choose twice while we only got one turn a day. We told him that we'd let him take more turns right now. He now believes he is a genius at tricking us into his sub-par eating plans. He'll rethink that later, I'm sure.

He also declared that he'd try a new food during one of his "turns" today. "I"m going to lick a carrot, Mommy!" Again, not what we were looking for, but we'll take anything we can get right now.

For those looking for a Max update here... He's still quite possibly the world's most complacent child. I don't think it's fear and adjustment at this point. I think he's just as mellow as they come. He's sloooooowly finding a sleeping pattern. It's helped that we've decided not to fight his need to sleep on someone for a while longer. We're also taking a few extra days to work on his bond with Rob this week, which we think will help the nighttime wakings that all seem to be about extra time on Daddy. When awake the kid is just a total joy. He laughs and smiles all the time now and intentionally looks to make us laugh. He also says "mama" meaningfully (though he really struggles to make the sound come out... it's funny to hear) and responds to his name. Little by little, we're definitely working it all out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Daily Digi

I'm taking a break from my regular chatter about the Becker boys to finally be able to share some very exciting scrapping news. I was completely blown away to be asked to be a member of the creative team at The Daily Digi.

The site is a great source of inspiration for anyone who's a fan of digital scrapbooking... or wants to be. I have been a daily reader and avid fan of the site's owner (Janet Phillips) and her partner (Steph of Fontologie) for a long time. They both do a great job of what I've loved about scrapping since I first "discovered" it (thanks to Noel and more than a few nudges to "just try it.") a couple of years ago... They focus their scrapping on stories first and foremost. I love the creative aspect of scrapping for sure, but the real reason to devote so much time to this hobby is to be able to preserve family memories.

I'm still not quite sure how I got included in on the fun, but I won't talk about it anymore, lest someone decide they had me confused with someone else.

I can be so lighthearted about all of this for another reason, too. Max slept through the night again last night. I will never cease to be amazed at how much your perspective on life can change with a few solid hours of sleep under your belt. I haven't been *that* deprived, in all honesty, but as both a light sleeper and a worrier, I have been going to bed each night, wondering how often Max will wake up and then waking up myself, convinced I've heard crying. My head hit the pillow last night, though, and I don't think I moved a muscle for at least another six hours. I recall waking up for a second, smiling to myself that the house was still quiet,and sleeping again until 5:30 this morning. I even had a chance to get out of bed, check my email and start to get ready before either of the boys made their first noise. It was heavenly.

All of the stress about Max's sleeping is really just a component of our overall worry about his adjustment. I think we've seen great improvement in the last week or so, in part because we decided that we needed to take a few steps back and "shrink his world" for him. He's so easygoing that we became lulled into thinking he was more portable than he probably is. He needed more time to get comfy at home, we think, before being exposed to too many people. That's meant that we've had to miss a few activities that we'd otherwise have been a part of (like our church picnic yesterday) but all because we've come to realize that while he might not cry when well-intentioned people gush over him, it's stressful to him.

Let's see... What else has happened over the last few days? Oh yeah. I officially became acquainted with my mid-thirties. My sister asked more than once if I was upset about turning 35. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that I am not. I swore on Oct. 18, 2002 (the day after my world changed forever) that I would not take another day for granted. I really do try to do that, hard as it can be sometimes. It's never hard, though, to be grateful for another year surrounded by the people I love, getting to do what I love to do. A few more grey hairs or any other outward sign of aging are no match for still being here to earn them!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sleeping Woes

We think we may have figured out what was wrong with Max's sleep, and I feel like I totally rotten mommy that it took so many days. Particularly since both my mom and Kim had suggested it earlier in the week and I just didn't see it.

We'd been pretty sure he was grieving again and having a hard time adjusting to Rob's schedule. We were happy to have a weekend to give them some extra, intensive bonding time, hopeful that it would help move things along. Rob spent a few extra hours with him on Friday, and he did sleep a bit better on Friday.

Yesterday, however, he was having trouble napping again. By nighttime, he was practically falling over himself from exhaustion, but was resisting sleep in his crib.

Now, both my mom and Kim suggested his problem might be gas since he hated being on his back and seemed inconsolable in the middle of the night. I chalked that up to overtiredness and was giving him a third nap each day. Last night, we went to take him up to bed, and Rob noticed that he seemed warm. He did have a fever of 100.4. We gave him ibuprofen, sure it was related to teething. As he was having his diaper changed, he let out a noise I've never heard from a human before, particularly one so small. I was at his head, Rob at his feet. I instantly thought he'd had an explosive poo experience, because his body sort of popped up down at that end. Rob said he heard a burp as part of that little show, and was sure he was going to spit up.

We sat him up and waited to see if anything else would happen. He cried and cried, but also kept belching. As sad it is to see him uncomfortable, I'm a bit like a preschool aged boy myself, in that I find baby burps hilarious for some reason. My mom tried a "colic hold" on him, and he instantly calmed down. We sat him back up, he did the crazy noise again, and spit up a bit. We laid him back down on his belly across her knees, with me at his face, trying to help comfort him. All of a sudden, he just went to sleep. You could see on his face that he'd gotten relief and was just relishing finally being comfortable. I laid him in his crib and checked him numerous time to be sure that his temperature was ok. Each time, he was sleeping like what he did when we first brought him home. Soundly and deeply.

We spent the rest of the evening talking about this little episode, realizing that the timing of his insomnia perfectly coincides with his change in formula. Rob ran out to get him a can of formula that he'd been on before that with no troubles. We're really hoping that going back to a different formula makes him more comfortable and brings him some rest.

It's really a testament to what a sweet, calm, mild-mannered child he is that he's probably been miserable for a week, and his only real evidence is resisting sleep. At that point, he was too tired to do anything but cry. Can't blame the kid.

An amusing bit of our sleuthing discussion was a serious, 15-min. discussion about the child's poop and burping habits of the last few days. It struck me as we finally went to bed how different people's lives can be. My sister had been here for a visit, and we finally told her dessert wasn't happening since we had to figure Max's issue out. She got dressed in her "going to town" clothes and headed out, probably to remain out with friends until 5 a.m. We, on the other hand, compared notes about how foul Max's burps had been (which didn't seem right in retrospect) and how frequently the child would poo.

I'm sure this has been an entirely boring post for anyone else, but on Mother's Day, it makes me realize that it's the little things about raising kids that bring both joy and satisfaction. I'm not thrilled with myself that we didn't read the signs earlier, but there is immense satisfaction in (hopefully) being able to fix something for an otherwise helpless little person. I can look at Max and Sam together, see how happy Sam is four years after coming home, and see that we can overcome any issues as a family and hopefully have happy, well-adjusted children as a result.

To all my mommy friends, have a GREAT Mother's Day! I know I'm happy today, just being able to look at my TWO beautiful boys!

Thursday, May 07, 2009


That would be the sound of the other shoe dropping on our idyllic adjustment to life as a family of four. Don't get me wrong. I am happier than I thought I would be. I find myself less stressed parenting two children than I did just one somehow (admittedly, this could be the absence of work responsibilities right now) and am happily devoting my days to Baby Max's every whim.


Remember when I said we had set some sort of adjustment to the new life record? While his achievement in switching to Eastern Daylight Time remains a commendable feat, poor Baby Max is definitely still trying to figure out what his new life means.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The trauma that any child adopted in this fashion and at this age goes through is unfathomable to me. He woke up on April 21 in Korea, ready to go about his typical day, and found himself whisked off to the agency office, handed to a strange man, taken to an airport, placed on three different airline flights and then passed off again to people who look and sound nothing like anything he's ever known. I'm almost 35 and can't imagine how I'd react to such upheaval. In that respect, Max and Sam are both stronger people than I can probably ever hope to be.

So... back at the ranch. Max is a happy, sweet, snuggly little guy who, most of the time genuinely seems to like his new family and all of the antics that he's happy to sit back and quietly witness. When it comes time to sleep, though, a switch gets flipped and his grieving kicks in again. It's been convincingly explained to me that he's probably at a point where he realizes this situation isn't changing, that he likes us and thinks he can trust us, but he's perhaps a bit fearful of drifting off to sleep. In his little mind, who knows what could happens while he's sleeping?

We are just doing our best to comfort him, letting him guide us as to what he needs. Luckily, he's pretty much a textbook baby from what we can tell. He eats, poops, and plays at regular intervals. He is happy as can be when he's awake. He fusses when awake only very quietly and when there's a genuine need. When it's met, he's immediately happy again. We couldn't ask for a better transition in that respect. At night, he seems to need Rob's attention, which we attribute to his being back to work during the day. He's decided that he knows my role, it would seem, but he still needs reassurance as to when and how Rob takes care of him.

Given the serene, almost Zen-like child he's proven to be so far, I'm confident this, too, shall pass. It still breaks my heart to see him grieve, but I remind myself that it's because he was well-loved in Korea and that in time, he'll continue to find security as a Becker.

Monday, May 04, 2009

On Our Own

For some reason, today really feels like it marks the first part of my unassisted stay-at-home (albeit temporary) mommyhood. I had only one solo day last week before my mom took a couple of days to lend her capable hands.

About an hour ago, Rob and Sam left for the day, and Max and I are going to work on settling in to our own routine. We had a pretty decent schedule going last week, but I think the changing of the baby guard might have been too inconsistent to make it stick. I'm going to stay home with him for at least a couple of days by myself so that I can figure out his rhythms and hopefully get him on a regular nap schedule. It's amazing to me how quickly life went back to being scheduled around the crib!

Sam was a good napper from the very beginning. The kid still needs his sleep and will nap three hours once the arguments about whether or not he really needs the rest have ceased. Max can take two 90 min. naps on a good day, or, on days like yesterday, opt to just snooze for 20 minutes after fighting us for 45 min. before. Because we're still so focused on attachment, I don't let him scream, which means we muddle through, and try to squeeze in sleep while we can so he doesn't turn into a raving lunatic.

The best part of the weekend was definitely the progress Big made with Little. Yesterday was, dare I say it, whine-free when it comes to Sam complaining that Max gets ALL the attention and no one EVER talks to him. He was downright pleasant with the baby and even snuck downstairs before nap to sneak in an extra kiss. It was super cute. I got a glimmer of mommy hope that my two boys will be the best of friends and will spend their childhoods skipping through meadows, while rainbows paint the sky. Too optimistic too soon?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

One Week

It was one week ago almost to the minute that I walked out of the front door to go meet Baby Max for the first time.

I just watched him drift off to sleep thinking that it's hard to believe that he's only been with us seven days. If I ever doubted that God gives us the children that are meant to be ours, I need only look at Sam and Max. I cannot imagine any other little people fitting in with our family more perfectly. Max has adjusted to life as a Becker almost effortlessly. It's amazing to comprehend that this baby was born on the other side of the world and loved by two other mothers before he made his way to our home. In just a few days, it really feels like he was here from the day he was born.

I'm not trying to sound like there haven't been any growing pains to work out. There have. Our whole schedule has changed with the addition of an infant to our lives and Sam is definitely struggling to find room in his little universe for an actual human that commands his parents' attention. But day by day -- almost hour by hour -- it gets easier for everyone.

For me, especially, the bonding with Max has been easier than it was with Sam. Sam took to Rob almost immediately and I cried many tears as I watched a very strong-willed and independent child openly express his desire to only be held by someone other than me. I was instantly in love with him, and well educated about the many facets of the attachment process, but nothing made it easier for me when I just wanted to hold my first baby and kiss him to pieces.

Of course, that's all changed now. Sam is firmly attached to both me and Rob and definitely knows how to play each of us to get what he wants! Max does not seem to have a strong preference to either one of us, but not being shrieked at as if I'm doing bodily harm to him makes it easier for me to enjoy the experience and continue to fall in love with him.

It's interesting to see, too, how well my instincts have served me with Max. Rob has remarked many times in the last week that I'm somehow able to interpret Max's signals easily. The best example is the process to get his sleep issues worked out. By Max's fourth night here, I somehow got him to take to his crib, and he stayed there for 10+ hours. Luckily, that trend has continued, which makes any other part of the adjustment process easier to manage. A well rested family is a happy family!

Our next hurdle was getting him to nap in his crib. He was only taking two or three 20-minute naps, and most of those were in our arms or in the stroller. I am a firm believer in sleep training. I never leave his side while he's falling asleep and am instantly at his side if he wakes up crying, but I also am committed to getting him to do his sleeping in his crib so that he gets the rest he needs and we can do other things that need to be done (like showering, for instance.) We spent a quiet day at home yesterday working on a schedule/routine for him. We managed to get one crib nap out of him, but he was not having it during the afternoon. We tried again today, and were thrilled that he took two naps that were each more than 90 min. long in his crib.

Rob just went to put him to sleep for the night for the first time, and I kept hearing him ask through the monitor if I was really sure Max was tired. I told him that he's a giggly, wiggly baby when going to sleep and not to worry. Rob finally called me upstairs to "take a look at this," as if I was going to be met with some strange behavior that would need diagnosis. He was convinced Max was getting a second wind and that "we missed the window. He's going to be up for hours." I told him he just has to be patient and lo and behold, he was out cold not five minutes later. There is something immensely satisfying to me to have been able to figure out some of his cues already.

Hopefully all of this will serve me well tomorrow, when Rob goes back to work and I temporarily enter the world of stay-at-home-mommyhood for the first time in my life (Sam came home during the summer when Rob was off, too.) I don't have lofty goals for the first few days. If I am showered and dressed and Max has napped by the time the other boys get home, I will consider the day a success!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I love sleep

I especially love sleep when I get to do it myself for long stretches of time because everyone else in my house is sleeping, too. I think we may possibly have set a record for recovery from 16 hours of flight and nearly 24 hours of total travel time. Baby Max had one bad night's sleep, two pretty decent ones and last night was FANTASTIC.

Overall, his adjustment seems to be going really well. The grieving is still there from time to time, but we expect that and want him to feel like we're helping him overcome it. Part of that process is letting him determine how, when and where to sleep until he's got his bearings. For the first two nights with us, that meant sleeping plastered to our bodies in one way or another. For the third night, it meant sleeping in a swing with one of us within arm's reach.

Throughout all of this, we've tried introducing him to the crib, but not expecting him to stay in it alone. We learned that wouldn't work when I first laid him down and he reacted as though there were vipers laying there to greet him that I couldn't see. I scooped him up and have instead opted to sit him in the crib for short intervals with toys and his big brother so he could see that it's really a nice place to be.

Last night, after a fairly good day schedule-wise, I had Max up in the nursery to put pajamas on him. I needed to change myself, so I put him down in the crib with a couple of new toys and stood there to talk to him before disappearing and terrifying him. He played around with the toys and didn't seem to mind if I was there or not. We put Sam in with him to "teach" him how to use a crib properly. After Sam got out, I put Max on his back, just to get him used to the idea. I was ready to pull him out and take him downstairs once big brother was none the wiser.

Rather than grunt and cry as usual, Max reached up to play with the strings on my sweatshirt that were dangling down. He found this to be a fascinating activity for a full 15 minutes or so. At that point, I realized he was engaging in his I'm-serious-about-sleeping trick (I love that I have figured out one of his little quirks already!) otherwise known as sucking on his wrist/sleeve. Side note: I've heard of thumb sucking and pacifier dependence, but wrist sucking as a self-soothing behavior is new to me.

I just stood over the crib and let him suck his wrist and fidget for a while. He quickly realized that the fidgeting made the crib mattress bounce a tiny bit, which kept him happy for another 15 min. or so. And then, as if by magic, he just closed his eyes and went to sleep. I resisted the urge to squeal with glee and shut out the lights and proceeded to stand over him for another 15 min., in case he woke up scared. He didn't, so I left the room, totally unsure after only three days of what I was supposed to do when all the children in the house are sleeping without needing something from me.

I went to our room, read for a bit, then went to sleep. Of course, I woke up scared at 2 a.m. when I realized that I'd not heard a peep from Max in hours. I raced into his room, only to find him dozing in the very position in which I'd left him. I stumbled back to my own bed with a sleepy grin plastered to my face and went back to sleep. I checked him again at 5, to see the very same thing going on in there.

At 6:30ish, I heard a wail. I bolted out of bed, thrust open his door, leapt to the side of his crib, only to see him sleeping. I heard the wail again. It was at that moment that I realized: Wait. I have two kids. This one is sleeping peacefully. That obnoxious noise is coming from Sam's room!

I went in the other room to find Sam upright in bed, pretending to be a baby, knowing we'd race to his side as well. I got him up, let Daddy sleep, let Sam watch race car videos on You Tube and prepared to hear Max at any moment.

Much to my surprise, he remained asleep until 7:30... If you're counting, that's a full TEN HOURS of peaceful slumber. All accomplished within four days of arriving on the other side of the planet. I plan on melting down all of my jewelry today to make myself a medal. Honestly, though, I am not sure how much of this was our expert parenting (you can laugh here... ) or just that Max is an easygoing kid. I'm sure it's the latter, but I'll take credit for the former.

We're off this morning to walk the neighborhood's annual yard sale. Then a few visitors are stopping by to peek in on Max and Sam. Justin and Crystal have said they're coming over with lasagna for us. I'll play down the we're-sleeping-all-night detail until the pan is in my fridge so they don't leave with it. I've eaten some of Crystal's cooking before and don't want her to think we don't *need* what she's made for us!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Baby Max's arrival story

We are all still a bit weary from our big day yesterday, but I want to capture my memories of what happened before they start to fade...

I watched Max's flights all day long yesterday, and was incredibly pleased to see that he did not have a single flight delay... even out of of O'Hare for the last leg of his journey.

A couple of hours before we needed to go to the airport, a few of the people planning to go with us gathered at our house. I'm sure everyone else made small talk and discussed the anticipated arrival. I basically paced back and forth to the computer to witness the status change the very second Max's flight left Chicago.

The anticipation of meeting him kept my mind occupied through all of this and I was too excited to even eat for about a day and a half. I was worried about how the transition from Max's foster mom had gone, but once I knew that part was over, I seemed better able to think about what was to come.

We got to the airport about an hour before he was due to land. I was surprised to find out that the configuration of Terminal D has changed quite a bit since I was last there, and that we couldn't really go very far at all. Waiting outside security now basically consists of standing at the end of the hallway that leads to baggage claim. You can see nothing past a foyer that leads to the terminal and there is not an arrivals board nearby, so we had no way of knowing if he'd landed except to call the airport's arrivals line and accost passersby to see if they'd been on the same flight.

While we waited and the crowd gathered, we took lots of pictures, waved our pennants and generally attracted the attention of virtually everyone that left Terminal D. Our friend Justin, who was also taking lots of pictures for us, was the last one to call to check the flight status. He called out that the plane was in, so everyone ran over to the exit from security to wait. There was a long line of people from two flights that passed before Rob was able to see a man carrying a baby in a Holt carrier.

He shouted "There he is!" and everyone started to cheer and try to get a glimpse. Mr. Ahn walked right up to us and sort of stood still so we could pull Max out of his carrier. I remember everything happening all at once and sort of in slow motion... I pulled him out and held him while Rob held Sam right next to me so we could all meet at once.

Through my tears, I was able to ask Mr. Ahn how Max did on the flight. He didn't speak much English, but was able to say "Good baby. Lots sleep. Happy." Rob and I both thanked him, and I think we actually overwhelmed the poor guy. He seemed surprised that we gave him a gift. He asked Rob "What's this for?" Rob replied (in these words) "it's a gift because we're so grateful to you for escorting our child to this country." I'm no translator, but I'm pretty sure he didn't understand what Rob was saying. It was at that point that I, normally not a huggy person but thrilled with anyone who brings me my baby after months of waiting, tried to give him a big hug and say "Thank you." He very sweetly just sort of looked at me, smiled and bowed. He did recognize Sam was with us at that point and stopped what he was saying to lean down and hug him. It will always stand out as one of the sweetest points of the evening to me.

(***baby cried... needed Mommy... Mommy suspended writing... continued next morning without realizing time references would then be off... ;-) )

Once the initial commotion was over, the greeters went to take Mr. Ahn down to get a cab to his hotel. As he was leaving, he let me know that Max had a dirty diaper, so the mommy part commenced immediately!

During all of this, Max was a serene as any baby I've ever seen. I'm sure it was shock, but he did not cry at all. He just calmly stared up at us and craned his neck to see everything that was going on around him. He seemed particularly interested in the flashes from cameras all around him.

I took him to change his pants right away, which was when he finally began to cry. I can't really blame him. Who wants some strange woman taking their pants off in an unfamiliar place?! He was bundled up in several layers of clothing. While he's got the chubbiest thighs I've ever seen, he's actually smaller than he looked when we first saw him. He had a bit of a diaper rash, so started to really fuss and cry when I cleaned him up, but went right back to being calm and sweet when we were finished.

We spent probably another thirty minutes or so taking pictures and gathering up all of our things before heading home. Overall, I feel like this airport greeting went much more quickly than Sam's did. I did miss some of the build-up of being able to watch the plane arrive, but I also kept telling myself to just enjoy the experience for what it was. I was every bit as emotional as I was waiting for Sam and felt an immediate rush of relief when I finally had him in my arms.

The time since he arrived has been spent with Max velcroed to at least one of us at all times. He slept in the carseat on the way home after fussing a bit, but woke up as soon as we got in the house. It was when he looked around and realized that he was in yet another new location that he really started to cry. He began to quietly sob and call out what sounds like "Um-ma. Um-ma." repeatedly. We think he's calling for his foster mom and grieving when he does this.

We did try to put him to bed since he was tired, but he will have none of the crib. We ended up taking turns holding him and have not really been able to put him down since. His grieving was fairly obvious for the first day, but as I type (at just after 5 a.m. on Thursday morning) he's clearly starting to bond with us. He only slept for about 10 min. at a time overnight at first, waking up to look for his foster mom, but by night two, we were shocked that he slept nearly seven hours without budging. He was on Rob the whole time but happy to stay sleeping.

The fact that he is showing that he was clearly well cared for is actually a very good sign for attachment, even if that part is a bit more exhausting than it was with Sam. I think it's remarkable that he slept so well on the second night. It was like a switch flipped with his afternoon nap. Rob offered to take the first shift since I'd only had about an hour's sleep since he arrived. I figured I'd sleep maybe 2 hours before taking over. Imagine my surprise when I woke up almost six hours later! I walked downstairs to be greeted by a smiling, cooing baby and a Daddy who said they'd just woken up, too!

I know I'll need to add more details to this at some point, but (if you're still reading!) I really wanted to capture some of the little details that I'm sure to forget later. The emotional aspects will be remembered forever, but I wanted to capture the everyday part of Max's initial adjustment.

The last thing I should note is that we didn't have Facebook for Sam's arrival, and I have been totally overwhelmed to see the number of people who have left comments for us. It's been totally amazing.

There's more to share, but I'll save it for another post. For now, Max is smiling at me and wants to be held by his Mommy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As I predicted, I did not sleep until I was able to see that Max's flight had left Seoul. I was proud of myself for waiting a full half-hour after departure before I went to the computer upstairs to check the status. I don't know what it is about flights from Seoul, but they seem to leave early quite a bit!

Max's flight left at 1:04 a.m. Eastern Time and will arrive in San Francisco at 11:19 a.m. Eastern. That's 15 min. ahead of schedule! His next flight leaves for Chicago at 2:05 p.m. Eastern. I'll even have a few people gathered here at the house by the time his final flight takes off at 6:19 p.m. Eastern.

I'm going to try to get a few more hours of sleep before I go pick up Sam from preschool today. I suppose I need to be working on my stamina as I'm so NOT a night person, but am choosing the get-sleep-while-I-can method for today.

I watched these same flights yesterday to see if they were on time or not. The last flight from Chicago to Philly was more than three hours late. We did have crazy storms here, so I'm hoping the delay was weather-related and we won't face that tonight!

Monday, April 20, 2009

And So It Begins...

I've been staring the clock on and off for the last few hours with very mixed emotions. On one hand, I'm almost giddy with excitement that we should finally have Baby Max in our arms by this time tomorrow. On the other hand, I'm so very sad at what he's probably going through right now.

As I type, it's about 11 a.m. in Korea. Since his flight leaves around 2 p.m. local time, he's most likely just arriving at the airport. That means in the last hour, he's had to say goodbye to the only family he's ever known. I just can't imagine how hard that must have been for both him and his foster mother. I'm sure she's happy to know he's going home to a forever family, but I can't imagine she isn't sad each time a child she's loved moves on from her home. For him, he must be terrified. That's the hardest part for me to think about. At just 9 months old, this is his third major life transition. At that age, children should only have to learn to crawl or decide whether they like squash or not. Having no say in being removed from a home that you always thought would be there forever, then enduring a grueling 20 hours of travel if all goes well, only to be handed to people who are totally unfamiliar to you must be so confusing and upsetting.

I know the positives outweigh the negatives and I really am excited to finally meet him and start to make the hurt all better for him, but I know that to reach that point, he's going through an incredible amount of loss. I'm also sad to think about his birth mother today. She's probably sad to some degree every day, but she has no idea that today is the hardest of her baby's life. I know this day is what she'd hoped for, but it just seems so sad to me that she's not even able to sit watching a clock like I am...

All of the emotions of Sam's adoption are really coming back to me in the last few hours. I very clearly remember feeling this way before he came home, too. I know I was beside myself with joy when we finally saw his sweet face, but I really do recall feeling something bordering on guilt to be inflicting this on him. Luckily, this time I have the luxury of knowing how it all can turn out. And I know that it's without question the greatest blessing of my life.

Safe travels, Baby Max. You've got many people counting the hours till we meet you!

Maternity Leave

It's so weird to sit down on a Monday morning with my cup of coffee and realize that I have NO work email to check. I have a feeling these next two days are bound to be among the longest of the wait. Not only do I have the anticipation of Max coming home, but I don't have any kind of schedule to keep.

I'm taking Sam to school on the late side. So far, we've snuggled on the couch, had coffee together and now I'm letting him watch whatever cartoons he wants before school. We enjoy our mornings together, and this is the last one that it's just the two of us. He's going to go to school early tomorrow with Rob so that I can get some extra sleep before our long night. He's going in so that he has some sort of distraction during the day, but I'll pick him up right after lunch. I will let him play a bit at home before going down for a nap. I figure if he naps at home, we'll have better luck keeping him up and happy until way past his bedtime. I know he'll be up either way, but better for Aunt Bitty (who's volunteered for Sam duty at the airport) if he's well rested. I can hear the thoughts of those who would think I'm crazy for thinking Sam will actually nap, but if my kid is anything, he's a champion sleeper. Once he gets settled down, he should sleep like a brick for at least a couple of hours tomorrow.

I checked on the timeliness of the departure of the flight that Max will be on, and was able to clear up a bit of the mystery that had been plaguing me all weekend. My email from the agency said he was coming through Chicago to Philly. I assumed (as did the woman who called me) that he was going directly from Seoul to Chicago, which seemed an odd route to me. As it turns out, he's still going through San Francisco. They just gave me an updated schedule from his layover point. The Chicago flight is supposed to get him in earlier than the flight through Denver would have. Unfortunately, being a near-expert domestic traveler, I do not have high hopes for an on-time arrival from O'Hare. Oh, well. Maybe I'll be surprised!

So, first full day of maternity leave... Once Sam is at school, I'm going to finish up the felt pennants we'll have at the airport and then am going to lunch with Kim and Ethan. I'll probably go get Sam early so he can play with Ethan a bit. Then it's just the two of us again for dinner and bed. We didn't realize when we planned it that Rob's Relay fundraiser night at the Phillies game would fall on our last night together as a family of three. The forecast is calling for thunderstorms, so Rob's hoping the game is rained out so he can stay home. At some point during the day, I also plan to do some extra cleaning. If that has to wait till tomorrow, it's fine. It will distract me during the day.

Tomorrow our friends Gary and Natalie have graciously offered to cater dinner for the few people that will leave for the airport from our house. They did it last time, too, and it stands out as one of the highlights of the evening. It was so nice not to have to think about mundane things like cooking dinner! It was also nice to have a casual sort of party before we left. It kept me from freaking out completely.

I'm off for a bit more Sam time before school...

Friday, April 17, 2009


So, after blogging endlessly about how the phone wasn't ringing, once it did, it took me four days to update.

I will readily admit that it's not just because I've been busy getting ready to be on maternity leave (which I have been) but that I'd been wanting to scrap about the call right away and couldn't find time to do that immediately.

Anyway, now that my travel call confession is out of the way... I suppose the call wasn't as climactic as it could have been, given the fact that I'd been calling anyone I could at Holt for days, trying to figure out if we could speed things up. We'd gotten a heads up on Good Friday that flying to Korea wouldn't get him home any earlier than they could get him escorted, which was April 21.

The whole should-we-travel discussion was interesting. Our primary reason for not traveling before now was that Rob only gets five days off from work and we wanted to spend that time bonding, not in transit. I also have a mental block about being the person to physically remove my child from the only mother he's ever known. I've never wanted to be the person to inflict that trauma. I did find out during my investigation that there's actually something called a trauma bond. Apparently, the child actually quickly trusts the person they see another trusted person (the foster mom) trust enough to hand over the kid. That's a complicated sentence and concept, actually.

In the end, we settled for knowing our baby had an actual day to come home and waited for the *real* call. I was quite shocked that it didn't come on Monday, and became concerned all over again that they did not have an escort. I was particularly certain this was true because on Good Friday, they'd told us they could get him home April 21 or 22. That didn't sound very final to me. The story was that seats were hard to come by. If that was true, why did they still not have a final date??

Well, my phone finally did ring at 12:05 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, and the mystery was quickly solved. The reason for the two dates was that there was an extra layover in the flight. Even though he would be leaving Seoul on April 21, he would have to travel from Seoul to San Francisco to Denver and then to Philadelphia. His final arrival time would have been 12:30 a.m. on April 22.

We scrambled once again to decide if we should go meet him in Denver. That seemed like a ton of travel for both Max and his poor escort. As it turns out, I could not locate two seats in the same cabin on a single nonstop flight. We settled in again for the middle of the night arrival and began to plan accordingly.

Much to my surprise, my phone rang again on Wednesday morning. It was the Holt branch director letting me know they'd found a better flight. The new route now has him going from Seoul to Chicago, and then on to Philly. He'll arrive home on Tuesday, April 21 at 9:19 p.m.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of final preparations, many of them getting me ready to be away from work for three months. I feel pretty settled now and hope these last few days don't drag.

We are going to tidy up the house this weekend, go to a Bark For Life (doggie Relay) event tomorrow and just generally get ourselves ready for the big day. Sam seems to not even notice all the commotion. I can't really blame him. Four months of waiting is a long time to a nearly five year old. I hope he's ready come Tuesday!

We did have a bit of sad news this morning. After four years of happily living in a bowl in our living room, our beta fish Roosevelt died this morning. We were surprisingly sad at this turn of events. Sam asked quite a few questions about it, the main one being when he can get a new fish. The poor kid has lost three pets in three years. I guess it's taught him that these things happen, so he doesn't seem to be too distraught. I just wish the bad news hadn't come during a week that was already stressful.

**Scrapper's note: The layout above was for the Sweet Shoppe Spin-A-Lift challenge. I was all to happy to lift my all-time favorite scrapper, Melissa Lewis.