We can make our plans … a guest post

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This post was written today by my dear friend Tiffany. She and her husband, Blayne, have adopted five (soon six!) beautiful children through foster care. Today, their oldest is eleven. He’s a gifted artist and a beautiful boy. Tiffany is a plan-making maven but recognizes who is in control. Here’s another post about them from a few years back. 

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Eleven years ago today, I was drowning. Drowning in grief. We had just suffered the first of our four miscarriages. Drowning in guilt. How could I have lost our baby? Drowning in anger. How could this happen to us? Why would this happen to us? How could our plan have failed? We are a loving couple who not only desired to have a family, but would provide our child with everything they would need and want.

CB littleWe had a terrific plan. Blayne and I knew that we wanted to start a family right away. At 30, I was the virtually the last of my friends to marry and start a family, and my eggs were not getting any younger. Every time I saw a baby, I could literally hear my biological clock ticking in my head. We were so excited when we discovered that according to the natural family planning calendar, I would be fertile within two weeks of our wedding.

I was so good at making plans and making those plans come to fruition. Step one, make a plan. Step two, work hard and relentlessly to achieve the plan. Step three, enjoy the fruits of your labors. Step four, repeat step one. This had worked fantastically in my professional life and had on average earned me a promotion about every 18 months during my career.

Personally, when I was tired of waiting for my on-and-off boyfriend of 12 years to come to his senses and finally marry me, I also developed a plan.  I even told him that by the end of the following year I would be married – if not to him, then to someone else. The plan worked.  I changed the way I prayed about marriage, and within two months I met Blayne. We started dating five months after meeting, and married eight months after that —  just three days before the year ended.  My plans were coming together exactly as I thought they should.

Of course, then I was not surprised to learn that I had become pregnant exactly when we had planned to. In addition to my careful planning, I had biology in my favor. My parents had tried once to conceive and here I am! My due date was October 12, which would have been our wedding day if we had not decided to move it up  10 months because of September 11th attacks. This was meant to be.

But on a cold, grey winter day at the end of February, my fabulously thought out plan spun out of control and had failed miserably. There was no more baby — only sadness, anger and confusion.

What I could not have known then was that as I lie in bed sobbing and praying, at a hospital just a few miles away, a beautiful baby boy was being born. A baby boy who would four and half years later come into our lives and eventually become our son.  He would be the first child to call me mom. He would be the one who with just four little words – I love you, Mom – could erase the pain of four miscarriages and three failed adoption attempts.

cbnowOne of the many, many lessons we have learned to live by since that first pregnancy is: “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9.

The pain, the loss, the suffering, the confusion are all worth it. God’s plan was (and is) so much more remarkable and fulfilling than anything I could have prayed or planned for. For even as I was drowning in grief, God was working in mysterious ways. As I was crying 11 yrs ago today, a baby boy cried out for the first time as he took his first breaths and somehow, miraculously, God brought us all together.

That’s alarming

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Even new-fangled technology can’t work without cooperation from the user.

Our fifteen-year-old is a go-getter. Mighty, indeed. These past few weeks we’ve had trouble waking her in the mornings. Usually she’s up before the rest of us and already reminding us of her (and thus our) morning plans.

Today, we decided to get to the root of it. Why wasn’t she waking? Was she depressed? She did after all just break her foot, calling off the remainder of her beloved swim season. Was she going to bed too late? No way. She’s a carpe sleepem, carpe diem kind of kid. Was there something wrong with her alarm?

Yes!

She informed us that she set the alarm on her phone and on her clock, but she still wasn’t getting up. Something was wrong with both of them.

She set two alarms, and both were failing? Why? Did she not hear them? Yes, she heard them. But she set them both an HOUR before she needed to get up to fulfill some fantasy that she MAY choose to get up that early sometimes, but not all the time. But of course, she actually chooses to get up that early none of the time.

So she turns off her clock and then turns off her phone and, oddly (cough) falls back asleep.

We tried to explain that the purpose of an alarm is to get you up and going. Not to wake you so you can decide if you’re going to get going or not. Because chances are on a chilly fall morning without anything really pressing, you’re not.

It wasn’t the system failing her. It was lack of commitment to the system.

Later in the morning, she texted us a photo saying, “I need to use this.”

Click on it to go to the site.

My husband responded with, “No, you just need to use this.”

Getting speeched

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Lillian: Cliffy needs to get speeched again!
Me: Why do you say that?
Lillian: Because he needs to eliminate the potty language!
Me: (Thinking ahead to SAT scores ….) Wow! Lillian, nice word – eliminate. (And equally nice and careful articulation.) Do you know what that means?
Lillian: Yes! HE NEEDS TO STOP SAYING POOP AND PEE AND ANNOYING ME!

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Princess me some smarts

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Glowing after Princess Camp

I will admit – I had a few pangs when Lillian received the gift of Princess Camp for her birthday. As a completely non-princessy girl turned grown-up, I’ve been hell-bent on protecting my daughters’ intellect, and even after all these years of parenting the fairer sex, I sometimes can’t wrap my mind around where princess fits into the equation. Even though we’ve watched princess movies, have had princess birthday parties and all, I just can’t help myself from exercising a certain level of restraint when it comes to cartoon royalty.

But I took a deep breath. Because Princess Camp IS Lillian. And it was a sweet and thoughtful gift from my parents.

The first day of Princess Camp.

“Mom, this isn’t regular SCHOOL!” She told me on Monday as I offered her a skirt and shirt when dressing to leave. “This is PRINCESS camp! Get me a puffy skirt!” she demanded, finger pointing to her room. I obliged and did as was told.

She announced her nervousness on the chariot ride there (in the Dodge Ram Van). But also decreed that it would not stop her, and she knows now – from experience – that it is normal to be a little nervous when faced with something new. I guess it’s just something princesses deal with regularly entertaining heads’ of state and prince charmings and all.

We arrived and joined the other princesses in training. I’m not sure, but I think Lil actually floated in. Ready with a curtsy and a regal bow, the princess trainers welcomed her with joy, she glanced back – only once – and gracefully sashayed into the training room, eager to learn the proper ways of a real-live fairy princess. Her smile and wink conveyed confidently, “You’re free to go.” So I did.

On the ride home, I asked her if she enjoyed herself. “I had a fantastic time!” She declared. “And I even made a friend!” She reminded me of her initial apprehension and how she took a deep breath and overcame it. And like a wave of a fairy godmother’s wand, my intellect suddenly swallowed the experience whole.

And I got it.

Living in a princess world is a wonderful place – especially if it helps you come out of your shell, conquer your fears, make new friends and learn new things – all with the added benefit of being sparkly.

A perfect princess curtsy.

By the end of camp, I’ll admit, I shed a few tears. I watched with joy and embraced the confidence that pretend continues to give my sweet angel of a girl. My dad came to watch the final princess parade, and a smile never left his face.

“What a great gift!” I thought. For her, for him, for me.

Later in the day, I received a call from Helen telling me she just got a great new job: As a PRINCESS for children’s parties!

(True confession: She gets to be my favorite princess. Belle has the best songs,  she’s smart, a book-worm and doesn’t care about her hair.)

And twice in one day, I realized that being a princess actually pays off – in so many wonderful ways.

Two princesses in training – and two princesses extraordinaire – at Rhythm-n-Jump Dance Academy.

Shout!

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If you’re wondering how Cliff is doing with his speech, the answer is GREAT! He’s really talking and communicating. He still has his moments of gibberish, but hey, don’t we all?

The newest development in his language is the fact he says nothing quietly. Or remotely quietly. He has so much to say that he just pretty much yells it. And everything he says starts with an attention-grabbing: “Mom!” just to make sure I’m paying attention.

“Mom!”

Mom!”

“MOM!”

Add that shouting “Mom!” to all the other times I hear “Mom!” in a day, and well, I just  may lose it. (Even as I type the word in this quiet corner, my ears are ringing at the thought of it.)

In honor of the screaming, I give you this version of Shout, sung by none other than Lulu. Yes, the same Lulu who sang (and starred in) rather sweetly “To Sir With Love.” (Or if you went to Tuna Tech, that would be “To STAR With Love.”

I know my son has the shouting down, now he just needs to learn the wiggle.

Embrace your inner girl

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My daughters and I were invited to a bridal shower – the first of my college friends with a child getting married. A lovely young woman with an excellent head on her shoulders … and one seriously beautiful head of hair. (She’s a hair-stylist. And obviously a good one. A quarter of the women there had their hair done by her, and there wasn’t a questionable “do” in the bunch.)

MC couldn’t come, but Helen was able to meet me there from school. It was an hour trip for each of us in opposite directions. I was looking forward to spending a few hours with her while celebrating the upcoming nuptials of this dear bride-to-be.

I was so eager to see my friend – it’s been too long since we’ve been in each other’s presence. (It’s funny – and sad – how an hour away might as well be the moon when life is so jammed-packed.)

I was looking forward to greeting her family and meeting the two little ones who have joined them through foster care. I was glad to share with her husband the story of our friends with five adopted children (soon hopefully six!) all through the foster care system.

When we arrived, it didn’t take long to notice that everything was just so completely perfect. Sparkly. Pink. Coordinated. Thoughtful. The best kind of party.

Every young woman, middle-aged woman and even older-aged woman had perfect hair. (I can admit, I was thankful that I put in a little extra effort on my generally unruly mop.)

The girls were all so fashionable and lovely. (And I’m sorry for saying girls. They are young woman. I know. But most were maybe a year of two older than Helen. I’m not ready to give up saying “girl” just yet. Being PC comes later in motherhood for me, I guess.)

Helen too was also acutely aware of the cute. She (admittedly, like me) is always a little apprehensive to embrace the sparkle – a trait not inherited by either of her younger sisters – they both thoroughly enjoy all that shines and twinkles.

She informed me that she texted her boyfriend and told him about all the pink and all the pretty.

His reply: Have fun and embrace your inner girl.

Smart kid. Good advice. And I can say she did. (And so did I!)

The food was casual and just right. The menu consisted of the Detroit original J.L. Hudson Maurice Salad, rolls, little stuffed pastry appetizers, tasty warm meatballs (turkey), chocolate-dipped this and that, drinks with frozen raspberries and mint leaves, glass jars filled with pink and white candies  and a fabulous array of cupcakes. All was all a very girlish and quite a bridal delight.

We had a lovely time. And I’m sure I looked like a nut job taking photos of the food with my iPhone. But I’m used to that.

And wait, did I say cupcakes? Yum!

Speak up(date)!

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Well, more than a month into visiting the Baby Whisperer, and all is moving along just swimmingly.

We’re still all diligently working as a team on this (Montessori school included), and the results are evident. Cliff has improved in both his speech and language skills markedly. I’ve demonstrated that I’m going to do everything in my power to help him speak, and – much to my joy – so has he.

Through the process, I’ve discovered that my little guy is one serious worker. As much as I’m obsessed with practicing words and sticking my fingers in his mouth to help him make certain sounds, he’s proven he’s up for the challenge and is willing to keep trying, trying and trying. I am so proud of him. We’ve already graduated to modeling three word sentences (which is much easier for me than two), and he has fewer moments of complete gibberish. And many, many moments of successful communication.

Today the Baby Whisperer said she’s not concerned that he has an expressive language disorder, because – based on his progress – he does not. I’m not the slightest bit concerned about that either. Every day he tells me something new. And every day I’m quite sure it is the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard. Yesterday, as I was pulling the van into the garage, and he noticed the toddler bed in the rafters and said, “Hey, that’s my bed!” You can be darn sure we got out of the van, and we studied that bed. We discussed every little thing about it. Its color, how it got up there, if he thought it was heavy, and the fact that now he is a big boy – something he proves to me more each day.

Well, I wanted to share the good news. Thanks to all the folks who’ve asked about the progress. We still have a ways to go, but we’re off to a flying start. Speaking of which, I have to fly so Cliff’s and I can brush his teeth while we sing the theme song to Spider man with new and improved lyrics … we sing “ka, ka, ka – ka, ka, ka.” Beautiful music to a this mama’s ears for sure.

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Speak now and forever hold a piece

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This has been an exciting few weeks.

Cliffy went on his first official speech therapy visit. And it was great. I’ll post more as we get into the process. But I know it’ll be fruitful. Just the little tidbit I learned at that one session has been helpful in my ability to interpret what he’s saying, so I can at least lessen some of his frustration and repeat things back to him correctly. Cool for sure. Brilliant woman — I’m calling her the Baby Whisperer.

Cliffy leaning on big brother.

And … we took Lillian to open house for first grade.I know. Yes. Already.

To my not-so-complete surprise, it was an experience fraught with anxiety for my sweet dumpling. Just a year ago I was wondering how she was going to function in this world because she’s always been such an über-imaginative child floating though her days. But since then, she has (rather precariously) tested the waters of reality. And I’m not so sure how well she likes it. This darn real world doesn’t seem to hold the same promise of her visions of pretend playmates, ponies, pink and princesses. That world brings her peace. This world? Not so much.

After a visit to the two first-grade classrooms in the school, we headed to the gym to check out the activities there. During our look around, Miss Blue Eyes looked up and me and informed me that we needed to go back up to the classrooms. She needed to meet the teachers again. And she needed to look around more. I could see her distress. It’s the same distress she has when she has trouble dressing her dolls, or Cliff destroys her carefully arranged menagerie. But — the big difference was — it was real. And I felt for her.

She led me back up the stairs. She walked in one classroom. Looked around. Then proceeded to the next. When we were there, she motioned to the books on the table in the front of the room. Without a word, her thumb went in her mouth, and she approached them. I stooped to her level, and we looked at the workbooks together. As a Montessori child, I think the workbooks looked daunting to her. I believe she was analyzing what was going to be expected of her. And — more importantly — whether she could even do it. I showed her some of the pages. We talked about them. She relaxed a little and announced she was ready to go. And we did.

At home while dressing for bed, she looked up at me — troubled — and asked (exact quote), “How did you determine I’m prepared for this?” I assured her she will be prepared. And school is about learning. And she’ll be fine. I’m not quite sure she bought any of it. But that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Hanging on.

I can say that I feel her inner conflict in a way I’ve not experienced with the three before her. I wish I could just blow confidence at her like bubbles through a wand. Some landing on her, while she joyfully chases the rest. More so, I wish I could help her hold on for dear life to the amazing parts of her that have made her childhood to this point so completely mesmerizing.  When I look into her thoughtful eyes, I know it will be a different kind of difficult to watch as her sweet pieces of childhood slowly melt away.

She’s brought us all an undeniable gift — her ability to express her thoughts has granted remarkable insight into the fabulous workings of a little one’s mind. A very early talker, she did so much more than just tell us what she was doing — she shared with all of us what she was thinking and feeling. And boy, it’s been grand.

With Lil, when things don’t pan out exactly as she’s so carefully imagined, the turmoil begins. And the more that darn reality so rudely butts into her life, the more that darn turmoil triumphs. The hard part is, I know there’s not a lot about this world that pans out as we imagine. So sadly, lots of folks just stop imagining.

I hope I can help my dear daughter slowly become rooted to the ground while she continues to joyfully and colorfully bloom in the worlds she creates. I will also diligently pray that as she grows she will never actually be of this world but instead live uniquely, vibrantly and faithfully in it.

So that’s what’s ahead of me. Teaching my baby how to talk like a child and teaching my big girl how to hold on to every piece of childhood she can.

And nothing is impossible, with God.