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.

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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.

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.

Raising strong boys

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I am a mother who swore no guns. But that changed, and I ended up buying a five-year-old Henry a toy arsenal when I surrendered to the fact that my disdain for guns and violence was not his.

Here’s a shocker. Boys are different than girls. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Both of my boys came out of the womb making blow-up noises and shooting me with their fingers, bananas, toast, sticks, you name it. They also came out loving and cuddly and sweet. Loving and full-body slamming are not mutually exclusive.

Embrace their spirit. Channel it for good. Help them become the protectors and warriors they are meant to be.

This is a great piece by Msgr. Charles Pope. Watch the video.

Mental floss

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I took Henry and Lillian to Henry Ford Museum last night. And let me say from the get go: We had a great time.

And now, for the rest of the story. (You have to say that like Paul Harvey.)

My day was madness. I got up and got busy so I could get some work done early in the morning. I was on my own with Cliff for the whole day, so my productivity bounced from writing, to feeding him, to his always successful yet ridiculously frequent potty breaks.

Before I could blink, it was time to pick up Lillian from school, then I rushed to get MC, stopped at Starbucks (because I HAD to), dropped off MC and Lil at home, then ran to get Henry from band. The plan was this: I’d get him, get home, shower, and then we’d go.

Guess what? Band ran 30 minutes long. That was my shower.

Who me? I don't know 'nuffin about no chocolate cake.

We raced home. To my dismay upon my arrival, I found Lillian dressed as a fairy princess and chocolate cake all over the kitchen floor. I guess I should be thankful that the reason for the mess was that Mary Claire was distracted from the moment-to-moment care of her siblings because she was practicing the piano. She was operating under the assumption that no screaming is good screaming. (An assumption–I confess–I too sometimes rely upon when they are 20 feet away and in earshot.)

I had to regroup. Time was not on my side.

For a split second I thought, “Oh forget it. It’ll just be Henry and me.” Then Lillian asked me when we were going. Drat that mind like a steel trap.

She picked out clothing. All of which needed to be ironed. And we were out of time. I put a long sweater on her and told her that she could not take it off at the museum. (Because it would expose the completely wrinkled shirt she pulled out of the bottom of her drawer. I was taking pictures for the blog and didn’t want her to LOOK as disheveled as I felt.) She successfully (amazingly on the first pick) chose tights that matched her outfit, and she willingly put on normal shoes (e.g., not Crocs, sparkly red shoes that would have clashed with the hot pink tights or bubblegum pink patent leather cowboy boots that are painfully too small).

I swept up some of the cake, and barked for MC to get the rest. In the mean time, Cliff sprinkled the floor with his cranberry juice by shaking it out of the lid of a sippy cup. Perhaps he thought the cake on the floor was dry. Or lonely.

I found a hat to cover my hopeless hair, put on some lipstick, ordered Henry to change his shirt (for the third time) and had to ask Mary Claire to tie my scarf. Because I’m challenged that way.

We got in the van and were off. I was worried we’d miss Santa’s entrance, but our timing looked good.

On the road, Lillian informed me that she had brought mittens that she would like me to put on once we reached the museum. I informed her that it wasn’t cold enough for mittens, and the walk would be short. So for the next 20-minutes she pretty much threatened that she would not exit the vehicle without the mittens. Well, that, and she interjected that for lunch I hadn’t put enough mayo on her sandwich, and her grapes had been wet. But her tirade mostly circled back to the mittens.

You can't always get what you want. And hey, look! It's when the chocolate cake saw better days.

Once we found a spot and started to unload, I saw that the mittens she brought were the thick play-outside-in-the-snow kind of mittens. And I knew there was no Buddy the Elfing way I was going to satisfactorily be able to wiggle those five-year-old thumbs into those ridiculous mittens.

She stood at the van door and declared first that she wasn’t coming, then that I had ruined everything, and finally, that she was going to freeze. I grabbed all 33 pounds of her and carried her to the sidewalk and set her down. To the tune of her continued complaints, we began our brisk (and short) walk to the museum, Then Henry said, “Come on Lillian. We don’t want to miss Santa’s arrival.”

She stopped dead in her tracks.

“Wait. Santa’s going to be here?” Some may recall that Lillian is not ever going to be president of the Santa fan club. “I. Am. Not. Sitting. On. His. Lap.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured her that she didn’t have to.

Amazingly, she stopped crying and picked up the pace.

We got in the museum and found a perfect spot. I reminded Henry that he needed to always hold Lil’s hand, and I weaseled my way up front so I could get some good photos of Santa. And I did.

This would have been a great shot. If not for that kid's HEAD. Oy.

Once the jolly dude exited the cool antique electric car he was chauffeured in, I took my place back by the kids. Lillian grabbed hold of my leg, her blue eyes focused on my face:  “I am not sitting on his lap in this environment.”

Now, I don’t have a clue if she even knows what environment means, but that was definitely a winning use of language for a munchkin her size. I assured her again that she was in the clear. She relaxed, and we had an absolutely lovely time. The pressure was off, and we enjoyed all the sights and the sounds of the museum. The kids and I were thoroughly impressed by the Ann Arbor Boys Choir, and we enjoyed visiting with other families as we waited in lines for this and that.

A great moment. A great time.

The only other conflict of the night occurred when Lillian began writing a letter to Santa. She told Henry she was asking for a doll. An Indian doll. Then she proceeded to say that Christopher Columbus was not correct when he called North American’s Indians. Henry tried to explain to her that the term was Native Americans. He told her Columbus thought he landed in the West Indies, so that’s why he called them Indians. She didn’t buy it and muttered, “Christopher Columbus lied.”

After a little coaxing, she got back to business, finished her letter and happily mailed it. As I filled out a slip for a drawing to win some Greenfield Village pottery, the lady behind the table asked Lil what she wanted for Christmas. Lillian said, “A doll. An Indian Doll.” Then she started to share her views on Columbus’ faulty naming; fortunately it was lost on the lady and bystanders as I escorted her over to the cider and donuts.

We found a spot on the floor near the gorgeous and huge tree and had a little donut picnic. I tried to take some photos of the kids with the whole tree behind them. So picture this, I’m practically lying on the floor of the museum, and my hat keeps popping off, exposing my oh-so-luxurious seriously in-need-a-styling hair. (Note to self: Don’t wear that stupid hat when trying to take pictures. It annoyed me all night. It’s too big for my pinhead anyway.)

This one is actually pretty decent.

I’m surprised that I captured one semi-satisfactory photo, since Henry had a “duh” look on his face in most, and Lillian kept make gang-type poses. Why? I have no idea. The cider and donuts were great, though. Especially since—at that moment—I realized that dinner had completely escaped me.

When we left, there was skipping involved. And lots and lots of smiling. We had an awesome time. Once we got in the van, Henry (much to my dismay) brought up the Columbus thing, and I can’t say he won any points in the debate. Telling Lillian that there was no GPS in 1492 didn’t really seal the argument for her, and he pretty much gave up after she shouted, “Christopher Columbus was a LIAR!”

As we were getting close to home, Henry announced that when he’s older, he’d like to work at The Henry Ford. I agreed that he might just like to do that. Helen and Mary Claire have expressed the same sentiment, and Helen’s going to audition to sing during the summer. He said, “I’m either going to work at The Henry Ford or  be a dentist.”

If you know Henry’s history with dentistry, that’s one of the most perplexing declarations I’d ever heard from him.

“What? You want to be a dentist?” I asked for clarification.

“Yes. I want to have an office. Mental Dental.”

“What?” I wasn’t’ sure if I heard him. He was in a third-row seat in the van.

He repeated. Mental Dental.

I asked again. The answer was the same: Mental Dental.

I said, “Henry, what are you talking about?”

“You know, Mental Dental. Like the office we go to.”

“Henry. The office is called Gentle Dental.” I corrected him, trying to keep it together.

“Ohhhh. I thought it was for mental cases like me, who don’t want to go to the dentist. That’s the kind of kids I want to be a dentist for.”

I should note, we did go to Gentle Dental, but had to change to find a pediatric dentist who could to treat Henry, who is (I am happy to report) a recovering lunatic at the dentist.

When we finally got home, after hitting a fast food drive-thru for a healthy evening dinner, it was 9 p.m., and Richard was on a business call. Mary Claire was reading Clifford to Clifford. He cheerfully padded out of his room to greet us, then willingly went back to bed, as long as I followed for a nightly serenade of Gentle Woman and the “baby” song.

It’s all in a day’s work.

It sounds crazy. I know. But I wouldn’t have it any other wonderful way.

I will admit, though, I could use a little mental floss  … the vodka flavored kind.

Where's Waldo? Can you find the craziest Hass child? (Hint: It's a tie.)