Thursday, July 21, 2016

Levi Edward -- His Story

Now that Levi is nearly 2 months old, I suppose it's time that I write his story. Before I begin, let me just say, that even though I haven't posted as much and taken an insane amount of pictures, I'm totally in love with his boy. I feel like I've been waiting for him for an eternity and he has filled a part of my heart in a way that was unexpected. I love him so much and feel immensely blessed every time I look at him, and that's not an exaggeration.

So...his story...

Many months ago, our adoption agency presented his situation. His birth mother, J, was looking for an adoptive family with 1 or 2 children. She grew up with siblings and wanted that for her baby. I sent a message to our caseworker and said that we would be interested in being presented if she was ok with an adoptive family who already had 3 kids...because, well, we do. I suspected that having 3 kids would take us out of the pool for her to look at becuase, after all, there has to be a cut off somewhere among all the families.



Shortly after, we received a message that J had chosen a family already. We moved on and the entire situation left my mind.

Months later, just before Sweatin' for Sammy, I received a message from our caseworker.

"Marcus and Jenny: Do you remember the situation with J? The family she has chosen has fallen through. Would you like to be reconsidered?"

Marcus and I quickly discussed it and I sent a message back. "Sure. We'd love to be considered again." At that point, I was thinking that, once again, there was a large pool of families...that is until I got a phone call from the caseworker. "The truth is, J decided between this other family and you. So if you would like to, we can call this a match right now and I can let her know." She advised us to take some time, to think about it, ask her any questions we had, and get back to her after Sweatin' for Sammy. That, we did. We called, asked questions, discussed it, prayed about it, focused on Sweatin' for Sammy. On our end, every thing seemed to be lining up perfectly in terms of what we were hoping for with this adoption.

One item did trouble me, however. Why did the adoptive family back out? Was I missing something huge here? The answer to that question gave me such peace. I asked our caseworker..."You probably can't tell us this, but why would the adoptive family change their mind?" And this was her response, "You know, for a couple months they've been matched, but the adoptive mom just called me and said she couldn't shake the feeling that this just wasn't their baby, that this baby was meant for someone else and that their baby was somewhere else." When she told me that, the peace I felt was more than some kind of relief that there wasn't anything major I was missing...a divine confirmation settled on my heart and I knew this was right. It was like the Lord softly whispered, "He's the one I have prepared for you."

We officially accepted the match.

BUT. We've been through failed placements before. We were given a ton of information about what to do, blah blah blah. BUT, we've been through failed placements before. I couldn't bring myself to buy a plane ticket, because I just wasn't sure. We were told she was being induced on June 2, but something kept me back from buying those tickets. We hadn't had any communication with J and that was unsettling to me. It all felt a little unreal.

On May 28 we were celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday. All of Marcus's siblings were there. Bryan and Gaby had just returned from their honeymoon and were spending the day with us before driving back to Utah. We were in the backyard enjoying watching the cousins all play together and enjoying the perfect California weather when I went inside to grab my phone. That feeling I had had earlier, that I should keep my phone on me....there was a reason for it. I had several text messages and voice mails waiting:

"Call me! Your birth mother is in labor!"
"I hope you get this message soon! She's in labor!"
"Call asap! J is in labor!"

I immediately called, and the status was the same...she was in labor. The truth is, she had gone into the hospital at least 2 other times before thinking she was in labor, only to be sent home. But this time was not the case.

Over the next hour, we made plans for the kids (Callie and Micah to spend the night at Grammy and Grandpa's. Sammy would sleep at home and Colin would spend the night there with her. She was still in casts after her surgery and this would be much easier keeping her home in her own bed.), we bought plane tickets (the earliest flight was the following morning), and we were given text messages play by play of the labor and delivery.

I cried as I received those messages. And thank goodness for Lindsey because she spoke peace to my emotional heart. The last time we did this, I was in the delivery room with Lindsey. She was surrounded by me, her mom, her grandma...there was support. I was so heartsick thinking of J there, alone, without family around her. But Lindsey, in her wisdom, told me that J was NOT alone and that there were angels in her room to lift her during that time. I knew that was true because truly, it's the only way any woman is able to deliver a baby...especially a mother who is about to place her baby into the arms of another woman. The beauty of that heartbreaking sacrifice is never lost on me.'

And then at 9:00pm on Saturday, May 28, we received these two pictures on my phone.



The next morning, Sunday, May 29, we flew out. With only hours of sleep, we headed right to the hospital where we met our new son. It was surreal and the day we'd waited for for quite some time.







Sunday, May 15, 2016

Callie's Baptism

We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And so, we try to live our life as disciples of Jesus Christ. Are we perfect? No. Not close. But we do believe that through Jesus Christ we can be perfected. It's a life long process. We believe that children are born innocent and pure. They don't have the ability to sin and they don't carry any sin into this world with them. Because Christ was perfect and followed all of His father's commandments, so must we. We need to follow his perfect example and enter the waters of baptism...and as we do so, we enter the gate that is mentioned in the scriptures. We make a covenant when we are baptized to be like Him, with the knowledge that we will continually need His help and will need to live of life of constant repentance, starting over, making small improvements each day, just doing our best. He knows we aren't perfect, nor does He require that of us right now. But what He does require is our heart and our desire to try and to do. That's what baptism represents to me. That commitment, that covenant, to constantly try, in His name, to do our best...to try to live up to our divine nature and heritage.

We are baptized when we are 8 years old, or older. I don't remember my baptism details. I remember after being baptized, I wore a white dress with a pink ribbon around my waist. I thought that dress was beautiful. I remember my Aunt Geri gave me a gold necklace with a cross on it, and I cherished that necklace. I remember eating cake in a room in the church afterwards. But the rest is a blur. What isn't a blur is what that day has meant to me in my life. Because I was baptized, I have made different choices in my life than I wouldn't have made otherwise. I did stupid things still, but I always decided to do better next time, to repent...to turn back to God. That one decision to be baptized transformed my life. And I'm grateful for it.

Before Callie turned 8 years old, we talked to her about baptism. We really wanted this to be her decision, and if she didn't want to do it or didn't feel ready, then we wanted her to know that was ok. Sure we hoped she wanted to be baptized, but more important to us was that she was making this choice on her own. At one point, she didn't want to be baptized. Later she told me she didn't want people to look at her. Well, we could keep the baptism private with just family...but did she want to partake in that sacred ordinance. For months we had no idea what she really wanted. And then one day she said she wanted to...and she wanted Daddy to  baptize her.

On Saturday, February 6, 2016, Callie, along with her friend, Leo, was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The room was packed with people who love these two kids so much. We all felt the Spirit fill our hearts and it was a beautiful day.

Since Callie's baptism, I've seen her spiritually progress. In fact, I've seen her understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ advance more than it ever did for me at this age. It's a confirmation to me that these children have been set apart for this time...a time when we need stronger spirits, more determined to follow truth and light...that she is here to be a defender of truth and righteousness and to raise her family in love and light. She makes me a better person. I love Callie so much and I'm so very blessed to have her in my life. I would be incomplete without her.

Playing with cousins in the parking lot before the baptism. 

Aw, sweet Hayley.

Family



Sammy and Micah weren't so compliant, but it was still a beautiful day. :)

Callie and Daddy

Micah seriously refuses to be in any picture. I hope this phase doesn't last too long.


I love my girl.


Callie was baptized by immersion...and before doing so, Marcus took his black socks off. ;)


Callie and Leo
Buds getting baptized together.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Feature Story News

Extra! Extra! 
Read all about it!!!

Or watch it, anyway.

About a week or so ago I received an email from a reporter in Washington D.C. 

Hi Jenny and Marcus - I came across your story, and that of Samantha, through the Foundation for Children with Microcephaly. I'm writing from Feature Story News in Washington DC - we make TV news for multiple English language channels around the world. While we are focusing strongly on the Zika virus at present we want to better understand the link with microcephaly but also (and absent from the coverage so far) better explain what a diagnosis of microcephaly means for children and their parents and how the condition is managed; I saw physical therapy was one aspect looking at your blog? If you would consider sharing your and Samantha's experience on camera please let me know. Best regards

Of course we'd be willing to help out, but see...we're not in DC. We're in California, Bay Area. That wasn't a problem for them. Within the day I was contacted by Rachel Silverman and we set up a time for her to come and visit our family. 

Yesterday Rachel came over. With her was Patrice, the filmer who flew up from LA that afternoon. They spent about 3 hours with us capturing different situations, talking with the kids, playing, and then interviewing both me and Marcus. Though I'm self conscious about what I probably look like and of course after the fact I wish I had said different things, we had a good time as a family. The kids were great and generally happy. Sammy was fun. And all in all, I'm just really glad that through our experiences we may be able to help others along their own journey.

The story will be done soon and they will send us a link to it when it's ready. I would have never imagined our life involving so many people from all over the world, but boy am I grateful for it!

 Sammy's a fan of Rachel's elephant sounds.

I felt a bond with Patrice. It was later that she told me that she has an aunt with down syndrome and could relate to a lot of what I said about the blessing of having special needs in our life. How grateful I am that someone with such a sensitivity and true love for the topic was able to capture our family on film. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sammy, Microcephaly, and Zika Virus

It's been a few weeks now, since that blasted Zika Virus shook up the world. Just before this thing was making headlines, I had an article published in The Ensign and was interviewed by Momscast for an upcoming podcast. Sammy was the topic. See...this little bundle is such an amazing little creature and she has made my life fuller. Some of our biggest blessings come in the smallest packages, ya know? In both the article and during the interview, I poured my heart out about what a blessing this earthly angel has been.

Then Zika showed up. People started asking me questions...which isn't a problem at all. Microcephaly, a word people hadn't heard of before, was all of a sudden in newspapers, on tv, shared all over social media. Awareness. There was a whole lot of awareness going on. And that's good.

But FEAR seemed to cover the globe with warnings not to travel to Brazil and nearby countries and warnings not to get pregnant for at least 2 years. Microcephaly. Devastating Crisis. I get it. It's scary. And before Sammy was born, I would have never said, "Yeah. Let's have a child with not only microcephaly, but spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, AND epilepsy! Yesss." It really is scary and there's a lot to do and think about and worry about. When we found out Samantha had microcephaly, we were devastated. It changed our life's trajectory. We cried. We worried. And sometimes we still worry. It's a part of parenting...and loving. You worry about those you love.

Then, the journalists of our incredible world started to step back and say, "We need to tell the whole story." (And I got excited because, guys, this rarely happens these days.) They have reached out to many families (ours included) so they can put a face to microcephaly. These reporters want to help diminish the fear and bring hope back into the picture. I applaud them.

Because what about the families who have children with microcephaly already? How are they coping with this crisis? And what about women who become pregnant? Is all hope lost? Come on. Let us not be so dumb!

A friend of mine -- though we don't chat on the phone or get pizza together, I still call her my friend -- Gwen Hartley is among those mothers who has shared her story. In 2012 I reached out to her because her two sweet girls have what Sammy has. (In the world of microcephaly...gosh are there a lot of variables. There are different reasons for microcephaly and different outcomes for each of those cases. What many don't know is that microcephaly is even more common than Autism. It's true. But not until this virus showed up did people even know about it.) The type of microcephaly Sammy has is more rare though...so I reached out to Gwen when we found out Sammy has Microcephaly with Simplified Gyral Patterns. In Gwen I found realistic optimism. That's different from optimism. And I liked that.

So, here the news and all these online sources are interviewing her and I love it. She is the voice for so many of us. This is good because her voice is beautiful.

I'm getting over the flu and my sleep patterns are all messed up. So I was up way too late, looking at Facebook on my phone, and I saw one of her articles. I read through some comments. And I was SHOCKED!

So I'm here to set a few things straight. I've had this on my mind for about 24 hours and I need to get it off my chest:


Stick to the old phrase, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all." You don't have to think our children are beautiful. You don't have to think they are as great as we do. You don't have to love them or take care of them. If it's not nice, then shut it.

Perhaps because you are on social media, you feel free to share hurtful comments. One day, technology will make it so we can reach across the screen and give you a good smack across the face. Or wash your mouth out with soap. Or something. Words hurt. Words matter. Don't be a Word Monger.

My child IS a blessing. My life has been infinitely blessed...yes...b l e s s e d, because of each of my children. I have grown and developed because of them. I am a better person for having each of them in my life. Sticking with microcephaly and Sammy, specifically, she has formed me, molded me, and perfected me in ways I could have never imagined. I have more patience, compassion, love, respect, faith, hope, diligence, and charity (among other things) because of her little life. Isn't that what makes the world turn? It's the love we have for our neighbor. It's compassion in our hearts that reaches out to those in need, to communities, and countries in need. Are we so base to think that something perfectly imperfect couldn't be a blessing? Am I perfect? Faaaar from it. (My rant here may be proof of that) But each day she is perfecting me...a process that will surely take longer than a lifetime. I am becoming who I was meant to be because of her life. I am not putting her through any grief or pain by allowing her to live. As her mother, I am hopefully showing her all the love a mother can. I am connected to her in a way that is very real. And I know she feels it. She is happy, and sweet, and kind, and the most forgiving person I know. I'm trying to learn from her. You should too.

Am I selfish? Are you implying that keeping a life that is imperfect is selfish? Perhaps loving, and caring...bathing, feeding, changing, clothing, rocking, nursing, loving, driving, therapizing (yeah, we made that up), and taking care of all a child's needs...like 100%...is selfish. Maybe. But I don't think so. I don't feel selfish for allowing my child to live and adoring her. I don't feel selfish for being her mom. In fact, I feel honored. I don't feel selfish for giving her life and enabling her incredible, strong spirit to change us all. Nope. I don't feel bad about it.


But yes, I cry when things aren't easy for her. It hurts me. It rips at my heart. Just like it does for all my kids. And sometimes when I'm reminded that she's not like other kids her age, I get sad. I guess I still mourn from time to time. But those times are far and few between as her light fills the darkness in my heart. 

The truth is, those of you who think it's selfish to have "these" children or are utterly confused at the thought that we parents of children with special needs feel blessed...you don't understand. In a very real and basic way, you don't understand the joy and love that beams from their eyes. Or how your heart flutters when they say a word, or take a first step.  You may never understand that. And that's where I find my peace with your hurt comments that you plaster on the Internet. You will never have the joy and yes, blessing, of understanding how...even in the pain and sadness and confusion and loneliness...of having a child who is not in the "norm," is incredible. In all Sammy's therapy...in all we try to constantly teach her, I'm the one is the constant student. She is one of my three greatest teachers. 

So my truly confused friend, just know that I hope one day you get the chance to meet Sammy. I hope you get to sit with her and just observe. I hope you get to see her smile at you and hear her sincere giggle. She will melt that hard metal gate wrapped around your heart and you will have a glimpse into Heaven...and then you'll probably pray, just like me, that you'll get to join her there one day.

Because there's no doubt in my mind, eternity is looking mighty fine for this sweet angel.  


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Callie's 8 Years Old

 Before I catch up on Christmas, let's take some time to acknowledge the fact that Callie turned EIGHT years old! She's an old woman now! I'm among that group of moms who always say absurd things like, "How is that possible? How are you a year older already?!" We know the answer: time is constantly moving forward. But it still tears at my heart a little. She's no longer any part baby...all little, maturing, fabulous little girl.

Admittedly, Callie's birthday stunk this year. During Christmas everyone in our extended family seemed to take turns getting sick. Not us. We were strong and untouchable...until Monday when school and work started again. Callie went to school on Monday, threw up, and stayed home the next day...on her birthday...curled up in a blanket watching too much tv. But the thing is, once she threw up, she seemed to be fine. But she couldn't go back to school less than 24 hours later. So on her birthday, I took her out and we painted at this ceramics store. She also picked out a bracelet and necklace she wanted. Then I got the phone call to come pick up Sammy from school because she had a fever. (sigh). So on Callie's birthday, we rushed out to get her sick sister. Things just weren't working for the girl. We had had big plans including Chuck E. Cheese (which, let's be honest, I wasn't sad about having to miss) and family party. But all that got tossed out when window. So, on her actual birthday...celebration #1...we spent some quality Mommy/Callie time together and she got to watch tv the rest of the day.

A couple days later everyone seemed to be healthy. So as a little family, we did the birthday thing. She picked out dinner...noodles (no sauce), peas. And she opened presents.







She was pretty excited. The biggest gift will come in a couple weeks when my parents come out. Grandpa is going to paint her room and build her a bed. She's so excited!


And, call me a negligent mom, and I'll understand...but there were no candles. I was so consumed with taking care of everyone and still trying to make her birthday special, that I forgot to make sure we had candles. Luckily, Callie didn't care at all. She has strong opinions on how things should go, so I was very happy that she really didn't care. But, she did ask for a strawberry cake...and I delivered. I had never done a strawberry cake before, but thanks to Pinterest, I found a great frosting. I decided to just do a white cake and then this amazing frosting. We all loved it! I'm NOT a frosting person. I like just a thin layer. But this was heavenly. Whoever discovered this recipe, I bow down. It was light, fluffy, creamy, strawberry perfection. I will do this again.





The last celebration...yes, we are on #3...happened on Sunday with the rest of the family. This was the classic one. Candles, singing, eating cake. We had done all the presents and had the glorious cake...but a birthday just isn't a birthday unless we celebrate it at Grammy's with everyone at Sunday dinner.


So yes, Callie's actual 8th birthDAY stunk...but all in all...she kind of scored.

When I look back at the past couple years, Callie has had a lot of challenges. I'm so proud of how much she has grown, how she has overcome some of those, how she is working on them. She is so full of faith, and love. She is becoming this beautiful young lady who is learning to put her trust in the Lord and in those who love her. She is naturally curious and is finding more confidence in taking chances and risks -- the ones that help us grow and develop, that make us go out of our comfort zone.

The evening of her birthday, Callie asked me to read her "her" story. It's a small scrapbook of pictures from the first days of her life with excerpts from this blog...thoughts and feelings I had when she was placed in our home and the events that led up to it. I cried as I read. She looked up and said, "Mom, are you crying?" "Yes. I just love you so much." She smiled and cuddled in closer. My heart would be incomplete with her. I love Callie so much and loved having 3 celebrations of her birth!!!

Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Christmas Family Movie

Year after year we make our Christmas family movie. Sometimes -- often -- it can be stressful. But when it's all done, the kids love it and watch it over and over and over and over again. So...it's worth it. THIS year we had some lighting issues and some of our cast members weren't as compliant, but the movie got done and we have loved it!



Merry Christmas
and a most Happy Holidays

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