Regrouping…

This past weekend we decided to do a little family “regrouping.”Not surprisingly, moving to another country can be pretty complicated and things have been pretty nuts around here. On top of that, having to say goodbye to our foster son was emotional and left us feeling a little out of sorts for a few days. We aren’t unaware that fostering implies something temporary, but frankly, it is weird to do life with two babies for ten months and then to suddenly go back to bathing/feeding/taking care of one child.

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Mariah wore those sunglasses the whole weekend… loves ’em

So naturally, we decided to go to the beach…because obviously the beach is a great place for a family regroup session. We found a deal on the Costa Rican equivalent of Groupon and we high-tailed it out of the city. We had an incredible time together. We had great weather, great food, and time to process and take a step back from the madness for a second. Minus Mariah pooping in the beautiful pool (which was mortifying I can assure you), our trip was nearly perfect and I’m so thankful.

We’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to make a little getaway a family tradition each time we transition a foster child out of our home. Sort of a way to process and reconnect with each other. It was a quick, three-day trip, but it did wonders for our souls.

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So many answers…

Just a quick update because A LOT has happened in the last week. God has been showing off these last few days which is giving us a lot of peace.

  • Saturday we were able to meet the beautiful family that J will go to live with. I was pretty anxious, but we were so surprised to find out that they weren’t complete strangers! They actually went to high school with Albin  :). So not only were they a wonderful family, but we’ll also be able to keep in regular contact with them to know how our sweet baby is doing. He will go to live with them this Saturday, but we have so much peace now. I LOVE seeing God’s hand.
  • There was some confusion about when we would be able to fly home because of a check we needed from Al’s employer. We heard from HR and were given the green light for them to deposit into his account rather than him needing to go and pick up the check…which means we will be able to fly home in time for some family events we really wanted to be home for.
  • Since we had the green light from work, I started seriously looking for flights. I’ve been searching for the last couple months and was anticipating to pay around $1000 for all three of us to fly home. I prayed in the morning that God would make it incredibly obvious which day we should fly and later that day I found a great flight that was half as much. I spent $540 for all three of us to fly home. Just huge.
  • As a lot of you know, we’re still in the process of selling our house. We really want to sell it before we leave, but we also felt like we should buy our tickets for September- so we bought our tickets in faith that God will sell our house in His perfect time. We hadn’t heard much over the last few weeks, but in the last four days we have had four showings (two of those with the same family because they wanted to see it again!). No one has made an offer yet, but we know at least two of those families were extremely interested, so please pray that they would make an offer so we can close on the house by mid-September.

In short, this week has been encouraging and peace-giving. Even in regards to selling our our furniture and finding a dog flight kennel for cheap (which is not easy in CR), God has been aligning this thing for us in incredible ways. There was never any doubt that God was guiding this process, but it is doubly- exciting when He shows off.

So that’s where we’re at. We have about a month to finish everything up and say goodbye. Obviously there are a lot of mixed feelings, but man, its a relief to know a Sovereign God has it all in His hands.

Saying Good-Bye to our Fuzzy Foster Baby

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The fostering agency we work with asked us to create a photo album to document the last nine months we’ve had with our foster son. As I was looking for quotes to put in the album, I came across the one above and it stuck with me because soon we’ll be saying good bye to our fuzzy foster baby. He is almost 10 months old now and we’ve had him since birth. The tiny, premature, five pound little bundle that was handed to me nine months ago is now a thriving and happy baby ninja who literally does not stop moving and surprises us every day with his stealthiness. Of all the countries and islands and babies in the world, we were given him. It has truly been a privilege.

Over the next week or so, he will be transitioning to another family as we are not allowed to bring him to the U.S. and as I mentioned previously, Costa Rican Social Services doesn’t allow foster families to adopt (of course we tried). As I prepared his album, I was thinking about what a privilege it was to have spent these last nine months with him. It hasn’t always been easy, and it most definitely won’t be easy to see him go, but God allowed us to meet him and raise him for this period of time on purpose. Of all the babies and all the families, somehow we ended up together and I pray that the time we had with him created a foundation in him that will set him up for blessing in the future.

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There are a lot of emotions surrounding saying good bye, but most of all we’re thankful for and humbled by the privilege of being a part of J’s life.  Many people make comments about how he should be ours and how unfair it all is, but truly, he never was ours. God entrusted him to us for a time and God is far more aware of J’s care than we are. So we entrust him back into the hands of the perfect Father, knowing that God is more than able to guard what was always His anyway.

Of course it’s a struggle. We knew it was going to be hard when we signed up to foster. Naturally it is heartbreaking to give him up, but it is more than worth it. It is far more important that J learn how to form an attachment than it is for our family to protect ourselves from the pain of losing that attachment. Rather than laying in a crib all day in an orphanage, he was a part of a family that taught him how to love and be loved. In all sincerity, we didn’t always have perfect attitudes and we definitely had days we were exhausted and questioned why we volunteered to foster, but there were far more good days than bad. We know he’s too little to remember us, but we know that the rocking him in the middle of the night, the physical therapy we gave him several times a day, the word of God being read to him at bedtime, and the love showered on him by us and those around us have profoundly stimulated his physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development.

So we have a lot of peace. We’re reminded that life isn’t about us. It’s about Him. If He asks us to receive a newborn and then give that baby up ten months later, we will. If He asks us to move to another country with only a vague idea of what He is calling us to, we will. We trust that God has all of this in His hands and that He has incredible and unimaginable plans for both J and our family. We can move forward knowing that while we didn’t do everything perfectly, we did our best to do what God asked us to do and walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:5-6). We have learned so much, grown in incredible ways, opened our hearts and our home, died to ourselves over and over again, laughed a lot, cried a little, loved well, and have tried to bring a little more of God’s kingdom to earth.

We love you and will miss you J!

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Fuzzy Farts in Church

My last post was so heavy with our loss that I’m in need of some comic relief … and today it comes from our fuzzy foster baby’s tiny butt during a church service.

But first, a question: Do all babies have the capacity to fart far louder than it would seem possible for their little bodies? Or is it just because the milk allergy has wreaked havoc on my kids’ poor intestines?

So Albin has always had a semi-irrational fear of Mariah letting out a huge, hairy fart in the middle of a sermon. He’s mentioned it to me quite a few times. Recently, that not-so-irrational fear was realized.

We were visiting a friend’s church for their baby’s dedication ceremony. During the service, one of our friends who was sitting two rows behind us came and asked to hold Fuzzy and I obliged but whispered an ominous warning about Fuzzy being a ticking time bomb due to his milk allergy.

About fifteen minutes into the sermon, the congregation had settled into a respectful silence as they digested the pastor’s words. Just as I started down the road of my own thoughtful pondering, I was startled by the sound of a huge, sick-nasty fart ripping through the air. I immediately recognized that juicy, forceful, grown man-caliber flatulence as coming from 15 pound Fuzzy and I lost it. I instantly reverted back to the fifth grade version of myself and got the laughy-shakes. You know, the ones you can’t stop even if you try. I tried to do a sly glance back at my friends which proved to be a terrible decision because seeing her hold him away from her in case he were to blow made me laugh even more.

Just when I thought maybe I was just uber-sensitive to my own kid’s fart-noise and thought maybe not many people had noticed, Fuzzy let out his signature poop grunt that never fails to draw attention. And then of course, not one to disappoint, he reared again and forced out another grunt from the depths of his soul. At this point, I was a lost cause. I don’t know how the guy sitting in the row between ours kept it together, especially as I tried and miserably failed to be a respectable adult.

As I tried to compose myself, I heard my friend’s husband hissing, “Tricia, help!” I turned around and saw that as she held Fuzzy’s rear away from her white shirt, a stream of spit-up started flowing out of his other end. Now we were causing a scene. I grabbed my diaper bag and my kid and made for my escape while avoiding eye contact with anyone.

The best part: Albin wasn’t there. He had just taken Mariah out because she was also causing a scene (trying to grab the guy in front of us). No fear, as I passed Albin, I conveyed my stinky story and he also lost it.

Unfortunately, this church is still being built, so the service was actually being held outdoors in a big tent … which means there are currently no real toilets. No way in heck was I going to try to clean up the poop explosion in a sweltering porta-potty with no baby station.  I opted for our trunk. At least then I wouldn’t be subjected to Fuzzy’s stench AND the rest of the crowd’s Costa Rican sun-ripened waste rotting in the plastic latrine.

I had a “mom fail” and in my rush to get to church on time, I forgot to bring the little changing cover thing, so he had to be changed directly on the trunk fabric. Just as I laid him down in the back and got my adult on, I saw we had a full-blown explosion on our hands. There was poop up his back all the way to his neck. It was everywhere. The worst is when you have to take off their onesies after these explosions. The mess is hard to contain as you try to wiggle their squirming arms out of those tiny sleeves. And then you have to get it over their head without somehow pasting poop all over their shoulders and grazing their hair. By now, Fuzzy was wailing. He had poop all over every extremity (I failed getting his soiled pants off as well), and the more he wiggled, the more he rubbed his excrement deep into the trunk fabric and all over his body.

Just when I thought I had been completely defeated, the wind picked up and started blowing the poopy wipes all over the trunk and the baby. I started frantically grabbing the wipes, forgetting that the makeshift bathroom had no sink to wash my now poop-encrusted hands.

Somehow, I managed to change the baby into new clothes and clean up the trunk with half a box of wipes. I grabbed the sandwich-sized Ziploc bag we used for our toll coins, stuffed his clothes in and left them to steam in the back of our boiling car (puke). I put Fuzzy in the football hold since I wasn’t convinced the wipes had truly gotten the poo off my hands and trudged over to the porta-potty looking for some sort of running water source. I was a hot mess. I was sweating profusely (no surprise there) and flushed from the exertion. Near the outhouse, there was a man with a bucket of water who looked at me pitifully and tried to help by pouring water over my hands.

Needless to say, we left church early and Albin howled with laughter all the way home. It also goes without saying that I didn’t even try to salvage the steamed Ziploc baggy and its contents. To whoever lent me that shirt for him: sorry, not sorry, it went straight to the trash.

While poop explosions are nothing new for this mom of two kids with milk allergies, this one probably takes the cake for most despicable, but also the most hilarious. You might think we’re juvenile, but God knows there is nothing like a great poop story to give Albin and me a good soul-cleansing belly laugh.

 

Our Second Miscarriage

Life can feel unbelievably out of control sometimes. The trials of the last week arrived fast, unannounced, and unwelcomed–disrupting a somewhat peaceful season we were enjoying. It reminded me of swimming in a calm ocean when suddenly a dangerous undercurrent comes along and attempts to drag you away from the shore. When you try to stand up or swim to the safety of the beach, another wave comes and you barely have enough time to catch a breath before the next rolling wave threatens to pull you under. And then, just like that, it’s over and you’re left panting on the beach wondering what the heck just happened.

Ever since we received our newborn foster baby, I’ve suspected a milk allergy. Long story short and fast forward to four months later, I finally got a reference for him to have an appointment at the public children’s hospital. That day I went to pick up the reference and expected to quickly (well, as quickly as you can run an errand at a public healthcare institution in CR) make an appointment with the specialist for later in the week. After waiting in lines for about two hours (because you can’t call and make the appointment), a receptionist told me they had spoken with the doctor and felt the baby’s condition was serious and that he needed to be admitted. I was a little more than surprised and suddenly really nervous since they took him from me immediately for testing. The pediatrician had been telling me I was overreacting for four months and suddenly his condition was serious? Hours later, after explaining and re-explaining that he was a foster child and what that meant (fostering is very uncommon here), then filling out paperwork, he was assigned a bed and I called Albin and our social worker to tell them what was going on. I was so completely overwhelmed by the public hospital, the millions of questions in my second language, and the fact that I hadn’t had a chance to pee or eat all day. I was also a little concerned because my period was several days late and I was starting to feel a little “off.”

I had to go home that night, so I picked up a pregnancy test and we got a positive result. We were so excited but that literally topped off my emotional overload for the day and I passed out in five minutes. The next morning we were back at the hospital early and found out that the baby did have a milk protein allergy. Later in the day, he was discharged. Thanks to Socialism, our taxes covered his care and a prescription for 10 cans of extremely hypoallergenic formula that they will provide us with each month, which is a huge blessing because each small can costs roughly $50 each. We left tired and happy, and mildly concerned because I had experienced some light spotting that day.

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$50???

A few days later, the spotting had become more pronounced, so my doctor sent me for a blood test. As I am getting the blood drawn, Albin called and all I could hear him say above the sound of screaming babies was that our bathroom tub was leaking everywhere onto the laminate floors and concrete walls and that the plumber was taking a jackhammer  to the tub in order to be able to get to the leaking pipes. I rushed home to water and mud all over my floors, screaming kids, the insurance company calling, Albin running out to get something the plumber needed … all the while bleeding and fearing the worst.

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The black hole that was our bath tub…

The next day I received my blood results and my pregnancy hormone was low. My doctor said that either I was earlier in my pregnancy than I thought and experiencing implantation bleeding, or I was going to miscarry. She said there was absolutely nothing I could do.

That night, the mild labor pains started. My first miscarriage was before I had Mariah, so I didn’t know the pain I had was like labor contractions, but this time, there was no doubt. They started in my back, wrapped around my abdomen and pulsed down my legs. I sobbed in the shower as the pains gripped me and warned me about what was to come. The next morning, we lost the baby. Watching life pour out of you is absolutely crushing. Each contraction brought a rush of loss … physically, in the loss of blood and tissue, and emotionally, in the heartbreaking reality of death. While it was again an early miscarriage and my body was just doing what it was supposed to do with something needing to be expelled, I felt like my body was traitorous and I was devastated by its betrayal.

The next few days were foggy and I’m thankful that my mother-in-law could come and stay with us while I rested. A few days later, we had three appointments that were obviously providential in the way they were timed.

The first was a previously scheduled check-up for Mariah with the doctor who had attended her while she was in the NICU at birth. The doctor was gushing about how healthy Mariah was and how amazing her recovery had been. She reminded us how miraculous it was that Mariah has no residual side effects of that experience (thank you Father). I reflected on the night when I was told there was nothing we could do for Mariah and that we could possibly lose her. The situation was out of my hands.

The second appointment was for another blood draw to make sure my pregnancy hormone was gone and that my body had gotten rid of all the tissue. I reflected on how my doctor told me there was nothing I could do to save my unborn baby. The situation was out of my hands.

The third appointment was with the baby’s caseworker and we discussed the hospital stay, allergy, and also the status of our foster son’s case. I reflected on how God protected Him from a dangerous living situation, possible complications from a severe allergy, and how I had no control over his family, what will be decided with his case in the future, or over his health. The situation was out of my hands.

I felt those three appointments being on the same day was providential because all three situations clearly proved that I am not in control. As I thought through these things, I was overcome with a peace that can only come from God as He whispered to me: “These situations are in my hands.” Whether it’s my 16 month old daughter, my four month old foster son, or my tiny embryo just beginning to form, He holds them all in His hands.

Through my tears last week, God led me to a verse that I can’t remember reading before but I’m sure I have. It reads:

“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say “You are my God,” my times are in your hands … ” (Psalm 31:14-15)

I love this. This is peace that surpasses all understanding. My times are in God’s hands and I can completely trust  in Him. I also love the Spanish translation of this verse which says, “Mi vida entera está en Tus manos” which means, “my whole life is in your hands.

We are hurting and exhausted, but we are finding complete peace in the fact that God is trustworthy. We don’t need to despair, we have complete assurance that He is our God and that any wave that threatens to pull us under cannot stand against a God that holds our times in His hands.

 

 

What I Envisioned for My Life vs. Reality

This week I got a serious personal reality check when I was supposed to be giving some advice to a friend. As I typed a message out to her, I became increasingly aware of how close the topic hit home in my heart. She had written something about how it is difficult to submit our dreams, hopes, and desires to God’s authority.  As I told her what I thought she needed to do (i.e. surrender her dreams to God), I felt increasingly aware of my hypocrisy. 

I have so many goals, dreams, and desires. A lot of them are great, God-honoring, kingdom-bringing, world-changing desires. My problem is when God isn’t making those desires happen on my timetable, I feel discouraged, impatient, or frustrated. I know what I have envisioned for my life; but why does my reality not look like that? I put a lot of pressure on myself to do big things, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But while I’m fretting over what I’m not doing, I’m missing the joy I can have about the things I am doing. Sometimes I feel that if I’m not the president of World Vision, setting up tents in my backyard for refugees, AND adopting every child without a family in the world, I’m not doing anything. I start to minimize the ministry that I have to my daughter, our foster baby, my husband, and our neighbors. I feel like praying for my friends serving in ministries and supporting them financially isn’t enough and that I should be there fighting in the trenches with them.

And then God asked me … do you trust Me enough to surrender to My plans for your life?

My answer: yes, but Your plans involve me bringing total world peace, right?

So, my daughter is pretty strong-willed. She thinks her little 15-month-old self knows what is best. I love that kid more than life itself, which is why I don’t let her do everything she thinks is best (like sticking millipedes in her mouth. Yes, that happened). Sometimes I just randomly shout out, “I’m in charge here!” She then gives me that one going on sixteen adolescent look that says, “I got this, lady.”

Sometimes, I think that I probably sound like my 15-month-old when I’m talking to God. He’s telling me that He’s in charge and knows what best and I’m hollering back, “I GOT THIS!”

As I’ve prayed about this particular flavor of sin in my life, I’ve realized I need to surrender to His plans. For some people, those plans include being the president of World Vision, but am I going to be content if God’s plans for me are less-noticeable, not in-the-spotlight ministries? Will I submit to changing poopy diapers and be okay with not writing a book and saving every bicultural marriage today? Yes, because I’m realizing that those visions of grandeur need to be surrendered; that’s where true life is found. When I lay down my self-envisioned life, only then will I truly find the abundant life Jesus promises. Maybe my reality doesn’t look exactly how I thought it would look, but if I’m submitting to His plans, it will be exactly what God wanted for His kingdom. And really, at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Maybe someday soon I will adopt all the orphans, direct a global ministry, and house all of the refugees. But for now, I’m going to be faithful in what God has for me today.

“I found my life when I laid it down.” –Hillsong, “Touch the Sky”

 

 

 

Two Babies: Our New Normal

Not surprisingly, I haven’t had much time to blog over the last few weeks. Having a 13 month old and a one month old in the house has been a little time-consuming. It has been interesting being back to spit-up encrusted shirts and pulling the nightshift again. If I wasn’t a frumpy-frump before, I most definitely am now. In my head, long nights with a colicky newborn and long days with a mobile toddler justify my refusal to wear anything but yoga pants and never fixing my hair (and don’t even get me started about tweezing).

Also, I don’t know if it’s just in my head (or stuck in my nose), but I’m convinced our house smells like one huge sick-nasty diaper. Along with the smell, our house is now an unsightly obstacle course set with gates, clips, and locks in order to keep our curious daughter from trashing the place (even more). Oh, and the used baby bottles strewn throughout the house are reminiscent of a frat house after a drunken party (ex. I found one under the Christmas tree this morning).

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Don’t judge me for having a blow-up pool in my living room (Hannah).

When I do get out of the house, I’m amazed at the planning and strategy that it requires. I’ve been able to successfully cut down the number of hours it takes to get everyone fed, ready and out the door, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that while I once lived out of backpack for a year, I now have to pack twice as much gear to do some “quick” errands.

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Pure joy over peanut butter. She’s obviously my child.

Basically, I have a whole new respect for parents. The fact that some moms keep up with things like bathing themselves AND Pinterest is impressive.

Because I’d rather sleep than write, I’m going to jot down a few highlights from the last several weeks:

  1. Our fuzzy foster baby gained almost 2 pounds since coming to us a month ago (I told you we were chunky baby experts). His pediatrician is so impressed by how strong and healthy he is despite his prenatal circumstances. Praise Jesus.
  2. I have become a ninja when changing diapers. Baby boy parts cannot be trusted under any circumstances. #peeEVERYWHERE
  3. My mother in law has been a HUGE help to me and has even spent the night a few times. We have started to really work as a team and our relationship has been strengthened immensely through this.
  4. I’m starting to really enjoy watching how people curiously approach the subject of our babies’ ages. When we’re out in public, it’s almost a guarantee that someone will casually start a conversation for the sole purpose of finding out just how soon after Mariah’s birth Albin and I got back to making babies. I usually let them do the math in their heads before I mention the tiny one isn’t ours.
  5. I’ve spent somewhere around eight hours over the last two weeks waiting in the public health clinic lines to get fuzzy registered, screened, and checked up. Thankfully, this time around wasn’t nearly as complicated as it was with our first foster daughter since now the staff know how to handle temporary custody cases. I only had to go semi-postal on one miserable secretary that tried to override a doctor’s order in scheduling our next appointment (I still don’t know why she became so belligerent). I called her out and she became sickly sweet when she realized that I wasn’t some clueless foreigner and that I was doing a public service for a high-risk newborn. It’s rare that I’ll pull out my gringo directness on a Costa Rican, but when it comes to my kids…
  6. People have been incredibly generous with clothes and baby boy items. Friends, family, and even a Pharmacist from the free clinic have showered us with clothes and diapers. God bless.
  7. Sometimes I get in the fetal position and hold myself when both babies are trying to out-cry each other.

I can’t deny it’s been chaotic with two littles under 13 months, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Waiting in lines, dodging streams of urine, and fielding lots of curious questions are a small price to pay when I consider the privilege it is to get this little guy off to a healthy start in life. I am thankful that I can be a stay at home mom and love on these kids even if it’s not always pretty. I love falling into bed at night knowing that every ounce of my energy was spent loving on the precious lives God has entrusted to me. I know that we’re right where God wants us right now and that’s a good place to be.