Say It Like You Mean It: Adoption

Adoption

PHOTO SOURCE: Jonathan Leung (CC by 2.0); cropped, text added.

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Our Very Own

November is National Adoption Month, and I am so fortunate I have the honor to celebrate. Without adoption, I would not have been able to find the missing piece of our family. Every night I thank her for waiting for me and for giving me the opportunity to love her.

The unknown author of the poem below, sums up the experience perfectly…

You’re Now Our Very Own

You first came to us in an envelop
With letters, forms and such
Just two tiny little pictures
With nothing warm to touch.

You grew in our imagination
In our hearts and in our minds.
You brought us greater joy
Than we ever thought we’d find.

A phone call started labor pains
Which lasted ’til we met
Strangers brought together
A day we won’t forget.

You bloomed as you were planned
In our hearts, our lives, our home.
Our child of chance, of plan, of will
You’re now our very own.”

Author Unknown

To Be Called Brother

I often tell the Young One how happy I am that she completed our family.

Sister

First day with the new sister!

We were never meant to be a trio. The Hubs and I had a great plan to grow our family beyond that first little baby who came along 21 years ago. He was always supposed to be the Older One, not the Only. The Hubs, in particular, was looking for the entire backfield for a football team. I just wanted someone else to plan parties for and dress up in cute outfits.

Plans, however, have a way of changing despite our best efforts. That second pregnancy never happened. Instead of visiting doctors to talk about having babies, we ended up visiting doctors to talk about controlling and coping with Crohn’s Disease. Not long after my first major surgery, those doctors advised us that pregnancy would not be a good idea, and we adapted our vision of family to be momma, daddy, son and a doggy or two.

Years later, long after that little boy stopped asking for a brother or sister, the Hubs and I started to question this concept of three, and we realized that while the Hubs had earned the title “Dad”, and I was officially, “Momma”, our son would never be called “Brother”.

That, in part, was how the Hubs and I ended up in Russia almost seven years ago. During that trip, we met a little baby who needed a family, and that baby met a family that needed the last piece of its puzzle. It needed a daughter. It needed a sister. It needed to be complete.

November is National Adoption Month, and the 2014 theme is “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections”. That connection, according to childwelfare.gov, “is the longest lasting relationship most people have, longer than the parent-child or spousal relationship”. Sibling bonds, it says, are important to children’s development and emotional well-being.

I see this every time I see my children interact. Even though their age difference spans 14 years, they still have a relationship like none other. For example, the Young One does not ask me to play hide and seek with her. That game is reserved for her brother. When faced with a difficult challenge, she more often turns to her brother for guidance than to anyone else. He was the one who taught her to ride a scooter, play video games and to be brave enough to take the training wheels off her bike. For her brother, she will do anything…even *gulp* eat broccoli.

video game

The Older One instructing the Younger One in the ways of the xBox.

As for the one who went from being the Only to the Oldest, the concept of “sibling” didn’t come without complaint. Sleeping past 9:00 am was no longer an option; neither was having the house to himself when his parents were away. His responsibilities grew along with his new-found knowledge of diapers, and he quickly learned that “brother” is often synonymous with “babysitter”.

He also scored some unexpected bonuses when he gained a little sister.  Suddenly, he had little hands reaching for his, eyes  looking at him in wonder, arms wrapping tight around his neck and a little voice whispering “‘nigh’ nigh'” at the end of the day. He also had a reason to let his boyish ways creep back into his life. He could laugh at the funny parts of the movie, roll around on the floor and make funny faces. It’s okay for a teenager to be a kid when there’s another kid in the house.

I’m happy my children found each other. They each have so much to share with the other and a connection that compares to nothing else. With her adoption into our family my daughter gave my son the chance to be called “brother”, and in return, my son gave my daughter unconditional love.

My Courtroom Drama

The courtroom was smaller than I had expected. I had never been summoned to jury duty, subpoenaed as a witness or charged as a defendant, so my only frame of reference was the spacious and well-lit judicial proceeding rooms depicted on Law and Order.

The room I found myself in six years ago did not gleam with polished woodwork. Its wooden benches and railings were scarred and scuffed with years of worried tapping and shuffling.

St. Peter's Cathedral

Not all buildings and rooms in Russia were created with such elaborate design.

Instead of well-waxed tile, the floor was made of cold cement painted a dull gray that matched the industrial cinder block walls. As I looked at the black scuffs on the six feet of walkway leading from the door at the back of the room directly to the witness box, I wondered about the people who had made those clumsy marks and what their fate had been following the ruling from the judge who sat at the opposite end of the narrow room.

She was dressed in black robes, like the prestigious judges on my favorite TV dramas, but her seat of honor didn’t look much more comfortable than my own straight-backed, hard, wooden chair. Her position apparently did not afford her the high-backed, padded and leather-upholstered executive chair of Hollywood legal thrillers. It looked more like the heavy slat-backed seat reserved for those on the wrong side of the interrogation table.

I could barely see her–the woman who would make such an important decision for me.  The witness box was made for someone much taller, and the top of its ledge reached above my shoulders as I sat behind it, nervously fingering the evidence I’d brought along.

The Hubs had a better view from the box in his seat to my right. He’s a good ten inches taller than me, so he had no problem seeing the rest of the courtroom–the empty jury box to the left and the long desk belonging to the person who would record every word of the conversation to follow.

The problem came when we had to squeeze a third person into the small box with us. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do this without our interpreter, though, so we slid our chairs closer together and made room.

Finally the time had come.  The judge read from a document in front of her, and I faintly heard her say something that sounded like a question. The interpreter leaned close and whispered the question in a more familiar language. The Hubs answered with the response we had rehearsed the night before.

After 20 minutes of question/interpret/answer/interpret, I was finally asked for my evidence–a thin book of photographs. I walked toward the judge, handed her the pictures and watched silently as she flipped from one to the other.

After another indecipherable statement, we were led from the courtroom to the equally dreary hallway and another hard wooden bench. There we waited and tried not to think about what we would hear when we saw the judge again.

Soon the door opened and we were led inside once more. I watched the judge in front of me read more papers.  When she finally started speaking, the Hubs grabbed my hand.

“It is my decision,” I heard the interpreter parrot, “that these people will be able to provide a better life for this child in the United States than she will have as an orphan in Russia. I grant the request for adoption.”

With that, the judge closed the file and walked from the room. I stared at the Hubs, and together we asked the interpreter, “That’s it?”

She smiled and nodded. “That’s it,” she said. “She’s yours now. You have a daughter. Congratulations.”

With those words, that lackluster courtroom in Kemerovo, Russia, never looked brighter. I finally had a daughter, and today, we are celebrating six years of Forever Family.

Happy Family Day, Young One! Thanks for waiting for me.

**Today’s post was written as response for Blogging University Writing 101 day two assignment: A Room With A View (or Just a View).

Picture It Tuesday: Brother

One of my favorite stories about my daughter’s adoption is not so much about how she found her way into our family, as it is about how my son learned to be a brother.

He came home from school not long after I ended a phone call with our adoption coordinator confirming the court date to finalize the adoption. He sprawled himself on the middle of the living room floor and told me about his day. The school year was winding down, and he was excited to no longer be a high school freshman. His world was full of summer plans and football camp.

I let him tell me his news, and then I hit him with mine. “You’re finally going to be a big brother. What do you think?”

He was quiet for a moment, then sighed, “I wish I could tell you I’m excited, but I’m not.”

When I asked him why, I thought his answer would be pretty obvious. He had been an only child for 14 years. He would be completely justified in his hesitancy to share his parents this late in the game. He shocked me, however, when he finally put words to his worries. “I’m just afraid I’ll do something wrong.”

I smiled and reassured him I would help him learn the way of all things baby, thinking about diaper changes and basic baby sitter skills. Almost six years later, I can look back and realize he didn’t need much help stepping into his new role of big brother.

He was a pro at coloring inside the lines as well as encouraging self-expression with a little color outside too…

coloringHe knew and eagerly shared the art of the perfect snowball…

snowballHe helped her see she could have just as much fun building a castle out of sand…

sand castle…as she could building a tree house out of Legos….

Lego…and after the hard work was done, he showed her how to kick up her feet and take a break….

relaxationMost recently, he has mentored her as she learns to turn up the pressure to take down her virtual opponents….

video gamesand how to be stealthy when real ones are lurking behind the corner….

Nerf battleMost of all, through all the coloring, the video games and the Nerf blaster battles, he’s taught her how to be a sister and what it means to be part of a family….

sisterHe has given her something no one else can–a brother, and in doing so, he has done everything right.

Visit of a Lifetime

Six years ago, I made my first visit to snow-encrusted Novokuznetsk–an industrial city in Russia’s western Siberia. I had spent the week prior, googling the temps in the area and trying to decide which of my heaviest sweaters would travel best in my suitcase. The Weather Channel promised me I could expect an actual temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit and wind chills that would plummet it to negative 50.

Baby Home #95, Novokuzketsk, Russia. January 24, 2008.

Baby Home #95, Novokuzketsk, Russia. January 24, 2008.

I would definitely need warm clothes, but soft ones…definitely soft ones. I wouldn’t want to wear wool or any scratchy synthetics for this visit. Cotton would work. That would be soft and comforting.

Bright colors too, red or bright pink or maybe even a contrasting color block pattern of white and black…anything to attract the eye and make it focus.

I carefully chose my softest, brightest, happiest clothing. I folded and rolled them and wedged them in the crevices among the toys, books, photographs, blankets and files filled to bursting with paperwork.

Soft sweater...check. Visual interest...check. Happy momma...check!

Soft sweater…check. Visual interest…check. Happy momma…check!

That visit six years ago was the most important visit the Hubs and I had ever made. A visit half a world away where we would finally meet our child. After weeks of looking lovingly at a single photograph, we would finally hold her close…so the clothing she would feel against her baby cheek needed to be soft like a mother would wear.

She would finally see us, and I needed her to focus on the strangers in the room…to look at us and see brightness and happiness and the joyful wonder as we looked back at her.

That first visit to Baby Home #95 in Novokuzknetsk, Russia, was everything I ever imagined meeting my daughter would be. It was cold. It was foreign. It was exhausting. It was happy. It was heartbreaking. It was the visit of a lifetime.

Five Minute Friday**This post was brought to you today by Five Minute Friday and the word “visit”. I’ve been participating in FMF for about a year and a half, and this is the third time, I’ve opened my email to find a prompt that was made for me. Today is the sixth anniversary of the day the Hubs and I met our daughter during our first of two adoption visits to Russia. I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I’m extremely happy today’s word inspired me to tell you about it. If you’d like to see how fast you can write a blog post, check out Lisa-Jo Baker’s site every Friday. Maybe you’ll find a word meant for you too!

zero-to-hero-badge**With today’s post I can also check off the latest Zero to Hero assignment to participate in a blogging challenge.

The Re-Resolution of Stiletto Momma

2014…Day Two. The Christmas decorations are wrapped and boxed again. The bushes lining the house are dark as their formerly twinkly lights are extinguished for another season.

People are returning to their pre-Christmas carol, pre-gift giving lives of work, school and business as usual. “Merry Christmas!” has been replaced with “Happy New Year!” followed shortly thereafter with, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”

Resolution? Hmmmm…

I am rarely able to come up with a resolution much sooner than 11:59 p.m. on December 31st. I’m too exhausted from all the party planning, menu making and present wrapping to think beyond the current holiday much less think about how I want to change my life starting at the stroke of midnight.

Then I’m faced with the inevitable failure of actually keeping the resolution. The minute I resolve to get back in the gym, I want a nap. If I resolve to eat a healthy diet, I will immediately start craving Reese cups.

I have never experienced the thrill of successfully achieving a resolution…until January 1, 2012 when I wrote and published the inaugural post of a little blog named after my alter ego, Stiletto Momma. In that post I resolved to simply “Do Something New.”

Yes, it is very open ended and non-commital, but at the time I also threw out a few possibilities like learning photography and Photoshop. I did buy a good camera that year…in September. I haven’t learned to use it beyond what I read in the first half of the instruction manual, and about the only thing I can do in Photoshop is look at my pictures. I suppose that counts, but just barely.

I mentioned one other possibility in that New Year’s post two years ago.  “I’ll start a blog,” I wrote, and because I typed those words and clicked the “Publish” button, I was a successful resolutioner in the very first hours of the new year! Counting this post, I have gone on to write and publish 64 posts as Stiletto Momma–warrior of all things maternal, corporate and pointy-toed!

When 2013 rolled around, I knew exactly what my resolution would be.

Do Something New!

However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, 2013 was a witch of a year and a wicked one at that.  I couldn’t get around to deciding what “new” was going to be, so I stayed with what was working, and I blogged some more. Pretty soon I was blogging about what was really on my mind–my ongoing battle against Crohn’s Disease.

thegreatbowelmovement.org

My prize pack from TheGreatBowelMovement.org gave me everything I needed to raise IBD awareness in 2013.

In my quest for answers and information, I ran across what has turned into one of my favorite websites, www.thegreatbowelmovement.org, which has been making Crohn’s and Colits (the two forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease) cool since 2010. The founders of this non-profit encourage patients and caregivers to talk about their diseases in an effort to raise awareness. They even sent me a cool prize pack complete with intestine socks and an “Ask Me About My Crohn’s Disease” hoodie.

My 2013 “new” turned out to be writing about something that has been a part of me for almost 25 years. I may have lost some readers who weren’t interested in learning about the woes of a sick person, but embracing a new mission of raising awareness for something I know quite a lot about encouraged and empowered me in a time when I needed to feel strong.

With two successful resolutions under my belt, I’m ready to declare the 2014 version. Any guesses on what it might be?

DO SOMETHING NEW!

That’s right. I’ve decided on a new “new”, and if you’ve been following along for the past few months you could very well have an idea of what it might be.

I am a writer. There, I said it. I am a writer and this year, I intend to write with more dedication and purpose than I have in a long time.

I have a master’s degree in journalism, but outside of internships during college, I have never worked in the field. Maybe I was just waiting around for the blogosphere and digital publishing to be born. Whatever the reason, I graduated from Penn State with a journalism degree and immediately took a job in marketing.

The next one was in fundraising (another form of marketing). When I tried technical writing next, I found my skills were wasted writing about boring things like databases, and moved back to marketing. I had found myself a niche, and that’s where I’ve stayed for over 20 years. I was a marketer with writing skills.

keyboard

The Hubs gave me this cute little keyboard for my iPad–perfect for a blogging resolution.

Now, I want to be a writer who knows how to market herself. You can expect to see more of Stiletto Momma in 2014. I will soon be launching a Facebook page, and I might even start Tweeting. If you’re lucky, you could get a glimpse into this impressive shoe collection I’ve been hinting at. We could even do a contest or two!

I’m starting this blog re-energizing effort with the WordPress Zero to Hero program where my favorite blogging platform will give me a daily task for blog improvement during the month of January. Today’s task is to introduce myself to my readers. If I’ve done my job, you should have been able to pick up a few nuggets of me from the above ramblings, but in addition to being a chronically ill writer who markets (or a marketer who writes) and makes unoriginal New Year’s resolutions, I am:

  • a momma to two amazing children–a six-year-old tomboy and a 20-year-old all-American boy.
  • an adoptive momma to that six-year-old who was born in Russia and became a US citizen five years ago.
  • an Army momma since the 20-year-old is a cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point. (Go Army!)
  • a football momma because that cadet also plays on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights and has been working toward that goal since he was five years old. (GoArmy!)
  • a football wife because the Hubs played football at Penn State once upon a time, coached our son for most of his football career and will accomplish seemingly impossible tasks to avoid ever missing a Penn State Nittany Lion game or a Pittsburgh Steeler game.
  • a doggy momma to the Furry One and the Fluffy One who, like the rest of the family, have clever pseudonyms in this blog because it is my choice to blog about them, not theirs, and they deserve a little bit of anonymity.
  • a fairly decent home cook whose specialty is anything her son requests and anything her picky daughter will eat.
  • a lover of shoes and all things fashion.

I am Stiletto Momma, and I resolve to make 2014 blogtastic for everyone!

What’s your resolution…or un-resolution…or re-resolution?

Calling All Superheroes

As the Hubs and I were standing at the base of Adoption Paperwork Mountain, we were posed a fairly simple question.

“What is the gender of the child who is meant to be yours?”

My princess two Halloweens ago.

My princess two Halloweens ago.

Unlike biological parents, we were granted the choice of son or daughter. The Hubs, ever the football coach, dreamed of another boy who would call him out of youth football coaching retirement.

I, on the other hand, dreamed of bows and ribbons and sparkly things such as I could only pine for as I waded through endless department store racks of baby girl dresses in search of the lonely shelves in the back of the store reserved for the corduroy and tweed of boy’s wear. I wanted someone to play dress up with and little pink polished fingers into which I could pass my beloved dollhouse.

After a relatively brief discussion, we settled on forever being parents to only one of each. We already had our boy, so I eagerly checked the box next to “Female,” and eighteen months later I embraced my daughter for the very first time.

Since then, she has had flashes of extreme girliness–the summer she refused to wear anything but sundresses to pre-school, the Halloween she chose Belle as her princess of choice, and that first glorious post-adoption year when she protested loudly if I dared to dress her without her beloved shoes. Yes! Shoes!

Recently, however, we are both beginning to see what her future holds, and much to the sorrow of my stiletto-loving heart, it does not include beauty pageants and dance classes. For as much as she enjoys and excels at her gymnastics lessons, the desire she most frequently expresses is, “When will Daddy sign me up for football?”

My hero!

My hero!

When awarded for good behavior with a selection from the classroom prize chest, she passes over the shiny purple rings in favor of plastic green Army men. Halloween saw the demise of the princess and the rise of the Pink Power Ranger complete with boots and laser gun.

She now confidently answers that age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with, “I want to be a police cop! I want a taser and suction cups!” (Through a series of entertaining charades, I soon realized what she wants more than suction cups to restrain her villains is a shiny set of hand cuffs.)

Now, on a nightly basis, I hear chorus after chorus of, “I wanna be a boy!”

I tell myself this is just another phase of childhood when I gently ask, “Why do you want to be a boy?”

“Because,” she declares with a stamp of her foot, “boys can run and play football and chase bad buys, and girls can’t!”

What?

WHAT!

Who told my baby she couldn’t run just as fast as a boy? Who said she can’t play football if she wants? Who dared  tell my child she can’t be a bad ass if that is who she wants to be?

Certainly not me.

Kid-inspired homemade spy gadgets.

Kid-inspired homemade spy gadgets.

While I diligently apply my gel nails bi-weekly and stock my closet with the latest pointy-toed fashion, I know she may not grow up to have the same interests. But I walk tall in my stilettos and stand confident in my surroundings, and that is most definitely how I want my daughter to see herself. If her idea of strong and confident is a gun on her hip and cleats on her feet, I’ll do anything in my power to help her achieve those dreams.

Society (ie. Nickelodeon, Disney, Toys R Us and Amazon.com) does not seem to be quite as encouraging. My daughter needs a hero–a girl hero with brains, brawn and probably a weapon or a super secret special power. Somebody give me a female icon for my child to emulate.

I’ve walked toy store miles in my quest for positive female role models who don’t wear party dresses and drive pink convertibles. I have flashbacks to my previous department store disappointments with my son as I scan the action figure row hoping to spy Wonder Woman or GI Jane.

The Pink Power Ranger as body guard to the Disney Princesses!

The Pink Power Ranger as body guard to the Disney Princesses!

My successes have been few–a pink Power Ranger action figure to complement her Halloween costume and the Spy Kids movies featuring a girl and her vast array of cool spy gadgets. Meager though they are, these gifts have brought a sparkle to her eye and a spark of fantasy to her game-play. I have also been impressed to see the new line of girl-themed Nerf blasters on the shelves this holiday season, and I can’t wait to see the Young One’s face when she unwraps her very own plastic cross bow in a few weeks.

This search for the perfect hero for my daughter recently led me to ask her if she could watch a movie or a TV show or read a book about a girl, what would it be about.

“She’ll be a superhero,” she tells me with a gleam in her eye and a smile on her lips. “She’ll wear a cape and fly and make fire, and she’ll beat the bad guys!”

“Oh, yeah,” I say, smiling along and taking notes. “And what will her name be?”

“That’s easy, ” she says. “It’s the same as mine.”

She’s right. She will be the superhero–one to whom I will gladly have defend my dollhouse, my real house and the future of the free world.  Now all I have to do is make sure she believes it as much as I do.

Help me find a super hero for my daughter. What are your favorite girl-power books, movies and toys?

Top 10 Momma-Can’t-Stop-Smiling Moments of 2012

Sometimes I don’t even realize it’s there until I notice my cheeks are sore. It starts with a glimpse of something–a person, a picture, words on a page, a text message.

It starts with an upturning of lips, then a thump of the heart as the grin widens to a full-on smile–the kind that puts a twinkle in the eye and makes the heart feel larger in the chest.

That’s a Momma-can’t-stop-smiling moment, and as I reflect on the year that is nearing its end, I’d like to share those moments that have made my top ten.

1. The Older One Realizes His Dream. Watching your child’s dream come true is a humbling experience. Years ago, I treated the Older One to dinner at the local Chinese restaurant. I watched his face light up when he cracked his fortune cookie open at the end of the meal. I wanted to know what could cause such joy in a 14-year-old, so I asked what his fortune was. “‘Your greatest dream will come true,'” he read.

“What’s your greatest dream?” I asked.

“To play Division I football.”

I wasn’t surprised. Since he won his first city championship at age six, football had been his passion, and in October, his dream came true when he took to the field and played his first downs for the Army Black Knights.

I cheered from the stands and smiled through the whole five minutes of game-play. My cheeks still hurt 30 minutes later.

football

Check out #55…His dream is coming true.

2. The Young One Finds Her Sport. After the Hubs and I started the paperwork to adopt a girl from Russia, I began planning her after-school activities. She wasn’t even born yet, but I knew she would be an athlete–at least that’s what I hoped for her.

Playing a sport is a source of self-confidence, and above all else, I want my daughter to believe in herself, to feel strong and capable, and to be confident. She found all those things this year on the soccer field.

She out-ran the boys with an effortless stride. She stole the ball from the opposing team with a relentless desire to win, and she beamed like an angle with each goal.

I captured sheer joy on my camera, and I now know we have many more soccer games in our future.

Happy

That’s a confident, happy little girl!

3. Twenty Years and Counting. In September, the Hubs and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. I’ve been able to spend half my life with my best friend by my side. We’ve watched our son grow into a remarkable young man, and we’ve survived the painful reality of infertility when we found our daughter on the other side of the world. We’ve grown, and we’ve changed. But we have done it together. I can’t help but smile about that.

4. Fifty Years and Counting. In 1962, a blizzard roared through western Pennsylvania on the eve of my parents’ wedding. Although my grandmother had to put chains on her tires before she could take my mom to the church, and my dad had to shovel more than a foot of snow from the church’s sidewalk, they still said “I do”.

50th anniversary

I do…again.

Two weeks ago, they said those words for the second time as they renewed their vows on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I smiled through my tears as my dad recited a poem about growing old together, and I understood that my 20 years of togetherness is nothing compared to the love these two amazing people share.

5. Adopting a Fluffy One. When I first saw the Fluffy One at the shelter, I knew she was meant to be a part of our family. After quizzing me on the type of canine we were looking for, the shelter attendant took me into the room reserved for small dogs and puppies. “I have the perfect dog for you,” she declared. “She just came in last week. I’ll warn you though…she’s a diva.”

I wanted to tell her another diva would fit right in at my house, but I refrained.

“We named her Audrey after Audrey Hepburn.” Seriously? You named her after one of my fashion icons!

“Oh, no,” she said as she opened the crate door. “Her papers need changed. Here,” she said, thrusting the ball of fluff into my hands, “Hold her while I clean this up.”

That’s all it took. I filled out the application before I left, then called the Hubs from the car to tell him I’d found our doggie.

Fluffy One

She’s not Audrey anymore, but she’s still a diva!

6. Furry Plays Again. The dog toy box had remained untouched for almost two years before we brought the Fluffy One home. The Furry One had stopped playing when he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

All that changed when Fluffy joined the family. Little by little we saw Furry change. He went from setting his boundaries with a gruff growl to watching with cautionary interest as Fluffy threw what used to be his toys in the air.

Almost three months later, he finally gave in. He pulled himself from the sofa and rolled on the floor with his new sister. His growls are playful. His tail is wagging, and Momma is happy to have two puppies in the house again.

Furry One

The Furry One doesn’t hang out in his bed quite as much any more!

7. Stiletto Momma Wears Out a Pair of Gym Shoes. Normally, the pumps give out before the trainers, but this year, I decided to not let my daily Crohn’s Disease symptoms keep me down. I got back in the gym. Three cardio sessions and at least two weightlifting classes each week since mid-January, and I have bi’s, tri’s and traps again!

8. Baking for Soldiers. I have sent 13 packages to Afghanistan and Iraq. Thirteen soldiers who are strangers to me have tasted my snickerdoodles. They have shared my care packages with their battle buddies and read my words of appreciation when I thanked them for their service. West Point Moms Bake is the organization that provides me the names of the men and women protecting our freedom, and participating in this effort has been the most fulfilling experience of my life.

Boxes

Two of my 13 care packages that have hopefully made a few soldiers smile.

9. Capturing Life Through a Lens. For our anniversary this year (the big two-oh mentioned above), the Hubs and I scrapped our plans for a weekend getaway, and opted instead to splurge on a digital SLR camera. Many of my can’t-stop-smiling moments have come from reviewing the hundreds of pictures I’ve snapped since September.

10. A Blogger is Born. I’ve been a writer since the sixth grade when I started to pen my first novel. I didn’t get much further than the first chapter, but it was the first of many attempts to record my imaginings. I’ve written short stories, essays, and a few poems. I’ve held internships that afforded me my first official byline and a portfolio of published pieces.

Life, however, sometimes gets in the way of dreams, and I put my journalism degree in a drawer when marketing jobs were easier to come by. This year, however, I returned to my own passion when Stiletto Momma was born.

I have recaptured the joy of writing…that amazing feeling of losing myself for a few hours and the immense feeling of accomplishment that comes from seeing my words in print.

I smile with each click of the “Publish” button, and I smile with each “like”, each follow notification and each comment from a reader.

Thank you, dear reader, for encouraging me on this journey and for making me smile on a regular basis.

This is what has made me smile in 2012, and I’m looking forward to sharing many more with you in 2013. What’s your favorite can’t-stop-smiling moment of the year?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Stiletto Momma

* This post was written for the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Challenge which tasked bloggers with writing a post to wrap up the year.

Roots In My Heart

Mine wasn’t the first face my daughter saw when she entered the world. It wasn’t the second or third or even the 100th face she looked at by the time she finally looked at mine in the over-warm visitors room of a 400-child orphanage in Novokuznetsk, Russia.

She probably looked at me and saw a strange lady with crazy curly orange hair. She probably heard my voice and was scared by the nonsense that came from my lips.

She must have been confused by the hugs of strangers.

And what did she think when her caregivers explained to her in her native language that soon she would fly across the ocean to live with a new family, learn a new language and live in a new culture?

family

Me and the Hubs with the Young One outside Baby Home 95 in Novokuznetsk, Russia, on “Family Day”–the day we officially adopted the Young One into our family!

Four years later, she tells me with a proud smile that she was a baby in Russia. In the next breath, she states quietly that she didn’t grow in my belly like her big brother.

She knows she was adopted, but at five, she doesn’t comprehend entirely what that means for her.

In a few more years, I fully expect her to ask me who her “real” mother is. What did she look like? What did she do for a living? Did she have more kids? Are there other children in this big world who could be her siblings?

I won’t have the answers for her. I know very little about her birth mother other than her name, her age at the time of the birth and the fact that she gave me the greatest gift a woman can give another.

I can tell my child about her nationality, the country of her birth, the town where she was placed for adoption and the story of how I came so far to find the daughter I always wanted.

I have few details to give my child on her origins, but when she asks those questions, I will be sure to hold her close and tell her that her roots are in my heart, and they have been growing there since I first saw her face.

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Today’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “Roots”. This had special mean for me. What does it say to you? Join us on Lisa-Jo Baker’s site and tell us.