Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Eve Vigil

Christmas Eve is always the highlight of the Christmas season for me. It's the part I look forward to and remember the most. I love sitting with my family in the vigil mass, surrounded by beautiful decorations, listening to beautiful music, and remembering what it is all about. It has become more special to me each year that I've had my children.

The first year that Kirsten came into our lives, we had to jump through a lot of hoops to have a legal right to "unsupervised visits" (which was really stupid since I was her teacher and was the one supervising her all day long... but that's another post). We were allowed to take her to our home for the first time on 12/23/04. From that day forward we began picking her up before 8 am each day and keeping her until 8 pm when she had to go to bed. (We were not allowed to keep her overnight at that time.) I will never forget taking her for a "church dress" that first Christmas Eve, holding her during the mass, and watching her wide eyes glow in wonder. Something happened to me during that mass. It was a moment that was bigger than me and one I can't really put into words.

It seems that our blessings multiply each year, and this mass is a time I always reflect and give thanks. This year was no different. I thought I might burst with pride (No, not when Matthew threw himself down in the center aisle of the chruch... not when I, literally, put my hand over Danny's mouth to hush him during the homily) when my little girl played the role of Mary during the gospel's reading.

When I was in second grade, my teacher announced that someone from our class would be crowning Mary during a May service. She explained that she would draw a name from a hat that evening. I'm pretty sure I'm the only child who couldn't sleep that night. The anticipation I had over the announcement is indescribable. I raced to class the next morning and immediately asked Mrs. Volker who she had chosen. I remember her hesitating and answering that she drew Andrea L's name. I also remember my eyes burning with hot tears. It was one of those moments of true, childhood raw emotion. I was heartbroken. Within seconds Mrs. Volker suggested that I could help Andrea... there was no reason that two of us couldn't walk down the aisle. (She was a good woman :) Then, I somehow convinced Andrea to carry the roses but to let me place the crown of flowers on the statue's head. (I don't think she really cared... but I sure did!) It was a moment that I'll never forget.

That's how I felt at the vigil mass. I doubt it was as important to Kirsten as it was to me, but I am grateful for the beauty of the moment.

Kirsten was reverent, graceful, and beautiful. I was grateful to be so blessed.

Winter Wonderland

...doesn't that sound like a perfectly magical name for a Christmas post? Ha.

When I read it I "wonder" why in the world we kept the kids up past their bedtimes on purpose. I "wonder" what overcame my sweet, little Matthew (formerly known as 'Angel Baby') when he threw the fit of all fits on the way home that night. I "wonder" why my boys tried to burst through the Santa line (for almost 45 minutes straight!) and then refused to go anywhere near him when it was there turn!

And I wonder why I'm sitting here with a huge grin, remembering that ridiculous night so fondly.

The night started off with a lot of potential. Isn't Danny adorable? Don't you love the Christmas sweater and shorts?

This was definately a Florida-style winter wonderland! The shorts were proudly worn while "glice skating". You northerers can keep your cold we don't need it!

The boys were totally entranced with Santa's reindeer.

K Love and the big guy

Me... trying to make a "moment". The boys were not going to have it. Oh well, it still makes me smile :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kirsten's Koncert (forgive me... I love alliteration a little too much)

Kirsten has continued taking violin lessons at school this year and she joined the Glee Club! (I will update this post at some unknown later date. The camera I was using had a broken zoom lens. -I got a new camera for Christmas!! Thanks Mom and Dad!- luckily Don took pictures using his zoom... unfortunately I can't find five minutes to download the pictures he took... but I will... at some unknown date/time :)

Here are the highlights (minus zooming).

Kirsten with her silly, fake, pink rose (it played music... she's easy to please).

Kirsten's glee club performance. (Pretend this is the zoomed version... at least try to pretend!) Do you see her in the front? Right in the center? Holding the microphone? Yup... that's her. How she managed to get the mic I don't know... but it's a typical Kirsten move. She is not afraid of the spotlight!

My girl :) (Violinists are supposed to wear black and white. They don't make many children's clothes in black... we tried!)

An Oreo celebration!! ...can't you just feel the sugar high?

It was a great night. I love watching Kirsten perform... she's really in her element when she is center stage.

Will You Do Me A Favor?

Will you (please!) stop what you are doing right now and say a prayer for Matt and Danny's BFF? I feel ridiculous posting this. The six people reading this are probably already praying but it just doesn't feel right doing anything "normal" right now. I have complete faith that he will be okay. I really do... but my heart is breaking for his mother, my very dear friend, one of my very favorite people. I don't know what she is going through... but I can imagine and it makes me cry.

I know he will be okay... but I'll feel better knowing everyone in my life is praying for him... and when he is okay (and when his awesome mom gives me the "go ahead" to make their lives public) I will update with the happy ending of this story.

Thank you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Preschool Christmas Program

Since the boys were born (or more accurately since they were just a wish and a prayer) I've dreamed of their preschool Christmas program. When Kirsten moved in with us she began going to the most wonderful little church preschool imaginable. Really. I love it so much. She began attending the school in November and in early December took part in their Christmas program. It was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen. Tiny, little children singing songs about God, quoting scriptures, and surrounded in love.

When I filled out the boys' registration forms (a year early!) visions of them dressed in their holiday best filled my head. While I cried in my van after dropping them off on their first day I imagined how happy we would be at their Christmas celebration. I know it sounds like I'm being sappy and exaggerating but I'm not... I've looked forward to this that much!

...So you can imagine my disappointment when Danny came down with a stomach flu four days before the program. Of course, I was much more concerned with his health than the show! (He was REALLY sick... there was some question about if he would need to be hospitalized.) The day before the program we had the okay from the doctor for him to attend... I kept studying Matt... would he ward off the germs? The answer was no. BUT he would not succumb to uncontrollable vomiting until the day AFTER the program. Thatta boy! :)

I love this picture of my little loves heading out to the church.

The boys sang "Mary Had a Baby Boy", "Christmas Bells Are Ringing", and "Jesus Loves Me". It was absolutely precious. They were on opposite sides of the stage which made photos tricky (I'm sure there was a reason for this though... they were both nervous going into the church and tend to work each other up...)

This is what Matt did for most of the program. Sit on the stage, make silly faces at Ms. Michelle, and play with his tie.

Danny sang every word and did every motion!

My sweet baby blue eyes (Danny)

After the show everyone crammed into the lunchroom to celebrate with cookies and punch.

Daddy's boys

I love this picture. This is Northeast Park Preschool's past (Kirsten), future (Isaac and Noah) and present (Matt, Danny, Malia, and Dylan). I can't believe all these kids are ours!

It was all I'd hoped for and more... such a celebration of beautiful children, a loving church and school, and all our blessings.

Breakfast With the Big Guy

We look forward to our annual Breakfast with Santa at church each year. We enjoyed a pancake breakfast, fun holiday crafts, and a visit with the man in red!

Danny chowing down on some good food!

The boys were thrilled to see Santa. They couldn't wait for their turn (trying over and over to cut ahead of the line!). However, when their turn came Matt clung to me and Danny cried. Typical. They were so excited and curious though... this was the best photo we could get.

Our family shot for the day

Our pretty little one enjoying some playground time after church :)

It Wouldn't Be "Turkey Bowl" If There Weren't Lingering Medical Bills

The weekend before Thanksgiving Brian, his brothers, and friends played their annual Turkey Bowl.

The highlights:
- A play Brian designed won a Sports Illustrated Flag Football contest and we are getting a new 32" high definition tv

- The kids were adorable

- It was a great time to visit with everyone (we just never get to do that these days!)

Grandpa and his girls :)

Danny and Daddy

Daddy's biggest cheerleader

The lowlights:
- Matt was in a BAD mood. There was a lot of crying and I pulled something in my elbow (that is STILL not better!) lugging Mr. Cranky around all day.

- We forgot to bring the pies to the post- Turkey Bowl BBQ. We had an excellent explanation for this oversight... but I don't think we'll ever live it down.

- Brian went into renal failure and spent 7 hours in the emergency room.

...Overall what you'd expect from a Turkey Bowl.

Can't you just see the angry, little "where is our pie?!?" looks?

"Daddy are you sure you just need water? You don't look so good?"

...And Brian being carted off for an MRI on a stretcher. (He's looking relaxed because they gave him A LOT of morphine).

...Apparently it's REALLY important to not get dehydrated. Organs need water. A lot. If they don't get enough water they just stop working. Then you have entire body muscle cramps for hours, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea, intense pain, high medical bills, and renal failure. Not good.

National Adoption Day

After our family celebration of "Forever Day", Kirsten and I had the opportunity to celebrate the big day with the Heart Gallery.

This year I joined the Junior League of St. Petersburg. One of the community events we sponsored was a celebration at Great Explorations for new adoptive families. I signed up as quickly as possible and asked if it would be appropriate for Kirsten to come with me. (I am always looking for good volunteer opportunities for her. I struggle between wanting to teach her empathy and gratefulness but not wanting to expose her to the "bad" things in the world yet...) I was thrilled when the event coordinator and the executive director of the Heart Gallery both strongly encouraged me to bring Kirsten and stressed how much they would like to meet her. SCORE.

Kirsten and I spent the morning decorating cookies with the children, talking with the families, and exploring the museum.

James Shields, the pitcher for the Rays, came to spend some time with the children. He spoke to the children about the gift of family and "dreaming big". When he asked the crowd what they dreamed of being in the future there were several kids that answered "an athlete", "an actor", and "a musician". Kirsten was the only one who answered "a meteorologist... that's a weather girl". (I must say that answer was a crowd favorite!)

Kirsten was able to score some great Rays souvenirs and to have them autographed!

My sweet girl and I

"I love you FOREVER. I like you for ALWAYS. As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." (Even when you're a grown-up meteorologist :)

Hello My Poor, Forgotton Blog

What can I say? I've completley neglected you. I could make excuses... I've got good ones! They include a very stressful job, 2 ear infections, 2 sinus infections, 3 stomach flus, 9 visits to doctors, 1 trip to the hospital, about 37 sleepless nights, holidays, celebrations, school projects... you get the idea. Instead of making excuses I'm going to try to catch up. My goal is to catch up on 2009 before 2010 begins. ...We'll see how this goes :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1 Samuel 1:27

"For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition that I asked of Him."

Today we celebrated our "Forever Day". Three years ago today we finalized the adoption of our beautiful daughter. For two long years we loved and prayed. I will never forget the way I felt the day of our adoption. I'm not sure how to describe it. It was a mixture of love, pride, and gratitude. It was amazing. We are blessed.

We usually ask Kirsten how she would like to spend our anniversary. In the past we've celebrated with family dinners, bowling, and doughnuts. Tonight we enjoyed a family picnic at our favorite playground. It was perfect.

Our beautiful daughter

Daddy's Pride...

...And Mommy's JOY


No one ever said it would be like this.

A little over five years ago you stepped off a school bus with a backpack that was as big as you were. I remember laughing out loud at how adorable you were. I have never doubted our decision to adopt. Not for one single moment. I knew from the moment I set eyes on you, sweet girl, that you were born to be my girl.

But there are moments that I am completley overwhelmed. You are not what anyone would describe as an "easy" child. Somehow I didn't know "what I was getting in to".

No one ever told me I would spend so many sleepless nights worrying about your future.

No one told me I would have to make decisions that I feel totally unprepared to make.

No one told me how intimidating it would be to be your advocate with doctors, teachers, attorneys, and specialists.

No one ever told me that a harsh word from an eight year old would be my life's first true heartbreak.

No one ever told me how hard it would be.

I wonder why it is that no one ever told me it would be possible to love another human being so deeply, so completley, so unconditionally.

No one ever told me that when mother's say they would kill or die for their child they really mean it.

No one ever told me that you were going to change me forever and that I would never, ever be able to imagine a breath without you again.

Sometimes it amazes me that no one ever told me it would be like this.

No one told me you would be my everything... but, deep down, I know why no one ever said it would be like this. It's because there are no words to really describe a mother's love.

You have changed me, your father, our parents, our friends, and the friends of our friends more than you'll ever know.

You are my happy ending.

My journey.

My blessing.

My love.

My joy.

My daughter.

I love you so much more than I could ever put in to words.

Happy "Forever" Day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fight For Preemies

Today, November 17, the March of Dimes is encouraging bloggers to write about a preemie they love in support of the "Fight for Preemies". So here goes (times two). 543,000 babies are born too small and too soon each year. In 2007 two of those babies were mine.

When I was in college, I volunteered at Shands Hospital as a "cuddler". My job description was to spend time in the NICU and pediatrics wards spending time with the babies. I got to hug them, hold them, and talk to them. It was so peaceful. It made me very happy. It's pretty amazing to me that the lessons I learned then (Don't rub the babies, just lay your hand over them. Speak to them in a whisper. Don't overstimulate.) are lessons that I remembered during the first hours I spent with my own sons.

I've already blogged about the worst day of my life and the happiest of beginnings. I haven't blogged about the times I fall on my knees and thank God for my boys. I have been forever changed by words like "brain bleeding", "blindness", and "mental retardation". I will never take the health of my children for granted. I thank God for it every single day. It goes without saying that I am moved to tears when I think of "what could have been". However, today is the day to say it.

One of our doctors told us that 20 years ago babies under 3 lbs did not stand much of a chance. That means Danny would have been clinging to life and Matthew's chances would have been very, very slim. 20 years ago. I remember 20 years ago.

My babies were healthy from their first breaths. They defeated all the odds. They were considered miracles. BUT they were miracles that could not suck. Miracles that could not eat or maintain their body temperatures. Miracles with bradycardiac episodes. They were tiny, little miracles. 2 lbs 14 oz and 3 lbs 3 oz to be exact.

Beautiful, tiny miracles that I could not hold, or nurse, or take home with me. Miracles that spent their first weeks in this world in isolates with tubes up their noses and IVs in their arms, legs, feet, and tiny heads. Miracles that LIVED, largely because of the research and science that the March of Dimes made possible.

I thank God for my preemies everyday... and especially today. I encourage you to join the March of Dimes in the "Fight for Preemies". Every dollar helps. Every kind gesture and prayer makes a difference to a tiny life (or two).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009

Here are a few cute Halloween moments... No interesting writing... my little loves do NOT do well with schedule changes or sugar, which made for a very, very, very long night. However, we had a great time trick-or-treating!

Team Taylor

Mimi, Grandpa, K-Love, Matt and Danny

The superheros and the Taylor Grandparents

Matty D ready to save the day!

Super Danny

It's a bird... it's a plane... it's Super Kirsten!

My superkids