Moving On…

Hi Faithful Readers,

I have created a new site and am very excited about this move.  It even has a “.com” at the end! :) 

But none of that will matter if you don’t join me over there! So please leave a comment here with your email address or email me directly at amber.douglas09@gmail.com and I will send you the new website. 

Thank you so much for your patience as I make this transition (I know it can be a pain updating feed readers, re-entering email subscriptions, etc.).  

Love,

Amber

Joshua: One Year Home

One year ago today, Noel & I put our infant daughter into the car and drove two hours away to Rx for a very special purpose.  It was the day we were bringing her brother home for forever.

It was a sunny afternoon and we met Joshua’s birth mother and Sandy – the lady from our adoption agency – at a local park.  After we visited for a few minutes, Sandy told us that she needed about an hour with BM to do her relinquishment counseling and to sign the formal papers that would terminate all legal rights to him; she had received those same papers from Joshua’s sperm donor just a few days earlier.

We headed over to Walmart with nerves clanging and butterflies in our stomach… anxious to have the technical aspects done, even though BM had reassured us time and again over the past thirty days that she had NO doubts about what she was doing and she was NOT going to change her mind at the last minute.  Holding onto that promise, we started shopping.  Everything that we had seen of his was either stained beyond repair or torn.  He had NO toys and, at 15mths old, he was still in a newborn car seat that was far too small.

Looking back now, I have to laugh a little at ourselves.  Noel & I had never been the parent of a toddler before and we really had no idea what he would need.  I remember just grabbing anything and everything that looked like it would be useful, debating over which car seat would be the best with my husband, and hoping against hope that the size of clothes/diapers/shoes/socks/etc. that we were buying would be the right size.  It was more than a little disconcerting selecting items for a child that would soon be officially our son… but having no clue what his likes/dislikes were, what sizes he wore for different things, and so on.

Finally, the hour was up and we confirmed by text that they were finished.

When we arrived, Joshua was walking around this little playground area while Sandy, BM, and BM’s boyfriend sat on a park bench watching him.  We spoke for a few minutes – but I honestly couldn’t tell you a thing we talked about.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the little boy with blond curls, chubby legs, and big, sad, empty eyes.  I was also too overwhelmed with relief that everything had gone smoothly to care about much else at that moment.

Everyone walked us to the parking lot and watched as we loaded a quiet, unprotesting Joshua into the vehicle.  There was no tears on anyone’s part – not BM, her boyfriend, or our son.  They waved bye… then turned to us with radiant smiles and said, “Thank you so much for taking him! I know you guys are going to give him a great life.”

And just like that, we were driving away.  I remember stopping at a convenience store and getting him some milk and cookies for the ride home.  And that the hour drive to my parent’s home was torture! I just wanted to give him a bath, get clean clothes on him, and rock/snuggle him until he was full of light, laughter, smiles… and a little mischief.  Just like little boys should be.

I’m not going to lie: There have been parts of this journey with our son that have absolutely ripped my heart out.  You can teach a severely neglected little boy how to play with toys and to not get into the trash can when he’s hungry.  You can teach them that baths are not a scary place of torment.  There are a lot of things in a physical context that you can do.  But the emotional side? THAT is where the deepest struggle has been for me.  You can’t force a child to attach to you.  To love you.  To feel safe when he’s with you and to enjoy your snuggles and hugs.  You can’t force him to be happy when he sees you and to light up when you walk in the room.

That is only something that can come with time, consistency, a LOT of patience, a LOT of perseverance, and a LOT of love.

There have been times in this last year that I’ve snuck into their nursery in the middle of the night, gotten Joshua out of his crib, sat down in the rocker, and just held him for hours.  Nuzzling his head and humming softly… praying over him and for him.  Whispering in the dark to my sleeping child all the things I couldn’t say when he was awake and holding me at an arm’s length.  Telling him that I have enough love for the both of us until he can learn to love me back.  That I’m his mama and I will NEVER purposely hurt him.  That he can trust me, but it’s okay to take his time because I am never going anywhere.  Eventually, I would wipe the tears away and put him gently back to bed so I could get some sleep.  And wow… my heart is wrenching in my chest just remembering those nights.

It has not happened overnight.  None of it.

But somehow… over the course of the past twelve months… he has been completely transformed.  Don’t just take my word for it though.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words: The top picture was taken the day we brought him home – June 2, 2011.  The one below it was taken yesterday.

I have made many mistakes along the way as a mother and, I can say without hesitation, that I will make a million more throughout the course of our lives.  I remember sitting on my mom’s porch one day, pouring my heart out to her about how frustrated I was.  It had been a difficult few days – I felt like we had taken three steps forward, then six steps back, and I was discouraged and my heart was bleeding all over the place.  My mom listened quietly and then she reached out and took my hand, giving it a little squeeze, and said, “But you know what sis? Not once have you ever entertained the idea of giving up.  I’ve never once heard you say anything that came close to sounding like defeat.  You aren’t giving up on him and that is what will bring the breakthrough.  Besides, he loves you more than you realize.  Just give it time and keep doin’ what you’re doin’.”

Wise words from a wise lady.  And she was right :).

A year later, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Joshua loves me.  He knows I’m his mama and he accepts and embraces that fact.  I can say that he has absolutely blossomed.  He is talking more and more each day, he tells me when he’s hungry, and he has entered the “make believe” stage of play (which is adorable).  My son gives me great big kisses on the mouth and says, “MUAH!” And he giggles when I tickle him.  He climbs into my lap or sits next to me while we read stories together.  I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that he… trusts.  And he loves.  And MY GOD has it been a difficult road, but we’re there… and I am SO thankful.  And so very, very blessed :).

For anyone that is wondering, Joshua attached to his daddy right away.  There was no hesitation on his behalf with Noel because there had never been a man in his life that abused that role to hinder the connection.  They have a special relationship… and it’s crazy because Joshua not only has the same mannerisms as his daddy, but their personalities are very similar and he looks just like him :).

I love the relationship that my two kids already have with one another, too.  They sit on the couch and watch cartoons together, they wrestle, they laugh at each other and randomly give one another hugs and kisses.  They play together all the time and listening to them “talk” to one another first thing in the morning, bouncing on their beds and shrieking across the room, starts every one of my days with a smile (unless it’s 4am, in which case… not so much lol).

With all that said and in all seriousness, Joshua has changed each of us for the better.  Simply by being, he is teaching us (and already has) so much! I can only pray that one day, he can understand (probably when he has a son of his own), how he has completed his daddy & I’s hearts and lives.  I love him more than life itself and I thank God, first and foremost, for handpicking him for us; his BM for making the decision to give him up; our family/friends that have been there to support and encourage us as we’ve been on a very steep learning curve this last year; and my husband… for being the amazing husband and dad that he is.  There’s no way that we would have come this far, this fast, without all of it :).

One Year Down; One To Go!

There were times during this past semester that it felt like I would never get to say this, but…

I DID IT!!!!!!! :)

I finished my Junior year of college.  And I did it with a 4.0GPA!

Yep, I actually earned an “A” in Statistics.  That was the last math class I will ever have to take and my relief is almost tangible (haha).  I have no idea how I became the person that was TERRIFIED of that class, to the one that other students were emailing for help? It just… doesn’t compute.  In my mind, I’m still the 24y/o that was sitting in Math 030, feeling like a dummy because my first chapter was literally on addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.

Anyway, while I’m feeling quite proud of myself, my sights are already being set on other things.

For one, I am taking Spanish online this summer.  I always said that I would never take a science class, advanced mathematics class, or foreign language online… and, well, I have successfully completed both Microbiology AND Statistics online.  Might as well conquer the foreign language beast, right? RIGHT?!

By doing this, I won’t have to transfer.  I know what I said about switching to Walden University for a whole lot of really good reasons, but the problem is, I never really had peace about it.  I LOVE my college, the professors, and my study buddies.  Plus, I have made a “name” for myself there and that is not an easy accomplishment when your primary source of contact with them is by email and the occasional telephone.  Not to mention the fact that because I would have to change majors, I am 99.9% sure that I would lose probably all of my classes from this last year with the exception of Stats.

So… I’m staying at UCD.  And I feel really good about it! I’ve already registered for my Fall 2012 classes.  For anyone that is interested, I’m taking:

  1. Contemporary Sociological Theory
  2. Topics in Sociology
  3. Death and Dying
  4. Sociology of Global Issues
  5. Introduction to Social Psychology (This is an undergrad class.  In order to transfer in 10 credits of a foreign language, I will lose two classes that I originally transferred in – since they only accept 60 credits from another institution).

In Spring 2013, I will only have to take Research Methods and three elective courses (one of which can be an undergrad level class).  And in the summer, I have to take Spanish II online and have it transferred over.  But once that’s done… I will be graduating.  With my Bachelor’s degree.

And holy wow… did that ever just make the tears spring to my eyes :).

Enough of the school talk though! I’m going to enjoy the few weeks off that I have before the summer term starts and that means NO education stuff now that everything is lined out.

Thank you to all of you that are always giving encouraging words and just… believing in me.  Even when I forget to do that myself.  I couldn’t keep doing this without each and every one of you in my life!

XOXO,
Amber

Endings and Beginnings…

The end of the semester has finally arrived and with it, there are mixed feelings.  Massive feelings of relief is mingling with a sense of sadness because it will be my last semester at the University of Colorado Denver.  I really love this school.  I have made some awesome friends through email and my professors are all wonderful!

But.

They require 10 credits of a foreign language.  Which, unfortunately, is not something I took in high school.  I am unwilling to indefinitely postpone graduating with my Bachelor’s degree for that one thing – especially when I should be done this next spring.

Therefore, unless new information becomes available, I will be transferring to Walden University and starting my first quarter with them in June.  I think this can be a really good thing as they do offer an “Accelerate Into Masters” Program where I can take Masters classes as electives for my Bachelor’s degree, which will equate to a shorter amount of time spent in graduate school and thousands of dollars saved in the long run.

I guess I’m just bummed about leaving a school where I have already made a name for myself and established connections with the people – no easy feat when you’re an all-online student! C’est la vie.  If I did it once, I can do it again, right? :)

Anyway.

I have one final to get through this week and it will be a doozy as it’s for Statistics.  It feels so surreal typing that sentence out.  It feels even more so about this one: I’ve carried an “A” in that class all semester long.

For some people, that probably won’t seem like a very big deal.  But for me? It’s huge.  When I first started back to school after five years out, I was at the very bottom of the math ladder.  The first chapter in the textbook of my first math class was literally addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  I have earned “As” in every one of my classes except College Algebra, which by the grace of God and a fantastic tutor, I received a “B.”  The fact that I have made it through Statistics – doing it all online, without a tutor or anyone to help me… other than email correspondence with the professor… and that I have an “A”… well, let’s just say it’s nothing short of amazing to me! I also earned “As” in all my other classes, so it’s going to be another 4.0 semester.

I am proud of myself :).

Enough about school though!

Noel has been at his job as the Restaurant General Manager for almost two months now and he’s loving it.  He enjoys the work and that there is room for advancement within this company.  They own over 200 Pizza Huts, spread over three states.  He has met the Regional and District Managers and both are very impressed with him.  It’s not really surprising as my husband is extremely intelligent and a dedicated, hard worker!

But it does make me even more proud of him :).

My FIL has been staying with us for this past month and while my heart is heavy for him because of what he’s currently going through, it has been nice having him here.  He’s a great guy and the kids – especially Joshua – adore him! He has been making sure our lawn stays mowed and helping Noel with a variety of projects around the house.  And as if that wasn’t enough, he bought me a brand new, high efficiency washer and dryer! Our old set was about 20-years-old; they belonged to my grandma and came with our house.  Two loads of laundry was literally an all-day endeavor because the heating element was pretty much shot on the dryer… unless I hung the clothes out on the line.  That is a chore in and of itself, but managing a two-year-old, a one-year-old, a three-month-old puppy, and a huge basket of wet clothes down five steps into the backyard is next to impossible.  I am extremely grateful to him for meeting that need in our lives!

We are still waiting on the second portion of our tax refund to come through, but once it does, we’re paying off a couple of bills and then putting a portion of the leftover money toward a vacation.  Our friends invited us to go to Cancun with them and I’m really hoping we will be able to swing it.  By the time we go, I will pretty much be completely done with my last year of undergraduate schooling and I think we will have earned it!We’re also planning on upgrading our vehicle soon.  We bought a 2008 Nissan Altima this last year, but no one tells you how quickly you outgrow a car when you have two young kids and a dog.  Seriously.  Noel & I have talked it over though and we’re going to wait until this next spring when we get our 2012 taxes back and have some money saved from this year.  Because the vehicle we really, really, REALLY want is a new GMC Acadia and that comes with, like, a $40,000 price tag.  Expensive? Yes. But worth it.  We’ve done our research and feel that the Acadia is going to be the best match for our family’s needs – present and future.  If we walk in there with enough cash, we can talk them down on the price AND we will only have to finance a certain amount that will bring our monthly payment into the affordable region.  We already sold Noel’s old truck and are putting that money into the car savings fund… I’m pretty excited! Especially after we stopped at a dealership while we were out of town and looked inside one! Eventually, we want to replace the flooring in our house, too.

Sooo yeah… with all of these goals/dreams, you can see why Walden University and shaving time off graduate school is going to be a good thing, yes? LoL!

In other news, my daughter is WALKING now!!! She took her first steps before her first birthday, but she really has gotten in her groove over the last couple of weeks.  It is hilarious how she even walks like a little princess! Our kids bring such an incredible amount of joy to our lives! :)

(A VERY tired Joshua and a very NOT tired Emmalyn)

We are truly blessed… on so many levels.  When I start thinking about everything that God has done – and continues to do – in our lives, it just makes me want to weep in humbled gratitude.

 

Life As We Know It = BUSY!

I have three weeks of school left and then finals before I am done for the summer.

That is the mantra I have been repeating (changing out the number of weeks as the semester progresses) for the last couple of months.  Feeling “burnt out” always happens in the spring semester.  There aren’t as many breaks as there are in the fall semester and you’re not coming off of summer so it feels like it just drags on.

And then there is the craziness in our world that extends beyond school! Most of it good (especially in our lives), but definitely keeping us busy.

We had an impromptu trip to Illinois at the beginning of February to lay my husband’s grandfather to rest.  A very sad occasion in many ways, but it was wonderful to see his family.  I seriously adore them! We traveled to Green River, Wyoming in March to see some dear friends of ours and adopt a puppy from them.  She’s a Golden Retriever/Beagle mix that we named Lexi and she’s just about the sweetest puppy ever!

Noel got a job here in town as the General Manager of a restaurant.  Although he’s in training right now, he really likes the job already and I know it’s something that he will flourish in! My husband is a natural leader and encourager, as well as, being extremely detail-orientated and hard working.  I’ve already heard a lot of compliments from people around town about how much better the food is and how much cleaner it is already.  The best part; however, is that he has flexible hours so that he can continue his schooling!!! Very excited about that! :-)

My FIL is going to be staying with us for an undetermined amount of time.  The reasons behind it are personal and I don’t want to share his business with the rest of the world, but suffice to say, we’ve been pretty busy getting our spare room put together and organized.  That was quite the project as it had become the “catch all” room for extra toys, kids’ clothes in their next size up, unpacked boxes, etc.  We just moved into our house in November and trust me: it’s a HUGE upgrade from our old home.  We went from about a 900sqft apartment to about 2000sqft on some property.  I have NO idea how we already seem to be busting out of the seams here! I am thinking May will be an awesome month for a HUGE yard sale…

We just finished painting our living room, kitchen, dining room, hallway, main bathroom, and laundry room, and spare bedroom.  Just need to paint the kids’ bedroom, our bedroom, and our master bathroom and the whole house will have gotten a face lift! And all because we needed to buy new dishes… haha.  It looks pretty great though :-).  Our next big project will be to replace the carpeting throughout the house and eventually add a deck to the front of the house.  We have a fire pit off to the side of our house and I want to set up some tiki torches this summer and make our gigantic yard nice and green.  We’re loving making this house our home and are working toward being able to purchase it by this next year.  My grandma currently owns it but is planning on staying out in California so she wants out from the mortgage.

I have been bitten by the “remodel” bug so Noel & I have been busy completing projects.  Seems like as soon as one is finished, three more have popped up to take its place :-).  The weather this past week has been a combination of rain and snow, but for about a month prior to that, it has been sunny and warm.  Temperatures have been really nice in the 60s and are projected to return that way this next week.  The warm weather has me itching to be outdoors even if I am worried about having little to no snowpack in the mountains.  It had better be a VERY rainy summer or we’re going to be in trouble with fires.

Anyway, my sister & I threw a double birthday party for her son, Dominik, and Emmalyn.  They are only eight days apart so it will be easy to throw parties for them together… at least while they’re little :-).  Emmalyn’s theme was Disney Princess and Dominik’s was Toy Story.

She was an absolute doll…

I just cannot BELIEVE that my baby is already one-year-old…

Love,
Amber

What Dreams May Come…

Noel & I have spent quite a bit of time talking about our future lately.  Mostly, our hopes and dreams for the future and what we’re willing to sacrifice to make those hopes and dreams a reality.

He has been miserable at his job for almost the entire time he’s been employed with this particular company.  He loves the work itself, but the environment is toxic and his boss is neither a nice man, nor an ethical one.  Both of which clash with who my husband is and what he values.  I won’t get into specific details about everything that has been going on in that nursing home, but I will say that we are in agreement that his time there has come to an end.  His last day will be February 29th.

Sometimes, in order to move forward with your future, you have to cut certain ties with the past.

It can be pretty scary when you step outside of your “comfort zone” and leave the familiar – even when the familiar is damaging to you.  But the thing is… Noel & I have hearts that are open toward God and we earnestly seek Him every day.  We desire to be in His will and to be used by Him.  And, sometimes, in our walk, we come to these scary junctures where we have to take a leap of faith.  Every. Single. Time. that has happened? Things have worked out in better ways than we could fathom ourselves.  I am confident that this time will be no different.

Ultimately, however, Noel wants to have his Bachelor’s (possibly even his Masters) in Healthcare Administration.  He has been working in the healthcare field for the last five years and he really loves the work.  Knowing my husband – his characteristics, personality, strengths/weaknesses, etc. – I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that he would be a fantastic administrator! I believe in him 110% and am excited to start this new chapter of our lives.  At this point, there are SEVERAL options out on the table as to where we can go from here.  But I think it’s one of those things that will be figured out as we go along.  I’m hesitant to describe the different options at this point – I will blog more about it when we’re set on a certain direction.

As far as my educational goals go? I’m not quitting school.  We’ve invested too much time, energy, and money to back out now! Currently, I’m a student at University of Colorado Denver and I really do love it.  The professors are great and I’m learning a lot.  The only problem is that, a year from now, I will have ALL of my required credits in for my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.  What I won’t have is the 10 credits in a foreign language to fulfill my last CLAS (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) requirement.  And since they don’t offer any foreign languages online, I would essentially be having to learn two years of spanish on my own.  Even with Rosetta, I don’t know how long that would take me!

When I found out that a foreign language was required shortly after starting school at UCD, I immediately started researching schools and haven’t stopped.  I had certain criteria the school had to meet (i.e. exclusively online as we live too far away from a four-year-college to commute, etc.) and I think I finally found one.  I’m in the process of having my transcripts sent to Walden University so they can do an evaluation and see what will transfer and what will not.  If most of my credits transfer, I’m going to be switching to them for several reasons:

  1. Their classes are quarterly, so you take one class every six weeks, instead of four classes concurrently for sixteen weeks (like I’m doing right now).
  2. Provided I maintain a 3.0GPA, after two quarters, I can start taking Master’s classes as electives!
  3. The above will save us money as I would be paying BA prices for MA classes AND it would shave anywhere from 12mths to 18mths off my graduate school time.
  4. I get a week off at the end of every six weeks, instead of one week off every sixteen weeks.
  5. They have 24/7 support for students with tutoring through live chat and other student support services and professors are required to respond to all email within 24hrs.

Furthermore, it’s only $16 more per credit hour through Walden than what I’m paying right now through UCD.  Which means my financial aid will cover everything that I need.  Eventually, I will end up with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Psychology, with a Social Psychology concentration, which will qualify me to be a Family Services Worker.  And since my ultimate goal is to either open our own private adoption agency or work with children in the foster care system, that’s exactly what I need.  I’m still getting information, but right now, it is looking like this is the direction I’ll be headed after this semester!

There are several other things I need to write about, but that will have to be another day.  Stay tuned… :)

Love,
Amber

 

Time Keeps On Slipping…

Time.

It’s what we all want the most, but generally use the worst.

When my brother died in 2005, I wondered how on earth I would ever make it through that.  The year following his death was one of the bleakest and darkest times of my life and I could weep right now just thinking about how lost I felt then.  You can imagine then, how odd it is for me to take be thankful for the good fruit that has been born out of something so tragic.

I think that the acute awareness I have of time passing is one of those good fruits.  Even if it does make me feel a lot older than my 27 years some days!

Tonight, for example, I headed to bed after finishing the schooling I had purposed to do and I was almost exuberant about crawling between the covers and cuddling up to my warm husband before 2am.

… And then the baby monitor started sounding off.  Joshua was coughing in consistent intervals and Emmalyn was randomly talking to herself.  I laid there for a moment debating whether or not Joshua’s cough warranted some medicine, knowing that if I went in there to administer it, if Emmalyn was even halfway awake, she would want to get up.  After listening to my son for another minute or two, I decided that it was just something I was going to have to deal with if it happened.  My poor oldest needed something to help ease his coughing and let him get some good sleep.

So in I went, medicine cup in hand.  I gently roused Joshua and as he sat up and sleepily looked at me, I whispered, “Drink this, baby.  It will help your cough.”  He obediently started taking the little sips I give him at a time and when it was gone, I tucked him back in, gave him his cup of water, and smoothed his hair.  He was almost completely passed back out as I started to tiptoe out of their room.

And then I heard it…

Emmalyn protesting.  Making her disapproval of my actions abundantly clear.

Apparently, she had sat up after my back was to her and was patiently waiting for me to get her.  When she realized that I was going to leave the room without getting her, well… she didn’t appreciate that very much!

I felt a flash of irritation as I turned back around.  After all, she was supposed to be SLEEPING.  I’d had a very long day and wanted to be in my bed, drifting away to my own dreamland!

But as I walked toward her crib, she stood up and with the light coming in from the hallway; I could see the BIGGEST grin on her sweet little face.  It was obvious she was excited to see me.  After all, if mommy got her out of bed in the middle of the night, that meant a warm bottle, being quietly sung to, and lots of cuddles.  What’s not exciting about that when you’re 10mths old???

Seeing her face light up the way that it did immediately quenched any irritation I had been feeling a moment prior.  Obviously, babies don’t understand things like “long days” and “exhausted.”

I scooped her up and brought her to the kitchen, where I proceeded to make her a bottle as she watched intently.  Then we went to the living room couch, curled up amongst the pillows, and I sang quietly to her, as she drank her fill, and allowed her heavy eyes to close; sleep overtaking her once more.

Long after she finished and was snoring peacefully in my arms, I continued absentmindedly patting her back and humming as my mind wandered.  All I could think about was how this life is so fleeting and these moments are really what living is all about.  I make a gazillion mistakes on a daily basis.  I have to fight for my patience and, sometimes, I lose.  I allow petty things to get the best of my peace at different times and have to work at reclaiming it.  I rarely get everything accomplished in a day that I would like and then I battle feelings of guilt.  I could go on and on…

But still I try.  To make the memories.  To make the small things count.  To take advantage of every day that God has so mercifully given me.

And sometimes doing all of that? Means taking a deep breath, shrugging off The Tired, and delighting in your child’s joy at the mere sight of you.  It means remembering where you’ve been, what you’ve come from, and reflecting on the intimate knowledge you have of just how quickly life can be snatched away.  So that… even though your daughter’s breathing has evened out and it’s clear that she’s lost in sweet baby slumber, you can sit still, breathe in her scent, and nuzzle the top of her head with your cheek for a while.

After all… the clock is ticking; time is flying by.  And before I know it, she’s going to be the one having to let the irritation melt away as she shrugs off The Tired, so that she too, can enjoy those precious moments with her infant daughter in the still of the night.

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