Tag Archives: motherhood

Mary Katherine Gallagher & Her Ball Rodeoing Friend

I almost lost a friend once. We were very best friends. Like…do everything together, love you so much, thick and thin, tell it like it is friends. You know those kind of friendships that feel like forever; where you know that, no matter what, you will care where that person is  when they are eighty?

I have a few friends that I can say this about. Girls who I would run to even if I hadn’t seen them in years. The friend I am talking about holds a very special place in my heart, and it is hard to think how close we came to losing that.

A little history: (I could tell you a million stories, but they just seem too personal… too “ours.”  So, I will give you the ones I feel are shareable.)

Friendship example #1, 2002’ish…At a Halloween costume party, just before we decided to ‘perform.’ 

My friend: Katina, I don’t think you should smell your pits on stage!

Me: Call me Mary Katherine Gallagher.

My friend: OK. Mary Katherine, I don’t think you should smell your pits on stage! And don’t you try to do a back handspring either. Don’t you try to do it!

Me: (bounding onto the makeshift stage) Sometimes, when I get nervous…

My friend: (behind me, through gritted teeth) Don’t you do it, Don’t you tumble…

mary kath

 

 

 

 

Friendship example #2, Sometime after 2002 at our little old house with the giant ditch in the back. My husband & my friend’s husband had gotten angry at our ridiculous ability to telepathically give each other Taboo answers. My friend had an idea… 

My friend: Hey, I just had an idea for the best game…it’s gonna be called, Ball Rodeo! All you do is see who can balance on this yoga ball the longest.

My husband & friend’s husband: Yeah!

Me: I’m tired. I’m going to bed.

Friend: You’re going to miss out. It’s gonna be awesome.

Me: Goodnight, y’all better not break anything.

Crash sound coming from ‘game room’ (‘game room’ may be a bit of an over exaggeration…’tiny room with Scarface poster, futon, and play station’ is more accurate)

Me: What happened?

Friend: Don’t come in here. Katina, DO NOT come in here!

Me: (walking in & seeing husband’s upper torso plunged through the wall) Oh my GOSH!! What happened?!?

Friend: Two words, Ball… Rodeo

I can’t remember the exact moment, but at some point we kind of drifted apart. (I know, I know! How could Mary Katherine Gallagher & Ball Rodeo Queen ever drift apart?!?)

I had been married for a while, and I wanted a baby. She had not been married as long and wasn’t ready for that yet. When I started going through all my baby junk…surgeries, doctors, shots, my friend was in a different place. Looking back, I can see that I completely shut everybody out. I was hurt and I wanted to waller.   (I think the real word might be wallow… This is probably one of my Granny’s southernisms.)  Anyway, I wanted a pity party, and I guess I was mad when my friend didn’t throw it.

I also had a massive amount of strong hormones pumped into my body, so I may have been irrational. For example, we were both reading the Twilight series. She finished before me. As I was reading the honeymoon chapter, I became suspicious of stupid Bella’s stomach aches & throwing up… My heart rate sped, my world spun, was this vampire loving hussy about to be pregnant?? No!!!! Not Bella! Not this stupid, vapid, teenage cliche!! I quickly texted my friend:

Me: (in a very hostile tone)  Is Bella pregnant?

My Friend: Who is Bella?

Me: (shrilly) Don’t play dumb!! I can take it! Just tell me. Is… BELLA… PREGNANT?

Minutes pass…..

Friend: Yes.

Me: Noooooooooo! I’m burning these books!

Life went on, as it always does, and my husband and I moved on to adoption. This was a super lonely time in my life. I think it was because I was younger than most people who adopt, and I didn’t know anybody else who was in the same situation. I was really bitter and angry. I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. It’s been years ago, but it honestly still stings to write about. I was extremely hurt. I was so very sad.

It was about this same time, that my friend started trying to have a baby. I hardly remember what was going on with our friendship then, but I know it seemed strained. We hung out some, but I was probably weird & totally self absorbed. (I started doing a lot of yoga, quit eating meat, and obsessed over possible adoption situations. So, basically, I was a super fun person to be around. ;)) Also, I just knew that at any given moment that old heifer was going to get knocked up, and then I would have to hate her forever! (I’m sorry, I already admitted my bitterness & anger! The hormones, remember? Don’t judge!)

She didn’t get pregnant; and even though we had drifted apart, she was still the person I called when the miraculous happened…

I will never forget finding out our little girl had been born. My husband and I called our parents and brothers, but as soon as we hung up I immediately called my old friend. I could hear the true joy in her voice, the laughter, the tears… (I don’t know if you are crying reading this, but tears keep escaping my eyes as I am writing it!)

Life got crazy, I was crazy, she was crazy…

My friend found out she was pregnant. She miscarried.

I found out I was pregnant again. I miscarried.

You would think two old friends, like Mary Katherine & Ball Rodeo, would have bonded over these hard times. But we didn’t. Somehow, we had both hurt each other’s feelings. We fought on the phone, we yelled, we hung up, we unfriended each other, on Facebook & in real life.

I’m not making this up: I found out I was pregnant… I found out my friend was pregnant. (Goodness, doesn’t God have an interesting sense of humor! He knew we were two jealous, crazy ladies! His ways are so awesome & his timing perfect.)

This sounds unrealistic, but I can say with all honesty, I had just felt the first little gold fish flutters of Bubba moving in my tummy, when I heard my phone’s text alert, and saw a text message with my old friend’s name at the top. It said, “Congratulations.”

Y’all, it was like she knew…like she knew I had just felt this tiny little thing move…she knew this was real…Like when we used to kill it playing Taboo...(Seriously, one word & we knew exactly what each other meant.) She knew.

I cried so hard. I ugly cried… for myself…for her… for our lost babies… for Mary Katherine… for Ball Rodeo… for the dumb girls we were… & the grown mamas we were becoming. I cried for the last few tatters of our friendship.

So, here we are, some years & some babies later. Is it the same friendship as when we were twenty? Of course not! We were idiots! Do we still love each other? Yes! Can we read each other’s minds? I’m not 100% sure, but I have gotten some perfectly timed text messages.

I’ve been thinking about how God looks at us like I look at my babies. He loves us more than that. It’s incomprehensible. I think about my kids fighting, and how much I hate it. I can’t stand seeing them being mean to each other. I think about how happy I am when they love each other. If they randomly hold hands, my heart swells. How much more must God feel…

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

This is me randomly holding my old friend’s hand. Love u, Ball Rodeo… Yee-Yee…

 

 

 

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To Sissy, on her 5th bday. Love, Little Miss Not-so Perfect

Dear Sissy,

If you are reading this, you are probably old enough to realize I, your mama, have two pretty prominent character traits. I am a major procrastinator. (I know, I probably need to sign some kind of field trip paper that has been sitting on our table for forever!) Also, I am kind of a perfectionist. Not the ‘there is a crumb on the floor’ type, but a more internal perfectionist. I really do not like to mess up! (Something I should probably get over before your wild brothers prove I am an inept mother!)

My perfectionism was never more dominant than when I was in elementary school. I memorized bible verses for fun, loved workbooks, always read, and played teacher. I remember coming home crying, and my mama asking what was wrong. I told her my teacher called me little miss perfect. She seemed confused and asked me to explain. My lip trembled as I told her that my teacher would say things like, “Okay, everybody stop and look at little miss perfect. She has to get ALL of her books and go to her little GIFTED class.” Mama’s jaw dropped. I am not sure what happened, but shortly after that conversation my teacher stopped with the ‘little miss perfect’ comments.

Not too many years later, I married your daddy, and we decided to have a baby. It just didn’t happen. I know it sounds conceited, but this was the first time that I really could not do something that I wanted to do. (Keep in mind, I was still a child.) Not being able to get pregnant was like fuel to some type of fire that had been burning inside me. I really felt lost. I remember talking to a friend of mine, and telling her that I understood what God was all about now. I told her how I felt like a kid again. I had been told as a kid that Santa brought my Christmas gifts. God was like that. I thought he was the one protecting me, clothing me, feeding me. I learned it wasn’t God after all, it was my parents. (This sweet friend, a mother of FIVE, listened and told me I would change, it would be ok.)

So, life went on. People moved on. Friends came and went. Family changed. I grew older. I needed a baby. The perfectionist in me was giving in. I jokingly told your mammy that I would just steal a baby. The look on her face said I think you need to be committed. She actually said, “You need to think about adoption.” The snotty, prideful, perfectionist in me replied, “I refuse to beg for anything.” Mama stared at me. She very bluntly told me that if I wanted a child I just might have to beg.

I thought about that for a while…procrastination…and I knew she was right. Not about begging, but about adoption. I should adopt. I can’t even begin to explain the feelings that went into this decision. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. I did NOT expect you! Throughout the whole adoption process, I was brought to my knees. My pride was thrown out the window. I had to completely admit  that I could not do this on my own. Worst of all, I had to ask for help. I prayed, but I didn’t feel it. I felt like I was praying to Santa.

Then…well, through lots of hurdles… there you were. I recently read something about an adoptive mother admitting how she didn’t quite bond with her adopted sissy babychild. She said she felt detached, and I am not disputing her feelings. I imagine those feelings are very valid and totally normal, but…Oh my goodness…Sissy! I just fell in LOVE with you. I tried not to. The perfectionist in me said to be careful, to guard my heart. I was repeatedly reminded that this could fall through. I should try to stay detached until all the paperwork was completed. But, seriously?! How could we be detached from this tiny, sweet smelling, beautiful little girl?

I will never forget the bond your daddy and I felt after meeting you.   We left the hospital to check into our very creepy hotel (thank God for the Ronald McDonald House), when daddy turned to me and said, “How can we ever go back? If this doesn’t work, how will leave?” We knew loving you was risky, but how could we stop? Logical or not, we loved you. You were just amazing to us. In that moment, those silly ‘God=Santa‘ feelings were crushed. God was so real. You were so real. I wasn’t perfect. I couldn’t do the most basic, womanly thing..make a baby. But, in all honesty, you weren’t perfect either. You were early. You were orange. Your eyes were bruised from a difficult delivery. But…Oh my baby, we were meant for each other.

josh sis

me sis

 

 

 

Now, of course you know you are adopted. We do not share DNA. You did not grow in my tummy, and I did not give birth to you. In spite of that, there are things I see in you (memorizing bible verses for fun, loving workbooks, always reading, playing teacher) that force me to make the following speech:

Perfect is boring.

God works in the imperfect.

Do not focus on fixing your imperfections.

Don’t compare your body with your friends’ bodies, (skinny isn’t skinny forever…cupcakes beat genetics eventually).

Grades matter.  (I know we should have some type of college fund. Don’t count on it….procrastination) But, you are not your grades. I love you outside of that. Your intelligence is amazing, but it is not your identity.

Your heart is beautiful. But, you are human. You may not always instinctively know what to say or do. You will make mistakes. You will lose friends.

Don’t blame yourself when bad things happen, they just happen.

Don’t blame God when you don’t get what you want. That is immature.

You are you because God made me imperfect. You are you because God made your birth mother imperfect.

Your birth mother’s imperfections led her to me. My imperfections led me to you.
Imperfections can be beautiful!

I love you.

Love,

Little Miss Not-so Perfect

Ariel at desk

 

me in desked

Here’s to Strong Women

Here’s to strong women.

May we know them,

May we raise them,

May we be them.

People were trickling out of the swimming pool after Bubba’s third birthday party. He had conned someone into taking off his floaty, and I didn’t realize when I opened the pool gate that Bubba had slid in behind me. For some unknown reason, he sprinted past me, yelled, and jumped into the pool. I just screamed, “Mama!” It was an instinct! I was scared, holding my newborn, and I couldn’t do anything so I yelled for my mommy.

Well, my mama has been known to make interesting spur of the moment decisions, and this was no exception. Before I finished my third syllable of mama, (that’s right…my mama has 3 syllables) she had jumped, fully clothed, cell phone in hand, into the swimming pool. She immediately came up for a side of the mouth swimmer’s breath, as though she were swimming for the gold medal, then began dog paddling like a mad rabid beast. Meanwhile, Michael Phelps Bubba had swam to the side and hopped out clueless to the drama around him.

When mama reached the middle of the pool she finally stood up, the shallow end is only three feet deep, and looked all around shouting, “Where is he? Dear God, where is he?”
I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t contain my laughter. I laughed so hard I was crying and out of breath. It wasn’t the situation, even though it was hilarious, & it wasn’t the sight of her standing there dripping wet while Bubba slid past and grabbed some Cheetos. It was the look on her face, that sideways breath she took, and the dog paddling….oh my gosh! The dog paddling! I swear, it was as though my granny herself had jumped in the pool. Her face with her wet hair and that intense look in her eyes…well, it was no longer her face. It was her mother’s.

I thought about this story recently as my mama and I were riding down the road talking about my granny, how we missed her, and how long she lived after her Alzheimer’s diagnoses.  “It was the fight in her,” Mama said. “She always had those beady, determined eyes. Even in the end.”

granny blg c

That was true. And it wasn’t always a positive thing. If my Granny decided to do something there was absolutely ZERO chance you could get her to stop. If she wanted to plant a tree, she was planting the tree. No obstacle could stop her, the setting sun, a broken shovel, busted water line, everybody begging her to stop….There was no stopping her. The tree would be planted.

That same determination and strength kept her through the sudden loss of her husband, the realization that she must provide for her family, night school, getting her GED, and the loss of her son. Those beady brown eyes would set, and there was no stopping her.

That was the look I saw in my mama’s eyes that day she jumped in the pool. It was a fierce determination, a strength, a look I have seen many times. When necessary, those big blue eyes will set….and there is no stopping her.

Ok, this sounds so crazy as I’m typing it, but I remember being a kid and hearing my granny say, “Y’all know, I could take a few deep breaths, set my mind in the right place, and, if I had to, I could withstand somebody cuttin’ my arm off.” Crazier still is that she wasn’t lying! She could have done it!

My own mama would say that she is nothing like that. She hates pain. She begs doctors not to give her shots. But, I know, if she had to… I have seen her take a few deep breaths, and survive.

So, I say to you, my friends and sisters who I know or don’t know, to all of you who I love and to you I’ve never met, to the young girl whose parents had an awful divorce, the woman with a mean husband, the young mother who lost her own mother, the women who have survived their children, to you who stays up late each night praying for your child, and to the woman begging for a child; I say, Take a few deep breaths, set your mind in the right place, and you will survive.

Sometimes it takes the really awful things, probably not someone cutting your arm off, but something horrible, to make us realize that we are strong. Women, mothers, daughters, sisters, we are strong. If we had to…

Here’s to strong women.

May we know them,

May we raise them,

May we be them.

The Mama Bear Glare

I remember the first time I met my mother in law. I was sixteen and we had moved to a new church. She was playing the keyboard and singing, and I thought she was just so pretty and had the most beautiful voice. (This is not ‘suck up’ talk, it’s a fact! The lady is lovely and can sing!) Not too long after that first church visit, I started dating my now husband. I don’t think I realized it then but you really can get a good idea about a woman’s personality by looking at her home. The first time I went to their house I came home and told my mama, “I love their house! They have a leopard print rug in the living room.” I guess I should’ve known then… my future mother in law had that mama bear animal instinct!

Like all teenagers, I was quite flippant about love and boyfriends and whatnot. So, at some point, something about my boyfriend annoyed me, and we broke up. The next Sunday, I walked in church and sat with some girls. The music started and I had that ‘somebody’s watching me’ feeling. I looked at the stage and saw my ex-boyfriend’s mama giving me, what I thought was, a big time mama bear glare. I am sure I just imagined it, because as soon as we made eye contact she quickly smiled, turned back to the keyboard, and belted out a beautiful worship song.

Cut to 11 years later. Me lying in a hospital bed, sweating, hurting, and extremely  slightly emotional after having Bubba. My inner mama bear was threatening to come out. (Don’t talk to my mama or my husband. They will tell you some silly story about a cray cray woman screaming at people and flashing everyone. It’s just not true.)  My mother in law walked in and I began to shed a few small tears. (Again, do not get your info. from anyone else! I was not irrationally shouting at my loved ones.) I calmly explained that I was having a difficult time breastfeeding and everybody wanted me to just give Bubba a bottle, but nobody understood how much I wanted to nurse him…Everybody was against me…Nobody loved me…. Why didn’t they understand…. Wahhhhh… (Ok, I’ll admit it. The mama bear may have actually shown herself, and she may have needed a little help dealing with her post partum emotions.) My sweet mother in law looked at me as though I were totally sane, which I wasn’t, and kindly told me it was hard for everyone and babies survive, and he would be ok. I took a deep breath and thought,  I can do this. Somebody is on my side.

Since the day I married her baby boy, my mother in law has always given me that kind of peaceful feeling. When things were sad, or hard; when I thought my situation was hopeless, I would talk to her and walk away thinking, Ok, I can do this…. I can handle this miscarriage. I can make it through my Granny’s funeral. I can survive the adoption process. I know it’s strange to say about a mother in law, but I love this woman so much! She is so many things to me; an example of a strong woman of God, an amazing mama to my husband, such a loving Nina, as she is called by my babies, and…she is my friend.

Katina and Josh's mama playing in the snow!Just the other day, I was talking to my friend, AKA Nina, and we were discussing that mama bear instinct. She said, “You know, I would do anything for my children. And now, with my grandchildren, I feel the same way… I would do anything for them.” I knew exactly what she meant, because my inner mama bear has shown herself many times over the past five years. I try to smile and be that mama who is calm and nonchalant, but often my mama bear is inside screaming, “If you harm one hair on my child’s head I will claw your eyes out.”

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We can’t help it. It is an instinct we mothers must fight against to allow our children to do basic things. They have to go to school, make friends, fight with friends, play sports, and eventually date…. Oh my goodness…. My children will want to date!

One day a girl will like Bubba. She will sit by him in church. She will hold his hand. (If you could see my keyboard now… There are literally tears dripping down on it.) He will think he loves this little hussy. He will ask me to buy her flowers and take them to the movies. Then, out of nowhere, over the silly whims of a teenage girl, she will break up with him! She will break up with MY baby! She will find a flaw in my perfect, beautiful, little man!

Now look who is sitting at a keyboard glaring…..

One day, or Overly Sentimental Mother’s Day Week Thoughts

One day, I will have privacy when I pee.
One day, I will sleep late.
One day, I will eat candy when I want to…. without hiding.
One day, I will sit and read uninterrupted for hours.
One day, I will watch grown up tv shows.
One day, I will get my iPad back.
One day, I will not have to buckle and unbuckle three seats.
One day, my husband and I will not sleep with a child between us.
One day, I will not have to change diapers.
One day, I will not hold your hand whenever I want.
One day, it will be inappropriate for me to kiss your mouth in public.
One day, I will not shamelessly blow raspberries into your chubby little neck.
One day, I will not brush your long beautiful hair.
One day, I will not sneak in your room to watch you sleep.
One day, I will only dress myself.
One day, you won’t fit in my lap.
One day, I will not see you whenever I turn around.
One day, you will be all the way grown up.
One day, I will consider these days the best days.IMG_5080.JPG

To my extra nugget, on his 1st birthday.

IMG_6609blg Dear baby boy,

Sometimes, I am too lazy to cook, and we get fast food. (Shhhh, don’t tell anybody!) I usually get an 8 count chicken nugget meal.  Every so often, on a really good day, there will be NINE nuggets! That’s right….I only order 8 but they give me NINE! Oh happy day!

You, my baby, are my extra nugget. I didn’t even know I needed you! I thought I would be totally happy and complete with my two kids… a boy and a girl…perfect. But there you came, 9lbs 6oz, beautiful red hair, big blue eyes, kicking, screaming, and half-way killing me!

The day after you were born a nurse came in with a concerned look on her face. She said the doctor heard a heart murmur and a specialist would need to see you. In that moment I felt….it’s really unexplainable. I felt complete terror. I had just met you. You were just born, but I couldn’t live without you. I remember thinking, how did I breathe when he wasn’t in my world. I know my lungs worked….I was even happy. I just couldn’t quite understand how.

I survived my high blood pressure and loss of blood, and you survived your little heart murmur. (We just see the heart doctor for check-ups.) It was when we finally got home and settled that I realized things would be different with you. When we brought Sissy home, I was so worried about everything. I didn’t want anybody else to hold her. I was scared she would love somebody more than me. I was scared she wouldn’t gain enough weight. I was scared she would stop breathing. I was scared she wouldn’t walk and talk on time….the list could honestly go on and on. Then came Bubba. I had become used to the idea that my body was broken and I couldn’t grow a baby, but I did. To me, looking at his face was like looking at my own little miracle, and I was terrified that miracle would be taken away from me. I stared at him. I studied his face. I worried that I was spoiling him, so I tried to stop. I was genuinely obsessed with these two little beings.

Now here you are, my little extra nugget. I don’t worry about you loving someone more than me. I just let the love happen. I am not scared to let you experience a little roughness. I really don’t have a choice, your brother and sister make sure you are tough. You eat whatever we eat and somehow you manage to breathe on your own. You taught me that my body isn’t broken; it is quite resilient. Through you, I have learned that I can’t possibly love my babies too much. Love doesn’t spoil you. I have shamelessly allowed you to sleep with me and nursed you until your legs were dangling down mine. I have enjoyed every stage of your ‘babyness’… the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is like that extra nugget. You want to savor it. You appreciate it. You slowly eat it, lick your fingers, and silently thank Chick-fil-a for their generosity.

Love,

Mama

Burned nipples & other Disasters

Ahhhh, motherhood. It has its amazing moments; catching my daughter singing to Jesus, bubba saying he wants to be, “brave like David,” baby boy grabbing my cheeks and giving me the best lovin’. This is what keeps you sane; pieces of your day when the clouds part and you feel truly blessed to have been given children. Your babies aren’t wild, devious, heathens! No, they are perfect.

I like to imagine God in a control room watching my day on a monitor. He watches as I wake up and peel baby boy off of me. (Peel because we are stuck together with sweat, milk, & spit up.) He cringes as I make my way to Sissy’s room just in time to see her initial reaction to the outfit SHE helped me pick the night before. (Judging from her buried eyebrows and bulging bottom lip, her mind has changed overnight.) I am sure God grins and shakes his head while we scramble toward the car throwing on backpacks, crying, fussing. Five minutes later, we scramble out throwing on backpacks, crying, fussing. God nods at his entourage of angels, and admits this may not be the best day.

Sissy is dropped off and we make our way back to the car. We pick up my mama and head to the mall. Surely God chuckles when bubba starts to tee tee in the mall parking lot. (The elderly lady, leaving the mall, is not amused.) The boys are awful in the mall. (I know they can’t help it. They’re boys… It’s a mall.) We get Easter clothes, shoes, etc. and leave the way we came; sweaty, whiney, & hungry. Sissy is picked up and we return home. I make baby boy a bottle and decide I should probably sanitize the bottle nipples. (First baby: boiled them once a week, second baby: once a month, third baby: once…ever) I put them in a pot of boiling water and rush out of the kitchen to find the source of the loud banging noise. (No worries, just the big kids seeing who can jump off the dresser and over the baby.) The afternoon continues with homework and getting ready for sissy’s dance class.

I wonder if, at this point, heaven looks like an audience watching a suspenseful movie? The angels, fists clenched, shouting at me, “The nipples! Katina, remember the nipples!” They all look at God, “Is she going to remember? Please tell us that idiot doesn’t burn the house down!” Perhaps God simply smiles a knowing smile and shrugs.
The kids start begging for a snack. I walk into the kitchen and see a small amount of smoke. A burned rubber smell fills my nostrils. I remember the nipples! (The angels let out a sigh of relief.) All the water has evaporated and the nipples are frying. There is no time to cry over burned nipples. We’ve got to get to dance.

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Dance class is buzzing with the excitement of sparkly new costumes. The waiting room is quite stuffy, and baby boy keeps me busy by dumping out the diaper bag and crawling everywhere. (I am sure those same angels are watching when baby boy finds some remote location for my keys.) The girls explode from dance class hyped up on sugar, glitter, & all things girly. I begin looking for my keys. My search becomes more and more frantic as the next group bounces into the room. New mamas claim seats and look at me with pity. Baby boy starts squirming and sissy tries to help. I eventually let go of any remaining shred of dignity and lie flat on the floor to look under the furniture. The keys are gone. I give up and call my husband to bring the spare key.
I can’t help but shed a few tears when I get in the car. We get home and the nighttime craziness begins. When everyone is finally asleep, I sit in my chair and think about my day. (Maybe God is alone now too and watching me.) I pick up my phone and look back at the little video I made of sissy showing off her costume. I see her sweet smile and her confident wave. The clouds part. Joy and thankfulness flood my soul. I thank God for this wonderful day.

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Snow brings out the devil

In case you haven’t heard folks, we’ve got some winter weather… here…in Louisiana! And I’m not talking about a little wintery mix! Oh no, it’s a Jim Cantore gets excited kind of snow! Apparently, this massive amount of white, fluffy stuff causes all members of my family to temporarily lose their minds. Let me explain.

We woke this morning and looked outside expecting to see beautiful snow on the ground, but nope… just nasty, cold rain. Meteorologists had predicted snow would fall over night. (Goodness, don’t they know we tell our kids this junk.) Sadly, I have been plagued with strep throat for the past several days. Like always, I used my free time yesterday (ahahaha…. Free time) to browse Facebook, where I was bombarded with the sight of everybody playing in the ice. I saw cute little pictures of their babies frolicking around licking icicles, while my kids put on Halloween costumes, jumped on mattresses, and ate junk off the floor. (Don’t judge, this was a painful strep throat!) I just couldn’t get off the couch, and I felt too much mama guilt for not taking my kids outside to play. I know what you are thinking. Why doesn’t your lovely husband, who you gushed over in the Popcorn Guy post, take them out to play? Well, here’s a little secret; every so often, my amazing husband is a BOB (This is an acronym my friend & I made up before acronyms were cool) Let’s just say it means he doesn’t want to do any activities! 😉 So, when we saw that stupid rain this morning, everybody was a little heartbroken. My throat was killing me and baby boy had kept me up most of the night with his ear infection. I was tired and totally over all this winter weather. We called Nina & Gramps (husband’s wonderful parents) and they gladly agreed to watch the kids so I could sleep off this nagging sore throat. We left their house, and it started sleeting.
My husband asked, “Is there anything you think you could eat?”

“Ummm, yes, I could definitely eat some Counter Culture frozen yogurt!” (or froyo for you cool kids) “Look, they are open! Oh my gosh! I’m so happy! There is absolutely nothing else I could imagine eating!”

“Ok,” my husband said, “I want Captain D’s.” (We were excited, my lack of employment has led to some very interesting at home dinner creations!)
I told him we would get his first, so mine wouldn’t melt. We got in line at Captain D’s and waited, and waited, and waited. As we sat there, small flurries started falling. My husband ordered his TEN dollar fast food meal! (What the heck? TEN dollars for weird, fake fish! Grrrrr!) We got the million dollar meal in a plastic sack and proceeded over to the yogurt place. “Closed due to inclement weather”  This was the point at which I snapped. (Please keep in mind, ‘You’re not yourself when you’re hungry.’) I was going on two days of chicken broth! Chicken broth! I was very upset with the following people in the following order: 1. Husband 2. Captain D (I don’t know what he’s the captain of? … the gross factory where minced shrimp guts are turned into fryable mush… Just a guess.) 3. The lady in front of us, at Captain D’s, who must’ve ordered fifty pounds of fake fish 4. The meteorologists 5. The Counter Culture girls (I know, my list is ridiculous!)

By the time we pulled into our driveway, giant snowflakes were piling up like something from a movie… definitely not set in Louisiana! It was beautiful. Instead of thanking God for this amazing snow, my time off from work, my healthy babies, heat, a fireplace… I was sad. I honestly started crying, just a little. (Disclaimer: I was sick, starving, & still running a little fever.) I had a crazy moment; I started furiously making mashed potatoes. (You know, chopping a little crazily, mashing kind of wildly.) I told my husband he would just have to pick the kids up, because I was about to play in the snow. I could tell by his scrunched up facial expression that he did not think this was a very good idea, but he just said ok. (Still my popcorn guy!)
I stood at the stove, baby on my hip, hair not washed, same clothes as the day before, and shoved mashed potatoes in my mouth while I thought about all the fun other people were probably having. It was in that self pitying moment that I heard an ambulance. This pulled me from crazy land and plopped me back down in snowy Louisiana where my husband had just driven away to pick up two pieces of my heart. I tried to call him while remaining calm. (Do all mamas do this when they hear an ambulance?) He didn’t answer. Two more times, and, finally, he quite grumpily says, “Hello.” I knew they were fine, I truly did. But, I just needed the reminder: be thankful.

So, everyone was home and bouncing off the walls. Bubba cried because he couldn’t find his gloves. “Just put socks on your hands.” I said. Sissy cried because she didn’t want to wear her big mittens. “Here,” I cheerfully replied, “mama found you two little gloves.” Woo Hoo! I was on a role! Everyone was bundled up and ready.

 

I opened the front door and saw my so sweet husband already outside, not being a BOB at all. He smiled a huge smile and began rolling snowballs to make a snowman. The snowman looked awful, and Bubba just had to give him two hookers, clothes hangers, for arms.

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My husband looked so happy as he grabbed a handful of snow and started making a snowball. Then I saw that competitive, masculine little grin on his face. Before I could say no, he was throwing snowballs at the kids. He was relentless. He looked like Jack Nicholson in the shining. It was terrifying. At one point he yelled, “Hey, Strep Throat!” I stupidly turned and got a snowball in the face. Next, he told the kids, “Come here, I have something to show y’all.” Weirdo, I know! He was standing by the truck. The kids slowly walked over to him expecting a snowball in the face. When it didn’t happen they relaxed and looked up at him. It was then that my loving husband scraped all the snow off the top of his truck onto the babies’ faces. Of course, tears started, and they stomped toward the house while their daddy grabbed his stomach and laughed.

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I’m not sure what this says about our life as a whole, but this was truly a wonderful day. How blessed am I?

Adoption & the Scary Teenage Writer

When my husband and I decided to adopt, I went straight to Books-a-million, found the tiny adoption section, plopped myself down, & began devouring all the information I possibly could. I cried as I read story after story of loss, love, & sacrifice. There were books explaining international adoption, open adoption, foster care, what to expect, what not to expect, and so on. Then, I saw a little book, I can’t remember the title, that was written by an adopted child. It explained all the things she wished her adoptive parents had known. As I began to read through this small book, I felt the walls closing in around me. The author said things like,   I wish you hadn’t treated my birthday like a celebration, because all I could think about was how my birth mother lost something on that day. I wish you hadn’t talked about my adoption with other people while I was standing right there. It is my story. I wish you would have openly talked to me about my adoption. You shouldn’t have used cliches like “You grew in my heart…”  I hated it when people said, “You can’t even tell she’s adopted. She looks just like you.” I hate when people ‘forget’ I am adopted. 
My heart pounded in my chest. What was I doing? All those fears I had were true. My child would hate me. What was I supposed to do? Adopt a baby, never celebrate the baby’s birthday, never talk about our adoption with other people, talk about it all the time with our baby, punch people if they said the baby looks like us?!? Ahhhhhh, I couldn’t breath. I peeled myself off the floor, left my pile of books (sorry books-a-million), and fled that store. I rushed home and immediately began ugly crying. (You know what I mean.) I cried for the parents of that adopted girl. I cried for that girl. I cried for all adopted children, all birth mothers, all adoptive parents. I cried for myself.
The next few months slowly passed by with profile books, home study visits, and massive amounts of paperwork. We had a couple of possible adoption situations that didn’t work out. My emotions were crazy. I wanted to be positive and excited, but the author of that book would not leave me alone. For every success her petulant little voice had a negative comeback. When we finished our home study, she said, “Wonderful, you are one step closer to taking someone else’s baby.” When our lawyer called to let us know she would be sending our profile book to another state, that poor girl was relentless, “Great,” she whined, “you are spreading your prospects. Making it more unlikely that ‘your’ (she said that word with spiteful sarcasm) baby will ever get to meet his or her birth family. How wonderful for you…. Baby thief.” (I know, she was getting really mean.)
I started doing yoga. I became vegan (maybe it was the evil meat infiltrating my mind). I tried to push those horrible thoughts away. As the school year ended, the weather warmed and we planned for our beach vacation. I decided I would forget about adopting. My work was done anyway. I could only wait, and there was no point in staying in this constant state of fear over something that might never even happen. Pity party over, vacation on. Well, you know how life is. When you least expect it…

We were driving to Florida when we got a call from our lawyer’s office, “She picked y’all!” I just couldn’t believe it. I was so excited, but also terrified. I thought about that little baby girl. Should I buy her clothes? What about a carseat? Of course, that stinkin’ teenage author snuck into my thoughts, “You know, while you are thinking about a car seat and silly clothes, ‘your’ baby’s mother is thinking about pain & loss.” I tried to explain myself to this girl! I told her I knew about loss. I understood this mother would feel pain. I told her I was sad about that. But, I begged her to let me be happy.

We were at the beach for a few days, when we received more shocking news. The baby had come 8 weeks early. We needed to get there, now! My husband and I threw our things in suitcases and jumped in the car. All I could think about was getting to my baby. I knew she needed me. It was so strange; even though that girl was still in my mind…. She doesn’t need you. She needs her ‘real’ mother. You can’t give this tiny baby what she needs.    I felt powerful enough to take her on. I told her, my baby did need me. I told her the facts. This mother, who had given birth to our baby, had also made me a mama. She went through all the profiles in her state and surrounding states but didn’t find any couple she wanted to be the parents of her baby. She searched and prayed. Her lawyer sent requests everywhere looking for a couple that this mother might choose. Our little profile somehow ended up in front of her. Who knew a teacher and coach from nowhere, Louisiana would be exactly the parents she was looking for? I took a deep breath. (Learned that in yoga.) I allowed myself to imagine the baby, but only for a minute.
We got home, unpacked, re-packed, and hopped on an airplane. Our lawyer called the children’s hospital that our daughter had been transferred to. We had permission to go to the hospital. We walked to the desk and explained our situation. The nurse gave us two badges that said, PARENT. My heart fluttered. Was this real? I was a parent. A small voice said,     You aren’t a parent. Did you feel her kick? Did you grow huge? Did you scream and push? Were you there for that first breath?

I bent my head low. We were in the elevator. Rising up, up, almost there. We were totally silent. Some upbeat music bounced around. My husband and I held hands and watched the numbers climb. The doors opened and we walked out and looked for her room. There. The door was open. We peeked in. Oh my. 100_1776My heart was suddenly filled with a need to hold her. A nurse came in and showed me how to open the incubator and take her out. She placed her in my arms. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, that girl was rolling her eyes at the mushy cliche of an adoptive mother I had become. I couldn’t help it. It was all true! My heart was full! I felt complete! I was this baby’s mama. I wanted to scream, “I love you!” I didn’t dare though. That voice whispered, “This isn’t real. It isn’t going to happen.”

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The next few weeks were crazy! We stayed at the Ronald McDonald house, then moved to a hotel when our baby was released from the hospital. She quit breathing a couple of times, so we had to take CPR classes and she had to wear an apnea monitor. The state’s laws required us to stay there for several weeks. Over a month after we had arrived, we were finally allowed to take our baby home. Six months later we returned to finalize sister’s adoption. Both my husband and I had to stand in front of the judge and tell her why we were there. Of course, I was all trembly. There was that voice, “You are going to say something weird. The judge will slam her gavel and call you a ‘fake’ mama. They will take your baby.” My sane self knew these thoughts were crazy, but it was so hard for me to believe everything would be ok.

The judge gave Sissy a little gavel which she happily gnawed on. We took pictures and floated around on a cloud of happiness.

That voice hasn’t left me. I still have fears. I have learned that this is a part of motherhood. No matter how your family is formed, you worry about them. The book I stumbled upon that day in Books-a-Million wasn’t painfully skimmed over in vain. I kept some of those words and I think about them. I have always told Sissy about her adoption. I made a scrapbook for her and we read it together. We never discuss any details of her birth family with other people. We will honor her birth mother and explain to Sissy what a brave and difficult choice her birth mother made. I could never forget she is adopted. The journey was too beautifully painful. However, we celebrate that little girl’s birthday with a big party, cake, hugs, & love. How could we not? What a special day when she took her first breath. The best parts of life are usually arrived at by way of heartache and pain.

Three is Plenty

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Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those ‘awe wee I’m sleeping so sweetly with my baby’ pictures.’ (Which, by the way, we all know you just closed your eyes and took a selfie! You are pretending to be asleep! It’s weird!) Anywhooo…This is my own little reminder.

I would like to take a moment to address future Katina:
Dear me,
I know you. You are sitting there in the brown chair. All the babies are asleep. Little sissy just told you some girly story, in her adorable sassy tone, about her friends or about how she wants to marry daddy. She probably gave you one of her too tight hugs and sleepily said, “night night mama.”
Bubba giggled his silly little giggle, asked you some obscure question about Thor, then wanted you to climb in his bed and give him “sugars and luvins.”
Baby boy just snuggled his soft red hair into the crook of your arm, made some lovely cooing sounds, then peacefully drifted off to sleep.
But…..Don’t you do it! Don’t you even begin to entertain the idea. Say it with me: Three is Plenty! Remember sad, frustrated, 2:00 am Katina with a big baby smooshed into her jugular, begging you to think not of those sweet angelic faces, but the other faces… The screaming, “Sissy cut my hair!” The fighting, “He keeps biting me.” The all night, face to face, sweet….wonderful breath of a…. Oh my goodness! Stop it! It’s not sweet! You just spent all night wrestling with a wild animal of a baby. He actually slapped you. At some point during your day you will contemplate running out the door, down the road, never to return again. Then they will get you. Somebody will draw you a picture or hand you a tiny little weed flower. One of those little monsters will make you laugh or melt your heart. You will forget the rest. The massive amount of work, worry, and life sucking lack of sleep will be magically erased leaving behind one simple feeling… LOVE. Don’t be fooled sista! Remember me.
Your friend in the motherhood battle,
Me

Is this weird? Probably. Don’t judge me unless you were up all night with a baby, & if you were up all night with your own munchkin, maybe you should write yourself a little reminder letter. Because you know the day will come when all that unpleasantness will be forgotten or warped into sweet tales of how adorable your children were. Remember the tough times folks or you will soon find yourself with a 2:00 am wake up call. I don’t care who you are, there ain’t nothing adorable about this:
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