Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Denver house tour: before and after

Remember how I told you we're in the process of buying a new home on a couple of acres outside of the city?  And how we're turning our present Denver bungalow into a rental?  Well, we successfully found a renter (on our first day of showings!) and are closing on our new home this Friday afternoon.  (Baby Girl is due this Thursday, just in case anyone is keeping track of my anxiety/insanity levels.)

We've lived in our Denver house for nearly five years now.  It has required a fair amount of work (tearing out an entire subfloor, putting in new carpet and new hardwoods, painting, tons of small repairs etc.), which has actually been kind of fun.  Other than laying the flooring, we've done everything ourselves--and by ourselves, I mostly mean my husband.  Maybe that's why I think it's been fun.

In all seriousness, it is highly fulfilling to take something that's been neglected or just desperately needs an update, and make it better.  The house itself is really pretty great--5 bedrooms in a fun and popular neighborhood where that is hard to find.  Lots of natural light.  Lots of character.  I love my home.   

And I've been quite amazed by how much you can improve something with some simple paint or new light fixtures.  No need to drop lots of money to make a good change.  I don't have a crafty or aesthetically-creative bone in my body, but I have to say I'm really pleased with what we've done.  It's not fancy or magazine-worthy , but it's home.

So I thought I'd share some before and after shots.  Nothing too exciting, but who doesn't like peeking into other peoples' homes? 

Most of the before pictures (all except for the ones where parts of the house are torn up) are from before we owned the house.

Living room before:

Living room after:
Kitchen/dining area before:

Kitchen/dining area after:


Master bedroom before:

Master bedroom after:

Main-floor bathroom:
Schoolroom before:
Schoolroom after:
Kids' bathroom before:
Kids' bathroom after:
Basement main-area before:
Basement main-area after:
My big-girls' bedroom:
My boys' bedroom:
My little girls' bedroom:

Our guest bedroom:
Most of my furniture is either thrifted, from Craigslist, or IKEA.  (Remember, I'm not fancy.)  Some of it is old and repainted (like the bright yellow dresser in the living room and the two white nightstands in my bedroom, all of which used to be fakey-pine, and the aqua piano in the schoolroom that was originally dark brown.)  One of my favorite finds has been our dining room chandelier--$12 from my neighborhood thrift store + some spraypaint!

I admit I'm already excited to get into our new place and start making some changes.  The home itself is pretty much turn-key, so we can focus our attention on fun stuff like painting the kitchen cabinets and islands and putting in new drawer pulls and knobs.  I already have lots of ideas (loving Pinterest these days!), and while I'm no decorater, I've discovered that making my home the way I want it actually has a huge effect on my day and general outlook.  Which may not seem like a huge revelation, but it actually kind of has been for me.  It'll be nice too because some things here I never did finish (little girls' room, basement main-part, etc.) because we decided to move, and I'm looking forward to finally getting to do what I want.  On a budget.  Because I'm cheap like that.

So there you have it.  Our home for the past five years.  I'm going to miss it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Five secrets to survival mode

For the past two weeks now I've been battling a horrible cold.  Think stuffy nose, nasty cough, sore throat, no energy, headaches, sleeplessness.  Yuck!  And add to that the fact that I'm now, you know, nearly 39 weeks pregnant, and you can see it's not a pretty picture.  (They say flus and colds are more severe in pregnancy, and I definitely concur with that!)

Meanwhile of course life goes on, and I am still responsible for taking care of all these kids because, as we all know, stay-at-home moms don't technically get sick days. 

You would think that God would spare moms--especially moms-to-many--from life's little inconveniences like stomach viruses and influenza, but it turns out He doesn't, at least not this mom.  I do get sick from time to time, and while I've actually had a really healthy past several months, this cold about did me in.  Thankfully I'm mostly all better now but it's been rough!

One of the questions people have been asking me for years is how do I handle being sick with so many children?  Truthfully, I don't always handle it very well--I find it incredibly stressful to have to check out of normal life for longer than a day or two, and then the guilt starts to creep in, and then I start to feel completely and utterly hopeless and sad and wonder how on earth I'm surviving my crazy life at all, and I begin to rethink our decision to homeschool and start making mental plans to enroll my kids in our neighborhood school, except then I'd have to do pickups and dropoffs while sick, so how would that work? 

It is, um, an ugly downward-spiral.  That generally involves tears at some point, and I never cry, so that is really saying something.

But thankfully I've learned some things over the years that have really helped, and sometimes I wonder if God allows illness--even run-of-the-mill silly things like colds--to illuminate what matters and what doesn't, and to show us that He is ultimately in control, and that the world is not actually all on our shoulders.

1.)  Take care of yourself.  This is key, and something I figured out pretty early on.  You simply cannot raise children and keep a home and love your husband if you are not well physically, emotionally or spiritually.  You may be able to do so for a time, but it's just not sustainable.  So my children know that when I'm sick, I need to rest--which means that some of my normal tasks will fall by the wayside, some will be picked up by my husband, and some will be picked up by the kids themselves.  Naptime will need to be especially quiet if I'm going to be sleeping myself, and one of the kids might make dinner two nights in a row, or my husband might bring home frozen pizzas to heat up for dinner.  And, I refuse to feel bad about it.  We all get sick from time to time, and my priority at that point becomes getting well.

2.)  Avoid feeling guilty.  I know, I know--we moms are somehow genetically engineered to feel guilty about pretty much everything.  Why is that?  I really have no idea, but I do know that it can be mighty tempting to feel bad when your husband comes home to a messy house, or to dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, or to kids with disheveled hair and sticky hands.  Not that that ever happens around here.  :)  In all honesty I don't often think about how high my standards are until I get sick and stuff starts falling by the wayside, and I start apologizing all over myself.  "I'm so sorry our bed's not made!  I need to load this dishwasher right now!  I'll be back to cooking soon!"  And I have to say that when I start down this path, my husband usually laughs at me and orders me not to apologize, tells me things are totally fine and he doesn't care, and then sends me back to bed.  (Though I generally refuse to go until I've loaded those dishes.  I just can't handle dirty dishes on the counter.)  It can be hard to fight the guilty feelings, but ladies, this is an area where we are WAY too hard on ourselves.  And it doesn't do us any good to feel bad about what are, really, quite trivial things.

3.)  Prioritize.  As important as it is to rest and avoid the guilt trap, if there's something I know makes me feel better in general (I mentioned keeping up on dishes earlier), I'll put my efforts toward doing that.  A clean, tidy house has become increasingly important to me as our family has grown.  Before we had all these kids, I was kind of a slob.  Now though I have all sorts of  neurotic control issues around the house.  SO, even when I'm feeling downright horrible, I do generally keep up on the dishes and also enforce my kids getting their assorted chores done--kitchen cleaned up after every meal, toys picked up before naps and before dinner, bedrooms tidied before bed.  All of that goes a long way in keeping me sane while I'm sick.

4.)  Share the load.  Now this one applies to all-the-time, not just when I'm under the weather, but it becomes even more important when I'm not functioning at 100%.  Would it surprise you if I told you I don't do much laundry (aside from mine, Kevin's and the littlest ones) beyond pouring the detergent into the machine?  Or that I don't sweep up or wipe down the table after meals?  My kids do those things.  My kids have responsibilities around the house, like emptying the trash, cleaning the kitchen, loading, switching, unloading, folding, and putting away their own laundry, helping with the littlest ones, and of course keeping their bedrooms and toys tidied up.  And, they're actually pretty good at it.  Every family is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to these sorts of things, but I will tell you that I believe my kids are learning valuable, practical life skills while also contributing in positive and constructive ways to our family.  The jobs are pretty much the same every day so they know what to expect, and when they get to work it really doesn't take very long.  And oh, does this come in handy when I'm out of commission.

5.)  Laugh.  This is possibly the most important of all!  It is so easy to get discouraged and frustrated and totally stressed out, but if I take the time to just be, and sit back and enjoy my children, I'm reminded of some Very Important Things.  Like, the fact that life goes on and is more than okay when I'm not myself.  Or that a few subpar meals in a row is not the end of the world.  Or that resting in bed is the perfect opportunity to grab some extra cuddle time with your sweet three-year-old.  One of the loveliest moments with my kids in some time actually came last week around the dinnertable, over frozen pizza that I couldn't taste, while I sat blowing my nose and enjoying their lively conversation.  Being forced to slow down can, in fact, be a gift.

Now if I can just remind myself of all these things when Baby Girl arrives...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's reflections

Me and my Valentine at this year's company Christmas party.  I am very pregnant, and very uncharacteristically in a sports stadium.
It's February 14th, meaning that my big kids just set off for their weekly homeschool co-op with homemade cards in hand, eagerly anticipating a day filled with sugar consumption and hearts.  Meanwhile I'm home with my little ones, anticipating what will be a belated Valentine's Day date with my husband once I'm finally over this ridiculous cold and can, you know, actually taste food again.  (Word to the wise: don't come down with a week-plus-long cold when you're 37 weeks pregnant.  Just don't.  It's awful.)

Now my husband doesn't know this, but our date will also include shopping for baby things--because I'm completely unprepared for Baby Girl's birth in two weeks.  As in I presently have one onesie, one nightgown and one pair of pants for baby, and no nursing bra for me.  Oh, and I need to buy an infant carseat, 'cause I don't have one of those either, and supposedly babies use them.

I figure that's what you do with your Special Valentine when you've been married ten-plus years: you go to dinner and shop for the baby, and hope it all gets done before your water breaks.  And in my case, you have a heck of a good time doing it.

Because, well, I love my husband an awful lot.  I love being married, I love thinking back to when we were dating, and I love our story.  I love how we married young and started having children young.  I love all of the assorted adventures we've had and I love thinking about the many more up ahead.  I love us.

Marriage is awesome.  Even in the mundane.  Maybe especially in the mundane.

I read an interesting article in Salon recently that I plan to write more fully about at some point in the future.  For now I'll tell you that the subject was Mormon mommy blogs, and why so many people are addicted to them...including the author of the article--a self-described (and unmarried) feminist.  Her point was that people are clearly drawn to the shiny-happy marriages and families portrayed by these LDS bloggers, and it's no wonder: we live in a time and place where we're supposed to be discontent, stressed out, "too busy".  Marriages aren't necessarily all that happy.  So these glimpses into the lives of people who might just be happy serve as a sort of escape, or at the very least, an encouragement or assurance that it's at least possible.

It got me thinking about how maybe the culture really does need more and not less of that. More women and more men willing to share the good about married life, raising children, and domesticity.  Not from a look-at-my-perfectly-photographed-and-magazine-worthy-house-and-family perspective, but from a life-is-simple-and-there-is-joy-in-my-vocation sort of place. 

If nothing else, we married people could certainly aim to laugh at ourselves a bit more, and maybe not take things quite so seriously. 

Things like Baby Girl being due in two weeks...closing on our new home shortly after the due date...packing up my house in the final stages of pregnancy...discovering that I have literally no present ability to dress, change, or transport Baby Girl...being bedridden with a cold when I'm supposed to be doing all the aforementioned other stuff.  It's real life, and it's positively crazy, and I swear that the secret to staying sane and happy is that my husband and I laugh about it pretty much every single day.

This is of course part of why I'm so very happy to be married to my husband.  He's someone I admire quite a bit, he takes good care of his family, he is devoted to Jesus, and he cracks me up.  We're best friends. 

A blog reader actually emailed me a long time ago asking if I'd write a post about how to find a good spouse.  And that post is sitting, unfinished, in my drafts.  Sad.  I need to finish it.  It's fun for me to write about stuff like that because I really did find a good husband, which is a good thing because it's one of the most important decisions you'll ever make.  God has blessed us with a delightful marriage and beautiful life together and I don't take that for granted.  No it doesn't mean we never argue or get angry, but it means that we really, genuinely like each other.  That we look forward to time together, even if it's dragging screaming kids through Target or making a spontaneous offer on a house.  And above all else, we're fiercely committed to our marriage.  Until death do us part.  No if's, and's or but's.  No escape clauses.   

So anyway, that's my Valentine's Day: trying to kick this rotten cold so I can go to dinner, and so my baby will have socks.  And you know what?  I can't wait.  Because it's going to be me and him, good food, good conversation, and a lot of laughing.  Love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Like it's 1415

To the world, it's unsettling to imagine a man with global influence and practical power, moving to a small room, in a house of prayer, where he'll offer Mass and probably practice the piano. But Benedict XVI has never been interested in power or influence. He has been interested in friendship with Jesus Christ — his own, and mine, and yours.---Denver Archbishop Aquila

I woke up yesterday to the surprising news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation and, consequently, to a Facebook feed replete with commentary, speculation, and even some vitriol (thank you Anne Rice fan page).  No one was really expecting this, that much is clear.

This is the first time a pope has resigned since 1415.

I honestly wasn't planning on writing about it--what could I possibly say that others hadn't already said within hours of the bombshell announcement?  That is, until someone asked me what I thought, and I considered how the pope used to be a pretty mysterious figure to me back when I was a Protestant.  I didn't get it, and didn't know any Catholics who could explain it.  And it's funny because, well, now I'm Catholic, so I figure maybe I should take this opportunity to share my journey of coming to accept the doctrine of the papacy, now that the whole world is talking about the papacy.

The chair of St. Peter is a difficult hurdle for Protestants for a number of reasons, but I think it all comes down to the idea that Catholicism is Sacramental.  It is earthy.  Physical things that we can see, hear, smell, and touch also hold supernatural and eternal significance. 

And there really isn't a whole lot of that in Protestantism: baptism and communion are, in many denominations, regarded as merely symbolic.  Marriage is something that can be dissolved.  The Bible's commands about confessing sins are distilled down to occasionally saying "sorry" to God, while not holding any real significance because they were already paid for in full.  Ordained pastors, ministers and reverends may preach the Bible from the pulpit, but they cannot trace their lineage back to Saint Peter. 

So the very thought that God uses the stuff of earth--like bread and wine and water and people--to carry out the supernatural was once something foreign to me.  The very thought that the Holy Spirit actively protects Christ's Church from error in passing on the deposit of faith received from the apostles was disconcerting.  And yet as a Protestant I certainly accepted the Bible itself as being inerrant, I'd just never connected the dots and considered why exactly that might not extend to the institution which gave us the Bible.

As time passed by and I continued reading and processing through this other way of looking at faith, as I cautiously allowed myself to stand back and think what if, as I weighed the evidence and considered the possibilities, the burden of proof began to shift.  Either the Catholics were, gasp, right, or the early Church fathers and subsequent popes and doctors of the Church were the most brilliant and cunning of all men.  Because you know what?  Roman Catholicism makes sense.  From every angle: historically, Biblically and philosophically, it fits together.  No mental gymnastics required to accept Jesus' crowd-scattering words in John 6, no crazy disconnect between the Old Testament priesthood and Jesus' fulfillment of the sacrifice, and no need to pretend John 20:21-23 isn't there.

And from a purely experiential perspective--heaven forbid my personal experience ever become any sort of litmus test for truth, but I will still acknowledge it as a perspective--the Catholic Church truly is the fullness of the faith.  Christ's Church as He established it.  No coincidence that as civilizations and societies and assorted denominations crumble, the Catholic Church stands.  Her teachings don't change.  And so what a gift it has been for me personally to receive the Sacraments, to receive Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist at Mass, to be absolved of my sins in the Sacrament of Confession, to see the beauty of chastity reflected in both my marriage and in the lives of the many consecrated religious that I know. 

Simply, I've fallen in love with the Church.

Years before becoming Catholic, I sat glued to St. Peter's Square on the television screen, waiting for the smoke that would indicate a new pope had been chosen.  I was completely transfixed.  See while I'd never taken the time to really look into it all, I'd long been interested in the subject of Church History, especially in regards to the Reformation, and why there were so many Protestant sects today, and how the Catholics could hold so many views that "weren't in the Bible." 

And, the pope. 

I really wondered about the pope.  How could someone so clearly arrogant, claiming to speak for God Himself, be heralded as holy or as someone who loved Jesus?  How could a man claim to love the God I loved and keep people in bondage to a bunch of man-made rules and superstitious devotions?  I just didn't get it.

So I watched.  I watched as Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

Without the slightest thought that one day I would look to him as the Holy Father of a Church to which I belonged.

How wrong I was about this man, and about the papacy in general.  Jesus wanted His Church to have a shepherd.  He left His Church in the hands of the apostles.  He built His Church upon Saint Peter, who would be the leader of Jesus' Church on earth.  This leader was never to be confused for God or our Savior Jesus Christ, but instead to represent Him and point us towards Him.  To protect us from false teachers and from bad doctrine.  Not by his own magic powers, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

No pope has ever been sinless.  I used to think that's what Catholics believed and it made little sense to me, for obvious reasons.  But it turns out that the Catholic Church has never even remotely suggested this--instead, it was just my own uninformed and mistaken understanding of papal infallibility.

Far from meaning that the pope is all-knowing or all-perfect, infallibility means that:
when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable  (Vatican I).

Eventually I came to understand.  Eventually I came to accept the doctrines about the papacy as true.  Eventually I became Catholic.

And I am, like many, so very sorry to hear of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.  If you've read any of his writings, then you know he is profoundly brilliant with an incredible heart for Jesus.  I've long appreciated his unwillingness to compromise and his courageous standing for truth, which he somehow manages to do with charity, grace and clarity.  I believe he truly has the Church's best interests at heart. 

I also believe the media, from FOX News to MSNBC, will continue to speculate and demonize and call his legacy a failure, all in the premature and confused way they report on everything else. 

I believe millions will cast aspersions on this holy man by saying he couldn't quell scandal or harmonize the progressives and the conservatives.  As if that is in his control, or job description.  These people haven't a clue about what the Catholic Church is or about who the pope is.  Like me all those years ago, watching the live news feed from Vatican City.

Thankfully though I've learned that the papacy is not about power or prestige.  It's a humble and often despised position, in spite of its immense importance and significance.  And Pope Benedict XVI's plan to live out the rest of his days in a monastery is further evidence that this is indeed a remarkable pope.  This is indeed a virtuous man who loves his Lord above all else, and who is intent on giving up his life for his friends.  Us.  The Church.  His future will look insignificant to the world who already can't wrap their mind around a man relinquishing the papacy, but then again, that is one of God's most precious and hidden truths, isn't it?  Nothing done in service to Jesus is small.  Prayer, devotion, the little things, the unseen, all of it is of great and eternal value.  We may never know the graces and beauty that have come to us through the prayers of the faithful.

And I for one have been honored to have been served by Pope Benedict XVI, and I will be honored to have him praying for me in the years to come.  May God bless and keep this dear soul.

The Church will of course continue on, teaching the truth and shepherding souls to heaven.  What a beautiful gift we've been given.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

To my {second} youngest daughter

Mary Lucille,

Roughly three weeks from now I'll be giving birth to your new baby sister.  My water will no doubt break like it always does, we'll grab some towels and go to the hospital and, after what will hopefully be yet another of my short-and-uneventful-labors-that-hurt-like-heck-but-make-me-feel-empowered, Baby Heldt Number 8 will be here.

And, I know.  Baby Number 8.

In case you hadn't noticed, we have us a lot of kids 'round these here parts.  You're all fairly close in age and four of you are adopted and two of you were born with Down syndrome, and so we get a lot of attention when we go places like Costco and IKEA.  Our family is noisy, messy, crazy, funny and, well, different--we drive a huge 15-passenger-van that other peoples' kids like to look inside, for goodness' sake.

Over the years, we've been asked many times if we are "done having kids".  Being that we are about to have eight, I guess you know the answer.  God showed us long ago that children are a gift, a blessing, and ultimately the beautiful product of married love.  When I married your daddy over ten years ago, I knew he'd make an amazing husband and an incredible father, but I'd had no idea just how true it would be.  With the birth and adoption of every.single.child, our marriage has grown, stretched, and multiplied in love.  With the addition of each and every precious one of you, my respect for and relationship with your dad has deepened.  It's become better.  And that love extends to you and your siblings as well. 

So as for being "done", well, it is impossible to imagine life without any one of you crazy kids.  We may not be the world's most conventional family, but our home is full.  Filled to the brim with life.  It's Anna with her nose in a book, it's Yosef and Biniam whispering about their day before they drift off to sleep at night, it's Kaitlyn leading Mekdes, you and Tigist in some sort of craft she's come up with (that usually involves drinking straws and glue), and it's you dancing with your baby dolls to Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" as I write this letter. 

And you see, I know there could never be a moment in the future when I would look around--no matter how crowded our dinnertable might become--and think that there are just too many children. Or ever think that factors like college funds and bedroom space and owning a cool car ought to dictate family size. 

I'm so glad for each of you and for the beautiful, priceless, impossible-to-be-replicated dynamic you bring to our family. 

Done is overrated.  Obviously.

Now of course you and your sister Tigist are collectively known as "the babies".  You in particular have been the youngest for awhile now and even at three years old, I think of you as my baby.  The way you mispronounce words and boss your older siblings around, and the way your wispy blond hair flies in the wind and gets in your eyes because you refuse to wear a hair clip--all those things are so you, and make you so incredibly dear to me.  This may sound strange, but I've savored my "baby time" more and more with each subsequent child.  Chubby toes and big tears and little voices...all of it.

And we've had some amazing time with you as our baby.  We've done some amazing things. 

Remember when we took you all the way to Ethiopia, and you were the first sibling to meet Mekdes and Tigist?

Or when we went to Rome, and I breastfed you in the roped-off area of the Sistine Chapel?  At the invitation of Vatican officials? 

But you're not technically a baby anymore, nor are you technically the youngest.

Because a new baby girl is about to be born.

And far from being even a little put out by this unavoidable fact, you're on track to win the award for "Most Excited Kid to Meet the New Baby."  For the past nine months your hand has never been far from my growing belly, you regularly greet me by asking if the baby's awake, and when she kicks and you feel it?  You squeal, giggle, cover your mouth with delight and yell happily at the top of your lungs.  No insecurity, no fear that you might just be losing your place in the family.

Just love.

I'm not sure why this still surprises me--after all this time, after being amazed over and over again by how God multiplies love and opens hearts and knits families together, I still somehow wonder.  I am still for some reason tempted to question God's design for families, for the community of siblings which nurtures and instructs and loves without condition.  Is it really okay to have seven siblings?  Will this baby be...resented?  Even a little bit?

But it just never seems to happen.  Instead, God strengthens bonds and softens hearts as He brings forth life.

When we brought you home from the hospital three-and-a-half years ago, you were greeted by two sisters and two brothers who refused to leave your side for, well, the last three-and-a-half years.

And now it's your turn to love and ohhhh and ahhhh and fight over a new baby.  You'll be stepping into a brand new role in our family, and a role that God is giving you at that.  Which is pretty exciting, in part because I'll get to see a new dimension to who you are.  I already see how you take a nurturing role with Tigist who, while chronologically older, is developmentally younger, but I think it will be even more apparent with a sweet and fragile little newborn for you to hold and kiss.

I can't wait.

And so even though you're clearly far too young to read my blog (in spite of your recent ability to buy an app, unauthorized, on our Kindle), I wanted to write all of this down as I reflect on the mystery and beauty of marriage and family, of life begetting life, of God working through mothers and fathers and children and siblings to bring love, hope and true peace to the world.  You are part of God's amazing creation, part of His most perfect plan, and I honestly can't wait to see how He uses you in the life of your precious new sister.

Because while you may be young, you are born with a beautiful and innate dignity, and are a unique and profound gift to your new sister, to your family, to the world, to the Church, and to Jesus. 

All of this to say, as you prepare to give up your spot as baby of our family, thank you for loving New Baby Girl so well, Mary Lu-Lu-Lu.  She is blessed to have you waiting for her.

All my love,

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Spontaneous and pregnant

Have you and your husband ever decided to convert your present house into a rental, and buy a new house, all at 8-months-pregnant?
Yeah, me neither.
Oh wait.
Yes, yes I have.
Just recently in fact.
I know it's crazy, but we are indeed buying a new house.  On two-and-a-half acres.  Outside of the city.  And rather spontaneously, I might add!
When we first moved to Colorado five years ago, we did a ton of research and bought a bungalow in a historic old city neighborhood that we knew would be, due to location, a great investment.  (That's me and Kaitlyn checking it out for the first time.  She was so little!)  It's hard to choose a place to live when you're thousands of miles away, and so this seemed a safe bet--we figured once we eventually put down some roots and had a better handle on the metro area, we'd relocate if we wanted.
And we've enjoyed our time here.  I love my home and my neighborhood.  The house was a fixer-upper and is (like most homes in the neighborhood), um, kind of quirky--but it's been so fulfilling to see it all come together.  We've put a lot of work into it, and it feels good.  I'll have to do a before-and-after post sometime soon.
We've decided though that ultimately, we want our kids' childhood marked by being outdoors, running free, and having space.  For years now in fact I've been telling my {ever-patient} and {long-suffering} husband that I want him to buy me a farm where we don't have to do any actual farming.
Because I'm practical like that.
And, I like moving.

I like packing.

I like organizing.

I like getting rid of stuff.

I like getting into a house and changing things.
As for Kevin, he doesn't like moving, but in spite of his regular head-shaking at my aspirations to own some sort of non-working cattle ranch, he shares my vision for our family.  Plus he's tired of battling I-25 traffic to and from work everyday, and he didn't like when someone recently helped themselves into our minivan and went sifting through the contents of our glove compartment.  (To save anyone else the trouble, we just have car manuals and holy cards in there.  No cash.  Sorry.)  And it turns out that right now (life circumstances like, oh I don't know, being on the precipice of giving birth aside) is actually a great time for us to make this transition, financially-speaking. 

And to make an already-long story short, we went and looked at a house on a whim that pretty much surpassed any and all expectations.  Beautiful area, stunning mountain views, a little bit of acreage, and the home itself is outfitted perfectly for a big ol' family like ours. 
The only drawback--and it's a huge one--is that the house is in the complete opposite direction of our friends, our parish, and my parents.  But we figure we can make it work.  Our social and parish life will remain the same--we'll just be that family that drives a little farther for stuff.  If nothing else, people will be extra impressed and happy to see us when we show up to parties, right?
So in a semi-uncharacteristic move on our part, we threw caution to the wind and made an offer, which the owners accepted, and which is contingent upon us getting renters into this house.  If all goes as planned, we'll close escrow on March 7th--exactly one week after my due date. 
Clearly, this will prove to be either one of the best or dumbest things we've ever done. 
The great thing about blogging is, you readers will be the first to know.
I'll keep you posted.  :)

Monday, February 04, 2013

Catholic Stand

Hi friends!

Head on over to a great new website that recently launched, and to which I'll be regularly contributing.  Today I have an article up about adoption:  Openness to Life by way of adoption.

Friday, February 01, 2013

On adoption and the deserving of life

Recently I wrote an article entitled Why You Can't Erase Women.  It got a bit of attention, and as generally happens when that is the case, it also generated some good discussion.  Interestingly, some in the pro-life camp were disappointed that I didn't use the other "a-word" in my piece: adoption.

Apparently this surprised people, which in turn surprised me, because I don't necessarily connect being anti-abortion with being an adoptive parent.  In fact, I actually bristle when adoption advocates say you can't be pro-life (!) if you aren't adopting (!), and I also bristle when pro-lifers casually throw the word adoption around--as if abortion is somehow only wrong because some other couple might want that baby.

So as I've been thinking through some of this, I wanted to essentially come clean here and say I didn't omit that word by accident.  I didn't unintentionally leave out a paragraph in my haste to hit publish, or experience a brain malfunction that resulted in such an egregious error.   

The truth is that I avoided the subject of adoption altogether, on purpose.  Because my article was about women, abortion, motherhood, and the dignity of the human person.  It wasn't about adoption.  Abortion would be a horrible atrocity if no children were being adopted.  And maybe this seems like an arbitrary distinction, but adoption is not technically a mother's alternative to abortion, anyhow. 

Relinquishment is.

Having four adopted children myself, I will tell you that the issues surrounding relinquishment (a birth mother legally forfeiting her right to raise her child) and adoption (a person legally accepting parental responsibility for a child not born to them) are complex, difficult, and downright messy. 

That's why it bothers me when adoption is casually suggested as an easy and obvious solution to the problem of abortion.  As if a child being relinquished is no big deal.

For those raising adopted children with ADHD, PTSD, or RAD, it's a very big deal.

For those who've had to place their adopted children in residential treatment, it's a very big deal.

For women who weep over the loss of the child(ren) they relinquished, it's a very big deal.

For children in the US foster care system legally cleared for adoption but who are never chosen, it's a very big deal.

So in spite of being an adoptive mother, I tend to avoid adoption sound bites when I'm discussing abortion.  While this sort of rhetoric may on some level seem logical (and is certainly sometimes appropriate), it can also belie a misunderstanding of what is actually at stake in the taking of a vulnerable child's life, and may indeed render a birth mother little more than an incubator.

Which was kind of Libby Anne's whole point about the anti-abortion movement in the first place.

Plus, does anyone really believe that feminists are pro-abortion simply because they don't know relinquishment is an option?

Or that women obtaining abortions are largely doing so because they're unaware that they could place their child for adoption?

The sad truth is that not all relinquished children in the United States will be immediately chosen by loving and capable adoptive parents--some languish in the system for years, and some will eventually emancipate.  Some are medically fragile and live out their days in state-run homes or NICUs.  But whether a child is "wanted" or not, that child, made in the image of God, retains the dignity and right to live.  Period.

Now of course I consider myself a staunch advocate for adoption--I really do.  An orphanage is no place for a person to grow up, and emancipating from the foster care system is, sadly, a recipe for failure.  Kids.need.families.  And it terrifies me to think about where my own four adopted children would be today, had their respective birth mothers not made the decision to relinquish.  Two of them would have died as infants, because they were quite literally starving.  Two of them happen to have Down syndrome and would most likely have endured horrible abuse and neglect throughout their short lives, due to social stigmas in their birth country.

So yes, relinquishment and adoption are an integral part of caring for birth mothers in crisis.  And they are an integral part of preserving the lives of countless children. 

But I can acknowledge this without potentially trivializing the immense cost (both to mother and child) of relinquishment.  I can acknowledge this without potentially trivializing the difficulties so many of our nation's adopted children face by virtue of having been relinquished, abandoned or neglected. 

More importantly, I can address the horrific realities of abortion without using adoption to prove it. 

Because, while my children are beautiful and exquisite examples of what happens when a woman chooses life and selflessness over death and convenience, and while they are an amazing testament to the redemption of God, their worth as human beings is in no way dependent upon having someone to raise them. 

They deserved life, whether or not they ever left that orphanage to be adopted. 


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