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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Finding the Joy

It’s hard to believe that the last time I updated my blog was when Isaiah turned 1. Now, nearly a year later, he is merely two months away from turning 2, and two months into life as a big brother. Yes, Isaiah has a little baby sister, and it has taken me two whole months to write about it.

Karina Joy came into our lives like a whirlwind. Completely unexpected yet absolutely wanted, her adoption is something I am still trying to process. It hasn’t been an easy two months either. She has been either sleeping or screaming for most of her life. Colic, reflux, gas, anger, grief… your guess is as good as mine as to why she has had such a hard time. She’s seemingly healthy and we’ve tried countless things to make Karina happy, but happy is not an emotion Karina seems to feel much of yet. We’re working on it.

Karina Joy. It took a very long time to come up with her name. “Pure joy” is its meaning, and what we long for in our lives together. Some days I wonder though if we made the right choice in naming her. Grace was a middle name we considered, and many days I feel like it would have been a better choice. For it is only by the grace of God that I have these two beautiful children in my life, and some days it’s only by my grace that they aren’t eaten with a thick layer of chocolate sauce on top. Grace. Though we often fail, we try to live it and breathe it around here. Then there is Hope… Karina Hope? I hope so greatly that she finds her happy, and hope with all that is in me that I can be the mother she needs me to be. Faith would have been an excellent choice as well, since most of the time faith is the only thing that keeps me going. Faith that this season will pass. Faith that God will bring us through it relatively unscathed. Faith that He knew what He was doing by bringing us all together.

Then there are the names that aren’t fitting for a child by any means, but fitting in my life at the moment. Doubt. Fear. Guilt. Some days I feel only these things and it’s a struggle to move past them. Some days mothering two high needs children under 2 is an extreme challenge fit only for the most terrifying of reality TV shows. Some days I feel like I need an intervention.

It has been a difficult journey so far, and some days it’s hard to see anything but negatives down the road. But then! Then she sneaks in a little bit of that Joy. Like how on my 32nd birthday, which was a very difficult day, she smiles at me for the first time, and I get a glimmer of Hope and have a little more Faith that Karina will someday find her happy and the road will be a little less treacherous.

I look at these beautiful children and while they are 100% mine, I still wonder. I wonder if Isaiah looks like his birth mom. Does he have her eyes? Does she share his contagious smile and infectious laugh? How much will it hurt him to never have those answers? How would his life be different if I were not in it? Would it be better? What if we had not pursued Karina’s adoption? To whose family would she belong? Would her life be better? Would she be happier? How can I make them understand the difficult choices their original families made for them? And what would my life be like if they weren’t in it? What would I be doing right now?

Then like an innocent child wondrously blowing the seeds of a dandelion, I watch those thoughts fade into the sunlight as they vanish with the wind. One or two seeds might crop up again someday I’m sure, but every smile and every giggle… every hug and every snuggle… every kiss and every “mommy!”… every delicious sniff of their beautiful heads reminds of of why they are in my life.

They’re my crazy.
My doubt.
My laughter.
My fear.
My silly.
My guilt.
My snuggles.
My kisses.
My hope.
My faith.
My grace.
My world.
My everything.

Yes, they are even my joy. These little creatures waltzed right into my life, turning it upside down and inside out, challenging me in ways I never thought possible. But even on the hardest of days, they still bring me joy. And on the better days that are filled with all the goodness that motherhood has to offer, I find new determination in that Joy and the strength to do everything within me to help Karina find hers. After all, it is her name. Her destiny. She will find her Joy and be a Joy to all who are lucky enough to know her.

I know it.
I feel it.
I will help her realize it.


Tonight I hold him a little tighter
Stare at his lovely face a little longer
Shed tears of a greater number
Stroke his cheek a little softer
Breathe him in a little deeper
Speak words of love a little sweeter
Tonight I hold him a little tighter
For tomorrow he will be older

Copyright © 2011 Crystal Harris. All Rights Reserved.

Precious Moments

Some of my favorite moments in life right now are the simple ones late into the night with my lovely boy stretched across my lap, hand on my chest or neck, sweetly cooing at me.

I coo back.
I smile.
He smiles.
He talks himself to sleep while I gently rub his head.

How did I ever get so lucky?

Then there are the nights he moans and groans and whines and kicks and punches me as he fights sleep even as his eyes are closing… but we won’t talk about those. 😉

On Gentle Parenting

I know the kind of parent I want to be.

I know I want our home to be full of love and laughter and gentleness and grace and peace.

I know the kind of person I am.

I don’t know how I can ever bridge this huge gap.

Thank God that grace is for mamas too.

Signs You’re a Mom #1

You laugh instead of cry as you realize your baby has pooped while in his jumperoo and has not only managed to get it all over his butt, but his legs, feet, socks, leg warmers, arms, hands, jumperoo, and the pillow under his feet as well.

You laugh instead of puke as you get poop under your fingernails while you attempt to clean him.

You laugh instead of run away as you decide to cut off the onesie rather than get poop in baby’s tightly curled hair and on his face.

You wash your hands (and his!) five times.

You still love said baby after this most nasty deed.

Four Months

It’s hard to believe it has already been four months since our little man came into our lives. It has gone by too fast. He’s already changed so much!

My tiny, scrawny baby that was a mere 4 lbs 14 oz at birth is now over 11 lbs. His once 18″ frame is now close to 25″. His skinny little bum and tiny feet have filled out and are now chubby and dimply. This boy knows how to grow. We are ever so grateful that he is healthy.

It’s been incredibly cool to watch him grow both physically and mentally. From one day to the next it seems, he picks up a new skill or refines a current one.

He grabs and puts everything in his mouth now. Loves to chew. He gets pissed when the whole thing, whatever it is, won’t fit. He shakes his little head and tries to shove it in, while making the cutest little sound. He’s a silly little boy.

He loves to bounce and jump and leap to one side or the other. He’s usually only happy when sitting or standing. Laying down is for little babies, you know. He’s a strong little boy.

He throws incredible temper tantrums already. He gets this look in his eye and goes wild. He hates going to sleep. There’s way too much fun stuff to do. He can’t miss anything! He’s a stubborn little boy.

He hasn’t been much of a cuddler, which was sad for me. He’s too busy for that kind of nonsense. But lately he’ll lay across my lap or chest and happily talk, play, and even cuddle a bit. He loves to play with my hand. It’s awesome. He looks at me with these eyes that turn my insides to goo. The expressions on his face are magic. His smiles are ginormous. He’s a sweet little boy.

His hair is awesomely wild. His adorable toes are fat little tootsie rolls. His eyes are wise, his dimples cute. He’s covered in drool and crazy loud. He squeals and squeaks and screeches and coos. He smiles and giggles and kicks and bounces.

He’s strong and strong-willed. Sweet and cute. Daring and curious.

He’s my world. He’s mine.

Just four months old and I can’t imagine a single day without him.

Baby’s First Christmas (Or: A Little Dose of Reality)

Merry Christmas… a few days late!

This holiday season has been especially special for us, for obvious reasons. Even so, it has been a huge adjustment. We were absolutely not expecting to be parents this year. Well, towards the beginning of the year we were, but about half way through, we gave up hope and had resigned to the fact that we’d have to endure another holiday season without a child. You’d think I’d be absolutely overjoyed, right? Well, I am. But I’m also a mixed ball of emotions. This is something I haven’t really said much about to anyone, because it’s hard to understand which makes it hard to explain, but here goes nothing.

I had no idea it was possible to be completely in love with your new baby yet still somewhat stuck in your old babyless funk. I feel guilty even admitting that, but I’ve always been an open book, so there you go. It’s a strange transitional thing. It’s the enormous weight of the situation on your shoulders. It’s the balancing of your vision of the thing with the reality of the thing. It’s something they briefly touched on in our adoption seminar and I’m sure was talked about even more in the resources we were given (which I did not read. Oops.), but it’s still not something I expected. You have this expectation of what it will be like. And it’s totally not like that. And that’s not a bad thing, but it’s still a thing you have to accept and deal with.

For example, when I would daydream about the day we met our child, I envisioned myself being completely overwhelmed by emotion and a huge bawling mess. Reality? I was entirely calm and strangely serene. It was partially due to being in shock thanks to how fast it all happened, but I know that can’t be the only reason. I didn’t shed one tear that night. I was indeed overjoyed and fell in love with him the second I saw him, but I didn’t feel the burst emotion I expected. I didn’t bawl the first time I saw him, held him, hugged him, kissed him. Was there something wrong with me? I choked up a bit as a nurse told us a little about his birth mother and as the realization hit me that he was mine but may not have been, but was, and I couldn’t live without him any longer… yeah, that choked me up. But no tears fell.

In fact I didn’t shed even one little tear until we left the hospital. After we walked out that door and the nurses said goodbye, exhaustion slammed me, and again reality hit that he was mine. Here was this tiny (TINY) vulnerable innocent little human, totally entrusted to my care. Dustin put him in this ginormous car seat, and I completely lost it. It was like motherhood struck me all at once like a lightening bolt, and I suddenly saw every bad and scary thing that could happen to him, and since I was the parent, it was my responsibility to prevent them and protect him from every bump and scratch and stick and stone. I was terrified to take him home in that truck. My poor husband probably thought I didn’t trust him to drive home, but it was the world I didn’t trust. Couldn’t we just keep him safe in our arms in the little hospital room, where doctors and nurses and life saving medical marvels were within arms reach? Did we really have to put him in that huge car seat and take him out into the cruel world full of an impossible number of people and things and situations that could hurt him?

Every tear that had been spared since we found out we would be parents suddenly rushed out and I was a huge mess. When we pulled over to get gas and snacks for the road, I took him in my arms and held him and bawled like I hadn’t bawled in years. We’re talking the type of bawling that’s so hard it makes your stomach hurt. I can’t even explain all the feelings that were there, but they were numerous. I think I freaked out my mom a little bit. 😉 I clutched him and I cried and I prayed until it was time to leave and I had no choice but to put him back in his seat. And then I was okay.

I’ve had such little discernible emotion since then, I’ve often questioned my love and bond with my new son. I’ll tell you that is hard to admit. Even though my head knows that love doesn’t equal feelings, it’s hard to let go of those expectations. I’m sure my husband and mom and friends are tired of my self doubt, and truthfully so am I, but while it’s greatly diminished, it’s still there a bit. I think every day his smiling face melts my heart, it goes away just a little bit more. Of course, it’s replaced with another self doubt – can I really do this?!

But back to the funk. I’m stuck in this weird transition phase, where I’m balancing these old expectations with the new reality. For years, I battled fairly severe depression. The pain of not being a mother when you want it more than anything can be so real and so deep that you feel it in your heart – your real one, the one that beats and keeps you alive. Physical pain. Most of the time I shoved it deep and tried to shield the majority of it from the world. It was mine and I would let myself feel what I needed to feel, but there were few that I exposed that part of myself to entirely. I dealt with that pain for so long, that moving from it to happiness is… interesting… and not as smooth as I would have thought.

Having Isaiah in my life has been very healing. His smile and coos and his wise, deep brown eyes are all like a soothing salve to my wounds. But while even deep wounds can heal, you know it’s gonna leave a scar. It’s like I remember that it hurt and it hurt badly, but though I don’t remember the actual pain, I still feel the aftershocks. I realize that makes no sense to anyone but me. Or maybe it rings true to someone else out there. Grief is a strange animal.

So this Christmas was odd. Not only was it sweet and strange all at once, my poor husband was sick with an icky case of bronchitis and I caught a cold. That picture perfect baby’s first Christmas of my dreams just did not happen. Reality? We spent a quiet day among the people that mean the most to us (that we could – obviously some of you were not with us, unfortunately). We started the day late, partially due to me being extremely tired and partially due to Dustin feeling so poorly. The morning was spent keeping the boy happy while merely surviving ourselves. *laughs* The afternoon came and we went to my folks’ house for a late lunch and to open (baby’s) gifts.

We ate turkey, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and crescent rolls. Pecan pie, cookies, and apple cranberry pie rounded out the food portion of the day.

We held our son and helped him open up his first Christmas gifts.

We watched him try to eat the wrapping paper.

We caught a few photos.

We went home, exhausted.

Picture perfect baby’s first Christmas of my dreams? Hardly. Instead of beautiful carolers bundled up on the porch singing songs of joy, we heard hacking (hubby) and screeching (Isaiah!). Instead of taking beautiful photos all dressed to the nines, in front of a perfectly decorated tree… we took candid snapshots in decent, clean clothes in front of a tree we rushed to throw ornaments on that very afternoon (cause who has time to decorate a freaking tree with a newborn and a business?? And where are all the ornaments, anyway? We could only find two boxes.)

Even the turkey just tasted like turkey (imagine that).

So was it perfect? No.

It was better. It was real. We had our real selves there with our real son, experiencing the real reality of real life. Sickness and boring turkey and half decorated tree and all. I won’t look back on the day as a fabulous spectacle of great, picture perfect holiday memories… but I will look back with a smile and fond feelings, because of him. The real, screeching, pooping, exhausting, hyper, fabulous, dimpled, drooling, smiling him. (And oh yeah… you other people that were there, too. I guess. *wink*)

Grief. Failed expectations. Transitions. Reality. Motherhood. There are a lot of strange feelings going on in that head of mine. I figure I’ll sort them all out eventually, or they’ll sort themselves out. I still wonder if someday I’ll experience the huge swell of emotions that I expected to come along with each loving gaze at my child, but I now know that’s silly. Instead I’m trying to focus on being the real, loving mom that this real, little man needs and expects me to be. I hate that I’ll inevitably fall short of his expectations and he, too, will someday be hit with the harsh force of reality. Yeah… my not being perfect? One of the many things I wish I could shield him from. But on the other hand, it’s probably good that I can’t.

Because perfection is boring and overrated.

Reality is the new awesome.

See? Us. Real.

It’s awesome… snot, screech, drool, and all.

Boy: (n) a noise with dirt on it

Replace dirt with spit up, and that’s little Z.

I guess I can tell you his real name. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to mention his real name on my blog. I’m not sure why. But I’m over it. I got over it when I realized I already mentioned it several times in public forums, and on his photos in my Flickr account. Duh, Crystal, duh.

You know we’ve been waiting for a baby for years and years. It was over five years from the time we started to try to grow our family til the time we brought baby Z home. Five years is a long time, people. A loooong time. We aint no spring chickens, you know. We waited five years after we married to try to have kids. We’re in our 30’s. Now that I’m 30, it doesn’t seem old anymore, but it sure seems like a long time to wait for a kid when we’ve already been married 10 years. When he’s 20, we’ll be 50. 50 is really old. (Sorry. It is. At least until I’m 50, anyway.)

Did I tell you about my 30th birthday present to myself? No? Oh. Well. You’ll just have to wait for another post, because this one is about baby Z’s name. So let’s get back to that, shall we? Stop distracting me already.

The entire 5+ years that we tried to have kids in one manner or another, we could never (EVER) agree on a boy name. We agreed on a few girl names, but never a boy name. In fact, our conversations on the matter would go something like this…

Me: What about *insert perfectly respectable boy name here*?

Him: No. Yuck. What about *insert strange/silly word or completely insane made up name here*?

Me: *eye roll* What about *insert another perfectly respectable boy name here*?

Him: No. I have a cousin named that. Hmm. Oh, how about *insert another random and silly word here*?

Me: *eye roll* Ooookay… well, how about *insert yet one more perfectly respectable boy name here* then?

Him: No way. My neighbor’s uncle’s sister’s kid’s first cousin’s schoolmate from fifty years ago was named that. And he was a jerk. So that totally ruins it for me. What about…


And so it went for five years. I figured we’d just have to have a girl. There was no way around it. But I knew deep down somehow that we’d have a son. I tried to ignore it because I was obsessed with pink, and boys are… boys! They have strange, foreign parts. They carry frogs in their pockets. They belch. Boys. Cooties! Yuck. (Sorry, hon.) But I knew. I also knew that our son would probably be named Baby Boy *insert last name here* for at least a year. Because my dear husband did not like any boy names. None that were normal, anyway.

So on that morning of September 2nd when, after very little sleep, I received a call from our case worker as she was working on our paperwork before traveling to the hospital to meet with Z’s birth mom to terminate her rights, and she asked, “What are you naming him? I need to put it in the paperwork.” I died a little. I thought we’d have the several hour car trip to hash it out once and for all. But no. We had thirty minutes. And my husband was out of town on business. So not only did we have just thirty minutes to make a HUGE life long important decision on which we couldn’t even manage to make headway for five years… we had to do it over the phone as he drove home.

I pulled out a notebook and my iphone and opened up a baby names app I had downloaded a long time ago. I wrote down all the boy names I liked, and added the one sane name he had managed to come up with in five years. It was not a super long list, but it was long enough to stress me out. How could we do this in such a short time frame? I thought the long car trip would be hard enough. How could we name a child we had never seen or met or felt or even knew about before yesterday?

I read the names on the list and he eliminated several of them. I crossed out a few myself that I no longer really liked. After a little time, we finally narrowed it down to three names. Then it got really hard. The name that I had been pushing for for the past year and Dustin kept rejecting was finally okay with him. But did I still want to use it? I wasn’t so sure.




Those were the three. We liked Micah with Dustin’s middle name, Ray. We liked Ezekiel with David, and we didn’t have a middle for Isaiah.

We crossed one more off. Down to two. And just a couple minutes to go. What do we do? We looked over all the name meanings and played around with them a bit. After what felt like an eternity, we finally named our son that we had known about for a mere 24 hours.

Isaiah Micah. We weren’t sure about our choice, but we were out of time. When I called our case worker to relay the info, she thought it was beautiful and said it fit him perfectly. She was right.

Isaiah. Zaiah. Z. Little Buddy. Stinky McStinkerson. Gorgeous Boy. Little Man. Son.

We call him lots of things, but Zaiah is what I call him the most online. And Z is for when I’m too lazy to type four more characters.

So there you have it. Isaiah Micah is my beautiful boy (who doesn’t carry frogs in his pocket… yet… but IS a noise with spit up on it). A big noise. Loooooud noise.


And did you catch those dimples? Awesome, aren’t they?!

Dear Baby…

A year or two ago, I found this pretty little journal at Target. I don’t really journal, and I had no idea what I would do with it, but for some reason, it caught my eye. It was calling out to me, so despite the fact that I nearly choked at spending almost ten dollars on a blank book, I bought it. It sat on my bookshelf, looking all pretty, this whole time. Still blank. Without a purpose.

Tonight, laying in bed with the hubby, I decided to write a letter to our baby. Then my mind flashed over to the pretty little journal, and I knew what I had to do. The journal has now been turned into a Dear Baby book, and in it I will write letters to our child from now, pre-parenthood, until it is filled. I’d love for our child to see how much he or she has been wanted, how often we think of him or her, and how much love we have always had.

I wrote the first letter tonight. I thought I’d share it with you. It’s special to me, and hopefully someday it will also be special to Baby.

Dear Baby,

It’s hard to imagine the possibility of missing someone you haven’t even met. But I do. Hi, it’s me. Your mama. We haven’t met yet, but we will. I crave that day like a root thirsts for water to nurture its very soul. To hold you, cuddle you to my chest and feel the rise and fall of your breath, counting and kissing every tiny finger and every tiny toe again and again. I can’t wait to sing to you a lullaby and rock your gray skies away. I love you already. Find me quickly, little baby. I miss you so much.

I think about you often… about your future. What you will look like. Who you will become. Will you grow to be tall? Will you share your daddy’s and my love of the arts? Will you excel in sports? Will you want to be a doctor? A preacher? A teacher? A husband or wife… mommy or daddy? I dream so big for you. I have high hopes for you. Whatever it is that you want out of life, I promise to do everything within my power to help you attain it. But right now, my dream is you. So find me quickly, little baby. I miss you so much.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, and whatever you grow up to become, your daddy and I cherish every breath of you. You have us wrapped around your little finger without even having to try. We’ve been waiting for you and ready for you for a very long time. We’ve loved you even longer. So find us quickly, little baby. We miss you so much.


Hey you, put God back in that box

Grace is something I’ve struggled to understand for quite some time now. I think I’ve always seen God in a very punitive manner. Like many people, I have grown up putting God in a box. It’s more comfortable that way, you know, seeing Him in this box I built based on preconceived ideas and decorated with my skewed sense of His character. To me, He’s always been the scary God waiting for me to mess up so He could put me in my place. This breaks my heart to a degree that I cannot even express.

I’m not entirely sure why I believed this. God has never dealt with me with a heavy hand. Not even when I’m so angry at Him I could quite literally spew all manner of ungodliness at Him does He spiritually whack me. I deserved it. Oh, I did, and still do I’m sure. No. He’s never been that way. He’s always been the gentle but firm, loving and wonderful God.

I think much of what I believe about Him has been shaped by what I’ve seen in my life. I’m not sure I can think of many parental figures I watched as I grew up that took the grace path of parenting. Most in my circle were extremely punitive, harshly so, and very strict. Some of them were even frighteningly strict. There was little grace. I didn’t even realize what I was looking at until recently when I began to explore more deeply the idea of grace. It was all I saw and I thought it just is what it is and that’s all there is. So my entire life, I have been assigning very human parenting ideals to God. I knew what grace was but could not reconcile it to Him because I did not fully see Him in that way. My box. My pretty, little box. Yet now as I struggle to understand grace, I see I had it so wrong. As He always does, He’s breaking down those walls with which I tried to confine Him.

I’m seeing now that the vision I had of Him up there waiting to strike me down is so far off. If He was going to strike me down, I’d already be down. I’ve harbored anger towards Him for a long time. I’ve argued with Him, whined to Him, and told Him I didn’t like these cards I’ve been dealt and His response has never been harsh. Sometimes there’s not much of a response, or at least I haven’t seen it, but it’s never been harsh. Not once. He’s never punished me. He has taught me and walked with me and discipled me and guided me. Some of the lessons I’ve learned have not been easy. Some of them have been painful. But He has never hurt me.

When I took a step back and examined this aspect of my life and realized these things it took me entirely by surprise. And now here I am, struggling to understand grace, when grace has been right in front of me my entire life. I just missed it. I was too busy waiting for the blow. The lightning. The punishment. I was blinded by my misconceptions and preconceived ideas, and started to perceive difficult things in my life as punishment or God’s withholding of grace from me. Not so much the infertility. Even I know better than that. But other things that have been with me for longer, and things to come. Or rather things I was expecting to come yet never did.

I’m His strong-willed child. I admit that I’m a handful. And yet, somehow His hands are big enough, and He handles me with grace. Somehow He teaches me with a gentle leading and not the blows to the head I so deserve. Somehow He gets through my thick skull in the most merciful of ways. He digs deep down into my core beliefs and says, “Nuh-uh. This isn’t me. THIS is me. And this is who I want you to be.”

He’s quite amazing, you see, in His dealings with me. The perfect model of what I long to become. I have a long way to go, but my box is broken and that’s a start.

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