Thursday, August 31, 2006

A mini me after all...

It is a widely accepted fact that my daughter Lauren is a lot like her dad. They have the same personality, the same likes and dislikes. They can both quote SpongeBob Square Pants to the point of me wanting to jump off a bridge. He can read her like a book and is the parent that can say "I just know what she is going to do before she does it". I think she looks like his side of the family, but he thinks that she looks like one of my sisters...

The other day I was adding some pictures to her "book". This is a photo album of pictures that she gets to choose and she loves to read at night. There are pictures of her as a baby, pictures of far away grandparents and cousins, pictures of her every 6 months with all the princesses at Disneyland.........

I came across this picture......

click on the picture to see it larger...

We go to the beach every year on Christmas Eve. It is actually a great time to go because there isn't much fog. It is a fun little tradition for our family. This is a picture that Derek took. I was struck by the fact that even though she doesn't look much like me, we have lots of similarities. We are standing exactly the same way with our head cocked to one side. She even looks a little bit like me here. Notice in the next picture...the family picture that she is back to looking exactly like her daddy (it's the cheekbones).

click on the picture to see it larger

P.S. I love that in this picture Jacob is licking his coat. He still does that. From the time he was a tiny baby when Derek would wipe his mouth he would stick out his tongue and lick the cloth or our fingers. To this day it is not uncommon to hear the phrase "hey, no licking" when one is dealing w/ Cubby. The poor kid was born tongue tied. That is when the skin that holds your tongue to the bottom of your mouth is connected all the way to the tip. It means that they can't stick their tongue beyond their lips (that is only bad if you want to sass your parents, lick ice cream or French kiss). We had it clipped when he was one and ever since then you can't KEEP this kids tongue in his mouth.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Update on all parts of my life that are not adoption or Africa related!

Lately this blog has been full of really heavy things...babies being adopted, trips to Africa..... it has been less light and fun and there has been a serious lack of pictures of the other children (according to my family). So, from here on out..there will be more pictures and more fun..... Also, I haven't written down anything funny that the kids are saying or doing. That might not be a big deal to the rest of blogworld but so far, this is the only baby book my kids get so if it doesn't make the blog then it doesn't get recorded. And they have been saying REALLY funny things.

The baby is doing fine..she is getting positively chunky! Look at those cheeks. Yippe. She is about 8 pounds now and THAT means she should be able to start sleeping longer. The picture above is her in the swing. She seems so big to me, but then I catch a look at her in the swing and she looks SO TINY. The hat is on because she makes herself cry (and wakes herself up) by pulling her hair. Her little hand gets up in there and just yanks it out until she cries. The bottom picture doesn't do her hair any justice. It is so soft and curly and perfect to rub when you tuck her head under you chin... I know it will change soon and that is fine too, but I am enjoying the baby soft afro that she is sporting right now (and it looks remarkably similar to all the old ladies in my ward...but with a little bit of extra mullet).

We are finally getting into a bit of a routine with her. It helps that Lu has gone back to school. I am either getting the hang of this or learning how to function better on less sleep. Either way, things are slowly becoming easier. There is lots to be thankful for. Earlier this week my friend Suzi told me that her sister came home from church last Sunday to a message on the phone from the school district. Apparently the office staff was on strike and school would NOT be starting the next day as planned. Cancelled. If they had cancelled Lauren's school I might have offered to work the office myself. Thank goodness for school. (I am clearly not a home schooling Mom).

I can't believe that I have a first grader. This year Lauren is in a split class that is half 1st grade and half kindergarten. This is actually a pretty good thing for her because she can still get a bit of the "hand holding" that happens in kindergarten but still get to be a big kid in the class. We had a tradition in our house where on the first day of school you can choose to eat what ever you want for breakfast. Nothing is off limits. If she said she wanted a 10 lb bag of sugar w/ a spoon, it would happen. Do you know what she chose? French toast, hard boiled eggs and doughnuts. Silly girl. Last year it was cupcakes and fruit. She is her fathers child for sure. Here is her breakfast.

She also didn't want to wear a dress this year (sob). It was boots, jeans and a cool jacket. Oh, and a messenger bag. She just trotted onto the bus without a backwards glance. She is also bugging me to cut her hair. She wants it cut to her ears--but I think that she thinks if she cuts it that short it will be straight. The other day I did her hair and she looked in the mirror and said "this looks like a Jenny hair do" When I asked her what she meant she said "this looks like the hair a girl named Jenny would have." Every day since then she has told me who she looks like. Today it was Shirley. She has such an imagination. I think we will end up cutting it (the hair, not the imagination), but I can't bear the thought of cutting off her curls. She just turned 6 last week. It is unbelievable how fast they grow up. In many ways she is still my baby. In other ways, she is grown up and seems like she is already out the door (actually, yesterday she told me she had packed some things because she was tired of me being grumpy and the baby crying so she was going to move out.....). I feel like I can see a glimpse of the young woman she will become and (thankfully) there are still traces of my toddler. We celebrated her big day a week early with a traditional breakfast at McDonald's (we were traveling on her actual birthday....for the third year in a row...but it is also our anniversary that day and we haven't managed to celebrate that for a few years now....).

Next post...what is new with Cubby. He got a bad hair cut (from me....that was the last one, it is off to the barber shop from now on) and has taken a liking to Laurens pink cowboy boots while riding his horse.... silly kid.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A baby and a story...part two

Let's see...... when I left the story we had just met our daughter and her first family for the first time. It was pretty surreal. It is always a bit awkward to meet the family. On the one hand, you are so excited you want to just grab the baby and hold her and look at her and slobber all over her. On the other hand, we are aware that this is a sad and difficult time for her family and we want to be sensitive to their needs and feelings. They are dealing with lots of emotions and not many of them are happy ones. It was nice that it was a done deal by the time we met them. It put our mind at ease. It turned the meeting into a "get to know you" session rather then an audition.

Nori's family was very kind and they kept asking us if we wanted to hold the baby but we were very conscious of the fact that they had limited time with her and we didn't want them to feel that they didn't get the time they needed with her. T had to stay in the hospital an extra day so she and the baby were going to go home the next day. In many ways this was good too. We stayed w/ the family for about a half an hour and then we took off as well. We decided to stay at a hotel in Salt Lake City instead of going back to my parents house (about an hour away). It had been SUCH a long couple of days. It seemed like it went so fast...but it was so charged with emotion that we were both just exhausted. We grabbed dinner and made a few calls (mostly to tell people that we had a new one except our parents knew) and fell into bed. T and family got one more night with her and we arranged to pick the baby up in the morning after T had checked out.

I couldn't sleep that night which was hard because I KNEW that I wouldn't be sleeping much after that night. I was too worked up. We were supposed to meet the social worker at the hospital at 11:30 am the next morning. So, it was time to make the obligatory trip to Walmart. This is the best part of the adoption journey in our family...the trip to the store when you know you are bringing home a baby and you go buy all the sweet baby stuff that you hadn't let yourself think about until now. Onsies, bottles, blankets, formula, clothes, etc. It is so much fun. For me, the worst part of a failed adoption is taking everything back so we don't buy ANYTHING ahead of time. Once we were loaded to the gills w/ baby stuff we headed to the hospital. We even bought a baby book so we could start thinking about names.

We met our social worker in the hospital lobby and headed to the nursery. It was so easy. They had us sign a few papers and they just handed her to us. She was SO tiny. We started to dress her in the preemie outfit we had purchased and realized that it just drowned her. I was too nervous to dress her so Derek did it.

I also wanted to take pictures. We had tons of Jacob b/c we stayed w/ him in the hospital and we had tons of Lu because, well, she was our first. I wanted to be sure that we had pictures for Nori too. You know, Nori in her hospital bassinet, Nori w/ the nurses, etc. We dressed her and boom, that was it. We walked out the door with the baby. It was too easy. We just kept saying over and over that it seemed too easy. We headed home to have her meet the family. You can see the account of how she met Lauren in the previous post.

After we had been home for a few days, we called the agency to check in and to see how the family was doing. They were having a hard time (of course) and they were trying to decide if they wanted to see us again. Ultimately, they decided they did want to see us so we met them for dinner. It was so much fun. We had a great time just visiting w/ Nori's grandparents and finally got T to come out of her shell a bit. We handed off the baby when we walked in the door and let them have her as much as they wanted. It was so neat to see them hold her and coo over her. They are her FAMILY. They love her as much as we do, more even. I love that I got to see three generations of Nori's family all int he same room. It was a blessing for us to know them and that they opened their hearts and wanted to know us. I know it was scary and hard for them. We had such a good time that T's dad invited us to come hear him preach at a Baptist church in SLC (he is a Baptist minister).

We went and it was AWESOME. If you haven't been to a service before, you should go. I love a good Baptist service. I love the fact that in the joyous exuberance and electric guitar, I can feel the same calm and reassurance from the spirit that I feel in quite times of reflection. It is a very different type of service then the one that I attend, but it is God is there all the same. The church is the center of the African American community and going to a "black" church is a great way to understand a little bit more about the culture. As I listened to the sermon, I reflected on how similar it was to the way that they teach school in Africa. It is very interactive. The preacher asks and the congregation answers. I am sure we have all heard the stereotypes, but it is really true. There are lots of "amens" "praise the Lords", etc. Have you ever been to a movie in a predominantly black neighborhood? There is a lot of talking to the screen too. :-) In Africa, this is the same way they teach school--ask and answer. Not at all like our version where the children are silent and the teacher in the front talks.

After the service on Sunday, Derek and Jacob went home and we stuck around to wait for the legal approval to leave the state. I managed to visit w/ the family one more time before they left. It was so much fun to visit with them and just have a chance to be with them w/out being nervous or tired. I loved hearing stories about T as a little girl. I loved that we were able to build the relationship a little bit more. By the end of the trip..this family that thought they didn't want to know us at all had invited us to come and visit them in the Caribbean when ever we wanted. I am hopeful that little Norah will have the chance to know her other family. I have spoken to the family several times since we have all been home and they are doing well. There have been several bad storms that have hit their Island, but they are hanging in there. T started school last week and is working again. She is a trooper.

Derek and I remarked how grateful we are for the experience we had with this adoption. It was very calm and peaceful and serene and spiritual. It was very healing. I feel like we have given Jacob a black mark because we have only spoken about the hard/bad parts of our process with his brother. If we had used an agency, that experience would have been very different too. The agency would have buffered much of the stress and anxiety between both us and his family. With both of my adopted kids we felt a very strong, immediate connections to their families. With both of these kids, we felt a deep love for their birth family and a strong desire to have them stay a part of our lives. They are our family now. I feel very protective and tender for all of them. Even thought they are very different, they are ours and we want only good things for them. Even though you all have heard the hard things about Jacob's story, there were and will continue to be lots of very special and sweet things about his story as well. In retrospect, I can see I did a disservice to my son by making much of the story public (meaning to my friends and family) but since they were living it with us at the time and had to support me thought the aftermath, I don't know how I could have done it differently. I will say, however, that there are still many parts of that story that belong to just Jacob and were not made public. I am not a total failure as an adoptive parent. For the record, she is doing pretty well. Jacob's bmom is working, she just had another baby (a girl this time) and is married and his brothers are doing well in school. They live in a better area (actually they moved to Utah) and are being helped and supported by some wonderful people there who are helping them make some big changes. We pray all the time that it continues.

Blogger won't let me add pictures (and I have tried using Firefox and other browsers.....) so I will add those as soon as I can. I feel like I need to get this baby posted or it will never happen.

There you go..that is the "nuts and bolts" part of the story. There are some other "feelings" parts that I can add to this, but I am too tired to remember them right now. The baby is I need to go sleep because we are going to be partying at my house at about 3:00 am. If you are ever up at 3:00 am, give me a call!!!!


Hey all,

We were out of town (making it a grand total of 6 days that we have been in our home since Norah was born....). I have the second half of the adoption story and some fun pictures of our trip to San Diego but...

Right now all three of my kids are watching tv and being quiet at the same time. Do you know what they are watching?

CHEETAH GIRLS on Good Morning America. An eerie silence settled over the room and I looked in to see what was happening. Even the baby is staring at the TV. Whatever those Cheetah Girls have, I will take it. It is the first moment of silence in about a week.

School starts tomorrow. SWEET. I'll update soon.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Happy Birthday Lauren...

"Lauren, come upstairs...we have your birthday present"

"Come is on the couch"

As she walked over and looked at the blanket she turned to us and asked....

" this REAL?"

" this really a real baby sister or a doll?"

(running up for a hug)

Lauren got to show new baby to Grandma Jane

The big sister

We asked Lu what she thought the name should be and she cast the deciding vote for Norah

That was how Lauren got her first birthday present....................

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A baby and a story...

Hey blogworld,

I finally have a few seconds when no one is crying and I have had a reasonable amount of rest. I think I can finally get all this down. I realize that the Africa stories are on hold...but I will get back to them, I promise. Blogger doesn't let me add pictures on a regular basis and I am getting ready to jump ship and go to one of the other hosts. I will post all the days and the pictures there....I am almost finished putting it all down....I appreciate your patience.

I have been home for about a week now and I am still trying to get caught up on laundry, sleep and get Lulu ready to go to school. I am feeling a little overwhelmed and I am cranky most of the time. Trust me, I am not a good person to know right now!! I am sorry for the delay in picture posting. I just managed to upload the pictures.....can you believe that? Me? Taking one whole week to upload pictures? Sheesh. I must be tired. My husband works as a research analyst for an investment bank and he works East Coast hours. He is out the door by 4:00 AM every morning and doesn't get home until about 6:30 PM. He goes to bed at around the same time the kids do. Because of the nature of his job (that being that he has to actually be able think and function during the day) he doesn't do baby night feeding duty too much. That is fine w/ me because he gets so little sleep in general, I don't want to add that to his plate, but about every third day he lets me sleep all night. The reason it is every third night is because by that third day I am ready to run away from home........he is keeping me sane. :-) Besides, I can lay on the couch and throw Cheetos at my kids all day if I need to. I just have to keep them alive and fed. I don't have to read things, process them and write reports on no sleep. It is a fair trade, trust me. He comes home and does all the kid bedtime duty. He has no life beside work and his kids and an occasional basketball game.

So, back to the baby story.

Ever since the drama last year we have known that at some point there would be another baby. I was ready around the first of the year, but Derek has been a little bit more hesitant. He has wanted to wait. In the meantime, I researched lots of agencies and started looking at international programs. I didn't think I could do a domestic situation again. After a few weeks of research, I decided that Ethiopia was the right program for us. The price was right, the program was really well run and orderly, and the kids were very healthy (physically and emotionally) even for US standards. We wanted another black child and this seemed like the right direction. At the time it only took a few months for a referral so we decided to start gathering papers and rethink the issue at the end of the summer. I was hoping that Derek and I would be on the same page by then. I set a mental deadline for myself to have the paper work done....the end of August. I continued to bug Derek about it and he continued to push back (I don't want you to think that he is a push over....not at all). Meanwhile, I put my energy into getting Africa charity stuff done.

The day after I got back from Africa was the 4th of July (remind me to tell you the story about going to his parents club for fireworks and all the members were treated to a special surprise concert by CAROL CHANNING. She is one thousand years old. It is that kind of club......) Derek mentioned in passing that he was ready to start on the paperwork for the next adoption. That was pretty much the opposite thing that he said THE DAY I left. Whatever......I went with it. I scheduled appointments for social workers, dr's and all the other stuff that needs to be done. Derek did mention in passing that he would miss not having a newborn. Just on a whim, I called an agency that I had talked to before. My friend Julie (aka Rarely Home Mom) had used them and had passed along a few situations where families were needed that already had black kids. I knew that there were very few domestic situations that we would consider. We wanted to know the family, but we didn't want to know them we were looking at a closed adoption w/ potential to open it later. We didn't want to pay birth family expenses. It had to be in Utah...the laws are better for us and my parents lived there. That would save us time and energy and money when/if placement occurred. AND it had to be someone who was due soon, as in before we turned our papers in for Ethiopia. I figured or chances were slim, but you never know. In effect, we were saying "If we can have the 'perfect for us' adoption experience we will do it...if not, we are off to Africa". I called Yvonne and told her to keep her ear out for us if anything like that came up.

Three hours later we were matched.

What we knew was that the potential birth mom (referred to as T from here on out) was pretty young and was on her way to university. She is from the Caribbean and wanted the adoption closed. She didn't want to meet us, talk to us on the phone or even choose the family. This was an agency choice adoption. Her parents came to Utah with her from the Caribbean to support her while she was there to have the baby. The reason she came to the US is because it is very hard to adopt from the Bahamas. She also wanted to have some privacy and better health coverage. She chose the agency because it had the word "angel" in the name. She is very religious. Her dad is a Baptist preacher (and a very good one I might add..... we saw him in action). That was it. After all the drama and work w/ Cubby and Joey's situation, this seemed too easy. We were just told to wait for the phone call and bring a check. The reason the agency choose us was because we fit some of the biggest issues that they had. They wanted a family that was Christian, felt strongly about education and one were in the middle of their child raising years. Not a really young couple and not one that was in their 40's. The family kept saying that they wanted to come to town, have the baby and then go home and pretend it never happened. The case workers really felt strongly that at some point family would realize that they wanted to have pictures, letters and maybe even meet us. They wanted to choose a family that would embrace the idea of an open or semi open adoption. That was us. In fact, it was exactly what we wanted. They are good because that is exactly what happened.

A week after we were matched the caseworker called me and said the family wanted to see pictures of us in a profile and to see a letter. This is very common w/ domestic adoption. Usually families want to choose the adoptive family. On the one hand, I was really glad to see this b/c it meant that T was starting to take an active role in the process. Since we know that at first she wanted to come to Utah, have the baby, leave and pretend like it never happened. I don't personally think that is the most healthy way to do it. I have met and known enough birth mothers to know that isn't the best way to process something as huge and devastating an monumental as placing a child. I also knew that it meant that they might not like what they see and want to choose another family. That made me a little bit sad, but ultimately, I was happy to see T taking an active role in this. The ladies at the agency kept telling us how much they loved this family, how supportive the parents were being of her making a choice either way. They were there to support and protect their girl. She did not want to parent and she wanted to go to school. There were a few other complications that made T's parents raising the baby difficult, but they told her they would do it if she wanted them to. T seemed really set on it, but she seemed to have a fairly realistic vision of what both parenting and placing were (as much as you can). So, late Thursday night I set about making a profile and felt profoundly sad. I was prepping myself for not being chosen and was a little bit frustrated at myself for already being excited and even buying an outfit (that is the sure fire way to jinx a domestic adoption in our case). At 6:00 am Friday morning the case worker called me and said "Today is the day!". I have never been so surprised in my life. "What? She is in labor?". We were told to get on a plane and get out there. I asked if we still needed to bring a profile and they told us that the family figured that this was God's way of saying they had the right family............That was the answer I needed to hear before I got on a plane that if they decided to place, they were pretty sure they wanted to place with us.

We got on the in tow and just worried the whole way out. We were worried about going to the hospital and meeting the baby and the family and still having it be up in the air. We just didn't want to bond w/ anyone until it was all said and done. This actually goes against what I believe is the best way to do an adoption, but our hearts were still too fragile. We didn't buy a ticket for Cubby. We thought that between the three of us, we would have enough room for him. The one hour and 20 minute ride was a treat. It was like having a very tired and cranky wild goat jump from lap to lap the entire time. We made a mental note that next time, the wild goat needed to be medicated and strapped into a straight jacket AND THEN a car seat. I wouldn't have cared if a seat cost 10,000$. I would have bought him one right then and there if I could have!! We got off the plane in Salt Lake and had a message on the phone that the baby was born and everyone was ok. She is tiny (5 lbs) but healthy and fine. The family wanted to have the time to themselves and not meet us that night. Again, it was one of those moment that was sad and happy at the same time. I was happy that I wouldn't be emotionally invested in this until it was done, but sad because they still had a lot of things to think about and knew she might parent (which is truly ok with us, just emotionally charged). We took the kids to Grandma's and waited.
Norah at 2 days old..leaving the hospital

Derek dressing the little one before taking her home. This isn't a great picture
but I like that it shows how tiny she is compared to his hand. Her whole are
was the same width as his finger...her head the size of his palm...

By the way, we didn't tell Lauren why we were going out of town. We didn't want her to get excited or worried, etc. It is too hard. She kept saying "why didn't you tell me we were going to see Grandma?" "Why didn't you pack before this morning? Mom, you are silly!!" :-) It was funny. On the way to the airport we asked her what she wanted for her birthday and we got the standard answer "a locket or a sister". We figured we could make sure she came home with one or the other......

On Saturday, the social worker told us that the family was still very sure about signing and we should meet them at the hospital at 4:00 pm but that we should bring our profile anyway. At this point they didn't want to meet us, but they wanted to see pictures and learn a little bit about us. We were late b/c we had to go to 2 different places to get our file printed in color (I had no original pictures...bad mommy). So, when we showed up, the case worker was already upstairs w/ the family. We know that signing usually take abou 20 minutes. Two hours later we were still sitting in the lobby wondering what was going on. It was worse then labor. It was torture. I just wanted to know what was going on.

We heard the elevator ding and out came two cute ladies. We hadn't met either of them before in person, but one was Yvonne, our caseworker and the other was Jen, the notary public. They came over and sat down and said "are you the Bingham's?". We said yes and they handed us a bag and said "this is for you". In it was a fuzzy pink blanket and a little onsie w/ the name of the adoption agency on it. They sat down and pulled out some papers and started organizing things...finally Derek asked "does that mean it is done? Did it happen?" We just kept waiting for it to all go wrong somehow. They both laughed at us and told us that when the birth mom chooses to parent they give HER the baby gift not the adoptive parents. We couldn't believe it. It was done. We had a daughter. We hadn't even seen her. We spent about 20 minutes filling out paperwork and then gave our profile and letter to Yvonne who said the family wanted to see it right away. More waiting. An hour or so later they came back and told us that the family loved reading the letter and that the LOVED the pictures and that the Grandparents wanted to meet us. Did we want to meet them? YES!!!!!!!

We headed up stairs and met with the grandparents. They were very sweet and cute people. They were not much older then us. We just hugged them for a while and everyone cried and then they dug in with tons of questions for us. We were so nervous, but eventually we all loosened up. They asked a lot about our family and we asked a lot about T. After about 30 minutes they asked if we wanted to see the baby. Um, yeah we did. The went to T's room to "get the baby" but we know that they went to give T the lowdown on us. It must have been a good report because when they returned a few minutes later they told us that T wanted to meet us and she wanted to be the one who gave us the baby...was that ok? Again, YEAH. We headed back to the room (ironically, it was the same room that Jacob's birth mom had been in) and peeked in. We saw a beautiful young girl sitting on the bed. She had giant, wide set eyes, beautiful dark skin and a very calm demeanor. In her arms was the smallest baby I had ever seen. She had a green bow in her hair and big old scowl on her face. My first thought was "this kid has sass". We sat at the end of the bed and talked to T for a few minutes, and then grandma asked if I wanted to hold her.

As I took this tiny little person, this child that was now my daughter, but didn't FEEL like my daughter yet, she opened one eye, scrunched up her face and scowled again. That sassy attitude coming through. Heaven help us when she is 3. Derek and I each took turns holding her and answering T's questions. T is very tiny and a very quiet person. As we got to know her better we saw that our initial impression of her was pretty correct. She is soft and gentle, intelligent and kind. Nori looks EXACTLY like her.

I am going to stop and publish this so that I have something new to put up, I will do the second part in a few days (I promise...I need to get it down or I will forget). The second part will be about taking her home, telling the kids and the time we got to spend with the birth family before we all went home.

This baby doesn't sleep at night so I better go rest while she is cat napping.

The car seat just dwarfed her......

Derek and the baby as we were leaving the hospital

New big sister Lauren w/ Nori at three days old

I would like to say this was a time of familial bliss, but really Lu is shouting at
Jacob for trying to poke the babies eyes out. Welcome to my life.

Check out how Lu is blocking Jacob WITH the baby on her arm. That is my girl!

Monday, August 07, 2006

I. Hate. Blogger.

I can't add pictures.

I am switching over soon. Stay tuned....