Archive for the ‘All in the Family’ Category

Mike named our first-born daughter approximately on our three-month wedding anniversary.

We were in the car with his parents, driving from his great-aunt’s house in southern Alabama, where we’d spent Christmas 2006, to another aunt and uncle’s condo in the Florida panhandle. I was faithfully taking my birth control pills (back when I could semi-tolerate them, before endo took over my body) and working hard at my master’s program, determined to give myself time to adjust to being a wife, writer, and full-fledged adult before adding mom into the mix. In other words, we weren’t trying to name our children this early on.

But my engineer husband, with his love of puns and word play, realized that our mothers’ names, Carol and Evelyn, nicely fit together to make Carolyn. It may have been dated and a little cumbersome, but I couldn’t argue with the sentiment. It just made sense, and somewhere in the past seven-plus years, it has grown on me. Every potential daughter we have had these past four years (and there have been plenty) has made me wonder if she was to be Carolyn. Carolyn Danielle, to be precise, because we would never have survived this journey without the loving care our dear pastor Danna provided. (But Carolyn Danna, all three of us agree, sounds silly. So Danielle it is. Close enough.)

But of course, our sweet Baby Miracle is a boy. I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed when we first learned this. I may have cried big, ugly tears for a few hours the afternoon our blood test results came back. There were many reasons I wanted our first to be a girl, but one of the more superficial ones was that I was more attached to our girl’s name than our boy’s name. I wanted to honor our daughter’s grandmothers–all three of them–but now they would have to wait, and possibly never get the chance. Who but God has any idea when, or if, lightning will strike this house again, and if it will be pink?

Our son, the one whose flutter kicks I’m finally starting to feel through the anterior placenta as I approach 24 weeks, is already being introduced to the world as Jonathan Reece. That name doesn’t go back quite as far into the annals of our marriage, but it was far from a recent choice. Unlike Carolyn, we chose Jonathan because of its meaning, “God has given.” Because really, God giving us a child is a pretty monumental event. And David may be called the “man after God’s own heart” in the Bible, but his best friend, Jonathan, sets aside his title of crown prince to support David because he believes him to be the rightful king of Israel in the eyes of God. Putting the will of God ahead of your own glory–if my son can do that, I will be one proud mama.

And we still get to honor family. Reece is my father-in-law’s middle name, and his mother’s maiden name. He is a worthy man to name our Miracle after, but he also won’t have many good years with this little guy. His health is precarious and he’s turning 80 in a few weeks, so honoring him in this way feels like a now-or-never prospect.

God has given us a son who is growing with textbook precision, and we will give him a name that will always let him know what a Miracle he is.


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On the phone with my in-laws last night, my mom-in-law asked about my upcoming birthday (mostly for gift ideas–most likely getting Downton Abbey Season 3 pretty soon!!!).  “Do you feel any older?” she asked, knowing full well I’m making the leap from twenty-nine to thirty on Thursday.

I had to be honest and say yes.  I feel a lot older.  For me, thirty isn’t the new twenty.  It’s more like the new forty-five.

I’ve always been a bit of an “old soul,” and luckily found a fellow “old soul” who was near my chronological age who agreed to marry me.  But when I think of what’s on my plate right now, I really do feel more middle-aged than not-quite-so-young.  I mean, really:

  • I’m waiting for a call back from my fertility doctor to discuss next steps following a second failed IUI, one of which might include a hysterectomy.
  • My fertility issues mostly relate back to endometriosis, a condition more common in older women.
  • We’ve been trying to adopt for a year-and-a-half, which isn’t necessarily a mark of advanced age, but we are on the younger end of waiting couples, especially among those looking to adopt their first child.
  • My mother-in-law, in her early seventies, is facing possible hip and knee replacements.
  • My father-in-law, in his late seventies, is battling a host of health problems including the early stages of dementia.
  • My mother, who will turn fifty-six on Friday, is still battling the short-term memory loss that came from her brain cyst and the surgery to remove it.  She is improving, but very slowly, and right now she is not at all the Mom I knew.
  • Our vacation time has always revolved around visiting family, but now it’s much less about visiting and much more about helping out.
  • Never a natural night owl, all the stress of life has me wanting to go to bed by 8:30 p.m.

Infertility and aging, disabled parents.  Thirty, couldn’t you have arrived a little more gently?

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If I were ever asked to make a college graduation speech, based on recent events, I might say the following:

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of whatever-year-this-is, congratulations. You have worked hard to get where you are and have proven yourselves capable of surviving four years (or more) without your families there every moment to guide you through your days. I know some of you are contemplating enticing job offers, graduate schools, or volunteer endeavors that could be far from the place you now call home. If you’ve never, say, left the Midwest other than a few summer trips to Disney World, you might be eager to explore the world outside the maze of cornfields and conservative ideals. You might even cherish the idea of putting down roots as far away as possible, to spread your wings and make your own way in the world, because that’s what the rhetoric of our country’s history has told you is your destiny.

Ladies and gentlemen, by all means have your adventures. Put down those roots. Put a couple thousand miles between yourself and your parents, grandparents, siblings, and childhood friends. Use all the social media platforms at your disposal to show everyone you know how cool your new life is.

But when tragedy strikes, be prepared to feel torn.

When those people you left behind have the nerve to wind up in the hospital in between your annual Christmas visit, or when Grandpa suddenly takes a turn for the worst, or when Dad starts to forget more than just Mom’s birthday, be prepared to feel the need to bridge the geographic chasm between you as quickly as possible. Be prepared to take red-eye flights with too many layovers or to stagger your visits with other family members in order to spread out the help a little further. Be prepared to be so glued to your phone for updates that you give yourself headaches.

Know that you will miss friends, co-workers, and especially significant others who had to stay in your new place while you rushed back to the old one. Know that you will find yourself using the word “home” interchangably to refer to both of these places, and both will feel right and wrong at the same time. Know that you will long to return to the routine you’ve established, yet it won’t feel comfortable because it only felt comfortable in the first place because you knew all was well elsewhere. You will feel the need to be in two distant places at once, so strongly that you won’t be fully present in either, and it may drive you a little bit batty.

Be prepared to feel torn.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no solution to this problem. Staying close to home may sound like the right one, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you fall madly in love with someone whose home is not your home, and the only thing to do is make a new home somewhere completely different. Sometimes you’ve trained for a career that isn’t present in the place you’ve called home to this point. Marine biologists just aren’t in much demand in Indiana, nor are corn farmers going to make it too well in Arizona. Sometimes you are called to a new place by no less than God Himself.

But God never said you wouldn’t get through life without feeling torn.

So embark on your new adventures. Enjoy them, live your new lives to the fullest, wherever they may be. Just know that you can’t be everywhere and everything all the time, and that can be one of the hardest of all young adulthood’s lessons to learn. May you have gentle teachers for your first round, and may you emerge with more compassion for your fellow torn ones. Especially those torn by asking you to drop everything and come home.

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IUI number one didn’t work.  IUI number two will commence in a few days.  In between realizing the former and counting down to the latter, we were presented with four adoption cases that caused us either tears, shock, or both, and I unexpectedly went back to the Midwest to be with my mom as she underwent the removal of a cyst in her brain.  That’s really a lot for just a couple weeks.

Now I am just in a total fog, feeling like I haven’t slept a wink while in reality sleeping long and hard each night I’ve been back home in greater Seattle.  Even simple things like my bedtime routine require talking it out in my head to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.  Talking to people is difficult after a week of constantly updating my family and friends on my mom’s progress.  Not “talking” as in expressing how I really feel, but “talking” as in finding a word and speaking it after another word until I’ve made full and complete sentences without major pauses in between.  We’re not talking pauses that “lend an air of solemnity” like in The King’s Speech.  More like pauses that just make me feel stupid for not being able to fill them faster.

My mom, recovering from the removal of a cyst that had probably been growing for a decade or more, is, of course, much foggier than I am.  It hurts to see her struggling to remember who visited her hours before or when she last ate.  But I want so much to do normal things like go to work or fold my laundry, and it’s like I’ve stepped into another person’s body and life.  Someone who’s mom isn’t well and who’s facing her fourth holiday season where every carol lyric describing miraculous births will strike a tender chord.

Someone who is learning to see life as a series of catastrophes, and good luck is having adequate breathing room in between.

I was exhausted before my aunt called and said she thought something was wrong with my mom.  Now I can’t find a word for how tired I feel.  I’m too tired to even look.

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Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a boy named Mike.  In a land a little closer (but not much), there lived a girl named Emilie.  When they met, they thought the words “boy” and “girl” were beneath them, but in many ways that’s what they still were.

They met at a church on a college campus where they got to play the piano, sing, and chase around two sweet kiddos.  One day while Emilie played the piano and Mike sang, the music director called a break and Emilie got frustrated with the other singers, so Mike gave her a shoulder rub.  It surprised them both.  Shocked, really.  Mike hated to touch people he didn’t know, and Emilie couldn’t believe this boy who was barely even her friend knew exactly what she needed.

In love they fell.

The last few weeks of school that spring were a haze of new love for Mike and Emilie.  They talked endlessly on the phone, went out for lunch, and held each other close under blossoming cherry trees behind the veterinarian buildings.  They both had the sense that all their prayers for a beloved partner had been answered.  All seemed right with the world as they discovered more and more in common.  Every touch left them warm and fuzzy inside, every date was far too short.

They married a year-and-a-half later.  Seventeen months and two days after their first date at Subway.  They held the ceremony at 12:30 p.m. and treated their guests to a lunch buffet in honor of that first date.

All was not roses forever.  They left the land far, far away for a new land, a strange land called Greater Seattle.  How very, very strange it was.  How very, very lonely and depressed Emilie felt, especially once rainy season began and didn’t let up for over a year (a “fluke” that she has seen about three times in seven years).  Their apartment was nice enough, but they felt short of money while trying to provide Emilie a graduate education.  They fought sometimes, like over whether it was worth spending many, many precious dollars to go home that first Christmas, or whether they should arrange their books alphabetically or by genre, or if they should have moved to this strange new place at all.

Then they discovered how beautiful it can be when it dries off.

Trips to honor their anniversary, entertain visitors, and explore their new home gave them an appreciation for their new surroundings and each other.  They traveled by boat, train, car, bus, and plane to see both their homelands and their new home.  And, once, they traveled further away than Emilie had ever been to explore lands where they spoke strange languages and made beer that actually tasted good.

And every touch still left them warm and fuzzy inside.

They adopted two shelter cats, and somehow, without really realizing it, made a new family with a new routine that wasn’t quite Mike’s or Emilie’s but something different.  They grieved when loved ones died, and grieved long and hard for the baby they lost and Emilie’s health and all the babies they were willing to adopt who went to live somewhere else.

But they cherished lazy Saturday mornings full of sleepy snuggles and fancy breakfasts.  And trips to their favorite bookstore, and walks through their favorite park.  And the triumph of finding the perfect piece of furniture on Craigslist for a fraction of what it would have cost new.  And finding ways to make one another smile, or laugh, or keep calm and carry on.

Because it still feels like their prayers for a beloved partner were answered, and that they are more fulfilled now than ever.  And as they prepare to take their seventh anniversary trip a little early, they know that it will be a good trip simply because they are together.  They hurt sometimes, and they fight sometimes, but they love all the time.

And they are living happily ever after.

Eiffel Tower Kiss

The Middle

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Being nearly six years older than my only sibling has made me feel like his pseudo-parent since, well, basically birth.  So I’m the best of both worlds to his point of view–we compete for our parents’ attention and he also has to work hard to overcome my bossiness (which is futile as I’m sure he knows, deep down, that I’m right anyway…).

But all this blended together to make me cry a little on Mother’s Day as I sat with Mike, Mom, and new stepfather Dick to watch my brother, Geoff, graduate from my alma mater, Purdue University:

Geoff's graduation

(Where he said he would never go after I was accepted because “Purdue sucks.”  Somehow it was the only school to which he applied.  See…he knows I’m right!)

Ahem…congrats, “little” buddy!  I love you and I’m proud of you and I pray that you’ll find something that utilizes your passions and benefits others.

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A couple weeks ago, we joined “the silver hybrid club.”  We’re the third in our circle of family and close friends (after Mike’s parents and our dear pastor/friend) to purchase a silver hybrid car since Labor Day 2011.  The other two are Priuses that were bought from dealers as model year-end clearance deals, while ours is a new-to-us 2009 Hybrid Altima.

So far we’re satisfied members.  We enjoy watching the “miles per gallon” feature on the dashboard, especially as it gets up near 60 as we coast off our hill (though we often ignore it as we make the return trip home).  We enjoy the quiet engine and wish he’d had the push-button locks a month ago when the manual locks on our Corolla kept freezing overnight.

I don’t mean to complain too much about our Corolla.  We traded in my college car and then sold Mike’s college car to buy a 2005 navy blue Corolla just before our wedding in 2006.  Mike’s free bus pass from work and his willingness to take the bus or ride his bike all but maybe five days a year to the office has allowed us to own one car the whole time we’ve been married.  With just the two of us, anything bigger than the Corolla felt extravagant.  And it may look small, but we have made some impressive trips to Home Depot and back, like the time we carried 43 Windsor Stones in the trunk and back seat.  We almost sent sparks flying from our bumper rubbing the road from that one, but we made it home and the car, three years later, is none the worse for wear.

But soon (we hope), it’s not going to be just the two of us, and a baby seat in the back of a Corolla is a rather tight fit.  While most people buy mini vans or SUVs in anticipation of parenthood, I can remember road trips as a family of four taken in a Grand Prix or a Dodge Intrepid where I felt like I had plenty of room.  I may eat all of these words in a few years, but we are both minimalists in many ways and are determined not to pollute the air just for the conveniences that come with huge vehicles.  We don’t drive in the mountains in the winter, we aren’t planning on five children, and we don’t need to haul large things around for work, so why not try to be “green” parents however we can be?

Hence we became the youngest members of the silver hybrid club with this:


We hope it will provide transportation for big and small Bishops for years to come.

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