Alex’s Primary Talk about the Priesthood

Today was Alex’s turn to give the talk in primary this week, and he was assigned to talk about how “Blessings of the Priesthood are Available to All of Us”.  Here is his talk:
I am still learning what the Priesthood is.
I know the Priesthood performs ordinances, like being baptized and receiving the Holy Ghost. 
I know there are two kinds of Priesthood: the Aaronic and the Melchizedek.
I know you can get the Priesthood when you’re twelve. 
The Aaronic Priesthood holders bless and pass the sacrament.
They can also be home teachers. One of our home teachers right now is a boy who has the Aaronic Priesthood. 
A Melchizedek Priesthood holder can give blessings. 
My father can bless me when I’m sick, and he blesses me when I start school.
When I was adopted, I was given a name blessing like some kids get when they are babies.
I was also sealed to my parents in the temple. That’s another ordinance.
Not just anyone can do Blessings and ordinances. Yo can’t do it just because you want to.
Part of the Priesthood is about having permission to do things.
Part of the Priesthood is about doing what Jesus would do if he were here. Jesus would bless the sacrament, and heal the sick, and go to the temple.
Jesus wants us to do the things that he would do so that we can learn to become like him.
We can all have the blessings of the Priesthood. We can receive those blessings from our dads, or the bishop, or other Priesthood holders.
We feel those blessings in the Gift of the Holy Ghost, in having eternal families, and by following the prophet.
I am so excited to get the Aaronic Priesthood, and I can’t wait to grow up to be like Jesus someday.
GI say that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

LDS Nursery at Home – Lesson 9: I Have a Body Like Heavenly Father

We continue sharing Kyrie’s nursery lessons from home, as we know there must be other nursery children who are medically fragile and on precautions so unable to stay for nursery class at the church building.   This week we did lesson 9 from the nursery manual, learning about how we have bodies like Heavenly Father has a body.

Laptop Rallies

So my laptop did not survive the journey home from Utah.

I share this not to complain, but to explain why I have not written much since arriving home from speaking there.

No laptop means I am crushed in a temporal sadness kind of way, because I always have it with me because I am always writing.  Except now I can’t.

I rarely write now because the only time I have access to our home computer is when I am there in the mornings – except then I am teaching the children and Nathan is on the computer anyway, because his laptop died also – and that’s how he does his work.

So now both of us are sharing one computer for our work at home jobs, and sharing it with six homeschoolers who already scramble for their turns.

That leaves journaling via blog kind of last on the list.

(And impacts how quickly the next books are being completed, or not completed.)

But I promise life is still happening:

We voted on our family Halloween costume for this year… And don’t even ask because it’s a surprise. I don’t know if we can ever top our coolness the year we were Steampunk Peter Pan, or meet the level of adorableness the year they were the Boxcar children. But our costume this year fits, anyway, and is hilariously ironic. Classic. It is the best we can do this year, and the children are super excited and already digging through closets and toy boxes for accessories to their costumes.

I took Anber on a date:

And Barrett lost his first tooth!

That was the first time we had a little one since toddlerhood to grow up so much to loose teeth! I cried like a baby!

Oh, and speaking of growing up, our baby is now a threenager.

But it’s okay because despite being NPO and fed exclusively through her gtube, she still cooks for me every day, all day long, right where I am trying to walk.

In family home evening this week, we made hearts of all the things we appreciate about each other. It was super sweet to see what everyone said about the others, and the bickering has gone way down since. It will come back, I know, but we are enjoying the peace and harmony in the meantime.

We still make yogurt once a week, so that these hungry children have something besides oatmeal for breakfast once in awhile:

We even got a gift card, and had to vote about whether to use it on shoes or clothes. Except then four different families randomly contacted us about winter clothes the sizes of our children, and we went through what worked, and everyone had enough! So that meant that for the first time in ages, all six children got brand new shoes – not just hand me downs or shoes that came with their orthopedic braces, but actual brand new shoes. Everyone was so excited, and so proud, even while Mama just cringed at three boys in new white tennis shoes. They love them, though!

So see, life is happening.

I just don’t have a laptop to type about it anymore.

But we also, allegedly and theoretically, have a buyer for the Bartlesville home, which is a huge relief, no matter what happens about the medically fragile homes.

But it’s not final yet, so we will see.

But allegedly.

And, it’s an investor so that if we get the final go ahead for the home, then we have the house to do it. If not, at least the house was sold.

Please pray!

But that’s a small scale worry. There are so many prayers to pray, with Oklahoma in such crisis over its budget and mental health care!

Yes, the state announced cuts of all outpatient mental health services this week, which impacts the services my children receive if it all really unfolds the way they say it will.

But no, not my job, not yet, since I work in the hospital now. This is a huge relief to us. I am so grateful we followed that prompting to change jobs when we did, when the church told me, even though it seemed crazy at the time. I would have been laid off today if not.

But even still, it impacts many of my very dear friends, and all of our patients.

It’s really devastating. And no one saw it coming, not to the extent of suddenly one day the state announcing all outpatient services will be discontinued, just like that.

It’s a thing, though, in a world of opposition, where things happen beyond your control or without warning.

And in a world where classes become more distinct, gaps in services become broader, and where so many lack access to the basic support they need just to stay alive.

We experience that as we care for six special needs children, advocating for them sometimes even with those who should know better, or educating those with good hearts who just don’t know, or crying in gratitude for those who learn with us and help them so much.

Sometimes it’s simple things that make a difference, like a free dance class for special needs kids or a teacher who comes once a week just to take the children on a nature walk.

I have only seen one comment that was cruel with its false statement about how the only people this budget cut impacts are people who don’t try.

That was frustrating. I think many people, especially those already in need, have fewer choices than we often assume they do. Besides that, it’s only a matter of a few changes in circumstances that separate any of us from being in those very shoes.

The last emergency trip for Kyrie to be in the hospital out of state came less than a month after she just got out of the hospital for her gtube. We had been off work, had that to pay for, and suddenly had to pay for another hospitalization and trip that we had not even planned for at all. We didn’t even know it was coming.

(And yes, everyone should have rainy day savings for such a time, except ours was used up when my parents died, and when Nathan was laid off, and when I got cancer, and when cancer came back, and when we had eighty children in four years who came to us with nothing and then took everything with them when they left, and when our baby outlived hospice by spending two and a half years in one hospital or another.)

So many people helped in the small ways they could, and together with help of the community and loved ones and people we have never even met, we were able to gather what we needed and get to Cincinnati and back home again.

But the money we raised and resources we gathered were for that.

It wasn’t enough to cover being off work.

And we had to make a scary choice, and skip a mortgage payment to get Kyrie to the hospital and back again. We told the mortgage company, and we sent paperwork from the hospital, and we planned to make it up plus the next month when we got back. We agreed with the company how to do it, and had everything set as best we could.

Except while we were out of town, they sold our loan.

And then when we came back, and I was on FMLA while she was recovering (not working and not being paid, but my job held for me), we sent in the money as arranged – except because the loan was sold, the money came back to us. It was bizarre. So I called to ask what happened and what to do, and they said they would send us a letter for where to send the money.

Except we never got it.

Or the kids got the mail and it didn’t get to my hands.

Something.

So then we called again, and again, and again, and it was weeks and weeks while we were trying to find out where our mortgage payment needed to be sent.

How scary is that?

We finally got a letter saying we had to send a letter, which seems silly but I understand they were trying to document everything, and so we sent our letter but still didn’t hear back from them about where to send our payments – the one we missed, plus the next month when we tried to make it up, and now this month which is only a week away from next month!

Finally today, through prayer and prompting and following through on those impressions, I was able to find a different phone number and connect to an actual person after two months of trying.

Talking to them helped them connect our files from what they had and what had been sent before we left for the hospital, and everything got worked out. It was all a computer error from things crossing in the mail at the same time the loan was sold for no reason relating to us. But now they have all the documentation we had been told to send, from us and the hospital and my FMLA, and got all the documents connected to our account. It was such a relief! Everything was okay! They reversed our penalties, and sent us the address where now we send our mortgage payments.

How scary was that?

It has been a huge stressor in recent weeks for me and Nathan and those who care for us, as we tried so hard not to be afraid and continue acting in faith.

We are so relieved!

And it happened to us, something that scary, not because we are bad people, but because we found ourselves in circumstances in which we had to choose Kyrie’s treatment or paying the mortgage.

And because someone we don’t even know and have never met uploaded our personal documents to the wrong folder for a company we didn’t even know had bought our loan.

Of course there are some “losers” who are on Medicaid and will be impacted by those cuts. But there are “losers” on private insurances, too. Being a loser is about who you choose to be, not what insurance you have.

So maybe they aren’t losers. Maybe they are humans who made mistakes, like the guy who put our documents in the wrong folder. I bet he has really good insurance, even though he almost destroyed our lives (that’s what it felt like, anyway). But he wasn’t trying to. It was a mistake.

Or maybe they are humans who have found themselves in circumstances in which it feels like there are no choices, like us, who made a risky choice in the middle of an emergency when we had tried everything and didn’t know what else to do but thought we did everything we could according to the rules and counsel advised us.

So it turns out that new laptops falls down on the priority list when you have four months of mortgage to pay, with the next Cincinnati trip looming ahead on some unknown date.

And maybe new laptops for a couple of writers seem less important when you look into the eyes of your toddler who has survived long enough to turn into a threenager, long enough to start telling stories about the hospitals she remembers, long enough to say thank you for holding me that day on the helicopter when I could not breathe. I was so scared, Mama.

Maybe new laptops for a couple of writers being denied by a family budget pales in comparison to the safety of thousands losing the support and care that helps them stay alive.

Because it’s not about what we have or don’t have.

It’s about helping each other through this experience we call life.

It’s about rallying around each other, like cheering on Kirk as he rides his scooter with his left leg (his weak side in his cerebral palsy), or celebrating Barrett when he gets mad but doesn’t lose it (because getting mad is just fine, but hitting is not okay). It’s about helping each other, like watching Alex rush to open the door for his sister, or seeing Anber sorting her younger sister’s clothes even though that isn’t her job. It’s about advocating for each other, even when you can’t win, like when Mary just wanted to go to school with her siblings while they watch their baby sister die.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s about pulling off the impossible, like rescuing your own house at the last minute by the tender mercies of God.

And maybe sometimes those big miracles actually unfold by small and simple things, like a little girl whose smile has stayed with us long enough to change the world.

And maybe when you rally, sometimes it’s for yourself, like when you are fighting for a job that you love, for people you have a passion for serving. Maybe sometimes it’s for those you love, like the children you adopted from foster care. Sometimes it’s for others, maybe even those you don’t know, like thousands of Oklahoma citizens who desperately need outpatient counseling services to stay healthy and well and alive.

Or maybe you are a loser who just needs to be warned that if we don’t have outpatient services for these people, then many of them are going to be in crisis – a danger to themselves and a danger to others. And then they will be brought to my ER, and there won’t be any beds left in psychiatric facilities, so I will have to admit them to your hospital where you came for “normal” procedures because you have real insurance because you are cooler than the rest of us.

Except you aren’t a loser. You’re just busy. And overwhelmed with your own problems. And drowning in life a little yourself.

I get it. I do.

But you can still contact your legislators to tell them we need mental health services. Click here if you need help!

Or even attend the rally with us on Tuesday, at the Capitol itself, where we are gathering to give thousands a people a voice to their cry for help.

My children have been through a lot in their little lives, and have a very sick little sister, and are stuck with me for a mom now, so they are in counseling.

They will lose those services if the mental health outpatient services are not funded.

Nathan has done counseling for his depression, and is pretty open about that and how counseling has helped.

And obviously counseling is my job, but also I already am in counseling myself because of everything else, stuff like dead parents and miscarriages and getting held at gunpoint in the ER (by someone who didn’t have outpatient services available, by the way), and so our family is there nearly every day between my brain and Nathan and those children, so there are no more empty slots for appointments to help me to deal with life if my children don’t have that extra help.

I’m just saying.

So sometimes a girl needs to write a really long blog after being quiet for days, because she doesn’t have a laptop anymore but then something big enough to write about happens and can’t be ignored, so she writes it on her tiny phone in an app that leaves all kinds of errors because of how ridiculous auto correct is these days.

But she tries, and says something, because she can’t not.

And maybe it isn’t her best essay ever, but it was an important one, and so we all do our best regardless of our circumstances – sometimes in spite of them.

That’s what these people are doing.

They just want counseling.

At least they have the courage to be asking for help, and at least they have the guts to act in faith and show up to their appointments.

Not everyone else does, even when they have insurance.

These people are trying. 

They are asking for help.

Please don’t tell them no.

Anniversary: Five Years of Hell

Someone vomits every year on our anniversary.

It’s true.

It’s not just because every single blessing we get talks about the work Heavenly Father plans for us and the adversary’s attacks to stop us.

We know we get our fair share of opposition, and that just encourages us to keep going.

But the vomit?  That’s more about the timing of flu shots every year.

And this year?  It was Nathan.

Poor Nathan has gotten puked on every single birthday since we were married, and someone has vomited every single anniversary.  It’s like they know that nothing is worse for Nathan about parenting, and so they just save it up all year just for him.

Except now he cannot blame anyone else, except Anber, who was sick exactly a week ago.

So that’s how we spent our anniversary, once again cleaning up vomit.  

Our gift to him was all of us going to the park all afternoon so he actually got some rest, and his gift to me was a short nap afterward.   Now that the children are tucked in bed, we will celebrate tonight with a mean game of Phase10.

Because we live pretty wild around here.

We have been married a whole five years.

People literally say to us, “Your life has been hell!”

Helpful, guys.  Really helpful.

At our sealing, the blessing said that “as you  act in faith by living lives of consecration, Satan himself will repeatedly attempt to knock your legs out from under you because he does not want you to succeed at what you are now setting out to do.”

Yeah.  Happy wedding day to us.

And it’s been that fun ever since.

Five years.

Five years of wedded bliss: hurricanes, job lay offs, miscarriage after miscarriage, cancer with chemo twice, hysterectomy by default, dead parents, crazy church assignments, eight billion thousand diapers, a gazabillion fosters, three moves in one big circle back to where we started, six adoptions, two years in hospitals, a year of overnight shifts away from each other, both of us working three jobs while publishing fourteen books so far, writing two other big ones on the way, plus two musicals, an opera, six plays, thirteen song lyrics, more than two hundred YouTube videos, a violin album on iTunes, an audiobook recorded, homeschooling all six kids, teaching them piano and violin everyday, thirty-seven therapy appointments a week, a baby on palliative care, financial ruin from dead parents and cancer and aforementioned toddler, and a partridge in a pear tree – no, wait, that sweet bird got taken by my nephew when my mother died, and Nathan’s parents have the dog.

It feels like it has been five lifetimes, not just five years.

Our life together these five years has basically been hell, by anyone’s standards.

Except that I have a husband who is authentically good and genuinely kind.

And I have a husband who is tender and soft and expressive.

And I have a husband who is respectful and wise and strong.

And I have a husband who is faithful, to me and to our God, which matters more than anything.

He lives worthy of the power we need to endure what we have, worthy to lay hands on my head and bless me with the vision and strength and capacity to continue this life we live.

He does not cause me pain, or tears, or fear.

He is beyond what I ever could have imagined was possible, and better than I ever could have dreamed up on my own.

He is my greatest blessing, ever, the very best thing ever to happen to me.

And if I am called to walk through five years of hell, then I am glad it is his hand I chose to hold, and I know it is his hand I will still be holding on the other side of this mess of mortality.

But also, we don’t really look at the hell through which we’ve been.

Because it’s irrelevant.

I only look in his eyes, and in them see whole eternities.

That’s what matters.

There is nothing I love more than holding his hand, or snuggling into him, or our late night talks at the end of our very hard days.

He is my best friend, and I trust him.

I love him.

And he says our only problem is that in premortality, when they passed out the forms to sign up for classes we would endure in mortality, we were just so googley-eyed excited that we checked all the boxes, to endure everything, instead of just selecting a few.

But we checked all the boxes because we really wanted to make it all the way back Home, together.

So maybe we used up all our money taking care of other people’s children.  And maybe we have to work so much that we spend more time apart than as much time as we would like to spend together.  And maybe when they say to consecrate even your very lives if necessary, they mean it.

So maybe our life together has been hell.

But at least we are getting it over with.

And if there was ever anyone good enough and pure enough and strong enough and wise enough and kind enough to walk me straight through the fires of affliction, faithful enough just to ensure I came through on the other side… that would be Nathan, who has never shirked from all we have faced, who has held my hand every step of the way, who has changed diapers and done dishes and helped with chores and run children to appointments and held me when our babies died and swept up my hair when it fell out and tucked children in at night when I was doing my calling away from home.

So yeah, it’s been a long and hard five years, an impossible five years.

But Nathan is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I love our little family very much no matter how hard it is.

I can’t exactly say I’m looking forward to another five, but, you know, I am glad we will still be holding hands.

Because eternity is worth it.

Even when mortality tries to smack that silly grin right off your face.

So thanks a lot, Nathan, for more than the adventure you promised, for still being here, and for marrying me in the temple of God for time and all eternity.

Making a Wish

I got it.

I got the picture I needed, the one I wasn’t sure we would be able to capture.

It’s the perfect picture.

It’s a picture of bright, shining eyes, full of light and sparkle the way that only happens when she is feeling well and laughing, those eyes where the left one is never quite as open as the right one since her stroke, those eyes that are open after three comas, almost thirty surgeries, and so many lifeless stares as they pushed on her little chest and pushed helium into her too-small lungs to try and help her breathe again.

It’s a picture of that little button nose, in a moment when they were empty of tubes for feeding or breathing.

I know it isn’t a complete picture of her experience, but it gives me a picture of who she is under all those layers.

It’s a picture of Kyrie just being Kyrie, and not Kyrie being sick.

It’s a picture of that crooked smile.  Oh, her smile!  It’s crooked from nerve damage from two of the surgeries, and even still that too-small mouth from her too small jaw that doesn’t have room for all her teeth – those miracle teeth they said she wouldn’t have, those teeth that don’t even get to munch on food.

It’s a picture of her perfect little chin – too perfect, shaped by plastic surgery so many times in two years, trying to make room for her to breathe.  If she had barely turned one way or the other, you would have to look closely to see the scars on the side of her face, usually hidden by her hair.

Even the bump on the inside of her lip is there, marking where her tongue was sewn to her lip for the first year of her life.  They didn’t cut her tongue back away from her lip until she was one, at the same time they repaired her cleft palate, and even then they pierced her tongue and stitched it to her cheek, just to keep her airway open while she recovered.  That’s how she spent her entire infancy trying to drink from a bottle without actually using her mouth, breathing formula into her scarred lungs, and using more calories trying to suck than she ever actually gained from what she was able to get down.  That’s why the ng tube was always there, taped to her round cheeks until she finally go the gtube.  That’s why her tongue moves sideways only, and doesn’t lift up, no matter what tricks they try in speech therapy.

This picture?  It is is a picture of a miracle.

 

 

It’s the perfect picture of Kyrie, because it captures her and all her stories, but without her looking sick.  Because she’s more than just a sick girl.  She’s Kyrie.

It’s the picture we will use for her funeral if that’s the Winter we have, but it’s also the picture that gives us hope for Spring.

But funeral planning is a thing, when you have a palliative care team, when you are a little girl who can’t breathe.

(Farah Alvin will be singing, by the way.)

But here, in this picture, there is life in her face, and that was the picture we needed, the picture she needed.

She is the picture of hope, of courage, and of life.

That’s what they told us last when her story was submitted for Make-A-Wish.

It was a sucker punch, getting that notification.

I mean, it’s an amazing thing they do, and I have no idea what Kyrie will wish or what choices we will discuss or what will really happen or not.  I know that if she is selected, that it will be a very special experience no matter what she wishes.  We are so grateful for them to even consider her, and it’s an amazing program that strengthens and cheers so many children.

But the selfish part of me knows that making a wish means the end is coming, and I’m not okay with that.

In fact, I am really, really, really not okay with that.

No one would wish that.

In fact, wishes are now off limits for everyone (my apologies to Alex, who has the next birthday).

Except it’s not about being selfish, and it’s not even about a life being over.

It’s about embracing the strength and courage to endure hard things.  It’s about celebrating what life means, and how living life to the fullest helps others live, too, whatever living means to them.  It’s about celebrating a life that has changed thousands of other lives.

It’s about stepping away from hospital life, and just being a family, for a moment, without the stress and worries that are very much a part of everyday life when you have a child on the “chronic death trajectory”.

It’s about comfort, and quality of life, and spending time together as a family.

Because time is all we have, really, until later, when time won’t matter anymore.

It’s about acknowledging that the last two years were hard – really hard – and taking a moment to stop and rest.

Maybe even breathe.

But not wish.  I can’t.  I can’t do it.  It’s too hard for me.

But that’s okay, too, because it’s not my wish.  It’s her wish.  And so we will let her wish.

Because when you look into a face like that, and see eternities in eyes full of light like hers, then there are still adventures to be had, worlds to conquer, and wishes to be made.

Make a wish, baby girl.  Make a wish.

Adoption Grief

This blurry-you-can’t-see-her-face picture is of the first drug baby ever placed with us.

The picture was taken more than three years ago.

She was a hard baby withdrawing from drugs.  We brought her home from the hospital as a newborn.  We couldn’t keep her awake long enough to eat.  She cried hard when she was awake because she was detoxing.  We did everything we could to stimulate her, praying for every brain cell she had left… we played classical music for her, we rocked her in the room while Nathan played violin, we got her in all the SoonerStart therapy services, and we read to her and sang to her and touched her and held her and everything we could think to do to give her a chance.

But those drug babies – that’s hard work.  It was exhausting.  It was scary, because she wasn’t gaining weight because she couldn’t stay awake to eat.  She was barely five pounds when she was born, and every feeding we would have to completely remove all her clothes, change her diaper in the middle of it, tickler her feet, and just keep stimulating her in all the ways we could just to keep her awake enough to eat.   She wasn’t very interested.

We thought that was hard, back then, before Kyrie, but now we know it was preparatory for Kyrie.

This baby is the one from our book, in the chapter about cancer, the baby the took from us when we found out I had ovarian cancer.

After dinner, we took the children over to Nathan’s parents for them to say goodbye.  While Nathan kept an eye on the pack, as they rioted through Grandma and Granddad’s house, I slipped away with the youngest — a drug baby — for some time to say my farewells in private.  It was hard.  I cried.  But what a gift, to have known her, for even a short bit of time, and maybe helped in some small way we would never know.

What a miracle that, after all those miscarriages, we would get to have our new-parent experiences: bringing a newborn home from the hospital, middle of the night feedings, bottles and burping and diapers galore, and even sleep deprivation!  I was so grateful to her, for that little taste of normal, for her sweet smile, and for her tenacity to survive so much in her short life thus far.  I cried and I kissed her, I fed her and rocked her one more time, and then I sent her away.

It was strange, after the caseworker loaded up the children and their bags of things and pulled out of the driveway, to come in to an empty and quiet house.  My nieces who had come for the summer had already been sent home early, and our teenager that graduated had already moved out on her own.  All that was left was Alex and Anber, who had already changed into pajamas and climbed into bed.

I just stood there, listening.  Nothing moved.  I heard the ticking of a clock for the first time in two years. I started tearing down the streamers and balloons still up in the dining room, left from a foster birthday party.  Suddenly they didn’t belong anymore, and not just because the birthday was over.  It’s one thing to be ready to fight cancer, and another thing all together to invite it to a party.  There would be no cancer party.  So I took the balloons down and threw the whole mess away.

I walked back to the bedroom that was mine and Nathan’s before the newborn invasion, and swept it clean of baby stuff.  I packed up all the Onesies and zip-up jammies, and moved out the swing and the bouncy seat and the bassinet.  I loaded up miniature shoes and gloves and hats, blankets and burp rags.  I took empty bottles to the kitchen, and looked for pacifiers the way children look for Easter eggs.  I took out the trash, and then cleaned this corner, and then that corner, and then over here, and then over there, and then dusted, and then made Nathan move this and move that, and then vacuumed until I ran out of things to do.

That was a hard day.

There was a lot of grieving.

Of course we had to do what was best for the children, and let them go since I was sick.

We almost got her back, later, a couple times, and wanted to take her back.  We loved her, that one, and would have kept her… except her pre-teen sister was part of the deal.   We loved her sister, too, even though she kept hiding poop in her lunch box.   The sister also did a lot of stealing, but we figured that comes with fostering, and if we gave her enough time and enough chances, she would figure things out.

Except then she stole Mary’s hearing aids, and that was the last straw as far as family votes.

It broke my heart.

They also had a brother, but he was too close to age in Alex and neither were good for the other.  They each did fine with us individually, but Alex and the other boy together were a disaster.  It just didn’t work.

These three, the baby and her brother and her sister, were a sibling set we adored, and we would have been a perfect match for any of the children individually, but they couldn’t seem to be healthy together, and we couldn’t match them with the children already in our home.

Also, they were still trying to go home then, and we supported that, and when we found out about the cancer, we hoped they were headed home soon.

But then we found out they didn’t.

It was a sibling set we watched slip away from us, and worried about, and never forgot, and will forever love… but it was a sibling set that didn’t get to stay with us, and we said goodbye several times as they came and went and kept not staying.

It was heartbreaking.

But this baby?  We kept seeing her.  We saw her at the doctor’s office.  We saw her at the DHS office.  We saw her at a fast food place once.  We saw her at the library.  We saw her at a school.

She didn’t know us, of course.

She didn’t know that we brought her home from the hospital, or fought so hard to keep her alive.  She didn’t know that we cleaned her umbilical cord until it fell off, or took her on walks in the park, or took pictures of her in serving bowls to show how small she was.  She doesn’t remember Nathan’s violin, or the songs I sang to her, or that we tried our best to give her all we had in the little time we had together.

She isn’t aware of what she gave us, like how she made Anber smile again when she fed that little one a bottle for the first time on the same day Anber’s mother didn’t show up for her second birthday party, the same week Kyrie was conceived among a swirl of toxic substances that would take her twin sister and leave her fighting for every breath.

She isn’t aware of what she gave us, like teaching us how to care for drug babies so that we were ready and prepared when Kyrie came along in a much more critical state.

But when we saw her around town, and we couldn’t help but smile at her, and sometimes Alex or Anber even waved or tried to play with her.  They remember her, too, even though she doesn’t remember us.

But that’s fostering: you are strangers to the ones you love, when they first come and when they have gone home again.

Except this one didn’t go home.

And this week?  We found out she is getting adopted.

And I couldn’t be more thrilled for her, or more relieved.

This one was one of two little ones we especially missed and struggled with understanding why things didn’t work out differently for them, or for us.

So it is a bit of closure, even if it stings when the worker contacts me to let me know, or even if I cry while I select pictures to send to her new adoptive mother who isn’t me.

But she has one, a new mother, a family that loves her and cares for her, and she’s doing really well.

And that’s how it works, when a community raises a child, or a little one weaves her way through foster care until finding her forever home.

And she’s alive, and safe, and doing well.

And that makes us happy, even if we will always miss her, always remember the smell of her, always remember the little sounds she made when she snuggled against our shoulders.

And if she and her brother and sister had stayed, we wouldn’t have the four others who eventually came to stay after Alex and Anber.

It’s all exactly as it should be.

Even if we cry.

Or maybe I cry because it’s also the week my father died, two years before we met this little one… just months before I met Nathan.  I can’t even write about that tonight.

But I had to share her story, this little one who has found a home, and my gratitude for the workers who care for children who have no one, children who have no where, children who wait three years to find where they belong.

And tonight, when I say my prayers, I will thank God for the one who will tuck this baby girl into bed tonight, and add this “new” mother to my prayers every time I think of this little one, one we will never forget.

And we will celebrate her finding her forever home, even though it was somewhere else.

Because we know it must be exactly right for her.

And that is amazing.

A forever home is always worth celebrating.

Unity

This week, more than one stranger walked up to me and asked who Mary was, or why she was with me, or where I “got” her.

All of them followed up with, “because, well, you know, she’s a different color than you.”

One lady once clicked her tongue at me, either because I shouldn’t have adopted brown babies or because she was assuming I did something naughty to get them biologically.

Because, of course, if I am walking around with six babies in my little rainbow family, then the natural conclusions is that I have been sleeping around.

Or, maybe, just maybe, we chose our family long before any of us were born into skin color.

 

And maybe, just maybe, that’s not so different from any of us in our lives, even our own selves.

Maybe we all have parts of us that are different in some way or another, just like in nature all around us, and all of that variety plays an important part in our daily experience.

Maybe the only thing better than a rainbow family is heading home to your own family.

Maybe being a real family means it’s harder to be apart than together, even when being together isn’t always easy.

Maybe the best thing about being together is going home.


And maybe home is where you are all together, rather than who is different and why.

Talking Day

Today was the day for giving my talk to my fellow LDS chaplains and the military and priesthood leaders.

Mary took this fun picture of  me:


She also made sure she got one, too!

The man introducing me did talk to Mary, and asked her to “tell me about Mary”.

Mary replied, “Well, she was a young woman who had a baby and she named him Jesus.”  It was so funny!

Ever the Princess, she has very much enjoyed her weekend of fancy dinners and fancy luncheons!

She especially liked my fancy name card at my plate that showed where we were to sit:

She has also enjoyed every local museum we can find, this one while I was in training (and thanks to one of my chaplain friend families).


I missed having us here as a whole family this year, but with money so focused on Kyrie and her already in isolation precautions, there was just no way.  We have done a lot of FaceTiming home, and we are very excited to start heading home soon.  Mary is pretty sure she can just fly home on her own now, and doesn’t need me “because this trip got me really good at maps”.

She wanted her picture taken where the general authorities just got their pictures taken, “and right next to Jesus in the picture, because He loves me so much.”

As excited as we are to go home, and as hard as it is that we don’t have better news about Kyrie from this clinic than any other, the one on one time we had together this weekend was really good for us.

And some time of her getting spoiled all on her own was pretty special, too.

I finished my talk, and am still endorsed by the church as a chaplain, so maybe I did okay!  I gave my best, trusted the spirit, and felt we all learned together… mostly I am glad that is finished, and Mary and I will find a way to celebrate tonight – one more stressor off the table.

“And more candles on the table, but not for setting fancy napkins on fire,” Mary says.

That girl, so funny.