hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to China we go…..wanna follow along??

Standard

This is it. The final countdown. EXACTLY 24 hours from this literal minute our plane will be heading down the runway, about to take off. I am in awe. I am in delirium. I am in utter joy. Because, baby girl, we’re coming to get you.

It’s funny because I should have known there would be stuff. I have been ready to travel for months. Last week I completed my exhaustive checklist of things to do. It was crazy and I got it done, plenty early. Yup. Tooting my own horn. Like, with almost a week to spare. But remember, God doesn’t really want us comfortable. He likes to see us challenged, so we can glorify Him. And that’s what I got. (when will i ever learn not to toot that horn??? duh….) All of a sudden I was in the midst of this huge online auction fundraiser for Marlowe’s medical orphanage (China Little Flowers…go check it out and donate to this worthy cause if you have not already!!!) and a small little group of us threw together this mish mosh of NICE stuff, last minute, and somehow God blessed it and we all worked together and raised almost 13,000. Amazing.

But now I am on my third day following a night of little sleep. I still have 48 packages to ship out (and finish packing and labeling and cross referencing with the payment info and online addresses and….) and I have to get to the school, meet with the teachers, get to the chiropractor with all the kids (we ALL see the chiro!!!), get my eyebrows waxed (I am NOT gonna be that American with eyebrows sprouting every which way. Marlowe will be like, “give me back!!! this lady has eyebrows like Donald Trump!!! Help!!!”) and a whole bunch of other stuff. And I love it.

Like I did last time, I will post daily about our trip. Ken and I had SO many adventures last time. (Go to archives and start reading in early to mid october. man, there is some really funny stuff there.) This time? We are bringing ALL the kids so I can only imagine how much more fun (crazy) it will be. And I can’t wait. I will probably post the link to the blog on Facebook, when possible, but you will have to click the link to read about it. You can also follow my blog, and it will email you each post. (I don’t get paid or anything so no benefit to me to have followers but it does make it easier.)

I love sharing this journey. And we do share it. There are aspects we do NOT share….things that are personal to our girls’ and their stories, but the tough stuff, well, I leave it in there. Why? Because I want to be transparent. I want people to see the reality, the joy and beauty and triumph but also the grief and loss that exists too. You see, make no mistake. My daughter is MINE. I have loved her since the moment I saw her face. Me? I am a stranger to her. She is being ripped from her life, and given away to a total stranger who looks, smells, acts, talks everything different. It is heartbreaking. And yet it is only the beginning for her. But as her mom I can never forget or ignore the primal loss with which she started her life. My only job, now, is to fill that loss, the best I can, knowing it will never be enough. And that must be ok. Other adoptive parents?? Follow along. See how we do it. Maybe that will inspire you to do what we do. Maybe it will inspire you to do the opposite!! Haha!!! Either way, we are who we are. All of it. And you are welcome to join us.

 

the most beautiful insanity

Standard

I don’t often share my poetry. But here, today, in the morning Florida light and my heart bursting with 87 different things, this.

sunshine beams and smiles alight and i watch as they all run before me. down the hill, up the road, both ways of course (ha!), and i smile as they all grow before me. how did i get here? how could it happen? how could love so morph into this? what? this? yes. this. this all encompassing, forever engrossing, literally suffocating, yet never ending and always energizing while completely immobilizing love. it is. the most beautiful insanity. 

for those who don’t think that God has a quirky sense of humor…

Standard

The duck billed platypus.

Yup.

That has been, for a very long time, my first thought when it comes to God. When I was a kid God was this overbearing, critical, scary, judgmental ball of fire. And he was gonna get me.

By the time I hit my mid teens, God was this uncaring, almost irrelevant figure who sure, I believed was out there, but who I figured never noticed the little things, and was just the leader of this huge group of hypocritical people who just said one thing and did another.

Then I met my God. 21, angry and confused and hurt, and I finally realized that people are broken, and that God wants to listen, heal, and love. And that, at the end of the day, that is what He wants out of the people who follow Him. And I also realized that sure, He was this massive all knowing and loving being. But that, well, we truly were created in His image. Which means my crazy sense of humor is an attribute He and I share. And I started looking around and yup, this world is a broken place because man screws it up SO royally. But there is still a TON of beauty. And in fact, a heck of a lot of really funny stuff. Starting with the duck billed platypus which is the weirdest creature. And God said, “Sure. Let’s have that. It’s messed up. I like it.”

And I fell in love with God a little bit more.

Now??

Even funnier. You see, my one expectation when we moved forward with this adoption was to travel this summer, and bring all my kids. And as the wait lengthened, and the match took forever, our dream of summer travel dwindled. It got smaller. And finally, a couple of weeks ago, it went to non-existent. Ok. I was at peace with that. His timing is best. And if we had traveled in the last few weeks Kenny would have completely freaked at all the travel delays and dramas surrounding the Visa mess. So I was like, “Thanks for keeping us from that, God. You obviously know better than I do.” haha. Go figure.

And then, our little mini-miracle last week.

What does this mean? We are now leaving during the summer. In 6 days to be exact. The kids won’t be starting school for 4 days and then leaving and all the hassle that entails. My one main prayer has been, obviously, for the health and safety and attachment of my new daughter. Prayer two?? For summer travel. And I gave that up.

But one of my favorite prayers is, and one I use sparingly by the way, is to ask God to show off. To show up. Because just when it is impossible, just when it CAN’T be done, just when there is NO hope to have things happen when and where we want them, and we fully release it, God has a little giggle (or a big, strong Godly guffaw…don’t want to limit the Almighty to any sort of humorous expression) and says, “ok. I am gonna show off now. I am gonna remind you that I GOT this.” And like in the movie When Harry Met Sally, and their best friends Jess and Marie are meeting and chatting and Jess says, “I have never had me, quoted back to me before…”

Well God, let me quote you when you say, “With man, it is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.”

Amen, Lord. Amen.

you KNOW you’re close to adoption travel when…..(feel free to add more…)

Standard

1.) You know the provider and gateway city of every single direct flight to China from the US, the best airports for layovers if necessary, and have put tickets “on hold” more than 3 times in the last week. Also, you try to find a way to score a layover in Korea simply to experience the free massage chairs in the airport.

2.) You have stopped buying groceries because you a. want to save the cash and b. don’t want to waste food

3.) The only groceries you DO buy are in small quantities and include milk, eggs, and fruit. Oh, and whatever your stress snack of choice is. Your kids may not be getting balanced meals, but your stash of Resses, Tostitos, Ben and Jerry’s, or (fill in the blank) is refreshed. Daily.

4.) You are awake, all night, every night, going over the packing list in your mind and wondering where you can trim back. The next morning you needlessly add matching hair bows to every single outfit for your new little one, thereby negating all the excess you just trimmed.

5.) You are SO not having s*x with your husband because you are too sensitive, heightened, annoyed, tired, and emotional. This is the exact same whether you are 9.75 months pregnant, or awaiting travel.

6.) If he still tries to have s*x with you, despite the obvious vibes you are sending, you say, “are you freakin KIDDING me?????” in total and complete awe and exasperation. It blows your mind that he can be so insensitive as to try to fool around.

7.) Your husband is walking around in a daze because he has not gotten any in a while, and moreso, he simply can not understand what the big deal is.

8.) You sit, refreshing your email, and staring at your phone screen, waiting to see your agency’s name pop up.

9.) You stalk everyone you know online, who is in the same timeframe as you, to see if they heard anything.

10.) You start cussing, despite not having cussed since your sophomore year in college.

11.) Dinners start to consist of mystery “casseroles” and “crock pots” with flavors no one can quite determine. They are not bad, per se, but they sure as h e double hockey sticks are NOT good….

12.) Your local friends stage an intervention because they have not seen you, in person, in two weeks.

13.) Your online friends in the adoption community are totally enabling you to eat crap, shop on Zulily, and buy baby stuff to fill the aching void.

14.) You serve your kids pears and chocolate pudding. For BREAKFAST.

15.) Gotcha day videos. Before match, they were curious and sweet. After match, they made you giddy and weepy and wondering what yours would be like. Now?? You take notes and start planning your own video, and get VERY annoyed when the secret song you chose for YOUR video is now suddenly being used on EVERY new gotcha day video. Grrrrr…..

16.) You download ExpressVPN. The only other people in the world who do that are hackers.

17.) Although you barely knew what a “blog” was 12 months ago, you now have one, write one, upload photos to one, and teach others how to do so. (92% of you will stop blogging right after returning from China though which is too bad.)

18.) Your husband will say to you, “Do you love your blog/facebook/RQ more than me???” You hesitate a few beats too long before saying, “of course not.”

19.) You get caught up in the “lap seat” vs. “paid seat” debate on Facebook, every single time. And you enjoy it.

20.) You get weird looks form the checkout clerks at the local pharmacy because you are buying the following, which makes you look paranoid, hypochondriacal, and pretty gross all at the same time: tampons, Monistat, UTI meds, pink eye drops and ear ache drops, lice treatment, scabies cream, hemorrhoid cream, prilosec, maalox, pepto bismol, tums, anti-diarrheal meds, fiber bars, and more. Oh, and every single approved (legal) sleep aid for children. Basically, it looks like you are a bleeding, oozing, crapping, lice covered, scabies itching, constipated, eye crusting, ear waxing, nauseated, hemorrhoid filled lady who wants to drug her kids to sleep.

 

funny people and suicide. why i get it, and what we need to understand…

Standard

Robin Williams. John Belushi. John Candy. Chris Farley….

There is a long list.

“Leah, what?? Those guys did not all kill themselves!!!”

Yeah, they did.

Some indirectly with self medication using food, drugs, alcohol. Some directly. And I do. I get it.

I am a funny person. Now, before you laugh at THAT, no, I am not on par with the gents listed above. Not even close, except for in my own mind, or maybe in my husband’s because he has to think that, and then say it, because he is married to me and it is in the contract and if he wants to get laid he will tell me I am the funniest and prettiest and smartest woman in the world. But in general I am a funny gal. I love to laugh, and I laugh at myself and my life more than anything else and if others can laugh with or even at me, I am all for it.

But sometimes the laughter comes with a price. And that is the honest truth. Why?

Well, when I am NOT funny, when I am down, or low, or heck, even just quiet, it seems to be emphasized or made bigger than when anyone else is quiet. And on top of that, people ask me and are concerned, or wonder BUT it is always laced with a question about THEM. “Leah, man, you have not been funny lately! Hahaha everything ok in life??” and “Leah, thank goodness you are back to normal!!! I need some laughs!!”

Now I don’t mind. Really, this is not a poor me moment. But understand this…I am just a silly, TMI personality, crazy Christian housewife in Florida. My blog is personal and does not earn me a cent (despite a few measly offers haha). Multiply those comments by a million for these guys. The expectations. The reality that this is a livelihood, a given, an entire ENTITY. Take this quiz….

Was Robin Williams married? Did John Candy have kids? What were Belushi’s hobbies? How did Chris Farley like to spend his down time??

Do you know any of those answers? I know the names of Gwyneth Paltrow’s kids. I know the marital strife behind various Kardashian families. The royal family trivia could help me win Jeopardy one day. But real comedians, bigger than life guys (and ladies) simply ARE their humor. We look at them and smile, just grin ear to ear, thinking of their best lines, their most outstanding moments. The places we were in OUR lives when the funniest and most pivotal moments happened. We care about them for how they make US feel. And no other reason.

And they feel it. Add onto that family and personal issues, genetic struggles with depression, obesity, addiction….and they start to feel like they can’t be anyone other than, well, what and who they portray. These men, of course, were NOT just their works, their laughs. We all know this. And yet….this is how it can seem, and how they can maybe feel. It is sometimes how I feel, surely on a far smaller scale but nonetheless just as real.

I write this blog for ME, for my kids, for my memory and history of my family. And yet when I have more than a post or two in a row that aren’t freakin hilarious, yeah, I feel like I let others down. I feel GUILTY. I feel like I disappoint people because I need to be happy, goofy, silly, uplifting Leah who makes people laugh by saying inappropriate things. And then I feel even worse because I have nowhere to share this. And I am just a small town mom with a great sense of humor. I am not an icon, a world renowned figure with the unstated expectation to only deliver laughter and joy to the world.

No one can meet that standard. But I think they feel it. And I get it. Add on mental illness, addictions, the hidden pain….and yeah. To those remaining, those REALLY funny people who have also faced these kinds of struggles (I remember Owen Wilson a few years back…), know that I, at least, get it. Please know you can be down. You can struggle. And we will still love you. We will still care even if you are not 100% captain hilarious, all day, every day. Trust us, somehow, to be okay with your down days. Give us the chance, and don’t bail on life, because you can’t be real.

So sorry to have lost another of the most joy giving human beings in history. I hope, Mr. Williams, that someone was able to bring YOU joy, in some measure at least, in your life. You will be missed.

Come on…spend some money on luxury and fun items for a CAUSE!!!

Standard

“No honey. I am totally NOT justifying my shopping because 100% of every single penny paid goes DIRECTLY to the charity.”

Um, how many fundraisers actually DO that??? Almost NONE. Generally, you have expenses to cover, costs to recoup, admin fees…but in the case of this amazing online auction, this is not the case.

BENEFIT AUCTION FOR CHINA LITTLE FLOWER

So…..who likes Tiffany? St. John?? David Yurman? Ferragamo? Lilly Pulitzer? BCBG? Gucci? And even better, all of these brands starting at like 30 bucks….or even LESS??? Sure, slightly used. But come ON!!!! Why????

There is a medical orphanage in China. China Little Flowers. And they take in the sickest and poorest of orphans in China, as well as  non-orphans. They give them love, and a chance. And they even hold the ones who won’t make it, are too sick. And they love them, and snuggle, and make sure that they know love before they pass. Because in China, when you are an orphan, born with a terminal illness, the sad truth is that there is no value found in life, and the child is sometimes left in a room, no food, love or warmth, until he or she dies. But China Little Flowers, or Little Flowers Projects on Facebook, is a fully accredited 501c3 organization funded completely by donations, who DOES love them. And gives them warmth. And food. And love.

Most importantly?

Our new daughter, baby Marlowe who we will meet in another week or so, lived there for her first 9 months of life. She HAS life because of China Little flower. So you better believe that yeah. I am gonna work my A** off to make sure that they stick around, helping babies, orphans, and families. And that’s why I, for the first time, am soliciting donations from rich friends and family (yeah I said that and I DON’T apologize) while also participating in an online auction where every item was donated, and every penny goes to the orphanage. You don’t like shopping?? Message me and I will tell you how to write a fully tax deductible check to this amazing organization. No, I don’t make a penny, or get “a discount on my kid” as someone stupidly asked me. (Really??? Duh.)

So please. Look up this page on Facebook. (It will not allow me to copy and post link sigh……). Share it with everyone you know at work. (Yeah, shop at work. We all do it. Don’t deny it.) Mass email your family. Post it on your Facebook page. And even better? SHOP. Buy some jewelry, clothing, or shoes…and know that you look great, and your heart looks even greater.

Log onto Facebook (um, right. do you ever even log out???) and look up BENEFIT AUCTION FOR CHINA LITTLE FLOWER and then shop, shop, shop!!! Auction ends this Friday night!!!!

 

lists and organization and planning oh my!!!

Standard

Let me state something for the record. I AM AN INCREDIBLY UNORGANIZED PERSON.

Yes, seriously.

Some of you who read this do not really know me at all. I mean, you read my silly posts or my serious posts and sure, you get a glimpse of me. But in all honesty, not really. I forget that. So yesterday on Facebook, when I posted the pictures of my pre-adoption-travel to do lists, I got a big reminder of how I am SO not really known, if that makes any sense.

I live my life as spontaneously as possible. Now, granted, I have 4 almost 5 kids, who attend school and have activities so there does have to be structure and order in my life. But that is not really how I operate naturally. There is a family and an extremely anal-I-mean-focused/driven/organized-husband who need structure and normalcy in their lives. So I do my best to deliver that but in all honesty I am a fly by my seat kind of gal.

Except in one area. Travel. And even more specifically? Adoption travel.

So yesterday, when I posted those pics, I got a lot of feedback about my level of organization, even OCD-ness, which again, if you really knew me, would be a phrase you could NEVER put in a sentence with my name. Chaos and I get along very nicely, thank you.

But we are leaving for China in a couple of weeks. And we are traveling as a group of 8 people, 1 of whom is me and 6 of whom BELONG to me. And the timing coincides with the start of the school year. And as a result there is SO much that has to be determined, planned, organized, and structured. Because traveling to a communist country, with 4 kids, in an effort to get a 5th kid, while juggling a 12 hour time difference, 20 official meetings, tourism and sightseeing, philanthropic efforts, and more when you can not actual book ANY aspect of that trip until LITERALLY one week prior to take off, well, this results in a very short time frame in which to accomplish a massive amount of things. So now in case you don’t believe me, I am going to list out everything I wrote down 1.5 weeks ago that needed to get done prior to travel, only about 4 of which I completed prior to yesterday. Pour a glass of wine, sit back, and read the stream of consciousness list that is going to be the end of me until we leave, hopefully, 12 days from now. (Or skip the next paragraph as it is completely overwhelming.)

Renew sky miles accounts. Find number for NBC and NVC. Get GUZ and invoice numbers. Have Pam consolidate all Amex points. Check on status of Marriott and IHG points. Verify Kristan’s dr appt with Nancy. Take Visa photos. Apply for Visas. File DS260. Get GZ consulate email address. Have kids complete summer math workbooks. Email GZ Consulate for expedite request. Verify Art5 drop off. Reprint affidavit notary form. Make copies of passports. Mail checks to CCAI. Wire orphanage fee. Complete and pay for math tutoring. Research necessary shots. Book shot appt for kids. Have affidavit notarized. Have kids complete book 2 of summer reading. Follow up on Art5 pickup. Order MY cash in 100’s from the bank. Compile list of needed electronics for travel. Meet with kids to discuss preferred new movies and games for travel. Order school uniforms. Bring kids to shoe store for foot measurements and school shoe orders. Shop and prepackage all school snacks. Compile list of all OTC and needed prescription meds for kids and adults. Finalize dance camp schedule and payment. Research and purchase double stroller. Purchase two new carseats and car seat covers. Order high chair. Pick up kids travel release forms from doc. Sign up and prepay 2 days a week of school meal plan. Pre-make and freeze several meals. Confirm school year dance schedule. Book Sam for driving/schedule. Discuss boxing fee and schedule with Chris for after return. Purchase new Ergo. Order safe cases for credit card protection. Find adapters, converters, and battery boosters/chargers. Load new movies and games onto the kids’ iPads. Purchase new books for my iPad. Write Director Li at CCCWA. Email Xin regarding travel plans and home visit. Collect donations for Little Flower. Coordinate LF visit. Bring kids to doc for shot appointment. Consolidate all Amex miles and have transferred into chosen airline account. Receive passports with attached visas. Purchase and create clear travel folder. Purchase red gift bags. Purchase locally made gifts for Chinese officials. Partially pack kids’ carryons. Price out rooms in all 4 cities, and verify configuration to determine 2 or 3 rooms each. Email Kristan with cities, hotel, kid plans. Email school principal with expected travel dates, and request work for trip. Appropriate all spending money. Determine souvenirs and gifts per person. Call banks and CC companies to inform them of impending travel locations. Purchase travel insurance. Turn in required school forms and paperwork. Go to school website for volunteer sign ups. Get communications department email address for school. Determine departure city and ports of entry. Book Ann at Red Thread for shopping dates.

Ok.

I give up. That is a little less than half way through and my fingers hurt. Yup. That is literally less than HALF my list.

Now. I am NOT super organized. When I grocery shop I have a sorta list in my head. But this? This is too big for a list in my head. I need to have every little tiny thing written down. That way I can cross it off. I don’t want to get halfway around the world and go, “oh crap.” Last trip went beautifully because I had a list like this. Except…I got home and had 1.) no diapers for the baby and 2.) no milk for the baby. Her bottle that night was a true moo chocolate boxed milk and she had the last diaper from the plane to wear until first thing in the morning. NOT gonna happen this time. That was the only thing I forgot. Why?? I did not put it on my poster board list!!! This time?? I am SO on it.

So before you think I am an organizational guru, or the queen of adoption travel, know this…I am a good but super unorganized mom who has to get her a** in gear and do this or else it won’t get done. That’s how I roll…