Day 31: Capuanolds Teaser

All seven of us are packed in the car and headed back to New York. I am feeling quite car sick trying to blog on the mobile app, so I will be posting Day 31 of #AdamsActs tomorrow. Plus, carsickness aside, I need a solid two hours and a room all to myself to write (and cry through) Day 31. But for your patience, you shall be handsomely rewarded with an ridiculous array of photos and a little visual treat - a video that may or may not be submitted as my audition piece for "So You Think You Can Dance." 

Lets start with our little family theme I like to call The Capuanolds. 

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And now... all the cousins and fam! We have a throwback basketball player (note the tiny shorts.) A shark, a dinosaur, soldier, scuba diver, Michael Phelps, an elf and a skunk. Adults coming in as Bobby Orr and a Detroit Lion's fan. 

 

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And now, for your viewing pleasure...  

When sharks attack... tiny grannies.  

When sharks attack... tiny grannies.  

Be sure to check back tomorrow for my final #AdamsActs and an update on what's in store for the future.  

Day 28 & 29: Friends Don't Let Friends Be Regular

If you are new to the blog then you may not know that I broke my rib eating a Rice Krispy treat. I could give you the backstory, but I prefer just leaving this little factoid here to confuse and concern you. But, I think it goes without saying that I have quite a sorted history with the Rice Krispy treat.

The other day, my dealer dropped off all the goods. And by that I mean my friend  brought over all the ingredients to make some epic rice Krispy treats. Thanks a lot Meg, for enabling my habit. I paid her back though by making a batch of the best ever treats and I brought some to her house. The problem was that she wasn't home, and apparently the squirrels helped themselves. I cannot blame them, though, because I behave a little like a wild animal when I am around a pan of these things so I can hardly expect actual wild animals  to show self-restraint.

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I also brought some of these  #foodsofaffirmation to the mom who volunteered to host 25 7th and 8th grade cross country runners for spaghetti dinner. I brought the cups and plates and chocolate milk, but I figure that after hosting that many tweens, mama might need to go a little squirrel herself on something marshmallow-based.

Secret ingredient: one ton of Amish butter. 

Secret ingredient: one ton of Amish butter. 

Three tons of marshmallows. 

Three tons of marshmallows. 

Gotta add some last minute minis, to be safe. 

Gotta add some last minute minis, to be safe. 

No wonder the squirrels helped themselves. 

No wonder the squirrels helped themselves. 

My little assistant did a much better job yesterday. He worked hard on his "tunafish attitude." And while I know he meant "selfish attitude" I think tunafishy is a quite fitting descriptor of selfishness.  

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Although when we delivered treats to the classroom assistants at school, he did covet just a titch.  

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For Day 29, I made a calendar for my friend Regular Ben. Regular Ben is the mastermind behind this new, beautiful website and also the boyfriend to my dear friend and sister from another mister, Lexi. As a thank you gift for all the hard work he did, I joked that I would make him a calendar of pictures of Lexi. Not a dirtbag calendar or anything... just twelve months of Lexi's face.

I peppered in a few gems like this.  

I peppered in a few gems like this.  

This all started as a joke to annoy Lexi.  

Mission accomplished.  

Mission accomplished.  

This girl deserves way more than I could ever possibly do to repay her for every kindness she has shown to me and my family over the years. Lexi is more than a friend, she's family. In fact, my kids call her Aunt Lexi. So when these two jerks sent me a picture of a fake proposal, I was thrilled. Before I knew that I was being punked, I told the kids that they would have to upgrade Ben to "Uncle Ben." When I found out that they were, in fact, the worst... We downgraded back to "Regular Ben." And Regular he shall remain until further notice.

Speaking of further notice... I maaaaay have helped him out with a suggested timeline built right into the calendar! Did you know that you can personalize the dates!? Well, you can. Regular Ben just has to do what's on his calendar and he will be upgraded back to "Uncle Ben" in no time. 

So For Day 29, I customized an #ALATT (All Lexi All The Time) calendar for 2017.  

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You're welcome, Regular Ben, you're welcome. 

Saying Goodbye - Piece by Piece

Yesterday, our friend and pastor stood up on stage and taught our church for the very last time. Every week for the past five years, I have listened to this man teach and challenge and correct me. Even during the really dark months with Harper when he and I could not attend church with the rest of the family, I would watch the sermons online and his words would help me get through another long week. God has used David to soften the soil of my heart more than I could ever explain.

He is the best teacher I have ever had. 

But, that isn't what I will miss the most. I will miss going to David and Sue's house every Wednesday and just doing life with them. I will miss Sue's sheepish giggle when I say something out loud that she would never, ever say... but is gracious enough to still find amusing. I will miss the banter with David. The jabs, the jokes, the back and forth attempt to rile each other up. I will miss the last-minute can-you-find-a-sitter dinners out because someone "has a gift card." I will miss seeing them parent, hearing them laugh, hearing them pray, and eating their homemade cookies. I will even miss the hot flashes. (David's, obviously.) 

You see, I don't feel like my pastor has resigned. Because it's more than that, they feel like my family. And, that might not seem like a really big deal to a lot of people at my church. But when you have gone your whole life terrified that when people discover who you really are, deep down, they will learn that you are not a good girl, that you're maybe too rough around the edges, that pieces of you are missing or broken, that you don't fit the mold... Being loved and accepted by people like David and Sue, is a really big deal. It's that healing kind of love. 

During a time in my life when I had no father in the picture and was living away from my brothers-in-law, David was a spiritual and emotional father and brother to me. This was a healing kind of love.

During a time in my life when I processed through so much hurt and junk from my past, and questioned my worth and the ability to be used by God in any way, Sue empathized with me. She gently encouraged me, and lived out the kind of grace and faithfulness I wanted to emulate. And she loved me in my ugly process. And this was a healing kind of love.

Here's the thing though. They have never been those people that you end up worshiping the ground they walk on because they're so amazing. They are amazing. Maybe the most amazing ever, but you can't fall in love with them without falling more in love with their God. And every second of my time spent doing life with them only pressed me harder and harder after Jesus than ever. 

I have never known anyone in a position of such significant notoriety that I still had this much respect for. Thousands of people have been fortunate enough to listen to the words of David's sermons every week for the past 15 years. But most have not had the privilege of watching him and his family diligently LIVE OUT those sermon words day in and day out. I have so, so loved watching them and learning from them and annoying them along the way. I have loved it, and it has been a healing kind of love.

A while ago, I saw

this YouTube video

of Kelly Clarkson working out all her daddy issues during a live performance of her song Piece by Piece. I could relate so much to her because I also have a pretty strong track record of spilling my baggage at inappropriate times and nobody knows that better than David and Sue! But the song is beautiful, in it she talks about how healing it was to be loved by her husband  who taught her to rethink what a man could be like. When I heard the song (and literally every time I have listened to it since) I cried like a newborn baby. I cried because I thought of the men I have known who have been a healing presence in my life. I thought of Tom, primarily, because watching him be a daddy has taught me so much about how a father loves his children. I thought of my brother-in-law, Joe, who was my dad and my brother right after I had lost both, and he taught me how a man can love a girl that wasn't his own. And then I thought of David. I 

thought of how he and Sue have taught me how my Heavenly Father loves me as his daughter. 

Years ago, when one of my little girls was scared in the middle of the night, I prayed with her and reassured her that she didn't have to be afraid because Jesus is real and he is always with her. She said that she knows that Jesus is real but that she just wants "somebody with skin on" to stay with her.

See, I knew that my Heavenly Father loved me, and I knew that I was his daughter. But, sometimes the little girl in you feels alone, and scared, and you just need someone with skin on to show you what that really means. 

David and Sue, thank you for being Jesus with skin on when I was alone and when I was scared and when I was lost. Thank you for staying with me. And thank you for a gospel-centered life filled with truth, grace and above all, love. The kind of love that shines so brightly that it reaches the darkest and most broken places in me. 

Giving Purpose to the Past

I broke my rib.

It all happened a couple weeks ago when I fell down the stairs eating a rice crispy treat. 

You might think those two things are unrelated... You may think, "so you happened to be eating a rice crispy treat when you fell, but you didn't fall because of the rice crispy treat." But, you'd be wrong in assuming that. I think I might actually have fallen in response to the rice crispy treat. It was good. Like, seriously good. And I guess when I took that first bite (unfortunately on the top step) it was as if nothing else really mattered anymore. 

Including walking.

So, I fell. And apparently my rib has zero street cred because it experienced one tiny, dessert-related tumble down a flight of wooden stairs and now it's all... just, giving up on life.

The worst part was that I landed ON the rice crispy treat and when I came to, it was stuck to my back, like a jerk.
Peeling dessert off one's broken self is a special kind of low point. But that first break wasn't the worst part. 

It's the constant reinjury.

This past week I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at a five day conference for college students. It was an amazing time of learning and worship and shenanigans. I was able to bring my husband and our five kids, which was a lot of hard work but also really fun. Most of you think we are already insane for having five kids, let alone bringing them places... and most people would voluntarily break all their ribs rather than attempt to wrangle that many humans in a new environment. 

I hear that, and it's a toss up honestly. 

But the horse-to-child ratio there was really strong, so that helped. #notevenalittle But they did have a great time, which is good because doing what I did this past week is pretty much my dream job. My mom told me that ever since I was a little girl I would say that I wanted to be a "motivational speaker" when I grew up... so I am thrilled that my family is supportive and looking forward to (hopefully) being dragged to many more events to come. 

Followers of Christ talk a lot about giving, and that is such a good thing. We talk about giving our time (to serve others, to volunteer at church and in various ways within our communities), giving our money (to support the local church, missions, and to extend generosity to those in need), and the giving of our talents (using your voice to lead worship, use tech skills in production, or organizational strengths to assist on the administrative end of ministry.) These are all good and Biblical ways to give, and they are things that I have spent my life doing. (Well, not the leading worship part, because my singing voice makes people throw things.) 

But as I laid in bed this weekend, in tears, over my poor broken rib that had just been freshly kicked by my son on accident, I sensed that God is asking me to give more than my time, my money and my talent... He wants me to give those hidden pieces of myself that He has redeemed, and washed clean. Those broken bits that God has bound back together. Those messages and those wounds that are ugly and sometimes still unhealed, sometimes perpetually being reinjured. He used the image of that broken rib getting kicked to remind me of these spiritual and emotional wounds that we all have... those things that get rewounded by this life, and inadvertently kicked by people - even those who mean well and truly love us. I can attest to the fact that just like a hug can cause pain to a broken rib, even love and kindness can hurt if you have an unhealed emotional wound.

I was reminded of the importance of letting the God of the universe heal those wounds. Not just so we can have relief from the constant pain, but so we can give and receive love in healthy ways, and so we share our stories of hope with others. I was reminded of the importance of giving of my self. And that includes my ugly past. My baggage. My fears and insecurities. All my broken places. God's desire and willingness to make all these ugly things in me become new and beautiful is the overriding theme of my life. This weekend, I wasn't stingy about sharing that message. I didn't hold back from sharing the stories of redemption in my own life. 

Sure, It's hard to give away our money. It's sometimes even harder to give away our time and talent. But, what if, what God wants us to be most generous with, is our story of how Jesus has and is changing us? 

It hurts to have old wounds or splinters bumped. It is scary to draw close to a group of people, and trust them to be gentle with your wound story. But, I think I am all done protecting those broken places, because when we keep nursing our old wounds, we miss out on the privilege of God using our stories to trigger healing for someone else. 

I have always loved to tell stories. Whether that is through writing or speaking, it is definitely how God wired me. Sometimes I wonder if God has allowed me to experience a lot of trauma, grief, and tragedy because he has designed me with an irrational willingness to be utterly transparent. I don't want to waste my baggage, my trials, my insecurities. I don't want to hold so tightly to my life "stuff " that I waste an opportunity to share those stories of His triumph in my life. Because I gotta be honest, it feels like more than a fair share of struggle sometimes. #thereisnoquota 

So, I am resolving to pursue this thing as a communicator. I will write and I will speak, if and when God puts opportunities in front of me. I am begging him to heal those wounds from my past that tell me I don't have anything to give. I am walking away from the pride and self-obsessive insecurity that keeps me too embarrassed to finally launch the website I bought and have been ignoring, eh hem... "working on" for TWO YEARS. I am putting myself out there. I am offering myself and my stories up for His use, however He sees fit.

So there ya go. I am officially available for hire. I will speak at camps, retreats, conferences, small gatherings... shoot, I will do children's parties as long as I don't have to dress like a clown. Because, gross. And because, well, I am not a child-predator. 

I won't have the website going for a while, but in the meantime I will continue to blog here. And I will keep sharing stories and I will keep being vulnerable. And when I start to feel that crippling self-doubt... I will remember that it is fair to doubt myself, after all, I say things like "child-predator" in a blog about Jesus. But my hope isn't in me. My hope is in a God so capable of redeeming, He is even willing to use someone like me. 



















 




Rest for a Weary Soul

Just about a year ago we made the very difficult decision to fight a private and sensitive battle, publicly. With the help of our talented and supportive friends, Brandi and Danny Ebersole, we created a video to shed light on how our family was facing the challenging diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder.



This video explains what we were embarking on, and why, but we did not discuss the HOW.

Since we opened our hearts and our family up to the world on this matter, I would say that I have received an average of 2-3 messages per week asking for the HOW.  I have not answered that question publicly because I am not an attachment therapist nor am I qualified to diagnose or prescribe treatment to a child. However, I have spent numerous hours discussing symptoms and strategies with strangers who are simply desperate parents who, like me, have found themselves (unofficially) diagnosing their own children out of complete desperation to get them the appropriate support and treatment.

Since we are only a year into what will likely be a life long process, I do not feel that I have enough "victory" under my belt to say definitively what works and what does not, especially for others. However, through insatiable research, brilliant attachment therapy, sound Biblical counseling and good, old fashioned common sense... I feel adequately qualified to confidently prescribe one component of our therapeutic approach across the board to all families who are navigating the war against disordered attachment:

Respite.

res·pite
ˈrespət,rēˈspīt/
noun
  1. 1.
    a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.
    "the refugee encampments will provide some respite from the suffering"
    synonyms:rest, break, breathing space, interval, intermission, interlude, recess, lull, pause, time out 
verb
rare
  1. 1.
    postpone (a sentence, obligation, etc.).
    "the execution was only respited a few months"

Yes, to all of this.

Yes to a short period of rest or relief. Yes to a break in what is difficult and unpleasant. Yes to breathing. To space, an interval, a pause. 

Yes. Yes, please.

I literally ugly cry when I read the definition of respite. The thought of respite for my body, my mind, my soul is like seeing a mirage of a spring in a desert.

I have not had a significant time of respite in over a year. I committed to going away for a time of refreshing before starting this intensive therapeutic approach with Harper last year between Christmas and New Year's. I spent that time sleeping and eating and researching the best approach to take. I tried to fatten up and rest up because I was going into battle for my son. Upon returning home, I very quickly lost the weight and strength I had gained during that time. I was weak, underweight, exhausted and extremely lonely.

My friendships have suffered, some have all but disappeared. I stopped attending church, book club, Bible study, and most family or social functions. I did this partly because the process required my constant presence, and partly because it felt like there was simply nothing left of me. I have been very dry and nearly empty.

But, that was 2015. This is a new year. We have made some significant progress, and though we still have a daunting number of obstacles to overcome... I am a little fatter, and little stronger, and a little fuller. I have recommitted to feeding myself - like actually eating food, but feeding myself spiritually, socially, and emotionally. I am no good to Harper when I am a shell. I am no good to my family. I cannot be used by God to the same capacity if I am not growing.

So, 2016 is looking a little different. I am slowly, but surely replacing my personal belongings that have been destroyed during the past year. I am going to the gym every morning to pump  so little  iron. I am making time every day to be with my main squeezes (Jesus, and Tom) and I am being more intentional about spending individual time with each of the kids - who have started to feel a little like collateral damage over this past year. 

And after fighting through exorbitant amounts of guilt, I am taking respite. Sweet, sweet respite.

I was  verbally abused  encouraged by my friends and family to accept a once in a lifetime opportunity to take a free trip to the Bahamas with my friend Sweet Melissa. I know, right? Who needs to be talked into that kind of opportunity??  

Because of the generosity of my dear friend who works for Jet Blue, I am able to fly to the Bahamas using a buddy pass and will be staying for free with Melissa's friend Neda who happens to live in the Bahamas. Did you know people live in the Bahamas? It's true, and it's happening. You know what else is happening? Melissa force-feeding me lobsters. 

It is all happening because I am surrounded by people who love me and want to take care of me and support me in any way that they can. And so God is choosing to meet one of my greatest earthly needs at this time through people with plane tickets and island homes and a violent desire to fatten me up. 

So, tomorrow morning I will get on a plane and fly to the islands. I will breath, I will drink coffee while it is still hot. I will laugh with my head thrown back, and I will attempt to tame what happens to my hair in humid climates. I will let my weary soul find rest, and I will come back with a fresh resolve to do do whatever it takes to love my hurting boy with a healing and unconditional love. 

What the World has Discarded.

I have this little business where I take old, discarded fabric and I upcycle it into fancy things that people wear. My business is called Piccadilly Rose (which was a nickname I had for my first daughter when she was just a precious little baby flower who needed absurd nicknames), and the little motto or tag line or whatever it is called in business terms is this:

Unique. Recycled. Lovely.

A year ago, I was a vendor at a women's Christian conference where Jill Kelly (wife of that famous football guy, but proverbial rock star in her own right) was the keynote speaker. At this year's conference, in addition to selling my wares, I was invited to lead a breakout session and incorporate a crafting demonstration.

This, is easy. I mean, the whole concept of my business is taking garbage and making it into something unique, repurposed and lovely... it's all about taking what has been discarded and giving it new life, making it useful, restoring it's inherent beauty and worth. This notion is not just the concept of my business, it's the concept of my whole life.

When I hold someone's wedding gown in my hands, and I see the dirty smudges at the hemline I can imagine the blushing bride accidentally getting stepped on by her eager, well-wishing wedding guests. I know that the gown tells a story of a day filled with hope and expectation... but I know how that story ended. I know that the reason that gown is no longer being preserved in hopes of handing it down to the little girl is because that happy day and those high expectations ended with an affair and heartache and disappointed hopes. And the dress has been discarded.

When a young widow parts with the shirt and tie of her lost husband, knowing she will never see him dressed up in them again, I know the story of pain and parting that are held in those fibers. And the shirt has been released.

When I pull apart an old, tattered tutu, I know that once upon a time there was nothing that made some little girl feel more divine than twirling in all that fluffy tulle. Eventually that little girl outgrew her tutu, and maybe even outgrew twirling. And more than likely, somewhere along the line she stopped, altogether, feeling divine. And the tutu is forgotten.

What I do is nothing special. I take that wedding gown and I cut and twist and singe and sew until something new emerges, something beautiful enough for a new bride.


 I take the Daddy's shirt and tie, and I cut and twist and singe and sew until a pretty flower emerges for his little girls, and a teeny neck tie replica of that big guy's tie appears.


 I pull apart that useless tutu and I cut and twist and singe and sew it into something divine for the next little twirler. 


It does not make me a lot of money. It does not take much skill, in fact my demonstration at the conference will prove that it is something literally anyone can do. And it is not an original idea. I create these things in response to my God who is the ultimate creator. He is also in the business of taking what the world says is garbage and making it into something beautiful. 

This is the concept behind the business, yes, but how much more has this been true in my life. I think of my own wedding dress, which was the size of a moderately large tent because when I walked down the aisle, I was 8 months pregnant, and not exactly feeling like the pure and beautiful bride. I think of the shirts I have that belonged to the one I loved and lost. I remember the tutus and dresses I twirled in, and I think of the invisible scars that were left on that little girl that made me stop twirling, and I think of when I stopped believing I was beautiful.

We all have these things though, don't we? We have all been told at one point or another that we are not enough, or that we are too much, that we don't have what it takes, that we are ugly, or stupid, or weak, that we are not worth protecting, that we are not worth fighting for. The world discards us, telling us that we cannot be used for good. We are not special, unique or lovely. There is nothing left. 

And then there is this God. 

There is this God who adores us. Who pursues us as we are, who begs us for all of it - the past, the sins, the pregnancy out of wedlock, the shame, the divorce, the broken relationship, the lies, the loss, the grief, the insecurity, the affair, the fear, the crippling self-doubt, the secrets, the abandonment, the rejection, the failure... He wants every bit of it.

And he doesn't want it like the world wants it. The world wants it to consume, to devour and feed off like gossip for entertainment or to shame us, but He wants it for one. pure. motive: 

To redeem it. To redeem us. 

He wants to take it, not to be consumed or used against us... But to be cut and twisted and singed and sewed into something much bigger and more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.

He wants to make all things new. He wants to make us new. 

What if we actually let him? 

--

If you have a story of how God redeemed something ugly from your past into something beautiful that you would allow me to share during my session at the conference, please share in the comments below or in response to the link on Facebook. Or if you would like your story shared anonymously, you may email me at lara.capuano@gmail.com



Day 31: The Next Goodbye

Day 31.

Can you even believe it? When I went into this month, I was experiencing equal parts enthusiasm and dread. I was excited because the three previous years of kindnessing had been very healing and productive, so I felt healthy and energized in a way that I hadn't in years past. I also knew that we just moved at the end of September, we had a wedding to prepare for and #AdamsActs and the blogging on top of it felt like a lot to take on. So, part of me was very afraid!

Now that the month is over, I can honestly say that God sustained me in a way that I needed, and he did a lot of it through you guys. One of you sent me an anonymous card for every single day of October. One of you brought me a meal. One of you sent me flowers. One of you gave me a sweater that made me look trapped inside a sharpened pencil. 

I could not have done this month without those tender mercies along the way. Every like, every share, every post, every act of kindness, every gesture of support provided a sort of balm to my weary, aching heart. I felt encouraged by your participation and connected to a community of people longing to love other people through acts of kindness.

For Day 31, my girls and a neighbor friend went to deliver all the blankets from the blanket drive to Marvin and Denise Robinson, who are dear family friends of ours, and also missionaries to the City of Rochester. 

We had so many blankets that I literally had to stop them from pouring out of our van. With my leg. 
Marlie and London were my little helpers... 

We brought a friend for back up.

Although Annalee didn't seem to need it...

Marvin and Denise Robinson with their kids and grandkids (some of our nearest and dearest friends... Including my beautiful goddaughter Macey on the right.)

Marvin has a bread ministry, where he delivers bread to families in need, and they will regularly deliver holiday meals and school supplies, as well. He and Denise have been in ministry for over 20 years and have devoted their lives to loving and serving the people in the city of Rochester.

If you are looking for final #AdamsActs  for day 31, donating to their ministry efforts wouldn't be a bad way to end the month. You can learn more and/or donate here: 

http://www.missionsdoor.org/missionary/robinson-marvin-and-denise/

After delivering the blankets, we hosted friends and family for dinner and trick-or-treating. If our Seven Dwarves costumes weren't your favorite act of kindness than I am concerned about your ability to enjoy things. Because. Come on.




I mean, Grumpy alone... 

With the hairy chin strap? 


And if Weirdy was one of the dwarves, this would make a lot more sense... 


I am counting all this costume-making as #AdamsActs because it is a family tradition that my brother would have approved of. I enter into evidence

Exhibit A)


Adam as a mummy/shaving cream monster? 

And Exhibit B)


Kristin as the least terrifying cat ever, and Adam as the only clown in history that was adorable and didn't make me throw up in my mouth. 

His precious little body, that was somehow as wide as it was tall in this picture, all dressed up, just touches my heart in a way that I couldn't begin to describe. I don't remember Adam like this because I wasn't born yet. Adam the little boy...



This is the Adam I remember...

The big boy I looked up to. 

The goof. (Seriously, all the time with those socks...)

Then the athlete.

The champ.



The handsome stud/never had a girlfriend/just grew out of his skinny legs.

The young man.

Now that I am a mom though, I can look at those pictures of Adam as a little boy and a whole world of pain will fall upon my chest. Not because I remember Adam as a baby, or as a toddler, or as a little boy... but because I know that there are ones who do. There are aunts and uncles and teachers and, mostly, a mom and a dad who knew him for 17 whole entire years. And they lost him. They lost the baby, the toddler, the little boy, the stud, the champ, and the young man about to make his mark on the world. 

They lost all of it with one stranger's choice. And I look at those pictures of him as a little boy and I see the teeth and knees and legs of my nephews. I see my mother's mouth set in my dad's jaw. I see my daughter and my niece in that squatty little clown, and when I look at these haunting eyes, I see my own.


I don't know how to describe the pain and relief I feel when October passes. I am relieved that I have stopped simply surviving my way through it, and I am happy that I am able to thrive. I am relieved that the burden of sharing daily is lifted. Still, I find that I am also very sad. When October ends, it almost feels like we say goodbye to him again. Over and over, we have to let him go. November 1st is always my saddest day, because I remember so clearly that was the first day without him. 

I remember when they came home and told us "we lost him," and in that moment watching my mom motion to my brother-in-law, Joe, to put away Adam's wresting singlet and warm-ups. They were strewn on the living room floor because I had just dressed up as Adam for Halloween the night before. Even in the midst of her greatest loss, her instinct was to keep mothering, to protect. She didn't want us to see Adam's things in that moment. But I saw it. I saw his things and knew he'd never wear them again. And it was the first goodbye. 

So, as we wrap up the fourth year of these acts of kindness in honor of the first boy I ever loved... it feels like yet another goodbye. Thank you for allowing my family's story to impact so many people through your willingness to pass it along. Thank you for being kind on earth, when he cannot. Thank you for sitting with me while I say the next goodbye. 




Day 30: Baggage, Lunch & Dinner

After the emotional roller coaster I have been on the past few days, I evened out a bit for Day 30, which was nice because I had activities and kindnesses from morning till night. 

I finished most of the children's beards. (Simply being able to read that sentence is a kindness to you, is it not?) I delivered the beards and costumes to school along with a special lunch for Harper's teacher. We have had a lot of struggles with this little guy, and having our family in her class her first year of teaching, is quite an undertaking. She is doing a phenomenal job with him and I have complete trust and confidence in her ability to handle his unique situation while he is at school.

Scarcely is my concern for Harper not front and center in my mind, so having it in the back of my mind for a few hours while he is in her care is an unbelievable relief to me. This gift is something that only a parent of a child with a severe emotional disability could fully appreciate. So, she gets her favorite lunch. 

 And one priceless selfie with Dopey.

As you can see, I arrived at school dressed in full costume, which I consider an act of kindness to all the other mothers since my looking like a total idiot exponentially increases the cool factor for anyone in my immediate vicinity. I brought apples for London's class and volunteered to help with their costume parade. 

 For my final #AdamsActs for Day 30, we delivered more lifesaver/thank you cards for the NICU nurses and also made dinner for Pat and Megan who spend such long days at the NICU with their girls that they should not have to worry about mundane details, like making dinner.

I forgot to take a picture of my dinner, but this is basically what it looked like. 

I want to thank any and all of you who have inquired about and prayed for these two little warrior girls in the NICU. They are doing awesome in so many ways, and have recently joined the four pound club! Being born at 27 weeks around two pounds a piece means this is a huge victory for them. It also shows how far they still have to go, so I beg you all to continue praying for their growth, strength and development. And for Pat and Megan's endurance and peace during this time. Also, maybe pray that you can be friends with them someday, because they are that great, and you're missing out. 

We ended Day 30 with one of our favorite families who came over for dinner, which was a kindness to myself really. One of the things I shared last night with my friend Courtney, is the shift that has taken place for me in October as a result of #AdamsActs. I used to go into October with a private grief, and blogging through it and doing acts of kindness helped me to externalize my grief in a more productive, life-giving way. What I did not expect, was how this would free others to share their private grief with me. 

Over the past four years, countless people have shared with me their deep, personal losses and griefs. I have heard from so many of you about the stages of grief from losing a parent, a sibling, or worse... a child. Many have shared their private grief over the struggle to conceive a child. I have opened message after message about miscarriage and baby loss, and divorce and death and long battles with Alzheimer's or cancer or ALS. Some have shared their childhood memories of a life in foster care, some of you have shared their experience parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder/Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and a few of you have shred your stories of having these disorders.

In an effort to no longer carry my own grief privately and alone, I found myself with the holy burden of helping some of you carry some of yours. I do not take this privilege lightly. And I thank you for the honor of doing life with you in this one, small way. 

My sister's bff, Karen, recently shared an article about how dismissive it is to say to someone hurting that "everything happens for a reason." 

In the article it said

"Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed. They can only be carried."

For the past four years, all of you have helped me carry my pain. And in an unexpected turn of events, I have had the intimate and devastating honor of carrying yours. 


Day 29: Random Acts of I'll Pay Ya Back


I celebrated Day 29 with obscenely puffy eyes and a vulnerability hangover from publicly spilling all my saddest guys in last night's post. I seriously cried like an absolutely hysterical baby while I wrote, and then intermittently afterwards, and then every time I was alone today, which was twice for about 3 seconds each. 

My #AdamsActs was a day spent with my friend Lexi. When people ask me "how do you manage five kids and your business and a move and..." The answer is, well, Lexi. She helps me with the kids, she helps me stain my floors, she moves furniture with me, she will go buy puffy paint in an emergency... Seriously, the girl is willing to do anything to help my family. She is such a servant and a faithful friend. And we never hang out without the kids, so we haven't finished a conversation since nineteen ninety never.
She was the wind beneath my wings the week of the wedding, and girlfriend deserved a day-o-girly-fun as a handsome reward.

Except everything went awry. I won't get into all the details of my hellacious morning, but suffice it to say that according to London, "the smell of a rhino cage" was involved. After handling the rhino, I resisted the urge to hide in the basement in a fetal position, and I got the children to school (even Harper, although an hour and a half late). 

I picked up Lexi and treated her to coffee and a massage and an amazing lunch. Oh wait, that is not how it happened at all. 

1) I forgot my wallet.
2) I realized that right before we ordered coffee.
3) She had to buy the coffee.
4) And lunch.

At least I did find two crumpled dollars in my coat pocket, which I used to "treat" us each to three minutes in one of those very aggressive massage chairs at the mall. There is video evidence of how horrifying this experience was for me, but let's just say that I felt quite violated. 

After all these fails, we ended our day of girly fun with absolute chaos. Kids needed to get picked up from school, diapers were removed (and contents explored/spread) during nap, Halloween costumes were being made, plus dinner and open house at school and my rage-filled destruction of Jay's pack-n-play (or poop-n-play as it has been renamed.) 

Have you ever seen this garbage man lose his head over the garbage that won't come out? This is precisely what I looked like when I destroyed and disposed of my pack-n-play after nap. 


Poor Lexi.

There were some successes for Day 29 though... the blanket drive is yielding ridiculous heaps of blankets for the homeless! 


And as a kindness to my family, I have been hard at work making our family's Halloween costumes. Technically it is only a kindness to the girls because Jay doesn't care and Harper hates our family themed costumes. He just wants to be Spiderman every year like all the other 8 year old boys on planet Earth. But that's not how we roll. We roll as a family of Santas, or as brides and grooms, or something else absurd. And this year, we will be The Seven Dorves. (London gets pronunciation cred on that one.) Harper is not thrilled. Which is fine, that just makes assigning Grumpy quite easy. 

But the Dorf costumes are almost complete and I only had the one mental breakdown today, so I am counting that as my final kindness for Day 29.




Day 28: There was a brother.

There are moments, usually when I least expect them, that I am blindsided by the fact that my brother is gone. It can be something so small, like tonight, one of my kids pointed out that I am the tallest one in my family. 

"You are the youngest kid in your family," she noticed, "how are you taller than your parents and your sisters." 

Yes. I am. 

I am the tallest one in my family. 

Now. 

It's those small things that hit me with big realities. 

One remark like that and my mind is instantly filled with fresh, heartbreaking awareness...

How tall was Adam?
I can't remember how tall my brother was.
He was only 17 and still growing, how tall would he have become?
How can I not remember how tall he was!? 
I am losing the details of him.
I miss him.
I want one conversation with him as I am now.
I want to go back and be able to say goodbye.
I didn't want him to go.
I don't want to be the tallest one in my family.
She mentioned my parents, and my sisters. She forgets there was a boy.
I wish she knew to add a brother. 
I wish there was a brother.

Watching the news clip yesterday brought back such a flood of memories and emotions. Yesterday, the news remembered that there was a boy, a brother, and they told his story. And today, I just feel sad. I am so proud of this movement of kindness, and if Adam can't be here on earth living out these kindnesses himself, then I am certainly glad that all of us are doing so on his behalf. It's the next best thing to having him be right here. But that's just it, it's not even close to having him right here. And sometimes, little things trigger that very big, sad reality.

I know that it is normal to lose the details of a person, but we are always gaining new details. Sure, you forget how your childhood friend cut her hair in middle school, but that's because you can't stop picturing her as she is now. But, time and grief and loss are tricky that way. Time robs you of the details of your memories and loss robs you of new ones. And what's left is a sort of hazy dream of a person, something you can't quite entirely capture in your mind.

So Day 28 was about noticing and acknowledging small details. The internet guy came to our house today (in a cold, torrential downpour) and he spent a long time going in and out of the house, downstairs to the basement and back upstairs and then back outside, all to put a black, blinking thingy on the shelf. 

For #AdamsActs, I forced him to accept a hot cup of coffee, and after he left, I called the company to give a very specific list of everything he did super well. The rep I spoke with said that she was so happy that someone called with positive feedback and would personally call his boss to let him know my specific compliments. 

It wasn't anything major, but I think if a small thing can trigger big grief, than perhaps a small thing also has the potential to trigger big good. And I am for good. I need good. 

So I said nice things about Mr. Jeff the internet guy, because he matters too. He is someone's son, someone's daddy, someone's childhood friend, someone's boy, someone's brother. And the details of him matter. Noticing the details of a person is a kindness, and a privilege I long to have back. Until I get to see with my own eyes the glorious details of my brother, made completely new in heaven, I will have to settle for the details of Mr. Jeff and all the other earthly brothers and sisters that God puts in my path to notice, and care for, and love. 



Day 27: Haters Gon Hate Them Filthy Dates

Day 27 was a big day for #AdamsActs.

Our computer is having a panic attack, and by that I mean it is still "loading" since I tried to blog last night, so I'm pretty sure it's "retiring" to a nice computer farm out in the country, where there is plenty of room to run and play with other useless computers... but that means that from now on I have to blog from my phone which is the worst, and also means that I can't embed this link, but you should still click on it.


You. Guys. 

First of all, these people are calling #AdamsActs an initiative! Ha! I am so proud of all of you who have read and participated and shared the posts and hash tagged your little hearts out. I wish all of you could have been interviewed instead of me (partly because I had 20 minutes to prep for that interview - and by "prep" I mean... wash my hair in the kitchen sink to create the illusion that I showered today.) 

Okay, so in addition to the little debut on Fox News, our blanket drive was a wild success today. 



The bin runneth over. 

I will keep the sign and the bin (and those tiny pumpkins) out for the whole week so Rochester peeps can send me a private message for the address if needed. 

For Day 27, I had a cool run in at the grocery store. A young mom and her two little kids were eating spoiled dates, it was terrible. She was waiting near the check out because the cashier had to  ring me up before she went back in to return the rancid dates. I grand finale-ed  my grocery order with a candy bar for the cashier. I didn't plan to have an audience for that moment, but spoiled-date-lady had to wait there with her kids, who were getting crankier and louder by the minute.

I know that feeling. It's the worst. There is nothing more panic-inducing than watching your child slowly reach their boiling point and you KNOW it's about to get real, and there is nothing you can do except sweat, and pray and maybe whisper yell a little. You may beg for them to please just ignore their hunger and exhaustion and their need to urinate, and please just mindlessly remain silent. It's a terrible feeling. And it is always compounded by the judgey stares of onlookers.

This. Right here. Is why I will never buy dates. Also because they're disgusting.

So, after she got her dates returned and she started to leave, I just stopped her quickly to let her know that she is doing a great job, and that her kids are both so young and they are both at a really, really challenging, dependant age and that it will get easier.

No one ever became a better mom because someone shame-stared them down at the grocery store. 

She seemed really, truly uplifted and thanked me. As I made my way through the parking lot, I paid the quarter deposit for a few people's grocery carts (yes, I shop where you have to rent your cart). 

The spoiled-date-lady saw me doing this and finally said "Okay, really!? Are you always this nice because I have caught you three times now!" So, I went and explained #AdamsActs and how I am in the home stretch of this month of kindness, but that it does really change how you live all year long. She promised to find me on social media, and I really hope she does! And I hope she's reading this right now, and I hope she knows that I meant every word about her as a mom. 

And I hope she forgives me for calling her spoiled-date-lady.









Day 26: Making a Blanket Statement

Last year, my oldest daughter, Annalee, did an exhibition project about the epidemic of homelessness in New York State. She and her group of classmates focused specifically on the bulldozing of Tent City here in Rochester, which displaced countless homeless people from the only safe haven they knew at the time.

Annalee (age 10 at the time) and her group came up with the idea of collecting blankets for the displaced homeless population. The blankets were then donated to an organization that was temporarily housing those whose tents were bulldozed by the city of Rochester. The whole thing was handled terribly and the treatment of the residents of Tent City was deplorable in my opinion. The small box of blankets was one fifth grader's way of showing compassion.

For Day 26, I am inspired by my daughter's efforts and have continued them with our own neighborhood blanket drive. I posted the information on our neighborhood Facebook page and will keep this obnoxious sign and a bin in my front yard for the next week. 


All blankets and/or sleeping bags will be donated to local missions and shelters who provide services for the homeless men, women and children in our community. If you live in the Rochester area and would like to donate, send me a private message and if I determine that you are not a creepy pervert, I will give you my address to collect your donation. 

Most of us have more than we need, just in general, but blankets and sleeping bags are some of those things that mean nothing to us when they are stored away in a linen closet - but could literally save someone's life in the harsh, record-breaking, farmer's-almanac-cursing, Rochester winter we will undoubtedly have for the zillionth year in a row. 




Day 25: Tom and Jesus Save a Wretch

I do not believe that you can give something that you do not have. If one does not feel loved, it's nearly impossible to give love. At least in a healthy way. And it is hard to give hope to another, if you yourself are hopeless. Spreading kindness to others through #AdamsActs would be impossible, if I had not first experienced the greatest kindness - the wild, unbridled love of my Jesus and the enduring, life-ending kindness done on my behalf: His death, in place of my own, that I might spend forever with him, the ultimate act of love and selflessness. The truest act of love was done, just for me. 

And for you.

I share that because it is not possible for me to continue sharing about these #AdamsActs without explaining the reality  that every single act of selflessness or kindness or grace or love is purely a response to having first been loved by Jesus. I am helpless to do good apart from Him and I am certainly not capable of being kind for 31 days straight. I am simply not that well-behaved.

In fact, if you Google the direct Hebrew-to-English translation for the word wretch, my Facebook page will actually come up in the search results. I could have been the poster child for sins and mistakes and selfish ickyness. Yet, I see my face on the front page of a (albeit a very small) newspaper as some sort of poster child for kindness, and so I feel I must explain. 
 
The good you saw in my brother Adam, and any good you might be fooled into seeing in me, and the good that so many of you are spreading through your acts of kindness are a ripple effect from the first act of true love Adam and I ever knew. The love of a kind God shown through his kind son, because he longed for his beloved to remain his own for eternity. We get to be that beloved. I, the definition of a sinful wretch, get to partake in that offering of grace and love.

The result is that I have, and therefore am able to really give

Some of my favorite kindnesses are those where I can return kindness that was shown to us. Because on top of the ultimate lovingkindness, I have been blessed beyond measure by a community of people who choose to shower our family with love and kindness way more than anyone should be. We are truly spoiled with love from others. Many of you included. 

As my friend Lexi once put it "I don't know what it is, but PEOPLE LOVE YOU!" I wasn't offended by her shock and confusion in my lovability, although super rude, because I know what she meant, she meant that people love on us such an irrational amount that it is perplexing. 

Today, for Day 25, we wanted to repay a kindness from a neighbor. She brought us cookies to welcome us to the neighborhood a couple weeks ago, even though her brother had just unexpectedly passed away. Kindness in the midst of grief is the hardest to muster, but probably the most healing. So, we wanted to thank her for exerting the effort to make homemade cookies for us during her hard time. In part because they were some of the best sugar cookies I've ever had and I want her to bring them to us on a regular basis, (see, total selfish wretch) but also because we wanted to offer help during a time of grief and sadness (see, also redeemed!) 

We wrote a little card...

We wished for us to be "frens" and offered some raking...
Thanked her for those amazing cookies just to remind her that they are gone and may need refilling soon...
And we went to rake...

And then I couldn't breath because whatever chest cold I have is allergic to raking and other forms of hard work...
So Tom saved the day...


Again. 




Day 24: Tom Comes Clean

Day 24 was a bit of a fail seeing how I barely left my house and am a bit of a sick zombie at the moment. Tom and I both sent encouraging emails to different teachers, so that's something. I also took a little time to respond to some Facebook messages about #AdamsActs that I have neglected. A few were even from recipients of #AdamsActs! Thank you all, by the way, for the messages! They do mean so much to me, it just takes me longer than I would like to respond, and for that I apologize.

I tried to force Tom to guest blog as an act of kindness to me, but the man don't like his hand forced. So, instead we attempted a video blog. Here is the first (and only) take. I thought the world would want to see his big secret revealed.
You're welcome.





Day 22 & 23: Choosing Life and Love

Leaving at the end of a visit with Jay's birthparents is never easy. If it's bittersweet to reunite, then it's just plain bitter to separate again. I don't want to make it sound like there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, because there's not. But, there is a heaviness that settles in deep. There is a daunting weight and heft to open adoption. It comes with a constant awareness that there is so much to our story - both beautiful and tragic - and we sometimes feel the tragic more, when leaving, than we do the beauty. Yet, every time I struggle through the emotional layers of open adoption I remind myself that they chose life. 

So. I choose love.






Coming home after a visit is not easy either. Harper, who is already facing challenges every day, is faced with the additional feat of processing the difference between his and Jay's adoptive experience. Feelings of anger and confusion and jealousy are a natural result of comparison (in general I think) but especially when every emotion he experiences tends to have a sense of rejection tethered to it. For a child already struggling with outbursts of aggression, these visits with Jay's birthparents have been a trigger for Harper. So I am going to be kind to myself and my family by laying low this weekend. As I expected I would at some point during this crazy month, I have run myself completely ragged and this cold I now have is getting progressively worse by the minute. 

For Day 22 I placed little notes around Sweet Melissa's apartment. She lets Jay and I stay with her whenever we need, she spoils me rotten, she verbally abuses me in the best possible way. (See "awesome, but useless" in previous post.) It goes without saying that she deserves a few hidden notes of encouragement and/or silliness. Some notes are awesome, and some are useless. 

Just like me.

For Day 23, I put little thank you notes on candy bars to give to some of the F.U.P. (Frequently Underappreciated People) in my life. This included some lunch monitors, the front desk secretary at the school, our mail carrier, the bus driver, and the school custodian.


All these people work very hard, and do it with a smile on their face! Seriously, these people are wonderful. And I am at this school three times a day, every day. (Yes, I am aware that three times a day is excessive.)



Buuuut, I bring the kids to school every morning and pick them up every afternoon, and on the specialist's recommendation, I join Harper for lunch every single day at school. I get a lot more face time with the F.U.P. at Briarwood than most parents and if I were them, I would have stopped smiling at me weeks ago. But, they are nice, literally, every single day. 


The front end person at any school or business has a huge job of setting the tone for one's experience with said operation. And the front end person at Briarwood is a wonderful secretary who buzzes me in the doors up to thrice a day with a joyful attitude. It was such a small gesture compared to how kindly she engages with the students, parents and staff, still she thanked me and said that my note of appreciation almost made her cry! That is a sign of some serious underappreciation! 

We have just over a week left in October. That is plenty of time to plan some simple #AdamsActs for the F.U.P. in your life. I know that it's tiring on the homestretch. Some of us are sick, many of us are exhausted and countless are carrying a butt ton of heavy burdens. This is when we need to remember how powerful kindness can be, that compassion and expressed appreciation can uplift and encourage a weary soul, that we have been given the power to lift one another up, or put down, to bring life or death into this world. And we get to choose. We get to lift up. We get to choose life. 


And love.

"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32






Day 21: Traveling Mercies

For Day 21, I have to backtrack a tiny bit because I forgot about one #AdamsActs that was less a random act of kindness, and more an intentional "thank you/I'm sorry for my general uselessness" type of kindness.

I am staying with, the one and only, Melissa Waheibi. Sweet Melissa is host extraordinaire, a walking map, a born problem solver, and also maybe a spy. Basically, she is useful AND awesome. 

So imagine her disappointment to discover that, while awesome, I do not share the aforementioned skill set. Long story short, her friend Geoff kindly drove us around Queens late at night to find a good, free parking spot for the week. He literally drove the car around for me. It took forever and it was late on Sunday night, freezing, and a total imposition. But he was gracious and willing to help.

Then I forgot my purse in the car. So the next day we had to trek all the way back to Queens so that my purse didn't get burgled. I had a minimum of four crumpled one dollar bills in there... So, it was pretty urgent. 

But I couldn't remember where I was parked. And by couldn't remember, I mean that I didn't listen to any parking information Geoff gave me. It was like 8th Grade Earth Science all over again. I just couldn't listen to the instructions. 

So, we can't find my car. Geoff has to save the day yet again. "Sweet" Melissa couldn't just ask for help, she had to insult me via text message. As pictured here: 


Melissa is hilarious. Cruel. But hilarious.


Geoff didn't confirm nor deny our suspicion that "cleaning the bathroom" really meant he was mid-soak in a glorious bubble bath. So, we thought he and Lisa deserved a lovely bottle of vinegarette for their troubles. 

Vinegarette is the new wine, in case you are not up on the times. 

In addition to this small act of gratitude, Melissa helped put together these incredible #AdamsActs which I handed out to some homeless people tonight while with Jay and Pop (his birthfather.) 


We handed out one of my all-time favorite books. It's hilarious and touching and poignant and irreverent and smart and all the things. The homeless have multiple challenges, but one that is frequently overlooked is having a significant number of idle hours during the day. Passing time, particularly when in a state of hopelessness or strife, can be daunting. I would imagine that reading an excellent, thought-provoking book about stumbling upon a messy, imperfect
faith in the midst of challenging circumstances cannot be a bad way to pass that time.

Additionally, each book had one of these incredible resource cards inside the cover.






These cards are part of an initiative to help locate the more than 4,000 homeless people in Manhattan and help them find resources they may not know are available. As indicated on the card, essential services such as meals, medical care and shelter can be accessed through these resources, assisting them in finding an alternative to homelessness. 

As I handed this book and card to one man in particular (who had a very large boil on his forehead), I felt a great sense of relief knowing that one little card provides access to information and resources that we take for granted.

I wrote yesterday about feeling overwhelmed by the issues surrounding poverty and homelessness. www.dontwalkby.org prompts people to not just walk by, but to do something in Manhattan. We all know, though, that the homeless are not confined to Manhattan and in every city there is an underprivileged community and a homeless population. As a follower of Christ I have a biblical obligation to care for the poor, but regardless of your beliefs, all of us can and should concern ourselves with the plight of our fellow citizens. 

So, for Day 21, I challenge each of you to do what you can in your own community. Give someone a book to pass time, help people find access to resources, volunteer at a shelter, make a donation, bring people vinegarette for pete's sake... Just don't walk by.



Days 19 & 20: Seeing and Loving

Jay and I are in Manhattan staying with my friend Melissa for the next few days. We are here to visit Jay's birthparents, so this will be the big city/open adoption edition of #AdamsActs. Spoiler alert: big city Jay doesn't sleep great and he rolls on the sidewalk when his suburban legs simply can't make it another block. It's very unsanitary. (Pardon the blurry image, but the kid can really roll.)


For Day 19, Jay and I brought some fruit to a homeless gentleman who suffers from a deformity of the foot. When we walked over, and I had Jay say "Hello, sir!" and hand him an apple, the man seemed taken aback.

He thanked us and remarked that he couldn't remember the last time somebody addressed him as "sir." After we walked away for a bit and turned back, the man was still smiling and waving to Jay.

So, Day 19: Seeing a man who feels invisible. Addressing him respectfully. Giving him fresh produce - which can hard to find in an "urban food dessert". Hopefully, restoring a bit of dignity. 

I am always overwhelmed by huge issues of social justice - poverty, child slavery, human trafficking, sex trafficking, systemic racism, deplorable work conditions in developing countries... Issues like these seem so insurmountable. I know it's easier to pretend that these problems don't exist. I know it's overwhelming to acknowledge their existence. I know that we can't "fix" poverty through one act of kindness.

I also know that my God sees us and knows us intimately. He does not change our hearts from a distance, but through regular, intimate connection. I think that He models that for our benefit, so we know how to change things around us.

To change our culture, we must regularly connect with people. We sometimes have to crouch down and place our hand on a disfigured foot. We have to see people. Really make eye contact. 

And say Hello. 

Sir

My name is Jay, and I approve my mom's message. 

Day 20. Jay reunited with the lovely Miss N. (his birthmom) this morning and our #AdamsActs for today was bringing her a gift. She loves to color (so do I by the way, it's seriously therapeutic) so we brought her this amazing adult coloring book. 


Then we spent the day at the park with her and his birth sister. And while Jay is napping I am trying to quickly catch my breath before we meet up with birthdad in an hour. Navigating open adoption isn't easy, in fact it is one of more emotionally draining things I have experienced in my life. 

I have this constant sense of responsibility to Jay... I have to take a lot of pictures because what if they close the adoption and these are the only moments we have with them. I have to remember everything they say so I can be mindful of their preferences and so I can answer Jay's questions when he's older. I need to keep Jay on a good schedule, not just accommodate everyone else. I don't want to push him to engage more than he in comfortable with. 

But I also have this overwhelming sense of responsibility to his birth family... I have to divide our time evenly between everyone. I want to make these visits as easy and comfortable for them as possible. I want to be sensitive to how these visits might trigger a variety of emotions for them. I want to push Jay to engage so they feel connected with him. I feel obligated to "prove" that Jay is happy and doing well and that we are good parents, so I feel pressure for him to be well-behaved and not, I don't know, roll around on the sidewalks like a lunatic. 

The visits are so bittersweet. To see the look on Miss N's face as she registers how big Jay has gotten since our last visit, to watch her rub his hair, to see her hug him goodbye while he reaches for me instead, to hear him call me "mama" in front of the one who gave him life... these are things that crack my heart wide open. 

It is nothing heroic and I am not pretending that it is. But, to sign up for this, is a sort of kindness. To them, to Jay, to myself. It's hard, certainly, but it's also so, so very good. 

Waiting for Miss N. And Baby Girl
Feeding Baby Girl








Pretty much sums up these two...








Day 18: Tangerines and (The Big) Apple

Greetings from New York City!

Yes, you read that right. I spent Day 18 traveling to NYC because we are due for a visit with my youngest son)'s birthparents. My #AdamsActs consisted of giving tangerines to two homeless men holding "hungry/down and out" signs but that was when I was back in Rochester.

It's been a long day traveling, and I am pretty exhausted... so I thought I would repost a blog I wrote which seemed to help a lot of people understand what open adoption is and why we chose to participate in one. 

--

We have an open adoption.

A lot of people think we are crazy.  (We also think we are crazy, but for totally different reasons.)  Actually, maintaining a relationship with our son's birthparents is one of the least crazy things we have ever done. When the alternative is withholding a relationship with people that created him, it seems insane to do anything else. Trust me, I am not being judgemental, I know that there are a million nightmare scenarios where a relationship must be withheld for the child's safety and well-being. But that's not what I am talking about. 

I am talking about two people who absolutely adore their child. I am talking about a beautiful, bright, amazing young woman who created a life from scratch, and then birthed absolute perfection. She not only gave him the gift of life, she gave him the gift of a family. And for some reason that blows my mind every single day, she chose us to be that family. 

I do not think of choosing open-adoption as some heroic act of mercy like some people think it is. Mercy is when we don't get punished for something, even though we deserve it. I think that is how a lot of people look at it, like birthparents lose their right to be involved if they choose to place their child for adoption.  If I gave birth to a child that I did not feel prepared to parent at the exact moment of their birth, I cannot imagine the pain of receiving a life sentence of separation from my child because of it. I honestly don't feel like we are doing anything remarkable by facilitating a relationship with Jay and his first mommy and daddy... rather, I think we have the privilege of being part of something remarkable.

We fell in love with our son's birthmama, Miss N., the moment we first spoke with her on the phone. She and I have been texting and calling and facetiming and sending pictures and videos... almost daily ever since. Yes it is a huge commitment.  Yes it is time-consuming. Yes it can sometimes be messy and enmeshed (see why I have a low tolerance for that with neighbors!?)  No, it is not easy or convenient to travel to New York City every few months to visit them. Still, it is nothing remarkable on our part.  What she did was remarkable.  She entrusted us with the life of her only son... and we are merely reciprocating the trust and respect she showed us, even though we did nothing to deserve it.  That is called grace.  To give a blessing that someone does not deserve.

Adoption is such a sweet picture of our belief system. We actually believe that we are adopted by God, because he essentially traded in His only son so that we (ie; heinous sinners) could be made His perfect sons and daughters. That is both grace and mercy. He showed us grace in pursuing us though we did nothing to deserve such love... and He showed us mercy by not separating His perfect self from us, even though I sin enough in my sleep to warrant permanent banishment from His perfect presence.  I know how crazy this all sounds... which is why I admitted that texting my baby's birthmom is hardly the craziest thing I do.  I actually believe this Jesus stuff, and I know that makes me wacky to a lot of people.

But, here's the cool part. Because I actually believe this stuff, I get to live with a peace and a reckless abandon that nothing else in this world can give. So, sharing my son with the only other people on this planet who adore him as much as we do, is not that hard in light of my own adoption through the grace and mercy and loving kindness of my God.


Photo cred: Me, but that was easy thanks to his DNA.
DNA cred: Pop and Miss N.























Days 15, 16 & 17: A Bride, A Groom and A Stanky Leg

Well hello again.

I know that I have been missing in action, but I assure you that this post shall prove that I have indeed been in constant action. I am giving myself Days 15 and 16 for wedding stuff (which you will see below was way more than two days work... so I am not really taking an out on this one I promise!)  Here are some pictures of all the work that I was claiming to have done, of which I can finally provide evidence! 

The total was somewhere around 55 pieces completed for the festivities. Including...

Hairpieces for 8 bridesmaids and 5 flower girls. Boutonnieres and bow ties for 7 groomsmen, 2 dads and 7 ring bearers. (Yes, you read that right... there were more children IN the wedding, than there were guests AT the wedding.) ;)





Snazzing up my dress, and the girls' dresses, as well as some alterations...


London the (bossy) fashionista requested a vintage hat/blusher veil! 




Wrist corsages for 2 moms and a grandma.


Headpiece for the bride (which included a bit of vintage lace from her mom's veil)




And the piece that took the most time (over 60 hours to be precise!) was made from those same tiny bits of lace that edged along my mother-in-law's veil. I sewed together the lace trim into one large piece to create a new back to Carlie's dress. My sister-in-law, Shannon, and I spent countless hours working and re-working the piece to make it perfect. She is a very talented seamstress and was able to attach the lack back to the dress. We created lace cap-sleeves that connect the back to the front. It was basically Carlie's dream dress that we custom built by repurposing her mom's bridal veil. If you aren't impressed with us at this point, then I can't help you.

This is the lace, about 60 hours in, all sewn together from pieces of lace trim about the size of my thumb.


Then attached to the dress.


Carlie's first fitting! As you can see, she was ecstatic...


Apart from those things, I did Carlie's hair and makeup and hosted the pre-wedding photos at my house. (This may not be that big of a deal, but we only moved like 3 weeks ago, so it was no small feat to get the house host-ready!) 

But is was all worth it for the big day!!


















Congratulations Calum and Carlie Shaw!!

Day 17, I wrote thank you notes to Calum's family for coming all the way to New York from Scotland, and for hosting the rehearsal dinner. They were wonderful people, and we enjoyed them so much that this was literally the least we could do.

I also offered to babysit for two little girls whose brother was in the hospital... but their super aunt stepped in to save the day, so instead we got the joy of having them all over to our house for dinner and a lot of excessive screaming-while-playing.

Day 17 is always special to me because 17 is an ongoing theme... Adam only lived 17 years, and that happened to also be his jersey number, and mine and my siblings', etc. This post is mostly about having spent the past few months preparing for my husband's sister to get married. Tom and Carlie have almost the exact same age difference as Adam and I. As hectic as my life has been in preparation for Carlie's special day, I couldn't imagine not doing this for her. Of course, I adore her and she is also my little sister, but more than that, I know what it is like to lose a sibling, and I would give anything to have worked my fanny off for Adam's wedding. When every part of me knew that the rational thing would be to say "no," I cannot imagine looking back and regretting doing for Tom's little sister what I believe Adam would have done for me.

I hope you all don't feel abandoned during the past few days of insanity. I hope you know that I have felt lifted up and encouraged and inspired by all of the #AdamsActs that have spread (lilterally) around the world. I hope to part by inspiring you with a couple ridiculous videos of our family shenanigans.



And since poor Jay did all the work of rehearsing this dance with us, but lost his head at the reception and was banished to bedtime... I also want to feature a little taste of what he would have brought to the table. Enjoy the unnecessarily high falsetto.