Friday, January 25, 2013

Flashback Friday

I’m starting a new feature here on my little blog.  I’ve stolen borrowed the idea from my friend, Jessi, whom I highly recommend you visit over at Life with Jack. (But don’t click over yet, because once you do, you’ll be hooked forever – Jackpants couldn’t get any cuter and Jessi is multi-talented)!  Every Friday I’m going jump back in time and revisit something…..anything….could be a time that was fun or sad or life-altering.  Maybe I’ll just post a picture or maybe I’ll feel like writing a lot.  My goal is to at least show up every Friday and post something!
This week, thanks to my dear friend, Jes & her husband Ryan, who are in Ecuador at this very moment adopting their incredibly beautiful daughter, E; I am feeling nostalgic.  I’ve been in contact with them this week about their experiences with E and the bonding process and it’s taking me back to our experiences those first days with each of our children.  It’s crazy how quickly memories fade.  Don't get me wrong, I can still remember every single second, but the ‘hardness’ of it has softened over time.  The drama and the fear that I know I felt in those first minutes, days and weeks isn’t sitting front and center anymore. 
Kamila - July 2008
For those who have adopted children from hard places, children who have experienced trauma, older children, children with medical needs, you know what I’m talking about.   Parenting in general is hard work, but it is compounded when you have to travel to a foreign country to bring home a child who does not speak your language, who is older, perhaps has medical issues, physical pain, emotional issues that stem from years of neglect or abuse; and to be on your own with no family or friends to drop by and help.  You’re also away from the comforts of home while trying to take care of said child who incidentally may want nothing to do with you.  You’re managing all of this after waiting and fighting for years to be with your child.  You’re trying to do what’s best, trying not fail, while trying to manage your own feelings of rejection and exhaustion.  That’s a lot to overcome and it’s hard and it’s painful, but it’s also joyous as you watch your child begin to come out of their shell and grow to trust you and like you; and as the weeks and months go by, actually begin to even love you. 
Esen's Gotcha Day - April 24, 2007
I’ll never forget walking up to Esen’s orphanage that first time.  I was filled with excitement and anticipation until they brought him out.  Then, my instinct was to turn and run.  I was so scared because he looked so sick and so small.  I thought:  “There is no way I can do this.”  Obviously, I didn’t (run, that is) or we wouldn’t be where we are now.  That experience and those feelings made me stronger.   Acknowledging them and allowing myself to be open to the experience opened a whole new world for us.  
Meeting Marissa for the first time - October 31, 2009
Two and half years later when we walked into that New Orleans NICU to meet our fragile, little Noodle, I felt ready for absolutely anything the Universe had to throw at us.  Little did I know the ride we were about to go on, but we have managed and we continue to grow strong.  Some days, I have it all together and things go smoothly and some days I can't tell my you know what from a hole in the ground.  I've learned that it's okay.  I've learned that I am so not Superwoman and that my kids are okay with that.  I've learned that I can screw up and the Earth continues to rotate on it's axis.  
Court Day - December 7, 2011
 I guess my point is, hold on tight, but don't be afraid to let yourself go.  Let yourself feel the the good, bad and ugly feelings.  Let yourself ‘fail’ (you’re probably not actually failing anyway).  I can’t believe how many times over the last 6 years there’s been a little voice in my head that has said “you can’t” or “you’ll never be able to” or “that’s crazy” or “you shouldn’t,”  and we’ve done it anyway.  The fact that we’ve persevered in spite of those voices and the negativity is the only reason all of our children are here.  And, it's the reason we continue to fight for the one who's not. 

Happy Friday - have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Looking Forward

Only a little more than halfway through the month and I’m behind on my New Year’s post.   I’d say I’m right on track! No doubt, 2013 promises to be a year full of surprises, in true Fenske style.   My mantra going into 2013 comes from a necklace that I received for Christmas.  I have long coveted many of the amazing items over at Funky Fish Designs and this one is especially meaningful to me.  It really is the basis for how our little family came to be and continues to thrive.  When the days get long and I feel like I can’t even breathe, I reach up and hold this in my hand and It reminds me where we’ve been, where we’re going and what our family is all about.  It reminds me that this world is so much bigger than little, old me.  It reminds me to be humble, patient and try and live a life of service.
We’re starting out the year with medical issues.  Noodle has developed a pleural effusion.  My first response was “oh shit.”  But, oddly, as I sat and listened to Neurosurgeon Extraordinaire discuss our options, I was strangely calm (he has that effect on me).  I know we are running out of good options.  I know that anything we try is risky and I know that the odds are stacked against us.  Still, she ALWAYS beats them.  She ALWAYS proves everyone wrong.  I feel, to the core of my being that she is going to be okay.  As he talked about our absolute wild card option – you know, the one that you don’t pull until the bitter end , the one where he says “I’ve always wanted to try it” and the one where if it fails, he uses words like “incompatible with life” – I found myself having an out of body experience.  I politely said, we’ll talk about that some other day and I tucked the information away in some file cabinet deep in the recesses of my brain; hopefully never to be used again.  Meanwhile, we keep her comfy and stable and wait for all the surgeons to work out their schedules and pick a date. 
One of my intentions this year (I stopped making 'resolutions' years ago) is to slow down.  I really desperately want to try and focus on not having commitments.  I’ve been really inspired by a couple of other mamas who have taken steps to declutter their lives.  After all, is it critical to attend every single function?  I say not!  I want our kids to be able to just be kids.  I want them to know the value of having time to just BE.  I don’t want to rush through life.  I see too many people doing it and it makes me so sad.  I wonder if they're going to look back someday and be sad that they missed out on simple things.  I want my kids to have time to develop a sense of who they are and what they like and don’t like.  I want them to be individuals and not cookie-cutter kids.  I want them to be able to make decisions for themselves and be creative and know how to play.  Yes, I’m learning to let go and that is hard for me because I am a total control freak.  Yes, I have let them go to school on the rare occasion in weird socks and mis-matched clothes because it is what they wanted to wear.  Builds character, right? 
Another one of my intentions is to reclaim my health.  I have definitely let go of myself in taking care of everyone else.  I was reminded by someone recently that although I do strongly believe that “It’s Not About Me,” sometimes I have to make it about me or I won’t be around to take care of the people who matter to me most.   She was right.  So, I have been diligently making changes and focusing on caring for myself like I care for my little ones.  Hopefully I can shed this extra half of a person I’ve been carrying around and build up some extra energy to keep chasing my little animals around!
We received word just this week that things are once again looking up in Kyrgyzstan.  It’s hard to believe that five years have passed since we signed that first document starting our second adoption from there.  FIVE YEARS!  Two agencies, five dossiers, and tens of thousands of dollars later, Kamila is still waiting for us and we are still waiting for her.  People call us crazy (not so much to our faces anymore), but we made a promise to her and we intend to keep it.  If all goes as planned, she could be home this Spring.  You can check out the Fundraising tab and the sidebar for ways to help if you’re so inclined.  We have a loooong ways to go to reach our goal of what we need to complete her adoption, so your support is greatly appreciated. 
The school year is flying by and I’m amazed at how much the kids are learning.  Esen is a math genius!  He’s obsessed with numbers and is forever quizzing me, which isn’t a good thing considering I barely made it through freshman algebra by the time I graduated High School.  His behavior has improved at school with the addition of some more challenging work, but if he gets bored, it’s hard for him to keep it together.  Hiwot loves everything about school, is a social butterfly and practices her letters and songs religiously.  She has such a strong desire to soak up knowledge and learn everything she can.  She never stops asking questions and never, ever stops talking – which will be her downfall in the classroom!  Bamlak is struggling some and we’re feeling the guilt for pushing him into Kindergarten when he probably should’ve been held back.  It was a tough call, though.  We really did not want he and Hiwot in the same grade and definitely didn’t want to hold her back for 2 years so we took a leap of faith in placing him.  He isn’t as motivated as his siblings and doesn’t seem to have the ability to retain information.  He’s patched into ELL and a Reading program, so we’ll see what the rest of the year brings.  Marissa recently started her EC program and they are coming to her right now since it’s a bit safer than her joining her class.  It’s an opportunity for the teachers and therapists to at least get to know her one-on-one.  With impending surgery, she’ll be taking a break again, but we hope that she’ll at least get to join her class for a bit later this year.
Today, I spent the bulk of my day arranging schedules around surgery, doctor appointments, and therapy appointments.   Marissa is receiving outside Physical, Occupational, Speech, and Craniosacral Therapy; and is going to begin Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy as soon as we have funding secured.  Esen is going to begin outside Physical and Occupational Therapy next week.  Marissa sees 12 different doctors/specialists; Esen sees 3, Bamlak and Hiwot each see 2.   After I figure that out for a week or two, I plug in the school schedule, work schedules, special activities, then figure out daycare, transport and busing.  I always think I have a really good system until something unforeseen happens to throw a wrench in things, then it all falls apart and I forget something and feel like a big idiot!  I would love to hear others’ management systems.  One of my intentions for this year is to get a little more organized and to communicate better (yes, with you, my dear husband who always feels like I don’t tell him anything – because I probably didn’t and not because I don’t want to, because my brain has probably melted).
I have absolutely no idea where we’re going to end up this year.  I have hopes.  I have intentions.  I have fears.  I try not to let any of those things get in the way of the right now.  I find myself feeling very restless and very small at times.   I feel like I should be doing so much more than I’m doing, but yet, I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Looking forward, I’m going to try not to look back.  I’m going to try to focus on the minute that I’m in and make the most of every second……
 In the famous words of a very, wise man:
“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regrets. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” ~Dr. Seuss

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Looking Back......

I’m not sure how to even begin to describe 2012.  We certainly went through a lot of change individually and as a family.  We spent the first couple of months preparing to welcome two new members to our little clan, wondering the whole time what it was going to be like to double our kiddos overnight.  In March, Bamlak and Hiwot came home!  The transition was far from seamless, but in time, everyone settled in and found their niche.  Months later, it was like we had all been together forever. 

In June, we hopped on a plane and travelled 6,000+ miles to Bishkek, where we spent two weeks bonding with our little girl – the little girl who still sits alone in an orphanage 1639 days after we promised to be her parents.  Esen went with us and it was absolutely surreal to take him back to where he was born, to where it all began.  Walking into that orphanage on April 23, 2007, changed the course of our lives forever.  It changed what we thought we knew about what we wanted.  It changed what we thought we were there to do, what we thought our plans were for the future.  It set the wheels in motion.  As bitter as I am sometimes about that country, the government and the whole process in light of what we’ve been through this past 4 ½ years, I have no choice but to be grateful because we have Esen and because all of this has shaped what we’ve become.
2012 also afforded us the opportunity to serve through a Both Hands Project.  It was such an amazing experience (and a lot of work) to see what happens when people come together for the sole purpose of helping another human being.  The outcome was amazing and we raised funds for Kamila’s adoption as well.  I highly recommend anyone out there looking to fundraise for an adoption consider a BothHands Project through Lifesong for Orphans.  It is a life-changing experience not only for the crew, but for the widow being served.
The summer was filled with water fights, scraped knees, new foods to explore and two kiddos who had never even touched bicycles learning to ride two-wheelers!  Lord help me, I’ve got three dare-devils under the age of 7!  The boys had a blast riding up and down the street while Hiwot enjoyed peddling around the driveway.  I couldn't believe it when they took off since in March they couldn't even pedal tricycles!  We stuck pretty close to home over the summer and really just focused on getting to know one another and having fun.  

2012 wouldn’t have been complete without some hospital drama.  While I’d like to say that I’m going to forget it and put it in the past, but a mama can never really do that.  Three months in the hospital, multiple surgeries, life-threatening infections, seizures, discussions about your child dying, respiratory arrest, those are things that when I close my eyes at night are there as if they are happening right now.   The end of 2012 brought a new, troubling diagnosis that we haven’t even begun to peel the layers off of yet.   Still, I have hope because I have to.  I can’t give up because my heart won’t let me.
We were so blessed to all be home together for the Holidays.  Christmas was nice and quiet and for the New Year, we decided to take the kids to a mini-indoor waterpark in Wisconsin Dells.  They had so much fun (as did the grown-ups)!
I have no idea what 2013 holds for us.  I have some wishes and I have some intentions (I don’t do resolutions), but I know better than to make plans. 
Up next……Looking Forward