“Mom! It doesn’t smell like cow poop today!”

Now that’s what I like to hear first thing in the morning.

In other good news, I ran five miles yesterday at the gym, which may not be all that significant to you, but considering I have not run since the Naperville Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, I’m pretty darn proud. I’m considering my next race options, vacillating between the half and the full, and wondering how I’ll train in 40 mph winds. I finally got new running shoes, ditching the old ones I’ve had for a year (running a half AND a full marathon in them, along with regular working out…).

Jeremy has adjusted nicely to his new PreK class. His teacher calls him a “sweet boy” and says he’s doing beautifully with the curriculum. Based on the work he’s brought home this week, I’d say that’s right.

Both Chuck and Jake were out of town a bit this week, which meant I had control of the remote. It’s hard being outnumbered! Basically, I’m reading at night while they watch Top Gear or the Military Channel. I don’t really mind, especially since my favorite Gordon Ramsay show is back on EVERYDAY on BBC America. I have quite a stockpile on the DVR, which means I can watch them in secret.

We don’t have much planned for the long weekend. Jake headed home this morning to see his family, so it’s just the four of us for three whole days. The weather is supposed to be fabulous, so I imagine we’ll be outside at some point. Maybe we’ll go looking for more water. I heard there was some south of here.

Continuing the Texan Transition

I finally went to the DMV yesterday to get my license. It was the usual process of paperwork and proving your identity. However, at the end of it, the lady at the desk presented me with a certificate (which serves as my temporary license) and said, “Congratulations! You’re a Texan now!”

“Um, thank you,” I replied, giving her a curious stare. She was genuinely excited for me.

In related news, check out the back of the registration sticker in the windshield:
Continue reading “Continuing the Texan Transition”

“What’s that smell!?!”

Jeremy happened to be downwind when I opened the patio door this morning to let Hank out. The smell of money is strong today.

This is our last vacation day; Jeremy starts school tomorrow. We don’t have anything out of the ordinary planned, other than a possible trip to a park. Jeremy has been asking about school since Christmas and when I told him this morning that he’ll be going tomorrow he cheered and hollered at the breakfast table. He’s eager to meet new friends and return to doing “important work.” The reality is that he may repeat kindergarten next year. By Texas law, he would not have started kindergarten this year anyway, missing the birthday cutoff by 8 days. Also, he has struggled to retain some of the things he learned, so repeating the year may prove beneficial. Plus, he’s going from a traditional education to a classical one, so we have no idea how well he’ll transition into the new curriculum. We’re not going to make the call until the end of school year, so anything could happen between now and then.

The biggest change this week was the addition of a roommate. Jake, another agent still in transition, moved into the guest room/office on Saturday. His pregnant wife and two children are still in California and will not move to Amarillo until after the baby arrives and they’ve purchased a home here, so we offered Jake a place to stay in the meantime. Being a family man, he’s not scared off by the screeches and screams of small children, nor bothered by the Backyardigans singing in the background. He and Chuck should have the same schedule, so when Chuck is out of town, so is Jake. Should that change, I told Jake that he’s on garbage duty when Chuck is gone.

We visited the same church for a second time yesterday but decided afterward to keep looking. The children’s program was a big turn on for me, but the general size of the church is overwhelming. There were other things Chuck and I didn’t like, but overall it just didn’t “feel” right. There are plenty of churches here, so I’m sure we’ll find something we all like eventually.

Welcome 2009.

Instead of resolutions and goals, my outlook for the new year can be summed up in one word: Adjustment. While I’d like to run another marathon, explore The West, and find freelance work, the reality is that we are mostly focused on adjusting to Chuck’s new job and schedule, Jeremy’s new school and our overall new life in Texas. Even though Chuck has been working since we arrived in Amarillo, we haven’t hit the meat and potatoes of it yet. Heck, Jeremy hasn’t even started school yet, so my goal setting doesn’t surpass next week. I haven’t even gotten my new drivers’ license. (Obviously finding a nice grocery store took priority.)

So far, 2009 has been pretty good. We took the boys to see The Tale of Despereaux today. (Jackson actually sat through most of it!) I give it two thumbs up. Take your littles to see it, if you can. Afterwards we went for a short drive around the north part of the city just to see what was there.

We’ve actually had a really great week here at the Miller home with the arrival of our first visitors. Bill and Brenda showed up Sunday afternoon and stayed through yesterday morning. Of course, we’ve been unpacked for days so accommodating house guests wasn’t a problem. The boys were thrilled to see their grandparents at the airport and Jeremy, especially, was eager to show them just how Texan he’s become (cowboy hat, boots, belt buckle…).

We gave them a decent tour of the town, as best as two newbies could give. Despite Jackson’s lingering stomach bug, we managed to take them to the Palo Duro Canyon, Cadillac Ranch, The Big Texan, Cavendar’s, and other local parks and shops. As expected, the three days was over too soon and it was a tearful goodbye. Fortunately, for you, I have pictures.

Final column.

This is my final column which ran last Sunday. I wrote for the Times Free Press for over 8 years and while there were times I dreaded the deadline, I’m going to miss it. Perhaps I’ll find somewhere else to write… Anyway, enjoy. And Merry Christmas.
_______________________________________________

Two weeks ago, in the midst of packing up the apartment for our move to Texas, I saw a commercial that made me pause. The voiceover began, “Remember when Christmas was magical? Let’s get back to that.”

Packing tape in hand, my brain immediately went back to Christmas 1986 when I got a Barbie moped for my dolls. We had just moved to West Germany, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and were living in guest quarters, or a gasthaus, on the Army base. We were uprooted sometime in the fall, as I remember being introduced to my new third grade class mid-semester. It was a strange new world but one I immediately enjoyed for the winter snow was abundant and my classmates were kind.

Christmas morning had come and our tree had birthed a bounty of presents. My sister and I, in our matching pajamas, sat on the floor in the dining room where our tree stood next to the fireplace, across from the kitchen and adjacent to the living room. To my recall, we had never lived in such a large palace, though I knew it was temporary, and by the following Christmas we had settled into a cottage in the German town just a couple of miles from the base.

Our parents watched as we tore open one gift after another, and while I don’t remember everything Bugs Bunny or the family dog gave me (my mother had a sense of humor when it came to writing the gift tags), I have never forgotten the feeling of pure elation when I unwrapped my new Barbie moped. The wheels clicked when I scooted it along the floor, filling the room with a plastic motor sound that probably annoyed everyone over the age of eight. I played with that moped for the rest of the day.

Like most people, I have a rolodex of Christmas memories in my mind ranging from early childhood to newly married, most of them more meaningful than the one with the moped. However, I thought it was interesting that my brain selected the one Christmas that so closely followed a big transition in my childhood.

Now that sequence is being repeated in my own family. Never in a million years did I imagine our world would be turned upside down at Christmastime, that we would be moving across the country the week before my favorite holiday.

If this were any other year, our Christmas tree would be up, along with coordinating holiday décor throughout the house. The boys would have their own mini-tree in their room and every day would be filled with the sounds of Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald. We would’ve have had a Christmas party with our friends and spent Christmas Eve with our extended family.

That isn’t he case this year. Naturally, it’s been hard to capture the Christmas spirit when I’m distracted by the stacks of moving boxes in the living room. This is wrong, I think to myself. There should be a fully decorated Christmas tree standing in the window frame, not a leaning tower of copy paper boxes filled with books, trinkets and under-used kitchen utensils.

It isn’t that my spirit it gone; rather, it’s on hold. We should arrive at our new house a full eight days prior to Christmas Eve. If I time it right, if I keep my momentum, if I coordinate the unpacking of every box, there’s a good chance I can have a fully decorated, fully unpacked and organized house by bedtime, December 24th.

My enthusiasm is one third excitement, one third obsessive-compulsive disorder, and one third the result long-term insomnia, which is why the plan sounds a little crazy to some and perfectly logical to me. The more I remember that magical Christmas morning over twenty years ago, the more I want this Christmas to be magical for my children. We, too, had just moved, and suddenly we were an ocean away from everything that was familiar. We were living a transitional life and my parents still managed to create the perfect holiday for their daughters filled with tradition and wonder. My little boys have been living in organized chaos for the last five months with their father nine hours away and their mother worn ragged from flying solo. Now that we’re back together and uprooting to Texas, I would be remiss if I didn’t christen our new life with a magical Christmas morning.

Whether it was a makeshift Christmas my mother threw together the night before or one she worked on diligently for months, I don’t want to know. Christmas 1986 was just how Christmas should always be, filled with happy moments, family tradition and laughter. Perhaps, in the midst of our move, my boys will capture a few moments in their hearts this week that will give them magical memories for years.

Merry Christmas, Chattanooga. And farewell.

My October Surprise

Friday started out ordinary. Jeremy didn’t have school because of Parent/Teacher conferences, so he tagged along with me to Jackson’s speech therapy. The three of us ate lunch together like we used to and piddled around the apartment waiting for Halloween night. I baked all day while the boys played and took late naps. By 5 p.m., I took Obi Wan Kenobi and Superman to visit my in-laws and by 6 p.m. we were headed to Karin’s house for the Halloween party.

Obi Wan Kenobi 08

Superman 08

Along the way, I sent Chuck this text message: Wish u were here.

His reply via video message: Funny you should mention that. I’m in Little Rock right now and I’ll see you tonight.

Continue reading “My October Surprise”

The Weekend Update, plus Sunday’s column

The boys and I went to South Carolina over the weekend to visit my cousin, Paul, and his family. The drive was long and the visit was short, but it was worth it since we probably won’t see them for a long time. My boys played famously with their boys, which is always a sweet thing to see. I took some pictures but considering I came home SICK, I won’t be uploading and editing for a while. That’s right – I drove home with a low-grade fever that spiked last night. I’m not well and I’m praying Jackson goes with the flow today. I don’t plan on moving very much. Perhaps he can reheat his own mac ‘n cheese for lunch.

Continue reading “The Weekend Update, plus Sunday’s column”

Column: Miracle makes a family of four

You lucky ducks get to read this Sunday’s column right here, right now, before the rest of the city gets a chance. Don’t you feel special?

Miracle makes a family of four

When I was preparing for my previous column six weeks ago, I had no idea that by the time it ran on Sunday morning my life would be changing forever. Again.

On that early morning in June, our second son, Jackson, was born. We had no knowledge of his existence until a few short hours prior to his arrival. His birth into our family is nothing short of a miracle.

There is very little predictability in adoption. With the adoption of our first son, we had about four weeks to prepare. We found his birth mom through a friend and met with her and her entire family. Everyone was supportive and encouraging. This baby was who I longed and prayed for. Jeremy’s adoption was flawless. The fact that God gave us a miracle was more than I could fathom.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t believe God would do it again.

And to be perfectly blunt, I thought I could do it on my own.

Last fall, I told my pastor about my struggle to believe a another miracle could happen. When I informed him we’d be signing up with an agency to adopt a second child, he quickly asked me why. I gave him run-around excuses, something about adoption being a long process and wanting to get on a list.

“But why not go for another private adoption?” he asked. I gave him more excuses, but this time, he called me on it.

“Don’t you believe God will give you another child the way He did with Jeremy?” he asked.

“No,” I responded with certainty. “I know He could, but I don’t think He will. It’s just not logical. Two miracles in one family? I don’t see it.”

He disagreed with me, but didn’t push. I left his office in tears, struggling to hold my head up. Weeks went on and we started the adoption process with an agency. We barely got to the formal application before backing out. It didn’t feel right for us and we couldn’t move forward. Our file was closed and baby No. 2 seemed more out of reach than ever.

Fast forward to the Saturday night before Jackson was born. We had dinner plans with another couple who were considering adoption and they wanted to get the inside scoop. I was happy to meet with them, though I knew my heart was still dealing with bitterness and confusion. I wanted a second child and felt like we had no where to go. How in the world I could inspire someone else was beyond me. Nevertheless, we met at the restaurant and eventually ended up back at our house to continue the conversation.

We shared our story about Jeremy’s private adoption, how quickly it all surfaced and how were there for his birth. We told them how much prayer and faith adoption required, and certainly, how unpredictable it can be. You just never know, we said. There’s no real way to prepare, we told them.

I received a phone call during their visit, but I let the voicemail pick it up.

They left around 9:30 p.m. and I went upstairs to get ready for bed. All the adoption talk left me thinking about another child. I longed for another boy, and I wanted our second adoption to mimic the first – private, comfortable, and through someone we knew and trusted. Before turning down the bed, I remembered the phone call. I went downstairs to check my voicemail and nearly dropped the phone as I listened.

“There’s a woman in labor,” I told Chuck, who was sitting on the couch. His face went blank.

“What?” he asked, as if I had spoken in Greek.

“Yes, there’s a woman in labor and wants to place the child for adoption! Is this really happening?” My hands were shaking and my heart beat heavy in my chest. I returned my friend’s phone call and got more information. In a matter of minutes, we got our neighbor down to stay with Jeremy and were out the door to the hospital. We had no guarantee that this baby was ours, but we were surely going to find out.

Four hours later, we returned home still unsure about what lay ahead. We met with the birth family, making them aware of our desire for another child, and left it in their hands. Neither of us slept. Every second was longer than the last. By mid-morning, we had lawyers on the phone. By early evening, we were able to view the baby through the nursery window. By Monday morning, we were awarded temporary custody and were able to hold him. Now we are awaiting a court date to make it final.

In a matter of about 36 hours, we became the parents of another beautiful blue-eyed baby boy.

Jackson is not just a second child for us. He is what my heart desired, even when I struggled to believe. He’s proof that God really does perform two miracles in one family.

Now I wonder if He’ll do three.

The Waiting Period is Over.

Now we wait for paperwork to be processed and a court date to be assigned. Legally, we’re in the clear.

Here are a few pictures from this past week… I’ll get more edited this weekend and I hope to take a family picture! Until then, here you go:

Thank you for all your prayers and well-wishes. We are in love with Jackson and in such awe over how God’s blessed us. Even in the midst of our doubt and frustration, He still chose to bless us. I will never understand it.

Continue to pray for our dog, if you feel led. He’s staying another night at the vet. We’re just sick over it.

Jackson Thomas Miller

So here’s where we stand: Both birth parents have signed away their rights and have until Friday, June 23rd, to change their minds. Everyone (literally) has said they believe it’s a done deal, but I’ll feel much better after midnight next Friday. Our home study is being updated as we speak, and once it is, we’ll be able to come home to Georgia. Because Jackson was born in Tennessee, we have to stay in state until the interstate adoption agency signs/approves everything. Currently, we are staying at our church’s mission house, located directly behind the church. WHAT A BLESSING!!!!

Jackson was morning at 1:06 a.m. on June 11th, weighing 7 lbs. 3 oz. and 20 inches long. He’s a gorgeous, healthy baby and a joy to have… Jeremy is learning to love him, and we’re giving him lots of mercy and grace right now! Most siblings have 9 months to get used to the idea of a baby invading their space. Jeremy had about 30 minutes. He’s gentle with him, kisses him sweetly on the head, and goes on with business.

Now onto the good stuff:

Last picture as a family of three…

The first time I got to *touch* him…

Soaking it all in…

Father and TWO sons…

Introducing the boys…

Taken last night, around 2 a.m., at five days old…

Naturally, we are already in love with Jackson. Everyone is, of course. We still realize things are not final and there is a slight chance we could lose him… But we are praying FERVENTLY that this adoption is a done deal. God has been very present in all of this, and once we are able to come home, I’ll type it all out. This is a testimony you won’t want to miss!

Keep praying on our behalf – that social workers and lawyers keep moving paperwork along, that the birth parents don’t change their minds, and that we can adjust as a quickie family of four.

A Funny.

A man was sick and tired of going to work every day while his wife stayed home. He wanted her to see what he went through so he prayed:
“Dear Lord, I go to work every day and put in 8 hours while my wife
merely stays at home. I want her to know what I go through, so please allow her body to switch with mine for a day. Amen.”

God, in his infinite wisdom, granted the man’s wish. The next morning, sure enough, the man awoke as a woman. He arose, cooked breakfast for his mate, awakened the kids, Set out their school clothes, fed them breakfast, packed their lunches, drove them to school, came home and picked up the dry cleaning, took it to the cleaners and stopped at the bank to make a deposit, went grocery shopping, then drove home to put away the groceries, paid the bills and balanced the checkbook. He cleaned the cat’s litter box and bathed the dog. Then it was already 1 P.M. and he hurried to make the beds, do the laundry, vacuum, dust, and sweep and mop the kitchen floor.

Ran to the school to pick up the kids and got into an argument with them on the way home. Set out milk and cookies and got the kids organized to do their homework, Then set up the ironing board and watched TV while he did the ironing.

At 4:30 he began peeling potatoes and washing vegetables for salad, breaded the pork chops and snapped fresh beans for supper.

After supper, he cleaned the kitchen, ran the dishwasher, folded laundry, bathed the kids, and put them to bed. At 9 P.M. he was exhausted and, though his daily chores weren’t finished, he went to bed where he was expected to make love, which he managed to get through without complaint.

The next morning, he awoke and immediately knelt by the bed and said,
Lord, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was so wrong to envy my wife’s being able to stay home all day. Please, oh please, let us trade back. Amen.”

The Lord, in his infinite wisdom, replied, “My son, I feel you have learned your lesson and I will be happy to change things back to the way they were. You’ll just have to wait nine months, though. You got pregnant last night.”