Nov 25, 2013

Adoption conversations

Since being at the adoption retreat, I’ve started some very interesting conversations with my children.  Now let’s start with the truth … we talk about adoption ALL THE TIME.  It’s nearly impossible to step out our front door without it becoming very obvious something is unique about my family. 

There are no secrets.  They know about their adoptions.  They know as much about their birth story as I feel they can handle per their maturity level.  (My rule of thumb for determining that?  If they can articulate the question, they can handle the answer.) 

But even still, by bringing it up directly this week, some new conversations were hard.  Good conversations. 

One with Kaley (14, adopted at 2 months) came around because she has a new reborn collectible doll.  She saved up her money for this very expensive doll and bought it.  It’s 2 ½ pounds and one of our friends is a NICU nurse.  She said it was just like holding one of her NICU babies.  Kaley asked me, “I know I was little when I was born.  Was I in NICU?”  I told her the part of the story that I knew. 

“I don’t know.  I’ll tell you everything I know.  Remember how I told you that you were born at home and your birthmother called the Ambulance? And she said she wanted you placed with the Safe Haven program for adoption.  They took you to St. Joseph hospital and you were there until you were 8 days old when you went to a foster home… etc.  But I don’t know if you were in NICU or not.  It’s not in the birth records that I have.  You can get those when you’re 18.  I’ll help you if you want.”  She asked why we couldn’t get them now and why I couldn’t get them.  And we finished that conversation. 

A few minutes later, she asked, “Do you have your birth and adoption records?” And I said, “Remember? I wasn’t adopted.  I grew in Mimi’s tummy and stayed with her.”  “Oh, that’s right.”  And I proceeded to remind her that most babies stay with their “tummy mommy”.   That adoption was a very special way for kids join a family.  How only when the birthmother can’t parent the child, THEN they place for adoption, etc.

And she got very sad.  Visibly upset.  So I continued.  She was holding that precious baby doll.  I asked her, “If this baby had come out of your tummy, would you want to be it’s mama?” Of course.  And I tried to leave it with how much she was wanted.  How she will be a great mother one day.  The whole time I’m praying I’m saying the right things and not breaking her heart further. 

But it’s there.  It’s always RIGHT THERE. 

The conversation with Zoe (age 8, adopted at 2) was her asking for her adoption story again.  She’s always eager to hear any and every detail.  Thankfully I have quite a bit, especially considering she’s adopted from China where most people have very few details.  She could hear her story 5 times every day without tiring of it.  So we did. 


Manny (age 4, adopted at 9 months) isn’t really interested in adoption related stuff yet.  He’s met his birthfamily (it didn’t go well).  And I don’t think mentally he “gets” it.  I’m always ready and willing to start the conversation with him … but for now … he’d rather play with his ipod. 

Then there’s the conversation with Sam (12, placed with us at 19 days).  He said the only real conversation he ever had at school about adoption was this.  He and a friend were discussing family dynamics.  The friend said it was really rough because his parents were divorced and he felt he had to choose between parents.  He asked about Sam’s situation.  Sam mentioned he was adopted and lived with both of his parents.  And the friend said, “Oh man! You have it way rougher than I do!”  This kid actually felt sorry for Sam.  And Sam had to straighten him out about how he has a great life. 

Next was the conversation with Luke (10, placed with us at 2 days old).  He said he NEVER thinks about being adopted.  He forgets he is.  The only thing that he finds challenging is that he lives with siblings who are another race.  I carefully put my toe in that water.  He articulated that if the kids were all White, then no one would ever know they are adopted.  But because we have several races in our family, it comes up ALL THE TIME.  He’s a little more private and would rather it stay that way. 

He also added that he thinks that race is the reason he and one of his siblings fight sometimes.  Again, carefully pulling that string, he said that maybe it’s because that kid is a different race that they have struggles in our family.  I didn’t validate nor negate that feeling.  I found it interesting.  I personally believe it’s all about the early losses and traumas this child experienced that cause them to act wacko, not race.  But by having this conversation, I realized how a 10 year old is perceiving his upbringing.  Fascinating!   

And then there’s the very, very long conversations I’ve had with Jacob (15, adopted at 18 months).  Some highlights:  He said he never had considered meeting his birthmother.  Had no interest.  But as the thought dwelt with him, he said maybe his cousins or other distant relatives.  I found that interesting.  I didn’t ask why.  Just let him dwell.   

As time passed, he realized … He likely won’t have much in common with this extended family.  Jacob is VERY interested in all things history and government and politics.  He is VERY convicted of his beliefs (way more strong leaning than I am in fact).   He is even starting a political blog for teens.  He was 14 at the last presidential election and was horrified at the low information voters.  He realized he will be old enough to vote at the  next presidential election (just by a few months) and would love to reach out to others in his age group and start the political dialogue.  (Oh Heaven help me! LOL)

He actually made the statement, “I think of myself as White.”  And I about choked on the hot tea I was sipping.  I had him clarify and realized that he knew he was Black but that he has rarely found an African American that is politically “right” leaning and so he just assumed it’s a “White” thing.  I had NO clue he felt this way and was able to get him hooked up with a few people who are people of Color AND politically more conservative. 

I felt like I have failed him as his mother.  I try very hard to expose him to Black culture and his heritage (the best a white, almost see-through, Mama can do).  Like for his 4th birthday, we had numerous families over who were White and had adopted African American kids.  In fact, my nephew was the only white kid there!   

But like a few weeks ago, my husband and Jacob went to visit a (Black) family Dan knew in college.  Jacob was trying to find things in common with their teenaged kids.  He liked the music and the spirited dances they all did together.  He shared how he liked history and the teenaged son said, “I only study BLACK history.”  Jacob shared how he thought all history was interesting and that by studying it all, he could gain a better understanding of all humanity.  The other kid basically called Jacob a sell out for not studying ONLY Black history. 

There have been many times that I mourn that I have no clue how to teach my son “How to be black” but … it hit me one day.  I don’t teach him how to be male.  Or tall.  Or bearded.  It just IS.   Maybe I can just teach him to be a Godly man.  How to be kind and a hard worker.  How to be generous and loving.  How to be the right kind of man so that some day he can be a great husband and father.  THAT I kinda know how to do. 

I thought maybe we were doing alright in raising him “Ebony in an Ivory world” (to steal a line from a new friend, Laura). 

And then THIS conversation happened.  And I’m right back at square one, wondering what the heck I’m doing.  Praying I’m not screwing him up too badly. 

There were more conversations this week.  These are just a few of the moments on my journey on this road of adoption. 
Adoption is not for the faint of heart. 

Nov 19, 2013

If you want to go far... go together

All through the night while sleeping, my brain was still “On” apparently as I awoke with multiple thoughts immediately flying around.  In my last blog entry, I referred to the adoption conference called “Joy for the Journey”.  And how something was deposited.  It’s like a computer “upgrade” that happens.  You’re not sure what all is new yet though you see some obvious things right away, you know there’s more. 

I woke up with An African Proverb on my mind. 


Another reason I love the word “Journey” in the title of the ministry “Joy for the Journey”.  The world in general, the adoption road, the road with kids with special needs, the one with teenagers, the one with hurting people … ALL these roads are long and hard.  We must do it together.  (All of my books written thus far have had the word JOURNEY in the title!  Clearly, I love that word.) 

I mourn the loss of the days my grandmother’s generation talked about.  Group of women sewing a quilt together perhaps.  They’d sit around and chat.  Maybe one would say how they’re struggling with an issue.  Another shares a brownie recipe.  They laugh.  They cry.  They share.  They bond.  Community. 

We’ve lost that in our modern age.  My husband and I have a bit of a similar thing in our house church.  But it’s not quite enough for my needs.  And besides, what about all those people who have nothing like it at all.  How do we create community?

I shared at the conference about what it’s like to get DISCONNECTED.  I shared part of my story about how life circumstances and “Duty” came first and relationships came second.  And I ended up isolated.  Broken.  Empty.  But I got all my jobs done. 

Most of that disconnect was my fault and the circumstances of life.  But part was because we don’t do this any more.  People see how busy someone is and they don’t want to bother them.  Since when is a friend a BOTHER??  I think people need to see busy people and think how they can help share the load so they can both go further.  But we need to retrain our brains to do that. 

We spend time on Facebook … but how much of that is REAL versus pretending.  We’re all guilty of that.  We edit pictures to crop out the dishes in the background.  We take 5 pictures until little Johnny is actually not glaring at us and we only use that one.  And so it creates this IMAGE that all is well in my house when sometimes … it’s not.  It’s just not.  It will be.  But it’s not fine yet. 

And in our busyness of doing surface chats from afar, we think those will take the place of REAL connections.  Of sitting together in one place.  Chatting while the kids play in the background.  It’s impossible to hide my proverbial warts when you’re sitting right there with me.  You SEE them.  You also see my needs and I can see yours.  Maybe you have a missing piece to my puzzle and I have one of yours. 

Now don’t get me wrong … some of my best friends I have never met.  I know that sounds ridiculous unless you’ve experienced it.  But it’s true.  We have found ways to share the REAL but across the miles.  We don’t just crop out the stuff we don’t want the other to see in the telling of our lives.  We share it all.  And those relationships have kept me afloat many, many times. 

But there is something about being together in one place.  Sitting.  Eating.  Our spirits connect in a different way.  And after this weekend, I knew I needed even more of this.  It feeds my very soul.  And with that, I can be a better wife and mother. 

And maybe in those meeting times, I discover I don’t have to be perfect.  I can be real.  In fact, I’m always fighting for and talking about this.  If I go around pretending that everything is fine in my little world and you’re struggling, then it says to you that you are broken or less than.  Maybe you think you’re not a good Christian or not a good mom or are failing in some way.  Too little faith.  Not enough prayer.  Whatever.  When the truth is … you’re probably right where you need to be.  God has you in the palm of His hand and He’s working on you for His glory and His purpose. 

In contrast, if you see I’m a good, Godly woman who has a loving husband and amazing kids.  You see I’m a woman of faith with deep commitment to God and family … and yet … I’m struggling too.  Then maybe, just maybe, it encourages you. 

God is a redemptive God.  He takes broken, messy lives and hearts and puts them back together in the way HE wants them.  Years ago, in the middle of some really hard times, I wrote a song called “Catch My Tears” … Maybe I’ll dig it out and share the audio track for that.  But there was a line in the middle that changed my life.  I was given this line by direct inspiration from the Lord.  How do I know that?  Because I didn’t know this before I wrote the song. 

The line says, “You have a purpose for my heart and You are shaping me.”  Seems simple enough.  But to me it was profound.  It means that there is a very specific purpose in the Kingdom of God for ME.  And there’s a shape I need to be in to fit that purpose.  Right now I’m not in that shape yet.  Therefore He is molding and shaping me into my Kingdom shaped Purpose.  He’s working on you and your shape. 
And it hurts. 

It means letting go of parts of “Me” and exchanging them for Christ shaped parts.  The exchange is always worth it.  And we always get the better end of the deal.  But it’s a painful process.  I’ve found in my life that the faster I get to the surrender part, the less the pain though.  And in our minds, it seems backwards.  I’m not saying I get there easily or right away.  I’m saying I get there faster than I used to. 

It’s the reason we can’t compare ourselves.  Or judge each other.  God is working on me and helping me become the shape He wants me for the exact purpose I have in His kingdom.  Meanwhile He’s working on you for YOUR purpose and YOUR shape.   We have no clue where God is leading YOU by the life experiences on your journey.  But we can sure as heck support each other in the journey.  And that is what it’s all about. 
On Jacob’s 15th birthday, he asked why he had kidney disease and was on the autistic spectrum (Not   the words he used but what he was asking).  And I told him this very thing.  That somehow, having these things is what was going to help him get into the shape God wanted.  (Now of course we also believe in healing and we claim his complete restoration daily … but until we see that healing manifested in Jacob’s life, God has not stopped using this to help shape him.)

As a redemptive God, He sees the way big picture and we see the flea sized problem in front of us.  Of course it doesn’t seem flea sized to us.  And He taught me … if my problems seem too big, then I have made God too small in my mind and I need to go magnify HIM.  Hold HIM up, not the problem. 

While we were going through some of those roughest of times, I felt like worrying … a lot.  And God used a teenager in our church to preach a message about Jehoshaphat.  Basically … God promised to fight their battles if they would just praise Him.  And the Lord is faithful so that happened. 

I realized … why can’t I claim that same promise??  So every time I’d start to feel the fear grip, instead of indulging in the fear, I’d set myself to praising.  Sometimes I’d put on a cd and just worship.  Other times I’d be up dancing and singing.  Sometimes I’d sit at the piano and plunk out a tune.  It’s how hundreds of songs were birthed.  (Can you tell that I had a lot of fear and worry? LOL)  And one of those was the one I just referred to. 
He was healing me through those moments of praise.  He was equipping me in that intimate time. 

This redemptive God also has a non-human view of time.  I often thought He was late.  VERY late.  But He would always ultimately show me that His timing was indeed perfect.  Just like a few months ago and there was the fire on our porch.  I’d have preferred He just put it out with a gust of wind or a small rain.  No need to bother me.  Just take care of that please.  But instead, I needed to be reminded of a few things I guess.  So He told Dan to go look outside.  And we have learned to be obedient.  The fire was manageable.  5 minutes earlier and it would have been too small for Dan to notice and 5 minutes later it would have been in the house.  Timing. Guess He’s pretty good at it afterall.
And so it leads me full circle.  I have to think about the timing of this weekend.  Why NOW?  Why was this community of Sisters brought together at this time?  And what will come of this? 

It’s not enough if we all just heard some funny or sad or inspirational stories.  It’s not enough to have gathered.  It’s not enough to have met new people.  There has to be change in the way we think, the way we behave, the way we believe, the way we respond, the way we mother, the way we love, the way we live.  This weekend has to be something that carries beyond a few days or weeks.  It has to be a new way of living.  We have to yield to the process of becoming the shape God wants us for the “us” sized  Kingdom purpose.  Warts and all. 

Nov 17, 2013

Joy for the Journey Retreats and Home

I sit on a plane wondering what God just did. What exactly was just deposited in me?  I spent the last few days in a whirlwind.

That's the middle of the story. So let me start further back. I have stopped going to or speaking at adoption conferences. It's been YEARS.

Why? They advertise it as a certain thing but I typically find it's not as promised. It's either too clinical (education only and usually adoption 101 type of topics). Or it's too sappy. (Only feel good stuff with no meat.) Or it's an agenda pushing type of meeting.

I can't do any of those.

So when Pam emailed me (she found me because she googled), I knew this one was going to be different. I said yes.

Joy for the Journey Retreats...  It's up near Baltimore (Sandy Cove to be precise)

Then months later I got a phone call from Pam and Cheryl. They said they'd been planning and praying about the topic assignments.

"Outrageous Faith". And I was like "great! ". I was so excited and my mind and spirit filled instantly with thoughts.

They then told me the second topic "The connected mom" and I told them I wasn't sure I was qualified to give that talk. Thry said God had given it to them so it must be so. I said I'd pray about it.

I went to the conference with the faith talk and two versions of the connected mom talk.

It wasn't until the night before, around midnight that I felt God lead me to give the harder of the two versions of the talk. I was willing. But I felt that as the last speaker, it was my job to make them laugh, connect the pieces and send them out on a high. To inspire them. This was NOT that talk.

But God had other plans. He knew who was there and what they needed to hear. So I did what I always do ... dove in head first.

This post isn't about the content of my talk but let's just say I showed my proverbial undies. And I did something I've NEVER done in a talk ... I cried. Not that big blubbery sloppy kind. Not the ugly cry. But there were tears. From me and the audience.

And I can only hope that God was glorified. That God was lifted up. That His Kingdom gained some ground by my brokenness.

This adoption stuff ... It's hard sometimes. It gets REAL in my house. I rarely share much of that on here. Probably because I don't want to discourage anyone from adopting. But it's always right there.

This weekend was a beautiful, deeply spiritual time .  During the conference I got to sit and talk with others. To hear their stories. To connect.

And because there was no agenda of man, God's agenda got to be heard!! Before the first session, I heard the conversations. They were light and surface and very "all is great in my life" Pollyanna stuff.

Then the first speaker went head first into infertility. And I shared about special needs and looking at the waves of life vs Jesus (based on Peter walking on water).

And from there, I heard the conversations turn to "I deal with that issue too" and "how did you handle that?"

We got into race issues (how can you not with transracial adoption) and the point of view from adult adoptees. (Who all had lots of unique stories).  We laughed. We cried. We worshiped. We ate. Every waking moment we were immersed in this bubble of kindred spirits. A womb of sorts.

And while in that  environment, the other ladies and I completely free. No question off limit. Hearts open. Connected.

The whole weekend, I kept feeling like something was being planted, "conceived" if you will. And I'm so excited to see what God births!  I've NEVER experienced such a deep connection with a group of 100 people INSTANTLY.  We were of one mind, one body, one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one hope.  The BODY of Christ.  And I've been in a community of believers where we have that community but never experienced it instantly. 

So back to my plane ride I'm on as I write this. I wonder where all of us attendees go from here. I can't help but feel this story isn't over.

I just know ... For a weekend, I was surrounded by like minded people who are willing to get their hands dirty. They stand and be counted when many cower. They are warriors. And like most warriors they have the scars to prove it. We were loving on each other and sharing the heart of the Father. And I don't want to lose them.

I can't help but think THIS is what it looks like to BE the Body of Christ. To destroy the works of darkness. To propel forward the Kingdom of God.

I'm sure He is a Proud Papa this weekend. Saying , "well done, my good and faithful servants".

Now on to some of the behind the scenes stuff ... Let's start with some weirdness on the plane as I type this... A woman starts to hyperventilate. Hear her tell the flight attendant she is claustrophobic. She's a mess. She is sweating profusely and crying. Got a bag. The whole none yards.

I get out of my seat and tell her I'm Christian, could I pray for her. She was like, "do whatever you have to do."  I took that as permission. So for about 6 rows, they could hear me pray.

Let's just say she didn't give any glory to God when it IMMEDIATELY stopped. But I sure did.

That was an hour ago and she's happily playing a game on her Ipad.

Thank You, Lord. You are good.

Secondly, on the way TO the conference I was blessed with an exit row and an empty seat next to me.  How cool for an almost 6 foot person. 

But on the way back, as circumstances would have it, I was one of the last people to board.  As I got on, I could see my assigned empty seat.  It was next to a very, very large lady.  In fact she was so large she covered all of her seat and half of mine.  Really?  How am I going to squeeze my very non-petite hiney in that part of a seat?  And the seat in front of me was broken so it was laying back extra far.  So picture me ... knees in my nose.  And because there was a lady next to me, I wanted to continue the conversation and that instant bond thing we had going.  But ... well ... let's just say I instantly knew we would not be BFFs.  :)

I spend the two very uncomfortable hours in this moment though, still wanting to be in the cocoon I'd just left.  So I typed this blog entry out on my iphone on the notes page. Yes, all of these words typed out by my index finger on the right hand.  Why? I knew I needed to capture it while it was still fresh in my spirit.  I knew I'd hit home and immediately be hit with their needs, the needs of a family when the mom was gone for 3 days.  And I wanted to be there present for them. 

The hour home from the airport was uneventful.  Just my spirit trying to sort out what was different in my spirit, mind and soul.  A song kept playing over and over in my head.  A song I hadn't thought of or heard in over 15 years.  I tried to find a Youtube video with it singing it the way I had heard it but couldn't.  I'll put the lyrics on here anyway.  I was singing at the top of my lungs and weeping. Because THIS is what we experienced this weekend. 

Sister let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too
We are pilgrims on the journey
We are sisters on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
I will hold the Christ light for you
In the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.
When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born to all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony 

And before I knew it, I was home.  Daddy didn't tell them when I was returning. They were out playing tennis. (Yes, don't be hatin', it was 81 at 7:30 pm).  I walked in, they yelled "Mom!" All but one of the ambulatory kids rushed to me for hugs. (Not sure what was up with the lone holdout.  I got my kiss and hug anyway.)

Manny however, yelled "Mama" happily and then burst into tears. He said, "I thought I lost you!" (Oh my heart).  Kaley says he's been saying it over and over.  That he was afraid he misplaced me or that he somehow didn't keep good track of me so I got lost.  Like it's his responsibility.  My heart broke further.  I assured him I didn't get lost.  That he couldn't possibly lose me.  But in light of the heartfelt things we had just heard, I couldn't help think about the impact of adoption and loss and trauma on his tiny fragile spirit.   (He's had MANY.)

After a few minutes dealing the Little Man, I took off my jacket and joined them in tennis. They all started telling all their stories from the weekend. And we just picked up where we left off. 

I think (Hope) that my story resonated with people.  I believe it made a difference and contributed to their walk in the Lord and with their husbands and kids.  I know my spirit has been added to.  (It's like a computer "Upgrade".  I know something's different, I just don't know what yet.)  But like I said in the conference ... the most important job I will EVER have is these 6 children who call me Mom.  It's the most important ministry.  It's the most Kingdom building work I'll ever do. 

And with that, I was back where I belonged.  Forever changed and Home.

Nov 11, 2013

Princess Kaley 14

14 years ago today, "Mary" (not her real name) gave birth to her 6th child.  This child was a little girl, 4 pounds and 17 inches.  She was born at home.  Then the paramedics were called and "Baby Girl King" was taken to a local hospital.  (You're called Baby Girl or Boy and the last name of your biological mother if she doesn't give you a name.)  Ironically ... this baby was taken to St. Joe's.  (If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the hospital where we take Manny.) 

Baby Girl was discharged on 11/19 to a foster home.  A few days later it was discovered she had a brother in foster care "Baby Boy King" and she was moved to be with him. 

Meanwhile, across town, a family was working feverishly to get their paperwork and classes completed to be able to adopt a child with special needs from foster care. 

Early February, we heard about an 18 month old boy available for adoption.  We said we were interested.  At our meeting on Feb 12, 2000 ... we met the boy who would be our son, Jacob.  I played with him the whole meeting on the floor.  As we were done with the meeting, they said, "You know it's both or none."  And we were like, "Both what?" 

They said, "He has a 2 month old baby sister."  Uh ... no, as a matter of fact, we did NOT know about her!  Turns out she was in the room the whole time.  I never even got to see her. 

Dan and I decided to take the weekend and pray about it.  Afterall, we had NO children.  We were thinking of adding ONE child.  But two?  Both with special needs?  A newborn and toddler?  Different race?  It was a lot.  But I knew.  I sat in the car knowing those were my children.  I tucked that in my heart. 

On Feb 14, we sat down and had our heart to heart.  Dan shared all the reasons that we shouldn't adopt them ... and then he added that ALL of them were based in fear.  None were justifiable reasons.  And we said yes. 

It was at that moment, I knew I was going to be a mother for the first time. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we told the social workers of our intent to adopt them both.  They tried to deter us.  They were all Black social workers and we are of course White.  They wanted them to stay with a Black family.  I bluntly asked how many Black families had come forward for them?  NONE.  In fact, we were the ONLY family who had ever come forward for them.  I finally quoted them the law about non-discrimination.  I guess they realized I wasn't as "blonde" as I appeared!
They finally agreed they would be placed with us.  We just needed 3 more weeks of paperwork.  So Over the next 3 weeks, I visited them as often as I was allowed. Basically every morning until bedtime.  I fed them breakfast, played with them, took them places and put them to bed in their foster home. 

It got harder and harder to leave them there.  They didn't want to go!  They wanted to stay with me. 

March 23 Kaley came home for good.  I remember sitting there just staring at her.  She was still very tiny and a bit frail.  She had a lot of medical issues.  But she was perfect.  She was amazing.  And she was MINE. 

I was there for first crawl, first steps, first tooth.  I missed the first few months of her life but truly I missed very little and for that I'm very grateful. 

Over the years, she's gotten stronger.  She's not as medically weak any more.  She rarely is sick.  She is smart and funny and witty and loving and kind.  I know no other person like her.  Her heart is full.  Her compassion is complete.  She amazes me daily. 

On her 12th birthday and again on her 13th birthday Manny ended up sick and hospitalized.  She never complained.  We made it up to her best we could on other days but ... still. 

So today, I am thrilled to announce that Kaley got to celebrate her 14th birthday NOT in the hospital.  We did part of her celebration yesterday.  Grandparents came by and brought her presents and ate cake with us.  Today we went shopping and found a few special things for a special young lady. 

I can't help but reflect backwards on the past 14 years.  I have never once second guessed our decision to say YES to our little bonus baby.  We thought we were getting one amazing son and we ended up with an amazing daughter as well. 

I also think about how difficult my life would be currently without her.  I've written numerous times about all she does for me, especially with Manny.

But I also am reflecting forward.  What will the next decade bring?  Driving a car? Boyfriends? Husband? Children of her own? Career?  Missions?  Traveling? 

I have no clue.  I just know that I'm so happy to have a front row seat.  I have a feeling that whatever it is she chooses, it will be extraordinary.  Kaley loves with abandon and the world is in dire need of people like that. 

So I say to you, Kaley.  You are so very precious to me.  I am proud to be your Mama.  I am excited to walk the next years beside you.  I will always be your biggest cheerleader.  And I hope you never forget how much I love you.  You are a blessing to the world.  And a blessing to me.

Love, Mom