Thursday, May 24, 2012

june 19th

IMG_0703We are home from our post sleep study check up with Joya's ENT, who has looked at her sleep study results and cleared her for surgery on June 19th.

Apparently, she has some sleep apnea, but it is mild and triggered from her brain and not due to her physical birth defect.  I am amazed that a sheet full of confusing line graphs and number tables can tell us that, but then again, I didn't go to medical school either.

Her first surgery will be on the side of her face and her ear.  I could explain each step, but I don't have the time.  The plan is for her to have two surgeries, first her face, then her mouth - both in 2012.  We all hope that she won't have to see the inside of an operating room until elementary school, when she will have the first of several jaw surgeries over the course of her growing years.

IMG_0727We are celebrating today.  Although the surgery is not without risks, I am very ready to get the ball rolling so that we can live life and not be waiting to schedule our life around medical procedures.

I have stopped giving perfect strangers detailed explanations about her birth defect when they ask about (and sometimes reach out and touch) her face.  I'm sorry to say that the number of ridiculous responses and follow up questions has reached the limit of what I can politely respond to. 

I went into this all prepared and motivated to help people learn about and not fear correctable birth defects, but now she is my daughter, I love her, and I'm tired of defending her to people who clearly have no social skills when they follow up with questions about her HIV status or statements about the evils of the Chinese government that have absolutely nothing to do with my little girl.

Stepping down from my soap box now.

IMG_0696Overall, she is making some big steps of progress, which makes me giggle.  I no longer fear when she hugs a perfect stranger, because she immediately comes running back to me.  She can pick her brothers out of a school crowd and treats them like her brothers - with love, affection, thrill, and admiration.  She also asks for her daddy when he is at work, but seems to completely understand that he will come back.

Her sleep is not perfect, but tolerable and we can manage on the status quo.  She eats a lot of food, but is not stuffing herself until she is sick as was her tendency when we first returned home from China.  She only tolerates her car seat for short rides around town - longer than 20 minutes and she turns into Princess Whiny-pants.

Luckily, this isn't my first visit to the royal castle. IMG_0629 IMG_0735

Friday, May 18, 2012

he said, she said

Fifteen years ago today I became his wife and he became my husband.  We recited the traditional wedding vows and fed each other cake and left the building as Mr. and Mrs. Sweeney.


Fifteen years and five kids later, here we are.

If you've missed it, I told our dating and engagement story on our eleventh anniversary, titled "LOVE is a verb".

For our twelfth anniversary, I wrote the glass blower which talked about how the seasons of marriage change with time.


I seemed to have skipped year thirteen, but last year I wrote a letter to my 22 year-old self as I was reflecting on fourteen years of marriage.

This year I decided on a "He Said, She Said" question and answer format.  It is always fun to hear from his side of the marriage relationship.  His honest answers make me giggle and cherish him that much more.

1.  What do you remember about your decision to propose?

SCAN0030He Said:  We had a fight over whether your dog would live indoors or outdoors.  We didn’t speak for three days and I quickly decided that life was empty without you and I needed to seal this deal quickly.

She Said:  I didn't propose, but I knew we were heading that direction.  I knew that he was the man I wanted to marry.  We had the same values, enjoyed doing the same things, and made each other laugh.  And we still do.  I'm so glad he asked!

2.  How has marriage been different or the same as your expectations as a single adult?

He Said:  I entered marriage with the delusion that it would be the same as being a single adult (I was 22 after all) except I would be living with my best friend.  This naïve belief was quickly shattered within the first month and led to a tumultuous 18 months of marriage.SCAN0018  However, during that time I never questioned my decision since I had sampled three days without Laurie and knew that was untenable (as a first born I don’t mind a little conflict in my life….keeps it interesting).

She Said:  Marriage has been very different than I expected as a very young single adult.  Luckily, now I haven't known any other life.  I have several friends who got married at a much more mature age than we did, so I'm sure they had time to savor or lament the single life.  Not me.  Being married at 22 years old means that we had to do a lot of our adult maturing together - and that's messy. 

We had to figure out how to live on our own, build a relationship, succeed at our work, balance our extended families, and just put the puzzle of our life (and individual lives) together.  Not to mention adding our first child at 26 years old.  Managing finances was much more complicated than I expected (must we really have a plan for the future? ;-)) 

Conflict within marriage was so much harder than I anticipated and we had to work through many years - and still even now - of learning to resolve conflict in a healthy way (I'm a middle child, so I RUN from conflict).

3.  What has marriage taught you?

He Said: 
-  Choosing your spouse is the ABSOLUTELY most critical decision you will EVER make in your life and you better choose wisely (seek wise read OLD counsel).
-  The world doesn’t actually revolve around me.
-  Physical aspects of marriage are incredible, but make up an infinitesimal fraction of married life.
-  Love/speak to your spouse the way they want to receive words/love, not how you want to give it.
-  I am lucky/blessed to be married to Laurie Kate Sweeney.

She Said:
-  Ditto to all the above although insert Kenyon in his last point.
-  I will add that marriage has taught me (the hard way) that I find joy and contentment when I stop focusing on myself and look for opportunities to serve others.  For the last decade and a half, that has meant serving my husband and children.  I have not always been good at it and often have to learn the same lesson over and over.  Marriage works better when each parties are more concerned with the other's needs.  It is not easy, but it is true.
-  Things usually change for the better as soon as I find a way to be content with how they are now.  Contentment is a decision.

4.  If you haven't addressed it in the previous answers, what is/was the toughest part of marriage?  Or do you have a biggest regret?

He Said:
-  Worrying about finances and allowing this to be a flash point in our relationship.
-  Not choosing my words more carefully in conflicts in our first 2 years of marriage (or occasionally in the present).


She Said:  The toughest part for me has for sure been times of conflict.  Well, equal to it is deciding to die to myself and put my husband before me.

My biggest regret is hanging onto unforgiveness.  I wasted so much time with grudges and if I could go back and do it better, I would.

5.  What is your favorite memory (excluding births) in your marriage?

He Said: 
-  Laughing with each other (i.e. Naples liquor store run, Pop up camper malfunction at Utah Lake, Boys “rafting” down CJ’s stream, listening to Car Talk on way to Moab, etc…)

She Said:  My favorite memories are the relaxing times that we have been able to appreciate "just us" by getting away from all the noise of everyday life.  Whether we get away for one overnight at Stein's, or a weekend in Palm Desert, or ten days in Ireland, we always laugh and connect and come home refreshed in our relationship.  Above all, we are reminded that we really like each other.

6.  What are your marriage goals looking forward?

He Said:
-  To LIKE each other more in 30 years than we do today.  (side note:  we really do like each other now).

She Said:  I really want to work to out-serve each other.  We are always happier when we are working to make the other's needs above our own.  I am mindful of the fact that we won't have a houseful of kids forever and when they're gone, we need to like being together.

I also want to make time alone together a priority.  We recently realized that our date nights alone have become a thing of the past, but really enjoyed our time together one day when we had to repair something together at our rental property.  We decided that our evenings are busy with five kids, so we're going to get a sitter for breakfast or lunch dates instead and enjoy the daytime together.

7.  What is your favorite quality of your spouse?

He Said:
-  Sense of humor
-  Drive to care for those in need
-  Desire to love me selflessly
-  Independent & strong

She Said: 
-  Sense of humor
-  Willingness to father a huge family (and work to father each one well) 
-  Drive to provide for this huge family 
-  Willingness to apologize with a humble and sincere heart (even going so far to use the word "jacka$$" in reference to his behavior, which never fails to make me laugh)
-  Passionate about people and things that matter to him.
-  Loyal always

Monday, May 14, 2012


I pulled up and parked just in time for the last class of first graders to come out of the school in a line and start loading on the bus in an orderly fashion.

"Is this first grade?" I asked one of the parent volunteers.

"Yes, Mrs. K's class," she responded.

I quickly scanned the windows full of faces from the three other classes of first graders.  My eyes quickly found the little blondie I was looking for and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I tapped on his window.  He thought I was just coming to give a send off for his special class field trip, but I had a much more urgent mission.  I motioned for him to get off the bus and mouthed that I wanted to talk to him for a quick minute.

He immediately hopped up and worked his way against the incoming traffic to get off the bus and onto the sidewalk with me.

With his baby sister straddling my hip, I dropped to one knee and put my free hand around his waist.

The tears were brimming.  I could not hold them back.

"Buddy, I feel horrible for how I treated you this morning.  I am so sorry for fighting with you and for the awful things I said.  I was only thinking of myself.  Will you forgive me?" I pleaded.

He looked me directly in the eye and lo and behold, his eyes swam in tears as well.  "Yes mom, I forgive you.  I'm sorry too.  I love you.  Did you come here just to tell me this?" he responded.

"Yes!  Our relationship is important to me and I messed up big time this morning.  I'm so glad I got here before you left for your field trip.  I hope you have a great time.  I love you Rufus." I said.

I watched him get back on the bus and take his seat.  Not two moments later, the bus started to pull away.  I am so grateful that I was given the gift of getting there in time to ask for forgiveness before the school day was through.

I was such a horrible mom to him that morning.  My need for forgiveness was eating away my heart from the moment he left for school.

God has been weaving a lesson of forgiveness throughout my life for months now.  I see it all around me (after I drafted this, this very weekend our church sermon was about forgiveness.  I hear you God!) and I'm learning how to give and receive forgiveness - true forgiveness, not just apologies - in my marriage, friendships, and parenting.

It is not an easy topic for me to learn because it takes a lot of humility both when I am wrong and when I've been wronged.  It takes work on both ends to ask to be forgiven and to truly forgive - and then to choose to leave it in the past.  I'm not very good at it, in fact, I'm really good at digging up old dirt about my kids and my man.

I have been dwelling a lot lately about all the dirt that God has on me.  Enough to build me a mountain from here to Mars, yet I have confidence in the forgiveness I have received in that relationship. 

Who am I to hold on to the dirt of my loved ones?

It is not easy though. 

And I'm on the look out for re-do's.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

a perfect fit.

torah joyaOver the weekend we accepted an invitation to socialize with a local family that we "knew of" but had never met until we went to China.  They also adopted a little girl that is just five months younger than Joya.

We had a wonderful time catching up and filling each other in on the ups and downs of our transitions at home, as well as the medical updates of our daughters.

While driving home, my man mentioned how sweet and mild mannered our friends' daughter is compared to Joya.  What was noteworthy to him was the fact that their daughter also fit the profile of the medical conditions we would have considered.

"She could have been ours instead of Joya," he said.

IMG_0598We both sat in silence as we pondered what a divine match our little girl is to our family.  She is naturally animated and LOUD.  I heard Sauce describing her to one of his soccer buddies today - "She's tough!" he boasted.

She is so perfectly matched to our large, active, and mostly male family.  It was yet another moment in this process when we recognized and were humbled by the fact that God knew who our daughter would be from the very beginning.  He was purposeful in placing her with us and gave us the gift of seeing it.

She was so clearly supposed to be ours that it brings tears to our eyes thinking about it unfolding any other way.


We are in the thick of navigating through the slow maze of medical diagnosis and treatment for her.  Her preliminary tests show that she definitely struggles to breathe properly at night, so her doctor postponed the surgery we had on the books in June for her face, and set us on the path of overnight hospital sleep studies (FUN!) and treating this problem first before any other.

I'm thoroughly frustrated with the fact that no medical office responds with any sense of urgency at all.  But I'm a mom on a mission to get my daughter the best treatment in the most favorable timeframe for her needs.

Definition - "squeaky wheel"

Our consistent daily routine has definitely helped her personality to blossom and our mother-daughter relationship to grow leaps and bounds.  Yesterday and today I had the opportunity to communicate with her foster family in China to let them know how great she is doing.  It felt so good to tell them how grateful we are for the advantage they gave her by being her first family.  Now that I know her more fully, I can appreciate the void that she left in their lives and I hurt for them.

They sent back a message to me of gratitude and relief that she is thriving and I made a personal commitment to send word at least twice a year for the next couple of years to try to ease their pain.

Secretly, I hope that they foster another child because they are clearly gifted at it.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

have a gift? use it!

We really are blessed with an amazing support network.  From beginning (and not ending), we have had families and individuals want to be involved in Joya's adoption.  Contributions of financial gifts, babysitting our boys, mountains of new clothes and hand-me-downs, and a seemingly unending meal train, have all overwhelmed us with unexpected love and support.

strollerI will report to you that the last two nights have been much better as far as sleep is concerned, and whether it lasts or not, we're grateful.  She is a huge fan of her Mommy lately and even showed some stranger danger over the weekend - which warmed my heart.

The support has been consistent and amazing.  After reading my last post, a friend I know from Squirt's preschool pulled me aside and insisted on coming over to clean my house.  She is naturally organized, loves to declutter, (and claims) she enjoys cleaning.

"I can't help you with Joya's adjustment - I know that has to stay within your family - but I CAN clean, and I want to clean.  I'm coming on Monday," she insisted as I squirmed at the thought of her seeing, much less touching, our messes.

pretties Yesterday was Monday and she came straight here after we dropped our boys off for preschool.  She brought her own cleaning supplies and three rolls of paper towels.  She requested some garbage bags to tote along with her and after I gave her a tour of my overwhelming messes, she proceeded to put my home into a clean Half Nelson.

She cleaned every bathroom in the house and decluttered and cleaned every bedroom.  I tried to help but Little Miss was not really helpful to have along.  So, as she ate her snacks in her chair, I cleaned my stovetop, wiped down my appliances, and came when called to sort through piles of treasures and trash.

To top it all off, she emptied out my fridge and washed the inside so it sparkled and smelled good again.

Reluctantly, she had to go pick up her kids at 2:30 and whined and complained like a kid about how disappointed she was that she didn't get to clean the entire house to her standard.

soccer fieldAfter she left, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and inspired to look for opportunities to use my gifts for others (um, my gifts are NOT cleaning, if you were wondering).

When you see an opportunity to help others - just do it.  Get past the discomfort and awkwardness and do it.  When I realized that Cara was not going to let up and I just gave up on hiding my messes, I was again blessed by receiving something I could never have done myself.

So, watch out world.  My house is clean.  I'm inspired.  And I'm grateful.  Thank you Cara!

About Me

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Messy and wonderful perfectly describes my life as a wife and mom of five. I'm passionate about advocating for orphans by telling their stories and encouraging adoption and orphan care. My schedule is messy and wonderful as I am charged with four sons and one daughter. We love living in our little mountain ski town. We do a little camping, a little skiing, a little hunting, and a lot of laughing and loving. Life is dirty and loud around here but we wouldn't want it any other way. Okay, maybe a little less dirty!

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