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The Teenage Years: They Happen to the Best of Us

With Mother’s Day this month, I find myself taking a look back through all the years I’ve been a mother. I’ve officially decided that once you have children, time moves at double speed. I can so vividly recall those precious, magical days when my teenage daughter was a toddler – heck, I have SHOES older than her – that I can’t really believe I’m coming up on my 15th year of motherhood.

People always joke about how hard it is to raise teenagers, and I’d like to set the record straight on that: I had NO IDEA. In addition to my oldest, I have two sets of twins who are seventeen months apart in age. I had four kids in diapers for YEARS. I have a child with autism. In other words, I feel like I’ve earned a few Mommy Merit Badges! But among all the parenting challenges I’ve faced, nothing compares to dealing with the drama and angst of a 14-year-old girl. I only hope that when my four little ones all hit their teens around the same time, I will have gained a substantial amount of wisdom in this area.

When my daughter was a little girl, she was the most well-behaved, mellow child. I remember seeing mouthy teenagers and feeling relieved – smug, really – that MY daughter would never be a disrespectful little drama queen. Oh, how wrong I was. Like all teenagers, she speaks fluent sarcasm. She fights with her best friend over petty, ridiculous things, and when they don’t speak because of it, she acts as if somebody died. Then they make up by saying “hey” to each other at school and sharing a bag of Skittles, like nothing ever happened. She has crushes on boys based on how they wear their hair and what they have on their iPod. And if I gave her the choice between spending a weekend at Disneyland with her family or hanging out at the mall with her friends, I guarantee she would choose the mall.

I’ve tried to convince my daughter that I’m cool enough to still hang out with occasionally. I’ve even reminded her that I listened to Green Day before she was even born, but she’s not convinced. My sweet little girl has abandoned me to join a gang of Twilight-obsessed adolescents in skinny jeans – which is exactly what she’s supposed to do at this stage of her life. She has to test boundaries in order to learn life lessons. She has to

To pierce or not to pierce (ears, that is)

“Momma? When can I get my ears pierced?”

This was a question I’d anticipated, but not for a few more years. Claire is four-years old, and I knew it would come up eventually.

I answered with my standard I’ve-been-caught-off-guard response, which consists of, “Well, that’s a great question!” …stalling, stalling, stalling. “Why do you ask?” …an answer with a question always gives you more time.

That’s when I found out a little girl at Claire’s preschool has her ears pierced. The other girls had been talking about this fact at recess.

That’s the point in the conversation with Claire that I was able to postpone the true answer by telling her I’d talk to Daddy about it and we’d make a decision about it later.  …stall tactic complete.  For now.

It was at that point that all of my own childhood memories came flooding back.

When I was younger, I was not allowed to have my ears pierced. My mother’s personal beliefs were what they were, and we knew that we’d never be allowed to do it. In fact, I didn’t get my ears pierced until after I’d graduated from college.

But, I remember when the girls in my class started getting them done, and I wanted so badly to have mine done, too. In fact, I vowed that if I ever had a girl, I

Show your money who’s mom

Guest Blogger Jenna Hallock moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado 10 years ago, right after marrying her favorite man in the world, Mark. Her two other favorite people are daughter Zoe, age 7 and son Elijah, age 4. Love, peace, joy, and kindness are the foundations for her life. She loves to laugh, and she doesn’t have to look far for a giggle with the chaos the four of them bring to the world!

(Stock photo by emsago)

What I am about to confess to you is very embarrassing. I realize I’m confessing out of my own free will, but that somehow doesn’t make it better. I received a check in the mail yesterday for a good deal of money. It was from our previous mortgage company. I was both excited and suspicious when it arrived. Mostly because it was the third check we’ve received from them since closing that old loan and refinancing our home in December.

I decided to call someone who is much more intelligent with these things than I am: our mortgage broker. After having a good laugh with me about the debacle, she asks, “You didn’t have the account on auto-payment, did you?” Apart from an error on the side of the mortgage loan company, she could not think of any other reason why they would be sending us check after check.

I laughed back at her and said, “I think we’d notice if THAT much money was moving out of our account on top of our new mortgage payments!” Or would we…

I’m no financial wizard (obviously) because as it turns out, she was exactly right. How in the world we have been paying two mortgages for three months is beyond me! (The punch line, just to be clear, is that the mortgage company was trying to pay me back for these unnecessary payments, but I didn’t know what to do with the checks!) But it reminds me of a fact that I have always believed to be true and now I have concrete evidence (no matter how ridiculous it may be): you will always spend what you have. Are you a mom and the financial manager of your house too? If you are then you know how stressful this is… I’m getting wrinkle lines just thinking about it.

Here’s what I mean. If that money had been sitting in my checking account, I surely would have spent it on something else. I would have made a mental note and said to myself, “Oooo, I should go buy such and such this month since we have the extra money.” This also validates the saying I’ve heard time and again, ALWAYS PAY YOURSELF FIRST. If you automatically deposit money into some kind of savings account, you never see it and therefore never miss it! Before you know it, you’ve saved up for the vacation you’ve always wanted or started the college savings for your kids, or put away enough money to build a well halfway around the world.

If I’ve learned anything today it’s this: if you can live within your means, you can always find enough to save for something that really matters. Maybe it won’t be a second mortgage (believe me we won’t be keeping that up another month!), but it may be that date night you and your hubby are longing for. Don’t let your money rule you. Show it who’s mom.

How do you “mother” your money? Have you figured out other tricks that help you save instead of spend each month? Tell us about it!

Trying not to be too ready

Guest Blogger Gwen is expecting…for the second time. And once again, no baby bump or stretch-marks will grace her with their pending bambino. Step inside their world of growing a family through adoption. Follow along here at Mile High Mamas and her blog and get a candid feel for the ups, downs, highs, lows and surprises that go hand in hand with the struggles of infertility and the miracle of adoption.

I went to BABIES R US…Why did I DO that?

We bought baby bedding. I know. Why would we do such a thing? We don’t even have the inkling of a placement at this point in time. I convinced myself that dude needed new sippy cups, so naturally, Babies R Us is the only place that I could go to find said sippy cups. And in lieu of sippy cups, I found baby boy crib bedding. And really cute onesies. And super soft blankets that every baby wants to be swaddled in. And I went home feeling giddy with baby glee and also really bitter at all the pregos walking around, ready to pop out their home grown newborns. It’s commonplace at BRU to look at every woman’s stomach as you pass by. How far along are YOU? They all look at me and assume that my flat stomach is shopping for gifts or that I’m overly gung ho in my very early stage pregnancy. And I have to tell you – I’m SO tempted to park in the “Parking for Expectant Mothers” spots every time. But I would be glared at.

Back to the “we bought bedding” issue. Why? Because this bedding is so beyond our “cute without being cutesy” standards and it was half off and we don’t like 99% of the boys bedding out there and I need something to get me in the baby mode. And so we bought bedding. And we’ll return it in 90 days if there’s still no sign of a bambino. And then my neighbor will come with me so she can re-buy it and we’ll then have another 90 days to hope for a reason to use it. And then if it’s still not happening I’ll return it again. And by that point I’ll be pretty darn depressed about it. What if we get a girl? Well, that’s a whole different issue. I haven’t found girly bedding that’s half off that meets my standards yet.

Welcome to my brain these days. I’m beyond the point of not thinking about our future family on a day to day basis. I think about it. And I daydream about it. And I make up birth moms in my head and analyze what our relationship will be like with her. And I wonder what color skin the little dude or dudette will have and what pitch their cry will be. Don’t worry – I’m not obsessing. It’s just becoming more of a reality than it was before. Why? I don’t know since my fingerprints are still sitting on an FBI agent’s desk somewhere, waiting to be rejected again. Yes, we’re still waiting on that. Our agency won’t put us online nationally until this happens. They say they’ll show our book locally if a birth mom matches us, so we’re banking on that promise at this point.

What’s the point of this random post? We’re ready. I’m ready. And trying my darndest not to be “too ready.” So for now I’ll be working on living my life as is and hope hope hoping for baby news sooner than later. And I’ll hide that super cute bedding in the depths of my guest room closet where I can only get a glimpse of the cuteness from time to time.

I forgot

Last Monday was one of those days. It was one of those days where tiny little things, as innocuous as single, solitary ants suddenly converge in a mass of creatures that can fell a rainforest.

(Stock photo credit: cbicenhour)

In the midst of this, was Claire. All she really wanted was for me to help her tie tiny ribbon bows on tiny chicks made of bits of feather or fluffy balls. And, while you’re at it, can you please help glue together more chicks? She’s making a baby bird family, and they need a nest. Why couldn’t I just take a break and help her make a nest out of ribbons? Any good momma bird would do that for her baby chick.

I’d take a break every now and then to tie a bow or press two fluffy balls together with glue. I mean, it didn’t look like I was doing anything at all…that is the danger of working and playing on the same computer. Momma just sits there, typing. Who knows what she’s really doing over there.

Plus, Claire couldn’t see all the ants.

Dinner wasn’t even the relaxing time it normally is.  It was over in a flash, and we were right back at it.  Daddy had to work late; the project I was working on was teetering on the brink of disaster, and when it was finally time to get PJs on, I was at my wit’s end.

The proverbial camel’s back was heaving under the pressure. What would it be that broke it in two?

And right on cue, we got in a huge fight about something silly.

My Eno n Me

Warning…if you’re male and/or get the heebies hearing words like, “uterus, ovulation, period or stirrups,” you might want to forgo reading this post. I’m going to attempt to tackle the popular question, “Why can’t you get prego and what lead you to adoption?” Bear with me.

(stock photo by lusi)

I was at the fertility doc last week. Not for fertility treatment…just for a yearly check up on the state of my uterus and its surrounding neighbors. That office and I struggle with a balance of deep fondness and complete repulsion. Part of me wants to sit there all day, just to be surrounded with other women whose everyday reality includes laporoscopies, mysterious bloody masses, hysterosalpingograms, IVF as the only means to getting knocked up, endo, calculated ovulation relations schedule….you get the drift. Many of these women walk out with tears welling up, some just look empty and defeated, some are super hopeful and others are rejoicing that their little swimmers and femaleness finally clicked into a little bean. Whatever the case, I get it and I find overwhelming peace in the fact that they get it too.

On the other hand, I hate that place. Because when they close the exam room door and it’s just me, my quirky doctor and the stirrups, the ugly truth comes out. And it doesn’t change year to year. It’s not the infertility issue that gets me. I’m past that, most days. My ugly truth lies in my body being a jumbled version of what it should be. Like I said earlier, I’m frequently asked why I can’t get pregnant. Why we chose adoption. And it’s a long story -a beautiful, long story, but long none-the-less. I’m going to attempt to explain it in a not so long way.

Baby Eve

You know that feeling you get in the wee hours of Christmas Eve? You’ve spent weeks shopping, decorated every square inch of your home, made gingerbread houses with the kids, spent a few melancholy moments remembering lost loved ones, wrapping, cooking, baking, sending cards and calling old friends. Now, the moon is high and the Christmas tree is providing the only light in the room. The kids were tucked in hours ago and you and your husband finally pulled out all the Santa gifts. Now, you snuggle on the couch, crack old jokes that nobody else would understand, and feel a huge sense of simultaneous relief and excitement for the joy to come the very next day.

That feeling is so rare. That moment – after tremendous work, some tough emotions, silly whims, and then cozy love and comfort – only comes occasionally in life. Not even every Christmas.

And that is the moment I’m in right now with this baby. We are in Baby Eve.

When I look back on this incredible journey, I can honestly say that I am so proud of myself and my husband. In every way, we were unprepared for the news we got on May 27. A baby. We were having another baby. We had a two-bedroom home for a family that would soon number five, no maternity insurance, and had officially decided we liked where our family was. We were “done.”

Since that day, we have figured out how to insure this pregnancy and birth, carved another room out of the basement, traveled the emotionally epic journey from denial to pure excitement and, along the way, found we had the capacity to love each other, our daughters, and this new baby even more passionately than we had previously anticipated.

I’m in a state of bliss. And, truly, that aint nothin’ to sneeze at when you consider the state I was in when I was alone in the bathroom on May 27!

This bundle of joy is due January 28. I’m into those weekly doctor’s visits and am even having contractions! As they say, this could happen “any time!” I still have a few freelance projects to complete before I’ll feel totally “ready.” And actually, I’ve done close to zero shopping for baby gear, but that doesn’t bother me at all. Babies really don’t need much more than they come home from the hospital with.

I’m just ready to meet this new person. This wee kick-boxer. And I do feel like I’ve been given a gift. My mom used to say, “God’s gifts are good… but his wrapping department sucks.” Well, we had some scary wrapping paper to get through but we have received, already, many profoundly important gifts from this child.

Now, I’m ready to receive the child!

Guest blogger Janalee Card Chmel is co-owner of MA! motherhood with attitude and is a Denver-based freelance writer. She was shocked at the age of 40 to find out she was pregnant. Follow her journey each month.

Needles & Fire Drills

My left arm hurts. Actually my right arm does too. Reason…because in order to adopt a child, the government needs to know that I don’t have TB. And that I’m free and clear of sexually transmitted diseases. And that my urine is clean as a whistle. And they need a list of all prescription drugs I’m on at the moment. And then the mother of them all…the Tetanus booster. And while we’re at it, might as well throw in a swine flu, I’m sorry, H1N1, vaccination. So they hacked up my arms yesterday with a series of needles that have left my arms black, blue and sore as the dickens. Then I drove home so my husband could go do the same thing. He was lucky enough to have one additional test done that isn’t possible in my female state. I’ll leave that one to your imagination.

IMG_5141On Wednesday we finished our home visit. Our railings were inspected, smoke detectors tested, the two fire extinguishers we own were verified, the homemade evacuation plan I scribbled up was reviewed and we were interviewed about every aspect of our life you could dream up. The only items we failed on were owning an evacuation ladder for the bedrooms, plugs for all our 159 outlets and written proof of fire drills. Yes. I’m sure all of you do regular fire drills at home with your children. We will need to do two or three before we’re approved to parent again. Our case worker was lovely and very sensitive, so that did make what could have been an interrogation much more pleasant.

Today we’ll call in to make a $1,500 payment. Our agency is more than gracious with their patience in our payment delays. They know that the typical adoptive family doesn’t have $20,000 hanging out in their junk drawer and have been incredibly sensitive to that. This current payment will bring us up to about half of where we need to be on the payment scale. And we’ll keep saying prayers that the rest will reveal itself to us in the near future.

All this may sound like whining. It’s really not. Well, partially it is. Half of me says, “I’ll do whatever I need to do to add a member to our family. It’s all worth the end result and I’ll do it with a smile.” The other half of me says, “Really? I need to prove my capabilities to parent when 16-year-old babies can pop out children with no questions asked? Where is their CPR and First Aid requirement and their proof of no sexually transmitted diseases? Where is their home study visit, proving that there are no emotional issues preventing them from successfully raising a healthy, well-balanced child?” Most of the time I take the mental high road. It’s just weeks like this past one where your personal space, physical being and emotional well being are invaded that bring out the bitter adoptive parent in me. I’ll get over it. The second I see the face of our new son or daughter, this all evaporates and becomes a part of the journey. I just need patience in getting to that point.

Guest Blogger Gwen is expecting…for the second time. And once again, no baby bump or stretch-marks will grace her with their pending bambino. Step inside their world of growing a family through adoption. Follow along here at Mile High Mamas and her blog and get a candid feel for the ups, downs, highs, lows and surprises that go hand in hand with the struggles of infertility and the miracle of adoption.

Grieving Change

Week 32! As people keep telling me, we’re nearly there. (Though time does seem to have stopped now.) I’ve spent the last seven months bucking myself up for this surprise baby and I’m excited! I have 8 weeks left and I am soooooo ready to meet this wee one! (No, we still don’t know the gender.) Construction is done. The girls have moved into their new room. The baby’s room is even looking like a sweet baby’s room! We are getting there. And we have done it with love and joy and humor – emotions I was not particularly feeling on May 27 when I discovered life was about to change completely.

But I have recently discovered a new ache. A new emotion.

I am grieving the loss of my current relationship with my daughters, Delaney and Allie. Yes, they will still be my daughters and I will still be their mother, but things are going to change. I remember feeling this exact same way when I was pregnant with Allie and enjoying one-on-one time with Delaney. I wondered if I had enough love and time and patience for two. And, to be honest, I didn’t want a new baby to change the incredible love that I was experiencing as a new mom.

Now, I fundamentally know that I have enough love for a third. That isn’t the issue. Rather, I am totally digging my girls’ company and I don’t want that dynamic to change!

Delaney is 8 and Allie is 6. They are witty, funny, thoughtful, complex girls and my relationship with them has become more mature every year. We enjoy each other! What will happen when I have to plant my butt on the couch every two hours to nurse? How will they feel when we’re tied to the house for naps instead of out on hikes or bike rides? Will they resent the baby? Me?

Expecting, the First Time Around

Guest Blogger Gwen is expecting…for the second time. And once again, no baby bump or stretch-marks will grace her with their pending bambino. Step inside their world of growing a family through adoption. Follow along here at Mile High Mamas and her blog and get a candid feel for the ups, downs, highs, lows and surprises that go hand in hand with the struggles of infertility and the miracle of adoption.

We all have our own “stuff.” The “stuff” that drags us down, causes emotional and physical havoc, brings us to tears, causes us to ask “really, why me?” My “stuff” is a charming disease called endometriosis and its sidekick, infertility. They’ve made a career out of working together to make a dynamic duo in my body. For a long time, I cursed this dynamic duo and spent a whole lot of time with the “why me” stuff. Until I saw the ironic beauty of their partnership.

After 2 surgeries and 2 years of fertility drugs, poking and prodding, we put a stop to the madness that took over our life, thoughts, dreams….no more. We walked through the doors of Bethany Christian Services in Denver and never looked back. They educated us on the reality of adoption in the current century, put us at ease and got us rollin’ with growing our family. Three months after walking in those doors, our case worker called me at work. The conversation went something like this….

“It’s ‘Melissa.’ Are you sitting down?”

“Yes. Sitting. Are you still coming over tonight to approve our home study?”

“Well, yes, but first, you were chosen.”

“Chosen for what?”

“A baby, Gwen.”


“But we just handed our profile book in yesterday.”

rylan 8x10 bw“I know. This is a first for us, but you guys were chosen by a birth mom in Grand Junction . We overnighted your book to her yesterday and she chose you. It’s a boy.”

Silence. More silence. A gaping jaw on my end. And more silence.

“There’s more. He’s born. And you can pick him up in 2 days if you decide it’s a good fit.”

The rest of that glorious day is a complete blur. I called my husband. I called my mom and dad. I called our best friends. I didn’t cry. I didn’t internalize much of anything. That night we registered at the totally foreign “Babies R Us” with friends in a complete haze. The 800 versions of bottle nipples looked like alien creatures to us, but we didn’t have much time.

We spoke on the phone to the birth mom and her mother the next day. Never have I been that nervous to talk to an 18 year old girl in my life. I cried. I heard his little whimper in the background and it started to sink in. My son? Really? Was it that simple? She told us she really liked us, and she wasn’t changing her mind. She liked that we were old enough to be mature but still young enough to be “cool.” Her only disappointment was that we didn’t have a cat. I guess she was willing to overlook that small detail.

OPening mini Tim outfitA massive baby shower took place the next day. I cried then too. People came out of the woodwork to support us. They brought bouncy seats, tiny baby socks, books, high chairs, burp cloths, onesies….we didn’t know what half this stuff was even for. Gifts arrived on our doorstep for a year. One whole year. From people we didn’t even know. In 2 days, our house looked like baby central. We were ready to pick up our little dude.

Then the birth father contested the placement the night before we were supposed to go pick him up. That was an angry week. A very angry week. But under God’s grace and provision, a week later, that all worked itself out. We drove our blue Volvo sedan to Golden, where he was staying in a foster care home through our agency. Given the birth father drama, we wanted him in a more stable environment while the kinks were worked out. “Melissa” met us in the driveway, holding this little sleeping blue bundle. We floated to greet her and held our Our new familylittle man for the first time. He slept for 45 minutes while we filled out paperwork and learned about his first 3 weeks in the world. The foster family loved him like their own and blessed him with the care that he so desperately needed during that week.

We showed up that morning as a family of two and came home a family of three. Just like that. Surreal. Completely surreal. It’s at that point that I started thanking God for my “stuff.” For blessing me with infertility. And for giving me the patience to see the beauty through all that ugliness. And for gifting us with a little miracle that we can’t begin to imagine life without. Thank God for “stuff.”