July 25, 2015

Fashion on the Farm

July 25, 2015
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Sandy River Ranch recently became the backdrop for a fun urban farming blog post with Antique Garden and some purty models.  Talented photographer, Trina Gibbons, captured fashion on the farm and made the living look easy and stylish.  Check it out!

Farm Fresh Looks

July 24, 2015

Grief and Fulfillment: Part FIVE

July 24, 2015
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{I’d like to dedicate this post to our extended family who, without you, I wouldn’t mentally or physically exist to tell our story.  Thank you for the countless hours of care, endless amounts of love that you pour out, and immeasurable amount of support you give us. It takes a village.  Thank you for being our village.}

Tick.  Tock.  Tick.  Tock.  The biological clock.  My biological clock.  And it wouldn’t stop T-I-C-K-I-N-G!  Three kids in three years later something inside me, deep in my heart, craved to have a baby.  (I know.  Was three not enough?  Um, NO!)  I still desired to go through irrational personality changes, unimaginable and disproportionate figure alterations and unforeseen bouts of “what in the galaxy of hells is happening to me?”.  Mason was finally healthy and Parker and Lauren were adjusting.  It only seemed natural to want to add to our tribe.  But this time we were going to give the birds and the bees one more chance.  Sort of.
That one time I tried to be a talented photographer and get a picture from above.  
You see, with adoption comes a different kind of longing.  It's falling in love with a sweet face you can't hold or smell or coo at.  You have a picture.  Just a picture.  No due date, no food cravings, no ultrasound appointments, no growing belly, no cute maternity clothes from Target.  Only a growing heart that aches to meet the life behind the picture you cling to because it's all you have.  The process is full of uncertainty and fear and a test of patience you never imagined.  You want to buy baby clothes and decorate a nursery but just how old will your precious one be once you bring them home?  Often times the wait, the adoption gestation, is far beyond nine months.  Your promised baby might be a toddler or older before you finally get to meet them, hold them and whisper how much you love them and have loved them since first sight.  I was accustomed to such challenge and wait.  Now my heart kept begging for more challenge and wait.  The kind of wait that was uncertain due to fertility challenges but still possible.  And where there is hope there is faith and where there is faith, miracles happen.  I already had three of them!
Photo Courtesy:  Just Picture It (actually talented photographers)
It was time.  It was time to seek the stork.  So, back to the fertility clinic we went.  Before I knew it I became a human pin cushion.  I gave blood by the pint.  I was on the table in stirrups more times than I’ll ever admit and had several surgeries to achieve proper nest status.  I had baby on the brain once again.  I endured shots daily that left me bruised and sore.  Once, Big Dog hit a vein and blood went spraying clear across the room! Still, ain’t no nothin’ was gonna stop me.  I was gonna get knocked up one way or another and have me a baby (Cringe. How's that for sounding hick? ).  Even if it meant that baby would grow in a petri dish in a hospital lab for a short time before entering the comfort of my womb.  
There's room for two more, right?
Long story short and several months later two little life forms passed the test and were placed in my human incubator (please note: I am purposefully leaving out several awkward details of The Great IVF Experience to protect the weak and modest).  From that moment on I didn’t move except to stand on my head until I felt completely sure the two micro miracles had attached like super glue and all was well.  Tests would suggest that all was well but a heavy dose of fear was hanging over my head.  A voice kept saying, “You will miscarry again.  You will lose this pregnancy just like the last one”.  Shut up voice!  I didn’t become a human pin cushion for nothing.  I didn't leave a shoe store crying like a blubbering lunatic for nothing.  This was going to work. And at just five weeks along I had my first ultrasound and it went a little something like this:

Doctor: Well look at that!
Me:       What?  Look at what?  Where?  What do you see?
Doctor:  I see Baby A.  

Baby A.  A baby.  A life form.  A baby was there, really there.  I held by breath.

Me:       Wait.  Wait, what?  Baby A?  Okay, that means there is a Baby B, right? Is there a      
                Baby B?
Drum Roll Please
Doctor:  Yes!  Baby A and Baby B.
Big Dog: (while looking pale and frightened) What?  You better not say there is a 
Baby C or I’m outta here!
Me:        Wait.  Don’t leave!  Doctor Hero of Mine, Are we having twins?
Big Dog:  Twins. What? Just twins, right?  No more.  Just two?  Dude!  What?
Doctor:   Yes.  Baby A and Baby B with strong and healthy heartbeats. 
Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Bauman!

Strong and healthy heartbeats.  That was what I needed to hear more than anything.  That sound is forever imprinted on my heart, mind, body, and soul.  Two heartbeats.  Strong.  Twins.   Big Dog.  Big Dog was beside himself.  He was right back where he was when I told him in a “by the way” manner that we were adopting Mason’s brother and then later their sister.  I remember the drive home that day as he quietly processed the "It's Twins" news and I held on to the door handle as if my grip might help hang on to the TWO babies that were forming and growing and beating.  
Baby A and Baby B.  This picture went with me everywhere.  I couldn't stop looking at it!
At eight weeks along I looked five months pregnant.  I was in maternity clothes just moments after the two little pink lines appeared.  Knowing that I was pregnant was reason enough for me to eat double the bowls of Fruity Pebbles, grilled cheese sandwiches and Kraft macaroni and cheese.  Life in the kitchen was time well spent nourishing my babies with such nutritious delicacies.  My excitement for these babies and my free range eating style finally trumped my fear.  At last, I began to settle in to pregnancy.  My emotions, moods, and tantrums however did not settle so well.  The extra amounts of hormones had me crying  ALL.  THE.  TIME.  I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t stop eating, I couldn’t be 10 feet away from a bathroom.  I felt like I had an elephant on my chest and aliens in my tummy.  Bed rest was ordered almost immediately.  Bed rest for a girl who doesn’t sit still wasn’t so great.  I just had to tell myself, “do it for the babies”.  I had to do it and leave Big Dog to the flock.  He dominated that job while I dominated cherry slushes and tator tots with cheese from Sonic delivered by friends who where kind enough to look in on me and check the rapid growing rate of Mt. Belly.  My mom stayed with me in the hospital (moms don't let daughters do hospitals alone and vice versa) and the other family villagers helped with the littles.  
The kids would come visit me BEFORE and AFTER school.  
Whoa! Eh hem. I apologize for this image but I really like to help my readers "get it"  by providing visuals.
 You're welcome. 
The goal was to get to 35 weeks and by Prince George we made it.  A c-section was scheduled and me and my 70 extra pounds was wheeled back to the operating room to welcome what my biological clock intended and God had up his sleeve all along.  Susie Grace was born first (Ladies first.  Always.).  Henry Scott was out a minute later.  They screamed and I cried.  Big Dog nearly fainted.  Just kidding.  He was actually more mesmerized by the amount of fat the doctor’s had to cut through and the smell of burning flesh.  If I wasn’t paralyzed from the waist down I would have drop kicked him straight to the curb.  Ahh.  But that moment.  Their first cry.  They were here.  They were healthy!  Actually, Henry did go to the NICU for a few days.  His tiny 'lil self needed oxygen. But we did it.  We were parents again, of twins!
Big Dog is lucky to be holding the twins.  I was near having him escorted out of the operating room after his lovely observations of my stomach under the knife. 
I vaguely remember being wheeled down to see this sweet thang in NICU.  I was on so much pain medication I was too scared to hold him. 
I know!  Just the best.  However, I can promise you one tired and borderline delusional  momma took this pic.
We were now officially a family of SEVEN in just THREE years.  I think every time someone asked me how I was I said, “overwhelmed, tired, crazy,  and scared.”  I saved the moment of joy for the middle of the night when I could feed one baby at a time and study their face, hands, and feet.  Sleep deprivation was at an all time high therefore, I have few actual, factual memories of my babies as babies.  Sadly, that period of time is a blur to me.  But, I remember inhaling their baby scent and taking mental snapshots and storing them in my heart.  So no joke.  Two to three to five.  I still find myself wondering what it would have been like to have one at a time.  To experience one life at a time all to myself.  But, that's just not how God planned our family.  Besides, isn't that what grandchildren are for?  
Photo Courtesy: Lisa Doan
Having Mason as a medically critical baby in some ways prepared me for two humans at once.  I was accustomed to seconds of sleep at a time.  My brain was wired to handle multiple ounces of liquids.  Oh, so you want to know if I did formula or breast fed?  Well, let me tell you this, I survived.  That’s what I did.  The sound of the breast pump still haunts me to this day.  It was like being in an audible torture chamber.  I made it a handful of weeks and I just couldn’t produce.  I took it like a kick in the stomach and felt guilty and useless as a mother.  Once, I spent over 72 hours in a rocking chair trying to milk liquid gold before realizing that there could be life outside the pump.  I wanted life and Big Dog wanted his wife back.  So formula it was.  I mentally and physically revived and got back to being a mom with five kids all under 11 (maybe the rocking chair sentence wasn't so bad.  Only kidding).    
See?  Look at that.  Much easier and Big Dog could help!  Except what exactly is my face expressing in this picture?  I'm pretty sure my mom took this while I was suffering a post-natal cramping episode and I forced a "put that camera away before I hurt you" smile.  But my hair is washed and dried and I have on a dress, not an ugly night gown.
No make-up.  Not for several weeks.
Okay, okay, do you want to know the most magical part of this story?  I thought so.  Watching Lauren, Parker, and Mason interact, bond and care for their new tiny siblings was magical.  Lauren took to Susie Grace as if she was her own.  Their bond is strong and sweet like southern tea.  Of course there was, and still is, the normal sibling jealousy but those five are tight.  They don’t see color.  They don’t see adoption.  They see each other and love each other because they are together.  (Dear reader, my kids fight.  They fight a lot.  And I yell.  I yell a lot.  We have our own issues and no good, horrible, bad days.  But at the end of the day, when I don’t crash from utter exhaustion, I love that I can look at five uniquely different kids and count my blessings that their bond is stronger than nails).

Lauren, AKA: Mother Hen, took to the babies immediately.  She was my angel when I couldn't soothe Susie Grace during the harrowing days of colic. She knew just what to do and my heart grew bigger for that. 
The boys!  To this day Henry calls them his buddies.
So, there you have it.  I’m remembered by my past neighbors (when not so long ago we lived in a neighborhood.  You know, before we got the insanely illogical idea to move out on to a farm) as “that lady down the street with those five kids”.  That was me.  That was my new identity and in just four weeks after the twins were born I reached a new level of desperation.  I clearly needed help.  I needed a well rested, level headed, loving, caring, finish my sentences, tolerate our crazy, go above and beyond God Send.  I’m not talking some care.com kind of care.  I’m talking the kind of chick that can handle obscene amounts of spit up, twice the dirty diapers, an emotional six year old and a four year old that would need to be peeled off my leg when I needed to escape to my happy place (even if it was just to my bedroom).  I’m talking the kind of girl that would one day become your best friend and your kids favorite person in the whole wide world, around the earth, over the sun, to the moon and back kind of girl.  I needed a co-pilot .  I needed a soul sister.  And guess what? I got one!  Stay tuned...

July 5, 2015

Grief and Fulfillment Part: FOUR

July 5, 2015

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Mason's battle continued.  We were still making frequent visits to the hospital, sometimes for weeks at a time. Parker was adjusting to being home with a mommy and a baby brother.  Life was settling in at our "normal" pace.  We were a family.  But back in Guatemala a little girl was praying for her own forever family.  This little girl was the boys' biological sister.  She was only 7 when we heard about her and saw her picture for the first time while Mason was still in the hospital.  She was their sister so she was our daughter.  But Mason was still very fragile. The adoption agency told us she had been accepted by two other families but for some reason both fell through.  Were we stable enough to bring her home and be her parents, her family?  Careful planning and thinking and praying and hoping and wishing consumed me. The adoption process began again.  The realistic fear of how we would afford the adoption hung over our heads.  Endless paperwork, home studies, and waiting started all over again.  A girl.  A daughter.  Their sister.  

This little "Dora the Explorer" showed up in my email one day.  
I found myself so anxious with worry and fear as to how it would all work out.  How could we pay for another adoption so soon after two adoptions and mounds of hospital bills?  Fate came in to play once again.  My mom entered a contest with The Ronald McDonald House and Sleep Number Beds.  She submitted an essay written from Mason's perspective and his wish to bring home his biological sister.  It was no coincidence my cell phone rang while we were sitting in our room at the Ronald McDonald House during a short stay for medical testing on Mason.  I thought it was a sales call at first.  But soon I started to engage in what the lady was saying.  We won!  Sleep Number, who provides ALL the beds for The Ronald McDonald House, picked us.  The prize?  I couldn't begin to comprehend.  They would pay for the entire adoption AND give everyone in our family a Sleep Number Bed.  Fate.  Answered prayers.  A little girl.  New beds!  It was unbelievable.  

I love this picture of Lauren and her friends.  A lady adopting the girl in the middle became a sweet friend who would send me pictures of Lauren before we were allowed to travel and visit.  
Once Mason was stable enough for us to feel comfortable leaving him with family (AKA:Camp Grandma) we traveled to Guatemala to meet Esmerita Esperanza.  I was so nervous.  Did she want to leave the only life she knew?  Was I the new mom she had pictured in her mind and prayed for? The social worker told me that when she had received a care package I had sent she was so happy to see pictures of her brothers, her biological brothers.  She told the social worker that she knew there was a reason why the other referrals fell through.  She knew God had something special for her.  She knew it was a gift to be placed with her biological brothers.  We met her for the very first time in the lobby of the hotel.  She was shy but sweet and smiled and giggled.  She immediately adored Big Dog and warmed up to him within minutes.  We spent three nights there getting to know her.  The language barrier made it hard.  She had lived a life that was completely unknown to us. I planned a birthday celebration for her at the hotel with her friends and foster family.  All I wanted to do was fast forward to bringing her home but it would be several more months.  

Happy 9th Birthday!
During that first visit we asked her if she wanted a new name because she was so curious about her brother's new names.  We brought up five different names and without hesitation she chose the name, Lauren.  Lauren Esperanza.  Before leaving her we stood outside and looked at the stars.  She cried.  She didn't believe we would be back.  I told her in my best broken Spanish that each night we could look at the moon knowing that the other was looking at the same moon.  It seemed so unfair to have just met her and let her go not knowing when we would see her again or how long it would be before we could bring her home.  
Parker came along on our second visit.  It was truly as if they had never been a part.
Lauren and Big Dog on our was to the USA!
The closer we got to bringing her home the more complex and difficult the process became.  Adoption was shutting down in Guatemala.  Couples were losing their referrals, and their promised babies.  We were far enough along in the process that we stood firm and fought to bring her home.  We finally got the call. We flew to Guatemala ready to bring her home this time.  Five days later adoption shut down for good.  We made it through.  We brought her home.  Just in time for Christmas.

Feliz Navidad!
Lauren was reunited with her two biological brothers and brought to a home full of aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents and family friends.  We were all adjusting and transitioning together.  Discovering our roles and where we fit was hard and emotional.  Everyone had been through so much.   Our lives had been so different but we each had a longing and that December it all came together.  We were together.  I was challenged by trying to mold what our family was made of into what I had always dreamed of.  Some pieces didn't fit.  Hearts had been hurt, spirits broken, and exhausting emotions had us all worn out.  But we kept on.  We forged ahead.  Auto-pilot kicked in.  It was all any of us knew to do.  Each one of us would continue to struggle yet be eternally thankful at the same time.  Our journey as a family had already had so many ups and downs.  When would the waters smooth, when could we relax and just be?  This family, my family, was still to grow.  More change was in the future. Heartache mixed with surprises and blessings waited to be discovered.  

A family on vacation for the first time ever!
Their unbreakable bond.  Lauren still clearly remembers caring for Parker as an infant and toddler.