Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

Well, Christmas 2010 was a romping success!
Does This Writer have photo documentation?
Of course NOT!
If you know me at all you know that I stink at remembering to take pictures
frequently forget to charge my camera...or even to pick it up.
I have humbly admitted this here.

I prefer to think of this as enjoying life too much to stop and be mindful of things like camera-charging.
I always do regret it though, when I forget completely to take pictures.

I do, however have one picture or so of Graham waiting for Santa at the mall when he and I were out on a date on December 23rd...(excited much?)

.... one of the boys in new costumes which Santa bought (half-off after Halloween) and were a huge hit

  that's Anakin, Jango and a teeny Boba Fett

... and the tree

...aaaaaaaaand that's all.

But it was a beauty!!!!
 I have three great videos which I will NOT add here.

Video #1 = my brother-in-law entertaining his 3 adoring, mesmerized nephews with an impromptu puppet show with ample voices and hilarious lack of plotline.

Video #2 = my husband doing a push-up with me on his back, ending with a proud smile.

Video #3 = my 64 year-old father-in-law doing the same with my mother-in-law on his back
(to prove a point).

All totally hysterical but not for the general public.

(Early) New Year's Resolution? TAKE MORE PHOTOS!

Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Letter to my Daughters - my Red Thread

Dear Girls,
One Day you are going to ask me why you don't live in China anymore. You are going to ask how you came to live with your Daddy and I. You will want to know the answers to so very many questions that I won't have answers to. I will wish that your birth mothers were find-able so that I could thank them, so that I could reassure them, so that I could share you as they have shared you with me, so that I could allow you to be introduced to them and claim your lineage, so that I could show you how it is possible to love many people in your family and not to feel scared of a family tree with endless, grafted branches. I will wish that your questions did not haunt you. And I will be tempted to tell you only that we fell in love with your beautiful, sweet faces - but that would make you fear being un-beautiful one day. I could tell you comfortingly that you were loved too much by your birth mother, but that may only make you fear my own intense love for you, too. All of these are only elements though, only parts of the backstory of how you became a "Downes": part English/part Jewish/all Chinese.
This is how you came to be mine.*****
Once upon a time there was another little girl who would one day grow up and become your Mommy. Even though this little girl's ponytails were not jet black and silky like yours are, but braided and mousey brown she had all the same dreams you have now. Her greatest dreams were of being a mommy and one day having a house and babies to take care of. As she grew up she would be teased by her parents for all of the stuffed animals and baby dolls she insited on caring for even while she slept, almost being suffocated by their sheer number next to her in her Strawberry Shortcake bed. She thought she would mother all girls one day. She just knew it: 5 daughters. She wrote it in a journal. She spent her Life Action years mentoring girls. All of her friends were always girls, always feeling boys were mysterious and sticky. When she was 19 years old the little girl met a boy. First they were just pals. And then...they stopped being pals. The girl, long past ponytails and the boy, tall, handsome and brilliant began to really look at one another and soon they saw a single path they could race along holding hands and well - it was all over. They both started to pray to God their Creator and Matchmaker - prayed that they would not get in His way for their little lives and also prayed that He would let them be together. That little girl and that handsome boy - yep, that was your parents. And there was never anyone else for us, ever again after we fell in love.
Two and a half years later, we were Man and Wife. Three and a half years more and Luke was born, a tiny 3lbs baby boy, 8 weeks before we expected him to arrive. For weeks and weeks and endless weeks before, during and after Luke's arrival we both remained in the hospital, Luke and I both carefully pulled back from a dangerous precipice to secure health by a team of doctors. Daddy held my hand almost every minute of that adventure. We fell in love more than ever. Since I had been so sick when I had Luke and since Daddy was still a student, we waited 3 more years to have Graham but when we did both he and I were exceedingly healthy- he, a chubby bundle. I was sure we could wait for quite some time before trying for a third baby. There was no talk of being finished with having children and though life was incredibly demanding I was sure my daughters were just around the bend in the road, beyond the hedge I was content not to scale for now. Now I had 2 adorable little boys. I was getting used to boys and their climbing, stomping, gun-toting ways. I was learning to appreciate the loving gestures and sweet embraces, the lack of dramatics and forthright manner of boys. Before we knew what had happened: I was pregant again. This was a shocking turn of events, as I had assured myself  that waiting for a while would somehow guarantee me a shot at a daughter. I would wrangle a girl out of the universe by sheer determination. I was not surprised, therefore since I myself had not orchestrated this pregnancy when another little boy (my 3rd in 4 years) arrived amid a serious illness that planted me unhappily back at the hospital once again for days on end, drove your Daddy to panic and convinced everyone around me that whether or not I felt there were more children due me I was tempting fate and needed to stop bearing children. I conceded. And I sobbed. I cradled my last baby, protected my 3rd abdominal scar and wept bitter tears of unfinished dreams as I watched the women's hospital disappear from the car window. There would be no more babies. No more chances. The little girl with ponytails who had wished for many children and many daughters was confused. I had a vision - a dream in my heart and now it was cruelly unattainable. And life sped along.
Over the next 2 years I fell in love with my boys. I watched mothers of sassy, belly-baring, dramatic little girls and wondered why I still wanted a girl at all? My boys were kind, teachable, obedient, loving and hilarious. My husband was protective and generous, more handsome than ever with a stronger work ethic than I'd ever known. I was spoiled silly, able to have the "career"I had always longed for: my dreams of being a homemaking, cookie baking, nesting Mommy were all being fulfilled~ except for 1. I was still lonely for my daughters. But there were no more chances at being pregnant - all of that was over 4 years after it had begun.
There was guilt in my soul for being incapable of bearing children easily, as everyone else in my family line had always been able to do.
There was bewilderment at my body's betrayal of me, the body that hadn't ever really been sick before in my entire life.
There was anger at myself that I could not appreciate my abundant, obvious blessings and the knowledge that I was being completely ridiculous and greedy.
There was frustration that I could not STOP wanting these unseen, future daughters; couldn't carve it out of my own heart.
There was resentment at your Daddy who sensibly strived to meet all of our family's needs single-handedly and couldn't imagine adding yet more needs to the list.
There was jealousy of my friends who effortlessly carried babies of both genders to their heart's content without a moment of life-threatening illness.
There was annoyance at others for not having sympathy for me and for seeming unfazed by my perceived deprivation.
There was discontentment crouched behind my pursuit of happiness.
And most of all there was bitterness at my God who had known my desires--- and denied me.
This bitterness held me confounded and imprisoned for 2 and 1/5 years. It's not that I did not love Jesus or attend church or even learn things along the way - but my heart was broken and in disrepair, making refilling it with joy and love a constant, exhausting task.
I regularly argued with Daddy, finding it impossible to ignore how oppositely we felt being on "different pages".
I conveniently ignored God's invitation to meet Him, feeling hurt and ignored by Him.
I flung myself at appearing content, reaching for all sorts of daily distractions to conceal my heartache.
I committed to trying harder, being the Best Mom to the Best Boys-it was all I had since I had been deprived more children by the Love of my Life , my pleaded case ignored by my Creator.
And then, two things happened.
And thank God they did!
First, I heard a sermon about submission. I had heard MANY, MANY sermons on this throughout my life and I could have even preached one myself but girls, sometimes you hear something as if for the first time - and this was one of those times. I felt God take a needle and Red Thread and seamlessly re-stich my heart. I bawled. I repented. I got over myself. I stopped cocooning myself behind a trenchcoat of pain and instead unveiled my mending heart to my husband and my God, seeking forgivness desperately. I began to see my Jesus again as a generous, brave, sweet Savior and not an elusive, tricking screenwriter.
Second, I sought to untangle my heart from my endlessly-glowing hopes for a daughter. That candle would just not be snuffed out. I would think I had put the issue to bed and then a video in Sunday School about orphans or friends adopting internationally would tighten the Red Threads around my heart and the seams would threaten to break and tears would spring to my eyes embarassingly. I sought out my mentor who gave me homework: prayer. Prayer about something other than my own burdens. Prayer for someone I loved and had not made my first priority in a long, long time: your Daddy. So, the little ponytailed girl climbed into her God's lap with her sewn-back-together heart full of Red Threads and prayed for that tall, smart, handsome boy again.  Not for myself or even you at all. Just him and his stressors and his needs and his life.
And a miracle happened.
God stitched both of our hearts back together with that Red Thread as I prayed. Imperceptibly, almost magically my submission and prayer worked like titanium wrapping us closer, more in tune with one another and more tender to God's leading than ever before in our marriage. Within 4 weeks a job offer in another state would land in our laps. 4 months later Daddy would himself bring up the subject of adoption. 2 months after that we would move away from our home and start over. 4 months after the Move Daddy came up with the idea of China, planted by an image at work, confirmed with tightening Red Threads around his heart, deftly wound by God.
And now it has been 1 year.
1 year since that meeting with my mentor who told me to pray.
1 year since I gave up and decided to talk to God instead.
1 year.
How far God has brought me, girls, in just 1 year since I stopped telling God how things should be.
There's no telling where I will be 1 year from now.
So. What does this have to do with you not living in China?
Well, if that little brown-ponytailed girl hadn't always wanted daughters~
if I hadn't met your Daddy at 19~
if my pregnancies weren't miserable~
if Luke wasn't extremely premature and my delivery dangerous enough to warrant an emergency c-section~
if Graham hadn't been born in a state where you MUST have concurrent c-sections~
if Ethan hadn't some unexpectedly~
if I hadn't had preeclampsia again with him~
if I hadn't needed all 3 cesareans in 4 years~
if I hadn't kept wanting daughters~
if I hadn't heard that message about submission~
if I hadn't had that meeting with Mary Vassar~
if I hadn't been given the grace to start praying~
if we hadn't kept loving one another~
if ANY of those things hadn't happened........
there's no telling where you'd live now. But it wouldn't be with me and your Daddy. "Obedience brings blessing."  And you are the blessings that obedience ultimately delivered. You were stitched right into my heart before you were even conceived way across the world in China. I have wanted you for so very long. But only when I waited on God's best would He find a creative way to redeem my disobedience and renew my love for Him before giving me a beautiful child - a daughter. Or two.
It's how God loves to work - surprisingly and better than your dreams.
I love you with everything in me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Tennessee

precious Hailey
(our personal preview of things to come)

Luke and Thatcher

Opryland hotel

Mimi and her grandboys
Bubba and TerBear
Rock Star
E and C

Braden spit up very unexpectedly - she'll kill me for these but the series of photos was priceless
Uncle Andrew and BradyBug

Lukey and Owie
(BFF's since before birth)

Holiday Tour by the Numbers


Mimi's typical stance - for posterity

jumping in

my boys
When you are married to a man who works an odd mix of day and night shifts
who is also "low man on the totem pole"
you celebrate holidays ad hoc.
Hence~ the Tennessee Holiday Tour last week.
Here it is by the numbers:
Miles round trip: 1125
Days travelled: 7
People in van: 5
Potty breaks, each way: 4
Boys: 3
DVD player worth its' weight in gold: 1
DVDs most in demand: Alvin and the Chipmunks, classic cartoon version and Space Buddies.
Stops at Cracker Barrel, Sonic, Chik-Fil-A, Guthrie's, Wendy's and Zaxby's: 1, each
Stops at Starbucks:at least 7
Tanks of gas: at least 6
Average naps per person: 1
Times Graham made us all laugh by stating (after being dragged through multiple TN towns to visit people) "I'm so confused": 1
Parties we completely missed because our family couldn't get it together in time: 2
Pizza: at least 3 times
Exellent soups, lasagnes, and comfort foods: daily
Afternoons spent jumping in leaf piles: 1
Average wake-up call from Ethan: 5:15AM
Number of boys who shared a bed at Mimi's: 3
Number of boys (8 and under) who shared a room at Aunt Tiffany's: 6
Trips to our old church to see beloved girl baptized: 1
Times This Writer completely lost it watching baptism: multiple
Trips on carousel per boy: 3
Amount in dollars paid for each snow hat and gloves, 1 each per boy: 1 (thanks, Walmart)
Mornings spent playing in snow: 1
Snow on ground, in inches: 2+
Temperature in degrees Farenheit outside the morning we piled into van and departed: 8
Hours to drive home: 11.5
Hours after arrival till the Hubby had to report to work: 11
Loads of laundry the next day: 5

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Buckle Up

What difference does a year make?

Fall 2009
there were rust colored leaves, chilled and smoky winds and knit sweaters.

Fall 2010
there are sunny evenings, shorts and sundresses, palm trees and pools.

The sadness that choked me with tears for a good part of the summer and early autumn
eased at some point-
my eyes slowly drying, clearing with illumination at God's unfolding invitation.

You can't read "Radical" by David Platt
and "Just Courage" by Gary Haugen
and "Chosing to SEE" by Mary Beth Chapman and others
and stay calmly unmoved.
They are dangerous books.

Unknown Changes Ahead.

This Move, this Year has been unexpected for
little, near-sighted me.
This Move has shaken my vision for the Road Ahead and caused reflection.
What we have both seen as we have gained perspective is a life of
we just didn't see before.
It's life-altering, paradigm-shifting, game-changing.
This Writer is climbing into the passenger seat of a vehicle headed into a
brilliant, blinding unknown.
Hanging onto the dashboard,
unsure what exactly we are racing toward
I say:
"I'm in - Let's GO."
2010 has been the Year of Surprising Bends in the Road.
May 2011 be the Year of the Pedal to the Metal -The Year of Gunning It.
Hang on, y'all.