Monday, June 29, 2009

Random, Totally Random

The Canadian Medical System rocks, and doctors that invent chemo rock and today I got the best news I could have ever hoped for. You know what matters most in life? FAMILY. We can lose our house, drive a junker, and I am pretty sure I will again care in the same way I once thought that STUFF was important. Today I was given the gift of TIME with someone I love very, very much. And I sobbed. And sobbed. And then sobbed some more. WITH JOY. Not enough of that lately. I am still crying in fact.

Secondly, camping with babies generates more laundry than I remembered. Camping with TWO Babies and FOUR boys ... well you can only imagine.

Thirdly, this is the best camp in the world and my spirit and soul need this time.

Fourthly, people read my blog. STRANGERS (now friends). Ahhhh Hi world :)

Fifthly, I am borrowing someone else's computer and haven't checked my mail in 4 days. And am blogging. And about 30 campers are mocking me as I type.

And lastly, Miss Curious is wearing a sign that says "Hi! I am just attaching to my Mama and Papa, Please do not pick me up". And you know what, I am safe in a place where everyone else gets it. Yeah for adoptive parents and kids that understand how important it is that for this time she understands who her family is, while she needs us.

AGAIN - THANK YOU for the prayers. Thank you. We all thank you.

I am breathing again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Various Forms of Heartbreak

Today while hauling out suitcases from the back of the closet under the stairs I found a bag of girls clothes. Clothes that were the hardest for me to look at after Baby J left because they had the most memories attached to them and so I had stuck them in the farthest corner of the house. Clothes I couldn't bear to part with, but also couldn't bear to see. And suddenly, there they were.

As I pulled them out, Caden stood beside me. Suddenly, once again, he let out a wail of grief and collapsed into my arms. For the next hour I held my son as he sobbed for the little girl that was once his sister, in his heart if not legally. His grief has never disappeared and today he said over and over "I just miss her mommy, I just really miss HER". He loves the new babies, but they are not HER. She is the missing . Her absence is ever present, and my son still grieves two and a half years after she left. He never got to say goodbye, and for a moment I considered calling the woman who broke his heart and begging her to let Caden see Baby J, if only for a moment. I know its pointless, and would never work. I cannot fix this. I cannot take his pain away, I can just hold him and wipe his tears and thank God for his gentle heart that still loves so deeply.


I am frustrated today. Frustrated with cancelled visits and babies not valued as they should be. I am frustrated with those that would call me an "adoptress" or "baby-stealer", mock me or my kids in a grocery line up or make fun of us on an online board just because I am part of a visible adoptive family, yet would never do anything to actually preserve a family themselves, and have no idea the effort, heartbreak and work I, and others like me, have done for the very efforts they value. Judge me and every other adoptive parent, mock, tear apart and deride adoption, but don't bother actually DOING anything to preserve families. How many kids have YOU fostered? How many parents are YOU mentoring? How many kids do YOU sponsor to stay in the the countries of their birth? The adoptive parents I know do all that and much more, understanding the cost in adoption to children and their families of origin. They fund raise, they sponsor, they support, they foster, they love, they give, they understand, they also grieve. They get it. Yeah, there are some pretty crappy adoptive parents, but you know what, there are some pretty crappy people everywhere in life and attacking and instantly someone based on appearance is PREJUDICE! Plain and simple, prejudice. And I hate it and I hate that its ok to people who should know better.


I left for a two hour meeting at my job this morning as Miss Curious sobbed. I do not make a good working mother. I never have, and I never will. I want to be WITH my kids, biological, adoptive or foster. To my heart it makes no difference. And I fully realize that working this fall, and trying to find daycare for the girls, is going break my heart every single day.

So today I took a part time position at school. A position I did NOT want a mere six weeks ago, but now can't even imagine working that much. In fact, I am praying HARD that Shel gets a good, good, good job before then so that I can stay home. I want to stay home with the babies. They need me to. Attachment comes first. Right?


I am waiting, with a massive pit in my stomach, for test results. Not for me, but life changing none the less. I can barely breath. One phone call. One test result. Life or Death. And we wait. My heart does not want to break again.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Further Insanity

I am packing. To go camping. With SIX kids. For NINE DAYS.

Six Kids. *** 4 boys. 2 girls. ***

*** Two Babies. Two Tweens. Two Teenagers. ***

ONE Tent Trailer.

Thank God Almighty the Dogs are staying home.

And we are more excited than I can express because without fail this week is the absolute highlight of our year. Yeah for Harambee.

And my boys are in love. In love with two little babies they never even thought for a minute they would love so much. Eric sat next to me in the car today and told me, "Mom its way better to have them than I thought it would be. I love them". Greg, my way too cool for babies 14 year old, chose to stay home this weekend to cuddle Miss Tiny and her gummy grins she saves just for him rather than walk to the ice cream store with his friends and brothers.

I spent Father's Day with my own dad on a trip "away" and returned home with trepidation that my 30 hours away from Miss Curious would destroy the attachment work we had done. Instead she flew into my arms and snuggled in with the biggest, goofiest, happiest grin you can imagine, so happy that her "Mama" was home.

Tanner has declared that he wants babies FOREVER and that if the girls leave eventually, could I PLEASE call the social worker and ask for more babies the NEXT DAY.

In other words how crazy things were at the beginning has become our new normal. I blog with a baby on my lap.

And I love it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


How much do you think the vet bill will be when 2 Jack Russells eat a 25$ full tin of powdered Baby Formula in a two hour period?

How many times do you think they will puke on my carpet?

How quickly do you think I can get rid of them on Craig's List?

FREE TO GOOD (or even medi-ocre) HOME: Two Slightly Ill Jack Russell Terrorists.

Due to neighbour complaints, I looked at investing in anti-bark collars for Dumb #1 and Dumber #2. At $200 a pop, its cheaper to buy the neighbours ear plugs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Puppy Meet Toddler

I have already told you about Trippy, our Jack Russell Rescue Dog, also known as Jen's Bad Decision of 2009. Trippy pees, bites, chews, whines and doesn't sleep very much.

Trippy has met his match, his best friend and his new companion in little Miss Curious. Miss Curious is a highly independent thirteen month old wonder child who also pees, bites, chews, whines and doesn't sleep very much. Her finest act, from Trip's perspective at least, is that she also throws food from her high chair tray.

We realize that both dog and child come from similar backgrounds. Neither had their needs for attachment met, neither were cared for in a way that provided appropriate guidance and boundaries, neither learned to trust the adults in their lives to provide for them adequately. As a result we have a crazy puppy and a on-the-go toddler keeping us on our toes.

Having parented several 13 month olds before, let me fill you in on the wonders of a child that has done much self care prior to arriving in my home. This 13 month old can CLIMB. She can open containers. She can flush the toilet. She can open doors and navigate stairs. All told that makes her a dog's best friend. He even wants to supervise her bath, and has jumped in more than once.

And all day, every day you will hear me say ... "NO! BABY that is PUPPY food!" followed by ... "TRIP!!! Put down that toy! Baby's Toy!"


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Relay for Life

Last night I attended the Relay for Life. And I cried. I cried without being able to stop.

I cried for me. For how scared I was, for the reality of cancer in my life.

I cried for my dad, for the battle his is facing and how scared I am for him, and for us, as he faces this battle.

I cried because I looked around I saw a sea of yellow shirts, all of us with our blue "Survivor" ribbons. Because this disease has touched too many lives.

I cried because I was so angry. I don't want to celebrate or even remember, I just want to fight back.
I cried because of how my life has changed because of this. I cried for my fellow survivors, and those that are lost. I cried for the joy around me, for the life that was there. For those that walked and walked in honor of loved ones. For those that were there because of me.
If you can, go donate now, PLEASE. Let's beat this.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Expanding Family

It's become my responsibility, one way or the other (mostly because I am a big softie!), to supervise visits between the girls and their parents. We are meeting at the park, or their home, and eventually even our home, for 2 hour visits three times a week.

I won't beat around the bush and just admit it's ALOT. Not only alot to adjust my personal schedule, but the girl's schedules to accommodate a visit out of the house, packing food, diapers, toys and racing around to meet a deadline. Shel has been away these last several days and the visits, the baby packing and planning all fall on me. I have had moments of resentment because no doubt after juggling middle of the night feedings, I have to interrupt nap times, or time to do house work or heck even sit for 10 minutes with my feet up to go down to the park to meet up with parents who, no doubt, aren't going to win parenting awards anytime soon.

That's the human side of me.

The other side of me realizes that this is the best thing for the girls. Miss Curious (more aptly named Dennis the MENACE) needs work to become attached and we are working on that. Its healthier for her to maintain the attachment she has with her parents, and its healthier on her to see us being friendly and working together as she attaches to me. Miss Tiny will only know them if she sees them regularly, and its important that she know and trust them when she goes back home because she is going to miss us, no doubt.

Going back home is inevitable, that I know. And I want this to be the least traumatic experience that I can manage.

And so I make sure the parents like me. I provide pictures of the girls at every visit. EVERY VISIT. I bring food. I move our schedule around to accommodate theirs. I travelled out of town to visit at their traditional family home despite it being in a location that is far outside my comfort zone. I invited them to our home to show them that I trust them.

Today our visit happened to be at the same time and location as Tanner had a field trip. He bounded over to greet the girls, and meet their parents for the first time. They watched as he snuggled both and played with Miss Curious. Later, after he rejoined his friends, the girls mom turned to me and said, "I'd like it if we could stay in contact after the girls come back to us".

And that makes it worth it to me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pay It Forward

There are no real words to express how loved and cared for I have felt during this journey of the last few months. We went through a series of horrible things, some of which continue, and each of them individually were almost too much to bear, and certainly collectively they were. And yet we did not carry them alone. Alongside came friends, who really are the absolute definition of family. Friends that listened to me, cried with me and comforted me. We have received gifts that each and every time were beyond our wildest expectations, and always unexpected . . . but I am getting ahead of myself.

First, I have my girl-friends. These ladies came have known me since my childhood days, through those high-school years and stood beside me at my wedding. We have been through loss, joy, grief, pain, adoption, illness, divorce, death and many successes. We are as different as can be; from right wing traditionalist to left wing tree hugger; from single and independent to stay at home mom; from rich and famous to quiet and reserved. Yet at the heart of it we are the same - sisters of the heart.

When they heard of my cancer battle and pending surgery each and everyone of "My Girls" as they are commonly referred to in our house, dropped when they were doing and supported me. Pam (not pictured), famous lawyer, an incredibly busy and important woman with two children of her own, booked an entire week off work (an incredibly important and well paying job I might add) just to sit by my hospital side on the other side of the continent in another country and dammit if she had to kick an airline attendant's desk and driving an extra 4 hours when they messed up her flight, she was going to be there! She also made it her day's work to provide me with play lists on her Iphone and Frisk Mints procured from the gift shop. How do I ever repay that type of love?

Shannon, fighting her own battle against a horrible disease, hosted us in her home the night before my surgery, and the night before she left town to travel to her own specialist appointment. She was willing to sacrifice her own health to be a support to me, how do I ever repay that type of love?

Tamara still dealing with her own grief after the loss of her mother to a brief and horrid battle with cancer less than a year ago, paused her attempts to pack up her mothers home and also took a week off of work to play nursemaid to me as I lay on her couch. She fed me, clothed me and ensured my every need was met. How do I repay that type of love?

Alison and Christine, both willing to drag kith and kin across the countryside to visit me repeatedly in the hospital. Bearing thoughtful, amazing gifts of food, pajamas, creams and encouraging words they supported me through a very scary time. All 5 girls came together to put together a "Yes We Can" box of encouragement for me that they gave to me the night before my surgery. I can never, ever express what their thoughtfulness meant to me as I went into the evening scared, terrified and feeling very alone, and left feeling loved, encouraged and knowing I would be ok. How do I repay that type of love?

Orange is the Kidney Cancer Color!

After surgery, our house was filled with meals from our church "family". People I may have only known in passing spent the time to tell my husband and children how much we meant to them, or that my presence at church was missed. I still have casseroles in the freezer, and one for supper tonight.

The unexpected gifts surprise even the most hard hearted in our family. When Shel lost his job, he also lost his gym membership. Squash is Shel's release, his fun, his time away that he cherishes. But the membership was a luxury and paid for by the company he worked for. There was no way to justify a membership in these tough economic times, and so, he gave up what he loved without complaint. Out of the blue the owner of the gym called one night last week to say they are restoring Shel's account. He has strung some rackets for them over the years and they wanted to say thanks, and let us know they were thinking of us, and to please come play anytime. An unexpected gift.

And then there is our Harambee Family. Harambee is a camp we have attended every year for 10 years. It is for families (adoptive or biological, although most are adoptive) raising children of African Heritage. When news of my cancer diagnosis spread to the organizers they not only waived our fees for this year, they offered me access to a house on the property so I could rest, if need be. Privately, one camp friend sent us gas money to make sure we could come, another sent food money. Its humbling, its overwhelming, its hard to receive, and yet we do. How do I repay that type of love?

And then this week we heard of a family in need of a vehicle. We were so INCREDIBLY lucky to be able to replace our van with a truck that seats us all (baby girls included), blessed in fact because of the love and generosity of my grandmother who in her death made sure I, and "her boys" would be provided for. So we gave our van away, paying forward even in some small way the blessings we have been shown. And on this day that we would give away our van, I received a cheque from a friend. This friend is also from camp, a woman I have shared laughter and tears with over the years, but have never seen outside that precious one week a summer. We know we are "family" but this I did not expect because the cheque matched the amount we would have received for selling the van. She said it was her way to "Pay It Forward" for the generosity of friends when she needed it years ago. I am overwhelmed to the point of being unable to even formulate the words to say thank-you. How do I repay that type of love?

There is no way to repay, except to pay it forward. And so this is my promise to you that we will. We will. When we can, as we are able, we will. This is my promise and when we do it will be in honor of each and everyone of you and your encouraging words, thoughtful gifts, kind emails, generous hearts and your love. I can never say thankyou enough. Cancer may suck, but it has openned my eyes to the amount of love and goodness in the world.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

On Being Visible

When you go out for dinner, do other patrons frequently glance your way? Waitresses make inappropriate comments about you or your children?

When you walk into a store, does the staff frequently watch you and your family, sometimes following you for no apparent reason?

When you are at the park or pool or playground, do other families there often ask you inappropriate questions about your family makeup, your attachment to your children or your parents and expect you to divulge your history?

When you were growing up, did your friends ask highly personal questions about your family and your history, including your genetics?

Do people frequently touch you without your permission? Particularly your hair?

Do people think its cool to use slang phrases with horrible racial overtones they don't understand the history of to describe you or befriend you on facebook or other such sites?

If you were able to answer no to most or all of those questions, I can assume you are white, probably your parents are white and also, your kids are white. You aren't disabled or visibly different from the "majority" in any way. You are, in fact, invisible to the majority of other white people. Trust me, it's true. When people see you, they see themselves. They assume your family is like their own family. They assume the kids with you are your own kids. They assume you gave birth to them. They assume you have a right to be where you are doing what you are doing. You are not questioned, you are afforded the privilege of invisibility.

This is not a right afforded to minorities. Didn't know that? You should. You have a responsibility to understand what it is like to not be YOU.

Even for me, a woman who was prepared for being part of a trans racial family, the shock of suddenly becoming VISIBLE when we adopted our sons was a difficult transition. I had been an invisible mother before of a beautiful white baby - but noone thought to ask me how long I had had him for, or what his history was, or where he was "from". Noone touched him without asking me first, noone expected him to want to go home with them because he was so cute. The comments, the stares, the looks, the questions, the touching and even the overly enthusiastic fawning over my children was new. The assumption that other people have a right to know your history, THEIR history, to judge or evaluate your parenthood, your right to act like a family was constant.

If you can imagine how difficult it was for me, now imagine being 4.

Going through a difficult transition into a new family and everywhere you go people ask questions, comment or want to touch you? You can imagine then how much you would enjoy finally, eventually as you become more well known in your town and community, being slightly less visible. You know that being followed in a store as a ten year old doesn't happen to your white friends. You know their mother doesn't have to explain that how you dress, and act in a store will make a difference between how you are treated. You know that other kids have no idea about racism or how awful it is. You understand this all because you have to. You are visible wherever you go.

People know you, people know your family and eventually the questions become less. You head off to high school, and it's an entire new crowd of people. Kids who think they have the right to ask you about your "real" family, your history, where you are from. Kids, sometimes white ones sometimes other minority kids, think its cool to call you "nigga" or call your other friends that too. They simply don't understand that its not a cool new nickname but has a horrible and awful history to it that you hate. It hurts, but you don't say anything.

And then your parents ask your opinion on fostering two different racial minority children. And you say no. No. No. No. No. And finally ok, but you aren't going to like it. And your parents are confused. Someone did this for you, didn't they? You got to stay with your brother because your foster parents were willing to take you in. You should pay it forward. You should understand the need. You should want to do this. But what you know, but can't express, is that this will make us MORE visible.

Greg and Eric were both resistant initially to us bringing the girls into our family. Eric's resistance lasted less than 24 hours, Greg's about 3 days. Both have warmed up completely to the girls, as I knew they would, which is why we chose to proceed but I could NOT understand their reluctance to foster and in Greg's case, his initial extreme reaction to the possibility.

What I now understand is that having foster children threatens their place, their role in our family and worse, it increases their visibility. We are now a tri-racial family. There is great resistance in our area from the racial community to which my girls belong to having their kids in white families. We now deal with high visibility from both a minority group judging our right to be cuddling, parenting or being with the girls, as well as being noticed continually by the white community, and of course, they are dealing with being black in a mostly white town.

Also, to my sons, there is a definite hierarchy of family. Being a "foster kid" is something they would never, ever, ever want to be thought to be. They know that foster kids have social workers that visit them at school. They know that foster kids don't have the same name as their parents they live with. They know that foster kids aren't permanent. That foster kids can be taken away by anyone at anytime. They know that foster kids are less than full members of the family they live with, because the government dictates that they be so. They know because they lived it.

My kids are intensely proud of their right to be fully, completely and permanently part of our family. That is why they HATE the questions some feel they have a right to ask. They are simply OUR sons, and part of our family, unless they choose to share differently with you, that is their right to live and be. And now we are a foster family.

And yesterday, I overheard a conversation where Tanner was asked if his brothers were his foster brothers and I understood, at least a bit, what my boys face. They don't want ANYONE ever questioning their place in our family. And fostering makes us visible, once again, where everyone feels they can ask questions. Questions that make them visible. Questions that make them feel not fully a part of our family.

Fostering the girls was still the right decision to teach our sons compassion and kindness, to love children that need loving. It was right to teach them the sacrifices that are involved in opening your heart and home. But there is a cost that I need to acknowledge.

I know I can never understand, fully, what it is like to be them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Finally, Nothing Much to Say

But still I am going to say it.

First, I have decided to spare the world further trauma and made a decision about my summer attire with that in mind. I have never really been a bikini sort of gal. I had a mother whose guidebook on life included the requirement of modesty at all times. I lived under the threat (perceived or otherwise) that if I was seen in public in a two piece bathing suit it would be ripped off of me. I took it seriously enough (combined with sufficient self esteem issues) to never even consider wearing one in public as a teenager.

As an adult I graduated (at times) into the two piece shorts and top swim suit category. In fact, I own two or three like that and have worn them, IN PUBLIC even, on occassion. After this surgery, gall bladder removal and c-section I now realize I have NINE scars on my stomach. NINE. Add to that the stretch marks from two babies. Sparing you all the trauma and wearing a one piece the rest of my life. You're Welcome.

Secondly, Babies are both doing really well. At the same time however, my life is INSANE. Did you know two children 11 months apart that are both still babies never, ever, ever sleep at the same time? ** well except at this moment which is why I can blog** And did you know that I change about 13 dirty diapers a day? And did you know I am LOVING it? Thought so. And I have only called Older Baby by the former baby girl's name once. And I was really, really tired so that's practically excusable. Oh, and starting today I am supervising the twice weekly visits with parents. Wish me luck.

Thirdly, school is getting close to wrapping up. Caden (son #4) had his year end trip this week to Barkerville and foolish parents that we are, we went along, with the girls. I forgot I had surgery 3 weeks ago and that sitting in a car for 5 hours in one day might not be wise. I wish I would have remembered, but still it was a fun day and Caden was so, so happy we came.

Fourthly, Shel is looking for work and has had a couple of job interviews this week. None are for jobs I actually want him to get or take, but still, its progress. He is away this weekend to buy us a new vehicle (a pre-planned purchase that is now essential as we don't all fit into the van anymore) and away in Victoria for 4 days next week with Eric's class year end trip. Yes, I will need help. Thankfully its already arranged.

Lastly and most importantly, today marks my 15th wedding anniversary. 15 years ago in the pouring rain we joined our lives and became a family. We had no idea what was in store or how hard it would be. We were young, young, young and oh so naive. We have had many good and easy years, a couple hard and difficult ones, good times and bad times, grief, loss and joy. We are blessed. I am lucky (so is he of course)! Happy Anniversary Hon, here's to about 55 more!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Lord Gives, and the Lord Takes Away

The last time my house was filled with pink was equally as unexpected as this time. I walked into church one cold early February morning. Our church meets in a school gymnasium and in the back corner mats were laid out for the babies and toddlers to crawl on. Laying there, alone, was a 6 week old baby girl.

I knew her story, at least a bit, as I had known the family for years. Her mom was very, very young and dealing with some difficult issues. Grandma, raising her own young son, had put the baby into foster care and then taken her back out again a couple weeks later. Dysfunctional, overwhelmed, hurting and in the middle was a tiny, needy baby girl.

That baby girl came home with me that Sunday morning at Grandma's insistence and stayed a night or two. Then again, and again, and again until finally she was staying with us 5 or 6 days a week, and going to grandma's house on Sundays. Our families became intertwined as we fed grandma and uncle, took him to school, mentored mom and generally just loved the child as if she was the most amazing little girl on the face of the earth. And in fact, to me, she was. She was the daughter of my heart and I loved her fully and completely.

One day, about a year after she first stayed with us, she went for a visit to grandma's and never came back. Ever. No real reason other than all the same reasons she had came to our house in the first place. There was nothing we could do to fix it. Nothing we could do to undo it. Not even a goodbye.

I thought my heart would break. I thought our family would break. Some days the ONLY reason I had to keep breathing was the fact I was still a mom, but life without that little girl in it didn't seem like a life that was worth living. I wondered, out loud sometimes, if I would ever laugh again or if I would ever, ever exist without feeling the Constancy of her ABSENCE as much as I had felt the Constancy of her presence.

Within a week our house lost the look of a home with a baby girl. The toys were packed up and given away. Her clothes donated to friends. I sobbed as her crib was taken down, to be used by another child who needed it now.

I was a mama without the baby I loved. Except that there was really no word to explain my grief or our relationship or even my motherhood to her. I had simply loved and parented a baby that was now no longer a part of our lives. She hadn't died - she continued to exist elsewhere just out of our touch and out of our family. A baby that was living a difficult and hard existence literally blocks from my front door. It was a grief that I had never felt before, and did not know how to live through. But live through it we did. Oh how we all suffered, but we survived.

It has taken literally years (two and a half in fact) to process this loss and to, in many ways, forgive God (and woman) for putting us through it. Finally, slowly I have begun to heal and find closure. Hope of her returning turned to resignation that she will never know of us, never remember how much we loved her and never be told of the family that had her the first year of her life. I have accepted that to us, she will forever be a family member, but to her, we are simply strangers.

Acceptance came with a belief and even appreciation that I was done parenting small children and even the desire to have another child, particularly a daughter, abated. The grief, and the time and treasure that was our Baby J was never going anywhere, but the sharp edges dulled and became something I learned to live around and with.

Finally I though, even just a short time ago as I saw friends with their babies and instead of silently aching, I appreciated how EASY (in comparison) my boys are now.

Then Thursday came and the call about two little girls needing a home. TWO GIRLS. Here. And my heart cracked a bit and our door openned again and they arrived.

And in the same way that in a few short days our house lost all look of housing a baby girl, in a few short days our house again looks like a pre-school nursery. I went out for groceries and came home to a crib set up in the same spot that Baby J's crib once stood. Toys strewn across the living room, bottles on the counter, soothers in the dishwasher. As quickly as my life changed before, it had changed again.

And I was a woman with two baby girls in her home, shocked beyond belief at the reality. "This time will be different" I assured my friends who know at least a portion of the depth of my grief and loss. I told myself the same.

But the moment of utter reality and grief came unbidden as the scab ripped off on Saturday. I didn't even pause as I tore into a box of clothes dropped off for us. I was excited to dig into the layers of pink and purple and lace.

I pulled out the top dress and my heart stopped; for this box was full of HER clothes. Clothes I had given away, passed forward, and shared with others. And they had come full circle, back to our home. Back to me. My baby girl's clothes now BACK. Dresses I had bought for her, pants, her coat. Her sun hat featured in the picture staring back at me from my windown sill. Worse still, clothes that I had given away that I had bought in advance that were then too big for her and she never wore. My baby girl's clothes were back. All back for two little strangers.

And here I sat holding baby girls, crying for the one long gone. I hold two, one the exact age she was when she first stayed, the other the exact age she was when she left. The full spectrum. The full circle. And I cry because I know what is to come.

I lack the ability to NOT love a child in my home. I have heard people say that they could never love a child they didn't give birth to as much as they love their "own". I know no such distinction but oh how somedays I have wished for that. I have wished for the ability to turn off my heart, to not feel, but I can't. I wanted to protect my heart from these two little angels that I know will one day leave, but I was futile.

I tried, I tell you I tried. I promised myself. I promised my kids. I promised my family. I lasted 48 hours before I whispered to the older one, completely unintentionally "I love you sweetie". And I knew I did.

I am not a woman with two baby girls in her home anymore, I am a mother. Yet I know the pain to come. I know what my role is but already my heart breaks. Loving babies who will never remember the mother who loved them with her whole heart. How do you carry that pain? Love them as they deserve, be the mama they need, parent them for months or years and then let them go without regret? It's a burden I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.