Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Tonight is open house at the kids' school. They are both so excited about it. They can't wait to show off their rooms. Now, mind you, it's not like I haven't seen their rooms, I've been a parent volunteer most of the year, but it's different for open house, you know. Anyway, Rico has silkworms and ducklings in his room and Marielle has butterflies and silkworms in her room and they are so excited to share them with us.

I also want Marielle to check out the room she'll be having next year. Yes, I know that we're not supposed to know who the teacher will be until the day before school starts, but a little blue jay was on my lawn the other day and told me who it would be. I told Ralph about the little birdie telling me who Marielle would have next week and then I said, "Oh and she said, 'I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you".

Of course, Rico overheard this and went kooky. He said, "How can a bird kill you?" and I told him I guess it could peck me to death...then he hugged me and said he didn't want me to die. I laughed and told him not to worry.

Then, when Marielle came home from school and I told her who her teacher was going to be, Rico relayed the bird story. Marielle said, "Mom, you can tell me, who really told you, I can keep a secret" . Rico, very seriously, shouted, "NO, I don't want Mama to die!!!". Glad to know that Rico has my NO sharing secrets with Marielle because I've got to keep on living!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

So I ask you....

Was it meant to be or what?

At the end of September, 2003, the Hague treaty agreement was ruled unconstitutional. The ban against international adoptions between the U.S. and Guatemala was lifted. In October, Rico was born. We had a fast, uncomplicated process and brought Rico home just as he was turning 4 months old.

Now, I always wanted 2 children. Ralph never wanted more than one. When we adopted Marielle, we had agreed that the only way we'd ever adopt again was if Marielle had a biological sibling placed for adoption. Hmmm, so let's recap....

Twelve families passed up Marielle. We got her. Not 2 years later, after a ban on international adoptions had been in place in Guatemala, the ban was lifted, Marielle's brother was born, and we were able to adopt him.

Was it meant to be or what?

Without Marielle, we'd never have Rico. I'm sure I'd be very happy being a mommy to one little girl. But I'm over the moon happy that I am the mom of 2. Two kids who are very close in age, who love each other very much, who are both very sweet and very unique.

And when Marielle was diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment I often thanked God for Rico, who kept me sane, kept me grounded during treatment. He really didn't get what was going on, he wasn't even 2 at the time of diagnosis, but he's always been a little comedian and he kept us all smiling and kept Marielle giggling, even in the worst of times.

Was it meant to be or what?

Oh, and the ban is back in place again today. The anti-adoption factions were able to put another law in place that shut down international adoptions. How very sad for the children left behind....

Friday, May 22, 2009

In late 2002, Guatemala acceded to the Hague Convention, a set of rules governing international adoption. This, in effect, shut down adoptions between the U.S. and Guatemala. The rules of the convention state that adoptions can only take place between countries that have implemented the Hague Convention. The U.S. had ratified the Hague but had not implemented it. Why? Not exactly sure, but some of it was funding. Now, if the U.S. cannot fund the directives of the Hague, how could Guatemala?

Anyway, adoptions shut down. Attorneys on the Guatemalan side argued the case before their Supreme Court, saying that the implementation of the Hague had been done unconstitutionally. In the meantime, no children, even children who were "in process" were being allowed to have their adoptions completed.

Such were the circumstances when we made contact with Marielle's birthmom. The searcher had located her and we were told to call the searcher on the appointed day and time and we would be able to speak with her. Neither Ralph nor I speak spanish, so the searcher became the translator as well. We had a nice talk, well, it was mostly me asking questions but I was glad to know that the birthmom was happy that we had made contact.

She told us that she had twice gone back to the attorney's office to see if there were any news about Marielle and was told there was not. We had, however, emailed both updates and pictures to the attorney. See, in Guatemala, well, it's a lot like the U.S. in maybe the 1930's....the prevailing idea is that you give up the baby and then forget about it and go on with your life. As if a mother could ever forget about her baby.

It was shortly after this conversation that we were notified by the searcher that Marielle's birthmom was pregnant again. She wanted us to adopt the baby or find another couple that lived close by to adopt the baby, so that the children would be able to see each other as they grew up.

Oh my God, this was not something we expected at all. We only ever expected to adopt one child. We had agreed that we'd only have one child. What should we do? I could not fathom saying no, I could not wrap my mind around the idea that a birth sibling of Marielle's so close in age would be "out there" somewhere growing up.

On the other hand there were lots of considerations. International adoption is not cheap. You are paying fees to 2 governments, an adoption agency here in the U.S., an attorney in Guatemala to oversee the adoption, fees associated with DNA testing (which is done to assure that it is the birthmom relinquishing the baby) and on and on.

So, here was the situation....if we filed documents and chose to try and adopt the baby, we might never be able to complete the adoption, because of the Hague. We would have to go through a new homestudy, all the paperwork for 2 governments, find an attorney who would handle the adoption (most attorneys were not even allowing adoptions to begin under the circumstances) pay for foster care ourselves, since we had no idea how long the foster care might go on and put out a big chunk of money and hope.

After much consideration, it boiled down to this....this was Marielle's sibling. And because it was not just "some baby", it was her sibling, we would go ahead and begin the process. We filed our paperwork, started the homestudy and laid out $10,000. (just part of the fee). My feeling was this....if it was meant to be, it would happen. If not, well, then we would never be able to bring Marielle's sibling into our home.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Boy this story is long....

So, it took another 7 weeks for us to get immigration clearance, new birth certificate and the "pink slip", which was permission for us to go to the U.S. embassy and obtain a visa to bring Marielle home. We traveled to Guatemala once again to bring her home. I had a great time shopping! There was a little alleyway not far from the hotel that had all kinds of little shops that sold Guatemalan made items and boy did I stock up.

Then one day, we took the shuttle over to the area by the airport that had many shops that also sold Guatemalan hand made articles. Not knowing how soon we might return, I had to make sure I bought lots and lots of things!

We brought Marielle home and settled in, becoming a family of 3. I was so happy, as was Ralph and Marielle really was the easiest baby in the world. She never cried, unless she was hungry. So, if I kept bottles on schedule, she was a happy camper. She would wake from naps and just lie there waiting for me to come in and get her. I'd check on her, see her lying there, eyes wide open and say, "Hi, you're awake". Imagine my surprise, when one day when Marielle was only 6 months old, when she actually answered me with a "hi" back!

It's true, she started talking at 6 months old! First word was hi, followed quickly by dog. Marielle is and always has been an animal lover. So, not mama, not dada, but dog. When she realized that saying "dog" would not bring the dog over to her crib, she learned to say our dog's name. So, as you can see, calling for Mama was never high on the list. Calling the dog, however, was very high on the list!

Recently, we were watching some old videos and it was so fun to see her and Belle, our border collie, playing when Marielle was not even a year old. Belle would bring over her toy, Marielle would throw it and giggle like crazy and then Belle would bring it back and they'd start all over again.

As the months went by, I thought a lot about possibly making contact with Marielle's birth mother. I have a sister who was adopted from Vietnam and I talked to her about this. Her answer was, "I have a great life, I love my life, but I would trade everything I have for one picture of my birthmom". That really spurred me on. I talked to Ralph about it, he was on the fence, not really sure it was a good idea. Finally, we decided to talk to a searcher about it.

I contacted a searcher and spelled out what I wanted. I wanted to make contact, but only if it didn't put the birthmom in any danger and only if she wanted contact, too. I didn't want to harm or harass her in any way. We had heard stories of some birthmoms hiding their pregnancies from their families or lying and saying that the baby died, because placing a child for adoption is shameful in Guatemala. I wanted to be very clear that , although I welcomed contact, I in no way wanted to put the birthmom in an uncomfortable position.

With that in mind, we hired a searcher and waited to see what would happen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Anyone who is an adoptive parent knows that their joy is also another's sorrow. With that in mind, I just wanted to say thank you to Marielle's birth mom. Thank you for having the courage to place her for adoption.

I've told her this in person and I will say it again. Her courage saved Marielle's life. Had Marielle remained in Guatemala, had she not been adopted to the U.S., she simply would not be alive today.

So her birthmom not only gave her life, she saved her life as well.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yeah, it's a party!

So yesterday, in the sweltering heat (high 90's) we had a party for Marielle.

Hey, the heat didn't bother her a bit. She loves the heat. Besides, she got to drink soda, a rare treat.

Of course there was food....

There were presents to be opened....Uh, hey, wait, whose birthday is it?

Oh, that's right, that's what little brothers are for, helping, yeah, I get it....

Hmm, I think I'll sneak a taste of the birthday cake while mom is putting the candles on.

Whoa, that's a lot of fire for me to blow out...

Eating cake....yeah, we're having fun now!

Lots of hugs to go around....

And then, because it was so to the pool!

All in all, a great day!

Happy Birthday, Marielle!

Happy 7th Birthday, my sweet girl.

You make my heart happy. You made my dream come true.

I love you so much!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The first time, ever I held you....

In adoptions from Guatemala, the birth mom signs off 4 times during the adoption process. First, at relinquishment, then again in Family Court, at DNA testing and lastly at the very end, finalizing the adoption. We were told that if we wanted to visit our baby, before she was legally ours, it was best to wait until after Family Court and DNA testing was complete. If a birthmom were going to change her mind, it would most likely be at one of those 2 events, since at those events, she sees the baby again.

The first time I held Marielle, she was 7 weeks old. Oh my God, here was my baby. I loved her with all my heart already. I wish I could tell you it was sunshine and roses, but honestly, I was scared, very scared! I mean, I wanted to be a mom and went through hell to become one and then I had this little life that was 100% dependent on me! What was I thinking?!

We met Marielle for the first time in a hotel in Guatemala. Her foster family brought her to us. I liked her foster mom from the moment we met. I could tell how much she loved her girls and Marielle. I was nervous, she was reassuring. We bonded. We still write and exchange pictures with them. She is a far away sister, a sister of my heart. She loved and cared for my child when I could not. She later said that of all the babies she fostered, she really wanted to adopt Marielle. I could understand why....Marielle was the sweetest, easiest baby you'd ever meet. She didn't cry unless she was hungry. Keep her bottles on schedule and you'd never hear a peep out of her.

Oh and she was the biggest cuddle bug (and still is). She loved to be held and those big brown eyes would just look up at me and my heart would melt.

And so Carmen dropped off Marielle and she was all ours for 4 days....all ours. Oh crap! I'd never been 100% responsible for a baby before and I was so scared, that first day, that I'd do something wrong somehow and mess her up for life. But at the end of that first day, I remember looking at her lying in her crib and then getting undressed and smelling my shirt and saying to Ralph, through tears, "Oh my God, I smell like baby....I smell like my baby".

Only she wasn't my baby yet. Three of the four steps had been done....relinquishment, DNA, Family Court, but the final sign off hadn't happened yet.

The day we returned from Guatemala, visiting Marielle, we got a phone call from the agency telling us that the fourth step, the final signature had happened, while we were visiting Marielle in Guatemala! She was ours. SHE WAS OURS!!

(We weren't able to bring her home yet. We still had to get a new birth certificate issued, showing us as the parents, clear Guatemalan Immigration and get a U.S. visa for Marielle to enter the country. But still, she was ours.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The story continues...

Ok, so I got ragged on by a friend for not mentioning Rico, after all we do have 2 kids. But he hasn't entered the story yet! Don't worry, I'll continue on to Rico's story and he does have his own story. But in the meantime...

We decided to change from domestic to international adoption. We had to redo all our paperwork...stacks and stacks of paper work. I think the dossier was 17 documents in all. From the homestudy to proof of financial responsibility to proof of employment, clearance by local police, by the FBI and on and on. It took about 3 months to get all the paperwork and then get it notarized, certified and to get in line for a referral. By making the change, we knew that we would have a fairly set time line. But we also knew that it pushed back the time that we could become parents, at least have a baby in our arms, to about a year at the inside.

At the time we got in line with the agency, it was taking about 5-6 months to get a referral for a baby girl. We did have the option of choosing a boy or a girl. Personally, I could care less, just let me become a Mama. But Ralph grew up with only brothers and always wished he could have a sister and so since that never happened, he wanted the next best thing, a daughter. We could have gotten a referral sooner, had we chosen a boy. Boys, for some reason, are less adoptable or less wanted (sounds awful, huh, but it's true).

After about 3 months, we got a call from the agency. They told us they were going to try out a new attorney. Would we be interested in being a "test case" for the attorney. Hmmm...Ralph and I discussed it. We chose this particular agency because of their attorneys. The attorneys they used had excellent reputations for being ethical. Did we want to go with attorneys with a proven track record, the reason we chose this agency? Or did we want to take a chance? It could move us up the list, too, and could mean that we get a referral sooner. At that time, we were 12th on the waiting list for a girl.

Ralph said something that convinced me. He said, 'Look the agency and it's attorneys have a great reputation. It's well known. If I were a new attorney and had the opportunity to do business with this agency, I'd work doubly hard on a test case to be sure that they liked my work". Made sense to me! So we advised the agency that we would, indeed, be willing to be a test case.

About a month later, Ralph was up in Washington state for work. He called around 6:30 pm and we talked a bit, the call waiting rang while we were talking and I ignored it. (This was before call waiting caller ID, at least for us.) He told me that he was in an area where his cell phone wasn't working and that he and a colleague were going out to dinner and he'd call me back after dinner. Ok, we hung up and I started making myself a chicken taco, using leftover chicken I had in the house.

The phone was the adoption agency. "I've been trying to reach you. I sent you an email, I called but there was no answer". Yeah, ok, so what? "We have a baby girl for you! I sent you the pictures via email. We need to know your answer soon, so we can start the process. Will you accept her referral?"

Tears ran down my face.....I couldn't believe it...I was going to be a MOM! (There went dinner, I was way too excited to eat and yes, that's why I remember what I was making, I remember every detail of that happy evening.)

I waited about an hour and tried to call Ralph at the hotel. He wasn't in his room yet, so I left a message. I waited another 15 minutes and left another message. I didn't want to see the pictures until I told him. I couldn't wait. I am not a patient person and I sat there knowing that my little girl's picture was there, in my in box, just waiting for me. I opened the email and looked at a picture of my daughter at one day old. She was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen. I cried and then I cried some more.

I kept calling the hotel, trying to reach Ralph. Finally the desk clerk assured me, I need not call again. It was a small hotel, there were only 2 Coast Guard guys staying there and they had to go through the lobby to return to their rooms. He would make sure that Ralph called me up his return. I told him to please, please, please relay the message that this was URGENT.

Finally, the phone was Ralph....I said hello and he said, "So what is so darn urgent anyway? Did one of the dogs get run over by a car?" I could hardly talk through my tears as I told him that he had just become a Dad. (By the way, this is Marielle's favorite part of her adoption story, that Daddy thought the dogs had been hit by a car.)

I have to remind you, that at this point in time, there were 12 other families ahead of us on the waiting list. That means, for us to get Marielle's referral twelve other families said NO to being a test case. Now, are you starting to see why I truly believe that our child was meant to be our child? Ok, here's another thing to ponder....there were 2 test cases, girls that were born within hours of one another. How is it that Marielle was assigned to us and the other baby assigned to another family. Makes my head spin sometimes. But again, I believe that it was meant to be.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Story Continues....

Time went by and then one day, Ralph said, "Well, if _____ ever became available for adoption, I would adopt him". See, at one time we had been foster parents. We fostered 7 children in total, at different times. There was one we both grew to love very much. When he came into our home, he'd already been in 3 different foster homes that didn't work out. They thought he was retarted because of behavior he'd exhibited. He would do things like hit his head against the wall and the floor. He was difficult to understand, he had his own words for things and would get frustrated if he wasn't understood. Long story short, he had been neglected and left in the care of an older brother who was brain damaged, hence the reason he appeared to have mental defects. He was, in fact, smart as a whip and very loving. But, he had been reunited with his biological family and would not be "adoptable"

I told Ralph that if he was serious about adoption, then let's adopt, you can't say "I want only this child" and not another. You get the child that is meant to be yours. You get that child when it's the right time. You don't get to pick.

After talking it over for a few months, we made the decision to adopt. We contacted an attorney and set the wheels in motion.

Trying to domestically adopt in the U.S. is difficult. You have to create a profile, a few pages that say, 'This is who we are and PICK US, PICK US, we'll be good parents to your baby". I hated the idea of competition to become a parent. It just didn't set well with me. But you do what you have to do. We had the homestudy, got our documents together, police check, background checks, financial verifications and we created a profile and waited to be picked. We waited a year....we were picked once but then the birthmom changed her mind.

Nothing was really happening, but with domestic adoption nothing can happen and then one day you get a call and the next week you are parents. On the other hand, you can wait years to be picked, you just never know.

In the meantime, I'd started researching international adoption. I liked what I read about Guatemala. It was close to the U.S., so we could go back and visit with our child as he or she got older. The kids were mostly relinquished do to poverty. There were not many who had been exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero. Children were placed in foster care, not orphanages, as was the case in many countries. I'm not saying all orphanages are bad, just that we had been foster parents and knew that a loving, caring foster family was an excellent situation for a child that would become ours. Most of the children being adopted from Guatemala were very healthy. The process was relatively short...children were referred at birth and came home around 6 to 9 months old.

But, if we made the switch, we guaranteed that our process would last at least a year. We would have to redo all our paperwork, apply to the INS to be allowed to internationally adopt, then get in line to wait for a child to become available. We both thought long and hard about it...should we make the switch or not?

I prayed often during this prayer was always the same..."God, please lead me to the child that is meant to me mine. Please guide me to make the right choices."

I truly believe that God answered my prayer and lead me to my child.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

One other thing....

This is a video done by a hospital in Canada that treats kids with ALL, the type of leukemia Marielle had. It's one of the best I've ever describes well the disease itself and the treatment. If you have a few minutes, check it out:

Where I go off on a tangent...

This is a drawing of a broviac catheter that has been inserted. It shows the placement of the broviac. One end lies in the vena cava (large vein going into the heart) and one lies outside the body.

This is what it looks like when it's not in the body:

And this is a picture of Marielle when she had her broviac:

Shortly after Marielle was diagnosed, she had surgery to insert the broviac into her chest. It was used to administer chemotherapy and to draw blood. This way, she wasn't getting poked every time blood needed to be drawn or drugs needed to be administered.

Marielle hated the broviac, by the way. She hated the dressing that went over the top of it. It had to be kept sterile and changing the dressing was pure hell for her....but I digress even more.

When Marielle was diagnosed, we had to learn how to care for the broviac, draw blood through the broviac and clean the dressing before she came home, because once she was home, it was our job to do all these things. The first time I observed the nurse drawing blood and then flushing the broviac. The second time I did it all by myself. The nurse was floored. She said, "You should be a nurse. This doesn't phase you at all".

Well, see, things happen for a reason. Compared to giving shots to myself, such as I had done while we were going through fertility treatments, doing the broviac was a breeze. Heck, I wasn't even touching skin! It was just the plastic tube, ha, that was easy!

As time went by, I even did IV's at home. Marielle had a portable IV machine, which went into a backpack and I would mix the TPN, then hook it up and run it at home. My fertility treatments had prepared me well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oh, the irony!

So Ralph was offered a job a couple of days ago. It's with the SBA (Small Business Administration). That's good news, but the bad news is that it's an on call job, not a regular, full time job and no benefits. He'll go for training and then he'll be called when they need him. His job will be going to places around the country where there have been emergencies, like the Santa Barbara fire, for example, and then assessing the damage done and estimating the cost to repair.

So basically, the only time he'll be working, is when someone else has had pretty bad luck and their business has been destroyed or partially destroyed. Sheesh, is that bad karma or what?

Oh, and he was contacted by another contractor about doing a job for the Navy.....they are still in negotiation but they wondered if he was interested. Oh, yeah, the job is in Africa! And I though Ralph working in Alaska was far away. I swear, God must be laughing at me.

More on becoming a Mother

I read one time someone describe going through fertility treatments being similar to being on crack and in a very real way, it is. It's that "one more time, just one more time and then I'll quit" syndrome. You start out saying, "Ok, I'm just taking a few pills to help nature along" and in the end you are shooting yourself up with hormones twice a day. You draw lines in the sand and then erase them or jump over them, all in a quest for a baby.

One regret I see the media talking all the time about celebrities having children in their 40's...this one was 42, that one was 44 and you think it's normal and easy to have a baby well into your 40's. The truth is, that your fertility declines at 30 and that at 35, it has sharply declined and by the time you are 40, the chances of giving birth to a healthy baby has declined to 5%. Not great odds. I really wish I had known those odds when I was 34 and we were working on the house....but whatever.

So, we knew that Ralph had an issue . What I didn't know was that I was the one who would "pay" for that. See, if you increase the number of eggs each cycle, you increase your odds of getting pregnant. And that means that the woman has to take fertility drugs. So we started with clomid aka "the devils drug" because of the side effects. It makes you cry at the drop of a hat over nothing, gives you wicked hot flashes and basically turned me into a witch. Then it becomes all about timing. Time the ovulation, try to get pregnant. We went through 12 cycles of clomid, because I didn't want to move onto the "big guns", the injectables. Each cycle is a little death. You take drugs, you have ultrasounds to monitor your progress in your ovaries, you inseminate and you wait. And when you find out that it didn't work, you cry, you are heartbroken. Each cycle is not cheap, either, because insurance doesn't cover fertility treatments, so we were spending about a thousand dollars a cycle.

Finally we had to make a decision, give up or move on. I always said I wasn't going to do the injectables but when push came to shove, I shoved and we moved on to the big guns.

Now, the cycles cost more, too. The meds themselves cost a couple thousand dollars a cycle and you have more blood tests and ultrasounds monitoring your progress. Emotionally, it's very trying, too. I remember the first time, sitting in the kitchen, trying to inject myself. I would get very close and then I just couldn't do it. I think the first shot, it took about half an hour for me to build up my courage. Of course, in the end, I was a pro. After you give yourself an injection twice a day for however many days time and time again, well, it becomes easy, second nature.

I had to change my work schedule, so that I could go in, in the early morning for blood tests and ultrasounds. I started looking like a junkie, too. I have hard veins to draw from and sometimes it would take 3 pokes for the phlebotomist to get the vein. Three pokes and I'm getting blood drawn every day as we get close to ovulation and you can imagine what my arms looked like.

I was emotional as hell. Your emotions take a pounding....hope, wishes, dreams, dreams shattered, hope squashed, fear, failure, all wrapped up in a month and then, you have to do it again.

I was ready to stop, I'd had enough. Let's adopt. No, Ralph didn't want to adopt. God, so now I faced a decision....go on childless or go back to treatment. I hated treatment. I hated what it did to me physically and mentally. It was draining our bank account. It was harrowing emotionally. But, I couldn't imagine not being a mom. I wanted to be a mom so badly.

So, after a few months, we started the treatment up again. I did 2 more cycles, both a bust. I had all the meds for the 3rd cycle, it was the day that I should start the shots and I sat in the kitchen with the syringe and the medication and I couldn't, I just couldn't. I broke down, I sobbed, I was defeated. I just couldn't do it one more time. I just couldn't. And so ended our fertility on the kitchen floor sobbing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How I came to be a mother...the long version

So thinking back yesterday about Mother's Day and Marielle's birthday, which is fast approaching, I thought I'd just write a bit about how I came to be a mother...

I didn't get married until I was 33. I had a fine time being single and saw no need to "settle down". But then I met Ralph and we were friends for quite a while and eventually it turned into romance and we got married.

We wanted to buy a house (no easy feat in California) before we even thought about having a child. We did buy a house.... a total piece of crap (known as a "fixer upper). To give you an idea of just how crappy it was, the day we took over the property, the granddaughter, who handed over the keys said to me, "I meant to have the carpets cleaned but didn't get around to it. I know it smells in here. Grandpa's ostomy bag often leaked and it was just too much trouble sometimes to clean it up". I took one look at Ralph and later said, "I don't care if we live off of concrete, those rugs are coming up before we move in".

As it was, we planned to renovate the bathroom, which was full of dry rot, before we moved in, so we had a dumpster coming the next day. Well, we wound up filling that dumpster with the rugs in the house and the crap they left behind and not even touching the bathroom. Everything you could imagine was left behind in the house....from old rusty BBQ's filled with coals and ash, to rotted outdoor furniture, with all kinds of bugs living in the cushions, old furniture, tons of old wine bottles, saved for God knows what....just tons o' crap.

We had 30 days rental remaining on the house we were living in and in those 30 days we got the bathroom remodeled (barely) and the hardwood floor down in the bedroom and part of the living room. The rest of the flooring was bare concrete the day we moved in. We both worked full time in those 30 days and I spent my evenings patching, sanding and painting every wall in the house. Ralph ripped out the bathroom, down to the studs and took out a linen closet and enlarged the bathroom.

The day of the move, we still didn't have the toilet installed and Ralph's answer to that was to go 2 blocks down and use the gas station, which didn't fly with me at all, so I got up at 6 am and painted the bathroom (first primed the new drywall, then painted) so he would install the toilet, which he wouldn't install until the paint was dry.

And so we moved into our new home....and for the next 2 years we worked on getting it into a decent shape. It took all my salary and much of our free time to do it. We remodeled the kitchen, got the hardwood into the rest of the house, got the front and back yard in decent shape, all while we both worked full time and Ralph drilled in the reserves.

Then Ralph left his job because of stress and the new job he got ended 3 months later in a lay off. It took a while but he wound up going back on active duty in the Coast Guard, on a one year contract. At least he had a job, even if it was for only 1 year. That one year contract, by the way, turned into an 8 year job, one year at a time.

As time went by, we decided to add onto the house, pushing the front forward and adding a dining room and enlarging the living room. The house was 900 sq. feet when we bought it and 1200 sq. feet after the addition. That took our time, energy and money as well, since we did the entire addition by ourselves. It was a fun time, though, because we played "how can we make our house look custom on the least amount of money". We found killer cabinets on sale for $5000, they had been a display set and Ralph came running in one day while I was visiting with my mom and said, "Hop in the car, now, we have to go" and so off we went with my mom. Ralph thought they were "the ones" but didn't want to lay out the money until I had seen them.

Anyway, time was marching on and the next thing you know, I was almost 40. Not impossibly old, but it was time to get serious. We knew that we would need ART (assisted reproductive technology) to get me pregnant, but let's face it...when it's not just a romp in the hay that gets you pregnant, when you have to sit down and plan and have money and go to the doctor's, well, it's a whole different story. I mean, how many people have to actually sit down and plan, sock money away, etc. to have a family? I think it's very different than "the norm"

Ok, stopping here...more to come....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

One more thing....

There was a time in life when I thought that the definition of a good mother was one who raised their children to be productive, decent adults.

But, I've since learned that some of the best mothers never get to see their children become adults. They sit by their children's side, they hold them in their arms and they watch them suffer the horrible side effects of chemo. They spend days and nights at the hospital, they give medicines, clean up barf and still shine through with love for their child. And then, they have to say goodbye, all the while wishing they could have one more day, one more hour, one more minute with their beloved child.

My heart is with all the mothers today who ache for the loss of their child. I cannot fathom your extremely huge loss, but I can ache for you. How bittersweet Mother's Day must be for you.

Happy Mother's Day!

There was a time, not that long ago,when Mother's Day meant tears of sadness running down my face. There is nothing harder than longing to be a mom, working so very hard to become a mom and yet not being a mom on Mother's Day.

I wanted to crawl into a cave and not crawl out until the holiday had passed. Because once you are a certain age, people just assume you must be a mom, people like checkers at the grocery store or cashiers at the bank or waitresses at restaurants. And in the week or so leading up to Mother's Day, I'd often have people wishing me "Happy Mother's Day". I would smile and thank them and cry inside.

I distinctly remember the last Mother's Day I wasn't a mom. We had gone through a couple of years of fertility treatments that didn't work, had waited over a year to try and be matched for a domestic adoption, then changed gears and switched to international adoption. Our paperwork dually filed, all the i's dotted and the t's crossed. And we were waiting.....

Waiting to be matched with a baby who would become ours eventually. I was waiting, again, that year, to become a mom, instead of being a mom. And it cut like a knife.

I remember well the tears, the hurt, the pain. I remember wondering if it was ever going to happen, if I would ever become a mom.

Then, it happened....not even 2 weeks later, we got the call....we'd been matched with a little girl, there were pictures already emailed...go sign on to your computer...where have you been, we've been trying to reach you....

And that was the day I first saw my daughter....a picture of her, she was 1 day old and the most gorgeous baby I'd ever seen in my life, because she was my baby.

And so today is Mother's Day, but it really is Marielle's day, too. As I often say to her, "Thank you, sweetheart, for making me a mom and making my dreams come true".

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pictures, yeah, we have pictures.

It's nice to have friends.....who like to dabble in photography....who will come over and take pictures of your kids....

And capture just a bit of their personality....

And capture a moment in time with your family....

Including your boy when he says, "I'm not listening" in actions, not words (which happens often, by the way)

Oh, the sweetest smile....

Siblings and he even caught Rico and a bit of his impishness in this shot:

Yes, it's good to have friends who are willing to come over and take pictures of you and your family.

Thanks, Brian!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There's something that's freakin' me out....

So I asked Marielle this morning to bring the dogs in from the backyard and she comes in and says, "Mom, there's something that's freakin' me out in the backyard. I think it's a nose". I asked her, as I'm standing at the sink, "Oh, like a little critter peeking out from under the deck?" and she said, "No, like a nose all by itself on the ground".

What was it?

A dead bird. Even though we have collars with bells on our cats, sometimes they still manage to get a bird here or there. I don't really feel guilty because we do have a bird feeder and do keep it stocked with sunflower seeds and I figure it evens out....we keep some birds fed and alive through the winter and now and then the cats win one.

Anyway, Dad came to the rescue, with 2 kids peering out the window, he grabbed a plastic bag, snared the dead bird and put it in the garbage can. Oh, it's so easy to be a hero!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Love after 18 years...

So Ralph and I are sitting on the couch watching American Idol and chatting about the contestants and he sets his coke down between us and then unknowingly knocks it over. I grab for it, miss, and then try to grab it again, as it's dribbling coke all over my sofa. Ralph grabs my hand, thinking I'm reaching for him to hold sweet..... and I pull my hand back and he grabs even harder. I finally say, "Let go of me" and he looks quizzically at me and asks why.

No, I'm not getting coy after 18 years, the coke is spilling all over the couch! He finally lets go and I grab the darn can and set it up on the couch and he knocks it over again! By now I'm freaking out. I can't get up quickly and he's not moving. Is it fair to ban coke from the living room? He finally gets the can back in the kitchen and cleans the couch. Sheesh, I love you but let's face it, I'm not grabbing for you because I love you, it's the coke!

P.S. I couldn't get up quickly because my hip has had severe pain for almost a week. I got xrays yesterday and saw the orthopedist today. I have arthritis in my left hip (to go with the right knee that also has arthritis). So, I'm on a cane, NSAIDS, steroids to fight inflammation and pain meds and movin' nice and slow right now.