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We have an incredible Creator who weaves our stories together in ways we are sometimes privileged to know and in others that we will never be privy to. I don’t know how many people actually read this blog other than my family and a few friends, yet my stats claims that there are lots of people who apparently visit and read my often random thoughts and observations. Who knows? Maybe my words have helped or inspired some of you. If so, I would love to hear it. So like, you know, maybe leave a comment or whatever….

When I was a kid, I remember a song that I sang in church once. I believe it’s called “Tapestry”. I can still recall the lyrics:

“I am a thread in the tapestry, I have The Master’s hand on me. And then He weaves me carefully making textures as He goes. Each of us part of this great design, You’ve got you part and I’ve got mine, all of our lives are intertwined, as the pattern starts to grow! Through thick and thin, The Master weaves us in. Young and old, we are the colors of the rainbow. Our lives are short and long, but together we hold strong, with this everlasting tapestry!”

No making fun. “Christian” music back then wasn’t exactly edgy. But this song, however, has a lot of truth in it. We are a part of a tapestry of humanity. Our lives are indeed connected, and every once in a while, some of those connections can sort of blow your mind.  We are in the middle of one of those mind-blowing connections.

On Monday, January 7th, after a beautiful conversation with our sweet J, Craig and I came to the conclusion that our concerns over adopting an older child were ridiculous and unfounded.  Our kids were so incredibly open to it, they loved the idea of having an older sibling, and we had seen how our lives might look welcoming an older child and all of its fabulousness, struggles, language barriers, awkwardness, and wonder.  Our plan for the next adoption HAD been to return to Ethiopia for a toddler girl.  But God leading us to New Horizons and J, changed our hearts.  So on that day, I once again looked at photos of waiting children, this time looking at older children, and expanding the search to Eastern Europe.  I have combed through hundreds of pictures before.  My heart broke for each one.  But this time, I froze.  My heart skipped a beat.  Still, I kept scrolling, then I scrolled back to her.  Heart skipped again.  Scrolled down again.  Scrolled back.  There was something about this girl.

I caught Craig about to return down to his home office and stopped him.  “Look at this girl, honey”, I said, shoving the iPad in front of his nose.  He looked.  He smiled.  He got a weird look on his face.  “Oh”, he said.  “Oh?”, I said.  “Oh”, he said again.  Then he put his things down.  This was my first clue something was happening.  When Craig puts work stuff down, it’s serious.  “She’s lovely.  How old is she?”, he asked.  “Twelve”, I said.  He looked at me again, with tears in his eyes.  “Okay”, he said.  “Okay???”, I said.  “Yes. Okay.  Who do we talk to?”, he said.  “Uhhh…I dunno.  I’ll email someone I guess.  Okay?”, I replied.  “Okay”.

Firstly, I know, our conversation was extremely intelligent and riddled with big words and complex critical reasoning.  Be jealous, it’s okay.   That’s how we roll.

So I emailed the facilitator of the webpage.  That was Monday, remember.  On Friday, as I sat amidst a pile of teenager clothes, accessories, Ziploc bags, and a bathroom scale, I received a return email telling me that the sweet girl I had seen in a photo, was in Ukra*ne and that I should email another woman for more information.  Normally, I don’t sit amidst such things as teenager clothes and whatnot, but I was assisting J with packing for her departure the next morning.  She had just declared me unnecessary in her process (typical 17 year old!), so I was able to email the person to whom I was directed by the website facilitator.  This woman was the one responsible for getting our girl’s picture on to the website, and was advocating for her, after she met her in the late summer while she was in Ukr@ine adopting her two boys.  This particular woman, Kristen, emailed me back in about 10 minutes.  So I emailed her.  And she emailed me.  And I emailed her.  And then she sent me her phone number.  And it was local.

!!

What?  I emailed her again, asking her where she was located.  She replied with the name of a town a mere hour away.  Are you kidding me?  This woman could live in California!  Washington!  Texas! Other far away states!  But she didn’t.  She lived an hour away.  I couldn’t believe it.

The next day, after an extremely difficult farewell to J and feeling like my heart was being ripped from my chest, then wallowing in my misery for most of the day, I called Kristen.  Do you ever have those experiences where you speak with someone and you know you’ve found a lifelong friend?  Threads in the tapestry, friends.  Kristen and I spoke for quite some time and she later informed me that she knew from the first few minutes of talking with me, that we would be adopting “V”.

It was only the next week that we decided to move forward with adopting this girl who captured our hearts.  We are now almost done with our home study, and we’re ready and raring to go with tackling “The Beast”, aka, the dossier.

Last month, I met Kristen face-to-face where every first face-to-face meeting usually takes place: Starbucks.  We sat and talked for a few hours, until we had to pry ourselves away so we could return to our families, who obviously don’t function well without us.  Kristen is one of those people for me, who is so easy to talk to, like a long-lost friend I never knew I was missing.  It was during this fist meeting, that I learned when she met V for the first time.

But let’s back up for just a second.  Craig and I were discussing the possibility of adopting again during the summer of 2012.  We decided at the end of August that we would take a month to pray about it separately, then come together again and share what our thoughts were.  A mere two days later in church, we were both moved in an extraordinary way.  It was nothing less than the Holy Spirit speaking directly to us, separately.  You can read more about this experience in this post, which happens to be co-written by Craig.  Note the date.  August 23rd.

Back to Kristen and new friendship and delicious coffee.  As we chatted about V, her boys, Ukr@ine, adoption, how crazy we were, etc, I asked her when exactly she was in Ukr@ine.  She had mentioned, “late summer”.  Hmmm.  So when was that, exactly?  She said they arrived the 21st, met their oldest son on the 22nd, and then met V on the 23rd.  Of August.  She met my darling girl on the day we posted our intent to adopt again.  More threads woven into the tapestry.  She promised this precious girl that she would do all that she could to find her a family.  A family is what V had asked Kristen for.  A family to love her and never leave her.  A family to count on and call her own.  A family to fight with, to laugh with, to share with, to sit with, to grieve with, to struggle with, to grow with.

Sweet, darling, precious, V.  We will be that family for you.

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I’ve honestly never been curious about what it would feel like if someone took a cheese grater to my nerves, but that is exactly how I’m feeling tonight.  Raw, jagged, floppy-like, drippy and haggard.  I was back in Michigan this weekend with my mom and my immediate family and this is how I feel now.  Imagine driving for 3 hours feeling like that.  Alone.  Thank goodness for satellite radio and the comedy channel.  If I had been left to my own thoughts I would not have made it.

This is the facebook status I just posted:  I can’t express the experience of this weekend.  So many emotions, raw, deep, horrible, wonderful, heartbreaking and uplifting.  I am a puddle of goo right now, desperately trying to get my bones to keep me upright.  Oh bones, don’t fail me!  Hold my frame upright so that I might be able to do stuff like hug my children, read them stories, snuggle with them in bed, walk to the bathroom (oy, that could get really messy if you disintegrate, bones of mine.), and walk up the stairs so that I might collapse into bed and hopefully drift off into dreamless, delicious, sleep.

I am so grateful to have the family I do.  We are not perfect, we don’t exactly tell each other our deepest feelings, but there is safety within our circle.  Safety where we can say what is on our hearts and minds and know that it will be met with unconditional love.  Even if at first there may be frustration or annoyance.  The love underneath holds everything up.

It was just Mom, Dad, and the kids this weekend.  Our little Potter family unit together.  We hashed stuff out.  It wasn’t pretty.  We talked about stuff that had nothing to do with Mom’s health.  We talked about stuff that’s been bugging us for years and we have avoided saying it, afraid that it was just us being selfish and for Pete’s sake, just get over it.  The funny thing is, a lot of that stuff we held on to ended up being so silly once it was finally said.  You realize that your perception in the first place was WAY off, and now you’re wondering why in the world you spent all those years holding on to it.  There were more than a few moments of, “I didn’t know you felt that way!”  and “I didn’t know YOU felt that way!  I thought you were just crazy!  Or I was crazy!”  and “Crazy is true, but not in this case”.

And there was anger.  Of the explosive sort.  It had everything to do with the differences in the way all of us communicate.  The difficulty in remembering to be aware of how our actions may be affecting others, even if there is no ill intent.  We gave each other permission to grieve in our own way, not expecting any other one person to do this the same way that we are.  It is useless to expect my left-brained brother to be as emotional as I am.  I’m not grieving “better”, I’m just doing it my own way.  There is no “good” or “bad” way to grieve, as long as we grieve and not avoid it, pretend it’s not happening.  So the anger was quelled.  The words came again, the lines opened, the “I’m sorry’s” and “I love you’s”, the tears and embraces settled in once again as welcome companions to this road we are navigating.  The realization that we don’t know what we’re doing, that each step forward is likely one of uncertainty, feeling for solid ground.

You see, we’ve never been through this, really.  I never knew my own grandparents, except for my mother’s mother, whom I barely knew and who died when I was young, maybe 6 or 7.  All of my aunts and uncles are still here, all of my cousins…even my cousins’ kids, all still here.  We’ve never done this before, much less for our own mother.  It’s not a good thing to be a novice in.  But we have to.  So we can either let it tear us apart, or we can commit to loving one another through it, and allow it to grow us together.  We have chosen the latter.  All for one, and one for all.

 

At the end of last week, our family took a trip to Six Flags Great America.  I have not been to this grand place for 9 years.  That’s back when Craig and I were just dating.  Young, in love, & spontaneous!  So to say that this trip was slightly different than the last, would be an understatement. 

This year’s trip was a completely new experience in that it wasn’t about me and how many roller coasters I could ride.  This trip was about experiencing a theme park through my kids’ eyes.  And the result did not disappoint.  One thing Great America has done since I last visited was to add more things for the shorties to do.  As a kid, I remember some sort of Bugs Bunny area with a big fun house and some other stuff.  Now, there are three dedicated kids areas, plus additional rides that shorties can ride outside of those areas.  It was awesome.

Waiting to ride The Whizzer!

Cole loved every second.  Well, okay, maybe not the end of the day when he got really mad that we would even suggest that the park was closing and we only had time for one more ride.  How dare we stop the fun?  I mean, really.  Anyway, up until that point, he was so enthusiastic, ready for more rides, more thrills.  He rode his first big roller coaster as the first thing we did upon arrival.  The Whizzer.  Chicago folk, can I get a woot woot for the Whizzer??  Aw yeah.  The Whizzer is a fabulous introductory coaster for the shorties.  You sit in a car, with the front person essentially in the lap of the one behind.  Perfect for a parent taking a kid on the ride.  Perfect for a couple to ride.  Extremely awkward for brother and sister.  Which was me and my brother.  Cole wanted to ride with Daddy, so Jon and I rode behind them.  Once we got situated, we just sat there waiting for it to start, feeling more awkward with each passing moment.  So Jon broke the silence by singing, “Hey!  It’s weird to have to sit with my sister!  It’s very awkward to be sitting here with everyone watching us!”.   I started laughing and looked at the people who were next in line, and they were looking anywhere and everywhere except at us, sharing in our awkwardness.  We just had to laugh.  What else could we do?

The awful Ricochet, pre-ride, pre-desire to vomit.

The bummer part of the day was that I was somehow nominated as the official “circular and vomit-inducing spinning ride” chaperone for the shorties.  I used to love those types of rides when I was younger.  Not so much now.  There was one in particular called “Ricochet”.  Just the name should tell you what horrors it had in store for riders.  It started up and as I sat with Cole and he screamed with delight, I was praying to not puke all over the people riding in the car behind us.  I needed a moment after that one.  I also rode the Great America version of the teacups.  Good gravy.  Can I get some sort of Awesome Mommy award for having to endure all of those horrific rides, please?  Urp.

One of the best rides was Roaring Rapids, a white-water raft ride where you pretty much get soaked no matter what.  Caroline was tall enough for this one so Grampy waited off the ride with Myles (who was passed out at that point anyway) and Craig and I got to ride with both Cole and Caroline, and Uncle Jon and Grammy.  It was so much fun.  I have to say, for my little prima donna daughter, she was incredibly brave that day, willing to try whatever ride she was big enough for.  She even went on Logger’s Run, another water ride, that had a huge, fast hill at the end.  Prior to plunging down at the end, it’s pretty mild, just floating along “rivers” and clicking up hills.  She was loving it until the end.  Craig sat with her (it was another sitting in the lap type ride) so he could basically envelop her for the hill.  I turned to see how she did once we splashed down, and she burst into tears.  Poor baby.  “I don’t ever never ever want to go on that ride again!!”, she sobbed.  Okay, baby.  I’m shocked she even wanted to go on in the first place, but I kept telling her how proud I was that she was so very brave.  I said she didn’t ever have to go on again, but wasn’t it great that she could look at the ride now and say, “Yeah, I’ve been on that ride.  I’m pretty awesome.”  That satisfied her enough to calm down, though she had to report to Grammy that the hill was pretty awful.

Myles totally soaked at Wiggles World

The highlight of the day for Myles was Wiggles World.  He was able to ride every single ride (5 of them), and of course, play on the Captain Feathersword pirate ship playground and splash in Henry the Octopus splash area.  Oh boy, did that kid splash.  At one point, he was peering into an opening on the side of this little splash structure, and it sprayed him right in the face suddenly.  He backed up in shock, looked at us, screamed in delight, and went back for more.  The child was SOAKED, and loved every second of it. 

Cole on The Little Dipper, all by himself!

Another fantastic kiddie ride was the “Little Dipper”, a kid-sized wooden coaster that Great America bought when the infamous “Kiddieland” closed for good last year.  At least its glory will remain for more generations!  This beauty of a coaster was special because Cole insisted on riding all by himself.  He was tall enough to ride without an adult, and he was set on it.  So, we waited while he got in line, waited his turn, and finally got on.  They even made an announcement: “We have a 5 year old on board with us today who is riding all by himself, ladies and gentleman.  Let’s give this young man a round of applause!”  It was so very cool.  Caroline even went on (another shocker!  I never thought she’d want to go!) with her uncle Jon, and loved it, begging to go on again.

Caroline with her Uncle Jon on the Little Dipper

Perhaps the best part of our day, was that because we were there at the end of August, on a weekday, the crowds were far less than normal peak season.  A lot of schools are already in session, so it seriously cut down on the amount of people.  It made for a much easier time packing in the most fun possible, since the lines were so short.  Seriously.  Like, maybe a 5-10 minute wait for major coasters.  We will keep this in mind and likely do it again next year.  Who’s coming with us?

Cole and Caroline on Busy Bees

Wiggles World: The Big Red Airplanes

Daddy with all the kids in the Wiggles plane!

Waiting to ride the teacups

Oh Look! Here's me trying not to hurl!

The end of summer is looming.  I’m not too happy about it.  This summer has actually been quite wonderful.  I have fallen in love with my kids all over again.  We’ve enjoyed lazy mornings.  We’ve relished making plans for fun day trips.  We’ve played at the pool.  I love my kids. 

Now let’s be real here.  There are days when I have not been so overjoyed with their behavior….uhhhh, see previous post.  But for the most part, they’ve been a lot of fun to be with, and totally entertaining. 

And so now we prepare for the beginning of a new school year.   And I have a kindergartener.  Has it come to this?  I can’t believe I have a kindergartener.  My oldest is going to kindergarten.  I don’t consider myself a “weepy” mom who fights back tears at ever major new life stage, but for some reason, I’ve been having trouble with this one.    Every time I think about sending him off, I get a bit teary-eyed.  Thankfully, I don’t have to send him off on a bus, and I know a few friends who do.  Oy, that would be way too emotional for me.  No, we shall walk down the block, around the corner, and send him off in style.  And then we shall turn around, walk back home, and I shall weep the entire way.

I know all will be well, but that first day is gonna be difficult. So to all my mommy friends who have first-time kindergarteners, I stand with you in solidarity and sobs.

Last week my family was on a “mini-vaca” up in Wisconsin Dells.  We met my parents up there on Sunday, and headed back on Wednesday afternoon.  The in-between was basically one disappointment after another.  For me.  *sigh*  And it was only due to my unmet expectations for family fun.

I wanted our days filled with sunshine and happiness, laughter and playtime, rainbows and unicorns.  Alas, we were met with overcast skies and drizzle.  And the next day was the same.  As was the day after that.  Every day we couldn’t go out  mini-golfing, or on boat tour, or feed deer, or ride roller coasters, or have a grand time at a waterpark, or whatever else ridiculous yet lovely family fun stuff that’s outdoors the Dells has to offer, was a day that I got more and more upset.  I had been planning this trip for months.  I was really looking forward to all the fun things we could do as a family.  Outside.  In the SUN.  Or at least in the absence of rain.

I found myself getting really annoyed.  And then that annoyance turned into anger.  And that anger made me lose patience with my kids.  And with my husband.  And with my parents.  But my expectations were not being met!!!  Wisconsin was seriously sucking in the family fun department.

Then I thought about how most of my stressful times in life, the times when I’m not at peace, when I’m arguing with Hubs, when my kids are on my last nerve….they were all times when my expectations weren’t being met.  With my husband, a lot of those times were even situations where I wasn’t TELLING him what my expectations were, but I still thought he should live up to them.  At the end of a horrific day, I expect him to see the stress on my face and step in and take over for me with the kids.  When he doesn’t, I get upset.  But how can he meet my expectations when he doesn’t know what they are?

I expect my children to obey me the first time.  HAHAHAHAHA!!!  Okay, that made me laugh.  All right, maybe not, but I DO expect them to obey after 2 or 3 times.  When that expectation isn’t met, I get upset.

I expect that there will be no unexpected expenses when we’re tight on money.  But inevitably, something major will break, and we NEED to have it fixed.  Unmet expectation = stress = angry me. 

I expect my friends to be loyal and honest.  If they betray me, I get upset, angry, etc.  Unmet expectation.

The thing about unmet expectations is, it makes life pretty self-focused.  “YOU didn’t meet MY expectations”.  But am I meeting theirs?  What makes me so awesome that everyone has to meet MY expectations anyway?

Here’s the end of the Dells fiasco.  We actually ended up having a pretty great time.  We were able to squeeze in a Duck tour before it rained, had great fun at the hotel’s indoor pool, found an indoor waterpark that was fantastic, went to great restaurants (one was even attached to an indoor amusement park – just carnival-type rides, but the kids LOVED it) and enjoyed lots of outdoor fun on our last day there since the sun finally decided to make an appearance.  So what if my expectations weren’t met?  We still had fun. 

My stars, but I was hoping this post was going to be funnier than it is.  I apologize if I didn’t meet your expectations.  🙂

My Favorite Family

All five of us

I thought I’d take the time to introduce my family.  This is us.  Aren’t we adorable?  🙂  My husband Craig and I were married in October of 2002, about one year and one week after our first date.  After we married, we moved to Grand Rapids, MI and stayed there for 5 years.  We moved there because Craig had gotten a job at a University there.  Two years and one day later, we welcomed our son Cole into the world.  He was very much a blessing, and at the same time, a huge change to our lifestyle.  I don’t think you ever realize how very selfish we are as humans until you have to care for another life. 

When Cole was about 8 months old, I discovered I was pregnant.  I like to tell people that while I gleefully shared the positive pregnancy test for Cole, I chucked the stick at Craig for Caroline saying, “Well, what are we going to do now??”  This was mostly due to the fact that Craig was attempting a business start-up and we had no health insurance.  Miraculously, we worked things out though, and Caroline joined us in February of 2006. 

The weeks following Caroline’s birth were dark days for me.  Before I realized what was happening, I found myself in the grip of severe post-partum depression.  I guess I’ll get more into this at a later date, but the short version is that life was awful, I felt hopeless, but after confessing my feeling to my OB/GYN, I got the help I needed.  I went to counseling, and went on anti-depressants.  I cannot say enough about the importance of finding help when you are depressed.  It is not a battle to be fought alone!

After 5 years in Michigan, we moved back to Chicagoland, again for Craig’s job.  In 2008, we began the process to adopt from Ethiopia.  After many stacks of paper, many pages read, many documents notarized, and many headaches and impatient waiting, Myles Peter Mintesinote Isaak joined us in June 2009.  He was 7 months old at the time.  The entire adoption process stretched us in more ways than we could have ever imagined, and we are the better for it.  Adjusting to his arrival was more difficult than we first anticipated, but coming up on a year later, we are so blessed by him and we are amazed at how we have been shown even more of God through this process.  He really is Good, all the time.

Oh, that is us in a nutshell.  You will be learning all of our crazy quirks and strengths and general craziness through this blog.  Should be pretty interesting.  Thanks for joining us!