Friday, September 5, 2014

Fall, and a year of bravery

While today the weather still feels like summer and the forecast tells me we'll reach a sweaty mid-eighties our family has switched into our fall routine. All of the major events marking our summer have come and gone, leaving me with the first signs of the next season; NFL football, pumpkin spice creamer, the sounds/sights of school, fall fashion pins on Pinterest, TV's fall lineup, the arrival of Christmas decor (although they've yet to sell me a pumpkin), and the giddy anticipation of the time's "fall back". Autumn happens to be my favorite of seasons and crisp air, bonfires, fall colors, (my birthday!), and rich flavored baked goods are all on the horizon. With the official first day of fall only weeks away there is much to look forward to, but I'll save more of my gushing over the change of seasons for another post.

Today we are celebrating what was one year ago the metaphorical end to our family's summer. On this day last year we landed, simultaneously exhausted and excited, in a Chicago airport after a summer spent in Uganda. Our time there allowed us to grow our family from two to four through international adoption, which has proven to be the best and hardest undertaking of my life thus far. Now, having spent weeks together in Uganda, the four us had experienced a number of family "firsts" by this time; however, no less special was this day, the day we stepped together onto American soil and our daughters hugged and kissed our immediate family for the very first time. This morning the girls wiggled and smiled excitedly as we reviewed the date at the start of our school day and I shared with them the anniversary of their arrival to America. Norah gave a short cheer, because she loves to celebrate...well, just about anything, and Catherine's eyes lit up with pride as she commented on this momentous day with a voice dripping in a sense of achievement. And what an achievement this year has been! For all of us! And what grace we have been given these past 12 months! The way Tony and I celebrated the metal (and physical) toughness involved in a summer spent in a foreign country, far away from things and people familiar/comfortable, pales in comparison to our celebration of the mental (and physical!) toughness present in our daughters. They have weathered a year far away from the things/people once so very familiar and comfortable while living in what I hope one day will cease to feel like a foreign country. My girls are so very strong.

Our household is so excited for this next phase. It's with great joy we move forward from this anniversary into a season where for the first time in a long time many things will seem familiar to all once again. In my mind I can hear the girls' comments: "On the first day of school we always..." "Remember at Thanksgiving diner last year...", "Can we make caramel apples again this year?", "I know who that guy is!", "You open that with this." or "Our family celebrates x by doing y." While I am aware that we live a life of constant evolution, the confidence I see in my girls with a year of American experiences under their belts is heart warming. A year of learning about the food, the customs, our family, our friends, the appliances, the culture, the idioms, the music, the weather, the expectations, the history, the pronunciations, the so on and so forth. Oh, what a year it has been.  

So I'd like to say cheers to the fall, to the ever changing seasons, and congratulations to all of you who have weathered a season or a year which required amazing strength and bravery!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Road ID

Emily and I are big fans of Road ID. If you haven't heard of them, please check them out. Basically, they're a cool company that provides bracelets, shoe lace tags, and even some clothing which offer your ID in an obvious location in case of emergency. No one likes to think that something might happen while out on a ride, run, or hike, but if you end up in a situation where you can't speak for yourself, your Road ID will do it for you. 

We've been using the wrist ID's for years now, but a few weeks ago I stumbled across their new app. It is sweet! You load all of your information into the app and then it literally breadcrumbs you while you go and train. The new training plan I am currently using is all by time, not distance, so when I go out for a run/ride I am free to go wherever I want. I don't have to worry about going ___ miles. Instead, I worry about running/cycling for ___ minutes. The downside to this kind of plan? Since I don't have to stick to a specific route Emily doesn't really know where I am most of the time. Until now. 

This new app tracks me wherever I am. If I'm fifteen miles from my house on my bike, she knows. If I'm down the road coming in from a long run, she knows. Before I head out on a run/ride I open the app and start my training. She receives a text letting her know I'm on the road which includes a link to a page that shows in real time where I am. You can even include more than one person in your text notifications, so I included my Dad. Mainly because I know he likes to cheer me on when I'm training. Using the Road ID app not only puts me at ease, it also helps family relax. Why?

Because there is also a 'stationary alert' setting. This means that if I don't move for 5 minutes they receive a text that pretty much reads, "Yo...I haven't moved in 5 whole minutes. Come find me because I am not well!" How cool is that!?  

Road ID is a sweet company. Their customer service is top notch. They're also pretty witty. I like to think that I can be witty from time to time, so we get along well. Just take a look at the email they sent me a few days after I downloaded the new app:

Hello Tony:
Thank you and congratulations on downloading the all-new Road ID app. As one of the first, you've made it very apparent that you are a wicked-smart pioneer, a trendsetter and all-around amazing human being.

First, it's good being "one of the first." I don't get first a lot. Second, even though they don't use the Oxford comma, I believe I AM a wicked-smart pioneer and ALSO a trendsetter, and HECK YES I am an all-around amazing human being. Thank you, Road ID. You are pretty swell, too!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Our Family's Adoption Day

Today we celebrate our family's Adoption Day! It's been exactly one year since paperwork was signed legally declaring what our hearts already knew; we are a family! 

Tony and Emily

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

One year ago today - A Ugandan Village

A year ago today we walked through a rural Ugandan village for the very first time. With one daughter in our arms and the other by our side we began to absorb a bit of their culture. Our family's culture. 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Anniversary of the Day We Met

Tony: It's hard to believe it has been exactly a year since Emily and I met our daughters Catherine and Norah. It was an incredible day we will never forget. In the moments before I first held them the anxiety and excitement of meeting my two daughters completely took over my mind. I forgot about how tired I was after travelling for more than a day to reach them. I forgot about all of the waiting, paperwork, and struggle Emily and I went through to get to that exact moment in time. I forgot about any other worry and fear in my life. All I could think about were the two little girls who sat in the van parked 50 yards away and how soon we would be face-to-face. 

One thing so amazing about life one year later is that thinking about seeing Catherine and Norah still does the same thing to me. I love coming home to them each day. They make me forget about everything tough I'm going through. All of my stress, my fears, and everything I am struggling with is suspended temporarily when I get to hug them. I am completely out of my mind when I see my girls. Today I remember that July 8th of last year was just the start.

Emily: One year ago was just the start. And how far we have come in just a year. Not all moments have been as blissful as the time we first sat together on Ugandan soil, but the good outweighs the bad sevenfold. The anxiousness and excitement we felt while waiting to greet our children for the first time quickly faded to pure joy as the meeting we had prayed over played out as if in our most perfect dream. 

Now let me acknowledge that the stories of first meetings are as varied and unique as the adoptive families that tell them and the emotions experienced during those initial interactions are all valid and normal. Pure euphoria and complete awe is not written into everyone's story. Fear, timidness and awkward conversation is as often present as joy and connectedness. Our back-stories and circumstances color our first meetings as they should be. Although there can be many similarities, each adoption story is one of it's very own. At the time of initial introductions some children are too hurt and fragile to embrace the love of a new parent(s) and some adults are still plagued by doubts that they can fully connect without the instincts of biology. I want to be among the truth tellers in adoption and say that this is NORMAL. No matter how that initial meeting goes you all push forward, because to quote Jen Hatmaker, "...when God said He sets the lonely in families, He meant it, and He doesn’t just transform the “lonely” but also the “families.” He changes us for one another. God can create a family across countries, beyond genetics, through impossible circumstances, and past reason."         

Our initial meeting is one that we reflect on with utter gratefulness. Tony and I stood under a large tree with tears in our eyes as the final seconds ticked down before we caught our first glimpse. I remember waving my hand in front of my eyes as if I could somehow dry the tears that pooled as a reprimanding voice inside my head muttered, "you're going to scare them". I took a deep breath as our girls came around the back of a van and into view. They looked amazing! In that moment I thought my heart would burst, and then it happened...our oldest, Catherine, began to run towards us with her arms wide open! You guys, I cannot even tell you what life felt like in that moment. We were living a dream. And just when I didn't think my heart could be any more full our tiny 3-year-old, Norah, who was carried over to where were stood, so sick and frail, the girl who wore a frown in almost all of her photos, reached out for me from the arms of a social worker. If there were not photographs to prove it, I'd say I imagined the whole thing. It was too perfect. I am in awe of the goodness that was poured onto our family that day.

We spent the next minuets getting to know one another and filling the air with simple chit-chat. I think we were all in awe of one another. I have shared with many people that there is one big thing I under estimated when envisioning our first meeting with girls. I knew that Tony and I loved our girls completely before we'd ever met them, but I didn't realize is that they were loving us with the same kind of love before they'd ever met us. I tell people it's a miracle. It is a miracle. 

Today we celebrated the day we first met the best way we knew how. With frozen yogurt! July 8th of this year did not contained any out of body experiences or so much happiness we thought we might faint; instead it was a pretty normal day for our family of four. And that makes me smile, because that miraculous day a year ago was the jump start to our family's togetherness. While we hope for more over the moon moments, life as a "regular old family" is feeling pretty good.

Tony and Emily