Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas--The Most Wonderful Time of the Year???

I absolutely love Christmas music! Truthfully, it's one of my favorite things about the Holiday season. This year, I started listening to it regularly as soon as FM 100 started playing it nonstop. I just had it going on a little radio in my house all day long, and I'm telling you, it brightened my spirits every day. My favorite songs of all are the traditional ones, like "White Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and of course, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." If you visited me during the month of December, chances are you found me turning up the volume and belting out some of these fabulous tunes. My kids constantly shook their heads in dismay, but I noticed it brightened their spirits as well. There's nothing like an optimistic lyric, such as "It's the most wonderful time of the year" running through your mind all day. That is, until things start falling apart.

Then, it's just annoying.

Let me explain.

Here I was, all full of joyful, uplifting Christmas spirit, a long list of activities planned to do with my children during Christmas break. I was higher than a kite as I thought of each carefully planned activity and how much fun we were going to have together. It was going to be our best Christmas break ever!

Oh, how wonderful! Oh, how positive! Oh, how naive!

My children came home from school early the first day of the break to a smiling, warm mother. An hour later, that mother (me, I hate to say) was ready to ship them all to Siberia and pick them up when they had resolved all their issues and were ready to cooperate. That's when the baby started throwing up. The rest of the day I sat on the couch with a terribly sick 7-month-old and tried to help her through one gagging episode after another.

Day 1 of Christmas Vacation: Failure

The next morning I woke up rejuvenated and  ready to face a new day. That's when my 12-year-old started heaving. She slept on the bathroom floor that night while I lay in bed, listening to her heave her guts out, wishing there was something I could do.

Day 2 of Christmas Vacation: Failure

My six-year-old caught the bug by the following morning, and as much as we tried to pretend we all felt well enough to go to the movies, at last we faced reality and stayed home. No one cared to eat the delicious  treats I had prepared or the dinner I had planned. In fact, no one cared to do much at all, except lie around. When my nine-year-old (the last of my kids to get the flu as my five-year-old had already suffered through it the week before) threw up all over my bedspread and bedroom carpet, I began to come a little unglued. This was not the Christmas break I had dreamed about, prepared for, and looked forward to. The song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year " came on the radio, and I immediately switched it off. There was nothing wonderful so far.

Day 3 of Christmas Vacation: Failure

I spent that night waiting to throw up. I was sure after cleaning up as much bodily fluid as I had all week, I was sure to be next. I woke up Christmas Eve morning exhausted and a little downhearted. We managed to make it through the day without a single person losing their stomachs. Does that mean it was a success? Maybe.

Day 4 of Christmas Vacation: Semi-successful

 After quickly laying out Christmas that evening I fell into bed, exhausted. To ensure I actually slept, I decided to take a sleeping pill. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the next morning when my children were out in the living room raving about what Santa had brought them, I couldn't arouse myself from my pill-induced sleep. I tried unsuccessfully a few times to drag myself out of bed, but to no avail. I finally got up in time to take a quick shower, put my hair in a bun and slump into the car to drive to church. Not exactly the Christmas morning I had envisioned. The amazing breakfast I had planned for the day didn't actually happen until noon. All of the spiritual activities I had planned to help us remember the true significance of the day . . . well . . . they just didn't happen. I was too tired to put it all together. I crashed on the  couch and fell into a deep sleep. When I  awoke from my nap, I finally felt like a real person again. Too bad it was a little late to make a fabulous Christmas day.

Or not.

Although nothing had gone as planned, I decided to make the most of what was left of our Christmas. I whipped out the strobe light my little girl had gotten from Santa and her Party Mix CD and turned out the lights. Not exactly a Sabbath Day activity, I know, but since we had blown it all day, I decided we would start fresh the next week. We danced and sang and danced some more. It was on the second stanza of the all-famous "YMCA" song that I realized I may have gotten into the activity a little too much. I jumped up to form a "Y" with my arms and when I came down, I realized I had had a little accident. In other words, I had peed my pants a little (sorry if that's tmi--I don't know a nicer way to say it. After giving birth four times, my bladder is just not what it used to be). Running to the bathroom, I thought to myself, Oh great--I've blown it again. How lame can I be? But my kids actually thought it was hilarious, and I dare say it made their whole night. I mean, what can be better than Mom dancing so hard she peed her pants, right?

So, all in all, we ended up spending some quality time together. As we nesteld together to watch a movie after the dancing, I looked around at my husband and children and realized life just didn't get any better. The infamous Christmas tune returned to my mind once more . . .

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

And I couldn't help but agree.

Day 5 of Christmas Vacation: Success at last!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Officially a Conger

Nearly a year ago my husband and I took one of the biggest leaps of faith ever in our married lives and turned in adoption papers. We had four wonderful children of our own--two boys, two girls--and felt life was pretty much perfect. Our youngest was four years old, growing more independent every day, and so it seemed we were entering a more comfortable stage of life. That's when it happened. You know, that nagging inside that tells you something is missing. My husband told me he kept walking into the room and feeling like someone wasn't there, but then he'd look around and notice we were all accounted for. He thought it was kind of strange; I knew it had to be something more.

And so, we prayed about it and decided to take the plunge one more time and get pregnant. Three months later, when it seemed everything was working against us, we reevaluated our decision. It just didn't feel right, and when my back flared up, making it difficult to function, we realized sadly that my body just wasn't up to another pregnancy. We were reminded of other health concerns and sadly accepted the fact that we would not be welcoming another child into our home. It was a poignant time in our lives. On one hand, we were so grateful for the four healthy children we had been blessed with. And it wasn't that they weren't enough. They were. But, when you feel in your soul that there's more out there for you, it's hard to ignore the prompting.

That's when I began to seriously think about adoption. We had discussed it a couple of times in our married lives, but since we had been blessed to have our own children, it never became a matter of serious contemplation. Now it was. What started as a tiny idea began to grow in my heart and mind until I could hardly think of anything else. There was just one problem. Money.

Adoption is a very expensive endeavor. We were barely making ends meet as it was. It seemed impossible. That's when I ended up in a Wal-Mart check-out line one evening behind a woman with two heaping shopping carts. As I helped her unload her groceries, I couldn't help but ask if she had a large family. She proceeded to tell me about her seven children--four biological, three adopted from three different venues. I told her we had considered adoption and she said, "Then it must be right for you. Not everyone feels that way. Don't be afraid to really pursue it. It's such a wonderful thing." I've never seen this woman again; I don't even know her name. But I do believe we were meant to meet. You just never know what can happen at Wal-Mart!

I went home and told my husband my experience and we began to pray sincerely for answers. It took a lot of faith to even ask, because if the answer was affirmative, we had no idea how we would make it actually work. As the provider for our family, my husband was especially hesitant. I, on the other hand, was ready to move forward full throttle. I knew if God had told us to do it, He would then provide a way to make it work. That's all the answer I needed.

Two months later, we handed in adoption papers. I was ecstatic! Dan was petrified (kind of like when I found out we were expecting our first child:). Six weeks later we were offered an unexpected situation. It was Monday. Two little girls, one three months old, the other 17 months old, would arrive on Friday. Did we want them? Wow! We certainly hadn't expected two. We had only one afternoon decide. It would mean a new vehicle since we didn't have one that would fit us all. It would mean two in diapers. It would mean a major change! We thought about all of this--and said yes.

Four days later we anxiously awaited the opportunity of meeting the birth mom and taking home our two new little girls. They never came. Days went by and we never heard from them again. It was excruciating. We were heartbroken. It was hard to keep moving and going on with life as normal when inside I felt a part of me was gone. I fell to my knees time and time again, seeking strength and understanding from a Source who knew the bigger picture. Peace always came. I decided to simply trust.

Less than a week later, we were offered a new opportunity. A birth mom was here from South Carolina. Her baby was due in 10 weeks. A girl. Did we want to be matched with her? It was a difficult decision. On the one hand, I was more than eager to get ready for another baby; on the other hand, I was still mourning what we never even had and scared we might have our hearts broken once again. That's the risk you take any time a baby is coming into the world; it seems like an even bigger risk with adoption. It's tough when the final decision isn't resting in your own hands. We prayed, we pondered, we discussed, and we prayed some more. Then we committed.

Our beautiful baby girl was born May 5, five weeks early. Weighing only 4 lbs, 13 oz. at birth, she was the tiniest package I'd ever brought home from the hospital. She was a miracle to us. My heart was so full of gratitude. Our other children welcomed her with open arms and loved her immediately.

Berkley Maya Fern Conger

Life changed forever. Not only did we now have a tiny baby to care for, but we had to make some pretty big sacrifices to meet the financial obligations we now had from the adoption. We felt prompted to move our family of seven to our basement and rent out the main floor of our home. It seemed a little crazy, but we did it and found that we are just as happy downstairs as we were upstairs! We have all sacrificed time, sleep, energy, and more for this little girl to be part of our family. The crazy thing about sacrifice is that, if it's for the right reason, it ends up feeling like it's not a sacrifice at all.

This past month it all came together. We woke up one morning, got dressed up and went to the courthouse to have the adoption finalized. It was a short, simple, yet wonderful experience. Our children were as excited as we were to finally have Berkley an official member of our family. But it was what happened 11 days later that made everything especially worth it.
Inside the courthouse--with the judge

On Saturday, November 26th, we went as a family to the Bountiful, Utah temple, where Berkley was sealed to us for eternity. Words cannot describe the joy that filled my heart. I felt it would surely burst in gratitude and pure, complete happiness. When our children were brought into the room, all dressed in white, I caught a glimpse of eternity and felt a fullness of joy like I've never felt before. It was one of the most beautiful, sacred experiences of my life. Berkley smiled sweetly the entire time, like she knew exactly what was happening. I realized in that moment that surely we had been missing something. Now we felt complete and whole and oh, so happy.
Outside Bountiful Temple

I think there are few times in our lives when we really grasp what life is truly about, when we see things from God's perspective, rather than our own limited and flawed point of view. When those moments come, you wish to bottle them up, to hold on as tightly as you can so that you won't ever forget them. But life moves on--all too quickly--and time, energy, and resources are in constant demand. Then, before you know it, special feelings, events and memories have been pushed too far back to recall them at a moment's notice. That's why I forced my heart and mind to take a picture--not just a picture, but a 4-D memory--so that I will never forget the way my children looked, arrayed all in white, bright smiles gleaming on their faces--like angels; the way my husband gazed at me--like he loved me more than anything else in the world; the way our families and friends gathered around us to share this special event--like it meant the world to them, too; the way I felt inside my heart--like I was the most blessed of any woman.

How grateful I am for those gnawing little feelings that tell you something is missing and that just won't go away until you carefully consider what they are trying to say. How grateful I am for answered prayers, to know that we never have to make decisions on our own with our limited knowledge, experience and expertise. God will always direct us if we ask, and I know I can trust Him implicitly. After all, He's a parent, too, and only wants what is best for us, just like we do for our own children. And how grateful I am for a beautiful brown baby girl who is now "officially a Conger" as my nine-year-old son wrote in his journal. She's the greatest gift in our lives since . . . well, our last child! Five amazing, challenging, wonderful children. All unique and different in their own way. All sent to teach me.

I must have a lot to learn!