Operation Christmas Child

Since my first child was born I’ve struggled with the idea of how to teach a kid gratitude and empathy. How do you instill a grateful heart in children who have everything they need and don’t know what it means to go without? I don’t remotely have the answer to that question, but I moved one step closer today, showing it to my oldest son, Ezra. 

For the past three years I’ve participated in Operation Christmas Child, an outreach program through Samaritan’s Purse. It’s really simple: you pack a “shoebox” (I buy 6 quart plastic boxes at the store) with toys, toiletries, and school supplies for a child from an underprivileged country. You decide ahead of time what age group you’re buying for so you can get age appropriate items. When Ezra was three I took him shopping with me, carefully explaining that we were purchasing Christmas gifts for another child. He could not have cared less. So, when he was four I went shopping on my own. This year he’s five, and I hoped he was old enough to understand what we were doing. My objective: bless a couple of children while blessing my own son with a greater awareness of the needs of others. 

This morning I busted out our globe and had Ezra point out where we lived. Then I pointed out several countries where shoeboxes are distributed. “In these countries there are children who don’t have what you have, like toys and clothes and coloring books. Many of them won’t even receive Christmas gifts,” I explained. “Would you like to go to the store and pick out some gifts for a couple of kids?” I was holding my breath at that question. It’s entirely possible he could have just said he’d rather watch The Lion Guard. Instead, he responded positively and wanted to go to the store right away. 

It may not seem like a big thing, but it’s something. It’s a step forward in teaching gratitude and empathy. I love that my son was eager to go pick out gifts for someone else. I love that he was able to think of someone else’s needs. When we arrived at Target he headed straight for the toy aisle. I was a little nervous that this was going to turn into an “I want this” trip, but I underestimated the little critter. He started by picking out his two favorite Matchbox cars, one for each box. (I decided we would shop for two boys ages 5-9 since that is in Ezra’s wheelhouse.) Then he picked out two stuffed dinosaurs, one blue and one green. I asked him what else little boys need, and he came back with “crayons.” So we headed over to the arts and crafts aisle and picked out some crayons and a coloring book for each boy. I kind of lost him when we moved onto the toiletry portion of the box, but he did make a valiant effort to locate individually packaged bars of soap! 

When we got home I asked him to help me pack the boxes and he got right to work sorting items and putting one of each thing in the boxes. I helped him figure out how to make it all fit, but he did the packing. I really wanted him to be as hands-on as possible to take ownership of the project. 

It’s a fine line between helping someone, and reveling in your own privilege when you participate in a charitable activity. The truth is, it makes us feel good about ourselves to help when the focus really should be on the people you’re helping. My goal today was to have Ezra focus on meeting a need with a pure heart, and I hope that’s what happened. 

Here are a couple of links if you think you might want to pack a shoebox, too:

Samaritan’s Purse
How to Pack a Shoebox
They are a Christian organization, but you certainly don’t have to be a Christian or a religion of any kind to pack a box!😊

Here is what went in our boxes:

  • Tee shirt
  • Chapstick
  • Toothbrush
  • Washcloth
  • Crayons crayons
  • Coloring book
  • Matchbox car
  • Two pack of playdoh
  • Stuffed animal (dinosaur)
  • Koosh ball

Each box of items cost me approximately $38. Next year I’m going to incorporate having Ezra pay for part of the gift with his piggyback money. Baby steps!

A New Baby! Wha?…

Wow, nearly a year has passed since my last post! So much has changed since then. For example, I had another baby. A very surprising, miraculous baby. Yes, even after we were told there was no chance even with IVF due to diminished ovarian reserve. Even after we used IVF for baby number one. Even when we adopted for baby number two. My third baby gave the middle finger to modern science and was conceived anyway! Apparently all it takes is one hearty egg and one ambitious sperm to getter done. Doctors don’t know everything, just goes to show. 

Leo shortly after birth.

Our beautiful boy Leo blessed our family at the end of June, following my week long stay for preeclampsia. The little mite was born at 35 weeks, and doctors estimated a two week stay in the NICU, but he battled his way out after five days. That kind of ambition should serve him well in life! It was really hard to see my baby with a feeding tube and all kinds of wires, and I felt enormously guilty that I couldn’t keep him in for the five weeks to which he was entitled. It’s a trait unique to moms, I think, to feel guilty for things over which we have no control. Consequently I dealt with some serious post partum depression in the two weeks following his birth. The suddenness of it all plus the hormone crash were just too much to weather without having a few breakdowns. Luckily I have an excellent support system and I traversed my way back to good emotional health with their help. 

Now I find myself, once desperate for a child, blessed with THREE children! Three boys, to be exact. When I’m not overwhelmed by the mess and the noise, I’m in awe of how lucky I am. Just a few short years ago I thought it would never happen for us. Each child has come to us in a miraculous way that has delighted and surprised us. I remind myself of that each time I lament that I have two in diapers. I have one in my arms as I write this. Multi tasking is essential to productivity around here. 

My three amazing boys.

Although I haven’t written for a year, I miss it and plan to write regularly here in the future. I have too many good stories not to write them down! I hope you will read them. ❤️Holly

Borrowed Genes

Adoption Finalization Anniversary!

So I learned something new this week! There is a World Adoption Day, a National Adoption Day, and all of November is Adoption Month! How awesome to have all those occasions to celebrate something as special as adoption? We have one more date though, the same day as National Adoption Day, actually. It’s November 19th, the one year anniversary of CJ’s adoption being finalized!

There was never any doubt from the second we met him that he was our son. We didn’t need a judge to tell us that. Still, it was kind of nice when she did. 😊 Our “finalization day” wasn’t exactly like you see on tv or movies. You know, where the family gets dressed up and stands before the judge to hear the finalization decree. I honestly don’t know if we had the option to do that or not. It would have been kind of cool, but it likely would have cost me more money! Instead, sometime in early December 2015 we received a letter via courier that said CJ was our irrevocably legal son, by judge’s decree, official on November 19, 2015. I was wearing jammies and feeding CJ his bottle. Not exactly the glamourous look associated with such an occasion! It took me by surprise because I had been thinking someone would contact me with a court date, but then I teared up because there is just something amazing about hearing that your son is now legally your son. I had certainly never thought of him as anything less; I had pushed it out of my mind that to the courts he was simply “Baby Boy Doe” for the first two and a half months of his life. He had never been a Doe to the Hubs and I! 

CJ has made our lives so much richer and full of adventure. He made Ezra a big brother, which helped to bring him out of his shell as well as led to him developing a sense of pride around having a baby brother to “protect.” He makes me a better mother by keeping me on my toes and making my heart grow two sizes too big. The Hubs was already a great father, but he’s even more phenomenal now, always playing with or wrestling his two boys all over the house. When he gets home from work both boys just light up when they hear the garage door open. 

I hear about a lot of people in my adoption group that wonder if they can love a child that isn’t theirs biologically. The answer is a resounding YES! When you fall in love with your child, DNA doesn’t matter. You make a connection that is unique and separate from each other’s genes. It’s difficult to explain, but the love that is forged simply through the parent/child relationship supersedes any other. I love my boys equally, and in the course of each busy day I don’t stop to account for who is a bio and who is adopted. I just love them both with all my heart. 

This week, as we reflect on and cherish CJ’s Finalization Day, we are filled with gratitude and thanks that God chose us to be his family. We are so lucky. It could have been any other number of families, but it was us! That’s better than winning the lottery, and we are going to raise CJ to understand and believe that everyday of his life. 

The two cutest boys around!

Our Adoption Story, Chapter Five: A New Beginning

It may be over a year later, but there is more story to share!

About 40 hours after arriving at the hospital, we got the all clear that we could go home. We couldn’t believe it; we were prepared for a lengthier stay. However, as it turns out, CJ’s birth parents were also from Oregon, so we were allowed to leave. Since he was born in Washington we figured we would have to wait it out, since the paperwork to cross state lines with an adopted baby can take a while. Apparently what really matters is where the birth parents are from. It all played out very conveniently in terms of timing. After such a hellacious, agonizing wait it was hard to believe the placement was truly so simple! 

Our nurse came in to help us with final details and asked us if we had any questions. It was so embarrassing, but we had to ask how to feed the straps back through the lowest setting on the infant seat. Three years was enough for us to have forgotten how to do it properly! And of course, we didn’t want to wing it and just hope for the best! She technically wasn’t allowed to touch the car seat but she did anyway. That hospital and all the staff were just amazing. 

We successfully secured our little nugget after much ado.

The hospital chaplain had been visiting us regularly, and even brought in a second chaplain to share his experience as an adoptive father. It was really reassuring to hear someone else’s experience and to be given such encouragement. Shortly before we left, the first chaplain asked if she could bless baby CJ, and then she proceeded to anoint him with the most beautiful blessing I could imagine. It was all sort of surreal and magical. ​

Many couples find themselves in hospitals that aren’t adoption friendly, and they aren’t treated kindly by the staff. Our experience was the opposite; they did anything and everything they could to make us feel right at home and like we were part of something natural and really great. Perhaps because it was a Catholic hospital and they view adoption as a solution to abortion. That’s just my guess, but I think it’s a good one. 

When it was time to leave, we left our room with the Hubs toting our precious cargo in the infant car seat. As we entered the elevator a nurse joined us. She asked us if this was the baby born two days ago that was to be adopted. With big smiles, we told her he was and that we were the lucky parents. She started to choke up, and told us she was the first nurse that held CJ after his birth and did kangaroo care. She struggled to speak, finally saying, “He’s special. There’s something special about your baby.” Needless to say, we were pleased to hear this and touched at the nurse’s kind words. 

As we got off the elevator we felt like the luckiest people alive. Imagine finally having your dreams come true, and the circumstances surrounding them being next to perfect.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude at how everything had unfolded. It seemed too good to be true, but somehow it wasn’t. 

Walking down the hospital corridors with our baby was a funny feeling. We both felt like someone was going to stop us and ask for proof that he was our son. No one did of course; people just smiled at us as we passed by. Less than two days before we had met this tiny, perfect creature, and now we were taking him home to be ours forever. Our son. It’s difficult to explain how hard it was to wrap our brains around all that had happened in 40 hours! 

As we pulled out of the parking garage and made our way to the freeway, it began to rain. I was driving at a crawl so as to protect my baby, but the increasingly torrential rains caused me and all the other drivers to slow almost to a stop. Less than five minutes after leaving the hospital, we were caught in the hardest rain we had ever experienced. It was still summertime! That kind of rain was highly irregular for early September, but there we were. When the rain finally let up and the sun shone brightly through the clouds, I took it as yet another sign that this perfect baby and this adoption were meant to be. God was doing his best to let us know He was with us on this journey! 

Here is a current picture of my little bruiser. Our 5.5lb baby is now 24lbs!

His smile melts my heart.

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The Red Dragonfly

This story is as true as true can be, I swear it. In fact, some of you may even remember the first part.

Late last August, probably close to where we’re coming up now, I was outside working on my pond. This should be unremarkable, but it’s not…because I’m forever working on that damn pond. The previous owners of the house planted a pine tree/bush/foliage-like thing right next to it, so you can frequently find me on my knees in the rocks by the pond, fishing out the pump and emptying out the filter of pine needles so that the water will continue to flow instead of becoming stagnant and stale and replete with algae. I share this with you so you will realize that I have spent enough time kneeling by this pond in the past seven years to be intimately acquainted with its flora and fauna.

I don’t remember the exact date last August, but I know it was in the last week of the month. If I wanted to, I could go look back on Facebook and it would probably tell me the exact day. For our purposes, near the end of the month will do. I was out at the pond, sharp rocks digging into my knees and my arms up to the elbow in gross pond water, when I had a visitor. A large, bright red dragonfly showed up near the water and just hovered there.   I stopped my work to admire it; I had seen many small, bluish dragonflies in the past, but never a red one, and never so large. It was really shocking to see something so beautiful in a place as ordinary as my struggling pond. It transformed me momentarily, taking my mind off the constant daily disappointment of our dismal adoption journey. I felt that disappointment in my soul all day, every day, but for a short time I forgot all that as I stared at that dragonfly. After a couple of minutes, I realized this guy wasn’t leaving, so I went back to my task at hand, thinking it was pretty amusing I had a dragonfly companion for my pump work. But then, it started to fly around me, and the pond, and just sort of bobbed and weaved around for several more minutes, as though it had no place to go. Eventually this beautiful crimson dragonfly did disappear, but I didn’t see him go; he went away while I was looking down at the pump, fishing for pine needles.

This was at an especially dark time in our journey; in fact, I think we had all but given up. I wasn’t so far gone though, that I didn’t realize the significance of an event such as this one. How had I spent all that time by the pond all these years and never seen a red dragonfly? Surely it couldn’t be a coincidence. I’m not an exceptionally superstitious person, but I was superstitious enough to believe God had sent me a dragonfly for a reason. I didn’t think it meant the stork was arriving the following week, but I do recall thinking that dragonfly meant I should hold onto hope and not give up, after all.

I started thinking about it more and more and finally Googled “red dragonfly meaning” on my phone. I was certain it meant “hope” or “luck” or “faith” or something equally cool that would give me a reason to get excited about my lengthy visit from my dragonfly buddy. Here is what I learned:

  • Red dragonflies symbolize the transformation of death (someone who is visited by one may have just lost a loved one)
  • They are exceptionally rare
  • They do not dart away like other dragonflies, they tend to hang around their subject for a while, as if they are paying a visit

Don’t believe me? I bet you’re googling “red dragonflies” right now! Make sure to read more than one source for multiple interpretations!

I told a few people about the dragonfly visit, and I wrote a brief status update about it on my Facebook page, but I didn’t get too crazy about sharing what had happened. I wasn’t even sure myself. But then, on September 1st, the most wonderful thing happened: we got the call that our son was born, and to come pick him up at the hospital! Only one week after the visit from the dragonfly!

One dragonfly visit alone doesn’t prove much and it doesn’t even mean a lot…if it’s only one visit.

Last week, I was out working on the damn pump again (will those pine needles ever stop falling?) when I was visited by yet another dragonfly. Like last year, it was large, bright red, and it stuck around for quite a long time. It seemed curious what I was doing, and why a grown woman was covered in pond water and speaking unsavory words to a plastic pump piece. But it stayed a good while, and this time when I noticed it, I didn’t look away until it left. I felt like I owed him that. I do wonder if it was the same dragonfly as last year? Probably not, but maybe. Maybe. Stranger things have happened!

Sometimes there is meaning in something as simple as a visit from a dragonfly.

Present Day 

Nine months have passed since our beautiful baby was born. What once resembled a tiny little Sasquatch is now a strikingly handsome blue-eyed butterball. We love him so! 

So much chubbaroo goodness.

CJ, or Cam, or Campbell, is the happiest of babies. People often ask us, “Doesn’t he ever cry? He’s just so joyful!” Well yes, the truth is he is one joyful little bugaboo. During the daytime he is all smiles and sunshine and truly a happy-go-lucky little dude. It’s the nighttime where he unleashes the full power of his lung capacity to make sure the hubs and I understand his great displeasure with bedtime. The kid hates to sleep. He’s a wee social butterfly who loves to interact and suffers from some serious FOMO (fear of missing out, in case you were wondering). But we think that’s pretty typical, and he gets a free pass for screaming at us every night since he’s practically perfect in every way all the rest of the time. 

Big brother Ezra loves being big brother Ezra. He adores CJ and he is never happier than when his silly antics cause CJ to go into a giggling fit. This usually involves a dance of some kind followed by calling CJ “poopy Campbell.” For some reason, being called poopy is CJ’s favorite thing and he can’t laugh hard enough when he hears it. Unfortunately, this has led the Eldest Son to believe that everyone he talks to must find poopy talk equally hysterical, and has taken to greeting everyone with poopy in front of their name. I fear this is my reality now. I am a mama of boys, and I expect I have many years of “poopy” talk and bathroom humor ahead of me. Lord, have mercy on my poor mama soul. 

This is just a quick update to share how we are today. We are a blessed family, poopy talk and all! We don’t take anything for granted when it comes to our boys. I have many tales and anecdotes I can’t wait to share with you, as well as a couple more chapters of our adoption story. Stay tuned!

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