Gymnastics And A Mis-Placed Rib

I have this rib (mid-way down my back on my right side) that I continue to pop out of place. I go into my chiropractor and he adjusts it back to where it supposed to be. And then I dance again, and out comes the rib. Now that mis-placed rib is causing muscle spasms. My chiropractor told me the only way to fix it is to rest. I told him I will rest in 2 weeks when the performance is over.

Here are some of the bruises I have sustained during dance practice….

bruises2

Yes, those are fingerprints. On my leg.

I came home from practice last week so frustrated with myself! (There might have been a little bit of crying.) There is a move in our salsa routine that I just can’t seem to nail! It doesn’t sound too hard when Nathan describes it – simply run forward, vault into a kind of forward cartwheel, keep my legs fanned as they rotate over my head, use his arm as a pivot point, and land on my feet gracefully. No big deal! Never mind that I have never once in my life done a cartwheel. Or a handstand. Never mind that I feel much more comfortable with my feet on the floor rather than rotating in the air over my head.

My husband did what any normal husband would do when his wife is crying about her failed attempts at mastering this dance trick.

He offered to practice it with me.

Never mind that my husband has absolutely no dance (or dance partner) experience.

He knelt on the grass and held his arm out to the side as my pivot point.

I (trustingly) ran forward and vaulted myself through the air.

I guess his arm was supposed to be more than just a pivot point. It was also supposed to push upwards on the small of my back to help me finish the rotation.

I landed on my rear end. There might have been more crying. (I blame my husband’s lack of arm pivot skills rather than my lack of cartwheel skills)

So my husband found a solution.

He called and booked me a private gymnastics lesson. (Oh my word, that man is a gem! I mean really, most men would look at their crying wife with confusion. “Wait. You are crying about dancing? Really?”)

On Saturday, I had a one-on-one lesson with Coach Andrea. She was fantastic! When she found out that her student was a 35-year-old woman with absolutely no gymnastics experience (no flexibility, either, mind you) who wanted to learn a dance trick in a one-hour session, she took it well.

She made me do this….

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walkover1 walkover

Did I nail the trick? You will just have to purchase tickets to the show to find out! Go to www.cascadetheatre.org and get your tickets!

Clearly, I have sacrificed my body for the cause. I have been dancing, and thinking about dancing, and dreaming about dancing for 2 months. I have also been fundraising.

Thank you to everyone who has donated. There are seriously too many people to name. I have friends who have donated time for my fundraising events. I have friends who have donated profits from their business. I have a friend who designed and sewed and bedazzled my costumes. I have a mother-in-law who has designed and printed all of my flyers and promotional materials. And I have many, many, many people who have gotten online and donated to Shasta Women’s Refuge and Family Justice Center. (I have to give a special thank you to Redding Bank of Commerce and Kevin Ramstrom of Steelhead Constructors for their VERY generous donations!)

Why am I fundraising for SWR & FJC?

Shasta Women’s Refuge and Family Justice Center provides victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, their families and friends with safety, healing and prevention of further victimization.

Services provided by SWR & FJC include emergency shelter, a 24 hour crisis line, legal advocacy, a children’s program, and assistance with restraining orders, counseling and other vital support services.

Last year SWR& FJC  assisted over 5,000 victims of domestic violence with shelter, counseling and other life saving services.

SWR & FJC staff is committed to keeping administrative costs to a minimum. Eighty five cents of every dollar you donate goes to sustain their programs.

Please, if you haven’t donated yet, will you consider it today? We have two weeks left until the big show. Two weeks to raise the money that this agency needs to continue to provide these services.

You can click on the donate button on the side of my blog. Or you can go directly to www.shastwomensrefuge.org and donate.

Blessings!

Natalie

God Gave Me You

It is 5:41 am on Saturday, June 1 and I am sitting in the maternity ward waiting room at Mercy Medical Center. The last time I sat in this waiting room, it was the day after my husband’s best friend, Peter, had died. I sat here, surrounded by family, celebrating the new life of my little niece Eva, and at the same time mourning the loss of a friendship. I remember that at one point, simply overcome by all of the emotion of the preceding days, I put my head in my hands and cried deep, uncontrollable sobs. So many feelings – gratitude, excitement, loss, and exhaustion – are intertwined with the memory of sweet baby Eva’s birth.

Last night, my sister called to tell me she was in labor. This time with my soon-to-be born nephew, Beckett. I spent the night in my bed, restless and dozing, checking my phone for updates, while she labored at home. At 4:30 am, she texted that she was at the hospital. I got up, threw on some clothes, and came to join her. I cried in the car as I drove here. Once again, I sit in this waiting room filled with mixed emotions. I am excited and thankful for my sister and my almost arrived nephew, and I am sad as I mourn the loss of another relationship.

Today will be the first time in 6 weeks that I have seen my Mom. Besides a handful of emails, we have not spoken for those same 6 weeks. My heart is broken. I don’t know how to fix it.

I (divinely guided) met a sweet grandmother who volunteers at Leah’s horse therapy program last week. We stood at the rails and visited. She has 2 adopted granddaughters from Ethiopia. She shared the joys and the struggles of their family’s journey. And she said, “You know, my daughter and I didn’t talk for a whole year. Things are better now. We are mending the hurt. But it was hard.”

And I cried, standing there in the sunshine, watching my daughter guide her horse around the ring.

And I am crying right now, sitting in this waiting room, knowing my sister is on the other side of those doors getting ready to meet her son, knowing my mom is on her way to join us.

A year? That sweet grandma didn’t speak with her daughter for a whole year? 6 weeks already feels like forever.

Just as sweet baby Eva’s birth is forever joined with the memory of Peter’s death, now I know that baby Beckett’s birth will forever remind me of the terrible loss of the relationship with my mother. My prayer is that I will eventually have the memories of restoration of that same relationship.

Please, join me in praying for reconciliation. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for love to win.

And, Mom, I know you read my blog.

I love you.

God gave me you.

God gave you me.

Please know that while I am far from perfect, I am in love with the Lord and want to serve Him in everything I do.

I miss you.

It is 6:58 am on Saturday, June 1 and I am sitting in the maternity ward waiting room at Mercy Medical Center. Beckett Augustine David Sprague has arrived!!!

Beautiful Baby Beckett

Beautiful Baby Beckett

 

My sister and I only moments after meeting her son. Isn't she glowing?

My sister and I only moments after meeting her son. Isn’t she glowing?

Blessings!

Natalie

Never Once Did We Ever Walk Alone

May 28, 2012 – the day we held our children for the first time.

One year ago today…..

Our first family picture

Our first family picture

I look at this picture and I marvel. I marvel at my God who is so big. I marvel at the work He has done in our family. I marvel at the healing He has started in our children. I marvel at the pruning He has done to my heart.

Do you know that Levi was dropped off at the gates of the orphanage when he was only 2 years old? Barely more than a baby. Naomi and Micah talk about trying to take care of him, protect him, help him – and they were just babies themselves.

When we first held Levi, he was stiff in our arms. We would pick him up, and while he allowed this physical contact, he did not know quite what to do with it. His back was straight and strong, not soft and curved into us. His legs hung down listlessly instead of wrapping around our waist. His arms dangled at his sides instead of holding onto our necks.

When Levi was hurt or angry, he did not run to us for comfort.

When we first started tucking Levi in at night, we had to teach him how to hug. I would physically place his arms around my neck and squeeze them together. I would say, “I love you, Levi. Now, Levi, you say it back to Mommy. Say ‘I love you, Mommy.’”

When Levi woke up in the middle of the night, scared or cold or thirsty, he never called out to us. Not once. We would not hear about it until the next morning.

We had to teach Levi what it meant to have a Mommy and a Daddy who touched him to comfort him, a Mommy and Daddy who would always materialize out of the dark night hallway to scare away his bad dreams, a Mommy and Daddy who would discipline without anger and rage.

The other morning I woke up to this sight…..

sleepingboys

This was the first time that our boys had come to us in the middle of the night for comfort. They both snuck into our room, in the dark, and climbed between our warm bodies to feel the safety that lay between their Mommy and Daddy.

We have known our children for one year.

We are getting to know them better every day.

There is so much more that I want to know about them.

I want to know where the scars came from. I want to know the stories behind the behaviors. I want to know their family history – all of it.

But, most of all, I want to know that they will be all right. I want to know that they will grow up to feel loved, and special, and beautiful. I want to know that they will love God and love themselves. I want to know that they will accept my love. And, oh, I want to know that they will love me and accept me as their mother.

We sang this song in church last week, and as the tears rolled down my cheeks, I felt every single word in my soul.

Standing on this mountaintop

Looking just how far we’ve come

Knowing that for every step You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground

Seeing just how much You’ve done

Knowing every victory was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way

But with joy our hearts can say Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone

Never once did You leave us on our own

You are faithful, God, You are faithful

riverkids

Blessings!

Natalie

The Man Of My Dreams – He Doesn’t Do Dishes

Tomorrow I celebrate 16 years of marriage to this guy….

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Scott and I met in high school when I was only 16 years old. We were married when I was only 19 years old.

I have spent over half of my life loving this man. He is intertwined in my memories, he stars in my dreams, he is as much a part of my life as breathing.

We have been so blessed over the years to enjoy a happy marriage. Oh, there have been irritations and disagreements, there have been annoyances and struggles, but, it seems almost miraculous to me that our entire marriage has been characterized by love and friendship. I admire him. He delights in me.

And then, this past December, January, February and March…..I didn’t particularly like the guy. We went through the hardest season our marriage has had to endure.

Obviously, one major contributor to this was the stress in our life. The logistics of doubling our family, the shifting and changing of our new roles, the constant demands on our time, the emotional baggage that we were dealing with….all of this created a storm of stress around us.

But there are other factors that were just as culpable.

#1 – Satan

Oh, that sneaky adversary! He knows exactly where we are weakest. He targets those weaknesses. And he does it in such sly ways that we often don’t attribute any of the problem to him, but rather blame it on our spouse.

Let me tell you something, satan sees God getting the glory around here. And he hates it! So he attacks.

He whispers in my ear, “Scott should be doing more. Look at what he expects of you! He goes to work and gets to relax with his friends. Then he comes home and he doesn’t even help with the dishes! Oh, that ungrateful man. If only he would offer to do more. I shouldn’t have to ask him! He should know that I need his help. If he really loved me, he would take out the trash.”

And satan’s whispers sound an awful lot like my own selfish thoughts. They fill my head and have me angry at my husband before he even steps foot in the door.

#2 – Selfishness

I had blinders on to the demands that our new family was placing on Scott. I didn’t worry about him balancing work and home, him feeling the pressure to provide for a family of 8, him being tired and worn and burning the candle at both ends. I was only focused on how everything was affecting me.

I was tired. I needed more help. I was stressed. And wasn’t that what was important? My needs?

I spent a large part of the time during those painful months mad at my husband. It was so easy to channel all of my frustration at one target. But, thankfully, my husband is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He was patient with me. And, most importantly, he is a man who loves the Lord and who prays over our marriage.

But, our God is a God who redeems. April and May have been filled with some of the sweetest times our marriage has ever known. There is a new-found appreciation for each other. There is a realization that when we face this battle as a united force, we are stronger than we could ever be alone. There is a feeling of overwhelming gratitude in my heart that I married a man of such character.

I wanted to share just a few of the lessons that God has been teaching me. Really – these lessons have been learned over the last 16 years, but they have been cemented over the past 6 months.

#1 – Marry Scott Putnam.

Oops! He is already taken. I guess you will have to move on to #2.

#2 – Celebrate each other’s strengths, forgive each other’s weaknesses.

Often, this is all in your own point of view. Instead of getting irritated that my husband won’t make a decision and get “insert my assigned task” done quickly, I can appreciate the fact that he is wise and thoughtful. That he never acts rashly and that he takes the time to decide what is best for our family.

Instead of keeping a list of things that he doesn’t do for me (clean, cook, pick up his dirty underwear), I started listing the things that he does do well (play with our children, listen when I need to talk, tell me that he loves me and thinks I am beautiful.) And when I compared those lists, I realized that the things he does do well – those are the important things in life.

#3 – Spend time enjoying each other. Laugh often.

During the roughest patch of our transition, Scott told me that he missed my laughter. I have always been full of fire and passionate about the good and the bad, but lately, it seemed I was only passionate about the bad. I didn’t have the energy to laugh. And he missed that.

#4 – Don’t try to live your marriage 50/50.

No. Instead, you give 100%. Give everything you can. Don’t keep a tally sheet and try to make things “fair.” Something interesting happened when I stopped demanding my husband’s help and instead focused on all that I could do for him. He started taking out the trash. And he offered to help the kids with some school work. He told me to sit down and relax while he covered the bedtime shift. He felt loved and appreciated, and in turn he wanted me to feel the same way. He still hasn’t started doing the dishes – but I expect that to happen any day now!

#5 – Do not rely on your own strength. Make your marriage a 3-part-relationship.

Husband.

Wife.

God.

I am so thankful that 19 years ago, when that cute, nerdy boy who sat next to me in math class asked me to go out, I said yes.

Well, okay, first I said no.

But then I changed my mind.

Good thing, huh?

I look forward to spending the rest of my life with this man. Who knows how many kids we will have in another 16 years?

Happy anniversary to the man of my dreams.

Blessings!

Natalie

 

We All Long For Our Mothers

My children each stumbled down the stairs this past Sunday morning and came into my bedroom to give me a hug and whisper a sleepy wish for a Happy Mother’s Day. They were heavily directed by their dad, of course, but each whisper was sweetness for my heart.

As Leah hugged me, she said, “I wish I could hug you and Z**** (her birth mom) and say Happy Mother’s Day to both of you.”

I pulled her close and whispered back, “Me, too, baby. I wish that, too.”

Then I asked her if they celebrated Mother’s Day in Ethiopia.

“I don’t know English in Ethiopia. What is “Mother’s Day” in Amharic? What would we have called it?”

“I don’t know, honey. I don’t know how to say Mother’s Day in Amharic. It would have been a day that you did special things for Z****. Maybe give her an extra hug or say thank you for being my mom.”

“Oh. Well I don’t know if we have that day in Ethiopia or not. Z**** was always gone. So she never told me if we had a Mother’s Day.”

Joy and pain. Thankfulness and sorrow. Bitter and sweet.

That is how my Mother’s Day felt this year – my first Mother’s Day as a mom to 6 precious children.

My children miss their first mother, but they have me to love them – if they will allow that love in.

My heart if full of thankfulness that God chose me to mother these 6 beautiful children, but it is also worn and tired because this job is hard.

And I cried because this is the first Mother’s Day in 35 years that I have not spent time with my own mother.

Adoption is an undertaking that affects the entire family. Not just the people in this home, but our whole extended family. Adoption causes growing pains for everyone. It is figuring out new roles and how all the pieces in this new family puzzle fit together.

I have heard many stories of a fractured relationship that stemmed from an adoption. Husband and wife. Sister and sister. Mother and daughter.

But, I never expected to experience that for myself.

I will not share the details. My mom and I love each other. We have always had a close relationship. And, right now, we don’t. She has done things wrong. I have done things wrong. And we need the Lord to heal the hurt.

I include this only because it is now a part of our story. It is the real-life effects of the hard road that we have chosen to walk. It is satan doing what he can to derail God’s plan and steal God’s glory. Satan is the great deceiver, after all, and he loves to whisper lies that take our attention away from what really matters.

I know, deep down in my soul, that my mom and I will find our way back. And I eagerly anticipate that. But, for now, this situation has given me even more insight to the pain my children must feel. We ALL so desperately want our mother’s approval, don’t we? We ALL long for our mother’s love, don’t we? And even though I do my best, even though I love my children from the depths of my heart, even though God has chosen me to be their mother now, it does not erase their need for their first mother.

So, this past Sunday, I enjoyed spending time with the precious children that God has given to me. We laughed. We swam. We played games. We made daddy do all of the cooking.

mothersdayswim

My children each gave me a beautiful rose. And they each bought a rose for Z****. I have 12 beautiful roses on my counter – a mixture of love for two mothers.

My children also gave me a card that I will treasure forever. I am going to share each of the lovely things they wrote (or spoke and had Daddy write, as the case may be) inside my card. They capture my children’s personalities so perfectly.

“Mom. I love you. P.S. I picked out the card.” ~ This from my oldest, Joel. So eloquent! He loves deep and big, that boy, but he has no time to waste on long sentimental card entries.

“Have a happy mether’s day I help you have good day.” ~ This from Miss Independent, Leah, who did not need any help writing it all by herself. And she did pretty darn good on the spelling! But, she couldn’t quite write I love you, yet. Not yet. But someday.

“Dear Mommy, I love. Love Naomi. Dear Mommy.” ~ Yes, Naomi, you do love. Your sweet heart would worry too much about hurting my feelings to not write I love you. And your handwriting is beautiful, as always, because I know you want so desperately to please me. And you do, dear one. You do please me.

“Mom, I love you so much. You are the best mom ever. Thank you for helping me. I hope you have a good Mother’s Day. I hope you like this card. Love, Hannah.” ~ My baby girl. My child who wants to cuddle, and lie next to me, and rub her hand along my arm, and lean against my side, and sit in my lap with her head on my shoulder. She is a little piece of me, walking around outside of my body, growing older by the day. I pray she will always want to be near me.

“I love you Mommy. Happy Mother’s Day. You are the best mom ever.” ~ Micah, my boy who doesn’t like to call too much attention to himself. The one who takes the longest to open up about what he is really feeling inside. Who maybe finds it easier to answer the same way as everyone else is answering so that no one notices anything different about him. My son who waited to see what everyone else might write before he wrote anything at all.

“Thank you being my mommy. I love you, my mommy. Thank you to come Ethiopia and bring to America. Happy Mother Day.” ~ Levi, my little peanut, who barely remembers any other mother. Levi, who lives life to the fullest, laughs from his belly, never stops moving from the moment he wakes up until his head hits the pillow at night, and loves whole-heartedly.

Each of my children is a gift. I treasure them, each and every one. They are unique, perfect creations and I am honored to be entrusted with their care.

A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy & the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.  -Jody Landers

Blessings!

Natalie

 

Behaving Inappropriately

My children mis-behave. All 6 of them.

They run in Walmart. They wrestle in Target. They fight with each other. They give me attitude.

Yes, we are loud as we pass through life. Yes, not everyone is using their indoor voice. Yes, that was my son who just tried to vault over the counter top.

And, yes, you saw me ignore it.

The thing is, I have a reason for this.

Before we completed our adoption, we were required to take 25 hours of online parenting classes. And read approximately 752 books on parenting theories. And watch videos of interactions between a PhD and the adopted children she works with.

No, we do not know what we are doing! In fact, most days, I question myself over and over again. Am I ruining my children? Am I teaching them the life skills that they need to learn? Am I choosing the right behaviors to fix and the right ones to ignore?

But, we do have a reason behind the parenting decisions we make.

Reason #1 – We need to build a connection with our children.

Think, for a minute, about your relationship with God. Why do you strive to obey Him? Is it because you are afraid of His punishment? Or is it because you love Him and want to do what is right?

I want my children to obey me because they love me. I want them to obey because they know it is right.

And so I start with love.

I build connections. 100 different ways. 1,000 times over. Again and again and again. I have to teach them how to love me. I have to teach them how to accept my love.

And I have to teach the reasons behind their obedience. I don’t want them to obey because they are afraid of the coming punishment. I want the obedience to be rooted in their heart change.

“When we shift our perspective from the outward to the inward, from rules to relationships, our parenting will change.” ~ Leslie Fields, Parenting Is Your Highest Calling and Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt

Reason #2 – There are SO MANY bad behaviors, I can’t correct all of them.

This sounds horrible. But it is so true.

If I corrected every single bad behavior that my children exhibited, there would be no room for love to flourish.

So, instead, I pick my battles. And I pray that I am picking the right ones.

Reason #3 – My focus is on heart change, not on the appearance of good behavior.

This is a hard one. I know I am often guilty of parenting my children in public based on the idea in my head that Someone is watching me. Someone expects me to address this behavior. I am so embarrassed that Someone is seeing my child act like this!

But - Someone can’t see into my child’s heart. Only God can. And my goal is to create a fertile landscape where seeds of everlasting truth can take root and grow to fruition.

Our family is in a season of transition. Maybe even a lifetime of it. And this transition is messy and loud and oh-so-un-perfect. I know that I need grace over and over again. Grace from my God. Grace from my children. Grace from my husband. And grace from all of you.

I am sorry if my children act inappropriately. I am sorry if I act inappropriately.

Please know that we are all doing the very best we can.

Blessings!

Natalie

The Legacy Of An Adopted Child – Two Mothers To Love

Oh my. The last two weeks have been hard. Rough around the edges, messy through the middle, and filled with pain at the core.

But the last few days have been good. Not perfect, but better.

Scott has been reading The Adopted Child – a book filled with wisdom for those of us who have no clue what we are doing! One of the chapters in this book deals specifically with children who have had a very short transition time from their biological parents to their adoptive parents. This is Leah.

If you remember, she had only 4 weeks between the time she left her mother and when her adoption was finalized and she came to us.

4 weeks to get used to the idea of leaving behind everything that made up her identity.

It doesn’t matter what her life looked like, what it felt like, if it was hungry and cold and angry….it only mattered that it was all she knew.

This book said that children who have this short transition time, regardless of the circumstances, they process the adoption as a sort of “kidnapping.” This, too, is Leah.

She can’t begin to reason her way through the complex emotions that fill her heart. She can’t even give herself permission to feel all of those emotions. And so she vacillates between allowing herself to grow a tenuous attachment to me, and then pushing me away and punishing me for taking her from the woman who gave her life.

This punishment rains blows upon my heart.

But, of course, I am not supposed to show that.

And so I stuff my emotions down into my stomach and don’t allow them to surface. I get indigestion. I feel nauseous. I have to draw deep, shaky breaths because I feel my lungs constricting with the effort of holding it all inside. I cry at bedtime.

And, yes, sometimes I feel angry. Angry at a world full of sin that has caused such pain. Angry at a dysfunctional family that left emotional scars on my daughter. And, wrong though it may be, angry at my daughter for treating me like this.

Leah does not think I love her. She has convinced herself that no one can love her. She has a playlist running through her head. “No one likes me. I have no friends. I do not belong anywhere. I am not worthy. No one loves me.” If she is loveable, why did her own mother not keep her?

And nothing I do or don’t do, say or don’t say, can change her opinion.

Change will come with time, and patience, and a healing that can happen only if she allows God to touch her heart.

And I think of her mother, her other mother, the one who lives halfway around the world and has not seen her beautiful daughter in almost a year.

What must she be feeling? Does she think about her children every day? Does she picture them in an America that she has never seen but can only imagine? Does she pray for them? Does she worry about them?

Every mother, regardless of the circumstances or the capability, has a connection to the children she births. If that child is gone, then a piece of you is missing.

And every child, regardless of the circumstances or the deservability, has a connection to the woman who carried them in her womb. If that mother is gone, then a piece of your identity is missing.

And this mother, this adoptive mother who is stumbling her way through uncharted territory, prays that Leah can somehow reconcile the love for her two mothers within her own heart.

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LEGACY OF AN ADOPTED CHILD

(Author Unknown)

Once there were two women

Who never knew each other.

One you only remember,

The other you call mother.

Two different lives

Shaped to make yours one.

One became your guiding star,

The other became your sun.

The first gave you life

And the second taught you to live it.

The first gave you a need for love

And the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality,

The other gave you a name.

One gave you a seed of talent,

The other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions,

The other calmed your fears.

One saw your first sweet smile,

The other dried your tears.

One gave you up –

It was all that she could do.

The other prayed for a child

And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me

Through your tears,

The age-old question

Through the years:

Heredity or environment

Which are you the product of?

Neither, my darling — neither,

Just two different kinds of love.

Blessings!

Natalie