The end of my leave

Today was my first day back to work since March 7th...it was very, VERY hard to go back. In fact, I teared up as I organized my cart early this morning to head in to my first class. In the three weeks I was off, one week was spring break including Jonathan's tonsillectomy. The last two weeks I've had the freedom to keep Jonathan home from school, take him late, or pick him up early. What I appreciated most about my leave was how relaxed I felt when Jonathan came home from school. I did not feel overwhelmed with the burden of ungraded papers looming over my head; the frustration of ungrateful students did not knot up in my shoulders. When Jonathan came home from school, I was ready to play, ready to parent. I haven't felt that energized since Jonathan moved in last July.

I love my job, but I don't love that it sucks much of what I have out of me leaving very little for my family. During my time off, I found myself wondering how much better of a parent I could be without the stress of teaching full time. I also know this year I'm not near the teacher I was before we had a kid. I'm a type A person; it's difficult to feel that I'm doing a half-assed job at everything.

I'm trying not to dwell on these things too much during my first week back. There are 8 weeks left in the school year, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel...hopefully no nervous breakdowns will happen between now and then...


Officially ours

Last week we celebrated Jonathan's adoption! We ate breakfast at Le Peep, went to the courthouse with friends and family, and then ate and played at the Amazing Pizza Machine in the afternoon. It was an awesome day. By the time we got home that night, I was a bleary-eyed mess from crying thinking about how much of a blessing J is to us. Becoming parents has been a long time coming for us. If you know a bit about our story, you know our road to parenthood has been long and winding. Infertility, a failed adoption, a move east I regretted for a year...all led us to Jonathan. There were some soul-crushing moments in the past seven years, but one glance at our intelligent, hilarious, brave, and compassionate curly haired son makes all those pains feel like they were worth something. There were many times I pleaded with God to give us a child, questioned God for our struggles to conceive, and yelled at him for bringing us suffering. I wanted badly to run away from Him, to throw my faith away. Luckily, my husband's faith and friends' faith compelled me to keep clinging to God. Throughout our process I kept Romans 8:28 in mind: " And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Now that we're on the other side of this, I can see what God was doing throughout each of those painful moments. He was grooming us to be J's parents...J's resilience just amazes me. When he's old enough to understand his life story, I'm sure he will feel some anger and resentment, but I hope he can use Romans 8:28 to help him make sense of his life. 

Here's a few of my favorite photos from his life with us...there are so many I could post. If you have an extra five hours to kill, c'mon over and I'll bore you to tears by having you look at every picture we've took of him. To those of you who stuck with us when we retreated from relationships after we discovered we could not have kids, and those who offered us support through prayer, food and wine, and other more healthy distractions--thank you. 

His first solo visit at our house

Helping Nate mow the lawn was one of his favorite activities this summer when he visited

This was from  his "graduation" day when he moved from his first foster placement to our home; we had a "graduation" party with his first foster family. 

His first soccer game
Eating a cupcake on Nate's birthday

Our first Christmas...don't know what the frown was all about!

At Nathan and Abbi's wedding dancing the night away with his cousin
Giggling at Pappy on his adoption day
Hot stuff sitting in the judge's chair
Our first official family photo
My favorite from the adoption day....


Our upcoming big day

On Thursday morning we make J's adoption final! We have family joining us for the event and are planning on making an entire day of it celebrating his official christening as a Helzer.

I cannot believe 7 months have passed since he first moved in with us. The transition was no walk in the park. Nate and I had no experience parenting, and J had not had two consistent parents for quite some time. I think the struggle, though, taught us all about unconditional love.

Like a five year old is wont to do, J has flip-flopped back and forth between being excited about his adoption and saying he doesn't want to be adopted. He can't ever articulate why he is or is not excited; I'm not sure he fully understands his emotions. But I think he is scared this adoption thing is not going to happen. He is old enough to have memories with his birth mom and birth dad, his removal from the home, his time in foster care, etc. He's old enough to remember his trauma even if he can't put words to it. So tonight when we read a book about adoption, it did not break my heart when he said he didn't want to be adopted and change his name to Helzer. Imagine being old enough to experience all he has, to be told that you'd be going back "home" only to end up in a stranger's home who tells you they're going to be your new mom and dad. No matter how much we eased him into this, he's bound to feel troubled by it, to feel allegiance to his first family even though it was traumatizing.

While he isn't as excited about the adoption as we are, I do hope it's a day that is joyful for him, one that he'll remember fondly. I hope someday he will understand all of this and that he'll feel special because we chose him to be our son and love forever despite any scars and wounds. I hope he comes to know that we love him unconditionally for the rest of our lives.