Friday, September 19, 2014

finalized

On Monday, September 15, 2014, Camilla's adoption was finalized. Done. Finished. Forever.

I'm not usually big on play-by-play blogging, but it's not every day that your daughter's adoption is finalized, either. I don't want to forget anything. So...a play-by-play it will be!

We loaded up in my dad's truck bright and early. We had to be at the courthouse by 8:45 a.m. My parents spent the night with us, so we all headed over together.
Because I embrace my generation...we take a selfie. It's the only way to prove anything happened, right?
We made it to the courthouse with time to spare...enough time for a family photo in the parking lot, even! It was cool (well, for Georgia in September) and drizzly. Millie was wearing the only remotely 'fall'-ish dress she owns that fits her. I hadn't planned on it being not-blazing-hot...



We met up with Matt's parents in the parking lot and all seven of us traipsed in together. Matt, Millie, and I made it through security. The rest of our party had...issues, shall we say? Ha. Luckily, the metal detector issues were the only hiccups in our whole court experience, so they weren't a bad sign or anything. Then we headed up to the third floor to wait.

We sat.


 We admired Millie.



We took pictures in front of a giant window.

My bangs look stupid, but my legs look great, soooo...there was some mental turmoil about whether I should share this pic or not. I decided to go for it. Vanity wins.
 We sat around some more. 



Our lawyer came and went over some papers with us. We nodded and signed our names a few times.



 And then it was our turn to go back!!! Because adoption hearings aren't...I forget the terminology...open or public or something...as in, not open to the public to sit in and watch/listen. Not 'closed' in the sense of the adoption being a 'closed adoption' (it's not), just...you don't do them in the regular courtroom with the other civil matters and court clerks, etc., present. So we went back to the judge's chambers. Our parents and lawyer came with us, and they were allowed to continue snapping pictures (and taking video!).


The judge had already reviewed all of the motions, paperwork, home studies, etc. This was an incredibly fast process that just made everything signed and official. First we were introduced.

Then we raised our right hands and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

Our lawyer asked us a few questions. We answered. The judge asked some questions. He thumbed through our paperwork. 

And then he pronounced us to be her mom and dad. Forever. And we cried. And shook his hand.



He agreed to take some pictures with us. He even entertained me and put on his robe. I mean, hello...I needed him to look a little more judgy. That suit wasn't cutting it. 




Seriously, the entire thing took maybe five minutes. I couldn't believe how fast it was. Months and years of waiting and preparing and gathering data and writing checks and waiting and praying and hoping...and it all culminates in five extremely easy minutes in a judge's office. It would almost have been anticlimactic if it weren't so incredibly awesome.

Then we had to wait in several different places while various paperwork and certificates were signed, sealed, and delivered. (Really, I don't know about delivered, but after I typed 'signed' and 'sealed'...I just had to go for it.) We passed the time by taking some incredibly happy family pictures. 


Then our lawyer came out with the official Final Decree of Adoption, so we had to get a picture with her (and it)!



Then we had to go somewhere else and wait for awhile for the Certificate of Adoption to get sealed and notarized and whatever else. I posted our happy news on Instagram.

If you're not repeatedly dying at how cute Millie's moccasins are, I don't know if we can be friends.
 And then we got the certificate and took a picture with it!!!



 All in all, the whole courthouse experience took maybe two hours. Again- an incredibly quick and easy finale to a process that started approximately twelve billion years ago (or so it feels like). I'm thankful for that. I expected this part to be the easy part, and it was. There were plenty of happy tears- and just this incredible sense of holy cow, it's OVER now. There's nothing else. We're just regular parents with our regular kid. No one can separate us. No phone call can come that will ruin my life.* She can't be taken away from us. We can breathe, we can move forward, we can just enjoy life. She's ours forever. 

I'm still pretty buzzed from it. The finality of it all, you know? I mean, we still have to wait on a few things- her new birth certificate and social security card, I think. But really...we're done. All of that waiting, and now...done.

We kicked off the beginning of our 'official' new life by eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel. 


It was freezing, so I wore my mom's too-small track suit jacket. Classy!
I bet that the handful of other patrons in the restaurant were wondering what six dressed-up adults and a baby were all doing having a leisurely brunch on a Monday (work day!) morning. I bet they wondered why we all had stupid grins on our faces, why we had to brush tears from our eyes every now and then, why we all fawned over the sleeping baby. They couldn't have known that we had just finished having our lives changed forever.

But we know. Camilla's adoption is final now. She's ours forever- for as long as we all walk this earth. Thankful doesn't even begin to describe it.

*Obviously, plenty of life-ruining phone calls could still come. I don't presume that our lives from here on out will be trouble-free...we could get awful phone calls from doctors, from school principals, from the police (oh please no, Camilla!!). I just mean we can't get one that would keep us from being a family. For now, that feels like a huge accomplishment.

Monday, September 15, 2014

dedicated

  Yesterday morning was Camilla's dedication at church. I cannot even tell you how long I've been waiting for this day. Oh wait, yes I can: almost six years. It's so surreal to finally experience the thing you've been waiting for. It's been happening over and over again for the past six weeks, and yesterday was no exception.

Our church is rather non-traditional, I suppose, so our dedication experience may be different than what you'd associate with a typical baby dedication/baptism/christening. For starters, we went with a clearance-rack white dress from Target...no fancy gowns. That's not a rule or anything, we just don't have any family heirloom gowns floating around and I didn't see any reason to spend tons of money on a fancy dress just for the heck of it. I'd rather buy more jeggings and moccasins. ;) Obviously I am a failure of a parent because I don't even have any good close-ups of Millie in the dress. Luckily, it's the same dress she wore for our photo shoot last week, so you'll get to see it eventually.

We start by going up to the front.

Contemplating the massive importance of this day...and lamenting that my former biceps have melted into a pile of fat. Wah.
Kyle, our pastor, talks for a few minutes. There are tears. 



Then he opens up the floor for anyone in the church who has anything they want to share- encouragement, blessings, prayers, etc. This may seem weird, but my church has been praying for us and for this baby for six years. Lots of people have lots of things (and tears) to share. Thankfully, our parents videoed everything- one day Millie will be able to watch and hear how many people love her and have been praying for her and for us. I hope she will love it.


I took this opportunity to weep and make faces like this. Don't you wish you'd been there?
After everyone had shared, Kyle prayed for us and for Camilla. I could be wrong, but I think there was more crying involved.


And then it was done. But not really, because I haven't told you the most exciting part.

Not only did a whole slew of folks from my family and Matt's family come out, but a lot of Camilla's biological family were there as well. Back in August, before we'd been released from the hospital, one of J's grandmothers had asked if we were going to have Camilla baptized, and if we were, would it be okay if she came to watch and support us? I was floored and honored and told her that nothing would make us happier. So when the dedication was scheduled, I let her know. She asked if it would be okay to invite some other family members; we said absolutely. Word spread quickly around the family, and yesterday there were NINE amazing folks from Millie's birth family-- including J!!!-- there at church to support her and us. 

I was blown away. I mean, I knew they were coming, but still. Blown away. 

Because this is how they have been from the beginning-- 100% supportive of J, 100% supportive of us. Overflowing and abundant in their love for all of us. They came and they loved us and they held Millie and they exclaimed over her cute nose, her red eyebrows, her adorable moccasins. They told us how thankful they are for us, how often they think of us, how excited they were to be able to support her on this important day. We hugged and we cried and when people shared words of encouragement during the service, J shared. She told us again how thankful she was for us. Can you see why I can't stop crying?? Oh, and they don't live in town, by the way. J rode overnight on a bus to be there that morning.

There very well may have never been a child so loved by so many.

I am so thankful and encouraged that this is Millie's heritage. That she will know and be known and loved by all of us? Unbelievable. I never even dared to hope that we would be in an open situation this positive. This is redemption beyond my wildest dreams.

So yes, yesterday was amazing, unbelievable, breathtaking, tearjerking- pick your adjective. I waited for this day all of these years, and I didn't even know what I was waiting for. I never could have imagined it would be what it was- my greatest hopes fell far short of the reality that we experienced. 

A year and a half ago I wrote about the locusts. I had no idea what my redemption would look like- I only prayed it would come. I felt this peace inside that one day, redemption would come. And then, over the next few months...well, it was the opposite of redemption. It was the misery of the previous four years amplified by like fifty. Thousand. But somewhere deep inside, a tiny piece of my heart clung to the hope that He would restore the years that the locusts had stolen. 

And now I'm living in that redemption, and sometimes I'm so overwhelmed I can't even breathe. He has restored the years that the locusts had stolen. 

The paradox of this new phase of my life is funny, in a way. Really, it's all about Millie. Anyone will tell you that being the parent of a newborn isn't all about you. But in a way, having my life be all about her for now...well, it restores me. When I change her diaper, my soul rejoices. When she cries for 20 minutes and I have no idea why, but I do the best I can to comfort her...a part of my broken heart is healed. When she smiles at me (completely unintentionally, probably because she has gas), the tears of months past are replaced with happier memories. When the biological family of my daughter hug me and thank me for loving and parenting the baby we all love...I can't even describe it. It's too beautiful and my heart explodes. This is redemption.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 

Psalm 103:1-5 (emphasis mine)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

alive and kickin'

Um, wow. I'm such a reliable blogger these days! I hope you aren't still trying to set your clocks by my prompt 9:00 a.m.-every-work-day posts...or your schedule is probably pretty messed up. My bad.

We've had a super fantastic week- the kind that is so good, I'm too busy enjoying it to document it much. I really can't complain. But I do feel bad about falling behind on emails, blog reading and commenting, and so forth. Maybe I'll catch up one day. Okay, enough excuses!!

This week my bestie Kristina came and visited!! She lives all the way in Jacksonville, FL, so I never get to see her enough- but babies bring visitors! She left her kids with her in-laws (and her husband on a work trip) and came for three uninterrupted days of baby snuggling, late-night chats (and HGTV marathons), and lots of good eating. Oh, and shopping. And picture taking!!! Stine is a talented photographer (if you live in JAX you should definitely hire her!) and she spent our days making sure Millie's life is being documented with something other than my iPhone. We had 'real' photo shoots as well as 'real life' unscheduled shoots...the kind where she sees the Matt, Millie, and me snuggling in bed in our PJs and just comes in and starts snapping away. And then crawls in bed with us for even better shots. That's when it's convenient that your photographer is also your best friend and that it isn't weird for her to climb in bed with you and your family. :)

Unfortunately, I don't have any of those pictures yet. So you'll have to wait with bated breath to find out exactly how sexy I am when I wake up in the morning and someone starts taking pictures. Try to contain your excitement. We did take some pictures today in our game day attire, though!! Millie's wardrobe this week is a significant improvement over her first game...I was excited about it all week!!


Man, I sure do find amazing backdrops for pictures...the side of my front porch is breathtaking, right?

Gooooo Dawgs!!


The selfie isn't great, but I was trying to get a close-up of Millie's cute outfit. The dress was a clearance rack find at Old Navy! I think it is ultra fabulous.

We have a big couple of days coming up- tomorrow Millie will be dedicated at church (our equivalent of baptism/christening) and Monday morning is something even MORE exciting...can you guess what?? Ha. Thus this Saturday evening blog...the events of the next two days will require posts all unto themselves! (I feel like the grammar there is atrocious. I apologize.)

Have a happy rest-of-the-weekend!

Monday, September 8, 2014

currently...maternity leave ed.

I have basically all the time in the world these days...and no motivation to do anything productive with it. Except cuddle my baby. And spend four hours a day at Target. ????

Anyway, how about a fresh currently? Yeah? Great!

Listening...to Millie make her dolphin noises, of course. And the getting-old-quickly tune (well, one of five...I guess that's something?) that her swing plays. She's not in the swing, we just forgot to turn the music off, and don't nobody have the energy to walk 11 feet into the nursery and take care of that...

Eating...nothing at this exact moment, BUT I actually cooked dinner tonight!!! Amazing!! After a month, our meals-provided-by-other-people train has nearly run out (I think we have one freezer meal left we're saving for an emergency situation or something, ha)...and we actually felt ambitious enough to shop for and prepare A MEAL!!! In the crock pot. It felt like an inordinately huge achievement (two capable adults...ALL DAY WITH NOTHING TO DO...and look, we managed to throw some stuff in a pot and call it dinner!!! GOLD STARS ALL AROUND!). Anyway, we made these Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls and they were delicious! And as a bonus, there are enough leftovers for like 4 more meals, so...I won't be obligated to do a cooking encore performance for at least a few more days. Whew.

Drinking...again, nothing at the moment. But I might get a glass of water soon. Exciting stuff.

Wearing...gray running shorts and a purple tank top. My maternity leave uniform. Don't worry, sometimes I wear different running shorts and a different tank top! I'm all about mixing and matching this fabulous wardrobe!!

Feeling...happy. I'm watching Bach in Paradise, watching my husband snuggle with my baby...life is good. And as soon as I'm done typing this blog, it'll be MY turn to snuggle. Like this:

Weather...really nice! It was rainy and cloudy and much cooler (low 80s) today...we went on two walks!

Wanting...ya know, I really wouldn't turn down a hot fudge and caramel sundae from Sonic right now. Anyone? No? Boo.

Needing...not a whole lot. I seriously have everything I've ever wanted (minus the aforementioned sundae, of course) and thinking about wanting or needing anything else feels petty. Sure, I wouldn't turn down a raise or a bigger car, but in light of what I have? I don't need a thing. I am incredibly blissfully content.

Thinking...about how happy I am I didn't have to meet my husband on a reality dating show. Ha. Not that it isn't great entertainment, but dang. Save the drama for yo mama.

Enjoying...we just started watching Sherlock the other night!! I seriously didn't think I'd really like it (I'm ashamed to admit I don't usually like British/BBC shows. Or actually, maybe it's just that I don't really try them in the first place.) but I am very glad to have been wrong about that! We love it, and one of my favorite things about it is that I feel like it's one of the few non-"guilty pleasure" shows I watch. Ha. I feel like I should be ashamed of most of the shows I watch (*ahem*reality dating shows...), but Sherlock is like legitimately GOOD! Great plot!! Not gory! Not full of bad language or anything else objectionable! Witty! You could watch it with your grandma, your preacher, or your kid (well...young kids would be bored, probably)! Yaaay Sherlock!

Well, time to turn my full attention back to my less-quality TV program...sorry for the lack of baby pictures, I'll try to do better soon.

OH! One last thing (also, a commercial break...)! So our crib finally came in last week!! Yaaaaaayyyyyy!! It's set up, it's fabulous (you may have caught a glimpse of it on Instagram last week), and you know I'm chomping at the bit to do a 'nursery reveal' post. BUT. Although all the major pieces are accounted for now, the room probably won't be really 'done' for another month...I still have showers and will most likely/hopefully get more of the finishing touches I want for the room (lamps, wall art, etc.). I'm dying to share it now, but I also really want it to be 'done' when I show it. So this is my huge and life-altering conundrum of the moment. To share now or to wait? You can weigh in if you care. :) Have a great night!