Saying Goodbye to the Magical Forest

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Every summer when I was a child my family would drive from our home in Philadelphia to my Great-grandparents’ house outside Boston. We’d spend a week there, visiting historic sites, going for long drives through the country and walking along the beaches. My sister and I slept on the enclosed porch each night, listening to the sounds of the surrounding woods. The house sat on nearly three acres of land with big tall trees and thick underbrush, and when my Great-grandparents were a little younger there were veggie gardens and lots of big blueberry bushes for picking. Victoria and I loved to explore the property for hours, walking back through the woods as far as we could go, sometimes all the way to the abandoned railroad tracks that provided the back boundary. From up on the tracks you could see the water of the Back River, with its Weymouth Landing boatyard full of fishing boats ready to head out to sea.

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Eventually my great-grandparents both passed away but my grandparents kept the house, and after retirement they would spend their entire summers there, escaping the Houston heat. The gardens and berry bushes were abandoned and the train tracks were brought back to life with a regular commuter rail. College and married life kept us away most of the time.

For the past several years I have been taking care of maintaining the empty house from here in Texas. When my grandmother passed away in March, it became part of her estate and my job as executor to manage. We knew it was just impractical for us to keep the much beloved house and land, since no one in our family lives anywhere near it. My sister and I paid one last visit to the house this past May and started the process of clearing it out and selling it. It’s a beautiful house, on beautiful land. Farren-8

Our real estate broker helped us put the house up for sale in September and we immediately had multiple buyers. As of now we are under contract and working towards closing with some little complications that should be worked out soon.

Today we finally agreed on a price for the magical woods, which will undoubtedly have a couple of lovely new homes built on them. The land is the last major piece of my grandparents’ estate to say goodbye to.

Yesterday would have been my Grandmother’s 96th birthday. She is missed.

 

Adjusting to Life as a Stay At Home Mom

A month ago, just before we left to fly to Haiti and bring home our new daughter, I left my job as the Director of Engineering for a wastewater treatment equipment company. It’s actually a temporary leave of absence since I plan to go back part time once Rose is in school, but that’s probably two years away.

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Even though I have worked from home for the past ten years, this is very different. I really had no maternity leave with either of my first two children. When you start-up a company and work from home you don’t get maternity leave. You never stop answering the phone or email. The most I did was miss our big annual conference twice. I hated missing that conference each of those years because it’s always so great to see my colleagues, my industry friends and present the great work my company does in front of a large audience.

This year things are so different because I’ve been waiting for this little girl to come home for two and a half years and now she’s here and I wouldn’t dream of having any other focus. I will miss some fun nights in New Orleans but I’ve had enough of those over the years to sustain me for quite some time. I do not yet miss work at all.

My job right now is therapeutic parenting of a little girl who doesn’t even know what a family means. Watching her thrive and blossom has been so joyful and fulfilling, and I can only say it’s a miracle from God that she is doing so well.

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I usually only have one or two big things to get done a day right now and I like it that way. Maybe a trip to the grocery store, maybe some laundry, maybe going to get my allergy shots. I am always happy to get out of the house and talk to some grown-ups, but I try to keep like simple and unhurried.

My little sidekick is very accommodating and I see her using her orphanage coping skills less and less often. Sometimes she thinks she’s the boss of me but I pick my battles and I’m bigger so I can win but I also know how to circumvent or repair any disconnections that happen. Life with Rose is a dance of connecting and disconnecting and reconnecting.  She chooses to shut down instead of throw a tantrum and I don’t like when it happens but I can fix it quickly. A quick game of Patty-cake is my go-to solution, she’s usually up for it and it brings back the smiles and eye contact immediately.

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The toughest time of day for me by far is after the boys get home from school and the couple hours up until dinner. She gets pretty wound up around them and they need to get homework done right away. The boys seem conflicted because they really want to play and engage with her after a long day away but they also know they need to work and sometimes need my help. One thing that has really helped us was creating a new rule to keep the screens off until after dinner. The boys can get sucked into playing Minecraft or watching Stampy videos quickly and that leaves Rose trying to get their attention and them getting annoyed. Since I started that rule they mostly choose to play with their sister, which leaves me peace to go fix dinner.

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So right now I’m pretty much taking one day at a time with her, passing up lots of fun opportunities like blogger conferences or races. I know it’s a season and before I know it she’ll be speaking English and staying with babysitters and life will probably be much like it used to be except with more singing and giggling and talking.

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Cocooning Without Isolating

We’re home! As scheduled, we flew home with our new daughter Rosenaicha on Wednesday, August 20th. Without a hitch. So incredibly smooth, I could not believe it. Zipped through immigration in Miami and had time to sit down for a nice dinner. Learned that baby girl was completely freaked out by being buckled into her own airplane seat. Had a blast with her looking out the window while we taxied on the second flight, chattering away, only to have her zonk our and sleep soundly the whole way home.

At the airportWe were greeted in our driveway at 10pm by our dear sweet super awesome 1:17 adoption support group friends! My parents and kids had made cool signs alerting the neighborhood and my girls in the Katy Social Media Masterminds group left flowers (roses of course!), balloons and a gift. We felt so loved. Baby girl just stared at everyone. And then freaked out at the dog. She has got some lungs!

SiblingsSince then life has been pretty much awesome. We have worked hard on establishing a solid connection between Mike and I and Rose. That means lots of intentional eye contact, lots of identity games, meeting all her needs promptly and just having playful fun. She loves Nathan and Alex and they love her. As predicted, Alex has a bit of adjusting to do with not getting all the attention all the time. But overall he’s fine.

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I’ve been watching Rose closely to see if I can figure out how secure she is feeling and all signs are good. She is super easy to read as far as knowing when she’s stressed. She stops smiling, purses her lips and sucks her tongue, stares off into the distance and grabs her belly button. She’ll still do that ANY time a new person looks at and talks to her. She does it when she wants to eat (which is like…ALL the time) and the food isn’t quite ready. She does it if I correct her.

Rose sleeps like a champ. I know that falling asleep without complaint and sleeping all night was initially a coping mechanism, how she was trained at the orphanage. After a few days of her feeling more secure at home she started to protest bedtime and nap time. We decided based on her behavior in Haiti to have her sleep in a pack and play crib right next to our bed instead of IN our bed and that is working great. I lay down next to her too at naptime and bedtime. Sometimes it takes as long as an hour for her to fall asleep, but there’s not fussing, only stalling. “Mama….dlo” (water) “Mama…diaper” “Mama…blanket”

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All smiles this morning.

Basically the child has learned how to ask for what she needs and that’s super important. I cannot emphasize enough how much my Creole learning has helped in our bonding and her security. She still gets frustrated when she says something new that I don’t understand and I can’t pacify her, but that is not often. She does not throw tantrums. She does hit, spit and throw things occasionally because she’s mad or to get attention but we are working on that and it’s so infrequent I cannot complain.

Silly faces Bedhead selfiesAdoption experts recommend cocooning with a newly adopted kid for weeks or months when they come home. That means staying home, no visitors, no outings, no stores, no church, no nothing. We decided that things were going well and certain outings were necessary anyway, like walking too and from school every morning and going to get my allergy shot once a week. I also brought her to meet my grandmother a few times and she even went with me to school orientation night. She seemed to do great in these situations…she did her stressed coping thing sometimes but there were not repercussions as far as my connection with her or sleep disruptions. This past Sunday we even took her to church…sat in the back row. How do I know she wasn’t totally stressed? She tried to get down off my lap and started making noise so I had to leave the service for a few minutes. She won’t get off my lap or out of my arms when she’s freaked out.

Loves the car Off to the doctor Walking Home from SchoolOne of the coolest things has been watching her bond with Mike. She LOVES her Papa. He is awesome with her. He got the first “I wuv you” out of her, whether she knows what it means or not, it’s freaking adorable. She was doing so well with him that I decided to go for a run Saturday morning, knowing she’d look for me first when she woke up and I wouldn’t be there.  Mike handled it with ease and she was perfectly happy to see me return an hour later. In fact the next night, at about 1am, I heard her call for Papa first. He didn’t respond so she tried Mama next and it turned out she had soaked through her diaper. A quick change and back to sleep with everyone happy.

More silly faces LullabyesWhile she naps I’ve been reading “Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child” again. It’s enlightening, but mostly it’s super affirming of how well adjusted she seems. A lot of the damaging affects of orphanage care the books speaks of, such as inability to chew properly or indiscriminate affection, just aren’t there. We spent one morning at Texas Children’s Hospital’s International Adoption Clinic and the doctor had nothing but great things to say about her. She’s smallish, around the fifth percentile for weight and height, but her development is above average. I have a feeling that once she starts truly speaking English, she’s never going to stop talking.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Homecoming-100

 

P.S.  My husband insists that we not portray this experience as all sunshine and lollipops. It’s not, I assure you. It’s hard work. And we’re probably still in a honeymoon period with her. But I’m over the moon with delight and gratitude that we are finally at this point of the journey and I have felt God’s presence with us constantly. He has prepared the way for us.

Going to See About a Baby

It’s here, it’s here, the day is finally here!

2014-04-25 00.30.15 (1024x683)[2]About five years ago, God reached into my life and shook things up. He opened my eyes and made me see what following Jesus was really about, and set my life on a totally new path, in a completely new direction. Over time he did the same thing to my husband.

Two and a half years ago we decided to take a huge leap of faith and pursue adoption of a child from Haiti. Part of us really knew we were crazy, but it was pretty clear that this was something we were called to do. We also knew it would be a long time of waiting. We prayed a lot.

Over a year ago we got the name and picture of a scared and sick little girl, not even a year old. Our friends in Haiti had saved her life and were nursing her back to health but she needed a family to love her. We said yes. We prayed some more.

In February we traveled to Haiti to meet Miss Rosenaicha, and loved on her for a few days. We did all the governmental procedure stuff we had to do, and then we kissed her goodbye as she cried and promised we would be back for her. We prayed it would not be long.

Now finally, here in August, we are at the end of the beginning. Everything is done and her case has been approved by all the powers that be. All we need is a printed visa to fly home with her. We are leaving NEXT SUNDAY to go snatch her up into our arms forever.

I’m not excited or anything. (that’s sarcasm, in case you missed it) I can hardly believe it. There is also much fear and trepidation. She’s about to have her world turned upside. My life is about to get a whole lot busier.

In the meantime my friends have been awesome, showering me with much needed gifts and prayer and even donations for the orphanage! My boys and I have been having fun learning Creole via CD in the car. They are catching on quick.

So many things are falling into place. We need to pray that the US visa printing system, which has been not working right, will get us our visa in time for our flight home on the 20th. We also will pray that 3 hours is enough time to clear immigration in Miami. But most of all, we need prayers for our hearts. And by “we”, I most especially mean sweet Rose.

So thank you for your support and prayers to get us this far in the journey.

Dr. Stanley Marple Jr. (Feb. 4, 1920 – July 16, 2014)

My grandfather passed away last week. I had been caring for him and enjoying lots of time with him for the past six years. I will miss him dearly, but the struggles he and I faced together are over and a whole new chapter in my life has begun. 

My sister and I sat down together to write a eulogy but I’ll give her most of the credit since she’s the professional speech writer. She delivered it flawlessly to many laughs and tears. I felt strongly that more people need to hear it, to understand the kind of man he was, because we can all learn so much from his life. So please read on.  

StanleyMarple-16-2In preparing for this difficult moment, my sister Sarah and I have had the privilege to read some correspondence between our grandfather and grandmother Stan and Gladys.  One Valentine’s Day card stuck out in particular: It was as you would expect, from a person who has known his wife since he was 5 years old and who has faithfully given his life for her.  “To my loving wife” and it went on and on. But the best part was that just below his signature was the word “over.” So we turned the card over.  And then in his handwriting, it read “If you doubt my sincerity, just look at the price of the card.”

This one simple card sums up so much about our grandfather and the man you all knew and loved.  It so beautifully encapsulates his tremendous wit.  Stan Marple delivered great one liners that everyone enjoyed.  In particular, as he had some health struggles in these last years, the medical staffs at various hospitals and rehabs would fall in love with him because he kept them laughing.

Another reason this card struck a chord with us was that in a small way it speaks to the legacy he left of personal responsibility and fiscal stewardship.  As the son of a minister, a child among 5 siblings and someone who experienced the depression era, Stanley understood the value of hard work.  He was willing to do what it took to invest in things that matter, like working his way though both undergrad and the obtainment of his PhD.  You’ve heard it said that some people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

On the contrary, Stan Marple understood exactly what had value in this life.  He invested in a few key areas and the dividends paid off during his lifetime, the lifetimes of the two boys he loved so deeply and will continue throughout the lives of his grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

Stan’s top investment was in his family.  He leaves behind a legacy of faithful marriage.  In a world where marriage has become more about feelings and emotions than lifetime commitment and “till death do us part,” Stan modeled the role of  loving and dutiful husband so well, my sister and I watched it replicated in our father and we chose exactly those qualities in our spouses.  And on that day, when I married my husband, Stan wasn’t just there on the sidelines as a model of marriage, he stood in my dad’s stead and walked me down the aisle.   While we all felt the missing piece from my dad’s death, granddad was the glue that held the whole family together.

In a time where “mother in-law jokes run rampant,” as little girls we watched Stan care for Gladys’s mother even when Elin Farren no longer knew who he was or where she was.  In recent days, we watched this patient devotion repeat as he cared for his wife while she struggled with her memory.  Finally, at the spry age of 80, we watched Stan embrace new members of his family with joy when our Uncle Mel married Joan Moore and added her three children Jina, Beau and Buck. In some of his last moments the day before he died, he held his newest great grandson with such a smile and listened to Daniel’s laughter with delight.

While already mentioned, Stan invested in education.  Not just his own and not just in the usual way.   Yes, anyone who undergoes the academic rigor of a PhD at MIT clearly values education but there’s so much more to it.  Stan wanted everyone to understand the value of education and share his joy of learning.  I loved the twinkle in his eyes as my son Timothy would work through the math problems his great-grandfather presented.  He also funded the education of others, gave generously to the institutions that contributed to his education and taught Plant Design, Thermodynamics  and Physics at University of Houston.   But his love for learning wasn’t just books and classroom.  It was taking a job assignment in the Netherlands, being a member of Rotary, traveling the world, patroning the Ballet, Opera and Symphony and doing the daily crossword puzzle.

He also took great pride in the education of the ones he loved.  His smile was ear to ear when he learned his granddaughter Sarah was going to be an engineer and that she could go to any of the top programs in the country.  To top it off, she married an engineer and all of this gave him great pride that he expressed by showing her off to his Rotary Club.

The last significant investment Stan made that I want to mention is in the people around him.  Everyone has a story.  Stan was the guy who wanted to hear that story.  He believed in the value and dignity of every human being regardless of their station in life.  Whether the trashman or the waitress, Stan learned their name and asked them their story.  More than that, if your story had a need and he could help your need, he would.    He had a generosity that generated from the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  He worked to get to know each person at his beloved church Riverside UMC and the church where his father had been a minister, First Church of Weymouth. To each of you, he loved being apart of your lives.

Stan gave a wonderful autobiographical talk to his Rotary Club where he included everything from Shakespheare to how Shell’s research labs worked on making better wax coatings for ice cream.  He summed it up by listing several things they don’t teach in college (and here I thought MIT taught it all!).  A short list in his own words,

1) God is real, He will help you when you need Him.

2) Try to be positive. Negative pep talks are absolutely worthless.

3) Help the other guy.  It will make you feel good and your own work will also benefit.

4) If you have some important knowledge or ability, be eager to teach it to others.

In conclusion, I wanted to share some words to comfort us on this difficult day.  Granddad struggled, just like all of us, to understand pain in this life.  Quite possibly the most meaningful conversation I ever had with him was about this 2 summers ago in Boston when I had flown up to be with him because he had fallen and had severe head trauma.  Prior to heading into a scary surgery, he asked me the question of the ages. Why does God allow suffering?

I reminded him of the story of Jesus and how it was in fact the death of God’s only son and the suffering on the cross that allows those who surrender control of our lives to God to have eternity with a perfectly holy and loving God—that suffering is in fact a path to our salvation and that our trials are a path to more fully taking on the character of Jesus in our lives.   I shared with him many of the promises in Scripture such as, “In this world, there will be troubles, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  It was a precious memory but today, I want to conclude by reading Stan’s own words regarding the suffering we feel today.

Earlier this week, I found a Sunday School lesson Stan wrote entitled, “When All Seems Hopeless.”  It begins by discussing 9/11 and cites scriptures out of Job, so you know it was heavy.  But in it, he writes this message I would suggest we all take to heart on this day when our souls are sad and we are searching for understanding.

“But God is good, not evil. He loves us.  Why? I don’t know.  But I am convinced of it.  God gave us his own son to tell us, ‘I love you, my children.’ And in the big picture, not restricted by earth’s bounds, everything will be all right.  I believe this.”