Category Archives: Kiddos

Mother’s Day. Why I will celebrate and why I will cry.

 

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My beautiful mom back when we lived in Russia.

Today in the United States we celebrate Mother’s Day. There will be flowers, chocolates, homemade cards and phone calls to mothers. It is a day we set aside to celebrate and thank the incredible women who birthed and raised us. Mother’s Day is a beautiful thing.

But I have to be honest. I think we sell Mother’s Day a bit short.

Motherhood is worth celebrating.

I will celebrate today with thankfulness at the two little kids in my home. (One of them keeps interrupting this blog post to show me the newest snail he found in the backyard.) Their early morning cuddles, the way I can calm their fears just by holding them, their hilarious thoughts and creative ways of seeing the world. I can not imagine life without them. My children are the best parts of me.

I smile with joy for the friends who get to celebrate their very first Mother’s Day this year. The new babies that this year has brought to sweet friends who spent years longing for them. Happy Mother’s day new mamas. Soak in every drop.

I will honor all the women around me who mother so well. The ones with healthy families, the ones whose children require extra care, the women who look after other’s children as if they were their own. All the women who are brave enough to love a child unconditionally. Especially my own mom – who deserves her own theme song and fireworks to follow her.

Today is also a day with streaks of sadness.

I think about the baby I lost in between my daughter and my son. I wonder what he or she would have been like and who they would have grown into. All the bedtime stories I didn’t get to read and all the evenings snuggling on the couch doing nothing but simply being together. Today there are multitudes of women like me – who ache for the children that are no longer with them on this earth.

Each morning I think about the two children we are adopting from Burundi. Today is the fourth Mother’s Day I will have spent waiting for them to join our family. Gritting my teeth and praying that by this time next year they will be here with me. Fighting the lie that this is one more year lost. So many women feel that way today. One more year gone without the child they were hoping for.

Mother’s Day to me is not so much about honoring the role of mom, but about celebrating the capacity of the women to be mothers.

I have seen motherhood in action and it is a powerful thing. Professionals who advocate and fight for the rights of minors. Moms who sit beside their autistic children refusing to let a diagnosis define them. Nurses who care for the sick and dying. Businesswomen who support projects to improve the lives of others around the world. Those who spend their days intentionally loving and giving despite their own needs. Not all of these women have their own children, but they encompass the definition of motherhood so well.

” Motherhood: is 24/7 on the frontlines of humanity.” – Maria Shriver

To the women who are knee deep in laundry or college tuition bills – thank you for raising kids. For giving them your hours, your bodies and your hearts.

To the women who are meeting today with the ache of loss – thank you for loving so deeply even though it caused you pain.

To the women still filled with longing for the kids you don’t have – I see you. Thank you for not giving up.

There is so much to celebrate today beyond the high-five to the mom in the park (although, that would totally make my day).

Take time to notice the women around you. The women who selflessly pour into children that will never call them “mom”. The ones who will courageously attend another baby shower for a friend even though it rubs on the tender place of disappointment within them. The women who give their days and nights to wiping noses and taking care of their own kids needs. These women are all worth celebrating and support the broader meaning of motherhood. They spend their lives on the frontlines of humanity. They are mothers in their own right.

So to all the women who mother – physically, emotionally, spiritually. This one’s for you babe. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Do You Feel Brave?

Hearing your stories is one of my favorite things about this blog.  A few months ago I received an email from the Von St James family. Eight years ago Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma – a rare cancer that kills most people within two years.

Today I am posting an interview with her and I know you will be inspired by her journey just as I was. Plus, I have a crush on her hair. Heather Von St James

1. Heather, tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in a small town called Spearfish, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I had worked in a small salon for a few years and wanderlust got the better of me. I decided to drop everything and move to Minneapolis/St Paul, in hopes of a better job and a better life. I’m a city girl at heart. I met my husband after I moved here , worked in a big salon, and eventually became part owner.

At 36, I had my first and only child. Three months after she was born I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. I had to quit working, sell my portion of the business and commit my life to battling this disease. It has been 8 years and I’m still going strong.

2. When your daughter was born you started having some unusual symptoms. What were they? I was tired. BONE tired…more than what I thought a new mom should be, but I chalked it up to breastfeeding and going back to work so quick after having a c-section. I had a low-grade fever that would hit the same time of the day every day. I was loosing weight at an alarming rate. 5-7 pounds a week.

One day I woke up with what felt like a truck parked on my chest. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I became winded and breathless when walking up the stairs or standing for too long. I thought maybe I had pneumonia, but I wasn’t coughing. Also, I was very pale. I had no color in my cheeks or lips. I found out I was extremely anemic and the cancer was the cause of it all.

3. I can’t imagine what it is like to hear a diagnosis of cancer. What did the doctors tell you about your condition and what was going through your mind?

All I really remember is my doctor telling me that I had pleural mesothelioma. My husband is the one who said, “Oh, this is bad”. I just looked back and forth between the two of them not really understanding. He then asked what my dad did for a living.

When I was a little girl my dad worked construction. He would come home from work covered in dust. His jacket would be white and crusty from the drywall dust that he would be sanding off the walls. Anything that I had to do outside I liked wearing my dad’s coat. Unbeknownst to us, it was chock full of asbestos. The cancer I had was actually caused by asbestos exposure and the latency period was 10-40 years.

He then told me the news that if I did nothing, I would only live about 15 months. Chemo and radiation would give me perhaps five years. There was a radical surgery that would give me my best chances – up to 10 years or more. I just kept thinking of my three month old little girl. How she needed a mommy and how my husband needed me to help raiser her. How did this happen? So many questions were flooding my brain. I couldn’t speak.

Thank goodness my husband had a clear mind and can function under stress. He told the doctor to get us to Boston where they did the surgery. My first words were “How do we pay for this?”. I couldn’t fathom the cost involved, but my doctor took care of the insurance. He totally went to bat for me and got my insurance company to cover my surgery and hospital expenses in Boston.

4. I was reading an interview you did and you said that you kept choosing hope over fear. That is an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to do. How did you actually do that?

All I had to do was look at my little girl. I never once asked “Why me?”. Instead I figured, why not me? I was young, otherwise healthy, and I WOULD beat this. And if I did die from it? I would spend eternity dancing on the streets of gold. This gave me great comfort, but I knew I had to beat it.

I wanted to reach out to others and help them right from the beginning. I knew there had to be a purpose for all I was going through and chose to learn as much as I could to inspire others. I was choosing to be a warrior over a victim. I will never be a victim.

5. I have never heard of this type of cancer before. What was the treatment like? And what was the main thing you were looking forward to when it was over?

Surgery was recommended. Following that is chemo and radiation as precautionary treatment. The surgery is brutal and not for everyone. It consists of the removal of the entire lung, the lining around it, the left half of my diaphram and the lining of my heart. They were replaced with surgical grade gor-tex. The doctors also had to remove the 6th rib for ease of entry into the chest cavity. The procedure is called an extra pleural pneumonectomy.

I started the first of four sessions of chemo three months after that. In September of 2006 I had the radiation. By the end of October 2006 I was done. Exactly a year from when my symptoms started.

6. People who face tremendous obstacles and overcome them always seem so brave as I hear their story. Do you feel brave?

I hear that a lot. “You are so brave”. I don’t feel brave. I just followed the advice of an incredible medical team and prayed a lot. Brave? Nope. When I really think about it – TOUGH. Like holy moly look what I went through. I’m one tough mother! Then I come back to reality and just go back to the fact I did what I did to live. Brave? I don’t know.

7. Going through something like this must be life changing. How has being a cancer survivor altered the way you see life.

It has given me so much FREEDOM. I’m serious. I really don’t let a lot of things bug me the way I used to. I’m much more easy going and relaxed. I also feel like I have a lot to offer and want to try and make my corner of the world a little better. So many people helped us and I wanted to give back as much as possible.

Don’t have time for negativity anymore. I quickly found out who my real and true friends were and got rid of negative influences and people in my life. I’m just very happy and I think it shows. Cancer isn’t who I am. It is something that happened to me and knowing that makes life a little sweeter.

Heather, thanks so much for showing us what it looks like to be a warrior over a victim. I know we will all be sending prayers and thoughts your way that you continue to stay healthy. Thanks for inspiring us!

To hear more of Heather’s story and mesothelioma —> click here.

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It’s like a field trip of sorts – but without the permission slip and sack lunch

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I was gonna be all impressive and grown up, but it just didn’t work out. I’ve known this was coming for weeks and had lined out some posts to automatically publish over the next two weeks so you guys wouldn’t even notice that I was in Africa.

Yea, Africa. Life didn’t quite follow my highly-detailed plan this past week and therefore I didn’t get any posts lined out to publish tonight. I sat down to do it now, but my malaria medicine is making me a smidge loopy so I decided creativity probably isn’t a wise attempt at the moment.

So, I’m gonna get personal and just tell you the truth.  I tend to stay away from talking about the ins-and-outs of my personal life on here since Lark & Bloom isn’t really about me as much as it is about us. And it certainly isn’t an adoption or parenting blog. B I’ll briefly take a moment and fill you in on whats happening with me.

This isn’t news really if you follow me on social media, but I’m going to Africa tomorrow. My husband and I have been in the process of adopting for over four years now. It’s been a long journey – a story for another day – but in November we shifted our plans and began the process of adopting from Burundi. We are hoping to adopt a set of siblings actually. I refer you to my previous post about doing the crazy thing.

If you’ve never heard of Burundi, I suggest you read about itI will be giving my paperwork to the government officials in Bujumbura and be introduced to the amazing country nestled in the heart of Africa.

I went to Africa for the first time when I was 15. I have been back twice since then and am beyond excited to return again.

I am unsure if I will be able to blog from there, so we are gonna do something a bit different. I’ll be posting photos from my trip on Instagram and I’d like to invite you along. Its kinda like a field trip of sorts, but you don’t have to sign a permission slip or bring a sack lunch. It should be fun.

Follow me on Instagram @larkandbloom and come to Africa with me. We were made for adventure.

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Adoption … It’s a _______!

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It’s a … NEW COUNTRY!  If you have been following Lark & Bloom for very long you may have come across some posts about adoption. You can read through them right here to get caught up.

This December marks four years since we started the process of trying to adopt. We began with Uganda, then moved to Ghana. Two weeks ago we learned that our agency is now closing their Ghana program.

Jady & I went back to the drawing board and asked ourselves the hard question. Do we still want to adopt?  The answer was overwhelmingly yes.

Nights were spent scouring programs both internationally and here in the United States. We considered every option…again. One program and agency stood out. We talked to them on the phone, got our questions answered, prayed a lot and made our decision.

We are adopting two children from Burundi!

In a lot of ways we are back at square one, but our hearts are very peaceful and excited to be moving forward. Unlike the two previous countries we were working with, Burundi is not dealing with government setbacks when it comes to adoptions.

So, we are filling out the paperwork and the ball is moving forward. If all goes smoothly we could bring our children home as early as this summer.

Lark & Bloom really isn’t a personal blog, so I am going to limit the number of posts I put up about adoption on here. I have however started a new blog, The Six Griffins, which will keep you updated on our adoption situation.

Check our our adoption blog —> The Six Griffins

Learn about ways to donate —> Funding Our Adoption

As always, I appreciate your prayers and thoughts as we keep working to bring our kids home. Your support and encouragement has been overwhelming in this process. The biggest thanks to each of you!

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The Narrative of Grand Things and Ordinary Moments

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Tomorrow morning I will pack up my suitcase and board a plane with my husband and another woman for Washington DC. If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell you what we will be doing.  Actually, let me back up even further. In addition to writing this nifty little blog, I also am a director for an anti-trafficking organization called UnBound.  Titles aside, I am a stay-at-home mom and my life as a writer and abolitionist are just my side hustle.

Why am I going to Washington? On Friday we have meetings with several members of Congress to talk to them about our “Your No Is Her Hope” campaign. Later  that day I will meet with delegates from almost every African country to educate them on human trafficking and UnBound’s work. Saturday my co-worker and I will be training DC public school counselors on human trafficking and how to spot it in their schools.

Sounds so impressive, doesn’t it?

Want to know a secret? It isn’t impressive. My life is just an ordinary life made up of ordinary days. Emails sent with typos, dinner flavored with too much salt, hours spent in preschool pickup lines and numerous trips to the grocery store. It is just a normal life.

This narrative that God writes within our stories is nothing incredible when broken down day-by-day. We don’t notice the small secrets that are woven into our errands, phone calls and family dinners. And yet when I tell you what I am going to be doing this weekend, I realize that something beautiful is happening in belly of my very normal stay-at-home mom life. The hours spend chatting with my kids in my minivan are deceptive.

In the middle of my seemingly uneventful days, my story is being written.

Grand acts never seem grand in the moment. They are simply hidden in the events of ordinary days. —> click to tweet.

I am beginning to learn the gift of average days. On their own they seem unimpressive and boringly simple. And yet, our lives are lived in one long succession of individual days. When we look back at their sequence we can see our destiny unfolding…

Perhaps your life seems like mine. Routine and average. Spilled coffee, dishes, bank statements, and unreturned phone calls. Let me encourage you. Don’t toss aside your ordinary days for within them lies your story.

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Adoption Update : Part of our Story

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Well this one is gonna be short and to the point because we gotta leave town in a second for a Crossfit competition. Before you choke on your coffee at that thought, you should know it is my husband who is competing. Not me.

If you are new to Lark & Bloom, you can get a quick overview right hereIf you have nothing else to do today and want to read all my posts relating to our adoption, be my guest.

So, what’s new???

We are on the waiting list for both Ghana & Uganda waiting to see which country has kids that match us first. Here is an update by country:

Uganda: Things will be slowing down a bit with Uganda adoptions. However, there are a few referrals for some boys that may be available in the near future. For those who don’t speak “adoption”, a referral is where you are matched with a child.

Ghana: There has been a adoption ban on Ghana that is supposed to be lifting shortly. Even once it lifts there are new regulations that have to be ironed out and we have been told that there will likely be no referrals for quite some time.

Summary: Ghana has boys & girls, but they are not doing referrals anytime in the near future. Uganda is cutting back on referrals, but there are some boys that will be available.

So, what are we gonna do?

Well,  it has been nearly 4 years since we started the adoption process. One thing we have learned is that God is in control and we are not. His plan may not be what we planned. After a lot of prayer, we have decided to do two separate adoptions rather than adopting both a boy & girl at the same time.

It was a bit difficult to emotionally transition for me, but I am really peaceful about it. The plan is pray that we get one of the referrals left in Uganda and bring our son home this spring.

Then continue to wait until Ghana is processing adoptions again and bring our daughter home. Uganda rarely has females available for adoption, so she will most likely need to come from Ghana.

How can you help?

So nice of you to ask. I’d love it if you would pray with us for these three things. Or if you aren’t a praying kind of person,  you can wish on a star or something.

1. Pray that we get a referral for our son.  – We would love it if we could get one of the little boys that is going to be available soon from Uganda.

2. Pray for Ghana to open soon. At this moment no one seems to know when Ghana will be starting new adoptions again. Could be a few months, could be another year. Pray that God would allow all the new government requirements and changes to work smoothly so that adoptions will start moving again.

3. Pray for provision. Two separate adoptions is quite a bit more expensive than doing both at the same time. We still need quite a bit of money to come in at this point, but we know God’s got that.

Thanks for walking with us through all of this. It has been more of a struggle than we ever thought, but it is totally worth it. Every hour spent & and dollar paid. They are worth it…. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

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The Dirty Gospel: Naked Runners and Other Scary Places

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The scary troll under Fremont Bridge in Seattle

Yes,  you read that correctly. Naked runners. The Dirty Gospel is about to get interesting.  If you are new here, take some time and catch up on other posts from this series. For the rest of you old timers, I’d like to tell you a story.

About this time three years ago it was a lovely Sunday in Seattle. The sun was shining and a crisp autumn breeze was blowing leaves around as I loaded my kids in the car after church. I was taking my brood to a Thai restaurant in Fremont to meet up with friends for some post-church Pad Thai. Yummy, no?

My kids ( ages 4 & 1 at the time) were playing in the backseat as traffic slowly crept along. I veered left to cross into Fremont over the bridge from Queen Anne. As luck would have it, I got there just as the drawbridge was opening up to let a boat cross through the canal. It was a stunning day so I knew there was most likely a line of boats coming through. We could be here a while.

Tait was in his car seat directly behind me and his little feet kept kicking the back of my seat. I turned around to tell him to cut it out and that is when I saw them. Right next to our car. Gulp.

A small group of men and women who were jogging in place on the sidewalk just to our left. They were naked. And they were wearing pumpkins on their heads. I told my kids that we were going to play a game and everyone needed to close their eyes. NOW.

Thankfully my kids obeyed and I scouted out the other surrounding areas. A few lanes over there was another group of nude runners also with pumpkin faces. Every fall in Seattle there is a run in the city where the participants wear nothing but pumpkins on their heads. And I was in the middle of it. Stuck in traffic on a drawbridge with about 10 of these nude squash lovers. Awesome.

I came up with some lame game that, by the grace of God, my kids played which involved looking at the floor the whole time.

Finally, the bridge came down and all the traffic started to move. We passed about 15 other naked runners before arriving at the restaurant. Miraculously my kids didn’t see any of the XXX track and field stars we passed.

And that is my story. It reminds me of the time I accidentally took my daughter to the funeral of a slain gang member. But that is another story for another day.

Why did I tell you about the naked pumpkin runners? Because the Dirty Gospel is like that sometimes. God called us to Seattle. A place where crazy things happen and no one seems to get arrested for it.

When God says “Pick up your cross and follow Me” there is a good chance He will lead us to locations that are unknown and scary. Places we never planned on going.

God takes us to places that seem to turn our plans inside out. And that is where He builds the “more than we can ask or imagine” dreams. —> click to tweet

The career change we never saw coming. The relationship that ended before happily ever after had a chance to happen. New cities that seem hostile to the life we want to live. Or maybe it is adults who run naked with pumpkin hats in front of your preschoolers.

Following God can seem to oppose what we would like if it were left up to us. Our outcomes and prefered endings are rarely where we end up. Along the way something miraculous happens. God moves and does the unimaginable. The option we didn’t know ever existed opens up. Suddenly these scary places aren’t so intimidating anymore. God is there with us and He turns the nightmare into a dream.

This is the Dirty Gospel. Following God into places that scare us and challenge our trust in God. This is the story of God who always steps in and does His part. Covering your kids eyes so they don’t see the craziness around them or rebuilding the dreams that broke down long ago. It doesn’t matter what it is or where He takes you. The Gospel is enough for whatever we face.

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