faith · family · grace · kids · motherhood · wisdom

sent off with a sandwich and a prayer.

Back to School.

I’m reading all the Facebook posts and seeing all your pictures on Instagram of your baby loves heading back to school in their new uniforms and tennis shoes that have just enough wiggle room…the summer sunshine mixed with pool chlorine no doubt serves as a juvenile cocktail for growth spurts.

“Child. How can the pants you wore 12 weeks ago be three inches too short?!”

Am I lying? No. You know it’s true. Kids sprout in the summer.

A photo is a must. I’m loving all the new ways to document the year…the letter boards declaring their age, grade and a quote…

Annabelle 6, 1st grade. “I like Dora the Explorer and bacon.”

We didn’t have letter boards or Instagram when my girls were little..Let me think what I would have shared for this first day  back picture…

back to school

Paige 8, 3rd grade. I like tweety bird and having my own room.

Laken 5, Kindergarten. I like to pick out my own clothes and this dress is stupid.

Ask my girls about the year I was burning up with a fever on their first day back…I stumble out of my bedroom just as they are preparing to exit the infirmary and insist on a picture. “Wait, girls! Lemme get your picture.” Hunched over in a wrinkled oversized t-shirt and my underwear I capture another “first”. I didn’t want to miss it. I won’t miss it.

That’s what we  do…we snap one photo after another…trying to stop time and freeze moments in squares.

You will blink and it’s Christmas Break.

You will blink again and need to blink real fast to hold back tears as they walk across the stage and close this chapter.

You feed and clothe and teach and nurture your birdies for 18 years then in what seems like a minute they leave home and you have boring couches where the pillows stay in the same place for weeks… The same five loads of repetitive laundry with socks that stick with their partners…Their rooms feel stark and hollow without their personalities and your refrigerator is left with mayonnaise and ketchup that will be tossed before consumed. Where is everyone?! It’s a ghost town up in here.

Empty Nest Syndrome is not something that lasts a scientifically researched set amount of time and then dissipates…no, ENS comes and goes in waves…waves of nostalgia dipped and battered in crocodile tears. Odds are it was brought on by a song, or commercial or seeing another mom loving on her baby. The onset and symptoms may vary but the cure is universal: Hearing that they still need you and watching them build their own nests with some of the love, comfort and care that you desperately tried to teach.

Mama. Daddy.

It goes by fast. It goes by more. than. fast.

Back When It Didn’t Feel So Fast…

School days were hard. Getting them all out the door happy was my personal mission impossible. If all three of them were chipper and satisfied with what they were wearing and how their hair looked, I knew to get right with Jesus…He was on His way. Get right with the Lord! I’m dropping them happy girls off and going back home to curl up in my designated “quiet time” chair with my half-attempted Beth Moore bible study so when He finds me He shall find me faithful.

Can I stop and chase a rabbit for a minute?…Those bible studies. Y’all. I tried so hard to emulate some of the precious women in my church that spoke spiritual discipline into my life. They were all about having a quiet time.  They had comfy chairs in carefully selected corners next to a small table bedecked with a lamp giving off a perfect 60 watt glow. Along with the lamp was a bible, a stack of current books from Lifeway Christian Book Store and a fill in the blank bible study. The chair was accented with a throw in complimentary colors to place in their lap while they sipped coffee, prayed and dug into The Word at 5 am. Girls. I tried. I did. Except I was tired as hell. I blamed my borderline anemia and the dry West Texas winds for my eternal fatigue but the truth was I was tired from all the pressure to be perfect. Jesus and I had an ongoing conversation…like I started praying from the time my feet hit the ground and never said Amen.  I prayed they loved their teachers, made good friends with good values, felt and held onto their worth, felt safe and WERE safe. Like, I would start out strong then find myself saying, hold on…I’ll be back…don’t leave…I’ve just got to see if I can find her other shoe and get them to school on time but I still have some things to say…and ask of You.  I never wanted to raise my kids without Him. It just seemed like I couldn’t measure up. I mixed what was meant to be grace and mercy and my greatest love story with shades of shame, self- defeating talk and a focus on inadequacy. Just as the enemy would have wanted.  I wish I could go back and release Young Mama Gina from the standards I thought I needed to meet.

Now back to the Back to School Blogging…

I cannot recall a time when all three of my girls liked the same thing in their lunches. It was mayonnaise for one, mustard for another and PB&J for the third. Which one hates turkey? Which one wants vanilla pudding?  Crisis Alert: I only have two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos left…someone is getting regular Lay’s…please forgive me.  Dear Lord Jesus…please don’t let her starve today and please help her pass her spelling test on an empty stomach if I fail to pack the provisions necessary in order for her to do so.

But this… THIS tops all of that…

‘Twas the night before a new school year and I called for the customary family meeting. We gathered in the lamplit living room and I began my rhetoric.

“This year will be different. My expectations are higher. Paige you will be in middle school, Laken at Devonian, and Hannah starts kindergarten…This will mean I’ll have 3 kids at 3 different schools. The ONLY way I can pull this off is if we ALL cooperate.”

I then began my well comprised list of To Do’s…

Eat breakfast and brush your teeth before you get dressed. I don’t want toaster strudel icing or toothpaste on your clothes. Eat naked if you have to but DO NOT eat or brush your teeth after you’ve dressed. And you better brush your teeth.

I will not sign ANY papers or check homework in the mornings. I won’t. I mean it. All of this needs to be taken care of the night before or it doesn’t get taken care of…

Speaking of homework…get your homework done before you do anything…like right when you get home. Before you watch Lizzie McGuire…before you jump on the trampoline…They nod in agreement and I carry on…I made sure we would be on our toes this year…like professional ballerinas on pointe. No more lazy up in this house.

I finish my New School Year Dissertation when Paige raises her hand.

Yes Paige?

“Can I say something.”

Of course.

“Can you stop saying crap so much?”

Hello?

The room got oddly quiet and I got uncomfortable…

Yes. Yes, Paige. I…I will stop saying crap.

There I was dropping the law and cultivating a plan for a smooth as butter school year and all my daughter wanted was for me to not say crap?

You could feel the struggle to hold in laughter. It didn’t take long for this stuffy meeting to make some great memories. I love it.

Attempts at perfection are nothing more than catalysts for profanity.

Perfection still makes me say crap.

Good Lawsy…I WISH I could tell you the worst thing I ever did as a mom was illicit a synonym for cow pies upon moments of frustration.

Nope.

My rap sheet is longer than that.

Now Listen.

With all my babies out of school…officially as of last Saturday…Go Hannah and Praise Jesus…I come at you from The Other Side as an encourager of peace and gently ask you to slow down and take it easy. It’s messy sometimes. It’s messy MOST of the times…

Beds won’t get made. Papers won’t get signed. The breakfast of your champions might some days include Teddy Grahams and a Diet Dr. Pepper. Dirty gym clothes found in a backpack on the way to school will fly under the stink radar thanks to a quick spritz of Victoria’s Secret body spray…and brace yourself for this one…retainers will be accidentally thrown in the lunchroom trash can…more than once.

It’s. Okay.

You will one day long for these moments. Moments you will treasure more once they pass, but learning to treasure them now will serve your heart well later.

And when nostalgia comes knocking and you long for the noise and the busy and the days you can’t get back…the days that sometimes made you say doggy doo but also the days that gave you meaning and purpose and crazy beautiful joy…

Something as simple as one of your babies calling to ask for something that they remember as part of the place they called home will remind you that a part of you will forever be with them…

Mom…Can I get your taco soup recipe?

You know you can…

back to school 2
Stripes must have been the theme this year. Hannah 5, Kindergarten. Gymnastics, Blue’s Clues and honey mustard on everything.  Paige 12, 7th. Volleyball, Choir and Friends.  Laken 9, 4th. Dancing, Even Stevens and American Girl Dolls.

 

 

adoption · family · heritage · life · wisdom

turns out…

You can reference a post titled I Am Romanian if you have any questions about what you’re about to read. A dear dear friend who loves me and my heart read that blog post and sent me a DNA kit to solidify or nullify recent news of my ancestry.

Good friends want you to know what you want to know.

When I received my 23andMe kit, I quickly sent my saliva to the lab then patiently waited a good 5 or 6 weeks. Finally the results are in!

Shockingly, the report does not read, “Your wax technician was right on the money honey. You are indeed Romanian.” She wasn’t exactly right, but she wasn’t completely off. Same region just different stock.

Untitled design (2)

The report reads:

99.8% European. 62.9% of that being Irish and British.

16% French and German and 1.8% of Scandinavian.

I am not a smidge African or Native American. I am not Asian.

Here’s the really cool part!

Hannah and I decided to take a trip to celebrate her 21st birthday combined with the last year of my 40’s and her college graduation. Without knowing ANY of this we chose Ireland.

I’m going home to my people. My motherland. My roots. 

 

It all makes COMPLETE sense. My early 90’s aspiration to master the River Dance…my affections for Ed Sheeran, James Vincent McMorrow and Enya…how I hate beer but sometimes I try it anyways with perhaps a feeling deep within my bones that I should like beer?! I have BIG LOVE for potatoes in every form. Ask me my favorite childhood cereal. Go ahead. Ask me. Lucky Charms. Of course. Craic! All the signs were there! My freckles…my love of rainbows…and now the story about the red headed young man that showed up at our house when I was a baby asking to “see the baby” makes me wonder…was that him? Did you see me in my dark skin and dark hair and think to yourself…Oh no…that baby is Romanian. I’m Irish. Can’t be mine. See ya! 

Flashback.

The year was 1990. I was substitute teaching a 3rd grade class. I was 21 and 7 months pregnant with Paige. Two boys seated at the back of the class were causing quite a stir with their arguing…I disrupted them and asked what the problem might be.

We are fighting over whether or not you are White or Mexican.

I said I was white and the young hispanic boy looked really upset. Did he just bet his lunch money on my ethnicity? Should I tell them it’s a truce because I’m adopted and they could both be right? Was a Little Debbie oatmeal pie up for grabs under conditions that were not completely factual but speculative?

This was the beginning of me wondering on a deeper level about who I was and what I wanted to be…Right there at Devonian Elementary in Andrews, Texas in a classroom full of 8 and 9 year olds I erased the titles of White Baptist Republican and wanted real answers. I had a baby due in a few weeks. Who am I? What are we? Are we Mexican???

But seriously…

As many of you know I grew up in the church. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesdays, Week long revivals…surely by now I’ve heard EVERY scripture at least once if not more?! Maybe so, but lately I’ve been craving something deeper…richer. Wanting something stronger than all past knowledge and a fresh start with Jesus, in January I made a decision to read through the entire Bible, cover to cover, with intention.

While waiting for my DNA results I read this verse…as if for the first time.

“Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

It stopped me. I read it again. Do you mean my biological parents, God?…. or Jim and Dorothy…my Mother and Daddy? Which one do I honor for this long life in the land?

I sat in my question and let it do what it wanted to do.

I waited on God to give me a heart answer…He did. Boy did He…and I got real with my feelings about my adoption…about my story.  I’ve had an unforgiveness in my heart that needed to be dealt with. Unforgiveness is sneaky people. You might need to dig deep to find it. It’s often buried…buried beneath sad and fear and busy and quests for perfection. Dig deep.

I’ve often been asked if I want to find my biological father. I’ve always said, no. Turns out…I do want to find him.

Not to see if we look alike. Not to ask about other family members or health related questions. Not to ask anything…

I want to find him so he can know he is forgiven.

Dear God, I forgive him. It was all he knew to do at that time and I pray he is well. I may never meet him this side of Heaven but I hope with all my hopes that more than the bloodline we share in our DNA, we share the precious Blood of Jesus. And I love him. Just as Christ does. Thank you for my life. Thank you for every cell that played a part in me being here. Thank you for every hand that cared for me, prayer that was prayed for me, both in and out of the womb. Bless them all. In Jesus Name. Amen.

love gina

Parents of Adopted Children.

If you have an adopted child do them the sweet favor of ordering them a DNA kit. Let them know as much as they can with an open heart and understanding.

Part of knowing your ancestry offers a huge sense of belonging…and a sense of belonging is a huge part of our basic human needs.

Oh…and I almost forgot this important detail…

Gina, based on your genetics, you have a slightly higher than average chance of hating the sound of others chewing.

It’s called misophonia. Hi my name is Gina. I am European and I have misophonia.

The only cure is drinking wine.

 

blogging · family · life

i am romanian.

I asked Santa for a DNA kit for Christmas but after 70 hundred thousand dollars worth of dental work…I got dental work and perfume for Christmas. Seriously. I went in for an annual teeth cleaning and walked out wondering where the nearest plasma donation center was located. For someone who has CTBS, Chronic Teeth Brushing Syndrome, I somehow have the teeth of a homeless woman who lives on skittles, milk duds and generic cola.

I wholeheartedly dread the dentist. Give me all the monkey gas and wake me when it’s over…

So why do I want this DNA kit so bad…? Because I’m adopted. I know my birth mom so I’m not completely oblivious to my bloodline. However, I know NOTHING about my sperm donor. Thank you for your service by the way…I’m happy to be here.

When you go to the doctor, an unadopted and informed individual can most likely answer the questions when asked about family history of diseases. When I get asked I play the adoption card and say I don’t know because it’s quicker than an explanation.

This…

Do you have a family history of….

Don’t know.

I’m adopted.

Is quicker than this…

Well…you see…I know my biological mother but not the air-quote-father…and my daddy is biologically my great uncle which means when I go to family reunions I am adopted but still related to everyone? Does that make sense?…You see my grandmother…who is actually my great grandmother…lived to be just a couple days shy of her 100th! I swear that woman could touch her toes like a seasoned yoga instructor up until she passed! Now…she was blind as a bat and had cataracts…Do you think I need to get checked for cataracts? Oh…and her oldest daughter, my dad’s sister and my aunt is actually my grandmother. She died an early death. I believe in her 50’s? Cancer. Sad. I don’t really remember her. I was young… My maternal-biological-grandfather is barking at 100 and just got baptized! My paternal grandfather, who is technically my maternal great grandfather passed away in the kitchen one morning! He was eating his breakfast just like any other normal day and the angels came and took him…he was in his 70’s. Older I get that is just too young to be finished. Did you get all that? 

If you are not adopted you may not understand fully what it’s like to feel this mystery…and it’s so much more than just being able to answer your health care professional with a hint of confidence…It’s more about the wonder of what he looks like, if he’s nice, if he loves Jesus…do I have any half siblings running around this planet with my features and quirks? Has he ever wondered about me? Did he ever, at any point care if I was alive or dead? It’s deep…and I would be lying if I said it hasn’t stung a little.

And any interest in my paternal roots is NOT because I need a daddy. I have a WONDERFUL daddy. I get real defensive when someone asks me if I want to find my “real dad” or if I know my “real mom”.

This is my personal truth and one I can guess is felt by other girls wondering about the dads that got away…We want you to see us and openly, to our faces accept or reject us so we can move on. We do. And here’s why…

A father is the first male a girl ever feels acceptance or rejection from…and I’ve spent my life feeling a sense of rejection and abandonment. And when I was younger I often wondered if he saw me…if he physically laid eyes on me if he could walk away or if perhaps there was something about me worth knowing.

Don’t you agree that we all just want to be worth knowing?

So until I get my DNA kit I am Romanian.

How do I know…

I went in for a wax.

A painful waxing.

There I was in all my glory and she says…

What nationality are you?

Considering the shot or two of vodka I have to take before this delicate procedure I could have given her all the details. I tipsy talk. But I didn’t. I gracefully replied…

I don’t know exactly…I am adopted.

And then…without hesitation…as I was exposed as exposed could be, she solved the long felt mystery of my life in one statement…

You are Romanian.

I am what?

Romanian.

I am? How do you know?

I’ve been doing this for a long time and I can tell by the way hair grows along with skin tone and eye color.

Well then…you are the professional so I guess I am.

romania flag

I had no idea walking in that day that my technician was also a genealogist…but she was.

Score.

So until further notice…

I am Romanian.

love gina

 

 

 

family · favorites · kids · life · motherhood

…all I had to do was ask

Who better to let my readers know who I am than my daughters?!

If anyone knows me, and knows me well, it’s them…right?!

That’s what I was thinking when I sent them this quick little Q&A. I simply asked them to answer in their own words and text or email me back their answers…wow. I’m so glad I asked….

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday…You want to know what will top any gift? Asking your children a few questions about their memories of you as their mom. Wow. I had no idea when I sent this text out that the answers would bless my boots off.  Honestly, I was just curious and working on a blog post…their answers trumped anything I could write!

The Questions:

  • Your first vivid memory of me
  • What is a habit of mine
  • What do you remember me cooking
  • What makes me laugh
  • What makes me cry
  • What would I do if I won the lottery
  • What do I do to make you feel loved
  • Describe me in 3 words

The Answers:

Paige

First vivid memory of you is hard to answer…for some reason I am drawn to think of events like you picking me up from school and seeing you in the crowd at school events. I can remember back to things in Jasper so that would’ve been when I was around 4 or 5.

You cooked chicken nuggets, ranch style beans and macaroni and cheese! I’ll never forget Christmas when all of dad’s family came down and we planned a huge grocery list…from sandwiches to desserts. I was excited to have everyone come stay with us…Oh, and also pie for my birthday.

What makes you laugh? Let’s be honest…I totally make you laugh.

Cry? I think you cry most when you question yourself…whether that be past or potentials.

Lottery? You would totally take all of us on a dream vacation. We would make memories. I also think you would write a children’s book and purchase a beach house somewhere.

I feel super loved when you do acts of kindness. I know that sounds silly but laundry, cleaning house, buying something simple that you know I will like, or playing with my hair. There is just something about a mom’s touch. I appreciate those things because there is a lot of thought put into it and you are willing to give your time…that makes me feel loved.

3 words: damn. good. mama. (lol…okay maybe don’t put that on your blog)

I’m totally putting that on my blog.

Laken

It’s hard to say…every memory you were there. My memory of you is just “present”…at all, doing all.

Your habit? Taking all the hot water for your baths!

You cooked taco soup, gumbo, rainbow beans…Ritz chicken and I always remember your homemade gravy for breakfast that would be served in that white dish shaped like a cow. In high school you made us shiner beer brownies…oh, and Lean Cuisines.

Laugh?…she left this blank.

Cry? Driving away from us.

Lottery? Buy a lot of land and build all of us our own house so we could be close to one another. Your house would also have a long wooden farm style table for family dinners that we’re not allowed to miss…and probably buy cute shoes.

You go above and beyond for all three of us. If you had 3 dollars you’d find a way to give us 4 if we needed it…and in times I should have been ashamed you loved me even harder and I’ve never had to hide who I am in fear of losing your love.

3 words: Creative. Loving. Courageous.

 

Hannah Kate

My first vivid memory is whenever I fell asleep with gum in my mouth and I ran into your room around 4 am because gum was wrapped all around me, in my hair, EVERYWHERE. You threw me in the bath and began to put mayonnaise and peanut butter in my hair, trying to get it all out.. Not to forget that we are both halfway asleep…I remember apologizing so much and you said, “It’s what I’m here for.”and continued washing my gummy hair.

I honestly cannot think of any habits…that’s a good thing I guess!  Maybe fixing every crooked thing on the wall or straightening a picture on the coffee table…but I think we all have that habit. OCD runs in our blood, I swear!

Taco soup and Ritz chicken! Yum!

Laugh? I think everything can give you a good laugh…especially when I go into “Oh victory in Jesus!”

Distance makes you cry.

Lottery? You would give back to others…then purchase land somewhere and build houses for all of us. You would build your dream home with your dream kitchen and a porch…and of course purchase the prettiest porch swing! You would buy a new car and A LOT of shoes…You would give us the world.

You make me feel loved by simply being my mom…Your love. Your advice. Your courage. Your faith. Your endurance. Your passion. Just the thought of knowing that I am always loved, no matter what decisions I make, you will love me!  Regina Lynn is love, and I am just lucky enough to call you my mom and experience it!

3 words: Imaginative. Immaculate. Intelligent.

So there you have it…the Me from the eyes that matter most to me.

Now you see why I’m glad I asked!

We are a special tribe of laughter, tears, mood swings, understand you better than anyone, distance can’t break us, division can’t shake us,  Jesus trusting, silly giggles, couch cuddling, play with my hair, can I borrow that shirt, can’t wait to see you, hate to leave you, nothing can separate us love.

christmas 2013

Being a mom is a gift…We don’t need the breakfast in bed or the flowers …we don’t need your oops-I-forgot last minute trip to the nearest store that sells greeting cards or the gift bought with money you don’t have to spend…

Can I get a witness?

Perhaps I’m just speaking for myself, but I know enough mom friends to vouch for this declaration…

All we really need is for you to know us and love us anyway.

 

love gina