Friday, December 28, 2007

The journey is complete...

Dad is home.

In the last few days we know how desperately he yearned to be with his Heavenly Father and we can only imagine the rejoicing that's taking place at his arrival.

Our hearts are heavy and saddened at not having Dad with us anymore, but we are comforted knowing that he is safe at home.

Many blessings to you all who have prayed me through this difficult time. Mom has been Dad's care taker for the last two years and these last few weeks have definitely taking a toll on her. Please lift her up in prayer - that she may rest. That she may heal. That as she grieves, she feels the love and prayers of those around her.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Still with us...

Thank you all for the many e-mails and comments about my daddy. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated by my whole family.

We had a very nice christmas in my parent's den. Daddy knew it was Christmas and even managed one "Merry Christmas" for everyone. He told us he enjoyed the sounds of the day and that he had really enjoyed the Midnight Mass we had on TV for him Christmas Eve.

Despite our sadness, we were able to celebrate the twin's first Christmas home. They did a great job opening presents and played with each toys for hours before they moved on to the next present! Christmas lasted ALL day long!

And I am so proud of Mason and Evan. As teenagers, it could have been a very difficult day for them as they were in "new" territory both with their Grandfather's condition as well as the focus being "off" of them for the first time in many Christmas's as everyone watched the twins. However, they came through like the remarkable young men we know them to be. They were sweet, loving and caring and we couldn't have asked for a better day!

We continue to pray with my father. He enjoys having the bible read to him. And with the incredible help of Hospice, we are trying to keep him as comfortable as possible.

I will leave you with some photos of our day.

Austin and Logan with Grandma and Aunt Patsy:

All my boys: Mason, Evan, Logan and Austin!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Walking Daddy Home....

God is calling my father home. It's his time.

We're not ready.

We are so grateful to God who gave us two years, when the doctors gave us 6 weeks. We are so thankful to God who gave Dad a remarkable, an amazing quality of life these past two years. I am humbled that God allowed Dad to meet his grandbabies, that God graced us with these last 5 months with nothing but happiness since the twins have arrived home. Dad has fallen completely in love with them. And they adore their "Gr-Da-da-Da-da-Da."

On Oct 26th, Dad's brain tumor had shrunk by 30%. We had gotten used to Dad being the Walking Miracle. Nobody ever expected to see him at his next doctor's appointment. And everytime he returned, the doctor's just shook their heads and said, "We don't know how."

But we knew. God had His own plans for Dad. And that included, for whatever glorious reason, for Dad to get to bask in the love of his grandbabies. And for my babies to get to know and enjoy their Grandfather.

Thanksgiving, just three short weeks after we got the news about the tumor shrinkage, we were devastated to learn that the original brain tumor site had "exploded." The cancer was running rampant throughout his brain.

God was calling.

My father has faced his death several times now. He has never questioned God. He has given thanks for a beautiful life, a beautiful family. He has always wanted more time, but gave that up to God in the very beginning and trusted in Him.

I am so thankful. I am devastated. I am fine and then I am crying at the check out counter at Target. I am fine and then I am pulling over the car because I am balling.

Two weeks ago Dad was still up and about. Still joking. Still laughing. One week ago, we brought Dad home from the hospital with the help of Hospice. He loved having the twins climb up and over the railings. They snuggled on him daily and gave him kisses and chanted "Gr-Da-da-Da-Da-da."

By Monday, Dad could no longer get up. Two days ago, he stopped eating and drinking. I think he sees heaven sometimes. He cries and tells us how much he loves God. He tells us he's never seen such beautiful things and such beautiful people.

I am honored to sit at his side and take him as far on his journey as we can. Forgive me, I don't have the energy to re-read and proof my entry and I know I'm all over the place. But now, all of the "coincidences" of late seem to have a new meaning. To remind me of the fullness of time, that everything happens when it should. And I am at peace. And I am comforted.

I ask that you all pray for my father. Pray to keep the pain at bay. To please pray for my family also, to give us extra strength in our weakened state.

God gave us His only son. And we celebrate that miraculous birth at Christmastime. Let us not forget that Jesus gave us the ultimate gift of everlasting life. And because of that, we can truly celebrate Dad's homecoming at this special time of year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Then and Now.....

Or rather, now and then...

I'm not a big "Christmas Sweater" kinda gal. But when I got an e-mail special for $8.99, I couldn't resist. So, these sweaters just arrived in the mail late last week and they wore them to church on Sunday (yesterday).

Last night, as we were sitting in my parents den, I suddenly grabbed Gary and said, "Look! Almost exactly a year ago, in the hotel you remember?" It took a moment, but his face lit up with a smile when he did remember!

Here they were last night, Dec 16th, 2007:

Tee Hee Hee! And here they were last year in the hotel room on Day 3 of our first visit trip,

Dec 15th, 2006:

They've changed places, but Logan is wearing Red both seasons and Austin is wearing Green!

I can't believe how much they've changed. I can't believe how completely they have filled my life! I just love them to pieces. I can't believe what a remarkable season of memories and gifts we're having this year. In the midst of pain and loss (which I'm just not quite ready to blog about yet), our spirits are constantly being lifted by the love and the spirit of life that these two little guys have brought to us all in just 5 short months since being home!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

One Year Ago Today...

We accepted Austin and Logan's referral on June 2, 2006. Six mnths later, we had not moved one step in our adoption process. DNA had finally been ordered in early November, but as we entered December 2006, no DNA had been taken.

I was a nervous wreck. Not sleeping. Desperately yearning for my babies who were 7 months old and never been held by their Momma. On a whim, my husband and I decided with or without DNA we were heading to Guatemala to spend an early Christmas with our sons.

By the time we booked our flight, we had way overpaid and had one crazy schedule. We were nauseously excited about our trip. We began at 1 AM early Dec 13th. We drove two hours to Washington, DC. We parked our car at Reaghan International and then took a cab to Dulles (where our return flight was landing). We flew to Miami, had a five hour lay over, which we needed, to locate Taca airlines and check in for our International flight. I had booked off of the Internet and no idea what to expect from Taca (whom I had never heard of), but had a vague impression of flying with chickens in my head!! Taca turned out to be a very respectable airlines, but the flight was very crowded as everyone else was trying to get home to their families for Christmas. We landed, I believe, around 4 pm.

The Guatemalan airport at that time was very, um, well "behind times." We got our luggage and neared the airport exit where the entire population of Guatemala had gathered to greet loved ones! It was an overwhelming sight. Our hotel shuttle was nowhere to be seen and due to a delay in our flight, our babies were supposedly already at the hotel. In November 2006, visits to Guatemala had been halted due to unsafe travel advisories and it was still a little "iffy" for our foster family to be in a hotel after dark. I was sure they would leave if we were not there to meet them.

We finally located our shuttle and were excited that in 10-15 minutes we would be at the hotel lobby . But, ugh, it was rush hour and I quickly rethought my earlier assumption about the entire population of Guatemala being at the airport because apparently the other half was on the same route with me from the airport to the hotel. It took us 2 1/2 hours to drive 10 miles! I thought I would implode with anxiety! We kept radioing the hotel who assured us that the foster family had not arrived and that this was Guatemala and not to worry, "time" was not stressed in Guatemala. I couldn't help but worry that we would have to wait one more precious day to hold our babies.

Finally we arrived at the hotel. Despite my dressing in layers to accommodate the change in temperature from "snow" to "tropics," I was sweating my toosh off. In the hustle of unloading the hotel van, I heard my husband say. "They're here. Oh my gosh, Donna! There they are!" My stomach dropped as I tried to follow his line of vision to inside the hotel lobby. And there on the opposite end of the lobby sat a cluster of foster family members with two little babies. They were even wearing outfits I had sent in our last care package. The blessed van driver said, "Go, go - I'll meet you inside." My husband guided me through my blurred teary eyes at first. And then it seemed, I took the lead as we crossed the lobby in mere seconds. I hugged the foster mother and sank to my knees to be in front of my babies. I didn't want to scare them, but "one of the twins" practically fell into my arms right then and there.

The next hour was a blur. Our translator appeared from somewhere, we expressed our gratitude and love to the foster family, we took down the twins' schedule, Gary checked us in at the front desk. And all the while, I kept holding one twin and then another. Marveling at their preciousness and their realness. I touched, I held, I swayed, I smelled - I was in heaven and couldn't wait to get upstairs to our room with them.

In a whirlwind of commotion, we said good-bye to the foster family, grabbed our bags and headed to our room. While Gary quickly unpacked "necessities," I took a few pictures and then did what I had been dying to do especially since all of our agencies pictures kept showing the boys layered up in many clothes - I got them out of their outfits as fast as I could so that I could finally inspect and kiss on every inch of my babies!!

Oh - I don't think I can fully describe how heavenly that first night was. All I kept thinking was, it was worth it, it was SO worth every minute, every second of agony and pain that I had been feeling since seeing their first picture on June 2. And that I would wait forever for them to come home to me.

We spent a wonderful week with them. We shared Christmas morning. We videotaped and photographed every second with them. We took imprints of their tiny little feet and their tiny little hands. And I begged God not to let the trip end.

I have always loved Christmas. And for some reason, each time I rocked the babies to sleep, the only "Lullaby" that came to mind was Silent Night. I can't tell you how many tears landed on my two little angels each time I sang or hummed the words to that song...

Sleep in Heavenly Peace!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sweet Moments!

When I was a little girl, I used to watch my grandmother knit and knit and knit. She was always making baby outfits and donating them to the church. Sweaters, booties, hats, mittens. She even knitted outfits for my Barbie dolls!

Grandma's parents came over from Italy in 1914. My grandmother made the trip as well (though she wasn't aware of it) - she was actually conceived in Italy, but born here in the US. I just remember their house being all Italian growing up. It didn't matter what time of day you showed up, Granddaddy would open the door hollering (he never talked, he always shouted!) "Who's there?" and Grandma would be coming around the corner from the kitchen "Can I get you some cookies? crackers? I can warm up some leftovers." And upon leaving, my sweet little Grandma was always slipping me 20 dollar bills.

This is a picture of my mom with Grandma and Grandaddy on her wedding day.

This is me with my Grandma. I was 18 months old. The same age Austin and Logan are now.

One day when I was around 10 years old or so, as Grandma was knitting, I asked as I always did, "What are you making now Grandma?" This time, she held up an adorable little sweater and said "I'm making this one for one of your babies, Donna. By the time you start having babies, I probably won't be able to knit anymore. So I'm going to start making you lots and lots of outfits now."

I was Italian and Catholic. So, naturally, I assumed I'd have a house full of children by the time I was 23! I had always dreamed of a large family, 7-8 kids! So, away Grandma knitted for me. It seemed every week, she would hold up a blanket or a sweater or something and say, "This one's going into your box, Donna."

Grandma stopped knitting around 1987, the same year I graduated high school. Her eye sight had gotten very bad and she was actually in the early stages of Alzheimer's/Senility. By the mid-nineties, she didn't recognize me, but she always knew who her daughter (my mom) was and she remained sweet, sweet, sweet to the end. And she kept on "knitting," her hands never stopped the "motion."

During my twenties and early thirties, I would stumble across those boxes she had filled to the rim for me. In my twenties, I would sort through them with glee imagining my future little ones in them. By the time I was thirty, they were "burning a whole in the attic" - a painful reminder of my childlessness. I had even begun picking out a few precious outfits and sharing them with my special friends as they had children. I just couldn't see all of Grandma's hard work "going to waste."

Then, I met Gary and he also filled my life with two very special, adorable boys. As I focused on my family, I sort of forgot about the box of baby clothes.

Then, I'm not sure if the year long wait for Austin and Logan kept us so busy and occupied that we just never got around to the boxes or if I just knew that as the months and months went by and we were no closer to coming home that I had again missed my opportunity to outfit "babies." As you know, we brought Austin and Logan home July 4th of this year. And who thinks about "knitted" clothes in the middle of summer?

My cousin also had a baby girl this summer. As the weather changed, Mom mentioned the boxes of clothes to me again. We wanted to make sure my cousin had some of Grandma's knitted clothes for her baby. I asked Gary to bring down the boxes from the attic once again. This time, though there was no sadness. No emptiness. I am so happy and blessed. My life is so full and so complete that I only felt the tiniest bit of regret at the lost opportunity for my children to wear randma's clothes. I need to find a way to honor my grandmother's work, maybe save the clothes for grandchildren? For future generations? I left that thought to be solved another day. For now, just having the memory of my Grandma's love and labor that she put into all those clothes over the years is precious enough.

My Grandma passed away on January 5, 2003, and I was surprised to find that I actually "had" her again. For years, when I went to visit and her brain was no longer in the "current" I was a "nurse, a friend" or anyone else my Grandma thought of. Sometimes I could even get her to talk about her childhood or some other time in her life. She always spoke of it in the current and the details were very vivid. However, when she passed, I suddenly found that I could talk to her again. Through the years of infertility treatments and then the heartbreaking months of waiting for Austin and Logan, I talked to her often. I knew she was watching us and I knew she was there for me praying just as hard as I was.

So, as I opened up the boxes this week and once again started sorting through the many outfits now spread throughout the nursery, imagine my surprise as I found some boys sweaters made just for toddlers? Imagine my continued surprise to find matching outfits?? How did she know about the twins? Tears of joy spread down my face as I unpacked sweater after sweater that my boys can wear now! How did I not remember that there were larger sweaters in the boxes?

It's absolutely freezing here, so I immediately dressed the boys up. Here are some pictures from our first photo shoot:

Don't they look just precious!!

I sent some of the photos to Mom on e-mail, but didn't tell her what was coming. She, too rejoiced at the sight of finally seeing her Grandchildren snuggled up in their Great-Grandmother's love!

I have a total of EIGHT sweaters that they can wear this season!! Three of them are MATCHING sets! I cannot begin to express the magnitude of my happiness. But at this point in my life, I can say that I am not the least bit surprised at yet another miracle being dropped in my lap!

We love you Grandma!! Thanks for the beautiful sweaters made with all your care and tenderness and love and the many years of hard work and thoughtfulness that you put into each stitch!