Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy 8th Birthday, Nate the Great!

Eight years ago today, unbeknownst to us, a teeny-tiny little boy was born fifteen weeks early and with a host of medical issues.  

When Nate was a few days old we received a call from our adoption agency.  Would we consider adopting this tiny little one?  The odds were against him.  He was very small and very sick.  He needed a LOT of medical care.  He would be in the NICU for a long time.  He had so many medical needs.  His future was unknown.  But he needed a family.  Would we consider becoming his family?  

I'm not sure how long Brent and I talked about it - not more than a couple of days.  I know we prayed together and separately.  We prayed and then we prayed again.  We were worried.  We were so afraid that if we said yes and this sweet boy didn't make it that our hearts would break.  We weren't sure how his future medical needs may impact Tyler and Emmalee.  Given Tyler's special needs we weren't sure it was the best idea to commit ourselves to bringing home a little one whose needs were so complex.  So we prayed again.  And we received the answer that our hearts already knew.  This miracle baby was meant to be in our family.  We put our trust in the Lord and prayed that he would help Nate to grow and thrive.  

Nate faced an uphill battle during his nearly four months in the NICU.  He had several set backs.  He had heart surgery.  He had brain bleeds.  We were told at one point that they weren't sure he would make it.  And through it all we prayed and prayed.  Our family and friends prayed.  And Nate thrived.  He beat the odds and a few days shy of turning four months old he came home.  

I am constantly amazed at how far this sweet little boy has come in eight years.  He has struggled in many ways and the path hasn't always been easy.  But I remember the days of worrying that he would never walk or talk.  The days when we were convinced he was deaf.  The days we prayed he wasn't blind.  Those worries are gone now.  Yes, Nate has challenges....Autism, Fetal-Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, a colostomy.  He also has a super silly personality.  He's extremely loving. He is very smart and sometimes shocks us with the things he can do.  He loves school, loves to play music, loves to watch tv, loves his family, loves life.  He is the sweetest little eight year old ever!

There are so many things I love about Nate.  I love that he sleeps with his head completely covered but his feet uncovered.  I love that the silliest things make him laugh. I LOVE his laugh -- it is so contagious! I love that he loves music so much.  I love that he gets super excited when he sees me after school as he comes off the bus.  I love that he is pretty easy going and doesn't mind going with the flow for the most part.  

I am so thankful that Nate is part of our forever family.  I'm thankful every day that Heavenly Father answered our prayers and helped us to realize that this amazing little boy was meant to be with us.  I simply can't imagine our family without him.

Happy Birthday, Nate the Great!  We love you!!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Happy Tenth Birthday, Tyler Jacob Charles!

Ten years ago today our incredible little boy was born. Ten years ago Brent and I were hoping, longing and praying for our first child to join our family. We had no idea that our son had been born more than 1500 miles away. Tyler was blessed with an incredible birth family and a loving first family who cared for him for his first weeks of life until he became ours. I'm still in awe of all the miracles that transpired in those weeks. My heart is so full of love for all those who loved our boy first. I know their love continues and we are so thankful for each of them. We love you C & T and G & S. God bless you today and always! Adoption truly is a miracle!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

As September winds down I can't help but feel frustrated and a little sad.  September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Just one month that is meant to support ALL of the childhood cancers.  Leukemia, Neuroblastoma, Lymphoma, Ewing sarcoma, Hodgkin disease, Retinoblastoma....and too many others.  And we are supposed to somehow bring awareness to all these cancers in a single month.  

October is coming soon.  And the country will focus on breast cancer awareness.  And that's fantastic!  People will dress in pink and wear pink ribbons and participate in pink runs and walks.  Football teams will wear pink jerseys.  I'm pretty sure the White House and the Empire State Building even have pink lights at some point.  And I'm thankful for the awareness.  Truly I am.  I know many women who are breast cancer survivors.  And it is because of all the steps that have been taken and the research and the early mammograms that they have survived.  And I am so, so thankful.

And yet, I can't help but wish that childhood cancer awareness was even half as important to others as breast cancer awareness is.  I wish that the White House had gold lights.  I wish that there was more money focused on childhood cancer research.  I wish that more children could be saved.

I know too many families whose children have fought this horrible disease.  I know too many families whose children have lost.  Their faces will never leave me.  Their amazing spirits will forever be a part of my life.  I'm thankful to have known them.  And as I look at Tyler and say a prayer of thanksgiving that he survived I can't help but think of those who did not.  And it breaks my heart a little bit every time.

So parents, kiss your children.  Hug them tight.  Say a prayer of gratitude that they are healthy and happy.  And pray that someday the focus on childhood cancer research will be greater.  Pray that more children can be saved.  Pray that these awful diseases aren't allowed to claim another child.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dear Mom

Dear Mom-

Remember that time in the fourth grade when I was supposed to make an Indian village out of clay?  You stayed up until who knows when creating the perfect village.  I couldn't believe it the next morning.  You made a tee-pee.  You made a fire pit using little rocks and real ash.  You put tiny sticks for logs next to the fire pit.  You crafted a river out of aluminum foil and made a canoe out of clay.  You must have worked for hours and hours.  It was incredible.  I wish we had a picture.  I got an A+ and my teacher asked if she could keep it to use as an example for others.  I felt on top of the world.  And I'm pretty sure I didn't give you nearly enough credit.  

Remember that time in the fifth grade when I had to make a book labeling all of the steps of the scientific process?  Once again, you stayed up all night making the perfect book.  It had art work.  It had perfect handwriting.  It was neat and easy to follow.  And I got an A+.  I wish I still had it.  It was the best book in all of fifth grade, I'm sure of it.

Remember all the other projects you helped me with?  Eighth grade Science Fair comes to mind.  We worked so hard on that project and it paid off.  I got one of the top five awards for our city.  I was so proud.  

A few months ago I helped Emmalee make a turkey project for school.  She had to "dress" her turkey.  We decided on a Victorian bride.  She turned out lovely.  

Our little project took nearly four hours.  And I was wiped out.  I had blisters on my fingers from the glue gun.  There were pieces of purple turkey feathers all over the kitchen.  I failed to take the teacher's advice and got a bit carried away.  But it was so fun to work on something with my girl.  It was great to see her enthusiasm for our project.  It was all worth it when she thanked me for all my hard work when we were done.

Now I know why you worked so hard on all those projects.  Now I understand how much you enjoyed it.  I only hope I thanked you enough.  I hope I let you know how much you were appreciated.  Just in case I didn't, I wanted to say thank you.

I love you, Mom.  For this and countless other reasons!!  Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I don't like pain.  I'm not sure anyone does.  I especially despise the pain that comes from heartbreak.  The all consuming, overwhelming, blindsiding pain that happens when your heart is just plain broken.

On March 19 I did something I prayed I'd never have to do.  I had a hysterectomy.  Though several doctors over the years had encouraged me to do it, I put it off.  I begged and pleaded with them to find another solution.  I prayed to my Father in Heaven to make my body work properly.  I endured and suffered through month after month and year after year of physical pain.  And finally my body was done and I was left with no other options. No more putting it off.  It was time.  And my heart was broken.

I have three incredible, beautiful, gifts from God.  My children are amazing.  And they are mine.  In every sense of the word.  No, I did not give birth to them.  But they were meant to be my children.  Of that, I have no doubt.

And yet....there was always this nagging voice in my mind.  This little thought that someday, somehow, sometime we would try again.  We would hope and pray and try.  I always felt that there was this little person that we were meant to create, who was meant to come through me.

Once again I begged the doctor.  I pleaded with him to find another way.  Another solution.  I begged him not to say those horrible words.  I so desperately wanted more time.  He was blunt and to the point.  Not only would it be next to impossible to get pregnant, even with medical help, my body would never carry a baby to full term.  My options were gone.  My body had failed.  

And now, though the pain has ebbed, there are times like tonight when it hits, without warning, and it is so overwhelming and gut-wrenching that I feel paralyzed.  And all I can do is sob.  

It is times like these that I am so thankful for the knowledge that I have a loving Father in Heaven.  I can't imagine not being able to turn to Him and pour out my heart, my sorrows, my pain.  

I don't have all the answers.  And I may never fully understand why.  But I will do my best to trust in Him, to rely on Him and to believe that His plan is greater than my own.  Sometimes that's all any of us can do.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best Christmas Gift, EVER!!

Moms of typical children may wait 18 months or so. Moms of children with special needs may wait a lifetime. With Nathaniel, I waited just over four years but it was so worth it! When I opened his bedroom door this morning to get him ready for school he said the one word I've longed to hear, "MOMMY!" Best Christmas present ever! And now I can't stop crying. :)

Don't get me wrong. He has said the word before, when prompted. But he has never looked at me and said my name. He has said Daddy to Brent and Ty and Em's names. But not Mommy. I was so surprised when he said it that I just stood there for a second. Sure love that little boy!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brent & Fundraisers

Many of you follow Brent's caringbridge website and know that his health is very poor at this time. For those of you who don't know how things are going, here's the site information.

In an effort to help our family, several of our amazing friends have begun fundraisers on behalf of our family. Our friend Sue has put together a blog to keep everyone updated on the fundraisers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bag, Anyone?

Tyler is starting to realize that not everyone has a colostomy bag. Recently he lifted my shirt up and said, "momma, where's your bag?" Brent, Em and I all had to pull our shirts up and show him our bellies so he could see that we don't have bags. I think that confused him more since Nate does have a bag.

Ty is somewhat obsessed with his bag. It is a constant battle with him -- pulling the bag off, hitting the bag, lifting his shirt to get to the bag, going down his shirt to get to the bag, etc. We are constantly telling him, "Ty, don't touch your bag....don't take your bag off!"

Apparently he didn't realize that our dog, Max, doesn't have a bag. This morning things were a little bit crazy in our house. Em was sick which threw off my whole groove. I was running around trying to get everyone ready, out the door and on their buses on time. Poor Max was crying and needed to go potty. I was changing Tyler's diaper and I was ignoring Max and hoping he would be able to hold it for just a couple more minutes. He couldn't. He gave me a sheepish look and started to poop on the floor. I immediately yelled at him, "MAX, DON'T POOP!" Tyler, seeing the poop, yelled, "MAX! Don't take your bag off!"

So glad he understands the rules. Now if we could just get him to follow them.....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Metal Head

Nate likes to head butt. Hard. And it hurts. I try especially hard to not be on the receiving end. We all avoid it, if possible.

Poor Em got it good the other day. I heard it hit and it hit hard. Poor little bunny. When the crying had finally ceased she said to me, "Mom, why is Nate's head made of metal?" It was all I could do to not laugh, out loud, really loudly. I failed. She was not appreciative. So I did my best to explain that his skull is made of bone, just like the rest of ours. I'm not so sure she was convinced.

Fast forward to tonight. Em had me laying on her floor and she was giving me a back massage, aka hitting me really hard karate-chop style. **Funny side note....as she was beating me up -- I mean, massaging my back -- she says, in all seriousness, "isn't this just like being at a salon?" Of course it was. Only, not really.**

So, during the midst of my "salon massage" we could hear Natey jumping on his bed, yelling and just generally being wild. And I say to Em, "where does that kid get his energy?" And she replies, "who knows. What I wonder is where he gets his metal head from." This got me giggling for sure but her next comment had me laughing so hard I couldn't talk. She says, "you know mom, maybe black people's heads are just stronger."

Oh Em, where do you come up with this stuff?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Fourth Birthday, Nate!

Four years ago today our sweet little Nate came into this world. He came much too soon. He was born 15 weeks early and weighed a whopping 17 ounces. His prognosis was poor. He faced an incredibly difficult uphill battle. The doctors weren't certain he would survive. All of the odds were stacked against him.

And yet, his birth mom, with the greatest love and courage, made an adoption plan for him. She knew that if he did make it through, he would need a family. She contacted Adoption STAR and put the fate of her too small baby boy in their hands. Her love and sacrifice amaze me to this day.

Four years ago Brent and I were considering adopting again. It is something we had talked about quite a bit. But, though our hearts were ready, our finances weren't. We had decided that we would wait until 2008, until the money was there, until we were a bit more ready.

Of course, as we have learned time and time and time again, these things aren't exactly up to us. When we got the call about Nathaniel, just as with Tyler and Emmalee, I knew. I knew this sweet baby boy was meant to be in our family. I wasn't sure how we would make it happen but I had faith that if this was the plan for our family, it would work out.

Brent and I worried so much about Nathaniel's prognosis. At times the doctors were hopeful and encouraging. At times they were convinced he wouldn't survive. We were unable to go and visit him because our paperwork wasn't quite done and we were waiting on things like background checks and fingerprint clearances; things that were beyond our control.

Through it all Nate fought. He beat the odds, amazed the doctors and came through. He had setbacks and created fear and then beat the odds again. No doubt about it, that little boy is a fighter!! After all, he is a Gardner!

Through it all we fought. We had yard sales and online fundraisers. We had raffles and, I'll admit, we outright asked for money. We had faith that it would work out. We KNEW this child was meant to be ours and we put our faith in Heavenly Father, knowing that He would help us get things in order.

And He did. Looking back I am still overwhelmed by the love and generosity of our family, friends and even strangers. It still brings tears to my eyes.

Many people ask why Nathaniel's middle name is Roger. He is named after a very special man who helped to make sure that Nate made it home to our family. His financial contribution, along with a matching contribution from his company, was the final $1000 we needed to get Nate home. It was literally an answer to prayers. We decided to name our baby Nathaniel Roger so that we would always be reminded of his love and generosity. It is also a reminder that prayers are heard and that things do work out the way they are meant to.

Today our too small, very ill baby boy is four years old. As I write this I am overwhelmed with emotion. The past four years have been a roller coaster ride for our family. We have faced challenges we never could have predicted. And yet, just as Nate has always done, we have fought. We are strong and determined and faithful. After all, we are Gardner's!

Nathaniel amazes me every single day. His name means "Gift from God" and he certainly is!

Happy Birthday, Natey. We love you!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seven Years

Seven years ago today I became a Momma. I held my sweet baby boy for the very first time and marveled that God had seen fit to allow me to parent this perfect angel.

As we were preparing to come to NY to adopt Tyler I remember practicing over and over the first words I would say to him when I held him. "Hi, I'm your Momma." And I can clearly remember holding him close and whispering those words to him. It was something that I had longed to say to my child for many, many years. It was something I wasn't sure I would ever get to say.

I'm not sure I felt like a mom right away. I think when you adopt, the feelings come in waves. For the first couple of weeks I remember feeling like at any moment someone would come and take him back and say okay, your time is up.

I clearly remember one particular day when I realized that this was my child, forever, and no one was coming to take him. I was rocking him and it was quiet in the house and I just had this overwhelming wave of emotion. I clearly heard the spirit tell me, "this is your child. This is the child that God intended for you to have." I sat and held my baby and cried for a long time that day. I cried tears of joy, tears of humility and tears that helped me let go of the emotion of waiting for that day to come.

Tyler has changed our lives in ways I could never have predicted. I am in constant awe of his strength, his spirit, his love for others. He amazes me every single day.

Many, many people are part of Tyler's story including his incredible birth family and his self-less first adoptive parents and many others. I think of them every day and say a prayer of gratitude that because of them, I am Tyler's Momma.

Tyler, we love you so very much! I am so thankful that on that beautiful day, seven years ago, I was able to whisper to you, "Hi, I'm your Momma."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's A Hard Job!

Dear Emmalee,
It is not my job to be your best friend. It is my job to be the mom. I know that doesn't always make you happy. Just remember that I do it because I love you! Hopefully one day when you are the mom, you will appreciate it.



Saturday, June 18, 2011


Nathaniel had colostomy surgery done on Monday, June 13. Feel free to follow along with his recovery by going to his Caringbridge site,


Sunday, May 15, 2011

You can eat off my floor......

......there are crumbs everywhere!

This is, perhaps, the perfect title for my blog. Or maybe it should be something like, "Send in the Clowns," complete with circus music playing when people log in. Most days this is how I feel.

I had to take a bloggy break. I haven't really posted lately and I really haven't kept up on reading any of my favorite blogs. It wasn't necessarily a conscious decision but I have to say, it has been a much needed break.

It's funny....the "famous" blogs that I frequent are written by amazing women whose goal and desire is to help their readers feel good about themselves. For me, however, the opposite has happened. Instead of feeling better about myself as a mom/wife/friend/person, I began looking at myself and only seeing all the things I am not doing. I began comparing myself to these incredible women and feeling completely inadequate. After all, I don't sew, craft, sing, create fantastic art work, keep my house spotless or cook gourmet meals. I am not always patient. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I want to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. (Okay, who am I kidding? Sometimes I DO lock myself in the bathroom.) I'm not a perfect mother or wife. I have low self esteem. I don't always shower. Sometimes I don't comb my hair. I don't quilt. I won't buy my kids Play-Doh because I hate the mess it makes. I'm not particularly good at anything specific. In other words, I'm nowhere near as amazing as these other moms. They do awesome things with and for their families. They bake, they sew, they grow their own food, they leap tall buildings in a single bound. They cook full course meals. They host fantastic parties. They go on fun family outings. They take hundreds of pictures so that they don't lose any memories. They enjoy every single second of parenthood. How do I know? Because despite how incredibly busy they must be, they are kind enough to blog about all of these things.

Don't get me wrong.....I'm not criticizing these amazing women. I love them. I have spent days/weeks/months/years attempting to be more like them. Wishing my life was more like theirs. And instead of realizing how amazing my own life is in its unique way, I eventually began comparing myself to them and only seeing my shortcomings. This led to my unplanned but very much needed bloggy break.

And then it hit me. DUH! I am not these women! My family life is nothing like theirs. My children are not like their children. I am me! My world is not their world and that's okay. Not only is it okay, it is amazing! I reminded myself that this is the life we chose. We chose to parent kids with special needs. We chose to take on these extra challenges, believing we were capable of doing it. And I have to say, for the most part I feel like we do a pretty good job.


Did I bake bread today? Nope. Instead I changed a colostomy bag. I cheered because even though he is almost four years old, Nate said "momma" more clearly than he ever has. I got a bit frustrated that even though he's nearly seven, Tyler still likes to throw his food on the floor when he's finished instead of just pushing his plate aside. I laughed so hard that I cried when Tyler tried to wink at me.

Did I sew a quilt today? Nope. Instead I watched a home video of Tyler as he was going through chemo and said a silent prayer of thanks that that chapter of our lives is over. I did some research on Autism and attempted to learn how to better help Nathaniel. I listened to Emmalee read a story to her brothers and marveled at how amazing she is with them. I sat through Nate's CPSE meeting and explained why he needs to be in a full day program next year so that he gets enough therapy in his day.

Did I host a fabulous party? Nope. Instead I prayed no one came over unannounced because my house was pretty messy and I hadn't taken a shower. I did some research on colostomy surgery since Nate is scheduled for that in June. I worried about how I am going to coordinate help and childcare for when that happens and we are faced with yet another hospital stay.

Did I cook a gourmet meal? Nope. Instead Brent and I researched Behcet's disease in an attempt to understand more about his illness and it's symptoms. I emailed a new mom whose son was unexpectedly born with Down syndrome. I took great pride in my sweet little Emmalee as she set the table for our very simple dinner.

Did we have a perfect family outing? I suppose. Perfect for us, anyway. Our perfect family outings generally consist of taking a drive in the van and going through an automatic car wash. The kids love it and Tyler is always sad when it's done. We don't do restaurants because the noise and stress are too much for the boys so we got take-out instead. And then we had to cut it short because Tyler pulled his colostomy bag off and Nate had a meltdown. That's pretty much par for the course on our family outings. (I can't even imagine trying to take a major trip somewhere. Maybe someday!)

Is our life perfect? Nope. But in a way I think it is perfectly un-perfect. Our life is unique. After all, our family is unique.

Am I a perfect mom/wife/friend? Not even close. But I am me. And I am slowly but surely beginning to realize that I don't have to be anyone else. I don't have to impress anyone. All I have to do is be the best me I can be.

So this is my life. Is it glamorous? Nope. Is it sometimes crazy? Absolutely! Would I change it? Not for anything in the world!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Our sweet Emmalee turned six on April 6. I still can't believe she is six years old already. Where does the time go?

Em is very funny! She has been cracking us up lately. Here are a few of the latest.

Brent was putting her to bed a few nights ago and he told her he couldn't stand being in her room because it was so messy. She just looked at him and said, "Oh yea, well you're complicated!"

One morning she was complaining to Brent that her tooth hurt. I asked him what she said and he told me, "Em has a toothache." She said, "I don't have a toothache, my tooth just hurts!"

I told Em to get in the shower. I was in my room which is near her bathroom. She came into my room and said, "Mom, I'd be delighted if we could communicate while I'm in the shower."

We love you, sweet Emmalee!!