Sam is looking a lot like a little boy these days. He's changing proportionally every day it seems. He looked at an ornament with a picture of all the grandkids on my parent's tree and said "I was a baby boy then." Then. A long, long time ago.
Josh and I realized that when Sam turns three (mid January), it will be as long as we have gone without adding new baby. It's been a (relatively) long time since I was pregnant, waiting with anticipation, nerves, and joy to meet a new special person. Our babies were all born in January, so I know well the feeling of waiting uncomfortably, impatiently, for something during the Christmas season. The feeling of anticipation pairs well with Christmas, when we remember how the "weary world rejoices" when the Savior finally appears.
Over Thanksgiving, we got to play at Edisto Beach with Josh's family. It was a wonderful time of food and football and a sort of insane amount of seashell crafts. I did a lot of knitting, which is always good for my heart, and I took a break from thinking. This is usually pretty hard for my anxious brain, but thanks to all the resting practice I've been doing, I slipped into it pretty easily.
I browsed knitting patterns a lot, just sort of aimlessly looking at stuff, when all of a sudden, I found her baby blanket pattern. I have avoided choosing a blanket pattern for Baby Girl or for starting on the project because I didn't want to finish it before we knew who she was. I need it to be connected to her as a flesh and blood individual. But when I saw this pattern, I knew it was perfect. It has a squishy, textured center square surrounded by a lotus flower motif on the edges. I knew instantly it would be perfect for her. I bought the yarn on the way home.
Choosing a pattern and buying yarn may not seem like an adoption milestone, but it is a big deal in my heart. It feels like finally, truthfully, peacefully beginning again. It is a way for me to open my heart again in the journey to my daughter, and to plan and hope for the day when she will want the comfort and warmth of her Mommy blanket.
Merry Christmas, Baby Girl.
The Happiest Family in the World
Josh and I realized a few days ago that in order to get a Christmas tree from our favorite tree farm the weekend before Thanksgiving (what we usually do), it meant we needed to get our tree this Saturday. That's November 17th. This is insane to me. How can we be at Christmas already?
The last few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for our crew. Josh is facing an unexpected employment shift. My dad's parents are both facing seriously health challenges, kind of all of a sudden. Josh's precious Aunt Stefani went home to Jesus after a year long battle with lung cancer. Come to think of it, that's not so much a roller coaster as it is a hail storm. My family wellness alarm bells are going off about all kinds of things.
About a month ago, Andrew got right in my lap, snuggled under my arm (he barely fits under there, but we make it work) and said "Mom, I just think you, me, dad, Anna and Sam, Grama and Pagra, Nana and Papa, and everybody, we are just the happiest family in the world." I nearly laughed out loud. Us? The Happiest? But then I laughed with joy! You know what, we are pretty happy still. Not about everything (or even most things), but the things we have more than sustain us: we have each other, we have the love of Christ, and we have the hope of heaven. My seven year old thinks he's part of the happiest family in the world. I guess we are doing ok. :)
In adoption news, we are still on the paperwork trail. We've hit a minor slow down due to Josh's job situation, but we are still on track to get our documents to China in the early part of 2019. Woohoo! We've had a bunch of people ask us about reordering t-shirts for Christmas gifts, so we've relaunched our campaign with all of our styles in one place! If you want to reorder a style or color from our earliest campaign, or if you want another long sleeve tee or sweatshirt, you can find them all here! The campaign will only be open until Nov 30th, and all the orders should be delivered before Christmas. All the money we raise from our shirts goes straight to our agency to cover fees. If you want to join us on our journey, we'd love to see you sporting your shirts in your holiday Facebook pics. :)
We love you so much. Thanks for helping us bring our daughter home to the happiest family in the world!
It was the sort of job that I did in the extra little spaces, like nap times and after the kids went to bed. I developed a habit during that time of constantly asking myself "What should I be doing?" Every time the house was quiet(ish), I would reach for my church to-do list and check something off. This little question helped me squeeze a lot onto my plate of commitment. We launched Cackleberry Studios during this time. We decided to adopt internationally and fundraise all the money. In the spring of last year we were doing all of that at once
Then last summer and the stormy, foggy cloud of grief descended. My mental and emotional bandwidth shrunk by half, and my little Productivity Question started driving me crazy. The compulsion to always find something I "should" be doing was a manifestation of my underlying anxiety. Especially when what you "should" be doing is crying your eyes out or wondering why this even happened to us in the first place.
For the first time in my life, I took major steps back from commitments. I learned to say "no." I needed more margin to heal and to take care of myself and my family. It was a hard decision, but it was such a relief.
Fast forward one year to today. We're back to adoption paperwork, and we go to the State Fair with Cackleberry Studios in three weeks! Eek! I'm still me, so I've collected some new things to do, too. I teach with VIPKid, a company that matches students in China with teachers in the States through the magic of the internet. Talk about a cool side hustle. A few early mornings and late nights a week I am in the living rooms and kitchens and even once at a campsite with Chinese students and their families, teaching them English. It's kind of a miracle, and super fun. (Side note: if you are interested in this, I'd love to chat with you about it.)
About a week ago I started noticing that old question bouncing around in my brain again: "What should I be doing?" The answer to that question was an impossibly long list, and I started to notice that it had some things on it that are supposed to be things I do for fun: "I should be knitting. I should be reading aloud to the kids. I should be reading my own books. I should be inviting people over for dinner." I felt the familiar panic start to set in as I felt trapped by all the things I needed to be doing because of asking this question.
I'm learning that I can't run flat out all the time, even if I'm running towards things I love and value. I can't take the turns that way. And while there's nothing in my life that I want to give up right now, I am trying to practice a new answer to that nagging question: "What should I be doing?"
"Nothing, for now." A few times a week, I'm giving myself permission to do nothing, or do only what I feel like doing, even if that's watching TV without multitasking or going to bed super early to read/fall asleep. It's amazing how that small practice of leisure has brought my heart peace this week. I'm still being pretty productive, and the things I haven't finished will be fine until I get there.
God is so good to command us to be still. His presence slips in quietly during these still moments of mine. Not to talk to me or to challenge me or even comfort me, but just to be with me. No agenda. Just to be.
And we're off! (again)
We climbing the paperwork mountain again! Sam will be 3 in January, which means our big wait is finally over! We are working on updating our home study, basically doing the whole thing over again. We got fingerprinted again for a State Background Check this week, we've all been to the doctor again, blah blah blah. Next comes the rest of the domestic paperwork: applying to immigration, stuff like that. We will have everything ready to send to China in January as soon as Sammy is three. Woohoo! After that we are looking at a 6-12 month timeline (probably) before we bring our girl home.
The Both Hands Project went so well this summer, raising more than $12,000 for our adoption. (Click that link, you can see a video of our project day!) Combined with all our other fundraising from Cackleberry Studios, t-shirts, socks, and our Pure Charity site, we are about 3/4 of the way towards our goal!! This is totally amazing. YOU GUYS are AMAZING!!! Thank you so much for the big ways you have supported us in this adoption. We literally could not be doing it without you.
For the rest of 2018, we still have a few more fundraising ideas up our sleeves. We are going to the NC State Fair again this October with Cackleberry. We are going to run another t-shirt campaign this December, so plan to get your Christmas presents from us! (Also, we just found out that because our campaigns have been so successful, our shirts are available any time, not just during our campaigns. If you want another one, head over to the site and order it!) And we have another idea or two for Christmas time fundraising. Check back with us. :)
Baby girl is always in our hearts. We can't wait until she is in our arms. Praise God, that day is coming closer.
I Will Rejoice
Summer is winding down here. I'm sitting on my porch in gorgeous weather listening to Andrew read aloud to get ready for 2nd grade (What?! How did that happen?). I've been meaning to come back to this space to update you about lots of things, especially our Both Hands project, but, honestly, I've been leaning into the slower pace of summer with my kiddos and just didn't feel like writing.
As we began to look forward to getting back in the groove, I came back to this blog and you dear readers to tell you some of what is going on in our lives. I was looking back over my posts from 2018 (there are only four, it didn't take long), and I was thinking how sad this poor blog seems. It didn't start out that way. I started this blog to chronicle our adoption after all, which is a (mostly) happy thing. But then when Adam died last year, a huge bucket of dark gray paint got sloshed over the whole thing. Everything was sad. Everything still is, sometimes.
And today what I have to share with you is another sadness: my grandmother died. My mom's mother went by Mom to everyone because the family is so large that kids and grandkids were growing up together. So Marie and Jim just stayed Mom and Dad. Last week she went home to be with Jesus, something I think she desperately wanted to do.
We are all relieved, truthfully. She was 93 years old and did not enjoy the last few years as her brain and body failed her. But now that she is home and we don't hurt for her anymore, we hurt for ourselves.
Mom was the kind of grandmother you read about in stories. She made the perfect chocolate chip cookie. She taught me to play Solitaire. She kept lots of dress up clothes. She helped me make a crib set for my dolls to match my bedspread. She taught me to knit. We watched Jeopardy at night. She laughed all the time, fussed at you when you were out of line, and seemed to be always, always singing.
Once, my cousins (Jessy, Maggie, and Carrie) and I were under Mom's huge cherry tree in spring, talking about Anne of Green Gables and enjoying ourselves. We thought it would be lovely if we cut down armfulls of blossoms to decorate our room when we slept there that night. We got a wagon and cut down every cherry blossom bunch we could reach. (We didn't realize this meant that there would be no cherries to reach that summer.) When we got to the house with every single cherry blossom, Mom opened the back door and was so stunned she could hardly speak. She was so upset, which confused us. We thought this was a perfectly romantic idea! She quickly set us straight. We felt terrible, and all started to cry, even Mom! But after a few seconds, her tears turned to laughter. She pulled down every vase, jar and pitcher from her cabinet, filled them all with water and helped us arrange the flowers. Then she took a picture of all of us on the kitchen counter with our beautiful and tragic bouquets. Mom framed that picture and kept it in "our" guest room.
Mom always found joy. Her songs seemed to all be about joy:
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray..."
"Zippidy doo dah! Zippidy A! My oh my what a wonderful day!"
"Oh how I love to go up in the air, up in the sky so blue..."
"This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. I will rejoice, I will rejoice, and be glad in it, and be glad in it."
Us Tranthams were at the beach when mom died, enjoying a wonderful week of togetherness, much less emotional than last year's trip. Josh and I were reflecting one day early in the week on the differences between the two trips. We were both struck by how proud we are of us as a family for not being mastered by our sorrow. We are sorrowful, to be sure. There is a part of me that hopes we always will be. Death is always a bad thing, and I know from the Bible that God hates it as much as we do. Silver linings, when they exist, don't change the horribleness of such loss.
But even though the background color of the canvas of the last year was an overwhelming, cold, dark gray, we have managed to laugh. We have managed to build, and to play, and to learn, and to hold on to each other and the Lord. And in doing this we splash in warm yellows, muted greens, cool blues and purples, and even some bright red. We are sad. But, because of the grace and love of Christ, we have great joy.
Mom taught us how to do that.
Parties and Plywood
It's been raining for about one hundred days here in Haywood County. That's an exaggeration, obviously, but I'm feeling a little dramatic about it. How much rain do we really need, after all??
My parents' new property has some drainage issues which they have been successfully addressing with french drains and other landscaping things I don't really understand. However, in this amount of rain, everything everywhere is a swamp. They have this plywood "sidewalk" around the house for us to use so we don't stomp on the baby grass that's coming up where they have put out seed. On Monday we were joking about it being more of a floating dock than a sidewalk.
This weekend marked one year since my brother decided he had walked with us as far as he could and went on ahead. The one year anniversary is something I've been dreading because I wasn't really sure what to expect. It occurred to me on the Wednesday before that even after we get through the weekend, he's still gonna be gone. That sucks.
In our family, when we aren't sure what to do, we have a party. So we decided that we would say "to hell with it" and have a huge, gigantic, blowout birthday party for Sara and Robin at the farm on Memorial Day. That way no matter how we felt, we'd be together and with our people.
Everyone in the family got to make a guest list. We ended up inviting about 60 people, and almost everyone made it. Good thing my parent's house is finished and ready because, the rain.
Having a party was totally the right decision, mostly because of who showed up. Our people came and brought food and hugs, just like they did a year ago, but this time with smiles. We sang Happy Birthday and wore leis and ate cupcakes and drank beer. We celebrated some of what Adam loved most: his sisters. In the middle of the rain, we filled my parents' new house with laughter.
Grief is so much like this endless rain. It just keeps coming down on us out of the sky, building up on the ground so that even when the sun comes out for a minute the ground is slippery, treacherous, with mud so thick you could walk right out of your shoes. But our people, our friends and family and people who pray for us, they bring Jesus with them right into our homes and they have laid out plywood for us all year. With their help we have found safe places to rest and get our bearings in this new swampy place. And the baby grass is still growing.
Both Hands Project
So on Tuesday night a really cool thing happened: we had 30 of our closest family and friends come to our house for the kick off meeting of the coolest adoption fundraiser we are going to do all year. It's called the Both Hands Project. Here's how it works:
Our family finds a widow in need of help around her home. We assemble a team of friends to complete a Both Hands Project. Then the team (including us) sends out letters to family and friends asking them to sponsor us for one day, as we work on the widow’s home. All funds received will go toward our adoption expenses. It’s just like when someone asks for sponsors for a 5K race to benefit a cause.
This idea has been done over 750 times around the country already, with astounding results. We just love that we get to be a part of something that will help our family and daughter, but will also do good in our community.
Ms. Joyce works as a ministerial assistant at our church. Earlier this year, her father died after being in failing health for some time. He left her a home that is in need of some TLC, and we are so excited to be able to help her in this way on Saturday, June 30th! Our project has a website where you can read more details and even donate! Click the button to visit that site.
We had the team meeting on Tuesday to get everyone together for the first time and give out information. I had my pep talk ready to encourage our team to collect those addresses and get the word out. What I didn't count on was how encouraged we would be by having all those precious people in our living room, speaking words of blessing into our lives and praying for our daughter. It took my breath away.
After an hour of dreaming and planning and hugging and coffee, everybody went home to finish out their Tuesday evening. I looked around at the huge circle of now-empty chairs and thought:
"I just can't wait for her to meet you all."
Six things on Sunday
As I sit down to update you on all that is going on in our corner of the world, I hardly know where to start!
1. Scott and Lisa (Josh's mom and dad) sold their house of 20+ years, a three story historic home in the center of town that served as a gathering place and party spot for all of us as we grew up. Robin and Adam each spent some time renting a room there. Josh proposed to me on the front porch. It is a huge blessing that they sold it. It's also the end of an era, and a transition for all of us. Scott and Lisa are now in their RV for a few months while they wait for just the right house. Currently they are in a local RV park, and they plan to visit family out west later this spring. RV living is totally exotic to the kids. Sam loves to talk about how "Gwama, Pagwa, stay in da campah."
2. My parents' new house is coming along. They hope to move in the first of May. (Speaking of moving, can I just tell you that EVERY MEMBER of our families (BOTH) is moving this year, except us? What is up with that!? As if we don't have enough going on!) I got to help Daddy out on the land this week and it was so peaceful there. Wide open sky, grass, the sounds of birds and water and cows. I helped my dad put in some pipe around the foundation of the house to help with drainage. (My dad has PTSD from the house we lived in with a basement that kept flooding. He takes drainage very seriously.) We talked about all sorts of stuff, and a lot about Adam. He told me some of the things he planned to do on the land. As we worked, I thought about how he and my mom are working hard towards new things, still carrying great pain from past and current wounds. They are treating "hope" as a verb, and I just love that. My parents are so brave.
3. Andrew, Anna, and Sam have transitioned to this cool place where they are a group of kids instead of two kids and a baby. They can do things like get dressed, eat breakfast, read books, and play outside, if not together than in proximity to each other. From a parenting perspective, it's fun for us to watch their relationships develop and helps us remember why we had all these kids in the first place: we value our siblings so highly, and we want our kids to have the same opportunity for brothers and sisters to turn into friends. Practically, it means I have as many as 10 minutes together to unload the dishwasher or switch the laundry before I am needed to settle an argument or help locate a toy/sock/book, and that we all eat breakfast and lunch at the same time. This is no small thing. All the moms say "Amen".
4. Josh has a new job! He's been working for several years at a Ford dealership in Canton. In February he transitioned to a Ford dealership in Hendersonville. It is a fantastic career opportunity for him and he is enjoying the work and his co-workers. It is more of a commute, for sure, which means changes to our daily rhythms at home, but we are working it out. We are so proud of Dad. He is so awesome!
5. I started taking medicine to help with anxiety and depression that has surfaced during my grief journey since Adam died. I wondered about whether it was appropriate to share that here, but I think there is an unhelpful stigma about the steps we take to manage our own mental health. Everyone has their own junk, and it's my wish that everyone have the resources they need to manage it in a healthy way. For me that now includes taking an antidepressant. It has been a great tool to help me take advantage of my other tools: an excellent support system and regular counseling being the most important. As Mr. Fred Rogers would say, our feelings are "mentionable and manageable," so I will mention and manage mine proudly. I am getting a lot of help, and I am managing this thing.
6. Adoption! We start the paperwork marathon again this summer. We are excited to feel like we are doing something again. We are doing one major fundraiser this summer called the Both Hands Project. We will gather a team of 10-20 people to help us serve a widow in our community by doing work on her house for a day. Those 10-20 people will help us raise money by getting sponsors, like you would for a walk-a-thon.
What?? You'd like to be part of that team?? FANTASTIC!! We are currently making our list of people who might like to help us with this! This is a great opportunity for teenagers to help us (we know a lot of awesome teens), or for families to serve together. Email me, or let us know in the comments of this blog or on the Facebook link that you are interested and we will get the info to you!
Thank you so much for walking this road with us, friends. You matter so much to us.
We have successfully made it through birthday season at our house! All three kids have birthdays in the same week in January. We have all these traditions that make each kid's day special: crepe paper streamers on their door when they wake up, candles and the Birthday Song at breakfast, a birthday crown to wear, and dinner with the grandparents in the evening.
The kids love to hear the stories of the day they were born. We always tell Andrew how Pagra had a carafe of coffee, a thermos of cream, and a container of sugar to share with everyone in the waiting room. He must have known it was going to take for-ev-er. We tell Anna about how Mom Bartholomew was also in the hospital the day Anna was born and so all nine Bartholomew kids got to meet her that day. We tell Sam about how he was so mad about being born, he frowned the whole day, and how he was the only kid whose name we didn't change after seeing him. Those were wonderful days.
As I retell these beloved family stories over and over this week, I can't help but think about our new daughter, whose birth stories I will likely never know. That gap in her story will represent a loss in her life that will never fully heal: the loss of her first family. Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it requires loss.
The day after Adam's funeral our first adoption fundraiser t-shirts arrived. The slogan on the front sometimes seemed to mock our pain. Sometimes it extended hope. Our faith that God could bring something good out of our pain would really be tested now.
It's been eight terrible months of grief. As I learn for the first time how to live with and carry such deep pain that will never heal, I spot perhaps the first Good, the smallest touch of green coming up from the cold hard ground of loss. Having now lost someone precious that I can never have back, perhaps I will be better prepared to parent a child who comes to me knowing a similar pain.
Yes, God is at work in all things for our good (Rom 8:28). What grace! It does not erase the pain, or make it less terrible. But it brings me hope, and even a little joy. I hope it does for you too.
We are relaunching our t-shirt campaign on Monday, this time with long sleeved t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies! You can click this link to order. We pray that when you wear your shirts, you will be encouraged to expect some Good, even out of the worst that you face, as we are learning to do.
Socks for Sister Update
To all of you who bought wacky socks this fall, thank you so much!!!
Because of your generosity we raised $700 towards our adoption, AND today we got to take 97 pairs of thermal socks to Haywood Pathways, our local homeless shelter, just as they were finishing up their Christmas gift bags. It was a great way to kick off a long holiday weekend.
Josh and Emily
We hope that by sharing our steps, challenges, and milestones of our adoption, you will see yourself as part of the community we hope to build around our child as she grows up.