Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I "had a moment" today.  It was one of those moments when you're sitting there, thinking about the important things in life like when Game of Thrones season 3 starts, how to help the dog lose a few pounds, or whether you remembered deodorant--and then Whammo!!--you're on the verge of plummeting into a big, ugly, embarrassing, scary-sobbing fit.  I held it together and managed to save my dignity, but it was touch-and-go for a good solid 20 minutes there.

Why the moment, you may wonder?

Marley and I had her first visit with the Cleft Net Team this morning.  She massively bombed her hearing test in August and it started us on a convoluted quest for ear tubes via the National Health Service.  Our appointment today was the culmination of countless office visits and extended waits for more office visits.  I was relieved to finally be where we needed to be, and to know that we would be seeing the top cleft experts in our area.  Marley and I walked for 17 miles through the habitrail of hospital wings and wards to find the clinic we needed--lucky #7.  We signed in, got settled in our seats, Marley went to play with toys.  I took a deep breath, relaxed into my chair, and then lifted my eyes to look around the room for the first time.

Cue the tears.

There were three babies.  Beautiful, amazing babies with perfect little faces.  And cleft lips.  They were so tiny and vulnerable.  

One mom cooed "my handsome boy" to her son over and over while she rocked him to sleep.  

One dad kissed his little girl's crooked smile at least twenty times.  

One mom's face crumpled and she fought back tears, literally biting her lip to stop from crying, when she saw a toddler come in with very bad scarring from his bilateral cleft lip repair.  She held her own baby boy, with his crooked smile and dripped tears on his head.  It was emotional and raw and difficult to watch.  

But what really brought me to the edge was this sudden pang of sadness that came from looking around and realizing that Marley was the only child there over the age of 2.  Those babies and their families were already on the journey toward healed lips and palates and all of the other wonderful things that go along with having cleft surgeries early.  

The "handsome boy" was only 10 weeks old and was there for his pre-op appointment.  He will have a new smile by the end of the week, and his palate will be fixed in a few months.

Marley was estimated to be 10 weeks old when she was taken to the orphanage.   

That is hard to think about on so many levels.  It's hard because it makes me wonder if her birth parents ever sat in a waiting room, hoping that a doctor would be able to fix her palate.  It's hard because snags and delays in our adoption journey meant that we had to wait to bring her home a few months longer than we should have, which meant a few more months before her palate could be closed.  It's hard because her hearing loss is due in part to having countless untreated ear infections while she was still in China.  

But most of all, it's hard because I know there is a pretty high likelihood that the main reason I get to be Marley's mom is because of her cleft palate and what it meant for her birth family versus what it meant for my  family.  

For her birth family, it most likely meant feeding difficulties from day one, impossible medical expenses, and being ostracised for having a child with a birth defect in a culture that often does not accept such things.  Ultimately, it meant putting their 10 week-old baby in a box outside of a gate and walking away.  

For my family, her cleft palate meant we went into her adoption knowing we'd be going through surgeries and years of speech therapy, and knowing that we'd come through all of it 'ok'.  It meant bringing home a toddler who was significantly delayed and having all of the resources within reach to support her as we've watched her blossom into a 'normal', healthy, ridiculously-happy little girl.  It meant raising two boys who have a greater tolerance for physical differences and special needs, and who would gladly kick the arse of any child who ever teases Marley about anything.

How can it be that this thing that tore one family apart brought another together?  

It's no secret to most who know me that I've got some unresolved 'stuff' to work out with the Big Kahuna when it comes to things in the universe that just don't make sense to me.  

Add this one to the list.   

Ironically, when I checked my email after our appointment, I had a message from SmileTrain that gave me pause.  It was touching and inspiring and I'm going to be putting my thinking cap on to figure out what I can do to carry all of the emotions I felt in my "moment" toward a greater good.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Up Close and Personal

Armed with my new camera, I've been enjoying getting in the faces of small children and lumpy-headed dogs.  

Hi, I'm Juno and I'm part Unicorn.

I also spent some time playing around with my macro lens today, and even though these are far from perfect, 
I got a few cool shots.  

The snow has been coming down since yesterday morning, and although I wasn't planning on being snowed-in this spring, it sure makes things look pretty and fresh.

Required Huffman blog post randoms:

I am super excited for some upcoming adventures--Cornwall for spring break, Holland for tulips (& Amsterdam) in late April, a Mom-and-Keller horseback weekend in the Black Mountains of Wales in May.  

Many photos to follow :)  Cheers!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tea for Two

A new ritual has woven itself into the fabric of our family over the past few weeks.  

It looks like this . . .

As I busy myself with making dinner for our crew, this guy hops up on the counter and talks.  He talks about little things--what level he beat 0n his game, what he wants to buy with his allowance, a joke someone told at school.  He talks about big things--troubles with peers, missing his best buddies, things that make him feel bad about himself.  

And we drink tea, like all good Brits.  We have chamomile or green tea, depending on our mood.  Peppermint or cinnamon for a cold, damp day.  Always with cream, and sometimes with honey for him.

Sometimes it is hard to bear the weight of his words--to know the things that keep him awake at night or the degree of guilt he feels over minor mistakes.  Sometimes I feel like I can't possibly be the mom he needs to guide him through the hardships and heart breaks that are yet to come, because surely I don't have the right advice or answers.

He's been driving down a bumpy road the past year and a half; learning to negotiate peer relationships while living so far from his safety net of friends and family who "get" him and his Keller-ness.  Sometimes that drive is more of a coast, a pleasant Sunday drive; but more often it involves break-neck speeds, squealing tires, flying gravel, deep potholes, and painfully-sudden brake checks.  

He's 10 now, and I know that as tough as things have been at times, we haven't even touched the tumultuous teen years that await us on the horizon.

I find comfort in my mama heart from our new ritual.  The talks, the tea, the fact that he still wants to spend that special time with me and isn't rushing off to text a friend, call a girl, or otherwise let me know that Mom isn't his most trusted confidante any more.

I know that I can't change the things that life will throw at my boy, and that there will come a time when he has secrets and stories that aren't meant for my ears.  

But maybe, even when that time comes, he will remember sitting up on the counter, sipping tea, and he will know there is nothing he could say to me that would change how much I love him.