Pumpkin’s adoption is final!

The day after Cadet’s 4th birthday, we had our court date for Pumpkin’s finalization. The date was also the International Day of Peace, which I thought was symbolic. McRuger’s parents were here, my parents were here, and AE took the day off from work…so they all got to take part in the court proceedings.

Unlike Cadet’s finalization, which took place over the phone and lasted all of 5 minutes…this was much more formal. We were actually in front of a judge, in a courtroom, at the courthouse. It didn’t take much time, about 8 minutes all told…but it felt more official.

The judge, an older gentleman, was wonderful. He explained everything to our family as we went through the process. He was patient when Pumpkin fussed a bit, or as Cadet ran around the jury box.

It was a simple hearing. We stated our names, the judge asked if the information in our case file was correct, and what Pumpkin’s legal name was going to be. He then “certified” that he found that Pumpkin was under 12 years old…which everyone laughed at. We were asked if we understood the rights and responsibilities of being Pumpkin’s parents and that he would now be “as a natural child to us” (that part grated at me). Both my parents were crying, McRuger’s parents were smiling, and AE was trying to keep Cadet from having a melt-down. And, then it was all about signing more paperwork.

Then, something pretty awesome happened as McRuger and I signed the papers. The judge, seeing that Cadet was not handling the whole “new situation” thing very well, took matters into his own hands. He had Cadet take his hand, led him up to the judge’s bench/chair, took off his black robe…and put it around Cadet. He then gave Cadet the gavel and had him bang it (to make everything “official”). The court clerk told my mom that he had never seen the judge do that before. When I thanked the judge, he dismissed it saying “he’s four and needs to feel special too”.

After a few pictures with the judge, we filed out of the courtroom, and all trooped down to the Court Recorder’s office to file everything.

Afterwards, I thought a lot about how I felt during the process. Pumpkin is over 10.5 months and I’ve known him since birth. While the official court date felt, well, official…it also felt redundant and awkward. I’m Pumpkin’s mom, and I have been for almost a year. How I treat him or feel about him doesn’t change because a judge signs a piece of paper. And, what of his other mom…the court process didn’t include her. The judge didn’t ask about us upholding our communication agreement or doing what we can to keep an open adoption. I felt angry about that, and I’m still feeling angry about it. Every one was congratulating us…but what about the loss that adoption also represents? How do we/should we honor those emotions?

When I texted MsV, telling her about the finalization and how much love Pumpkin was getting. She said she was glad that the legal process was over for us and especially happy that Pumpkin was getting so much love and attention. We exchanged a few more texts about general things, but then it was time for bed. I so wanted to reach out to MsV and give her the biggest hug!

So, without further ado…here’s Pumpkin…I’ll leave it up for a few days. And, yes, he wears a lot of orange.



Categories: Adoption, Celebrations, Pumpkin | 12 Comments

And, I have a 4 year old!

Cadet turned four on the 20th. It’s amazing how much he’s changed and grown since last year. I can’t believe that he’s so verbal and curious and loving and adorable.

His birthday was a simple affair: train ride in the morning with my father and me, homemade mac/cheese, presents, and cake. He only really got a few presents, but they were BIG hits: a roundhouse and tunnel for his train set, and a Magna-board for fine motor practice. My mother gave both the boys a few gifts for “the family”: a tree puppet, a little music box, and a bag of musical instruments. But, there was nothing overwhelming or too crazy about the gifts.

It was great having my parents here. Cadet has been talking for weeks about “riding the long train” with my father…so getting to do that with him was very special for all of us. While we were on the ride, my mom decorated some of the house, put out the cake, and did a little cleaning. McRuger and Pumpkin were sleeping during most of that time.

There were no meltdowns (other than a small one because he couldn’t bring his birthday cake to bed with him…), there were no tantrums, and it was a calm, peaceful day. In Cadet’s words: “it was fantastic”.

He fell asleep with a smile and slept well.

Four seems like such a milestone in my mind. I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s because it’s really the first birthday that Cadet really had a say in…he dictated what he wanted. And, it’s the first birthday that he really seemed to enjoy.

I know I don’t post many pictures these days, but here’s one of Cadet after running club a few weeks ago….


Categories: Cadet, Celebrations | 2 Comments

An anniversary.

Yesterday, McRuger and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. And, to do so, we hired Iggy for the entire day to watch the boys. And we rented a swanky hotel room across town.

For 6 hours, we had glorious couple-time. We watched an Avenger’s movie we hadn’t seen yet, napped, read (I knitted), and had “adult time”. It was lovely to just feel free of responsibility…or at least we didn’t have to worry about little ones as we enjoyed each other.

It’s quite something to think about all we’ve been through. We talked about all our ups and downs…and how far we’ve come as individuals and as a couple. Some days it just feels like yesterday that we walked down the aisle in that small white church. Other days it feels like an eternity.

Of course, back home, the kids were having a wonderful time. And, when we finally arrived home from our break…the dishes were done, the kids were smiling, and the floors were swept. On top of that, Pumpkin actually napped quite well and ate well too!

So, that was our Monday and I feel better equipped/rested to face the week.


Categories: Celebrations, Marriage, McRuger | 2 Comments

Rolling with the punches…

Sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches…no hitting back, no fighting. That’s essentially what’s been happening here.

  1. McRuger’s back has been bad/out for a very long time. He’s getting PT (physical therapy) on a weekly basis which has helped a little. Plus, he’s on daily medication to help ease his pain levels . His family history is rife with back issues (his mom has had two back surgeries), so it isn’t a surprise that he has issues too. Sadly, any progress he has made toward less pain has been incrementally slow. So much of the (literal) heavy lifting has been left up to me.
  2. Two weeks ago, I had to have some major dental work done. A filling had fallen out and developed a cavity underneath. I had to have a partial crown put in and it wasn’t pleasant. Thankfully, our dentist is a wonder with the Novocain and so I barely felt anything. However, it put me out of commission for a day or two.
  3. McRuger has been slammed at work. I mean really slammed. Not a day goes by that McRuger doesn’t feel overwhelmed and buried.  And, that’s contributing to his general feelings of tiredness and anxiety. It’s hard to see him having so much on his plate when he comes home, we aren’t used to him having much pressure at work…but he’s feeling a lot of it now.
  4. My mom was on chemo for a month for her eye cancer. It wasn’t pleasant. And, on her second-to-last dose, she had a major allergic reaction to the meds, which made it risky to complete her treatment. Last week, she had her evaluation to see how well the chemo was working. While the size of the cancer is smaller, it didn’t disappear. The doctor told her that he wants to see her again in a month and if the cancer is still there, then they will be doing surgery. Apparently, the doctor thinks that a month off will be good to get her strength up before anything else happens. Of course, my mom (and all of us) were upset that the cancer is still there…but are hopeful for the next steps.
  5. Late last week, I came down with a nasty allergy attack/cold. To be clear, the allergy attack actually turned into a nasty cold. Sore throat, congestion, watery eyes, and an awful cough…that just seemed to get worse. So, I went off to my doctor who told me I just had a nasty cold and a viral eye infection to go with it (??!!??!). Mostly, I have just felt exhausted most of every day, which makes taking care of the boys a bit more challenging. Thankfully, McRuger has been doing everything he can to get me rest. Finally, today, I am starting to feel just a bit more normal.
  6. Speaking of rest…sleep is NOT going well in our house. After we moved Pumpkin into his own room, we rediscovered how sensitive Cadet is to noise. When Pumpkin wakes up crying, Cadet wakes up too. Their rooms share a wall, and even if they didn’t…our house is so small that Cadet would hear it anyway. About half the time, Cadet is able to put himself back to sleep. The other half of the time…he’s not and he’s awake for ridiculously long times. Just last night, he was up at 3:30am, and is then AWAKE until he naps (or doesn’t) later in the day. And if Cadet is up…he’s not quiet…which makes getting Pumpkin back to sleep a HUGE issue. There are some nights when the whole house is up at crazy hours just trying to get the kids back to bed. All of this is to say that McRuger and I are constantly tired (Cadet and Pumpkin too…). It’s been rough.
  7. A few months ago, our immediate neighbors to the south of our house were evicted. It was a good thing. They had aggressive animals, piles of trash everywhere, and were really loud. However, as the owner has started cleaning and renovating…the neighborhood has been inundated with rats and mice (which were living in the large trash piles on the neighbors property). We found out that we had a rat (or two) in our garage and I freaked out. I am not a fan of rodents being anywhere close to my living spaces. We’ve trapped two rats, and have cleaned out the garage of any food (canned or otherwise), and I think that was the worst of it. But, our garage is due for a huge clean-out just to cover our bases.
  8. Early last week, Cadet and I were playing in the back yard as Pumpkin slept. I heard a large crack and snap from one of the trees over our house. The drought has stressed everything, including trees that are over 100 years old. We came out front and saw a HUGE branch (about 8 inches in diameter, and over 6 feet tall) covering part of our sidewalk and most of the turn lane on the road. A few feet in the other direction and there would have been a hole in our living room. I called the non-emergency police number, who sent out a community officer…who moved the branch onto our lawn (???) and told me that someone would be out to take care of it within a few days. Yeah, no one ever showed up. Thankfully, our generally incompetent gardner (part of our rent) took care of it on his weekly rounds.
  9. It looks like our arrangement with Iggy (the sitter) won’t be happening. We had a tentative agreement with her to work 12 hours a week for a set price. But, this morning, she texted me and said  she might be getting a more “permanent” job. Boohoo.

The bright spots!

  1. Cadet potty-trained himself (day time only…night time is another matter). We’ve tried to potty train him several times over the past 18 months, but it never quite took. After several conversations with our pediatrician and Dr.M, we put potty training on the back burner….all of us agreeing that he just wasn’t ready. We simply allowed Cadet be with us in the bathroom (if he wished), ask questions, and observe. About a month ago, we put a toy car in the bathroom…telling him as soon as he peed in the potty…the car was his. And, two weeks ago, he did just that. We’ve had no day time accidents in two weeks, which is awesome. By now, he’s not getting new cars every time, but occasionally will get a few chocolate chips just to reinforce the behavior. Once he’s got his own rhythm down, we’ll start working on night time training…but that’s something I’m willing to let go for a while.
  2. I attended a large homeschooling conference earlier this month and it was interesting. The main thing I took away from it was that I am making the right choice for Cadet and our family. I attended some great sessions, met some very cool people, and spent WAY TOO MUCH money on books. We officially start “home schooling” on September 1st. I have two other local moms who will be joining us weekly for some craft projects and mama-chats. It’s going to be fun…and a challenge.
  3. Pumpkin is cruising…and he’s fast ya’ll. Seriously, this kid is always moving. He’s strong and moving….which makes things interesting. He can’t stand being confined for more than a few minutes…so folding laundry is kind of a joke. Thankfully, Cadet has been awesome at helping find toys and objects for Pumpkin to safely play with.
  4. Our seventh wedding anniversary is coming up next week. We’re not doing anything special for it…other than McRuger taking the day off. If Iggy is available, we may see a movie or have dinner. But, it will just be nice to know that we’re doing well and feeling close…despite all the troubles we’ve had.

As usual, I’m reading blogs…but not commenting much. Reading has been hard with my eye infection…mostly, I’ve been watching re-runs of old shows as I nap (when I nap…).



This is part of Microblog Monday. If you don’t know what that is…click here!

Categories: Adoption, Homeschool, Household, Marriage, McRuger, thoughts | 3 Comments

Some adoption stuff…


After a hurried rush of phone calls and emails with our adoption social worker two weeks ago, Pumpkin’s adoption paperwork was submitted to the court. And, after a few e-mails last week with our attorney, we have a finalization date! The first court date available is two months out, but who cares…we have a date!

There’s apparently more paperwork to complete for finalization…something about itemizing ALL adoption expenses for the judge. But our attorney has said that most of the work will fall on her. Yay!

It looks as if both my folks, McRuger’s parents, and AE will be in attendance for the actual finalization!

In terms of MsV, I recently sent off a book of Pumpkin’s first 6 months. Just a bunch of photos that are all in one place for her to look at. I deliberately kept most of them just of Pumpkin, with just a few of Pumpkin and Cadet or one of us. I know she still feels very raw at times about the adoption, she’s said that a few times. So, I wanted her to have pictures just of him as much as possible…but also a few photos showing his life with us.

We’re still in very regular contact with MsV…usually every few days we text back and forth a few times. Nothing earth-shattering, but I know she appreciates the contact.

At the same time, McRuger and I are coming up with plans to do a swing through MsV’s and MsJ’s states over the holidays this year. I know MsV has mentioned several times that she can’t wait to have Pumpkin in her arms again and to meet the person he is becoming.


MsJ’s life has been a roller coaster over the past 6-8 months. Lots of changes, uncertainty, heartache, and then more change. While I won’t go into the specifics, it’s been very rough on her (and occasionally on our relationship). We’ve gotten several calls where she’s been really upset and not knowing what she should do next. Of course, we’ve helped her when we could and offered a shoulder for her to cry on.  Thankfully, contact has been very regular and we’ve been able to be there for her when she needed us.

Today, however, she called me with good news. Really good news. Her path seems to have taken a small turn towards the positive. And I’m really hopeful that the good news she shared with us will be the first step to lasting positive change in her life.

With all of this contact, my relationship with MsJ is growing deeper. She and I have both commented that it feels like we’re more than just friends now…. Both McRuger and I have talked about how wonderful it is to have this kind of communication with her. She and I talk about race relations in America, how to raise boys, recipes, and how we feel about parenthood. McRuger has also had a few long conversations with her, which she says she really appreciates. She loves that Cadet has McRuger as a father….a figure that she wishes she had more of growing up.

Of course, more than anything, we talk about Cadet. And now that Cadet is quite verbal…he talks to her too. She’s “Mama J” and they talk about everything from running club to his favorite foods to what toys he likes. It’s the sweetest thing ever.

So, those are the adoption updates. More coming soon on the other stuff going on…namely…chaos in our lives. Hope you are all well!!




Categories: Adoption, Cadet, Pumpkin | 3 Comments

It’s Tuesday…booooo!

This post has been in the works for about a week now…I just haven’t had the time to sit down and really write.

1) Stuff with my mom’s cancer got complicated…see my previous post. This caused a whole host of problems, but eventually seems to be a good thing.

2) Two weekends ago, started Cadet in a Running Club. Cadet loves to run, and I thought it might be a good idea to give him some experience running with a professional. This particular club is run by a former Olympian and is in coordination with a very elite university Track and Field program. For 45 minutes, Coach J, shows these kids everything from how to have a perfect starting position to how to do a long jump. Occasionally, various Olympians and coaches stop by to help motivate the kids. Cadet’s Club is for 3-4 year olds, so everything is pretty basic (what shape is the track, proper hand placement for starting a run, where elbows should be during a run….). Coach J even gets the parents involved…I actually ran laps…and I haven’t done that since high school soccer practice. Cadet, of course, LOVES IT! He’s a natural!

3) Pumpkin is mobile. The instant he’s put on the floor…he’s moving. It’s still not technically crawling, but he’s still insanely fast and curious. I’ve started to baby-proof the heck out of our living areas. Nothing is safe. We’ve also moved him out of his baby rocker/crib into an official crib in his own room. That has been a HUGE change for everyone, but most of all for Pumpkin. It’s taken him a while to get used to it. But, the move has been good. Oh, yes, and he’s still not interested in solid foods…

4) Cadet and Pumpkin still love each other, and it’s insanely cute. The first thing Cadet wants to do in the morning is play with Pumpkin. And Pumpkin always looks for Cadet when he wakes up in the morning. Slowly, Cadet is learning about what are safe activities with Pumpkin and what aren’t, and he is very good about keeping Pumpkin away from “danger”. Watching them play together just melts my heart. Of course, there are still moments of melt-downs and tantrums…on both sides. But, at the end of the day, they can make each other laugh and smile…so I’m pretty happy.

5) I am tired most of the time. Pumpkin is still not the best sleeper in the world, and most of that falls on my shoulders. He doesn’t have good self-soothing techniques yet, and we’re not forcing the issue just yet. That’s a different post topic however…

6) I’m really feeling good about the homeschooling stuff I’m working with. I’ve been writing up some “lessons” and then one of my Facebook friends wrote out the curriculum she’s been using for her kids, and I’ve been working with that too. At the end of summer, I’ll be attending a big homeschooling conference and I can’t wait to mingle with other homeschooling families. Cadet and I are “officially” starting homeschooling on September 1st. And, I’m using this time to really prepare for what I want that to look like. So far, lots of art supplies have been purchased and stored!

7) As of this month, I’ve been blogging for 6 years. That seems like such a long time…and at the same time…it seems like just yesterday. I wanted to devote an entire post to the anniversary, but realistically…that ain’t happening. But, wow…6 years. I have seen so many blogs come and go. About 90% of the blogs I used to follow are gone. At my blogging “peak”, I was following about 150 blogs…most of them infertility-related. Now, I follow about 25 blogs or so…most of them related to parenting or adoption. My online community has changed SO much.  In reality, it doesn’t seem so much like a community anymore, which is sad. I’m not sure what changed…maybe it’s me.

8) After several suggestions from mommy friends, I finally purchased a membership to the local kid’s zoo/amusement park. And, I’m totally glad I did. Cadet LOVES it. There are unusual animals to look at, a petting zoo, rides for little kids, and lots of places for moms to sit and relax…while the kiddos are happily entertained by puppet shows or jugglers or while they are strapped into (for the 4th time…) the car-ride. We’ve been 4 times in the last two weeks, and every time has been quite the adventure. McRuger even took a half day last week to join us…it was quite a bit of fun.

9) Pumpkin’s adoption finalization has been pushed back, and I’m rather pissed about it. Our social worker  was supposed to file for finalization last Tuesday, didn’t. She, apparently, didn’t have some information that she needed…and so spent the rest of last week frantically e-mailing me for various pieces of information. Frankly, it was all information that she should have had, or could have clarified with a quick call to our attorney. Instead, I got a long series of e-mails from her that I had to do the leg-work on…especially annoying since our attorney was in and out of the office last week…and is completely out of the office this week. I finally got the last bit of information yesterday (from MsV’s attorney) and emailed the social worker. Just to find out that she’s “out of the office” until Wednesday. Apparently, our paperwork is supposed to go in before the end of this week, but I’m not holding my breath.

10) I want to do a whole post on how Cadet is doing with his SPD. But, since I’m not sure when I’ll have the time, I’ll give you the shortened version. Dr.M and I had a very long talk last week during his session about what the future looks like for him. She’s very pleased with the progress he’s been making, especially over the last 6 months. He’s now “seeking” quite a bit less than he used to, and it shows. Cadet, who has never been a fan of sitting down to one task, is now able to sit and complete puzzles or work on a project. He’s choosing activities which are much more age-appropriate (building things…rather than just playing with cars…). Dr.M has suggested that we start reducing sessions even more. At the moment, he’s at one session per week. So, we’re going to move that to two sessions a month by the end of summer.

11) Contact with MsJ and MsV is ongoing and so positive. MsJ, although she’s having a rough time in her life right now (again) is in regular contact and I couldn’t be happier about that. MsV is doing well, as are her other kiddos. She recently reached out to me to get some advice about some trouble she was having with her boyfriend. We chatted for quite some time and at the end, we both said how nice it was to connect again. McRuger and I have been talking about spending some of our holiday time this year, traveling to visit both of them. By that time, Pumpkin will be over a year (and better prepared to travel) and Cadet…well he always enjoys going on planes!

Well, that’s about all from here. I guess the last thing I should mention is that today is McRuger’s birthday! YAY! And while our plans for his party fell through…we’re going on a date later today, and we’re both looking forward to it!


Categories: Cadet, Family, health, Other Stuff, Pumpkin | 1 Comment

Update on my mom…

So, things got complicated with my mom’s cancer. The surgery was supposed to happen at her local hospital with the doctor she’s been seeing for 10 years. Just a few days before her surgery, the doctor said that because the cancer had progressed so much, he was sending her to a university hospital (about an hour from us). This threw my parents into a tizzy (and subsequently, us too). They don’t like traveling, they don’t like hospitals, and it delayed my mom’s eventual surgery by a week.

They were supposed to come down my direction, and spend the weekend here before my mom’s surgery. Sadly, that meant canceling McRuger’s birthday party with his friends, and just have it with my parents (not the ideal, but what was needed…). My mom really wanted to see the boys and spend time with them.

Turns out, plans changed even more. My mom saw the specialist last Friday. He told her that he’d prefer for her to try chemo (in eye-drop form…who knew that existed?) before surgery. This news changed all of their plans…and in the process…all of ours.

My parents saw the boys for all of 3 hours, before rushing off to the hotel for some sleep and then driving home with a cooler full of chemo drugs (again, who knew….). While it was good to see my mom, it was hard to see her so emotional and weak. She’s normally the warrior of the family…meeting every challenge head-on. But, I think the anxiety of this has really worn her down.

In the end, it sounds like this route is a bit safer for my mom, with potentially less recovery time. She’ll be seeing the specialist again in two weeks, just to see how things are progressing. However, the road to this point has been very rocky…and I think mom, dad, Bro, and I are still in a bit of shock that this is what we’re dealing with.

Please keep my mom and dad in your thoughts, this has certainly shaken them…


Categories: doctors, Family, health | 6 Comments

The phone call I didn’t want to get…

This afternoon was progressing relatively normally. McRuger had the day off and we had gotten several smallish projects completed: hair cut for Cadet, laundry put away, armoire fixed, Cadet’s room reorganized, and set a few mouse traps in the garage. The grocery shopping was done and the afternoon was in front of us…

Then my mom called. Her cancer is back. About 12 years ago, she was diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer) on her eye. I know, I hadn’t heard of that either. She had it removed, without significant loss of vision. It was scary, as it was the first real brush with the mortality of my parents (although they caught everything early). After a very prolonged healing time and a few setbacks (she actually went blind for a few days…), her eye healed up and she was fine. But, since then, her eye gets checked every 6 months.

And, today was her checkup. The cancer is back, more aggressive, and is covering part of her cornea. The doctor, thankfully, is on top of it…and has her scheduled for surgery next Monday (7/13). The procedure will be more involved, and there’s a significant risk of some loss of vision.

When my mom told me, she was trying not to be freaked out. I could hear it in her voice though… When I talked to my father, he was even more upset. They are both trying to down-play it…making it seem like it’s less of an issue. I’ll call Bro tomorrow and see what they told him. Often he gets different parts of the story.

Of course, the call shook me up. My mom has been rabid about eye care since her first diagnosis. She always wears wrap-around sunglasses and no makeup/perfume/or chemical cleaners. And, to hear that it’s back is really upsetting. Of course, it plays into my own health fears. And, I’m due to get another liver sonogram sometime this month…which isn’t helping my anxiety either.

I honestly don’t know how best to help my mom through this. The last time, I was a full time teacher in the midst of the end of the year. Now, I want to do more…which is hard with two kiddos. But, I will come up with something. I figure that Bro and I will come up with some meal plans, a few visits from grandkids, and maybe some treats (books on tape…). Any suggestions are welcome!

So, if you wouldn’t mind…send some healing/healthy/happy thoughts to my mom. That the surgery isn’t as complicated and involved as they are saying it might be. And that her vision isn’t impaired. Thank you!

Categories: Anxiety/Worry, doctors, Family, health | 10 Comments

MicroBlog Mondays: The last of the paperwork

Today we send off the last of the paperwork for Pumpkin’s adoption finalization (a piece of paper stating that we’ve received medical/social information from MsV). Last week our medical records, HIV and TB test results (both negative), and a check were sent to the social worker.

Our paperwork will be turned into the court in 8 days or so…then we just wait for a finalization date (we’re guessing sometime in August). I’m looking forward to this part of the process being over.


In other news, Pumpkin is mobile now…he started crawling this weekend. It’s a whole new world…



Don’t know what Microblog Monday is? Go here!


Categories: Adoption, Pumpkin | 8 Comments

The nitty gritty

***Note, this post contains some adult-related topics. If any of my readers are underage or uncomfortable with that, please click away. Also, this post should not be construed as professional marital advice. In addition, any opinions in this post are entirely mine and haven’t been solicited. ***

I’ve mentioned several times that my marriage has been vastly improved over the last several months. But, I’ve really struggled with how to write about why. I’ve struggled because some of what has helped has been a different approach to intimacy, and I’m not sure how honest to be with that. Several of you know me in real life. A few of you are even my closest friends, and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable with knowing about what happens in this aspect of my life.

However, the change has been so dramatic…so profound…so positive…so overwhelmingly different, that I feel odd not sharing it. So, here we go. Warning, it’s going to be a long post. So, grab some tea and settle in.

McRuger and I didn’t know each other particularly well when we got married. From first meeting to marriage was 365 days. Which, at the time, didn’t seem rushed or hurried at all. And, from marriage to TTC (trying to conceive) was only about 6 months. And then it was into the roller coaster of IF and all of the hardship of that.

The first few years of our marriage were riddled with the highest of highs…coupled with the lowest of lows. I struggled with what my place was in our new city, my new life, and how to navigate living with another person full time. My anxiety, heightened by our IF and the meds which accompanied it, only worsened over time…and added a layer of complication to our new marriage. Not to mention, the stresses of being foster parents…

McRuger and I fought, not a lot…but enough. We couldn’t find the words to communicate and often our fights or miscommunications would roll over into the bedroom…not the best thing for TTC or a newish marriage. To our friends and family, we presented as if we were a perfectly in-love couple. Nothing felt profoundly wrong. It wasn’t enough for either one of us to leave or threaten divorce. Just a very low hum of discord.

Cadet’s first year was a real low-point for us. We were struggling with all the challenges new parents face…plus navigating adoption/MsJ’s issues/Cadet’s health. We had some good weeks, but they never lasted. Our s.ex life was practically non-exsistant. McRuger and I agree… we were on autopilot. We didn’t even know how to talk about what was bothering us. I don’t think we could even have verbalized it. In the back of my mind, I just thought this was what all new parents went through. To be clear, neither McRuger or I ever felt things were that bad. I thought McRuger was a good dad and husband…and he thought the same of me.

Once Cadet really started sleeping through the night (about 15-18 months) things started to get a little better,. although we were just starting down the road of “potential autism”. We started to talk more, and fight less. We also started having more conversations about our relationship. We even started having se.x more (yay!). But, there was still this low drone in the back of our relationship that something wasn’t quite right. We weren’t connecting as we had when we first were together. We spent a lot of time lamenting those “easy days” when we were first together. Even going on dates nights could be a challenge. We just didn’t know how to be a couple who was in love anymore. Even when doing stuff we both loved, we weren’t firing on all cylinders.

When we really started delving into Adoption #2, we talked about how we’d just have to accept that we’d have a hard time connecting until both kids were older. We’d put our marriage in the backseat for the kids. It didn’t sit well with either of us, but we didn’t know what else to do. We thought about counseling several times, but our problems didn’t seem big enough to warrant outside intervention. No one was cheating, or chronically ill, or abusive, or even particularly distant…our problems seemed small. Every couple has highs and lows, right?

It was during Cadet’s second year of life that I started seeing a lot of marriages failing. In the space of 12 months, I had 3 friends get divorced from their spouses…marriages that had seemed so strong, but had fallen apart, seemingly overnight. I also had several friends with marriages that were in rocky places due to various factors: money, addiction, infidelity, and parenting differences. These friends with troubled marriages just seemed to affirm that McRuger and I were in a low spot, but it wasn’t anything serious. We were loving and friendly to each other…just vaguely dissatisfied.

Things stayed like that until the middle of last year. Once Pumpkin was born, things got bad again. We were stressed, snippy, and generally unhappy. We weren’t fighting, but we were just surviving. It was a combination of lack of sleep, the stress of Cadet adjusting, and a lack of support from friends/family.

In the early mornings, while feeding Pumpkin, I started to read: books, blogs, really anything about marriage. How could we get back those feelings back that we had in the beginning? What was I (or McRuger) doing wrong? What was going on? Most of the books and blogs I read had the same suggestions: “go on date night”, “spend time doing fun things together”, “really talk about what you’re feeling”…and so on. Well, yes, thank you…we’ve been trying to do that, and it’s not working. Nothing really struck a chord with me. I think over the course of a month, I read 3 or 4 “marriage self-help” books, and the essential messages were the same…and unhelpful.

Sometime in December, I was having a really bad night of sleep. McRuger and I had been grumpy all day, and I was mulling our relationship over in my head. Just like those old days of IF, I hopped on my iPad and went down the rabbit hole of the internet…just looking for something. After a long click-fest of random blogs, book excerpts, and forums…I found a book that I hadn’t heard of called: The Surrendered Wife. It looked intriguing, so I did a little more reading about it. And, after not much more looking…I purchased the book for my Kind.le app and began to read. What I read shocked me.

Let me pause here. This book (and the so-called “movement” it created) has a good deal of controversy around it. When I discussed the premise of this book with various female friends, most of them looked at me as if I’d grown another eyeball. But, all that being said, the core principals of the book are:

Quoting from Wikipedia:

The “Surrendered Wives” movement is centered around six basic principles:

  1. a wife relinquishes control of her husband’s life
  2. she respects his decisions for his life
  3. she practices good self-care (she does at least three things a day for her own enjoyment)
  4. she also practices receiving compliments and gifts graciously
  5. she practices expressing gratitude (thanking her husband for the things he does)
  6. a surrendered wife is not afraid to show her vulnerability and take the feminine approach

Continuing in an abusive, alcoholic, or adulterous relationship is not promoted or condoned.

You can read the critiques/praises of this book all on your own. This post is about my experience with it.

Anyway, I was shocked by what this book suggested. Give up control of McRuger’s life? I’d always been the social secretary, wardrobe consultant, and primary planner. If I didn’t tell him about his doctor’s appointment, he wouldn’t remember…right? I needed to micromanage, because he wasn’t managing at all. I couldn’t just give those roles up! Our life would fall into chaos…wouldn’t it? And, what if I don’t respect his choices in life? What if I really disagree with a choice he’s making….shouldn’t I speak up? Isn’t this my life too?

A few nights later, after reading about ⅓ of the book, I talked to McRuger about everything I had read. I thought the author was totally batty…insane…off base… How in the world did she expect a modern (feminist) woman to “surrender” to her husband? Women have been fighting for generations to break the glass ceiling…gaining equal pay…the right to vote, and this author was asking me to back down. I was indignant. How could any woman think this book had anything decent to say? This isn’t the 1950’s! I’m not a Stepford Wife! I wasn’t surrendering to anyone!

McRuger listened, then he began to talk. McRuger and I had a very long discussion that night. He and I remember it slightly differently, but the realization we came to was that we were both struggling for control in the relationship. He often felt micromanaged and disrespected by my attempts to manage our lives. And I felt like McRuger often didn’t step up enough to help make decisions. We often found ourselves in these endless mazes of decision-making…ending up with fights and power struggles. Those power-struggles, we finally understood,  were killing us…slowly, softly…in the background. No matter what, we couldn’t both be in charge.

The part that really gutted me was the fact that McRuger didn’t feel respected. Huh. Really? My husband, whom I love and adore, was feeling disrespected by my behavior? That’s not okay. Suddenly, the book made a bit more sense to me. I was micromanaging and controlling…and what was that getting me? An unhappy husband, and I wasn’t thrilled either. So, could I try surrendering some control? Would it really help?

Our conversation continued, and it turned to our s.ex. life…which neither of us were happy with. While, I won’t go into the details, McRuger told me that he felt hurt and pushed away when I backed away from his sexual advances. And, I often felt like he didn’t give me enough attention to warrant any intimate contact. I asked him about a section of the book which suggests that a wife should be open to all sexual advances from her husband (allowing for her wishes to be known and being open about any issues you might be having). That was something I wasn’t doing. I was probably shutting him down 50% of the time, citing the fact that I was tired, or needed alone time, or wasn’t “in the mood”. McRuger then shared that often wouldn’t even try to touch me or kiss me. He simply didn’t want to be “shut down” and hurt by my rejection. Wow. Mind blown. Really? It was alarming to me that my behavior, especially in this arena, were impacting him so profoundly.

Over the next few days, we kept talking. We opened up, we asked questions…. And, within days of our initial, amazing conversation, McRuger and I made some very conscious changes in our relationship. These changes aren’t taken directly from the book…but more like they are inspired by it.

1) First of all, McRuger is allowed to touch me in an intimate way whenever he wants (barring my being sick or other circumstances). No shutting him down if I’m tired or feel “blah”. This doesn’t mean we are going to have se.x, but that he can kiss me or massage my shoulders or grope me without me pushing him away… If I’m genuinely not in a place (emotionally or physically) to accept his attentions, the onus is on me to make that clear, but to also make sure McRuger doesn’t feel rejected. This more “welcoming” attitude has made both of us feel much less pressured about se.x and intimacy in general. This doesn’t mean he’s sucking on my ear lobe while we’re at a restaurant, but it does mean that he touches me much more frequently (which I love and crave). Just a hand at the small of my back or a small kiss as he passes me feeding Pumpkin…so nice.

2)  We have fewer conflicts over choices, because first we agree on who is going to be the final “decider” in decisions we’re making (usually, that’s McRuger), and then we both provide input. When all the input has been given, it’s up to the decision maker to actually make the choice (the other party withdraws the right to fight that choice). This has worked out surprisingly well.

3) We are both cultivating a deep sense of gratitude for the other person and what they do. If McRuger happens to do the dishes, I thank him for his generosity of time. If I take the time to empty the diaper bin, McRuger thanks me for doing the icky task. We thank each other for doing our normal duties…Just remembering to say thanks and express heartfelt appreciation to the other person has been very profound. It reminds me how much McRuger does around the house and for the family.

4) We also try to be aware of and encourage our gender differences. This has been an interesting aspect of this whole journey. For me, it’s meant remembering my inherent femininity and enjoying that. I love wearing dresses (I have since I was a child), McRuger loves me in dresses and skirts…so now, you’ll often find me wearing a dress around the house. I feel more “put together” and motherly in my dresses, and McRuger has noticed that even the boys love playing in my skirts. I’m not wearing hoops or corsets, but lovely, tailored cotton dresses which are very practical in our warm climate. I also encourage (in my own way) McRuger to handle the bigger, more physical tasks. Putting together Pumpkin’s new crib or moving larger items out for our garage sale are ways of McRuger feeling more “manly”. Encouraging these gender differences has also pulled into focus how controlling I used to be.

Those four things, plus a lot of unconscious attitude shifts, have made the last several months probably the most extraordinary of our entire relationship. McRuger feels stronger, more respected/confident/grounded, and happier than he has in our entire relationship. I feel completely respected, loved, provided for, and safe (a big trigger for me). Our intimate life has never been more fulfilling for both of us (which feeds the positivity in the rest of the relationship). In fact, we both agree that we feel this deep sense of awe in how well we work…we just fit together insanely well in so many aspects of our relationship.

While we still have the occasional fight, they generally don’t last as long as they used to and lead to more productive conversations about how we can do better. We end fights feeling actually close…not in some uneasy truce. We talk quite a bit about our relationship these days too (often initiated by McRuger). On a weekly basis, we (either consciously or not) end up talking about how we’re feeling about this or that aspect of our relationship. There’s no hidden corners of anger or disappointment that we haven’t touched on. Everything is out in the open. And, yes, I still get angry at times at McRuger, but not as often. Because I generally feel so close to him, I’m able to push aside my anger or frustration much more easily.

McRuger has read most of the Surrendered Wife of his own accord. We talk about what we agree with or don’t (much of it has rung VERY true for both of us). There are some aspects of this book which don’t apply to us or we have ignored. But, overall, we both feel like this book holds quite a bit of wisdom. More than any other self-help book I’ve ever read, this one focuses 100% on what YOU can do differently, regardless of what your partner is doing. You can’t control or change other people…but you can control/change yourself! We both feel that this book focuses on the micro-levels of a relationship, rather than the “big view”, which makes changes easier to implement.

Now, before you go thinking that I’m some uber-submissive wife, who meekly fixes dinner and then scrubs the floor while McRuger games all night….yeah, NO. This isn’t about submitting to McRuger and giving away my voice. This is about creating a better way of being together. I have my sphere of influence in the marriage and McRuger has his. Instead of fighting for control over each other, we have control over ourselves. Does that make sense?

Now, this book does have one big blindspot….children. The author’s expectations of how to handle certain situations when children are in the relationship are often a bit unrealistic. You have to remember, this book is about marriage, about the primary relationship between the spouses. But, both McRuger and I have noticed that even with the stress of two kids, we are more attentive/loving/patient with them since this shift in our relationship.

Infertility, TTC, adoption, parenting and life in general can make things challenging for couples. Marriage is hard, and knowing how to handle the everyday stresses/changes is not easy, let alone the “bigger” stuff. And, that’s why I shared this. Of course this book isn’t for everyone. But, it’s a starting point. And, it was a powerful starting place for us. There are some of you out there who are struggling with your relationship. Struggling to find intimacy or connection or a sense of “what now”. I get that. I’ve been there. Marriage and intimacy don’t have to go on the back burner for kids/school/work. I know that this book has helped McRuger and I find that connection/spark that we felt early in our relationship and has helped that connection grow.

Trust me, I know how this post sounds. It sounds almost insane, right? Like I’ve joined some cult and had a good deal of the Kool-Aid. Or McRuger has been brainwashing me in my sleep. How can one book make such a difference? I honestly don’t know. Perhaps McRuger and I were ready for a deep conversation and this book happened along a the right time. Or the ideas are just that profound. Both McRuger and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop…when will we go back to feeling that low hum of “not right”. It hasn’t happened yet…and we’re going almost 6 months of feeling very confident in our relationship. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

I don’t really know how to end this post. I hope that this speaks to one (or more) of you. That maybe this book (or others) helps you find the way back to a connection.

Categories: Choices, Marriage, McRuger | Tags: | 21 Comments

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