November is National Adoption Month, and so I’m especially happy to share Heidi with you before the month ends! Her family recently adopted a newborn domestically, and she has lots to tell us about that process as well as being a conspicuous family. (I don’t think I’d ever heard that term, have you?) And never waiting for a clear day to head outside. You see, she lives in the Pacific Northwest, so she and her babes are accustomed to getting a little wet out there.

Her positivity and can-do attitude will recharge your week. I felt it myself and I hope you do, too. Welcome, Heidi!

Welcome to our home! Our family includes my hubby Luke, myself, and our three kiddos: Lander is five, Wren is three, and Freya is six months.

Luke is a coffee addicted electrical engineer who enjoys disc-golf, good food, and camping. He is definitely the more relaxed, spontaneous spouse and balances my plan-a-head type personality quite well. I am a stay-at-home mama, foodie, and art major who enjoys photography, reading, and all things creative. Luke and I met after university through family at a highland games event in eastern Washington state in October of 2007. Luke was sporting a kilt and a mohawk!

We met again at a New Year Eve’s party, starting chatting, and were dating by March. We were both pretty sure early on in the relationship that we were heading toward marriage. Luke proposed on the weekend of the Fourth of July at his family’s lake house, surprising me with his great Grandma’s diamond ring. We were married on a gorgeously sunny day in October of 2008. After a couple of years of marriage in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and one baby later, we then decided to move to Portland for Luke to attend Western Seminary part-time while also continuing to work full-time as an electrical engineer.

Lander is our oldest, friendly little man-child who is known for his smiles and hugs. His favorite pastimes include building Lego spaceships while humming the soundtrack from Star Wars, reading, kissing babies, and greeting every person and animal he sees. Since moving to Portland, we were blessed again with Wren in 2013, and currently are in the process of finalizing the adoption of our daughter Freya, who was born this past May. Wren is our hilarious and fearless girl who loves keeping up with her brother on her Strider bike and collecting bugs and worms. She may or may not also enjoy eating them as well. Freya is six months now, adores her siblings, and delights in all the noise and commotion they bring. She spends most days happily glued to me while riding about in her Ergo baby carrier.

We bought our first home as newlyweds in Idaho. When we moved to Portland we had a difficult time selling and were paying for a mortgage, our rental in Portland, and Luke’s school! We are currently in our third rental since moving to Portland, and in this crazy tight market, are in no rush to buy. Also the whole packing up and moving part is dreadful!

Our family has enjoyed living in different homes and neighborhoods and now have more of an idea what are our musts are and what we can do without. The home we have been living in for the past two years was finished only months before we moved in. My husband and I both prefer a bit of character in a home, but due to the fact that our first rental home was older and ended up having major mold and sewer problems, we have been extremely grateful for a beautiful, brand spanking new house!

We currently live in Beaverton, just west of Portland, which has recently been named one of Money Magazine’s Top 50 small cities in the country. We appreciate the foodie scene, racial diversity, and affordability of the area — as compared to metro Portland. We are only about ten minutes away from farmland, and yet near also to Portland. We love living in an area with the expansive beauty of mountains, lakes, and the coast close by for all our family adventures.

Our first rental home was in S.E. Portland, in not the best of neighborhoods, yet it was fabulous living in the midst of foodie heaven with delicious restaurants minutes away and food cart pods on every corner. We single-handedly supported our favorite Vietnamese restaurant while I was pregnant with our second! Steaming bowls of pho always sound amazing on chilly, rainy days, of which there are many in Portland. Trying out new restaurants and different foods has always been love of ours, and we’ve made it a habit to bring our little ones along, mostly out of necessity but also out of a desire to expose them to new and different things. I love that my kids happily slurp pho and prefer salmon belly sashimi!

Honestly though, we used to poke fun a bit at those living in the suburbs and were convinced we would never head out that direction. However, after adding a second baby to the family, the lure of more square footage for our money, less traffic, closer proximity to Luke’s job, easier access to state parks, as well as greater racial diversity drove us to the suburbs. And we absolutely love it!

Short hikes, walks, or outside wandering with the kiddos are an absolute must. We live less than five minutes away from two gorgeous parks. We make it a priority to take the kiddos out for a hike multiple times a week, even in the dark winter evenings and in the rain. For many months of the year we have a lovely drizzle, and if we spent time outside only on clear days we would never make it out!

Lander and Wren have been walking, hiking, and biking with us without a stroller since the age of two, and we’ve been amazed at how well they both happily keep up and also how well they sleep afterwards! Luke also watches the kids for an hour a couple times a week so I can work out in our home gym. Having a newborn drastically cut down on my lifting schedule due to lack of sleep, motivation, and a drastic life-change in general. Thankfully I’ve gotten back on a schedule and my new goals are pushing my current strict pull up number from three to ten, adding more weight to my heavy lifts, and successfully achieving my first few handstand push ups. Thank goodness for a husband that happily offers to hold our baby, who currently happens to be in the middle of a season of separation anxiety and screams anytime she cannot see me!

Around our home, I’ve had to give up being as organized, planned, and clean as I would prefer. Luke and I attempt to give the kiddos age-appropriate chores and jobs to help with, but really, the house just doesn’t stay clean for long with three kids ages five and under! Literature is a great love of mine, and passing along that love to my children is something I take quite seriously. Finding a home for all of these books somewhere in my house is proving to be a formidable task. Thank goodness for Ikea!

Being hospitable and regularly having friends and family over is definitely a great motivator. I can often be found scrubbing toilets and frantically throwing toys in baskets late into the night in preparation for guests. Cleaning under pressure is a talent of mine and something I appreciate not because I’m ashamed of showing others the reality of everyday life in our home with kids, but because it provides a deadline and a checkpoint in helping me keep up with things!

I think as an introvert and also as a visually sensitive art major, too many bright colors, crazy patterns, and overall visual busyness can be a bit overwhelming in my own space. The more neutral colors, natural elements, and more minimalistic decor of organic modern is definitely something I am drawn to.

Leather couches are a must with our children as well as a cozy rug on the floor for somersaults and aspiring crawlers. Plants, rocks, and various sticks always seem to find their way into my home — and yes, I do have a rock collection that rivals Lucille Ball’s in “The Long, Long Trailer.” My mom insists I inherited the plant-collecting gene from my Grandma, who always filled her window ledges with plants, rocks, and crystal figurines.

I have always enjoyed surrounding myself with small reminders of travels and adventures: a shell from a Turkish beach or a piece of pottery from a holiday at the coast. Luke graciously lets me do my thing for the most part, though he is often confused by joy I find in making my home beautiful as well as functional. I find the act of creating a little order and beauty out of chaos to be a calming and rewarding venture.

Most importantly however, I aim for our home to be cozy, calming, functional, and joyful for my family. Much of my furniture is found on Craigslist and nothing too precious. Because we have been in rental homes for the past few years, I usually end up just doing what I love with what I have or what is most affordable with little attempt to accommodate or stay true to whatever style or history of the home we happen to be living in. No matter the house, I hope our home always speaks to the value we place on children, family beauty, and togetherness.

My hubby and I had always thrown around the idea of adoption as a potential means of growing our family. We both have family and friends who are adopted, as well as family and friends who have adopted both domestically and internationally. After deciding to follow the private domestic adoption route, we signed on with Christian Adoption Consultants in January of 2016. CAC provides financial advice, education, and experience in the confusing and overwhelming world of adoption. They were excellent at answering all of our many questions and recommending options that best fit our needs. A few benefits included in their services are their multiple agency networking (agencies and attorneys located in more adoption-friendly states who are both ethical and often in need of adoptive families), as well as their shorter wait time. On average, adoptive families working with them often adopt in six to ten months!

We started the home-study process in February and I began to research family profile books to show to potential birth mamas. I couldn’t find the clean, modern design layout that I was looking for in a family profile book design, so I ended up photographing my family, designing my own, and printing it using Blurb. I thoroughly enjoyed creating our books which ended up as beautiful testimony to our family story.

Luke and I both had heard so many negative things about the home-study process in general, but personally didn’t find the process half as bad as we had expected. We actually enjoyed working with the social worker who wrote up our home-study. We have greatly benefited from her wisdom and expertise. She felt like a personal cheerleader in our adoption endeavors and her help was invaluable.

Our family was home-study approved by the state of Oregon in March, we applied to about six different agencies through April, and received the call about Freya the end of May! Crazy fast. At the time, however, our wait felt like forever. I felt like I did when I was pregnant as I knew there was a child somewhere out there waiting for us, yet, unlike pregnancy, I did not have the assurance of a due date in sight.

The paperwork and many details that must be worked through requires perseverance, but the rewards are tremendous! Luke and I have always agreed that good things are often difficult to achieve and worth pursuing. Adoption is no exception.

Each state has different requirements for adoptive families, and most require classes on important issues surrounding adoption such as openness, attachment and bonding, and transracial adoption. Since we were very open to any child of any gender and race, we took particular interest in the plethora of issues regarding transracial adoption. Because I was especially interested in transracial adoption, I began research, reading books and blogs of transracial families and adoptees, and talking with friends who had adopted trans-racially.

This all seems silly to admit now, but I felt strongly that if there was a need for families to adopt trans-racially, I knew we would love to help meet that need. Why not us?

After many different potential situations, an expectant mama in Georgia chose our family to parent her child. I got the call on a Wednesday afternoon in May, with news that a baby girl had been born that morning. My husband and I dropped the two older kids off with my parents in eastern Washington, drove to Seattle, and caught a flight across the country. I showed photos of our precious little five pound pumpkin on my phone to anyone and everyone within earshot in the airport, on the plane, at the car rental place!

The agency was kind enough to let us sign papers that evening. We rushed from the airport, too excited to even stop for dinner. We ended up sitting in crazy evening traffic and actually witnessed an accident right in front us! Thankfully, no one was hurt, and we made it safely to the temporary caregiver family who Freya was staying with for the afternoon until we arrived. When she was finally placed in my arms I was bawling my eyes out and thankfully Luke caught it all on camera. It was a bit surreal sitting down to sign papers and then driving away with a newborn!

We were able to meet Freya’s brave birth mama before flying home, and were immediately blown away by her graciousness and the bond we now shared. There are so many precious moments in our story, but most importantly Luke and I consider now Freya’s birth mama to be forever family, and we are overwhelmingly grateful she chose life and gave us the ultimate gift of raising her daughter.

Although we had educated ourselves about becoming a conspicuous family, it was very interesting to watch people’s reactions to our little family starting the day we picked our daughter up. Wherever we go, people notice us. They notice our two blondies smooching their chocolate baby sister in an attempt to make her laugh. They are curious, smile, or strike up a conversation, and we are more than willing to explain the joy we have found in adoption.

We practice taking the spotlight off Freya and putting it back on our family as a whole, where it belongs. Luke and I desire to protect Freya’s story, and yet also answer other’s questions graciously. We continually have amazing opportunities to educate others and hopefully help to dispel many of the myths surrounding adoption.

We have been encouraged with how many positive conversations we have had with complete strangers about adoption, especially within the black community. Their encouragement is assurance of something we already know: it is love that makes a family, and not skin color.

Freya is young, but I have been very pro-active in asking advice about natural hair care because I want her to love and embrace her curls. I have received only positive responses from black women who are more than willing to share their favorite hair care techniques, styles, and products. And thank goodness for the internet! My new favorite hobby is watching natural hair care how-to videos on You Tube.

Although we are still toward the beginning of our journey as parents, I am realizing parenthood, adoption, and transracial adoption all require a humble spirit and a lifetime of learning and relearning.

Who knows how long we will stay in this home, but I hope my kids remember throughout the mundanity of everyday living, that although life is crazy at times — okay, who am I kidding…all the time! — they are all such a joy and I am thankful to have been given the gift of parenthood.

I wish someone had told the people-pleaser in me not to feel obligated to take everyone else’s opinions of my parenting choices so seriously. I wish someone had assured me that it is completely alright just to tell others “I’m okay with my life choices” and leave it at that. No second-guessing myself.

–-

Thank you, Heidi! Being okay with your own life choices is such a freeing mindset, isn’t it? What’s the most recent parenting or personal idea you’ve been happy enough with that you’ve not cared a bit what others think about it? I’d sure love to hear!

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me know! We love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.