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     I love my kids.
     Let me try that again.
     I LOVE my kids!
     And I don't just mean the babies. And I don't just mean because of something good or lovely they did. And it's not a fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of love. Guys, like, I love them...even the crazy one (yes, you know who I'm talking about!). If someone ain't whooping out a heck of a Hallelujah right now, I'm pretty sure the mountains are gonna do it for you, because it appears that somewhere between swim lessons, homework, weekend visits, and kidney scares, a miracle has gone down and THIS Mama is on the receiving end! (In my mind there's literally a gospel choir in long, purple robes out there singing "Glory!" as the congregation shouts "Amen!" because I am in desperate need of some theatrical rejoicing right now!)
     But seriously, it's funny how love can sneak up on you all of a sudden. It can happen so slowly and gradually that you're not even aware that it was there the whole time. I remember when I first started dating my husband. We were just hanging out, really - I don't even know if you could call it dating. But one day I woke up and I just knew.... I loved him. It wasn't butterflies or a crush, but a love that took it's time. Something that grew out of a friendship, something that came on without me even noticing because of how subtly my heart had been changing. I've never had microwave love. The only loves I've ever known, the only really good ones anyways, have all been developed crock-pot style. They've simmered slowly for long periods of time, warming me from the inside out, not the other way around.
     Yet, when the foster care system handed me kids and two seconds later asked me to keep them forever and love them unconditionally, I found myself looking at these crazy little strangers and wishing for a pot roast instead of a Hot Pocket for a family. I never got to get to know my older kids as they grew inside my belly for 9 months; Never got to anxiously await each prenatal appointment and their upcoming arrivals. I needed more time. I needed time to court them and get to know them without the pressure of having to make it all work overnight with people that were already set in their ways... ways that I didn't particularly care for. I needed time to fall in love with my children. And after two and a half years, I feel as though I should re-propose to them. Will they take me to be their mother? Because I think I'm finally ready to commit, not just legally, but emotionally... completely... with my whole heart.
     I've noticed a few changes creeping up on me over the last few months. One morning after they'd gone to school, I caught smiling as I remembered something funny Cameron had said. And another day I laughed out loud at an utterly ridiculous joke that Taylor told, and it didn't feel forced or awkward in the slightest. Someone said to me earlier this week, "Can you even imagine those kids if they hadn't come to you?" And for the first time, I couldn't picture my life without them. As a mother, you hate to say you're surprised when these things happen.... but those of you that know my story, that truly know our family's story.... you know how I struggled, how we all struggled, to connect and love and be OK with our thrown together, emotional roller coaster existence. You know my resentments and bitterness, all the uncomfortable and unmotherly things that I thought and said. And now, I sit here wondering how worse off my life would be if I didn't have these four little people calling me Mama.
     I'm so glad I don't have to find that out. I'm so glad that God gave me my pot roast.
        PS, that being said, yesterday, while Isaac was here for his weekend visit, I found myself on the unlucky end of a particularly rank and mucky diaper. Trying to engage him in a helping task so that he would be more compliant during this extremely nauseous task, i asked him to hold a wipe for me while I got his diaper undone and legs pulled up.
     "I hep you, I hep you!" his little voice said to me.
     "You're a good helper, Isaac, thank you... hold the wipe for Mama, ok?" I replied.
     "I hep you, I hep you, Mama."
     And then Isaac helped.... by attempting to wipe his own wiener. Sadly, the wipe was in the other hand. He, too, realized this and promptly switched hands to give it another try, smearing the poop onto his leg in the process.
     "Eewww," he said.
     "Don't. Touch. Anything. Please, baby. Let me wipe your hands first."
     To his amazing credit, he smiled at me and kept his hands in the air. I finished with the diaper and used about 13 wipes to mop up the goo that saturated his chubby little fingers. He sat up and kissed me square on the lips as I was carrying him to the sink to wash his hands. I thought it was sweet at first, but I now realize that he did this to distract me. Because while I was caught off guard by this beautifully sweet gesture, he took his index finger and shoved it into my mouth, despite my slightly delayed but firmly pursed lips.
     Yup.... there it was. Poop. It must've still been between his fingers or underneath his fingernails, because it was there. In my mouth.
     Do you want to know what love looks like? It looks like turning your head away from your child before you puke... that's what love looks like, Friends. And I love my kids.

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