A picture mail text of Lyla's drawing of us.
Snail mail of Joycelyn's drawing of the dogs.
A picture mail text of Lane with his "Justine socks" on.
A voice mail from the boys begging us to come play Just Dance.
My favorite picture of the boys cuddling with the three dogs watching cartoons.
A birthday card from McKinley.
The moms in my life will never know how much the small gesture of letting me know their children are thinking of me mean to me; as they mean the world.
I will forever spend my energy making sure these children know I love them and I am here for them and more than anything I want, and really need, to be part of their lives.
As, these are our chosen children.
The children we have the honor of being godparents to. The children we have the privilege of being their guardians. The children we get to see grow up. The children who ask to see us. The children who love us. The children we love more.
Or maybe, it's really that they are the children who have chosen us.
Surviving the losses of IVF and accepting a childfree life to redefine family for us has meant we figure out what it means to still have children in our lives. It means living my truth as a woman who wanted, and desperately, tried to have my own children. It means having the courage to say adoption isn't for us. And yet, it is also making sure my heart is not closed off to all the light and love that family and children can bring to my life, even if it comes with the bittersweet sadness that they aren't my own.
It means traveling to Vegas for McKinley's birthdays.
It means going to Noah's piano recitals.
It means sending happy birthday and happy valentine's videos of the dogs singing to all of the kids.
It means having a toy room in my house.
It means having the pool for everyone to enjoy all summer long.
It means watching the boys play the Wii for hours.
It means hosting chosen family every spring break and playing St. Louis tourist.
It means embracing my sadness that I will never get to parent in the traditional sense, in order to make room for the endless, ever upward light that all of these families and kids bring to my life every single day.
I do it because the alternative is too dark. I do it because it is my journey. I do it because I have fought for my recovery. I do it because it is ever upward.
And, because we have all chosen each other.