Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Sorta Post-Adoption Update

So, I really had no intention at all of writing many post-adoption posts after our first year home with Brooks, but everyone who knows our family in real life has been commenting lately on just how much he's changed and grown over the last few months that I just feel like this is a little bit necessary for documentation purposes! 

Before I dive in to where we are today, I want to take a look back at my last post-adoption update which was at one year home...actually, scratch that...it was at 9 months home...because apparently I'm not good at the consistency thing. ;) 

At that point, Brooks was 22 pounds, stringing two, sometimes three, words together, had just been weaned off his steroids for asthma, and was about to start preschool for the first time.

Oh, how times have changed.

On January 6, we celebrated 397 days with Brooks in our family. He spent 396 days without one, so as of that day, we could say he had been a beloved son longer than he was in an orphanage. Praise God. 

Nowadays, not only has this boy FILLED OUT in a serious way (I'd bet he's upwards of 25 pounds), but we now have full conversations with him asking questions and speaking in almost sentences that consist of several (up to 8ish) words. He talks like a caveman but for not quite two-and-a-half, we're pretty dang impressed! 

Examples I heard today:
 "Me say night-night Carter Kate-Kate."  
"What you doing now Mommy?"
"Me go gym with Carter and Mommy." 
"What happened, Daddy?" 
"Me happy when we jump outside. With Carter. And Kate Kate. And Daddy. And Mommy. Everybody jump!" 

And my absolute favorite:
"How you doin?" 
Yes, he actually says that. I'm raising a future Joey Tribbiani. 

Hearing his little thoughts and having little conversations with this guy is such an absolute joy. 

Sweet story from today: my kids like to play "Magic Eight Ball," which basically means they roll an Eight Ball back and forth and sing this song Kate made up until someone ends up with it. That person makes a wish and asks the eight ball for an answer. No lie - every single time it ends up with Brooks making a wish, he wishes for someone in our family. "Me want Mommy. Me want Daddy. Me want Carter and Kate Kate." It literally makes me want to cry every time. And no matter what that dang eight ball actually says, I tell him he got it. Forever. And every time I tell him that, he says, "Hooray!" and asks for hugs. I mean...I die. 

So, let's chat school since that hasn't really been talked about in this space yet. I'm going to do another whole post on how we transitioned him into preschool, why we did it when we did, and our experience with that, but today, five months into preschool, this little guy is rockin' it. He knows his class, he loves his teachers, and he thrives on the routine of it. Tonight, he was listing all of the friends' names in his class (and some are really difficult to say!), and he was talking about how excited he was to see them tomorrow. 

And as backwards as this might sound, I actually think putting him in preschool has strengthened our attachment. Because here's the thing: a child's brain learns through repetition. If you've ever watched a young child play, they typically repeat patterns over and over and over again. Or they sing the same song over and over and over again. As annoying as that can be to parents, that's actually doing what they need to do: learning! So, although it might sound odd that dropping him off in a classroom three days a week would strengthen our attachment, he's finding security in the repetition of drop-off and pick-up. Mom leaves, Mom comes back. Mom leaves, Mom comes back. Mom leaves, Mom comes back. Over and over and over again. We are so proud of how well he's transitioned. 

The last thing that we've really seen develop lately is this boy's incredible sense of compassion. If anyone is laying down, upset, hurt, or crying, this little guy is the FIRST to go pat them on the back, ask them what happened, or tell them that "it's okay." He gives lots of hugs, hands out ice packs and bandaids, and loves the mess out of his people. I really don't know where that came from, but it is my very favorite thing about him right now. He's a special one.

Okay, that's it for today. Happy Tuesday, y'all! 
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

On New Year's Day...

January 1. 

I love a fresh start, don't you? I love opening up a fresh planner, turning to a new month, and dreaming of the possibilities. I also love the thought of improving on the month or year past and setting goals for myself, personally and professionally, as we move into a new chapter.

So, let's chat goals. I am what the personality tests like to call a "lion," which basically means I'm really good at the seeing the big picture or the end goal, and I can get focused to a fault when I'm trying to meet a goal or accomplish something. The problem with lions though is that we often lack the discipline and time management to work out the details that will allow us to achieve our goal without leaving the rest of our life in chaos. We're really BAD at working out the little details when we've set our eyes on the prize, so to speak. 

One of my faults? Constantly thinking about the NEXT project or NEXT goal or NEXT big thing I'm going to do, which often makes me miss out on some of the everyday, routine joy of whatever season of life I currently find myself. I'm always pushing for the next best thing without relishing in the here and now. 

The thing is that I really love the adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment I feel when I've stepped into new territory or done something I never dreamed I could do. There's nothing that sets me more on fire than working toward a goal or dream that I really believe in. And that's not ALL bad.

The catch-22 though? I've been convicted lately that a lot of my drive to constantly improve and grow stems from a lack of contentment. If I'm being totally honest, I think at times, I constantly push myself because I don't feel like I'm enough. And at times, I feel as if I'm too much. 

And, I'm willing to bet that sometimes, you feel that way, too.

But here's the thing, friends: if I never did another thing, and if I never accomplished another goal in my whole life, the Lord says I'm enough. That doesn't mean I can sit on my couch and binge Netflix until He calls me home, but it DOES mean that I can be content with exactly who He created me to be. Because the best news of the entire gospel is this: HE DID IT FOR ME. Jesus did on the cross what I could never do. He died on the cross and what He did, not what I do, makes me a citizen of heaven. I don't have to continue to prove my worth or continue striving to achieve anyone's approval because He did that for me. He says I'm enough.


For the last 15 years or so, I've given myself a challenge to start the new year. Three years ago, I started this blog. Two years ago, I finally said yes to becoming an Ambassador with Noonday Collection after sitting on the decision for 9 months. Last year, I set out to qualify for a trip with the company to meet our artisan partners. 

I'm thrilled that all three of those ventures have been successful, but this year? I really feel as if the Lord is asking me to slow it down. Soak it in. Enjoy the ages my kids are and just relish this season of time with them. I've got so much already planned for this year that I truthfully just don't need to add anything more to it. This year, I'm enjoying the fruits of what I've worked for the last three - I'm visiting our artisan partners, we're taking several family vacations, and I'm continuing to write in this little space I've created here. And I'm calling that good enough.  

So, for 2018, my goal is contentment. 

Less looking out at what the world says I need to be doing and more looking in at my family and friends. 
Less looking down at my phone and more looking up at my kids. 
Less focus on the things that are ahead and more focus on the things I have right in front of me.

What's your goal for 2018? Tell me in the comments! Happy New Year, friends! 
Friday, November 17, 2017

We Needed Him

This week, we celebrated one year as a family of five. On November 14, 2016, Brooks joined our family in China, and we will never be the same. All week I've wanted to think of something I could post to share with you how much he means to us, but I think the guest post I submitted to "No Hands But Ours" last week sums it up perfectly, so if you didn't catch it there, you can read it now. I hope it encourages you to trust the Lord in wherever He's leading you because His plans are ALWAYS better and for our good.

One year.

I still can’t believe it’s been an entire year since Brooks became ours. One year since a tiny, pale, very sick little boy reached for two strangers in a musty Chinese conference room. One year as a family of five. One year of learning and adapting and fighting for a little boy born over 7,000 miles away from the place he now calls home.

I’ll never forget my husband tapping me on the shoulder that day as I was completing yet another form where I promised to take proper care of Brooks. Very calmly and quietly, he simply stated, “There he is.” I looked up as three women breezed through the door carrying our 17-pound baby boy and headed straight for us. They knew exactly who they were looking for and within ten seconds of entering the room, one of his nannies was standing next to us. I barely had time to throw my husband’s phone at our guide so she could record the moment. He then reached his arms out for me to hold him, and a collective “Awww!” filled the room from the nannies and other adoptive parents waiting to meet their children. 

His nannies smiled and reassured him as he began to interact with us. He had been dressed to the nines in a beautiful four-piece panda suit, and it appeared that they had even dressed him in new shoes and sent along a favorite rattle. The nannies giggled as they shared with us that he had been saying “mama” and “baba” on the van ride to meet us, and they beamed with pride as our 13-month-old son showed off his skills as a new walker.

Fifteen months of paperwork, prayer, and tears were behind us, and our whole lives as his parents were beginning.

If I’m being honest, up until that hand-off, I’d been terrified of this moment. I’d spent the last four months staring at the two pictures we had, re-reading all six pages of his paperwork, and trying desperately to create meaning out of each and every word we knew about him. I spent many countless nights staring at my bedroom ceiling worrying about whether or not his medical issues, which, according to the file, seemed so incredibly minor and insignificant, were actually accurate. I had read so many stories of families who brought home very different children than they had expected, and I worried about all the things that his orphanage could’ve missed. 

Would he attach easily? 
How many therapies would he need? 
Will his brother and sister accept him as their brother? 
What will people say when they see a Chinese child with Caucasian parents? 
How will we communicate with him?

The list went on and on.

I knew we’d been called to adoption, and I had a peace in my heart that this child was my son. None of that had ever been in question, but the fear of the unknown consumed me. On that day, in that stale conference room that reeked of burnt coffee and cigarettes, something in me changed. As that bundled baby boy accepted puff after puff after puff out of my hands, I felt myself slowly exhale. In that moment, I realized that he, just like my other two, was just a normal baby. He was going to do all of the typical baby things his brother and sister did, even if it looked a little bit different or happened in a different timing. Developmental delays, premature birth, anemia…or not…he was just a little boy who needed a family. 

Why had I been so afraid of him?

Over the last year, we’ve learned a lot about the little boy who once kept me up at night. He sings a mean “Wheels on the Bus,” points out every airplane that passes, and throws half his food on the floor, just like his older brother did. He loves candy, hates milk, and fights us getting strapped into the car seat, just like his big sister did. He lives for goldfish and cars and says, “Mine!” if you try to take his toy, just like every other toddler I know.

The past year has been one of growth and change. We now manage Brooks’s asthma, which was a surprise to us, but after our initial few months home, we seemed to get in a groove with his medications. His head circumference, once a little bit of a concern to doctors, has leveled off and his anemia is completely gone. We are medically stable for the moment, and for that we are so grateful.

Today, Brooks is thriving in preschool and has begun naming colors, shapes, and engaging us in games and songs. He knows his mommy, daddy, brother, and sister, and we look forward to enrolling our strong little guy in gymnastics in the spring. He is the happiest and friendliest little guy you’ll ever meet and excels at greeting everyone he passes, stranger or not.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned this year is simply this: we needed him. Not just another child…but him. When God called our family to adoption three years ago, I don’t believe it was for any other reason than for this boy. Brooks completes our family in a way we never knew we needed, and I thank God every day for not letting my fear be bigger than my faith. He is our peacemaker, our funny guy, and lets his big sister smother him like the living baby doll she always wanted.

There were so many moments throughout our adoption process where I wanted to throw in the towel. There were moments when the agency was invoicing us for an amount larger than what we had available to give them, or when the doctors told us his head circumference could indicate a neurological problem, or when we were asked yet again why we weren’t just trying for “our own” baby. It would’ve been easy to say no and walk away when things got tough, but I think back now at all we would’ve missed and am so glad we stayed the course. Many people like to applaud us and tell us how lucky Brooks is to have us, but the truth is that we needed him much more than he ever needed us. H

e’s a gift to us who is going to do BIG things in his life…we’re just the lucky ones who get the front row seats. 
Sunday, October 15, 2017

On Opening the Door

This past week at my MOPS meeting, I sat at a table with six amazing women discussing clutter. We all have it – physical clutter, meaning the piles, the boxes, the shoes (my personal nemesis), the disorganized parts of our home. We all have that one closet we’d be horrified if someone opened, am I right? 

I’ve never really thought much beyond what it physically is…stuff. Things. Junk. But as the seven of us shared and dug a little deeper into our clutter, some truths began to surface that went much deeper than piles of our children’s school work and that box of clothes we can’t let go of because “someday” we might fit back into it.

Our conversation shifted from Container Store bins and organizational tips to much bigger things like guilt and shame and vulnerability. There were common threads – the excessive amount of toys our children have that they don’t play with (that’s another blog post entirely…sheesh), the preschool drawings we can’t seem to let go of, the hoarding tendencies of family members, the hand-me-down pile-up, and the shame or anxiety we have over entertaining. 

But what struck me the most was how this physical clutter and the shame we feel about all of our “stuff” has ultimately separated us from community with those around us and, more importantly, community with Jesus.

I grew up in a home where we had people over all the time. Weekends were a revolving door of friends, babysitters, and neighbors. I could walk two houses down to play with one friend and two blocks to play with another. I had several “bonus moms” whose license plate numbers I can still recite because that’s how much time I spent in their cars.

I realize now what a gift that was, but at the time, it was just normal. If I wanted to invite a friend to our house on a Saturday afternoon with 15 minutes notice, there were no great logistics involved. No one was concerned with how pristine and perfect the house was…we simply called their house, and if they were free, they showed up. Easy.

When did we make it so complicated?

If I think back to my time I spent as a child at my friends’ houses for sleepovers and whatnot, I literally have ZERO memories of mess. I have exactly zero memories of the d├ęcor and organization (or lack of) in my friends’ homes. (Okay, there was this one really creepy chicken statue that sat in one friend’s kitchen, and I only remember that because I felt like it was watching me all the time.)

As for clutter? I’m sure it was there, but do you know how much it mattered to me? Exactly ZERO percent. And I can assure you that my 1989 bonus moms did NOT waste their time cleaning counters and vacuuming floors right before five second graders descended for a sleepover. They simply knew better. They threw some sleeping bags, pizza, and Blockbuster videos out on the living room floor, and moved on with their lives. Ain’t nobody got time for the Dyson.

Here’s the thing, friends…if we say we value and long for authentic community, yet are not willing to open our lives and our homes to those around us because we have a few piles of clutter and our homes are not “perfect,” how can our neighbors truly feel comfortable enough to really connect with us? Nobody wants to be friends with the Cleavers. If we insist on waiting until we have the perfect home and perfect clutter-free life before we can invite people in, we’ll be waiting forever.

You know my absolute very favorite thing about Jesus? He loved a hot mess. Like me and you. He didn’t seek out the ones who had it all together, he sought out the imperfect. He used people who were alcoholics (Noah) and thieves (Zacchaeus) and prostitutes (Rahab) to spread the Gospel. Had he sought out the most holy, most sinless, most perfect people, honestly, who would’ve listened? I don’t know about you, but I’m much more moved and inspired by the stories of those who have overcome their sin and been redeemed through the Holy Spirit than by those who have never faced a struggle. 

To be fair, vulnerability is hard, scary even, but it’s also a bridge. It’s at the heart of connection. To let people into our mess, into our struggle, and into our homes says to them, “It’s okay to be you. You don’t have to be perfect here.”

What freedom there is in that!

We don’t have to be perfect to spend time with the Lord, and we certainly don’t have to have it all together to invite others in. Don’t miss out on the joy of connection because you’re afraid of people seeing the real you. To be truly seen and known and accepted anyway, well, I’m not sure I can think of a greater gift. 
Friday, September 22, 2017

Brooks Turns TWO!

Brooksie Brooks, you are TWO!

I can't even believe it. Last year on September 16th, you were living in an orphanage on the other side of the world. You had a family, but you didn't know it yet, and you certainly didn't understand what a birthday was. We did our best to celebrate you in your absence, but our hearts were just broken to know you were so far away on such a special day. 

This year, we spent the day doing all your favorite things!

We started the morning with donuts...because 'Merica. ;) 

After opening and playing with your presents from Mommy, Daddy, Carter, and Kate, we headed up to play at the mall and go pick out some clothes for our Build-A-Bears. You picked out an Elmo outfit, complete with slippers, and then we played and rode the cars at the play area before heading to the food court for lunch. This was strategy - I knew you'd want your beloved lo mein noodles, but I wasn't about to clean those up at home, so the food court was the perfect place to let you glory in your love for the noodle. Bonus - we even ran into your sweet teacher eating lunch with her husband! 

After that, we headed home for naps and to get ready for your big fiesta! Cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles arrived late that afternoon, and we had a "Choo Choo, He's TWO!" party. :) Not only are trains one of your favorite things, but your Chinese name was also Zhi Qiu (pronounced Ji Choo), and your ayis in China called you Qiu Qiu (pronounced Choo Choo), so obviously that fit. ;) 

You LOVED all the attention, ate great food, got more presents from your family, and even tried your hand at a pinata! 

Your absolute favorite part of the day was watching all your family sing "Happy Birthday" to you. After you blew out the candles and we all cheered, you got the BEST little grin on your face. You know routinely ask for "Happy" anytime we sit down to eat. Apparently, you think this is going to be a regular thing around here...

Brooks, we don't know what we did right to get the absolute JOY of being your parents, but all of us truly count our lucky stars EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. that the Lord blessed us with the gift of YOU. You are incredibly smart, kind, observant, loving, compassionate, funny (SO funny), and dangerously handsome. Your joy is contagious, and I've yet to meet someone who doesn't immediately fall head over heels for you. Adoption is not an easy road for anyone involved, and there is a lot of fear and brokenness at times...but YOU, dear boy, are worth every sleepless night, every grey hair, and every blank on every piece of paper we had to fill out to bring you home. I would go through it all a thousand times over just for one of your million dollar smiles and to hear your sweet little voice call "Mommy."

We love you, sweet one...happy 2nd birthday!  
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