Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thoughts Floating Around My Head During My Son's Birthday Week...

I wish I had a prettier title for this post, but that's truly what this post random thoughts. I have so many thoughts swirling in my head right now. Here, in Texas, I'm planning the food and decorations for a family birthday party called "Choo Choo, He's Two!" (What can I say? I love a good theme.) But, if I'm being honest, my heart feels a million miles away. I can't get this amazing boy's first mama out of my mind, and I can't stop wondering how this week looked on the other side of the world two years ago. 

 I imagine that today, roughly six days before he was born, that his first mama was, like we all are, quite uncomfortable. Although it was guessed by China that Brooks was born prematurely, we don't know exactly how premature and we don't know why he was born early. I wonder if she was having complications. I wonder if she was, understandably, O-V-E-R her pregnancy, encouraging his exit with those old wives' tales like eating spicy food and going on long walks. Or was it a surprise? Was it one of those 3 a.m. births where you wake up your partner and simply declare, "It's time?"

These are things I'll never know the answer to, of course, but my mind still goes there.

I wonder how she went into labor. Was it natural? Induced? Was he a C-Section? Who held his first mama's hand? Was his biological father in the picture? Was he born at home or in a hospital? I know his weight and length on the day he was found, but what was his birth weight? Length? What time was he born? 

My mind continues to wander further.

When was the decision officially made not to parent him? Before he was born? At his birth? In the days between his birth and finding? Did first mama nurse him and love on him until she placed him? Or was that too difficult, knowing what was to come next?

And then the reality truly sets in: I will most likely NEVER get answers to my questions, not this side of heaven anyway.

It stings.

 If I'm being honest, a year ago, before I really knew and loved my son, I thought I could carry on as if none of this mattered. I had convinced myself that we were his forever family, so all that mattered was that we loved him and he was safe with us. What did it matter how his life started when it began all over again on his Adoption Day?

How naive I was.

Here's the thing - a year ago, I didn't KNOW my son. He simply existed as a few sheets of translated Mandarin and two pictures. That's it. I knew that his nannies called him an "active and sometimes impatient" boy. He wore a lot of pink (as real men do), the ayis kept his pants up with a bungee cord (bless it), and I knew he needed his formula thickened due to reflux (of course he did...told you he was meant to be ours). I had been told he liked cars and music (true) and liked it when his orphanage mama took him outside (also true). A year ago, that's all I "knew" of Brooks.

But now?

I know that he has incredible agility and speed and athleticism. (That's the respectful way of saying he's part spider monkey. Kid has SKILL.) I know that he is wickedly smart and observant. If you see him standing in a corner quietly with his back turned to you, RUN, don't walk...because he's ALWAYS up something. I know that he has a million dollar smile and a belly laugh that sets your heart on fire.

And where it comes full circle for me is when I realize that this boy that I love was gifted these traits by people I'll never get to know or thank. The gifts those first parents gave him through biology - intelligence, sense of humor, an infectious smile - are gifts that I now enjoy every day. Some days, I'm not even sure that's fair.

So, I sit in this tension. I order the balloons and buy the paper plates and wrap presents with my heart torn in half because the truth is that even though he's fully MINE, I also know that he was once fully HERS.

Regardless if I get my questions answered in this life or not, God is still good and Brooks is still my son. Regardless if I am ever able to give Brooks details on his biology or not, God is still in control. I cannot control the outcome of these questions and these unknowns, but I can pray that the Lord grants me comfort and wisdom as I navigate through this journey of parenting Brooks.

That's all we really can do with kids, right? We can cross every t, dot every i, and the truth is that we will STILL fail our kids because we're human. 

My prayer this week is that his first family is thinking of this incredibly bright, beautiful, special boy. I pray that they somehow know how happy, healthy, and loved he is. We entered into a brokenness that we will not ever truly repair when we chose to adopt Brooks, AND YET, the Lord has been faithful and called us here, so we rest in the fact that we will one day see the whole picture.

And now that I've let this all out there...let's get down to business and throw that little guy a good old-fashioned American birthday party! Do you think Chinese kids like pinatas?? ;)    
Friday, August 18, 2017

Post Adoption: 9 Months Home

I will not start every post with an apology.
I will not start every post with an apology.
I will not start every post with an apology.

ARGH, I can't help it...I'm so sorry, y'all! This whole three kids thing is HARD, and I missed both eight AND nine months home posts! Dang it!

Well, better late never, I, for all ten of my readers, let's see what Mr. Brooks has been up to lately! ;) 

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: Brooks hit a SERIOUS growth spurt these last few months! He seems taller, fuller, and just like he's losing his "baby." His face is getting leaner, longer, and he's looking more and more like a little boy and less and less like a baby. :( I think he's close to 22 pounds now. No clue on height, but we'll get all of his stats at his well-check in September, so I'll update those soon! I know his head circumference has grown because his "Infant" Texas A&M hat he wore a lot when he got home doesn't fit anymore. He continues to be a gross motor genius - jumping with two feet off the ground, climbing EVERYTHING, and generally giving his mama a heart attack on the daily. He wears me out, but in the best way.

ATTACHMENT: This continues to go well - no issues! Also a big victory...his night crying has finally subsided! Up until this point, he's cried out in his sleep multiple times per night. Not long enough or loud enough for us to address it because he's not truly awake, but I think that was where his grief and trauma came out. I haven't heard those cries in several amazing!

LANGUAGE: The biggest development leap we've noticed this month is his beginning to string words together. We got an ADORABLE video of him saying, "Hey, Kate," the other day. He'll also say "Hi, mama," "Bye bye, Dada," "Night night, Carter," or the like. We're getting two words together and considering he's only heard nine months of English, we're pretty impressed! 

SLEEP: Still no issues...praise the Lord! It only improves every day. Cross your fingers as he starts preschool that we won't have any regression with his naps or nights!

FOOD: We've discovered a new favorite this month - cheese ravioli, hold the tomato sauce. ;) I think he ate about 10 on Tuesday night. Noodles/pastas/starches continue to be this kid's jam...just don't add any red sauce!

HEALTH: Praise the Risen Lord, we are COMPLETELY OFF STEROIDS! We weaned Brooks off of those in June, brought them back to help him get over a brief cold in July, and haven't touched them at all in August! That'll probably change once cold and flu season hits again, but for the moment, we are enjoying our time OFF the nebulizer!

RANDOM FACTS: Full disclosure - I was absolutely terrified of how our move would cause little man to regress, but he handled it like an old pro! Our older kids actually struggled much more than he did...he's loving his new digs!

Another fun fact - he became very interested in putting on other people's clothing this month.

Exhibit A...

He makes us laugh EVERY DAY. :)

It's crazy to think that two years ago this month we applied to adopt. We had no idea that our sweet son's first mama was entering her third trimester of pregnancy with him. I have no idea what she was feeling at that point...fear? Joy? Anxiety? I'm not privy to those details but what I do know is that she loved her son. I do know that she chose to give him life when doing so would cause her immense pain. I do know that she must've faced just an absolutely impossible decision to make when she placed him to be found. I pray that God opens some cosmic door one day where I can meet this boy's first mama...but if He doesn't, she will always have my utmost respect and love.

We are so thankful to be this little guy's family - happy weekend, friends!
Sunday, July 23, 2017

Why JUST Is A Four-Letter Word

We were at lunch with some sweet friends last week when it happened. It was a very common lunchtime conversation moms have about this time of year, and it went something like this. 

Mom A: "We are so bored, you guys. If I have to fight with them about the iPad again today, I might just lose it." 
Mom B: "Amen. When does school go back in session again?"
Mom A: "Not soon enough. Thank God for camps, though, right?" 
Mom C: "Yeah, I'm ready, too...but I just have one kid, so I have no right to complain." 

And then, two hours later, it happened again on the phone.

Mom Friend: "I just don't know how to get her to stop throwing such awful fits."
Me: "I wish I knew. Three kids in, and I still don't know how to diffuse some of their rants."
Mom Friend: "It's exhausting. I don't know how you do it everyday, all day. I just have them nights and weekends, and I can't even do it right." 

Six years ago, almost to the day, I dropped 12-week-old Carter off at his first day of daycare. I cried the whole way to work and everyday I dropped him off for the next nine months. It was the hardest year of my life, and I ended up in therapy for the first time since high school that spring. 

I just had one kid.

I just had him nights and weekends.

Here's the thing - life and parenting is HARD. Period. No matter the age. No matter the stage. No matter if we have one kid or twelve. No matter if we work outside the home or inside the home. No matter if we're single or divorced or have been married 42 years. 

And when we put a qualifier on our struggles like just, we discredit our struggle because someone else, it seems, has it harder. We feel as if we have to justify ourselves for thinking it's hard because we "JUST" something...we just have one kid, we just see them after day care, we just have kids without special needs, we just have biological kids, we just have boys, we just have girls, we just stay at home...the list could go on and on.

I've been thinking a lot lately about why we do this just thing with regards to sharing our struggles, and here's why it bothers me so much - it stems from comparison. How many times have we, as women or moms, had a conversation with a friend where we compared our children? I'm not sure I can remember a play date or a conversation I've had with other moms where comparison DIDN'T happen. It comes as naturally as breathing. We do it in an attempt to find common ground, but the truth is that comparing our children usually doesn't find common usually just leaves us feeling bad about ourselves or unnecessarily worried about our children.

Oh, your kid was speaking full sentences at 18 months? Mine only said mama and dada.
Oh, your kid was fully potty-trained by two? Mine still needs a diaper at almost three.
Oh, your kid was reading by four? Mine is getting tutoring in second grade.
Oh, your kid licks the wall? Okay, yeah, mine doesn't do that. 

But, you get the point!

Can I let you in on a secret? When God created you, He created you and wired you in such a specific way that you have the exact right tools to parent the children He's given you. No one else. Those little cherubs were made specifically for YOU. Period. There's no need to compare when He equipped YOU for the job.  

So, a favor, ladies...the next time you find yourself tempted to downplay or discredit a struggle you're facing just because someone else seemingly has it harder, give yourself some grace. Quit the comparison trap. You are the only one in the world in  your exact circumstances. Parenting your exact children. 

And you know what? You are just what they need.
Monday, June 26, 2017

Post Adoption: 7 Months Home

This sweet boy has been home seven months! (Okay, seven months and some change. Summer is hard.) 

It's crazy to think that a year ago, we hadn't even seen his face yet, and now we can't imagine our life without him. What an amazing God we serve.

So, let's's what has been going on this month with our Brooks!

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: Not a whole lot of change here...Brooks continues to be 90 mph most of the time. Blake and I have both noticed that he's gotten heavier lately, so I'm very curious what his weight is now. I'm guessing 21-22 pounds, but since we haven't been to the doctor in a while, I'm truthfully not sure. His clothes seem to be getting tighter, too, so I'm eager to see how he's grown! 

ATTACHMENT: All good things here! This month, he got pretty particular about only wanting Mommy to do certain things...that was kind of hard, but it's also totally normal toddler behavior. As I'm writing this, he's currently at his first preschool camp...his first separation for longer than an hour in a structured, school-like environment. Prayers! I'll let you know how he did later this week.

LANGUAGE: I'd definitely say this has been his biggest improvement again this month. He's trying to string words together which is super cute. He'll try to say "Bye bye Carter," "Night night Daddy," and things like that. It's not totally clear yet, but he's trying which is just about all I can hope for right now.
He's also gotten really into animal and vehicle sounds this month. He knows the sounds that cows, monkeys, snakes, dogs, cats, horses, ducks, and birds make, and he'll also say "beep beep" or "vroom" for cars and "chugga chugga choo choo" for trains. It's pretty adorable if I do say so myself. Also...I've never had a kid before that lined up cars. I've always seen other kids do it, but mine never have. Brooks LOVES to do this...and it's apparently exhausting. ;)

SLEEP: So, we finally weaned him off Melatonin this month which means the days of rocking him to sleep are gone. He has a very hard time winding down and shutting off at night, so we started a new ritual at night where we tuck in his stuffed animals ("woof woof" and "ah ah," his monkey and dog) with one of his blankets and then tuck him in with his blanket. We give everyone kisses and say "night night" and then I leave the room. 99.9% of the time he doesn't fuss and simply yells "night night" back to me once the door shuts and then he goes to sleep.
Part of me is so happy about this because it shows tremendous attachment growth and also shows that he feels safe, but I won't lie, I kind of miss the snuggles! Part of growing up, I know...but knowing he's probably our last baby, it's hard to let go!

FOOD: This continues to basically be his love language. No real change here other than he fell in love with whole milk yogurt pouches this month. Mom didn't fall in love with the price (over $1 per pouch...ouch!), but since we can't get more than a few sips of milk into him here and there, I know he needs the calcium and vitamin D, so we bite the bullet and pay it. 

HEALTH: No sickness this month, and we've cut our breathing treatments down to just once a day! WOO-freaking-HOO! He also got two thumbs up at his post-op check with the urologist, so that was great to hear! Healthy boy! 

Brooks is no longer "unaware" when the big kids get treats...and must have one of his own. SIGH. So, this month, he's had his first Blizzard, Slurpee, and ice cream sandwich.
Maybe that's why he's heavier? ;) 

This kid will NOT be left out of pictures. He will weasel his little tushy in the middle of the mix and "DEE!" (cheese) until the cows come home. He wants to be IN the mix...such a stinker! Also, he has NO IDEA how many "big brothers" he actually has. This kid is so doted on by all of our friends and their kids that I'm quite certain NO ONE will mess with him. He has been so incredibly accepted and loved by so truly takes a village, y'all. 

He has some mad love for the splash pad... 

and went to the zoo for the first time this month!

And got another haircut...why does he looks SO BIG?!! 

We love this little man something fierce...looking forward to all the next month will bring with his first trip to the lake, moving into our new house, and another week of camp! Happy Monday, friends! 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Post Adoption: 5 and 6 Months Home's been a while. ;) And it would appear I have missed quite a few updates on my dusty little blog here. EEEK.

I could write a litany of excuses as to why I haven't updated anything here in almost two months, but the truth is that life just gets crazy sometimes and the hobbies take a back seat. I know you all understand that! BUT, I'm no quitter, and I promised a monthly update from each month of Brooks's first year home, so let's play a little catch-up, shall we?

5 Months Home on 4/14 - EASTER! 

Let's call this the 5/6 Months Home Update...because truthfully, I'm not sure anymore what he did at five months home and what happened at six. #thirdkidproblems

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: So, this little ninja has grown quite a bit since coming home! At his 18-month check-up, he weighed in at just over 20 pounds (1st percentile) and was 30.25 inches tall (2nd percentile). His head was still the same and they marked that as the 5th percentile. He's small and mighty, but no one seems concerned because he is continuing to grow on his own tiny curve. A month after these measurements were taken, he went in for a little surgical procedure and weighed in at 21 pounds, so we'll take it! He continues to be a non-stop, all boy, Energizer bunny. His favorite word is GO, and that totally personifies him. He loves to climb, jump, slide, and hang on the monkey bars. We're fairly certain he will one day excel at gymnastics. 

ATTACHMENT: He continues to do so well in this department. No tears at drop-off at church for several weeks in a row now. He has gotten a little more particular about who he lets hold him and always looks to me for approval before allowing one of my friends or a family member to interact with him which is totally appropriate and a GOOD thing. I really couldn't be any more grateful for how well his attachment has gone. He continues to prefer me for comfort and Daddy for play time...just like my other two did at this age! 

LANGUAGE: So, this has been a HUGE season of development here. He attempts to say 50-100 words now (all in English...his Mandarin is long gone) and has begun to try putting words together. He'll sing song lyrics ("Row row row ba boat") and understands generally everything we say. He follows commands, "talks" with his siblings, and has a very clear NO. (His favorite word...oy.) It's really been shocking to me just how far he's come in just six months of hearing English. He's a little sponge and it's such a gift to see him learn! 

SLEEP: We had a few rough nights over the last few months, primarily due to travel and some fear/anxiety over seeing us start packing to move later this summer, but I generally can't complain. He fought a few naps here and there, but he really has done so well here. 

FOOD: No huge changes here, but he did discover a few new favorites the last few months. Lately, he's become a BIG fan of ice cream, clementines, Cheerios with milk, donuts, and he FINALLY accepted chicken nuggets. (Is it sad that I'm secretly thrilled about this? If you're going to survive in this family, you've gotta eat nuggets. Sorry not sorry.) He continues to love all noodles, soups, eggs, blueberries, fruit snacks, yogurt, grapes, rice, quesadillas, and queso. The only things I really can't get him to eat are ground meats and watermelon. :) 

HEALTH: Alllllllll the praise hands here - we seem to FINALLY have his asthma under control! We have not needed Albuterol in over two months, and we go back to the doctor this month to discuss weaning him off the steroids. I think the increasing heat has killed off some of his allergy triggers, and the steroids helped him through that rough patch. Also, knock on wood, we haven't dealt with any sickness since late March. Praise the LORD! 

RANDOM FACTS: Brooks celebrated his first Easter since last update! 

He also enjoyed celebrating Carter's birthday...

and loved our first family trip as a family of five! 

He is LOVING all the pool days...

and went to the splash pad for the first time! 

I know all parents think their children are the greatest, but you guys, everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, who meets this precious little guy remarks on how special he is. I was sitting at a girls' night dinner last night, and one sweet friend said to me, "I just feel like he's going to be something really special." At the risk of sounding all gushy, I couldn't agree more! Brooks is truly a GIFT to us, and when I think of all the times during the adoption process that we felt like throwing in the towel, I just about lose it. We could've missed this...and I'm SO GLAD we didn't let fear stop us from saying YES to this precious one. What an awesome God we serve. 
Monday, April 10, 2017

Bluebonnets 2017

We introduced Brooks to a Texas tradition earlier this month...bluebonnets! Thanks for the amazing photos, Kristin Michael Photography! 

(You'd never know this kid had a raging double ear infection as these were taken...)

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