Tuesday, January 31, 2017

He's Just a Little Boy...

As I was leaving preschool this morning after dropping off my oldest two kids, I went to put Brooks back in his car seat, and he planked. If you've ever parented a toddler, you know exactly what I mean by this. He arched his back, held on to the head rest, and made himself stiff as a board when it was time to buckle him in his car seat. Carter did it, Kate did it, and now Brooks was doing it. He laughed at my attempts to get him to fold in the middle so I could buckle him. I finally had to pull out the big guns...the belly tickles...to force him to sit down, just as I had done to his older siblings. It such a typical toddler mom moment, and as we drove out of the parking lot, I wished so desperately that I could rewind time back to the fall.

As we were waiting to bring Brooks home, I had SO MANY sleepless nights. I had so many questions and concerns and there were just a plethora of unknowns. My anxiety was as high as it had been in years. I wondered how this little boy would take to us. I wondered how healthy (or not) he would be. Everyone who had gone before us in the China adoption program had told us to "expect the unexpected," so I wondered what "surprises" would come our way that we would have to navigate. And maybe you're in that place today.

If you're considering adoption or growing your family in some way, but you're worried about the unknown, here is what I know to be true...

These kids are JUST KIDS.

Don't be afraid of them.

I spent so much time being scared about how Brooks would change our family and doubting my ability to parent him because we didn't share biology. And can I just tell you...I could've saved myself so much worry had I remembered that he's just a little boy.

He dumps out his Cheerios onto the floor just like Kate did.
He loves to be chased by Mommy and Daddy just like Carter did.
He finds light sabers and race cars fascinating just like every other little boy on the planet.
He laughs when we tickle him, and he fights naptime with the best of them.

As I drove out of the preschool parking lot that day, I found myself looking at this little boy who was JUST. SO. NORMAL. and realizing that somewhere over the last several weeks, I forgot that this little boy had an entire life before us. He was born to one mother, raised for 13 months by a second, but we're his forever family. Third time's the charm right? He is just ours. No biology needed.

And DEFINITELY, no need to fear.

Pictures by: Kristin Michael Photography 

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Noondayversary: Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead

One year ago this week, after much prayer and counsel, I fought back huge insecurities and doubts about myself and my abilities and signed up to become an Independent Ambassador for the Noonday Collection.

My thought process was pretty simple: I felt God calling me to do more for the vulnerable around me. There were so many amazing organizations I researched that I could get involved with - groups that helped people rise out of poverty, groups that helped women escape sex trafficking, and groups that were working hard to make a dent in the orphan crisis. I had this incredible drive to connect to the world around me, but with young children at home (and an adoption in process!), I knew this wasn't the time for me to be going on far away mission trips or making big financial commitments. Truthfully, I had a HUGE amount of money due to an adoption agency, and I needed to bring IN an income to help with that.

Enter Noonday.
As a Noonday Collection Ambassador, I am contributing to ALL THOSE AREAS.  

By advocating for our artisan partners and giving them a marketplace here, we are helping a mom feed her children who may not otherwise be able. In Uganda alone, our partner group, African Style, is employing over 400 people who might not otherwise have steady income. Mothers are bringing their children home from orphanages because they now have the means to feed them. One of our partner groups in Ethiopia (run by an incredible woman named Cherry) is helping women escape prostitution and sex trafficking by taking them under wing, counseling them, and giving them a dignified, meaningful way to bring in an income. And in India, one of the most patriarchal cultures on the planet, our partners are teaching women that their worth and value cannot be defined by a man.

Over the past year, I have (clearly) fallen head over heels with this company and the change WE are creating for our partners, but what I didn't anticipate was the change I saw in myself. My job as an Ambassador has never been about ME - it was about THEM, our artisan partners, and it was about a baby boy in China who needed a family to love him. Along the way, though, I started to feel a shift in myself. I felt empowered by my business, and I felt a confidence that I hadn't felt in a very, very long time. Noonday has given me a purpose in this season where I'm mostly just known as somebody's mom. When I go to a trunk show and help a customer pick out just the right gift for her mom or I get to see the excitement in somebody's eyes who hears our story for the first time, there's fulfillment there. For those few hours, I'm not just somebody's mom...I'm making an impact and part of something that's so much bigger than me.

  And the Ambassador community...I mean, don't even get me started. I could write a novel about the incredible community I've found in my team and Ambassador sisters. These women are some of the most life-giving, encouraging, and loyal people on this planet, and I'm so blessed to be among them.

So, now that I've looked back...I want to look forward. And it's with shaking hands and an anxious heart, I want to share with you my 2017 goal for my Noonday Collection business...


There, I said it out loud. (I'm now wiping sweat off my forehead.) They say that goals that aren't shared are rarely met, so I'm putting this one out there for accountability. I want to meet our artisan partners next year. I want to look them in the eyes and hug them and thank them for all they've done to change my life. I want to thank them for playing a role in bringing Brooks home. I want to tell them how much their work matters to our family. 

But I'm not going to get there alone...because here's the really scary part...

I have to have $30,000 in sales this year to qualify. 

Eeeeeek! I know, that sounds like a crazy big amount...and it is...last year, I had just shy of $16,000 in sales and held 16 trunk shows. So, obviously, if you do the math, I need to almost double that and hold at least 25-30 trunk shows this year if I'm going to get there. That's a big jump from 16...

I need your help! So many of you guys have hosted and purchased from me, and for that, I am SO very grateful. Now, I need you to share the Noonday love with your friends! Here's how you can participate with the incredible work Noonday is doing...

1) Shop with me! When a birthday rolls around or you need a great necklace for that special night out or it's time for teacher gifts, think Noonday first! You can shop 24/7 at my site HERE. (Also, the sale section right now is INSANE...worth a look!) 

2) Host a show! It's so amazingly easy to gather your friends for a play date or girls' night. Grab some coffee or a bottle of wine, invite your friends over, and let's hang out while changing the world together! The rewards are amazing, the fellowship is just fun, and it's a purchase you can feel 100% good about making. The spring line debuts in just over three weeks, and it's truly breathtaking, y'all. To entice you even further, Home Office has added some amazing benefits for anyone hosting during the the first two weeks of the spring season. For more information on hosting a show, click HERE. Know an adopting family? Let's bless them with a fundraiser! Not local? I'm happy to take a road trip or hop on Facebook Live with you! Shoot me an email and let's figure something out! 
(ALSO: Past hostesses...sign up to host another show with me this year, and I'll tack on an additional $25 in product credit to your rewards as a THANK YOU for partnering with me again!)

3) Share the Noonday love on social media! When you order a piece that you just love, tell your friends! Share my site with them and tell them how your purchase is making a huge dent in some big global issues. Just like you'd share a great new movie you'd seen or restaurant you'd tried, share your world-changing purchases online! People LOVE a good recommendation! 

So, that's my heart today. I'm looking back at the year behind me in my business with gratitude and looking at the year ahead of me with hope and big dreams. I would love for you to join me on this journey and continue to be thankful for my amazing customers every day! XO! 
Thursday, January 12, 2017

Post-Adoption: 2 Months

Two months ago, we met and became parents to the most amazing little boy in a musty conference room in Hangzhou, China. I still pinch myself sometimes when I realize just how lucky I am to be called his mama! 

If you haven't yet seen our video of our trip to China and homecoming, click HERE.

So, here's what we've been up to in month two!

LANGUAGE: Brooks has added a few new words to his vocabulary this month! He has now mastered "bye-bye" with a wave and a smile, and "hello," although it truthfully sounds more like "hola." ;) One of our favorite things that he does right now is pick up just about any toy, put it up to his ear or mouth, and say "hola." It's the cutest thing! He has also started saying "lala" when you say "love you" to him. He will imitate most things we say, and babbles ALL THE TIME. I also think he is understanding us more now. I can ask him to go get the ball or put the cracker in the trash or come here, and he'll pretty much do it. It's remarkable to watch his little brain at work - he's an absolute sponge! 

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: Since his first well-check, Brooks has gained just over a pound and grown half an inch! It's not much, but we'll take it! His head stayed the same, but that's okay...the measurements were only taken six weeks apart after all. He learned how to climb this month (see above) and thinks that's pretty cool...Mom disagrees. ;) He also became a FAST walker, and he likes to hold my hand and drag me everywhere. We've also noticed a huge leap in his interactions with his siblings. He'll play peekaboo, roll the ball with them, or try to feed them his snacks. He has also figured out how to go up stairs, but reaches for a hand to help him come back down. The other thing he discovered this month were riding toys...he's a big fan!
Clear the roads, people!

This is his "don't you dare make me get off this motorcycle, lady" look. :) 

ATTACHMENT: Brooks is VERY, VERY attached to me, and I have the sore arms and back problems to prove it. ;) He still very willingly and happily goes to Blake, but since he's with me 24/7, he's become a mama's boy. He has shown a lot more stranger danger this month, and he no longer willingly goes to just anybody. He has even become a little stingy with his high fives, but that's totally okay and age-appropriate. These are all things we SHOULD be seeing that indicate he's forming a very healthy attachment, so we are thrilled with how that is all going. It was very interesting to us the other day that when Kate was playing the orphanage video on my phone of him where he is held by his second "mama," he didn't get upset by it or really even seem to care. His ears perked up, but he didn't want to watch it and wasn't mad after. I'm truthfully not sure whether or not he even remembers it anymore, but we continue to tell him his story and show him pictures. It's all just part of the process. 

SLEEPING: He continues to sleep VERY well at night in his crib, but with his bronchitis this month, naps were hard. We are very much in the "one nap vs. two nap" limbo that is so typical of this age group, so we just go with the flow and try to nap when we can. Ideally, he'll nap from about 11:30-1:30 every day, but some days he can't make it to 11:30, and that's okay. It's hard to be one. 

FOOD: HUGE progress in this department this month! We are losing the scarcity mentality! It's become very obvious to us this month that Brooks no longer feels insecure about food, and he's beginning to trust that we will always feed him. He has started to become pickier about what he eats and will actually turn his head or say "no" to certain foods. It sounds totally counter-intuitive to say that's a positive thing as a parent, but we see it as a success because he understands there's MORE. In China, he ate every bite of everything we ever offered, primarily because he thought if he didn't, he'd starve. He doesn't think that anymore from what we can tell. He will even go so far as to feed us some of his food - a huge sign of attachment and food security. He continues to love dumplings, rice, grapes, yogurt, oranges, anything out of a pouch, noodles, and french fries. We have to work hard to get him to eat meat, and he's decided he doesn't love milk, but we still try with both everyday. 

  HEALTH:  The biggest hurdle we faced this month with Brooks was bronchiolitis that developed into an ear infection. He had to be put on a nebulizer and needed breathing treatments for nearly two weeks to clear it up. Not fun at all. We aren't certain yet whether or not this is an indication that he'll have asthma down the road or if his lungs are just a little weaker because he was premature. Time will tell, but for now, we are getting a crash course in pulmonology and doing the best we can. I've been very overwhelmed at times by all of it, especially because breathing is such a scary and somewhat life-threatening issue, but I've been reassured by lots of experienced moms that it gets easier as they get older and that it can be outgrown. Fingers crossed! His eczema also totally cleared up this month, so that was amazing! No more steroids!
Doctor visits...no fun!

RANDOM FACTS: This month, Brooks celebrated his first Christmas at home! He was a little bit overwhelmed by all of the fuss, and he struggled some with all of the guests that came over, but he loved his new toys and chair and we loved having him home for it!

This kid is NON-STOP and wants to be in the mix! We learned this month that he loves trampolines and bounce houses, and he will jump on anything!

His happy place is outside...as long as the sun is not in his eyes. He does NOT appreciate that. 

He is a HAM and loves to be the center of attention. It was next to impossible to keep him off the preschool stage during his siblings' performance.

He is FULLY ONE...destructive, funny, and HIGH-MAINTENANCE!

Other than mama and daddy, his two favorite people in the world are, hands down, his siblings.

Brooks saw his first snow this month! He was...less than impressed. Haha. 

And finally...we got his Certificate of Citizenship in the mail this week! Eeeek! He's officially Brooks Andrew Ezell, American citizen, in the eyes of our US government. So exciting! Now we get to go get him a Social Security card...womp womp...

Thanks for continuing to follow his journey! Have a great week, friends! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My 2017 Word

This week at church, one of our pastors challenged us to choose a word as your goal/motto for the year ahead in lieu of making resolutions. Since I really didn't have many resolutions in mind other than continuing in my quest to get up before the kids each day (we are 1 for 3 so far in 2017 for those wondering...mornings are hard...), I loved this idea!

So, my word for 2017 is INTENTION. 

Much of 2016 was about surrendering and allowing God to lead our path as we faced a lot of uncertainty with our adoption process. We didn't know when we'd be matched, when we'd travel, or how our new son would transition into our family. It was basically a year of being in limbo. It was a sweet year in a lot of ways because I learned to trust in the Lord's timing and provision, and I had to let go of my white-knuckled grip on control. That was SO good for a control freak like me, and I'm very grateful that I was able to grow in that way last year. But if I'm being honest, it was also a little bit like being a fish out of water. I felt like I was flailing a lot in 2016, and I was swimming upstream most days. I didn't wake up with a lot of purpose, I was not intentional about my relationships, and that part of 2016 didn't always feel good.  

If I'm going to be truly transparent here, there are still days where we are floundering. Just last week, Brooks was diagnosed with bronchiolitis, and I am now the proud owner of a nebulizer that gets used multiple times a day on a screaming/wheezing baby. (Jealous, yet?) We are still finding our footing as a family of five, and setting a goal isn't going to change that.

With that said, I want 2017 to be a year where I approach my days with INTENTION rather than merely REACTING to what I'm thrown. Confession? There are a lot of days where I like to play the victim card. Occasionally (or not occasionally), I like to complain about all the things that "happened to me" during a day over my glass of wine or six and talk about how hard things are to whatever available ear is around. Don't get me wrong - there's a place for healthy venting - but approaching my life as if it's happening TO ME, rather than FOR ME, isn't healthy. So this year, I'm going to consider what I want to accomplish in various areas of my life, and then I'm going to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Maybe not every day, but MOST DAYS, I want to wake up and approach my day knowing that my life isn't happening by accident - it has purpose and meaning, and even if I'm just cleaning up Cheerios for the 852nd time that day, it matters. It all matters because of the intention behind it. 

So, that's my word for 2017 - intention. If you could choose one word for your upcoming year, what would it be??? I'd love to hear! 
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