Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Post Adoption: 4 Months

[Y' lie...I wrote this two weeks ago and forgot to publish it! Better late than never, right?]

Four months! What in the actual world, y'all? How have we had this precious boy for four months already?! If you haven't yet seen our video of our trip to China, you can see that HERE.

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: Brooks has two speeds - ON and asleep. He's 90 to nothin' and it's just the best. Okay, maybe not the best when he's running and screaming through Kroger, but MOST of the time, his energy is just contagious and I can't get enough. Brooks is a running, climbing, jumping machine...and just totally all boy.

He loves to push things around, throw things, and dump out anything he can. Total toddler terrorist. His fine motor skills are also improving. He eats 90% of his food with a fork, loves to put anything he possibly can together, and has even started problem solving at times when he can't figure something out. He is a determined little boy, and I can't wait to see how that energy gets channeled as he grows up! No updated measurements, but we go to the doctor for his 18-month check next week, and I'm anticipating quite a jump in both height and weight. We'll see!

ATTACHMENT: We are so thankful that we really have no issues in this department. Brooks continues to prefer Mama, but he gets SO excited when "Dada" comes home from work and will go running to him screaming "DADA!" at the top of his lungs. Blake has been doing his nightly bedtime this month, and this has really strengthened their bond. We were told that at church yesterday morning, Brooks played very happily with the other kids during service which we were thrilled about! Up until now, he basically tolerated church and primarily wanted to be held, so that was great to hear! We love seeing his confidence and security growing in his family. He loves his siblings, too!

LANGUAGE: This area has been the biggest growth this month by far. Last month, he had a handful of words, and over the last four weeks, he has absolutely taken off with talking. I have a list going on my phone, and at last count, Brooks at least attempted to use about 20 words! His most common words are Mama, Dada, Carter, bye-bye (his best word), hi, more, all done ("ah da"), night-night, "woof woof" (what he calls dogs), diaper, bubble, uh oh, snack ("nack nack"), Kate Kate (sounds like "day day"), poo poo, boo boo, and he attempts to sing "Row Row Row Your Boat." It's the cutest thing! Now that he's grasping the language more, he's really into books and loves to have mama, daddy, or Carter read to him.

SLEEP: We had a few bad naps this month, but otherwise, sleep continues to be his best skill. Typically, he naps from 11:30/12 until about 2 and sleeps from 7 at night until 7:30/8 the next morning. He falls asleep in the car every once in a while, but it's not a huge deal - he transfers well, so it's all good! No night wakings in a LONG time - hallelujah!

FOOD: Still no issues here, but a few new favorites were discovered this month! Chicken noodle soup became a big fave, as did greek yogurt, corn dogs, fruit snacks (womp womp), french fries, ketchup, and tacos. He's a solid American, y'all. 

HEALTH: We have been battling some hardcore allergies over here, and his nebulizer treatments have been increased to help support his struggling little lungs. We know do TWO steroid treatments daily, and use Albuterol as needed. In addition, he's now on a daily allergy medication, and we are just praying that the summer heat kicks in quickly so all this pollen and cedarwood gets burned up. If we spend much time outside or if it's especially windy, this poor buddy's breathing just goes nutty. It's been kind of a pain and scary at times, but what a gift and privilege it is to have him HOME with easy access to wonderful doctors and a mama's lap to sit in while he does his treatments. I sometimes wonder how all of this would've been handled had it been going on in China.

Brooks got his first haircut on February 26th! It was mostly just a trim because his sideburns were going crazy, but I feel like it just made him look so OLD! (No pictures from in the salon because he would only let her cut it in my wasn't pretty...)

Brooks has a mild obsession with slides. Now that he can climb up and down small ladders, he literally goes up and down, up and down, up and down, the whole time we are at a playground. He claps when he gets to the bottom, too. It's the sweetest.

Shocking no one, this big cousin of ours is quickly becoming a favorite of his...just like the other two! He loves him some Kensi, and we LOVE having her around to help!

Brooks has been doing My Gym classes for a couple of months now, and he absolutely adores it. I love seeing him start to interact with his "friends," and I think it's played a huge part in his development. Clearly, he loved Bubble day! 

Oh, these two. So much love. So much jealousy. So many ups and downs. They can be doing this one minute, and the next, they're hitting each other because they both want on my lap. It's exhausting but adorable all at the same time. I jokingly call them frenemies...but I think it's pretty accurate.

That about sums up month four with our little one! We can't imagine life without him and are so thankful that God completed our family with just the most amazing son. We are so lucky he's ours!
Monday, March 20, 2017

What Breaks YOUR Heart? Thoughts on Brooks's Dedication Weekend

Last night, we dedicated our sweet Brooks to the Lord in front of our church and family. It was such a full circle moment because God first planted that adoption seed in our hearts in that same room, from that stage over two years ago when a message from our pastor, John McKinzie, asked us two very simple questions: 
1. What breaks your heart? 
2. What are you willing to do about it? 

That day began a journey for us that has been up, down, and everything in between, but Blake and I wouldn't change it for the world. This little boy is a huge blessing, and we pray that the Lord uses his life to do big, mighty things in this world. He has already opened the hearts of so many, and we are beyond grateful that out of everyone in the whole world, God chose US to be his parents.

As I was showering last night, I began thinking about the power of those questions, and I wondered how the world might look a little different if we reflected on those more often. I think that two years later, my answers to those questions have changed a little. Before our trip to China, my heart was broken by the IDEA of kids without parents and kids without permanent homes, but my knowledge of the orphan crisis has evolved since then. 

Since I first answered those questions in January 2015, I've walked the cold and sterile halls of an orphanage. I've looked little ones in the face who have no one to call mama or daddy. I've held the hand of a little girl who will likely spend her entire childhood looking at the same four walls of that sterile building.

And now that I've seen it with my own two eyes, I'm responsible

I can't wake up everyday with the same naivete I had two years ago. It's one thing to KNOW that the orphan crisis's another thing to stand in the trenches of it. David Platt once said, "Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. Once you do, everything changes." I would add that orphans are easier to ignore before you've held their hands. Before you've looked in their eyes. Before you've felt the plywood boards they spent their first year lying on 22 hours a day.  

And, of course, orphans are easier to ignore before you've taken one in as your own. 

I'm not sure how I'd answer that second question today. At this point, another adoption is not in our plans, but that doesn't mean I can't be involved in the adoption/foster care world. I can advocate. I can write. I can speak. I can support adoption fundraisers. I can buy from fair-trade companies and small businesses that support families. 

But what I can't do? I can't stay quiet about the orphan crisis and I won't stop advocating for adoption and family preservation. I can't undo the last two plus years and the journey we've walked, and I don't want to. God didn't put us on this path simply to bring Brooks home. I firmly believe that God put us on this path for the rest of them. The ones left behind. God gave me this space and this voice and this journey so that hearts might be opened to answering those questions for themselves...and then ACTING ON IT. 

Whether it's orphans or those in poverty or the homeless...whatever breaks YOUR heart, DO SOMETHING.

It would've been easy for Blake and I to simply say that it's heart-breaking that so many kids don't have families and that it's sad that some kids grow up without the stability of a forever home. It would've been easy to stop there and admit that it's terribly unfair. But we can't just stop there if we want things to change. It's the answer to that second question that really matters. 

So, I'll end by asking you...what breaks your heart?

And, even more importantly, what are YOU willing to do about it?
Monday, March 13, 2017

On Taking a Phone Sabbath

CONFESSION: I am 150% addicted to my iPhone.
(Aren't we all?) 

I've been noticing, though, that lately, my phone addiction has taken a stronghold over me. It's the first thing I reach for when I get up in the morning, and it's the last thing I look at before I go to bed. It's really become a little sad, truthfully, just how ONE I've become with the damn thing. 

Last night, I was reading a chapter in Jennie Allen's new book, Nothing to Prove, and the chapter was on fulfillment. She was using the analogy of the water-to-wine miracle Jesus performed with regards to settling in our own lives for fulfillment in things like social media, food, or Netflix instead of finding our true fulfillment in Jesus. 

As I was reading the chapter, I just kept thinking about my dang phone addiction. Every spare moment I have, I'm scrolling something. It's embarrassing to admit, really, so when I got to the end of the chapter and she encouraged a "fast" from whatever it was we were settling for, I knew exactly what I was going to put down. I don't find it to be coincidence that our church has been doing a series on finding margin in our lives and that today's focus was time. When I consider the amount of wasted time I spend on that little thing, it's no wonder I don't get anything done in a day. 

So, this morning, as I was waking up, my sweet husband threw me my phone as he always does, but I told him to keep it turned off because I was taking a break today. It literally sat, untouched, on my night stand until almost 1pm this afternoon. 

The first hour was the hardest. It's just my natural inclination to want to play catch-up on all the things I missed overnight, but I held my ground. It was amazing how much less stressful it was to get out the door when I was fully present and actually getting ready for church instead of scrolling Instagram. If Blake is driving us somewhere, I normally send text messages or check email, but today, I actually talked to my kids. It sounds so silly to type it out like that, but this was a change for me...and a healthy one.

After lunch, Blake encouraged me to just simply hit the home screen button to check and be sure I hadn't missed any important calls or texts, so I did. There was a play date invitation that I did need to respond to, but otherwise, I stayed completely off my phone for the remainder of the day.

Y'all...I kid you not...I was a better person today.

Here are a few things I noticed about myself today being phone-free:

-I was calmer. Even Blake noticed a change in my demeanor. I was pleasant, I was calm, and I didn't snap at anyone.

-I didn't bite my nails. I had no idea that this nasty habit of mine went hand in hand with scrolling social media. It was amazing to me that I didn't find myself biting because I wasn't zoned out...which brings me to number three..

-I was PRESENT with my kids. We talked in the car, we talked at meals, and we played together. They didn't annoy me as much today because I engaged with them more. We made an obstacle course, we talked about their church class, and we looked each other in the eye more.

-I was SO PRODUCTIVE. We cleaned out kids' closets, we cleaned out my desk, we boxed up some old toys, and we put away three loads of laundry.

-My hands didn't hurt. Usually, by the end of the day, my thumbs and forefingers hurt. I figured I was just getting old and maybe Carpal Tunnel or something...but I'm pretty sure it's my phone.

-I was a better wife today. Blake and I talked in the car, we laughed together, and I didn't spend the entire evening zoned out at a screen. Instead, we watched a show together, ate cheesecake (always a good decision), and talked about some goals.

-I didn't get a headache. This one could totally be a fluke...or not. I'm not sure, honestly. But I didn't get a headache today like I do several days a week.

  -I prayed more. I found myself talking to God when I would normally be numbing out to social media. I chose connection over comparison.

Today was AMAZING, you guys.

Here's my sad conclusion after 24 hours phone-free. Social media, at least for me, has become an idol. It makes me less present, less content, and less involved in my actual life when I'm constantly scrolling through the highlight reel of someone else's. It takes time away from God, my family, and my daily responsibilities. 

So, can I give it up entirely? No. 
The truth of the matter is that I use social media several times a week for my Noonday business and to share our adoption story. Social media has introduced me to dear friends, encouraged people who are on the adoption journey, and kept me connected to family members. There are lots of positives that come from social media, and when used appropriately, social media is an amazing thing.

But, here's my hang-up: for me, and I know many others, social media and the phone has taken over our identities. It's the first place we turn when we need to vent. When given two minutes in a waiting room, we find ourselves scrolling something. We've become so conditioned to this addiction that we can't even hit a stoplight without picking up the damn thing. So, I've decided I need to set up some boundaries for myself.

Moving forward with 2017, here is what I am going to try to do to keep this idol at bay:
1) Jesus before Instagram: Until I've had some quiet time with the Lord in the morning, the phone stays on the charger. Period. If the kids come down as I'm finishing up my devotional, oh well. The phone can wait because the day has begun. 

2) No phone after 9PM: For the last hour or so of my day, it's off. This will be time to wind down, relax, and be with my husband.

3) Social Media Sabbath on Sunday: Moving forward, I'm unplugging from social media on Sundays. I can't say I'll unplug from my phone altogether because that's just not responsible with three kids, but on Sundays, Facebook and IG are staying closed. Period. No falling down the rabbit hole.

If you've never tried a social media and/or phone Sabbath, I'd highly encourage it! If you have, tell me about it in the comments! I'd love to hear how it goes for y'all!

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