Monday, October 22, 2012

my life exploded

There are no words. Well, I guess the best description would be to say that my life has recently exploded.

We've been hit hard- sickness, finances, car problems, sickness, acting out behaviors, sickness, planning event after event, stress, stress, stress. I don't even want to write down what it's been like at our house since August. I probably should though because we may go down in history as THAT family that exploded from stress.

We felt like this sometimes.

The good news is that about a week ago I found my joy again. My eyes turned upward and God rescued my sad, self-pitying heart. He changed me. again.

I began to breathe deep and find things to enjoy. I did some things for myself. I did things for other people. I ate ice cream. alot. I went on a date with my husband. Yes, one date in the past few months. I prayed more, cried less, and gained a vision for our family that I had lost sight of.

God wouldn't build our family this way and then leave us. God wouldn't have me quit my job to stay home with my girls and then just leave us. He wouldn't drop us off in the middle of this crazy life and then high tail it out of here.

He wouldn't do that and he didn't.

He has definitely made me wait for things, which if you know me in real life that is the worst possible thing He could have me do. He has given me ample opportunities to trust Him. He has allowed me to parent my girls the way I thought was best and then gave me grace when I made mistakes.

I don't want to walk these past few months again.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

so many things happening

I feel like I can't even begin to describe the craziness that has been going on around here. Highlights:
Baby turned one.
We had a party.
Baby and husband have been sick.
Big girl got ear surgery today.
Baby is switching from bottles to milk.

There are so many more things that have been going on in the midst of these family milestones and important events. Needless to say my house is a disaster. Laundry is taking over. I'm tired.

I wish I had it in me to post about sweet Lucy's party or Emily's ear surgery. I don't though.

Maybe tomorrow....   that's what I keep saying.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

the two step

Today my sweet, first baby took two steps. We learned yesterday that she could stand in the middle of the room with no furniture within her reach. She liked that we all thought it was so funny and exciting. Today she stepped twice before reaching for the ground. My heart swells with pride, excitement, love. Then it sinks. My baby girl turns one this week. I don't understand how time has escaped me.

We've had our biggest year yet and it astounds me that it is coming to an end so quickly. I have spent each phase of trying to soak in the greatness of who Lucy is at that moment. I remember celebrating the little moments of new things she could do along the way and thinking how happy I was for her to be just who she is right this second. I didn't really look too far ahead to the next milestones. I wasn't ready for her to eat solids at 4 months. We waited until almost 7. I wasn't ready for her to crawl. In fact, I may have pulled her legs out from under her more than once to soak in another moment of my non-mobile baby. I wasn't ready for her to begin climbing on chairs and jumping up and down on them, or to climb on top of our coffee table and play with her toys up there. I was always really happy she was learning and growing, but I was never really antsy for the next thing to happen. Well, here she goes. She is learning to walk. Welcome toddler-hood. I am so not ready for you.

This month Lucy turns one and Emily turns seven. Two birthdays this month and they are the first ones both girls will be celebrating with us. (Actually we got to go to Emily's birthday party last year right after Lucy was born, but first as her parents.) We have big birthday plans this month.

I think someone needs to show me how to put one of these contraptions on one of the little humans. Maybe someone needs to show her how to lie still and not flip over furiously and crawl away screaming while I attempt to cover her hind parts. Also, someone needs to come to my house and paint my awful baseboards. I'll pay you in food and let you play with my children. Just think about it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Meet Emily Howell

Here she is. She is such a beautiful, wonderful daughter and I am so blessed she's mine. forever. She has a new name and what I hope to be a newfound stability in her life. 
We went to court last week to finalize our adoption. We were thankful people we love came to celebrate. A few went to the courthouse and most went to our house for Emily's cupcake party she's been planning since March.

We had one our hardest weeks leading up to our court date in regards to behavior and discipline. She was definitely stressed about this transition. I know she loves us and loves being here, but she was hopeful she'd get to live with her old family once again. So she pushed the limits this week. Maybe she was wondering if she'd drive us crazy enough if we wouldn't adopt her forever. Maybe we wouldn't want to be her parents anymore. It breaks my heart to think about what she was going through. Sorry, sweet daughter, you will never get rid of us. We will never go away. Start accepting that now.

I often joke with Emily about how I love her too much and will never allow her to move out of the house. She will have to get married and live in her bedroom with her new husband. If they have babies, the baby will have to live in her bedroom with them. We recently decided that she could move in next door instead of having to live in our house. That way she'd have extra room for her children. It sounds silly but it's also hard to explain forever. I will always be your mom. Even when you are grown, it's me. You will always come home to us for money and safety and advice. I want her to know that.

 Her adoption day was very different than Lucy's. Emily was nervous. The judge talked to her and she had to answer. Her nerves were evident as she sat next to me. She would fidget and put her head on the table in front of her. As the judge was talking I began to cry. I cried because I know my sweet girl was suffering a loss. I cried because I gained my daughter forever. I cried because the week before was so hard for everyone in this house and I was just tired and felt like I wasn't sure what to do. I cried because I was so full of joy that God would bless me to be this girl's mother.

When it was over I stood and hugged her. She said, "It's ok, mama!" She was worried about me crying. Sweet, sweet girl. 

We have had wonderful days since the finalization. She has been calm and grounded. We have been praying security for her and God has answered that prayer every day. We even got to visit with her birth family yesterday and she was fine after seeing them. She was happy to see them and enjoyed spending time showing off her school skills she's been working hard on. She wasn't sad, just happy she got to see them.

I'm pretty sure Lucy said, "sissy" for the first time yesterday as she looked at her sister. Sweet ending to a sweet week. God is so good!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


School has been....

good, hard, a source of anxiety, a Godsend, tiring, an escape, fill in the blank. 

Emily has come home every day since it started last week and said that it was great. The first 3 days we heard nothing but wonderful stories and had our little girl bursting with excitement about telling us each event she could recall. It wasn't until last Wednesday night that she told us she had been crying at school each day. My heart broke. It cried for my hurting daughter and rejoiced because she was crying for us. She longed to be home. with us. 

This is a milestone to celebrate. She has been living with us since March and there were periods of her feeling like a visitor. She's refer to things in the house as "daddy's" or "mommy's" but not really "ours" where it includes her. The car was always "mommy's" and not just our car. I'd often remind her that what is ours is hers. When we say "ours" it means all of ours. She now appropriately rifles through drawers, cupboards, and the like. It feels good to see her explore our space. 

With those feelings of being a visitor, she strongly held onto her birth family. She'd talk about them a lot and ask a lot questions. She would tell us she would like to go live with them. She'd never be rude about it, but she was grieving and hoping. With our court date approaching next week and the many conversations that she is here forever and will never go back to the places she's known best, I think she's getting it. She's always known, but she'd held out hope. 

School has been an avenue to have new experiences and, therefore, more conversations about things that go on inside her head about her life. It has been another transition for all of us. I keep wondering when our lives will stay in one place for long enough to breath. Transitions can be great, but a moment of rest is what I truly desire. 

School has been great for Emily, but hard at the same time. She is at another school. This girl went to way too many schools last year alone. She has no idea what it feels like to be settled and to make lasting friendships with peers from school. She doesn't really know what it's like to be with one teacher for the whole school year. These things feel exciting and yet scary too. 

When she told us about her crying at school we were able to process some of these things with her. We were able to tell her that she's here for the long haul. She'd go to her school for years with a lot of the same people. She was able to tell us that she was scared she would have to leave. Broken heart again. I hate that my little girl is going through these emotions and we don't even know about it most of the time. I just keep reminding myself it's just a transition and she will settle into school and all will be well in the world. Then will move onto that next transition that is waiting around the corner for us. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

back to school

This year is the first year that I am not the one going back to school. It has been a bittersweet transition saying goodbye to teaching for now. We finished the summer by taking the girls to see Ice Age 8 and drove past my old school on the way home. I found myself feeling really glad that I wasn't at work that day, but really sad that I wasn't there too. I guess that's a good sign. I know that teaching was and is something that suits me. Good luck to all my CV teacher friends. I hope they have a wonderful year!

Today marks Emily's first day of first grade. Now we know she's on her way! (If you have taught 1st grade with me then you will read that to the right rhythm and think about your day today.) No, really. Emily is a first grader. She has been so ready for today. She has talked about it all summer long. She was anticipating and stressing over going to a new school and starting over AGAIN! She had a really good attitude about it though and I'm so proud of her willingness to go with the flow and start new.

Here is her cheesy, back to school, first day photo. These pics aren't great. We were getting ready to walk and we were a few minutes behind schedule. Oh well.

She has known for weeks now that she would wear this dress on her first day of school. It was part of her back to school clothes we got recently. We just ordered some things and had them come right to my front door. Sanity... who cares if it's a bit big, she'll grow. She likes this dress, but the thing that really made it stand out from all the other things she got was the presentation. I told her that daddy picked this out for her. She was done. She needed to hear no more. She is in love with this dress.

If you want to know the real story. I showed him two dresses and said, "pick one." Then he pointed and then I purchased. Her view of his involvement in the dress is somewhat skewed. That's ok, he can take all the credit. I flashed back a little bit to the donut moment where somehow he stole my thunder. She adores him.

Even though she was so excited about school her nerves definitely hit when we got to the door. Cam said she started squeezing his hand tightly as we walked up. I noticed her nerves when I was kissing her goodbye as she was in her seat. I whispered, "Are you ok? Are you nervous?" She whispered a very big, "Yes." I kissed her and didn't want to leave her there. I knew she'd be fine. I knew this from a teacher perspective and also from knowing her bubbly personality. Something inside me though was aching and burning. I even asked Cam if I should just go back in and check on her. (I didn't realize that I was that crazy mom that can't let go. I guess I learned some things today too.) I didn't want her out of my sight for that long. She's been with me all.summer.long. Every day, every night together.

I picked her up today and she had so much fun. She had art today, a fave of hers. She told me the millions of details of the playground and what she did during recess. She told me all about the little girl that was crying for her mom. She told me about books they read today that also has on her bookshelf at home- so cool! I got the first grade scoop.

It's going to be a great year. I know it. This little one is going to learn so much.

Friday, August 3, 2012

giggles and squeals

Emily is having her first sleepover since she's been ours. Her best bud is over and I've spent the past few hours listening to them giggle, squeal, boss each other around, and say that they want to be ever single fairy that comes on the screen while watching Tinkerbell. Being a girl is so complicated. You have to want to be everyone that has a pretty dress on. I guess some things never change. Girls watch movies and always want to dress like the girls they admire. It's just funny how early it starts. 

Gotta love a girly sleepover. When they were putting on jammies to have their movie night, her bud pulled out the same pair of jammies that Emily wears all the time. Oh, the squeals... TWINS! From that point on they had to both have a blanket, the same number and size of stuffed animals, and everything they did had to be the same. They are having a blast and I've gotten some cleaning and blogging done. Bonus for everyone! 

Tonight is a perfect end to Emily's summer. She starts school on Monday and it's back to the routine of things. I think we are all craving the predictability and routine of it. I think it will be a good change. She is very excited to start 1st grade this year and we know it will be a good one. We got to go and meet her new teacher and we are so happy! She is fun and energetic and comes with a high recommendation from a friend in admin. Emily remembered her name right away (a tricky task for her), so that shows you how ready she is. We are counting down days until she gets to go. Don't worry, she has known what she wants to wear for over a week already. I know you were worried about it, but don't. Emily already worried about it and it's taken care of. It's the important things in life, people! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

out of control feelings....

I hate feeling out of control. Welcome to my life these days. There is so much I try to hold onto and move from here to there. There is so much that want to dictate. God doesn't agree with me. That's hard for me. You'll notice I've mentioned this lately. When I say this it is referring to some things I may never explain here. There are some things that are making this stand out to me lately. When that is heaped on top of parenting, my out-of-control feeling is blinding.

I read a blog the natos. I have loved getting to read this woman's perspective on life. She is very open and very raw and doesn't care who is reading her blog. Sometimes I laugh out loud reading it and sometimes I cry. She wrote a post from a while ago that I just stumbled upon and it spoke to my mothering heart.

We don't have children that are all that similar but I could totally relate to her. Emily doesn't have special needs, but she does have needs that require a lot. There are times that I wonder how we could have been better equipped for her. How could I have been more ready so I could be better for her? I cry about this at times.

There are so many times that I don't know what Emily needs. I guess constantly. I can't really plan. Sometimes you randomly have conversations about body parts you can't blog about while you are trying to cook dinner. Then your husband walks in and gives you a weird look wondering why in the world you were talking about that while stirring that pot on the stove.

There are so many things she needs but she doesn't know what they are. She doesn't know what her little heart needs to heal. We don't know what her little heart is feeling. At times she shows us through behaviors. We have tried to name those behaviors and get her to the point that she can recognize why she is acting a certain way. She has gotten so good at verbalizing her feelings. She knows it's ok to want attention and that she will not always get it. She knows that when she screams for it or hides for it, she doesn't get it. She knows that when she chooses to be a part of the family that she gets a lot of attention.

That blog post talks about how she can't leave her daughter unattended without trouble and that's exhausting. Emily can absolutely be alone in a room. She is six and very responsible. I did relate to this though, because she doesn't want to be alone. She wants to always play games or interact in some way. It is hard. She follows me around. all. day. Bathroom- she's there. Kitchen doing dishes- she's there. Computer- she's there. She is constantly asking to play as soon as I'm done doing whatever I do in these places. I never want to hurt her feelings, but there are times that I can't handle it. No, I don't want to play a game. No, I don't want to do anything with you. Not that I don't love you deeply, but mama needs to wash a dish as many times that is needed until her mental health returns.

This same girl that follows me around like a puppy will also completely blow me off when I try to do something with just the two of us. We leave dad at home with Lucy and go have a donut date.... I'm thinkin that I'm the coolest mom ever. She looks at me and says, "why couldn't daddy be here?" ......awesome.

There are so many days I wonder what I needed to do differently and I look at my stack of books to read to maybe better equip me. Then I find myself overwhelmed enough that I just turn on the TV and fall asleep. That's easier.

I desperately need Jesus. There is no way I can mother well without Him. Days that I do it myself are miserable. When I don't lay my life at His feet are the days that I hope no one stops by without calling because it wouldn't be pretty. The house is upside down and everyone is just pissed. Not my shining moment.

Being a mom is hard sometimes. I think I came by it differently than most, which brings me different challenges. I'm, in no way, saying that my mothering is harder because we started with girls that are adopted, one that was adopted at 6 1/2 years old. It's just different.

Friday, July 27, 2012

bumps in the road....

bumps in the road.... that seems to be the name of the game lately.

If you know me well you'll know I'm a planner. I love schedules and plans and predictability. These things warm my heart. They make me feel calm and safe. I'm sure this sounds ridiculous to those of you that throw caution to the wind and are spontaneous. It's who I am though. I function best when there is a plan and everyone sticks to it.

I used to care a lot about not looking "crazy" to people about this subject. Some people just don't understand it. Others speak my language. I used to try to hide it (yeah, like it wasn't obvious). Then I married a man that makes no real plans in life and just goes with the flow. Great combo... we totally don't get each other. It has taken time to really understand each other. He is really nice about my OCD about this. I've learned to be more patient with bumps and willing to adjust. I've also learned to accept that part of me and go with it. God created me to be this way. God made my brain function best with structure and planning. He made me tick the way I do. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, even in my wackiness.

All of that to say that right now I feel very out of control of my life. This is not a good feeling for me. There are some amazing and wonderful things happening in my life that I won't go into now. There are some things that are stretching me and challenging me in ways I don't want to be stretched and challenged. These are the bumps. These are the things that don't fit into my original plan or the millions of revised plans I have made as life continues to change. That just really gets me irritated.

Trusting is what I have to do when my life feels out of control. I have to know that I am not the one driving this bus. I am the one that is along for the ride. I trust God. It might not seem like I do when you hear me get frustrated or doubt when things happen. I trust Him with my whole life. I trust His plans for us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How far we've come....

This is the look Lucy would give people when I would leave her. My sister in law babysat her when she was just a few months old. I had to work for the morning. I'm wondering if Missy's face looked like this too wondering when Lucy would explode. Who was more scared here, Lucy or Missy? 
I can laugh about this now because she has grown out of this.... sort of. She definitely prefers to be with me, but what little one doesn't prefer her mama?

Leaving her used to hurt me. I would cry at the thought of how awful she must have felt. I would pray she didn't feel abandonment or fear. Lucy had separation anxiety at 4 months and she had it bad until just recently. We'll always wonder if she struggles with this because this is how she was made or if it's because she is adopted. That is one of the many questions we come across when raising our girls. We weigh things a little differently. I am much more sensitive to her little anxieties than most people probably think I should be. I hold her a lot. 

Now that she is almost 11 months she has "grown out" of her separation anxiety mostly. She does great being left with her grandmas and grandpas for babysitting. She still doesn't love to be held by people if I'm there. She will go to people and will have fun if she is distracted, but she will look for me and lock in her gaze. Then it's all over... nothing but mama will do. 

I am so thankful that I am her safe place. She feels secure when my arms are around her. (her 2nd choice would be dad, but he still will come to find me when she is just in need of her mom.) We pray for both of these girls to feel deep love and for them to feel safe, happy, secure, attached. We hold them, rock them, sing to them, tell them we love them. 

I'm just glad Lucy doesn't look at people like this anymore.... at least not as often. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

summer travels

We have travelled to see my mom's side of the family twice this summer. Two of my cousins got married and that always draws the family together. My grandma has 17 grandkids so our family is quite large and messy and wonderful. My cousin Lauren got married in Texas in June and then my cousin Ryan got married in Louisiana in July. We packed up the family and flew to both weddings. We are so blessed that we could do that. Let me tell you.... 3 plane tickets do not come cheap these days! 

Sadly, I didn't get my camera out much in Texas. These pics are from our Louisiana trip. If you don't know this already, our girls fly like champs. They both sleep most of the trip every time. When they are up they are quiet and playful and contained. I will be sad to travel with Lucy when she's walking. She is still very content to be on my lap. Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there and we won't leave the state. 

 This is my beautiful, newly-wed cousin from the June wedding. I have so many memories with this girl from growing up. She is still as goofy as she was back then. An awhatta, an abutta.... enough said. 
 Lucy didn't find our seats at the wedding acceptable. She went in for a closer look. 
 Would you say her smile is forced or what?! It's better than the grumpy look in the picture just before. I'm pretty sure she was mad at me about something silly.... oh the mother-daughter drama is already in full effect. Should I fear her teenage years? I already do, so I'm one step ahead on that. 
 This one is full of drama too... unless she is on my lap or in my arms. When she's with me she is drama free. No wonder I stick her in the Ergo always.... No wonder Cameron walks around the house muttering, "I need another man in this house." Ha! He'll get over it. 
 Our little Em can cut a rug on that dance floor. My cousins love to take her out there and dance with her. They are always very impressed with her moves. Lucky for us, this dancing wears this little girl right out and she sleeps hard after weddings. 
 We actually got to spend time in Louisiana before and after the wedding. It was amazing to spend time with my aunt and uncle and all the people coming and going that week. My Aunt Mary took us into New Orleans to see some sights. 

 Check out Lucy's hair twin to the left of Emily. 
 We went to Cafe Du Monde to drink coffee and eat beignets. Let's just say this... when my aunt thought we were finished and was packing up the leftovers, I kept wondering why she was trying to torture me. Clearly I was going to continue eating these until I was sick. They were delicious. 

I am so thankful for my family. Cameron and I have such amazing families. I'm so glad we could be with my cousins to celebrate their special days, but also that everyone got to meet our girls. Thank you to all of them for just swallowing them up and spoiling them rotten. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

sister love and an '80s baby

It has been sweet to see God work in the relationship between my girls. There have been times when jealousy has run rampant around here. Babies naturally get a lot of attention, you know. We have worked on developing Emily's sense of belonging and responsibility to her sister and she has really begun to own it. Emily loves to be the one to take care of her baby sister. She loves to feel like she is doing something good for her. God has grown Emily so much. 
Lucy adores Emily. Once Emily realized what was "too much" and "too close" for Lucy, she has been the biggest hit. She can always get a smile or belly laugh out of her baby sister. What would I do without these girls? They needed each other. I needed them. It all worked out. 
I think she could have been on Flashdance.  


 Pigtails... I love them. 

 Sister kisses are precious. 
 She has worn shoes about 4 times. She always looks very confused and tries to get them off. These are her new Saltwater sandals. They are too cute to never wear. 
 Don't worry, big sister has them in pink too! Lu wears a lot of purple. Em wears a lot of pink. This was in no way planned that they would match their shoes. 

I am so thankful for these two little lives. God is soooo good to us. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

4th of July

We spent 4th of July at home. We ate and hung out with some people we love. The kids played with sparklers and had dance parties in Emily's room. It was perfect. 

It may look like she's sword fighting with that sparker, but if you notice her left hand it is much more poetic than a sword fight. She did tango with it. 

 Lucy is not much for crawling in the grass. She did a great job of sitting and looking cute. 

One of Lucy's new things is pretending to talk on the phone. She's been using both hands the past few days. It looks like she's stressed, but she's really just busy making calls. We often walk in and she has a toy up to her head. I think she's calling Grandma. She talks to her quite a bit on my phone. It's the only number she probably has memorized. 

This was our first 4th together. Looking forward to many more with these girls.