On Motherhood

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What a few years it has been! I want to thank you all for supporting this blog and our journey. Our daughter is doing well. We are excited to begin some speech therapy with her soon. (It’s hard for a 7-year-old to learn a new language!)

I want you to pray with me about a new idea I believe God is birthing in my heart. I am realizing that our family has some unique challenges, and through those challenges we may be better able to minister to other families. Soon, I hope to launch a new blog about my experiences in Motherhood. My prayer is that it will be a source of utmost encouragement to others.

Having experienced both early and late-term miscarriages, having some children with some learning challenges, educating our children, and being a family of a first-responder…as well as becoming a multi-cultural family…perhaps what we are learning on our journey can bless other families with similar challenges.

Would you pray with me about that? Also, for moms out there, I want to recommend a book to you. I will be leading a small group on the book Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe, by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. I believe that the Holy Spirit is using this book to bring joy to mothers. If you live in my area, I welcome you to join us on Wednesday nights at 7 PM. Childcare will be provided. Here is a link to the book: http://desperatemom.com/

As always, please know that I am praying for you today!

Sometimes I Forget

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Sometimes I forget

When you are standing there

Wanting me to dress you

Or to fix your hair

Sometimes I forget

When you are fussy, angry, loud

That though you are more than seven

Your heart never learned how

Sometimes I forget

in the busyness of time

that you have waited for a mommy

for quite a long time

Sometimes I forget

when I am tired and worn

that there was no one to kiss you

on the day that you were born

Sometimes I forget

When you yell and slam the door

that your heart has felt pain

that I’ve never known before

Sometimes I forget

That you are small inside

Aching for a chance

to be allowed to cry

So, cry baby, cry

I will rock you to sleep

When you are seven, eight or nine

Your heart I’ll always keep

I will tie your shoes

And allow you the precious time

to be the baby you couldn’t be

before you became mine

You no longer have to fight

to make sure that you are safe

to make sure that you are seen

We’ll show you the Safe Place

And we will sit and hold

No matter what the world may say

May you always know

True Love is here to stay

How Do We Save Money On Groceries?

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Groceries are so expensive!

I’ve debated on whether or not to post a blog like this for several weeks. I know any time someone mentions money, people get their long Johns in a knot. But it is my hope that maybe this will help other families out there. There is nothing new under the sun, but here are some ideas I have gleamed from others and from personal experience of how to feed a growing family on a modest budget.

Oh, and here’s a confession: I don’t coupon! (For those that do, way to go! For me, I utterly fail at couponing. I have clipped dozens of coupons in the past, and always end up forgetting to use them. Or, I don’t have the desire to drive all over the city to different stores. Or it’s just cheaper to shop at Aldi, where coupons aren’t used. Or maybe I’m just too tired to worry about it.)

So, here are my non-couponing favorite money-saving grocery tips:

1.) Use your calendar. Several years ago, my friend Lisa showed me how to use my calendar to save money on groceries. Now, don’t overlook this step because it looks too simple. It is deceptively simple. Not using this method will cost you money. So, take out your wall calendar (or make one on paper). For the next week or two, write exactly what you will eat each day. I’m talking, write what breakfast, lunch, and dinner you will eat each day. Write down what beverage you will drink. Write down 2-3 snacks for each day. Don’t forget desserts. When you have a little extra income, go ahead and do this for 21 days straight.

Then, make your shopping list directly from your calendar. (Be sure to inventory your pantry and fridge/freezer first! You probably already have some recipe items in there.) Now, stick to it. Do not deviate from your list. It’s really ridiculous how much this will save you on groceries.

2.) Shop at Aldi. This is a discount grocer that is in many parts of the United States. Our nearest one is a 30-minute drive from our house. And yet, even with the extra gas, we still save such a significant amount in groceries that it is worth it. Added bonus? The stores are smaller, so we finish up more quickly and have fewer “extra” items to tempt us.

3.) Cut up fruit/veggies and give them to your kiddos. After finding 25.3 half-eaten apples in my house, it dawned on me that a lot of that pricey produce was going to waste. So, I began to slice the fruit and veggies and put them on a tray instead. What I discovered was that the kiddos were only eating about half of the fruit I was giving them before.

4) Keep the snacks in a hidden place. My kiddos know that they will have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks every day. They don’t have to worry that they will go hungry. However, we have some kiddos who used to feel the need to indulge in a snack (or, again, half-eat a snack) upon every whim of boredom. Now, at approximately 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM, they know I will ring the snack bell (I love our bell!), and a snack will be provided for them. They don’t stress, and we have less waste.

5.) This one may take some of us a while to relax on: Change your idea of what “dinner” has to be. As a pure Southern Gal, I was raised on meat, two veggies, cornbread, and sweet tea. Anything different from this did not constitute dinner. But meat prices have skyrocketed. So, I’ve come to realize that there are other meals we can prepare at dinner time that can be easy and nutritious, and they don’t require meat. So…..on SOME nights, it’s OK to make eggs and toast. Or maybe (when the hubby isn’t home), a steaming hot pot of hearty oatmeal. Maybe a quick dinner of fried rice with whatever veggies you have available. (Meat isn’t necessary when you have good ol’ soy sauce. ;) ) I always keep some chicken broth on hand. In a pinch, throw in some veggies and pasta, and you have “homemade” soup. Buy whole chickens/turkeys. After you roast them, strip whatever little pieces are left and use them later for soups/casseroles. In the South, a hot meal of cornbread and pinto beans is yummy, cheap comfort food. (And keep your perspective. All it takes is one trip out of the country to realize that most folks would give their left kidney for that bowl of beans you don’t want to eat. I’ve seen it.)

6.) These are some extra tips for those who really have to cut costs. Some may have lost a job or have unexpected expenses, etc. But when we need to cut costs, we do a few extra things.

  • First, we only drink water. If we must have something sweet, we will make our own sweet tea, but that is rare. Second, cut out desserts. You don’t need them anyway. Your belt will thank you.
  • Cut out cable TV. Buy a Roku or similar device instead. For about $50, you get a device that will allow you to play a lot of movies and/or shows for free or minimal cost.
  • Shop at thrift stores or consignment shops. You may be amazed at who else you see shopping there. Thrift shopping is fun, adventurous, and feels so good to save money and be “green” at the same time. Last week, I went to a consignment store. I purchased 3 Christmas dresses for our daughter, a pair of Christmas pajamas, and some Levis for our son. I spent $20. That felt so good!

Alright folks. I hope that this list will help some of you who are in the throws of adoption, or trying to pay off debt, or just need to find a way to feed your family on your budget. You may not use all of my ideas, but try a few and see if they help. Please feel free to post your ideas below in the comments section, too. I have a lot to learn myself.

33 and 6 Months Together!

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Yesterday was my birthday. I bet you can’t guess my age? ;) I couldn’t help but think of how different this birthday was than last year. Our life has zoomed into busyness for the past 12 (36?) months, and last birthday, I remember how my heart longed thirstily to hold our daughter in my arms. My friends and family rallied beside us and really held our hearts together until the glue of our daughter could permanently seal our family.

But I guess this birthday is much like last year, because I am still surrounded by precious, precious friends and family who love me. I had a very rare moment to myself tonight as I drove home from my sweet friend’s house (who had bought me a cake, some super comfy “Roll Tide” pants, and allowed me a night with some of my favorite gals), and I was able to really think about how rich our life is. So, once again, I find myself saying, “THANK YOU!” to my loved ones. Thank you to my parents, my family, my best friends, my church family, my husband…even those of you who barely know us but have prayed for us this year. Thank you.

Next week we celebrate 6 MONTHS with our daughter!!!!!!!!!!! How did that happen so quickly? So, without further ado, please enjoy some of our last 6 months of memories…

untitledThis was one day after our visit with her in India. She didn’t want us to leave. :(

get-attachment (2)Here we are, together! (New Delhi)

get-attachment (4)More Visits at her orphanage…

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IMG_4067Home in the States. It was brother’s birthday!

IMG_4102All the kiddos love our little creek and “our” ducks.

IMG_4222Here was her first birthday home.

IMG_4241Lake time fun.

IMG_4239Finally! A meal that gets a “thumbs up!”

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IMG_4438First visit to the gardens…

IMG_4636First visit to the Falls…

IMG_4851Cousin time!

IMG_5059Fashion show with cousin

IMG_5256Mommy and daughter. Notice anything different here??

IMG_5304Fun at the park…

untitled (4)Enjoying the fall!

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In Defense of…?

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I’m going to share a bit of what has been on my mind lately. It’s not really adoption related, but it could certainly apply to adopting families.

I’m talking about defense. No, not self-defense to protect one’s life. Not common defense, of which my military friends and family know much more than me. What I am talking about is deeper, and perhaps hits home more commonly than that.

We have all been verbally attacked in one way or another, or ridiculed, or not taken seriously. We have had our motives questioned, our success doubted, or our faith scoffed. Sure, it’s happened to me, and I see it happen almost daily to myself or others. I know what my first knee-jerk reaction used to be. And I watch how some people respond with wit, anger, sarcasm, or humor to the onslaught. And this leads to more comments from the advancing forces, which leads to more defensive maneuvers, and so on and so forth. Worse yet, it can turn into an all-out virtual brawl in which no one wins and onlookers roll their eyes.

I have learned that the saying is true: “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still” (Dale Carnegie). Verbally defending oneself is rarely the most effective or efficient route to hushing one’s conversation or converting another person’s opinion. It is seen as self-preservation at best.

When we consider Christ, who had all power on heaven and on earth to do whatever he pleased, we see a curious situation. Matthew 27:11-14 (ASV) tells us that even though Christ was being questioned, he did not defend himself.
“Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are you the king of the Jews? And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.”
And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He made no answer.
Then Pilate said to Him, “Do you no hear how many things they testify against You?”
And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so that the governor was amazed.”

(You can find similar accounts of this passage in Mark Chapter 14 and John 19.)

Now, I do not have a degree in theology (maybe one day ;) ), but I think that Christ was setting an example for us here. You see, Christ had zero need to defend Himself to those accusers. None. He know who He was. He knew the Plan. And, perhaps most poignantly, He knew that His life was all the defense He needed.

Want to silence the doubters? Want to convert the unbelievers? Want to change the path of the attack?
Be silent. Don’t comment on the hateful posts online. Live your life righteously. Seek Christ with all of your heart and soul. Live a life of Love. Give generously of yourself. Repay evil with kindness.

Do not find the occasion to engage the enemy in a verbal battle. Even if your motives are pure, they will not be moved by a verbal defense. Hush now. Quiet yourself. And live a life of Love.

That is the best defense you can give. Your life will speak the truth of who you are, one way or another. And your critics will either be more convinced of their opinions, or be ashamed of their ignorance.

The Least of These…

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Let me tell you about a friend of mine.

She and I have something very special in common: We both have children from Ind*a. Actually, we have much more than that in common. If you have followed our blog, you have read that we had the gut-wrenching loss of losing a child due to a European country closing its doors to adoptions. My friend had this happen.

Twice.

Let me tell you, my friend: This will knock the breath right out of your lungs. It’s a blow few understand, and a pain that penetrates deeply. Perhaps as difficult as a death, this kind of loss leaves a parent without answers and with no word as to how the child is cared for in the future. Oh, the ache.

And then a miracle happened. This sweet lady and her family fell in love with a little boy from Ind*a. (You see, once the “adoption bug” bites you, it leaves you permanently changed. One does not simply walk away from this calling until it is fulfilled. And the Obrien family has persevered.) But this family could not adopt him, because his file was held by an agency that this family could not sign with.

Sigh.

So, in faith, the Obrien family signed with their agency, and prayed for a miracle. God moved mountains they couldn’t imagine, and the Obrien’s new agency was able to locate this same child for their family! So, here we go! The Obrien family has joyfully moved forward, and hopes to travel to finally complete their family by the end of this year.

So, while our child is home in our loving arms, this mother must wait and long for her child, praying each moment that all will work out for the good.

Friends, would you pray for this family? Would you pray for this little boy? The adoption process in Ind*a can be wrought with constant change, inexplicable waiting, and a never-ceasing lump in one’s throat until a family is united with their child.

Want to help even more? Check out the Obrien’s Reece’s Rainbow page here for the opportunity to give a tax-deductible gift towards bring their son home! (And learn more about their story!)

 

http://reecesrainbow.org/79495/sponsorobrien

 

This family has been vetted, home-studied, background checked, medically-evaluated, and experienced pre-adoption training. So you can give confidently, knowing your gift will be going towards a loving family and a child who will be an orphan no more!

Fighting the Blurrrrrrrrrrr

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In our neck of the woods, we are counting down the days to fall. If we look closely, we can see a yellow leaf or two appearing on some of the trees. Last week was the hottest of the summer, and both our bodies and our power bill felt it.

Autumn is my favorite season of the year, perhaps because we never had a real fall season in sunny Florida, where I lived as a child. I remember my first “real” fall. I was amazed by the cloudy skies, the changing leaves, the breezy days. I loved it all. So each year my nostalgia kicks in and I remember back to those early days in this state, having Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother’s house. We would go exploring for pine cones and colored leaves. The sky would be a wonderful grey (Hey, don’t judge…the blazing sun in Florida EVERY SINGLE DAY can get old). Grandma would turn on her old stereo and play Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. We would see family members we hadn’t seen for months or years. Ahhh….the fall. Pumpkin, breezy, colorful bliss.

And I’m trying my best not to miss it.

The past two years have been full of so much hope, prayer, striving, paperwork, crying, fund raising, surviving…That I’ve failed to enjoy the everyday things that make this life so blessed. I barely remember the spring of this year. My sweet husband even brought me a flat of deep purple petunias to plant. (He knows the garden is my happy place.) I planted them quickly, forgot to care for them, and they died.

Sigh.

And then our beautiful daughter finally came home, and it was introductions, newness, establishing routines, spending ourselves in love, and balancing all of the needs of each family member with enthusiasm. It’s almost September, y’all. Where did the summer go? Thank God for my pics, because I would not remember all the fun we had if I didn’t have them as reminders!

Speaking of our precious daughter, I can tell you she had a great summer! (See? I have pics to prove it!) She lost her first tooth since coming home, she has discovered she LOVES the water (We’ve been to the creek, to the lake, to the river, to the pool, and to two different splash pads!) She enjoys birthday parties, the zoo, and her new friends at church. Her cousins are her buddies, and she is learning to sound out words. She is showing us she has her own sense of style (ADORES tutus, My Little Pony, and Tinkerbell.) Today she voluntarily chose a pair of blue jeans for the first time, and she rocked them! ;)

So, as I pull down my dusty woven pumpkin decorations from the attic, I am making it my goal to fight the blur. I want to enjoy this gloriously rich season of fall with my girl, who is close to the same age I was when I first experienced the seasons changing. I wonder what she will think when the leaves change colors and begin to fall? Or when she sees her first snow? Oooooh, I don’t want to falter in this! I want to breathe in each moment of newness with our children and see the wonder of fall with child-like eyes myself.

 

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Wonderful

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Did she really just say that?

Last night I heard our daughter say something that truly surprised me. After a veeerrrry……slooooow…..starrrrrrt in speaking English, she has now begun her “language explosion,” and we are loving hearing her verbiage grow. After meeting with the international adoption specialists a few times, we had come to the conclusion that her slow language progression had nothing to do with her IQ: our little girl is a highly intelligent and very observant young lady. But it took virtually two weeks for us to get her to speak any words, in her native tongue or likewise. And, though her receptive language was very good (she could understand most of what we said to her), her spoken language didn’t seem to be progressing much at all. The doctors’ conclusion? She is just a shy little girl, and language is one of her control issues. And why not? Her world may be a good one, but it is entirely new and must be exhausting at times…trying to take in all the new sights, sounds, personalities, culture differences, and language.

So, first we tried really praising our daughter for any attempt she made at speaking. “Good job!” “Way to go, sweetheart, speaking English!” This backfired, however, because our shy little girl did not appreciate us making a big deal out of every word. So, we learned to reward her efforts in other ways: quickly responding to her words and smiling at her efforts. Hugs are giving quite often, too.

Another issue that was specific to me was the fact that our little one really adores her daddy. So she would more readily speak with him than she would me. Yes, we do have a “Daddy’s girl” on our hands, a fact that was evident from our first visit at her orphanage. And since daddy is often gone for quite a bit, mommy is more often the disciplinarian, teacher, and chore-enforcer.

But the past couple of weeks have seen quite a change in language expression. She has been telling Mommy when she is hungry, when she wants to visit her grandparents, telling Mommy when a brother is misbehaving, and asking when Daddy was going to come home. It is such a pleasure watching her grown and develop!

But last night, as I was tucking her in bed, I heard those precious, precious words that let me know I was important to this sweet little girl.

“I love you,” she volunteered.

I stopped in my step. I wanted to grab her out of bed, hold her in my arms, and gleefully tell her I loved her, too. Instead, I quietly responded, “I love you, too, K.” Smiling, I turned off the light and walked out the door.

Thank you, Jesus.

 

Here are some recent pics of her first trip to our mall. She had a blast!

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2 Months Home: The Truth

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It’s been two months today since we landed in our local airport. Sweaty, exhausted, and somehow surviving off of little to no sleep over the past 48 hours, we were so happy to be home. My mamma’s heart ached to see our boys, and it took all the patience within me to wait for our checked carry-on luggage with grace. We had traveled around the world, been on over half a dozen airplanes, and the first delay came on our final stretch home. Friends and family were awaiting us in the airport, and I could just feel those little arms of our youngest son around my neck.

As we finally rounded that last corner in the airport to the area where our loved ones were waiting, the tears could not be held back. Among the balloons, signs, and smiles, our eyes quickly searched for three little button-nosed boys to embrace first. My eagerness can be seen on the many cell-phone videos of my family and friends, as I would almost break into a run, and then hold myself back, awaiting my husband and daughter coming up behind me. Our daughter had brought so much joy to us, and yet, the joy could not be complete without our boys in our arms as well.

The first embrace came from our youngest, always the most eager to give hugs. How healing that was! I may have hugged him a bit too excitedly, swinging him around so that I could wrap my arms around our eldest at the same time. Not surprisingly, our least-physical child was the final one we reached, as he was just as happy just to see us as he would have been to receive a hug. But he was getting one anyway: I had missed them all too much!

Then I made the rounds, embracing everyone I could, so very grateful to each of them for making the time to greet us on one of the happiest days of our lives. And more than that, for holding our hands and hearts throughout the long journey, when we didn’t know how we would make it.

Our delicate little girl didn’t know what to think with all of this excitement. We knew that she may not appreciate the welcoming party on that day as much as she would later on when she viewed the photos and realized what it all meant. She tightly held onto her Daddy and was not to let go until we reached our vehicle to go home. However, she was a trooper. She accepted a stuffed lamb from her cousin, and willingly held onto a balloon bouquet that was handed to her. Thanks to modern technology, she was familiar with many of the faces, as we had video-chatted with family and shared many photos with her while on the ground in India.

The first two weeks home were just full of rest and happiness. We allowed ourselves time to recover from jet lag and time change. We just took that time to get to know each other and have some normalcy. I remember wondering why I had a smile on my face all the time. But I know why: My soul finally felt like I was doing what I was called on this earth to do. I was ecstatic to be back home with our boys, and I was thrilled to have our daughter in our home after so many years of waiting.

Our newest family member really amazed us from day one. She slept in her bed all the way through the night on her very first night. This was miraculous, as the time change was completely opposite on our side of the world. She woke up the next morning, picked out what she wanted to wear, went outside and began to jump on the trampoline with her brothers. It was breathtaking.

After about 2 weeks, our (very expected) challenges began. Our youngest wasn’t so sure he liked so much change at once, and our newest wasn’t so sure she liked his attitude. ;) Hubby was back at work, and reality began to sink in. We now have four children, and we must make every effort to be excellent parents to each of them. Though our daughter was still sleeping through the night, she began to gently protest bedtime. And meal time. And reading time. And sitting still in church. And taking turns. She began to see that we had rules and life wasn’t always cartoons and ice cream.

Mamma began to get tired. A new child, whether by birth or adoption, takes a lot of extra time, and routines must change. The house didn’t remain as spic and span as our family had it waiting for us when we returned home. Nor did our van. Biggest brother wasn’t so sure he liked an extra little person getting into his things. Thanks be to God we have some wonderful people who gave us some great tips to help us navigate this new adventure.

So what does life look like two months later? Pretty amazing. Challenges have required creative solutions, and we have all become better for it. Mamma had to get more organized. Big Brother has learned to lock his door. A tiny Indian body necessitated that we sit around the table as a family more often, encouraging a few more bites eaten at each meal. We eat more Indian food. We take more family outings together to just have fun. Mamma has begun an exercise routine in the mornings to help energize her for the day to come. And she realized her business had made her quiet times with Jesus fewer and farther between. Those have been prioritized. And we have learned we cannot expect a perfectly clean house anymore.

Little Brother and Little Sister still have their spats. This means they are really siblings, right? And yes, it can be exhausting for Mamma. But now Little Brother says things like, “Sister is funny!” and “I kinda like having a sister now.” And Little Sister’s agitated, “HEY!” is now often followed by giggles directed towards Little Brother.

Little Sister’s First 2 Months’ Milestones:
*Learning to ride a bike (with training wheels)
*Learning to eat some American foods
*Learning lots of English
*Beginning to enjoy playing with new friends
*Learning to trust mamma and daddy in the pool (with floaties, of course)
*Wowing Mamma and Daddy with how much she knows already (ABC’s, Counting, Adding, her Colors, Writing, Coloring, Origami)
*Learning letter sounds

Our goals for the next few months are to help our little one grow physically, to make sure we spend lots of time loving on and having fun with each of our precious kiddos, read lots of books together, and to get a date night. Yeah, that hasn’t happened for about 3 months now. Another expected challenge of having a new child join the family.

Anyone want to babysit for our 14th wedding anniversary? ;)

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How is She Doing?

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I know that so many of you prayed, gave, and/or simply followed our story throughout our adoption process. Now, instead of the question, “When is she coming home?” we are often asked, “How is she doing?” Today I thought I’d give you all an update.

Our daughter is doing so well. We have been given so much grace. The ladies at her orphanage really must have worked with her,  preparing her for a new family and a life in an English-speaking country. She came home already knowing all of her English ABC’s, how to write her name and a few friends’ names, and knew all the names of family members that we had placed in her photo album that was sent to the orphanage.

Our biggest challenge so far has been her medical appointments. Bless her heart, they have to draw several vials of blood to run all the necessary tests on her, and we still have yet to be successful at that. The last time we told the lab workers to just stop, after they had tried three of her tiny veins with little to no luck. We are supposed to go back, but we are waiting some time to try to hydrate her more and help her feel a bit more at ease.

Our middle son and our daughter have really bonded from the start. His heart is so big. He adores her, gets a kick out of the native words she says, and is always considering her needs. It has been so beautiful watching the love between those two.

Our oldest son has been a typical older brother, trying to keep her in line, and watching out for her. He is a great older brother.

Our youngest son has had the biggest challenge. He was the youngest child for several years, and while he still is the “youngest,” he’s not the newest, and he has had some challenges dealing with that idea. We have intentionally spent loads of extra time with all of our children, to make sure they all know how treasured they all are. We knew we were turning a corner when he said, “Having a sister isn’t all bad.” ;)

Food has been a bit of a challenge. We suspect that she may have a parasite, as she just isn’t ever really hungry, and usually moans when we tell her it’s time to eat. So far, we have discovered that she likes bread, chips, popsicles, and apples. Most everything else she really hesitates to eat. We are waiting to hear back from her doctor as to how the tests went…hopefully the samples we sent in will give us some answers.

One of the most fun things to experience with our daughter is to hear her learn new words. Some of her first words were the following: Daddy, ninja, popsicle, chocolate, Let it go, Mommy, Calliou, George, all her brother’s names, Dack, Nana, Nanny, Pawpaw, no, and juice. Her newest word is adorable: “Cinderella.” I wish I had a recording to share with you how she pronounces it, but it is too cute.

Last week our daughter was dedicated at church. What that means is that we dedicated ourselves to raise our daughter in the love of Christ, not only teaching her, but also modeling godly lives so that she can see truth and Love. Later that same day, we celebrated her first birthday home. It was wonderful. She picked out a princess cake. We had a few of our closest family and friends over, and we blew bubbles. Keeping it simple, I think we were able to make her feel really special.

 

 

 

Dedication Service. Look closely and you can see how excited one of our boys was about the whole thing…;)
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