July 31, 2012

The Beach.

We just got back from a big family vacation to Emerald Isle, North Carolina with my entire side of the family.  It was so much fun, and watching all the cousins play together was great. 

We had to fight tooth and nail to get them to let Bella go (very civilized fighting…) and we finally came to a compromise that allowed her to join us.  I was thrilled.  At this point in the game, isn’t it a little ridiculous not to allow her to go on our family vacation?  She’s been with us for over a year.  She is part of our family.  (It had more to do with us going on two week long family vacations in the span of a month than anything – but still.)

In all there were 16 people staying in the same beach house for the week, which is pretty much the definition of chaotic.  But it was good, family chaotic.

I will pause here to say, if therapeutic parenting and dealing with food issues is difficult in the day to day….then doing it in a house full of chaos and tons of kids is impossible.  I just had to hold my breath and get through it – but there was absolutely nothing therapeutic about the way I parented last week.  Blegh. 




Bella and Sylvia’s first run down to the ocean after a 20 hour car ride.  I wish I could have recorded the giggles going on in this picture.

Anyway, it was all three of our girls first time getting to swim in the ocean and enjoy the beach, and they all had a BLAST.  I wish I could post pictures of Bella’s face when she was playing in the waves, because it was utter joy.  Naomi and Sylvia loved it – and I was in no way surprised that Naomi had absolutely no fear of the waves.  As in, she would walk straight into the ocean as if it were the baby pool at the rec center.



Naomi putting her feet in the ocean for the first time.  She was thrilled.  Notice she’s trying to get away from me so that she can go play in the waves by herself.  The waves that were three times as high as her head.








My little smurf in her 80’s sunscreen.









Visiting Fort Macon, which the girls were interested in for approximately 5 seconds.























Playing in the waves with Uncle Scott.


We couldn't get Bella out of the waves all week.  She’s a little fish!
















Desi and Sylvie in the waves with Hannah.







Naked baby on the beach.  Anything cuter?  I think not.





All the cousins in their home made tie-dye shirts.

Such a fun week.  Nothing like playing in the waves.  The girls had so much fun, and I am so glad that they will have such fun family memories.  More pictures to come as soon as I get my hands on my sisters’ cameras!

July 19, 2012

Celebrating 5 (!?!)

       today is your fifth birthday.  5!
  It doesn't seem possible.  You were just three when you first came to our house, and it's hard for me to even imagine that I've known you at ages 3, 4, and now 5.  
  You don't know it, but we are throwing you a surprise party tomorrow night.  All of your cousins on my side of the family will be there.  I cannot wait to see your face when you realize we are celebrating you.  I can't wait for you to see your cheese pizza waiting for you, I can't wait for you to see all your presents, I can't wait for you to see your cake.
  I've gone a little overboard this year on gifts, but I just want so badly for you to know that this birthday is a big deal, and that we celebrate you being here with us.
  Two years ago your fifth birthday was not even guaranteed, because unbeknownst to anyone, little cancer cells were spreading their way through your blood.
  One year ago you had been with us only a couple of weeks, the trauma of foster care spinning you in circles.  You were in the throws of intense treatment that was tearing your little body down.  You hadn't been with us long enough to meet any friends, so we took you to our foster care agency and had everyone sing you happy birthday over cake.  Your little body was still so sick, so fragile.

  This year we are nearing the end of treatment for that unwelcome disease, and you are so much stronger.  Your hair is nearing the nape of your neck with full, thick curls.  There is joy in your eyes and color in your cheeks.  We aren't through yet, but together with God, we are going to beat this disease and I can tell you know it in your soul.  Your trip through foster care is not yet over, and the path it is taking is clouded, still.  But you are home here - not your only home, not your first home, but you are home.  You know you are loved and cherished, and your confidence shows in everything you do.

  You will start kindergarten in just a few weeks, which has this Mama a little nervous, but you will do great.  You are so smart.  When you came to us there were many things you hadn't yet learned that one would have expected you to know - but now, now you can write your alphabet, spell words, count to 100, color in the lines, draw beautiful pictures (and I can tell what they are!), identify what primary colors go together to make other colors, do minimal addition and subtraction......
You are smart, and I can't wait to watch you learn in Kindergarten.
  You are so helpful, with your sisters and in general.  You and Sylvia have your spats just like any sisters do (sometimes more often than not) but I can see a gentle spirit in you - you are sensitive and caring.  Your stubborn streak is sometimes, well, more than a streak - but eventually, God willing, you will use that to stand up for your beliefs and challenge the status quo.
  You love swimming, dressing up, having tea parties, playing pretend, and being outside.  You love to play in the dirt (a girl after my own heart), mostly while wearing dresses.  You have an incredible laugh, and you love to be tickled.  You are such a little mama, a first born to the core.  You are beautiful.

  I don't know about you, but this all sounds like a million wonderful reasons to celebrate 5.  You are special and cherished not only by Brian and I, but by Jesus - and as you grow I can see more and more of his fingerprints in your little personality.

  Happy Birthday sweet girl.  We will celebrate.  We will celebrate you, the gift you are to our family, the healing that we have witnessed in you in the last year, your renewed chance at life, and the purpose and life that Jesus has waiting to unfold for you in the year to come.

Love you, love you, love you,

July 10, 2012

Trading what is best for what is good.


I think that all too often, we have figured out what would make our lives good (or let society and others do it for us), and maybe without even noticing it, we decide to trade what God has for us for what we have deemed good.

When really, what could be better than what God has for us?

Why would we want to trade what must be best for what we have deemed as good?


What God has for us may not be easy, it may not seem ideal, it probably won’t look a whole lot like the “American Dream”,  it may not be what the world would say is best, and it may not be what we had in mind.

But I would imagine that neither did the gospel when it was being lived out by the Son of God.



Since we have decided to be open to the adoption of Bella and her sister, if it should come to that, I have heard a lot about what I will miss, what won’t be possible, and what I’ll be giving up.

About how busy I’ll be, running myself ragged.  About how I’ll miss one on one time with my kids.  About how I’m going to lose my mind when they’re all teenagers.  What if my kids miss out on __________ fill in the blank.


I’m not convinced that we’ll give up anything close to what we’ll gain.

And if this is what God has for our family, those things are all good things, but I cling to the promise that what he has is best


I could cling to those things, those ideals.  And to be honest, many of those things are things I would love to cling to.

My life looks very different than I ever planned for it to – if it were up to ME Bella wouldn’t even be in our home.  Because when she first came, and her medical/hospital schedule was much more rigorous than we were initially told – I did cling to those things.  I told them she had to leave because, how would I ever have enough “one on one” time with Sylvia and Naomi if I was taking care of such a sick child?  I wanted to cling to those things.

But thank God that through prayer and the support of our worker, God made it work.  And I had to loosen my grip on some of those ideals.


And now I have a third daughter that I love incredibly.  That I wouldn’t trade for the world.  And it is because God knew what was best even when I knew what was good.  My family, and how we work looks a lot different than most of the world – but quite frankly, it should.


This road he has us on will be hard.  I will fail.  I will face more difficulty than if I just kept things simple.  My life will look different on the outside than most people my age, or at all for that matter.  But I pray that because of the adversity, because it will keep my eyes and my dependence on Him, that it will look different on the inside too.


And what He has will be best.

So I will, against the traditional grain, risk giving up what I see as good.

July 7, 2012

One Year.


  Miss Bella,

  You have been with us, a part of us, for one year as of today.  I can’t quite believe it, but when I think back at all we’ve been through together, sure enough, it’s at least a year’s worth.



When you came to us, you were so sick, I can’t even recognize you in the pictures of those first few months.  You were lost in there somewhere in the haze of trauma and cancer.



And now, after what seems like hundreds of hours at the hospital,

fever scares and E.R. trips,

heartbreaks of visits come and gone,

long nights, and sad days,

hard work at attachment,

patience tried, and sometimes failed,

love built slowly and cautiously,

hair and health and growth,

back and forths, ups and downs,

lots and lots and lots of puke,

trauma tantrums,

times when you liked me,

times when you hated me,

and finally times when you really trust me,


We have changed so much.  Both of us.  Forever.  No matter what happens, after this year, we are forever a part of each others hearts.




A year ago you were sleeping on a toddler bed in our room because you were so scared.  I was waking up three times a night to make sure, really sure, that your little forehead didn’t feel the slightest bit warm.  You wouldn’t let Brian get anywhere near you, and you never left my side.  Never.  You cried for hours at night.  You cried for hours during the day.  You slept a lot.  I’m pretty sure you didn’t like Sylvia, and Naomi was only a couple of months old.

We were not your family.


Now you are so full of joy.  We are by no means in the clear.  We are still working through trauma and hurt and food – and we will be as long as you are here with us.  But I see joy in your eyes. Joy and life and health.  Now you sleep in your own room and trust is displayed in how our bedtime routine (usually) happens without hours and hours of meltdown.  You are so healthy, most days I only think about your disease while I’m giving you your 593 medicines each morning and night.  (Maybe an exaggeration, but I’m sure it seems like 593 to you.)  Now you love Brian.  You always ask him to hold you and dance with you – and I only get to put you to bed every other night now.  You, Sylvia, and Naomi are sisters through and through.  You tell other people they are your sisters, Sylvia loves you so much, and Naomi lights up when you walk in the room.  We still have a lot of tears and hurt, but we share them now.  You trust us, we love each other.

We are your family.  Not your only family.  Not your first family.  But we are your family now.




Most days I can only see where we are right now and the struggles we still have day in and out.  But when I step back and look at where we have been?

Wow, girl, we have been through it.  And even if we are still in the thick of it, we are here for it all, forever.  Because you are my daughter.




God has used you in my life in ways that I’m not even able to articulate.  I love you Bella.  I’m not sure what this journey is headed to, but we’ll work through it.  Whether it’s forever or only for a few more months – we are in this together.  Here is to the next week, and the next month, and maybe even the next year or ten. 


I love you sweet girl.


Love you, love you, love you,


July 5, 2012

The 4th.

We had so much fun on July 4th, and I’m sure the girls would concur.  Tootaw was also visiting for a few days over the holiday, so not only were we celebrating the 4th of July, but we were celebrating it with our (soon to be) fourth daughter!




We started our day bright and early (of course.  is there any other way to start it with that many small children?) by going out to breakfast at IHOP.  Of course the girls were thrilled to get smiley face pancakes, and I was thrilled that they were so eager to gulp down their eggs first.


Can I just stop here to mention that the looks that you get from people when you have four kids four and under are completely different than the looks you get with three?  Everyone who saw us got wide eyed and started counting.  I could see it running through their heads, “How is that even possible?????”  It’s not. 



Then we went to a parade with our good friends, the Ketters.  It was super hot, but completely worth seeing the girls faces watching the parade, and watching them dance to all the marching bands.



Six very small girls (including the Ketter girls) makes for a lot of cuteness.





Sylvie and her best friend Elliana.  Not a great pic of Sylvie, but that ornery look actually pegs her pretty well.












Hopefully this is the closest Sylvia ever comes to meeting a cop while living under my roof.






Later that afternoon we got together at our house for a barbeque.  You can see all my cooking assistants lined up ready to help me.






Naomi hopped in the baby pool before we could even get a swimsuit on her – she loved it!
















We had a great day.  We planned on ending it with going to see the fireworks, but the girls were worn out, and meltdowns ensued long before the fireworks were supposed to start.  We also had a great visit with Tootaw.  We’re going to begin the transition of her moving to our house – the caseworker said she’d like to do a slow transition (whatever that means.).  More on that later.  Hope you had a wonderful 4th as well!


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