the epic moment {they will always remember}

school started monday.
and we have several major summer moments yet unconquered.

day trip to the beach? probably won't happen.
philly please touch museum? too expensive, and, well, i don't have the energy.
go camping? daddy can handle that one.
catch a fish?  why yes, that's one i can manage. though i'm not really a fan of fishing, anything that only requires worms is pretty much as easy as it gets.

i prepped the fishermen that today was about learning to fish. learning to be patient. and if we didn't catch anything, we would try again tomorrow.
and we didn't catch anything.

 after an hour, the littlest fisherwoman was starting to get irritated from all the standing around.
the bigger fishermen were hungry, and slightly disappointed that we hadn't even seen a fish, let alone caught one.
so, we each hooked one last worm and sent the bobbers flying one last time.

it was like a storybook tale...as soon as we cast our last lines, within moments, rowan hooked a feisty blue gill!

excited doesn't even begin to express how they felt about our catch.

it's a day that will go down in our family history as one of our most epic days.
the day they caught their first fish.

oh and they insisted on touching his eyeball. apparently, little boys think touching fish eyeballs is really awesome. :)


a day of awesome firsts {and my sad misspelled signage}

my oldest son walked into school today for the first time. he was all smiles as if he does this all the time.

{yes. i spelled "kindergarten" wrong. a friend texted me a moment ago, making me aware of my horribly misspelled signage. the secret is out. i can't spell worth a darn. unfortunately, chalkboards don't include a spell checker feature. now i will forever be reminded why i'm glad that i'm not the one teaching my child to spell!! maybe i can find someone who can photoshop it?? yikes!}

as he walked into school, i didn't cry. in fact, i surprised myself by sharing his excitement. for a year i have worried and fretted over what school to send him. public or private or homeschool or co-op or charter or online cyber. at the last moment, i decided to go public and trust his little life to God's protection. after all, that's what i should be doing regardless. and you know what? we went to the meet-and-greet last week and found out his teacher goes to our church. she is artistic and witty and structured. she has a magnetic smile and and has traveled the world and understands things about life that i want my child to know. she loves Jesus, and she's my son's teacher. all this time i was worried and God had this plan worked out the whole time.
it was a happy morning of firsts.

across the globe, a friend was having a day of firsts as well. i could hardly sleep last night, knowing ashley was in china meeting her sweet baby girl for the first time. if you haven't already, stop what you are doing and read her post from this morning. her daughter is so beautiful i can't stop gazing at her!! and her gotcha moment? oh my. breathtaking. her daughter's smile makes me long to kiss emery's sweet cleft. oh how i love fantastically wide smiles!! seriously. you need to see her girl. she's so adorable i want to squeeze my computer :)

oh and i just have to include this shot...it makes me smile because it shows what was really happening while i was snapping foster's first day pics :)

real life is always more interesting :)

the funniest creatures {boys}

little boys are some of the funniest creatures.

creative, inventive, silly and shy.
brave and miraculous, gooey and strong.
tall and lanky, wigglie and busy,
bursting with love.
they have the capacity to run without exhaustion,
protect without thought of self,
create fun out of just about anything,
and bring a mama's soul joy like it has never known before.

little boys.
they put frogs up their shorts...

and make me smile all day long.


water wall {small backyard play solution}

a few years back, we made a pvc pipe building set. one of the cheapest and most fun projects, but also one of the more annoying to store when not in use. 

{you can find lots of other pvc ideas on pinterest} 

this past weekend, clint brought the bin of pvc pipes out and headed outside. before i knew it, he had them strung up in the backyard, with the kids squealing with anticipation. one of the many benefits of being married to a carpenter is that he randomly makes something new, just because.
because he's awesome.

i'll be honest and say i thought they looked really tacky and gave him some grief over not letting me spray paint them before they were attached. after all, a little spray paint works magic in any situation :)
our backyard is small and the pipes stick out like, well, like pipes.
but i quickly got over my paint issue when i saw how much fun they are.

the photos don't do them justice at all. they are so super, i find myself joining the kids every afternoon, becoming fully drenched in fountain awesomeness.

needless to say, water makes us really, really happy :)


floroscopy & friendship

clearly i constantly underestimate this girl.
i anticipated a rough day.
after all, drinking 8oz of barium and having 30 xrays is't exactly a recipe for a calm, down to earth day.

apparently, emery has been reading the blog because she graciously handed me a day without tears. without tantrums. a day with peaceful happiness. a day that felt easy again.
it just so happened to arrive on a day involving a floroscopy, but hey, i'll take it.

{a floroscopy is a series of xrays taken after drinking a chemical called 'barium' which glows as it moves through the stomach, organs, small and large intestines. it is used to determine or rule out and issues that might be causing emery's lack of weight gain.}

my girl willingly (dare i say happily?) drank a cup of baium. on an empty stomach. in a room full of other (crying) kids trying to drink barium.

it was nearly laughable to see her compliantly sipping with the other parents watching in awe.
i gotta say, she was a floroscopy rock star.

so far, the results are coming back normal. except for an exceptionally cute and small stomach. no surprise there :)

praising God for my calm and cooperative little gal.

we came home, and she was still so happy and cheerful, we invited friends over.
not just any friends, but emery's sweet friend isabelle...who is one month older than emery, and was also donning a coordinating green swimsuit. killing me with cuteness.

{this whole series of photos of the two of them cracks me up. i have no idea why, but when we asked them to stand next to each other, they immediatly went into crazy pose mode. it was downright hilarious.}

that last shot? emery leaned in for a hug...isabelle wasn't quite sure she was in the mood :)

when these two are together, i can't help but smile all over.
i treasure this family so deeply.
someday emery and isabelle will understand why their friendship is so very special. someday they will have a bond that will be unique from other friendships. someday.

right now?
they hilariously agitate each other. poke and screech and get all huffy. their reactions mirror each other so much so it's laughable when they get upset.

and then they have a moment...when they recognise each other. when they point to their little lip scars and notice their friend has the same scar. when they share a toy or a cheeze-it.
a little friendship is budding. a big deal around here.

and the real kicker?
when our friends headed home, i noticed a little present isabelle's older sister left for us on our giant chalkboard...

got me all misty :)

floroscopys' and friendship don't usually mix...but somehow today, they went hand in hand. 


all words ending in "scopy" {the un-fun zone}

first of all, i'm so very grateful for so many incredible moms offering advice and sweet words of encouragement and wisdom after my post on monday. i've soaked in each one and i feel renewed vigor to love deeper and retain the hope of knowing we aren't alone. thank you for sharing hope with me. :)

today starts the first of three very un-fun medical procedures for little miss sassy.

barium fluoroscopy xray is today
endoscopy and colonoscopy in mid september.

no fun. no fun at all.

emery is still struggling to gain weight. despite my grand efforts to pump her full of fat and calories, protein shakes, high calorie formula and fat/carb powder supplements (duocal)....she somehow managed to loose a pound this month (bringing her weight to 19 lbs. 12 oz). a pound really isn't that much, but on her tiny frame, it's a big deal. the specialists went into hyperdrive and informed us we are dangerously close to landing in a feeding clinic.

so we are moving forward with procedures ending in "scopy", involving all sorts of yuckiness.

they are hoping to discover the reason for her inability to retain nutrients and calories...other than the fact that she is a 2 year old and will only eat when she is good and ready to eat :) she's got spunk for days, this girl.

our recent visits to GI (gastroenterology) have added to the long list of specialists. including ENT (ear nose and throat), nutritionist, weekly weight checks, 2xweek speech therapy, auditory tests, ear tubes every 6 months, monthly visits from an in home nurse to monitor her growth and medical needs, ortho docs making sure her bones aren't growing incorrectly, allergist to rule out as a cause of poor weight gain, cleft team and pediatric dentist.

ok seriously? are we talking about the same little girl?
the one that just giggled and scooted under my chair while playing hide and seek with her big brother?
the one that rides a skate board and mimics karate moves?
the one who organizes tea parties and shoots her dad with a squirt gun?


that long list is such a true example of how scary the list is...but how awesomely delightful the child is.

it reminds me a lot of the adoption referral process. i remember reading through dozens of google searches, researching special needs we were willing to accept. on paper, every single one seemed scary and easy to dwell on. i can remember researching "failure to thrive" and thinking how horrible that would be. i thought the same about a cleft lip and palate.
it wasn't something i would willingly choose for my child...because, after all, i wanted a "healthy child."

and now?
i realize how far my fear was from the truth.

if i could have glimpsed our future?
i wouldn't have feared the "special needs" list.
i would have been more open and spent a lot less time googling.
i would have willingly checked "cleft lip/cleft palate" instead of worrying so much about my child having a scar.

but then again, i'm glad i didn't know. for what a delight to find the treasure of my heart in a place that i once thought was scary.

these things that some people call "defects" are not defective. they are created.
made on purpose.

when i look at her, i never see the long list.
it doesn't exist in real life...only on paper.

if you think of us today, pray that they can find something...or nothing. at this point, i'm not sure which is better :)


is it adoption? {or just a 2 year old?}

so often, i find my self asking the same question. i analyse and over analyze.
when crazy stuff happens...when we have an entire day filled with tantrums and crying. when my little girl throws herself on the ground and thrashes her arms and legs because i told her it was time to put her makeup away. when i ask her to eat a bite of her breakfast, but she doesn't like it. so she slams her head back and shoves the plate across the table, spilling eggs and orange juice everywhere.

is it adoption? or is it just a 2 year old?

over the past few weeks, i've been met with more screams than smiles.
my girl is working through something, but i don't know what it is yet.

i love capturing beautiful moments with my kids. with her. because they are real and true and beautiful.
but there is truth happening in between those beautiful moments that must be captured as well.
a lot of realness that can be confusing and frustrating to understand.

i'm writing about it because that's how i process and i'm hoping that in trying to find my way through, maybe someone reading will have advice or insight because they've been there.
in a season with more screams than smiles.

the past 3 weeks have been especially "real." maybe more along the lines of "horrible" but that sounds mean. so i'll say "real" instead. it's more politically correct, i'm sure.
i've had more than a few days when i felt unequipped. incapable. exhausted beyond sleep.
it's mental, emotional, spiritual exhaustion. and yet, the day continues.

if anyone had asked me about how my attachment with emery was going 3 weeks ago, i would have honestly said it's not much of an issue any more. for the most part, we had found a place of peace. even keel. tantrums were present but becoming increasingly minimal. she was finally in a place of asking for help instead of screaming and clawing and hitting. she was sleeping through the night at least 4 out of 7 nights a week. progress in conjunction with sleep was making us all happy people. she's been home a year...it's like she's always been here. we. can. breathe.

so in light of our attachement confidence, clint and i planned a weekend away for our 9th anniversary. a peaceful, wonderful 48 hours together. since he traveled so much this past year, he had free points for a hotel so we gallivanted to the lovely city of baltimore, ate tons of food and slept. a lot. perhaps 1/2 of the weekend was spent asleep. it. was. awesome.
the kids stayed with my parents and had a lovely time. emery, surprisingly, didn't have any obvious issues being apart from us. i was so proud of her...her confidence in our family...her ability to take it all in stride.

and then monday came. oh monday. she woke up screaming. spend the day flailing and angry about everything. fought me to eat and sleep and play. screamed at brothers and made me wonder what on earth was going on.

it has been 3 weeks since our baltimore getaway...and not much has changed. everything seems to make her angry. she screams at night like she used to...back when everything was new and she was terrified. she has regressed to hitting me and the boys when she doesn't get what she wants. and the meltdowns? oh my. it feels like we went back in time 6 months. back to a place that made the whole house feel like a battlefield. when i forced myself to stay calm even though i want to cry. when the boys have to entertain themselves doing who knows what because mommy has to ignore all other parts of life and focus time and love and energy on their sister.

it can be frustrating.
but most of all, sad. very very sad. heartbreaking.

from what i can tell, she is acting out because she felt unsafe or uncertain when we went away. she didn't know where we went or if we were coming back. she can't say "i feel worried. scared. afraid." she has no ability to tell us what she feels. if i couldn't speak, i'd be pretty darn angry too.

i'm not trying to minimize the wonderful spots in our day. because they are still there. we snuggle and laugh and do silly things. play in the sandbox and squirt each other with the hose. she is happy and plays and chases brothers. we hug and she shares toys and eats ice cream and helps me make dinner. we work on family projects and do the normal stuff.

it's the escalation that has changed. her tolerance of brother's playing with a toy she likes or mommy telling her it's time for bed.

she doesn't whimper or whine.
she yells.

screams words at me that i don't understand. my inability to understand only makes it worse. it infuriates her.

last week she refused to allow daddy to hold her or put her to bed...something that hasn't been an issue in over 9 months.

this week, she started rejecting me and noticeably choosing daddy over me.

throughout the day, she will refuse to be held when i can't give her what she wants. she will run from me, screaming and yelling across the room, when previously she would have run into my arms.

i keep telling myself, "she's trying to tell me she is hurt. i'm going to listen to what she is trying to say and not take it personally."

but the non-verbal-ness of our life is becomeing increasinly frustrating for emery.
we found out last week during her speech therapy evaluation that emery's verbal conprehension (what she understands) is astonishingly 2 months ahead of her age!
(seriously smart, bright, intellegent girl over here) 
...but her verbal communication skills are the age of a 12 month old.  can you imagine understanding everything, but being unable to speak? talk in giberish for a whole day and see what you get accomplished. it's rough.

a prime example happened at the pool on friday. we met up with 4 dear friends and their kids. swimming children where everywhere and emery wanted in and out and in and out of the pool. she wanted held and put down. up down, up down. the usual. i roll with it and try to oblige children in all directions.

my 4 year old, (who gets shy and uncertain when lots of kids are around) was hanging close by. he wanted so badly for me to swim with him. to spend some time together. to practice his newly learned underwater swimming. at least 10 times i told him,
"in a minuet buddy...mommy needs to help emery stop crying...help emery get a snack...help emery...on and on."
it breaks my heart when i have to choose one child's needs over the other. i knew he needed a special moment with me. he's the one who reacts most when sister is having a hard day.

{someday i'll post about the dynamic between the two of them. it's a long post. wrought with real sibling love, but also with tears and a mom who feels deep guilt for the year my middle child has had.}

he had been begging me to help him jump off the diving board....for the first time with no life jacket.
a big moment in kid land.
emery was destracted with friends and bopping around on the deck eating snacks so we headed to the deep end. she saw me swim away and immediately started screaming for me to come back. so i went back, while 4yo headed for the diving board. i told her i was going to help brother jump off the diving board and she could help me cheer him on. no way. she wasn't having it. she clung to me and would not let go. it was one of those "you are making such a big scene, everyone in a 2 mile vicinity is staring at us" moments.

"come on mom! please mom, i really want to jump!"
i could hear 4yo calling from the diving board, ready to dive off. the other kids were lined up behind him. waiting. rooting him on.

so i peeled her screaming body off of mine...but held her up so her flailing didn't land her on the cement of the pool deck. a dear friend picked her up and held her on their lap. the sign of a great friend. she contorted in 1,000 ways, but my dear friend held on, all the while speaking calmly.

i swam to the deep end. "i'll be right back emery! look, i'm right here! (wave) cheer for brother!!"

screaming. flailing. horror.

after a moment of coaxing, brother jumps. we all cheer and root for him. his friends and big brother congratulate him and he his confidence soars. he wants to keep jumping.

so i wave at emery (still screeching) while i tread water.
rowan jumps 5 more times...he beams with pride and we high five a million times.
it's a moment i want to remember always...the look in his eyes...so proud of himself.

i take a moment to swim back to emery, who stops screaming she sees me heading in her direction.
"hi sweetie! good job calming down!! come swim with mama!"

she scowls. and pulls away, clinging to my friend who is holding her and refuses to let me get close.

and i cried. on the inside, of course. on the outside i held it together.
her pain was so raw. she wanted me to know how much she is hurting. how much she needs to know i'm not going to leave her.
i smiled and said, "ok, sweetie, i'll hold you when you're ready" and tried not to make a big deal. within a few moments, she was bopping around and seemed to forget about her little stint. i picked her up and she laid her head on my shoulder.

and i wondered. what is going on within my sweet baby?

is it adoption? or is this just a 2 year old?
perhaps a tender mixology of both.

there is also an extreem element of control.
she demands it. does anything to maintain it.

her desire to be in control is so extreme that i often find myself questioning how to harness it.

during her 14 months in china, she had no control over any part of her life. no control over her hunger. pain. loneliness. no control over who held her or how they treated her. it changed the way she reacts to life. each step of this journey shows just how deeply the first year of life impacts a persons' future. their world view. their capacity to trust.

my tender, sweet, lovely girl. in many ways, she came out of her former circumstances resilient and capable of conquering huge obstacles. she can be flexible and tender and loving. but following close beside is her need to have control of something. anything. everything. it can be very intense.

i am re-reading "The Connected Child" (thanks to the reminder from my friend who has been experiencing something similar) and seeing out advice from friends who have walked this road.
i'm trying my best to give her choices throughout the day to help empower her and give her the security of knowing we value what she thinks and feels about life.

but what about dealing with those feelings of being out of control? that's a huge part of life that we all must deal with. 
how do i help her manage it?

what's funny is most people don't get to see this side of her.
she so dainty.
much smaller in person than pictures portray.
she's kind and gentle and very caring.
she looks out for people around her and has a silly, magnetic personality.

but there is a side to her that is full of pain and anger.
she was a lone warrior. adopting her didn't take away her pain.
after a year of endless hugs and kisses and weeks on end spent holding her and singing to her and meeting every physical and emotional need possible... she still doubts me.

is there any truer example of the way i react to my Savior? this entire adoption journey continues to strike me as a reflection of the way i doubt Gods ability and desire to love and comfort me. protect and provide for me. it's profound to see it right in front of me, over and over.

what i have to give will never be enough for her. i can't fill the depth of her soul...where her deepest pain lives.

but praise the Lord, we were created to be filled and healed by our Creator.

i have no idea when we will get back our place of peace, but i know this season in our relationship as a family is important. God wants me to see my own doubt as i watch emery's. to see the ways i reject the One who matters most...and how painful that rejection is.

is it adoption? is it our relationship with God?
it's a delicate mixology.
more than what can be expressed or imagined.
and the joy that is found within all of this uncertainty is greater than i can ever describe.

are there any mama's out in blogland who have advice? experience with these things??  i'd love to hear from you.
(ps. if you leave a comment, please be sure that you add a public email address to your google profile so i can write back to you...or include it in your comment. there are so many people i would love to write back to, but sadly, they don't have a public email address.)


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