enough wonderful to make me do it all over again

some days they wake up early and play happily for hours together before school.

today is one of those mornings...and it makes me long for the days before all this schooling started. when they were too little for classrooms and we stayed home if we felt like it. when play dates were our big event of the day.

in those days i planned amazing crafts and adventures. we woke up each day and discovered new things and turned the house into something new each day.
i'm so thankful for those days and years.
they weren't easy.
in fact, years of little babies and toddlers is exhausting and stressful.
but it was wonderful too.

actually it sounds a lot like our current stage....exhausting and stressful and wonderful.

I hope life is always a mix of those 3.

enough stress and sleep deprivation to keep me humble and reliant on God's grace when i'm selfish and frustrated.
and enough wonderful to make me wake up each morning and do it all over again.                     

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Gripcase: Get one for your kids & a free one for your school!!

A few weeks ago, I got a snazzy new iPad case from the good people at Gripcase. I'm always up for trying anything new, and since my previous case was on the fritz, it was perfect timing.

(can you tell they are excited? :)

There are several things I really like about Gripcase. They offer lots of great colors, our case is super lightweight and fits my iPad like a glove. But my favorite? Their mission as a company. Gripcase recently launched their own version of a BOGO program. Buy one, give one. When you order a case from the Gripcase website, you are prompted to select a school of you choice and Gripcase will send them a free case! It’s that simple. Get your own Gripcase, and get one donated to any school you select. So cool! My son keeps telling me how much his class would love these for their iPad center.

So, here's my review...

My kids LOVE the Gripcase. They can hold it in any position easily, walk around the house without dropping it because the handles are so well designed. And if, by chance, the iPad slips out of a well intending grip, the case completely absorbs the blow. It is the best kid-resistant iPad case I have ever used. My kids literally carry it all over the house playing Pandora (my 5yo is our resident d.j).

(apparently our kitty likes playing iPad too :)

Gripcase sells a stand that would be very useful. Since we don't have the stand, it is a little awkward to prop the case up if the kids are watching a movie (or a rainbow loom tutorial video - they are obsessed!! :). I'm going to look into getting a stand soon.

One thing I hope Gripcase evolves in the future, is the cases' ability to work with screen protectors. I'm a big stickler for screen protectors (especially with sticky kid fingers) and the Gripcase fits so wonderfully snug, it peels back my screen protector.  If you are a screen protector junkie like me, this might just drive you a little crazy :) But the great thing about Gripcase is that your screen is fully protected from breaking because of the design of the case. The face of the iPad is inverted slightly when inside the case so it cannot be scratched or even bumped if dropped.

My recommendation? This is the perfect case for an iPad for a family with kids. It's lightweight and your kids will LOVE it....their school will too!! I love supporting companies who give back, especially to local schools.

Gripcase would be a great gift for any kid on your list this year! Check them out!

You can find Gripcase here:
Gripcase-USA | Facebook | Twitter


my confessions & an update

i have a confession to make.
ok, two.
the first: i totally forgot i have a blog. somehow, someway, this thing that has been a part of my life for years has suddenly found itself off of the radar. and most days, i don't miss it. afterall, i have instagram. anyone else obsessed with instagram? it rocks.
until i look back and remember all of the life i documented. the stuff i hardly can recall without literally reading my own words about it. and i realize i will never remember anything if i don't take the time to write it down. i think mom brain has taken it's toll in such a way that i literally cannot retain even the slightest amount of recollection.
anyone else? can i get an amen?

confession two.
life is busy. too busy, in fact. i'm a homebody. i love being at home with my kids. no outside influences. we can just talk and laugh and play. when they were little, i never went a day without going somewhere. a playdate, the mall, the park, an adventure of some sort. but sometime around emery coming home and cocooning for a year, i realized i don't need to be distracted. i don't need to push myself to keep up with everyone else. in fact, i can fully admit that i can't even keep up with what i've got going on. my ever expanding humongous pile of school papers and bills and random paperwork is proof of my inability to keep up. let alone the ridiculous piles of everything i am ignoring so i can write this post.

so the update?

i've been hunkering down.
i've been trying to let go of my desire to do everything.

and, i've been working. for the first time in my mom life, i have a real stay-at-home job...as a writer, no less. with a little bit of marketing thrown in. (can you say dream job???)
it's been awesome. hard. very tough to balance, but awesome.

i'm working for a very cool company called, beachTuff. my sister in law, Julie, started the company and redesigned her Dad's beach cart invention that he created 15 years ago. she made her Dad's dream an amazing reality and after much sweat and hard work, it is finally in production!
you can see how it works here...

(ps. that's my voice on the voice over! and we shot half of this video in my living room! at the last minuet we needed shots of the product in action...and so i turned my living room into a studio. it was such a fun learning experience and i have high hopes for our next video after we make it big...it's going to be awesome!!)

so that's the recap.

what's new with you, dear friends?



a few isles of decompression

ending the day at the grocery store. alone. just me and the food and a few isles of decompression.
i won't go into the wild, screaming tantrums in the doctors office or the flailing anger over sharing anything remotely close to her.

lets just say it was a very loud day.
my girl longs for my comfort in her frustration but at the same moment refuses to accept it. over the years I've learned to sit with her and hold her loosely as she screams. the calmer my voice, the faster the tantrum subsides.
sadly, there have been times that i've been frustrated at her irrational terror...and as a result, i've seen the horrors of tantrums that go on for hours.
but when i meet her with patience...with a God enabled calm...she will eventually allow me to hug her tightly and her flailing turns to sobs.

today, tears came from somewhere far beneath the surface, and i couldn't help but think she was grieving a loss she doesn't yet understand.

her passion is deep and wild...and i love every bit of it.


my yearly stages {the breakdown of my craziness}

every year i seem to go through similar stages. it's strange to me that they repeat in such mirror images of the year before. clearly i need to work through these stages before i end up staring in my own version of Groundhog Day.

and thus, i give you...

stage 1: the long, cold, pennsylvania winter that feels as though it will never end is responsible for the first stage. plagued by genes that make it impossible to be warm during the winter, i literally shiver for 4 months. i get sad. i get mad. then, just when i think it's may, and perhaps hope is on the horizon, i look at the calender and realize it's actually only february. the.longest.month.in.the.universe.
stage 1 makes me want to move to the equator. literally, to build a house upon the actual equatorial line.

stage 2: the glory of spring warmth brings insane project mode. i literally tear apart my house and redo everything i had to stare at all winter. spray paint fumes fill the house from my makeshift basement corner paint room, giant holes (previously hidden behind pictures frames) come to light, and i somehow find a way to refinish 10 more pieces of trash-to-treasure furniture to cram into our very tiny home. i explore new ways to attach items of interest to drywall, such as my new love for hot gluing bunting rather than rummaging around for a silly old nail. who needs those, anyway?
my poor walls...they get abused in ridiculous ways during stage 2.

i also decide it's high time we started a massive home repair project, though i have absolutely no construction knowledge. but i start it anyway, thus forcing my husband to finish it for me the correct way, usually involving a great amount of patience on his part.

almost always, i start a business during stage 2 because stage 2 deceives me into thinking i will never, ever, EVER run out of energy. this year, i started making jewelry. last year i started painting furniture to sell. the year before that i did craft shows. the year before that i started sewing purses and headbands.

last year, stage 2 made me get a dog (whom we adored but then stage 3 hit and, well, you'll see what happens in stage 3)

let me tell you, my husband really dreads LOVES stage 2.

stage 3: brought on by stage 2, exhaustion enters and 4 out of 7 days a week, my husband comes home and we look as though we've been robbed. things of all shapes and sizes cover nearly every imaginable surface and once removed, another item literally manifests itself from nowhere. the kids wear only underwear on these days (lets face it, underwear days appear in all of the stages), the dinner menu is more like a lunch or breakfast item with a side of canned fruit or a random leftover baked potato, and i may or may not have showered in the foreseeable past.

my brain seems unable to focus on the smallest tasks during stage 3 and i convince myself bi-weekly that i must either be pregnant, have lymes or have contracted mono because there's just no way a person can feel this amount of exhaustion from pesky old stage 3.

stage 4: being that i'm currently stuck in stage 3, i haven't the gusto to forge forth into stage 4. it involves a month long cleanup and perfect organization of all things chaotic from stages 1 through 3. it's clearly the best stage. 

come on stage 4, don't let me down this year.


emery and nai-nai

quite possibly one of my favorite moments ever. this shot so well captures the beautiful relationship emery has with her nai-nai (my mom). the sweetness and the trust. it's truly one of the most beautiful things i've ever seen.

blog makover {and learning alien code}

so i've been wanting to move this old blog to wordpress. i love writing sometimes and posting photos other times, and i want something that is more moldable and useful for me.

one of my favorite things to do is learn new things...i frequently scour google and find great tutorials for fun new skills. but truly one of the most annoying and confusing things to me is anything related to html code and web design.
the world needs a website interface designed by someone who can make it easy and pliable and more like using photoshop and less like using a mysterious code written by aliens.

i'm starting to think html code was created as a cruel joke...and the joke's on me because i just can't seem to crack the code.


i'll get off my soap box and continue by saying (if anyone is actually still reading this odd, ranting webhosting post) that some strange goings-ons are sure to ensue over the next week as i read google tutorials and burn up perfectly good time designing a new website in alien code.

if my blog disappears, you'll know why.


happy gotcha day, my love

it's been a busy few weeks around here. lots of fun things happening and new jobs and lots of regular old typical days...the kind that summer is supposed to include with popsicles and last minuet play dates and lazy mornings.

today was another typical day...except it's also a special day. it's emery's Gotcha Day, marking 2 years together. i can't quite wrap my head around all that has happened in the past two years, but honestly it feels like she didn't have a start date. i can't remember my first thoughts about her...my first prayers...they have been there as long as i can remember. i think it was around the time that foster was born, 7 years ago, that i started dreaming of my far off daughter...the one that wouldn't come from me, but would be meant for me.

we spent a long afternoon outside today, playing and swinging and finding earth worms. and it feels like any other day...thankfully.

today is not the only day that we talk about her story, because each of our stories is unique and beautiful and it would be silly to only talk about them once a year. we are making emery's favorite meal tonight...the one that we make all the time, because it's her favorite. we are making brownies and watching the kids dance to alvin and the chipmunks after dinner becasuse that's what we do every night. and we will marvel at her, just like always. we will marvel at the tiny little girl we met 2 years ago who has stolen our hearts in the best of ways and who we cherish and delight in because of who she is, not just because we adopted her.
she is magnificent because that's how her Creator intended her to be and i'm so very thankful to have the honor of living life with such a grand creation. 


in honor of today, a few videos from our first days together in china...


Visiting Orphans & Keeping Families Together

I am so excited to share a video with you from the amazing organization, Visiting Orphans. One of my favorite things about this team is that their missions is to not only love children but to partner with communities to prevent children from becoming orphans and help families stay together. Visiting Orphans is all about relationships...they focus on real people and strive to meet their emotional, spiritual and physical needs.

Please take a few moments to watch and perhaps be inspired to join in with this amazing ministry.

They send people to build relationships and love on children in places such as Africa, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Ukraine, Ecuador, Haiti, India and China.
Here is a quote from their website describing their work in China:
"Visiting Orphans works with government run Social Welfare Institutes (SWI) to bring love and assistance to some of those 20 million children without families. Since 2005 we have sent over 30 teams from the US to visit these SWI's. Although the SWI's do all that they can to provide the best life for the children living there, assistance and help is still needed. Our missions teams don't go in with an agenda, they go in to serve and to love. Oftentimes on our trips all you will do for hours on end is hold infants who need the love and attention they deserve or play hide-n-go-seek with a group of six year old boys. It will truly be a life-changing and unforgettable experience. "

They also have adoption fundraising opportunities...

I so love organizations who catch the vision of not only the beauty of adoption, but the importance of preventing children from loosing their birth family.


Bring Me Hope - Youth Camps in China

I'm partnering with the Bring Me Hope organization this week, who host camps in china for at risk kids. I love their passion to reach out to youth who might otherwise go un-noticed. Please take a moment to hear from one of the awesome Bring Me Hope volunteers and her experiences in China and perhaps you will feel led to be a part of this awesome organization.


"I knew that traveling to China to be part of the Bring Me Hope summer camps would change my life, but I had no idea how deeply and permanently it would wreck my heart. 

It was only five days that I spent with those three orphans, but I still remember it like yesterday.  We ate our meals together, sang the silly camps songs, hiked the Great Wall and pasted and glued our hearts out at craft time.  As they opened up and shared their stories, I felt myself coming undone from the inside out.  How do you not when a gorgeous, twelve-year-old girl tells you that she was orphaned after her parents died in a murder/suicide?!  

Shock.  Then heartbreak.  Then the tears.  

Fast forward six years.  My trips to China have continued, my new dream in life is to get to 30 years old so I can bring our own son or daughter home.  From that first week at camp, I saw what a difference five days at a summer camp could make in the lives of chinese orphans, as well as their foreign camp buddies; I never wanted to stop being a part of this mission. Bring Me Hope is dedicated to improving the lives and futures of Chinese orphans. It begins at summer camp and continues with year-round programs to meet the ongoing needs of orphans in China.
We are currently in the middle of four weeks of summer camps in five chinese cities.  A great need right now is raising the rest of the camp sponsorships to make the fourth week of camp possible.  As a sponsor, you will become part of the team that makes camp happen for the kids. Sponsorships of $125 or more will receive a phone call and letter from one of the children attending camp.

Your camp sponsorship will provide Chinese orphans with a safe place to experience healing, be assured of their value, and be given opportunities to explore fun, new things like swimming, art, music and field trips. Camp also connects orphans with people who can advocate for them year-round. 
We would love to invite you to partner with us.  Would you help make these last weeks of camp happen with a camp sponsorship?!  {You can do this on our website here}  We also hope you would consider about joining us at the 2014 camps.  It is an adventure that will change your life.  Most of all, please pray with us that these children's lives could be changed through the power of love and family."
“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they are not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” -David Platt


vacay week {obx}

we are in the outer banks this week, on vacation with clint's family.
the weather has been bizarre to say the least, storming one minuet and sunny the next. we no sooner get to the beach, and torrential rains drive us away within a matter of minuets.
but honestly, the rain hasn't kept the fun away, as we have been spending the days swimming and enjoying the hot tub in the rain.
i love that kids can make fun out of anything, and seeing them enjoying time with their cousins they haven't seen in years.

i haven't picked up my big camera in a long time. i've been devistated to find that i've reached the shutter limit and it's starting to fail to focus and really give me a hard time. it will be a while before i can afford to buy my dream camera, so i've resolved to shoot this camera into the ground...and not to care as much about it getting wet or sandy. it been well used over the years and i'm so thankful that it still helps me capture our little family.

i forgot my computer this week, so taking a picture of the back of my camera is the best i've got :)
this is one of my favorite shots from today when the uncles created a wave pool for the kids today. if only this had audio...the laughter was pure joy.


teaching them the ways of the court

we are a family of tennis players. my mom taught my brother and i when we were kids and we often have family tournaments and wonderful afternoons of laughter enjoying each other.

the kids have loved learning to play and we've been spending wonderful mornings playing together at the local courts.

i can't wait to someday have them join in the family tournaments and be able to carry on our tennis transitions.


the fair in town {lone rider}

the kids look forward to the fair every summer, and our house is only a few blocks from the annual fairgrounds.

 last year, emery didn't even get out of the stroller. this year? i should never have brought the stroller...she wanted nothing to do with sitting around. my gal wanted to try every.single.ride.
we were most surprised when she hoped on the little train all by herself (because we were out of tickets for brothers to ride with her :) and she was all smiles.
big brother, on the other hand, was like a worried old man, hovering over her, waving, and telling her to keep her hands inside the train :)

it was adorable.

but the highlight, was a fish named "squirmy," won at the ping-pong ball game. he promptly died 3 days later, but we have since replaced him with "squirmy #2." i'm morbid and hope "squirmy #2" bites the dust soon. fish and i don't get along :)


friends {the truest blessing}

friends are of the truest blessings in life.
it is such a treasure to have dear friends to walk side by side in life, and have them understand the adoption journey in ways other families don't.
siblings who have different shades of skin and features that are shaped differently is typical to us. it's the way our family is supposed to be. i often forget we are multi-cultural until someone points it out. i love being with other families who are beautifully blended like us.

(the highlight of our day together...the overspray from giant fountains)


mini vacation {beachTuff coming soon}

foster had one request for his birthday: a beach day.
my husband couldn't take the day off of work, so the kids and i threw some food in the car, a few buckets and shovels and headed to the closest beach we could find (which happened to be atlantic city...slightly over commercialized as you will see from the giant billboards everywhere :)

last year, miss emery was very fearful of the water. she cried when waves came close and stayed miles away from any wet substance potentially hitting her toes.

this year?? well, i'll let the pictures speak for themselves :)

these are the only 3 pictures i have of the birthday boy from our trip. he literally NEVER stops moving and pictures aren't high on his priority list. the only thing that took him out of project mode was the world championship sand sculpting event. it was amazing to see them working!!

as a side note, we took very few things to the beach, but even traveling light made it nearly impossible to get our gang and stuff to the beach. i opted for the running strolling thinking it would roll nicely...not so. it was all i could muster to get us to the shoreline...let alone the TWO bathroom breaks we took and trekked all the way back to the boardwalk.

our difficulty getting to the beach made me that much more excited for the incredible beach caddy that my sister in law is working on!! clint's dad invented a beach chair that would double as a caddy over 20 years ago...and now, his sister, Julie, is making that dream a reality!! her company name is beachTuff and is soon to be a household name!!
the caddy not only carries all of the beach necessities (chairs, toys, food, junk, etc) but it converts to a beach chair and the base has a built in water sprayer and cooler!!
i've been honored to be working with the beachTuff marketing team as one of the writers on the beachTuff blog and doing pinterest research.
take a peek and spread the news! the trek to the beach will never be the same once these babies hit the sand!!


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