Gazing Upward
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  • December4th

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    I apologize for being long overdue in giving an update.  I don’t have any excuses except that having four kids is kicking my tail!

    I went back to the breast specialist yesterday, and the abscess seems to have cleared up!! She could still feel a small mass but thinks it’s the tissue healing underneath the biopsy scar.  I won’t go back now until February 4th (unless of course the abscess is still there and starts growing again). They’ll repeat the mammogram to ensure that all is normal.  I just have to say HOORAY!!!! for no surgery. Thank you for all the prayers and sweet words of encouragement. I can’t even imagine how I’d cope with the healing process when I can’t even manage my own family and home when I’m healthy! 🙂

    Another good report came a few weeks ago…actually the same day we got the good news from the biopsy report. I took Maryn to our allergist so they could confirm what her allergies really are. I was scared that there was something I wasn’t cutting out that she was allergic to because we couldn’t get her BMs back to normal.  At first, it looked like eggs might be added to the list. But at the end of the testing, it was just milk and soy allergies which we had assumed based on our pediatrician’s visit. The REALLY good news though is that the results showed up as intolerances rather than full-blown allergies, so she should outgrow them before she’s 15 months!!! (Carter was SO excited when he heard Maryn had allergies and said, “Thank you Mom! Thank you for giving Maryn what you gave me! She’s just like me!!”  So needless to say, I haven’t broken the news to him yet that she doesn’t really have bad food allergies like him after all.

    Maryn did incredibly well. She didn’t even cry when they pricked her back. She is the most chill, laid-back baby. She even fell asleep while waiting for the test to be over.

    (Check out my baby’s arm rolls. See how many you can count. Hee hee. 🙂 )

    The other fantastic news is that the allergist thinks we should be able to use Nutramigen if I decide to stop breastfeeding, as opposed to the ridiculously expensive prescription formula. I may not make it another 6 months (I’m craving some chocolate BIG time!), but I’m sticking with it for now.  I actually feel really great after dropping dairy from my diet. The soy….it’s coming close to being a deal-breaker for nursing but I’m slowly finding good and even delicious recipes and foods that are gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free. My favorites are chicken fettucini salad, kale sausage meatballs, and cranberry apple stuffing (my Thanksgiving treat). I can also eat gummy bears so I’ve been gobbling them down like they’re becoming extinct. If you are or have been in the same boat, let’s please swap some recipes and ideas.

    We’re so thankful for the positive news! Thanksgiving pictures are soon coming your way. The kids put on their annual show, and guess who the plump turkey was????

  • November25th

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    bday girl

    cake

    blowing out the candle

    daddy and bday girl

    doll checkup

    dollhouse

    getting nails painted

    face painting

    Grace and doll stroller

    Grace singing

    Grace

    Grace's nails

    IMG_2287 - Version 2

    lemonade fountain

    Maryn

    table setting

    the cake

    the girls

     

    Grace,

    My little China doll is growing up! You are full of energy and enjoy dancing and singing…constantly. You often improvise on songs and incorporate lyrics from actual songs.  Most people would describe you as animated, expressive, and perhaps a little dramatic. We joke about you taking up acting because you can show the most mature expressions!

    In addition to prancing and singing around the house, your other favorite activities include playing games like CandyLand Winnie the Pooh Matching, kitchen (always the hostess offering us hot coffee), coloring and all sorts of crafts, doodling letters, and reading about princesses. Belle is your very favorite!

    Favorite shows include Caillou, Max & Ruby, SuperWhy, and Dora. We’ve also recently discovered The Care Bears on Amazon Prime. It brings me back to my own childhood.

    This year, you played soccer for the first time in the fall.  You are also taking a ballet/tap class with Ms. Gina. You are learning how to be a big sister, and you’re such a big help with Maryn. This year has also been one of power struggles. You will do almost anything to win a battle and not surrender.

    At school, on the other hand, I am told you are very well-behaved. You enjoy order and structure. And you have also taken it upon yourself to tell a classmate’s mom if their child has been in timeout during that day. They love getting the scoop from you! But we’re definitely working on cutting the tattle-taling.

    Over the last few months, you’ve had many questions about your China mommy and why we chose to adopt you.  While we have always talked about your background, I think you’re beginning to understand and grasp the details. And that’s difficult for a 4-year-old to do. I predict that we’ll have many more conversations before you turn five. What we want you to understand most is that you are loved, loved, loved, my child. Not only by your mommy and daddy, but also by your siblings, relatives, and friends. And most of all by God. What a story He has written for you!

    Happy 4th Birthday Princess!

    Love,

    Mommy

  • November5th

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    Sweet Maryn,

    It’s been a month full of milestones and discoveries! You now look up when you hear your name. You love blowing razzies and cooing, especially when you first wake up.  You had your first laugh on October 8th, and we can’t get enough of it! You are a pretty quiet baby…lots of smiles but not much noise. So we really have to work to get your giggles.

    When you do decide to make some noise, you can let out some loud squeals!

    Everyone loves to comment on your chubby little cheeks.  The most common remark we get from strangers is that you look like a living doll with your fair skin and chubby rosy cheeks.

    We stood before our church on November 4th, dedicated you to the Lord, and made some very important promises that we’ll explain to you one day.

    You don’t mind your carseat so much anymore. But after a while of hanging out in it for carpools and such, you like to move around. You’ve started rolling over, mostly from back to front. Although the first time you rolled, it was from front to back.

    We bundled you up for a few of Carter and Grace’s soccer games, but the evenings became a little too chilly for such a little baby. We’ll try out your cheerleading skills next year.

    Your favorite toys are Sophie the Giraffe and the colorful toy below.

    And you’ve also discovered the entertainment of the exersaucer!

    This month, we discovered that you have milk and soy allergies, so I’ve cut those ingredients out of my diet since I’m nursing you. But you’re worth the sacrifices little one. You bring so much joy to our family. Happy 5 months! We love you Ryn Ryn!

    Love, Mommy

  • November4th

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    This morning at church, we dedicated Maryn to the Lord and promised that we would raise her in a loving and God-honoring manner and environment.  Each family selects a Bible verse for the child being dedicated, reads it aloud before the congregation, and then responds to some vows. The verse we chose for Maryn is Philippians 1:9-10…

    “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…”

    Doesn’t she just look like she KNOWS she’s all dolled up??

    Baby dedication at our church is similar to a christening, and Maryn wore a gown that will be passed along to my sister’s children and hopefully to all of our grandchildren, with each person’s names embroidered in the slip. This gown was made by a woman in Selma, Alabama, who creates exquisite christening gowns and heirloom dresses for incredible prices.  This dress has vintage lace, and the handiwork is just beautiful.

    Our family of 6

    Grace kept telling Maryn that it was her “special day.” And Carter was so excited about us promising to teach Maryn about God. Although, he was concerned how she would hear because “her ears are so small.”

    Scott’s parents

    My sister, Courtney

    Courtney and Ivan

    My mom

    My baby girl and me…I can’t get enough of her!

    My parents and Maryn (who clearly had had enough of pictures)

    Scott’s sister, Julie

    Julie and Libby (Scott’s mom)

    We had a brunch at our house after church to enjoy time with family and friends. The cake had Maryn’s monogram and a beautiful pink cross.

    Aunt CoCo can’t get enough of Maryn either.

    I love how she’s looking right at the camera.

    She had three people around her taking pictures, and she would turn her head each way as if she knew how to pose and entertain the paparazzi.

    This is MaMa, my 94-year-old grandmother whom I’ve often writtena about.

    And finally, my favorite picture of the day! My mom and I were remarking on how Maryn’s lips look like they have lipstick on them. Her plump rosy cheeks and sweet pink lips make her look like a doll. And she is….

  • October27th

    5 Comments

    Well hello! Were you wondering if I’d ever come back? Me too. This fall has been a whirlwind and I’m learning during this season more than ever that time is not my time.

    I probably have four draft posts that have been in the works for weeks.  So I thought I’d do an overall update and then finish the other specific posts soon. Here’s a little summary of what’s been going on in our family this fall…

    Caroline

    Caroline is enjoying the 6th grade and has adjusted well to the middle school.  She absolutely loves band and practices her flute for long periods each evening.  She takes tennis lessons once a week, and dance classes 3x/week. She has really taken to dance (which thrills me given that I’m a former dancer and dance teacher) and plans to audition in February for the dance team.  She has a lot of work to do, but she has shown incredible improvement and talent in the last three months.  I had a strange moment this week as I was sewing elastics onto her new ballet shoes.  I remember my own mother doing this for me for years. And now I’m in that place. I’m a “dance mom.” I don’t feel old enough (or far enough removed, I suppose) to be doing these things!

    While many middle-schoolers begin separating themselves from their parents, Caroline has actually opened up to us even more.  She loves sharing stories and news from school, discussing the latest book she has read, and expressing her opinions. Okay, so maybe that last part isn’t exactly new.  We’re already entering the phase of teen drama, as a sweet boy asked her to dance at their 6th grade party, and Caroline went to hide in the girls’ bathroom!  She didn’t want anyone to think they were boyfriend/girlfriend. Ha! Then a few weeks later, he had a friend ask her if she would “go with him.”  Isn’t it humorous (and sometimes painful too) to recall those awkward middle school days of crushes, unrequited love, and dismay at being pursued when you don’t want to be? LOL

    Finally, Caroline recently reconnected with a girl from her orphanage who was adopted three years ago. The girl lives in Indiana and plays the flute as well! They have been cute emailing back and forth and skyping. One night, they even played the same song on the flute simultaneously via skype. They’re already planning trips to visit each other. What a unique and special bond to have experienced life in China together as orphans and then to have both been adopted by American families.

    Carter

    In the last few months, Carter seems to have matured considerably. I so enjoy our little conversations. He loves to have me read to him, his favorite books being chapter books. And thankfully, he has NOT outgrown cuddling. In fact, he seems to like sitting in my lap or snuggling more than ever before.

    At school, Carter has learned to write his name. I know almost every person accomplishes this at some point, but it is truly incredible when you’ve witnessed a child develop from a helpless infant to a kid who can speak, articulate ideas, and write letters.

    Both he and Grace are playing soccer this fall, and he’s scored several goals (despite the fact that he’s stolen the ball from his teammate a couple of times.) He’s still learning the rules of the game. 🙂 Star Wars continues to be a major interest, and I love catching him when he’s acting out battle scenes. This morning, I heard him say, “Don’t forget your training!”

    Of all our kids, Carter currently has the best understanding of God and Jesus.  His questions are deep, his prayers are genuine, and he claims he’s loving God more everyday… because as he recently stated to Grace, “God does everything for us.” Two of my favorite conversations lately….

    Carter: “Mom, Grace was being really mean outside. So I prayed that Jesus would help me so I wouldn’t hit her.”

    I had a hard time not laughing but was also so proud that he is understanding the many ways that Jesus can help and empower us.

    Carter (emerging from my bedroom): “Mom, I was in your room praying several times.”

    Me: “Well what were you praying about?”

    Carter: “I prayed that God would help me behave.” (then giggling) “I also prayed for something that I know God won’t do. I prayed that He would give me $5,000…tomorrow!”

    Well at least he knows God doesn’t answer those types of “gimme” prayers! 🙂

    Grace

    My sassy princess has been going through a tough time.  She never really had the terrible 2’s, so I suppose the 3’s are her time to test boundaries.  She’s rebellious, mischevious, disobedient, loud, and very needy.  She’s dealing with the normal emotions of having a new sibling. She also continues to process through her roots and background. Here’s the conversation we had this past week:

    Grace (out of the blue): “I want to go to my China.”

    Me: “Why?”

    Grace: “I want to see my China mommy and live in her tummy. I never got to hug her goodbye.”

    Me: “Oh honey, I bet your China mommy gave you lots of sweet hugs and kisses before she had to say goodbye.”

    Grace: “Do you think I ate her tummy?” (She refers to breastfeeding as “eating one’s tummy” and is constantly interested when I’m nursing Maryn.)

    Me: “I don’t know, but I think probably so.”

    Grace (walking into my arms): “I want to eat from your tummy. I want to be in YOUR belly. Like Maryn. And like Carter. Why were Carter and me not in your belly together?”

    She recognizes the intimacy of nursing and struggles with the idea that she didn’t grow in my belly. While we’ve talked about China and her China mommy ever since we brought Grace home, she is now beginning to truly process her adoption and all that it means. I know we have some difficult questions and conversations ahead of us. It just hurt my heart to see her so sad.  My mom suggested rocking her and letting her drink a bottle or sippy cup in my lap just as I feed Maryn so that she can have this same experience of intimacy that she seems to be craving.

    Grace’s favorite thing to do is to sing. And she sings all. the. time.  She especially loves making up her own lyrics. And sometimes they’re pretty funny. Maybe we have a songwriter in the making!

    Maryn

    Our little one is quite the chunk! At 4 1/2 months, she is a whopping 17 lb 10 oz, placing her above the 95 percentile! And this is with me exclusively nursing her and not giving any baby foods yet. She is incredibly laid-back and happy, rolling with the crazy schedule we keep and smiling at every opportunity.  She lights up when her siblings appear.

    Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a little roadblock. She began having loose stools that eventually turned green and mucousy before evolving into complete diarrhea. As in, it just wets the diaper. Sorry for the TMI, but I want to help anyone else who might be experiencing the same symptoms. After a few days of these diapers, bright red blood appeared in her stools. With research and a visit to the pediatrician, the diagnosis is food allergies coming through my milk.  So the current plan is to cut all dairy and soy from my diet, which is already gluten-free.

    Let me tell you…cutting dairy is easy. I’m familiar with dairy-free products because of Carter’s allergies. But EVERYTHING contains soy. And you can find foods that eliminate two of the three allergens mentioned above, but it’s pretty difficult to find ones that eliminate all three!  I’m already starving because I’m nursing, and now I’m very limited in what I can eat.  No more Pumpkin Spice Lattes. No more cheese.  No more casserole or baked goods. No more steaks or hamburgers. (I can’t have beef either.) No more diet coke. (Yep, did you know many sodas have soy in them???)

    I use coconut milk creamer in my coffee, and I’ve eaten a ton of veggies, meat, and hummus. I’ve even discovered SO Delicious’ Amaretto Cherry coconut milk ice cream and Chocolate Almond Milk for sweet treats. But it’s almost impossible to eat out anymore. I am dreading the upcoming holiday parties.  The alternative is to stop breastfeeding and to put Maryn on formula. However, the only option is a prescription-only formula of amino acids, and it costs around $800/month (IF insurance pays 50%).  I’m committed to nursing Maryn until 12 months, but I’ve been having a really hard time depriving myself. That’s why I’ve never been good at diets. I don’t have willpower when it comes to food. I’m a foodie and I enjoy it all! I’ve been surprised by how emotional I’ve been about my inability to endulge in foods I love.  Food has controlled me a lot more than I ever realized. And I’m truly learning the meaning of sacrifice.

    Despite cutting out dairy and soy (and also wheat) for 2 weeks, Maryn’s stools have not returned to normal. The next step might be to eliminate eggs and nuts. Surely the upside of all this is that I’ll lose weight, right??? 🙂

    More details to come on Maryn in her monthly updates.

    Other News

    On October 2nd, we lost my grandmother (my dad’s mom). Mimi was 89 and suffering from throat cancer and other ailments. When hospice came in, she was at peace and passed away with a sweet smile on her face. However, it’s never easy to say goodbye to a loved one, no matter how long they lived or how great a life they had.

    Now I could say that the school year has kicked off without a hitch and that I have it all together. But that would be a big fat lie.  Being a mom of four makes me feel like my world has been turned upside down.  We limit each of our kids to 1-2 activities (one sport/one arts pursuit), but our days still end up chaotic with carpool lines, lessons, help on homework,  meals, and nursing a baby.  I don’t find all our days stressful or overwhelming…they’re just BUSY.  I feel like I don’t stop, and I’m continually reviewing in my head items that need to be taken care of.  Thankfully, I’m very organized by nature, so my planner helps tremendously. But it’s still a tough season of life, particularly having such a large age span between Caroline and Maryn.  When you have little ones, you are often home for the afternoon and evening. With a teenager, the busyness is just beginning at 3 pm.  There’s got to be a way to simplify life more without depriving my kids of opportunities to pursue interests. Any advice from moms who’ve been there, done that?

    A high school friend, who is also a mother of four, told me this week that she gets up at 4:45 am simply to stay ahead of her kids and have some “me” time before the day gets busy.  I’m working my way backward (maybe to 5:30 am) because I think I would feel much less rushed going into the day if I have my coffee, quiet time, and an uninterrupted conversation with Scott before diving into daily responsibilities.

    Overall, our family is in a good place. We’re “stable” for the first time in years, meaning we’re not pursuing another adoption or managing a pregnancy. When the six of us are together, it just feels right. Like our family is complete. Only God knows if it is or not, but I’m enjoying the memories we’re making. Like spending time in beautiful Maggie Valley, NC last weekend for my cousin’s wedding.

    My grandmother, MaMa, with some of her great-grandchildren and grandson Mike (the groom).

    We rented a cabin with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. And we were pleasantly surprised to have this incredible view from the deck.  Oh how the mountains soothe mine and Scott’s souls!

    Happy fall!