Gazing Upward
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  • August9th

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    We’re moving full speed ahead into the school year! Caroline had registration and preview day at the middle school last week.  The 6th graders all got their lockers and were able to decorate them.  And whoa, how locker “decor” has changed since I was in middle school! Many of the students had wallpaper and mini shag rugs for make their little space their own. And did you know you can now buy battery-operated chandeliers and pendant lamps for your locker?? Yes, I’m serious. Just check out PBTeen.

    Caroline won’t actually start school until the 20th, and Grace’s first day is after Labor Day. But my big boy started 4k at his new school this past Tuesday!

    We had gone to meet his teacher the day before, and Carter was so nervous and shy. It was so hard and emotional for me to see him so vulnerable because I was a shy kid as well and still vividly remember the anxiety of new places and experiences without my mom by my side.  However, he had the best first day of school! And he was so disappointed yesterday to find out that he wouldn’t go back to school untli Monday. (He goes MTW.)

    This month is a little overwhelming to me, mainly because each child’s school and activities start at different times. If I don’t consult my planner, I have no clue where we’re supposed to be or what we’re supposed to be doing!  I do much better with a routine, so I predict I’ll be in a better frame of mind once the dust settles and the daily schedule is set.

    I am sure there are a lot of moms out there who will agree with me that it’s TIME for school to start back.  Everyone is bored, camps are completed for the summer, and the bickering and whining are nonstop in my household.  The changes of a new baby have finally hit home (pun intended) with Carter and Grace, and the resulting behavior has left me exhausted and drained of patience. From regression in potty training to holes in walls and drapes being pulled down, the kids are making sure they’re getting my attention. Grace seems to be having a tough time. I know she needs more reassurance and attention from me, but I also can’t completely disregard her disobedience and disrepect.  It’s a challenging line to walk. I wish I weren’t so irritable and impatient with them.  I’m hopeful that all of our dispositions will improve soon!

  • July11th


    Since I haven’t been able to come up with clever post titles, I thought the direct and straightforward approach was the next best option.

    Some of you have probably already seen a few pictures on Facebook, but here are some alot of our favorite photos from the newborn photo shoot several weeks ago. The pictures were taken on June 16th, which was Maryn’s actual due date.  My friend, Heather Knowles, is a VERY talented photographer, and we’re thrilled with the moments she captured. You can see more of her work on her website:

    P.S. It was not our intent to include our dog, Jackson, in the family photo on our bed, but he was having a fit to get up there with us. Then he proceeded to pose and look forward at the camera! I think he was in need of some attention and kudos. Poor thing still is.

  • July11th

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    I have several posts to catch up on or else our 2012 family scrapbook will be woefully sparse in memories preserved!  In fact, I still have to finish our Xmas post so I can have the 2011 posts printed out into a book. That’s how far behind I am!

    But first, I want to thank all of you who wrote such incredibly kind and thoughtful responses to Caroline after I posted her letter. I had no idea that so many people would write back to her, and I wish you could have seen her face as she read each of your comments.  And for me personally, I believe I got goosebumps from every person’s response!  You are all amazing, and you’ve touched our whole family. I realize there were so many details I left out of the one-year post that I had planned to include, but this sleep-deprived mama’s brain wasn’t working at full speed. I hope to provide a more detailed summary of our year with Caroline in the near future, even for my own sake…knowing the details will become hazy over the passing years.

    Our family spent a wonderfully relaxing five days at the lake last week.  My parents have a house there which is right next to my uncle’s house. And then on the other side of my uncle’s house is a cottage my cousins recently bought.  So we joke about having a family compound, but the space is truly needed given that all of the cousins have kids now.  This is the first summer when Carter and Grace have been old enough to really run around with the older kids (my cousins’ children), and it was a blast watching them have so much fun with each other.  Carter and Grace also went tubing for the first time, and Caroline learned to wakeboard!  Because I was literally inside the whole time with Maryn, taking occasional peeks out the window to see who might be speeding by on the water, I don’t have many pictures except what my mom was able to capture. But here are few highlights.

    Maryn’s 1st trip to Lake Martin!

    (Have you noticed all the hair she’s lost on top of her head??)

    Dressed up for the July 4th family dinner. When everyone is together, the lake visits pretty much center around food. 🙂

    Carter really felt like a big kid getting to run around with the older boys.

    And when they weren’t playing Star Wars…they were eating Star Wars characters, thanks to my mom and the pancake molds she bought from Williams Sonoma.

    Carter’s never been so delighted with Yoda as he was at this moment.

    My dad finally got to meet Maryn! Work deadlines had kept him from traveling to Alabama when she was born.  He couldn’t get enough of her!

    One night, we celebrated Mary Katherine’s 12th birthday.  I feel like it was yesterday that I was babysitting her! Now she’ll soon be babysitting for my kids.

    Caroline and MK are in the same grade and attend school together. And they have such a great time hanging out!

    Carter and Caroline riding the seadoo (with my cousin driving).

    Grace and Cece were going to perform a show for us but it didn’t happen. Maybe next visit! The two are quite the performers.

    I may have been trapped inside the whole time, but I have to admit that it was pretty relaxing.  I read two books, watched a movie, napped, and cuddled with Maryn. (Oh, and I was also feeding Maryn most of the time which is probably why she already weighs 10 lbs!) But not a bad deal for a mom of four kiddos, huh?

    I hope you and yours had a great 4th!


  • July5th

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    Dear Maryn,

    Today, you are one month old! I’m not sure how four weeks sped by because I seemed to think time stopped the day you were born.  So far, you’re a sweet and relaxed baby.  You only cry when we change your diaper or when you’re really hungry, and your cries have such a pitiful vibrato that you get a quick response from me every time.

    You’re quite the nurser, sometimes eating on and off for several hours at a time. We’re not sure if you’re going through growth spurts or comfort nursing, but I enjoy having you in my arms so much. I’ve also been able to get a lot of reading done while you eat!  At your 2 week check up, you had gained 10 ounces and grown 1/2″. So at 7 lb 14 oz and 21.25″ long, you rank 90% in length and 50% in weight.  Looks like you may be tall like your brother!  When I weighed you last Saturday, you were already 9 lbs.  Just in the last few days, you’ve outgrown some of your newborn pajamas and worn a few 0-3 month outfits.

    Your big brother and sisters adore you and frequently kiss you.  In the last week, your eyes have really begun to focus in on faces, and I can tell you’re going to be very entertained by your siblings.

    In the last week, you met your great grandmother, MaMa, who is 94 years old! You are her 13th great grandchild, and she loved holding you and soothing you with her songs. I used to watch her sing to all the other grandchildren and couldn’t wait for her to sing to my own kids.

    I pray there are many more hugs to give and songs to be sung to you by MaMa in the coming months and years.

    It doesn’t take much to rock you to sleep. In general, you’re a great sleeper and have just now begun to spend some time awake. And oh how we love to see those beautiful blue eyes when they’re open.

    You’re beginning to enjoy the swing. Although, you’re a snuggler and prefer to be in my arms when possible.  I can’t complain…holding you and staring at your sweet features is such a joy.  It’s in those moments that I find myself repeatedly thanking God for you.

    You made your first trip to the lake for July 4th, but I never got to take any pictures because you decided it was a fine day for nursing from sunrise to sunset.  I had thought my days of lounging and reading at the lake were over, but you gave me a great excuse to enjoy both! Let’s do this more often.

    Being at the lake with many cousins, you’re never lacking for arms to hold you.  Everyone is enamored with you, sweet girl!

    You continue to change so much every day. We can’t really decide who you look like, but your nose and lips definitely favor Carter.  I keep seeing a deep dimple on your right cheek, like GrandMary. And she says she sees a tiny one like Grace’s dimple on your left cheek. So as you begin to smile more this next month, I hope to capture such cuteness on camera.

    Maryn, you are loved so very much. And while I’m holding on tightly to these fleeting days of your early babyhood, I also eagerly anticipate the revealing of your personality.

    Happy One Month, baby girl!

    Love, Mommy

  • June27th


    Today marks one year since Caroline so bravely entered the Civil Affairs office and walked right into my arms.  Today is a year since a beautiful Chinese girl named Yuan LiYun became our daughter.  It’s amazing to review the last year and trace her progress, adjustment, and growth.  

    I remember feeling so overwhelmed and frustrated in November because continually conversing through Google Translate was difficult, and I was so ready for conversations with eye contact.  I was ready to leave our awkward silences in the car far behind us and to be able to ask my daughter about school, her homework, friends, and activities.  For a long time, our after-school car convos were limited to questions like this:

    “Hi Caroline! Did you have a good day?”

    “What did you have for lunch?”

    “Do you have a lot of homework tonight?”

    Caroline’s English has improved dramatically in the last few months, and she’s beginning to read books on a 3rd-4th grade level.  I certainly couldn’t pick up a language that quickly!  Our communication is on a whole different level now, and we rarely have to dart to the computer now for translation.

    As recently has April, I would struggle to find Caroline breakfast food she’d find satisfactory.  In China, they often eat dumplings or noodles in the morning. She wasn’t used to, and didn’t particularly like, common American breakfast fare.  Now she’s enjoying cereal, yogurt, fruit, pancakes, bacon, and muffins.  This doesn’t seem like a big step forward, but it is in this mom’s mind!

    While Caroline remains very guarded emotionally, she’s begun to share more with us and even wrote for the first time in our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards that she loves us.  She’s warm and affectionate and often initiates hugs with us now.  In fact, she even enjoys our “family hugs” which got started a couple years ago.  It’s when one of the littles asks for a family hug and we all huddle up and lean in for a tight embrace.  We might do this 3-5 times before we put the kids down.  Caroline readily jumps in for these….and I’m not sure I’d say that many 13-year-olds would dig this expression of family love. 🙂

    What I’ve noticed most in the last year is Caroline’s transition from spunky young girl to blossoming young woman.  If you look at pictures from last summer, you’ll notice how much she’s changed and matured.  (You can find links to some of last summer’s posts and her adoption video on the Adoption and Orphan Care page under the Categories tab above.) In some ways, I’ve grieved this quick growth because I missed nearly all of her girlhood. But I’m thrilled to see her grow and thrive after such a stressful transition in her life.

    Caroline made this cute backpack last week during a sewing session at a creative arts camp!

    I explained my blog to Caroline a few days ago and asked if she would like to write anything to share.  I told her how hundreds of people had prayed for her and and followed her story, and that they’d probably love to hear her thoughts on the last year.  Below is what she wrote this morning…I’ve left it unedited with the exception of a few notes I inserted for clarification.

    As you’ll read below, she’s still unsure about God and Jesus Christ.  She’s in a great summer Bible study, and she told us the other night that she thinks she might be ready to believe soon.  We covet your prayers for her salvation. I know that my life and heart drastically changed after I became a Christian my senior year of high school. I know the healing that only God can bring about, and I know there are many wounds in Caroline’s heart that could be filled with the security, redemption, love, and peace of Jesus.  I long for her to have eternal hope and for her to grasp His incredible love for her.

    After reading her letter, I’d love for anyone to leave a comment for Caroline if they feel comfortable. Whether to offer encouragement, congratulations, “Happy Gotcha Day,” prayers, or even your own testimony of faith, I think she’d be touched to hear from you.  I know only a very small handful of my readers usually comment, but this is one time I ask you to not be shy. 🙂  She has no idea how many lives she’s touched through her journey so far.

    We are so proud of Caroline’s accomplishments and her courage to leave everything she knew to start a new life in our family.  We feel honored that God chose us to be her parents. And now I’ll leave you with her thoughts on the last year…

    Dear Everybody,

    Today is I had been came America one year! (It’s actually one year since we met…we traveled home 10 days later.) I know that’s really excited! Me too!

    In this year, I need thank you for my Daddy and Mommy. Thank you for they adopt me for their daughter. I have a happiness family.  I believe something is control my life, but I don’t know.  In here, I know you will said God.  Next, you be really sad… I don’t trust God! Because education of China is atheism. I live China 12 years.  Now I 13. But I try. I going this way. And I really stubborn.

    One thing about food, which I really hate, but Americans really like.  Cheese.  In China, most people don’t eat cheese.  So now you can understand why. (PS: I don’t like chocolate too. But I not hate it.)

    The 2nd thing is my English is pretty bad, sometimes speak the wrong way.  But I geting better, right?  For that, Dad and Mom find many way to help, like tutor, and now is read 4 books each month. Then I will get a new Chinese book. That’s good idea! Just for the book, I have to keep read!

    I go to middle school next year. I nervous about it because I don’t know every thing! But I know I can do it!  Secondly is my age, in China the elementary school are six-year system.  When you 13 year old you start going to middle school, that’s normal. But in America is different, when you 11, you go to middle school, 13 year old you’re in 8th grade, so when I tell people my age, they’re surprise, but my English is too bad for 8th grade. (Based on her previous education and the advice of other adoptive families, we held Caroline back two years, so she just finished 5th grade.) That what I’m worried the most. 

    In a word, the first year pretty well!  I had lots good friends, sweet little sisters and brother, grate family. I really gratified. (I think she means grateful?)

    Love, Caroline Brown