Gazing Upward
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  • October27th

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    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!

  • 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

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    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: www.sproutsbyheather.com.

    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