Wednesday, May 30, 2018

LAST DAY OF SCHOOL

We finished 1st and 3rd grade and will finish out Pre-K4 in a couple of months.  This crew is ready for summer adventures and a more flexible routine.  This mom is excited to have more time with them, and also a little nervous about all the hours stretching before us.  How will we fill them all in healthy ways? 😬

It honestly feels like this year just started - here's a look back at the beginning of the year! But here we are - wrapping it all up.

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Lily had a great year in 3rd grade.  She said her favorite things were the field trips and Gary the class guinea pig.  She learned and ended the year with all A's!  She is an avid reader, and I almost cannot get enough books to keep up with her.  She also loves doing puzzles.  This summer she is really hoping to learn how to make sugar cookies.

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Bella finished 1st grade with flying colors and is so excited about summer break!  She also loves reading and basically works through series right after Lily, which is pretty handy for us all.  Both Lily and Bella had fantastic first year teachers who had so much energy for their class and enthusiasm for learning.  I was a little nervous going in, but they both turned out to be so wonderful.  Bella really loved their class pet, Craig the snake, and she loved going on field trips and playing at recess.

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As I mentioned, Violet and William have a few more months of Pre-K4.  They are continuing to thrive in their school and are looking forward to Kindergarten in a few short months!

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They wanted to pose a little weirdly with the wall, but they were so cooperative, I didn't feel that I could really complain.  We are already almost done with our first summer trip, as I am blogging from the road, so it's safe to say we are ready for lots more summer fun and a little less routine!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

APPROACHING KINDERGARTEN

We have been on such a journey with our precious twinsies.  When I looked back at the blog to see when I first chronicled their "delays," I was stunned to realize how early we started therapy.  By their six month checkup, they were missing some milestones, and after lots of evals and mounds of paperwork, we began various therapies beginning around 8 months.

Let me just say - that is hours upon hours of therapy in the last four years as we've led up to kindergarten and real deal school which will commence for them in August.  ðŸ˜³  In the past couple of months, we have done a truckload of testing, both through the school district and through a private office to get a better idea of what services they might need and how they are functioning.  John and I have both been to hours of meetings with tables of people who are invested and care.  It's been encouraging and overwhelming.

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(very accurate picture of twins these days. 😹)

Honestly, when we started all of these things in earnest several months ago, we were in a darker place behaviorally with the twins at home.  All kids cycle through times that are harder than others, and it seemed that both W & V were struggling with things that felt outside of all of our control.  I think the pictures we painted for everyone in those initial meetings were on the bleak side.

That said, after days of testing through two different places and all the feedback that we have since attended, things are looking more hopeful than I would have ever anticipated.  Things have also taken a turn for the better on the home front, and though I am not certain it will last, I am so thankful for a bit of respite.  I'm not going to publicly disclose the highs and lows of what we have learned, but I want to say that I am grateful.

Here's a brief list of gratitude in the midst of all this:

*early intervention - I am SO SO glad we got help at the very first signs of certain issues.  This has been confirmed over and over as both twins have mostly caught up to their peers in many areas.  It is immensely gratifying to feel like we got something right, and I'm so grateful for the wisdom God has continued to give us in this area.

*full-time preschool - I was hugely hesitant to put my babies into a full-time preschool program, because it was not something I imagined doing as a stay-at-home mom.  BUT, I am so glad that they have had the added structure and focus on kindergarten readiness that I would not have been able to give at home.  They have a community of teachers and therapists who love them and have poured into them, and we are reaping the benefits of it now.

*eyes wide open - I am by nature an optimist and also have denial as a ready coping mechanism.  It is easier for me to not see things and hope for the best and keep on my merry way.  HOWEVER, because of the issues that have arisen and our wanting the absolute best for our children, we are facing things head on.  We are asking questions.  We are getting every last bit of help we can find.  We are getting the tests and learning the results and leaning into what those results will mean for our family.  We are adapting and adjusting how we parent and strategizing our approaches in totally new ways.  This has taken an enormous amount of time and energy and money and will continue to.  But IT IS WORTH IT.

*great resources - God has been so gracious to lead us to the right places for our family.  I get a little teary thinking about some of the helpless moments we've had in the last year and the crying out for help that we've done.  And person by person and place by place, God has positioned us so well.  John and I have both personally had great relationships with therapists for ourselves, and I am so thankful for the play therapist we have as a family, as well as the testing center and our schools.  It feels as if there is an army of people at work in this with us, especially when I also see our family and friends on all sides lifting us up in prayer and cheering us on.  I do not take this support for granted.

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(back to back testing days earlier this month)

As for the beautiful faces pictured here, I am so honored to be their mother.  I can see that God put us all together, because we need each other to become the people that God intends for us to be.  They need John and I to shepherd and love and plan, and we need them to remind us to look to the Lord for all things and trust in his glorious plan for each of us.

And in the fall, I'll have two new kindergarteners!

Monday, May 21, 2018

ROYAL WEDDING WATCH PARTY

Sometimes, an idea strikes me, and I just have to see it through to fruition.  When I realized that a Royal Wedding was in the works, I knew I wanted to wear my wedding dress to watch it and convince friends to do the same.  This was a hard sell for some of my friends. 😬🤣🤷🏻‍♀️  But, they got on board, and we had a most memorable Mother/Daughter brunch at my house Saturday morning.

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In all honesty, I tried to keep this pretty low maintenance for myself, so I made the cake, (Elderflower and Lemon just like Harry and Meghan's!) and curated a Sparkle Bar and assigned British treats to everyone else.  It made for a lovely food situation for us all.

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Seriously, seeing everyone in their most beautiful dress was SO MUCH FUN.  Some of us fit perfectly, some of us didn't. 🙋🏻  I didn't do enough pre-planning of how I was going to wear my STRAPLESS dress that I could no longer zip.  This provided a bit of pre-party drama, because I had asked John to quickly hack me into my dress.  This included him snipping tiny holes to be able to zip-tie me in.  In the middle of this delicate process, he gouged himself in the thumb with the scissors producing a LOT of blood.

Miraculously, the blood did not get all over or anywhere on my white dress - just all over our bathroom.  It looked like a crime scene.  I had to get someone else to come finish the zip tie - good things most of my best friends had already shown up.  It is also a good thing that I have very little dignity.

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(for the record, it did zip up much more than this, but with the zip tie drama, I just kept it like this for the party 🙈 )

Something about 13 years, having 2 babies and maybe a cookie business has all contributed to my body - it's just not the same.  But, I will tell you, having my husband sacrifice his thumb to get me into a dress and then be super gracious about it telling me that he'd do it all again for me to have this much fun - well, that's true love.  Probably better than the first time I wore the dress all skinny and sparkly and baby-faced.  Truth be told, he probably should have gotten stitches, but since then has been advised to do pro-active wound care.  It was that bad. 😱😬🤣

Thumb maiming aside, the party was a smashing success.  The girls soaked up much of the wedding, with most of them waiting breathlessly for the kiss.  It did help that we DVRed everything, so this shindig started at 9 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.  The wedding itself was so beautiful and included so many touches of diversity and love that I was totally smitten myself.

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(zip-tie backup👆🏻)
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(This friend was NOT excited about this party but was such a great sport about it all! I might have done a *little* coercing.)

All in all, this turned out to be every bit as magical as I had hoped, even with the thumb disaster.  I am so thankful to have friends that are willing to go out on a wedding limb for a memorable experience!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

AT THE SWIRLING CENTER

This past weekend was the Mother's Day hullabaloo that I have come to mostly dislike. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I've written about my conflictions before, and so I won't go all the way into those.  But it is challenging.  We're supposed to be celebrating one of the foundational relationships we have in our lives - that of mother and child - wherever you might happen to fall on that spectrum.  However, there are a million ways to fall in a painful place and only a few sweet spots.

Truthfully, I land on a lot of the sweet spots.  I have a wonderful mother, a great mother-in-law, and even a fantastic bonus mother gained through our adoption.  Seriously, the women we have been gifted in these roles are treasures, and I do not take them for granted.  And I am a mother four times over with precious children who love to celebrate me and woke me up with Mother's Day balloons in bed.  I clearly have a lot of Mother's Day blessings, and this is not lost on me.

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But ever since adopting, Mother's Day is just hard.  I was not, nor can I ever be, the first mom for two of my children.  I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about William and Violet's biological mother.  We have an entire family built around the children she has birthed, and she sits at the swirling center.  She's the missing piece - a large hole in the family puzzle that does not feel complete without her.  Sometimes, the unfairness of it all swirls around me, and I sink into feelings that are too big to contain.

When I put my Mother's Day and her Mother's Day up to the light, the differences are staggering.  I'm the one with the children to hug.  I'm doing the hard work, but I am reaping the sweet rewards.  She and I have made divergent choices, along the way, some of which have led to where we both sit in this story.  But the raw ingredients we started with also had a lot to do with where we have ended up.  I was handed practically a winning hand, and she was not.  Neither of us can take credit or blame for the cards we were dealt.  There are obvious consequences to the ways we have each played our hands, but the decks were stacked in such opposite directions to begin with that it makes comparison feel a bit moot.

As I look forward to the years ahead, my heart continues to shred into tiny pieces when I think of her.  Her heartache, her wishing, her pain.  Years pass, and instead of it getting easier, the waters get deeper with things she has missed and opportunities she will never have in our kids' lives.  I have so many questions for God about why it is the way it is.  From my finite perspective, I cannot understand the whys or hows or whats of our stories, especially hers.

I want to write different endings.  I want to see redemption here on earth.  I want the beauty from ashes, but the fire is still burning hot, and I don't know when it will be extinguished.  So I pray, and I ask God to envelope her in his grace and remind her of his love that she has seen in action for her whole life.  I fall on his grace and mercy and remind myself that he loves her more than any of us ever could, and he sees her.  She is not alone.

For now, I'll go on raising our children - savoring the sweet moments that come with hands on either side of my face and kisses and the "Mommy, I Love Yous" that fall out of their mouths so quickly.  They are such beautiful children that we share, and I hate that she misses that.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

STILL AMAZED BY ALL GOD HAS DONE

Back in early March, I had been asked to speak at a women's event to share our story.  As I prepared for that night, I was freshly amazed by all that God has wrought in our family in the last six years.  It is beautiful and painful and astonishing and far more than I could have ever dreamed of for both better and worse.

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Sharing with those women brought all the feelings rushing back.  The longing, the terror, the unknown, the joy, the happiness, the beauty, the love, the heartache - all of it.  All the feels.  The words tumbled out of me while I held the tears in, mostly.  Some leaked out, because I was on stage, and I tend to get weepy when I talk about all the things God has done and is doing, and I'm just pretty raw these days.

Sometimes I feel like grabbing the popcorn, pulling up a seat and waiting to see what will unfold.  It has been a wild ride - one that I have not been able to predict at all.  And we have been gifted so many unexpected joys along the way.  Other times, I want to curl up in a ball and cry over the hardness of everything - over the unfairness and the ways I can't control it.  (another thing that I can't control - whether or not William in particular will have any desire to be in a picture with all of his bio-sisters - see John's hands affixing him to the couch whilst he desperately struggles to escape 🤣)

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This spring, in addition to celebrating W & V's birthday, we also got to celebrate Lizzie's - such a joyous occasion!

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(despite the look on her face in this photo, Violet absolutely adores Lizzie!)

And, another sweet friend's birthday is the same day as William and Violet's, so we enjoyed her Flamingo party as well.  To see the way that God has woven these stories and people and lives together is truly a marvel.  It never gets old, though it also never gets easy.

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When I was sitting on the red couch in my counselor's office pouring out my heart, she noted how near God is to our family.  She was able to cite example after example of ways that he has made himself known to us, even in the last couple of months.  Sometimes we need that other voice to point out the obvious ways that God is manifest within the hardness.

Other times, I'm handed pristine reminders at the dinner table.  One night, we posed the question, "If you could wake up tomorrow morning and find that the top news headline was about you - what would you want it to be?"  Bella was the first to answer,

"I would want it to say that I adopted twins who had brown skin."

My heart grew a hundred times over as I was reminded that God is working in the midst of all this, and there will be ramifications far beyond us.  Transracial adoption has so many challenges (as does adoption in general!), but these are the moments worth fighting for, and my gratitude shivers deep in my bones.

And something that I am learning over and again and carving inside my soul is that God is smack dab in the middle of the pain.  It's where he camps out and shows up and walks alongside.  He is guiding and directing and most of all, comforting.  He is taking the questions and the unknowns and holding them up against his love and the certainty of our hope in him.

So, as we walk through the fire, we won't get burned.  I may come out a bit singed around the edges, and I may smell like burning hair, but I will be there, because of the goodness and faithfulness of my God, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

DANCE RECITAL 2018

This past weekend was the girls' second dance recital.  This year, our Saturday only included the two full recitals instead of also packing in another major event, which I'm so thankful for, because as it turns out, two full recitals for three girls in one day is plenty.

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Last year, we had a much rougher time with the professional pics, but this year, V and crew were all happy to smile and pose.

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Violet was up in the morning recital, and she enjoyed getting time with these sweet friends throughout the year!  They were all SO cute dancing.  Violet did a fantastic job performing and being a part of everything, and it was encouraging to my heart to see her succeed so smashingly!

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Bella and Lily were both in the afternoon performance.  Bella did both a tap and ballet performance.  Her dance faces are so serious!  She told me that she loves being on the stage with all the people looking at them and getting to wear the beautiful costumes.  She did great, and it was so fun to watch her perform.

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Lily had 3 performances - tap, ballet and jazz.  Ballet is her favorite, and since the music was Tale as Old as Time - it turned out to be my favorite too, though they were all super cute.  She also enjoyed having a friend in class with her.  Because the big girls had 5 combined performances, it meant we got to stay for the entirety of the afternoon recital which made a long day of it.  However, it is a joy to see your kids do something that they have worked for!  Also- Lily is a bit of a ham.

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We don't know yet whether or not we will continue dance next year, but we have had such a fabulous experience at Shuffles - they are so kind and take such great care to know each girl!

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Thankful to have this item checked off of our May list!