Person of Significance: “T”

To my sweet, sweet Tera-girl.

How is it that you are a person, a sister, a human, so much personality…and yet you grew inside my body?

How is it that God chose me to be your Mommy?

How is it that you have taught me so much- more than all the other people in my life put together?

How is it that you have won your Daddy’s heart?

How is it that you are emphatic, caring, observant, sensitive, talkative, loving, and silly: a perfect mix of your Daddy and I?

How is it that one moment you are driving me INSANE, disobeying or screeching or making a huge mess, and then the next you are plopping your little diapered butt into my lap and rubbing your fuzzy head on my chin and I think that my heart might burst???

How is it that you went from a crying, colicky little blob to a vivacious toddler who can almost count to ten and will repeat ANYTHING that we say?

Tera, do you know that I love you so much? Do you know that being your Mom is the hardest and best thing I have EVER done? Do you know that you have made our family more complete? Do you know that because of you, your Daddy and I have fallen more in love? Do you know that I think about you all the time? Do you know that I come into your room at night when you are sleeping and just look at you, amazed at the miracle that you are?

 

Life Lately: June

How is June already done? That is just INSANE! I need the summer to slow down now!

My June recap will not have as many pictures as other months because I already posted most of the pictures in separate posts, which I will link to in this post. And to be perfectly honest…I simply haven’t taken as many pictures this month! I still just cannot believe that June is already over!

We started off June greatly enjoying the outdoors!

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We also had Little Miss’ goodbye party, which was well attended by so many people who have supported us and played a huge role in Little Miss’ life- either directly or through us.

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We decided to hit up the Troy Strawberry Festival. We had to wake Tera up from her nap and then her snack included an oreo. She was a MESS! I didn’t take any pictures at the festival because it was POURING and I didn’t want to ruin my camera. It eventually stopped raining and it was actually perfect weather for a festival (plus the rain kept the crowds away).

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We had our anatomy scan and saw our healthy baby! Everything is measuring on track and looks great. We had the tech write the gender down in this little envelope. Theo looked right away but I didn’t find out for another five days!

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I just love my beautiful Tera-girl.

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Beautiful with a side of crazy!

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We took a whirlwind trip to Charlotte. You can read all about that here.

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And drove directly from Charlotte to Tennesse to celebrate Barnabas’ graduation from residency! It was great seeing so many family members at one time!

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We also had a gender reveal party while we were there!!!

 

I took Little Miss’ 9 month pictures the day before she left. So bittersweet. She was actually 9.5 months old and had been in our home just shy of 9 months (we brought her home at 21 days old).

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I also got a couple pictures of Tera and Little Miss together that I will treasure FOREVER.

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On Tuesday, June 14th we said goodbye to Little Miss. I think that will forever remain one of the hardest days of my life. The rest of the month has, of course, played itself around that day. I wrote a little bit about it and answered some FAQs in a blog post.

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The following weekend I drove up to Michigan to celebrate my friends Abby and Stephen! It was SUCH a beautiful day, and the entire day was so built around Stephen and Abby glorifying God together as one. Oh, so beautiful.

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Since I got back from the wedding weekend, we have just decided to lay low and stay home without many big plans. We have tried to be intentional about getting outside every day this week, but we are sticking to family things and just trying to work our way through the healing process.

One day we went up to Glen Helen, where they have a bird sanctuary. They take care of injured birds or birds who can’t live on their own in the wild. Tera LOVED it. Also, she looks like a boy. Oops.

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Her favorite was the owls! I don’t really think that the feeling was mutual since Tera showed her excitement by YELLING: “OWL! HOOOHOOOO HOOHOO!” a couple pitches above the desirable voice levels. Haha!

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They have quite a few birds set back in the woods a little ways. It’s a really nice place!

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They even have two bald eagles! Tera was really nervous about turning her back to them. In this picture she is signing “bird”.

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Still cute, even if her outfit does make her look boy-ish. I think it’s a combo of the shorts and sneakers/socks. She also REFUSES to leave her hair in a ponytail.

 

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We also went out for a family hike and tried out our new Kelty Kids backpacking carrier! I spotted it at a garage sale and scored it for $25! Imagine my surprise when we looked it up online and it retails for almost $400! It’s in like-new condition and we all love it!

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I hit 23 weeks this month and we keep on trucking right along! My good friend Vanessa just had her baby boy last week, and Tera got to meet him yesterday. She talked about “baby Thomas” and “baby brother” for hours and hours afterwards. I think she’s going to do a great job at this big sister thing the second time around!

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Speaking of our baby boy…I have started collecting boy clothes! I hit up a garage sale last weekend and scored a good amount of boy clothes. Enough to get me started, at least!

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And that’s a wrap on June! It was a very emotional month, and while I’m glad we can breathe some sighs of relief as we step into July, I wouldn’t trade any of those moments for anything. It was a beauty from ashes month and I will always remember June 2016.

 

 

You can see what books I read this month by clicking on this post: June Reads!

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And don’t forget to check out the two posts that I wrote for Dayton Mom’s Blog this month!

I’m NOT a supermom (and other confessions of a foster Mom)

Garage Sale Tips

June Book Review

June has been my worst book-reading month this year!

I really only enjoyed one of the books that I picked up, the rest were so-so. I’m hoping that July will be a much better book month for me, because this month left me feeling kind of “meh” about book reading.

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The first book I read was called Lessons in Heartbreak by Cathy Kelly. Ummm, I read this at the beginning of June and now as I sit down to write this blog post, I have absolutely no recollection of what this book was about. Like, 0 recollection. But I didn’t hate it. So I’ll just put it under the category of “light and fluffy”, since it obviously didn’t make much more of an impact than that!

 

The next book I read was Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup. This one was good! When I checked it out from the library, I was expecting more money saving tips, but it ended up being part memoir/part money saving tips. One thing that I did enjoy about this book was how thoroughly and completely Ruth pointed everything to Christ. I mean, everything. I am so thankful that I am a believer and I can agree with her explanations of contentment, tithing and being good stewards of our money. I kept thinking of non-believers who would be picking this book up and what an incredible witness to Christ it is. Ruth Soukup also has a very helpful and successful blog called (no surprise): livingwellspendingless.com. It has a lot of great tips and resources for finances! Nothing I read in this book was “news” to me as far as budgeting and living on less, but it was still a great read (and easy, too) with a lot of great reminders. I highly recommend it!

 

I heard Jamie Ivey and a guest talk about this book on The Happy Hour podcast, and as soon as they said the word “foster care”, it was on my list. This book was good. It had a lot of hard moments in it that made it harder for me to read (probably because my emotions are so raw from saying goodbye to Little Miss), but it was a book I couldn’t put down. I loved how it was a novel written by a foster Mom who has an inside look into the emotions and reasonings inside foster children. So often, we write off behaviors in children as “inexcusable” or “too much to handle”, when really they are crying out for something else entirely (love, acceptance, unconditional trust and hope in someone who cares for them).

It’s about a girl who is in foster care and sabotages every placement she has, until the one placement that is working. In this placement, her foster Mom teaches her the language of flowers, or the meaning behind each flower. Of course, she ends up sabotaging that placement as well, and the court removes her from her foster home and places her in a group home until she turns 18. The story then continues into her adult life of homelessness, finding a job, starting a business, finding love and sabotaging that, having a child and then coming full circle to learn how to trust those she loves most. It’s a beautiful story and full of raw emotions. And the language of flowers was fascinating to me!!

 

A Girl Like You by Maureen Lindley was quite the read! This book goes through the entire life of a Japanese American girl during the second world war. After the death of her father at Pearl Harbor, her and her mother were interned in a Japanese concentration camp. After getting out of the camp, Satomi rebuilds her life by moving to the East Coast and working two jobs until she meets a rich man who proposes to her. After realizing that it wouldn’t work out between them, she then meets a man that she falls in love with and marries him. Not too long after their marriage, he is killed in a tragic accident. She learns to grieve and mourn through that and rebuilds her life by reconnecting with the people she loved most in the concentration camp.

I loved the story up until Satomi got out and started rebuilding her life, and then the I felt like the plot just kept going and going. I wasn’t sure why the author chose to bring in so many main characters, and I think it would have served it’s purpose better if there had been a part I and part II. Although I did appreciate how she expounded on how difficult it was to make a way after getting out of the camps. The history was a bit blurry throughout the story, and it never mentions how long they were in the camps for, so I didn’t feel like I had a better grasp on history itself, but I loved this small look into what it would have been like to be Japanese during WWII. I couldn’t help but think of the middle eastern immigrants and residents in the US now who face oppression and are often seen as outcasts, even though they have done nothing wrong.

All in all, it was a good read, and I one I would recommend!

And that’s all for June! You can see my other monthly reads here:

January

February

March

April

May

 

As always, if you have a book recommendation, I’d love to hear it!

Mr. & Mrs. Morris!!!

Last weekend I had the incredible privilege of standing next to my beautiful friend Abby as she committed to spending the rest of her life with Stephen.

The entire weekend was beautiful. When I say I was so privelaged to be a part of it, I am not taking that lightly.

I often feel like being a bridesmaid or groomsman is taken far too lightly in our culture today. The duties of the wedding party should extend beyond the days before and the day of the wedding. As I stand up front and watched Abby and Stephen say their vows, I am also committing to support Abby and Stephen throughout their marriage, in those “better and worse” times. I’m committing to hold them accountable, to gently remind Abby of the “respect” aspect of a godly marriage union when it’s hard for her (and it will be!).

The entire weekend was beautiful. The weather, the people, all the details, and most importantly…I truly felt like God was glorified and the gospel was proclaimed from the rooftops. Beautiful.

We started the official wedding festivities off on Friday with a bridal luncheon. The details were incredible and stunning. How about these napkin rings that we all got to take home? The four sides had my name, the date of the wedding, the verse that they choose for their wedding and Abby and Stephen on the final side.

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Abby’s family, future family and bridesmaids were all pretty fun. There was no shortage of laughter!

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One of Abby’s gifts. Ha. Haha.

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She got lots of gifts that are online inappropriate, and then this one at the end.

Her sweet and lovely Grandmother cross-stitched this beautiful wedding picture for Abby and Stephen. Not a dry eye, I tell you…it was so beautiful!

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The beautiful bride and I!

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Bridesmaids, junior bridesmaid and the bride! What a fun group. I’m so glad I got to spend the weekend with them!

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Abby, her sister and her Momma. I loved seeing their bond and laughter throughout the weekend

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I also loved how Abby’s mother-in-law was included in every festivity over the weekend. That was also fun to be a part of!

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Abby and her sweet Grandma.

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The rest of Friday involved a little bit of a rest break, hang out time with the wedding party, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. It was all put together so well and went so smoothly.

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Hanging with the other bridesmaids. I have to say…Abby picks some pretty awesome friends!

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Let me tell you what…being a bridesmaid and a Mom is a challenge! Add a pregnancy to that and it’s really, really challenging. I was SO sick all day Friday, and since I hadn’t been sick in over a month, I wasn’t prepared with any meds. I think it was a combination of being exhausted, going through all the emotional upheaval saying goodbye to Little Miss and then having such a busy weekend as a bridesmaid. After the rehearsal dinner I hit up a pharmacy and got some Unisom + B6 and prayed HARD I wouldn’t feel sick for wedding day! I took the meds (which knocked me out) but woke up on Saturday feeling refreshed and ready to go- and didn’t feel sick at all during the day! Wooot woot!

Also, Abby has the wonderful fortune of being from the Saginaw, MI area…which happens to be the wonderful abode of my in-laws as well! So I had somewhere comfortable and welcoming to stay, and someone loving and dependable to leave my Tera! I’m so thankful for my in-laws who watched her all weekend!

Saturday morning started out with hair appointments!

The bride:

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The matron of honor:

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Mother of the bride:

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Hannah:

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It was such a treat to get my hair done! The only other time I’ve ever had my hair done by a professional was for my own wedding, so I felt like a million bucks getting my hair done professionally! The only issue was taking out the million bobby pins without the help of my husband!

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Abby’s hair getting the final pieces put in!

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Next up: to the wedding venue for hair, makeup and getting dressed!

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MOH fluffing the dress. And, yes…that is a giant safe in the closet.

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The boys were getting ready downstairs so we had a courier send letters back and forth. So sweet.

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Makeup, music and friendship. We were a little over schedule, but it all worked out just fine!

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Everyone getting ready!

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More hair and makeup!

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Abby told us to pick knee-length navy blue dresses. Um, I’d say we all did a pretty fabulous job matching that blue! Each dress was unique but really matched!

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Abby got dressed and ALL THE HEART EYES. Isn’t she gorgeous???

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After a final round of primping, we headed downstairs. Abby got to have her first look with her Dad. It was the sweetest thing to watch. And then…her first look with Stephen. I cannot wait to see the professional photos, because it was in the Temple Theatre, and the room itself was breathtaking.

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Once the first looks had all been exchanged, we piled into a limo (my first legit limo ride!! I’ve been in a limo bus, but it was a little different). We drove to the Montague Inn and the photographer did her magic. I didn’t have my phone or my camera, so no pictures from me!

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Back at the wedding venue we had a few minutes before ceremony time and we all grabbed a small bite to eat and sat directly in front of the air conditioner. It was a very hot day!

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The only other pictures I snapped were of the boquets and one of my 22 week baby bump!

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I took a couple phone pictures at the reception as well, but I told myself to leave my camera in the other room and just enjoy the night. And I sure did enjoy it!

Here we are for a mini Niger reunion! The funny thing is, I had never met any of the Knox’s until this wedding, but they have been in Niger for the last semester. The thing about missionaries/missionary kids is that there is an automatic bond upon meeting them. They know me, because they know my home, and not many people in the United States do.

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The reception hall was GORGEOUS. I mean, GORGEOUS.

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How perfect is this cake topper? It’s the exact picture of when they got engaged! Ah! Also, that cake was so good that I had a piece, and baby boy had a piece. So, the baby and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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The head table was set up “family style”, with the bride and groom at the front and the bridesmaids and groomsmen down either side. It was really fun because it allowed for more conversation than the long head table where you can only talk to the one person on either side of you. The head table was COVERED in flowers.

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At one point, we smelled something burning and all of us at the head table were investigating every candle to make sure that our flowers weren’t on fire! Thankfully, they weren’t and the smell was just from a candle going out. Phew!

The meal was absolutely delicious and did I mention the cake? It was pretty fabulous, too.

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This is a super blurry picture, but I love it! Congrats to you, Abby and Stephen! I am so honored that I got to spend the day by your sides! I cannot wait to see where God takes your marriage!

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23 weeks (Pregnancy #2)

How Far Along: 23 weeks!!!

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The last update I posted was at 20 weeks, so I have a bit of catching up to do! Since that time, we have been really busy traveling, finding out the gender of our baby, saying goodbye to Little Miss, being in a wedding and just trying to catch up with the whirlwind of June!

Gender: We found out two weeks ago that we are having a BOY! You can read the entire gender reveal story here. Although I’m half expecting to deliver a girl in October still. My father in law looked at the ultrasound picture and said that he wouldn’t count on it being a boy! Haha. I do trust the tech, though, as she had about an hour to determine the gender. I do agree that the picture is NOT clear and that makes me a little indecisive! I guess we will find out in October!

Size of Baby: Baby is the size of a mango! Mmmmm, a juicy mango sounds SO good right now! Apparently, baby can officially feel me if I dance. I guess he must have really enjoyed Abby’s wedding last weekend! He is also 11 inches long (almost an entire foot!!) and should weigh around a pound. Boy, it feels like so much more than that! He is moving SO much and can now be seen from the outside! Tera has not yet experienced this movement, but I’m super excited to show her!

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Total Weight Gain: 9 pounds. Crazy how I was at negative poundage just a few weeks ago!

How I’m Feeling/Symptoms: I don’t know if it’s because of the craziness of the last few weeks of my life, but this past week I’ve felt how I felt full term with Tera. I’ve had round ligament pain, back pain, sciatic nerve pain (so painful!), exhaustion, Braxton Hicks, nausea, swelling…need I go on? It’s been such an emotional roller coaster for me since saying goodbye to Little Miss, and it’s amazing how feeling emotional can also manifest in my physical body. I’m really, really hoping that most of these symptoms will go away and it won’t actually get worse from here, and that this week was just a tough week. I do not want to deal with these side effects for another 17 weeks!

What I’m Wearing: I was a bridesmaid in Abby’s wedding last weekend, and I got all dolled up! I got my hair done and I felt like a queen! She asked us all to wear navy blue, and I ordered a dress that I fell in LOVE with…but that didn’t fit with my pregnancy (womp womp). So I reordered and went this lovely dress!

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Otherwise, I’m totally wearing shorts and t-shirts or a loose tank all day long. Every day.

Sleep: I cannot stop sleeping. Since we said goodbye to Little Miss, all I feel is exhausted. I think it’s my way of “coping”. Then, add a really long and busy wedding weekend in there, and I’m extra exhausted. Then, add the nausea and I’m back to taking my B6/Unisom combo. Unisom happens to be a sleeping pill, so that just knocks me out and usually leaves me feeling really groggy for 24 hours. So, even though I’ve been sleeping great at night and getting naps in, I still feel exhausted. Doesn’t it show in these pictures?

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Food Cravings: Sweet, cool and summery food…cantaloupe, watermelon and cake. I think I could eat a whole cake by myself.

Food Aversions: Meh…The nausea came back this week, so my aversions have simply been to food. Ugh.

Worst Moment This Week: All the pain my body has been in! I’ve been trying to stretch, make sure to stay active but also rest appropriately, but it’s been a painful week physically.

Best Moment This Week: Finally being at home and spending time with my Tera-girl. I didn’t realize how draining foster care has been for the last nine months until we weren’t doing it anymore.

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What I’m Looking Forward To: I’m SO looking forward to Tam’s bridal shower, our family reunion and Tam’s wedding coming up this summer! Tera and I also made a summer bucket list and I’m excited to just cross things off that list and enjoy the summer with Tera and Theo.

Exercise This Week: This week has surprisingly been great for exercise. After the two weeks of traveling I was ready to get a routine back. We went for a family hike on Monday, I went for runs on Tuesday and Thursday, I went for a long walk with Tera on Wednesday, and Tera and I went for a hike on Friday! Today I went to a community yard sale and probably walked a mile or two…that totally counts, right??

 

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Apparently I skipped 23 weeks with Tera, but here are 21 weeks and 22 weeks with Tera!

Person of Significance: “S”

To my sister-in-law, Sarah.

I’m so thankful for you.

I’ll admit it…our friendship started off a little bit rocky, mostly because I was a huge jerk to you. The weekend of my wedding was stressful and I had so many details that I couldn’t seem to figure out, but there is was absolutely no good reason for you to sleep on the couch, by yourself, with the chiming clock and NO blankets the night before my wedding.

I’m glad we can laugh about it now.

I’m so glad our husbands are such close friends and that brought us together. We started doing everything together because of course, Theo and Isaiah were also doing everything together.

And the more time I spent with you, the more time I wanted to spend with you! Every time we spend time together, I leave having learning something more about you that I didn’t know before. And I love that. I love that after four years of being friends, you still have so many things about you that I don’t know. I love that you are quiet at first, but open up when you feel comfortable. I love that you are so incredibly adventurous. Like that one time that I joked that the guys should do a polar bear swim, and the next thing I know, you are volunteering and then somehow I’m doing it, too. Because if Sarah can do it, I can do it, too!

I love that you are brave and have cultivated such a beautiful relationship with Isaiah. I cannot imagine living so far away from family, and yet you do it every single day. I love that you are honest and that we don’t have to be afraid to tell each other how we truly feel about a situation.

I think that I always feel humbled being around you, because we are so different. You remind me that sometimes it’s good to be quiet and not the loudest person in the room, that sometimes it’s good to be crazy and adventurous, and that sometimes it’s good to listen to and respect/tolerate people who have different opinions and religious beliefs.

I’m so thankful that our marriages to the Hines boys brought us together as friends, and that we can continue to grow as friends, sisters AND Mom’s!

 

Time with Family in Tennessee!

In case you missed it, I recapped our trip to Charlotte and then our drive over the mountains to TN here.

We arrived to Barn and Eryn’s place ready for some cousin time, some family time, to celebrate Barnabas’ graduation from residency AND to find out the gender of our baby!!

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The girls enjoyed “helping” Grandma cut up some watermelon!

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Look at all those girl cousins!!!

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Tera and Kyrin are buddies. It’s the sweetest thing. She seems to get really overwhelmed when she is with the other girl cousins, so she usually removes herself from them and goes somewhere “safe”, and that is usually with Kryin. It’s also mutual as Kyrin treats her like a little sister, and she LOVES that.

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And most of the weekend looked a little like this…

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Baby holding, eating, laughing, spending time together.

After dinner on Thursday night, we had our gender reveal!!!

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I recapped the entire gender reveal here, so make sure you head on over there to get the details on our baby BOY!

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Friday morning was spent getting ready for Barnabas’ graduation, making sure all the kids were collected and packed in the correct carseats and making sure everyone was fed. Then it was graduation time!

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We walked in, took up three entire rows and probably tripled the amount of children in the room. We had 9 kids…under 8. 8 of them were girls.

It’s been six years of blood, sweat and tears for Barnabas and Eryn! Look at that smile on her face that they have reached the end!!! And doesn’t she look fabulous? She has three kids under five!

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Wooohoooo! Barnabas!

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We were all proud, but none as proud as Eryn!

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One by one, the kid started to get super antsy. And one by one, they were taken out into the lobby. Eventually, we had all the kids except one out there and just deemed it the “Hines nursery”. All props to Ade who was the only kid who made it through the entire two hour graduation.

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After the graduation, there was a reception with some delicious food and we snagged a balcony to take some family pictures!

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It’s crazy to me that four years ago when I married into this family, I could hardly relate to these ladies at all. Now, they are the first people that I text and the ones that I laugh and joke with all the time. They are my fellow mothers, my mentors, my spiritual encouragers and my friends. I’m so grateful for them.

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And this picture would not be complete without a picture including our mother in law! She raised each of our husbands and did a pretty phenomenal job!

(Every time I see these pictures I feel like we are missing someone…because we are! Our other sister Sarah was not able to be there, but we will take another sisters picture in July when we are ALL together!).

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Three of the brothers were able to be together, and we were missing the other four! Barnabas, Theo’s Dad and Ethan are all doctors! What an accomplishment!

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Another incredible accomplishment from the weekend was capturing this picture! Theo’s parents have 10 grandchildren (not counting Little Miss), with two more on the way! We had eight of the ten together for this picture! Poor Kyrin is the only boy representative (the two grandchildren who were not able to be there are also boys).

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See? I told you Kyrin and Tera are little buddies!

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These three entertained us all weekend long, too! Josie is 13 months, Avia is 9.5 months and Little Miss is 9 months. Eryn would give Josie her dinner on the high chair tray, and it wouldn’t take long for Avia and Little Miss to make their way over and “share” her dinner. It was hilarious (probably not for Josie, though!).

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Barnabas and Eryn have a cow farm in their backyard! The cows stayed away the whole time we were there, until the very last night. We had already laid Tera down for bed, but knew that she wasn’t sleeping yet, so Theo go her up to see the cows. I think it was one of the highlights of her life…she LOVED it.

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We left Saturday morning to head back to Ohio. It was such a hard goodbye, as our entire family gathered around us and prayed specifically for Little Miss and our goodbyes with her. Until that moment, I had been in complete denial that she was actually leaving, but as our family prayed, I started crying. Honestly, I hardly stopped crying for the next few days. I am so thankful to have a family who has been supportive and helpful throughout this foster care journey.

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And we had some gorgeous views on our drive home!

Charlotte, NC

Hi there, faithful blog readers!

Well, I guess you would be faithful readers if I actually blogged.

It’s been a few weeks and I’ve posted sporadic blog posts that I already had completed in my drafts folder. It’s been a pretty crazy month for us so far, including two road trips and one heartbreaking goodbye to our Little Miss.

The first road trip we took was the second weekend in June, and also the last weekend we had Little Miss with us. I was so thankful for this family trip, time to spend as a family of four, and also one last goodbye for Little Miss and our extended family. I wanted to recap that trip here!

This was the longest trip we have taken with kids! It was 7 hours without stops, and we did manage to do it in 8.5 hours. Both girls did fairly awesome! Tera was happy as long as she had her paci, and we only had to her entertain her every 5 minutes, so that went well. Little Miss also did really well, and was surprisingly content almost the whole drive!

 

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We got to our hotel in Charlotte, and I was less than impressed. It was fine, and we couldn’t find anything exactly wrong with it, but I felt nervous about the cleanliness the whole time we were there. It was mostly that the hotel was poorly managed, and I always assume that if it’s poorly managed, there are some major things slipping under the cracks. Theo and I watched all the available seasons of Hotel Impossible a few years back, and now we feel like experts on picking out problems with hotels. Anyways, we did end up sticking it out and we LOVED the gorgeous pool!

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We arrived late Tuesday night, and thankfully both girls slept fairly well. Little Miss slept in the pack-n-play and Tera slept in the closet, which happened to be the perfect size for her.

Wednesday morning Theo left early for his job interview and fitness test. He had no idea how long it was going to take, and he wasn’t allowed to take his phone into the center. So from 8-3, I had the girls…by myself, with no car. The pool looked so inviting, but I had no flotation devices and I wasn’t about to attempt taking both non-swimmers to the pool by myself. Not to mention the whole ordeal of getting swim diapers and swimsuits on. #thestruggleisreal. I did have the stroller and decided to take the girls for a walk, but about 10 minutes into said walk I realized that we were not in the best part of town, and I had not seen someone else of my ethnicity in quite a while. Now, before you think that is a racist comment…it’s not. It did not bother me to be amongst people who did not match my skin color…but common sense also reminded me that I was standing out like a sore thumb and that was probably not the safest place for me to be roaming around with my two young children. So back to our jail cell hotel room we went and waited until Theo got back.

THEN, we took the girls for a swim which they LOVED. They could have stayed in that pool all day long!

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But we wanted to see Charlotte and meet up with some friends, so we headed to downtown to walk around a bit.

 

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When we were in Houston, Theo and I took to the city miles and miles at a time. This time, with two kids in tow, we only ended up walking about two blocks. Haha.

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We paused by this fountain to take some pictures and enjoy one another’s company.

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Taking family selfies…

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All four of our feet. We were feeling especially sentimental as we knew we only had a few days left with Little Miss. We took so many great family pictures, and they make my heart both so happy and so, so weepy as I look back on them. (Pending her hopeful adoption, I think I will be able to share pictures of her face!!!!!!!)

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After walking around the city for a bit, we met up with some of our friends at Chick-fil-A. I didn’t take a single picture and I’m kicking myself for it!! Jeremie was one of my fellow missionary kids growing up, and we have had the privelage of getting to know he and his wife and son pretty well in the past few months. We had a great dinner with them, and then also saw Joe and Leandra! It was fun meeting up with childhood friends, meeting and loving their choices in wives, and seeing all our children play together! What a blessing!

Thursday morning we checked out of our ghetto hotel and went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. The hotel had a “complimentary” breakfast, but I was NOT impressed and the girls could not eat any of the offerings anyways. And, honestly, I’m not a picky person or a super germaphobe, so for me to say it was below my standards is really saying something!

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We had a relatively short drive to Bristol, TN and wanted to plan it so that it was during nap time. We hit up Freedom Park in Charlotte, and it was GORGEOUS. To get to the park, we had to drive through a historical residential district of Charlotte, and the houses were SO FUN to look at! Theo and I were oohing and aahing and dreaming after driving past each one.

Tera and Little Miss enjoyed flying down this hill in the stroller. How did I let this happen? Well, I was in the bathroom when the first attempt was made, and after no accidents they realized how incredibly fun it was to get an adrenaline rush flying down the hill. No children were harmed.

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We took more family pictures and enjoyed watching the ducks on the pond.

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I love you, Theo. I love adventuring with you!

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And I love my Tera-girl, too! And she really is the best big sister. She already has nine months of big-sistering under her belt, so I’m hoping the transition to having another baby will be super easy for her!

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And our Little Miss. We love you so, so much, too.

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This park was seriously so beautiful, it was seriously so calming!

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After leaving the park, we hit the road for Tennessee! This meant driving over the mountains…which meant some crazy turns, up and down hills, and some incredible views! I never get carsick, but I had to put my book down while we were driving over the mountains- both to keep me from feeling sick, and because I didn’t want to miss the views!

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Tera was not so sure about standing on this rock by herself. Also, how sad is it that someone decided to graffiti these rocks? I mean, it isn’t even talented graffiti! Totally ruins the view…

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But this view, on the other hand? I could get used to that!

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Next stop: Barnabas and Eryn’s house in Bristol, TN!

 

Show and Tell Tuesday: Pets

It’s been a long time since I’ve linked up with Show and Tell Tuesday, and I thought today was the perfect topic for me! It’s fun, lighthearted and just what I need to write about!

PETS!

Growing up, we had an interesting selection for pets. We didn’t have access to gerbils, hamsters, golden retrievers or fish, but we DID have access to lizards and snakes, all kinds of exotic birds, goats and cows and chickens and Guinea fowl. I remember one time when we came back to the States and my Mom took my brother and I to a petting zoo. And cage after cage of animal I was so confused…because back in Niger those were our pets, not zoo animals! Haha!

For example….here I am…carrying a puppy on my back. I don’t even know. No, that was not a “normal” African thing!

Overall, though, my family stuck to a pretty normal array of animals. We had chickens, we occasionally had a goat (that served it’s purpose for meat more than being a pet), and at one point we had an entire aviary with all kinds of birds. We never had a dog, but the one pet that we had and loved for years and years and years was our cat, Midnight.

My brother picked her out when we first moved to Tera, and she was an incredible cat. She had several litters of kittens before she was fixed, she was indoor/outdoor potty trained, and she was an incredible mouser/lizard catcher. When we went on furlough, she would take care of herself and would always show up when we got back (even though we were gone for a year at a time!). She wasn’t a very cuddly cat, but she always loved Daniel and would tolerate the rest of us.

Midnight is in the background of this picture, and Daniel and I are holding her kittens.

I do not know why I look high in this picture, but here I am with Midnight again a few years later.

We went through lots of other cats during the times we had Midnight. I can think of at least four cats that we had, but they just never connected into our family the way that Midnight did.

When she was 15, we moved a few hours away and of course we took her with us! She had to become an indoor cat since we were living in the city, and she seemed to do fine with it, but we all knew she was nearing the end of her life. We never took her to a vet, but we are fairly certain that she got a brain tumor and that is eventually why she died.

I still remember the evening that she died. She completely gave up the day before, and we knew it was coming. I think we were all a little relieved. She was 16 years old, and was obviously in pain. She had lived such a great life, so when she did die we were all glad that she wasn’t suffering anymore and we had SO many great memories of her.

It’s because of Midnight that I LOVE cats. I mean… I am going to be an old cat lady.

The week after we got back from our honeymoon, Theo and I got a cat.

Moose!

We literally treated this cat like our kid. We took him everywhere, and he slept on my pillow from the time that we got him until Tera came along and he got kicked out of our bedroom.

Just like with Midnight, we have had other cats, but they have all come and gone while Moose sticks around!

Throughout our four years of marriage, we have also had two dogs. One passed away soon after we got him, and the other one didn’t work out for our family. We have decided once and for all that we are not dog people, and we won’t be attempting that again!

I can’t wait to watch my kids grow up and see what kinds of pets they incorporate into our family and try to sneak into our house! Tera absolutely loves animals, and if she had her own way, she would have one of everything! I want to foster that love in her, but I also need to know my limits.

What about you? What kinds of pets have you had/do you have?

One Week

One week.

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How has it been one week?

How has it already been a week?

A week ago was our last day with Little Miss. Last Tuesday, we said goodbye to her.

I realize that I’ve been really quiet around here and I just needed to pound out some words regarding this whole thing. Mostly, so that if I go through this again, I can look back and remember. But also because I know that a lot of people are following along and want to know how we are doing.

SO, how are we doing?

We are doing alright. Honestly. We are grieving and we are sad, but we are ok. We are not devastated, we are not crushed, we are not even surprised. We are just sad, and we need to take some time to be able to be sad. It’s a sad situation (for us).

On Tuesday, we packed up all her stuff, drove her to Children’s Services, watched as her new parents signed their initials a few times, and then we handed her and her stuff over and drove home without her.

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Yes, I cried. All day. And most of the next. And on and off since then. I cried because I missed her. I cried because our house feels so empty. I cried because I gave nine months of my life to her, and now she’s not in my life at all. I cried because it was the hardest nine months of my life, and we had bonded. I cried because for much of those nine months I wasn’t sure I could do it, and now I’m not doing it anymore. I cried because Tera just lost the only sister that she has ever had. I cried because my parents never got to meet her. I cried because Tera said “I miss you” first thing when she woke up from her nap. I cried because I felt alone. I cried because there are so many confusing emotions in this whole situation. I cried because her Mom lost her chance. I cried because the world is broken. I cried because I have learned that nine months CAN make a difference in someone’s life. I cried because it’s hard.

This is it, guys. These are the days that keep most people from being fostering parents. I’m living the “I could never because I would get too attached”. I’m living it day and night RIGHT NOW. And you know what? Saying goodbye to her was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT.

Does it make me want to call Children’s Services and tell them we are done? NOPE. Does it make me want to throw in the towel and never have to go through this again? NOPE. Does it make me hate foster care and never want to pour myself into another life again? NOPE. In fact, I feel the exact opposite! I want to call Children’s Services and say “Give me more! Let me do it again! Let me love one, or two, or three!!!” It was so worth it to know how much I put into that little life. Without Theo, Tera and I her entire future could have been much, much different. What an honor! What a privleage! How could we stop at one??!??

 

I wanted to take a brief moment and address some of the questions I’ve been asked a lot in the week since she left. I know a lot of people are curious but don’t feel comfortable asking, and a lot of people don’t want to say the wrong thing. Please, I am more than willing to talk about it and answer whatever questions you may have.

Where did she go?

Little Miss has gone to live with some kin. They live out of state and have wanted to take her since she was born. They are a wonderful couple and will do an excellent job raising her. They have spent significant amount of time with her already and we are hoping the transition will be smooth.

Why didn’t she go with her biological parents?  

This is a bit complicated, and I don’t even fully know the answer to that question. Her biological mother was showing signs of progress in completing her plan and getting Little Miss back, but recently fell off the bandwagon. Usually, a bio parent has a year to get their act together and show some progress, but in this case our caseworkers decided that nine months was enough time and that she has not made any significant progress in becoming the mother capable of taking care of her. And her bio father has never been in the picture.

Why didn’t she stay with you? Why would they take her away from the family that she has already bonded with?

Hmmm, good question. And a hard one for me to answer. The short answer: the law. The long answer: Children’s Services always, always, always tries to place a child with kin. Now, “kin” is defined differently from state to state and can mean anyone from immediate family to a close family friend. The idea behind this law makes sense to me: they want to keep the child closest to their family. Placing a child with a biological family member foster culture, family unity, and is usually a good idea in general. However, the personal side of this does make me a little bit annoyed as I do wish we could have kept her. This did not come as a surprise to us, though, as we knew these relatives were in the picture from the beginning. The way our caseworker explained it is:

Plan A: Biological Mother

Plan B: Kin, if any are interested in taking her (in her case the answer was 200% YES)

Plan C: Foster Parents

 

Has she been adopted?

Actually, no. She is currently being fostered by the relatives and they have a 6 month trial period (you know, to determine that they don’t hate her) before an adoption can be approved. Trust me, they don’t hate her and these six months will end in an adoption.

 

Will you maintain contact with her?

This is 110% up to her current parents. They choose how much contact we have her. But, yes…we are in contact with. Although I can’t decide if that is more painful or less painful at the moment.

 

Will you take more foster placements? When?

We are still currently licensed foster parents! The question of when is completely in God’s hands. We are taking an entire month off from any placements. We need this month to just go through some grief and recuperate a little bit from the stress of having a foster child. After that, we shall see. I’m due in October and don’t want to throw too much upheaval into the family, but it would be hard to convince us to say no! We are completely trusting that God will make it OBVIOUS when we should say yes to another placement.

 

How is Tera doing?

Tera is doing…well. I mean, she’s Tera. She is so resilient and I truly believe that God gave her a laid-back personality in order to be able to handle foster care. But she is grieving, and I’m surprised how much she actually seems to understand. She carries a picture of Little Miss around all day, and says, “I love you!” and “I miss you!” to the picture all day long. She talks about her and gets really excited when she sees a picture. There has been one or two times when she has gone to look for Little Miss in her usual spots and cannot find her. She has had several meltdowns when she can’t find her. I think those moments have been the hardest for me. Overall, I have no idea how much she actually understands, but she is the most emphatic and caring child. She is very quick to notice “mommy crying!” and will bring me a tissue. It’s the sweetest.

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How are you and Theo and doing?

Grief is wild! It manifests itself in different ways for different people. Theo is doing well. He is enjoyed being my steady rock and comforting me through the sadness. Sometimes we just look at each other with tears in our eyes because something brought back the memories of her. We have been able to talk through a lot of the feelings and emotions and that has been so good for me. I am learning how I grieve, and mostly it is by trying to remove all the evidence of Little Miss. I know that’s not entirely healthy, so I am finding a balance. I am also finding that I am just purely exhausted. I feel like I could sleep for a week straight. The emotions the past week have been strong and they are exhausting. I know that Theo is also exhausted.

 

What can I do to help?

Why, thank you for asking. It’s so strange to me that I’ve gone through one of the hardest weeks of my life, but it’s not a big deal to anybody else. I’m learning to relay on the Lord in this time, as it has felt rather lonely. Prayers would be helpful, but I’m also learning that I need tangible things, too. I need to take a nap, which means I need someone to help me take care of my regular duties like cooking, cleaning and taking care of Tera. I need words of affirmation and encouragement like nobodies business. I have felt so blessed by the numerous people who have texted me every few days just to check in on how I’m doing. I have literally written every text message down in my journal because it means that much to me. My friend Tam sent me flowers on Tuesday and I wept and wept into those flowers. They were so beautiful and such a reminder to me that I’m not alone. For now, we are just continuing on, and taking it day by day. I’m not going to rush the sadness and try to move on from it, but instead just take it moment by moment and let it be there. I’m sure there will be days that everything feels back to normal, and then days when the emptiness of her crib feels crushing. Theo and I are thankful that we have each other, a good support system and most importantly- Christ the solid rock.

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