If there are any people out there who still read this blog of mine, you probably feel like I've forgotten all about it. It's not that I've intentionally neglected this blog. I've probably pulled out my laptop 20 times to write a post and started typing, but never finished for one reason or another.
This blog was and is my kids baby book of sorts. I started it when we first turned in our initial paperwork for adoption. We had so many people constantly asking for updates, that starting a blog seemed like the best option. If you've ever adopted, you know how hard it can be to repeatedly get asked "Have you heard anything?" when you really haven't and don't have any exciting news to share. So this blog became my place to share news when there WAS news to share.
And then we were placed with Kate. I had so much fun sharing her first time rolling over, or sleeping through the night, her first bites of new foods, her first time crawling, then walking, then running. I got to share the first time she said "mama" and my heart exploded.
But I also got to share about finalizing her adoption, and about meeting with her birth parents. I got to share about how our relationship with them grew. I got to share about how we were the family who was completely terrified about the term "open adoption" and then we became the family who would never change the fact that we get to live that term every day.
And then we decided to adopt again.
The second time around, we were terrified that we may NOT get to have an open adoption again. What would we do if we were selected by a birth family who did not want to have ongoing contact? How would we explain to our second child that he or she would not get to know their birth family, while still having regular visits and contact with Kate's birth family?
And then we were placed with Karsten and God answered all of our prayers. She has an amazing birth family that we've had the privilege of getting to know better over the past four years.
I got to share on here all of Karsten's firsts - the first time meeting big sister, the first time rolling over, her first bites of new foods, her first time going to preschool, and her first hair cut. Again, this blog became a baby book and I have loved having it to look back on.
But now my kids aren't babies anymore, so this blog is in a bit of a transition itself. What do I share? What is its purpose? I honestly don't have the answers at the moment. I plan to continue sharing bits and pieces of our life. I plan to continue sharing about adoption, because it's something that I am clearly very passionate about. I don't want this blog to be a hobby that I had for a few years and then one day realize that it's been a year since I last wrote a post. Blogging is clearly not as in vogue as it once was, but for me blogging was never about being cool or popular. I did it for myself. And that's the reason why I plan to continue doing it.
So until next time, here's a quick picture to remind me why I started in the first place:
Happy LOVE day from our family to yours! Valentine's day is not one that Kevin or I really care all that much about. However, I can't pass up an opportunity to dress my girls in pink.
For the first time in years Kevin and I actually did make plans. Tomorrow we had a babysitter lined up, and we were headed to dinner at a nice downtown restaurant. And then, a virus hit our house. All plans now cancelled.
It happens. We'll reschedule for another time when everyone is healthy and have just as much fun. So, here's hoping your Valentine's day was healthy, fun, and full of laughter!
** Note - Amazon Affiliate links are used at the bottom of this post.
A few years ago, I wrote a post about Kate's love language. The premise of a "love language" comes from Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages, which makes the argument that we all show love in one of five ways:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Essentially, your default is to SHOW love to other people in the way that you most feel valued. The book does a better job of explaining it but it is SO interesting. Whether the relationship is with a spouse, a child, or just a friend, knowing how the other person feels valued can help you express your love or thankfulness to them. With Kate, I recognized pretty early on that her love language was Gifts. She would often (and still does) express her love for you by giving you small gifts or trinkets. She picks flowers, or draws pictures, or makes a craft and will give it to you to show you how much she loves you. Because of this, she feels most loved/valued when I give her gifts too (but seriously, who doesn't love a good gift). It doesn't have to be anything big or expensive though. Just giving her $2 to get a Kona Ice at school because she was a good friend to someone is a MAJOR motivator to her.
Karsten has been a little harder to figure out but lately I've come to realize that her love language is Words of Affirmation. She is not stingy with her compliments at all! She will constantly tell me:
"Mommy you're beautiful!" "Mommy I love you!" "Mommy I like to cuddle with you!" "Mommy this dinner is delicious!" "Mommy you're so good at _______!
I have to say, I like her love language a lot too. :) Come to think of it, I may just love all of them. Ha!
Now that I realize how Karsten feels loved, it's made me realize things that I may do or say and how her eyes light up a little more or how her smile gets a little bigger. A simple compliment goes a long way. A "thank you" goes a mile. A "great job!" gets a humongous smile. And wow, when we pray with the girls at night and thank God specifically for each one, you can tell it makes her day.
So if you haven't read Gary Chapman's book on Love Languages, I highly suggest it again! I'll link below the regular edition (which is what I have read) and also an edition for knowing/understanding the five love languages in children (which I haven't read).
Meanwhile, I'll just soak up all of Karsten's sweet compliments and keep them close to my heart so I'll remember them during the teenage years!
And here is the remainder of our 2018 recap. What a year. We are thankful for HIS blessings and His grace.
VACATION month! I took a full two weeks off of work, which was awesome and something I'd never done before. We spent the first week in my home town, and had some day trips spread throughout the other week. We visited Raleigh, NC and Kate got to see the hospital where she was born, and stay in the hotel that we brought her "home" to.
We took a weekend trip to Myrtle Beach because summer isn't really summer without a trip to the beach, right?
Kate's birthday isn't until August but we celebrated a few weeks early. She had 2 friends over to spend the night for the first time. She LOVED it.
As is typical of every summer, we had lots of lake days.
At the beginning of August, our entire family went on a mission trip to a children's home in Tennessee. This was Karsten's very first mission trip and she rocked it. I love it when we get to teach our girls more about serving others, and they have a blast doing it!
Kate turned SEVEN and we celebrated on the very last day of our mission trip. After we got home, we celebrated by going to Red Lobster with my parents.
The middle of August brought back to school activities for both Kate and Karsten. Kate started second grade and Karsten started her 3K program at a local church.
The girls also started back to gymnastics, one of their favorite activities.
Not to be left out, in August we also celebrated Kevin's birthday and our 11th anniversary.
Though his birthday was in August (the 31st), we didn't really celebrate Kevin's big day until September!
Kate went on her first 2nd grade field trip, which I chaperoned. We went to a state park and the kids got to go on a hike and try to find creatures in a stream.
September got FOOTBALL season really rolling along. My Clemson Tigers have had a great year and Kevin's Georgia Bulldogs were right in the mix of things too!
Kevin finished building the addition to the swing set, and it got lots of good use when our small group met at our house!
Karsten turned FOUR on October 6th and we had a super fun unicorn party to celebrate. She had asked for a unicorn party for months, and finally the day was here!
Kevin and I took the girls to a Georgia game (a night game!) and we all had so much fun. Despite my Clemson loyalties, I can at least concede that Athens is a fun place to be on game day.
Halloween rolled around and we had fun trick-or-treating with Violet (from the Incredibles) and Buzz Lightyear, complete with light-up helmet.
November was not our finest month. We said goodbye to a great man, Kevin's dad and the girls much-loved Papa. He was a man who loved Jesus and so we take comfort in knowing that at this very moment, he is in the happiest place there is - in the presence of God.
We celebrated world adoption day and took our annual picture with smiley faces on our hands! I have to say, this is the easiest one that we have ever taken! Finally both kids look at the camera and smile.
We took the girls to the Great Wolf Lodge for a quick weekend trip. Besides Carowinds, this is probably their most favorite place to go!
My niece, Rylynn turned ONE and had the sweetest birthday party!
This Mama caved and introduced Elf on the Shelf for the very first time to our household. We had lots of fun with our elf, Chrysanthemum (Chrys), in the days leading up to Christmas.
Karsten had a scare with some broken glass so we also had our first (and hopefully our last) trip to the ER.
December wrapped up our year with a bang and a blur of activities! We had a great visit with Kate's birth mom and family at the beginning of the month. It was bittersweet as Kate's birth mama (Lori) moves to California with her husband's military assignment.
We visited SANTA!
Mid-month, we got to visit with Kate's birth dad. He is in the military and has been deployed for the past few years and is now stationed in Texas, so it has been quite a while since we have seen him! We are so thankful to have met his wife, step children, and brand new baby boy! Open adoption is an amazing experience.
We did some Christmas tree decorating, Christmas cookie decorating, and LOTS of other Christmas related activities, including wearing red every chance we got.
We celebrated Christmas with lots of family time and loved every minute.
And through out all of the activities, fun, sometimes chaos, and busyness, we made sure to remember the reason for all of the Christmas season - Jesus. Without that baby in a manger, Christmas would be meaningless. It would be just another day on the calendar. But WITH that baby, Christmas is a celebration of a lifetime. Literally. He is a life-giver and a life-changer. For that we are most thankful!
Yet again it is time for my yearly recap and again I'm blown away at how much gets packed into a single year. In the daily grind, it often feels like "same old, same old" but when you look back, you can see how much your family has experienced, and how much you have all grown (in so many different ways!) For my own personal reference, here's a quick bulleted list of what we were up to each month...
Snow Day in the SOUTH! We got snow uncharacteristically early for us, and rather than a light dusting, we got a LOT of snow. The girls had a blast playing in the snow, building snowmen, having snowball fights and just having FUN.
(Bottom left) - Kate decided she wanted to go get groceries with me for my Sunday afternoon grocery run, so she got a hot chocolate treat for her help!
(Bottom right & Bottom left/middle) - Karsten FINALLY got potty trained. It was a big day in our house when it meant no more diapers to be bought! What finally convinced her that it was time to be a big girl? Well, I promised that if she didn't have accidents for 5 whole days (ignoring nights), she could get a manicure. My girly-girl was perfect from then on so she could earn her treat!
College football continued for both me and Kevin when our two teams both made it to the College Football playoffs. Kate is a people pleaser, and had to wear both jerseys to support Mama and Daddy.
Kevin took Kate to her school's Daddy/Daughter dance, while I took Karsten on a "date" of her choice- Chick-fil-a. (She is my kid, so what do you expect?)
For the days of February leading up to Valentine's day, I put hearts on the door each day with one characteristic we love about each of our girls. They loved seeing what we wrote about them each day. This is definitely a fun tradition that we'll keep around.
Instead of the Pinterest route, we went the Disney route for Valentine's day and man it is SO much easier. Pre-made Valentines + a piece of candy = Mom win.
Kate's first basketball season came to an end. She had a BLAST playing with a local church's league, and scored the very first basket of the season.
We were able to get together with both Kate and Karsten's birth families all on the same day. We loved spending a bit of time with part of our extended family!
Kate lost her very first top tooth. She is quickly leaving the baby face behind.
Karsten got her very first hair cut. Again the girly-girl loved the experience (and attention).
We went from snow days in January to t-shirts and shorts in March. It has been a crazy year of weather.
Kate lost her other top tooth and was officially unable to eat an apple or corn on the cob. Ha!
We celebrated Easter as a family - the biggest celebration of our faith! God is good and while we celebrate a risen Savior every day of the year, it is especially meaningful to be able to corporately celebrate Jesus with believers around the world.
Kevin and I got tickets to the Masters and in the middle of my busy season at work, I was still able to take a break and enjoy Augusta National. SO very beautiful.
Both girls started swim lessons, which are some of their favorite weeks of the year. My girls are fish and they LOVE the water.
Kate took her swim lesson skills to the lake and finally gathered the courage to dive off of my parent's dock.
I celebrated my 8th Mothers day. As an adoptive mom, this is an extra-sweet holiday to be able to celebrate. With the JOY of being a mom myself, there also comes a bit of heartbreak in knowing how much my girls first moms love them enough to choose life and adoption for their girls. These girls are a gift that we ALL get to share.
Karsten had her last day of PDO (Parent's Day Out) and I had to do a double check when I saw how much she changed between her first day and last day. She was super pumped that she would be moving into K3 in the fall.
We visited the Children's Museum and it was no surprise that the girls favorite exhibit was the music room, where they got to play all kinds of instruments.
With the weather all warmed up, we spent many days visiting my parents at the lake.
Kate had a delayed allergic reaction to her allergy shots a few hours after we left the doctor's office. We ended up at MD360 and learned that she had hit her max dosage on allergy shots. Scary but we can honestly say that after a year of weekly shots- they are working!
Kevin started building an addition on the girls playground. They spend lots of time outside and this will be a much used addition!
My parents came to town to celebrate their anniversary and we met them downtown for lunch, along with Kristi, Davis and Rylynn. What a fun time!
Kevin celebrated his 8th Father's day.
Kevin finished the swing set addition, and the girls couldn't love it more! Except, Karsten informed Kevin that it was missing a door with a real doorknob.
You're not a real southern kid if you don't spend summer evenings catching lightening bugs, right? So that's just what we did - mason jar and all.
Another southern summer tradition? Sprinklers! We pulled out the sprinkler on many hot afternoons.
Kevin and I took Karsten (along with a church group) to watch the Braves play. It was our first visit to their new stadium and Karsten approved.
Kate finished FIRST grade. Again the first day and last day comparison killed me.
We resumed our family tradition of going to get ice cream after church on Wednesdays, since school nights were no more!
And guys, that's just HALF the year, and only a small glimpse of what we fit into our days. Stay tuned. I'm hoping to post the rest of the year tomorrow. What a fun year it has been.
As an update to my update, I will continue where I left off and repeat that life is crazy. Here's a quick recap of the last few months. We packed up our home of 11+ years and moved to my home town back in November, a few days after Kevin's dad passed away. And then a week later, we packed our house up again and moved back home. It's been chaos the last few weeks. But, we are home, finally unpacked and very thankful to be here. We don't know what God has in store for us yet, but we know He is a God who loves His children and wants to use them for His purposes, so we're waiting until He shows us how that will be!
But like I said, we were home for Christmas. My parents came up on Christmas eve and we went bowling with the kids. So. Much. Fun.
We went to Olive Garden to eat and celebrate mine and my brother-in-law's birthdays. Mine is on the 27th and his was the 20th. There's not much better than Italian food.
On Christmas day, we told the girls not to get up before 7:30. In truth, Kevin and I were really just trying to avoid having kids that wake up at 4am and beg to open presents. At 7am, we heard them in their room and went to check on them. They were sitting on the side of their bed, talking, and waiting on 7:30 to roll around. :) So, we let them go ahead and get up and open their presents.
At 8:30, my parents and Kristi, Davis and Rylynn came over to open family presents, eat breakfast and hang out.
Later that afternoon, my mother-in-law Diane came by with Kevin's grandma to say hello and let the girls show off their gifts. We are so thankful for them!
After a crazy busy day, we had a low key evening. We ended up eating dinner in the living room and watched The Star. If you haven't seen it, it's on Netflix right now and really, really cute. It's sort of the story of Jesus birth from the animal's perspective - but Jesus' birth is really 1 of 2 story lines. It is cute!
When the movie was over, Kate read aloud the Christmas story from Luke before the girls headed to bed. Perfect ending to a pretty fantastic day.
Well. Life is crazy, and yet again our family is in transition. We don't know what the future has in store for us, but we know that God is good and every day He sends us more reminders of who He is and how much He loves us. Reminders like this one:
See that dress that Karsten is wearing? It's the dress that Kate wore to court when we finalized Karsten's adoption almost 4 years ago to the day. Even when things are ridiculously crazy, if we pay attention, we can be thankful and grateful for God's provision and blessings. He is good!
What a crazy, emotional, exhausting few weeks. So much has happened that I didn't know what to write. And then more happened, and I kept putting it off. But this is my diary of sorts, and I don't want to completely let this blog fall apart, so here I am. And I still don't know where to start...
Back in late October, Kevin accepted a position at a church in my hometown. We are excited and looking forward to being back in a smaller town. We are praying God will use our family as only He can do, and can't wait to get all settled in. But with big, exciting changes come some of the more difficult changes, like moving away from people and places that you love.
Two weeks ago we said goodbye to our church family for the past 14 years. It was one of the hardest things we have ever done. The following are two pictures from our last small group meeting. I've said this quite a few times, but it is just so true - if you go to a church but aren't in some kind of group (whether that is a small group, a life group, a home group or a Sunday school class), you're missing out! These people became our family and we will miss them (and others) so much. Our kids grew up with their kids. We found accountability and real connection. It was more than just meeting together for a Bible study. True fellowship.
When we started this small group, there were 3 kids and all were under the age of 3. Now look at them! There are lots more, and they are so grown up!
So on Sunday November 11th, Kevin preached his last message, we gave lots of hugs, there were lots of tears and as tradition, a ton of us went out to eat together afterward.
On Monday, Kevin's dad was discharged from the hospital and sent home with Hospice. So what was supposed to be a week of us moving and settling in, ended up being a week spent with family and trying to soak in every remaining minute with his dad and with the girls Papa. Thankfully our new church family was gracious to allow us to delay Kevin's start date an additional week, and we were able to be at home with family when Kevin's dad passed away the following Monday morning (November 19th).
Daddy/Papa was one of the kindest, most generous people you would ever meet. He raised 4 boys, loved his family and his grandkids (and even claimed a few as grandkids that weren't related to us). He always greeted you with a hug. He loved us well and we all loved him. He will be missed.
On Wednesday we said goodbye and Kevin was able to do his dad's funeral service. He wasn't sure he would be able to actually do it, so a fellow pastor led the service, but somehow Kevin made it almost all the way through. It was truly a celebration of life, knowing that Don loved his Lord and while we were grieving, was already celebrating in eternity with Jesus.
Thursday, Thanksgiving day, we packed up the rest of our house and spent Thursday/Friday/Saturday moving. We ate Thanksgiving lunch at McDonalds because it was the only thing open. Ha! But we did get a good meal on Thursday evening (thanks Mom and Dad!).
On Saturday we loaded the last boxes into our car and drove away from our very first home. Kevin and I were emotional but the girls were all ready for the next adventure. If only we could be a little more like kids sometimes, right? This is the only home that Kevin and I have lived in together. It's the home we went to after we got married. It's the home that we put so much work into - we cut down trees, graded the yard, spent YEARS trying to get grass to grow, planted shrubs and flowers and landscaping, and put in hours of work mulching ever year. It's the home where we got a puppy together (Max) and then 7 month later got another puppy (Cooper). It's the home that we welcomed both of our girls into, where we watched them take their first steps, try their first foods, and say their first words. It was the home that hosted a few Thanksgivings, where we woke up to 12 Christmas mornings. It's where our girls had egg hunts each Easter. It was home to so many "firsts" for us, and so many great memories. And on Thursday we will list it for sale so a new family can love it as much as we did. Cue the tears. Again.
Yesterday (Sunday), we woke up in our new town and attended our first service at our new church. The girls had a blast and made themselves at home immediately, like we were pretty sure they would. They are good at things like that. We were welcomed by lots of new friends and shook hands with more people than I could count. We all had a great day and are excited for the future.
But boy, are we tired. I told someone that after the last 7 days, I think I could go to sleep for about 3 weeks!
And so here we are and now I'm all caught up in blog land. We are here and even though our boxes are still everywhere waiting to be unpacked, we are home. And we are thankful.
OH YEAH - I almost forgot. The girls started their new schools today. Kate is in 2nd grade and Karsten started daycare, which is a new adventure for her! If this doesn't show excited faces, then I don't know what does.