Wednesday, May 10, 2017

This Girl

This little lady is turning 12 today, in honor of her special day I want to share with the world how spectacular I think she is.

Last year about this time Kendall started feeling really sick and we just couldn't seem to get her healthy. For months she struggled with headaches, tummy troubles, fatigue and dizziness...eventually we noticed some behavior changes in her as well. Initially I thought I was getting a glimpse into the teen years that people had warned me about but we knew that she just wasn't being herself and I didn't want to believe that this was our new normal. We tried a number of different things but we never got our old, sweet Kendall back. Our move here was the first time ever that a move completely threw her for a loop, we struggled a lot. We cut out sugar, we visited a number of doctors and nothing seemed to help until Brian made her an appointment with a doctor that he sees (one not quick to prescribe for symptoms, one that was willing to dig for the actual cause of the symptoms). It turns out that this sweet girl of ours is allergic to: soy, dairy, gluten AND chicken!! For months she has been eating "clean" and I can say we have our girl back finally. She's feeling much better and she is back to her old self.

Twelve can be a hard age and at a time when many her age are just trying to fit in and many have a complete lack of self control this rockstar is checking food labels, carting a lunchbox to various school/church outings (because they ALWAYS SERVE PIZZA) and has self control like you wouldn't believe.

I want to brag a little more about her.
This girl:

  • Is empathetic like no other, she wants everyone to feel included and is kind to everyone.
  • Is incredibly perceptive, she picks up on every tone of voice and facial expression and as a result can get her feelings hurt pretty easily.
  • Is a "little momma" she's going to be a great baby sitter and mom one day. She doesn't get distracted, she walks Piper around the playground watching out for hazards.
  • Is self motivated to do her work. I never tell her to do her homework, usually it's finished before she gets off the bus.
  • Is recognized by her teachers and peers as a generally awesome person. The last two schools she attended she was recognized in the first month there and awarded some award due to various character traits.
  • Keeps her room clean!

I could go on and on, she's a girl that I thank God every night that I get to be her mom. He is using these food allergies to teach her so much and I can see her growing from it. I can't wait to see how she uses her compassion as she gets older. 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

That Week

I'm just now processing that first week home. It's kind of a blur in a way and I'm really not clear exactly what all was communicated to the masses at the time. I went back and forth between a)  thinking that we were absolutely fine and we just needed to not worry until we got the next test result and b) convinced that he was going to die. I had all four kids at home because it all happened over a weekend and holiday and they didn't really know what all was going on so I tried to keep a brave face on but sometimes it got too heavy and I would hide in the laundry room and try to muffle my sobs. They always knew and would ask why it looked like I had been crying and Lorie would jump in and just say it was because I was tired.

We're on the other side now and honestly we haven't talked about it too much. A good friend messaged me this morning some sweet encouragement and I stopped to really consider HOW I actually got through that and there is no good explanation. He is the ultimate comforter, physician and giver of strength and it was through His power that we came through. 

For the records a summary of the crazy that went down the first week: Jack developed a cold while we were gone, we could tell he was sick when we Facetimed with him, he was glassy eyed and looked like he was about to fall asleep sitting up. Kate had some significant tooth pain that was keeping her up every night and Lorie had taken her into a dentist that wanted further x-rays and was talking root canal and mouth trauma...I was ready to get home to my babies.

Our last day of China Brian was feeling really lousy with stomach pain and frequent bathroom trips (sorry, TMI). Lets be honest though, Brian has the worlds most sensitive stomach and while I was sympathetic I wasn't overly concerned. He can have stomach problems due to tiny fluctuations in caffeine intake or a plethora of other random reasons. He was up all night the night before our flight and when I woke and started gathering suitcases for our flight he told me he didn't think he could get on the plane. Lets pause here and just say the guy was dehydrated and exhausted and PROBABLY shouldn't have flown due to risk of blood clots. I'll just mention again Brian's frequent stomach issues and I'll admit when I thought of the three babies at home my sympathy for his stomach problems evaporated. I started the shower, told him to get in and that we were getting on that plane. I told him that I would take care of the potentially screaming baby and promised that he could sleep the entire flight. There was some resistance but I was having NONE OF IT. He could be sick at home with American doctors but we were getting on that plane.

I can say it now but that poor poor man, he was seriously sick. I knew it the whole travel day/night. He was weak and looked awful. There are various stations in China airports where they want you to go if you aren't feeling well, and we knew that they sometimes took people's temperature to keep sick from traveling. More than once I ALMOST asked Brian to look less sick but thought better of it. We made it though, we arrived at 4:30pm ish and he managed to stay upright (he used the luggage cart to help support his weight and he still had to sit down in the airport garage to rest). I slept 2 hours that first night home (jet lag), I'm not clear how much he slept but when he came out of our room the next morning he said he needed to go to the ER. What he DIDN'T tell me at that point was that he thought he was having a heart attack. I think I'm pretty calm and rational but I have a sensitivity to heart problems and he intentionally didn't mention it to me OR Lorie. The ER took him in immediately and Lorie couldn't figure out why he didn't have to wait like everyone else. 

They ran tests for days and really didn't provide much information at all, he did have raised enzymes that would indicate a heart attack but his EKG was fine and the angiogram indicated he had zero blockage. There were a few "maybe it's this" thrown out and honestly most of them scared me in a big way.

The next night I got 3 hours sleep.

Meanwhile at home Kate had another appointment with the dentist and then we were referred to an oral surgeon. She was awake every night in pain (I'll throw in that my sister was AMAZING and had Kate coming to her when she woke up).

Jack continued to cough horribly.

We had SO many offers of help. People offered to fly in and help (and every time it sent me into tears) but Brian and I still wanted to keep Pipers world small as much as possible. When people would ask how they could help I didn't even know what to tell them. My brain still wasn't functioning   and other than food help which people all stepped up and helped with) there wasn't really anything that I could hand off. We are STILL having food delivered and it is honestly so incredibly helpful, that ends next week so I better get my ducks in a row. A neighbor friend that hasn't even known us long took my big kids multiple days to play, our small group leader ran to the grocery and delivered all kind of goodies for snacking, dinners rolled in, the big kids went to a church event with a good friend. I'm still blown away and am SO thankful for the love that was poured out to us, we haven't lived here that long!!

Night 3 home 4 hours sleep.

The oral surgeon was wonderful but told us that Kate's adult tooth did something weird when it was formed, she did nothing to cause it but it had formed a "tooth within a tooth" he confirmed it was painful especially since it was now infected inside the tooth and that it needed to come out. This is me, knowing that Lorie leaves in two day and I sat in the waiting room trying to imagine how I would shuffle school bus drop off/pickups of Kendall and Jack, Kate's surgery all while managing Piper. 
Can we just stop and laugh over this. I mean, it's hilarious. I can control what I say fairly well but my facial expressions give me away every single time. 

I'll speed through the rest as much as possible.
Brian was released, his heart being inflamed was caused by severe dehydration (8-9 fluid IV bags later he was feeling or at least peeing more normally) there was no lasting damage to his heart but they still didn't tell us what had caused the whole problem to begin with....until we pulled into the house after he was released and his phone rang. Apparently he had salmonella....and lets be clear that my cooking DID NOT give it to him, our sweet little Valentines date in China brought all this on. 

Kate's surgery was scheduled for the next day so I had help! Lorie got the kids ready and on the bus and Piper and I got Kate in the car and home from surgery. She has slept fine since it came out

Since Lorie was still with us I decided we better take Jack in to figure out his cough. I might be the only mother that has laughed when the doctor said her son had pneumonia. I did, I laughed and said, of course he does.

But we are on the other side. Everyone is recovering, Piper is doing great. Honestly she has kind of been the easy part through this. Now when we deal with the "normal" toddler stuff it seems easy compared to everything else. We can handle it. 

I kind of can't believe we got through it, I would go to bed at night not even feeling overly tired. I honestly think your prayers for my strength kept me upright. 

Piper is so loved by each of us. I've never really had a "fluffy" baby and I can't stop squishing her. I also have to say that having her makes me love Kendall, Kate, and Jack that much more. Does that make sense? I love remembering them at this age, I love who they have become, I want to be the best mom for each of them. They're all awesome, when I tuck them in every night I always thank God that I get to be their mom. 

Thank you, thank you to everyone close by that poured help on us. Thank you everyone for all the prayers, we needed it, we felt it. Thank you for showing us how to love someone well. Now we get down to the business of being six, the business of teaching a little miss what family is.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Rest of the Story

Brian has been awesome blogging about our adoption journey. I didn't take my laptop to China and those that know me know that typing on an iPhone/iPad is not my strength (autocorrect is not my friend). He recorded the whole trip so well I don't really need to blog about it but I decided that my voice is missing from the story and there are details and emotions that I want to have recorded. I won't be working chronologically but as I see a picture that strikes me or an emotion arises I will post. They won't be long, short and sweet fits better into the rhythm of my days right now, just a photo and some words to try and capture all the big feelings that continue to happen. Last night, during my 1-3:30 jet lag wake time I kept thinking about meeting Piper's nanny.

We were very lucky to have a chance to sit down with Piper's nanny, Rachel. She had prepared notes, discussed Piper's routine, gave us insight into her personality and answered any questions we had. At the end of our meeting I tried to express my thanks without crying but honestly it was just impossible. I had prayed so much that someone was loving on my girl and it was so clear that this woman did.

Rachel and I didn't speak the same language but we both knew a mother's love for the same beautiful little girl. It hurts to know I missed the first 20 months of Piper's life but I am incredibly thankful that she was loved so well by this woman. And while Rachel had the privilege of loving and comforting Piper during some very scary and important times she now had the heaviness of a great loss to bear. How she is strong enough to continue to love children over and over again and then hand them off.....she is stronger than I can even imagine. I told her through my tears that I could tell Piper loved her very much and explained through the translator that we have a photo of her and Piper framed in her room. She and I were both teary when we hugged. Those emotions were only a small foreshadowing to the ones we would feel on the day she put Piper into my arms.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

A Needle in a Haystack

You all know the story of how we decided to adopt, told back here, it's time for an overview of some amazing things God has done since then.  November and December of 2015 Brian and I started to seriously discuss adopting. Once I was fairly certain that we would be moving forward with the adoption I started following various orphan ministries and advocacy pages on Facebook. I sent Brian the picture of a sweet, sweet little lady and he responded with something like, "I love her." I found myself scouring their page for her pictures, we loved her. Her name on the website (although not a name she has ever heard) was Jewel.

Once we selected our agency and started the looooooong process of adoption I sent a quick email inquiring about her. I was told that finding her would be "like finding a needle in a haystack." Although I knew which agency she was in NOW it wasn't her originating agency and the chances of that orphanage being in a partnership with our agency (meaning that they would receive her file) was next to impossible. Even IF by some miracle that out of alllllll the adoption agencies ours just happened to be one partnered with her orphanage (and what are the chances of that?!) that it was very unlikely that the timing would align. We wouldn't be receiving children's files to review until after our dossier was in country and if her file came available before then it would be given to a family that was at the point where they could bring her home, as it should. We weren't even clear what her special need was exactly or if it would align with what we felt we could take on.

We marched on, we got delayed (what felt like FOR-EV-ER) since we were living in Canada as American citizens a whole other government was involved. More government = more delay. I started saving her pictures to my phone, I had a Jewel file full of photos. Apparently photos I "liked" would somehow show up on my own feed sometimes because people I knew would comment asking if she was mine. I didn't respond but in my heart I felt like she was, in my head I tried to protect myself and say it would never happen.

We prayed individually, we prayed together as a family. We prayed for our girl and for all the orphans. We prayed that our little lady would not be scared, that she felt comfortable, that she had someone to give her affection, that she was able to demand the things that she needed, that her doctors would provide the care she needed, that someone would hold her during those scary appointments, that she wasn't alone. God knew I loved Jewel but I prayed that He would prepare us as a family to be ready for whomever He choose for us. I prayed for peace, I knew that His timing was perfect so I prayed that I would feel peace. We worked hard gathering documents, having things notarized, made various appointments that were required, attended training classes, we waited. We waited some more.

Our dossier finally went to China in July, I asked about her file again. They had located her originating orphanage, it was crazy unlikely but her orphanage and our adoption agency were actually partnered! They couldn't guarantee it but they SHOULD receive her file when it became available but they had absolutely no idea when or if that would happen. Then they reminded me (again) to prepare my heart that she may not be mine. Once her file was prepared it would be given to the family that was the best match.

We discussed names. Agreeing on a name is not one of the strengths in our marriage and this time we had three chicklets that had big opinions. We all finally agreed on Piper. We debated between Piper Quinn and Piper Jane. We decided on Piper Jane and I ordered something and had it monogramed. A month later we changed our minds and decided to keep her Chinese name as her middle name. We had seen a lot of Jewel's pictures by now. Jewel was a name they used on social media, it wasn't a name she had ever heard. My sister Lorie was by now equally focused on her and she is quite the internet sleuth. She went back to that very first picture they ever posted of her. The very picture that I sent Brian when we were making that big adoption decision. There was her name. I'm not going to post it here, at least not until we have her in our arms and the papers are signed in country (per our agencies instructions) but I will say I do not have to change her monogram and it was similar enough that I felt even more certain that she was ours.

We got news we were moving. In a way the move was good, it distracted me from all the waiting but it did feel like another speed bump. What if her file became available and we didn't have our update complete? I prayed for peace. We are kind of move experts but I've mentioned before that this move rattled us unlike any move before. That could be a whole other post but I felt like we weren't matched yet because God was giving us time to get our feet under us. I was reassured that His timing was perfect. My kids worlds had just been shaken pretty hard and to bring home a new baby in the midst of all of that would have been hard and unfair. 

As things started to settle I started to search a little more for her pictures. One day I spotted her, her ayi (nanny) was wearing a cardigan with a big H on it, I'm not sure but I felt like it was an H representing Brian's business school. I told myself it was just another sign that she was meant to be ours.

At some point I asked our agency again, her file was still not prepared. I added the photo to the collection on my phone.We day dreamed about our little lady and talked about Piper all the time. Her room was set up, her closet was getting pretty full. We ALL pictured tiny Jewel's sweet little face in all of our day dreams.
She likes cucumbers, this house LOVES cucumbers and pickles.
In November, a year exactly after the start of our process, Jack got sick. He had some kind of weird virus, his eyelid was swollen, he was tired, he had random aches and pains, one evening he threw up. I obviously kept him home from school and then I started to feel sick. Kendall started to show signs of having the virus too. On our wedding anniversary Brian was out of town (for the entire week), I was sick and had two sick kids home from school.
I was being very sloth like on the couch when a number I didn't immediately recognize came up on my phone. I answered and was surprised to hear our social worker, Anna. It honestly didn't even occur to me that she may have a file, I assumed it was a call related to our home study update. She asked how I was and then said she had something that might improve my day. Luckily Kendall and Jack were upstairs, I walked into Piper's room and sat on her bed because if they knew I was on the phone I would be endlessly interrupted.

She told me that she had Jewel's file for us.

I cried.

I can't even remember what I said exactly, I'm not sure how coherent I was. YES, send me the file. 

A year after sending that sweet little ladies photo to Brian. The girl in the photo that helped to start it all. The girl whose photos were saved on even my kids phones, the one we all felt was Piper all along. We were getting her file.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Rug Hunt

We are on the hunt for a new rug in our family room. Finding a rug I like is EASY, finding a rug I like that works with our existing couch and artwork, is made in the size we need (10x14) and doesn't cost a TON is not so easy. I have always been a neutral loving girl but our entire house is neutral and I keep thinking that I want color. I've brought home two very colorful rugs that I've had to return.
The first one I really loved in store and I really loved the IDEA of. Its a patchwork of vintage overdyed rugs and came from a fancy shop in our town. They kindly let me bring it home for a week to try it out. Even though it stretched the budget (ok, it bombed the budget) I was hopeful that we would love it so much it wouldn't matter but it was just overpowering. I was shocked that I didn't love it in our space. 

The second one I ordered online. Again, I loved it online and felt that it would work really well with our existing art. I lived with it for a week or two and just couldn't love it. It's mush more turquoise in person and it didn't fit our style at all.

I'm beginning to think we need to go a more neutral route after all and bring in the fun color and pattern in the throw pillows. The five below are currently on my radar, care to vote on one?

This may be moving up on my list as favorite. Classic, neutral, and a fun nod to ticking which is a print that I've always loved. I really want to add fun patterened pillows and I think this rug will allow it. In the room the background looks light enough but in the small image I worry it is too brown and similar to our couch.

Early on this was a big favorite for me. I still love it but again the background color may be a little dark, with this fun, modern dot I think I could live with the background color. It's on the pricier side but this is easily our most used space and most "seen" space so I think a quality piece would be worth it. (Ignore the pillows on the couch and the weird grey box on the left, these are all screenshots from my moodboard building site).

Maybe this one? The scale of the stripes/couch is wrong, the stripes are actually smaller than shown. I'm not sold on the stripes though.

Another ticking option, again the scale is smaller in real life. This has the lighter background, I kind of like it.

I really love this rug and had originally picked it for a more modern dining room that my husband vetoed (ah-hem). This rug is a tad small for our space or it would be my first choice pick. We have a very shaded lot and our room could easily feel too dark with this in the room. 

As much trouble as the family room rug is causing I have to say the dining room rug I got right on the first try. It came last night and Anthropologie home line did not disappoint. The table has been ordered (we didn't have a dining room in Canada so we're starting from scratch here) and its a great weathered grey color. Still on the hunt for chairs. I plan large wingback arm chairs on each end. 

What do you think, is there a clear winner?

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Life According to my iPhone Photos

These last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind, for those that don't follow me on instagram we moved! I've always prided myself in my ability to get us all settled in quickly and smoothly but that didn't happen this time. We closed on our house on the first day of school but I really don't think that's what made this move seem more difficult though, it's just a combination of a lot of different factors but I THINK that things are starting to settle down (I'm hopeful at least).

I haven't taken a ton of pictures but flipping through those that are on my phone are a pretty good indicator of what is filling our days lately.

I got the kids on the bus then hurried back to the house to wait for our boxes. After hotel living we were very excited to see these trucks pull up. 

This house was a custom build originally, and although there are some things that we see and question their design choices on there are many many more fun little details that we love. These little nightlight are one of those things. In the evening they flip on automatically and lead from each of the kids rooms straight to the master bedroom. 

My phone has more screenshots than photos lately. I have had countless meetings with various contractors planning big and small changes that we're making. We are hoping to make our final pool decisions next week and get the plans submitted to the HOA for approval, we are all so anxious to have that completed!

And finally photos that indicate that life is finally starting to look a little more "normal" around here. Last Friday was the first day that we had a TV set up, all the media room, speakers and TV were finally installed. The kids' first choice of family movie was our wedding video (that they had never seen). Their reactions to seeing everyone was pretty funny.
My "littles" get on the bus about an hour before my big girl, we get a little bit of time to just hang out together in the morning.
Kate and Jack had a storybook parade at school, she sent me on a mad dash around the city to put together a Mary Poppins costume.

And finally I got to have a date to a Monster Mash with this smooth mover. 

Monday, May 02, 2016

Motherhood and our Biggest Best News

Lake Louise, Banff
In a way I feel like I've lost my blogging voice, I've started multiple posts that I've tripped over getting the words out and then abandoned in the drafts folder. I've been wanting to start blogging again, yes about the little/unimportant stuff like meal planning and fashion and making a home but also because we have big stuff to talk about. We've discussed when is the right time to announce our big stuff and actually the time that we had decided on isn't here but I feel with Mothers Day approaching that there couldn't be a better time.

Dani's wedding.

Can I just say first that moms in general are awesome and I have been blessed to be surrounded by some of the best. I could compose endless blog posts about my own mom (and I believe I have composed a few already) but she is strong and kind and really just kind of kicks butt at this mom thing having raised eight kids. Then there's my mother-in-law, I know there is a stupid idea that moms and daughters-in-law relationships are supposed to be filled with awkwardness and negative feelings but that's ridiculous and I don't feel it. That woman raised the man that I love and she did an awesome job because he's a good one and she loves my kids so well and I am so thankful for her. My four sisters have been such an awesome example of motherhood to me. Sure I mean watching them raise their kids but also because of our age difference they've all mom'd me at times and while I may have hated it at 6 I love it at 36.
Kendall and one big ol' belly

Momming is what I do, it's my thing. Growing up it's what I wanted to be more than anything (other than that period of time that I wanted to be a turtle but we're not going to talk about how weird that was). It's not always easy and honestly I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always great at it but it is who I am and there is no other thing that I would want to do.

First trip to the mountains this ski season. 
It's always been a goal of mine to love the stage they're in. I don't want to be the mom that weeps on her baby's first day of school (I get it though, I'm not judging those that do) I want to be the mom that is cheering for them, excited that they get to conquer that next thing. We may not have a crib in the house but man my kids have hit this awesome point where they can crack a pretty good joke and they can keep up with us (ok, I'll be honest, they can pass me) on the ski hill. I love each of the stages they're in but I admit I miss chunky thighs and cheeks and dimpled tiny hands grasping my finger. This is my life's work and although we decided after Jack that I would not be carrying any more babies in this body we knew that our hearts have so much room for more to love.

An email I received from Kate

Last spring Brian and I were in Boston for his business school reunion where we attended a lecture about living an extraordinary life. We've had so many conversations since then discussing what we think an extraordinary life looks like, when we're old looking back on our life what will have REALLY mattered and filled us? Those that know us know that Brian and I are a bit different in our personalities: talker vs thinker, creative vs logic driven…but I think it's important to note how we are the same in the ways that matter. Our faith - we love God, who has adopted us despite our flaws and our stubbornness and our selfishness. We also share a love of all things family, our time spent as a family makes our life extraordinary.

Parenting is hard. Yes, hard in the middle of the night wake ups and in that moment before your kid tosses his cookies and you're looking frantically around for something to catch it, all while KNOWING that your hands are all you have. Yes, hard in those ways but honestly those ways are NOTHING compared to the heart lessons that you strive to teach your kids, the constant worry over your own failure and the unceasing prayers that no matter what they grow up knowing Him and knowing your love is there all of the time no matter what. Although it's hard it's what we love and what we want to spend our time doing. So it was the extraordinary life lecture that led us to start more seriously discussing a topic that we have had since the beginning of our marriage.

It is with such great excitement that our family is announcing that we are growing by two sweet little feet. We can not wait to bring our newest sweet little lady home from China! We are adopting and we couldn't be happier.

We started the process before Christmas, we have completed our home study and are currently awaiting our immigration approval. Not a day goes by that we don't talk about her (50+ times) and we are praying for her, for this process and that God prepares us for her. We can hardly stand the wait.