Friday, January 12, 2018

the best of 2017

What a crazy, wonderful 2017!  As I thought back on the year I tried to come up with my top 10 favorite moments, but I jut couldn't do it.  I couldn't narrow it down that much.  So instead, here are my top 10 categories :)

Around the house
Josh built a barn door from scratch to replace our standard pantry door, and together we created a mudroom area in our garage.  We surprised the kids with a trampoline in the spring, and I honed in on my canning skills in the fall.



Washington D.C.
We spent spring break in D.C. with Josh's college buddy + his family.



Adoption prep
We began the adoption process and witnessed countless miracles, blessings, and acts of kindness.



Photography
In September I started my own photography business.  It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.



Local fun
We made a lot of memories in our little town this year!  The highlight for Josh and I was seeing Brad Paisley in August.



Visitors
Family is such a big part of our lives and we were fortunate to spend lots of time with them this year.  Josh's birthday present to me was a surprise visit from his sister {and my long time friend} Rachael!





Silver Beach
The beach is our happy place and it's even better when you get to share it with good friends.




School
The kids were excited to start school: 4th grade, 1st grade, and preschool.


Michigan game
A friend of mine from high school scored us some tickets to a University of Michigan football game, which made a certain guy's dream come true...




London
Without a doubt, the highlight of our year was our newest addition: London Noelle.  When I chose my 2017 word I certainly wasn't thinking that we would CREATE a new life for a sweet little girl... but here we are.  And we are still pinching ourselves.


I think it's safe to say that we are all completely and hopelessly smitten with her.

2017 was one amazing year.

"Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story no one on earth has ever read, which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." - C.S. Lewis
 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

adoption: part 3

Day 5
After a fairly restful night in the hotel, the three of us lazed about and enjoyed the last few hours we would have in solitude.



Since we had to check out of our hotel by noon and my parents wouldn't be meeting us until 3:00, we had some time to kill.  The roads were crummy and the temperature was absolutely frigid so we decided to spend our free time at the movies.  London slept through Jumanji 3-D like a champ!


Finally, it was time to see the rest of our kids!  Josh and I had missed them so much and couldn't wait to show them their new sibling.  Grandma and Grandad had dibs though :)



 

That time together with my parents was just too short, but we all needed to get back on the road and head home.  

The 2.5 hour drive home was... awful.  It really was.  We started out with the younger two kids seated in the middle of the van and the older girls in the far back, but about an hour into the drive we had to play musical chairs.  London was crying and Jackson's arms weren't long enough to reach over and give her the pacifier.  We stopped at a McDonald's to get situated and while I went inside to check London's diaper, Josh braved the freezing temps to move around booster seats. But the restroom was disgusting and by the time I figured out a way to keep my diaper bag off the floor, London had fallen asleep again so I ditched that idea and headed back to the car.  I ended up sitting in the middle next to London, which put all 3 older kids smooshed in back together.  Surprisingly, nobody complained about the tight quarters.  Crisis averted.

Sort of.

I failed to take into account Jackson's hacking cough.  That poor boy had been really sick during most of his time at my parents' house.  He had been battling a high fever, a terrible cough, and laryngitis.  I'm sure the bitter cold weather + an abnormal routine + 2.5 hours in cramped quarters didn't help either.  He literally coughed the entire. way. home.  And with each cough I kept hoping and praying that his germs wouldn't make their way to London's tiny body.

Finally, we made it HOME.  It felt SO GOOD to unpack, settle in, and return to our {mostly} normal life again.  As the only healthy child, Kylie was more than happy to make sure London was cared for.


Since then...
We've spent a lot of time at home.  It's been soooo wonderful.  Our calendars are clear and the clock only matters when 1) London is being fed and 2) it's bedtime.  For the millionth time I'm feeling grateful that all of this took place during Christmas break when the kids don't have school.

Jackson, though fever free, wasn't improving so we made a trip to the doctor.  He tested positive for Influenza A, an illness that is sweeping through Indiana like crazy.  Despite Summer's previous diagnosis with an ear infection, I'm fairly certain that she also had Influenza A.


The doctor prescribed Jackson with an antibiotic that would help alleviate his yucky symptoms.  I about passed out when the pharmacist told me the price - $123 after insurance for a little bottle of liquid meds no bigger than a bottle of cough syrup.  But what choice did we have???

In addition to the prescription, I also picked up a few children's face masks so we could better protect London.  Jackson and Summer wanted to love on her so bad!  Better safe than sorry.




Now that we're a few days in with the antibiotic we're seeing some improvement.  Where health is concerned we're still in survival mode.  We won't be going anywhere anytime soon!  It's not exactly how we imagined our first week at home as a family of 6 but this situation has it's benefits.

Reason #1 - see below


We are SO GRATEFUL for the many people who have reached out to us to check in, deliver a meal, wish us congratulations, etc.  We have felt your prayers through this whole process. We truly feel like it took a village to find our little girl and bring her home.  From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU.  We look forward to sharing this precious gift with you very soon!

Friday, December 29, 2017

adoption: part 2

Day 3
We had the coziest Christmas Eve.  While the snow fell silently outside, we soaked up our baby girl.  We couldn't stop staring at her tiny, perfect features.







Even though the baby was primarily staying in our room, she also spent some quality time with Chynna.  In fact, the four of us often hung out together.  It was so sweet to watch Chynna feed, dress, and cuddle London.  I think that birth moms often feel somewhat torn in the hospital.  Some want to keep as much distance as possible so as not to get attached.  Others want to spend as much time as possible with the baby because contact will be limited after that.  I was grateful that London got the chance to bond with the woman who gave her life.


Later, London got to meet her half brother.  I see a lot of resemblance between those two!


Day 4
Christmas Day AND discharge day!  
 

The four of us spent most of the morning together.  Chynna jokingly referred to our hospital room as "the house" because she would stop by often and hang out with us.


Pretty soon it was time for Chynna to meet with her social worker and sign the TPR papers.  It was such a bittersweet time!  Of course we were eager for London to officially become ours but I couldn't help feeling sad for Chynna, for the incomprehensible sacrifice that she was about to make and the precious gift that we could never repay.


"Birth mothers have to accomplish in one day the monumental task of letting go that most parents have 18 years to figure out." -unknown


 But she did it.  And we will forever and always be grateful.



After Chynna left, we met with Mary and signed our papers.  It was hard to believe that it was official.

My parents had planned on meeting us in South Bend later that day to see the baby and return the kids to us, but whiteout conditions in Michigan made that impossible.  We were so glad that they made the smart decision to stay put!


We went back to the hotel that we had stayed in previously and booked a room.  Ironically, it was the exact same room as before.  We had come full circle :) 


The extra night in South Bend turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  We were able to enjoy some sweet, peaceful moments with our daughter before real life started up again.


To be continued...

Thursday, December 28, 2017

adoption: part 1

Ever since London joined our family 3 days ago, life has been a beautiful whirlwind.  Since spare time is hard to come by, I'll be sharing the ins and outs of our adoption story in parts.

Cliff notes version
     - December 22: met my parents in South Bend and swapped vehicles  
     - December 23/24: London's birth + hospital stay
     - December 25: discharged from the hospital + inclement weather
     - December 26: headed home

......... The detailed version ...........

Day 1
Friday, December 22nd was the domino that would set everything in motion.  It was the day that we had arranged to meet up with my parents in South Bend, where they would take the kids the rest of the way up to Michigan while Josh and I would hang back and stay the night in a hotel.  The C-section was scheduled for the following morning at 9am, but we would have to arrive at the hospital by 7am.

Things went according to plan... mostly.  Summer had been sent home from school on Wednesday because she had a fever. As the days progressed, so did her sickness.  By Friday, she was feeling pretty rotten.  A quick trip to a doctor and one antibiotic later, we were on our way.

 

We met up with my parents at a {super crowded} Chick-Fil-A in South Bend.  We filled our stomachs, stretched our legs, and exchanged all kinds of important details for our weekend away.  It was harder than I expected to say goodbye to the kids.  I knew they would be in excellent hands but I was bummed that we would be missing Christmas with them.  But, life goes on, and my parents were rock stars to take on 3 kids for the Christmas holiday!


After checking into our hotel, we picked up our birth mom and spent a lovely evening together.  We did a little shopping, grabbed some dinner, and talked about the next day.  We were all feeling ready!

Day 2
Morning came way too soon.  I had slept poorly, which is unfortunate because I'm not a morning person as it is.  But the big day had arrived -- we were finally going to meet our girl!

I'd like to pause the story for a second to introduce you to our birth mom: Chynna.  We met her for the first time in early November and immediately grew to love her.  We feel so blessed to have such an amazing person in our lives!

We picked up Chynna and made it to the hospital right on time.  The next few hours were spent in pre-op.  I can't speak for anyone else but for me that was the worst.  Chynna is deathly afraid of needles, and to make matters worse, she doesn't have the best veins.  It took 3 nurses and 6 tries to get an IV inserted.  Things went downhill from there.  Chynna's spirits quickly sank, as well as her trust in the medical professionals.  Seeing her in so much emotional and physical pain was heartbreaking to me.  I felt so useless just sitting there while she endured so many hard things.

But that was just one of the many hard things we would encounter.  You can imagine how Chynna felt about an epidural.  After hearing the pros and cons of a spinal vs. general anesthesia from several doctors and nurses, Chynna finally decided to face her fears and go for it.  Unfortunately, the doctor was pulled away for FOUR deliveries, leaving us to wait...and wait...and wait in pre-op.  By the time the nurse returned to bring Chynna to the OR, an hour and 45 minutes had passed, as well as her confidence.  She let them try the spinal at first, but she couldn't help herself from squirming anytime they came too close.  She elected to have the general anesthesia in the end, which seemed like the safest option.  I give her all the credit in the world for facing so many fears in one day!


About 15 minutes later a nurse brought us next door to the recovery room.  It wasn't long before we heard the sweetest little cry heading our way.  Our little girl had been born -- 6 pounds 8 ounces of pure perfection! 


 As soon as the nurse gave me the green light, I held London and started doing skin-to-skin.  #bliss

 

 I was impressed by Josh's level of restraint as he waited for his turn.  He was one proud dad.


After awhile Chynna was brought into the recovery room, but we weren't allowed to see her until she was coherent enough.  That was another difficult moment for me.  I was snuggling the sweetest baby, while the woman who created her moaned in pain.  I felt happy and guilty and grateful and sad all at the same time.

Finally, we were able to see Chynna.  I will never forget that moment as long as I live.  When Josh placed the baby in her arms, she gazed at her in wonderment, then looked at us and said, "We did it, y'all."


The rest of the day was a blur.  Several of Chynna's family members came to visit.  They were all so kind and affectionate to us.  We soon moved to the maternity ward where London, Chynna, Josh and I would spend the next 2 days.  The hospital staff was really accommodating.  They provided Josh and I with our own hospital room just down the hall from Chynna.  It was a perfect arrangement since we knew we would be soaking up that sweet baby in shifts.  We ate when we bothered to remember and began notifying friends & family of her arrival.

It was the hospital's policy to wait 8-12 hours after the birth to bathe the baby, which meant that the knock came around 11pm.  London was still pretty sleepy so she didn't seem to mind.  And I certainly didn't mind the delicious new baby smell that followed :)

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

our Christmas miracle


We still can't believe she's ours.  Lots of details and pictures coming soon!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas fun

Can you believe that Christmas is only 9 days away???  This month has flown by as we've filled our days and nights with lots of Christmas festivities. 

Cookies have been baked, decorated, and eaten...



Movies have been watched...


Lights have been seen...

 

Crafts have been made...

 

Songs have been sung...


And Santa has been visited.

 

Kylie chose not to chat with Santa this year, but Summer and Jackson did.  Summer has a beautiful imagination and wholeheartedly believes that Santa Claus and all of his elves are real.  Her Christmas wish this year is to see Rudolph in real life.  {Oh boy...} 

 

Rather than asking Santa for a particular gift, Jackson told him that he would be getting ALL the car toys from the movie Cars 3.  Do your thang, boy.

 

Perhaps the best Christmas activity yet was an evening at the Children's Museum.  Josh's company held their annual Christmas party there and we all had an amazing time.


We haven't visited the Children's Museum in a couple years so the kids were eager to explore!  While Josh sang Christmas carols, the kids and I headed straight for the Jolly Days slide.

 

 


Kylie chose our first destination -- the China exhibit.  We hung out there for quite a long time.  I love that the kids enjoy learning about different countries and cultures!

 

 

 

 

 


Then it was Summer's turn to pick.  I knew exactly where we would be headed.  The carousel has always been her favorite.  Some members of the family were a little more excited to ride than others...

 

 

...but everyone ended up having a blast!

 

 

Jackson was thrilled to learn that there were trains at the museum!  He could have stayed there all night.


 

There was so much to see and do!  The circus exhibit was also a huge hit. 



Kylie was very amused by the clown face painting station.  Ha!


Even Jackson got in on the action.


We also explored the dinosaurs, as well as a special dance exhibit.



I'd say it was a night to remember.  Well, for some of us :)


We've had a ton of fun this month, but as Christmas draws nearer I'm looking forward to shifting our focus a bit.  Nine more days....