Sunday, September 18, 2016

Summer Birthdays - 2016!!!!

We had so much fun celebrating birthdays this summer!  It is amazing how quickly they go by and we find ourselves celebrating another one.  For the most part, we have small, quiet family birthdays with our three little ones and they are just fine with that as long as they take place at the lake!  We do have some big plans for Hope's 10th birthday next year (more to come later)

 One of the best parts about a birthday is how the cake is going to be decorated!  One thing for sure, the cakes reflect their particular personalities and interests (at the time).  The sweet ladies at Renfroe's have been a big help with their cakes.

Even though the little ones are ages 9, 9, and 6 now, they are only within a couple of pounds and inches of each other.  We often get the question, "Are they triplets?'  It sure feels like it a lot of times!

Hope has been very interested in wolves for months now, so she has a wolf cake!

All five kids together - a rare occasion these days!

Hope with her new wolf puppy!

Will turned nine on September 7 and if you somehow missed that Will had a birthday, I am not sure what country you live in!  I think everyone knew!  Fortunately, Will has found a love for legos which is great since they keep him occupied!

Lena, Will (new fireman costume - birthday present), Viola and Hope

Will and Beth

Lena turned six and is growing up so much.  She loves being in Kindergarten, ballet and she learned to swim (really well) this summer!  She loves anything girlie which is a far cry from Hope's love of wolves!

Sweet Barbie cake!

Princesses napkins and plates

A jewelry box and ballet books

A ballerina doll (can't have enough dolls) and a fairy that twirls.

Wow, it really does twirl!

Helping to celebrate Lena's party is Mimi Carole, Andy, Hope, Will and Viola

One very special birthday we celebrated this year was Viola's.  Viola is our au pair from Germany and we got to help celebrate her 25th birthday!  Viola is a special part of our family and celebrating her is easy!!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Beach Trip, June 2016

We returned to the Beach Club at Pensacola again this year.  It seems to suit our family well and we really enjoy Pensacola!  Since this was Lena's and Will's second trip to the beach, they knew a little bit more of what to expect.  Lena was still scared of the ocean but got a little more comfortable at the end of the week.  Of course, she would hold on to us with a really strong "death grip" while in the ocean!  The weather was good with no rain at all.  Unfortunately, Andy and Beth had to leave after just two days.  This was a real bummer but thankfully, Viola was with us and she enjoyed spending time with the kids at the beach and in the pool.

Besides eating out, we hung around the Beach Club (plus made numerous trips to Walmart) most of the time.  The big event was going on a dolphin excursion.  After  a long boat ride in the Gulf of Mexico, we saw a significant number of dolphins.  They would swim right by the boat usually in pairs and the kids went crazy every time (well, all of us did actually)!  It was very exciting!
Will enjoying the waves!
Andy, Beth, Will, Hope and Lena

Loving the sand!

Viola with the kids!

All ready to see dolphins!

Loving the sand!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

"May Madness"

Instead of "March Madness," I think most families with school children experience "May Madness!" With wrapping up school projects, going on the last class field trips, class parties and recitals, things can get a little crazy!  It is easy to get caught up in all of the activities instead of focusing on the special people in the lives of your children.  Again, I will share my gratitude for the Eastwood family of teachers and administrators!!!  Thank you so much for investing in the lives of our children and for making each child feel like they are special!  We are thankful for room mothers who organized parties and field trips!  We are also thankful for Jason Givens who has such a gift for teaching guitar to little boys who can't sit still and like to talk and ask a thousand questions! We are thankful for "Mrs. Cox" who takes time to spend with all three children!  We are reminded that each adult that God has placed in their lives will be part of molding and shaping them into the adults they will become.  We are blessed to have so many special people in their lives that are wonderful examples of Jesus!

Hope with Ms. Ford
Ms. Ford's class - group hug

Will and Mrs. Howard at "Beach Party"
Will receiving the award for Friendliest in
 Mrs. Howard's 1st grade class
Hope at Coon Farm petting a horse
Lena writing her name in shaving cream in K4 - thanks Mrs. Barganier for
 your wisdom in teaching 4 and 5 year olds!
Hope receiving the "Respectfulness" Award!
Ms. Ford's 2nd grade class presenting "Charlotte's Web"
Hope as the Old Sheep in Charlotte's Web
Will at his first guitar recital - he did great!!!
Will insisted on wearing his bow tie!
Lena got out of school a little earlier than Will and Lena.
She loves her baby dolls - just like her momma did!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Gotcha Days!

Will and Lena have the same Gotcha Day which is May 6th so this year marked two years that they have been with us!  We celebrated by letting Lena pick out where to eat and Will where to go for dessert.  Lena was set on Newks and never wavered.  Will was a little torn between Gigi's Cupcakes and Kraze.  He ended up going with Kraze (Andy and I were holding out for cupcakes!).  Then we came home and followed our tradition of sending up one balloon for each year.  Lena sent up a pink balloon for her first year and then a purple one for her second year.  Will sent up a yellow balloon for his first year and a blue one for his second year.  Then we looked at all the pics of them in Moldova (which were a lot of Will because he sort of likes attention!), their very first Gotcha Day and coming home.

Will, Lena and Hope at Newks
Will and Lena at Newks eating breadsticks

Hope celebrated her 7th Gotcha Day on Sunday, May 22nd!  Wow!  She continues to be such a special part of our family and God continues to amaze us in how He has gifted her in multiple ways!  Hope's favorite food is steak which usually leads us to Texas Roadhouse.  However, the restaurant was crowded due to so many high school graduation ceremonies, so we had to settle for Chile's.  Hope wasted no time in claiming the steak she wanted and dug in.  She has been cutting her own steak for quite sometime now and is a pro!  She chose to have dessert at Nancy's.  Hope released seven balloons this year and it was so fun counting down the years.  We are grateful for each one!
Lena, Hope, Beth and Will

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hope's Baptism!

Becoming a believer has been a journey for Hope that seriously began in first grade.  Over the past year, she has initiated MANY conversations about becoming a follower of Christ.  We have answered many questions and even the same ones over and over.  Andy purposefully walked Hope and Will through doctrine (child friendly of course) for many nights at the dining room table.  Her teachers at church and school were praying for her during this past year as well as her family.

Finally, on Sunday night (April 24), Hope told us once again she wanted to talk about becoming a Christian.  This had happened so many times, we were a little unfazed by it.  However, she immediately said she was ready and she couldn't hold it back any longer!  Jay and Katherine Wolf had spoken at church that night sharing their testimony about their life and there soon to be released book Hope Heals!  Isn't there just something about that word - HOPE?  We rejoice in our Savior who is our Redeemer!

We are thankful for the Hope that we have in Christ and are very thankful that our Hope is now our Sister in Christ.  Andy was able to assist in her baptism making it even more special!  I personally thinks she looks like an "angel!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

April 2016!

I never want to gloss over the challenges of adoption or the blessings of it.  Admittedly, somedays the challenges seem to out weigh the blessings!  Will and Lena have been home almost two years now!  There are days when I get discouraged but my ever optimistic husband reminds me of the amazing progress that has been made in the past two years!  I know that is true but some days seem to take more than I have to give and I have had a string of those recently.  I find myself mourning as I write this blog; not because we adopted and not because there are challenges.  I am mourning for all that Will and Lena missed out on in-utero and the first years of life.  Parents of young children and couples who are planning on becoming parents, please do not discount the importance of the life of your child in pregnancy and in those first two years of life.  They are vital for your child's well-being for the rest of his/her life.  Every time you meet your baby's need, you are building a trust relationship.  You do this thousands of times during those first years and you don't even realize it.  You are giving a wonderful lifelong gift to your child (of course this doesn't mean you can slack off when the child turns 2!!!).

Research shows that when children do not get their needs met during those first two years that they are robbed of learning to trust, regulate behavior, feel safe, and develop self efficacy.  As Dr. Karyn Purvis explains, they are robbed of their "Birth Right." Then it becomes the job of adoptive parents, foster parents, and other family members who take over their care to help them navigate all that they missed.  We live in a fallen world and children seem to suffer more due to that than any other population.   Seeing our own children and knowing of many others who suffer to a much greater degree due to trauma at an early age is heartbreaking!  On the other hand, research also shows that these deficits in development can be overcome with a lot of hard work and being committed to constantly connect to your child (even when you just really, really want to do the opposite and sometimes do!).

These past two years have proven to be a trying season for our family on many different levels.  I feel like an old ship that is covered with barnacles and God is scraping those barnacles off little by little to reveal shiny metal that reflects Him.  I wish I could say He never has come back to the same spot and that He has cleaned a lot of barnacles off but unfortunately, He has to revisit the same old spot and rub a little more! The progress is slow.  This sanctification process is really hard especially when He reveals thoughts, emotions and attitudes that lie deep in my soul that need to be cleansed.  It is a very humbling process but at the same time, I have gained a deeper understanding of His love for me!  Only God can do that - reveal my sin and at the same time reveal more of His love for me!!! In turn, I am able to love better, deeper, and wider - I have learned more about what love looks like in the past two years and I am so thankful for that!  I pray that I keep learning!

On a much lighter note, please enjoy the pics of the kids as they experience life and new adventures!

Lena playing at school with friends!

Lena, Will and Hope having their first experience with fondu thanks to Viola!
Lena with Katherine Rowell at her Graduation Tea!

Lena, Hope and Will at the GA/RA box car derby.  Hope came in 3rd!
Lena and Will at school with the Chick-fil-A cow (photo - compliments of Mr. Geiger).  Hope is somewhere hiding!

Hope at Dino Digs at the Montgomery Zoo!