Halfling

If it weren’t for the crispness in the morning air these days, I wouldn’t be able to believe that it’s already been half a year since our sweet Annis Octavia was born.

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Oh, how we all adore this little girl!  She wakes up happy and goes back to bed happy when it’s time, and she’s happy most of the time in between (as long as we get her to her bed when she needs it – she’s not big on napping on the go!)  She is full of coos and happy little squeals and loves to reach out and give me a sweet little touch on the cheek just to say, “Mommy, I just love you so much.  You’re the best.”  She is just <insert weight after check-up in two weeks> lbs of pure baby deliciousness.

And speaking of delicious…

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Six months old is a special time in our home.

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A time to try something new and a bit puzzling:

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Food!

Annis’s verdict on her first few mouthfuls of pureed oatmeal was, on the whole, pretty neutral.  But give her a few months and a few new tastes to try, and we’re pretty sure she’ll plump up nicely like her sisters have before her.

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She is getting close to commando crawling and continues to love being on her tummy, just anywhere but on the blanket where we put her.  We have only just started trying to encourage her to sit up, so although this photo looks impressive, the 10 seconds it took to capture it were probably the longest she’s ever stayed up for.

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We are so thankful to have this precious blessing in our family.  Happy half birthday, baby girl!

 

Labor Day

Labor Day weekend was a pretty action-packed ride for us!

Pop-Pop and Debedee (now referred to collectively as Poppadee, because, you know, they are a celebrity couple after all!) took three of the middles on a grand Pocono adventure.  Niko, Bea and Junie got to go visit Great Grandmom and Great Grandpop Gilbert first.  I love that my kids will have memories of this Godly couple.  They have been married for nearly 70 years!

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Then they spent most of the day at the West End Fair, learning all about all things farmy and riding some cool rides as well.  I’m pretty sure there may also have been a trip to McDonalds in there at some point.

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It was just about the best day any of them had ever had, I think, and no thanks to me.  I was home with the other five enjoying a day with Paige that left me with a fabulously refinished coffee table.  It was a pretty fantastic day, but for me and the big girls (and Annis), it was just the beginning of our adventures.

On Sunday morning, as the rest of the gang were heading off to church, my girlies and I packed into Daddy’s little car for a grand excursion to Maryland.  After a slight misinterpretation of my directions which resulted in $12 worth of trips through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (that gets you through it three times, if you were wondering), we arrived just after lunch to a warm greeting from dear friends.

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It’s been nearly four years since I’ve been down to visit these girls, precious friends from college, but it wasn’t long enough for the kids to forget each other.

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Pippa and Ro picked up right where they left off with their long-lost friends, creating the game of Extreme Pillow Jumping, doing crafts and playing quite a bit of Plants vs. Zombies.  They had a marvelous time and everyone agreed that the weekend was too short (but that it would nevertheless be nice to sleep in our own beds again.)

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We are so thankful to have had this sweet reunion!

*   *   *   *   *

A decade ago on Labor Day, I labored and gave birth to my first precious baby girl (the significance of the day was sadly wasted on the non-Labor-Day-celebrating staff of St. John’s Hospital in Livingston, Scotland.)

Today we will celebrate the young lady that baby has blossomed into, our beautiful, talented, smart, capable, loving, mostly-sweet-occasionally-spicy Philippa Violet.

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Part of me can’t believe you’re ten.  Ten years is a lot of years, and I remember meeting you for the first time like it was yesterday.  But at the same time, it is hard to believe you are only ten.

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You have seemed so grown up for so long, I sometimes forget you are still so little.  You are a joy and a help to me, a treasure in our family.  I couldn’t do what we are doing without your help and encouragement.  You are a blessing!

Happy birthday, my lovely!

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Back to School 2014

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Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year, everyone!

We are almost through our first week and so far everyone’s enthusiasm is holding.  Delia is not feeling the love with workbook time, but we will get there, I’m sure.  She and Coraline are doing the same pre-K workbook, so hopefully peer pressure will win the day.  It worked that way with pairing Niko and Bea when he was first home and had the attention span of a gnat.  Now he’s racing through his second grade math for the week and begging for more.

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Wherever you do your learning, I hope it’s a great school year!

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Little Camping Getaway…

Great big fun!

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And that concludes our official summer holidays.  We are excited to start our new school year on Monday!  The summer felt a little too quick, but we are ready for some structure, and I’m growing weary of chasing the kids away from their exciting new school books.  Onward and upward!

New Eyes

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When we sat Delia down in the optician’s chair and handed her her new glasses, she tossed them on the floor.  We tried letting Pippa put them on her: no joy.  Mommy?: nope.  The optician sighed and pondered the situation with her glasses in hand.  Then Delia stood up, took a step toward him and leaned in ever so slightly as if to say, “Well, okay, maybe just for a second…”  She hesitated for a minute with her new specs in place… then tossed them on the floor again.  I paid for them, thanked the optician, and put them in my purse.  “Give us a week,” I said.  “I think she’ll be fine.”

We came home, had a snack, and tried again.  I put Delia’s glasses on and gently removed her hands from them once or twice with the reminder, “No touch.”  I had Pippa set the timer for 5 minutes.  Baby steps, I thought.

But then, something amazing happened.  She left them alone!  I caught the timer just before it went off and bumped it up to 15 minutes.  By the time the 15 minutes were almost up I turned the timer off.  Delia was just plain old wearing her glasses – day one – and no turning back.

She took them off deliberately maybe once or twice in the first couple of days, but now, almost a week later, she is more likely to seek out help to put them back on if they come off accidentally.

Delia loves wearing glasses!  She is looking at things for the first time: paying attention to pictures in books, focusing on faces, crossing her eyes less.  We wonder if it’s our imagination, but she even seems happier and more settled.

We are so thankful for this little piece of the puzzle falling into place, another key to unlocking her mysterious little world.  And we are praising the Lord that the battle we had braced ourselves for to get her to wear her glasses lasted no longer than the five minutes we spent in the shop!  (And doesn’t she look adorable?!)

Tommy

Today, I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for a very special young man.

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If you are reading my blog because you have an interest in special needs adoption, you likely already know the Musser family, but many of you probably do not.

Trevor and I began reading Susanna’s blog The Blessing of Verity while we were adopting Niko.  At that time, the Mussers were adopting their daughter Katie from the same country Niko came to us from, and we followed their journey with interest.

A little over a year ago, while we were working to adopt Delia, the Mussers also brought home a beloved son, Tommy, from the same orphanage they had adopted Katie from.

It has been a joy over the past year or so to get to know Susanna personally through a little support group she organizes for moms of children adopted out of institutionalization.  She has been an incredible blessing and encouragement in my life.

Just over two weeks ago, on July 31st, Tommy passed away in an accidental drowning.  I found out that night by stumbling across a mention of the news online.  I spent the rest of the evening crying and vainly attempting to put something helpful into an email to my dear friend.  It hurt to even think about what she must be going through.  What their whole precious family must be going through.  What they will continue to walk through for years to come.

But today was a celebration.  A celebration of Tommy’s much-too-short life.  Of adoption.  Of love.  Of the difference a family can make.  Of the immense value of one human being and the impact he can have on the lives of those around him.

Because of Katie’s and Tommy’s stories, many families have been emboldened to see precious orphans for the treasures they are and go and adopt themselves.  Many more have given to help those still left behind.

In Tommy’s honor, I would love it if you would go to Susanna’s blog and read a bit of their amazing story.  The links at the side for the beginnings of Verity’s, Katie’s and Tommy’s stories are a good place to start.  If you feel moved to do more, please consider making a donation to The Pleven Project, which Susanna and others have set up to revolutionize the care of those left behind in Tommy and Katie’s former home.

Would you also join me in lifting this dear hurting family up in prayer?  Susanna has described the love and prayers of others as a “wall of protection” as they have walked through these difficult early days.  Let’s help keep that wall strong for them.

 

More Summer Fun

This time, of the outdoor variety, as it should be!

Earlier this week we had an absolutely perfect day at Six Flags with my sister Paige and her friend Maura.  We were able to go thanks to a teacher friend of ours from church who had leftover tickets from his school.  (Do you want to guess how much it would have cost us to go otherwise? Just guess… Over $500! Who has that kind of money?!) Needless to say, it was a first for our kids.  The last time Trevor and I went was for one of our first dates, on which day Paigie, then aged 5, famously whispered to my mom, “Mommy, I think I just saw Jodi and Trevor holding hands!”  Sigh… happy memories.

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The kids had a fantastic time.  Delia loved the rides.  Everybody loved the rides.  Even Romilly found a lot that she enjoyed without going too far outside her (rather small) comfort zone.  Pippa had reached the magical 54″ mark and was allowed to go on her first real rollercoaster (and I got to go on my first since having her, to my recollection). Coraline was allowed on a whole lot more rides than we expected, which was good, because when she didn’t get to go, it wasn’t pretty, folks.

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I remarked to Trevor as we were leaving that it was a relatively drama-free day, and he actually laughed at me.  Apparently the 45 minutes when we abandoned him with 7 kids to take Pippa on her very first roller coaster were not that drama-free.  Who knew?

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We are always so thankful when God drops a day like this into our laps.  They really are a gift from Him. We never have to worry about what our kids might “miss out on” because of our family being how it is.  Apart from the little adventures we have every day, God always seems to give us opportunities for Great Adventures as well.

Two New Girls Update

A few new things about this happy girl:

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  • She is potty-training!!!  I had consciously put this issue on the back burner when Delia first came home, knowing how contentious it can be even with well-adjusted, well-bonded little ones.  The thought of adding bodily functions to an already long list of things Delia and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on seemed unwise, so we waited.  It turns out, she doesn’t like being in poopy diapers (indeed, who would?) any more than we like changing them!  Now that she knows there’s a chocolate chip or two in it for her, she has been coming to me and signing “potty” with reasonable consistency for the past month or so.  There are still accidents, but most of them involve me not being able to help her quickly enough because I’m nursing the baby or similar.  There have been plenty of days when I have not had to change poopy diapers at all, and you cannot even begin to imagine what a lovely change that makes to my days.  We haven’t had as much success with going “number one” yet, but I think once we may be venturing into training panties soon and ditching the diapers.  Watch this space!
  • Delia had her speech therapy evaluation and is now on a waiting list for speech services.  I was pleasantly surprised by her evaluation report.  Having been labeled “non-verbal” in all of her reports from her home country, we have been thrilled with her attempts to communicate, especially using sign, and the evaluation reflected all her hard work.  It placed her at an age equivalent of 1 year 8 months for expressive communication, but at 2 years for auditory comprehension.  We are excited to see how therapy (and even some of the activities we have to do with her while we wait for therapy to start) will help her to blossom even more.

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  • Delia is getting glasses!  As part of her initial International Adoption Clinic evaluation, it was suggested that we should have a proper eye exam performed.  Our pediatrician also agreed this would be worth doing at some point, but there was never any rush, as it seemed her unusual use of her eyes was primarily a behavioral/neurological issue.  Well, we were wrong!  Delia does in fact have astigmatism in both eyes; glasses should significantly improve her vision.  The ophthalmologist believes this will really help her to be able to focus on books and other activities that she has so far shown very little interest in.  Another exciting prospect.  Here’s hoping we can actually get her to wear them!

Our other newbie continues to be sparkly and sweet and bring joy to all of our hearts:

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  • As little Annis approached her 4 month check-up, I had a nagging concern that she might be following in Coraline’s footsteps and veering off the growth chart toward the scrawny side (Don’t laugh!  That was really a thing for a while!).  I was relieved to find that, although she is on the petite side at 12 lbs 1 oz, she has a firm grip on the weight chart at the 17th percentile.  I may or may not have nursed her in the waiting room right before weighing her even though she had just been fed at home.

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  • We still have no idea what color her eyes are going to be! Our initial guess was that they were darkening and heading for brown, and this is still our pediatrician’s guess, but they are definitely lighter than our other brown-eyed girls’ eyes were at this age.  They are a dark gray around the outside with hazelish flecks in the middle.  I don’t think they’ll be blue, for sure.  Whatever they are, they are lovely to gaze into, and this continues to be one of my favorite passtimes for the hour or so after the other kids are in bed each night.

We are so very blessed to have both of these precious girls in our lives!

Happy, Happy Birthday, Delia!

Wondering where I’ve been?  Well, for the past week, at least, my usual blogging time was taken up by this:

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We had a great week at VBS!  Two of our little cousins (you remember Ellie, right? And also little Morgan, who is June’s age) were able to attend this year, plus the overall attendance was up about 25% over last year’s.  So much to praise God for!  We are thankful to each and every person who helped make it possible.  The kids who can talk will tell you it was THE.BEST.WEEK.EVER!!!

It was a rough week for us in some ways, though.  I was thrilled when our children’s ministry leader offered to have a designated person to stay with Delia at VBS so that I would be free to teach in the Memory Verse Room as I have done in previous years, but in hindsight it was probably a little too soon for Delia to spend that much time in one week in the care of others.  Her behavior for me during the days was more difficult than we’ve had in a while, and I wasn’t exactly at the top of my game either.  I’ve had a bad cough for over three weeks now, but I did finally go to the doctor to get something for it, so hopefully I’m on the mend.  Hopefully Delia is, too.

Hot on the heels of VBS was Miss Delia’s 8th birthday, this past Sunday!

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There is something so very precious about celebrating an adopted child’s birthday for the first time when they are home. It is bittersweet to have missed so many, especially knowing that they may or may not have been acknowledged at all, but it is a delight to watch her experience it all anew.

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Our two birthday party girls:

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Delia absolutely adored being sung to.  They sang to her in church on Sunday morning, and she loved it, and then she loved it all over again at her party on Sunday afternoon.  I love seeing the delight on her face when she truly connects with something and enjoys it:

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She didn’t make quite as much of the gift-opening, but she has been enjoying some of her presents today, away from the craziness of the unwrapping.

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I should try to remember for next year how much Delia enjoys unwrapping actual paper-wrapped gifts.  There are just too many gift bags nowadays.  Thanks to Gran and Grandad in England for providing her one properly-wrapped gift.  She loved opening it!

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I’m hoping to get a proper Delia update posted later this week.  Things have still been difficult in some areas, but there are definitely things to be excited about!

For tonight, I’ll leave you with her first official “bear” photo (we bought her a dog instead because she loves dogs, though she has so far shown exactly zero interest in any soft toy ever including this one).  We usually begin this tradition (and so many others) in babyhood, but at least we shall start as we mean to go on.

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Happy birthday to our beautiful Delphinia Mary!  We all love you so very much.

The 4th and the 7th

Another month of birthdays is upon us.

If we count the birthday of the good old US of A, we’ve had two already!

We spent the 4th at my mom’s house, eating hot dogs and watermelon.  My dad came over as well and the early evening found all of us at a fantastic kid’s play area.

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Normally, by bedtime on a Trevorless day, I’ll admit I am pretty much done.  There’s not much that can make me say, “You know what?  It’s already an hour past bedtime, but let’s just hang out a little longer.”  But there was something in the air that night.  Niko had been asking all day why we couldn’t go see fireworks, and I kept reminding him how scary they are for Coraline (to say nothing of Romilly!) and how late in the evening all the shows start.  Here they were, all in their PJs ready for bed.  I knew the noise would keep them awake anyway, and I heard myself say something quite out of character for this weary mama, “Do you want to go outside and see if we can see any?”

And did we ever!  We got a good half hour long show, standing right there in our driveway in the cool of the evening.  There were fireflies all around and bats fluttering overhead.  Even our two noise-sensitive girlies enjoyed it for a while, then quietly snuck inside to read a book when they’d had enough.  It was a magical night, and I was thankful for the tiny prompting to enjoy my children for a little longer than scheduled that day.

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On the 4th of July 7 years ago, I was already in labor with this girl:

 

She didn’t actually arrive until three days later on 7/7/07 at about 7:25 in the evening weighing 7 lbs 15 oz.  Apparently we were even in room 7 by the time we were having visitors, though you couldn’t prove it by me.  This 7th birthday, in any case, is a very special one indeed!

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The day was filled with not-all-birthday-related things: a morning visitor from a realtor to get a ball-park estimate of the value of our house in case we ever decide to move, an afternoon speech therapy evaluation for Delia, which Bea decided to come along to.

But then there were some presents, and there was McDonald’s for dinner.  Just when we thought it couldn’t get much better, there was a surprise visit from Aunt Paigie just in time for cake and ice cream, followed by a movie of the birthday girl’s choosing.

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This girl is easy to celebrate.  She is sweet and thoughtful.  She rarely stops talking and most of what comes out of her mouth is absolutely hilarious.  She is a rule-follower and a rule-enforcer – a good sort of kid to have around, unless you happen to be one of her siblings bent on naughtiness!  She picks up bugs with her bare hands, and, bless her, expects me to be excited about them.  She wants to tell everyone about Jesus, and the way she can talk, I believe one day she just may.

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Happy birthday, Bea!  We love you so very much!