I promised myself I would finish these posts while it is still 2021, and I only have two hours left, so I’d better get a move on!
Last but certainly not least, happy belated 10th birthday to Coraline (on October 13th)!
“Coraliney, sweet and tiny, glad you’re miney!” is a little song I still sometimes sing to my middle baby. Indeed, although there are now four Youngs tinier than Coraline, the nickname Tiny will forever be hers. She is the quintessential middle kid: respected by and often allowed to tag along with her older siblings, and but also much in demand by her younger siblings as a cool big kid.
She cheerfully gets up before me and most of the kids every morning, pours everyone’s breakfast juices and lays out the bowls for cereal, then she gently wakes me up with a baby or two in tow. I’ve never asked her to do this. She just saw a need and quietly started to fill it. She is a natural servant.
We chose Coraline’s name in part because of its connection to “cor”, the Latin word for heart. And does this girl ever have heart! She loves hard and unconditionally. When we moved to our new home two years ago, she asked if she could share a room with Delia (who doesn’t sleep all that well, and is sometimes loud while she’s not sleeping!) She still happily shares a room with her, and she had never once complained. Delia is just her sister, and she loves her.
She is fierce and fiery, quick to react to any injustice (real or perceived). She is arguably Niko’s best friend and his worst enemy. They make each other laugh like crazy, but they can’t sit next to each other in the van without fighting the entire way to church 😉
She throws herself wholeheartedly into everything she does: running, learning to play the guitar, crocheting, writing. I know this determination will serve her well in whatever she decides to pursue in life.
But oh, this girl is sweet, too! She gives me the best hugs (and her favorite kind are what she calls “eternal hugs” – you know: the really long ones!) She is always ready to help anyone, and she’s quick with a word of encouragement (especially to her weary mama at the end of a long day). She has an infectious smile and a million awesome faces. I just love her to pieces!
Coraline Audrey, I am so proud of the young lady you have become. I still think of you as little sometimes, and then I catch you out of the corner of my eye, and you are so grown and beautiful. May the Lord bless you in all that you do. Congrats on double digits, Tiny!
A belated 5th birthday to Verity! On the day of her birthday, October 5th, we were 9 miles away from the nearest internet access staying in our beloved Twin Fawn Cabin, so I wasn’t able to get her post done on time. As for the nearly three months since then, I have no excuse!
On little Vezzy’s birthday, we went on what was a much longer hike than we originally set out to do. She was a trooper, but a few miles in, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Mommy, I thought we said a short walk!” Bless!
Miss Verity has increasingly become a big kid in a little kid package. Her sweet round face and little lispy voice make her still seem little, but she can hold her own in card games designed for kids 8 and up, and she’s picking up math and reading at an impressive pace this year as she works through kindergarten.
She loves to “help grandmom babysit” and has been known to make comments like, “Grandmom, could you keep an eye on Pippa for me while I go potty?”
Pippa has been Verity’s person since she was teeny tiny. She came out looking just like her biggest big sister, and still does today. She adores doing crafts and playing games with Pippa, and in the months since her birthday, Pippa has even taught her to knit! We love hearing her sweet voice recite, “Into the forest, around comes fox, out pops rabbit, and away they run!” again and again to remind herself of the steps of each stitch.
Her funny, sometimes irreverent commentary on life keeps us laughing but pretending not to. Recently my dad and step-mother stopped by our house as they often do. My mom was sitting in the living room, and Verity quickly ran to her and said, “Grandmom! One of your husbands is here!”
Our happy girl faces each day with a smile, and she keeps us smiling, too. She is helpful and kind, and loved by us all. Happy (very belated!) Birthday, Verity Laine!
Seventeen. Friends, this beautiful young lady, the one who made me a mom, is almost an adult! If you had asked me just a few years ago if I was ready to be a mom to an almost-adult, who would be doing things like driving and having a job and taking SATs and thinking about college, I would have said absolutely no way. This is my baby we’re talking about!
But this girl: she’s more adult than I am some days. She is fast becoming one of the people I go to if I’m stuck on something. And if she doesn’t know how to do it either, she will pursue it until she figures it out. Whether I can’t figure out something on my computer or phone or I don’t know what book we should be reading next for school (more on that later), Pippa is my person.
Pippa’s diverse interests include: LM Montgomery books, running, heavy cream, bento lunch boxes, the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan, knitting and crocheting, and anything purple (Violet is her middle name, after all). Calling these things “interests” doesn’t really do it justice though. When Pippa takes up a new interest, she does it with gusto, researching it and steeping herself in it until it becomes a part of who she is at the very core of her being. When I say she likes LM Montgomery, I mean that she reads blogs about her writing and books about her life and has favorite cover illustrators. When I say she runs, I mean she sets goals for herself and has a chart hanging on her bedroom wall with an intricate set of rewards for reaching different milestones. When I say she loves heavy cream… Well, that speaks for itself really, doesn’t it? She doesn’t do anything half-heartedly.
She is also our resident expert on homeschool curriculum, and “Box Day” is one of the high holidays of her annual calendar. Each summer when we order our curriculum for the coming year, it is Pippa who creates a chart of what everyone needs so that we make sure to get everything ordered. I just do as I’m told now. One year, just for fun, she mapped out exactly which set of curriculum we would need for every year until Verity and Freya are in high school. For. Fun! (She might try to tell you it wasn’t really for fun, but that it somehow affected decisions that we needed to make right then and there. They were 3 and 1 at the time, so I’ll let you be the judge of that!)
Pippa started working at Wendy’s about three months ago (in addition to babysitting for her little cousin Brooke one day a week). I think we were all holding our breath a little. (It’s a funny thing with homeschooling: you spend so many years sheltering your child from the world, but at some point, you just have to sort of toss them out there!) There was definitely a little bit of culture shock that first week, but she very quickly became known for being dependable and kind. She has met so many people from walks of life very different to hers, and when I hear her talk about her shift as we drive home from work, I can tell she just genuinely likes them all. (And I can tell they like her, too!)
Pippa wants to be an elementary school teacher, and she will absolutely rock it. To look at her Pinterest account, you would think she already is one! She’s constantly finding new creative activities for her littlest siblings (and cousin) to try out. She has fully embraced her role of big sister extraordinaire. She loves her little siblings well, and they are so blessed to have her. We all are.
Philippa Violet, happy last birthday before becoming an adult! I would love to hold onto you forever, but you are so ready to fly. Keep living your life with the same joy, enthusiasm, and love for God and others that you have shown so far. I love you, Pip!
Oh, this boy! He is equal parts sweet, cuddly teddy bear and fierce, ninja-dragon-robot! He loves to put on a tough guy act, but he is also the first to hop up and refill someone’s drink or soup bowl, and he gets Daddy’s cereal for him almost every morning. He is thoughtful and sweet, but with a definite dash of naughty!
Teddy joined our family four years ago at 10 years old. He was our 4th and final adoption, and came to us in the thick of a crazy season, during which it may not have seemed wise to add just one more. I remember sharing the secret fear of my heart with a dear adoptive Mama friend just before Teddy came home: “What if he’s hard?” And she replied, “He could be hard!”
Well it turns out, by the grace of God, he’s not! He still struggles with some of the effects of years of fending for himself (in particular, he still has a hard time not helping himself to other people’s possessions, sometimes even hiding them in his bed or backpack). But he is always so genuinely sorry and so endearing to all of us that no one seems to be able to stay mad at him for long. We say, “Teddy, have you seen Annis’s Legos?” and he immediately hops up and brings it to us, yelling “Sowwa (Sorry)!” all the way.
Teddy is an expert at occupying his time. He spends parts of every day building elaborate Lego structures (usually creatures), drawing increasingly detailed and diverse pictures, building with cardboard and tape and scissors, and rocking out to music on YouTube. He is always busy and never bored.
Today is very possibly the most anticipated birthday in the history of our family. Ever since Niko and Lewis had their birthdays back-to-back in March, Teddy has reminded me daily that he wanted “oh-shay fru-frot” (crochet robot) for his birthday. There have been many, many trips to the wall calendar to show him the weeks and months that he still had to wait. He even tried crossing out a sibling’s birthday and writing his own name in a month or two ago, to no avail (Again: so naughty, yet so endearing.) Today was finally the day, and it was filled to the brim with robots of all shapes and sizes, including a crocheted one. I think it was a good day. Let’s hope it lasts him till next year!
Teddy’s speech is improving all the time thanks to his hard work and that of his friends at Theraplay. He now often strings two or three clear words together to express himself, and his confidence is growing accordingly. His receptive language is through the roof, and he can pick out words he recognizes from three rooms away. (Indeed, many a night after we think he is asleep, he hears his name in conversation all the way from his room and yells, “me?!”)
Speaking of Theraplay, just about every time we go, Teddy makes a card for his lady love, Miss Alison. She isn’t usually the therapist who works with him anymore, but she holds a special place in his heart, and whenever he catches a glimpse of her he calls, “Alison! Miss you! Heart!” She is one of a very select group he refers to as his “new friends”. He has one at Awana and another at church, and he is fiercely loyal to them. It’s tough to convince him that some of them are already married 😉
Teddy keeps life interesting and adds so much fun to our home. I am so thankful we said yes!
Goodness is this girl fun! She has a great sense of adventure, and bears the distinction of being our *only* baby to take her first steps before her first birthday. She had places to go then, and she still does now!
Although her preferred mode of transportation nowadays is definitely big sister! From as early as she could speak to ask for it, Freya has regularly requested “circles” (being carried in laps around the big living room sofa) from her sisters, especially Romilly, who happily indulges her. Apparently three is the official age of no more circles, but we’ll see about that: I daresay she has the whole family wrapped around her little finger!
Freya’s clever and creative use of language has been such a hoot to watch. Before she turned two, she began using the word “heeny” fairly regularly. As in “Mommy, can you open this heeny?” At first, its meaning stumped us. She used it so often and in such varied contexts! Then it dawned on us. It’s “thingy”. Our toddler is saying “thingy.” The pronunciation has evolved since then, but she still uses it regularly. I don’t feel like any of us uses the word often, but she picked it up somewhere, and we absolutely love it.
She calls the dog and her baby brother “bossy bossy” if they get in her personal space. Her perennial threat, whenever something she doesn’t like happens, is “then I am NOT going to sleep with Verity, ever, never again!” (They are room buddies, so she does, in fact, sleep with Verity ever single night without complaint.)
For all her feistiness, she is also sweet and thoughtful, and is generally very reasonable for a toddler. After a season of naptimes being a bit of a struggle for her (she thinks she’s big and suffers from major FOMO), she now tells me *almost* every day, “Today is a happy nappy day!” and goes down with a smile.
It’s certainly too early to pin down, but I asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, and she replied, “Mom!” Verity suggested, “l think she means, ‘A mom’.” But Freya pointed at me and said, “No. YOU!”. Well, shucks. Okay <3
Happy birthday, my beautiful, squishy, hilarious Freya Poppy! We love you, baby girl.
Oh, Miss Delia… What can we tell our friends about you?
This girl is the great puzzle of our family, a puzzle we’ve been trying to solve for seven years now.
We first met Delia, as long-time readers may remember, on our first trip to meet Niko in 2011. She was just shy of five years old, and she charmed her way right into Trevor’s heart. He came home from that trip convinced that she was our daughter, and never once wavered in that hope. Even when I resisted the idea, even when another family committed to her before us, even when we finally read her daunting medical file. And he was absolutely right. She is ours and we are hers, whether she likes it or not 🙂
But this girl is a tough nut to crack. We know that she is a treasure, but boy does she ever resist engaging with us and living up to her potential! Delia has baffled every “expert” we have taken her to since she came home. We’ve tried traditional speech and occupational therapy, neurodevelopmental therapy, special online speech therapy for kids with autism, play therapy, ABA (behavioral) therapy, and we’ve dabbled in even more. Her autism isn’t quite like anyone else’s, and no one knows quite what to do with her.
She would like us to believe that she just isn’t capable of any more than what she usually gives us. She’d prefer to fill her days with little more than stimming and waiting for her next meal.
But occasionally, she slips up and shows us that she’s really in there. We get glimpses of the real Delia. She shows us that she understands way more than she lets on, and that there is a cheeky, funny, sensitive, sweet girl in there begging us to find a way to let her out.
We see it when she laughs at a joke. We see it when she cries after someone makes an unkind remark about her that they didn’t expect her to hear or understand. We saw it two years ago after her birthday movie, when she tenderly kissed Temple Grandin goodnight on our TV screen. We see it when Milo climbs up on her, and she smiles at him in spite of herself.
And so we press on, trying every single thing we can think of, and trying it for longer than it makes sense to, just in case that breakthrough we long for might be right around the corner if only we persevere.
There have been gains followed by losses in every area. We have gained and lost potty training twice. We have gained and lost words, smiles, eye contact. We emerge from one grueling repetitive stimming behavior only to replace it with another.
And yet this one thing is always true: Delia feels safer and trusts us more all the time. Seven years ago, we brought home a little girl who was terrified of us. She lived in a permanent state of hypervigilance, alternating between manically “flirting” with us to win our acceptance and get her needs met, then lashing out at us if we got close enough to receive her affections. (So many of the old photos I look back on longingly of her smiling and laughing, were actually taken in that manic state rather than one of true happiness.) Instead of sleeping, she spent much of every night rocking, laughing, sobbing, screaming, grinding her teeth. We felt helpless and inadequate to meet her enormous needs.
Now, by God’s grace, she sleeps. Some 😉 She has much better self-regulation over her emotions. And this is huge: she receives comfort from me and Trevor when she is upset or overwhelmed. She lays her head in our laps and lets us hug her while she cries. In those bittersweet moments, I “tell her the things”: that she is loved, that she is safe, that she is made in God’s image and has infinite value. That even if she never learns to talk, or play, or engage with us, we will still love her forever. That she is stuck with us. And in those moments, my heart echoes what my head already knows: that I am her mom and she is my girl.
Happy birthday, Delia Mary! We see you in there, and we love you so much.
Happy 14th birthday today to our beautiful Beatrix Joanna!
Bea is a character. I’m feeling this acutely today because as I was looking through photos for this post, I found picture after picture of Bea making hilarious, ridiculous faces. I am not at liberty to share some of the more recent specimens, but it started young 🙂
Bea is our talker. She is the only confirmed extrovert in the family besides me, and from the moment she could talk she has kept us busy answering her increasingly complex questions. She makes us laugh with her crazy hypotheticals (“Grandmom, if mom had octuplets, would you move out?”), but she also makes us go deep with big life questions.
She is an animal lover to the core of her being. She volunteers at a local cat rescue, and begs us for a new pet almost weekly. Her future goal is to work with animals, possibly as a vet tech or a zookeeper, either way with a side of crazy cat lady. (She’s well on her way on that front!)
For all her silliness and fun, Bea has the tenderest heart, and desires above all things to do what is right. She is one of the most conscientious people I have ever known. As a little girl, she was always our safety warden and the Jiminy Cricket of our gang, often running to me from playing just to double check that whatever they were doing was okay. Her siblings may not always have appreciated this quality in her, but I have always been able to have confidence that if Bea is on the scene, things are never going to go too far south.
Bea spends her free time drawing, writing, crocheting, and playing Zoo Tycoon (because ALL THE BABY ANIMALS!) She is a hard worker and a willing helper.
She loves her siblings fiercely, and will always come to the defense of anyone who is being treated unfairly, even if it means (respectfully) calling me or Trevor out.
I can’t wait to see how God will use this uncompromising, outgoing, winsome girl. She is a joy, and I just love her.
Bea suggested that I should begin this post by saying “it seems like only yesterday that Milo was born”, because all posts of this nature seem to start like that, but the truth is, it’s been a long year! This boy has been such a sweet silver lining in all the crazy that was COVID.
Happy first birthday to our littlest mister, Milo Walter!
As I was looking through photos from the past year of Milo, I was flooded with memories of just how magical those first days and weeks with him were. I am still pinching myself a little bit that I actually had a boy, but a year ago, when he was brand new and the miracle was still fresh? Just magical!
This little love is pure sunshine. When I nurse him, he strokes my arm from my hand all the way up to my shoulder, pausing only to give me an occasional little pat. When I enter the room, he takes off toward me at his fastest crawl, puts his head down for extra speed, then can’t see where he’s going and crashes right into me.
He loves balls and anything with wheels, and he’s already figured out that he’s supposed to “vroom” a toy car.
We thought he might beat Freya’s record and take first steps well before his first birthday, but he’s gotten so speedy at crawling that he’s not that motivated to walk. He can stand for a few seconds though, and cruises around the furniture like a pro, so we know it won’t be long.
His only words so far are mama, dada, and a very close approximation to Roro. He also waves and claps and high fives. He manages to be incredibly expressive despite the limitations of his vocabulary so far.
He is very possibly the giggliest baby we’ve ever had. It takes almost no effort to get full on belly laughs from this boy. He even got hysterical watching Verity blow bubbles. Only Verity though 🙂
Milo, you are everyone’s favorite (as every baby should be!) As I write this on your “last night of being zero” (as Verity called it), I wish you the happiest of first birthdays and I pray for many many more happy birthdays to come. I love you, my wonderful boy!
See these two? This was us circa Easter 1999, just a few months before we got engaged. These two had no idea they’d be married in about a year (much less all the craziness that would follow that!). I thought it would be fun in honor of today, our 21st wedding anniversary, to share a little piece of the story of us: a little episode I like to call The One Where I Got Deported. (If you’ve ever played two truths and a lie with me or asked me to share a random fact about myself on your wall, you’ve probably already heard it, but it’s a tale that bears retelling, I think.)
Trevor and I fell in love the summer after I spent my junior year in Edinburgh, where we met. It might have been handy to do it while we were both there, but when have we ever done things the easy way?
We spent my senior year (his sophomore!) dating long distance with a few transatlantic visits thrown in. That spring, I began applying for teaching jobs in England, hoping to secure a work permit and live and work within commuting distance of Macclesfield, where Trevor would be doing his internship the following year.
I interviewed at a secondary school for girls in Manchester that summer, and to my delight, they offered me a job teaching science starting in September.
The rest of the summer was a frenzy of excitement and packing and planning, including emailing the school regularly to check the status of the work permit they were working to get me.
By August, they assured me that all they needed to finalize my paperwork was to see my stamped passport. In hindsight this should have raised red flags, but I was 21 and naive and had no idea how these things worked. (Apparently neither did they.) I bought a ticket and got on a plane on a Thursday afternoon.
And finally I was there: in England, Trevor waiting a few hundred yards away, the rest of my life opening out before me.
After waiting in the immigration line, I was greeted by the usual question: “And what brings you to the UK?”
I cheerfully and confidently told the man that I’d been offered a teaching job that I’d be starting in a couple weeks.
His response will echo in my ears for the rest of my life. “Well, I don’t know what made you think you were allowed to work here, but you’re not.”
I remember my heart racing and my mouth going dry, but at this point, I was still pretty sure the mistake was his. I gave him the details of the school and explained that they had applied for my work permit and told me to come, and that I wouldn’t start work until the finalized work permit was in hand. He left me in a chair, fighting terrified tears in front of a sea of jetlagged strangers, while he made some phone calls.
It felt like he was gone for hours. It was the summer holidays, so there were only maintenance staff at the school to answer his call. They knew nothing about me. I assured the immigration man that I would never take a job illegally, that if things didn’t work out with the school, I would just visit for a couple weeks and then go home. Nothing I said mattered. He took and kept my passport and let me come through to rest for two days before traveling home. I was to buy return tickets at my own expense and fly home on Sunday.
When I finally came through the gate and found Trevor, I collapsed into his arms and said, “I’m not here.”
I spent most of the next day calling every authority all of my family’s collective resources could think of. No one could help. Immigration is a law unto itself, and no character reference can get you off the hook with them once you’re on it.
Early early Sunday morning I was escorted onto my plane in one of those blinking, beeping airport golf carts. Once checked in and seated on the plane, I was given back my passport, complete with a stamp, but not the one I (or the school) wanted to see: DENIED ENTRY.
The return journey felt like an ordeal, complete with a long layover in Canada, but eventually, I was home. A place I hadn’t expected to see again so soon. A place where, though I was surrounded by so much love, I felt hopeless and lost and alone.
I cried a lot that night, and the day or two that followed. But then a glimmer of hope came from the most unlikely source.
It was Tuesday, two days after I got home. My sister Paige, six at the time, hated to see me so sad. “I don’t know if this helps,” she offered, “but I think I heard Debbie say she was picking Trevor up from the airport.”
I looked at my mom, pleading with my eyes for her to confirm this rumor. She quickly made up a story about my cousin Jill’s boyfriend coming to visit and called Debbie for her to confirm it, which of course she did.
Of course Trevor wasn’t really coming. Why would he? He had to start his internship in a week. He’d never spend the money to fly over… unless… But no.
I burst into fresh sobs and fell to the floor (if you think I’m being overly dramatic in my telling of this, just ask my mom. It was rough!)
My step-mother Debbie may still be slightly annoyed to this day at my mother’s lack of resolve and spoiling of the surprise, but Debbie wasn’t there. She didn’t see me. My mom did the only thing she could do. She came to me, wrapped her arms around me, and whispered to me, “He is coming. Trevor’s coming.”
On Wednesday, Trevor and my family did manage to genuinely surprise me by having him in an unexpected restaurant a day earlier than I had guessed he’d come.
We couldn’t focus on our appetizers, so we paid for them and drove to a nearby park. There, with a $25 placeholder ring and only geese for witnesses, Trevor asked me to marry him.
The rest, as they say, is history. 22 Easters later, those two crazy kids with the baskets on their heads watched their beautiful oldest daughter get baptized. And today, though we hardly saw each other between work and therapies and church commitments, we remember all that God has blessed us with and we rejoice. (And don’t tell all of these amazing birthday kiddos I’ve been blogging about, but their Daddy is still my favorite.)
Our little Annis Octavia is 7 today! This spicy little miss is so hard to put in a nutshell! I thought I’d give you a little peek behind the scenes of planning for her birthday to give you a bit of the flavor of her personality.
This year I’m making each of the kids a mini-me doll wearing an outfit of their choice and complete with one “accessory”. Everyone so far has chosen a favorite stuffed animal for their accessory, and worn a favorite casual outfit. This is what Annis chose:
The notebook is a beloved hand-me-down, and Annis tells me that the R stands for “Ro’s Sister”. She has worn this dress at least once a week on average since Christmas, so it really was the only obvious choice.
This was her birthday wish list. I think it speaks for itself.
Annis prides herself on being the only Young kid to look just like me. In fact, according to her, you can really only tell us apart by the tiny white dot on the tip of her tongue that she was born with.
She might tell you all this herself if you are lucky enough to be one of her people, but she is very selective about who she lets into her rich inner thought world. Our backyard neighbor Miss Pam is one of her chosen ones, and Annis sneaks out to chat with her as often as possible when she sees her out working in her garden.
Annis loves drawing and writing. She wrote a series of short books last Fall about her concerns on various topics. This was one of my favorites (a close second being “Annis’s Concern about Chili” which consisted of one word: “Beans!”)
She had a long-standing penpal relationship with the tooth fairy, which I recently felt convicted to clarify with her. When I explained to her, fearing a most dramatic display of tears and mourning, that it was actually me writing her the letters, she told me matter-of-factly, “well, I knew it couldn’t be a real fairy. The writing was way too big!” (Rookie mistake!)
When she grows up, she wants to be a ballerina, a mom, a pirate missionary, a diver looking for treasure under the sea, and a vegetarian (“cause I just realized…I might be eating a unicorn!”). I think it’s safe to say it’s a little too early to call it 🙂
When I look back at pictures of little Annis, I realize her seven years really have been a bit of a blur. Annis was born just three months after Delia came home in what was probably the most intense period of time our family has ever been through.
And yet she has emerged this feisty, clever, hilarious, loving little person. She is a picture of God’s grace in our lives, of how He gives us good gifts even in the midst of hard trials (and I hasten to add that Delia is a good gift, too! But you’ll have to wait until July to hear more about her.) I am having so much fun watching this girl grow up. She is such a character!
We love you so much, our sweet and spicy girl. Happy birthday, Annis!