Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summer Day.

Some day, I will long to go back to these lazy summer days with two needy, smooshy babes. So I'm documenting it. Embracing it. 

Thankful for:

...a boy who knows he can. He says it every time he climbs up into his bed.  

Yes, dear one. You can. You will. 

...a little sister who loves her brother deeply. Sitting in his big boy bed is a thrill and a half. Made even better if he's actually in it :)

...garbage day. Sometimes, it's the little things. For Carter, garbage day is a big thing.

...our patio. AKA 'the summer family room'. We spend 98% of our time out here each summer, and as August nears I always wonder how we will survive the next 7 months without this 'room'.

...kids who can keep themselves occupied, in stretches that are lengthening daily.

...this view - my favorite. Siblings chillin' with their ma.  I love sibling love.

...the depth of this boys soul when I look into his eyes, like this picture below.

Just kidding. He's looking at his ice cream cone.

...a daughter with the biggest, sweetest, fiercest, sunniest personality of anyone I know. People frequently tell us she is 'pure joy'. We agree.

...the spare time that I've had to keep these alive. I'm actually doing it!

....the post-nap sillies. Carter likes to help me 'wake up sissy'.

Actually, he runs through the door and screams "HIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!".

It seems like a pretty horrible way to be woken up. But she likes it.

...this boy and his blossoming personality. We've made a few changes and they have made all the difference for this boy - less anxious and closed off. More friendly and curious.

The smiles are real, folks.

...afternoon snacks and swims and snuggles. So many snuggles (from Carter, not Macy).

...a little girl who wears her mama's swimsuit (only 30 years old). Having a son is great. Having a daughter is transforming.

...summer. I'm thankful for summer. When the days drag on and September seems like it will never come, I think about the future me. The one who has grown kids with summer jobs and college plans.

I think about her and wonder if she's thinking about me. I bet she is.

Instead of wishing I was HER, I'm going to embrace ME.

Choosing to embrace my smooshy babes now, while I can. This is the good stuff.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Thankful for summer!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Our Little Vacay

Back in June, Jake and I talked with our friends, Brett & Amelia, about planning a little vacation. This summer Jake and I will celebrate 10 years of wedded bliss - and Brett and Amelia will be celebrating 5 years. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to plan a couples getaway. 

We've been planning this vacation since June, 2015. Now it's over. Crazy how that happens! Laundry is put away, schedules are back to normal (read: hectic), and so I suppose I can officially post my vacation blog. Waaaaah.

Here's a little run-down of our trip (and some info for anyone who's made it here from our AirBNB review!).

St. Maarten. I had never thought much about this place (and possibly never heard of it) prior to our planning in June. I'm glad it was on Brett's radar. 

St. Maarten delivered.

Hands-down, our favorite beach on the island. We made sure to arrive early (before 10, for sure) and enjoyed a quiet bay, practically empty. Crystal clear water, fish swimming around out feet, and no waves. 

We liked Mullet Bay so much, we returned for more toward the end of our trip! 

We all agreed that Hilma's Windsor Castle was delicious! Hilma was featured on one of Anthony Bourdain's episodes over 10 years ago, and it's still creating a buzz today. Hilma was exactly as we imagined - sweet, personable, funny, and sassy. 

What do you do when you've finally arrived at Hilma's? You hug. That's what you do.
The johney cake breakfast sandwiches were incredible. We hoped to make it back to try her 'meat pocket' (our best description of what looked to be pork/chicken/beef in a johney cake pocket), but weren't able to fit it into our schedule. 

Bummer, I guess we'll have to go back :)

We followed a road to the highest point of the island - Pic Paradis. The term 'road' is used lightly here.

Drive with caution :)

Jump on ferry (don't be late), get off ferry, look around, pick your jaw up off the sand.

Yes, it's that amazing. The pictures do not lie.

This was another spot where arriving early worked in our favor. Trek over to the Karibuni Restaurant side of the island for the better view. It's worth the extra 100 steps.

This is us, being friends. Four friends (not two sets of friends that happen to be married).

We were here on Sunday morning. We fellowshipped. Real fellowship. Real love. This is church.

We climbed a bit to get to this spot - a perfect place to watch a sunset in late-May. It was a bit cloudy, but still breathtaking.

It only took us 12 tries, using the timer, to get this photo. Guys, I had to run across jagged rock and get in place - all in less than 10 seconds.

Brett stumbled upon this awesome find - we were the inaugural sunset cruise for the Swaliga 2. Lucky for us, we had the entire catamaran to ourselves.

This was a great find, and such an enjoyable cruise. The sunset was a total flop (not because of the Swaliga 2, but because of the clouds lined up in exactly the wrong place) - but the views, the pineapple juice, the stories, the laughs - they all delivered.


It was a great re-charge for me. I was worried that I'd be using this vacation as an escape from my real-life. The truth is, I missed my kids almost the entire trip. Instead of using our time away as an escape, I used it as a re-charge. And we strategized about what it could look like to have these re-charges more frequently. Can we do a re-charge without a vacation? I think so.

Special thanks to my mom & Brad for taking an entire week out of your lives to love our kids while we were away. We are incredibly grateful for your help, and have only had to do a small amount of 'behavior boot camp' since coming home. Mostly for Macy :) Truly, though, you both loved our kids well and it allowed us to relax knowing they were in such good hands.

That's it. Vacation over. Our little getaway, with two fantastic friends, and nobody yanking on my dang arm while I ate my meals. It was pretty spectacular.


Of all the views I took in during this getaway, none of them compete with my view over the top of my little coffee cup each morning - two kids, eating - playing - laughing - sleeping - bathing - crying - swimming - throwing fits. It's good to be home.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Re-charge. It's oh so good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Hello '8' + Goodbye First Grade

Over the past week, Carter has celebrated his 8th birthday, and also said goodbye to first grade.

We have an 8-year-old 2nd grader.

How did this happen?

For Carter, this was the year of 'happy'.  We have many goals for Carter. We have mental lists of our hopes and dreams for his future. Of all the things that we hope Carter will embrace and enjoy, happiness is at the top of our list.

When I struggle with the things Carter could be doing - should be doing - isn't doing - I stop and ask myself: Is he happy?

This year, every single time, the answer has been 'yes'.

So much happy. He'll even tell us: "HAPPY!!!"

Progress is slow in this area over here. Over in that other area, we aren't even trying. And then there's that one thing we've been working on forever.

Yeah. Uh-huh. But is he happy?

He's happy.


Dear Carter,

First Grade is over, and you rocked it. You showed up every single day, ready to work. You didn't always want to. Sometimes you told us. But you still showed up, game face on, ready to do your thing.

Speech, math, OT, art - music - gym (not your favorites), writing...all important parts of your day. You did it all (mostly) daily (sort of).

But the area you excelled? Happy.

Your happiness flowed out of you and on to the people around you. It's contagious, you know.

We had a rough patch at the end of the year. It was hard on all of us. Someday, I hope you'll be able to tell us why you aren't happy. Until then, we'll just keep trying to understand you.

Here's to your 8th year of life, and your 2nd grade of school.

May happiness abound in your life. May you be understood. May you be appreciated and loved by those around you.

We love you, sweet brother bear. Here's to another year of Happy.

One Thing I Know For Sure: "HAPPY!!!!"

Friday, April 01, 2016

Our Autism Story.

I started writing this post in April of 2014.
Today, I've edited it for the last time.
Today, I've decided that I'm done fixing and fluffing.

Time to share.


April 2nd is World Autism Day. Two years ago, this day was not even on our radar.
Today, we celebrate, educate, and advocate.

We thought we knew what it looked like.

Little or no eye contact.
Being 'closed off' from the world around him.
Rocking, stimming, self-harming.
Living life 'in a shell'.

We thought that all of those things together = Autism.

Turns out, sometimes Autism looks just like this:

Pretty dang beautiful.

Not one of the characteristics from my little list fit Carter.  He makes great eye contact for us, he looks for us for approval or help or play, he enjoys the world around him, he has never thrown a tantrum in his life....but Carter has Autism.

We received the official diagnosis in March of 2014.  But in November of 2013, I was called to a meeting at school that completely caught me by surprise.

Because I had no idea what I was in for (I really thought this was just a normal parent-teacher conference), I went to our local bakery and grabbed one cupcake for each of Carter's leading ladies.  His teacher, 2 therapists, and 2 aides.  And one for me, for later.  I bounced into the parent/teacher conference, excited to deliver my cupcakes and hear about how great Carter was doing.

I had no idea how much I would need that peanut butter maple cupcake in just a few hours.

They told me all the awesome things he's doing.  We sat down.  And then my world kind of collapsed.

We talked about some of Carter's quirks.  They ways that he just does things differently - the way he plays, the way he transitions, the way he learns.

The tears came hard and fast - but I felt like those amazing women were cupping my hot, red face in their hands as they said things like "You're the best mom ever" and "It's going to be just fine".

Autism.  It was the one special need I said I couldn't do.  Wouldn't do.  It was too much, too hard, too mysterious.  I didn't know how a family could ever cope with a diagnosis like that.

In one weekend, Autism stole my hope.

CARTER CAN!  This has been our mantra since we brought him home.  Because of Autism, I couldn't hear that within my own head.  Carter Won't.  Carter Can't.  Will he?  I didn't know.

I went to a holiday concert with my mom and grandma the day after the teacher conference.  I was relieved that we were in the back row of a dark auditorium, because hot tears stained my cheeks for much of it.

The words 'Autism Speaks' kept running through my brain.

Autism speaks.  I didn't even know what that meant, because I had avoided all articles and blogs and organization websites.

It didn't matter.  Autism speaks.  That's all I could think about.  Autism speaks.  Autism speaks.  Please, God, tell me that Autism speaks.

Let's just be real.  Autism scared the hell out of me.  I heard moms say that they hate their child's Autism every single day.  If that gives them the fuel and fight and fury they need to deal with this - then that's great.  I applaud them.  But I don't want to hate a part of Carter every time I look at him.  

But how could I love Autism?

We chose Down syndrome.  I always wondered how it felt to receive that diagnosis.  The shock and surprise must have been awful, I thought.  Not because Down syndrome is awful, but because nobody likes to be blindsided by a diagnosis for their precious, dear, sweet baby.

Well now we know what that surprise diagnosis feels like.  And if we ever questioned if we loved Carter like a son, and not just an 'adopted son', we now know.

Our love for him is fierce.  It's strong.  It's real.  He is ours, ours, ours.  And we are willing to do whatever we need to in order to help him.


When we committed to adopt a child with Down syndrome, I was filled with this crazy strength and a can-do attitude.

"We are totally going to rock this!".  We knew it would be hard.  Scary.  Lonely.  But we were totally up for the challenge.

Two years and many tears later, I heard the word 'autism' and my knees suddenly went weak.  The strength that once held me up seemed to be gone, and I just wanted to curl up in a ball.  Where was the can-do attitude?

We instantly felt scared, alone, and were left wondering about the future for this sweet boy of ours.

November - December - January - we struggled.  We were sad.  A lot.  We felt like we were 'different' from all the other Down syndrome families in our community.  I turned down play dates with them, because seeing Carter next to their kids with 'just Down syndrome' brought out all of his differences (and Juli was so sweet and kind and understanding, and didn't push me at all.  Sweet Juli.).  

We wondered lots of things - why us? - why now? - because of the orphanage? - because of us? - will he talk? - will he write? - will he have meaningful relationships?.....what will life look like for us now?

And then.

We met with a wonderful, kind, dear neuropsychologist.  She told us how awesome Carter was, and what a bright future he had ahead of him.  She told us that while he does have Autism, he has many great social skills to build on.

"But what about regression?" we asked, with lumps in our throats, "What about that?"

And again, she filled us with hope.  She explained that if he were going to regress, he probably would have by now.  He's learning, he's growing, he's changing, he's progressing - and everything is going to be fine.  

I talked with mommies who have walked where we are walking.  Just knowing they were available and understood made all the difference.  

We met with therapists who came into our home, answered our questions in the sweetest way, and left us feeling so hopeful about Carter's future.  More on this later :)

Hope, hope, hope.  We needed it.  Maybe they all sensed it.

And this is where we are today - 2 years in to the diagnosis and it no longer makes me weak in the knees. Two years in, and I no longer see Carter's Autism every time I look at him.  I just see Carter. 

We feel grateful for this diagnosis, which has allowed Carter to receive the therapy he desperately needs.

We are hopeful.  Hopeful!  I never thought I'd feel hope again.  We believe that Carter CAN.  He can.  

We are going to rock this Autism thing.  No feeling sorry for us, or for him.

I leave you with one more chunk of hope.  A note from Carter's final Kindergarten report card last year:

"Carter made so many great gains this year as a kindergarten student.  He continuously showed his sweet and persistent personality with a little boy charm.  Carter has already made a long lasting mark on many staffs and peers hearts.  Although Carter's first year of school was a learning curve for all, it was truly amazing!  He has taught so many of us patience, acceptance, flexibility, and belief.  

"Over the past year, Carter has been working on skills that are necessary for him to be successful as a student.  He has learned that 7 hours of school is really long, but that he can make it through the day.  We have spent much of the school year helping him learn how to be more independent within the school setting.  He has made a ton of progress in this area.  Carter has shown us over & over that 'Carter CAN'!"

There you have it.  Hope.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Carter CAN!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Macy's First Party!

This past weekend, we had a house full of love. Everyone was here to celebrate Macy's First Birthday.

// Quick Disclaimer: I don't go all-out for birthday parties. I sometimes would like to be that family that always has huge, fun, creative parties. But the money! And the time! And the mess! Oh, the mess! We do FIRST (or Fourth-st if you're Carter) birthday's big, but after that we just do little family gatherings. //

Twenty-seven people who love our Macy-girl a whole lot came over to prove it.

What else can I really say? Our kids are loved. The rest is just extra.

{And really, how could anyone not love that face?}

Because being one is hard work, naps are necessary. This little one-year-old naps in the morning and the afternoon, so finding a party time was tricky. We decided to do a 'brunch' party and serve donuts and muffins!

Carter thought this was a good idea. As you can see, he fully supported our decision.

It was fun having so many little helpers around. Macy welcomed the help this year (because opening presents is hard work) but next year might be a different story :)

And if the helpers get in the way, the birthday girl can just climb over them.

I'm not as excited as I look - really. We make this face to Macy, and she copies us. It's pretty adorable.

All throughout the party, I kept thinking that a year ago, I didn't even know this joy-baby. I didn't know what she would look like, or what her personality would be.

Today, I know her intimately and love her deeply.

It's pretty wild.

When it was time for cake, of course Big Brother wanted to show Macy how it's done.

*The cake was from Macy's shower last year, and my grandma saved it!*

Not only does brother desire to teach, but sister desires to learn. See how she watches him? Carefully examining his moves and emotions. Carter is the best teacher, even when he doesn't realize it.

Of course, because the donuts weren't enough:

Despite the sugared-up morning, Carter was excellent. His shirt says 'Greatest Brother Ever' and on this busy day, he was a patient, loving, helpful big brother. It's hard being the only child for so long, and suddenly having to share the spotlight. Especially on birthdays - Carter's favorite! 

Jake and I talked before hand about our plan for helping Carter to be the best boy he could be. Guess what? We didn't need to do anything. Carter surprised us and just rocked it the whole morning.

Duh, guys. It's what Carter does.

Our morning of love for Macy ended with lots of this:

We had such a special day, and are so thankful for all our friends and family who came to celebrate Macy's first year! We love you all!

One Thing I Know For Sure: Love, love, love.
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