Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dear Carter.

Dear Carter,
Four years ago today, you were welcomed into this world in a hospital somewhere in Kiev, Ukraine.  You were placed in the arms of a mama who was so excited to meet you.  She desperately wanted you - her first born baby.  She loved you the moment she saw you.  She gazed into your eyes, and nursed you late into the night.  I'm sure of it.

Your mommy & daddy took you home from that hospital as excited new parents.  They undoubtedly showed you off to their friends and family - so proud of the beautiful little boy they held in their arms.

For three months, they loved you and cared for you.  I'm sure you remember their touch.  I'm certain you remember their love. 

And after that, well, I'm not really sure what happened.  Nobody really knows.  But I can tell you this:  You did not disappoint your mama.  You did not let her down.

Her culture let her down.  Her society let her down.  But you, sweet boy- you did not disappoint her.  She wanted you desperately, but knew that somewhere - somebody else would love to be your mama, just as much as she did.

That 'somebody else' was us.  

The Lord called us to a little boy in Kiev, Ukraine.  And we listened.  He led us right to you.  He knew you were there.  He was with you every moment that you spent in that orphanage.  And he knew that you would fit right in to this funny little family.

It was clear on the first day that we met.  It was clear that you knew we were there to take you home.

And since that day that you came home for good - you haven't looked back.  You know now, without a shadow of a doubt.  You know that you are home.

Happy fourth birthday, Carter Benjamin.  Our lives would not be the same without you - and we are so, so glad that God chose us to be your parents.  We are so, so glad.  Thanks for allowing us to love you and hug you and kiss you every single day.  Thanks for loving us in our shortcomings and failures.  Thanks for being you, buddy.  Here's to new beginnings.  Fresh starts.  Year number four - starting off right.

We love you more than you'll ever know!

One Thing I Know For Sure: First ever 'happy' birthday.  Good stuff.

Linking up....join us, it's fun!!

friday favorite things | finding joy

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


We're back.  After 5 days away, we're home .  The laundry is almost finished and we're back into our normal groove.  So good to get away, but good to come home, too.  Being away reminds me why I love home.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder...??  Or something.

We had FUN.  I wish I could think of a more fun word than 'fun'.  Carter loved every minute.  Except the fish.  Wasn't too crazy about the fish.  Until one of them smacked him in the face (nope, not kidding).  Then he loosened up a bit and did okay :)

They grew on him, and soon all he wanted to do was spend his time in the boat watching the fish in the live well.  Or maybe he was just keeping tabs on them.  Who knows.

He did some driving, and even adjusted the motor a bit.

Can you spot the Bald Eagle?

Someone tell me WHY I did not bring my good lens.  I left it at home.  Not the 'cabin home'.  No.  At HOME, home.  Dangit.

We attended a wedding while we were there - Carter did okay :)  The loud music freaked him out, and we left almost immediately after dinner.  I know, eat & run...

But before we left, he was his happy self...

We had a few more days of relaxing by the fire and playing in the sand.  Carter is definitely an outside kind of guy.

He pretty much just sat in this chair.  No fussing.  No whining.  Nothing.  Just sat.  Oh, and ate Blue Moon ice cream.  But really, he is so content when we're outside.

So good to be home...!


Now that we're home, I'm catching up on emails and such.  I got a blog comment from someone anonymously while we were gone.  It was a sweet lady who asked me to remove one of my blog posts.  Apparently, this particular post was getting some negative attention from a group of losers trolls who stalk and harass adoption bloggers.  I can't respond to this comment, because it was left anonymously.  But I will just say, that I'm sorry - but I won't delete my post.  If the trolls aren't talking about THAT post, they'll be talking about a different one.  If they're not talking about ME, they'll be talking about someone else.

On that note, I read the blog in question.  It's pretty hilarious.  These trolls referred to me as 'Good Ole Ash'.  I like it.  They barfed out tons of lies - the same old junk that they always fall back on.  But in my particular post, they talked about our financial situation.  They noted that instead of spending our income, we should be 'paying back' the people that donated to our adoption.  Do I need to look up the definition of 'donation'?  They also talked about how hypocritical I was, because I was advocating for a family, but wasn't giving to them myself.  Not sure how they know the details of my personal financial situation.  But here's what really gets me - they said that instead of donating our adoption tax credit to another adoptive family, I spent it on other things.

Wait a second...what the...?!?!  Funny - we haven't even gotten our credit.  And probably won't until August or later.  But this person seems to know something I don't know, apparently.  Because according to them - I've spent it all!  Ha!  Now that's funny.

Here's the bottom line...deleting a post will not solve anything.  In fact, they'd probably love for us to start deleting posts that they're talking about.  I realize that they linked to my blog, and that I'll get even MORE nasty comments than I already do.  And that's okay.  Because their comments are ridiculous and mostly false...and I've become very good at clicking 'delete'.  I also realize that these trolls might read a post of mine, and look for links to other blogs - and then THOSE bloggers might get nasty hits.  I'd say, 'welcome to the club'!  I realize it's not fun to read all those hateful, ignorant words - but it's part of the process, I guess.  If you're going to blog about adoption, you will very likely get trolled.  And if they don't find you from my blog, they will find you from someone else's.

It's just the name of the game.


So.  Here we are.  Week in full swing (it's already Tuesday, people!).  Laundry folded.  Dinner planned.  A little boy screaming in the hallway because he can't get the lid off his sippy cup.  And life is good.

Come back tomorrow - I've got an exciting post planned.  Because tomorrow is somebody's birthday.....

One Thing I Know For Sure: No place like HOME!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Weekend perfection.  That's what the past 3 days have been.  Doing things that little families do - and wishing Monday would never come.  That's where I'm at as I tippity-tap the keys of this little keyboard.  Wishing tomorrow wasn't Monday.  Wishing Jake didn't have to go back to work...ever.  Wishing time could stand still.

Here's a recap of our perfect weekend...

Carter met his first horse.  We weren't sure how this would go, but we've heard so many good things about equine therapy - we just had to see how he would react.  Let the photos do the talkin'.....

The horse seemed much less scary from the side - so that's where Carter pet him first.

Eventually we moved to the head.

Carter - horse whisperer.
We were so pleased to see Carter's reaction.  He wasn't scared - not even skeptical.  He connected to this horse, and his eyes were glued (sorry for the unintentional horse pun...) to him most of the time.  This really surprised us, because recently Carter has been scared by everything.  Things that he used to like now scare him.  Balloons, shadows, birds, new noises.  All things that freak him out.  Of course, I was concerned.  But there's good news - I recently did some research on the topic (thanks to Juli!) and it sounds like the reason Carter is showing new fears and anxieties is because he's developmentally able to process those fears.  It makes sense when you think about it.  When you bring your newborn home from the hospital, they're not going to get scared if they see a monster on the tv, or a strange shadow on the wall.  Because they can't process it.  But as kids get older, they develop different fears.  So - new fears & anxieties = good stuff.

Carter was tuckered out after all the hard work he did with the horses.  And mama was soaking up the lovins.

Horse introduction - success.  


Next up - swimming.  Jake's parents have a pool and we've been excited to get Carter in that thing!  We knew he'd love it - no question.  

What we didn't realize is that the water was cold.  Frigid cold.  

Do you think the cold slowed this little water bug down?  Nope.

He loved it, and I see lots of swimming pools in our future.  He laughed, he splashed, he shrieked (maybe from the cold...!) - but all in all he did great.  

So much bonding takes place in the water.  He clung to me and his daddy, and it felt so good to know that he needed us.  He reached out to us.  He literally depended on us for his survival.

We've also learned that Carter is 110% Eastern European.  No tan for this little boy!  See?!  He fits right in to our family :)

Notice the arm chub?  Healthy foods have done this boy some serious good.
Little boy was practically exhausted after all that swimming (clinging) he did, and his mama's arms were the perfect place to relax.  Mama didn't mind, either :)

I've talked a lot about attachment here.  I've said that it's a long, strange journey.  That you don't know when it's happened until it happens.  I'm not saying it's finished.  I'm not saying we've arrived.  But this boy knows us.  He loves us.  He is a beloved son, and he knows it.  He has two people who are head-over-heels in love with him, and he knows it.  He will be cared for every day - for the rest of his life - by two crazy, quirky, loving people, and I think maybe he knows THAT, too.

It might be years before we fully arrive, but right now we're in a really good place.  And we're so happy with that.


As the sun officially sets on the weekend, my butt is in a recliner.  All remotes, phones, books, and gadget devices are within reach.  Jake and Carter went on a dinner run.

That can only mean one thing.

Mama hurts.  My lower back is non-functioning.  No bending - no lifting - no rolling over.  Boo.  I'll be honest - I'm a little ticked about it.  We have big plans for this weekend, and next weekend is someone's birthday party :)  Perfect timing, huh?

What a way to end a perfect weekend.  It's okay.  It's forcing me to reflect.  To appreciate.  Today, Jake said something about moms who hear a 'terminal diagnosis'.  *Side note: we're really not grimm people - we recently watched 'Step Mom' with Julia Roberts & Susan Sarandon.  Excellent movie, fyi.*  Anyhow - here I am with a sore back.  And I cried about it today.  A lot.  Because it hurt, a lot.  But I'm just saying - what do I really have to complain about?  It could be so, so much worse.  Praising GOD for my health - my husband - my sweet boy...really, so much to be thankful for.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation (including a little back pain...), will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38

One Thing I Know For Sure:  Perspective.  Needed it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

6 Months Home...Holy Moly.

Lately, Carter has come in to the 'terrible twos' stage.  This week, we celebrate 6 months home - and the honeymoon is officially over.  Throughout the day, I catch myself thinking "He's crying...again - for the 20th time today...".  His fits are small compared to some, I know.  But it's a fit, nonetheless.  He probably is stuck somewhere that he doesn't belong, or Moses is in his way and won't move, or he wants to go outside...again.

I'm not complaining.  I love that sometimes, this little boy needs me.

Most days, he's busy as a bee - darting here, moving this over there...happy going about his business, alone.

But some days, he needs me.

+Photos taken at our new church property, on tree-planting day+
So I stop what I'm doing, and I go to where he is.  I pick him up, and he hugs around my neck.  He wraps his little chubby legs around my waist.  And if I'm lucky, he rubs my back.

What a difference 6 months makes.

He knows how to be held.  It seems crazy, I know, that a 3 year old should have to 'learn' how to be held.  But when we first met him, Carter didn't know what to do with his stiff legs when we picked him up.  He didn't know where to put his arms.  It was all so new.

In three years of living in an orphanage, he was never held.  Moved from this play pen to that chair - but never held.

When we picked him up in the orphanage and in those first weeks home - his legs would be stiff and stick straight down.  His arms would be tight to his side.  We had to teach him how to mold his legs around our bodies - we had to help him learn how to be held.

And today, he knows just what to do when his mama comes to scoop him up.  He hugs with his whole body - legs tight around my waist, arms snug around my neck, and head tucked into my shoulder.

Nothing better than picking this boy up, and letting his body mold to mine.  It's what a baby and mama should do, naturally.  But for us, it took work.  And it reminds me how much orphanage slime this boy had on him.  He was in an excellent orphanage - but it's no substitute for a family.

As the orphanage slime gets washed away, I'm amazed that a little boy full of life and energy is still under there.  He was existing all along, just waiting for someone to come wash him up.  He didn't fade away, he was just covered up.

Only God, really.


As we celebrate 6 months home, a little girl in California is celebrating her first day home.  Sometime in late October, we met this little lady in Carter's orphanage.  Her family asked if we would try to deliver a blanket to her and maybe get a photo or two.  After begging our facilitator to talk to the orphanage director, and arguing with the orphanage director after he said 'no', we asked one last time.  Miraculously, it worked.

That day, I had the extreme privilege of holding this blessed girl in my arms.  I told her that her mama was coming soon.  That she had a family that loved her already.  That soon, she wouldn't go to bed without a thousand hugs and kisses.  I kissed her head and rubbed her chubby cheeks.  It brought such joy to my heart to know - for sure - that this girl had a family coming.

Today, sweet Olivia is home with her family.  Home.  Right where she is supposed to be.  Surrounded by love.  Home.  Forever & ever, home.

One Thing I Know For Sure: God sets the lonely in families....blessed to watch it happen before my very eyes!
+As a side note (not because it's not important, but because it's late and this tired mama is ready for bed!) - this little boy has a family.  Praise GOD!  You can visit their blog here - go, and share some love!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mothers Day...

On Mother's Day last year, I woke up to a special surprise in my email inbox.  Photos, of a little boy who was waiting for us in Ukraine.

Lately, this is what I wake up to:

Amazing how things change in one year.

It's Mother's Day.  And I'm a mommy.  For the first time, I will get to take a potted flower home from church without feeling guilty :)

I'm so blessed to be this boy's mama.  I'm so glad that God chose us.  I'm so glad He called us.  I'm so glad we heard him - so glad we were listening, for once.  What a treasure.  What a gift.  What an honor to one day hear this boy call me 'mama'.

Wouldn't have it any other way.


As we're talking about mommies, I can't help but think about his first mom.  The one who carried him for 9 months.  The one who endured pain to bring him into this world.  The one who loved him in the first 3 months of his life.  The one who nursed him - rocked him - sang to him.  The one who had to make a decision that none of us can even understand.

His first mom.

Today, I'm so thankful for her.  I wish I could hug her, and tell her I'm grateful.  I wish I could tell her that it's okay.  That she did the best she could.

And that is enough.

His first mom gave him a gifts that I'll never be able to give him.  She experienced things with him that I'll never be able to experience.....

"Legacy Of An Adopted Child"
Once there were 2 women who never knew each other.
One you may not remember, the other you call Mother.
Two different lives shaped to make you one.
One became your guiding star. The other became your sun.
The first one gave you life, the second taught you how to live it.
The first gave you a need for love, the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name.
One gave you talent, the other gave you aim.
One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.

And now you ask me through your tears
The age-old question, unanswered through the years.
Heredity or environment. Which are you a product of?
Neither, my darling. Neither. Just two different kinds of love.

That is enough.  

Forever grateful.


I've got to share this.  It makes me cry like a baby.  Jake shared it with me the other day, and I've watched it over & over since then.

One Thing I Know For Sure: "He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood." - Desha Wood

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Okay, so maybe my last post was a little too harsh.  Sorry if it offended you...that wasn't my intent.  I just get fed up.  Have you ever been there?  Frustrated with everyones apathy?!  That's where I was when I wrote my last post.

Keegan still needs donations.  Lilly still needs donations.  They need families, too.  Well - actually, over 143 million kids need families.  I'll leave it at that - and let you make your own decisions.

Now, I'm on to much fluffier things.  Read on.


It's been a long time since I've done a Carter update.  So here it is.

Carter is doing great.  We are beyond blessed.  Aside from adjusting to a new culture (and all that goes along with that), he's just an all-around great kid.  He sits through and hour and a half of church without making a peep.  He came with us to a meeting at our new church building the other day, and sat in his stroller for over an hour.  He was happy & content the whole time.  He comes to us for hugs.  He eats (mostly) whatever we give him.

See?  Happy boy.  Even at a construction site.
He is happy 84% of the time.  The other 16% of the time, he's either hurt or being licked in the face by Moses.

Speaking of Moses - you may remember how horrible Carter & Moses' introduction was.  Well - now, they are the best of friends.  Actually, they're really like brothers.  Moses licks Carter - Carter gets ticked and runs away.  Five minutes later...Moses is laying in the doorway - Carter steps on him - Moses gets ticked and runs away (or just lays there and takes it...).  But at lunch time - Carter will toss Moses an apple or a piece of peanut butter bread and everything is right in the world again.

We knew it would happen, eventually.  At it has.  Phew.


We recently visited what we hope will be Carter's school in the fall.  It's a school outside of our district, so there are a few hoops to jump through before we officially make the switch, but it's an excellent program and will be worth the rigamarole.  Yes, I said rigamarole.  Say it.  It's fun.  Rigamarole.

THIS is the kind of rigamarole that happens when mama is preoccupied for 46 seconds.
Relax.  It's just diaper cream.
Anyhow - we loved the classroom.  We loved the teacher.  And Carter seemed very comfortable there.

The thought of this kid being in school in the fall is crazy to us.  But he's definitely ready - and this mama is ready, too :)  Not that I want him out of the house - because I love being with him each day.  But I know he needs it.  It will be good for him.  And I'm excited to see him learn and grow in new ways.

Soon, he won't need those tippy toes for much of anything.  And someday, I'll look back on this photo with fondness and remember a time when our big boy needed tippy toes.  


Our area had tons of rain this week....four inches, with three more coming tomorrow.  Lots of basements are flooded.  Ours had some water - but nothing compared to what others are dealing with.

When it rains, there are puddles.  And when there are puddles, little boys are wet.  This week, I decided to embrace it and let Carter do his thing.

He loved it - and as soon as we came back inside, he was signing 'water' and 'outside'.  It was pretty adorable.

But I still said 'no' and 'all done'.  I can sign, too :)

Funny thing - as I was looking for this photo, I realized that all of our outside photos are of the back of Carter's head - booty - legs.  Why?  Because from the moment his feet hit the sidewalk, this boy is on the go.

All boy.  110%.


Carter has a new love.  He calls him 'lala'.  It's a little red furry monster who loves to love.

Yep, Carter loves Elmo.  And Jake and I can't get enough of songs like this.

Never, ever did I think we'd enjoy watching Elmo.  Welcome to parenthood!


Sometimes people ask us if we love him.  It's an honest, innocent question.  Because unfortunately, not all adoptive parents can really say that they like & love their adopted child.  To no fault of their own, sometimes the love just isn't there for a very long time.  I feel for those families.  I can't imagine the struggle.

But for this family?  Let me just say, I love this boy more & more every day.  He is our best bud.  It really doesn't get much better than this.

Love, love, love to love this boy.  And we're so glad he tolerates us :)

One Thing I Know For Sure: You're caught up on this little boy!  Enjoy your weekend, friend!

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