Monday, November 28, 2011

So Long Thanksgiving, Hello Christmas!

Another holiday has come and gone and once again I did not break out the camera a single time.  I even had three chances.  We had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' church the night before Thanksgiving. Then we had dinner with J.J.'s family and my parents on Thanksgiving day.  Then we had our church dinner last night.  In all that feasting I did not stop and think, "Hmm, this is our first Thanksgiving as a family.  Just maybe I should take a picture to commemorate this occasion".   I did stop to be thankful though.  I am not the best at reflecting or soaking in the moments.  We used to hear about "ah, ha" moments in education all the time, but those are few and far between for me.  If I was truly honest I am pretty much a live on the surface kind of person.  There were moments this past week that made me stop and think though.  I am so thankful to be a mommy.  Xavier is one fantastic little boy.  I thought about where we were a year ago and it amazes me to be here with a little boy draped across my lap telling me about "buttons" and "dogs" while I type.  So I was thankful and I am thankful and I, hopefully, will continue to be thankful.  Can you really document that with a photograph?  That sounds like a good excuse.  Now I have started off the Christmas season with a bang of success in the photography department.  Enjoy and welcome to the season of joy.
Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts

Helping Daddy put the tree together

Best gift is already under the tree

Hanging ornaments

Helping Daddy put the angel on top of the tree

Eating a cookie after some hard work decorating

Monday, November 7, 2011

"I love you" and other miracles

Our Orphan Sunday event was a success!  It was an emotional day for me.  I had invested some time and prayer and (why can't I stop) worry into this day, but it seemed to go off without any hitches.  We had a good size crowd for something that had never been done before.  The chili and stew was yummy and it was a gorgeous day outside.  Several people had questions for our speaker and she did a fantastic job giving them information about all the services her agency provides.  It was interesting for me to hear about the projects closer to home because we spent our time focused on the international side of things.  That was miracle number one.  Now we are getting so much rain that water has pooled in our backyard and it is running down the edge of the street.  That is miracle number two.  And, after 5 months with us Xavier will now say "I love you".  We've been saying it from day one and we kept hoping he would reply, but some things just take time.  We actually are a little sneaky, but if we whisper "I love you" he will usually whisper back.  Best words ever!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Orphan Sunday

Tomorrow is National Orphan Sunday.  We have had a small recognition at our church each year, but we decided to try something bigger this year.  I talked to all the other pastors in our community and we have joined together to host a donation lunch and speaker.  We will be serving chili and stew.  Then a representative from one of the agencies that J.J. and I worked with (two agencies work together on the Russia program, one in Dallas and one in Tulsa) will share about their agency's work and adoption in particular.  I actually have no idea how this is going to go over.  We've never done this before, but some year has to be the first annual, right?  I am so excited to share our passion for adoption and orphan care with whomever is willing to come.  So many babies, kids, and teens that need homes.  If you live close enough please join us at the First Baptist Church fellowship hall tomorrow at 12:30pm.  Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

I will have to confess first about how I got this recipe.  I was riding with two other coach's wives to the last out of town football game.  When we got back to town one of them left some magazines in the vehicle saying she was just going to through them away.  Well I scooped them right up because I saw this recipe and was really excited to try it.  Whew!  Don't you feel better already?  Now on to baking.  I actually baked the sweet potatoes the night before and kept them in the fridge until we were ready to bake.  Xavier is my ever ready baking assistant and quality control expert.  He found this particular batter to be fantastic.  I think he actually liked the batter better than the finished product. 

  The really fun part for me was tucking the Hershey's kisses in after the cupcakes had baked a few minutes.  I had another handsome assistant who came home for 2 seconds on his lunch break help me unwrap the candy, but he didn't stick around long enough to get his picture taken.

                      The cupcakes turned out so well and this chocolate frosting was wonderful!

                  I won't even tell you how much butter the whole thing required.  It was just worth it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Pumpkin Patch"

Notice the quotation marks.  We set aside a Saturday to visit a pumpkin patch in a town far enough away you don't want to drive that far unless you have fairly big plans.  Saturdays during football season are hard to come by, but the team was playing in another town about an hour and a half south so Xavier and I made the drive together.  We got to the pumpkin patch town (much bigger than the location of the football game.  We play 6-man football.  That means all our games are in tiny towns like home) really early so we could do some shopping.  Xavier had received some birthday money so we had fun picking out books and clothes together.  First, though, we ate lunch at McAlister's Deli. Yum! Daddy doesn't like that place so we have to save it for Mommy/Son dates.  They have great kids meals and some locations only charge 99 cents! We made it to the football game in time and J.J. drove us back to our hotel on Friday evening.  Well, it has not rained here in ever so long.  The summer just stretched on and on with heat and drought.  I was never so happy to feel the arrival of Fall as this year.  Needless to say the weather was perfect this Saturday morning for rain and who was I to complain when we needed it so desperately.  Both pumpkin patches in this town were closed due to the weather.  We ended up visiting a stand near a grocery store.  Xavier didn't know the difference and he did get to pick his own pumpkin and ride in a wagon.  I guess we'll try again next year.  On a side note, our own little pumpkin patch that I had written off as a beautiful mess of huge vines is actually producing some pumpkins now.  Stay tuned for more adventures as we attempt baking from our own garden!
Lunch at McAlister's

Being pulled in the wagon

Pulling the wagon

Choosing the perfect pumpkin

I love this picture! We didn't even tell him to grab the pumpkin.  He did it all on his own.

Picking out some baby pumpkins

Taking the wagon back to the lot

Snoozing on the drive home with bear

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Homecoming week was a very busy time at the school.  Since Xavier and I only stop by the school once a day to bring Daddy tea, we missed out on most of the excitement.  I mean I probably did wear pajamas on Monday, but that isn't too much different than any other Monday. =)  We let Daddy have all the fun of dressing up, decorating the school, and painting the football field until wee hours of the morning.  We did attend the parade and the football game so I got a few pictures.  Congratulations on another win Panthers!

 Daddy and Xavier at the parade

 Momma and Xavier at the parade

 Having fun at home waiting for the game to begin

Reading a book with Grandpa and Granny at the game

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Projects: Fall Tree

Warning: This post contains pictures of my child using scissors.  Okay, now you have been warned.
I don't know if it is my innate need to teach or how long the afternoons stretch before J.J. gets home or maybe another factor, but Xavier and I have begun doing projects in the afternoons.  Just one a day.  We've painted with leaves, made a moon out of wax paper/foil, and other things.  I started a longer project this week and decided to take pictures.  Why not?
 We actually started this project yesterday by making the owls.

 Thanks to this tree Xavier now says "owl" and "hoo" multiple times in the day.

 We are just getting started with all our supplies.

Xavier is cutting out the faces for the kitties.

 Getting ready to glue on the eyes. (This is not an ad for Elmer's glue, but if they want to send me some money I won't object.)

 Gluing on the eyes.  Xavier came up with the idea to cut the whiskers in the sides of the faces in the way only little kids can, by just doing it himself.

 My help got distracted mid-project so I cut the legs myself.

 Pressing the faces into the glue

 A fun side project of cutting string.

 We played with play dough while the glue dried.

 A finished orange kitty..

And a finished and still happy helper.  This project is almost complete.  Tomorrow we are going to add bats.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Just Thinking

We got some pictures developed yesterday and they got me thinking. During the waiting period in between trip 1 and our court date we felt pretty stuck not being able to see our little guy. We had some friends that got an earlier court date and as things began looking slower and slower for our own travel time we asked them for a big favor. We asked them to purchase a disposable camera while they were in the country and send it back to the baby home so we would at least have some pictures from that waiting time. We knew full well we would not see the pictures until we brought Xavier home, but it would at least give us an idea of how his days had been spent. The caregiver that traveled with Xavier brought the camera to us along with one of the books we had left on our first trip. It got shuffled into a suitcase and I found it again while cleaning the bedroom. The orphanage workers had only taken a few snapshots, so Xavier and I had the fun of taking pictures of ourselves to use up the film. Yesterday we dropped the film off at the one-hour place during a fun family evening out. I really wanted to rip that envelope open as soon as we picked it up an hour later, but I waited until we got into the truck so J.J. could give his full attention to the unveiling. We pulled some grainy pictures out and held our breath. Sure enough there was our son sitting at a table with some of his little friends. The caretakers had taken about 6 pictures and it appeared that they were not all taken the same day. Most were not good quality (I don't think they realized there was a flash button), which is while you will have to wait for the computer touch-ups for most of the pictures. Don't hold your breath until then! We did get a few pictures though and they made me think about all those babies still waiting in orphanages. I wondered if any of the babies in Xavier's group have already been adopted. Our region seemed very active. We met several families all working with the same baby home. I truly pray they have found homes. There was one little girl we will never forget and she is sitting next to Xavier at the little table in the photograph. She was wearing a little purple dress the day we visited and she waved "Paka" to us long after our son had gone back to playing. I'm almost crying just thinking about her little life. Jesus really does love the little children. Please keep praying that all these precious babies will find a home.

Monday, September 12, 2011

We have a two year old!

Xavier has actually been two for over a week, but we scheduled his party strategically so my sister could come for the celebration. We actually had two parties the same day. We had a lunch for my dad's 60th birthday before the cook-out for Xavier. Here are some fun pictures our neighbor and good friend took. My camera did not even make it to the party, but at least at an event like this you have people to back you up in the photography department. Oh, that's not entirely true. My sister used my video camera so we could get some live action shots of the fun.

I was able to pull off the Dr. Seuss theme. I didn't get everything exactly the way I wanted, but I still think it was a success. Our guests seemed to enjoy themselves. The weather was fabulous! Xavier just ran around playing and enjoying life. Since I did not get the labels made you will get to be the privileged ones to know that the cupcakes are Star-Bellied Sneetches (yellow) and Thing 2's (red). I think that point might have been lost in the process of the party, but they at least tasted good. I told J.J. that we could never celebrate enough for all the joy we have received, but he was quick to point out that in reality we had reached our max for cake baking, decorating, and party planning. I guess I'll have to save up all my planning ideas until next year. Well, there is always Christmas!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Words, Words, and some more Words

Speech. I think that must rank high on the mental list of "things to be concerned about when bringing a child home from another country" that adoptive parents keep in their heads. Well, maybe not you, but it was certainly on my list. You want to communicate with this child. He/she is not a tiny baby without any words based communication skills. What if he/she is already speaking some of his/her native language and you can't understand them? What is he/she is not speaking at all? We got lots of advice on this topic or at least questions about how things might go. I was honestly not sure at all. I know I've taught, but speech was always confusing to me. Why does one child in a home develop a speech difficulty when everyone around him is speaking perfectly fine? I've always just gone with the "talk a bunch and label" method. Obviously I have no research to back this up, although I have had the joy of watching several students transition into a second language over the course of a school year which is always amazing, but Xavier seems to be doing just fine. I keep thinking maybe I'm missing something. We have such a fabulous child! Maybe I'm overlooking some problem in his development, but time and time again he does things or says things that surprise me. J.J. and I had to make a list of words he can say because we can't even keep track. Let's see how many I can remember:
1. up 2. dog 3. on 4. kitty 5. ball 6. blue 7. meow 8. woof-woof 9. quack 10. water 11. snack
12. please 13. thank you 14. bottom 15. eye 16. diaper 17. pull 18. wow 19. oh yeah 20. book
21. walk 22. shoe 23. whoa 24. Dada 25. Mamma 26. sing 27. box
Okay, I know there are more, but they are just not coming to me right now. I feel like I'm bragging on my child and maybe I am. At the same time I don't want to forget how much progress he has made. It is truly amazing to me and a testimony to how wonderful adoption can be. Please don't misunderstand me. Adopting our son was tough and raising him is even more difficult. He is not a perfect child. He hits me in the face. He throws toys that should never be thrown. He pushes the spoon away when he no longer feels like eating something. See, he is a normal two year old! Despite all those normal obstacles I really want to make sure people understand just how wonderful adoption is. I wish I could talk so many people into adopting. So, if you are considering adoption and you are concerned about communicating with your child don't get stuck on that subject. Before you know it your child will be saying and signing "No" to you and if they don't it wasn't a competition to begin with and there are so many resources for speech and development available. Check that one off the mental list.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Confession Time

I tried posting this before, but I didn't get up the courage to actually publish the post. Maybe this one will be even better. Here it is...becoming a stay-at-home mom has not been the easiest transition for me. There! I said it. I know that I asked for this. I know it is the best thing for my child and my family as a whole. It has just taken me some time to warm up the actuality of the idea. Oh, the idea itself is beautiful and looking at it from a distance it seemed so warm and fuzzy, but the day to day living so many hours alone with an active toddler is challenging. J.J. and I spent a long time debating about how our working lives needed to change once we brought Xavier home. We weighed the pros and cons of all the options and then pretty much threw out those numbers and prayed. In the end we knew I was going to stay home and be his full time caregiver. It was just what our family was suppose to become. Now I wanted to stay home and nobody forced me. J.J. never demanded this responsibility of me and I never felt pressured. He has been 100% supportive and always made sure I knew that if I just couldn't give up teaching we would find another way. At the same time I knew staying home was the right decision. Reality is that right doesn't usually equal easy. I loved teaching. I wanted to teach since I was in grade school. It is a challenging and rewarding profession. I never really wanted to do anything else, except be a mom. It took us awhile to reach this point of parenthood and I always espoused that I would stay home when our long awaited child finally arrived, so here I am. Please notice that most of these verbs have been past tense. Things are changing for me and God is helping me adjust to this new stage of life. I haven't said anything because, truthfully, when you work as hard at getting a child as J.J. and I have you feel guilty if you even hint at complaining about something. Like, "Who is she to complain? Didn't she want this so much? What did she think this was going to be a walk in the park? Shouldn't she be happy all the time?" and other things I ridiculously assume other people must be thinking if I dare voice any unhappiness at the present circumstances. So I have been working through things with God's help and J.J.'s help and Xavier's help and a few people who I know will love me regardless. Some of them are family and they have no choice. =) Today I can honestly say I enjoy staying home. Do I love it? That might be stretching it, but I have come to appreciate it more and more. During VBS we hired a babysitter for those 3 hours each morning so I could focus on the task at hand. Each day she would bring Xavier over to the church as parents were coming to pick kids up. He would seem happy to see me, but in his usual happy, g0-lucky way he would hurry to play in the nursery with all the other kids waiting on rides. The last day though he wanted to be picked up right away and he put both of his little hands on either side of my face as if to say, "Is it really you, Momma?". I have often been annoyed by those people spouting about "ah-ha" moments as if you couldn't just learn something slowly over time, it has to just hit you in the face, but I knew at that moment that I not only needed to stay home with my son, I wanted to stay home with my son. So J.J. is back in the classroom and all the kids are back in their desks while Xavier and I make sound effects while throwing clothes in the dryer, jump all over the guest bed, sit on the potty at random times throughout the day, go for walks to air up low stroller tires and do so many other things together that I would miss while working. We are still figuring out ours routines or lack thereof and I do not profess to be very proficient at my new job, but it is a job I am now happy to have.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A picture is worth a thousand words

I have been very lax about putting pictures on the blog lately, so here are a few snapshots from our recent weeks together. By the way, we have now been home for two months. Amazing!!
Taking a nap with Momma. It took him forever to get comfortable and that is the way he chose to lay. Kids! You gotta love them.

Experiencing the joy of licking batter off the mixer blades for the first time. We were making chocolate chip zucchini cupcakes.


Swinging always seems to prompt the word, "Again!".

"Do I really have to sit here while you two golf?"

Our first family golf outing let Xavier try out his unique swing on some real greens.

So much has happened in the last two months, but I am still pretty bad at taking pictures. I'm grateful being a good parent is not measured in how well you document your child's days. I hope it is measured in some smiles because those moments are truly priceless.