Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An Instagram Halloween

Trick or Treats

Hayride

Pumpkin Picking

Elephant Hats Optional

Joy Comes in the Morning

A year ago this week Charli turned 5 in the hospital, two hours from home. She had 18 balloons, a mountain of gifts, and the undivided attention of her family and a whole floor of nurses. But let's face it, a birthday in the hospital stinks.
This weekend we celebrated her 6th birthday at HOME. She planned her luau themed party herself, and we followed her instructions to the letter. It was the least we could do, seeing as she had to wait two years to have a proper birthday party. The party was wildly fun and exhausting and deserves a post all its own.

Then the little booger surprised us with this.

video

Yes, that's a page of braille she's reading. I've been teaching children to read for a decade now, but nothing compares to the wonder of hearing my own children read. Conner has been reading for almost a year. Charli declared that she too would read when she turned six. I secretly wondered if it would take her longer to learn in braille. She showed me!

Happy Birthday sweet girl. 
I know you are going to continue to amaze us.


"You changed my sorrow into dancing.
       You took away my clothes of sadness,
       and clothed me in happiness." Psalm 30:11

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fun with Brown Bear

CG had the honor of babysitting Brown Bear for her kindergarten class this weekend. The assignment is to take Brown Bear along and write a journal entry about his adventures. This is quite the big deal for our girl. Brown Bear hasn't left her side. Because her mom is a teacher, CG's photo captions all included a little manners lesson. Brown Bear is a role model you know.

Brown Bear uses good manners in a restaurant.

Brown Bear takes turns on the slide.

 
Brown Bear is quiet in the library.

As you can see it was a whirlwind weekend. Thanks for stopping by Brown Bear!

Sunday Snapshot

Monday, September 05, 2011

Back to School

We are three weeks into the school year and I've finally found time to sit down and blog about it. Chad and I started off the year with a system wide meeting. Don't we look cute in our rival school t-shirts?
The kids started a week later. They are both doing really well and love their teachers. I can say without hesitation that we made the right choice putting Charli in our local school. She is thriving.

The week before school started I broke my middle toe. Pretty huh? The nurse at the Urgent Care said, "Oh my!" when she saw the x-ray. I used much stronger language when the break happened... Who knew one little broken toe could hurt SO BADLY?

So I spent the first two weeks of school wearing this lovely shoe. I was in so much pain when the nurse brought it that I didn't care what it looked like. I can finally walk without it, but I'm afraid I'm going to be stuck with a funky looking, sore middle toe for the rest of my life.




It has been a month since Chad's dad passed away. Strange how it feels like so much longer. It gets a little easier with the passing days, but then the sadness sneaks up when we least expect it. I was filling out a paper for the school about who would be attending Grandparent's Day with the kids, when suddenly the tears came. Mom's name just didn't look right without his beside it. Little things like that seem to be the hardest.

Maybe broken hearts are a little like broken toes... They heal but are never quite the same as before.


The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed. Psalm 34:17-19

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Goodbye Buddy













Chad's dad died Wednesday. His health had been failing over the last few months and while it wasn't unexpected it still hurts so badly. In the 16 years that Chad and I have been together Dad always treated me as his very own daughter. We joked that I was his fourth child. He loved Conner and Charli Grace (his namesake) dearly. He especially loved their shenanigans and chuckled at Chad and I pulling our hair out. (We call that 'paying for your raising' here in the south.) He bought the loudest, most obnoxious birthday and Christmas gifts and made sure they went home with us rather than stay in the toy box at his house. There were always hot-wheels cars in his desk for the kids. We even found some there the day he died... just waiting for the kids' next visit.

He was a meticulous planner and organizer. One binder contained everything needed for his arrangements. All Mom had to do was sign a few papers and everything was ready. He approached his spiritual life in the same careful way. Chad found his Bible filled with notes, family records, and records of blessings and answered prayers. Dad loved his God, his wife, his family, his work and friends. He built his house on the rock and we are all so much the better for it.

Goodbye Buddy. The wait is going to be hard, but we will see you again someday.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

Monday, August 01, 2011

An Impromptu Trip

My bestie, Lisa, called this weekend and invited us along for an impromptu trip to Lake Winnepesaukah. Chad was at camp with our youth group, and I was a little nervous about driving so far with the kids by myself, but we loaded up the car anyway and followed the caravan north.

The adventure was totally worth the interstate driving and heat rash. (It was only like 100 degrees.) There were only a few rides the kids were too short to ride and they rode their favorites over and over.   Thanks Lisa and Jarrod for inviting us along and helping seize the day!
Charli and Reagan stuck together like glue.

We rode the 95 year old carousel several times.

I checked "ride a ferris wheel" off my bucket list.




Go out and have an adventure!                                                                                          








Friday, July 22, 2011

New Do

Before

During (All Smiles!)

After

It has taken a looooong time for CG's hair to reach her shoulders. But honestly the look wasn't working. Multiple trips under anesthesia in the past year really thinned it out. She had a kind of wispy mullet thing going on in the back, but she wasn't ready to give up the hair that took so long to grow out. Not to mention that the lingering issues from having her head shaved at the orphanage made hair cuts not so fun.

This week our China friend, Lily, got an adorable hair cut. I showed CG the pictures, and suddenly she was ready for a big girl do. She jumped right into the chair at the salon, and without a single tear my baby became a big girl.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Welcome Home


Adam and Titus are home and settling in to their new life in the US. Reading their mom's blog and hearing how well they are doing makes me so tremendously happy. Thank you God for the miracle of adoption and the miracle of family. 
Jennifer, their mom, had this to say. "Another sweet end of the day...Adam told me 'Washington good, very good' then I said how about your family, mom, dad, sisters, brother, he said 'very good Ma, very good!' then he ran off giggling with joy."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

I was in a wedding this weekend...

along with some of my favorite people.

Conner was a little gentleman.
I got to dance with this handsome fellow.

The bride was beautiful. Charli Grace felt like a princess.
It was an unforgettable weekend.



Sunday Snapshot

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Family Day 3

On Monday we celebrated Charli's family day with spaghetti and meatballs, chicken legs, and cupcakes with red, white, and blue sprinkles. (She chose the menu of course.) The fact that she came home to us on July 4th makes the day all the more special. 

Coincidentally, we received some serious new braille gear this week. Miss Charli is the proud owner of a refurbished Mountbatten Brailler. It is quite possibly the coolest brailler I have ever seen. Her old brailler was like a manual typewriter, bulky and hard to press. The Mountbatten is electronic and gives immediate feedback for learning. It speaks each letter as it is brailled. I can even plug in a regular keyboard and braille anything Charli needs. It is going to make going to "regular" school so much easier for both her and her teachers.

Mainstreaming has been our goal for CG all along. She attended our school system's early intervention preschool for three years with fabulous results. This spring Charli was evaluated at our state's school for the blind in hopes of getting information to help her make the transition  to "big school." I walked in with her confident that she was going to wow the evaluator with her large vocabulary, solid phonemic awareness, print knowledge, and the several braille letters could recognize and produce on a brailler.

Well as they say, pride comes before a fall. Just a few questions into the evaluation CG clammed up. It was a long and uncomfortable morning. She managed to braille a, b, c, and whisper a few answers to the evaluator's questions. The more we coaxed, the more she pulled into her shell. This was not my girl at all. The old ghosts of anxiety and fear we have worked so hard to overcome were rearing their ugly heads in this unfamiliar environment. Still, I asked the evaluator to give me his honest opinion. The picture he painted of mainstreaming was far from sunny, warning that CG could fall further behind her peers academically. (Mind you other experts have told us exactly the opposite.) Of course I burst into tears.

Then the evaluator told me, "It's difficult to decide to send your child away." 

He really said that y'all.

Well, I spent the next two days doing what I usually do when I'm angry and upset. I cried A LOT. And I cleaned the house. By the end of those two days I had enormous bags under my eyes, a sparkling house, and a new resolve. Charli already had one set of parents who had sent her away because of her blindness and as long as I was breathing she wasn't going to have another. (Now I may have used some stronger language when I declared this to Chad. Poor guy has to take the brunt of my mama bear rants.)

So our mission this summer is to hit the braille and hit it hard. Just ask my mama, the best way to get me fired up is to make me mad and tell me something can't be done. I found a scripted curriculum called Kester Braille that we are using daily. We are a third of the way through the alphabet and things are looking good. We are sticking to the original plan and she will enter the same outstanding school where her brother attends and dad teaches. She will be the first print/braille reader they have had, and is being welcomed with open arms and plenty of support. I'm confident that with God's help things are going to be fine and our little trailblazer will be amazing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

Writing C
Looking for all the L's on the Page
Conner is working too. Poor teachers' kids never get a break.






Sunday, April 17, 2011

Free




We released the butterflies this weekend. I can't help but think of what a fantastic metaphor they are for  transformation we find in Christ. Those ugly little caterpillars were changed into beautiful butterflies, no longer bound to crawl around in the muck. They were meant to soar.

Before the release, I had visions of cute photos of butterflies perched on the kids' fingers. The butterflies had different plans. One by one they zoomed out of their enclosure, over the house, and out of sight. Who knew a painted lady could be so quick?!

I only had time to snap a blurry picture of the one butterfly I was concerned about. She had emerged from her chrysalis with a bent wing. She was last to make her way out of the enclosure and I wasn't sure that she would be able to fly at all. She paused on my finger, fluttered her wings, and took off after her siblings. Even with her imperfection, she was meant to soar as well.

We are all like that butterfly. In some way each of us is wounded. Some physically, some emotionally, some more deeply than others. The little hurt butterfly could have cowered in her old place, satisfied to live the life she had always known on the ground. But she didn't. This week I pray that I can be like the butterfly, not bound by my weakness, but free in Christ to fulfill his plan for me.


He heals the brokenhearted
   and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

But those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Aspirations

 Last month we had an appointment with Charli Grace's low vision specialist. A low vision specialist is a optometrist who specializes in helping patients get the most out of their remaining vision. Our doctor also makes recommendations regarding school and the type of accommodations will be the most effective. She had not seen CG since well before her cornea transplant and the infection. She was able to assure us that CG's vision is essentially the same as it was pre-transplant. She also told us that with the right technology and accommodations that CG will be able to have a successful year in Kindergarten. 

She also connected us with Sight Savers America. They generously awarded us with a grant for a CCTV.  It is a flat screen monitor with a camera attached underneath. It magnifies anything you slide under the camera and can even adjust the contrast or color. She has one at school, but this is going to make a huge difference in her ability to do homework and enjoy picture books at home.

With this type of technology, the sky is the limit for CG. Her doctors have told us all along that driving will be one of her only limitations. (Although even that limitation may be gone in the future.) An education, a career, a family; these dreams are all within her reach. 

So far CG has had several career plans. Fold clothes at American Eagle. Be pretty teacher like mommy. (awww...) Have three babies and live with you and daddy. (uh, no)

At dinner this week we were talking about a family friend who happens to be an attorney. The kids wanted to know what a lawyer does so I explained that they know a lot about laws and help people follow them. I told CG she would be a great attorney since she is obsessed with interested in "the rules."

"But mom, who will drive me to work?"

"I'm sure we can work that out. But if you need somebody, I'll drive you."

Later at bath-time CG came up with a transportation plan of her own.

"You know mom, D (her best school buddy since 3k) told me he is going to marry me when he grows up. So HE can drive me around."

You've got to love a girl with a plan.
But you two and your three babies are going to have to find a place of your own.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

They should be forming a chrysalis any day now, so I suppose this could be the ugly awkward teenage stage.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Meet the Pillars'

Meet Bill, Jill, Will, Lil, and Phil. They came in the mail today. These things thrive in the great outdoors so surely they can survive our house. Right?