Family Pictures

My amazingly talented and sweet friend Amanda met us at the park in early February to take a few family pictures.  I am so happy we got to capture this special stage of family life.  Aubrey and Thatcher are so full of personality and excitement, and we have so much fun together.  I am also treasuring the pictures of just me and Dan.  In most photos these days, one of us is usually behind the camera, so it was really special to have a few shots of us– not as parents, but as husband and wife.  One of the main reasons we wanted to take family photos was to commemorate our journey (of adoption) toward our little one.  We have cherished ultrasound images, pictures of my belly expanding with love and life, and the hopeful smiles of waiting parents from my pregnancies with Aubrey and Thatcher.  We wanted to celebrate the growing love that is happening in our lives now, and have some special images to tuck into our little one’s baby book too.  I am tearing up just thinking of the moment we can show our child how we were waiting, and anticipating, and already loving him/her.  I know that moment won’t be just once, but time and time again: “See?  This is us before you came home.  We couldn’t wait to meet you!  We were so excited.  See that sign?  See that extra chair?  See those boots?  Those are for you!  Little one, you were wanted, you were cherished, you were loved.  And you always will be.  Forever and ever.”

(click any photo to see it bigger, comment, or view as a slideshow)

You can find out more about our adoption here.

Advertisements

Game-Changer

In my high-school/college years, whenever I got into a funk, I would get in the car, roll down the windows, and drive…  usually to the beach.  Just getting away gave me a mental break.  Being at the beach gave me space and peace.  And I think there is something about nature that reminds us about the big picture (“the forest through the trees”), and leads me to prayer.  These days, it is not so easy to just hop in the car and head to the beach.  With a toddler and a preschooler, the preparations and aftermath of a day-trip to the coast are enough to tip the scales from “relaxing” to (let’s call it) “adventure.”

Today has been one of those days when I wished for a game-changer.  The weather has been cloudy and gloomy, and a certain toddler’s attitude was like a puddle of mud, reflecting those clouds.  It’s hard for me not to get dragged down into the bad attitude puddle as well.  Usually, that is the point at which I put on some music and declare Dance Party Time.  But I just wasn’t feeling it today.

I thought of the time I took the kids out for ice cream at bedtime.  Dan was working out of town, and I met some friends for dinner at a restaurant.  You guys know what “out for dinner” is like with a 1-to-2 ratio, right?  None of us ate much, and I’m pretty sure I spent more calories trying to keep the kids quiet/happy/eating/not-climbing-on-the-table than I actually consumed.  So, instead of going home for bath and bedtime, we stopped at the ice cream shop first.  It seems counter-intuitive to put another rung on the ladder between “now” and bedtime, and add sugar to the equation.  But it was perfect.  The kids ran around in the glow of the sunset, and I got an ice cream cone (with sprinkles) all to myself.

When the weather is nice, a playground (or even just the backyard) can be a game-changer.  And obviously, ice cream cannot always be the go-to game-changer.  Some days we pull the shades down in one of the bedrooms and play with flashlights.  Or bring out a special toy we haven’t played with in a long time (like a tent).  And of course, there is the Dance Party.

I love being a Mom.  Even on the bad-attitude, nothing-went-according-to-plan, two-steps-back kind of days, there is nothing else I would rather do, no place I would rather be.  But some days, it’s good to have a game-changer up your sleeve.

What’s your Game-Changer?

Daydreaming: Room for Two

Dan calls it “low-stakes worrying.”  I pick a problem to solve that isn’t actually a big problem, and work on solving it.  It keeps my mind busy, and away from the big “what if” worries that you really can’t do anything about anyway.  It is also a great way to wait for an appointment or stand in line.  For years (I kid you not), it was baby names.  Lately I have been thinking of how we will make room for two kids in one of our kids’ bedrooms.

It’s a bit complicated because we are not sure how old our child will be when he/she comes home (consider the different sleep needs of a 9 month old versus a 3 year old).  We are also not exactly sure how big our “big kids” will be when their new sibling comes home.  However, home-coming is not imminent…  Therefore, it is the perfect “low-stakes worry.”  We think that initially– regardless of our child’s age– he or she will sleep (in a crib/bed) in our room.  We want to do whatever we can to bond with our child, letting her know we will be there if she needs anything.  So being close together at night time makes sense to us.  After we all settle in a bit, we think he or she will share a room with the same-gender sibling (if we have a girl, she will share with Aubrey, etc).

A few years ago, Dan and I found this awesome online tool that allows you to rearrange a room without lifting a finger.  It was super useful when we were shopping for new bedroom furniture and needed to know what would fit in our room, and how to make the best use of our space!  Both the kids’ rooms are about the same shape, so we recently spent some time daydreaming about how we would set up a shared bedroom for a little kid and a big kid.

potential kids' room layout

I think it turned out cute!  We included (clockwise) a dresser/changing table, big round toy basket, a crib/toddler bed, laundry basket, bookshelf/toy shelf, and a “big kid” bed (the Ikea “Sundvik“).  It is important to me that there is still room to play, and I was happy to see there totally is!

I’ve heard some people like to do crosswords, but I think rearranging furniture is good brain exercise too.

love, Natalie

p.s. I know about bunk-beds, but I am just not ready for that!

Surprised by Love

You guys.  Our friends have been trying for years to conceive, and in a whirlwind of God’s timing they decided to officially pursue adoption, complete their home study, and just weeks later they have a daughter!!!  Adoption had always been a part of their plan, but the timing was a complete surprise.  And now I am crying.  Crying because I have two babies, and I know this kind of love…  These friends—they are precious.  They already love this little baby, and the best is yet to come.

The good, the bad.  The beauty, the mess.  You hear about it.  The crying at night, the pacing the hall, the wondering if you are ever going to sleep again.  Or eat again.  Or if you are doing any of it right.  You hear about how fast they grow up.  How sweet they are.  How worth it.  That’s what you hear.  (And you may even hear more than you want to hear.)

And then, one day, she is here.  Your first little baby.  Smaller than you thought, but bigger than your whole world.  How could she have ever not existed?  How have you ever spent a day not holding her close, smelling her sweet baby smell, watching her grow?

And it hits you.  You are surprised by love.  There is nothing she has done to earn it.  There is no way she could merit more, and yet it grows every day.  There is nothing she could do to lose it, and its strength will really be proven in a year or two when she fights you all day, and you still.just.love.her.  And you long for her love.

You may not have a baby yet.  I have many friends who are just longing.  Waiting and longing.  And already loving.  They are not parents yet, but they already have parent love overflowing their hearts.  They are learning about this unmerited, blind love in an aching way.  And I pray with faith that it will bring so much fruit someday soon.  This relentless love.

And what is even more amazing than your love for your child—the only thing more amazing—is that this love, this good, good love we are growing into and learning and beginning to know… This love is like the love God has for us.

The Psalms tell about God’s love for us when we were knitted together in our mother’s womb.  He plans for us, pursues us, longs for us, and goes before us to show us the way to Him.  He knows when we sit and when we rise.  And wherever we go, He searches us and knows us.  He forgives us, and He does not stop loving us.

I am surprised by it every day.  In small moments.  After a lengthy at-the-top-of-his-lungs-on-the-floor tantrum (caused by me not stirring the pot the right way while cooking dinner), I just still love my little boy.  And I wonder what God thinks when I am disappointed by my plans not going the way I wanted them to go.  When they are amazed at the gift I give them, it makes me so happy, and I think of how God delights when we delight in His creation.  I am surprised when I wake up for the 3rd time by 3 a.m. to comfort a teething baby, and I still love to cuddle him.  And I thank God for the ways He comforts me.  I am surprised by love when I have an overwhelming, exhausting, defeating day of parenting, and I then miss my children after I put them to bed.  And I wonder if God has been missing me that day.  When they ask “Why?”  Why can’t they have that thing they want so much.  When they do that thing—the thing we have warned them about that they know could hurt them, and then they are hurt.  In those moments I am a parent, and I am just a child.  Desperately loved by my Father; desperately needing His love.

It is the best thing about parenting by far.  It isn’t something special that I am doing or am particularly skilled at.  It is just something God grows in us.  Our love for our children is a glimpse of His love for us.

And it is surprising me again.  When we started earnestly discussing adoption, Dan and I both had honest fears.  Fears about how adopting would affect our family, our children, our marriage.  When we committed to adopt a child, we committed to loving our child no matter what.  And over those years—since those very first conversations Dan and I had about whether we might ever consider adopting a child—God has been growing love in our hearts for a child.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment when my perspective changed from “adopting a child” to “bringing home my baby…”  It just did.  I have a longing.  A love.  I don’t even know how it started, or how big it will get.  How strenuously it will be tested, or how long it will take to be returned.  But I know it is there.  Inexplicable.  Impractical.  Unexpected.  I love a child I have not yet met.  One of my babies isn’t home in my arms.  I can’t even describe how unsettling that feeling is.  But I will not stop loving you, Little One.  No matter where you are, or how long it takes to bring you here.  No matter what you do, or if you ever love me back.  I already love you.  I can’t wait to surprise you with our love.

Girl Time

I never realized what a “girly” girl I was until I had a daughter.  Ever since I found these pink bunny crib sheets when I was pregnant with Aubrey, it was game over.  I knew pink and green would be the color palette for her nursery, and I embraced the soft, sparkly, sweet side.Bunny Crib SheetsNow Aubrey is old enough to enjoy going to events, and we have been blessed the last few months with some special opportunities for Aubrey & Mommy dates.  In early December, my friend surprised us with tickets to see the Cinderella Ballet.  It was our first ballet ever, and Aubrey cried when it was over.  Her consolation was that as we left we met many of the dancers, and she said “Great job!” to each one.

Meeting Cinderella and The Prince

In mid-December Aubrey and I went to a “Fancy Nancy Tea Party” at our local library.  Fancy Nancy is a character from a series of children’s books (of the same name).  Nancy loves dressing up and accessorizing (she also teaches the “fancy” way to say things as a fun way to build vocabulary).  I like the term “fancy.”  Aubrey used to dress up and say “I’m so beautiful!”  Now we remind her that “she is beautiful no matter what she wears; dressing up just makes her feel fancy.”  At the tea party: the librarian read a book, the children helped decide what things were fancy and what things were plain, then the children made crowns, and had hors d’oeuvres and pink-lemonade tea (pinkies up!).

At the end of the month, Aubrey and I went to The Nutcracker Ballet.  We read a Nutcracker book before the ballet so we would be able to follow along with the story during the performance.  The Cinderella ballet was a local production, and the Nutcracker was done by a national ballet company, so I was interested in seeing the difference.  I truly loved both ballets, but the Nutcracker had a better flow, and created a more cohesive and powerful story in less time.  Part of the difference probably came from the fact that the Cinderella ballet was very long.  I think every dancer in the company was featured– even if it meant they had to come up with 100 new roles; and on behalf of all their moms, I didn’t mind at all.

During the Nutcracker ballet I asked Aubrey what she thought and she said “I have two happy tears because it is so beautiful!”  I love to experience new things with Aubrey because she is so unabashed with excitement and wonder, and I feel like I have permission to join her.

After the holidays passed, one of Aubrey’s best friends Ansley came over for a highly-anticipated play date.  Many weeks ago, Ansley told Aubrey about the movie “Aristocats,” and the girls came up with a plan (all on their own) to watch the movie together for a sleepover.  They literally made the plan over dinner, then Aubrey turned to me and said “I’m going over to Ansley’s for a sleepover!!!”  Amanda and I convinced the girls that a “naptime” sleepover was just as good as a nighttime sleepover, and we would plan a day soon.  Ansley was out of town for Christmas, and all the while Aubrey reminded me of their special plans.  So, when Ansley returned, we had lunch and movie date.  Amanda and I made kitty-cat sandwiches (which upon seeing the girls joyfully exclaimed “Bunnies!”).  They made cat-ear headbands, and created a cozy spot in Aubrey’s room to watch their movie.  They wrapped up the play date by putting together a ballerina floor puzzle.  It was super fun.  I am beyond grateful that my daughter’s best girl friend is the daughter of one of my best girl friends!

Wondering what Dan and Thatcher were up to during girl time?  They were having guy time.  If I hadn’t kept the camera with me for all these occasions, I would happily share pictures of Thatcher sleeping and Dan working out and fixing things.  One of my friends recently shared that she and her husband take turns taking their kids out (one-on-one) for “dates” every Wednesday night.  I thought that was a really neat idea.  Maybe next week, I can take Thatcher to the playground while Dan does a craft project at home with Aubrey, and then we could flip-flop the following week.  How do you spend special time with your kids?

P1290904

This Princess loves working with tools!

love, Natalie