Friday, September 9, 2016

Ready Or Not!

      I thought summer was busy and rather chaotic....and really I was more than ready to get back into a regular routine.  It's only a few days into the school year and I'm beginning to realize what should have been's just a different kind of busy and chaos now!  However, after several challenging months where I was just barely keeping up with the day to day demands of life and taking care of my family, I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  And I want to be sure to stop and take in all the gifts around me.  There is so much to be thankful for and reflect on....

      This lovely lady had a fun-filled summer which a lot of activities and excitement.  But one far outweighed all the rest.....being reunited with her best friend.  I hope to write a long over-due post on that soon!  They thoroughly enjoyed their sleepovers and adventures and it was certainly a blessing to witness!  Last school year ended with all of us going through some intense therapy into the early summer, and though we've had some setbacks, I'm so thankful to say that we ended the summer on an entirely different note.  Saying goodbye to Karina, along with starting a new school and experiencing actual try-outs to be a on a sports team was a combination that I feared, and at one time could have equaled disaster.  But this girl has been doing really well....excited, optimistic and working hard!  We were able to tour her new school together and I could sense her enthusiasm about this new start.  The nerves were there, but they didn't get the best of her....instead, she just bashfully took my hand as we walked in.  "I just want to," she explained.  I think it's safe to say, she was the only junior high student walking into orientation holding her mom's hand.  Maybe the only one in the world.  But what could have been extremely overwhelming for her, was instead a new challenge with new opportunities.  We laughed as we found ourselves lost and struggling to open her anxiety.  Her first day at soccer tryouts....dropping her off at a new school with new kids...not quite sure what to expect or how she'd do, and as we walked up she kept saying how nervous she was.  I came back early so I could get a glimpse....I was nervous for her, honestly.  I don't think I'd have half the courage she does about things, and in many ways it's still hard to let her go on her own....whereas most kids may be ready at this stage of life, I feel we still have so much time to make up for.  But again I was blown away by what I witnessed.....and the evidence of how far this kid has come.  She was walking with friends, talking and laughing.....I know, it sounds so expected.....but no, it's huge.  On the field she gave it her all....but she was aware....passing to others....playing her position.  When it was time to wrap up, the coach asked if someone could grab the flags.  Immediately, she ran to get them.  As we were leaving, she made it a point to say thank you and goodbye to her coach.  I could not have been more proud.  And then she shared that she finished second in the mile run.  So very proud of this girl.  Every kid is so different, and needs to be celebrated based on their own hard work and progress.  The light is so bright these days, and I think this sweet girl is finally getting a glimpse!  All as we celebrate her 2nd Gotcha day! God is so faithful.  "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

    This sweet guy was all ready for his pictures after watching Keira and Levi have theirs taken....not only was he ready, he told me where he was going to stand and multiple locations!  He is such a character...and he has been sharing with everyone that he will be homeschooled until he is eighteen!  He is so funny.....he is truly such a social kid, and yet he is a home-body in many ways and loves getting to stay home and learn here.  I'll take it!  I was surprised by how excited he was to start school this year.  Maybe it's the opportunity to get some one on one time, or that I've been able to really cater to his interests...but either way, he's been enthusiastic and working hard!  It's always amazing to see the changes in his ability when we begin a new school year.  Despite the fact that we didn't do any actual school, aside from reading, during the summer, there's always some very obvious growth.  


   I was amazed at how little guidance he needed in constructing this water wheel.....where not so long ago he would have wanted me to do all the work, he was happy to take charge and figure it out.  

   I love to see him excited about what he's learning.....and to watch as he experiences new things.  It's so fun to see things through his eyes as well.  Often times he experiments even further in ways I would not have thought of.  Such a fun opportunity we have!  Not everything he's involved in has started up yet so we're just easing into the school year which is kind of nice.  He did, however, have his first soccer practice.....

        I love that he has picked up a love for soccer from his big sister.  It's so sweet to watch them get excited about something together.  But I also love that this little guy is his own person.  He has a mind of his own  I pray that he never loses that quality!

Oh this boy!  He truly is such a cutie....and one of the most loving little boys.  He has a way of charming everyone that really works in his favor once he starts showing his mischievous side.  He was excited to get on the bus for his first day....I'm always amazed at how unfazed he is to just go off on this adventure on his own.  And once again, this year, his backpack got the best of is is literally trying to catch his balance because it was too heavy for him!  

Watching for the bus to come.....

It's so hard to not be able to know about his really know, from his perspective.  But when I asked him how he liked school, he did say "more!"  So at least I know he was excited about it and eager to return :) 

We found out this summer that Levi has XYY syndrome.  I had been pushing for some answers, other than this generic "developmentally delayed" label he'd long since been given.  I knew there was more.  Not that it really changes anything, especially in this case because we are already doing what is suggested for this diagnosis.  But it just gives some clarity, and some answers.  Knowing nothing about his medical history has been challenging, but this....this is just who he's not because of the choices someone else made as I had feared he may have's not something that was's just Levi.  It explains many of his struggles, and hopefully will give us the ability to gain additional services for him.  But there is SO much hope for this boy....he has such a bright future ahead of him.  His vocabulary is ever increasing, and most importantly, his desire to live life to the fullest and not let anything hold him back, keeps him moving forward!

As for this little one....she is such a love.....and a crazy lady!  She is into EVERYTHING and is determined to do everything that the others do.  No little baby for me, she's one of the big kids already.  You will typically find her doing something she's not supposed to do...namely the following....

Note her toothbrush lying on the floor.....she is completely obsessed with it.

We finally convinced her that chairs are for sitting, and she humored us for a few moments to read a story.  She sure makes life fun and interesting around here!  She is learning so much so fast....a little sponge watching everyone around her.  She's walking and practically running, has a few words and signs, loves to play with her babies, and is such a happy little girl.  She is so loved!!

Here we go, ready for another year!




Sunday, August 21, 2016

Levi Turns Five!

         Five just seems like such a turning point age.....I can't believe this little guy is five!  He'll be starting kindergarten in just over a week, and does all he can to keep up with his big siblings.  He continues to be one of the most resilient, determined and loving people I know.  We are so very proud of him!

       This boy has so much personality.  He is such a character and loves to be silly.  One day Caleb went somewhere with Luke so when the rest of us got home Levi got out of the van and started calling Caleb’s name (which sounds like “daylo”, which just made the whole thing even cuter).  I reminded him that Caleb wasn’t with us and he proceeded to go over to the bushes in front of the house and move branches looking for Caleb and calling his name.  I’m pretty sure it was one of those “you had to be there” moments, but the rest of us were laughing hysterically.  He just revels in that.  He’s done it about two million times since in an effort to get the same reaction….anything for a laugh, just like his big brother.   

     Levi is also one of the friendliest people I know.  I pray that never changes.  It is one of the sweetest traits he has….because he sees everyone the same and he just loves.  We walked over to the library yesterday…just a few minute walk….a teenage boy was approaching on his bike and he didn’t look like he was about to even look in our direction….but Levi saw a person coming towards him that he needed to connect with and with much enthusiasm shouted hello….the boy instantly returned his hello with a big smile.  Seconds later, an older man on a bike approached and Levi again let out another big hello.  The man smiled and saluted him.  I wondered if we would have all just looked straight ahead and passed without acknowledgement had Levi not been there.  Even Caleb picked up on it and we had a sweet little conversation about what we could learn from Levi. 

    Levi’s birthday was a long time coming for him.  In May, he watched Caleb be showered with attention, special treatment, presents….a day all about him and his interests.  In June, it was Kyleigh.  “Me, my?” he’d ask and I’d reassure him that his turn would come!  July was Keira, and I think he was beginning to give up hope.  I was so excited to be able to tell him it was finally his day!  I worried a little that it may be too much for him….too much stimulation and he may end up not enjoying himself, but we kept it pretty low key while still fun for him, and I think he enjoyed it.  He seemed in a bit of a fog a lot of the day…I think it was a lot to take in….but his face when we sang “Happy Birthday” and he blew out his candles, I’ll never forget it.  He was so proud….just totally loving the love and attention being shown to him.    

He truly just loves machines, tools, working....if he keeps this up, he is going to be one of the hardest workers ever.  All he ever wants to do is help us and as soon as Luke says anything about a project or working, Levi is there with his tool bag ready to get busy!  So his birthday party theme was pretty much a no-brainer :) 

We had decided a while back that age five would be when we had their first "friends" birthday party.  Levi had a few special friends come and he was SO excited to see them!  As Luke tucked him in bed that night and asked if he enjoyed his special day, he said "friends, come back!!"  

              It was a little trickier to do a party with some restrictions, but we wanted to make sure Levi could eat everything at his party!  He's usually so limited, but he was able to enjoy whatever he saw this time.  I, however, am still learning and didn't totally think everything through.  I couldn't use regular frosting and then realized I wouldn't be able to use the colored icing etc. to write on a cake anyway, so I made these gluten free brownies and some cookies.  The plan was to decorate it like a cake, but with the frosting dilemma along with the fact that the brownies came out of the pan looking like this, I had to improvise.  Thankfully, pinterest and last year's "cake" that Luke came up with helped me to turn it into something that worked!

                                              Levi was smiling, so that's all that mattered!

            Obsessed with one of his gifts....see what I mean?  Always working!  And happy to be!

                             And here's a few of our photos from his five-year-old-photo-shoot!

                                   This was Levi's choice for the next picture location.......

                                                    And then he'd clearly had enough.....

So we took a little break......

        Got really wet.....and then he entertained allowing me to take a few more....but only close ups so as not to see the soaked clothing below :)

Thank you God for this sweet boy and for all that he brings to our life....he is such a precious gift!
Happy 5th Birthday big boy!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Happy 13th Birthday Keira!


           Today this sweet girls turns 13.....thirteen?!  She is growing into such a beautiful young lady....on the inside and outside.  We took our annual photos different than just one year ago....I could sense the self-consciousness creeping in.  We may be standing less than a foot apart, but what we see and feel could not be more different.  I look through the lens and with every click I find myself saying how beautiful she will I choose just one for the frame?  Yet I sense her growing feelings of insecurity.....a heightened awareness of what others think of her.  Maybe even wanting to believe that I'm not just saying this because I'm her mom...but unable because the voices of others ring loudly in her mind and memory.  Not just there...but now here in her new life....almost confirming that those lies she's heard for so long are indeed truth.  I wish I could just be louder than the other voices.....walk around with a megaphone, drowning them out.....  To be a teenager today is no easy feat.  I'm thankful that she knows the love of The One who created her and loves her beyond her wildest dreams.  And my prayer, this year...and that she will truly grasp how wide, how deep, how high and how long His love is for her...and that her identity will be found in Him, and in Him alone.

In many ways this past year has been incredibly challenging.....we have all worked extremely hard and come a long way.  But what we try to remind one another of, are how many great memories we've made much love, fun, joy we've experienced.  How one year of our life is so small in many ways....and the hard days even smaller.... I treasure the sweet memories I have of this past year....the growth and progress that MUST be celebrated.  

We continue to be amazed at the heart this girl kind and generous....always ready and willing to give to others.  She works hard, but is always asking for ways she can give away what she earns.  "But remember the people we were talking about who......" or "but I have everything I need...they don't even have food..."  Sometimes I just want to say, keep it!! Keep it and buy yourself something, you worked so hard for it!  She reminds me, and I'm the student......

A day to do whatever her heart desires....and she decides to help her daddy with a big project.  A can of worms is opened and soon she's indispensable.  Willingly....with a SMILE...working for hours in the hot sun....learning skills, conquering fears....sacrificing...joyfully.  My heart was bursting....and I asked her the repeated question....."how can you not see how special you are???!!!"  There are so many times when she blows me away that I ask her that.....and I think...okay, surely you must see it now, right?!  I think she gets glimpses....but they're so easily small mistake...just being human and she can no longer see. I long for the day she fully sees.  I hope someday, when you read this my daughter, you will smile and finally be looking through the same lens that I have for so long.  

I can't help but feel sad as I watch some of the "little kid" in her fade away.  It was too brief.  I'm thankful, I truly am, for the fact that she was still very much a little girl when we met.  And though I often encourage her not to dwell on what we lost and missed out on not allow those feelings to ruin our opportunities now.....there are always those brief moments that I allow my mind to wander to all the moments we missed.  This isn't about me...but I wish today, I could tell her about the day she was born.....the time, the weather....what a beautiful, perfect little baby she was.  I wish we could look at pictures and home videos of past years, past birthdays spent celebrating together.  I know that this birthday is bittersweet for her.....I wish I could take the bitter away....and help her to see that there's actually a lot of "sweet."

I hope, sweet daughter, that you feel special today.  I hope that you allow yourself to accept the love that we feel and know that we are blessed to have a daughter like you.  I pray that you will know that our love for you is unconditional, and never ending....we will love you always and forever, no matter what.  навсегда!  

I think I get as excited as the kids when it's their birthday.  It's so fun to make everything especially geared towards them and their interests.  A special down and just enjoying one another.  

I always find all these great ideas which of course never come out exactly as planned...thankfully my kids appreciate the effort :)  She wanted a soccer party this year, so soccer it was!

One of the really special aspects of this years birthday was having Karina here.  As soon as she found out that the Hoptons were adopting her, she excitedly talked about how Karina would be able to come to her party this time!  I still feel like it's surreal that she's here.....only God could plan something like this!  

         We made tie dye shirts....partly because Keira had been asking to try it out and we hadn't had the chance....and partly because...what do you do with a group of teenagers at a party?  And what on earth do you give as a favor?  I think they enjoyed it....they got pretty detailed and particular!

     Keira must have thanked me a million times today....she kept feeling like it wasn't enough.  I know that feeling....but I also tried to help her realize that it's a joy to do something for someone you watch them really feel how special they are, and to celebrate them and how important they are in your life.  She wanted me to know that even if she wasn't smiling every second, that she was so very happy inside.....and all in all, it was a success....because she felt special today, and I know this time she really meant it when she said it.

                                                             Happy 13th Birthday Keira!  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Graduation (x 3)

It just so happened that we had three kids graduating this year, which on top of birthdays, anniversaries, and father's day, created quite the busy few weeks!  Levi had his graduation first....he is officially a pre-school graduate and on to....yup...Kindergarten!  How that's possible, I'm not sure, but it has arrived.  I will never forget Levi's was truly priceless.  When we walked in, I could never have imagined that he would be so excited to have us there.  I've been in his school a couple of times in the past for meetings, and he was always so surprised to see me there but never overly excited (Ha!).  But on graduation day, when we walked in, he became super animated, tapping his friends shoulder and pointing to us excitedly...mommy, daddy!!!  You wouldn't know it from the incredibly serious picture below, but he really just blew us away the whole time.  They sang songs for us, and despite how difficult it is for Levi to say the words properly, he knows the tunes well and he tried harder than I've ever seen him try....seemingly determined to make us proud....and proud we were!  His teacher even commented afterwards that in the two weeks they prepared, he never once showed so much heart just about burst.  

He is such a peanut!!
         We checked out his special book the teachers made for him to remember his time in pre-K.  He was eager to share everything with was such a special time to be in "his world" for a little while.  He is so proud to have his space that is special to him...his time that is structured so that he can have a sense of ownership and control.  I love that he enjoyed going each day, and I am so very proud of the progress he has made, and the way he keeps on pushing forward.

Congratulations Levi!!  We are so proud of you!
               Poor Caleb never knows what to say when people ask what grade he's in, and though we did a first grade curriculum this year, we have decided to just say he will be in first grade in the fall as his age would determine.  So technically he would have been graduating Kindergarten this year with all his little friends, and we didn't want him to miss out :)  So we put up some decorations, bought a special treat and presented him with his diploma on his last day of school.  He was so cute....when he came downstairs and noticed everything he said..."you did this for ME?!!"

It was a bit short notice, and a rather odd time of 8:30 am, so attendance was minimal :)

He was so excited and so proud.  He worked so hard this year and it's been so fun to see the progress and to be a part of each aspect of his learning!  I learned so much this year teaching this little guy! He is such a joy!
When we finished, I set up a finish line for him to run through, which he thought was the coolest thing easy to please! 

                On Keira's last day of school, she had her Sixth Grade Graduation!  I can't believe her time in elementary school is already over.  It was really the perfect fit for her in so many ways, and I am so thankful for all of the teachers that invested so much time and effort into teaching her.  She has worked so hard, setting goals for herself and achieving them again and again.  I have been amazed at her drive and determination.  For something that was so difficult....often overwhelming and frustrating....she never gave up, and I'd like to believe that she's come to realize how smart and capable she is!

It was so sweet to watch her up mind wandered back to the journey it has been to this point, and I felt so thankful. 

               She has grown in so many ways throughout her time at this school....learning how to interact socially with peers and adults, learning a new language, and pushing her way reach grade level expectations despite how much extra work it required.  In many ways she is at grade level already, and in others she is so very close.  Pretty incredible for only two years home.  We are so proud of her and know that great things are in store!

We are so blessed with hard working kiddos and were so excited to celebrate their achievements together!    

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Happy 1st Birthday Princess!

I can't believe it's already been one year since this little princess came into this world fast and furious! She has brought so much joy to our lives, and is a constant reminder of God's grace. 
The confusion over why we'd only been able to adopt one seemed to fade when we found out we were expecting...a girl especially....but this year has been a great example of us making our plans, but God determining the outcome, and why we should be so very grateful for that!  Even in the hardest times, there's nothing like the joy of new life, the cuddles of an infant, the smile of one so dependent and trusting of you, to make you bring those feelings of gratitude.  I could not be more thankful that God's plan was to bless our lives with this princess.  For each of us, the blessings have been evident, and I love seeing each of the kids develop a special relationship with their baby sister!  

She is such a sweet baby!  She just goes with the flow, happy to be taken here, there and everywhere.  She sure is social, always waving at anyone and everyone, drawing attention and reveling in it :)  She knows what she wants, and makes it known...particularly with her famous outstretched arm...her way of pointing where she wants to go.  As much as I looooove when they're this little and truly don't want it to end, I'm so excited to watch this little girl go through each stage as she grows!

                       We celebrated her first birthday this past weekend with some friends and family!

                Of course when Meme is around, we're all chopped liver.  She sure does love her!

                             I remember when these girls were her age! I'm officially old!

                                                               Princess cake for a princess :)

                                   She definitely ate more cake than real food the entire day.

                                    And now has an entire summer wardrobe....thank you!

           At first I was a little disappointed to not get a picture of them all smiling....but then I decided that this is actually the best picture!  Caleb has his typical attempted smile, Levi is biting his nails as always, Keira's making the "she's not cooperating, what am I supposed to do" face, and Kyleigh just wants to GO....because she can now, and this is crazy that she's having to sit here!  I love that this little girl has such sweet siblings to look up to....and boy does she already!  Wherever they are, she wants to be....whatever they're doing, she wants to do.  And they so sweetly include her.

                 Today we are celebrating her actual birthday....she opened a couple of small gifts from us, and we took some one year photos.  She wasn't too keen on the latter :)  She may be oblivious to to this day, but the rest of us are celebrating our sweet girl!

Testing out AND tasting her new helmet :)

Love the tongue takes serious concentration to open a gift!

My attempt at a bow holder for a homemade gift.

Seriously exhausting...and boring!!
Her famous queen wave!

Happy 1st Birthday Kyleigh! We love you so very much and cannot wait to celebrate many more!