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I Don’t Get My Way at Christmas

I think most of what makes it FEEL like Christmas is based on our childhood memories.

For me, I love a leisurely Christmas morning, with just Chris and the kids. That’s how we always did it growing up, because we lived in the same area as all of our extended family.

However, Chris and I haven’t lived near family in over 13 years. Christmas usually involves traveling.

This makes laid-back Christmas mornings almost impossible.

We have opened presents as a family on Christmas Eve and then headed to the airport. Some Christmas mornings, we’ve woken up in a hotel to a “complimentary” Christmas breakfast. There’s been times the kids opened stockings in the car. We’ve attended Christmas services at the grandparents’ church. One year, we ate Christmas dinner at Waffle House, because it was the only thing open on the way to family.

Every holiday is different. And rarely like Christmases I remember from childhood.

A few years ago, we didn’t travel anywhere for Christmas. I was thrilled. Finally, my nice, peaceful Christmas morning! On the correct date. Just the family.

Except, the kids weren’t impressed. “This is boring.” “I wish we’d gone to see family.” “There’s nothing to do.” “Why did we stay home?”

And I realized my “normal” Christmas wasn’t theirs. To my kids, Christmas is road trips and visiting grandparents in another state. It’s hotels and airports. Luggage and presents all jammed into the trunk. Exploring in the woods of Arkansas or playing in Wisconsin snow.

So now my Christmas expectations are a lot more flexible. We still set aside time for just our family. But it’s ok that we have to work it around the road trip.

It turns out, having a more open mind about what is a “real” Christmas is a good thing.

This year, our traveling took us through the city of an adoptive-mom-friend, so she and I were able to have coffee and chat in person, which was a huge treat. Next, we are headed to spend Christmas with Enoch’s birth family. And we will finish up our holiday trip at Chris’ parents’ house.

So, as much as I love my nostalgic holiday customs, I’m learning that beauty comes in opening up to new kinds of Christmas traditions too. Especially when I see my kids’ joy in making their own memories.

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How Family Photos Fell Apart. Again.

Every year, around Christmas time, we attempt family pictures. And every year, I wonder what the heck we were thinking.

Like seriously. Whether it’s a photo shoot with a photographer, or using the timer on an iPhone, one of the kids always breaks. Always.

At first glance, the pictures usually turn out OK, but if you look closer, Chris and I are smiling with angry eyes. Or we’re holding a kid’s hand down. Or a child’s cheeks are red from crying. Or the only reason they’re smiling is because we’re tickling their ribs.

Every year, I swear we’ll never do it again. But by next Christmas, the allure of casually matched outfits and the hope of smiling children’s faces does me in again.

This past Thursday, we decided to give it another go. I was optimistic.

Except, the babies wouldn’t nap. And we needed to meet the photographer at the park by 4:00.

At 2:00, they were  jumping around in their beds and I felt a bit concerned. By 2:45, I was basically panicking. At 3:00, they both fell asleep. And at 3:15, I had to wake them up to get ready. However, Enoch usually does OK with very little nap, so I thought we might still make this time the one to remember.

I had prepared so well, guys. I had extra outfits. I had stern talks with the big kids, which may have involved some guilt that they’ll need to process as adults. (“If you love me, you’ll smile in these pictures!”) I packed toys the babies could play with, that would look OK if they ended up in the pictures. I picked the big kids up early from school so we wouldn’t be rushing. We even asked our beloved babysitter to come along and help control the chaos.

But I could not have accounted for the real problem we faced. Never, in a million years, would I have guessed that Enoch would fall in love with the Ohio River.

He got out of the car, saw the sun glistening on those muddy banks and he had to have it. He needed to hold it and love it and no one was going to stop him. But because he is two, he didn’t say it like that. Instead, he refused to walk, his body went limp, and he wailed at the top of his lungs.

We tried to convince him to explore fallen logs and handed him sticks that would normally have thrilled his soul. But all he could do was cry, “Wa’er! Wa’er!”

Our photographer was great at figuring out how to make it work and suggested we let him have that river. So she snapped candid pictures of our family frolicking along the craggy edges of the water, like we were super-outdoorsy people who put on our nicest clothes to do fun stuff like that.

And listen. When we’re taking family photos, it’s not about parenting. It’s about doing whatever it takes to make that kid happy. Parenting is for when there’s no camera.

Which is why our next effort was to try to bribe him (with raisins) to sit on a blanket next to his little sister. It worked pretty good for the 2.5 seconds that he was fisting the raisins into his mouth. And then he was crying for the “wa’er” again.

But our photographer kept telling us, “These are turning out great!” and I believe her. Especially because, look at the preview she posted!:


Years from now, I won’t remember which kid was freaking out in this set of photos. I probably won’t even be able to tell that I’m internally praying that someone will pull it together so we can all look HAPPY.

I’ll just see the cute little faces and I’ll want to book another family photo shoot.


Previous years’ attempts at family pictures. Some professional, some not. But all very stressful at the time, and now treasured forever.

family00 family01 family02 family05 family06 family07 family08 family09

Thanks to Michael Will Photographers, Dalila of 1986 Photography, Matthew of 1979 Photography, and Anna May Photography for helping us capture some of these moments!


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The REAL Fall Fun

Thinking of Fall congers up images of bonfires and trips to the pumpkin patch, hot apple cider and pumpkin pie, Fall festivals and corn mazes.

But really, guys. Really.

When we were growing up, what do we REALLY remember? It wasn’t the Instagram-perfect Autumn moments. Because our parents didn’t have Instagram and they were smart enough to realize kids don’t need someone to create magic for them. So they shoved us outside to play…

In the leaves.

Leaf piles and leaf houses. Crisp dry leaves, unfortunate damp leaves, rogue sticks waiting to poke us. Leaves in the hair, leaves down the shirt. Cold fingers and noses.

Today was leaf day at our house. Chris raked up a big pile and then called the little people out to play. Enoch’s favorite part was wielding the rake. Leah vainly tried to keep leaves out of her shoes. Phoebe was unsure at first, but got into it quickly. Isaiah probably would have thought he was too big, if he hadn’t had the babies to play with.

And we tried to get a picture of all the kids in the leaf pile together. Unsuccessfully.

fall4 fall5 fall7 fall8 fall9 fall11 fall13 fall2 fall10 IMG_8163

Happy Fall, everyone!

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What Moms Don’t Tell

I was super young when I had my first two kids, so most of my friends hadn’t even thought about babies yet. I didn’t have a group of fellow moms in the trenches to unpack the woes of parenting with. Friends with older kids had already forgotten what it was like. So I thought I was doing it wrong most of the time.

When you are the only one who can’t pull it together, it’s pretty depressing.

Phoebe cryWith our second two babies, I’m older and hopefully a bit wiser. I still feel like I’m failing a lot, but thanks to social media, I know that I’m not the only one.

All the blogger moms out there, telling their traumatically funny toddler stories and epic Pinterest fails… they are a gift to us moms.

But I still see the other side of motherhood conversations too. We have plenty of moms projecting the “have it all together” image, with their success stories and perfect little birthday parties and their mommy guilt.

It’s easy for us moms to buy into that projection of “normal.” Always showered, a clean house, dinner (organic) on the table each night, and magical days filled by fingerpainting with your toddler.

Guys, nobody sane is able to pull that off. Not perfectly.

But I think, in the back of our minds, we all feel we are supposed to. So we post our few perfect moments. We only share our successes. Or we just stay quiet and suffer in silence.

Having more perspective this time around, I’m a lot better at reading between the lines.

I don’t feel intimidated by the mom who only posts her Instagram perfect moments, because I can see the edge of despair creeping around her tired eyes in the perfectly staged selfie of sandbox time with her toddler.

I know when a tired mama says, “Long day. So glad I can finally sit down,” that’s just the tip of her iceberg. The part she’s willing to share with the public.

Friends, I don’t blame us for posting our perfect, happy pictures of smiles and fun. That’s what we want to remember. And that’s what we will remember when the babies are big. Those moments are what last, when all the weariness is a distant memory.

But don’t be afraid to be real when you need to. And don’t ever think the rest of us have it all together.

We’re all drowning a little bit.

enoch cry  grumpybigkids

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Hard Things, Survival and the Big Kids

Guys, I’m not going to lie. We’re in a hard season right now. There are just so many people (and animals) in our house. And so many things that need to be done every day. Lunches, and homework, and diapers, and baths, and naps, and laundry… And so much noise. Always the noise.

I have a sneaking suspicion that everything feels really big right now because we are sleep deprived. Probably, when all the kids are in school (or at least potty trained), I’ll be the one saying to sleepless new moms, “Enjoy it now, because it goes so fast.” Or, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Because I’ll have already forgotten how hard it really is.

But when the Lord asks us to do hard things, He gives grace.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetOf all the grace we’ve been given, I cherish the grace given to our big kids the most.

Those people, who fight over the Xbox and argue about taking baths, can somehow serenely roll with the real stuff.

When we adopted Enoch and Phoebe, Isaiah and Leah’s comfortable little world was invaded by a couple of loud, needy babies.

As an adult, I could see so much room for the big kids to complain. The babies have completely changed our way of life and their needs come before anything else. They cry and they make us late (OK, that’s mostly me, but babies have made it worse). They get all the attention. We don’t even go out as often, because it’s just too much.

But Isaiah and Leah just love those babies with everything in them.

Leah’s baby calming tactic is to sing them songs she makes up on the spot. The lyrics typically involve some combo of the following:

Don’t worry baby.
You will always be in our family.
We love you so much.
You are our baby.
You’ll never be alone.

IMG_4133Lately Enoch has been in full-blown toddler specialness. The other day, I was feeling pretty done with all the chasing and the whine-diffusing and the crisis averting. But I got a perspective shift when Isaiah, who was playing with Enoch, looked up at me and said with a laugh, “It’s so fun having babies!”

I’ve also been amazed by the big kids’ grace to unconditionally accept these new little people as equal members in the sibling group. They have NEVER questioned if Enoch and Phoebe are their “real” brother and sister. That hasn’t even been on the table.

Isaiah and I were discussing the concept of ancestors the other day. I was holding Phoebe, and Isaiah expounded, “Phoebe has a lot of ancestors. She has her ancestors and she has ancestors from our family.”

Of course she does. But the fact that it seems normal to him is so beautiful to me.

I’m not saying they never complain about having to hold a baby so I can cook dinner. But in the grand scheme, it’s so delightful to watch the big kids’ open hearts, fueled by a grace that’s beyond than themselves.

Grace doesn’t necessarily make the hard things less hard. But it weaves an undeniable beauty into the story.

And when we come out the other side of the hard times, the beauty is what remains.

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Mom’s Day Out (to avoid insanity)

tiredlucyGuys, my sanity has been gradually unraveling. It has a lot to do with not sleeping for the past 17 months.

So I had a mental health day.

(Which means I spent the majority of the day with no kids.)

For you moms who haven’t had a childless day in 5 years, let me tell you what I did, so you can live vicariously through me.

First, I took a shower. No one interrupted. (I did have to break up a small fight between the big kids at the end, but who’s being picky?)

Next, I met my husband for lunch. No one tried to grab my plate and send it crashing to the floor. No one whined for bites of my food. No one interrupted our conversation. We actually sat in the bar area at a table with tall chairs, because we didn’t even need a highchair.

We ran an errand together, where we both got out of the car and walked right into the store. Neither of us stayed behind with whiny small people. We didn’t have to bring car seats or unstrap toddler seat-belts. We just got out of the car and walked in.

After Chris went back to work, things got really interesting.

I went swimsuit shopping.

Guys. I have no words for this experience. Is there anything more demoralizing to womankind?

OK, yes. I found out how to make it worse: I had a gift certificate to a store geared towards 15 year old girls who weigh 90 lbs. And I went there. For a swimsuit.

Just don’t EVER do that.

Apparently everything about me is wrong. Even my torso is too long. How can your torso be too long for stretchy Lycra? And half of me is one size and the other half is the next size up. Not the preferred halves. DRAT YOU, PEAR SHAPE!

I shook the dust off of my feet and went to the store beloved by all moms: Target.

It was still bad-ish, but manageable. And the lighting was more flattering, which helped a lot.

But, did you know Target only lets you take 6 items into the dressing room? I need way more than 6 tries to find a suit that covers all my important bits, without making me look 75 years old. And since it was the coldest day in the history of everything, I had about 5 layers on. After a few times of undressing and redressing, I was really tempted to wrap my coat around my almost naked, too-long torso to pick out the next suits to try.

Eventually I selected the least offensive option, and then I walked in the makeup aisles. Just because I could. No one grabbed the nail polishes. No one begged for Bonnie Bell (actually, do they still make that? I can’t keep up.) No one moaned about how bored they were.

I didn’t buy any makeup. It was enough to be able to look at my leisure. I did grab some “feminine products” that were on clearance, because this was my exciting day out.

After purchasing my swimsuit and girl stuff, I went to the in-store Starbucks (which we un-affectionatley call “Tarbucks.”) I ordered an awful Americano and sat at one of the 3 tables, reading Facebook and listening to other people’s kids have meltdowns. Because, you KNOW I wasn’t going to go home until I had to.

Finally my personal day came to a close and I drove home to my children.

And you know what? My babies are beautiful!!!

Phoebe is so sweet and smiley and adorably chubby. Enoch is hilarious with all of his cute antics. Leah is full of imagination and wonder. Isaiah is creative and constantly strategizing genius things to do.

I just needed to be away from them to really appreciate them.

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Yoga Pants and Modesty and Having Daughters

Apparently yoga pants have broken the Internet again. The Christian part of it, anyway.

teensfriendswimAll of the defenses and rebuttals to the most recent “I don’t wear yoga pants,” blog have been far more interesting than the blog itself. On one side we have: “Women should cover up every single curve, because modest is hottest!” The other side is all: “The purity culture shames women into thinking it’s their job to protect men from lusting. So I have the right to wear whatever I want.” Both extremes are… extreme.

(And there are many who land in the middle, with really good points, so I’m not throwing their babies out with the bathwater.)

I 100% agree that it’s not a woman’s job to keep men from lusting. I mean, I’m pretty sure if we all wore burkas or mom-jeans, guys would still find a way to lust if they were set on it.

But swinging the pendulum the other way, like we think we should be able to show up at work in a bikini or go out to dinner in the nude or whatever, is missing the point too.

So if it’s not our job to “protect” men from their sin, why should we cover up some of our womanly assets?

The answer to that question is basically the same reason I never post naked pictures of my babies on social media. Am I trying to protect some pedophile from sinning? Absolutely not. I am protecting my babies, because no one has a right to look at them that way.

And I kind of feel the same about the whole yoga pants/modesty/purity culture debate, because I have a daughter that’s rocketing towards preteen.

I don’t think I’ve ever said the word “modesty” to her, and probably never will. Our conversations are more like, “Lady, you need to put some shorts under your 2-sizes-too-small dress, because everyone doesn’t need to see your panties.” Or, “Girly, that shirt hangs awkward. Either put a tank top underneath or pick something different.”

Why? Because l want to protect some dude from lusting? No. Because SHE is valuable and beautiful. And no lecherous eyes have a right to her.

Society tells my girl she is a sex object. I don’t care how enlightened and feministic we think we are, this message still rings out so strong to women. As she gets older, media is going to consistently yell in her face that the more skin she shows, the more desirable she is. I want to hand her something better.

She doesn’t have to be half naked to be gorgeous. She is beautiful in her track pants and a tee. Or her striped skirt paired with a flowered top. Or her plain school uniform.

Since when did dressing in micro-minis and mid-drift tops become women-empowering, anyway? Why are we so afraid to tell girls that they’re more than how sexy they can look?

I want my daughter to know that respecting herself is beautiful.

If that means I continue to encourage her toward something akin to “modesty,” I’m ok. Because she is too precious to be on open display.

She is worth it.


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Annoying noiseYou know how people say, “There is no such thing as a dumb question”? I guess that’s true. But man, my kids ask some annoying ones.

OK, I’m not the most patient mom ever, so maybe they get under my skin too easy. But, like every day? Do they have to ask the same question every day?

I can’t even sort these by level of annoyance, because they ALL kill me.

What are we doing tonight?

They barely get their legs all the way in the car after school and they throw this one out. The introvert in me wants to scream, “You’ve been DOING stuff all day! Why in the world don’t you just want to go home and sit on the couch?!” They’re kind of scared to ask at this point, but it still doesn’t stop them.

“Mommy…” They squirm for a bit, while I say, “What? WHAT?!” repeatedly, waiting for the conversation to go somewhere.

Finally they quit wiggling and blurt out, “Are we going anywhere tonight?”

“Gahhhh!” is normally how I reply. So they try texting Daddy, hoping he’s more easy to wear down.

What’s for dinner?

I hate this one for two reasons.

First, most of my recipe names mean nothing to them. If I say “Ropa Viaja,” or “Southwest Turkey Sliders,” they don’t even know what I’m talking about. So it’s a pointless question, leaving them with no more information than when they started. Typically I just say, “Meat in sauce with some salad.” And they say, “UGHHGGHHGH.”

Which leads to my second complaint about this question. It’s basically an excuse to fuss about how much they will hate dinner. And since they don’t know what “Carnitas” is, they’re just ASSUMING they’ll hate it. I find it demoralizing. Like, you just assume my food will be bad?

Why are you cleaning? Is someone coming over?

I know I’m not the best housekeeper ever. But is it really that bad? Sometimes I just sweep because there is dust and puppy fur in all of the corners. You don’t have to get ugly about it.

But really, this is more of a painful truth kind of question, because usually someone is coming over. I just work better under pressure, OK? I probably would have done some cleaning, guests or no guests. It’s just happening a lot faster because I only have 2 hours until someone knocks on the door.

I know they’re not going to stop asking, so maybe I need some pre-printed cards with answers to these questions:

  1. NO!
  2. Food.
  3. Just. Don’t.


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So We’re a “BIG” Family

I typically try to avoid change. But then it happens, and it’s not so bad. I adjust.

The thought of having two babies made me a bit stressed. But the actual doing of it has been OK. I mean, I just keep making bottles and changing diapers and giving baths and ignoring house work.

And I don’t think about it too much. I rarely remember about how easy it was to leave the house. Or how I used to sleep all night. Or how, a couple of years ago, it was quiet during the day.

Except every once in a while, when something shines a spotlight on our reality.

The other day we were watching Jessie with the kids.

Jessie_castIf you’re wise and have protected your brain from the Disney Channel, I’ll explain: Jessie is the nanny for a multiracial family (you can see what sucked us in!) with a bunch of kids. Their home seems pretty chaotic, with over-the-top antics and ridiculous dilemmas every show.

As we watched, I realized something. To us, their family feels pretty crazy, with kids everywhere. They have four kids.


I pointed this out to the rest of my four-kid-family and everyone kind of paused in shock for a second. Because we saw them as this huge, chaotic family and we saw us as… OK, it can be pretty crazy around here too.

And I know we’re not the Duggars or anything. In fact, we’re small compared to many families in our adoption community.

But a lot has changed in just over a year. Sometimes it feels like survival is the only goal. But it’s worth it. It’s so, so worth it.

These little people, who have brought all the extra work, have also brought the extra joy. They’ve changed our perspective on life. They’ve pulled new levels of compassion and servanthood out of all of us. Our family wouldn’t be us without them.

The other day, I overheard Isaiah talking to Phoebe. He was “teaching” her to pray:

“First you say, ‘Thank you God.’ Then you ask Jesus to help you. Or you ask Him to help someone else. Or you can just talk about your day. You can talk to Jesus about anything.”

I’ll embrace the chaos for sweet moments like that.



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Oops. We Did it Again.

Awhile back, I told you all about how we never meant to be weird-baby-name parents. But we inadvertently are, because no one can pronounce Enoch.


When our newest daughter showed up, we kept it cool. We picked a Bible name that has thoroughly infiltrated society. Phoebe.

phoebetvI don’t think I’ve ever seen a complete episode of Friends, but even I know Phoebe is a character on the show. And there’s a girl on The Magic School Bus named Phoebe too. I mean, how much more cultural reference do people who lived through the 90’s need?

So I was feeling pretty confident that Phoebe’s name would be user friendly.

Until we got a text from a family member (who will remain anonymous) asking if it was pronounced “Fee-bee” or “Foo-bee.”

FOO-BEE. Who would name their kid “Foo-bee”? Do we seem like those kind of people?

Maybe after the Enoch debacle, we do.

But it gets worse. At the hospital, a nurse asked me Phoebe’s name, which I told her and then spelled (because I’m fully aware that part is tough). Not two minutes later, she looked down at her sheet and called my daughter “Foe-bee.” Seriously, I just pronounced it for you. You have no excuse.

So, just to nip any confusion in the bud, my daughter’s name is pronounced “FEE-BEE.”

But I have to admit, “Foo-bee” might become a nick-name now.


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