Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rebekah Is Six Months Old!

It's hard to believe that on Sunday our little miracle turned six months old! We've completed the first step of the adoption process, the HSEGH (Health-Social-Educational-Genetic History), and the next step is to get a developmental assessment completed on her.  In the past two weeks we've lost both our agency caseworker (3rd staffing change in 4 months) and Rebekah's TDFPS worker.  We're doing our best to remain optimistic that the adoption process will still go as quickly as possible despite all of the changes in staff members.  We are so ready to be D-O-N-E with the regulations and red tape and start living life as a "normal" family!

You can see from the pictures below how big Rebekah's getting!  She'll be officially weighed tomorrow, but I'm guessing she's around 12-13 pounds.

Little Rebekah is nothing but a delight, quick to share her sweet smiles with everyone and she has begun gurgling and cooing in conversation with us.  She's sleeping much better at night and can sleep soundly for stretches of up to 4 hours at a time!
She's been taking a special high-calorie formula and a daily vitamin up to this point, but we expect her doctor to take her off of those at her next check-up. 

After the rough start to her little life, we are so thankful that God has allowed our Rebekah to grow and thrive in such a remarkable way!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Summer Flashback: The Long Road Home Part 2

In honor of Mardi Gras, today I'm sharing the highlights of our visit to New Orleans last summer...

Day 3:
With 2 days left of an almost 2-week vacation with all 4 kids, we we all feeling the "effects".  But today's destination was the one I was most excited about for our return trip home: New Orleans!  I have many treasured memories of trips to New Orleans to visit my grandmother and since my mother was born and raised there, I feel a special connection to the city.

But to get there, we had to spend most of the day driving through hot, sticky Mississippi.  It's the kind of suffocating heat and humidity that takes your breath away and sucks the energy clear out of you. 

Here we have Miss Mikea glistening with sweat at our stop for lunch.  Poor baby looks so tired.

Daniel strikes a catalog modeling pose.  (I don't think he wanted his picture taken.  Or maybe he was just hot.)
Adrian found more sticks, of course.
But this stop also provided fun in the form of.....pine cones!
After lunch we drove through pouring rain and I prayed we wouldn't run into a tornado.  By around 4:00 we reached our destination and I drove straight to the neighborhood where my mother grew up.  I was a little nervous driving around because the streets are super narrow and we honestly didn't know how safe the neighborhood was anymore.  We found St. Paul Lutheran church, founded by German Lutherans in 1840, where my great-grandfather was pastor and where my parents were married.  The church still operates a school and I encourage you to check out their website, especially the photos on the What's Happening section. The church and school are an amazing ministry to the community.  You can also read testimonials from parents, including one family who left the area after Katrina, but moved back because they missed the quality of education their children received at St. Paul.
We also drove past the cemetery where my grandparents are buried.  I wanted to go in, but the cemeteries are considered unsafe to visit unless you're with a group.  And I don't think our "group" counts! 

We were just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the French Market, our next destination.  Below you will see the 500 Babies standing in front of the mighty Mississippi!  A bunch of squirmy kids standing feet from the river was enough to make me nervous so we soon left to go find the famous Cafe Du Monde.
The place was crowded and then some, so we had to wait very patiently for our beignets.
Oh, but they were worth the wait!
Powdered sugar bliss.
After our snack, we walked around taking in the sights.  Our visit coincided with the beginning of the National Youth Gathering for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, so there were hordes of Lutheran teenagers everywhere!  At one point while we were walking down the sidewalk, Daniel lost his shoe.  A kind young man found it and brought it to us.  Daniel had walked almost a block barefoot and didn't even tell us!

The kids were fascinated by the street performers, especially "Robot Man" and Billy convinced them to stand next to him for a picture.  As cool as Robot Man was from a distance, the looks on the kids' faces tell you that he's a little unnerving close-up.
We had to say good-bye to New Orleans sooner than I would have liked, but dinner and our beds were calling.
Day 5:
I only have one picture of our last day.  This is in front of the swamp next to our hotel right before we loaded up and spent one more day driving to get home.
There's not much more to say, other than it was an amazing trip and I can't wait to do it again, this time with one more little passenger added to the mix!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Project: Simplify

Want to get organized and simplify your life?  Nothing sounds better to me!  So for the next 5 weeks I'm participating in Project: Simplify over at Simple Mom. Each week Tsh will announce a hot spot in our home.  We have the week to declutter, clean, and organize that area and then share the results (including before and after photos) on Friday.

To prepare, Tsh asked everyone to write a family purpose statement. This is an important first step, she says, because, "When you make your home better suited to your family’s purpose, then it’s easier to care about where things go, what stays and goes, and how clean (or disheveled) it is. It’s easier to live there, because it feels like home."  Amen!

Billy and I had already started writing a family purpose statement several months ago during one of our date nights, but we never finished it.  So last night we brainstormed some ideas and this is what we came up with:

We will live our lives guided by God’s word, daily aiming to:

As individuals ~
Being kind, forgiving, honest, selfless, diligent, playful, and lifelong learners.

As a family ~
Putting each other first, working together, and embracing healthy habits.

As members of our community ~
Sharing God’s love through our words and deeds.

I printed it up, put it in an empty frame I had sitting in drawer, and voila! now our family has a purpose!

If you're interested in joining us, head on over to Simple Mom today and find out what this week's first hot spot is!  I've only gotten as far as my before photos (shudder), but the beauty is I still have the rest of the week to finish.  Come on!  You know you want to!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Summer Flashback: The Long Road Home Part 1

Last summer I never got around to finishing the story of our great adventure to Michigan and back.  I joked that it was taking me so long it'd be December before I finished.  Well, clearly I shouldn't have joked because March is upon us and I still have stories left untold!

We resume our story as the 500 Babies and their parents prepare to leave Michigan and begin the long trek home to Texas...

We decided to take four days to drive home in order to travel at a more leisurely pace and enjoy some sights along the way.  Now I wouldn't necessarily describe the experience as leisurely and there were quite a few non-enjoyable experiences, but all in all we're happy with our decision to add an extra day of travel.

Day 1
On day one we learned that if you don't realize you're driving through a construction zone and an Ohio state trooper pulls you over for speeding and you tell him your toddler desperately needs a bathroom (he did), the trooper will be quite courteous in giving directions to the nearest rest stop.  He will also then proceed to give you a ticket.  Not the best way to start the day, but those things happen and then you move on with your life.

These first few shots are of our pit stop near Dayton.  Is Mikea grabbing Daniel's ear?  Silly girl.

Hmm...looking back through the pictures, it seems that at every stop along the way the kids always managed to grab sticks to play with.
 Poking a stick in a hole seems to be quite intriguing to Daniel.
 I'm not sure what he found.
We were staying the night in Louisville and had planned to make a stop at the Kentucky Horse Park, but we arrived later than intended and decided the admission price wouldn't be worth the amount of time we had to spend before it closed.  So we found a small, free city park instead and spent a few minutes enjoying the fresh air.
Joe was thrilled to find an abandoned football.
We were all enjoying ourselves when I discovered shards of glass littering the ground. Since we prefer our children not play with broken glass we quit the park and headed to our hotel.
The next day just happened to be Mr. Adrian's 1st birthday and because we had a full day of driving and sightseeing planned, we decided to celebrate the night before with dinner out and ice cream sundaes for dessert. (One good thing about the lateness of these posts is at least now I can share pictures with Adrian's face!)
We stopped at Wal-Mart to buy food for lunch the next day and also picked up a few presents for Adrian to open in the hotel.  Happy Birthday, big guy!

Day 2
We had BIG expectations for this day.  We were going to the Great Smoky Mountains and I had spent a great deal of time researching the park and figuring out how to maximize the few hours we would have there.  But we should have thought a bit more carefully about the logistics of traveling to and through the most-visited national park in the country in the middle of the summer. The bumper-to-bumper traffic heading into the park was our first sign that the day wasn't going to go as planned. It then took forever just to find a place to park and eat lunch.  Despite the parentals' increasing stress levels (we still had several hours' worth of driving to get to our stop for the night) the kids were just happy being out of the van and reveling in the beauty of nature.
After lunch we found one of the few stroller-friendly hiking trails that led to a waterfall.  But we quit about halfway to the top because #1- It was getting quite steep, #2- We noticed a plethora of signs warning that serious injury or death could result from falling off the trail, and #3- There were rumors about a bear sighting.  So we paused for a quick group picture to prove that we at least tried and then headed back down the trail.  The waterfall would have to wait for another day.
 Adrian was pooped out from all of the hiking riding.
At this point we needed to hit the road in order to make it to our stop for the night, Birmingham, Alabama. We could either leave the way we came and deal with the traffic and touristy nonsense of Gatlinburg, or take the longer, more scenic route up and over Newfound Gap.  We took a risk and chose the scenic route, and even though at one point we had to pull over because our brakes were smoking, we are happy we did - the views were breathtaking! (I'm talking about my handsome husband, of course!  The mountains were pretty nice to look at as well.)
The rest of the drive was quite scenic, but we were really tired and were hoping to get to Birmingham before dark.  But you can't just drive and drive and drive without letting the kids get out to stretch their legs...
We finally made it to Birmingham (well past dark) and sacked out in some very comfy beds.  Good night!

Next up:  The 500 Babies Take New Orleans!