"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Sunday, August 31, 2014

This is 40?

Chad's BIG 4-0 started out with a trip to the ER.  I told him it was his most expensive, yet poorest attended party ever!  His brother Ryan stopped by to check in on him, but this party was otherwise unattended!

(You have to laugh, right?!?)

No worries.  He is fine now.  A gallbladder attack kept him up all night.  An hour or two at the ER provided pain relief and reassurance that is did not need to be removed. . . immediately anyway!

The rest of the day was quiet.

We drove home.  (We had been out of town for a wedding.)

We had a small family dinner.

Brenna baked and decorated cupcakes.  Krissy brought pie.

Chad was fast asleep in the recliner by 9:00.

So far 40 is not looking too appealing!  I'm thinking that I  better enjoy these next 3 months of 30!

Not everything about turning 40 was bad, however.  He did buy himself the gift of a lifetime.  I'm quite sure he'd be happy to tell you all about it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

And SO it Begins! (XC 2014)

Last night, after logging around 570 miles in summer training and burning through 2 and a half pairs of shoes, Jamison (and team) ran his/their first race of the 2014 Cross Country Season.

 Pre-meet team meeting,
 one final pre-race strider,
 and the racing officially begins!

Before Jamison left to race I got a bit teary as I tried to explain just how proud I am of him.  It feels so good to be proud of my son.  I am proud of his dedication, his determination, his humility, his intensity, his endurance.  I am proud of WHO he is.

I am also very excited about how he raced.  (I am not more or less proud of him based on his performance - but I certainly celebrate his success along with him.)  In my opinion it was definitely the BEST race of his career.  He raced his fastest time ever.  More importantly he stayed alert, raced hard and fast no matter what happened with his teammates, and trusted his training. He showed much leadership and maturity as he raced.

In the end he finished 8th overall and 2nd for his team.

I am so very excited to watch the season develop.  I expect there will be many reasons to celebrate for both my son and his teammates.  There are a whole lot of runners that show much promise.  It will be so fun to watch them all progress!

Jamison's cheering section was smaller than usual.  Brenna and Sierra were both staying with friends.  (There is a part of me that HATES how old my kids are getting.  I miss the days when we were all together almost all of the time.)  
 Grandpa Scott does his best to be at every race.  I'm so thankful.

Mataya was happy as a could be in her new carrier!  (Don't you love the CHS colors I found for her?)  She loves to be in this carrier.  She spent a couple hours in it last night and never made a wimper.  She even took a nap while we chased the boys around the course.  What a sweet sister she is!

Chad was there as well, but he didn't make it into the photos.  Sorry babe!
(Photo credits go to my mom. I am, once again, so thankful to have them close and involved in the kids' activities!)

I plan to savor every moment of this season.  Cross country is my favorite.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Her Fifth Month in Review

 This month Mataya has become a bit of a momma's girl.  OK. . . so actually, she's not.  She IS aware of who she knows and who she does not know though.  She has many favorites - me, Daddy, Rah Rah (Sierra), Joshua, Brenna, Grandma Donna, and Krissy.  She also has a few other people she recognizes.  But - she has began screamed in terror when handed to someone on the unfamiliar list.  

I know some people hate this stage.  I actually embrace it.  My most dependent babies have grown to be my most independent and self-confident kids.  Jamison truly let NO ONE other than me hold him and care for him during the majority of his first year.  Brenna insisted on being held for the first 4 months of her life - every single minute.  While it was inconvenient at the time, it has been a blessing in the long-term.  Granting their needs for attachment and trust has been a wonderful investment.

The research I have done in attachment since adopting certainly supports this.  So when Mataya shows preference to the people most familiar, I am a happy momma.  Her intelligence and attachment are developing beautifully.
 Jamison says she will be much more fun when she talks - but for now, we "force" him to greet Mataya once each day.  Jay thinks baby talk is pure foolishness.  Talking to his sister makes him quite uncomfortable, however talking to the dog (which sounds a lot like baby talk to me) is not.  Ha!  
 I worked hard this month to get back into a real routine of running 5 times a week.  Many runs went like this, Mataya in the stroller and Joshua on his bike.  Multi-tasking is good!
 Can you say precious?

Mataya loves it when I turn on the bubbles in Daddy's big tub for her!
 Slowly, I am learning to respect this little one's appetite.  She is NOT hungry in the morning.  She will sleep from 9 pm to 7 or 8 am with only one bottle overnight.  When she wakes up, she has no interest in food.  For months I kept shoving her bottle at her all morning.  I have finally stopped, trusting that she knows when she's hungry.  As I type she is playing on the floor happily.  She has been up for 2 hours, taken a 15 minute catnap, and has still not indicated she'd like to eat.  From about noon on she eats every 3 hours.  In the evening she clusters and eats every two hours or even less.  She's got a mind of her own, but she is growing and happy - so momma needs to leave her be!
 Early morning selfie for Krissy.

I try to send her pictures several times a week to keep us all connected.
 This trend of babywearing in America kind of cracks me up.  What is trendy in America is a survival skill in Africa.  However, this sweet ring sling is truly the best.  She adores it, and so do I.  It is the snuggliest way to shop, make dinner, or clean my house. It is my favorite newborn product ever.  I so wish I'd had it with the older kids.  It is so simple and so natural in comparison to the more structured carriers I have used with tiny ones in the past, not to mention it is way more comfy for us both!
 She truly wakes up THIS happy every single day!

 Although school has not started yet, sports practices have.  So, we have spent a lot of time sitting in the car waiting for Sierra this month.
 She still enjoyed the bouncy chair for play this month.  Adding different toys attached with plastic chains makes her so happy. She always, always notices the new toy with joy.
 She melts my heart.

 Krissy loves this tiny one.  When she walks into our house for a visit her first words are, "Can I have the baby?"  Mataya always remembers her big sister and enjoys the cuddles.  Because Krissy leaves for Basic soon, she's allowed me to take more photos.  We are trying to make sure Mataya remembers her when we go for graduation.  Pictures are sure to help - especially if Krissy would decide on a hair color!  Ha!  She went back to blonde for a few weeks, but her hair is dark again now.  

Thanks to Krissy, I got "grandma-ed" this month.  Krissy got quite sick, so Mataya and I accompanied her to the doctor's office.  As the nurse was asking her questions, it became clear that he assumed the baby was Krissy's.  I noticed before Krissy did and explained that the baby was mine. He was so confused.  He said, "I thought she (Krissy) was yours?"  When I laughed and explained that they both are mine, he did not know what to think!  It was quite funny.  I know some people would be insulted, but I was not.  I understand.  My mother-in-law was younger than I am now when we had Krissy.  My mom was just a tiny bit older than I am when she became a grandma.  Very few people would consider the age range we have chosen to have in our kids, but for me - having this tiny one at 39 was the most wonderful thing.  The pregnancy was precious.  Having a baby again brings me so much joy.  Additionally, I believe God knew I would need the peace and hope and joy a baby brings this spring/summer.  She is such a blessing.  Her daddy agrees. Having a "dessert baby" or a "trailer" as my dad calls her, is delightful.

 Mataya has no interest in movement.  Why should she?  If she has a need, a few grunts sends one of us running.  Sierra is trying to train her.  (It has not been too successful though!  Ha!)
 She does have an interest in sitting up, however.  She loves to play in the Bumbo - especially while I am cooking or working in the kitchen.
 Selfies with siblings.
 Last Saturday was gloomy and rainy.  Mataya, Daddy and I spent all morning in bed.  We did some playing, some snuggling, some TV watching and some sleeping.  It was a sweet time.

Not sure.  She certainly has the tell tale drool and loves to have her hands in her mouth.  But she's not fussy and is sleeping well.  Time will tell!

 Sorry teenage Mataya.  I love a nakey baby!
 Though she does not roll all the way over, she does roll side to side these days.  She likes to figure out how to get to out of reach toys. . . if they are not too far away that is.  She definitely appreciates it when we switch up her toys.  She notices every detail.
 Yep - he still adores her!
I call this her baby circus.  It is still a little big for her, her legs are not quite long enough to jump, so she only likes it for short stints.  

Hmmmm. Other developments this month?  She loves to talk.  Her new favorite noise is a loud gasp.  She thinks it is the funniest way ever to get our attention.

She has also learned to fall asleep on her own.  I lay her in her bed, turn on the noise machine for 15 minutes, give her a pacifier, and she is out.  She learned this skill so nicely.  She never fussed for more than 10 minutes and even then she complained more than anything.  I would go in every 3 to 5 minutes to give her the paci back, soothe her with my words and a hand on her chest, and leave before she was asleep.  I have rarely had to go in more than once.  

Deciding to transition from rocking to self-soothing was hard for me.  I loved rocking her.  However, I began to notice that I was spending more time rocking her to sleep than I was playing with her.  As she became more and more aware, the chaos that is our house kept her up and overtired.  Additionally she woke up looking for me soon after I would lay her down.

Self-soothing has been a win, win.  She is more rested and happier than ever, and momma has more time to play with her.

I know allowing a baby to fuss a bit in their bed has mixed reviews.  Next to breast vs. bottle it is the most debated issue in early parenting.  Here are my thoughts.  When Mataya was tiny, she hated her car seat.  Hated as in scream, scream, scream.  We did all we could to make her car trips comfortable, but removing her from her carseat, which was what she really wanted, was not possible.  It is safest for a baby to be in an car seat, so that is what we did.  With practice, Mataya has learned to like her carseat.  She plays in it and falls asleep when she's tired.  It is no longer an issue.

No one would criticize me for "making" her cry in her carseat.  It is what needed to happen for her to be safe.

I feel much the same way about learning to self-soothe in her crib.  Wrestling her to sleep and having an exhausted needy baby who never got enough rest during the day was not allowing her to thrive.  Though she needed a bit of practice before she could fall asleep all on her own, the result has been good for us all.  (And for the record, we did not allow her to "redline."  Fussing/complaining certainly happened in short bursts, but nothing like the screaming she did in her carseat as a newborn. She was not completely joyful during this transition, but we seldom embrace change, even when it is for our own good.)  Two weeks into this self-soothing, she is the happiest and most rested she has ever been.

I am lucky with this tiny one.  She is very sweet, mild mannered, and adaptable.  God has paired her temperament perfectly with our very active family.  I am so, so thankful.

As I watch her grow and change so quickly I have to remind myself daily to celebrate her accomplishments, rather than mourn another stage left behind.  I so adore having a baby around.  (In fact I have been praying about what God might want to do with that passion.)  It is essential that this baby has my blessing as she grows and changes, so rather than cry when I pack away her tiniest clothes and the sleep and play she no longer uses, I choose to celebrate the way she is growing and changing.  

I think that is my greatest challenge with Mataya.  I have experienced these stages, they pass so quickly.  I am currently experiencing the full-on letting go of my oldest, and it stinks.  It would be so easy to hold Mataya a bit too tightly, to baby her and keep her littler than necessary.  So easy.  Sigh.  So easy.  Cherishing these stages as the blessing they are, while not holding her back, is a tough balance.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

5 Months Old

Mataya was not feeling smiley when I was snapping her 5 month pictures today.  Joshua was trying everything to get her to smile.  He was waving this little wand in front of her trying to capture her attention when she grabbed a hold of it.  The resulting photo makes me smile.  It pretty much sums it up, this tiny princess has us all under her spell. 

Love you Matata! Sooooo much!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Parking, Mommy Style

This picture perfectly captures the week.

It has been a busy, busy week filled with doctor, dentist, ortho, and physical therapy appointments for the older kids.  Add in Kindergarten Round-Up, cheer practices, band camp, grocery runs, and work appointments and you have our week.  I truly believe that Mataya has spent more of her waking hours in the car than anywhere else.  If she had a quarter for every moment she has spent eating or playing in the backseat of my Pilot in one parking lot or another while waiting for the older kids her first year of college would be nearly paid for!  Thankfully she is the queen of the catnap and functions happily on the run!

Today alone we had drop-offs at 8, 9, 10, 12:30, 3, 3:30, 4, and 5:30.  And that does not include the errands we ran in between!

Mataya Hope, you will not remember these crazy last days of your first summer - but I will.  And I will forever be thankful for your smiley, chubby, sweet self keeping me company as play taxi to the bigs.  You are amazing baby girl.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Was A HAPPY Camper!

Last weekend we went camping and something amazing happened, I LOVED it.

I truly wondered if that feeling would ever return, and it did!

 Friday night we just hung out.  It has been a long time since we laid around and did nothing but chat.
 Saturday morning Mataya slept until about 8, which is great for a baby, but not so great for a teenager!  Poor Jamison sleeps in the living area of the camper.  It is a good thing he is so patient.  Multi-generational camping has it's perks - but sleeping late is not one of them!
 About the time we finished breakfast, Mataya was ready for a nap.  The littlest baby whisperer helped her fall asleep.  (Seriously, Joshua could NOT be sweeter with her!)
 Just chillin'
Chad and I decided to go for a run, and Jamison (under the supervision of Sierra) volunteered to babysit.

 As we finished our run, it started to rain.  It was a warm rain with absolutely no thunder or lightening.  One thing lead to another and we ended up going for a swim in the rain.  It was, without a doubt, the craziest and most fun thing I have done in a long time.  (Sierra and Mataya sat this adventure out!)
I had really, really missed being on the water.
Sierra watched Mataya for an hour or two so I could enjoy the boat.  She is so good to me!
 And Jamison is SO good to Joshua.  He had very little desire to tube; he prefers wakeboarding.  However, he tubed for as long as Joshua wished just to make him happy.

As I watched them tube from the bow of the boat I became overwhelmed with emotion.  In two years Jay graduates.  It will come so quickly.  These moments that I once took for granted are becoming more precious by the hour.  I am so thankful for each one.  In a blink, Joshua will be as tall as Jamison and the boys will be playing chicken on the tubes when Jamison comes home for a mid-summer visit.  (Please, oh please Jamison - come home every summer to play with us.)

Like I told me mom, I always knew my kids would grow up.  And at the same time, I did not believe it would really happen.  Some moments are long, but years pass quickly.  A year or two ago Jamison told me the age I would not like is when they leave.  How correct he was.  I am trying to let go gracefully, but it is a bit like ripping off a bandage, no matter how you go about it, it hurts a bit.

You can tell I am processing this theme continually. . .mostly mentally and when I journal and pray. . . I promise it is not the lead topic of conversation in our family!

Saturday ended with a fire for most of the family, and with snuggles and a book for Mataya and I.
It was a precious day.
After breakfast and a long walk we headed home on Sunday - but the beauty of the lake covered in this precious symbol of love and hope has remained close to my heart all week.

I am not sure we get additional opportunities to camp this summer.  Although school does not start for several weeks, cross-country practice for Jamison has resumed.  The first meet is only 16 days away!  Sierra is busy with cheer practice as well.  Her first game is 17 days away.  Fall is closing in on us, I am afraid, but, I am excited for next year.  I am a happy camper once again, and I look forward to the adventures that are yet to come!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

20 Years in Review

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary.  In celebration of that I spent the week going through ALL of the photos I have taken since our wedding day reliving each year, moment by moment.  As I went through books and books of snapshots, I had one goal in mind - finding a photo that somehow represented my favorite memory from each year we have been married.  Some years it was easy.  Some years it was hard.  Some years many fun, exciting, or meaningful events took place and choosing the best was difficult.  Other years it was hard to find something truly significant.  That is what makes a life, is it not?  Years of plenty and years of drought have been combined in a magnificent way to make our family all that it is today.

Want to take a walk down memory lane with me?

I have said many times that our wedding day was the best day of my life.  It was the start to our life together, and it was beautiful in every way.

(insert photo if I ever find one!)

Believe it or not, I can not find a single photo of our first year together?!?

However, my favorite memory from that year was Christmas.  We lived in a TINY apartment on the campus of Minot State University. Chad surprised me and brought home the largest and most beautiful live tree we have ever had.  It took up our entire living room, more or less, but we loved it.  Celebrating Christmas together was so incredibly sweet.

We became parents!
Kristiana Jean (or Krissy as she prefers) was born.  Being a mommy is my greatest joy.

Jamison Chad was born.  A boy and a girl, we felt so blessed!

We bought our first home.  Little did we know what a blessing this "dump" would become.  Not only did it provide our family with a home, it gave us the equity we needed to start our business years later.

Sierra Faith was born.

We all joined Chad at the National Handgunner World Speed Shooting Championships.  He was shooting for Smith & Wesson at the time, and this was the only National level match we attended as a family.  We were so proud to watch daddy shoot with the best of the best.

A different kind of baby was born when we started our business!  Chad originally shared his office with baby Sierra.

Chad LOVES movies.  By Christmas of 2002 the kids were all old enough to go on a family movie date.  This is a tradition we still (try to) follow each Christmas.

Brenna Joy was born.

Chad and I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Bahamas.  Thoughts of this trip still make me teary as it was so much more than I had ever dreamed.  We celebrated out 10th Anniversary watching the sunset all alone on the beach.  It felt miraculous.

We bought our first boat.  This was significant because it was the first time we had been able to purchase anything frivolous.  It ended up being such a wise investment.  We learned to have fun as a family, rather than working all the time.  Some of my very best times with our kids have taken place on the water.

This was a hard year filled with growth.  Our business grew.  Our kids grew.  Our faith grew.

Escape came on the water.  We spent as much time as we could playing with our kids.

Chad and I traveled to Aruba.

We asked the kids to plan a trip.  We told them we would take them anywhere they wished to go in the continental US, and they chose Magic Kingdom, of course!  They has SO much fun on this trip.

Joshua Gebeyehu Chad joined our family. I do not think there has EVER been a time when I was more ready to be wrapped in Chad's arms than when I walked off that plane with our new son in my arms.  This was a moment of joy and relief.  We were finally all together.

We worked hard and long learning to parent Joshua.  It was a time when Chad took care of me in so many ways.  He had my back and supported and trusted me as we learned to be adoptive parents.  It was hard - but in many ways it was also the best year of our marriage.

 This is the only year in which I allowed myself two events as "best."

In 2012 we built our home.  We lived in campers for 6 months. We worked long, hard, hot sweaty hours.  We experienced loss as the home flooded just before completion.  It was the hardest time of my life.  Working two jobs, living in campers, playing construction worker alongside Chad and the kids in every spare moment was not my idea of fun! I am not yet healed enough to call it the best part of the year, but I think there will come a time when I am.  Living in this home that we built together is very special.  God-willing we will grow old here, rock our grandbabies here, and some day, I am sure, that year will be one of the best years of my life.
However until I get to that place - my favorite memory of 2012 was traveling to Hawaii with the love of my life!

Chad and I traveled to Ethiopia together.  This was a dream come true for me.

Sweet, precious Mataya Hope was born.

I chose this delivery room photo because I am so thankful that Chad stood by my side throughout five births.  The delivery room is not his favorite, but in the delivery room - just like in all other areas of life - he was there, by my side, supporting me in every way that he could.

After spending so much of this week thinking through the last 20 years, one thing is certain, we have had a good life.  It makes me giddy to think of all the years, God-willing, we still have in front of us.

Once in a while people ask how we knew?  How did we know at 19 that it would work?  How do we still make it work?

Here are my thoughts:
1. Always remember that while some moments are long, the years pass quickly.

2. Love is not a feeling it is a choice.  Most of the time when Chad walks in the door after work I can not wait to see him.  But there have been days, weeks, even the occasional month in which I have not felt like a bride.  There are times when I choose love.  I choose commitment.  I choose kindness and faithfulness.  I choose forgiveness.  So does he.  (I'm actually not that easy to live with!)  When we choose love, over and over, a life of love is built.

3. Pray.  Only God can bind two people together in a way that is solid and true.

Chad - thank you for loving me so well.  Words can not express all that your love and the life we share mean to me.  Marrying you is the best choice I have ever made, no doubt about it.  I adore you, my sweet prince.