Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Destination: Disney

Turning five is a big deal.  You aren't really a preschooler, and you are beginning to become a big kid. Whereas Sam is still and most likely always will be small for his age, and he acts significantly younger than he is, we still wanted his fifth birthday to be a big deal.  Not only that, it is his first birthday in America with his family!  Thus, we decided on a family vacation to Disney World.  He doesn't actually turn 5 until December 17, so we went a week and a half before his birthday.

It was a spectacular week!  Watching the kids' faces light up when they saw characters and princesses was priceless.  All three of them loved the rides, and begged constantly for more roller coasters. They enjoyed the shows as well, and we did a dining plan meaning we had some spectacular meals. 

Alex had a lot of fun, but also acted like a typical two year old much of the time.  She would go from sheer joy and excitement to a temper tantrum in no time at all.  Why are two year olds so crazy?  I had Alex duty frequently because her stature and my pregnancy meant we could ride the same rides.  Once we were on the rides, she was a blast.  She soaked up every thing and would grin from ear to ear.  At one point, while Brent had the big kids for a roller coaster, Alex asked if we could meet Pluto and Goofy.  The line was long, but she really wanted to meet them.  Our turn finally came along, and she freaked out in utter terror!  We weren't even able to get a picture with my own camera before she went ballistic.  This poor child who had been potty trained for a year teeteed all over me due to her fright.

Lilly Grace was the perfect age for a little girl to be in Disney World.  Her imagination is still strong, and seeing lovely princesses was heavenly for her.  She asked Sofia the First to dance, and they spun in circles and curtsied.  She couldn't give enough hugs and high fives to the characters we met.  She also was a trooper and walked a ton each day.  She absolutely loved every single ride.  I admit I was jealous of Brent that he got to experience all of the kids' first roller coaster rides.  Though she is the middle child, in many ways she acts like the oldest so there were a few days she got to skip her nap and stay in one of the parks with either Brent or me.  She and Brent rode several of the rides that even Sam wasn't tall enough for, and the day I had her we met characters and did a few fun shows.  It was a treat to Brent and me to be able to spend some time alone with her.

Sam gets so excited about things, and watching him get excited about every new park, ride, character, and experience was priceless.  His entire face would light up, he would start chattering in his Spanglish, and he would literally leap for joy.  He claims his favorite ride was Splash Mountain, though he cried at the bottom of the mountain.  His other favorite ride was the Speedway in Magic Kingdom.  Brent says he drove like a true Colombian taxi driver.  Sam thoroughly enjoyed meeting the characters, especially Mickey and Pluto.  Though his English is coming along superbly, there were still times when the language barrier made explaining things difficult, especially when it came time for us to go home. 

Brent was such an awesome dad the entire trip.  He pushed the double stroller most of the time, and always grabbed our breakfast while I located a table.  He organized FastPasses so the big kids could ride as many roller coasters as possible.  He would take Alex to the bathroom, which is a major big deal because she is terrified of public bathrooms and has major breakdowns.  He put Prince Charming to shame and not only was super-dad, but was such a precious and supportive husband. 

This was my 8th trip to Disney World, and being 24 weeks pregnant and having three preschoolers in tow made this trip far different than the others.  Seeing children experience imagination and magic is precious and joyous, which made this one of my favorite Disney trips thus far.  Walking several miles a day gave me ginormous swollen ankles and feet, and my sciatica was rather uncomfortable, but it was totally worth it! 

By the end of the week, we were all exhausted.  We were averaging about 8-10 miles a day, which made us not feel so guilty about all the meals we devoured.  We already are looking forward to our next trip, and are definitely bringing along grandparents since there will be a fourth kid in the mix by that time!

Dumbo with the big kids

Alex and Sam enjoying a snack in front of the Tree of Life before heading back for naps

Alex being her two year old diva self

The big kids loved the Christmas lights and fake snow in Hollywood Studios

Riding the People Mover our last day in Disney World

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Miraculous Appointment

Today was a day that Brent and I knew was necessary, but that we looked to in sheer intimidation and nervousness.  This afternoon we drove to Birmingham for Sam to have his first cardiology appointment in America.  We once had to take Alex to a dermatologist in Birmingham because of a hemangioma birthmark, but a dermatologist is far less nerve wracking than a cardiologist.

Before we journeyed to Colombia, we took the brief amount of information we were given and consulted with a pediatric cardiologist in Montgomery.  He was so kind and explained what he could.  It was also beneficial since the doctor was from South America and could read Sam's files in Spanish.  At this appointment, we were given very bleak news and a poor prognosis for Sam's condition: tricuspid atresia.  This doctor, while impressive and wonderful, also admitted he only had two patients with this condition.  Thus, Brent and I decided we would rather use Dr. Romp in Birmingham.

The appointment consisted of an EKG, chest x-ray, ECHO, and consultation with the cardiologist.  Sam seems incredibly healthy, but I was incredibly anxious we were going to receive bad news.  We were given only good, incredible, news.  We learned while in Colombia that Sam's surgeries were performed at the number one hospital in Colombia, which is a complete and utter miracle since he was a ward of the state.  It would be like the difference in a child in America receiving medical care while under the care of DHR as opposed to care while having super good insurance.  It's an unfortunate truth in many places. 

The ECHO verified that Sam's surgery was done phenomenally, and was on par with the best cardiac surgeries performed in the US.  He doesn't have oxygenated and deoxygenated blood mixing, and his oxygen saturation was at 96%.  He is doing so well and is so healthy that Dr. Romp wants to wean him off his ACE inhibitor and his diuretic.  That means his only medication will be a baby aspirin if he tolerates being off these medications.

He also said Sam has NO activity limitation!  He probably won't be able to play college sports or maybe even high school sports because he does tire a little earlier than other kids, but it isn't necessarily a rule.  If he wants to play soccer, for example, he just may need a quick breather occassionally.  We also asked the doctor what all he should steer clear of while we are in Disney World.  He said his only limitation will be because of height restrictions!  This is huge because what it translates to is his risk of his heart going into a lethal or even dangerous rhythm is negligible.  It always is a risk, but is so minimal at this time that it isn't worth considering.

Good news just kept rolling in, and while the doctor was doing his exam, Sam was being so brave and such a trooper. He was a little antsy, but never fussed or pitched a fit.  He is one incredible little kiddo! 

Before I close, let me do my best to explain how his heart functions now that he has had two surgeries to revamp his cardiac "plumbing."  I am sure I am butchering this some, but I will do my best.  The left side of his heart functions great, and if there is a side of the heart that is most important to function properly, this is the side you want. A normal right side of the heart pumps, but due to his incorrect anatomy and now his corrective surgery, his right side doesn't actually pump his blood.  Instead, blood gets sent through his lungs passively because of negative pressure when he breathes.  This passive circulation is the reason he will always be on some form of anticoagulant because there is a higher risk for clots forming.  A baby aspirin should do the trick for a very long time. 

We asked what symptoms we should look for if something goes awry. Dr. Romp was quick to tell us he doesn't expect anything to go poorly, but if it does it would be predominately respiratory in nature, edema, or passing out if he experienced an arrythmia. 

We are elated at the good news, and we know the Lord orchestrated every bit of his health. A day that we feared became a day to rejoice!  The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways, and He never ceases to amaze! 

Leaving his appointment at UAB

An old picture, but you can see his scar on his chest from his two open heart surgeries. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fun Times

After some difficult days, and a lot of illness, I am thrilled to say the past week or so has been absolutely delightful.  Sam has been able to experience a lot more firsts, and after four weeks it seems like we are getting into the swing of things.  I will try to hit on the highlights of the past several days.

Our precious Sunday school class has been supplying us with meals twice weekly, which has been hugely beneficial!  We have had delicious meals, and not having to prepare supper has kept me sane.  Although I look forward to prepping and cooking, at this time that task seems daunting. 

We also had a sweet friend in our class, Brandy, invite us to the Save-a-Life banquet, where we had the opportunity to share a table with some fun friends.  Brent's parents babysat the kids, while we had our first evening away from the kids since we came back to America.  The kids obviously were in heaven spending time with Nana and Papa, and Brent and I thoroughly enjoyed each other's company.  The banquet was great, and it made us so thankful that Samuel's mother chose life, despite the circumstances she found herself in. 

The following night, Brent and I had another date!  My parents kept the kiddos, while we ate dinner at our favorite restaurant: Garrett's.  After nearly three months of almost no alone time, we were given two date nights in a row thanks to our parents!  We had a fabulous time.  Our meals put most things on Food Network to shame, and we got to have actual conversations.  It was a much needed evening, and every detail was splendid. 

Sam has made huge and magnificent academic improvements.  He can write his name in upper and lower case, and recognize over half of the alphabet.  His penmanship is just as good as any other four year old's now, and he even knows what sounds some letters make.  This is truly an answer to prayer!  He is such a smart boy, and though he is currently still behind his peers, we believe he will excel academically if he will keep trying.  Additionally, his English is coming along really well.  He has already lost a lot of his Spanish, so he is sometimes unable to express himself in either language.  It frustrates him, but his frustrations are forcing him to pick up on more English.

Tuesday we had the opportunity to vote.  Isn't it remarkable to have that right?  Brent and I always try to make a big deal about it, and we go as a family so that the children understand what a blessing it is to have such an opportunity.  The kids always love the "I Voted" stickers.  It was neat bringing Sam along and trying to explain to him what it meant... I was pretty unsuccessful in this venture, but I tried.  That evening, the kids and I headed to Brent's office to watch some of the poll results roll in.  We joined Brent, Brett, and Brant, and Ben for a bit (it is impossible to say that fast), but obviously had to head home before all the results came in.  Almost all of Brent's clients did fantastically, and nearly all of his polls were spot on as well.  Clearly, he does a great job at whatever he sets his mind to.

On Wednesday, the children and I got to play with the Cowden girls.  Elizabeth, Mary Louise, and Catherine entertained my three, while Julie and I got to kick back and watch them play.  Not only are the Cowdens precious, but I must admit it was nice for someone else to entertain my munchkins for a while.  We then headed to church, where Sam and Lilly Grace had a choir performance during the prayer service.  Lilly Grace smiled the entire time, and Sam danced along with the music right on beat.  You also wouldn't know by watching him that English wasn't his primary language.  They were absolutely adorable!

One morning, Sam and I headed to LAMP High School to visit MaMere, and for Sam to meet some of the folks that have been praying for him. He of course had a wonderful time as he was given three bags of cookies, a sucker, and tons of high fives.  I intended on staying for about 45 minutes, but MaMere is just so fun and that quickly became 2 hours.  While we were there, we visited Mrs. Chambliss's art class and saw her students decorating tons of circles.  As soon as we got back in my mom's office, Sam got a piece of paper and some markers and tried to emulate what he had seen the big kids do.  His work was pretty impressive, and it now is adorning our fridge door. 

Sam and I also had the fun opportunity to meet up with Tanya and Lena Birchfield for an early lunch one day.  The kids had a great time together, and it was such an awesome experience watching children born in two different worlds come together to play.  Tanya is such a wealth of knowledge, and made me feel like our issues were not out of the realm of normal for an adopted child at all.  That was such a relief, and every since our lunch date I feel like I can relax a lot more.  Her Lena was so cute and sweet, and I look forward to watching her and Sam grow up together.  One from Moldova, the other from Colombia, and now precious little Americans growing up at First Baptist Church. 

Last week at school, Lilly Grace had an Indian Pow Wow.  It seems like all of a sudden she is so grown up and mature.  She is being far more obedient, and generally speaking is such a joy to be around.  She was stoked beyond belief for her Pow Wow.  She requested braids, and showed me how to sit properly like an Indian. After the school day was over, she told Alex, Sam, and me in great detail all about her Pow Wow.  It is so fun listening to children talk excitedly to each other. 

Saturday was a majorly fun day for the kiddos. Brett Cowden, along with his three girls, accompanied Brent and our two big ones to tailgate in Auburn.  Sam has been excited to go to "Go Auburn" since he learned about Auburn, and Lilly Grace has enjoyed anything football related with her Daddy since before she could talk - not a trait she inherited from me.  Not only were Sam and LG with their favorite "big girls" but they ran into and were able to spend tons of time with their Aunt Lindsey and Uncle Michael while there.   Alex and I hung back and had some fun on our own.  We went to the mall and had a lunch date followed by gobs of ice cream.  Then, we rode the carousel (AKA Spinny Thing) and several of the cars and such that you put a quarter in.  She can be tough when around the other kids, and she is not afraid to let her two-year-old-ness show, but when she is alone she is totally different. She is silly, funny, loving, and an absolute blast. 

Sunday, the whole family went to Wynlakes to celebrate my dad's birthday.  With six kids, it is hard to slow down much, so we didn't get any family photos, but we had a wonderful time.  In true Sunday form, we then all went home for much needed naps - Brent and me included.

Now, it is Monday evening.  The kids are in bed. Tomorrow is going to be a marathon kind of day.  I have a doctor's appointment here in Montgomery, then Brent, Sam and I head to Birmingham to see the pediatric cardiologist.  I am very antsy about it, although he seems to be in such great health.  Pray that all goes well and we are given good news, and I will update on what the doctor says.

Sweetest Republicans

After a fun play date, Alex refused to be photographed

Chik-Fil-A Play Date with Lena

Tiger Lilly getting ready for her Pow Wow at school

Driving the cars at the mall

Tiger Walk with Lindsey and Michael
Precious four year old choir members

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Highs and the Lows

Life in general has it's ups and downs.  Parenting is no different in that respect, and some days there can be an abundance of both.  Don't get me wrong, having a large growing family is incredible, but sometimes it is simply just hard.  On the flip side, there are tons of times that it is awesome and seemingly perfect.  My struggle is to be patient and forgiving during the tough times, and to stop comparing the kids to each other and to other children. 

The girls enjoyed being back at school with their friends and their teachers.  After some blood, sweat, and tears, I turned to the advice of Shan Stallings in dealing with homeschooling Sam.  In addition to her fantastic advice and great ideas, she reminded me of two important things.  Samuel isn't just having to learn academics right now, he is having to learn how to be a part of a family, how to be in America and all of the new tastes, sounds and smells, how to speak and understand English, and countless other new things we take for granted.  Additionally, she encouraged me not to judge his achievements based on when and how other kids learn.  Each child is different, and we are learning to celebrate his achievements instead of stressing over what else he needs to master.  He has achieved a significant amount lately though!  He can now buckle himself in his booster seat, write his name, write a handful of letters, and recognize several letters and numbers.  We have also been practicing strength exercises, as his upper body strength is a little behind. 

We were fortunate to experience one of the big family highs in the Highlands last weekend.  Packing was no big deal after having packed and unpacked eight weeks of clothes and such, and we all five headed out mid-morning last Friday for North Carolina to celebrate Brent's cousin's wedding.  Brent had calls almost the entire five hours, the kids watched movies and behaved fantastically, and we stopped at Taco Bell for lunch which made this mama happy!  All went really well until the very end when Alex started crying that her back hurt, and we had to pull over on a windy road for her to potty on some leaves.  A two year old with a small bladder and no public buildings calls for a very rustic bathroom situation.

We didn't make as good time as we expected, so we all five got ready for the rehearsal dinner in the back of the car in the middle of downtown Highlands.  It was fun seeing all of the family and meeting Richard's (Brent's cousin) bride's family and friends. The evening started in a courtyard with appetizers being served and corn hole to be played.  Our three used their pent up energy to run a few miles around the courtyard, and then played some corn hole.  Sam has a good arm and surprisingly good aim.  He struggles with things like opening doors and hand strength, but he does not struggle at all with throwing or catching!

Soon, it was time for supper and man-oh-man it was delicious!  Fancified southern comfort food was the cuisine du jour.  The kids devoured their meals.  My favorite part was the collard greens, and I am salivated thinking about their scrumptiousness.  After the meal, the toasts and roasts were adorable.  We got to see some of their precious video, but it sadly malfunctioned before we could see it all.  Because of bedtimes, we left before the party was over.  We assumed the wedding party would assume we leave while attitudes were still good, instead of staying and everybody having to celebrate and talk over sleepy grouchy children.

The drive to the house that we rented rivaled the drives in Medellin with all of the windy roads, except the roads here were not only windy, but a slip up means you tumble down a gorge to sure death.  Nausea from the windy roads, and terror from the treacherous cliffs made for an interesting drive, but we finally arrived at the awesome house we were sharing with Brent's sister and her husband, Lindsey and Michael.  We quickly unpacked and put the kids to bed.  Later in the evening, Lindsey and Michael, as well as Brent's brother, Travis, arrived.  We all got to visit and hang out for a while before all of us big people turned in for bed as well.  

The following day was fantastic.  The kids were ecstatic to wake up to a house-full of family, and we had a leisurely breakfast and morning before heading out for some Highland adventures.  We visited most of the "must-see sights" of the area including a breath taking waterfall.  The foliage was gorgeous, and we were in awe of the God-made beauty surrounding us everywhere we journeyed.  Brent's parents tried to meet up with us, but thanks to some confusing directions and really poor cell service, we never ended up at the same location.

After some short power naps for the kids, we headed out to the wedding.  Travis, Lindsey, and Michael left much earlier than us to be part of family photos.  We felt horrible about it, but we just couldn't let the kids fore go their naps, and so we missed out on the pictures.  The wedding was really sweet.  Now that we have been married for almost six years, it seems each wedding is more and more precious as it reminds us of our incredible adventure of marriage.  We were nervous about having three kids sit through a wedding, but they did pretty well all-in-all.  Alex had a few extremely loud things to say, and she received a dirty look from a high school girl, but I don't think it interfered with the actual ceremony.

The reception was held at a gorgeous location, and was the nicest reception Brent and I have ever attended.  It was a multi-coursed sit down meal with a menu was designed by a Dutch chef.  It was fancy and delicious.  Every table had perfectly gorgeous flower arrangements, and the service staff was very professional.  Clearly the day was about the bride and groom, but we felt like royalty to be invited!   The newly weds, Richard and Lindsay, looked absolutely perfect.  Their first dance was sweet, and the dances with the father of the bride and mother of the groom were fantastic. 

Once the meal was over, the band took the stage.  Most of the guests were about our age, but without children.  Some of them took to the dance floor and were doing a good job of cutting a rug, but then the real dancers appeared.  Sam, Lilly Grace, and Alex were hysterical, energetic, and phenomenal dancers.  I know I am biased, but they were the best two and four year old dancers I have ever seen. I hope some of it is on video.  The wild and fun band even had them talk into the microphone and dance on stage.  Aside from water breaks, they danced for at least an hour and a half nonstop.  We ended up driving back to the mountain house with three tired, sweaty children. 

The rest of the trip went extremely well, and our family of five stayed a day extra than Brent's siblings.  Before we drove home on Monday, we ate breakfast at a delicious restaurant at a quaint and very fancy inn in downtown Highlands.  It was our first southern breakfast since arriving back in the states, and it was phenomenal.  As life always seems though, when things are going so well, something bad usually swings our way to bring us back to reality. The girls suddenly were burning up with fever, complaining of sore throats, body aches, and belly pain.  Alex was coughing constantly, and becoming hoarse.

This is where the low comes in.  The girls were sick for an entire week.  They couldn't go to school, and the illness wouldn't seem to let off at all.  They both missed their fall parties, and it was nearly impossible to homeschool Sam when dealing with two sick irritable girls.  I am hesitant to take them to the doctor, because most childhood illnesses are viral.  However, after five days of awful symptoms and fevers that wouldn't break below 101, I caved and we ended up at the pediatrician.  Despite a really rough week on so many levels, the kids were actually pretty good at the doctor.  Three kids and a mom crammed into a tiny room isn't much fun, but we managed and they did well.  The girls were diagnosed with coxsackie virus, which can have a huge range of symptoms.  The girls experienced almost every single symptom throughout the week, and were clearly miserable. 

As if that wasn't enough, our cute miniature dachshund had an awful allergic reaction one night that wound us up at the emergency vet.  My sweet mother came along, as Lucy was looking awful.  Her throat started swelling, and I was terrified her airway was going to close.  As I was gathering my things to head to the vet, I was wondering in my head how to do CPR on a snout, and how to trache a six pound dog.  Lucy ended up being fine, and her swelling went down after a couple of days, a steroid, and gobs of Benadryl.

Friday finally rolled around, and Friday meant Halloween!  My parents were joining us for a thematic Halloween supper (I love themed meals), so I was busy cooking when I decided it was time to dress the kids in their adorable outfits.  Sam was dressed as Jake from the Netherland Pirates, and Lilly Grace was sporting her Izzy outfit from the same show. I stripped Alex's clothes off of her to put her in her Scully the Parrot costume to find her trunk, belly, back, and arms covered with coarse bright red dots.  Another symptom of this heinous virus.  All the kids were finally dressed, and then family came over to see them in their costumes.   Marge came first and brought play-doh, which the kids loved playing with.  She left just as Linda and Tim were coming, and they also brought some fun treats for the kids buckets.  My parents then arrived, and Brent got home around the same time as well. 

We enjoyed our supper, and my parents manned the house while we took the kids trick-or-treating.  They had so much fun, and it truly is so much fun watching kids being excited.  We tried not to let Alex or Lilly Grace touch any other children, so I don't think we spread any of their yucky cooties. 

The next morning, we met one of my friends, Laurie for a post-adoption photo shoot.  Alex's rash had spread to her neck, chin, and mouth, and the spots on her upper chest blistered.  Not a one of us was in a good mood.  The kids at least had an excuse - they didn't feel well.  Brent and I were just sick of the rotten attitudes that come with illness.  Sam is making great strides at acting like a big boy, instead of a 2 or 3 year old, but he regressed and was acting like a young toddler the morning of pictures.  The combination was not lovely whatsoever, but Laurie is talented and ended up getting some wonderful photos!  By looking at the pictures, you would think we were all in stellar moods.  I am just relieved she takes pictures and not videos. 

After a day of lack of patience, rough attitudes, and disobedience, we decided we needed something fun to go on for the kids.  We met Brent's parents at Miyako, a Hibachi restaurant.  It was just what the munchkins needed.  They enjoyed the entertainment of watching the man prepare our meals, and they really enjoyed their meals.  Lilly Grace has hardly had more than a couple of bites per meal this week, but she ate two bowls of the soup.  Sam basically inhaled his soup and enjoyed his chicken.  Alex asked for steak instead of chicken and ate an adult-sized portion.  It was a great cure for a stressed out family, and we were thankful the week ended on a good note. 

Kiddos Posing at the Rehearsal Dinner

Buchanan and Whisonant Families at the Reception

The Beginning of  Lucy's Facial Swelling

Scully, Jake, and Izzy: All from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Oatmeal Bath for Miss Polka Dots

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shopping, Shoes, Shots, Sickness, Snakes, and So On

What a great week it's been at home!  So much has gone on, and come on folks - don't you love the alliteration in the title?!  It has been eventful to say the least, but regardless of the busyness of it all, it seems so much more relaxing to be home.

It took nearly a full week to get laundry caught up and all of the unpacking completed.  Now that those chores are done, our house is basically back to normal.  I still really need to reorganize toys, and get more gender-neutral and boy-toys down stairs, but there just hasn't been time for that yet.

Monday was a school holiday, so all three of the kids got to stay home and play. It was my first day home alone in America with all three kids, and it started out rocky.  The biggest issue was Alex exuding everything typical of a two year old.  Two is one of my favorite ages to be honest, sans the whining.  The day fortunately got better and better, but we were quite ready for Brent to return home after work.

Tuesday was the girls' first day back at school.  Lilly Grace was really excited, but I was a tad nervous for Alex.  However, she waltzed right into her classroom and started telling her teachers about meeting and hugging Minnie Mouse. (Note: She hasn't actually met nor hugged Minnie, but the line between reality and imagination in a two year old is nonexistent.)  It was awesome being back at Frazer Kindergarten and seeing so many sweet faces that all had kind words to say.  Samuel was none to happy to leave his sisters, and he begged to go to school.  We told him once he learns his letters, numbers, and colors he can go. 

In the meantime, he and I are home schooling.  It really feels like one step forward, three hundred steps backward sometimes. He is learning shapes, colors, and even numbers fairly easily.  He also can recall some letter sounds, but memorizing the letters is our biggest struggle right now.  Though I get frustrated and want to cry almost daily, sometimes I just have to laugh at things instead of cry.  I told Brent one morning it felt like Celebrity Jeopardy on Saturday Night Live.  I asked, "Is this a C or a D," and the response I was given was, "Hmmm, a B!"  He will get there, it is just taking diligence and patience.  However, his writing skills are improving exponentially on a daily basis!  It makes his Mommy and Daddy beam with pride.

We also went shopping to get Sam some clothes for the wedding weekend.  I was so thankful for a lady at Namedropper and to my friend, Beth Oliver for all the advice and help about dressing a boy.  He is definitely going to be one handsome young man this weekend in the Highlands!  What he liked best about shopping was the trains he got to play with at the store - he could have cared less about his new clothes. 

Wednesday morning, Sam and I conquered Walmart together.  He has a tendency to dart off, but stayed with me the entire time.  We even practiced letter flashcards while we shopped, and a couple of letters were starting to stick.  They redid the produce section as well as invested in new carts that actually steer without inducing arm cramps, so it was successful on several different accounts. 

On Wednesday evening, the three kids and I headed to church.  Brent had a super important dinner meeting with a large and really cool client, so I was flying solo with the kids - except not really, my parents were parked on either side of my car, so we each handled one kid per adult.  It was one of those evenings that made me think, "Why don't y'all act like this every day?!"  They were fantastic.  They ate their dinner, then played with the other kids while waiting on the evening activities to begin.  My tummy was beginning to have butterflies because I was about to leave Sam for the first time.  He went to 4 year old choir with Lilly Grace, Alex went to her "play class", and I stayed with my parents for the prayer meeting.  He did awesome!  It was a wonderful night.  To make the night even better, Brent's dinner meeting didn't go too late, and it went really well!

Thursday was a busy day.    Samuel had his first doctor's appointment with our pediatrician.  For those of you in Montgomery, let me just say that I adore Partner's in Pediatrics!  They answered all of my questions and got us in within just a couple of days.  I brought in probably 7 pounds of medical paperwork that they are still copying and sorting, and were so thorough with every little detail.  My sweet mother-in-law kept the girls while Sam and I were at the doctor.  (A word to the wise for you single ladies out there - marry in to a great family.  You'll be so glad you did!)  Lilly Grace was so excited about Nana coming over, she couldn't even sleep.

The doctor went well.  It took a long time because there was a lot to do - nearly 5 years to go over, several things to establish, on top of the normal physical.  His check up went great.  Dr. Blakeney could not hear a murmur at all (miracle), and we think his surgeon must have been top notch (Praise the Lord).  Though I am against the flu shot (don't judge, I have my reasons - but we do every other vaccination), I caved and he got one.  He hated it, but did fantastic.  Such a tough cookie!  We will soon have follow up appointments with some specialists in Birmingham.

We returned home just as my mother was pulling up in the driveway to deliver delicious and cute cookies, as well as a gift from some neighbors.  We all headed out back and found Nana with the girls in dress-up clothes playing.  Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lucy, our dog, tossing something in the air over and over.  Lucy had caught a snake.  Seriously, why are snakes always found when there are no men around?  We threw it in a box, and Sam went nuts.  He was screaming "No quiero " over and over and running as far away as possible.  Then, all of a sudden he wanted to see the snake.  He peered over the box, and in perfect English said, "Awww, hey sweet snake."  Hmmm, I guess he got over that fear quickly.  Not much later, Brent arrived home and he may or may not have tossed the snake that the kids named Tim into our crazy neighbor's yard. 

Friday wasn't too eventful.  The kids put on American flag tattoos and we made Halloween -style Rice Krispie Treats.  Once they were all in bed, Brent and I began preparing for a yard sale.  Our neighborhood was having a neighborhood-wide one, which was perfect as we had several things we no longer needed.  Sadly, Brent's stomach symptoms returned, and he was having horrendous abdominal pain as well as some other issues.  I think the over-the-counter stuff he took for several days simply masked the real problem, and we were starting to become quite concerned.  He agreed that if he didn't drastically improve, he would go to the doctor.

We got up super early for the yard sale Saturday morning.  Poor Brent was miserable, and every movement sent sharp pains through his stomach.  The yard sale was a major success, and everything that wasn't sold was packaged up for the Caring Center at church.  As the morning progressed, Brent's troubles did as well.  He decided to go to All-Med Urgent Care, and my parents and I took the kids to the Pumpkin Patch.

Brent was given medications that would treat a food-borne illness that would either be bacterial or parasitic.  He clearly ate something not-so-good in Colombia, but he won't find out exactly what it is until results are back in a few days.  While Brent was miserable at the doctor and at home, the kids, my parents, and I were having a blast at the Pumpkin Patch!

It was Sam's first time for a lot of the things, and all three were giggling in sheer delight almost constantly.  We started out at a huge slide made of French drain pipes and hay bales.  We saw some precious families from our Sunday School class here, and enjoyed watching the kids all be country bumpkins.  Next, the kids did some of the inflatable slides and jumpy houses until they were red in the face and drenched in sweat.  We then headed to watch pigs race.  The two big kids got really into the race and were almost breathless cheering on the pigs.  Next was the petting zoo area.  The kids were able to feed and pet sheep, goats, donkeys, and a cow.  Alex had her hand bitten by a goat, which is the third time in a row we've been to this place that one of the girls have been bitten by a goat!  If I was a better mom, I would make them steer clear of the goats.  Ooops. 

We then headed to another climbing and playing area, which was fun until the kids realized there was a box full of corn, in lieu of a sand box, designed just for play.  It was a major hit.  They jumped, made corn angels, and each took turns getting buried under the corn.  My parents freaked me out by telling me baby mice love being in piles of dried corn.  Fortunately, we never saw any "pinkies."  The only down side of the corn box was the obscure places the corn ended up.  Lilly Grace got about 4 handfuls of corn out of her panties, and Alex got this funny look on her face before she asked we pull her panties down.  She had corn all in the front and underside of her panties... that can't be comfortable at all.  Sam somehow had no corn anywhere, though he played the longest. 

It was time for lunch, though the kids claimed they weren't hungry and wanted to keep playing.  After lunch we rode on a ride that made Colombian taxi drivers seem sane.  It was a cow train ride pulled by an insane tractor driver.  We all unloaded from the train with our organs in the wrong place, dust in our eyes, and some nearly-soiled drawers. 

Then, we went on a hay ride to the actual pumpkin patch.  It is a fantastic hay ride because there is no hay to bother legs or allergies.  We all loved meandering through the pumpkins, and the big kids tried to prove their strength by picking up large pumpkins.  My father, the biggest kid of all, thought he would prove his strength by balancing a pumpkin on his head.  By this time, the kids were getting sleepy so we decided to head to Pops' truck to make it home before utter exhaustive attitudes set in.

Once home, we encountered Brent on the recliner still looking a little pale and green.  We turned on some football and all fell asleep.  I got up from the couch to make a recipe from Pinterest that has made my mouth water since we were in Medellin: tomato basil Parmesan soup with cheddar bacon pinwheels.  I was so excited about a home cooked fall meal. 

Everything was going great.  The veggies had been finely chopped and were getting soft on the stove. The aromas filling the kitchen were delightful.  I didn't want a chunky soup but a smooth creamy soup, so I filled the blender with the yumminess.  My thoughts were, "This is brilliant!  We are going to have tons of veggies and the kids won't even know it.  "  Then I thought, "Even more perfect.  The blender lid has small gaps in it, so steam can escape while I blend this concoction."  Needless to say, none of this decision was brilliant or perfect.  A bright red boiling hot mixture erupted through the gaps sending a mess throughout my kitchen.  My white blouse looked like it had been splatter painted, and I was burned on my neck and both wrists. 

Obviously, dinner wasn't going to happen in a timely manner, so we met Brent's parents for dinner at Chappy's.  We enjoyed the family time and also saw several friends while there.  After dinner, we went back home and got the kids ready for bed.  Brent rested some more and let his meds take effect while I finally finished the soup which would be consumed another day.  The best laid plans... yada yada yada....

On Sunday, Brent still wasn't quite feeling great so the four of us went to church while he stayed back.  I feel like I am getting the hang of getting three kids ready.  We were all fed, dressed, and ready, ran to fill up with gas, and made it to church on time.  The older two did very well in big church, and Samuel went to his Sunday School class for the first time.  It all went exceptionally well, and his teachers are wonderful.  It helps that he and Lilly Grace are in all of the same classes at church.

My parents had us over for a delicious fall meal, and Brent was able to join us.  The kids' cousin Scarlett was there as well, and Scarlett, Lilly Grace, and Samuel got to sit at their own table like big kids.  Afterward, we went outside and my dad flew his model helicopter for the kids. They loved it!  Because of some griping and whining, we decided to go home and prepare for Sunday afternoon naps. 

Sunday evening, the kids and I headed back to church for Mission Friends, which was another first for Sam.  It all went great, and we survived several "firsts" all in one day.

Although being back home is phenomenal, it isn't always easy.  Having three children isn't harder than having two, but it is busier.  There are more mouths to feed, more rules to enforce, more dishes to clean, more laundry to wash, more bodies to bathe, more kids to clothe, and more messes to put away.  Honestly, the hardest part is trying to get Sam caught up with his peers.  It is exhausting for both of us, and I really feel like we aren't getting anywhere.  It is already evident that he won't be ready for 4K in January, and I am terrified he will be behind in 3K, although he will be the oldest in the class.  I know everybody says not to worry, he will get caught up, focus on bonding, boys are different, etc, but as a mother I can't help but be concerned.  Maybe it will click on day, and I pray for that "Ah hah" moment every day.  We prayed for patience at the onset of the adoption process, and evidently I didn't learn it well enough yet.

We are on to another week which will end with a vacation to the Highlands, North Carolina with Brent's family for his cousin's wedding.  We all are so excited, and can't wait for our first family of five vacation this fall. 

His clothes for the wedding - cute little rascal

Showing off their tattoos, and yes, Alex has a huge belly

Sam and Lilly Grace routing on their favorite pigs at the race

Alex resting in the corn

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cloud Nine

Sunday morning, Brent and I awoke to our alarm clocks.  We weren't awakened by a screeching pteradactyl-type bird, horns, car alarms, airplanes, car back-fires, or security guards hollering down the street.  Simply our alarms.  We showered and got ready in our bathroom, and had all of our clothes to choose from... well, almost all. There was still a lot of laundry from our Colombian journey left to do.

I cooked cheesy scrambled eggs and sliced fruit for breakfast.  How nice to have a  decent cutting boards, a whisk, and a small bowl to use.  Clean up was also so fast with a garbage disposal and dishwasher.

We successfully got three kids ready for church and arrived a tad bit early!  What a welcome sight First Baptist was!  Samuel was greeted by several people, and he was very friendly to all who came to meet him.  Brent's family joined us at church, and we took up two entire rows.  Alex goes to her class, because she can't quite sit still for really any time period at all.  She waltzed right into her class like such a big girl.  I was so proud!  Samuel and Lilly Grace stayed in big church with us and the family.

Toward the beginning of the service, Pastor Jay welcomed us back from Colombia and welcomed Samuel to the First Baptist family.  We truly were touched, and it brought crocodile tears to my eyes when the congregation clapped for us!  It was so moving because we know these folks have been with us every step of the way, and there have been countless prayers sent up for Samuel and our family.  Samuel was smiling SO big, and waved at everybody.  Lilly Grace, who is actually really social in smaller settings despises having tons of people looking her way.  She freaked out and had crocodile tears for an entirely different reason.  She and I left to calm down for a bit, and she told me that when people look at her it makes her feel shy.  Bless her heart!

The kids did incredible in church!  To our knowledge, this is Sam's first church service.  He was a total pro.  It also seems like Lilly Grace grew up a ton in two months and she was the best she's ever been in church.  They both tried to sing the songs along with the congregation, and pretended to fill in the blanks along with the sermon.

Samuel went to Sunday School with us, against his will, while LG went to her class.  He was so jealous and kept begging to play with Lilly Grace, but we didn't think he should be left without parents the first day back in America.  We promised him that next week he could go to Sunday School.  When we later went to pick up Lilly Grace, we let Samuel meet his teachers and play with the remaining kids in the class. It went perfectly.  I think it will make for a smooth transition next week.

Alex is in Mary Ruth Wolf's class (our pastor's wife).  Her previous teacher was Ms. Anne, whom Alex thought hung the moon.  Well, Alex thinks Ms. Mary Ruth is hanging the moon as well.  She talked so much about Sunday School, and was crazily proud of her artwork of the burning bush.   She showed every single person she encountered her artwork, and kept staring at it in awe of her own skills.  She even toted it to lunch and showed it off there as well.

Then, the five of us got in Brent's car and drove to Wynlakes for lunch.  While waiting for our table, we saw one of my best friends, Christy, and her family!  It was lovely seeing her, and having the entire Glassford gang meet Samuel.  Also in the lobby, Steve Harvey walked through. He was evidently golfing at Wynalkes, and surprisingly, very few people were swarming him.  One family waited outside the men's bathroom for a photo, which seemed a little creepy to me.  Everybody else was pretty cool about it.

We sat at the table adjacent to my parents, which was perfect.  The kids behaved like angels, with good manners, sweet attitudes, and eventually full bellies.  Lilly Grace had a crying spell, but it wasn't without reason.  She fell out of a chair and landed with her boot heel up her hiney.  I think that would make me cry, too!  Man alive that food was yummy!  We had a lot of fruit in Colombia, but not many veggies.  At the buffet, there were green beans, sweet potatoes, salads, broccoli, and squash - and those were just some of the veggies.  We definitely got our fill, and really enjoyed filling our bellies with scrumptious American food.

We then went home and passed out in food comas.  After naps, the girls and I headed to church for Mission Friends, while Brent and Samuel went shopping for pants.  Samuel is so tiny that most of his clothes don't fit. Brent ended up buying him several pairs of 2T khakis and jeans.  He is about to turn five and is wearing 2T pants.  Fortunately, my friend Beth Oliver gave me tons of advice on dressing skinny little boys without them looking too babyish, too grown, or too frumpy.

Sunday was definitely an incredible day.  Brent and I feel euphoric being at home and being with everybody who means so much to our family!  Now, onto our new normal in America as a family of five!  We still have oodles of laundry to do and a few more suitcases to unpack, but that's taking a back burner to us enjoying being back.

A rare photo of the 5 of us.  Waiting for lunch.  Thanks Brooke Glassford!  

Sweet Home Alabama!

It is hard to believe that less than 48 hours ago, we were still in overcast, polluted, chilly, drizzly Bogota.  Around 8:15 at night, later than the kids usually go to bed, we all got in a van to head to the airport in Bogota.  Fortunately, the children took late and long naps, so the late night wasn't going to be as difficult as it could have been.

We arrived at the airport, and while Samuel, Alex and I watched our gobs of luggage, Brent, Lilly Grace, and our translator went to the tax exemption line so get some money back on some of our in-country purchases.  After doing all that was necessary, Brent was told that since we did not have tourist visas (ours were specific for adoption), we did not qualify for any refund.  Had we had the girls' names written on the receipts instead of ours, we could have qualified.  We were bummed, but at least we can pass this information on to others.

Then, it was time to check out baggage.  Samuel goes bezerk when our luggage gets checked and taken away.  We convinced him he would see it again, but he still can't stand it!  We aren't sure if he is scared his toys and clothes are gone forever, or if he just really likes having everything close by.  Once he recovered from the luggage withdrawals, we headed to emigration.  We were given a packet of stuff to hand to the emigration officer.  (Don't think I am a moron, but the Colombian word says "Emigration" at the airport, and isn't emigration when you leave a country, and immigration when you enter a country, or do I have this all backwards?) The staff at Julyana Adoptions made everything so easy and organized our paperwork, so emigration was a breeze.  We were cleared to leave the country.

The next step in the airport was customs, then security.  Aside from juggling three energetic kiddos, who were behaving fantastically, security was so easy.  You don't have to get anything out of your bags, they just scan it all.  Shoes stay on.  We simply had to remove jackets and anything in our pockets.  Additionally, their security people are always smiling and incredibly nice.  Can TSA please take some lessons in this respect?

We headed to one of the airline clubs to get a quick bite and try to sleep for a bit.  Samuel basically gets comfortable and falls asleep instantly.  He is a parent's dream child when it comes to bedtime.  Alex was surprisingly quiet, but is a tornado.  Once she finally fell asleep, Brent and I got so tickled because at one point she was talking and waving in her sleep.  The child truly never slows down - awake or not.  Lilly Grace had the most difficult time.  She was being so good, but the noises were really bothering her.  Brent spent the rest of our Colombian pesos in the airport while I watched the munchkins.

Eventually, it was time to board the plane.  Alex slept in her stroller and in my arms until we boarded.  The big kids woke up to walk, but stayed in a fog.  It was close to midnight after all.  The flight went perfectly.  Alex and Brent were beside a nice Colombian gentleman, and Alex slept the entire flight.  Brent woke up once to find Alex semi on top of this gentleman, and semi snuggling him.  Samuel and Lilly Grace slept the entire flight, despite having their feet in each other's faces.  We were anxious about taking a red eye, but it worked out perfectly because the six hours went by really quickly.

We landed in Dallas and had to go through customs.  It was incredible having Samuel on American soil!  We were originally told once he landed he was officially a US citizen, but have since heard conflicting information.  Customs took about 30 minutes altogether, and we were escorted to a room that had a play area.  Though it was only 6am, the kids had a great time playing while Brent dealt with the customs officer.

Once we claimed and rechecked our luggage, we went to the Centurion Club for breakfast... an amazing American breakfast!  Fruit, quiches, french toast, potatoes, yogurt, muffins, juices, coffee.  That french toast was pretty incredible.  The kids and I stayed at the table waiting for Samuel to finish eating while Brent took a shower.  He was still feeling pretty horrendous at this point, but at least did fine on the six hour flight.  Once we were finally finished, I took the kids to the bathroom to potty, freshen up, and I tried to make myself look somewhat decent.

Our layover was over before we knew it.  The timing was perfect and we boarded the plane to Montgomery.  It was an easy hour and a half.  Samuel and Lilly Grace sat side by side and honestly did not get reprimanded or in trouble once.  They played on their LeapPads most of the time and had some little snacks every so often to pass the time.  Brent was in a seat alone right across the aisle from the big kids.  Fortunately, he was able to cat-nap a tad on the flight.  I was next to Alex behind the others.  Her traveling attitude and behavior has done a 180 degree turn.  She was a delight!  It made the time pass quickly.

At 10:35 am we landed in Montgomery.  I am so thankful the airport is tiny, because we couldn't wait to see friends and family!  We were welcomed by the best, happiest, most loving crowd there has ever been.  My sister took pictures for us, as did several of our friends.  It was one of the best moments of our lives!  I think Samuel knows how much he is loved by so many people. He isn't shy at all and was quick to give high fives, hand shakes, and hugs.

Along with these amazing people, we were greeted with balloons, posters, candies and more, but nothing can compare to the welcome these friends and family gave Samuel and the rest of our family.  For months and months, all we thought about was when we could finally go to Colombia to meet our son.  We weren't mentally prepared for the eight weeks because our brains couldn't get past the awesomeness of the expected "Gotcha Day."  Not only that, we weren't prepared for the awesomeness of coming home.  It was emotional and perfect.  It makes us realize that we have been blessed with the best families in the world and the best friends in the world as well!

Following a lot of photos, hugs, tears, smiles, and celebration, we loaded up the luggage and headed to our house.  My mother had cleaned the house immaculately, and she had decorated!  We had new decorative pillows on our bed, candles around the house, two vases of flowers downstairs, a wreath on the front door, scent packets to make the house smell amazing, trimmed bushes, photo frames with all three children, and tons of other precious and generous touches.  My mother-in-law had gifts on the fireplace for the children and a gorgeous bow on the mailbox.  My grandmother had gone grocery shopping.  Our sweet friends the Cowdens and the McDaniels had gifts for all three kiddos, and Beth McDaniel and her infinite medical knowledge gave Brent advice on what to do for his illness and what to do if he didn't get better.

Samuel had an absolutely blast exploring his house.  He seemed a little overwhelmed, but did an wonderful job taking it all in.  He loves his room, the toys, the yard, and especially our dog, Lucy.  It was so fun seeing him explore the house.

Within a few minutes, our families arrived.  My mother had lunch for everybody: a Chappy's sandwich tray, chips, and cookies.  Brent's grandparents brought YooHoo's - a treat Lilly Grace loves when she goes to their house.  The kids played so hard in the backyard, and the kids' dear friend Anna Catherine came to play as well.  They played soccer, swang, ran, jumped on the trampoline, and played on the see-saw.  They were drenched in sweat and had that fantastic kid stench.  Everybody went their own ways, and Brent bathed our kids and put them down for naps.  We watched some disappointing football and fell asleep as well.

Once the five of us were able to peel ourselves from our comas, we began to unpack a little bit.  Believe me, unpacking two months world of clothes, toiletries, toys, etc is a daunting task.  Brent, being the kind-hearted man that he is, praises every little bit that I get accomplished and keeps reassuring me not to stress about it and to take my time on the unloading and reorganizing.  Hopefully, I can get it all done within the next couple of days and the house can be back in great shape.

My phenomenal mother also had dinner ready for us: macaroni and cheese, rotisserie chicken, steamed vegetables, and carrots with hummus. Delicious.  We all ate well, and played together after dinner.  Because of the excitement of the day and their long naps, we let the kids stay up a little past bedtime, which meant they were able to hang out some with their aunts and uncles that came over that night.

Brent and I put the kids to bed, then got to spend time with his siblings and their significant others.  It is always so much fun when it is the six of us, and they truly are the best in-laws ever!  In just two weeks, we all get to go to the Highlands of North Carolina together for a long weekend to celebrate the wedding of one of their cousins.  All of the siblings are sharing a house, and it should be a ton of fun.

Eventually, they headed out and Brent and I headed to bed.  Our own bed.  Our own pillows.  In our own house.  It felt tremendous!  Although we were excited about going to church in the morning and seeing our wonderful church family, I think we passed out as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

The all-too-wonderful family and friends awaiting Samuel's Alabama debut at the Montgomery Airport.  
(Photo credit to my sis- Stephanie Parsons.  She does wonderful pictures if anybody is in search of a photographer.  )

Samuel walking in and grinning as he sees everybody welcoming him!  
 (Another photo from my sister)