be, being refined.

i've been mulling over this post for a month. it's not for lack of content, but an inability to process and actually edit and write it down. so forgive me if this is wordy. i hope you can hear my heart. 

we are nearly 4 years home with my daughter. she is our 3rd of 4 kids. she came home from china when she was 14 months old (she is almost 5 now). 

and there are times that i feel...hopeless. 
lately it's been more than sometimes. it's been often. 
i teeter between compassion and extreme frustration. 
i thought things were supposed to get better, not worse. 
i withdrawal from people because it feels too raw to let the pain our family is experiencing show.
they'll know how imperfect we are.
they'll think badly of adoption. 
they won't know how to respond when I tell them she hits and kicks and punches me.
they won't understand what it's like to be screamed at for hours on end. 
i'll sound like a bad parent who can't control my kid.
they wouldn't understand that this child i so desperately wanted, persused and love oh-so-deeply is, at times, tearing our family apart at the seams. 

we brought home a tiny, frail, malnourished little girl. she was the shell of a child with enormous potential. we went to countless therapy sessions, were followed by 9 specialist and underwent 2 major surgeries. our first year home was a blur of meetings, exhaustion and survival. i came out of it depressed and blindsided. it took me hiding away from everything, pulling out of all activities, and focusing only on our family for almost a year to come out of it. 

fast forward nearly 4 years...that child we brought home has disappeared. my daughter is strong and courageous, incredibly talented and creative. she can cut and color and glue like a 5th grader. she makes jewelry and intricate lego creations. she wears high heels and tap shoes and prances and dances and sings. she wrestles with her big brothers and is my ever present helper. dishwasher duty is her favorite chore and she randomly sweeps the floor just for the fun of being helpful. she carefully draws pictures of her and i holding hands. of me holding her as a baby. of hearts and kisses and love. she is funny and happy and loving and truly a gorgeous soul, inside and out. 

but there is also different side to her. one that no one else sees but us. what started as night terrors for the first 3 years and frustration over being non-verbal has become horrific raging tantrums lasting one to two hours every day over the past year. her skyrocketing verbal abilities have been an amazing triumph, and yet they allow her to tell me just how much she dislikes me. they also give her the freedom to harass and verbally abuse her brothers in ways that have caused tremendous strife and pain. 

we often have no idea what will set off her rage. sometimes its predictable and caused by something she wants but can't have (like wanting to go to preschool when her day off). other times it's caused by something she usually loves (like brushing her teeth or reading a book). 

during her rage, she hits and pinches and claws at me over and over and over again (while screaming at a velocity that can only be described as a veloceraptor stuck in a paper shredder). i've tried many techniques to help her stop and regulate. some work and some don't. usually doing something makes it worse so i've decided my new technique is to hug her until she stops raging. she punches my back and digs her heels into my feet and flails like i'm chopping off her limbs. and all i really want to do is go hide. hugging her at that moment is the very last thing i want to do. i want to lock myself in another room, put on headphones and watch a few episodes of a mindless show and forget about dinner burning and my child screaming. 
and just when i think i can't hug this flailing wild child any longer....
she lets go of her rage, and sinks deeply into my arms. and she cries...no sobs. uncontrollably. in an instant the anger is gone and she's my tiny girl again. my sweet girl and her sweet little heart. her entire demeanor softens and tears come hot and fast down her cheeks. her tenderness wells up and she hugs me with all her might. it's as if the past hour never happened. in fact, usually she doesn't even remember the things she said or did. 

i teeter between walking on eggshells, terrified of upsetting her vs. dealing with it, thus causing treacherous days for all involved. 

and this happens over and over and over. day after day, month after month. the past year has been the worst her rage has ever been, most likely brought on by the birth of her baby sister. 
it's depressing to think of all the love she was deprived of. the millions of times she needed someone to tickle her baby toes and make her giggle. snuggle cheek to cheek and speak softly into her ear. call her name just to see her smile. sit for hours nursing and snuggling and holding her as close as humanly possible. she needed that oh so desperately. every child does. those thousands of unmet needs have changed her. altered her brains ability to cope and it's devastating to think about. it's significant and gives reason to her unreasonable actions. her loss isn't lost on me. the deep places of hurt in her young life have changed her and changed her ability to process stress.

but i'm being honest. the day to day of life is difficult. my child who needs intense amounts of love and attention works the hardest to sabatogue nearly every moment of affection i give to her. 

and then i remember, the connection she so desperately seeks? it's what i'm seeking too. she so strongly fears she will be rejected at her most unlovely moment that she finds ways to test my limits to see if i really love her like i say i do. 
isn't that what we all want? to know we are loved even when someone else sees how very unlovely we are? isn't that exactly what Christ died for - our unlovliness? 

just when i start wondering how we will make it though...how will anyone understand, i remember...

there is the One who sees. the One who is refining me. the One who will not fail to bring glory to Himself through our mess. He is the One who allows the pain to bring purpose. the pain isn't lost on me. i need it. it hurts and it's awful but it's really the only way to get at who i really am. what i really stand for and rely on. and sometimes it shows my priorities and coping mechanisms are very misguided. on hard days do i hide on instagram? do i eat junk food to feel better? or do i sink into the Word and give myself the peace of knowing God is fully able to bring peace and calm to my spirit in a way nothing else can.

there is value in walking a road that isn't pretty. the long and crazy road is actually the one that brings the most out of life. it's the one that weaves in and out of places no one else sees because we aren't anyone else. we aren't meant to be the same. my child doesn't have a perfect formula that adds up because she is unique and requires my uniqueness in order for God to orchestrate our healing together. 

i'm learning that parenting in the hard places is real life. it gives me plenty of opportunities to apologize to my children for my attitude. for my quippy reply. for my shortness. they see my failures first hand, and witness my sin. i hope they remember my apologies and requests for forgiveness from them more than they remember my failures. but without failures i would fail to see my own imperfection. my pride would fool me into thinking i've got this parenting gig in the bag. God's role would be minor and mine would be the star. 

praise God, it isn't so. be, being refined. that is my status. my unfinished, failure ridden status. weaving in and out of the places no one else sees, but weaving a story i pray will read healing and a new generation of our family who love and serve the Lord. 

** i finally confided in a few close friends this past fall and shared our messiness. it made our struggle real and somehow more bearable to be known. i feel the strength of Godly friends praying for us and asking about her....for real asking, not just phony question. we are also pressing family counciling which i am praying will be able to start soon. if you are in a similar place of hopelessness and haven't been honest with your close friends around you, do so as soon as you can. it made a huge difference for me. 

this article was powerful for me...maybe it will be for you too. 


tiny wonder of a girl

i can't quite explain it, but the moment this little one was born, i needed her. with all my might, with all my soul and all my being. she is a treasure i had no idea i needed so very badly. it's as if my heart has been waiting for her without my knowledge. when she is with me, she looks deeply into my eyes. she snuggles close and calms at the sound of my voice or the moment my hand reaches for her. she is brand new. un-hurt and un-scarred. she doesn't have any past, only the future. i don't wonder where she was yesterday or one year ago. i know exactly her very presence in every moment of her life. i had no idea what a treasure this knowledge, this closeness actually is. if you don't know it, don't ever find out. if you find out, don't ever forget how very special it is for your child to know only you. to know only joy. to know only the calm of your voice and the safety of your arms. i needed to start over with a baby that would trust me from the very start. i needed it.
and she is so much more than the fulfillment of my needs, but at this time in my mothering, in this moment of my mid-30's i cannot imaging anything or anyone being a joy to match this tiny wonder girl.

penny my love

there are a million things i could write about you. two million. three.
you've been the delight of this year. from your tiny beginnings and my uncertainly about being a new mom again. from those long 10 weeks of feeling more sick and nauseous and horrible than i've ever felt...literally not leaving the couch or bed for weeks on end...to my big, giant belly with a very active and happy, kicky girl inside. by the time you could wiggle hard enough for me to feel you around 15 weeks, i was happily excited to remember the amazing and wonderful experience of life from within. you were my buddy. my constant companion. i absolutely loved every moment of your time within my womb. i didn't like how giant my body became, but i loved sacrificing for you. if i put my hand on my belly, you kicked me right away. you responded when i would sit by giving me a barrage of kickage. you loved to have your belly sticking waaaay up high and your legs kicking me in the same spot over and over. it felt like a very long pregnancy.
and then i met you.
i was awestruck. instantly and completely overtaken by you. i felt nervous and anxious when i wasn't holding you. somehow you soothed me. somehow you gave me peace. somehow you were everything i needed that i didn't realize i was missing. you were my delight and i wanted nothing more than to soak in every single moment. i didn't want to miss anything. so i held you all the time. day. night. morning. afternoon. evening. i hogged you. snuggled you. kisses you. millions upon millions of times. i photographed our every day with you. i adored your sleepy cheeks pressed to mine. i wanted every nap to never end. every smile to continue forever. every day you were my delight. you are 6 months old now. you rarely nap without me holding you :) and you usually sleep on my pillow with me :)  my constant companion. i need you just as much as you need me. comforting you is my greatest joy. you smile with your whole being when you smile at me. its like you see the real me and you still love me. you are shining God's love and joy on me every single day. if only, i would live every day with you again and again and again.
one of my most favorite part of our new life with you in it, has been seeing your siblings fall so deeply in love with you. during my pregnancy, they were so into everything babies. they wanted to know everything about being pregnant and how big you were and how babies are born and what you'd be like. and after you were born? forget about it. i've never seen such passion and love and joy exude from them, as it does when they look at you each and every day. they talk to you and play with you and push you in your scooter and hold you and bring you your favorite toys and hug you and kiss you and they adore you. every night they tell me to kiss you a 1,000 times. and hug you a 1,000 times after they go to bed. done and done. i think i kiss you 10,000 each evening. your little squishy cheeks and delightful little lippies have been smothered with kisses in your little lifetime.

when you were 2 weeks old, we realized you hadn't gained any weight. i rushed you to the doctor and they old me to supplement with formula, but i loved nursing you so much and you were such an expert nursing baby, i didn't want to do that. so i spent 3 days doing nothing but feeding you. i pumped after every other feeding to boost my supply and i fed you as much as you would allow. around 3 weeks you got very sick and lethargic. you didn't eat much for about 24 hours and spiked a 103 fever. i was panicked and hadn't slept in 2 days because i didn't take my eyes off of you. i rushed you to the ER and they did a ton of tests including blood work and a spinal tap and decided to keep you for observation for 48 hours in the pediatric unit. you were so lethargic, you didn't even move or cry when they put your IV's in and i could hardly get you to lift your head. so we sat in a hospital bed for 2 days and i fed you and kissed you and loved you. you were hooked up to all kinds of monitors and IV fluids helped boost you back to your usual spunky self. it was after your hospital stay that i realized in a certain nursing position you were able to get more milk, so i chose to only nurse you from one position (football hold) and you quickly caught up and started to grow grow grow. you became quite a little chunker and grew out of all the clothes we had for you at 3 months old! by 5/6 months you were wearing 18 months clothes! your belly was the cutest and sweetest and softest i'd ever seen.

you don't like to be apart from the action. you are rarely without siblings running everywhere or mama holding you or being in the middle of life. our house is small and loud and crazy. and you love it. if it's quiet, you seem to wonder where everyone is :)
emery loves you so very much. she talks constantly about how much she wants a baby just like you. she is tender and sweet and loving towards you and wants to do everything for you. but she has struggled deeply with the change in my relationship with her. she has seen me bond with you and it's been very difficult on her. there is a LOT of screaming. she rages and flips out about a lot of things and i often worry that you feel stressed during her terrorizing rages. you often cry when she screams in my face (because i'm usually holding you, trying to protect you from getting hit when emery gets mad), but thankfully i'm able to find ways to comfort you and whisper in your ear to try and make you feel safe, while trying to do the same for emery.

the boys have been spectacular with you. they both think you love them the most :) and they both insist you look like them :) the truth is you look a lot like foster, rowan and me as a baby. i see much of each in you.
you might be the last, but i want you to always know just how amazing and fantastic you have been in my life. how much of a treasure you are and the way that you have changed me for the better. the way that my heart needed you. the longing i have for you the instant you aren't in my arms. you are absolutely amazing and sweet and kind and the best things of life.
i can remember before i knew you were coming, if our family was complete. i can remember looking at family pictures thinking someone was missing but i couldn't imagine who it would be. the kids would draw family pictures and i would wonder if there was someone else we should draw. it was you. you were meant for us and we were meant for you.
i love you and God has gifted me in such a magnificent way with you. i pray over your sweet life that God would guide you and you would live a life of passion and love for Jesus.
you are you. and i love you.
love mama


meeting #4

my big 3, meeting my tiniest #4, was of the most beautiful and amazing moments. their love for her, instantly, fully and tenderly is enough to melt my heart over and over forever. big brothers were all at once completely over protective and big sister was completely doting and motherly. i treasure these moments always.

the trenches

our recent days are hard and drenched in trauma parenting with emery and it feels strange to tell the world about it. at the same time, i want to document the process our life has seen so she can someday have insight into her childhood through my words, and i hope to have insight as well as we press on towards healing. i see so much light, so much progress, so much delight in my wonder girl. she is a source of amazing encouragement to our family. she is funny and kind and so amazingly smart. she started copying and writing all kinds of words this month. she wants to learn everything. i made her a copy book with clear covers so she can use a dry erase marker to copy things like all of our names, our address, my phone number, letters, numbers, pictures, etc. she uses it every day. she adores penny and is constantly doting on her every need. she has such a natural mothering instinct. her relationship with daddy is truly one of amazing beauty. she is his princess and there is nothing more that she loves than to spend time with him.
we have also experienced horrible rage and tantrums, especially after penny arrived. my pregnancy was hard on me and on emery as i wasn't able to carry her and hold her as she was used to. and then after penny arrived, everything else in my life went on hold as i cared for penny, spending nearly 24 hours a day loving her and caring for her. i believe emerys horrible tantrums and violence towards me is actually her grieving the change in our relationship. she doesn't know how to share me with another child who needs me so much. its been hard on both of us to figure out a new normal. emery has taken to hitting and pinching and kicking me. she whips me with things and shoves me.  even hitting penny sometimes. its painful physically and emotionally in a way i can't even express. when i say things have been difficult, i'm not kidding. it's been horrible some days.
and yet i see light.
we've had a few good days in a row. her tantrums don't all involve violence towards me. we might, just maybe, be heading back to a better place.
please Lord, give us back some peace. we need it. she needs it.


the day i met you, my tiny love

i've done this before, this baby thing. i've grown babies in my body and in my heart. i've met them for the first time and it took my breath away, each and every time.

but this time? this one last time? it was breathtaking in a whole new way. a way that gave me perspective on life in an entirely new way.

as i write, she lays beside me.  i gaze at her and feel the overwhelming sense that time is going by too fast. i want to soak up every ounce of her lovely smallness. her wonderful littleness that i won't experience again. and i love every, single, tiny moment.


38 weeks pregnant and miserable.
that was me on july 10th, 2014.
i decided i was going to walk this baby out. this unnamed, squirmy, sweet baby, that made my protruding belly protrude more every, single day.

so, i ate spicy mexican food for dinner, and promptly went outside and walked around the block.
i put the kids to bed, and went outside and walked around the block some more.
contractions. 8 min apart.
my sweet sister in love met up with me and we walked around the block.
contractions. 7 min apart.
it started to storm, so we headed home and i walked around inside the house, pacing back and forth in our family room (while clint laughed at my failed attempts to do lunges).
more contractions. 6 min apart.
i walked up and down the stairs.
even more contractions. 5 min spar.
two hours went by.
the contractions stopped.
totally exhausted and unable to take another step, i collapsed into bed at 11pm. disheartened that another day would go by and i wouldn't meet my girl.

at 1am on july 11, i woke up to contractions. real ones. 5 min apart.
an hour later, i woke clint up.
an hour after that, i couldn't take it anymore. i felt like a baby was coming out any second.
my sister in love came over at 3am and we headed to the hospital.

after arriving at labor and delivery, nearly unable to put on foot in front of the other due to my  walking escapade the night before and very little sleep...they told me to walk, so we walked. slowly. painfully. for HOURS.

i was only 3-4 cm, and contractions were 5 min apart, but that's it. baby girl was way up high in my belly and in no mood to work her way into place.

so we walked. for more hours. i could barely force myself into each step. the nurses varried as to wether or not i would be admitted. around 9 am a nurse came in and told me to pack my bags and come back if the contractions got worse. 5 min later, she came back in and said a doctor had taken pity and admitted me for an induction. i nearly attacked her with hugs and kisses. this baby was happening.

the day was long, involving more walking, inconsistent contractions, an epidural and then pitocin (who knew they do the epidural FIRST these days?? it was a surprisingly pain free experience. amazing!!)

my mom came to join us and witness her 4th grandchild's birth and it was a miraculous experience to have her present for such a momentous day. i wish she had been with me for the first moments of all my kids.
we also had a photographer friend, Cait Jensen, document the birth and i am so very thankful for her time and amazing images. she is an incredible talent and a joy to be.

at 7/8pm my doctor broke my water (while literally pushing penny down into place...i was in a panic as there was a chance of a chord abruption because of the baby's high position, but it doesn't matter now. it worked). and by 10:30pm it was go time. i had my usual moment of complete terror, knowing it was time to bring a baby into the world....and then within a few moments, she arrived.

and i never wanted to let her go. ever.
she was so perfect and so beautiful and so much of my heart, right there in front of me.

our nurses were amazing. they didn't weigh her or grab her or rush us. they gave her to me and i kept her for the first hour, hogging her all to myself. i wanted to memorize every detail and follow every single first moment with ever fiber of my being.

welcome our sweet and wonderful 
Penelope Faith
7lbs. 8oz

It's go time {baby enroute}

this is my 3am, "I think I'm in labor but I'm not sure" selfie...

it turns out that today is the last day this baby will be on the inside! Praise God!! 
we are in the hospital now... please join me in praying things will progress fast and we will get to hold this little love soon!!


the 8 year old boy phenomenon

there is this thing known as an 8 year old boy.
he is silly and sweet and yet helpful and manly.
he still loves stuffed animals but he can unload the dishwasher, read an entire real, grown up book, make breakfast and figure out how to fix just about anything requiring a screw driver, batteries or duct tape.
his pits have started to smell and he loves to take showers.
his knock-knock jokes makes sense all of the sudden, although they are usually tempered with some sort of reference to toots, burps or butts.

he's a marvel of tall engineering.
his pants are all too short, his shoes are constantly too small no matter how recently they were purchased and he can't seem to eat enough to fill up the deep caverns of his appetite.

i'm not sure when this all happened. it seems like only a few short years ago that he loved his Thomas train set above all else on earth. he drove trains around in a circle for hours upon hours each day. he said silly phrases and thought rocks and sticks were amazing.

now he's into the worlds most complex lego creations. the kind that grown adults find mind boggling.
he loves telescopes and microscopes and scouts the cloud formations to determine the upcoming weather for the day.
he knows where we are when we drive around town and reads traffic signs so he is sure to tell me if i'm going a bit too fast or makes me double check if i turn right on red.
he is tender and kind. he loves books and swords. he is rambunctious and yet still loves to snuggle quietly with me. he is all the things i love about life because he loves so fully.

he gets frustrated when he can't do something on the first try and is self motivated to learn everything.
failure crushes him and triumph elates him.
he doesn't know it yet, but 8 year olds need both failure and triumph. the crush of defeat isn't as bad as he thinks it is because it gives the opportunity to face challenge. giving him opportunities to fail is difficult but necessary because many things come easily for him.

he cares for his sister in the most endearing ways. she will literally do anything he asks her to do, because he never asks anything unreasonable to rude. he gently corrects her if she has wronged him and can make a silly comment to make her smile when she is frustrated. he carries her and dotes on her and plays dolls and kitchen and doctor. she hangs on his every word. their relationship has always been one of the most fantastic things i've ever witnessed.

he asks me deep questions about her past. about china mom and dad. he thinks deeply about her story and the emotions she might one day feel. he understands what 99% of adults do not about adoption. he loves her and adores her and yet understands adoption is not without a great deal of grief and tragedy and loss.

he and his younger brother are very nearly like twins. 18 months apart in age but only a year apart in school, they play and fight and compete and wrestle all day long. i can often find them in their own world of imagination, lost in make believe lands they imagine together. it's truly one of my dreams come true to see my kids adore each other. one without the other just doesn't feel right.

this 8 year old creature is one of my most favorite creations of all time.
i'm seeing more and more of who he will always be.
faithful. trustworthy. honest. honorable. whitty and fun. in love with learning about everything.
he stands up for what is right and is wrecked by injustice.
he is sensitive to what others think about him and must muster courage to speak up for himself in social situations.
he often asks deep questions about life and death and the meaning of everything.
he sees God in the tiny details and in the vastness of creation.
we tell stories of my childhood and he remembers each one.
history and family are vitally important to him.

he asks me about his future wife. about college. about the age when we will allow him to have a cell phone.
he asks me how our baby is growing in my belly and if dinosaurs were real. he asks why our neighbors smoke even though it gives them cancer. he asks why some kids are forced to drink dirty water. he asks why farts smell and how engines work. he asks how long until he can become an astronaut and if he can take a GoPro camera with him so he can show me all the amazing things he sees.

he was reading in his bible the other day, and saw the word Faith and suggested it for baby #4's name. he also suggested Liberty and Freedom. Faith, Liberty and Freedom. these words define him oh so well.

i could write on and on.
this 8 year old boy thing is just pain awesome.


the Target on my belly.

i walk around with a giant target on my belly.
my enlarged, torpedo-esque baby carrier seems to attract an onslaught of attention.
perhaps it was the same in my previous pregnancies and i've just forgotten, but none-the-less, i've experienced the commentary gamut from men and women alike.

to be fair, i don't carry babies lightly. for an average sized woman of slim 5'9" stature, pregnancy brings on a solid 50 lbs of food therapy and exhaustion induced lack of activity. i don't deny it. pregnant angie loves to eat. my backside is large and in charge and my protruding baby belly is nothing short of a basketball tucked neatly under my shirt. my babies ride way out in front, defying any maternity shirt to cover them. 
i don't glow when i'm pregnant. i don't glisten. i eat. 
and i look very pregnant. (duh, that's what i'm supposed to look like.)

(33 weeks and currently 38 weeks)

starting somewhere around week 25, the horrific display of human inability to refrain from making inappropriate and absurd pregnancy comments was unleashed everywhere i went. has anyone else experienced this? 

for a while i just smiled or made a little joke back. but how many times can you see someone grimace in horror and franky state, "i hope you don't have much longer! you look like you were due yesterday!!" (when in reality i still have 10 weeks left).

when did it become appropriate to comment on a strangers body shape and size, anyway?  pregnancy somehow makes people feel that since i'm obviously wearing a child that i obviously also welcome their comments about my size, the child's sex and clear opinions about how many more children i should (or should NOT) have.

when i have the 3 big kids in tow in conjunction with my belly target, i get the standard, "you've got your hands full!" comments and "wow, you must be exhausted" or "they aren't all yours, are they?" or "how many more are you going to have??!". no matter how well (or wild) the kids are behaving at that moment, i always respond with something along the lines of, "i love spending time with my kids. i'm so glad my hands are full!". i want my kids to know that i enjoy them, even though they clearly hear that world doesn't perceive having young children as being enjoyable.
it's very surprising to me that i get the "hands full" comments even when all three kids are walking nicely beside me in the grocery store, being helpful or playing sweetly together. it's shocking to me that even kids who aren't (at that moment) acting like wild hooligans can still be considered "too much" for a mom to handle.

what ever happened to "you look beautiful!", "congratulations!" or the old standby, "is it a boy or girl?"


the epitome of my targeted status came last week while i was actually at Target. it was by far the most offensive string of comments (and strange enough, ended up being the most profitable :)
it perfectly shows just how inappropriate people can be and how pregnant woman are subjected to verbal harassment on a daily basis. i know, i know, verbal harassment may seem a little much. but take a gander. i felt quite harassed. 

picture me. 37 weeks pregnant and alone in Target (while my kids were at a morning VBS program). i was ironically purchasing two Spanx abdominal shapers in preparation for my post-baby body transformation. i was exhausted and honestly, not having a great day.
i approached checkout lane #5 and no sooner gathered my things on the convener belt when i was met with the following statement from the female Target checkout clerk:

Her: "I've seen a lot of pregnant women, but you are by far the biggest I've ever seen!!!" she stated with odd enthusiasm.

(i look up from my cart, surprised by her criticism, and said nothing, hoping not to engage her commentary.)

Her: "Seriously! you are huge!" she continued. "Are you having twins????"

Me: "No, i'm not having twins. It's my fourth child and I know my belly is sticking out." 
i answer with irritation. i'm no mood to be cute and make light of her obvious lack of pregnancy couth.

Her: "Well, you should have that double checked, because otherwise you are just having one big giant baby!! I would have it checked two or three more times! I mean, really. My cousin wasn't as big as you and she was having twins!"

(flames dart from my eyes. i literally scowl as i scan my debit card with utter disgust, trying hard to keep my mouth shut and not say something rude in return.)

Her:"You've got to be having twins! I had six babies and I was never as huge as you! I mean it, you're huge!!"

i really wish i was making it up. i wish i was exaggerating. but she was totally serious and i was totally infuriated. all of this coming from a fellow mom who did this pregnancy thing SIX TIMES and still has the nerve to comment on my apparent humongousness? has she forgotten the fragile state of pregnancy induced hormonal imbalance or the obvious fact that you just don't comment on another woman's body size in an unflattering way? ever. under and circumstances. lie if you need to. say i look beautiful. say i look great. but don't, under any circumstances, say just how huge and horrendous you think i look.   

i left Target and sat in the parking lot and did what any rational person would do. i wrote an email to every Target customer service email address i could find on their website, telling them of my horrendous customer service experience and the verbal onslaught i was subjected to. and i felt better. or at least a little bit. 

i thought about calling Action News. the Inquirer. a lawyer. my next door neighbor's aunt's husband's sister in law's cousin...anyone who would listen and hear my pain. but i didn't. 

the next day, i got a call from a very apologetic Target store manager, offering me a $50 gift card. 
at last, vindication. or at least a little. 
$50 worth of retribution and diaper money.

hopefully in 1-2 more weeks i won't be subjected to any more pregnancy related comments about my protruding belly because all will be distracted by the loveliness of my newborn baby girl :)


the uncharted land of speech {& our progress)

i wrote this post during this past winter (and since i have forgotten all about my blog for the past year, i never posted it :). knowing how far emery has come since then, i decided to post it so i remember just how amazing her recent speech therapy breakthrough has been. (update below)

Dec 2013:
speech and clefts.
it's very unpredictable land. uncharted for each kid. no one can tell you in advance what challenges your CL/CP sweetie will have. some kids pickup sounds and put them together with just a little help from speech therapy. some have holes that continue to break open in their palate. some have no holes, but still can't make sounds because of lip scarring or slow tongue movement. still others struggle and no one knows why. in my experience, it's the biggest challenge a CL/CP child faces...the land of speech. 

the past few years have been filled with years of repeating every single sound and phrase. long days of back and forth, deciphering each little word. years of emery's hard work sitting in countless speech therapy sessions talking and talking and talking. trying the same, frustrating sounds over and over and over. years seeing her extreme frustration when we just don't understand, no matter how hard we try.

i never thought much about how amazing it is when a young child speaks. a native speaker naturally learns the sounds he or she will need during the first year of life. they hear them. practice them. and get lots of time to make mistakes before anyone expects anything of them. 

my 3 year old is thrown into a preschool classroom of 11 kids who chatter about like 4th graders. they can talk up and down, sideways and backwards. words are the easy part. they struggle with sitting still and obeying the rules and running out of line. my daughter has no trouble with rules. she uses scissors like a 4th grader and loves the predictability and exactness a classroom holds. but when my child says "i yent to yak and yaw a net of baba bads" ("i went to the park and saw a nest of baby birds")  they have no idea what she's talking about. and good gracious, if i hadn't been at the park with her and saw the baby birds with my own eyes, i wouldn't have known what she was talking about either. 
she withdraws from talking to people outside our family. i can honestly say she has no friends her own age. it burdens me. 
i could pull her out of preschool and out of situations that challenge her, but i know she needs the opportunity to struggle, so, in turn, she has the opportunity to succeed. if a classroom of 11 preschoolers is a challenge, then by golly, i know she will conquer it. 

it takes a vast amount of context. time spent together, deciphering piece by piece, and enough repetition to make my brain swirl. the slightest moment of distraction on my part leaves me unsure of what she means when she says "i yunt a pupo york not a yeen yun!!" ("i want a purple fork not a green one!!"). and let me tell you, if i don't guess correctly during the first few tries, we have meltdowns of insane proportion. the kind that make the neighbors wonder what on earth is going on in our house. 

the funniest thing is, i like her language. we talk in her code sometimes without even realizing it. my brain forgets it isn't typical little kid talk. a friend was over with her little kids a few weeks ago, and i said to her 3 year old, "do you want to yit on my yap?" she looked strangely at me, until i realized she had no idea "yit" meant "sit" and "yap" meant "lap." i chuckled as emery (from across the room) piped up with "mama, i yit on your yap!!"  and ran right over and hopped up.

and here we are today. 
July 8th, 2014, 4 years old and approaching 3 years home. 
sometime during the spring, things clicked. sparks flew and her words became legible. i don't really remember when exactly it happened, but she came home from school sometime this spring, hopped in the car and said:
"mama, my friend Noah asked me why i had a bandaid on my finger. and i told him i had a boo-boo. and we laughed and laughed! it was sooo funny!" she said, throwing her head back in laughter.
i nearly fell over. she had never remembered a friend's name, had never told me an entire sequence of events when i had no context to guess from. it was her first story and i understood every word. it was a beautiful triumph.

she can express feelings, thoughts, dreams, complicated phrases that she was never taught...because she makes up on her own. she runs into preschool and tells her teacher, "i went camping with my family for by birthday! and i ate cheese balls!!" and her teacher understands. kids standing close by understand and pipe in about the time they went camping or express their own love of cheeze coated goodies. its nearly enough to make my cry each day when i watch her interact with people outside of our family.

i'm not saying every sound is perfectly clear. heck, nearly every word still contains some sort of omission or slightly skewed sound, but the improvement...the ability to understand exactly what she means...that's the triumph. people who don't know her vernacular know what she is saying. it's amazing and freeing for all of us.

her hard work has also given her confidence level a giant leap. she no longer cries when i drop her off at school or in the preschool class at church. she chats with neighborhood kids and trades pokemon cards and invites them in to play in her room. she can also tattle on her brothers and tell them exactly just how frustrated she is with them :)  it's a whole new world for her, and knowing where we started it's nearly unbelievable.


my 38 weeks with you.

i've spent the past 38 weeks with you.
the smallest of the weldons, you feel very big to me.
the width of your growth has very nearly outgrown the real estate i have available :)

i've carried you and hugged you and felt you growing each and every day.
and i love you. i adore you, actually.
i long to know your features and to finally know you face to face.
to hold you with my arms and watch your siblings marvel at the wonder of you.

you have a lot of love waiting for you. i have a feeling, i'll be fending off little arms who want to hold you and take care of you, just so i can spend treasured time with you.

i dream great dreams for you. i pray over your sweet soul and the life God has given you. the life He has entrusted us with. and i ever-so joyfully await who you are and all of the personality and wonderful you bring to our family.

at the moment, week 38 is bringing lots of anticipation. your siblings have packed hospital bags full of toys and drawing materials and silly gadgets to show you. they want to be the first to hold you after you are born and ask every day how much longer. if only...if only i knew.
how about today? today is a great day to be born, little one!

thank you for being my child. for making me a mom again.
i love you and cherish you, my little darling one.


captivated by her baby

there is something beautiful happening as emery sees my belly grow. it's deeper than just knowing there's a baby coming, it's her captivation. her obsession. her all-day-long fascination with all things having to do with "her" baby. she is already taking on the role of caretaker as she hugs and kisses my belly over and over again throughout the day.

she talks to the baby, reads to the baby, tells the baby stories, asks it questions and treats her smallest sibling as if they are sitting at the dinner table with us. she can't go to sleep without saying goodnight to the baby, and when she is sad or upset, she wants to sit with her hand on my belly and gently lay next to "her baby."

she has taken on a new obsession with one of her dolls, as well. (find it here)
her doll is never far from her, especially as she sleeps.
it's downright adorable.

i believe God is doing something large within her healing. allowing her the opportunity to give the love and care she wasn't given during her start to life. to be a part of nurturing and holding and feeding...the things she was denied...she will be able to give. it's a sobering thought.

God has been preparing her in a special way, before we even knew a baby was coming.

around october of this past year, emery started asking me if i had a baby in my belly. i chocked it up to the fact that my mid section seems never to return to it's previous pre-pregnancy state and told her that i didn't have any babies in my belly.
the next day, she asked the same thing.
and again and again.
every day, she asked me.
every day, i told her, "no sweetie, God hasn't given mommy a baby in her belly."

lo and behold, after weeks of her repetitive asking, i actually did have a baby inside. and somehow, she knew it.

it was clear that God had planned to get her on board first, even before anyone else.

i also began to notice emery's obsession with being a "big girl."
for the past few years, a lot of people have commented on how small she is. how tiny. how petite. and while it's true, she is tiny, she carries herself taller lately. i sometimes forget she is only 3 years old when i watch her happily take on big-girl responsibilities like loading the dishwasher and folding laundry. she constantly looks for areas that she can be identified with being big. older. grown up. not small in the least.
"emmy big, mama. emmy help everyone. emmy big girl. emmy stay dry in bed. emmy get dressed. emmy brush teeth..." and so on.
she daily lists the things she can do on her own, and we daily affirm her in the many things she does well.

but emotionally, she can still be oh-so fragile. there are plenty of moments that she crumbles when things don't go as planned and i hold her like she's a wee babe again. i never tell her to be big in those moments, but always allow her smallness to be ok. her beautiful, tender spirit beneath her big girl expressions is something that i love having the opportunity to be present in.

there is a tender balance happening within my sweet girl, a common one for her age, but i see it deeper and more profound than i did with her brothers.

i pray over the coming months as i know our new baby will bring about new questions. new realizations. new comparisons about her birth and her sibling's birth. i pray over her tender heart and her sweet, sweet spirit.

but most of all, i'm so thankful for her attachment to a baby she hasn't met. a baby she can't see or feel. she has been captured by this little one in a beautiful way i could have never expected.


my positively positive baby

i'm currently 18 weeks pregnant.
there is baby popping out everywhere, it seems...but mostly recently on my backside, which technically should be excempt since the front side automatically gets so large, am i right?

there is lot of story behind this baby. a big part of the story has to do with emery and is truly one of the most beautiful things i've ever witnessed. more on that soon...

but the first part of the story starts with our plan of wanting to grow our family in the next 2-3 years. my husband felt strongly about not wanting to go back to the newborn stage, and my involvment in the adoption world keeps my eyes on the thousands of babies that need family. the heartwrenching mini-movies on facebook and emails from friends advocating for waiting children break my heart over and over and causes me to yearn to bring more babies home.

we decided to start saving money to adopt again, i gathered our adoption application and initial documents and looked toward bringing a child home in the next 2-3 years.

on november 16th, we spent a lovely day in philly with my family, exploring the city and enjoying each other.

we got off the train late that night and as i was putting the kids in bed, i felt a wave of nausia that nearly knocked me over. the kind i had felt before and knew instantly wasn't food poisoning or the flu. i finished saying goodnight to the kids and made a b-line for my stash of pregnancy tests.

the first test was positive.
i took another...it was very positive.
and another...positively positive.

i walked downstairs, with my positivly positives in hand to tell my husband the news.
we were both in shock. 
what did this mean for us?
what about our plans for adoption?
where would a baby go in our very small house, already outgrown by 3 busy children?
we had already given away EVERY peice of baby clothing, toys, swings, chairs, car seats, maternity clothes, etc. (even our crib and mattress only weeks before.)
we tried to process what this meant for our family.
neither of us slept much for the next 2 nights.

i felt a lot of confusion. it wasn't the baby i was confused about...i will always rejoice in a baby - it was my heart. i had spent the last few years thinking adoption would be the best fit for our family as well as for emery. she would have a sibling that could related to her in a way that her other siblings could not. we could journey to china together and expirience adoption as a family.
i had plans already worked out in my little brain. i was convinced i knew what was best.

so i confided in a friend. one of the only people i knew who could understand what it feels like to want a baby not born of your body, when you are 100% capable of having biological children. and in my confusion, i spilled out all of my honest thoughts of worry and uncertiantly, knowing she wouldn't judge me, and knowing she would hear my heart.

and do you know what my dear friend did?
she celebrated. she rejoiced.
she told me instantly what a blessing this baby would be and the worry i felt over providing an adoptive sibling for emery was unfounded because i had no idea what God was going to acomplish with this child.
and as only a dear friend can do, God used her to change the attitude and focus of my heart.

and she was right. every word.
i cannot even begin to describe the ways that this baby has shown itself as a promise from God to add to our family in a most special and beautiful way. like no one else on earth could, this baby...chosen for this time in my life, in our family's life...is a beautiful treasure greater than i have never known.
i'm positively positive God's plan is always best. better than best. it's the only plan i want to be a part of.

i will talk more about emery's relationship with the baby soon, but from the moment we told the kids i was pregnant, they have been extatic in ways i never could have imagined. they literally talked about nothing but our baby for a month straight. and after 6 weeks of being totally incompacitated with the most insane and dreadful 24 hour-a-day "morning sickness," their excitetment was just what i needed to make it through.


secret news {it's finally out in the open}

just in case there are a few friends out there who aren't on instagram or facebook...
we announced a little surprise secret we've been keeping for a while...

i'm pregnant!!

baby weldon #4 is due to arrive in late july!

can you tell the gang is excited?


enough wonderful to make me do it all over again

some days they wake up early and play happily for hours together before school.

today is one of those mornings...and it makes me long for the days before all this schooling started. when they were too little for classrooms and we stayed home if we felt like it. when play dates were our big event of the day.

in those days i planned amazing crafts and adventures. we woke up each day and discovered new things and turned the house into something new each day.
i'm so thankful for those days and years.
they weren't easy.
in fact, years of little babies and toddlers is exhausting and stressful.
but it was wonderful too.

actually it sounds a lot like our current stage....exhausting and stressful and wonderful.

I hope life is always a mix of those 3.

enough stress and sleep deprivation to keep me humble and reliant on God's grace when i'm selfish and frustrated.
and enough wonderful to make me wake up each morning and do it all over again.                     

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