Wednesday, December 12, 2012

skinny jeans, fireworks, advent, bra shopping, etc

Because I am barely capable these days of not burning the beans, or turning off the stove before leaving the house, or keeping baby girl's diaper sufficiently changed or myself showered, it's no surprise that the blog has gone unattended.  I offer you a few family highlights.

Baby girl--nickname "Sweet Tea"--is two-point-five months old and radiantly plump!  She sleeps between 7-9 hours through the night as if to say I know you have your hands full with five kids, Mommy, so I'm gonna help you out.  She's awesome.  I love her, even her many poop blowouts and her sour milk neck.

The novelty has not worn off for Shu.  In fact, I just paused between paragraphs so he could "holduh baby." Very sweet, even if his support of her head was a bit lacking.  The other day I caught him "nursing" his teddy bear, and later (and odder) a clementine he called his "baby."  Tonight a pineapple was his baby, but he didn't try to nurse it.  Maybe the pineapple is formula fed.

And speaking of nursing, I've been in search of the perfect nursing bra, which I'm convinced does not exist.  I've thoroughly annoyed Dr. Husband who said, and I quote, Can't you just muddle through?  by which he means get along with the raggedy, ill-fitting bras you've had since you nursed your first baby eight years ago? So now all our computer ads involve headless bra-ed torsos.  Nice.  I finally bought two I can tolerate.  Not love.  Just tolerate.  One of them makes me pointy. Pointy.  Ugh.  Enough about that, and my apologies if you happen to be a man reading this.

I bought my first pair of skinny jeans a few weeks ago, and have actually grown to enjoy them.  Except they have fake pockets in front.  So unhelpful when you have five kids.  I like pockets.

The whole family went to watch some Christmas fireworks last weekend.  Not too cold, a barely perceptible mist, no crowd, excellent view.  The perfect way to see fireworks.  Shu got nervous as soon as the first one boomed.  Climbed on my lap where I held him tight against me, hoping he'd figure out they are beautiful, if a tad loud.  His hood helped block the noise, and his anxiety had decreased to Mild by the end.  Felt like an important milestone for us.  A nice tradition, too.

We are working our way through a homemade advent calendar--my lame attempt at craftiness--and reading portions of the Jesus Storybook Bible each day.

We may be a day or more behind; I can't really be sure.  Well, I could be sure if I had printed off a handy-dandy checklist.  The checklist didn't rise to the top of my to-do list, which grows longer by the minute.  I adore the idea of focusing on Jesus in this season...really, in every season.  But if doing so involves more attempts at craftiness?  Let's just stamp PASS on that.

So we're reading together, sometimes by the light of just the Christmas tree, while Shu "dances" rather maniacally and Princess Firecracker hides under a blanket and Sweet Tea nurses.  It doesn't feel, for the most part, deep or significant.  And I admit, I wonder if it's just one more thing to check off the list.  I'm learning that I can't force spirituality on my kids.  They must grow up into their own faith.  They believe, and they know their Bible facts, but aren't yet moved at an emotional level.  I'll be constantly disappointed if I expect every church service or advent reading to evoke tears or rapt attention from children aged 2, 3, 5, and 8.  We're just sowing seeds and trying to model a real relationship with Jesus before their eyes, praying that He will captivate their hearts.

Speaking of not keeping up:  Before I had even read the original email with details of Hummus Girl's school Christmas party, I received three reply-alls from other parents volunteering cookies and plates and crafts and cheese.  I hadn't even read about the party yet!!!  And not because I don't check email 74 times a day.  They were just that on the ball.  Sigh.  A friend recently posted a book excerpt stating that parents of at least four children get a "free pass" for life, perfect in situations like these.

It's probably good that parenting Shu for the last 18 months has chipped away at my inadequacy issues.  Ok, not so much chipped away at as revealed them so that I could bring them before the Lord.  I really did almost burn the beans today, and then later, almost left the house with the stove on.  Sheesh.  I am the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, patting myself heartily on the back (which I'm not sure a chicken could do) if, at the end of the day, we are all fed and relatively clean and happy.  And maybe not even happy some days.  That feels like a really low bar.  I don't like it.  I don't want other parents to think poorly of me because I can't even make it to the classroom party let alone provide snacks.  I feel bad when Hummus Girl doesn't get her 100 reading minutes in each week, not because we're not reading, usually, but because sometimes filling out that pesky chart is just one task too many, as is dressing my eight year old appropriately for the weather.  I figure he's old enough to handle that or suffer any consequences.  The speech therapist comes to our house and may find me in my pajamas.  She will certainly find the couch covered in clean unfolded laundry.  Good thing she's a friend.  I do put on real clothes for the family therapist (the fact that we're seeing one is a topic for another blog post, perhaps).

Grace. Grace. GRACE.

No other concept has been more essential for me in this season.  I am so crazy happy that my sweet husband, whose housekeeping standard is far, far higher than mine, is growing in grace right along with me.  He and God remind me daily of the few things that truly matter and the many things that don't.  In the things that matter, I'm doing well enough.

And now, a few more gratuitous photos of my cute people, minus the mommy (gotta remedy that):

Thursday, November 22, 2012

20+12 things for which I am thankful

My second annual Thanksgiving blog no particular order:

1) I have right standing before the Father because Jesus took my punishment on the cross.
2) Five beautiful, healthy, and smart least two more children than I ever expected I'd have!
3) Amazon.  Seriously, I love this website.  Forget about Black Friday; I try to avoid all stores from yesterday on.
4) My in-laws who recently moved to town.  They lovingly care for Shu two days a week, and we are very happy they'll now be a regular presence in our lives.
5) Hummus Girl's school, where I know she is happy and cared for.
6) Princess Firecracker's preschool.
7) Early intervention therapy for Shu, and beyond that...
8) ...a speech therapist who is gifted in her job, a sister in Christ, and has become a cherished friend.
9) My house.  Though I look forward to more space some day, I love this home and its super convenient location.
10) My parents who invest in us and our children almost every Saturday evening, and willingly step in any other time they're needed.
11) The marriage of my beautiful sister-in-law this past September.
12) Dr. Husband's good job.
13) The library.
14) My sweet ride--the white minivan.
15) The gift of a free Tivo, so we no longer have to record programs on the VCR, but beyond that...
16) dear friend Janet who gave the Tivo along with the priceless gift of her love and friendship.
17) My sister who makes me laugh.  I am proud of her.
18) Facebook.  It's good for stay-at-home moms.
19) The freedoms afforded to me as a citizen of the United States.  God shed his grace on us.
20) Health insurance, especially since we maxed it out this year.
21) The easy, joyful delivery of another beautiful baby girl on October 2.  I am a rich woman.
22) Being able to stay home with my children and do the hardest job in the world.
23) That my children each know the delight of at least one brother and sister.
24) The Macy's Thanksgiving day parade, on right now.
25) Every hard-won word that Shu utters.  Well, except "NO!" maybe.
26) Clean water and air, healthy food, cars that run, a computer.
27) This beautiful verse:  Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! Psalm 118:15
28) The gift of worship.
29) Tasty Thai, Chipotle, Jose Peppers, Iron Wok...especially when we have gift cards!
30) A sound body and mind.
31) That we did not have to spend thousands of dollars repairing our home's foundation. 
32) Ten years of marriage to my best friend and partner.  He loves me and our children so well.  

Happy thanksgiving, friends! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

meant to be

Yesterday marks exactly 17 months since Shu became our son.

Our mother-son relationship is not where I thought it would be after 17 months.  That isn't the point of this post, so I needn't go on about it, except to say this:  I always want to keep it real, because hearing from others who kept it true and honest--even when it was ugly--has been a saving grace for me over the past two years.  So what's real for us is that adoption has not been love at first sight, or even love at one hundredth sight.  It is still full of uncomfortable and hard moments.  Every single day.

Four weeks ago this little lady entered our family.

I tried not to worry much about how her birth would affect Shu, not because I didn't care about him but because I knew she was God's plan for our family...and she was on her way.  I did pray for him and for us, choosing to believe that experiencing a newborn entering our family would be healthy, even healing for Shu, and that it would actually benefit him not to be the baby of the family.  I've already seen evidence of this, thank you, God.  His issues are still his issues--no quick fix there--but Shu seems genuinely thrilled with his baby sister and I see a sweet empathy developing in him.

Instead I worried about my own heart, fearing that the immediate and all-consuming love I knew I'd feel  for Baby Girl (nickname pending) would only highlight all that is still lacking in my relationship with Shu.

I prayed.  I cried.  I gave birth to my beautiful daughter.  And I was torn between wild delight over her and guilt that I was loving and enjoying her so easily and instantaneously.  That seems like a reasonable emotion for a woman who just gave birth, doesn't it?  Guilt over loving her baby too deeply?  [No.  The answer is no.]  

Here's what the Lord opened my eyes to see.  I was (and am) feeling all that I should be feeling for Baby Girl.  No guilt or shame necessary.  All our delight in her--in her facial expressions, her funny grunts, her scent, the perfection of her tiny toes--is all that should have been lavished upon Shu from day one by his birth mother and father.  I'm in that camp, you see.  Adoption = redemption.  God's plan to make all things new and bind up the brokenness of the world we live in.  But there are two people on another continent who were unable to give Shu that automatic and abundant parental adoration he deserved.  Enter me and Dr. Husband, two flawed humans trying to stand in the gap, to fill in the deficit, learning to love and delight in a little boy who came to us already broken and afraid and angry.  All the neglect of his first year of life, and all the struggle since then to heal, to trust, to overcome developmental and emotional hurdles?  Definitely not Plan A.

I wrote this the other day to my dear friend (also an adoptive mama):  We are all adoring and delighting in [Baby Girl].  I am so grateful for God's beautiful gift to me--to let me experience one more time the wonder and joy of parenting as it was meant to be.  I do feel like my heart is more tender toward Shu as a result...not that things aren't still crazy difficult at moments, but my focus shifts away from him by necessity, and that helps put things in perspective. 

She wrote this in response (and made me cry, darnit):  Loved your P.S.  :)  You know, I can tell.  I mean, it is obvious she is adored, but you seem...more relaxed.  Softer.  In your element.  I love love love the picture of you holding her in the hospital.  You have this look, like you just found something you'd been searching for, and you're thrilled.  It is my favorite picture of you.  

She's right.  In the effort and disappointment and self-scrutiny of the past 17 months (and yes, I desperately wish I could say those weren't the predominant descriptors, but I'd be lying) it's been easy to forget that I love being a mother.  That's the reason we adopted Shu in the first place.   Yes, I've been mothering all this time, and not devoid of all happiness, of course.  (We've actually had three mostly good and "normal" days in a row with Shu.)  But giving birth to Baby Girl has restored some of that joy of motherhood, that identity of Mommy, to me.  An identity that isn't tarnished even when I'm cranky about the perpetually stuck seatbelts in the back of the van or wishing that a certain child's screaming didn't make me want to gauge out my own eye with a spoon.  

So what's my point?   I love Baby Girl.  I love Shu.  The path to that love is unique for each child.  And that's OK.  God creates a new "meant to be."  He knows how to give good gifts.  He knows how to restore identities.  He loves me whether I'm difficult or easy to love, so he can show me the most excellent way. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

baby makes seven

Most of my dear readers are also Facebook friends, but just in case you missed it:

She's here!  Two and a half weeks early, exactly like her big sister, Princess Firecracker, and absolutely perfect.  Blog nickname suggestions, anyone?

The learning curve is pretty steep around here these days; let's just say a new level of vigilance is required when one's family includes a three year old, a two year old, and a newborn.  I'm very thankful Dr. Husband has been able to be home with us as we adjust.  The other kids, including Shu, are captivated by their new tiny sister.  Mommy and Daddy are pretty smitten, as well!  The hands are full on purpose...but oh my, they are FULL!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

some trust in chariots...

...and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Psalm 20:7

That's the verse that always comes to mind when I realize I've gone out driving and left my cell phone at home.

Remember life before cell phones?  I do.  I think they're terrific.  Super convenient.  Life-saving, even.  Glad I have one.

But what should my mindset be on those rare days when I leave home without mine?  Am I less protected?  More in danger?  Is God's arm less mighty to save?  Surely He would want me to be more fearful and anxious on those days, right?

I posted a photo last night of poor Shu, forehead swollen with mosquito bites.  He has very sensitive skin, regardless of the reason, and reacts swiftly and dramatically to bug bites.  Within a few hours, the swelling had gone down and he was fine.  Do you ever just know with absolute certainty that your kid is OK, even when you've set everyone else to worrying?  (Please don't think I'm not appreciative of all the sweet expressions of concern!) Yeah.  I knew he was fine.  And he is fine.  Gonna slather on the bug repellent from now on...but still, he is fine.  We adopted him thinking he had a heart defect (he doesn't), possible nerve damage that might hinder his ability to walk, not entirely sure about his future continence, not to mention the surprise of apraxia .  Whole lot of unknowns there.  So mosquito bites don't worry me too much.  Just sayin'.

If I am learning nothing else from becoming an adoptive parent--in addition to parenting the three, about to be four, children I gave birth to, it is this:

I am not in control; rather, I am utterly, completely dependent on God.  I mean that.  Entirely.  Desperately.  I. CANNOT. DO. THIS. IN. MY. OWN. STRENGTH.

I am a fool if I think that my own wisdom or knowledge or expertise will be good enough to turn these children into responsible, successful, Jesus-following people.

I am mistaken if I think that my own efforts and strategies and loving behaviors are solely sufficient to undo all the damage inflicted on Shu's soul through abandonment and a year spent in an orphanage and to fully rewire his emotions for love and joy and security.

At best, I live in exhaustion and constant stress if I think that my hyper-vigilance as a mother will guarantee that my kids are always safe, always protected, always healthy.

I know better.

I'm not talking about neglect or ignoring good advice or abandoning responsibility.  We have a locked privacy fence.  I have a cell phone.  I use seat belts and car seats.  I attend birthday parties with my five year old daughter and still bring my almost eight year old son into the women's restroom with me in public.  My personal preference is to deliver babies in the hospital.  And I even vaccinate them!  Shhh!  I have no trouble, in general, with trusting doctors, psychologists, safety researchers...all the good folks who shape and guide our parenting practices.

But there's a reason we see fewer miracles here in the United States than those in other parts of the world.  Those who don't have urgent care, or cabinets stocked with Benadryl, or cell phones with unlimited text, or health insurance, or any of the other countless things we have come to rely on.  Some people know experientially that there is no hope, there are no options, there is literally no life outside of the saving hand of the Savior.

If I really believe that my salvation comes by grace through faith, and not through my own works, why is it so difficult to believe the same for my parenting and every other aspect of life?  I can trust God to count me as righteous, but all the practical daily details are up to me, is that how it is?  Do we think that we earn "excellent parent" status in direct proportion to our level of worry, how closely we watch our children on the playground, how quickly we rush them to the doctor, or how many points the car seat harness has?  Does God chuckle--kindly, I hope--at our pitiful attempts to do His job for Him?

I don't know about you, but I cannot live that way.  I refuse to!  I refuse to impart a spirit of fear to my kids.  My relationship with the Lord, and everything I do as an outflow of that, is a, a 95/5 partnership, if you catch my drift.  I want to please Him and activate Him with my faith!  I can't un-live in this culture (well, not in the United States, anyway), with all its provisions and technology and medical advances; that's not necessary.  But oh, the cry of my heart is that Jesus would look at me and find complete trust.  That He would not say He was unable to demonstrate His power or goodness in my life because of my unbelief--whether for something as minor as an allergic reaction or blessing us with a bigger house, or something as major as cancer!  Even as I grow in wisdom and experience as a mom, I become more aware every day of my total reliance on God's mercy, His healing, His leadership, His provision and protection over me, my husband, and my children.  None of that is on me--it's all on HIM, the One who holds all things together.  The more deeply I absorb that truth, the more peace and joy I walk in.  Sounds pretty good to me!  Life is but a vapor; health and safety and security but an illusion--if not for the Most High, the Almighty God, my shelter, my refuge, my covering, my provider.  I will not pretend otherwise.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


My Chinese son is still focused.

This squash was a topic of conversation for two days.
I won't use the O word.  But I'm thinking it.  I won't bore you with a dozen supporting details, but trust me, it's still an issue.  He no longer eats food off the floor, can sometimes avoid the pre-dinner meltdown, and is developing preferences, all good signs that his food anxiety is abating.  Yay!

Today, however, his behavior baffles me.  (It baffles me often, but this is only one blog post.)

I picked him up from parents' day out at noon, and explained that we would go home, wash his hands, and then eat lunch as we always do.  We came upstairs, washed his hands, all was well.  I'm so on-the-ball that his lunch plate was already filled and on his highchair tray waiting for him, all foods he enjoys and eats on a regular basis.  I slid his legs into the chair, and he began crying.

Why are you crying? I asked.  Do you want to eat?  [crying, not answering]  Do you want to eat your lunch now, yes or no?  He answered no.

OK, then.  Time for nap.  He went screaming to bed, but was asleep within minutes.

After his nap, we go immediately to pick up one or both sisters from preschool/kindergarten, eating an afternoon snack when we return.  He often talks about food throughout the entire drive.  Today was no exception. "Peanut, peanut, peanut, peanut, apple, apple, 'meek' [milk], 'meek,' 'meek,'" etc.  Am I glad he's using words?  Heck yes.  Is it a teensy bit annoying?  Uh-huh.  Do I sometimes ignore him, loudly carrying on a non-food related conversation with the other kids?  Yep.

So once again I put him in his chair to eat snack--remember, this is a child who went to bed with no lunch, nor is he ill--and he began crying.  Asked again, do you want to eat?  NO.  OK, then.  Down you go.

So he spent 20 minutes sitting at the end of the hallway, crying.  Had a few false starts, deciding whether or not he could be happy and whether or not mom means business.  (She does.) And now he's sitting contentedly on my lap while I type, sticking his hand down my shirt.  The snack window has closed, but I did allow him some water.  He's been part of our family for almost 16 months, he's well-fed, and he's learning along with his siblings that meal-time nonsense isn't on the menu at our house, pun intended.  (Would I have reacted the same way two months post-adoption?  Nope.) 

***Pre-Publish Update:  Same. Exact. Thing. At. Dinner.  Only this time we wheeled his highchair to his room until he decided he would, indeed, eat.  Which he now is.  Alone, as the rest of us are already finished. 

Wish I could say this was some rare occurrence in our house--navigating this kind of bizarre and contradictory behavior, questioning whether its source is adoption trauma or just the terrible-twos--but it's not.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.   James 1:5 
Don't know what I'm doing?  Lacking in wisdom?  Yeah, that's pretty accurate.

God promises to give wisdom.  Liberally.  That means plenty, people.  But here's the interesting part--raise your hand if, smack in the middle of a challenging parenting moment such as I described, you feel supremely wise and perfectly equipped to make the exact right parenting play?

No?  Me either.  I mean, sometimes I realize immediately that I've made the wrong call.  Sometimes I don't know that until much later.  And sometimes I don't see the fruit of great decisions or strategies until months, even years, later!  Talk about delayed gratification.

I'm wondering if receiving and walking in wisdom isn't largely an act of faith, like so many aspects of following Jesus.

I'm not going to choose perfectly every time, and I trust the Father to bring correction.  I'm a flawed human, yes, but one who has been promised wisdom, one whose mind is being transformed day by day, and one who has the mind of Christ!  All that is true, whether I feel it or not.  'Cause I usually don't.

I could second-guess my every single move.  (Done it.)  I could try to take the blame for every single one of my children's tantrums, outbursts, oddities, poor choices.  (I have.)  Or I can choose to actively believe what God says in His word, trusting that it applies in this most crucial arena of parenting, trusting that I have what I need in every crazy situation, including the grace to do the exact opposite tomorrow if need be.

Take heart, dear fellow baffled parents.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"babe" subtitles: apraxic toddler version

Disclaimer:  I am not poking fun.  I am actually very happy that Shu is at a point where he is willing and able to comment intelligibly on the world around him.  

"Uh-no!" [oh no]

"Pee-guh!" [pig]

"Pee-guh night night."  

"Uh-no, fall down."


"Duck.  Duck.  Duck.  Duck...."  (Me: Yes, Shu, duck.)

"Eat.  Foo-duh."


"Guckt."  [truck???]

 "Uh-no!  'Way!  'Way!"  [oh no, away]  

and finally...some garbledy-gook that I'm positive meant "haircut," as in, the sheep are getting a haircut.

That's as far as we watched tonight.  After two yucky days in a row, including an evening with friends during which there was some obvious New Parent Shopping going on, today was blessedly pleasant, concluding with a so-very-normalish family movie.  Shu sat on my lap.  He said words.  It was good. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

a hike in the woods: then and now

On Saturday morning we ventured out to our nearby state park, the same park I wrote about here

Shu then, October 2011.  Worn in hip carrier for several hours, then fell asleep in stroller.  And that sad face was not the exception.  He was like that 99% of the day. 

Shu yesterday, August 2012.

Mama and her boys

Staring at an airplane, maybe?

This is still his default face when the camera comes out.
He wanted to walk, people.  This is my child who still exudes anxiety talking a walk down the sidewalk through our neighborhood!  "No hand. No hand," said my child, who six weeks ago could not put two words together.

I wrote this in last October's post:  We have come a good way down the path, but the road which leads to healthy attachment, love, and trust stretches long ahead of us.  And there is nothing to do but walk on.

And so we continue to walk on. There is plenty of journey ahead, but we've put more miles behind us now, and it feels good.  Seeing Shu enjoying life along with the rest of us was a great blessing. 

My first and only intentional "belly pic" so far this pregnancy.  Figured I'd better get one.

My Bigs

Dad and his ducklings
My princesses, soon to be a trio


Saturday, July 21, 2012

grace-based birthdaying

Ran to the Happiest Place on Earth last night with my two girls.  Yes, the very evening of Hummus Girl's birthday, to buy her birthday dessert for tonight's party.  Was open to the idea of making something myself, but as it has been no less than 643 degrees for the past three weeks, and I want to use my oven like I want a hole in the head, I went for the lazy grace-based alternative.

If you're like me, parenting, especially adoptive parenting, has a way of setting us up for inevitable failure in our own minds.  Pinterest, Etsy, all the countless gifted photographer/bloggers, jewelry designers, cakes and craft projects that belong in a museum, hand-crocheted underwear, and the like...

...can anyone say inferiority complex???

This is something I have really, deeply struggled with.  But you know, one beautiful result of this past year with all its challenges is more grace, from myself, to myself.  Or rather, from Father God to me, in a way that I can truly understand and access daily.  Why should I scorn His love by holding myself to a higher standard than He does???  That's a profound question worthy of a whole book. 

I had every intention of home schooling all of my children.  I greatly admire those who do, especially those with Many Small Children.  But late last summer I simply wasn't coping and I knew I needed some help.  Preschool three days a week for Hummus Girl turned out to be a huge blessing, one I was initially so hesitant about.  This fall she will be headed to Kindergarten at a small Christian school, and Princess Firecracker will attend preschool.  Quite frankly, I'm looking forward to Shu being old enough to go.  I think the structure as well as being under the leadership of someone other than Mommy, The Speech Drill Sergeant will be great for him.  Don't know that he's ready for that just yet, but he will be in another year.  I'm still home schooling Absent-Minded Professor, and that's just perfect for us both. 

I had to lower my expectation of myself  that I could teach them all, keep them all happy and creatively engaged and entertained, while keeping the house clean, dinner cooked, and myself regularly showered.  Might I feel differently in a few years?  Maybe.  In the mean time I feel great peace about sending the girlies off to school in a month.

Sometimes we eat frozen burritos.  And sometimes I make homemade spanikopita (it is worth noting, however, that was a good six months before adopting Shu, and though it tasted amazing, it was a ton of work that I will not be attempting again any time soon).  I'm not saying you never go the extra mile to create beautiful moments or events or gifts or meals.  I just think we should all do it with the right motive:  because it brings joy not only to the beneficiary, but is also life-giving to us!  If it's out of sheer obligation or primarily to preserve a false illusion of reputation?  Ugh.  Why bother?  At the ripe old age of 38.5 I'm finally learning there are...gasp...a few things that just are not fun for me, that I stink at, or that I simply don't have time for.  For example, I have been tremendously blessed by friends bringing meals after the births of our children.  What a great gift!  And I've done it a good number of times for others.  Every time, I felt stressed and anxious...until finally, Dr. Husband suggested that perhaps meal ministry lay outside my area of gifting and I should find another way to help a new mom.  See, I admit I'm not a great cook.  I don't really enjoy cooking for my own family much of the time, truth be told.  They're fed, and they're healthy, but it's not usually a passion or a pleasure for me.  So could I bring y'all a pizza or a gift card?  You bet!  But a nice home-cooked meal?  I'd actually prefer to come over and breastfeed your baby at 3 a.m.
Do my girls care whether their cake was homemade and prize-winning?  Heck, no.  Letting myself off the hook and buying that cookie cake was just a simple, ordinary event, but it felt to me like a red-letter, bold-type memo of grace. 

I'll cc you, if you like.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

10 years

July 20 marks ten years of marriage to my very best friend. 

A decade of laughter, learning to communicate, occasional Tupperware thrown across the room.  Three children by birth, one more by adoption, and a fifth child still growing in the womb.  Several church transitions.  A PhD earned, and a "real" career finally begun.  Looking to graduate to a bigger house after nine blessed years in this one.  Crazy, exhausting work.  A whole lot of joy.  Gallons of tears. 

We're still right in the middle of the hardest season of our lives, this insane heat and drought a fitting metaphor for the current state of our souls.  No, there's no luxurious tenth anniversary cruise on the horizon.  I'm pretty sure dinner is shaping up to be frozen pizza and bagged salad.  It's also Hummus Girl's fifth birthday; Princess Firecracker's third birthday is on Sunday.  So we'll celebrate our girls on Saturday evening.  I haven't even bought my love a card.  He asked me this morning what I might like for a gift. 

Oh, I know to many that sounds horrendous.  So unromantic.  Lackluster.  Unloving, even.  Let's just say it's a good thing we're so well matched.  Right now we're just trying to survive.  Together.  There'll be time for just won't be this weekend, I'm guessing.  And possibly not until 2013. 

Wish I could express my thoughts any better than this song by Sara Groves, but I don't think I'll try.  It says everything about the way my husband's love strengthens me.  I hope I make him feel the same way.  Happy anniversary, Dr. Husband.  (This is your card.) 

Speak in a summer tone
Pause in the after glow
Tenderly whisper my name
Tell me once again why I am your bride
So I can fly
So I can fly

Pause in your busy day
Look extra long my way
Wink at me across the room
Kiss me longer
Touch my arm when I am by your side
So I can fly
So I can fly

Oh how the little things
Strengthen my tiny wings
Help me to take on the world
When you love me there's nothing I wouldn't try
I might even fly
I might even fly
I might even fly.

Friday, July 13, 2012

DIY gone awry

Alternate title:  Make Me a Hero on the Internet

Which is why Dr. Husband didn't fuss about my taking photos of the colossal disaster that is our house. 

Two weeks ago it was "show ready," I promise.  And then we decided to redo the kitchen floor.  Now it looks like this.

Here's the frig before I came home to find it lying on its side.  In the dining room.  Unplugged.  {Side note:  refrigerators are not supposed to be horizontal.  They do not like this.}

Some of my hopefully-not-yet-rotten food in a cooler.  There's no pic of me making an ice run at 10:30 p.m. 

Refrigerator (now upright, still unplugged) and stove in my dining room.  We ate fast food for dinner, seated on the living room floor.  Oh, and Sonic run later.  Had to keep kids out of the house all afternoon and evening.  So just for grins I took Princess Firecracker to urgent care for what I thought might be a urinary tract infection.  Nope.  Rash.  Solution?  Over the counter anti-fungal cream.  Argh.  Then we went to the park, sans He Who Melts Down At Parks, and the aforementioned Princess Firecracker took up tantruming in his stead.  Good times. 

The contents of my pantry.  And some other garbage. 


And finally, My Hero.  He's been working in the kitchen for about 15 hours so far.  And a kind friend who, sensing our despair, offered to help.  It's 11:26 p.m.  He's still here helping.  Earlier he helped me plug the frig back in and set it back upright.  And replace all the shelves and contents which came crashing down in the process.  And wipe up the Thai chili sauce whose lid came off and ran all red and saucy down the shelves and onto the dining room carpet.  And pack ice around the eggs, creamer, and yogurt which have been sitting room temperature-like for several hours now. 

It's been a heck of a day.  Heck of a week, actually.  Oh, and did I mention we're supposed to leave in the morning for a brief weekend getaway? 

Should I promise "after" pics?  I'm certain once it's finished our house is gonna sell any minute.  Yes, I think I see a line of buyers waiting out in the street. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I decided to take advantage of the slighter cooler weather by driving the kids to a nearby park.  It's actually in a neighborhood, and probably meant to be a residents-only park, but that didn't stop us.  We were the only ones there.  Very fun, small playground, tetherball, swings, huge sand volleyball pit.

Three of my children had a great time.  Can you guess which one did not?  Would not walk.  Would not climb.  Would not do anything but stand mostly in one spot and cry, wanting to be held.

This is a child who can barely sit still at home or anywhere else (e.g. the library).  He is in constant motion, walking from room to room, climbing off and on the furniture.  So you'd think a park would be good for the sensory input he seems to crave, right?

He's been with us almost 14 months now.  Sometimes that seems like an eternity, and other times (like today) I am extremely aware of what a superficial dent we have made in the mountain of Shu's anxiety.  I want so much to be able to take all of my children on typical, kid-friendly outings and have all of them enjoy!  I'm not talking a raucous carnival; I'm talking a quiet, empty park.  Or a casual stroll around our neighborhood. 

I honestly have no clue what provokes such anxiety on these occasions.  A physical problem, perhaps, that causes him to feel fearful and unsteady the entire time?  (He continues to have trouble climbing stairs, and his physical therapist thinks he could benefit from orthotics for his feet.)  Except that we've gone to other parks on other days when he climbed and played happily, no problem.  The unfamiliarity of the park?  But he is totally fine in other new situations...has even surprised me at times with his independence!  It's puzzling.  And more than a little frustrating.

Forgive my little pity party today.  Dr. Husband jokes that I should stop being so shocked (shocked!) by Shu's random outbursts of fear or anxiety.  And yeah, after 14 months, I guess he's right.  I just wish it didn't put such a damper on our outings, e.g. Fourth of July where Shu freaked out at the tame driveway fireworks and ended up in the van, inconsolable.  Wish that one child's possible/probable anxiety/misery didn't make me so skittish that I want to hunker down and never take him anywhere.  'Cause that's just not workable with three other children, not to mention two parents, who kind of enjoy leaving the house from time to time, you know?  Silly, stubborn woman that I am, I just keep taking the risk. 

That's the ongoing struggle.  Managing the needs of one child while juggling the needs of the rest.  Sometimes those needs are going to contradict each other, and sometimes the well-being of the whole family takes priority over the demands of one kiddo whose full emotional healing, I'm learning, does not hinge solely on my perfect reaction in every specific circumstance.  Whew.  That's a burden too great for me, and I am not parenting an only child.  Overall I know that's best for Shu--to be around three (soon four) happy, well-adjusted siblings engaging with their environment, and to continue to be exposed to situations in which he can eventually learn that there is no need for fear or that he doesn't need to be literally held in my arms in order to sense that my love and protection are only a few feet away.

So we plod on, trying not to be so devastated by the meltdowns, with eyes wide open to celebrate the many occasions that go better than expected.  We acknowledge that we all continue to sacrifice.  Shu said goodbye to the "security" of a very narrow and predictable orphanage life for a much bigger, broader world that on many days still does not  feel safer or better to him.   And the rest of us forego any guarantee of peaceful family outings to the park or Home Depot or the pool, tantrum-free dinners or movie nights, etc. while flinging much grander plans like family vacations far, far into the unforeseeable future. 

My inclination is to feel lousy about even viewing our current lifestyle as "sacrificial."  I mean, I'm not living in a dirt-floored shack in a third world country.  I watch TV.  I have clean water, good food, and my A/C works, thank God.  Adoption took a big bite out of our bank account, but it's since been replenished, especially now that the adoption tax credit has finally come our way.  I don't even have that many kids. 

But I rather think that the Father is well aware of and well pleased with what we give up to know Him more deeply,  partnering with Him in laying our lives down to love in a way that does not come instantly, or naturally, or without great effort.  Comparing is irrelevant, anyway.  The cost of following God calculates differently for each of us, and He alone knows what it will be. 

Elisabeth Elliot, in one of her Gateway to Joy broadcasts talks about an old hymn written in the 1800's by a man named John Keble. "The trivial round, the common task, will furnish all we ought to ask; room to deny ourselves, a road to bring us daily nearer God."
Some of you, my faithful listeners, are working right now as you listen. The man in the carpenter shop. The combine. The UPS driver. The woman in the kitchen, the laundry, the bedroom, the bathroom. Is your mind set to hallow what you find? In other words, to make it holy, to make it an offering to Jesus Christ?  If it is, then you will find treasures--material for sacrifice. The trivial round. Let's say you're peeling onions for the soup. How many times have you peeled onions before? Same old onions. Same tears shed. Same necessity of feeding your family. But this is one of the givens of your life.  I love to think about the givens and the not-givens. Many things you long for which have not been given. But this trivial round of three meals a day--how many loads of laundry, how many bathrooms to clean, how many rugs to vacuum--"the trivial round, the common task, will furnish all we ought to ask." One of the things that it furnishes is room to deny ourselves--the opportunity day by day, for the love of God, to give up our right to ourselves, to glorify God in the way that we do the humblest work.
Parenting these kids, all of them, is my "given."  Whether happy day or crappy day, it's what I signed up for, unknowns and tears and apraxia and all.  If He can see this mess and hard work of restoration (and all the other regular parenting stuff) as treasure, worthy of sacrifice, I can only pray He'll give me vision and joy to see it the same way.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

another big girl in the house

After months of worry on my part and weeks of stress and effort, again, mostly on my part, it appears Princess Firecracker is potty trained!  We still haven't ventured too far from the house (or a potty), but she's had several accident-free days in a row.  Looks like my fears of her not being able to attend preschool in the fall, or worse perhaps, of having three in diapers come October, were unfounded. 

I'm super proud of her.  It's true what they say--when a kid is ready, she's ready.  Motivated entirely by self-confidence and the thought of being a "big girl," she couldn't have cared less about stickers or m&ms or any other parental trick-up-the-sleeve.  Which is fine with me, and what we all ultimately want--a child intrinsically motivated.

Here's a transcript from one of yesterday's sessions:

"It looks like a J!!!
Oooh, what will this one be?
That one looks like a snail!  Or a shrimp!
I'm going to have a long time going poop and I'll never get off.
Oh, some more goed in!
If I squeeze it out a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more, all day long, then I'll never get off, or clean up the pegs, or get back on the computer!"  

She's delightful.  (Might need something from her backpack while on the toilet.)

The downside is that I really can't get her to nap anymore.  And our house isn't quite big enough for me to effectively enforce a "quiet time."  So this mama is now even more desperate eager to hear Dr. Husband open the garage door at 5:53 each evening.  I had every intention of home schooling all the kids, but that was before "all" meant five or included the likes of Princess Firecracker and Shu.  [insert giant sigh of exhaustion]  Thankfully, God's grace is abounding, or at least sufficient, and with a clear conscience I look forward  to a couple of kids headed off to school in the fall! 

I've observed that P.F. suddenly seems older, less tantrumy, more in control of her emotions, more cooperative.  Even more cuddly!  My theory is that she now has control over the potty thing, so she doesn't need to fight us as much in other situations, current scenario in which she refuses a short nap even though it means she does not get to stay up late and watch fireworks with the big kids notwithstanding.  And ironically, though she's getting less sleep, she's plenty happy.  No more waking up groggy or super moody from naps.  Did I mention she's more cuddly?  Mommy likey.  

Yep, she's not a baby anymore.  Couldn't keep her off of Hummus Girl's bike a few weeks ago.  She crashed no fewer than six times, as seen in this actual unstaged crash footage. 

And each time she popped right back up, announcing "I'm OK!"'  Not a whimper; not a tear.  No fear of hopping back on to try again.  Let's just say she is, so far, the only one of my kids wired this way.  I'm fairly certain she didn't get that from me.

She's just her own unique self.  She earns her nickname every day, no doubt, but it's a joy to watch her approach age three with aplomb!  Maybe she can teach me a few things.

Monday, June 25, 2012

my 18-hour getaway

Bed and breakfast?

Shopping excursion by myself? 


Just spent 18 hours in the hospital.  Passing at least one kidney stone, apparently. 

I had some pain Sunday afternoon, but assumed it was baby pressing on a nerve or kicking me the wrong way.  This ain't my first rodeo, you know?  Dr. Husband and I took the kids swimming, and I thought being in the water would help baby move off of whichever of my delicate organs she was battering. 

But the pain got worse.  So bad I became non-functional.  And when you're pregnant, or even when you're not, and have pain that severe, you're wise to get yourself to the ER. 

I was admitted to a labor and delivery room where I got another ultrasound, including my kidneys, and a whole lotta other tests.  Everyone was concerned I might be in preterm labor.  Twenty-four weeks is WAY too soon for baby to be making her appearance.  But all looked great with me and baby; this did not appear to be a pregnancy issue. 

The pain?  I had heard it's right up there with a natural childbirth, which I have experienced.  And I can confirm that is true.  It was BAD, people.  I was on an IV and got morphine all night long.  By morning was feeling way better, though even now I am still very tender.  Was sent home this afternoon with instructions to drink my weight in water every day.  Argh.  So I'll pretty much be living in the bathroom now. 

Very thankful for many things:  health insurance, good doctors and nurses, my sweet husband, my parents who pitched in to watch my four kids all of Sunday evening and much of today, relief from the severe pain, and a healthy baby who will bide her time in the womb. 

Would love for you to join me in praying that the stone still visible in my right kidney would dissolve and disappear and that I will have NO further complications or distress from this episode...thank you! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

let's talk apraxia, part 3

I wrote my last post on apraxia on May 2, 2012, exactly seven weeks ago.  Oh my, the progress Shu has made since then! 

I'll just start with a few highlights contrasting the last post with now:

UP is no longer up-puh. 
OPEN is consistently oh-pah.  Still not correct, but closer. 
Can now say bye, my, die, me, bee, pee, mommy, daddy, happy--all of which were absolutely impossible for him to say seven weeks ago. 
Can now put some final consonants on the ends of words, such as: EAT and OUT and DOWN (though there is still a large gap between the "dow" and the "n").  

Shu can now produce most of the consonants (with the exception of some harder ones that any just-turned-two year old might struggle with) in isolation, and many of them in combination with vowels, i.e. me, bee, go, dough, toe, why

We are working hard to add final consonants too.  He seems to have mastered a final "t," and we are currently working on words like snack ("nack"), down, done, book (which usually comes out "boop"). We are correcting for bay-bee instead of buh-bee, and are close to adding the second syllable TER to wah-ter.  Shu does extremely well when he is willing to focus on our mouths, and is getting to the point where just a simple cue like placing my tongue in position for those final Ks or TER is enough to help him say it on his own.  None of these words' final sounds have yet become embedded in Shu's "plan" (plan = his mouth knowing how to form each sound correctly every single time) and getting them there requires extreme repetition, which he is sometimes in the mood for, and sometimes really, really not

Like this very exact moment, for instance.  Shu dropped something on the floor, said "uh-oh," and wanted me to retrieve it.  I said "Did it drop?" and then wanted to help him repeat the sounds for the word drop.  "Dop," rather, since he can't do blends.  He immediately began stiffening and screaming.  And he is now sitting in time out while he screams and drips tears and snot and drool all over himself and decides whether or not he's ready to try the word drop.  This is a daily occurrence in our home.  And I can predict with zero reliability when he will be totally receptive and practice his sounds like a rockstar, and when he will immediately go berserko about it. 

So in another minute I will go back in, ask him if he's ready, to which he will respond "yeah," and then he will attempt to say "drop."  I will praise him, and then he will return to his regularly scheduled programming as if his 15 minute tantrum did not occur. 

OK.  Done.   

So, as I was saying...

Shu still has trouble with the OOO sound.  He can't really pucker his lips (part of his oral motor planning problem), so his OOO sounds more like OH.  He says his own name "Doh."  He also can't lick food off his lips, though he eats anything and everything just fine, and does crazy things with his tongue while trying to make certain sounds.  The other day the speech therapist noticed his tongue was twisted almost completely sideways while saying a word that, needless to say, did not require the sideways twisting of his tongue.  This also affects his skill with puzzles; he has great difficulty making the pieces fit.  (This is the same issue that made learning sign language so counterproductively challenging for a child who really could have benefited from it.)  He is drooling way less, and drinks from a straw--a coffee stirrer, even!--like a champ.

We are also practicing using the word NO.  Hard to imagine I'd want to teach a toddler to say "no" more often, but we need him to!  He'll say "yeah" to absolutely anything, and we have a bit of fun at his expense.  Is that wrong?  Today I asked him if mommy should grow a beard, to which he replied (of course) "yeah."  It gets him in trouble when I ask him if he's all done, or if he wants to sit on his time out stool.  So we try to make practice fun, asking him "Am I Daddy?"  No!  "Is this my nose?"  No!  The problem is once he gets on a streak of yesses or nos, he'll just keep right on going, even when he knows full well that is (or is not) my nose.  But he's starting to be more thoughtful of the correct answer. 

He is building his one-word vocabulary at a tremendous rate.  He has dozens more spontaneous words, even though they are missing or contain wrong initial or final consonants, and his vowels are much, much clearer.  Shu still has trouble with more than one word at a time, so although he can say hi, bye, daddy, mommy, dog, etc. he cannot say "Hi, mommy" or "Bye, daddy" or "more [anything]."  He just doesn't have the plan yet. 

He babbles much more than ever before.  If I didn't know otherwise, I'd think there was a twelve-month-old in his crib rather than a twenty-five-month-old.  I don't say that to be critical.  Shu is finally discovering his mouth, his tongue, his voice.  And so he's finally babbling and experimenting in the same way that a much younger baby would. 

Often I am aware of just how much progress he's made in speech--one reason I blog about it--and am so very proud of him (and of myself, I'll be honest).  We have worked SO hard!  Other times I am exhausted and frustrated, as is Shu I'm sure, hence the tantrums.  I have the most delightful conversations with his 9.5-months-older sister, who can speak in full paragraphs, and I long to do the same with him.  Dialoguing with a child is just so fulfilling and fascinating and fun, aside from the obvious convenience.  He'll get there.  I know he will.  All this?  In seven weeks?  Gives me great hope to keep on keeping on.

Thanks, Father, that You pour on the grace and courage to do just that. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

It's a...

check out the scarf, y'all

On April 9, 2012, I had a dream that an old friend hosted a "gender reveal" party for me in my driveway.  The details of the dream were odd, as dreams sometimes are, but when my friend sliced into the cake, sure enough, it was pink on the inside!  The Lord has given me several significant dreams over the years, and I'm excited that this one was accurate.  Hummus Girl was particularly thrilled to be getting another sister; Absent-Minded Professor, not so much.  I thought he might actually cry at one point.  But he adores his sisters, so I know he'll get over it.  Shu pointed to the printed ultrasound photos and said, "buh-bee" (which he couldn't even say a week ago, so that's pretty cool too.)  As for me and Dr. Husband?  We couldn't be happier! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Will it be another one of these? 

Or one of these? 

Ultrasound on Friday.

Stay tuned. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

afternoon delight

No, not that kind. 

Princess Firecracker (side note: holy cannoli, is she living up to her nickname these days!) can identify all the letters of the alphabet, both capital and lowercase, and even knows the sound most of them make.  However, she remains a little sketchy on the song. 

Princess Firecracker {singing}:  ABCDEFG...HIJK...MMMuhP...
Mom/Me {highly amused}:  Oh, how about LMNOP? 
P.F.:  No! No! I can sing it! ABCDEFGHIJKMMMuhP...QRS...TUW...(long pause) I know my ABCs...
Me:  But what about V?  It's TUV.  Then WXY&Z. 
P.F.:  No! I know it!  I can sing it by myself!  ABCDEFG, HIJKMMMuhP, QRX...
Me {interrupting gently}: No, sweetie, QRS. Not X. S.
P.F.:  No, no, no! (starting over) ABCD...

Repeat ad nauseum with P.F. starting the song over every single time I interjected with a prompt.  I should add that she wasn't actually yelling at me; it's quite possible that she enjoyed our interaction, and I wouldn't put it past her to be getting it wrong on purpose. 

Me {finally joining in quietly at the end}:  TUVWXY&Z, now I know my ABCs, next time won't you sing with me?  Except you don't really want anyone singing with you, do you? 
P.F. {grinning}:  NOPE!

And the singing continued, at least eleven more choruses, and at some point she may have successfully included poor letter V.  I don't really know.  I pretty much stopped paying attention by that point.  I'm learning that full, rapt attention, while ideal, is not always a prerequisite for suitable enjoyment of one's child. 

Overheard hours later, from P.F.:  ...QRSTUV [skipping WXY&Z entirely], now I know my ABCs...

Well, honey, you do.  Just not the song. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

One year

One year ago yesterday we boarded a plane to China.  And on May 30, 2011, we met our son for the first time. And he met us.  Life forever changed, for all of us.

It's no secret:  this has been a year of sowing in tears, not one of which went unnoticed.
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.  Psalm 56:8
And a year of reaping, oh so gradually, in joy.
 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.  Psalm 126:5

I've captured plenty of smiles on camera over the past year.  I'm not saying most of them weren't genuine on some level.  But there's a certain smile you get from your child when you walk into the room--not coaxed, not the result of acting goofy or tickling, not the same smile the story time lady gets, but a smile that comes out of a place of contentment and happiness and belonging, one that speaks Oh, hey mama (my mama), it's you.  I'm really glad to see you right now!  You know when you see it the emotion that lies beneath.  That's the kind of smile I got this morning.  In fact, I've seen a bunch of them lately...and I have reason to believe they're gonna keep on coming.

We have survived one year together.  All of us.  And yeah, there have been a lot of days where simply making it to bedtime was a sweet victory.  It feels like a finish line of sorts, emotionally speaking, but really we're just beginning.  One year of healing behind us, one year of fear-busting, one year of therapy, one year of grace and mercy to cover a multitude of mistakes, one year of hard, hard, HARD, one year of love and growth and learning how to belong to each other.  We now begin the next leg of our journey in which the scales tip ever further away from fear and sorrow and loss, and ever toward love and and joy, restoration and hope.  We know the best is yet to come!

I'll close by sharing this prophetic song by Misty Edwards.  A message straight from Father's heart to me, specifically for this first year with Shu, these words have been carved like an epitaph on my soul.  

I knew what I was getting into when called you.
I knew what I was getting into when I said your name, but I said it just the same.
I knew what I was getting into and I still want you.
I knew what I was getting into.

I knew what I was getting into and I still chose you.
I knew what I was getting into and I still want you.
I knew what I was getting into and I still said your name, I said it just the same.
I knew what I was getting into.

And I am not shocked by your weakness.
And I am not shocked even by your sin.
And I am not shocked by your brokenness.

Because only I can see the end from the beginning.
And only I can see where this is going.
And only I can see the end from the beginning.
And I see in you the seeds of love.
And I see in you strength when all you see is your failure, and all you feel is shame.
I can see deeper than that.
I know you better than that.

You’re only at the beginning.
You've only just begun, and I know where you are going.
And all you can see in the moment is that you’re hurting.
And all you can see in the moment is that you’re aching.

I knew what I was getting into when I called you.
I knew what I was getting into and I still want you.
I knew what I was getting into and I still like you.
I knew what I was getting into when I called you.

So don't give up.
And don't give in.
If you don't quit, you'll win, you'll win.

Everything is in My hands.
It's going to be alright.
Everything is in My hands.
It's going to be alright.
It's going to be okay.

And you don't have to pretend to be something or someone you’re not.
Because I know you better than that, even better, even better than that.
Listen my Beloved...

Just don't give up.
And don't give in.
If you don't quit, you'll win, you'll win.

Monday, May 21, 2012

sprinkler fun (and not)

Got out the sprinkler for the first time this season.  Not sure why this hasn't been one of our regular go-to activities; sometimes I think I wasn't given the Mom Manual, you know, the one which discusses Lunchables and Gymnastics and Bitty Soccer and Disney Princesses and Pat-a-Cake and Sponge Bob and Chuck E. Cheese and all the other things my children are blithely unaware of. 

To no one's surprise, 75% of the kids were delirious with enjoyment.

Unfortunately for Shu, the sprinkler fell into the Things of Which I Am Absolutely Terrified category. 

He calmed down pretty quickly once he understood the water could no longer reach him, and when he flashed the camera his trademark "smile," I knew he was fine.  As long as he stayed far, far away from the yard.  Oh well.  We have all summer to warm up. 

Was happy to get a few beautiful shots of my Hummus Girl (who graduates from preschool tomorrow...pass the tissues, please).  Beautiful because she is...not because of my photography.