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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On Your 6th Birthday {A Letter to Xiomara)

Happy 6th golden birthday to our gymnastics loving, animal caring, spunky, joy-filled, and always happy Xiomara!



Six years ago today you were born on a hot Georgia day to your birthmama. Two days after that, your birthmama lovingly placed you into my arms and my life has never been the same since.

One of my friends once described you as all spunk and sassafras. I could not think of a better description for you. Those who know you, know your energy has no bounds. That energy comes from deep inside you and comes out as pure joy. Always happy. Always making others around you smile. What a gift that is. I've probably told your dad a hundred times that life would have been so much different for us had we never adopted you. I would have desperately missed the joy you bring us.

I snuggled you to sleep last night, partly because you were all wound up from the 4th of July, and partly because I know these days are fleeting. I rubbed your back, sighed, and told you to please just go to sleep. In the light of the day, I almost wish I wouldn't have rushed it. Because tomorrow you turn six, and I would give anything to go back to those sweet days of newborn snuggles and little sleep.

It goes too fast sweetheart. One day, God-willing, you will see that for yourself. You are my baby. Most likely my last and this past year I've really had to work through the sadness of being done while not feeling ready to be done. But sometimes, we don't get a choice, but rather life chooses for us. If I could have chose, I would have chose to give you that baby sister that looks just like you that you so want. Or even the baby in my tummy like you have asked for a dozen times. Instead, I didn't get to choose this, but I can choose you. I can choose to cherish these last few "baby" moments with you.

Today as I tucked you in for your nap, I leaned down to kiss you and told you this was your last nap as a 5 year old, and you said, "Does that mean when I turn 6 tomorrow I don't have to nap anymore?", I giggled along with you and said maybe. You are a great nap taker, and your endless energy seems to demand that you rest for a little bit of each day, but maybe you are right and you will be done with naps. Can you maybe be done with your thumbie now too (dentist bills are no fun)?

This year was one of growth in your life. You got taller, and stronger. You have lost six teeth since your first tooth you lost last 4th of July!! Your favorite color is yellow. You love almost all foods, but some vegetables are not your favorite. An extreme extrovert, your idea of a fun day involves lots of activities and people. Performing for others is your thing, and you make sure everyone notices you before you do something. This past year you went from asking me to "load it up", to properly asking me to turn up the radio. Same with asking if daddy could grill supper instead of, "make grill tonight". I'm going to miss that baby talk. You love to sit and do school with me, and this past year you started your first little bits of reading.

Music is a very large part of your life and it is rare for you not to have the music blasting. You love to sing, dance, and perform. Your real love though is gymnastics. You seriously cannot get enough. If you aren't practicing gymnastics (with loud music playing in the background), you are begging to watch Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, or really anyone on YouTube that you want to learn from. You once told me you had to watch the older kids so you can learn what to do for the Olympics one day. The Olympics are your main goal. You ask me weekly when I'm going to sign you up for them, and I explain again it takes lots of practice and determination and that you have to qualify. You are going to have so many voices (one day maybe even your own) telling you that the Olympics aren't possible, that it is too hard, too much, and the competition is too tough. But I won't be that voice. If you believe you will be winning gold medals in the Olympics, I'll believe right along with you (and I'll be there to cheer you on the day you do). You are gifted honey. Never forget that all glory goes to God for making your body strong and able to do what you can do in gymnastics. I've said from day one that God was going to use your adoption and your story for His glory, and perhaps, just maybe, the Olympics will be a part of that story one day.

When you are done with the Olympics, you tell me you will go to school to be a vet. Which makes sense, because other than gymnastics, you love animals. You are often walking around our yard with a chicken in your arms, or lately because we have baby kitties, a kitten in your hands. You are gentle, kind, and compassionate with them, and I have no doubt you will make a wonderful vet one day...after I watch you in the Olympics as you like to remind me. ;)

I've watched you this past year as you've learned to be brave. From losing your birthmama (whom you loved very much) way too soon, to visiting your birth family that you couldn't remember no matter how hard you tried. You were brave. You were strong. I fell in love with you all over again as I saw you as this gift that God literally hand-picked for me. What a gift you have been!

In the darkness of your room tonight, I glanced over at your sweet little face framed with curls, and whispered, "I'm so thankful to God for you spunky girl! You are a treasure. The best thing that God could have ever given me." You turned to me as you heard the tears in my eyes, and in typical Xiomara fashion, you started kissing me all over to make me giggle.




In the words, of your favorite Daniel Tiger, Ugga Mugga my precious Xiomara Marie. I love you! Happy golden birthday!




Friday, May 27, 2016

When God Calls Me to be Brave

Brave

That's the word that kept popping up at me from the most random places. I ignored it at first. In fact, I wanted the word to be new, but instead it seemed as if God had different plans for me.

I avoided writing this very blog post for my 2016 word because I wasn't sure I wanted my word to be brave. Why couldn't God make it new? I mean, after all He is doing a new thing in me. He is making all things new after my tough year last year, right?

But nope, God sometimes works in a totally different way than what we think we want or need. And instead he placed before me this word for 2016: Brave

By it's very definition brave means ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

The question remains on why he made this word my word for 2016? In some ways, I know some reasons on why he brought this word to me. I needed to be brave to walk away from an unhealthy situation in my life. I need to be brave in some upcoming big decisions for our family. I need to be brave to know that God will bring a few dreams on my heart into fulfillment.

But I think the biggest way God is calling me to be brave this year is in my mothering. I would never want to minimize those of you who are single mothers. You are amazing, and your brave journey is much harder than mine. Many times I have avoided talking about this with others because of that very reason. But the reality is, I do a good majority of my parenting alone. My husband owns his own business, and I'm so proud of him for it, but the reality is that it does take him away from our family. It used to be just during the spring/summer/fall, but now his business has grown (something we are SO thankful for), and even in the winter he is gone a lot.

And this past year I broke.

The stress of trying to do everything on my own just got to me. I just felt like I couldn't do it on my own anymore. I have one daughter who is a pre-teen, one who needs her daddy all the time, and the other who is a constant bundle of energy. In my mind, I could not be both mama and daddy. There were days when I just could not do it anymore. I was exhausted to my very core. I felt as if all I was, was mama, I wasn't Vanessa anymore. I love being mama, but I wanted a break from that too. My husband got a break every day, so why couldn't I? Why would God ask me to have this responsibility? Why did it feel like if one of my kids chooses a "wrong" path, it is all on my shoulders because I am the one doing 99% of the parenting? How was it fair for me to feel so alone in this parenting journey?

Basically, I had a good pity party. And if I'm honest, I still have days like that. I am tired. I really do wish sometimes that my husband had a 9-5 job so he can be more present in parenting. I'm lonely. Having a husband who works all the time, leaves very little "me" time, or even time for us to be together.

It was during this pity party that God first showed me the word brave. Oddly enough it came to me in an airport while traveling on my way home from visiting a friend. The word brave was right there in front of me. I remember staring at it and thinking that is not me. I'm not brave. I don't ride roller coasters because heights scare me. I don't just pack my family up and move to a foreign country to be a missionary because I married a very steady man who has not been called to that. I have never gotten a tattoo even though I know exactly what I want, because I am afraid of the pain. As a teenager, I bridge jumped once. But it was only after sitting on the side of the bridge for two hours while my sister desperately tried to convince me to jump in.

Brave is not a word to describe me.

Yet God has spent these last five months whispering it over my heart. Reminding me in so many little ways that I am brave, or that I can be.

I'm learning that sometimes, being brave looks so different than what I thought it would. I thought being brave in this time in my life would mean that God would wave His magic wand and make all things right. He would rescue me from feeling overwhelmed and somehow change my situation. Instead, I'm finding myself being drawn out into the waves just as the song, "You Make Me Brave" says:

"You make me brave. You make me brave. You call me out beyond the shore into the waves."



Umm, hello God?!? I don't really know anyone who wants to be called out into big waves. Well, except surfers, and as much as I think surfing looks fun, it scares me. But here I stand, being called out into some big waves. Being asked to be brave in this time.

And do you know what I'm slowly learning while being brave? I'm learning this: God loves me. He really does. He is here with me in this hard place. He knows exactly what I need in this time, and He will bring me through it.

"As your love, in wave after wave, crashes over me, crashes over me. For you are for us, you are not against us. Champion of heaven, you made a way for all to enter in."

I'd like to say with 100% certainty as I post this that I am now brave and can trust God with what is to come in this area of my life, but reality is, I can't. I have no idea what brave will look like. And that scares me. I do know that tomorrow a part of my brave journey starts as my youngest daughter and I get on a plane to visit her first family. Something that both excites me and scares me as her mama who just desires to protect her little heart. The good news is, I feel like this word is for all of 2016, and while that scares me a bit in that I just want God to take care of everything now, I know that at the end of 2016, I'll see God's hand in my life and I'll be able to see exactly how He made me brave this past year.


"She knew she could be brave because she was His." ~Isaiah 43:1


Monday, May 23, 2016

Kabrita {Review}

As a mama who breastfed all three of her kids, but then had supply issues with my third daughter, I was very interested to learn about Kabrita premium goat milk formula. Moms Meet recently sent me some to try. What I loved most about it, is that it is free from antibiotics, growth hormones, preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors. I also loved that it is GMO free and that the goats graze naturally on fresh grass. Even though I don't have any children that are currently formula feeding, I would definitely keep this in mind for friends who are formula feeding. While we did not test it, we did give our sample away and were told that it had a sweet, fresh taste and most importantly didn't smell like some formulas tend to do. ;) If you are interested in trying your own samples, make sure to visit this link.


 
In addition to the goat milk formula, we were given three Kabrita Goat Milk Yogurt and Fruit squeezable packs. My girls are always begging me to buy the squeeze fruit and veggie packs every time we go to Target, so I was excited to give these a try. We received banana and natural vanilla bean with pear, mango peach with apple and pear, and mixed berry with apple and pear. These were a HUGE hit at our house! I think we all agreed our favorite flavor was the banana and natural vanilla bean. What I liked best about these is that there was no added sugar, no aritifical colors, flavors or preservatives. In addition to this they are in BPA-free packaging and are Non-GMO verified. These would be a definite must buy at our house if I was looking to replace current squeezable packs.

To connect with Kabrita online, be sure to check out their Facebook page. You can receive 20% off Kabrita products on Kabritausa.com by using the code MM2016. Hurry, offer ends June 30, 2016.


*I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet Program (greenmomsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.
 
 


Thursday, May 19, 2016

On Your 7th Birthday {A Letter to Meridian}


Happy 7th birthday to my sweet as can be, ringlet-curled, snuggle bug, passionate, girlie girl, and day dreamer Meridian Piper!



I cried when I first saw two pink lines show up on the pregnancy test I took with you. I remember telling your dad I just couldn't do it again. I didn't want to throw up for months on end, and with a toddler in the home it all seemed so much scarier. Also, how in the world was I going to love you like I loved your big sister? Plus, we were in the middle of an adoption process and you surprised us all.

But you came in a quick whirlwind of a birth that once again surprised us. And I couldn't help but fall in love. I told you in writing, and we've talked before how our connection was always a bit different than that with your sister. I think in many ways you were just a daddy's girl from day one. At age three, while filling out a mother's day card with your Sunday school teacher, when asked what you like about your mom, you said, "I only like my dad!". We all got a laugh about that, and then nodded our heads at how true it is.

While our connection may have been slow at the start, these last two years you have become a mama's girl. Having your big sister at school, has allowed you to come out of your own shell at home. You get more of my attention when you want it, and I've watched as you daydream throughout your day. I've watched you for hours play Legos on your own, or play Monopoly by yourself  (something your mama used to do).

At 7 you love the color purple! We've laughed lots over the years of your phases of clothing choices: only pockets, only dresses, only stripes, only polka dots, only fancy dresses, but the one thing that hasn't changed is your love of the color purple. You like to play games, and ride your bike. You love to play piano, and you talk to yourself throughout the whole song. While maybe not the most athletic child, you poured your heart into gymnastics and are now thinking of maybe giving dance a try. One of the things I look forward to most each year is watching you sing in your community choir concert. Most of the time you are looking around to the other kids, or directing with you little hands. Your passionate side comes out in you every so often with a good stomping to your room, followed by a door slam. But it's quickly followed by a big hug and a, "I love you mama! I'm sorry." You still don't love school, but you do like math. Reading is not your thing, and that is ok. It's rare these days to wake up with you in my bed, but every morning you come to my room and squeeze in between daddy and I just so you can snuggle.



Sometime in the middle of the night last night, I felt your little warm body crawl into bed and I saw you squish next to your daddy (always daddy). Then this morning long before you were awake I just stared at you and the beauty that is you both inside and out. I remembered all those feelings I had when I discovered I was pregnant, and then your pregnancy which left me sick all the time. I thought back on your quick, beautiful water birth into this world that I loved. And then I just thought of you. Meridian Piper, I have such a fierce love for you! Thank you for loving me back. For always being the girl who will give me hugs and kisses throughout my entire day. I once said that everyone needed a Rinnie Roo in their family. A sweet as can be, passionate girl, who will love on you when you need it most. And it's true. I didn't realize the blessing God had for me in you, and I'm so thankful God gave me you when I least expected it.

You told me through tears recently that you just didn't have a talent. I reminded you of your age and told you that you don't have to worry about your talent. Sometimes it takes years before we see our talents. But really Rinnie, your talent is pretty obvious to me. You may not be athletic like your younger sister, and while you are musically gifted like your older sister, it may not come as easily to you, but your talent is in your spirit. You draw people in with your love. And that is a beautiful talent that not everyone has sweetie. I have a feeling that one day, you will look back and read this and be able to see exactly how God used you throughout the years.

Happy 7th birthday sweet girl! I love you!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On Your 9th Birthday {A Letter to Zoelle}

Happy 9th birthday to my tender, gentle, sensitive, kind, full of jokes, and heart of gold firstborn girlie who gave me the name mama.



It was in those first sleepless nights with you that I remember realizing my life was now changed. You were all I ever dreamed of since the time I was a little girl playing with my dolls. I wanted so badly to be a mama, and now I was. I was so young and scared and I know I've made a thousand mistakes that I wish with all my heart I could go back and fix, but I also know that God has given me grace in my parenting. He has covered when I have failed. And you my dear sweet girl, have been so kind and loving to forgive me when I come to you and apologize again for not being the mama you needed then, or sometimes even now.

Sometimes I think He knew more than I did that we needed to name you Zoelle Grace. A girl full of life, who gives grace, and reminds others that grace is theirs to have from God.

I have a vivid memory of holding you across my chest in my arms when you were maybe just a few months old. You were fast asleep after nursing and I remember just staring at your face. Your pink perfect lips, your adorable nose, but most all your little wisp of baby hair across your forehead. I remember smoothing it back with my hand and just being amazed at you.

Nine years later I held you in my arms last night. That doesn't happen much anymore, because your lanky body stretches out of my arms now and your legs dangle to the floor. But I held you close, and I stared at your pink perfect lips, your adorable nose, and then I took my hand and smoothed back your hair. You giggled thinking you were too old for this, and it took everything in me not to cry.

At nine, you love to read. It is a rare thing not to see you with your nose in a book. You love to play piano, often playing ahead in your books because that is just what you do. Your favorite color is green. You love almost all foods, but you still hate eggs and you don't really care for chicken. I think you like violin more than you let on, but practicing is not your favorite thing. You love gymnastics and everything is a competition with your littlest sister. After we tuck you into bed at night, you talk and talk to Meridian. I often hear you two giggling long after you are supposed to be sleeping. Sometimes I come to check on you, and you are reading long after the light is to be off....always reading. Your teachers tell me you are super quiet at school, but at home watch out! You LOVE to share about your day and while I'm not always the best about listening, I do love to hear about your day.

I have nine years left with you honey. Nine! Oh, I realize I have a lifetime with you, but I also realize that every year you get older is one less year of impact I have in your life. We are now on the edge of those pre-teen years and part of me is so scared. What if I mess up the teenage years so badly? What if I'm not the mama you need during those years? It's in those times of being scared, that I'm reminded of how scared I was in those newborn days. I had no idea what I was doing then, and I have no idea what I'm doing now.

But grace.

It was there then, and it will be there now and in the years to come.

For nine years I have written you a love letter for your birthday. I write you one each year because as much as music is my love language, writing is where I pour out my heart. It is in these blank pages that I feel I can be most honest, and you can get a glimpse of my heart. It is my prayer that years from now you will look back on these letters and be able to read the love I had for you. I may not always get on the floor and play with you (and I'm still working on being better at that), but you will always know my love for you and be able to read these words of my heart.

You are amazing Z! God has made you this little girl with a kind, gentle, sensitive heart that breaks for others and I cannot wait to see what He will do in your life. As you enter into being a nine year old, I pray that you will hold close your love for others. Continue to always show kindness to others above all else. Keep making others laugh, because laughter is truly the best medicine anyone could ever receive. Most of all love others without fear. I say that because there will probably be many times in your life you will be hurt by others and you will be tempted to close yourself off from others because it hurts too much to get hurt. Don't do that sweet girl. Never be afraid to love. Love does hurt sometimes, but there is so much beauty in loving others and it is where I have seen God most in my life.




I love you honey! May you have a Happy 9th Birthday!






Saturday, March 26, 2016

GaiaKids Bronchial Wellness Review

Recently we were given some GaiaKids Bronchial Wellness for kids from Moms Meet. It came to us in the middle of winter, which was a perfect time to get it being it is a natural support for children's throat and bronchial health.




 GaiaKids Bronchial Wellness for kids provides herbal support for the respiratory system and promotes healthy mucous membranes.* It is recommended for ages 2 to 15, has a great taste that comes from organic honey, lemon, and flavorful essential oils.

GaiaKids are formulated by pediatric natropath, Dr. Mary Bove and have a line of 10 alcohol-free herbal formulas that deliver herbal support with kid friendly tastes. Part of what I loved about GaiaKids, is that Gaia uses only organic methods on their farms, and that same organic approach continues through manufacturing. Part of their seed-to-shelf commitment is the industry's only tracibility platform, MeetYourHerbs. This means that each of their products are 100% traceable. Each product has an ID# that traces every herb in the product down to the source and quality of testing, so you can rest assured that your product is pure and safe.

Our personal experience with GaiaKids Bronchial Wellness was a positive one! We decided to use it as a way to support the girls' bodies throughout the winter by using as a means of keeping a healthy immune system. I was worried they wouldn't care for the taste of it, but found they really didn't mind and actually looked forward to getting it each day.  Because I make homemade elderberry syrup and we take lots of natural supplements on top of eating a very healthy diet, I probably would not regularly buy this for the price of $19.99 for 3 oz., but I also wouldn't mind having it on hand just in case.

If you would like to a free sample of Bronchial Wellness for kids and a $2 off GaiaKids Coupon, go directly to this link: http://www.gaiaherbs.com/consumergiveaways

Be sure to connect with their Facebook and Instagram pages for more information!


I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet Program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use the product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.


*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
 
 






Thursday, December 31, 2015

Saying Goodbye to 2015

2015 was hard. There is just no way around that for me.

Not even a month into the new year, we unexpectedly lost our daughter's birthmom. To say my life changed is an understatement. Sometimes I can hardly believe that she really is gone. Other times, I feel it to my very core that she is no longer here.

Her death lead to months of depression and heartache for me. A part of me is beyond thankful that 2015 is coming to a close and that we get a fresh start tomorrow. The other part of me is devastated. 2015 is the last year she was alive and what if I'm not ready to say goodbye to her?


Looking back at 2015 I have this peace when I think about the life phrase God gave me for the year.

 "He will quiet you with His love".

Little did I know when I wrote that how much I would have to be still and quieted by His love. This year has been one of the most challenging ones for me and I have had to rely on God more than almost any other year. I'm so thankful for His love that has quieted me in times of unrest.

While I haven't shared my phrase for 2016 yet and I'm not 100% positive I will, I did want to share one thing with you that I feel led to share.

Shortly after Xiomara's birthmama passed away, I read this amazing article called While They Can Still Hear (The Case For Living Eulogies). Here is what I wrote on Facebook when I shared it:

"Maybe because I am a words of affirmation person, this speaks directly to my heart. Or perhaps it is because I have lost people in my life way too sudden, way too young. Or else it is because I realize my time on earth is short and I want to use the remaining time I have to uplift people in love. Whatever it is, this is SO good. 'I think we should give people living eulogies; that we should speak lavish, unashamed words of love and praise, not about them, but to them.'"

I've never been the type of person to do New Year's Resolutions, mainly because most times I fail at them and then feel guilty. But, this one hit home with me and so I spent 2015 telling those I love why I love them. Most of the time it was in the form of a social media post because I wanted other people to know what I saw in someone else.

Do you realize how rare it is for people to hear words of affirmation spoken to them these days? We live in a day in which people rarely take the time to truly stop and listen to your answer to "how are you?" and most people have no idea the pain or elation that is just below the smile that is plastered onto someone's face. Can I encourage you to read the above article and then spend 2016 incorporating your words of love to others? If you are like me and don't do New Year's Resolutions, do this one. Take 5 minutes to have a conversation with someone and tell them how much you love them. If you are like me, and words come better from your fingers than your voice, take 5 minutes to type up how much they mean to you.

I have now lost several people too soon without getting to tell them exactly what I saw in them and how much I loved them, and I would give anything to go back in time so they know exactly how much I love them. I am determined to never let someone close to me pass away without knowing they were loved. I will be living this out in 2016, hopefully even more than I did in 2015.

So Happy New Year friends! May you fully love those around you and cherish each moment you are given. I leave you with these words from the above article.

"Friend, there are people around you who need to see the full contents of your heart, now. They deserve the blessing of  knowing that they matter, today."