Monday, November 17, 2014

An Update & What I'm Into Lately

I'm here and I'm alive!

I realize I have kind of disappeared for a bit and it was all quite unintentionally. Zoelle started school and my life completely changed. I went from sleeping in with the girls until 8 a.m. or later, to waking up at 6 a.m. I went from having one eager learner at home, to having two little girls at home who want to play more than they want to do school. School in and of itself can be a post on it's own and maybe someday I will do that. But for now, just a quick update on where I've been.

Zoelle being in school threw me into a bit of depression; I'd walk around all day and imagine what she was doing at that particular moment. In addition, the little girls didn't show much of an interest in school and I didn't know what to do with myself. I was stressed and depressed and a lot of my energy goes into cleaning house when I'm stressed, so I did as much as I could until there wasn't really anything left to do.

I'd fall in bed completely exhausted and asleep at 9 p.m. which is early for a night owl like me. I had no energy to do anything once the girls were asleep, and definitely no energy to formulate my thoughts on a blog post.

Adding to my depression was the loss of most of my flock of chickens due to the fact that Chris forgot to shut up the chicken coop doors on Halloween night and our dog and a friend's dog we are watching got in there and killed all but three of our chickens. That same week both dogs scared off our cat, Maple and we have not been able to find her since.

To be honest, I'm still pretty exhausted! Most days I still fall asleep early, or sneak a nap in myself during nap/rest time. But slowly, very slowly, my energy is returning and today I finally felt up for blogging.

So for the fun of it, I thought I'd do a what I'm into right now blog post as I enjoy reading them and I haven't done one in forever!

On the web:

Stop Asking If I Am Going to Try for a Boy

{We love our girls and won't keep trying just to get a boy!}

13 Signs You're A Classic INFJ

{Pretty sure this author lives in my home they so perfectly described me!}

I hate adoption.

{As a sister to 11 adopted siblings, I can resonate with this one way more than I want to at times.}

On my nightstand (or really just by my bed as I don't have a nightstand! ;)

Fresh Eggs Daily

{Shortly after we lost our chickens, we were able to find someone with more, so we added to our coop. I checked this book out from the library as I have absolutely fallen in love with my chickens. I want to do everything I can to give them a healthy, happy, life so I read this one in just a few days. It's now on my wishlist to buy!}

Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nurtrition

{I just finished reading this one and my head almost hurts from all the information! Also, it makes me want to completely overhaul our eating habits. Chris loves books like this! ;) }

On my phone/in the car:

{Taylor Swift. It's all about Taylor Swift 1989 right now! I thought I would hate her music being pop, but I ended up loving it just as much as my girls and now we are looking into getting tickets to her concert.}

On TV:

{My TV life is pretty much non-existent right now although I am still watching Ellen, The Voice, and somehow have managed to sneak in Dancing With the Stars. The real surprise here is how much I have fallen in love with Friends. I had maybe seen one episode or a part of one years ago, but had never actually watched the show until this year while looking for something to watch late at night I came across an episode and was sucked in. Why is Chandler so hilarious?!?}

In the Bible:

"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14

{I figure God wants to tell me something when I keep seeing this all.the.time.}

What I'm Praying For:

{A quick, easy, and warmer winter than the last two!}

Just because they are cute! :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

SweetLeaf Sweet Drops Cola Sweetner Review

It is rare for me to drink any sort of pop (or soda for you southerners) unless we are out to eat, and even then I often opt for water. However, occasionally I do crave root beer. My husband on the other hand, absolutely loves coke! I don't like that he or I are drinking all that sugar and I know it isn't good for us!

Enter SweetLeaf Sweet Drops Sweetener! It's a liquid stevia that is all natural with zero calories and can be used in tea, coffee, smoothies, protein shakes, or any recipe.

Since we received the cola flavor, we decided to try it in sparkling mineral water. After adding the recommend 14 drops per 8 ounces of water, I fully expected it to taste nothing like a glass of coke, but I was pleasantly surprised. With stevia involved I also expected a bit of an aftertaste, but I could not taste it! So far so good. The real test would be my husband who with his love of coke, I knew would be hard to win over. However, when he tried it, he too had nothing bad to say. He felt like it tasted almost like the real thing and we both would probably add a few extra drops in just to get that real coke taste, but overall we both liked it.

Have you ever used SweetLeaf Drops? If you want to try it for yourself, make sure you visit SweetLeaf online to order more! Use the code "ColaMD" at checkout to take 30 percent off your online purchase (plus you’ll get free shipping).

Also, be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with all things new that are happening at SweetLeaf

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetsSM blogger, I agreed 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 the product.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When Your Neighbor Humbles You

If you were to walk in my house today, you would see this sign proudly on display right when you walk in the door.

I wholeheartedly love it and believe it. The problem is, I don't always live it.

About a month ago, we were on a family walk and ran into one of our neighbors. We are the only family with young kids in our small neighborhood, so I happened to apologize if he heard my kids screaming or crying a lot, because let's be honest, they fight a ton. What he said next made me humiliated and then question the very core of who I am. He said, "Well sometimes I hear them, or you but it's ok, my dad ruled with a strong hand and looking back I can see it was good for me." You guys, my heart sank. While we have agreed to be peaceful, gentle parents, and we have chosen not to spank, apparently my voice has not gotten control. To the point where it still looked as if I was ruling with a heavy hand.

I wanted to come back with every excuse in the book. When you have 3 girls who are close in age, there is competition and they are whiny, they fight, and they scream. They are spirited, and passionate and I have to get control somehow.

Except yelling isn't control and I sat there unable to defend myself and blame it on my kids.

This past summer was a tough one for me. I'm honestly not sure why. I started to feel this shift in my girls with all three wanting a bit more independence and then all three making their voices heard through loud protests, screaming, fighting with me, and with each other. It wasn't a peaceful summer at our home and I felt my stress level rising. I had to get control of these kids. So I yelled because somehow in my mind, yelling is control. I threatened to spank. Sometimes I really yelled, like the one that makes your whole body shake.

Yeah it was bad.

Then that conversation happened and it was like a slap in my face. Here I was claiming to be a gentle parent, when in reality, yelling can do just as much damage to a little soul.

I'm not naïve enough to believe I will never yell again, but it did make me take a good look at myself and decide exactly what kind of mom I want to be. It also made me change some things I realized were causing the frustration in the first place.

If I yell, they will yell. I quickly realized that the calmer I am, the calmer they are. Trust me, my nature is not one of calm. I am passionate and typically that comes across in how I speak to people. But I realize that if I can talk to other adults without yelling (even when I'm frustrated), I can talk to my girls with that same calm voice.

I started empathizing more with them. My nature as a parent is to be very matter of fact and not fuss over my children. This is great on one hand, but on the other, I realized my kids were feeling like I didn't care at all when they were expressing their frustrations, thus it was quickly escalating to screaming as they wanted my attention.

This brings me to my last point, I wasn't paying attention to them. I was either in the kitchen, doing laundry, or on my phone and all my kids were hearing from me was, "Just give me one more minute". They wanted more of my time and attention and I wasn't giving it to them. They are smart and a great way to get that attention is to cause trouble thus mom would pay attention, even if it was negative attention. Lately, I've been letting the house and laundry slide and I've instead been playing with my kids. Not just cuddling or reading a book, but actually playing. They love it and our house runs a lot more smoothly if I even just spend 10 minutes investing into what they like to do.

So we are making some changes around here. Mainly those changes come from me and it hasn't been easy. But the more I set an example for them, the more they follow that example. Perhaps next summer I can see my neighbor and hear him say how he loves hearing the laughter come from our yard.

Have you ever had to take a good look at yourself as a parent and then change? What have you done to help that change take place?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Stitch Fix #3 {Review}

It's been such a busy last few weeks of summer and first few weeks of fall, that I have failed to post my review of my 3rd Stitch Fix and I just got my 4th a few days ago! Oops! I'll be posting my 4th review in a few days, but in the meantime, read all about my 3rd Stitch Fix.

For this Stitch Fix I made sure I was clear on my disappointment over my 2nd Stitch Fix and made sure they knew I wanted summer clothes. Also, because I have a love of summer dresses and because I had a wedding to go to of a good friend in late August, I requested a reasonably priced dress.

The clothes in this Stitch Fix were probably my favorite to date! They all looked a lot like my style and I was so impressed that my stylist followed my request of summer clothes. After promising two times now to get pictures of me in the items, I finally did so this time. However, I was fighting against low light so I apologize for how dark they are! Because I was fighting the setting sun, I completely forgot to accessorize each outfit! To me wearing the right accessories makes all the difference!

Item #1: Skies and Blue Alexa Embroidery Detailed Tank: $48

I wanted to like this shirt. In fact, I did at first. I loved the delicate embroidery, the soft material, and the look of it in general. However, when I tried it on, I wasn't impressed with the look of it. It fit me wrong and was too flowy, thus creating a "is she or isn't she pregnant look" and in case you are wondering, I'm not and I don't really want that, so this was a pass.

Item #2: Collective Concepts Clayton  Pleat Detail V-Neck Blouse: $58

I loved the color of this one right from the start! I love pink and this looked so much like me. My only hesitation was how plain it was considering the price. Ultimately, even though I liked the look of it on me, I decided to pass because of that.

Item #3: Pixley Indianan Floral Print Mixed Material Tee: $44

When I first pulled this out of the box, I was very hesitant to want to like it. While I love gray, I'm not a fan of the print on the back. However, when I put it on, I loved it! Once again, the price was the determining factor. While I almost kept this one, I couldn't justify keeping a shirt for that much money. I'm finding out with Stitch Fix that while I like many of the clothes, I am far too frugal to spend that much for cute clothes. Sigh...

Item #4: 41Hawthorn Abrianna Lightweight Knit Cardigan: $28

I was SO excited when I pulled this one out of the box! For whatever reason, I'm really into cardigans lately, and this one fit my personality perfectly with both how light weight it was and the color. I could easily style it over a tank, a shirt, or a dress. This one was an absolute keep!

Item#5: Honey Belle Sifaya Chevron Print Dress: $48

Picture from the wedding as my individual picture in this dress was really dark!

When I saw this one in the box, I let out a little squeal! It was love at first sight. I don't own anything chevron and always have wanted to, but could never seem to find something that I love in the print. As I pulled this one out I was praying for it to fit. When I put it on, I was so happy, it fit perfectly! The price was absolutely great considering it is a dress. This was without a doubt a keeper. I've already worn it to the wedding I wanted to wear it to and received tons of compliments.

Overall, I kept 2 out of my 5 items and the total came to $13 thanks to some credits from friends signing up under me. Who can beat spending $13 for two great items? Thanks to this Stitch Fix I decided to give a 4th box a try and I'll be posting my review of that one in a few days.

Haven't joined Stitch Fix yet and curious as to what it is? Stitch Fix is a style service where a personal shopper picks out 5 items for you, you keep what you like and send the rest back in a postage paid envelope. You do pay a $20 styling fee, but it is applied towards your final order. If you haven't joined yet, I'd love to have you sign up under me here, and feel free to leave a link or share with me your thoughts on Stitch Fix!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On Your First Day Of Second Grade

Hi sweetie!  Today is your first day of second grade! For the first time ever, you won't be at home with me. Instead, you will drive to school with daddy every day and ride the school bus home.

In our seven years of parenting, we have never had to make a more difficult decision than this! We always knew we would take homeschooling on a year to year basis. Each year, we would talk and pray about it, but ultimately decide to homeschool you. This year, we knew in our hearts it was time to do something different. You need to spread your wings a bit, and the girls (especially Meridian) need some time alone with me.

This morning I had to wake you up as you were still sleeping in your bed. I was tempted to not do it. You looked so peaceful and I was reminded of watching you sleep as a baby. You were nervously excited for your first day and you could barely eat more than a few bites of your breakfast. You picked out your first day of school dress and decided that if I couldn't braid your hair (I'm not the best at that), that you wanted it in a ponytail. We drove to school with you talking the whole way about what it would be like. When we arrived, I think you and I were both a little shocked at the reality that was to come. You turned and gave me the biggest hug and kiss when we got to your classroom, and I barely held it together as I said goodbye at your classroom door.

You've been in school a little over an hour now and here I sit at home with a box of kleenex surrounding me with your sisters playing nicely downstairs. It's probably not the best time to write this as I'm a complete mess. I miss you that much! I cried almost the whole way home, thinking how quiet the car ride was without all your questions and your sweet laughter as you giggle at something you read in a book. I cried as I pulled in the driveway and realized you won't be able to get the mail anymore unless it's a Saturday. I'll miss taking you to story time, to the park, and to the zoo. I'll miss hearing you play with your sisters, watching you swim in the pool, and run with careless abandon across the lawn.

It will be so different without you. It already is! However, I know I will cherish the time I do have with you so much more.

I pray that your year in school is amazing!  That your eager mind will grow in knowledge. That you will never be afraid to be smart and ask the thousand questions that are constantly running through your head. That you will treat others with kindness always, no matter what. That your gentle, sweet spirit, and love for others will flourish.

The girls and I have decided that we don't know what to do with ourselves today. They play a bit, and then ask for you. I try and get something done, and then get lost in my thinking wondering what you are doing right now. I told them we will start school tomorrow as I just can't today. I think today will be a day to just reflect, cry, and eagerly await for you to get off the bus.

I love you sweet girl! You are going to do so well in school! We are praying for you all day long and can't wait to see and hear about your day today and every single day to come!

Welcome to 2nd grade!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stitch Fix #2 {Review}

A few weeks ago I got my second Stitch Fix in the mail. You can read all about my first Stitch Fix here. I loved it and felt like the style and clothing that was chosen for me was very, well "me". While I only kept two things, I have worn those two things plenty of times already this summer and feel like it was well worth my money. I went away happy from my first Stitch Fix and eager and excited to try it again.

For my second Stitch Fix, I requested lots of summer stuff. Dresses, skirts, summer colors, and fun summery shirts, etc. It didn't matter to me as long as it screamed summer! I made it clear that I wanted summer clothes. After all, where I live summer is very short and I wanted to enjoy it with some fun outfits!

When it came, I hated it! All of it! I heavily debated posting this review, but I like to be honest in all aspects of my blog, and I had to be honest when it came to this. Stitch Fix did not listen to me and I was very disappointed that I wasted my money on it. My request of summery items seemed to fall on deaf ears. I got one short sleeve shirt and one long skirt that could be considered summer. The style itself wasn't "me" at all. In fact, I wonder if they even looked at my style profile I filled out? My Pinterest style board? I promised friends that the next time I did this review it would be with pictures of the clothes on me. However, I just couldn't do it. The clothes did not flatter my body at all!

Item #1: Kut From The Kloth Denna Skinny Jean: $78

I liked these, but umm....definitely not summer. Also, they were long and baggy! While I rarely wear skinny jeans because my body is curvy, not skinny, I am up for nice-fitting, attractive ones, just not in the summer. These were a definite no!

Item #2: Market and Spruce Twain Twisted Neckline Slub Knit Shirt: $48

White, white, and more white with a very oddly placed line down the middle. This did nothing on my curvy frame. Instead, it made me look rather large and frumpy. Also, it was pretty thin and not the greatest quality. Again, long sleeve doesn't exactly scream summer either.!

Item #3: Pomelo Blake Ruched V-Neck Knit Shirt: $48

Yay! Summer! I was happy to see a summer shirt in my box but not so happy that for a very plain shirt, it cost so much money. I love ruched shirts, but this was again not attractive on my frame and left me looking more pregnant than not. No one wants that, so again this was a no.

Item #4: Pixley Monty Scarf Print Kimono Cardigan: $58

Being completely honest, I pulled this one out and knew from first glance that it wasn't me. I don't think things that hang on me look good. I tend to like more fitted looks and while I liked the colors of this, it ended up looking like a tent on me. No good!

Item #5: Papermoon Amilea Abstract Tie-Dye Mixed Print Maxi Skirt: $58

This was the only item I was tempted to keep. I liked it and it felt very comfortable on me. I love the look of maxi skirts and I hope at some point, I get one in my Stitch Fix that will work for me. So why didn't I keep this one? It went up to my boobs and that was folded over! It just wasn't practical for me to keep a $58 skirt that didn't fit right.

While I know I technically shouldn't post a review on something I didn't like, I want to be honest to you my readers and to Stitch Fix in the hopes that they will listen and change in the future. It's not the first $20 I've wasted in my life and I'm sure it won't be my last. So will I do another Stitch Fix? Yes, I am trying another one in a few days. I debated for a bit if I wanted to do so, but decided I was curious to know if they would listen to me and actually look at my profile this next time and get it right. I'll for sure be letting you, as my readers, know what I think.

I still think Stitch Fix is a good deal! I still find it fun to have a stylist shop for me and receive those pieces in the mail rather than dragging my three girls with me to the store in the hopes of finding at least one cute outfit. Do I think it is worth it to try? Yes! If you aren't already familiar with Stitch Fix, you are going to want to pay attention because for only $20 you have a stylist shop for you, ship 5 items to your door, and you keep & pay for the items you want and return the rest. Don't like what you bought? Make sure you are specific on why you didn't like it. Didn't fit right, don't like the color, the style, etc. Sign up here  to get started today!

I'm curious about you: If you've done a Stitch Fix have you liked all of yours? Do you feel as if your stylist has listened to you? Have you ever returned your whole box?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Summer Beach Birthday Party

Each year I go WAY out for the girls' birthday party! I've done a rainbow party, A Very Hungry Caterpillar party, and a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom party. Last year, after asking the girls their thoughts on it, we decided not to have a party. They were totally fine with it, but towards the end of the summer they kept asking us when they were going to have a birthday party. fail on our part.

So, this year I was back to thinking and planning a party. We have large families so we always plan for about 50 people so you can see why it's a big thing for me to plan out. I deep clean my house, get the garden work done, and think through the logistics of a party. Normally I'm really into it, but this year I was struggling to figure out a theme and to get in the spirit of the party. I asked the girls and it changed daily: beach party, Frozen, polka dots, Frozen (again), etc. This past Christmas they had received a pool from us as their main Christmas gift. So after doing some Pinterest searching, I suggested to them a possibility of a beach party and they could swim with their cousins, aunts/uncles and just enjoy the time outside.

My goal with this party was to cut back a bit on spending compared to past birthdays. Again, I go all out so this was a bit hard. The first thing I did was decide to send beach balls in the mail as the official invite. That was the plan at least until the post office said they had no idea how to mail them like that. So, instead I put them in an envelope with writing on the inside flap of the envelope that said "Inflate for the date". :) 

Thankfully for us, the weather ended up being perfect, and we got the pool set up and filled about a week before the party, which gave us just enough time to have that water warm up!

I hit up the Dollar Store in order to look for decorations. Thankfully they had a great amount of decorations that fit the beach theme! Yay!!

On the day of the party, I just kept thinking of more things to do! All fairly simple and easy to do so if you are planning a beach party, know that I would say this is the most simple party we have ever done! Also, relatively cheap!

I was not originally planning on using this lemonade stand that Chris made last year for our family pictures. However, at the last minute, I decided to stick this in the garage as a fun addition to our beach theme and hang beach balls from it (we also hung beach balls from the ceiling of our garage). The girls loved it and were teasing everyone that came through the line that they needed 25 cents for lemonade!

The table decorations were by far the easiest! I got the table cloths at the dollar store, used brown sugar as my sand, and bought the little sand buckets/rakes/shovels for a great deal on Amazon! We filled our little buckets with a combination of peanuts, raisins, and M & M's, as a treat for everyone while they were sitting around and talking.

We kept it simple with the food! BBQ beef sandwiches, lots of fresh fruit, and a veggie tray (in the shape of a beach ball).

We closed out the party with our beach ball/sand/flip flop cupcakes! These were SO good and were made by two of my local friends who have started a little bakery. The best was that they were able to make the girls and myself gluten free versions of the cupcakes!

At the end of the day, spending time with some of our family and closest friends was so worth the hassle of planning a party. Also, the girls had an absolute blast and are already planning next year's party. The theme? Frozen....even though I try to tell them it will be an "old" movie by then, they insist that will be what the party is all about. We will see! :)

Do you do birthday parties? Family ones? Friend ones? Do you stick with a theme?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Catching Up {Zoelle's First Camp Experience}

I can hardly believe that half our summer is over with! Every year I ask myself why summer has to go so fast? Our summer started off pretty cold and rainy (which was pretty identical to last summer). This summer though, it was so wet that we even had flooding in our yard! Thankfully, it has now all dried up and the sun has come out and we have enjoyed so many days outside. What ends up happening is that I spend all my time outside during the day that by the time I get inside and put the girls to bed, I'm exhausted and don't feel like blogging! Today however, I had a little time to catch up on our summer and I thought it only appropriate that I share a little about Zoelle's first camp experience.

I didn't start going to camp until I was in 5th grade. From the moment I went, I was in love. A lot of who I am, and my faith in God was formulated at bible camp. I made friendships that have lasted even into adulthood. I never missed a year and considered even working at camp if it wasn't for meeting Chris and deciding that I couldn't be away from him for a summer! ;)

Thus I always knew that we would send our children to the same camp that I went to growing up. Last year I remember seeing friends posting on Facebook about their children going to camp and I remember thinking, "I wonder if we should have sent Zoelle?". I also realized there was no way she would want to be away from us that long. However, sometime this winter I received a brochure in the mail all about camp, and when Zoelle saw it she declared that she wanted to be at camp this summer. I'll admit that I doubted she would actually do it, thus when early registration came around, I didn't sign her up. I waited and waited a bit longer. My other hesitation would be how they handled her diet. I'm not sure I've directly blogged about it, but we have had a few issues of Zoelle getting welts all over her face, or even having a hard time breathing after eating or being exposed to gluten.

She kept on insisting and after much discussion, I decided to contact camp to see if they could handle a gluten free diet. Sure enough, I received a reply right back and was put in contact with the camp cook. I was SO impressed with how thorough she was and reassuring that she would make sure Zoelle was taken care of. While Zoelle is very good about being cautious and asking questions on if something has gluten or not, it was so nice to not have to worry. Furthermore, she told me they would be sure not to make Zoelle feel different at camp by being very discreet with her gluten free food.

Chris and I talked about it, we asked Zoelle once more if she was sure she wanted to go, and when she said yes, we signed her up. Zoelle helped me pack her bag and sooner than I wanted, camp day came.

She was definitley nervous as we were headed to drop her off. However, once there, she seemed to relax. All the staff at camp treated her with kindness and were so enthusiastic with her about the next few days at camp. We got her all set up in her room, and then it was time to say goodbye. I thought Zoelle would have a hard time at this point, but instead, it was me who had the hard time! She barely said goodbye! Instead, she gave us each a quick  hug and we left (me with tears in my eyes). As we headed home, I kept asking Chris if we did the right thing by leaving her, and he assured me that she was fine.

She was gone two whole days and I felt lost without my little Z! The girls did too! They kept asking me over and over again when she was coming home. I was sure Zoelle was wondering when she got to come home too. Instead, on the day we went to pick her up, I could tell she didn't want to leave!

My girl was officially grown up!!

She had a fantastic time at camp learning about God, singing songs, having campfire, playing games, and meeting new people. I am SO happy that we let her go and she is already asking me if she can go back again next year! :)

Have your kids gone to camp? Did you have a harder time than they did?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

On Your 4th Birthday (A Letter to Xiomara)

Happy 4th birthday to our exuberant, joyful, loving, sweet, silly, and precious four year old, Xiomara Marie!

4 years old! Wow! How can that possibly be? I remember that amazing phone call as if it were yesterday. Our daughter coming 5 weeks early! The rush, nervousness, and excitement of planning on going to Georgia to meet you. My life would never be the same because of a tiny, precious little girl that became my daughter!

Four seems so grown up! No longer a baby, growing out of that toddler stage, and quickly moving on to becoming a little girl! It's going a lot faster then I thought it would. Sometimes I just sit and stare at you wondering how that tiny baby could possibly be the same vibrant little girl in front of me!

This past year, all of a sudden you can talk clearer, you have more words in your vocabulary, and you started drawing me pictures that make me smile. You sing loudly in your bed every night before falling asleep. You still suck your thumb (but I sort of secretly love it). You have to have special snuggle time with mommy each day.  You give 110% of yourself every single day. All of it with a bright smile on your face. You make us laugh with your expressions and acting that you do all day long. You are joyful always and I am not lying when I say that you are never crabby. You have such a gentleness with animals that it wouldn't surprise me if one day you work with them. You adore your sisters and sometimes like to get in their stuff too! You love for daddy to sing to you Cinderella each night! So much so that daddy surprised me this year with a precious video of him singing it just for you!

At 4 you love the color yellow, but sometimes like orange too! Your favorite food to eat is macaroni and cheese (or at least it was when I asked you). You love to play outside and spend hours holding your kitty, Maple or chasing our puppy, Teal around the yard. When you aren't outside, you are inside getting dressed up in your dress up clothes (high heels, purse, and all!). You constantly put on a singing show for us, and Frozen seems to be the theme right now (still)! When you grow up you want to be a mom and have a house right by my house (I used to say the same thing sweetie).

Baby girl, the joy you bring us is unbelievable! I pray that as you go about your year this year, your joy would be shown to others and that it would draw them closer to Jesus. I pray that you would know the love we have for you and even more importantly that God has for you! And so I close out this letter to you with words from your favorite song that you always want to have mommy sing with you,

Your little hands wrapped around my finger
And it's so quiet in the world tonight
Your little eyelids flutter 'cause you're dreaming
So I tuck you in, turn on your favorite night light
To you, everything's funny
You got nothing to regret
I'd give all I have, honey
If you could stay like that
Oh, darling, don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh, darling, don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
It could stay this simple

We love you SO much happy girl! Happy 4th birthday!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Close of a Long Journey (A Weaning Letter to Xiomara)

I woke up one morning last week and knew, just knew, it was time. The problem is, how do you say goodbye to something you have done for seven years? To something that has become a part of you?

I suppose in many ways this in not only my weaning letter to you, Xiomara, but also a goodbye to breastfeeding.

This time it is hard. I'm not going to lie, my emotions have been all over the place. But seven years, and then just being done? Yeah, that is hard. In fact, I've avoided writing this letter for months knowing that I once I did, it would be a closure.

Your breastfeeding journey is so unique Xiomara. From when I first knew about you, I knew I wanted to try and breastfeed you. I wasn't sure we could make it work, because quite honestly, I wasn't sure how I was going to make having two "babies" work, but I knew I wanted to try.

In one of my very first conversations with your birthmom, she mentioned really wishing she could somehow have you get breastmilk, and she was thinking of nursing you while in the hospital in order that you could get colostrum. I had asked our social worker ahead of time if I could share my thought of trying to breastfeed you, and she encouraged me to do so knowing that your birthmom would love it. So I did, and she was thrilled! When it came down to it, it was emotionally too hard for her to nurse you, so she never did.

But she did one of the most selfless acts ever, not only by gently placing you in my arms, but instead of feeding you one last bottle, she told me you were hungry but that she wanted me to be able to nurse you so she didn't give you that bottle. So there I was in a church on a hot, summer day in Georgia, in a rocking chair in the middle of a hallway nursing you for the very first time. My heart and yours melted together that day. Later on that night, exhausted emotionally and physically from the long journey to get you, I would ask daddy to take our very first picture of me nursing you. My eyes are half closed and I can see exhaustion on my face, but behind all that, I see complete bliss and happiness. My little girl, the one I had prayed and longed for, nursing on me. Something that naturally was never supposed to be, yet God let it happen.

It would be several months before my breasts got the hang of nursing both you and Meridian. Those months I became grateful for formula, because without it, I would have never known what it is like for those moms who do use it. I became grateful for that SNS nursing system because it allowed me to still nurse you and feed you, although I hated all those dang tubes! I became grateful for people like your Auntie Gen, who so generously offered to supply me with extra breastmilk until I could make enough on my own. One thing I never became grateful for is that dang pump! Always "talking" to me by chanting out the words, "American dream, American dream" in that hissing voice of it. Yeah, let me tell you something pump: pumping like a cow multiple times a day, only to produce less than an ounce, is not my American dream.

You were so tiny for so long Xiomara, that we worried about you. I ate healthy fats in order that you would get rich breastmilk full of fat. I let you nurse whenever you wanted. You were so tiny at first, that I was afraid I would smother you. But you grew, slowly but surely you grew. Introducing you to your first solid food was hard for me. You didn't really care for it either, and so we once again had to supplement with healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, butter, in order for you to try and gain weight.

Somewhere around two years old, you started to catch up with those your same age. This is also the time when I first really remember you pulling away from nursing. You needed it less and less. I started realizing how very much I would miss those brown eyes staring up at mine each nursing session. We had bonded so much through breastfeeding, that I couldn't imagine being done.

I'm not even really sure when you were done. I know you've been done for probably six plus months, but I don't have a last nursing date or memory of it like I do with your sisters. Instead, your weaning was probably the most gradual and wonderful weaning I have ever had. I didn't push you to end too soon and you didn't push me to either. It was as if you knew that I needed time to say goodbye.

Most likely, you will be our last baby, and oh how I will miss the peace I got from nursing you girls. The breaks in the middle of the day, the sleepiness of snuggling with one of you curled up in my arm and nursing to sleep. Looking deep into your eyes and sharing with you how much I love you.

Thank you God, thank you breasts, and thank you girls for some of the sweetest memories ever these last seven years nursing each one of you!

This morning I will make my very first cup of No More Milk tea, knowing it's time. You may have been done nursing months ago, but for some reason, my breasts don't know that yet, probably because they have been doing this for seven years. I'll cry as I drink every last drop, but I'll have peace knowing it is time.