This kid of mine seriously cracks me up.  I cannot believe some of the things that he comes up with. 

For example:

Our good friends, Ross, Tessa, and their almost-two year old daughter, Chloe, have been down to stay with us a few times since we moved to Idaho… and we usually see them once a month or so on our visits home.  Anyway, Henry just {double-heart} lovesChloe.  Their birthdays are almost exactly a year apart and we threw them a joint birthday party last August — I think that marked the beginning of Henry’s infatuation.

Just so you have a visual for the rest of the story, here is Chloe: chloe19

Every time they come to stay, Henry is love-struck yet again.  He sings her name for days after they leave in little made-up ditties:  “Chloe-Belle, CHLOE-Belle, Chloe-BELLE.”  It’s hilarious. 

(To make this story even funnier, I have to explain that Chloe is a very healthy little girl – adorably plump – with squishy, kissable cheeks just like Jojo had at that age…)

Anyway, a little while after their last visit, Peter and I were standing in the kitchen smoochin’ a bit and Henry walked in.  He stood there observing us for a moment and then pushed in between us saying, “Daddy, Daddy” — obviously wanting to ask Peter something important.  We stopped and looked down, and Peter answered him.  (*And this is where it gets sooo funny, mostly because of Henry’s tone.  I wish I could have recorded it because it’s not nearly as funny to type this story… just imagine a sing-songy, sort of curious, sort of mischievous, adorable voice:)

“Daddy, what does Chloe taste like????”  (with his face all scrunched up so cute and curious…)

Oh my —  what does a person say in response to that?  We both sorta stared at him for a blank second and then just busted up…  And then, as we were still getting control of ourselves, Henry changed his expression from quizzical to all-knowing.  And he announced with all the confidence in the world…

“I know!  Chloe tastes like a marshmallow!!!!!”

Ha, ha, HA!  Poor Chloe is going to take that one to her grave!  And now of course, since I have told the story to several people,  H actually refers to her as his “marshmallow friend.”  :-)   Chloe’s grandma told me that she thinks a nice, warm dinner roll might have been more accurate — but… Henry knows best.

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It’s harder than I thought it would be to know what to say when questions come up from Henry regarding his past.  Of course I want to be completely honest and real with him…. but I also struggle with what to say — and when and how to say it because after all, he is only two (well, almost three) and things are never as straight-forward in real life as they are in my head.   We’ve taken a very open approach so far — talking about Africa and his B-mom often.  Her picture is on the wall in his room in a collage along with pictures of us and his “Africa buddy” Micah, and his sissy, Jo.  I have read so many different opinions on levels of openness — but this is what we feel is best for us and our family thus far.  It may change, but for now we talk about Henry’s history very openly. 

So far, he has seemed to respond to it all in a very matter-of-fact way.  It is what it is and it’s just the way it’s always been.  And he’s only two — a very smart almost-three, but young nonetheless.  He has adjusted and bonded so well; I almost get worried about the other shoe dropping at some point, because it’s been so text-book thus far.  I know there will probably be a lot to talk about and work through as he gets older… it’s just tough not knowing what questions he is going to have and what issues are going to be the hardest ones for him.  I wish I could stay up all night studying to pass the tests that are inevitably ahead. 

But, as little as we’ve had to process with him so far, the questions and difficult conversations do come up — usually when I least expect.  Yesterday morning  Joanna dug out her photo album with pictures from when she was a baby (Henry has one too with all the wonderful pics we got from our agency during the process… and of course a few of the million or so that I’ve taken since he came home!)  Anyway, we were snuggling on the couch looking through both albums, talking about the pictures like we’ve done many times before — but for some reason this time was different and Henry noticed that there weren’t any pictures of him in my tummy.  He got very, very upset about this… then sister told him he wasn’t ever in my tummy.  He was DEVASTATED.  Crushed.  I could see it all over his little face and it was so hard to see him processing it.  If I could give him nine months in my tummy, I absolutely would.  But I can’t.  And honestly, I don’t want to take that from his birth mother because SHE gave him one of the greatest gifts a person can give another… and she loved him so, so much.  But I wish I could do something now to help ease the hard stuff and the pain that he may feel in the years ahead as he works through all of the tough questions and the tough realizations.  I KNOW that he feels loved and secure with us — he knows he is an irreplaceable part of our family so much so that he naturally assumed he spent nine months inside me — but that doesn’t mean it’s going to always be easy to put it all together in his heart and mind.

He actually cried.  I cried, too (but hopefully not so much that he noticed.)  And then we talked for several minutes about how special it is that he has two moms and about what a special, beautiful woman she is and about how Peter and I got to meet her while we were in Africa… and how deeply Peter and I love him — all stuff we talk about regularly, but in this case I could see his little mind racing.  I tried to say things a little differently this time… in a way that would maybe mean something more;  but it was so much harder than the times I voluntarily talk about it because this time he asked.  He wanted to know why things were different for him.  We talked about concepts that are tough even for adults to wrap their minds around, but you know, that little guy kept up with me and asked more questions until he seemed satisfied for now.  There will be more, I know… but for now he was settled with it.  Goodness sakes, it made me commit to praying more for wisdom and discernment as questions arise.  I love him more than I can find words to express and I just want to be the best mom I can be in every way… especially in this way — in the not-so-easy to explain, complicated parts of life as much as in the straight-forward simple parts.

Today while sitting outside tweezing my eyebrows (ouch!) I found not one, NOT TWO, but THREE silver-white hairs on my head near my temple!  Aaaaah!  Reallynot what I had in mind for today.  And how many more are hiding up there beyond the scope of the mirror?  Wow, I certainly don’t feel old enough to be getting grays… geesh, I was sitting out there with Jo and I swear I felt like I was still only a few years older than HER!   Yeah, I know… You can say all you want about the wisdom that comes with gray hair… but truthfully I’d like to gain the wisdom without the subsequent gray.  I’m just saying, that’s all.

but you can’t take the farm out of the girl!

Joanna is such a farm girl at heart.  Just like I am.  She’s discovered that the cows in our neighbor’s pasture come to our fence around dinner time every night.  She goes out faithfully every day to “water” them.   She fills up her little plastic pails and the cows actually poke their noses through the fence to drink her water, Lord bless ‘em!   Every day she yells to me completely thrilled that they are thirsty and drinking from her bucket again.

I love it.

My daughter, the cow-girl. 

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Okay, here’s a gut-honest, six-month summary (heck, why not?  I’m due for a wordy post! :-)  

It’s been a veeeerrrrrrry stretching season for us financially (as with so many people right now…) The move was absolutely necessary to stay in business, but it took a toll on our savings and we pretty much bottomed out.  Then we had a couple of crummy situations where we were expecting large contracted payments to come in and were stiffed a lot of money, and then also had to deal with a legal lien because a different house went into foreclosure after our cabinets were installed.  Grrr.  It was really hard for me to be gracious about it all because we were still having to pay our guys, of course — but we were months behind in being able to support ourselves and I saw the huge, huge weight it put on Peter — and I was just so angry at the people who were holding out on us.  It’s been a good season for me to practice dealing with frustration properly!   We’ve gone through some tough times in the last six years since we started the business, but it’s been particulary stretching this time because we were still trying to play catch up from the move.  And, of course I was super-emotional about leaving all my friends and family behind… and transitioning from being a country/farm girl ALL my life to living here in the middle of civilization.  And of course, some marriage issues came up as they usually do when both parties are uber-stressed and feeling crushed under the worries of life, finances and transitions. 

So, yeah — moving really kicked my tail.  It did.  Every time I thought I was finally getting my feet under me, some new crisis would come up and I’d land flat on my back again.  We’ve also been dealing with some not-so-fun relational drama over the last eight months since the move — but I’ll spare ya all the gory details.  Ha ha ha… seriously, though, I love life!  And I really don’t want to be a whiner, because yes, there are starving children in Africa and there are awful, terrible situations all over the world SOOOO much worse than the last eight months have been for this wimpy, selfish gal.  But, um, — in the interest of full disclosure, I figured I should be real with this post.  :-) 

 So anyway, we’ve gotten really creative with how simply we can live this year.  We were already down to one vehicle when we moved so we couldn’t downsize there, but we’ve been cutting out every other “extra.”  We’ve been eating a lot of beans and rice and figuring out how to use less energy and make smarter decisions about what we consume on every level.  Plus, we’ve been single-handedly keeping our local Craigslist stocked with stuff from around the house!  It’s all along the lines of reducing use and simplifying life – a drum I’ve been beating for years – but when it REALLY comes down to it and its necessity, not just choice,  its a little harder.  Because we’ve always lived on a farm, we’ve usually had a huge garden in the summer and grown chickens and the like, but now that we are almost-city folk, we don’t have the advantage of living off the land as much as we did in the past — so, I’m having to re-think the way I do things.  It’s been a challenge… but a good one. 

We found an AWESOME little church that we’ve plugged into.  Peter is playing the keyboard on the worship team — which gives him a lot of life.   The church is mostly comprised of young families our age with lots and lots of kids around the same ages as ours.  They have a huge heart for the nations, particularly Africa — and it felt like coming home when we walked in the doors that first Sunday.  There is a strong sense of community and we love the emphasis on giving and living compassionately.  They have several projects that they’ve started in Tanzania and Burundi (East Africa) including orphanages, schools and housing projects and we’re excited about getting more involved with them.  I’ve made a couple of good friends through the church… such a gift. 

Changing subjects: (this is going to be a very random post!) Henry hasn’t had any more seizures since we moved and we are hoping that it was an isolated experience.  He did go in for another series of MRI scans late last year to determine if the cysts in his brain had grown or changed in any way since the previous set of scans last spring.  I was a little nervous going into them… especially since it was after the last set of MRIs that we found out about the polymicrogyria and the cysts.  But, thankfully everything looks just the same!  So we’ll continue monitoring them with scans and tests once or twice a year.   He’s been in therapy consistently once a week for the last six months and he loves it.  We’re so grateful for the “birth to three” program here in Idaho.  His wonderful therapist comes out to the house every Wednesday and it’s like a play date for Henry.  It’s going to be really hard on him in July when he turns three and has to say goodbye to “his Carrie.”
(*funny little Henry story… he calls a lot of things “his” and the other day we were at church and I was talking to him about our drummer, Tamsen, who was born in Nigeria and adopted by a Scottish couple, and is now living here.  Anyway, she and Henry have a special connection and I was telling him that Tamsen was born in Africa, too.  Henry’s eyes got HUGE and he said almost incredulously, “MY AFRICA??????”  He thinks the whole continent belongs to him!)

March was a significant month for us – it marked the tipping point where we could celebrate Henry being a part of our family for over half of his life!  It was his sixteenth month home and he had been fifteen months old when we traveled to pick him up.  Yay! 

He’s doing well medically — and in every other way.  He’s most DEFINITELY a type “A”, strong-willed, FULL of beans, leader-esque personality.  WOW.  I’ve always admired parents who are doing a good job raising strong-willed kids, but didn’t thoroughly understand or appreciate their dedication until now!   He also is super-charismatic. People just flock to him, and he eats it up…  He is the life of the party everywhere we go and has the craziest sense of humor for such a little person.  Really, his timing and instincts are remarkable.  I’ve laughed more at him than at any other person in my life.  I think he has a future in comedy.  He’s been potty-trained completely for about a month now, unless he gets mad and then he uses his little squirt-gun pistol to his advantage (yeah, not sure quite what to do about that!)  He is incredibly advanced in the language and comprehension department.  Peter and I are constantly giving each other puzzled, amazed looks about something Henry has just said.  How can he POSSIBLY be so stinkin’ smart?  He remembers specifics of conversations that Peter and I had weeks ago… that we didn’t even realize he was listening to, but he brings it up later.  Keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure!

Joanna is growing so quickly.  She has entered the “why” phase of life and I am running out of answers!  Guess it’s time to hit the encyclopedias!  She’s really into bugs these days… and riding her bike, and playing house… and all the other typical four-year-old interests.  I sometimes just stare at her with amazement, wondering how in the WORLD that the teeny tiny little baby that was born just yesterday can possibly be so big and so grown-up.  Does this amazement ever stop?  Do you just keep thinking that until they are twenty-two?  Golly sakes, it’s crazy!

And she really is so sweet.  I love her gentle, compassionate soul.   Of course, she has her insanely difficult moments just like any kid, but for the most part she is very sensitive and quick to respond well.  She still has significant food intolerances, so we keep trucking along down the organic, whole-foods, non-hybridized highway!

In other news: We applied to an agency a few weeks ago to start our next adoption.  We are expecting it to take at least a couple of years though, because we’re really at ground zero with the financing (yep, especially with things being so tight right now… but we feel so strongly that adoption is the way we’re supposed to grow our family, so we’re just going to keep putting a little away each month and start fund-raising hard this summer.)   We’ll start our homestudy this fall as long as everything is still in place (i.e. as long as we still have work!) It’s nice having a longer time-frame in mind here at the beginning because then (hopefully!) I won’t get as antsy waiting (ha ha… wishful thinking, I’m sure.)  Anyway, we’re open to a lot of different special needs and also to a sibling group, so we’re just moving forward and trusting that the right doors will open at the right time just like they did with Henry.   Due to country regulations, we aren’t going to share any specifics on the blog until we’re farther into the process.  Plus, there probably won’t be many updates for a while since we are waaaay back at the starting line (and this time around I know exactly what that means! No false expectancies here! ;-)

As we were tossing around some ideas at the beginning of the year about ways we could finance another adoption, Peter really encouraged me to pursue the dream I’ve had of doing photography professionally.  So, I took a few months and got really serious about finishing the schooling I’d been doing and upgraded my gear and took the plunge.  So far I have been so blessed by the tremendous response and encouragement from both old friends and new clients.  I’m so aware that I am smack-dab in the middle of a dream coming true.   It’s always an amazing feeling to stop and look around and realize that in the midst of all the busyness and craziness of living life, a very real dream is being realized.  Of course, it’s taken a lot of work and a lot of mistakes, and I’m still learning soooo much and have a long ways to go —  but I’m loving it every bit as much as I suspected I would.  It’s a joy to spend time with people and touch their lives a little and give them a piece of their history frozen in time.  People have always fascinated me and I love meeting new families and hearing about their passions and stories.  And of course, I have this other dream of photographing children in Africa someday… Maybe doing a little photojournalism and raising awareness through images and personal stories.  It’s a long life, right?  Lots of time left for more dreams… and for now, I’m loving this new venture and the hope that it will help bring another child (or two or three!) to our family.

Here’s the link to my website: http://ambergphoto.com  And to my photo blog (which I actually have been posting on the last six months… I know, I know… how unfaithful is that?)  http://ambergphotoblog.com.  Anyway, as much as I’ve loved it, it’s taken a lot of time to launch the business end of things and design the site, and get my portfolio built up.  But it’s definitely been worth it and I’m so enjoying the sessions now and looking forward the rest of the summer. 

So… now I guess most of the biggies are caught up to speed!

And since a post without a photo is, well… just plain sad! — here are a couple of my recent favorite shots of the kids. 

Jo picking dandelions:

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Henry laughing hysterically:

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The kids, Peter, and I hauled our cooler and patio table out to the street yesterday afternoon and set up a little lemonade stand to raise money for “Feed the Forgotten.”  I posted about it a few days ago on my other blog, so you can read a few random thoughts there… but let me just say again what a great opportunity this campaign is to give a little (or a lot!)   Sometimes it’s hard to feel like I’m even going to make any kind of a difference because I don’t have very much to give — and so it’s easier to just skim over tough articles or not look at the needs smack on because it’s so overwhelming.   We’ve been in a really tough place financially with the business and still are, but in spite of that, I really, really don’t want to just turn my back.   I want to stay involved, giving what I can — even if that’s just my prayers or my passion or my time selling a few glasses of lemonade on the sidewalk with my kids.  And I so want my kids to grow up always seeing mommy and daddy ready to give and serve and love — even when times are tight.   Giving even a little every time  — and making opportunities to give or serve if they aren’t right there…  ’cause giving and loving people and being Jesus’ hands and feet is what life is ALL ABOUT.    

There was one gal yesterday who came to our lemonade stand and Peter and I were both so struck by her giving heart.  We didn’t want to assume anything about her financial situation based on outer appearances, but she was driving an older Subie and she didn’t come across like she had a lot of money (um, as opposed to the other veeeery nice Hummers that kept driving by — we live in on a street that leads to a very wealthy area…)  Anyway, this gal was probably my age and she drove by in her car with a little girl in the backseat and then hit the brakes and flipped a U-turn to come back and give us a twenty dollar bill.  Just like that.  She was driving by, saw the sign and turned around to give us twenty dollars to help feed children in Africa.  Now I know twenty bucks might not seem like a lot, but it just hit me hard because it didn’t appear like she had a lot (and again, maybe she did, but it really doesn’t matter — she was so happy to stop and give what she had with her to help out children in Africa that she’d never met through people selling lemonade on the sidewalk who were total strangers.)  It reminded me of the story of the widow in the Bible who gave EVERYTHING she had, and even though it was such a small amount, Jesus was amazed and said that her gift was more than all the others because she gave so freely of ALL she had.  It’s about our hearts, ya know?  Not about how much we give.  I was so, so convicted.  I still hold back —  it’s like I say, “yes, I want to give it all”  but I’m still not there where it’s my absolute first response… driving down the road, see a need and whoa, stop everything, turn around and give whatever I can.  I turn my back sometimes out of the fear that we’re not going to have enough.  Thank you, lady in the Subaru.  You made a huge impact on me… and I hope on my kids.  God bless you ABUNDANTLY. 

We’re going to set up again on Saturday because the neighborhood is having a community yard sale, and then we decided to just set up every Thursday afternoon for the rest of the summer to raise money for various other projects and organizations as long as we don’t have something else going on.  Hopefully we’ll be able to meet more people in our area and make a difference in their lives as well as people around the world with whatever we raise.  Plus, it’ll be a great thing to do as a family. 

The kids really got into it.  They were standing on the cooler waving at every vehicle and bicycle that passed.  They took turns with the streamer and Henry would yell out “buy lemonade; help the children” in his adorable loud voice.  They got it.  And I LOVE it when my kids get it.  They were helping kids across the world and they were loving it. 

Anyway here are a few pics from yesterday (and please excuse little blondie’s hair in all of my photos past, present and future.  Yes, as a matter of fact, I DO brush it every morning — but by noon it looks like that again… too much hard-playing and the curls get out of control!  Oh, and don’t mind Mr. Brooding Aviator-Shades in the background of the first two pictures, he really WAS happy to be there!  :-)

 

 

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 …. and to loosen my fingers, here are a few pictures I snapped of the kids a few weeks ago enjoying the spring weather (*and loving the novelty that an asphalt driveway is to kiddos that have been used to nothing but dirt and gravel roads their entire lives!!)

 

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I’m sorry I’ve neglected you the past seven months. My life kinda took a sharp turn and you sorta stayed behind… but I’ve missed you. I’m coming back to you. Thanks for sticking with me — I promise you won’t regret it.
Yours,
Amber

A little about me…

Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Student. Adventure-lover. Photo-taker. Book-reader. Organic gardener. Granola-maker. Green smoothie drinker. Snowboarder. Soccer-player. Aspiring rock-climber. Sometime health nut. Passionate about justice and mercy. Adoption advocate. Business owner and jewelry designer. Wild at heart. Crazy-blessed to live out in the country with my awesome family.

Photography Website:

Contact Me:

sunfreckled@gmail.com
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do." {Helen Keller}

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