Thursday, September 26, 2013

They're Twins!!!

I texted Caleb earlier a picture of Bri and said that she was working on her "squint smile" like Uncle Caleb. He responded, "What?? I squint when I smile???" and included this picture...

Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Working Men

Mike is going to have to work all night tonight, so he planned some time during the day today with Barrett. I took Brody & Barrett to the book fair at Brody's school this morning and when we got home Mike let Barrett know that he was going to take him to work with him. This is a dream of my little boys...working with Daddy! He was excited to put on his boots, jeans, and navy polo (like Daddy) and then he packed up his work bag (which included his Power Rangers coloring book and crayons) and was ready to go! He looked so excited as he climbed into the truck with Daddy! Little does he know that they're only gonna work for a few hours and then they'll go to Cabela's!

Lunch Date with Big Brother

I love getting to eat lunch at school with Brody (even if his lunch is super early at 10:45). Today Barrett got to go to work with it was just me and Bri taking Brody lunch.  I love that Kade and Sean jumped in the picture too!   

Super Bro!


It's here...Baseball Season!!!

It's that time of year again...fall baseball! I haven't taken my "real" camera out to the field all I have a is a few pics from my phone and a few pics Jill emailed me.  Don't worry...I'll make sure to take real pics of the boys' games soon (including Brody...I guess it was so hot that I was done taking pics even with my phone by the time his game rolled around!)  Brianna spends most of her time at games being passed around...and then eventually falling asleep.   

Highchair time!

(catch up post from 9/4/13)
Today Ashley suggested that I try Bri in the highchair at Chick-Fil-a.  I couldn't believe that she's actually big enough to sit in the highchair without any support!  She loved it!

My how she's grown!

(catch up post from 8/19/13)

Daddy Steve's 60!!!

(catch up post...event was August 24th)
After Brody/Bri's swim party, we went to Daddy Steve and Namaw's house to celebrate Daddy Steve's 60th birthday!  The kids wanted to make sure that we put 60 candles on his cake...and Barrett made sure they were all blown out!  He didn't even wait for Daddy Steve to try first!  It was pretty funny! 

Combined Celebration

(catch up post...this event took place on August 24th)
Brody was pretty disappointed when he found out that Brianna's adoption court hearing couldn't be on his birthday.  He asked if he could wait to have his birthday party so he could have a combined party with Bri (celebrating her adoption).  How could I say no?!  We planned a swimming birthday party for the day after Brianna's court date and invited family and a few of Brody's friends.  Here are a few pictures of the party...

AHC - August Posts

This is a list of all the backdated posts I made about Brianna from August:

Sunday, September 08, 2013

AHC - February Posts

This is a list of all the backdated posts I made about Brianna from February:

AHC - How to play catch up

Almost immediately Kristin told us that we were not allowed to post pictures on our blog or Facebook (which we expected).  But she also told us that she'd rather us refrain from posting anything about the adoption until after we finalized in August.  Wow.  That was a hard one for me to swallow.  We had waited 1,243 days for this adoption to happen....and now I had to wait another 6 months to talk to the world about it?!  I tried to argue my case...but Mike told me to stop making a big deal about it and that it wouldn't kill us to wait another 6 months to post about her!

So.....I may have waited to post about Brianna...but I didn't wait to make posts about her!  I've been making blog posts and taking TONS of pictures and then uploading them as drafts to my blog.  For the purpose of my blog book (I print my blog into a hardbound book each year as a keepsake for my family), I wanted the posts to appear in the correct date order.  I have dated all the posts when they actually happened...which might make them hard for you to find and read now! 

To make it easier for you to continue this journey with us and experience the first 6 months of Brianna's life through our eyes, I'll make a blog post with links to all the backdated blog posts.  So that you're not overwhelemed (I had over 100 drafts by the time August 23rd rolled around) I'll make a separate post of links for each month.  Capisce?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Company Picnic 2013


AHC - Full of Love

September 1, 2013
Life has been going at warp speed since Brianna joined our family.  She has been the perfect fit.  She’s a great baby (was sleeping through the night 10 pm – 8:30 am at 8 weeks) and, unless she’s cutting a tooth, is a very happy baby.  She adores all of our family…especially her big brothers.  As the third child, she gets drug along wherever we go…to pick up kids from school, church, baseball practices/games, play dates, restaurants, Texas Rangers games, parties, daily errands, vacation, etc.  It’s a busy life for a baby!
The first few months I was stopped by at least 5 random strangers a day who would say, “Oh my goodness!  That’s a real baby!  I thought you were carrying a baby doll!!”  Friends and family didn’t believe how often I heard this comment word for word until they went out in public with me.  I always thought it was funny and would laugh with the people and indulge them in part of our story….but it also made me think.  If this many people stop me to tell me that they thought I was carrying around a baby doll…how many people DIDN’T stop me…and still talk about the lady in her 30’s that they saw carrying a “baby doll” around the store like it was a real baby!  Lol!
In the beginning I felt the need to explain myself to strangers.  Carrying around a dark skinned baby with 2 blond haired, blue eyed boys in tow meant I got questioning glances everywhere I went.  If you know me…you know that I’m pretty much an open book.  I don’t feel the need to hide my story from people (the good and the bad).  I don’t know that there’s ever been a question someone asked me that I felt was too personal (although…I’m sure Mike has had plenty of times where he wished I had more of a filter! Lol). 
Anyways, I found myself telling everyone that Bri is adopted.  I don’t have a problem with people knowing that she’s adopted and she will grow up knowing she’s adopted (and hopefully will find a sense of pride in this), but I don’t want her to grow up being introduced as “the adopted child”.  At one of our home visits I brought this up with our case worker, Courtney.  She has firsthand experience as she and her husband adopted children of a different ethnicity last year.  During the home visit, Mike and Courtney helped me realize that when people say, “Is she your baby?” I can simply answer “Yes.”  If they press further…then it’s totally fine to go into our story.  It’s super hard for me to stop with a simple “yes”!  I want to share what God has done with the world…but they helped me realize that God knows that and He will use our story in the proper time (I don’t have to force it).  After months of practice, it’s now easier for me to just answer “yes”…but I still LOVE the times people ask more questions and I get to share part of our story.
The two most common questions we are asked are “where is she from?” and “is it an open adoption?”  Brianna was adopted locally through an open adoption.  We felt called to domestic adoption because of the open adoption option.  For us adoption isn’t just a way to have another child (believe me…we were plenty fertile!)…it was a way to show Christ’s love to an entire family.  We desire to know the birth family and have prayed for them as much as we have prayed for Brianna over the past 4 years.  That being said, we have yet to meet Bri’s birthmom.  I don’t know if we ever will….but we have left that door open.  We send her emails quarterly with pictures and stories and have received only one response.  We know that she loves Brianna so much and that it was very difficult to place her for adoption…but we also know that it is only because of that love and her faith that she made the choice she did. 
Speaking of love, we have loved Brianna from before we met her; however, it has taken some time for her to feel like “ours”.  With the boys, we had 9 months of planning and preparing for them and dreaming about them.  With Bri, we had hours to prepare!  I’ll never forget a moment that I shared with my little girl when she was about 5 months old.  I was standing upstairs at Daddy Steve & Namaw’s and was putting Brianna down for a nap so I could keep working.  As I sang to her before laying her down, my heart swelled with love and tears filled my eyes.  In this moment I knew that it had finally happened.  The thoughts of “this is our little girl and I can’t imagine life without her” invaded my head.  I didn’t want to lay her down…but as I did I praised the Lord for his goodness and mercy…and patience with us.  Even though we were open to adopting either a boy or girl, I had always been more honest with God than with anyone.  I desired a little girl with all my heart.  I wanted a daughter…not for the bows and dresses…but for the chance of a relationship years from now like the one I have with my own mother.  Not only did God listen to my hearts desires, but he surpassed them with more than I could’ve imagined!
It is so easy now to look back at this journey and see what God was doing at each step.  We can see how he used some circumstances (that turned out to be heartbreaking at the time) just to keep us on the journey.  I’m sure he hurt along with us as we rode the ups and downs of the rollercoaster of adoption.  I know he comforted us and dried our tears as we cried about dashed dreams and fear of the unknown…but I imagine he also had a small smile on the edge of his lips.  He could see what was coming.  He knew why we were going through all the heartache and trials.  He knew that us questioning him would only draw us closer to him and give us a stronger testimony.  He knew about this little girl named Brianna Faith that would be born 5 weeks early on February 10th.  He knew that she belonged in our family….and I’m sure he couldn’t wait to watch us meet her for the first time and bring her home to her big brothers. 
We are still a very young family.  I know that there will be many more trials in our life.  I also hope that there will be many more times that God will use us.  I hope that as we are in the midst of trials we are able to use our adoption journey as an encouragement to persevere and trust in God’s plan and God’s timing.  We desire to be used by God for his glory…even if it means heartache along the way.  We know that our God loves us with an unfailing love and we can’t wait to see what journey he has up his sleeve next!

Friday, September 06, 2013

AHC - Sister Surprise

When we left the hospital we started throwing around a few names (we’ve never had a child born that didn’t have a name yet!)  Then we talked about how to tell the family.  Since Ann and Julie already knew what was going on, I just texted them a picture of the baby and said, “This is my daughter!”  Then Mike and I stopped by Target.  We ended up buying a little pink outfit and thought that we could wrap it up for the boys for a Valentine’s Day present…and use that to tell them.  Then on the way back to Daddy Steve and Namaw’s house Mike had a better idea.
When we arrived the boys were in their jammies…eating popcorn and watching Leave it to Beaver with Daddy Steve and Namaw.  I told them I wanted to show them pictures of what Mike took me to see.  It took a little time, but I put the pics on Daddy Steve’s Picasa and then he was able to view them on his TV.  Tyler and Ann were begging me to FaceTime them into the announcement, so I called them on FaceTime just before I went downstairs and then held the phone by my side.  I told Daddy Steve to pull the pictures up and then we started to look at the pictures of us at the hospital with a baby. 

Namaw said, “Oh!  Y’all went to see someone at the hospital!”
“Yes.” I replied
“Who’s baby do you think that is?” Mike asked.

We were silent for a few minutes and Daddy Steve looked back at me (I was holding my phone up so Tyler and Ann could see the room and the reactions) and he said, “Is it yours?!???”

“Yes!” Mike and I replied.
Then the room erupted with confusion and excitement and we began to tell the story…I also took Tyler and Ann off mute. Lol

It took a little longer for us to help the boys understand that this is the baby we are going to adopt.  Brody walked right up to the TV so he could look at her closer and said, “Momma?  What color is her skin?”  I told him she is African American and he asked if she is the first African American in our family.  When I said “yes” he replied, “That’s so cool!!!”  Of course, the next question from everyone was when would they get to go see her.  Unfortunately people under 16 aren’t’ allowed in the NICU, so the boys will have to wait until she gets home to hold her.  This didn’t sit very well with the boys…but we reassured them that they’ve been waiting this long…they can wait a few more days.
It was well after 8:00 pm before we got the boys home.  As we were tucking them into bed Brody asked if he could pray.  I will never forget the precious words he said, “Dear God, Thank you for giving us this baby that we’ve prayed soooooo long for.  Thank you for answering our prayers!”  Mike and I looked up at each other with tears in our eyes.  How awesome for our boys to learn so early about the power of perseverance in prayer.  God does hear our prayers!

After we put the boys to bed I ran to get Mike and I a celebratory Braum’s shake and I called Caleb & Audria on my way.  Caleb answered and I told him that he was gonna have a niece!  They were shocked…but so happy for our family!  Archer is only 2 months old, so they will grow up together…and even go to school together at the same school!  Mike sent a web album of pictures to Angela and Grammy and it’s killing me that Grammy doesn’t have internet at Grandma Brown’s house…and said that she’ll go into town “sometime tomorrow” to check her email!  What a surprise she’ll find!

I have so many things running through my mind right now…but I have to go take a quiz before 11:00 pm for my graduate accounting class!  Yep…even school doesn’t stop for a new baby.  Does anyone have a remote that would pause life…just for a few days?
**If you're just now joining us in our adoption journey...make sure you use the links on the right side of the blog to start at the beginning of our story...Answering His Call**

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Old Bumper Cars

This morning Brody and I were talking about our upcoming trip to Six Flags. He said he can't wait to ride the bumper cars. Then he proceeded to tell me, "One time I sat in a really old bumper car! It was from 1982!!"

I don't think he realizes that I'm older than that. He always tells me I'm young! Lol

AHC - The first time I saw your face...

We checked in and then scrubbed in at the entrance to the Neonatal ICU.  The sign above the wash station said to scrub for 3 minutes.  Have you ever tried to do that?  It's harder than brushing your teeth for 2 minutes!  The clock was ticking by so slow...then I had to wait for Mike and Kristin to scrub in too!  My heart was in my throat by the time Kristin finally reached for the handle to open the door to the NICU.

I felt like we were moving in slow motion as we followed Kristin across the NICU to a little bed by the window.  She reached inside and picked up the most beautiful little girl I’ve ever seen!  She had tiny little features and porcelain skin.  She looked like a baby doll!  “Do you want to hold your daughter?” she asked and I reached out my arms.  I’ve never held a baby so tiny (she was weighing in at 4 lbs 4 oz today) yet she was so healthy looking.  She had a monitor attached to her chest and foot, but she didn’t have any other tubes. 

Mike started laughing while I was holding her.  I asked him what was so funny and he said, “You’ve never looked so skinny holding one of our kids as a newborn baby!”  I had to laugh too.  The pictures of me with the boys as newborns are not really ones I'd want to show off to people.  My face is blown up like a balloon and I look soooooo tired....not to mention my belly that still looks pregnant!  It was kind of surreal to be holding our new little baby and yet feel totally rested...and not at all sore!

After I held her for a few minutes I handed her to Mike and I could see the tears in his eyes as his heart swelled with love.  That’s it.  It’s over.  She already has him wrapped around her little finger (and it’s a TINY little finger!!)  He looked up at me and said, “Well….I guess we’ll be stopping at Target on the way home and buying some pink stuff!”  It was then that I knew everything was ok.  We may have been overwhelmed by the suddenness and unexpectedness of it all…but this was God’s plan and we are overjoyed!

It was hard to leave the hospital, but Kristin needed to get home (guess we were keeping her from her big Valentine’s date with her husband! Lol).  Until the birth mom signs the official relinquishment papers (which she is supposed to do tomorrow), we have to have Kristin with us to go visit the baby.
**If you're just now joining us in our adoption journey...make sure you use the links on the right side of the blog to start at the beginning of our story...Answering His Call**

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

AHC - Silent Ride

“Are you there?” I asked. 

“You’re gonna have to give me a few minutes to absorb this.” He responded and then ended the call.

Now from the time I hung up the phone with Julie until now had been over 2 hours.  At this point she was starting text me and say, “What did Kristin say?!?!?”  I hadn’t wanted to call her back until I talked to Mike….so now I finally felt like I could call her.  I don’t know what I expected, but Mike’s reaction wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be.  I’m so thankful Julie talked me down and told me that I just shocked him!  An hour ago he was only focused on work…and now I’m not telling him we’re gonna have a baby…I’m telling him we DO have a baby and she’s at the hospital and we need to go see her.  She told me to give him some time to absorb it and not to jump to conclusions about his reaction.  She also said that she knew either I had either gotten really good or really bad news earlier when I didn’t call her back and that she had spent the last few hours on the floor crying and praying for me.  Wow.  How am I blessed to have a friend that loves me so much?!
Mike decided to come by the house and pick me up to go to the hospital, so I called Daddy Steve and Namaw to see if they had V-day dinner plans.  Since they didn’t, they said they’d watch the boys for a bit while I went to see “some surprise Mike had for me.”  (I’d consider a new baby quite the Valentine’s Day surprise!)

The ride to the hospital was silent.  I say “silent” in the literal sense.  We didn’t’ say a word to each other the entire drive!  We were both in shock and lost in our thoughts.  I could also tell that Mike was still trying to take in the situation and that he needed the quiet to think and pray. 

When we met Kristin in the lobby and she said, “How are y’all doing?” I heard Mike speak for the first time.  He said, “I’m overwhelmed and in total shock!  It hasn’t sunk in yet!”  I had little butterflies in my stomach as we rode the elevator up to the NICU.  What if I looked at her and didn’t think she was cute?  Can I love an ugly baby?  We don’t really know a whole lot about the birth family yet.  What if there’s some big bombshell Kristin’s waiting to drop on us until after we meet the baby. 

**If you're just now joining us in our adoption journey...make sure you use the links on the right side of the blog to start at the beginning of our story...Answering His Call**

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

AHC - A Valentine's Day Surprise

February 14, 2013

Today is the day Kristin showed the profiles to the birth mom.  I talked with Ann and Julie Little about what is going on….but we didn’t said anything to the rest of our family.  We didn’t want them to have to ride the roller coaster that we are on.  We didn’t expect to hear anything from Kristin today (per the conversation yesterday) and so we’ve been focused on all the fun Valentine’s Day stuff the kids have going on at school.  I picked Barrett up from school and then he was watching a video while I was talking on the phone to Julie.  While I was talking to Julie, someone else tried to call.  I looked down and saw on my phone that it was Kristin calling me.  I hurriedly told Julie I’d call her back and then switched over. 

“Hi Staci!  It’s Kristin.”
“Hi!  How are you?” I said.
“Good.  Is Mike there with you?” Kristin asked.
“Ummm…no?!  He’s at work.” (It was 3:00 pm…he didn’t take off work to wait for a phone call that we thought wouldn’t happen until Monday…and that in the past has always been an “I’m sorry” call.)
“Well….are you sitting down?  I have good news for you!”
“WHAT?!?” I replied….and the tears immediately started falling as I walked into Barrett’s room and closed the door so he wouldn’t see me.

“Yes!  The birth mom looked at y’alls profile book and didn’t even want to look at any others.  She said y’all were the perfect family for her baby …and that you’re boys looked like they need a little sister!”

HOLY COW!  Can we just pause life here for a second?  Did she really just tell me that I have a daughter?!?  Oh.  My.  Goodness!  I didn’t even know what to say!  Then…my watch alarm went off and I had to ask if I could call Kristin back after I picked up Brody from school (see…life wouldn’t pause for a moment even if I wanted it to! Lol)  I tried calling Mike before I left to go get Brody, but he was in a meeting (which is his day all day every day…it’s hard to get ahold of him at work).  As I rode my bike up to the elementary school (pulling Barrett in the bike trailer) I could feel the tears of joy streaming down my face from under my sunglasses.  My heart felt like it was going to bust and my adrenaline was soaring!  I wanted to shout the news to the WORLD….yet I had to talk to Mike first!  It took everything within me not to tell the other moms waiting to pick up their kids…or to tell Brody “You have a sister!” 

After I picked up Brody I called Kristin back and found out a few more details including that we would get to go to the hospital and meet the baby girl tonight.  Kristin just needed to know when we could get there.  I texted Mike and told him to call me ASAP.  When he called I said, “Have you made any plans for Valentine’s Day tonight?”  He responded in a very exhausted sounding voice, “No honey.  I’m sorry.  I’m swamped at work and haven’t even had a chance to think about it.”  I said, “Well….what about meeting me at the hospital.”  “What’s wrong?  Why am I meeting you at the hospital?” he said with a little more enthusiasm in his voice.  “So we can meet our daughter!” (that word sounds so strange! Lol) I replied. 

Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.
**If you're just now joining us in our adoption journey...make sure you use the links on the right side of the blog to start at the beginning of our story...Answering His Call**

Monday, September 02, 2013

AHC - The Waiting Game

February 13, 2013

Kristin called today while I was at Women’s Bible Study.  She requested that I re-write our “Dear Birth Parent” letter (AGAIN!).  She also gave me a little more info on the birth mom and told me that the other couple she is presenting is an African American couple.  When I heard that my heart and brain just shut down.  I thought, “Here we go again.”  We don’t care what race (or gender) the child is that we adopt…but in the past we have found that race can be important to a birth mom when she is choosing a family to parent her child.  I feel like our chance of being chosen has gone from 99% down to 5%.  Why did I feel so strongly yesterday that "this is it"?  Was I deceiving myself?  Was it just wishful thinking?  I don't know.  

After Bible study I went home and re-wrote our letter and sent it off to Kristin.  In essence, I had cut out a lot of the letter in order to make it a 1 page letter.  If you’ve read nothing but this post…I think you can figure out that I’m not one for cutting a story short.  How in the world can we tell enough about ourselves for a person to want to entrust their child to us…on just one little piece of paper?!? 

So now we’re back to the waiting game.  Kristin is showing the profiles tomorrow, but she told us that we shouldn’t expect to hear back from her until Monday.  She said many times the birth mom wants to take the profile books home to look at with other family members and take some time to make the decision.  My head is telling me it’s over and that it won’t happen…but there’s something in my heart that is keeping me hopeful.  I can’t explain it…but it’s like there’s a little voice saying, “Just wait….it’s gonna happen!” 

The hardest part for me right now is knowing that there’s a baby girl in the NICU at the hospital.  If this is going to be our daughter…I want to be there with her!!  I don’t want another minute to go by without her knowing that she is loved.  It makes my heart ache to think about her there alone…

**If you're just now joining us in our adoption journey...make sure you use the links on the right side of the blog to start at the beginning of our story...Answering His Call**

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Sunday Smiles


AHC - The Call

February 12, 2013

Why do I know in my gut that the phone call I just received is different than any others?  Tonight I got call from Kristin with Covenant Kids.  She said she was looking for a placement for an African American baby girl who was born at 35 weeks on February 10th.  She said she’s perfectly healthy (at 4 lbs 10 oz)...just early.  Kristin wanted our permission to show our profile book to the birth mom.  I told her I would talk with Mike and would text her back later tonight.  She is meeting with the birth mom on Thursday and would like to show her our profile and that of another couple.

When I hung up the phone I immediately fell prostrate on the kitchen floor.  I couldn’t stop shaking.  For some reason the thought kept running through my head, “This is what you’ve been waiting for!  This is why it has taken so long…because I wanted you to parent this little girl!”  I’ve never felt this way (in the past) after one of these calls.  I was crying and praying.  I didn’t even know what to pray, so I just begged the Holy Spirit to speak on behalf of me. 

I tried to call Mike, but he was in meetings.  I texted him and told him that we needed to talk about a call I got from CK today.  When he walked in the door after work (an hour after the call) I was still shaking.  I looked at him and said through tears, “I think this is it!  I think this is what we’ve been waiting for.”  He grinned and asked why and I said, “I don’t know.  I just have a feeling.” 

Then reality sunk back in.  We began to talk about all the reasons why we had been talking about quitting.  What happened to the December 31st deadline?  Weren’t we supposed to call and quit at the end of the year?  Do we really want to ride this roller coaster again?  What if we are chosen?  Are we ready for all that entails?  What if we’re not chosen?  Can we handle the feeling of rejection again?  We gave knowing glances to each other as we ate dinner with the boys and put them to bed.  It wasn’t until we got them to bed that we sat down on the couch and really had time to talk.  After some discussion and a few tears (on my part), we decided to let her show our profile to the birth mom.  If it was God’s will that this little girl is a part of our family…who are we to say “no”?!  If it’s not His will that she is in our family, then us saying “yes” to showing our profile won’t put her here.
I have now gone from the immense high of “this is it!” to the low of “Don’t get your hopes up.  No one has chosen y’all yet. You don’t wanna get your heart broken again.”  I guess all we can do now is pray and wait.

**If you're just now joining us in our adoption journey...make sure you use the links on the right side of the blog to start at the beginning of our story...Answering His Call**