Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bye Bye 2014!

It feels like I was JUST doing this for 2013, as I sat on the couch and watched the ball drop.  (I was a bit slack last year.)  Somehow 2014 is already over, and it's time for me to do another recap.  It has been an exciting year and just looking back makes me exhausted to see how much we packed into it! We may not take extravagant trips all over the world, and we may spend lots and lots of low key days at home, but we sure do fill our days, weeks and months with lots of family, friends and fun!  Here we go...

  • It SNOWED and Nana came over to have some fun in the snow with us! 
  • We had fun with all of our new Christmas toys and goodies.
  • I took Kristi & Davis's engagement pictures for the newspaper.
  • Kate's friend Sarah had a roller skating birthday party; Kate's first time on skates!
  • We had a great visit with Kate's birth parents. 

  • It snowed AGAIN!
  • We visited Gigi and Pick at their lake house.
  • We hosted small group at our house, which is Kate's favorite.  She and Conner had fun driving the John Deere Gator around.
  • We ate Mexican food at Mr. Salsa and someone REALLY enjoyed the salsa!
  • We FINALLY finished up our home study and ordered our profile books for our agency. It's official! We are waiting for a 2nd baby!

  • We had awesome weather for March and spent lots of time outside. 
  • The weather was so nice, we went to get ice cream!
  • We visited the zoo with Gigi, Pick, and Kristi.
  • We got the Jesus Storybook Bible, which has turned into one of our very favorite children's bibles.

  • We visited Gigi and Pick at the lake; we went fishing and rode on the boat!
  • We celebrated Easter with family, and even went to an Easter egg hunt!
  • Kate tried rollers for the first time. We were testing out a new style and hoping to use these for Kristi's wedding, but Kate would only let us keep them in her hair for about 20 minutes.  
  • We spent many Sunday afternoons picking flowers (azaleas and dandelions). Kate must be a romantic.

  • Kristi and Davis got married. Our entire family was in the wedding.  Kevin officiated, I was a bridesmaid and Kate was the flower girl.  Kate did a GREAT job, especially considering she was only 2 years old at the time!
  • We visited my parents at the lake (again) and Kate went tubing for the very first time. Her exact words were "Best day ever!!"
  • We celebrated Mother's Day, my 3rd as a mom!
  • Kate made her ballet debut in her first recital. She had so much fun she crashed another class's number after hers was over.
  • Kate finished up her second (and last) year of Mother's Day Out at a local church. She moved up to preschool in August!

  • We took a "staycation" at my parent's lake house and had a blast! Kate loved swimming, riding/driving the boat, and seeing friends and family.  Her Nana and Grandma Betty even came down for the day and went out on the boat with us!
  • We took our youth group to Carowinds, and Kate came along!  6 months later, it is STILL all she can talk about.  Carowinds is probably her favorite place on Earth right now!
  • Kevin celebrated his 3rd Father's Day as a Daddy!
  • Kate had her first major hair cut - almost 6 inches gone!
  • We had a great visit with Kate's birth parents at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. What a fun trip!

  • Pick turned SIXTY! We celebrated at the lake with cake and bowling, Kate's first bowling experience.  Of course, she loved it!  And to top it off, she just about beat us all!
  • We spent lots of time outdoors - playing with the water table, tricycle, and scooter!
  • We had friends over for the Fourth of July and shot off fireworks! The kids loved seeing them, but weren't a fan of the loud noise!

  • Kate turned THREE!  We celebrated with a small family party at home.  
  • Kate's last day of Mothers Day Out was last year, and so this year she started preschool.  She is in a 3K program.  It is crazy to think that we only have ONE more full school year before she starts kindergarten!
  • We also enrolled Kate in a tumbling class this fall. She has loved it, but we decided not to continue the class after December, because of the busy season of life we are in right now.
  • Kevin turned 41 and got a new gas grill for his birthday.  He also got the "gift" of a Georgia win over Clemson in the first game of the season.

  • We made a last minute decision to take a mini-vacation to Myrtle Beach and are SO glad we did. Turns out, this was our last get-away as a family of THREE! :) Kate had not been to the beach for an extended trip since she was 10 months old.  Behind Carowinds, Myrtle Beach is now her second favorite place on Earth!  
  • Kevin was also voted to be the Senior Pastor at our church in September!
  • Kevin and Ken took a trip to Indiana to spend time with their mom, who has been fighting cancer. 
  • After only a few months, I really felt like I needed to re-do our adoption profile books. I didn't have a ton of time to devote to them when they were originally done, because it was busy season, so after September 15th (our "second busy season"), I spend every night for a full week and updated our book.  I loved how they turned out.

  • During the first week in October, I dropped off our "new" books with our adoption agency.
  • Our church rescheduled our Fall Festival for the first weekend in October and we had PERFECT weather.  The kids had a blast, and Kate especially enjoyed getting her face painted like a pink Spiderman. 
  • I took Kate with me to get my hair cut, and brought the iPad to entertain her while she waited. She LOVED it because I'd loaded the movie Frozen on there for her. 
  • Kevin went on a golf trip and while he was gone, Kate got sick.  I ended up at the doctors office with her on Tuesday, October 7th for a nasty respiratory thing she had going on.  And while we were there we got a call that...
  • WE GOT A BABY!  Karsten Rose had been born the day before and her birth mom had selected our family.  Kevin drove home from North Carolina, we took Kate to her Nana's house (since she was still sick) and were at the hospital the following morning to pick up our youngest daughter.  Crazy how our world turned upside down in just a few short hours! (See bottom-left picture above.)
  • After staying with her Nana and Papa for a few days, Kate was STILL sick.  My mom had been staying with us to help with Karsten, and since Kate was still sick, she took her home to their house to recuperate a little more so she didn't get Karsten sick.  They ended up at the doctor again, and it turns out she had pneumonia. Poor kid!  She was a trooper and I know she soaked up every minute with her Nana, Papa, Gigi and Pick. She was NOT starved for attention.
  • FINALLY, we got both girls at home under one roof and Kate got to meet her baby sister.  She LOVES her. Her first words when seeing Karsten were "Awwww. She's so cute! I always wanted a baby!"
  • After Kate being gone for over a week, I wanted to do something special for her after she felt 100% again.  I took her for a Mommy/Kate day to a local pumpkin patch and lunch.
  • We celebrated Halloween.  Kate was a cowgirl!
  • Sadly, Kevin's mom lost her battle with cancer and passed away on October 30th. 

  • Kevin took Kate to her very first Georgia game in Athens, while Karsten and I went to my parent's house to watch Clemson play.  House divided!
  • We took a day trip to Gumlog, Georgia with some of Kevin's family to see where he grew up and eat at their favorite restaurant- Gumlog BBQ. 
  • Karsten turned one month old! 
  • Kate finally got to shower her little sister with hugs and kisses.
  • I took our Christmas card pictures, and Kate perfected the art of the "fake smile".  Future pictures should be interesting.
  • We celebrated Thanksgiving with Kevin's family at his Dad and Diane's house. Kate and Karsten were both spoiled with attention, but Karsten especially so.  She didn't want to sleep for days after that unless someone was holding her!
  • After Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas tree, pulled out Christmas pajamas, and did some winter art projects!

  • Kate's preschool class put on a Christmas performance for the parents.  They sang multiple Christmas songs, and Kate really got into it!  Not that she enjoys attention or anything... :) 
  • Kate and I made Christmas cookies.  It was a mess and took FOREVER so I'm not sure this will be an annual thing, but Kate enjoyed it!  We'll have to do it again at least once when Karsten gets a bit older!
  • Kate was selected to model a few headbands for an Etsy shop.  
  • A week before Christmas, we finalized Karsten's adoption in family court.  She is forever a part of our family, and we wouldn't have it any other way. This girl sure is loved.
  • Two days before Christmas, we were given 2 tickets to the play Beauty and the Beast so Kate and I could go.  We had a blast!
  • We spent lots of the month just spending time with family and friends, and loved it. 
  •  Karsten turned two months old.  The days have been flying by!
  • We spent Christmas at home with family. Each year gets more and more fun as I can see the excitement in Kate's eyes.  I know it is just going to continue to get better as both of my girls get older.  But, beyond all of their anticipation, we know that the real gift of Christmas is Jesus and celebrating his birth is so much more exciting than anything else!
  • Somehow, I turned 29... again.  Just kidding.  Since I turned 25 my dad has been saying I'm 30, because he "rounds up".  I guess now he can say it and actually be right! The next 30 years have a lot to live up to!
2014 definitely had it's share of sad and disappointing times.  We found out Kevin's mom had cancer and she was gone only a few short months later.  We waited for nearly a year for a child, and though I didn't share a ton of it on the blog, we were told NO more times than we could count. But God knew what was in store for our family, and that Karsten was on her way.  He knew that SHE was the daughter He had planned for us, and we couldn't be more grateful.  Kate has grown so much in the past year, and is loving her role as big sister.  Kevin and I can't believe how much our lives have changed in just one single year.  It has been a crazy year!  And though there were plenty of down times through the year, the overwhelming majority of 2014 was full of joy, happiness, blessings, and thankfulness.  We can't wait to see what is in store for 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

It's Official! GOTCHA DAY

With the craziness of the past week and a half, I never got around to sharing our BIG news, which I was reminded today about.  Though in our hearts, Karsten has always been our daughter, as of Wednesday, December 17th it became official. She legally shares our last name now!  Like it or not, she is our daughter for life!

Because Kate's adoption took place in NC, that is where we finalized her adoption. NC handles everything through the state, and you do not have to go to court.  However, here in SC, families must go to court to finalize adoptions. So on December 17th, our family of four loaded up into our car and headed to Family Court for the very first time to make everything official.

Kevin and I both had to testify, and I went first. I was a bit surprised, because I figured that Kevin would go first.  Nope.  They called my name.  I took the stand and answered what seemed like a TON of questions, though they were easy questions.  Why did we want to adopt? How long had we been married? What is my job? Who keeps our kids? Stuff like that.  Our lawyer said that he asks the wives to testify first because he's had too many husbands forget how long they'd been married! Ha!  After I finished up, Kevin took the stand.  They basically said "Do you agree with everything your wife has said?" and that was that.  I told him that he got off too easy.

Meanwhile, Kate was nonstop semi-fussing, because SHE wanted to take the stand. She kept saying "No, it's MY turn." and "I want a turn!".  So at the end, the judge called on her.  She didn't take the stand, but he asked her what her name was, how old she was, and if she was going to be a good big sister.  Once he finally addressed her, Kate shockingly turned shy! She didn't want to answer his questions.  He looked at her and said "Little girl. You've been making ALL that noise down there. I know you can answer my questions!"  Guess she realized his authority because she quickly answered his questions after that!

And then we took pictures.  We are so thankful that Karsten is OFFICIALLY ours. She is the answer to lots of prayers- mine and Kevin's prayer for another child to love, and Kate's SPECIFIC prayers for a sister.  We are so very thankful that she is a part of our family- forever.

Happy GOTCHA DAY sweet girl!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you the merriest Christmas!  We are spending the day with family, celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  There is nothing better to celebrate than the birthday of the one who was sent to Earth to save the world from our sins.

After breakfast and opening presents, everyone was exhausted! We'd all gotten up early, expecting that Kate would do the same... and then she tried to sleep in on us!  We ended up waking her up, but we were all pretty tired after getting an early start.

Last year, we'd just begun the adoption process, not knowing how long it would take.  Thankfully, 15 months after turning in our initial application we get to celebrate this Christmas day as a family of FOUR.  Christmas 2014 will always be especially sweet for us.

Merry Christmas!  It sure was a great one for us... and it's not over yet!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Is About a Gift

I was playing around on Facebook late one night, just a few days after Thanksgiving, when I saw someone post on a Mommy group something like this:

"Hey - I am looking for suggestions for Christmas books that teach the true meaning of Christmas.  My kids are being bratty and feeling entitled, and I just want something that helps me to show them what the true meaning of Christmas is.  It doesn't have to be religious or anything."

Wow. Just, wow.

I know most people can look at the word Christmas, and see that it contains the word Christ. But I wonder how many people know where the word originated.  It actually originates from "Christ's Mass", which was the mass that was held on December 25th to commemorate the birth of Christ.  That's what Christmas is- the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the cornerstone of the Christian faith. If that's not "religious or anything", then I don't know what is!

I know that those reading my blog probably have many different faiths, backgrounds and beliefs, but this is my little space of the Internet and I feel justified in sharing MY faith here.

Like it or not, Christmas is a Christian holiday.  It is a date that was set aside to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin (Mary).  Jesus' birth was part of God's plan to send a perfect sacrifice, who would eventually die on a cross and then rise again for my sins, and for yours.  That's what Christmas is.  Christmas IS about giving.  But it's not about me giving presents to my kids or my husband.  It's about the most important gift that was ever given.

Christmas is all about the gift our heavenly Father gave to us - His perfect Son, Jesus Christ.  

Tangible gifts that we exchange with friends in family in just a week are just things that will eventually break, be lost, or be thrown away.  Even those extra special gifts that will be kept in a special place for years to come will eventually be ruined.  But the gift that the Father sent to us on that day so long ago is truly a priceless gift.

The media, department stores, and disgruntled people can TRY to "take Christ out of Christmas".  But they can't do it.  It's right there in the name.  And they can't stop Christians around the world from celebrating the most special birthday to ever be celebrated on December 25th.

Yes, we are a Christian family and our kids will know that Christmas is "Jesus birthday"!  Kate already gets that.  Jesus is the reason we celebrate.  But, we're not anti-gifts or anti-fun.  We exchange gifts with each other and with extended family and friends.  We have fun with Santa, and Frosty, and Rudolph.  We watch fun movies.  We decorate our Christmas tree and wear Christmas pajamas.  We drive around to look at all of the pretty lights.  But beyond all of that, we are sure to remind Kate that the REAL gift of Christmas is Jesus.  All of the other stuff is for fun, but we make sure to focus on the fact that Jesus is for real and He came as a baby just for her.  And though she can't talk yet, Karsten will know that Jesus came just for her as well.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 
Ephesians 2:8

So also, Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28

(Because I apparently don't know how to write a post without a picture, here's a picture of  two of our favorite gifts- in matching pajamas! )

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tummy Time & Singing

Kate goes to a 3 year old preschool at a local church two mornings a week. We LOVE her teacher and she has done so well at school this year.  On Tuesday morning, her class (of 9 students) had their Christmas performance and party.  They sang about 5 or 6 songs for all of the parents, and did SO well.  I am just impressed that her teacher was able to get 9 kids to stand in a straight line and all sing at the same time.  I struggle to get ONE to do what we want!  Here is Kate with her class.

When they marched into the room, Kate immediately spotted Kevin and me.  She started waving at us, saying "Hey, Momma! Hey, Momma!".  That sure made my heart happy.  Love that little girl!

Here she is just singing her heart out.

And of course I got a couple of videos.  The first is of them singing a song that talks about Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem, and then Jesus being born.  The words in this clip are "Mary, riding on a donkey... Going to Bethlehem!"

And they sang Jesus Loves Me, and signed along with singing.  I think Kate did so well with the sign language!

Later that afternoon, I took a few quick pictures of Karsten during her much loved (note the sarcasm) tummy time.  She is NOT a fan, and since she has quickly learned to roll over, we have to be creative.  I propped her up on the boppy this afternoon and she didn't mind it quite so much. Love this little girl so much too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Card 2014

For the THIRD year in a row, I'm joining in with Faith for her annual Christmas Card Carousel.

Until we had kids, we didn't do Christmas cards.  Not really, anyway.  But after adding Kate, and now Karsten, we haven't missed a year!  I was on the ball and ordered mine early (just in case we had another disaster like the Christmas card fiasco of 2012).  But they were delivered to our house with no major issues, and though I'd hoped to get them out sooner, they were just stamped and dropped into the mail today!  Oops!

Anyway, I LOVE getting Christmas cards, and I love just as much to send them- especially with these two sweet faces on them!  So, here is our 2014 card!

This really has been a great year full of laughs, fun, and unexpected (but much awaited) blessings. Can't wait to see what 2014 has in store.  Merry Christmas!

And just for fun, here are our Christmas cards from 2013, 2012 and 2011!

Monday, December 15, 2014

How Adoption Changed OUR Lives

I know I talk about adoption, and our kids, a LOT.  But I started this blog to follow our adoption journey that first led us to Kate, and now to Karsten, so I don't apologize for that.  Adoption is a HUGE part of our lives.  We talk about it constantly, and both Kate and Karsten will know, for as long as they can remember, what adoption is and what it has meant for our family.  

At age 3, Kate knows who her birth family is by name. She will tell you that she grew in her birth mom's tummy, and then they placed her in Mommy and Daddy's arms to take home.  She knows that Karsten grew in a different birth mom's tummy, and then she chose US to be Karsten's family.  Kate doesn't understand all of the intricacies of adoption, but she is learning.  Adoption will never be a surprise to her, and in the same way it won't be a surprise to Karsten. It just IS, and it completed our family.

Often times when we are talking to people about adoption, we get the comment that our girls "are so lucky" that we adopted them.  We feel flattered that people would say that, but quite honestly, WE are the lucky ones.

I think people who are unfamiliar with adoption sometimes have the impression that adopted children come from horrible circumstances, or are from third world countries and lived in depravity.  While I'm sure that this is sometimes true, it was absolutely NOT the case for Kate or Karsten.  Before they were placed in our arms, neither of our girls were ever without love. They both had birth families that loved them very much.  They both were held by their first-families, and many tears shed over the decision they made to place their daughters for adoption.  And in the end, their birth families picked US (Kevin and me) to be their Mommy and Daddy, and for that we are forever grateful.  

So you see, WE are the lucky ones. 

Why are WE the lucky ones? 

- Kevin and I get to be parents. Without adoption, that wouldn't be possible. 
- As parents, we get to understand on another level God's true sacrifice of His Son for us. 
- Knowing our own love for our daughters, we can better grasp the depth of God's love for us, as adopted sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. 
- We have a full home, filled with little footsteps, laughter, screams, sometimes tears, hugs, and love.
-  We have a life that is anything but boring. (Okay, you can most definitely have that without kids, but let me tell you, they definitely make it pretty much impossible to have a boring life).

Yep. Kevin and I are pretty much the lucky ones in our family.

Though, if we're being REALLY honest, I don't think luck has much to do with it.  Luck implies that it was just "by chance" that we are Kate and Karsten's parents and I just can't accept that.  I believe that this was all part of God's plan for our family.  He knew before any of us were created that we would be a family.  It didn't come along in the traditional ways, but God can use any circumstance for His glory. In our family He chose to use adoption. And we will thank Him for that amazing gift every day.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sweet Karsten

Taking pictures of a newborn sure is fun, isn't it?  Just getting them to even look at the camera is half of  the battle.

And then if you even get some kind of resemblance of a smile, you think you've done great.  (Side note, we just love Karsten's sweet side smiles. She starts off like this when she's trying to decide if she wants to give you a real smile or not.)

And then, if you get a REAL grin, you know you better quit taking pictures and call it a success.

Because after that, she is not having it anymore and she is D.O.N.E. with picture taking. 

The end.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Headbands for Big Sis

Kate is a brand representative for Sassy Sweet Pea Designs, and that meant that she got to model some headbands to be used on their Etsy site.  The headbands came in earlier this week, and so I thought today would be a good day to head outside and take some quick pictures. Kate did SO well, and though I don't normally put her in headbands (because I'd just never thought about it), I kind of love them on her. I linked the below names to the listing on Etsy.  If you have a little girl and like bows, I'd definitely recommend this shop.  Cute headbands and bows with clips, and super reasonable prices.  Here's what we got in about 20 minutes...

The Georgia Bulldogs Headband:

And my favorite, the Gold Chevron Headband:


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