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Wednesday, June 19, 2013


     Holden got a new scooter yesterday, and he is absolutely loving it!  Putting together the scooter was also this Mama's first time at playing Handyman with Chris away.  Success on both fronts!

     Here's Holden having a blast on his scooter.

Here's what Holden does when he wipes out. 

He laughs, and right after this video was taken, he got right back on that scooter.


And the scooter doesn't have breaks, so he balances and maneuvers onto it while it wiggles around.  Then he picks his legs up one by one and places them on the scooter.  And he is off!

I haven't seen too many other two year-olds who respond like this when they wipe out. 
Goodness, I've seen plenty of five year-olds who whine or have tears over events like this. 

Not my Holden. 

He's tough.  Tougher than most kids I know.

Recently, I was a bit insulted by some individuals implying that Holden is coddled or over-protected or that it's hilarious that he needs knee-pads at the playground.  There is nothing that makes me more angry than people implying that Holden is not tough.  Spend a day with this little guy, and he'll put you to shame.  Most of the grown-ups I know could learn a lot from him (myself included).

Here are all the ways my little guy is incredibly tough.  Tougher than you, and tougher than me.

He has never cried more than 5 minutes at a time since we became his parents on April 5th.  On average, he cries once or twice a week tops.  How many other parents can say that about their two year-olds?

We have never seen him throw a temper tantrum.  Whining is very minimal, and it is immediately addressed by us.  We stop the whining, make him take a deep breath, and use his big boy voice to explain what he wants.  How many parents are that diligent about addressing whining in their own kids?

Holden rarely ever heard an English word while in India.  Since coming home, he has learned over 100 words.  He repeats EVERYTHING and wants to practice his English all the time.  He never gives up on trying to pronounce new words.  He constantly asks for his books so he can learn more words.  That is mental toughness, my friends.

On our trip home, we flew 13 hours straight from Delhi to Newark.  Then we immediately grabbed a rental car and drove 12 more hours home to South Carolina.  Holden whined and/or cried 15 minutes tops during that entire 25 hour period.  I don't know many grown-ups who would tolerate a trip like that so well, let alone a two year-old. 

Holden starting sleeping in his own bed in his own room ALL BY HIMSELF (after being used to co-sleeping his entire life) after less than 2 weeks home.

Holden made it in the church nursery all on his own the second time we took him to church. 

Some of this might seem like we have a child who shows no emotion or has attachment issues.  That couldn't be further from truth.  Holden is the most joyful child I know.  He shows us affection, laughs and jokes constantly, and accepts our love, affection, and comfort freely. 

The only explanation I have for all of this is that our little boy is one of the toughest, most resilient people I know.

No one is more acutely aware of the need to foster independence in their child than we are.  It is constantly on our minds.  We are always trying to balance showing Holden love and affection with pushing him past his limits and teaching him not to give up.

If anyone EVER wants to imply my child is not tough or that we coddle him, how about I inject your legs with lidocaine and succinylcholine so they're numb and paralyzed, and we'll see how you get around and cope with that...

THEN we'll talk. 

I'm fairly certain that what we'll discover is that you--dear, sweet, supposed grown-up, are not nearly as tough as you might have thought. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Moment I Fell in Love with Chris

    We were nearing the end of our sophomore year of college.  I was preparing to leave for two months of volunteering at an orphanage in India -- very certain that the time I spent at the clinic and hospital there would confirm what I already knew about my future.  I would go to med school, become a pediatric cardiologist, and a husband and children would... maybe never happen.  If they did, they would be afterthoughts for sure. 

     Chris was studying mechanical engineering.  While he was doing just fine, he wasn't excited about the subject or looking forward to an engineering career.  I asked him what he dreamed of doing.  When he looked at his future, what kind of career or life would really excite him?

     This is what he said: 

     "I'm not really sure what I want to do for a career.  All I know is that I want to be a really good dad." 

(the whole fighter jet pilot thing didn't come into play until a year later...)

     Chris went on to describe how incredible his own dad was -- how he never missed a single game of Chris' (and Chris played 3 sports) how he spent hours playing with him and practicing with him.  He described a dad who loved and cherished his mom more than anything.  A dad who taught his children how to love their spouse, and how to love their kids.  Chris' dad was his biggest fan, and Chris wanted to be that person for his kids. 

     At that moment, I knew I couldn't let this one get away.  A man who cares more about being a good father rather than having a successful career; that's a man who has his priorities straight.  Providing for your family and working hard are important things, don't get me wrong, but setting your highest goal as being the father your children need you to be... wow. 

     India turned my whole world upside down.  I came back knowing only one thing:  I wanted to be a really good mother to children who desperately needed a family. 

     God had already provided the perfect person to take that journey with.

     Chris, you are not just a "really good dad", you are the best dad. 

     I see the way Holden looks up to you and wants to be just like you.  I see how much fun and laughter you two have together.  I see how you look at him, and believe in your heart of hearts that he is absolutely perfect just the way he is.  You are his biggest fan.  I see the way you prioritize spending time with God and praying for our sweet boy -- and praying that God would show you how to be the dad Holden needs you to be. 

     I am so very blessed to be taking this crazy parenting adventure with you.  God couldn't have chosen a better person.

     Thank you to Mike, Chris' dad, for showing him how to be such an incredible father. 

     Happy First Father's Day, Christopher!  You are so very loved and admired by our little man
(and me too!)


Friday, June 14, 2013

My Love will Find You

     Last night was the very first night I read my favorite children's book to Holden-- "Wherever You Are, my Love will Find You" by Nancy Tillman.  When Holden first came home, he would only listen to about two words on each page before he was grappling to turn it and look at the new picture.  I didn't want to bring out these special books only to have him tear through them.  Yesterday, I realized how far Holden has come.  His attention span is incredible.  He has an animal book and can name over 65 different animals... both in real life and in books.  This is not just repeating sounds.  I will point to the animal, and he immediately calls out its name.  This child amazes me every day. 

     I received several Nancy Tillman books from a dear friend as soon as she found out we were "matched" with Holden last January.  The first time I read through these books, my eyes filled with tears.  Wherever You Are, especially, contained the deepest longing of my heart:  that Holden would know and feel both mine and Chris' love, but also God's love from thousands of miles away.  My prayer throughout the adoption process, more than any other request, was that God would make His presence and love known to our sweet boy.  That somehow God would impress on this little boy's heart that everything would be ok--that he was loved with an incredible, eternal, limitless love. 

     The waiting was so hard.  Harder than I ever would have admitted at the time.  I casually brushed it off when other people asked about it, because if I had told you how I really felt, I would have burst into tears every time.  I did burst into tears plenty of times pleading with God as I tried to sleep at night, "Please, please bring our little boy home; Please cover him in your love."  When you have no idea when the end will come, and there is no due date, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to bring your child home any faster, it is just hard.  It's a time when you really learn to depend on God and trust that He is at work, because that is really all you can do.  I'm thankful for that lesson.

    God answered my prayers in bigger ways than I ever dreamed.  God provided Holden with a foster mother who loves God and prayed and taught Holden about Jesus daily.  God provided Holden with peace and comfort as he transitioned to our family.  Most of all, God has given Holden this incredible joy that I believe can only come from Him.  Holden continues to amaze Chris and I every day, and we are overwhelmed with God's blessing and provision during this adoption.

     When I would read this book during our time of waiting for Holden, I pictured reading it to a quiet, timid, scared-to-death little boy.  I never imagined that at just two months home, I would read this book to an expressive, joyful little guy -- that he would ooooooo and ahhh at every page and point out: hippo! water!  elephant! kangaroo!  sheep sleeping! bear dancing!  I was smiling in amazement as we read together while tears streamed down my face.  Holden Anil, you are a ball of pure joy, and I can't get over it.   

     I love how the very first page of the book sums up my thoughts both during our wait and forever as Holden's mom:

I wanted you more
than you ever will know
so I sent love to follow
wherever you go.

The book goes on to describe a love that goes as high and wide as you need it to -- a love that is with you no matter what you are doing or where you go. 

My love as a parent will certainly fail at this sometimes, but the book really describes God's love.

Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.  Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD.  How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.   
~ Psalm 36:5-7

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~Romans 8:38-39

My other favorite passage is this:

And if someday you're lonely,
or someday you're sad,
or you strike out at baseball,
or think you've been bad...

just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair,
That's me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

     Again, that's God's love and His making His presence known, and I am convinced that He did this for Holden during our wait, and continues to do this for Holden as He draws Holden to Himself. 

     My desperate prayer for Holden is that he'll continue to feel God's love, and that one day He'll respond to God's call on his life and choose faith in Jesus. 

     My other desperate prayer is that I won't get in the way of God's love.  I am so fallen -- so imperfect, and honestly, the only good love I can offer Holden is when it comes directly from God.  I just want to be a vessel that spills out some of God's love, and gets out of the way of what God is doing. 

    Thank you, Lord, for this incredible little boy.  Thank you for loving Him with your perfect love and being patient enough to teach me how to be a vessel for that. 

I'll leave you with a sweet picture of my little joy ball. 



Saturday, June 8, 2013

Funny thing about a Fighter Jet Family

     In our family, when Holden asks for the airplane ride, it's a slow, smooth, gentle ride.  I make a quiet zooooooom sound.  I carry him around and jog at a gentle pace.

     When Holden asks for the jet ride, I move at lightening speed.  I imitate the sounds of bombs exploding and guns being shot.  I twist and turn quickly, trying to simulate the effect of a few G's.  I intentionally make the jet ride far more exciting than the airplane ride. 
Call us aircraft snobs, if you will, because we kind of are.

     When you're a fighter jet family hanging out with other fighter jet families, and some kid calls an F-18 an "airplane", there will be another kid who immediately pipes in and corrects him. He will say, "Well actually it's a jet.... It's an F/A-18 Hornet."


     When you're a fighter jet family, your kid will know more about different types of aircraft and aerodynamics at age 6 than 99% of the adult population.

     When you're a fighter jet family, and you see an airline pilot walking through the airport looking all self-important you'll roll your eyes and think, "My husband compares your job to being a school bus driver."

When you're a fighter jet family, and someone asks your husband what he does for a living, he'll respond with a simple, "I'm a Marine."

When they pry further, he'll respond with,
"I work at the Air Station."

When they ask, "well what do you do at the air station?"
he'll say, "I'm a pilot."

Finally, when they ask what he flies, he'll very quietly and casually say,

 "I fly the F-18 Hornet."
And then it happens:

The "oooooooohs and wows, and women immediately looking at your husband like he's a GQ model, and they give you that raised eyebrow like you've won the lottery.

     And you'll smile knowingly because you have won the lottery. Your husband has worked so hard to earn the privilege of flying F-18's. He continues to work incredibly hard to keep earning this privilege every day. He knows that it wasn't just hard work but a bit of blessing and luck and being in the right place at the right time that got him here.

    And it was guts.... a whole lot of guts to admit that he wanted to be a fighter jet pilot and to throw himself into the ring and fight for it.

     You'll also smile knowingly because only you and the other pilot's wives know how unglamorous his job can often be. Only you know that sometimes on the aircraft carrier, he'll sit in his jet for hours waiting to be catapulted off, and the cooling system doesn't work until you're in the air.

     Only you will know how old the jets are and how often they break, and that praying for your husband's safety and worrying about that knock on your door isn't just a reality during deployment. 
 It's a daily reality.

     Only you will know that sometimes, for just a few minutes, you'll wish your husband was boring and got to come home at 6:00 every night, or heck, even 7 or 8 every night.
     Only you will know how often he's gone for weeks at a time for training.

     Only you will know how very hard this lifestyle is.  It's so hard, and you haven't even made it through your first deployment yet; let alone your sixth or seventh.

It's overwhelming just thinking about it.

     And only you will know that sometimes it feels very uncomfortable to get all of the sexy attention when you know there are all these other incredible men and women in the military--working just as hard and sacrificing just as much.

     And only you will know that despite your occasional dreams of living a normal life; that you are incredibly blessed -- that the same qualities that made your husband become a fighter jet pilot are the qualities you love and admire so much. 

     He is strong, and determined.  He is honorable and hard-working.  He is smart and motivated.  He puts others first, and would sacrifice everything for his family and his country.  He is brave, and a risk-taker.  He is creative and fun.  And somehow, at the end of a 12, or 14, or 16 hour day, he can still come home and listen to how many times your kid went pee-pee on the potty, and that he learned the words camel and otter, and that he ate more at lunch than he did at dinner.  And he'll sit on the edge of his seat listening to this, because that's how amazing and selfless he is.  So even though sometimes you wonder what life on the other side might be like, you know you wouldn't trade this life for anything.  You wouldn't trade him for anything. 

Funny thing about a Fighter Jet Family...


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day at the Beach

     A few weeks ago, Holden had his first real day at the beach.  His actual first day was windy and cold and went something like this:

     He had an ok time despite the pre-hurricane force winds, but it doesn't really feel like the beach unless you're sunbathing, swimming, and building sandcastles.  Grammy and Pappap were great sports, and Chris used a camouflage tarp of some sort to build us a terrific wind shelter as we all tried to act like jackets and 50 mph winds were the norm at the beach.  I love how Marines can witness any sort of problem, and then they'll just kind of pull out random tarps and tools and camouflage-pattern jiggymadoodles and get to work protecting and defending stuff.  It's awesome and cute (and of course, super manly.... mandorable, if you will)
     A week later, the weather was sunny and perfect, and Chris' family was in town for a visit.  We headed back to the beach for Round 2.  Holden had a great time! 
     And yep, I did just post an Extra-Large (as blogger so aptly put it) photo of myself in a swimsuit on my blog.  I think it's a nice family photo, and it documents our first day at the beach, and it hasn't been photo-shopped, and if anyone wants to debate whether or not nice Christian girls should wear bikinis at the beach, well... that's a whole different blog post altogether.  I'll debate the merits of special needs adoption and giving more of your money to children in need right back.
I'm on the fence about which topic is more important in the grand scheme of things. 
Swimsuits....children without parents...swimsuits...children mistreated....swimsuits...children dying...
It's a tough call, I'll give you that.


     Anyways, back to our amazing time at the beach. 

     There was this shallow pool of water just before the ocean that Holden and his cousins had a blast playing in. 

     Holden would start shivering within seconds of getting into the water, but he had so much fun, he didn't want to get out.  Chris and I would literally start saying, "Are his lips turning blue...?  I can't tell...?"

     "Alright, the sheer amount of shaking and shivering going on is ridiculous, we have got to get this kid out of the water and dry him off!"

     Shivering under his bundled towel, Holden would point, "Mama, water, Daaa, water,"  ready to go back in for more. 

     I love that spirit in Holden.  He is a child who easily ignores discomfort and finds the fun in everything!  He could be tired, hungry, stuck in another doctor's office waiting room...doesn't matter--he always finds something to laugh and joke about. 

He always finds the fun.

     Chris is an amazing dad.  I'll just throw that in there.  Holden has so much fun with him.  When Chris gets home, or Holden sees him first thing in the morning, he lights up:
I love to watch their relationship grow. 
This is Chris, Holden, and I with our nephews, Brayden (right) and Isaac.  Chris' mom said this picture makes it look like we could easily handle three kids -- like we've got it all under control. 
"Noooooooo-ooooooooohhhhhh!" I say. 
     We are a long way off from three kids!  We are still trying to get a handle on how this whole thing works with one kid.  Believe me, one kid is plenty enough.  I will now quit looking puzzled and confused and sad when I see and hear of only children.  I will instead give a look of understanding. 
Yes, one can be quite enough!
(God now folds his hands together and gives a slightly menacing chuckle...little do they know...)
Can God give menacing chuckles???  Once again, a topic for another blog post!