Wednesday, January 8, 2014

it's a love story (baby, just say 'yes')

Fourteen years ago today, Joey and I went on our first real date. We were fifteen years old. I was a sophomore, he was a freshman.

We had been hanging out the entire Fall semester, and he had become one of my very best friends. However, our friendship revolved mostly around him telling me which sophomore girl he thought was "hot" and me trying to put in a good word for him with said girl. 

The whole thing got old quickly, and one day I thought to myself, "this kid is such a cocky little punk." Soon after that realization,  a couple of my friends and I started the "We Hate Joey" club. I was president, and we sported the letters "WHJ" written in Magic Marker on our hands. 

This was definitely one of those "little girl throws sand on little boy because she likes him" moments. I didn't hate Joey. I far from hated him. I was secretly head-over-heels in love with him. But I was not ever going to let anyone know that...especially him. 

After the devastating fallout of the WHJ club, Joey got back into my good graces, and our friendship really started to develop. We were together every day, and when we weren't together we were talking on the phone. But of course when my friends asked, I denied any sort of feelings for him. "Are you kidding me? Ewww, no!" Was my typical response.

One of my very best friends was a senior, and she gave me a ticket to the Senior Girl's formal. It was a HUGE deal to go to Senior Girls as a sophomore. I was pretty excited to say the least. On the phone one night with Joey, he threw me a curveball and said, "so I heard you haven't asked anyone to Senior Girls yet....I will go with you." (Did I mention he was a cocky and ballsy little freshman?) I did NOT want to take him. How humiliating, taking a FRESHMAN?! But in a moment of weakness, I said, "sure, I guess that would work." (In my defense, the boy was incredibly good looking. Girls got all googly eyed just being near him. I tried so hard to pretend I wasn't one of those girls. But I so was.)

So the night of the dance came around. His entire family came to my house to take pictures. It was totally awkward. And his mom drove us, which was obviously super cool and romantic. I can remember the way he did his hair. He had cut his signature shag, and was now sporting some sort of gelled do that he clearly didn't know how to work just yet.

We ended up having a great time and I was so in love. I didn't expect that the feeling was mutual though. He was this guy that girls dreamed of being with. And I was a very simple girl. I felt certain that his interest in me was purely platonic.

But the next week, in Mrs. Sansom's fifth period geometry class, it all changed. He sat a few seats behind me in the classroom. He got up one time while we were doing independent work, and as he walked by my desk to go "ask Mrs. Sansom a question", he set a note and an unwrapped James Avery box beside my hand. I read the note first. It said things like, "you are the girl of my dreams", "you are my soulmate", "I want to spend my whole life with you." I opened up the box and dumped out the little grey pouch to find a tiny, silver James Avery ring. A little heart with a flower on each side. My heart melted, but of course I couldn't let him know that. When I looked back at him, he put his pointer finger to his lips to tell me to, "shhhh". As in "don't tell anyone, no one can know I'm not exactly the bad ass that I seem to be."

I played hard to get for a couple of days, but he didn't let up. So I finally gave in. {You're welcome, sweetheart}. And we have been together every single day since.

We were together every waking minute of every day. We passed notes all day long at school. And I saved every single one. I made a big collage out of some of my favorite parts of our notes and gave it to him for his birthday one year. This one is my all-time favorite (from me to him):

{"Oh yeah, I'm not going to be able to pick you up from soccer because there is a really good Sally Jesse Raphael coming on at 4. So do you think you could get a ride to my house?"}

Happy fourteen years, my amazing husband! I cannot imagine doing life without you.

Lots of Love!

Friday, December 6, 2013

names: back to the drawing board

Our baby is now nameless. We decided a couple of weeks ago that we weren't really feeling like "Finn" was his name. We loved the name, and thought for sure that would be it, but it just started feeling like it wasn't right for this little guy. We knew we had totally jumped the gun on announcing a name. And we were all, "but we already told everyone it's Finn... and we wrote it on our Eicher Baby gender reveal box and everything..." But what a dumb reason to name our baby a name we didn't actually want to give him. So we are back to the drawing board. And we are all over the place.

I don't remember ever having a hard time naming Ace. We loved the name Audrey and decided pretty quickly that was it. And I always knew I would name my first child after my brother, so no matter what her middle name would be Corbin. So her initials are ACE. She was Audrey for the first year or so, until she went to Mother's Day Out, and her backpack had her initials on them. I explained to her teacher that her name was Audrey, but all of her things say "ACE" because those are her initials, and we sometimes call her that at home. By the second week, her teacher asked me, "would you mind if we just call her 'Ace'. She responds better to that." I told them that was perfectly fine and she has been Ace ever since. And I cannot imagine her being anyone other than Ace.

One year old Ace

Two year old Ace

Choosing a name for Archie was incredibly easy, I didn't even have to think about it because Ace decided on that for us. We seriously never even considered any other names after she told us what his name would be. And he is SUCH an Archie. 

First trip to Bulgaria to meet our Archie

 Home: Requesting that I take his picture while he works on his modeling poses

I have been obsessing over this baby's name and that's not helping. So I have stopped obsessing and I know the right name will fall into our laps at some point. He is starting to really grow and moves around like a mad man. The kids love to lay their heads on my belly while he's kicking and moving. If he kicks them in the face "it means he really loves you."

So for now, our baby is just "baby brother". And I am confident that we will end up with the perfect name for him.

Lots of Love!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

orphan sunday

Today, on Orphan Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Archie is our son and brother. That he is home with us where he belongs. I tell him every single day, multiple times, "I am so happy you are mine." And I am. So happy that he's mine. I am so thankful that, against a lot of odds, and criticism, and struggle, we followed the bumpy path that God had laid out for us to go and get our son. 

But on this day, more than anything, my heart aches. For all of Archie's friends who we left behind. I don't talk much about them. I don't talk much about the things we saw while we were at his orphanage. I don't talk about it because it hurts.  

While we were on our first trip to meet Archie, our visits took place in the "Day Center". It was a part of the orphanage that just a handful of the kids got to go to. Kind of a little school. It was clean, well kept, and was staffed with some incredibly loving women. It was by far the nicest part of the orphanage. 

We were asked at one point if we would like to see the rest of the orphanage. Joey was an immediate "yes". I was a most definite "no". Knowing that in just a few short days we would be leaving Archie behind for God only knew how long, I could not bring myself to go and see what was behind those concrete walls. 

Joey went. And came back a mess. I asked him not to tell me anything. But I knew that what he had seen had shook him to his core. I knew that it was painful. 

During our visit, we spent a lot of time with many of Archie's best friends. Kids that he had grown up with. And we fell in love with them. We became particularly attached to a couple of them, which only made things harder. I push their faces out of my mind as often as possible, in a selfish attempt to preserve my sanity. But there are many nights I lie in bed and cry thinking about them. Wondering if they got enough food that day. If their medical needs were being met. If anyone hugged them, or even touched them at all. And knowing that most of them, inevitably, will never know the love of a family. 

The orphan crisis is huge, people. So big that it feels overwhelming. It feels like there is nothing any one person can do to even make a dent. And it exists all over the world. In Archie's tiny hometown of Buzovgrad, Bulgaria, and right here in the United States. But you CAN make a difference. Adoption is not the only answer. There are so many ways to get involved. And EVERYONE can do SOMETHING. 

Lots of Love!

Monday, October 28, 2013


This morning was my big ultrasound to find out whether Ace and Archie were going to have a baby brother or sister. They have been anxiously awaiting this news. And of course Joey and I have been too. Joey ended up not being able to make it to the appointment this morning and was super bummed. But against his wishes, and begging, I made him wait to find out with the kids this afternoon.

One thing we already knew was that our baby would be named Finn. Boy or girl, we had already decided this was baby Finn. For several reasons: I have just always loved the name Finn. My BFF had Finn on her short list of names for this baby. We love Huck Finn at our house. And of course because Ace said so. 

One day she and I were going over my list of names and when I got to Finn, she immediately and excitedly screamed, "yes, Finn!!" She usually changes her mind on things pretty quickly, so I wasn't sure that was going to stick. But even with me making other suggestions, she stood firm. 

The problem we had next was middle names. Ace's first choice was Huckleberries. And then there was Sunshine, Strawberry Shortcake, Blue, Pink, and several others that just weren't working for me. So I told her we were just going to use Mommy's middle name if it was a girl, and Daddy's middle name if it was a boy. So it was either Marie or Joseph. Or as she says it, "Joffus". She was happy with those. 

Archie wakes up every morning and has to get right at my belly, and says, "good morning, Finn, your brudder here, I love you, Finn." We all became quickly attached to the name. 

So the big question still remained....was Finn a boy or a girl??

Finn Joseph it is. 
Everyone is happy. 
Can't wait for this baby boy to join in the craziness that is our life. 

Lots of Love!

Monday, October 7, 2013

two little bigs

Oh HEY! It has been a while. Just when I wondered if I would ever blog again, I got a few messages and comments from some blog-world friends wondering where the heck I had been. And so I'm back. (Thanks for the nudge, guys).

I blame my absence on the tiny human growing inside of me. Yep. We are expecting baby number three. He or she will be arriving in March. I have been pretty sick since the day we found out in July. Sudden nausea combined with the inability to be in a room with Ace's strawberry iced donut because of its smell (which I typically love), led me to the store for an EPT. One pee and a plus sign later and my whole world changed.

I was a porcelain hugging, insanely exhausted, and overall miserable human being for quite some time, and I am so happy to finally be coming out of that fog and getting back to myself again.

Ace and Archie have been total champs. They have had to become much more independent. They let me rest, they bring me snacks and water. They have been taking good care of me. They are so much less needy. (Thank you, God). They are over the top excited about the baby. It is pretty much all we talk about. Unfortunately they don't really have the concept of time thing down, so from here to March is going to be a long five months.

Ace just doesn't even know what to do with herself. She totally thinks she is going to be this baby's primary caretaker. She has requested that the baby sleep with her so that she can take care of him/her in the middle of the night, so I can sleep. And I am fully considering that arrangement. I mean she will be pushing six by the that time. And she's pretty responsible. 

Archie understands a lot more than I thought he would. He also wants to tell everyone. I mean everyone, everywhere we go that, "Mommy baby in tummy." And he often proceeds to ask other women if they too have a baby in their tummy, which can get awkward. 

Both Ace and Archie have to kiss my belly and talk to the baby all the time. And Ace is convinced (and has convinced Archie too) that if she sticks her finger in my bellybutton, the baby holds onto it. I just can't wait to see both of them with the baby. They are going to be amazing. 

Other than that excitement, Archie and Ace are now at the same school (their dream come true) and are doing awesome. I can't even begin to put into words how wonderful it is to be at a school where the teachers and administration are HAPPY to have Archie there, and do not consider him a burden in any way, shape, or form. We have been on the other side of that coin and it is just a horrible feeling. They see his potential and expect him to reach the goals we have set for him. They also understand Ace and Archie's unique relationship and are a comfort to them both. It all makes life so much nicer. 

First Day of School Pics

That's it for now. 
All is well in our world. 
Lots of Love!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Today marks two years since the day Joey walked our son out from behind his orphanage walls-- the only home he had known for his first seven years of life-- and into our family. 

I wanted to do something fun with the kids today to celebrate, so I let Archie play hookie from school and we made an impromptu trip to the beach. 

Archie has changed so much over the last two years. He was such a baby when he came home. It's so crazy to look back and remember where he was just two short years ago, and see how far he has come.

The first picture is Archie touching the ocean for his first time ever two years ago, just a couple of weeks after he was home. And the second is our big handsome boy today. 

We had a blast at the beach and it definitely made for a memorable Gotcha Day. Complete with singing "Happy Gotcha Day to you" over and over (per Archie's request), and Ace's attempt to explain how she was not adopted to Archie when he would change it up and sing, "Happy Gotcha Day to Ace". "Archie, what are you thinking... I wasn't 'dopted....I was in mommy's think she 'dopted me from her own tummy?!?"

I got far too much sun today. My kids did a very poor job of applying my sunscreen so my body and brain are both a bit fried. But before you go, check out my awesome friends' Whitney and Nick's post about Archie and how he inspired their non-profit, The Archibald Project. 

Lots of Love!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

little world changer

One of the most awesome perks of being an adoptive mom is the friendships I have made in the adoption community. I have made a lot of incredible friends who enhance my life in so many great ways. One in particular, {my best friend who I have never met in real life}Tesney, has been there with me from the very, very beginning, and has been my rock through a lot of hard times. We have quite a history. Our story is pretty nuts.

So when Joey and I decided we were sure that we wanted to adopt, we started looking at lots of little faces and reading about orphans waiting for families all over the world. Our first love was a little boy with Down syndrome in Russia, Kirill. The most precious, tiny, blond-haired four-year old. His face just screamed to me, "come and get me. Rescue me."

We fell totally in love with him and I could not get him off of my mind for a long time. We decided that he was going to be ours. I told Tesney that this was it-- I knew we had found our son. And I truly believed we had. Fast forward a little bit and things were just not lining up. Joey's job in advertising sales wasn't incredibly stable, and we realized that we were not prepared to bring a child home. {Stupid money}. I was crushed knowing that we would not be able to move forward, and that Kirill would not be ours.

Tesney walked me through the heartache. Although we had not even begun the process to adopt Kirill, in our hearts he was ours. That seems like such a strange and abstract idea, but I know you other adoptive moms know the feeling. Tesney reassured me that the time would eventually come, and that our child would be waiting for us once it did. In the meantime, she and her family were in the middle of their own adoption of a baby boy with Down syndrome in Russia. And their world came crumbling down when they were told one day that their son was no longer available for adoption. They were completely devastated. But they told their agency that they wanted to continue on with their adoption process. Shortly after that, they received a referral picture of the most precious, tiny, blond-haired four-year old boy- Kirill. Seriously. For real. That happened.

I wish I had a recording of the conversation we had when she called to tell me that they were going to be bringing home Kirill. There is no word to describe the amount of joy I felt knowing that she would be his Mom. Knowing that he would indeed have a family- and an AMAZING one at that.

Kirill's adoption ended up being an insane roller coaster. A judge initially rejected the Davis's application to adopt him. She claimed he was "not socially adaptable" due to his "medical condition". And so the battle began. It was a long and hard fight that they ultimately won. And Kirill was finally home with his family in June of 2011.

Tesney and I have been trying to plan trips to meet each other for the last two years, but we have never been able to make it happen. Then a couple of months ago I got a text from her letting me know that her best friend had been chosen as the adoptive mom of a baby with Down syndrome who would be born in Texas, due in July. And she was planning to come with her friend when the baby was born. She didn't even know where in Texas, but assured me that she would make it to Houston regardless. She later found out that the mom was in Houston. We totally freaked out.

Then I got a text from her this past Wednesday to let me know that the birth mom was in labor and that they were going to be heading our way in a matter of days. Tesney's best friend, Jenny, and her two kids, headed to Houston to be here when their new baby came into the world. And on Thursday evening, baby Jojo arrived, healthy and strong.

So tomorrow Tesney and her two boys will make the drive from Tuscaloosa to Houston and we will finally meet. And tomorrow I will meet a little boy whose fuzzy little referral picture completely changed my world. How awesome is it that what is finally bringing us together is the adoption of another precious baby boy who happens to be blessed with that extra chromosome.

This is the stuff that is good for the soul.

I know this week is going to be awesomely crazy. And I will definitely post pictures!

Lots of Love!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

update: baby noah

Last February I wrote about a new friend of mine, GiGi and her new baby boy, Noah. 

GiGi has become one of my favorite people ever. She's just awesome.

Noah recently underwent surgery. He was born with a complete AV canal defect (not uncommon for our babies with Down syndrome). But he had his little heart all fixed up. I heard from GiGi just yesterday and she let me know that Noah has been progressing very well since surgery. He had been on oxygen since March 25th, but just got off this past Tuesday. (yay!) She is completely over the moon for him and says he is the sweetest little boy. He is still on a feeding tube but is growing and doing great.

Okay, prepare for your hearts to explode from cuteness overload:

So thankful I get to see this little guy grow. 

Lots of Love!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

P is for Progress

Yesterday my baby girl turned five. That is seriously nuts.

She had a great birthday and is pretty thrilled about being five. With all of the craziness that has been our lives lately, I never got around to planning a party for either of the kids. Ace wanted to "have the zact same party as Archie." Which was swimming at our pool, eating dinner, and having some cake. She brought two little girl friends from her class at school, and they had a blast. On the way home Ace told me it was, "the best birthday party ever." So that was nice. I wish I knew she was always going to be that easy to please.

Even though it was her birthday, we did not take the day off from Behavior Boot Camp. I came up with my plan after my last post last Wednesday, and put it into action Thursday morning. I realized right off the bat that I was going to have to be very intentional in this process of reversing these bad habits Ace had developed. I sat down with her, explained that it was seriously time, now that she was turning five, to start having better manners and speaking to people when spoken to. She agreed. Of course, we had had that exact same conversation many times before, and it never changed a darn thing, so I introduced her to her brand new Behavior Book. (The book which she informed me last night as we were driving down the freeway that she was going to throw out the window). So yeah, it's been working.

For those of you who emailed me or commented after my last post that you were struggling with the same issues with your little one, here's how it's going down at our house. I got an index card book, some stickers that she got to pick out herself for good behavior, and some red dot stickers for the not so good behavior.

I wrote down exactly how the "game" would work. I consider it a game, because it pretty much is.
So she EARNS:
1 point (marked by a sticker) for saying "hello" to someone when they say "hello" to her
1 point for eye contact during said "hello"
2 points for saying the individual's name after said "hello"
1 point for answering a question ("how are you?" "how is school?" "did you have a fun day at camp?")
3 points for asking a question ("how are you?" "how was your day?")

Points can only be earned if she speaks loudly and clearly enough for the other person to hear her. (We also have problems with low-talk mumbling. And we all know how annoying a low talker can be.

(You're welcome for the captions)

And then she LOSES:
3 points for ignoring someone 
5 points for making a rude comment to someone

I have found the best way of keeping track of her points is by using the voice recorder on my phone. I try to do it when no one is around but if you hear me mumbling, "said 'hello' to Suzie, made eye contact, said name", into my phone...that's whats happening. Then at the end of the day, we write them all down in her book, she puts her stickers in, and we add them up, and subtract the bad ones. I even have her do the math. I know, I know- slow down, mother of the year. 

The pay off for her is every 10 points earned equals one dollar. I know many people do not agree with paying children for good behavior. I get it. I googled the hell out of the issue and as with everything there are a million views on both sides of the argument. But this is what is working for us. The reward needs to be tangible for her, and money is the best motivator I have found. And as we moms always say to each other, "whatever works". So let's just go with that. 

I am trying to set her up as often as possible to succeed, which means I am also setting her up as often as possible to fail. One of my favorite parts of the Parenting with Love and Logic system is giving your kids the opportunity to fail. Cause at the end of the day she is going to learn more from those red stickers that are taking her points away, than anything else. And these small failures while she is still this little is much better than bigger failures when she is not so little anymore. 

The earning points part is very obvious and concrete. The loss of points have been a little trickier, and Joey and I have found ourselves in some pretty funny conversations, discussing whether or not certain comments call for loss of points, or whether they were just funny. I never would have imagined that I would so often be trying to discern between my five year old's sarcasm being inappropriate, or perfectly timed and delivered. For example last night we went to my Mother-in-Law's house to celebrate the kids' birthdays with Joey's side of the family. At one point, Ace and Archie were playing hide-and-go seek with Joey's Aunt. She was doing a really good job of pretending she couldn't find them, and then being super shocked whenever she know, the typical "seeking" of small children that adults do. But on the last round, the kids were pretty much standing in plain sight, as Aunt L looked around....wondering where they could possibly be. And Ace says to Archie (loudly), "well she is really not very good at this game."

Joey and I had to call a sidebar on that one. 
It went like this:

Me: What do you think? Does she lose a point for that one?
Joey: I don't was pretty funny..
Me: Yeah, but was it also rude, or just funny? I mean she was kidding....
Joey: But are we okay with that kind of kidding?
Me: I'm not sure, but it really was a good one...
Joey: Yeah it really was.

Later during a conversation with Joey's sister, she and Ace were discussing an upcoming swim meet that she was going to try to come to. Their convo went like this:
Aunt Abby: Ace, I am going to try to come to your swim meet on Thursday!
Ace: Well, do you even know how to get there?
Aunt Abby: No, I don't, could you give me directions?
Ace: Um, yeah, how about this- GET LOST!

On that one, everyone in the room cracked up. Including myself. It was just too good.

But, it left me and Joey having the same conversation. 

The last thing I want to have come out of all of this is to completely squash her hilariousness. But she doesn't have the ability at age five, to determine when her jokes are appropriate and when they are not. Or who she can joke with like that, and who she really shouldn't. Like with both of her Aunts, and both of her Uncles, it is totally fine. She is very close to each of them, and they mess with her, and she has just learned to hold her own with them. But then, of course, with people we just met, like the one I wrote about in my last post, it is not cool. And it can cause some serious awkwardness. 

The thing with Ace is she is such a good kid. She is so loved by all of her teachers who are constantly bragging on her. She is extremely compassionate, sensitive, a major rule follower and is very respectful to teachers, coaches, counselors, etc. (Apparently even more so when I am not around). She just needs to be reigned in a bit, and replace some of these bad habits with good ones. 

So anyway, we are on Day 6, and already she has made HUGE progress. We are going to be keeping this up throughout the entire summer. And then by the time she starts her new school in the Fall, it should all just come naturally. The next step that I am starting to work on now is weaning my cues. There are still times when I have to give her a look, or a little hand-squeeze, or even the most annoying, "Ace, what do you say?" Before long I am going to have to let her soar on her own in this and she won't be able to earn points for times when I had to give her any sort of cue. 

We're gettin' there!

Lots of Love!