Friday, July 24, 2015

Lessons In Parenthood

My girl is constantly teaching me or reminding me of things, like patience and the importance of coffee in he morning. She shows me how much I need Jesus and to pray more often, among other things.

One thing we're trying to figure out is meal planning, healthy eating (at home!), how to raise a Godly confident woman in this world of crazy judgments and expectations. And y'all- it's hard. I've gained all the weight I'd lost two years ago plus some (I'm a stress eater, even if it's good stress.) and it's very frustrating to me. I try so hard to not let it show- especially when CJ can see- and get back to working out and eating right and not using the "F-word" (F-A-T)...

But then today happened. God knew just what my tired, discouraged self needed.

I was laying on the floor playing with my baby doll of a girl and she suddenly did something she's never done before. She lifted my shirt up and gave me a kiss on my problem area of a stomach. She loves me despite the extra "jelly" jiggling. She didn't even notice! In fact, she repeated this action about four more times!

I'm still in awe that this happened but even more amazed how the Lord uses these tiny people to teach such huge truths. And in the meantime I'll just keep working to succeed on this health journey we're on, while knowing my baby girl loves me regardless.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Thirteen!

Lucky number 13.

Thirteen years married, almost nineteen together, about twenty-one that I've had a major crush on you.

I guess you could say we know each other pretty well by now. And I know there's no one else I'd rather be stuck with for life.

I also know I love you more every day that passes.

Thanks for being my lobster. I love you always and forever.

Friday, May 22, 2015

First Mother's Day

So now the news is out. Yay!

These past almost ten months have been amazing and haaaard. Parenting is no joke, in case you hadn't heard.

We've got a mover and a shaker on our hands. She's extreme, always wanting to be upside down or moving somewhere she shouldn't be heading. I thought I had more time before I said "no" all day long, but just the opposite! Worth it though when I feel her little pudgy arms around me or hear her squeals of delight with Daddy.

This was also my first Mother's Day- typically a day associated with mostly negative emotions, a day we just try to ignore and power through. This year I didn't know how I'd feel, so we still played hooky from church. Hubby got coffee and breakfast for us, we went to a fun place for lunch, he and Cailyn gave me a lovely necklace... I think I'll always have a difficult time with this particular day, but there is now a huge amount of positive to balance out some of the negative. Still a surreal experience to know someone calls me "Mama" (or will one day, dang it! Haha!).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Our Adoption Story

For those of you wondering, here was our timeline throughout our adoption journey, as well as our story:

June 2013: Felt God's leading to complete initial paperwork for a domestic adoption, using a specific private adoption agency in our state

October 2013: Paperwork completed, social worker assigned for homestudy visits

December 2013: Homestudy completed (We're officially approved!)

January 2014: Officially on the wait list!

[Even our agency has said our process went more quickly than normal. The weirdo in me loves paperwork and got our stuff going pretty quickly. We took our training materials and our paperwork and went away to the mountains for a weekend and rocked it out. Our particular agency suggests what to start with that typically takes the longest, like fingerprints, references, and background checks. What typically takes weeks or even months, took us days in most cases. God was very much in the midst of our process.

Also of note, we were recently debt-free and felt strongly that we were not to go back into debt to pay for our adoption. We did our puzzle fundraiser and benefitted from the Mug Swap blessing, but otherwise we saved up for our adoption, which explains why we didn't go immediately on the wait list after we were homestudy approved.]

April 2014: I'd resigned from my job of ten years and was done in April. Since we didn't know exactly when the Lord would bring us our child, I wanted to have my replacement in place and have time to train her so there would be as smooth a transition as possible for my coworkers. (We'd been told numerous times that once the call came, that was it. Very little notice was to be expected.)

May/June 2014: We bought our new house and moved in, giving us plenty of space for our growing family. God is good.

August 2014: Chris' family happened to schedule a visit to coincide with his parents' 40th wedding anniversary. Both his brothers were able to be here and a big surprise party was planned with their closest friends and all the family. As part of this visit, Chris' mom had planned a baby shower for me with my closest friends just so we could celebrate the upcoming arrival and get stocked with some basics we would need eventually. She was also helping with a baby shower for my sister-in-law who was due with her first in November.

08.10.2014: My birthday, a Sunday. We went to church that morning, ate Mexican (Chuy's!) for lunch with our friends who are family, and Mom, Dad, Dave, & Merrill. Mom, Dad, Dave, & Merrill came back to our house after lunch... Dave and Merrill hadn't seen our new house yet, so we gave them a tour. When we came back downstairs Mom said I'd missed a phone call. I didn't recognize the number so I listened to the voice mail. It was the agency's director calling to talk to us. We went out on the screened porch while our family waited inside, and we talked to the director for almost an hour.

She told us right away that she'd shown our profile book to a birthmother who liked us and chose us. Our birthmother liked that our family seemed close and her child would have lots of cousins to grow up with. Our Director then let us know the baby GIRL had already been born! (Shocker! We had been told the birthmother usually chooses the adoptive family BEFORE giving birth.) We were not allowed to choose a gender preference but were secretly hoping for a girl, even though we truly didn't care either way. But, a GIRL! She told us we could have her straight from the hospital after some routine testing; our birthmother wanted her daughter placed immediately so she wouldn't be alone during the transition.

More of God's amazing details... Our birthmother had one request for us and that was that we would include in baby's name one of the names the birthmother had given her, Joy. We've had Cailyn's name chosen since before we were married, so changing her name felt like a big deal at the split second we were asked to include Joy. However, immediately we thought this was an easy way to show our birthmother how we valued her and loved her, while also giving Cailyn a piece of her birthmother for her whole life. The incredibleness of God comes in here... Every year God gives Chris a word for the upcoming year- a year of peace, a year of contentment, etc... 2013, the year God led us to pursue adoption, was the year of JOY! Amazing! Also, just before family arrived in town we'd finished hanging the artwork on the walls in the house. One of these pieces was a pallet art piece I'd made in the Spring (2014) that says "choose Joy!" What?! We literally had the words "choose joy" hanging in our kitchen. God continued to do incredible things like this throughout. (2014, the year we got Cailyn, was our year of Love. You've only got to look at her to see how much our Father loves us!)

To sum up, we were now parents and would be meeting our girl for the first time within the next three days!

We spent the rest of Sunday telling Chris' family (they were right there waiting after we got off our phone call), crying and praying and feeling heartbroken for our birthmother, and being ecstatic over the fact that our lives were about to change in the most wonderful way. We also went to Target, because what else do you do but roam the aisles and look at all the little girl things?!

One amazing thing that capped off my most amazing birthday ever: My wonderful friend, Kim, had used her annual mug swap to encourage participants to donate to our adoption fund as a way to bless others. A complete surprise, a complete blessing! Sunday night to add to the birthday festivities, she sent me the total amount raised- about $2500! We were completely blown away! God is so amazing! The mug swap took care of the rest of the unpurchased puzzle pieces we had left (important because we wanted a complete puzzle to frame). Just incredible!

08.11.2014: Monday. A very surreal time. Our baby shower was planned for that night, so after we went to Target (again, yes. We pretty much lived at Target for this whole week.), Mom and I planned a surprise for the baby shower. How cool of God to plan that shower just as we needed things?! Mom came up with the idea for a word scramble and at the end she'd turn things over to me and I would announce the point of the game- that we'd gotten THE CALL. No one knew except Mom, Merrill, and me (not even our friends throwing or hosting the shower!).

Everything went off without a hitch! The word scramble was made up of random words or phrases, like August birthday (everyone assumed that was me), Paternity leave, etc. Merrill recorded everyone's reaction afterward when I told them all we'd gotten the call and our baby girl would be joining us THAT week! Everyone freaked out with excitement, which was really special. I was a crying mess but everyone was at that point. 

After the shower, we had a surprise for Mom and Dad. We'd gotten together with Chris' brothers and Merrill to surprise their parents by flying Steve (the oldest brother) in for two days, so the whole family was together for their 40th anniversary party the next night. During our shower, Dad, Dave, and CC got dinner and were together. Chris told his dad he had to go back to Target to get the right formula; that we'd gotten the wrong kind. Actually, he went to the airport to pick up Steve!

Merrill and I hurried Mom home after the shower and were telling the guys all about it when Chris walked in, without formula. He was on the phone with Steve, and we were telling him about the shower. Chris said "oh! I forgot the formula," went back outside and came back with Steve behind him still on the phone. Mom and Dad were so surprised they had to sit down! So fun!

Already such an emotional time for our family.

08.12.2014: Tuesday. Another Target run. More surreal feelings. More heartbreak for our birthmother and excitement for us. Tuesday night was the surprise 40th anniversary dinner for Mom and Dad. They knew something was up but not exactly what. Tuesday we found out we'd be bringing our girl home at some unknown time Wednesday. Tuesday's party was very surreal for the whole family, but especially for Chris and me. We were surrounded by many family friends, most of whom are pastors or elders and their wives from our church. We sort of had to lie to them all when they asked for the adoption update... "oh, we're still waiting. Hopefully soon!" Bahahaha! Little did they realize it'd be the NEXT day! We imagine it's like parents with a scheduled C-section. You know the next day your whole life is about to change- so bizarre.

That night we tried so hard to go to bed at a good time and get lots of rest, but I was way too excited! I think Chris didn't get much sleep either. Oh well!

08.13.2014: Wednesday. THE DAY. We were constantly texting our director about what time to meet her at the angecy. She didn't know their ETA for most of the day. She literally discharged Cailyn from the hospital and drove directly to the agency.

Another Target run (I apparently have a serious problem controlling myself from buying baby clothes. It's a weakness. But also- first time mom here! I had no clue what we'd actually need! Turns out, not nearly as much as we had on hand.).

I was running all day on adrenaline. Poor Chris was so exhausted emotionally and physically he went to take a nap. Since we were pretty much on stand-by that day, I missed going to Merrill's baby shower, which really stunk for me. She's so wonderful she understood, but I hated to miss it. Turns out it was a good thing, because I finally got the text about 3:45 that we could head to the agency to start paperwork before they arrived! I rushed to wake Chris up (who I think got about a five minute nap), we changed clothes to look our best (because again, we don't know what we're doing- haha!), and we headed to the agency. Because we'd heard it could take a while, we drove through Zaxby's for something to eat even though we weren't the least bit hungry. We made it to the agency and started paperwork, which was so crazy! I know I keep using the same adjectives, but unless you've gone through it, you have no idea how surreal it all is. Your body is there and present, but inside you feel like you're floating above, watching everything happen. So crazy.

Just before 5pm, we were told to go out the back and come around to the front door. They would let us in when they were ready. The (amazing) staff had all the cameras and phones and techno things to record our meeting. Standing in front of that door, praying together and holding hands, knowing everything was about to change... it's indescribable. Like just before your wedding, but even more bonkers.

At this point, we did not know what Cailyn looked like. They hadn't given us any pictures; we only knew that when they saw her they immediately knew she was our daughter.

They finally opened the door and let us inside. At our agency, their lobby is sort of set up like a living room: two loveseats, windows, etc. On the far wall from the front door is one of the windows with a loveseat underneath. Sitting on the loveseat was a white wicker basket with a pink pillow in it, and lying on that was our squalling, squealing little girl. It was an amazing moment. We spent the next hour holding her, feeding her (Chris), changing her (me), and loving on her, marvelling at her. It was weird to have five to six people watching you the whole time, but I'll be glad one day they were all there to capture our first moments as a family of three.

Cailyn was perfect. Beautiful. Amazing. She had a cute, scrunched up little face, a head FULL of jet black hair, and she was tiny. 7 lbs 1 oz at birth; by day five, the day we got her, she'd dropped to 6 lbs 8 oz. She was a tiny little firecracker.

Our tiny little firecracker. Who cried all. the. way. home because she was sick of being in the car. Who could blame her? Everyone gave us time by ourselves when we got home. We were so bummed Steve had to fly home and missed seeing her by two hours. About 8pm, we told Mom, Dad, Dave, & Merrill they could come meet her. We spent the rest of the night staring at her and thus began our journey as a family of three.

We didn't tell many people for about the first two to three weeks of her life, because in our state, we'd assumed the legal risk that our birthmother could change her mind and decide to parent. A big deal when you've already fallen in love with your girl. We knew though that for however long this child was in our home, she would know the love of Jesus and us. And she did. And she will.

It's incredible to think of all the tiny details God took care of. I wasn't working anymore so I didn't have to worry about letting anyone down there, we'd just finished getting our house (and nursery) ready, all of Chris' family was in town from out of state, we got the call ON my birthday!, Kim sent just what we needed through the mug swap that night, our baby shower had already been planned which gave us lots of what we needed to feel prepared and ready for her arrival, AND at Tuesday's party we ended up on lots of folks' minds who I know were praying for us. An amazing, amazing time. And those are just the highlights of all He did for us!

After Cailyn arrived, obviously our world changed drastically and for the better. Unfortunately we couldn't share her with the digital world, per our agency, until her adoption was finalized (to protect everyone involved). We couldn't post photos, share updates, or even use her name in emails (this is the reason Bloggie went defunct). We very much respect our agency and their policies, but it was hard! We're so grateful to be able to say her adoption is done and she's now legally what she's been in our hearts all along.

March 18, 2015: Cailyn's adoption was finalized. We found out March 3, 2015.

To God be all the glory.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hi! Hello! Remember me?

It's been a while. I've missed this space on the interwebs, and I'm hoping this post means I won't go away again any time soon.

It's pretty much been almost ten months since I've really blogged, despite my best efforts in December to get back into it. These past ten months have been wonderfully different and I'm thrilled to finally be able to share why.

Introducing... Cailyn Joy Hopper!

Our gorgeous girl
I know! We are the ecstatic and super proud parents of a beautiful and amazing baby girl! God is incredible and His timing with it all was so perfect it's ridiulous. I can't wait to tell you all about it.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

34 Is Gonna Be A Great Year

Since I last blogged, my birthday came and went. It was the best birthday ever and exactly what I hoped it would be.

My birthday fell on a Sunday this year, the first not-working-at-church-where-I-need-to-work Sunday/birthday I've had in a long time. We slept in, got Starbucks, got to sit together in church with family that was in town...

We ate delicious Mexican food for lunch where I was surrounded by fun family and our dear friends who are also family to us. We spent the rest of the day with those people and I had never felt so loved.

(And remember too that Kim sent the funds for our adoption from the Mug Swap that night too, just before we went to bed.)

It was a pretty amazing day. This is going to be my favorite year yet, I just know it.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

You Have A Blog?

Ugh, I hate when Bloggie goes defunct. I've even been asked recently, "oh you have a blog?" It's horrible. After my birthday, things got awesomely crazy and blogging hasn't quite been at the top of my priority list, despite wanting to keep up with it.

I especially feel awful because I never did an update after the Mug Swap, or a recap to link up of the amazing happy mail my new friend, Andrea, sent for the Mug Swap.

Andrea sent a homemade mug rug that I see every day sitting in the living room. It's really cute too, especially with the anchors on it. I've been way into anchors lately ("We have this hope, as an anchor for the soul...") and it was so timely of her! She sent one of my all-time favorite verses framed and so cute- we have it in the nursery on the bookcase. The mug she sent was the perfect turquoise color and so big that I can fit tons of coffee in it, which is perfect for me. Andrea also sent some incredibly delicious chocolate, the cutest little colandar, and some very fun local coffee. Everything was wrapped in such a lovely way, it felt like Christmas opening each individual item! Andrea chose everything so thoughtfully, it was really special to receive.

I especially love that the Mug Swap happens in August- it's like a month-long, nationwide (world-wide in some cases) party to celebrate! And party it up we did- remember how Kim had asked folks to donate to our adoption fund as a blessing to others? Well that was incredible. Humbling and overwhelming in the best possible ways. And then, you guys. You guys.

Almost $2500 came in for our adoption fund. $2500!

We were blown away, to put it mildly. We couldn't wrap our heads around it! And Kim was going to make me wait to find out the total until she announced it on IG, but instead she sent it the night before ON my birthday, as a final firework to end the day. It was amazing! We still are in shock that God led you all to give so generously. I love the IG community but wow! Thank you to everyone who envisioned the idea to give, who put it into practice, who gave, who posted and shared, who encouraged us in the meantime, who prayed for us. Just everyone- we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Talk about loving others and living our faith!

I've missed posting and talking with y'all. Here's hoping I can do it more often and soon! Thank you for bearing with me until I can say hello again. Hello!