Happy 3rd Birthday Carter

My baby is 3. He is the cutest little stinker ever and I love him. Here are pics from his original birth day.

Carter's first birthday.

Cotton candy for his 2nd birthday.

And 3. We all say it, over and over, but they grow so fast.

Carter is full of energy, laughter, strong will, silliness, and one heck of a cuddle bug with his mama. I hope none if this changes.

And, he's got the best hair around.
Happy Birthday buddy. We love you.


First day of school....

well, it was last week but I'm a little behind on my blogging right now. The kids were very excited and it seems the only one struggling with this new schedule of having her big kids gone is Mom. Yes the only tears shed were mine. But, they have to grow up right?
Callie started Kindergarten and could not have been more happy to be at the "big" school like her brother. This is before school.

First time on the school bus! She is still smiling.

So Callie got on the bus, then we took Jack to school. He allowed me the honor of taking his picture on front of the school sign but when it came to walking him in....

this is as far as he wanted me to go. How this little mama's boy did not want his mama to walk him to his class is beyond me, but I respected his wishes and just blew obnoxious and loud kisses.

So, back in the car to meet Callie's bus at her school to get her off the bus and walk her into class. Parents of Kindergarteners do this on the first day. She's still smiling.

And, this little exchange was the end of my dry eyes. Callie and her daddy are a close pair and this picture captures a baby girl going off to school all day for the first time. I love this picture.

We made it in the classroom, Callie hung up her back pack, posed for one last picture and we all said our goodbyes.

So, Brian and I took the little kids and went home. Within one hour, the phone rings. It is Callie's school nurse. Hmmmm......is she still smiling. Just a little nosebleed and back to class. Another half hour and another phone call. Just a little anxiety but back to class. So who has the anxiety now, Callie or Mom???
But despite some morning jitters, this was the smile as she got off the bus at the end of the day.

Overall I would say that the start of the year was a success. Callie is happy and excited and liking school. Jack loved school to begin with so he is glad to be back.
And Anna and Carter are missing their siblings and very jealous of not being able to get on that school bus.
So with the big kids gone all day, what do we do with ourselves. Well here is a glimpse of one of our activities- body painting.

They painted themselves and each other.

Oh yeah, I did a little painting as well.


Summer reflections

I have not been good about blogging lately. Not much is really going on, we are just living each day and enjoying the last days before school starts. It has really been a good summer for all of us. Bringing Anna home in late April was such good timing. It allowed her to be home with all of her siblings home and us all spending a lot of time together. It's been 4 months since she arrived and we are in such a different place than 3 months ago. I read people's blogs about that first month home and how hard it is and I was there, and it felt awful. Now it seems Anna has always been here and she is truly amazing. She definately understands English and speaks as any 3 year old would. I can't believe her vocabulary. She knows the routine around here and feels comfortable in her environment. Just in the past month, she stopped calling herself Guan Ting and now refers to herself as Anna. She is comfortable straying away from me in our house and will play with the other kids while I am doing something else. The tantrums and challenging behavior are still the same but I really think that despite how difficult she is, it's age appropriate. She is very stuck on all things being equal between her and her siblings, but again, it's hard to learn that everyone does not get the same thing.
I've learned so much about parenting this summer as well. I used to think that parenting would get easier as the kids got older, but it doesn't, the issues just change. I'm starting to see what parenting an older (8 year old) child brings and it is equally as hard as the 2 year old. It's been an emotional summer for me from a parenting standpoint. I have so much guilt about how I parent Anna. She seems to be in trouble all the time and I am trying hard to get some positive time with her. I recently started holding her like a baby before bed and rocking her and talking quietly to her. She used to not like it but I think she is craving some one on one positive time with mommy too. I've noticed that I am taking on so much emotion of my older kids too. Jack had a rough ending to his swim season and he cried for a day but I cried for several. Callie is nervous for Kindergarten and cried at meet the teacher, I will be hurting with her until she is settled in. I know this is what parenting is all about and I truly embrace it but it's exhausting. And it's reality, they can't be all happy all the time.
So I was thinking about my favorite parts of summer and decided I could list them, but not in any ranking order, they are are wonderful.

* the pool
* watching Jack and Callie at swim meets
* watching Anna grow and become part of the family
* Anna and Carter- when they are getting along it could not be any cuter
* that 15 gallon bucket
* making new friendships (the D family)
* Michigan vacation

Once I post this I will think of many more I'm sure. All in all, I am sad to see this season end. It will be back to the hustle and bustle of school year life.

I was also thinking I needed to set some goals for myself.

* be a better parent, a more calm parent. Especially to Anna. She needs more than I am giving her right now.
* get Anna's adoption video made
* be a better Christian. Get back to women's bible study so I have personal time to spend in the Word.
* set a PR for my half marathon in October and plan which marathon to do in 2011. Running is my time and I love it.
* be positive!

Sorry for all the rambling. Here are some pictures of our last days at the pool and other happenings the past week.

Anna got her first haircut.

Best buddies (most of the time.)

Callie's back to school party. 7 girls, 7 cans of shaving cream!

Really they are too cute!

Carter actually learned to swim this summer. He can go about 10 feet under water. Anna loved the pool this summer too. I will so miss being able to swim everyday.

Goodbye summer, what a great one!


You know it's been a super hot summer when....

it was only 93 degrees today (it's been over 100 for a long time) and the kids were cold at the pool. They were shivering and wanted to leave early.


First family vacation

This crew headed to Saugatuck, MI for a little family vacation. We have never been there before and had the absolute best time. The weather was perfect, the kids loved the beach and all the activities, and we went with our best friends which was wonderful. I took 92 pictures while we were there but obviously can't post them all. Here are a couple of the kids enjoying it all.

We were assuming Anna had never been to a beach before and she was one happy girl. She loved the sand and the water and was thrilled to be a part of all of this fun. She did wonderfully on the trip but we did have a few exchanges that were a bit emotional for us. Two days into the trip Anna kep saying she wanted to go home. I told Brian I wondered if she thought this was her next home, her next placement. Even though we were all there with her, she has only been home for 3 months and I truly think she felt she was just at the next stop for her. We tried to explain that we were going home in a couple of days and talked about our friends and neighbors, her toys and her bed. I won't ever know what she was thinking and feeling but again this is just a reminder to us that it will take a long time for her to really know that we are her family forever and this is her home. Another incident occured that nearly broke my heart. My kids all lose a lot of sleep when we go on a trip. No one sleeps as well and we all get overtired. I had to wake up Anna from a nap one day and she was clearly disoriented and so tired. She sat up and was crying saying she wanted "Mama." I kept telling her I was right here but I was clearly not the Mama she wanted in that moment. It took about a half hour of me carrying her around for her to cheer up but I felt so so bad. Again - time, time, time. Overall she was her usual happy and bubbly little self and we could tell she had a lot of fun.

Blueberry picking.

Brian hanging out with the kids in downtown Saugatuck. As soon as I got my camera out, Jack ducked behind everyone.

One of my favorite parts of this little town is the fact that there is a homemade ice cream shop on every corner. No one in this family is going to argue about eating ice cream every night for dessert.

Back to the beach.

A family picture at the sand dunes.

Despite the fact that were all exhaused at the end of the trip, this was our only napper in the car on the way home.

We had such a good time, we plan on doing it again next summer. And we feel good knowing we can successfully travel with 4 kids and everyone have a great time!