Monday, May 9, 2016

mother's day 2016...

I have had several people ask me to update here because they don't know what is happening with our family and I thank you for following along with us.  I have a post planned that is an update post but it's pretty daunting, so I thought I'd pop in with a mother's day post.

My Mother's Day was lovely.  It had literally rained for 47 days, so it was nice to see the sun.  The only things I want for Mother's Day are flowers and having my family together.  I got both, so it was a great day! 

We started our day at church and the worship leader acknowledged that Mother's Day isn't always a happy day for everyone.  I thought that was such a great thing to do, because I remember many Mother's Day when I sat in church desperate to be a mom and not able to be one.  It was also meaningful to acknowledge that there is loss associated with this day because my ability to be a mom is born out of someone's loss.  In the corner of my heart, which I don't usually examine, is fact that another mother's children call me mom.  It is the essence of adoption.  My children's start in our family is because they lost their first family.  I always think of the three amazing moms who gave birth to my children and pray that they are well.  I wish I could tell them the joy they have brought to our lives and let them know that we are loving their children well. 
This year, I decided I wanted a picture with my kids.  And I wanted it after church when we all looked nice.  I'm usually the one taking pictures, so it's nice to get in front of the camera and capture memories with my tribe.  We tried it outside first and the sun was in everyone's eyes, so there was whining and Grace wouldn't look up.

We moved the pictures inside and tried about 23 to get Grace to look up and smile.  We finally called it a day and this was the best we could get (it didn't look this blurry on Mark's phone!).  But I still love it.  It captures my 3 blessings and Grace's love of her brother John.

After John's football game, we headed to my sister Cathy's house for dinner to celebrate Mother's Day and her son Will being confirmed.  It was fun to get everyone together and we decided to get pictures with mom.  It's hard to get one of all four of us looking in the same direction and not talking.  So, this was the best we could do.

All my life I was told I was the shortest one in my family, but looking at this picture I realize I have been lied to my entire life.  I'm not the shortest!  My mom clearly is shorter than me.  In fact, John is just about the same height as her (he's 12) and she is mad about it...

Since we were taking pictures, we decided to get the cousins together with my parents.  It is always an adventure with this crew.  Grace didn't want to leave the couch and I should have fixed her hair, but other than that, the picture looks good to me.

So that's it, Mother's Day 2016 is in the bag.  I am going to attempt an update post and then to post on a more regular basis.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

stop the r-word...

Today is the annual day set aside to raise awareness that the use of the r-word.  Using the r-word is demeaning and instead we should be respecting all people.  In a time where people are so careful about the words they choose and our culture is encouraged to be PC, I find it shocking that people use the word retarded on a daily basis.  In fact, I had someone describe themselves as retarded just this week when they were talking to me.  People with intellectual disabilities deserve the same respect as anyone else, yet they often don't have a voice. 

I was going to write a new post on this but I've had sick kids for 6 days and just don't have the capacity.  Here's a link to my post from last year and I'm including the text from my post in March of 2013 below.


Today is national stop the r-word day.  It is a day set aside to raise awareness that the use of retard or retarded hurts.  It is slang and like other words of slang that are derogatory, it hurts.  Unfortunately, I don't think people even realize that they are using it and that it can be a hurtful term.

I'm not an activist.  I'm not someone who is going to jump all over you because of your views or opinions.  But I am a mom.  I'm a mom of a person who has been diagnosed with mental retardation.  As such a mom, I hate the use of retarded as slang.  It makes me physically wince when someone uses it casually in conversation.  And I come across people using it in all walks of life and in all situations.

I have encountered it in casual settings such as parties, at family gatherings, in church bible study, in almost every situation you can think of, I've been around someone who said, 'that's retarded' or 'I'm retarded for doing xyz...'

I don't have a typical response or a standard rebuttal for someone who uses this slang.  But I pretty much always say something to the effect of, we don't use that term anymore.  Most people I am gently correcting know Grace and immediately say 'Oh sorry, I didn't even think'.  Because my goal is not embarrassment and my tone is pleasant these encounters are not confrontational but rather educational.  And I never (and I do mean never) attack anyone or confront total strangers about their use of the word.

I feel that part of my job as a mom is to be an educator.  I take my role as my children's first teacher very seriously.  Since Grace is significantly mentally and physically disabled, it is my job to give my kids information so that they can process and understand her disabilities.  John and Luke are beginning to face questions about their sister and they need to have answers that they are comfortable with sharing.  They also need to not only know when to speak up and defend her but how to defend her.  I always tell the boys, that most people do not mean to mean they just don't know what else to say.  So I tell people instead of using the term retarded, why don't you say ridiculous.  It works just as well and doesn't hurt anyone.

Recently, I had the chance to tell someone who I had just met that I would prefer that he use another word.  I explained that my daughter had a diagnosis of mental retardation and that when people used retarded as slang it was hurtful.  I suggested that he say his decisions were ridiculous instead.  Since I don't know him, I wasn't sure how he received my message but the people I was with said that I had done a good job of not insulting him and sharing my commitment to end the use of the r-word.  I ended my little public service message by showing him a picture of Grace and saying that this was what retarded looked like. 

So, I encourage you to just say ridiculous instead.  Since this is the face of someone who is retarded...


I don't always speak up when people use the r-word around me, in fact I didn't say anything to my friend earlier in the week.  I find that I either can't find the words to raise their awareness of the slight or don't want to cause waves.  But I encourage you to spread the word to end the use of the r-word, together we can make an important change.  People with intellectual disabilities deserve better and you are better than that...


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

happy birthday grace...

It's hard to wrap my mind and heart around the fact that Grace turns nine (9) today!  I know I say that for each and everyone of my kid's birthdays or homecoming anniversaries.  But with Grace it's especially true.  Our sweet and special girl may be a nine year old chronologically but cognitively and developmentally she is so much younger.
This past year has been one of slow progress for Grace.  She has made some increases and progress, like getting off purees (thanks to our month at the feeding clinic) and she interacts more visually and purposefully.  However, she remains super delayed in almost all developmental and self care areas. 
Grace is in the same classroom as last year, in fact she has had the same teacher for the past 2 years.  This has been a tremendous help to our family.  Regina and Grace have clicked and they have a very special relationship.  In fact, all of the aides and therapists in Grace's school have bonded with Grace.  It is these bonds that have helped pull Grace out of herself and we can't express our thanks or appreciation enough for the school she attends.  Grace will be switching classrooms at the end of this school year and I am already teary eyed thinking I will have to say goodbye to her team.
One of the reasons we got the puppies was because of Grace's love of the dogs who she interacts with at school and at our church.  Although our puppies are so far (really super far) from the well behaved therapy dogs, Grace has developed her own special relationship with the puppies.  She has started to pet them and they will sometimes lay quietly next to Grace if she is on the couch.  In addition, every time Grace goes to her chair to be fed, the puppies RUN over.  She loves to share with them.

It seems like every time I reach the end of my ability, the end of my strength, the end of my hope Grace has an achievement or a breakthrough that sustains me.  I know that this is God, reaching down and blessing me.  Letting me know that He is present and in control.  It is a balm to my soul when this happens and it always saddens me a little that I need the reminders.  But I know that God loves Grace even more that we do and I know that he has a plan for her that is greater than anything we can understand.  These glimpses of progress also remind me that He has a plan for me and it is good.  I may never know why God chose me to be the parent of a child with special needs, but I do know that I'm so thankful He calls me His daughter.
Here's a video we received from her school last week.  It shows Grace drinking from a cup without help.  This is a HUGE achievement for Grace and another step in her progress toward self feeding.  I love how proud of herself she looks.  This is also something that Grace will now do at home, which is the true sign that Grace has mastered a task.

So, even though Grace woke up and has no idea that today is her ninth birthday, we do.  We will celebrate her tonight with ice cream cake and balloons, which she loves.  We will sing to her, which makes her laugh and take photos of her with her cake to remember the day she turned nine.

Happy Birthday Grace!  Mommy and Daddy love you more than you will ever know...


Thursday, January 7, 2016

sausage and potato cassarole {gluten-free and paleo}

Is one of your goals for 2016 to eat healthier?  Or to meal plan so that you don't get to 4:30PM and realize you don't know what you're going to feed your family?  Well, if you answered yes to either of those questions, I have a simple recipe that you will love.

I was given this recipe by a friend months ago and then she made it one night when I was at her house and it was delicious.  It was during my first Whole30 last fall and I was excited to realize that I could eat it.

This recipe has become one of my go-to recipes and is in my meal planning rotation twice a month.  It is is one of Mark's favorite meals and I sometimes make it just for him to reheat for lunch when he works from home or a snack after work.  My kids will eat the sausage out of it but Luke only likes potatoes in the french fried form and John doesn't like potatoes at all (silly boy).


3 pounds organic potatoes (any kind you like, see notes below)
1 large sweet onion
1 pound pre-cooked sausage (check your labels if you are paleo or whole 30)
salt and pepper
avocado oil (or oil of your choice)


1) Parboil potatoes and then cut into a large dice or cube.  Basically, all parboiling means is you precook your potatoes so that they are partially cooked.  This then cuts the cooking time down for the next time you use the potatoes.  Here's a helpful link on how to parboil if you aren't familiar.

2) Cut onion into large dice, about the same size as the potatoes.

3) Slice sausage into rounds, again about the same size as potatoes and onions.

4) Combine in oven safe dish.  Add about 1-2 tablespoons of avocado oil and season with salt & pepper.  I use my hands to get everything really mixed in well.

5) Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  You want to check and make sure the potatoes are soft and can be easily pierced with a fork.  We like ours a little crusty so I leave it in for 30 but you may want to check it after 20 minutes to see if it is done to your liking.

6) Serve with a side salad for an easy weeknight meal your family will love.


1) I use Aidell's chicken sausage since I'm eating gluten and sugar free.  But there are a number of quality pre-cooked sausages available that don't have a lot of added stuff.  Just check your labels and try to find one that has 5 or fewer ingredients and ingredients that you can pronounce and know what they are.

2) You can use any kind or combination of potatoes you want.  I use mainly organic red or organic yellow potatoes.  I have made it with white and orange sweet potatoes but my family didn't like it as much.  I also made it with purple potatoes once (as you can see in the above picture) and my family didn't know what they were so they were the only things left in the dish :).

3) You can also add in carrots which I have done but since I personally don't like cooked carrots I typically leave them out of the dish.  Adding carrots does make it prettier and adds a sweetness to the dish.  If you're going to add carrots, I would use 2-3 large organic carrots, wash them really well (leaving the skin on) and cut into rounds the same size as the rest of the ingredients.  Just check to make sure the carrots are cooked through when you test the potatoes.

4) Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days in a tightly covered container.  Ours never last more than 2 days, it is just too good!

5)  I have made this dish for several families and they love it.  It is easy to make and transport and stays good even if eaten the next day.  One friend is gluten and dairy free and she loved it because her whole family could eat the same meal she was eating.

Let me know if you make this dish.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

happy birthday luke...

Our sweet and loving middle child turned ten (10!) on New Years Day.  As always, it's so FUN to celebrate the dawn of a new year and celebrate this child.

Luke has grown and changed a lot this year and we have seen evidence of the man that he will become.  He has grown into a really fun kid and shed all his little boy tendencies (much to my dismay).  One thing that he has outgrown is his obsession with Spiderman and I have to say I miss seeing him dressed in his Spiderman costume all year round.  Not all of the experiences have been good this year and Luke has had to grow through some challenges that we weren't prepared for but through it all, he remains my peace loving middle child.

We went out to dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings on New Years Day with my whole family.  It was so fun to see everyone, but I think next year we are going to pick a quieter restaurant.  He had a star wars cake because he is obsessed with star wars.

I got all the cousins off their devices long enough to take a picture with the birthday boy. 

Luke wanted a friend birthday party because he had never had one.  Which made us feel terrible, but it's true.  Boy parties are hard in the dead of winter and I'm not super creative so it is always hard for me to plan parties, so since he never pushed for one we never threw him one.

But this year, he asked for a party with all his friends from school.  We found one of those indoor play places that does everything and booked a party for the day after his birthday.  Almost all his school friends and a few other friends made it.  Luke loved it!!  He had so much fun and was so appreciative that we gave him a party.  I wasn't able to get many pictures during the party because the boys were all over the place but fun was had by all.

He woke up the day after his party and said, 'so what are we doing today for my birthday?'.  I just laughed and said it's over until next year...

Happy Birthday Luke, we love you more than you will ever know!


Thursday, December 31, 2015

a review of 2015...

It's amazing to me that 2015 is hours away from being over.  This year I decided to do a year in review post and just spent four hours reading old blog posts.  It makes me so glad I blog and motivates me to blog more.  So for this year I thought I'd post my favorite posts and pictures.  In some cases the pictures go with a post and in others, it's just the picture that I love. So here's some memories of 2015!

I love starting my year (every year) off celebrating our sweet and loving middle child, Luke.  

This post about the orange dump truck that Grace played with every day when we were at the feeding clinic at the Hershey Medical Center, is one of my favorites.

One of the highlights of our year was adopting our puppies, Kenzie and Parker.

The beach is my / our happy place, so of course I had to pick some beach pictures from our week in Nags Head with Mark's family.

Our forth year going to Joni and Friends Family Camp was such a great experience for our whole family and these two boys were a large part of that experience. 
 This picture is from my family's photo shoot, which was on Grace's 8th family day.
I dream of having a screened in porch but for now we created this outdoor space.

I love this picture of John from a day at the river with friends.  I'm trying to shoot more pictures in manual and my friend Bri was helping me with settings that day.

This picture is from our beach trip for my birthday.  We had SO much fun, it was nice to get away together.

John started middle school this year and this picture is from the middle school paint wars with the middle school youth group at our church.
I love this picture because of the friendship between these two that it represents.  It also shows how warm our weather has been this year.  This was taken in November and it really was warm enough for them to wear shorts.

My trip to Hong Kong and China with my friend Gretchen to visit our friend Beth was most definitely a highlight of my year!    part 1 and part 2

Grace hanging her ornament on the tree, and looking like she knows I'm taking her picture is sweet.

There are so many more I wanted to add but I thought I'd limit it to fifteen pictures.  I hope that you had an amazing 2015 and are looking expectantly towards all that 2016 will hold.  We are just going to chill this year and ring in the New Year as a family.   Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

christmas traditions...

If you've read my blog for any amount of time you know that it's no secret, how much I love traditions.  To me, they are like the icing on top of the most beautifully decorated cupcake.  That little something extra that makes everything more special and beautiful.  Having and creating traditions for our family is one of the things I love most about being a mom.  Many of our family traditions surround holidays, as I'm sure most of yours do.  Some of our family traditions have been well thought out and planned, and some have just evolved as our little family of five grows up and experiences holidays.

We have family traditions that were passed down from my family and Mark's and ones that we created as our own family.  I love both sets of traditions and like to plan the month leading up to Christmas around these traditions.  For some reason this year, I took a much looser approach to the holidays and let our traditions fit themselves into our lives, instead of rearranging our lives to fit our traditions.

Since I'm a planner, I'm not sure where this relaxed approach came from but it was great.  I typically don't get stressed about the holidays but I do find myself putting pressure on myself to create a great experience for my family.  This year, we eased our way into Christmas and still got all of our traditional Christmassy things done.  My kids got to do everything they 'always' do but we all enjoyed them more.

This approach allowed me to let go of some of my perfection seeking tendencies and as I result I enjoyed Christmas more.  I also consciously took fewer pictures and remained present with my family.  And I am totally okay with the fact that most of my Christmas cards were received on Christmas Eve.

Every year we put our tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving.  This year since I was in Hong Kong visiting my friend we put our tree up a week later.  Then our tree sat without any decorations until December 20th. Which was just fine with me.  I loved how the tree looked with just lights on it.

Grace always hangs the last ornament on the tree.  It didn't start out to be a tradition (which is how the best traditions start in my mind), it just happened.  She doesn't use her hands much and always needs assistance with things like this.  So once the boys have hung all the ornaments they wanted to hang, Mark will take Grace over to the tree for her to hang her one ornament.  It is a blue angel from Guatemala that my parents neighbor gave me after we brought Grace home from Guatemala.  This year, she totally posed in Mark's arms.

One of our traditions is to have a gingerbread house decorating competition.  This year, Luke wanted to have each of us decorate our own house instead of a team competition.  So I found a kit with four little houses and we each decorated a house, which the boys then made into a village.  They said this is where we are going to live when they are older.  Which this mama is all for!

Evidently, we are going to buy a farm and each get 5-10 acres of land and our own house.  They lined up the houses in the order in which we are going live and put in a koi pond.  First house on the left is Luke, then me and Grace, then John, then Mark.  I'm not sure why I don't get to live with Mark but I'm all for us living this close together.  I told their boys that their kids could walk over to my house for cookies every day!

I have very fond memories of my parents taking pictures of us hanging our stocking on Christmas Eve.  So, we have our kids do the same thing.  Can you tell my boys are used to posing for pictures?  And Grace did not enjoy hanging her stocking as much as she enjoyed hanging her ornament. 

I debated on whether or not to post that picture of her crying but in the end decided that this is what life looks like for us sometimes.  And I think that picture sums up one of the reasons why I put pressure on myself to make happy memories and create traditions for my kids.  I want my boys to look back on their childhoods and be able to recall them with fondness and an overall feeling that they were happy, not just that they have a sister with special needs and life was adjusted to fit her needs and abilities.

This is the only picture I have from Christmas morning and it represents another tradition borrowed from my childhood.  My sisters and I would line up on the steps anxiously awaiting the go ahead to run down the stairs and see what santa brought us.  John and Luke wanted this year's picture to include our puppies.

This is the picture I used in our family Christmas cards this year.  I usually only put a picture of the kids on our cards but switched things up this year because this picture is one of our favorites.  It is from our family photo shoot in August. 

I hope that you had an amazing, tradition filled Christmas!