A Reminder

I had a little Christmas reminder this morning.  I woke up in the middle of the night to feed the baby.  During the day, I use pre-made bottles that I put in the bottle warmer, but at night, she’s hungry and we don’t have 5 minutes to wait.  So I just make a bottle fresh at that time.  When I turned on the sink no water came out.  My first thought was “oh no, they think we didn’t pay our bill!” But we did 🙂  My next thought was something was wrong with our house, and we were going to be out of water for awhile and have to pay big bucks to have someone come fix it.  I waited until a reasonable time in the morning to text my neighbor to ask if they had water.  They didn’t either!  Whew.  Turns out there was a water main break and a lot of people were out of water.  And thankfully it wasn’t out for too long either.  It came back on later in the morning.  I was texting my neighbor telling her how I had trouble making a bottle and had to use cold water and then the bottle warmer.  And that I should have run my dishwasher last night.  And I wanted to take a shower first thing this morning but now couldn’t.  And I was going to start my washing machine first thing this am, so now my plans to be productive were ruined.  She was super gracious and super kind and replied.  And then she said she was thinking about how blessed we are and all of those who don’t have running water.  Wow.  It hit me so hard.  I was sitting here thinking about how I wasn’t going to be able to sanitize my baby’s 12 (expensive brand) bottles in my sanitizing cycle in my sweet dishwasher.  And that my hair might just have to go another day without washing.  And our piles of laundry (because we have that many clothes) would go unwashed for awhile.  And I’m so thankful that she reminded me of what’s important.  I forget.  And I forget really quickly, too.  What makes it even worse is that my daughter used to not have water.  My own daughter lived the first part of her life without running water.  Every day.  She never knew what water was until she came to us.  And it scared her pretty badly for awhile. 

I have debated so much how much to share of our sweet Firecracker’s story.  On the one hand, her story is one of redemption and God’s love.  If you can’t see God’s hand and love and redemption all over her story, then you aren’t going to be able to see it anywhere.  He has cared for her and loved her when no one else has.  Part of me feels that it’s this amazing testimony that needs to be shared.  Because it’s amazing.  And so many people don’t even know this happens in our own city.  I didn’t.  But then part of me wants to fiercely protect our girl.  I don’t want people to know that she was disadvantaged.  I don’t want anyone to look down on her because she has had a hard life.  I don’t want people to judge her or see her as dirty because of her story and her first family.  I struggle with this.  I never want to write words that she will grow up to read and be embarrassed of.  I never want to write words that anyone could use to harm her.  But I want her story to be told.  And to be known.  And I never want her for one second of one day to doubt how much God loves her and how much we love her.  I never want her to think that because of her hard life, she is loved any less.  I want to use her life to teach her and others how beautiful God is.  And how he can take ashes and turn them into beauty.  That’s what He has done and continues to do for our Firecracker. 

So today I choose to share this precious part of her story with you.  Not because it’s dramatic and I want to up the drama on how bad she’s had it.  Trust me — there is nothing I could add to her story to add drama.  It’s all there.  And there are a lot of parts that I will never ever write here.  There are a lot of parts that are so sacred and for her to know when she’s ready.  But for right now, I share with you that to say that I am thankful God gives me reminders.  How quickly I forget of what life is like for so many, including what life was like for my own daughter. 

Today I pray you are safe and learning lessons of your own that make your heart grateful. 

i’m baaaaaaaacccccckkkkkkk.

In my most excited voice, I say “I’m bbbbaaaaaaaaaccckkkk.”

After 8ish months away from blogging, I’m ready to come back to it.  I never intended to stop blogging.  If I had planned to, I would have posted a farewell.  And I’ve wanted to write and start back for quite awhile.  But the reason for this big time gap is life.  Man, we’ve been busy.  Lots and lots of life happening around here.  And it’s wonderful.  It’s so nice to have a full house — one that’s full of life — after having had an empty house, a sad house.  I’m assuming that most of you know what I’m talking about, although that assumption may not be correct. 

This time last year Tommy and I started the process of becoming a foster family.  We started attended training classes in July, through August.  Then we began our home study.  After several weeks of visits and interviews, we finally received our home study write up.  Then we were approved as a foster family in November.  It’s been non-stop since then.  We started getting calls for placements the very next day after finding out we were approved.  About 2 weeks later we took in our first placement — a teenage girl.  She was only here for a short while until they found another home better suited for her needs.  Then right after she left we got our little girl (still with us!).  A month after that we got a newborn.  We brought him home from the NICU when he was still weighing 4 pounds!!  He was tiny and precious.  He stayed with us for 4 months and then he went to family.  We have another baby in our home now who is so sweet!  We are really thrilled to have 2 girls here with Jack! 

Things are going well.  Right now we are tired.  Tommy has been working a lot, and I’ve not been sleeping a lot.  But everyone is doing great.  Considering all that baby girl has been through, she is doing remarkably well!  I could write a hundred blog posts on foster care.  And I just might one day.  I’m limited right now by confidentiality agreements, but additionally, I want to protect the hearts, the stories, and the people behind them.  My kids have been through a lot.  All of my kids have.  Jack has lost a brother and adjusted to being a big brother to kids who have high needs.  He’s also done amazing at saying hello and goodbye to new brothers and sisters.  He’s the best.  It goes without saying that our 2 foster daughters have been through a lot in their lifetimes.  I’m not equipped to help our children, but I pray every day God will help me.  The responsibility of parenting this tribe is not lost on me. 

That’s a quick little catch up on our life.  I have missed you all.  I’ve missed this community, and communicating with friends here.  I’m looking forward to being back and writing again — as often as I can. 

Happy Monday and I hope your week gets off to a good start! 

making the most of summer.

It is summer.  School is out.  The air is heavy and warm.  Fireflies are starting to light our yard.  It stays light until late in the day and the sun is up early to greet us.  It is summer.

 

I am not a summer person.  In fact, out of the 4 seasons, it ranks in 4th place — and that’s only because there isn’t a 5th season.  Spring and fall are beautiful in East Tennessee.  It is hard to beat those seasons in this gorgeous part of the country.  I’ve always liked winter as well.  I love snow, I like bundling up and all things cold and associated with it make me happy and snuggly.  I hate being hot.  I hate sweating — which I do a lot of.  I don’t tend to tan, I usually burn.  Mosquitos eat me like I eat chocolate cake.  Summer is just not my season.

 

But it’s funny how having kids really does change everything.  Jack is changing how I feel about summer.  Over the past several years I have realized what a precious time this season is with my boy, and I’m kind of starting to love it.  I’m not a natural at this summer thing, and I’m not a naturally fun person so having a fun, intentional, and adventurous summer is out of my comfort zone and a stretch for me.  But I’m going to do it.  You see, I realized the other day that I only get 18 of these summers with my boy, Lord willing.  And I’m coming up on my 4th summer with him.  How is that even possible??  This realization made me catch my breath and hold back tears a little bit as I thought about how quickly time is passing.  I don’t want summer days with Jack to be wasted.  I want to teach him valuable skills, I want to show him amazing things, I want him to have a spirit for adventure, and I want him to look forward to an exciting time of year where our family shifts our focus into fun and adventure for a season.

summer park picnic

summer fun

 

In order for me to do that I have to set some goals + make some lists [because even if I am going to be adventurous, let’s face it — I’m still type A and need a good list to be adventurous 🙂 ].  So we have made up a family summer adventure list with the goal of crossing each thing off the list.  The first week of summer for us was last week, and it went really well.  I watched my friend’s son while she took care of her other son who was sick.  So we got to have some fun adventures with Jack’s buddy, too.  They had Icees and a picnic at the park to start the week.  Then the next day a Chick-fil-A picnic in Nan and Pops incredible back yard.  Jack has run errands with me and spent time outside blowing bubbles.  The first week of summer was a success!

 

Here is our list:

 

Family Summer Adventure List 2014

1. Get Icees and go swing at Bluegrass

2. Picnic at the park

3. Play in the sprinklers

4. Picnics at Nan and Pops

5. Play out in the backyard at Nan and Pops house

6. 69 cent Icees over and over

7. Anni-Jack-a-birthday week to kick off summer!

8. Celebrate Jack’s 3rd birthday!

9. Celebrate our 5th anniversary!

10. My birthday on Memorial Day this year

11. Go to the mountains

12. Go to the library

13. Go for walks

14. Play bubbles

15. Water gun fight

16. Slip-n-slide

17. 4th of July

18. Catch fireflies

19. Go to the zoo

Go to Dollywood

20. Ride bikes

21. Go to the park

22. Go fishing

23. Go hiking

24. Order pizza

25. Camp in backyard

26. Lay on driveway and watch the stars

27. Find our Gabriel star

28. Visit the cemetery lots

29. Go to Smokies game

30. Go to the beach

31. Go swimming

32. Pick blueberries

33. Make strawberry jam

34. Make blueberry jam

35. Get strawberries from Tidwells

36. Visit Daddy at work

37. Find a special place to serve

38. Go to Kingsport

39. See cows + visit Mamaw’s barns

40. Paint on the driveway

41. Paint on the fence

42. Take the dogs for walks

43. Jack’s birthday party at the farm!

44. Remember and celebrate Gabriel

45. Plant flowers

46. Fix up backyard

47. Grill out lots

48. Eat popsicles

49. Play with chalk outside

50. Rent a canoe

51.  Make homemade popsicles

52.  Swim in blow up pools in our yard

 

 

 

he’s 3!

I meant to post this on Sunday but got caught up in the celebrating!

 

Today is Jack’s birthday!  He is 3 years old!  We’ve been busy celebrating this boy and having so much fun!  It’s hard to believe how quickly 3 years can go by.  They’ve been the best 3 years of my life.

 

 

Morgan family jack kissesMorgan family softball

Morgan family maternitynaptime smiles

FamilyPicturesFall2013006_thumb.jpgg day 18 Jack and mommy.adventures.jpg first night without paci

 

Jack's birthday hayride

birthday hayride!   

 

 

 

Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet boy!  He has the most tender heart I’ve ever seen.  He is sensitive but not soft.  He’s a rough and tumble boy with a heart for others and a heart that God uses to bring healing to those around him.  He’s the most precious human I’ve ever known, and I still can’t get over how blessed I am to be his mama.

weight loss + healthy living.

I opened up about my weight fluctuation, gain, and struggles sharing that I started on a weight loss adventure.  It has been and is a huge learning process for me.  In my favor are that I love to eat healthy — I just got way off base.  As an honest dietitian, I would never say it’s easy to change your lifestyle or choose to eat healthy.  It seems like those choices are harder and harder to make these days in this fast-food loving, on the go, processed food world we are in.  I am super middle of the road when it comes to convenience vs. super healthy.  I shop at a regular ol’ grocery store — nowhere fancy, nowhere with all-natural foods.  I buy Goldfish for my kid and regular person yogurt.  And I also make the best choices that I can make every time I go to the store [except for all those times I bring home ice cream].  I think you can be convenient and be healthy, but it takes work and focus.  It never happens by accident.  Here’s an example.

 

We went to the zoo recently and some friends came with us.  Our plan was to grab lunch for them at Chick-fil-A and take it there for a picnic.  What Jack eats at CFA is healthy — grilled chicken and fruit, so I don’t mind that for him at all.  Right now because of my Sjogren’s Syndrome [my autoimmune disease] I can’t eat the grilled chicken, and I don’t eat the fried because of the peanut oil [and that obviously wouldn’t be a healthy choice for weight loss].  So all I can eat at CFA right now is salad smothered in Ranch dressing and fries.  The easiest thing would have been to drive thru and get food for Jack and food for me, but I knew that would add a lot of extra calories that I didn’t need.  So I made a better choice.  It took planning and it took more work, but I’m so glad I did it because I really didn’t want to waste calories because I was being lazy.  So I packed a turkey sandwich on whole wheat for myself along with carrots, and at CFA I got a fruit cup and Diet Coke for myself.  I was happy with my lunch and even happier to not add calories and fat when I wasn’t passionate about it.  If I’m adding calories and fat, I better really want those fries!

zoo picnic

 

 

I give this example as one of success with planning and weight loss.  I have plenty of examples where I didn’t plan ahead and I ate more calories.  Being on the go makes it hard to always be healthy, but taking the time to plan your day and what foods you need makes a big difference when it comes to a healthy lifestyle.

 

zoo picnic fun

food allergy awareness week.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and a special Mother’s Day.  It’s a hard day for me, like I know it is for so many of you.  I never realized before how hard this day was for people, but now I’ve met so many people who have a hard day for so many different reasons.  Life isn’t like I always imagined it would be.  Anyone else feel that way?  It’s so much richer and so much harder than I ever thought possible.  It really is beautiful.

 

So this week is food allergy awareness week.  Back in my practicing days as a Registered Dietitian, I would take this week as an opportunity to educate others about food allergies.  One of my favorite things was working with the kitchen staff at hospitals to help them get how serious it is.  I would assign a food allergy — one of the big 8 — to each person and they had to act like they had that allergy for a day.  That meant reading labels, asking questions, being cautious eating out, and so on.  It was always really eye opening to people, and I always appreciate when people are really sensitive to food allergies.

 

I’m sharing a little more about food allergies today on the Knoxville Moms Blog.  Head over there and show me some food allergy love 🙂

 

 

happy Monday friends!

 

happy mother’s day.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear moms.  I hope you feel loved and celebrated today.  I hope you are appreciated and are able to appreciate your blessings as a mom.

 

Yesterday I shared some words of wisdom from a dear friend.  Today I have a post I want to share written by one of the most precious women in my life.  God has used Kelly in my life in so many ways.  We met Kelly and her husband during a very formative time for us — our college years.  As a dating and then engaged couple we really learned a lot about marriage from Kelly and Adam.  I loved babysitting their awesome kids and seeing how they parented.  Many years ago Tommy and I heard Adam talk about how we are stewards of everything and how even his kids didn’t belong to him, he was just stewarding them.  That has always stuck in mine and Tommy’s minds.  That was before they lost 2 of their sons.  And before we lost Gabriel.  Tommy and I also believe that the example of how these two walked through that paved the way for how we would walk through losing our child.  God has used them in big ways in our lives, and we are so thankful to know them.

Kelly is a wonderful mama, and I look up to her so much.  I want to do pretty much everything like her — I want her to come help me decorate my house, teach me new recipes, and more importantly pay attention to my kid’s heart.

 

I hope you will read these words that she has written.  I was incredibly moved by them.  As I read her post I realized that I have been off track.  I have been more focused on my performance as a mom and Jack’s performance as a kid.  I’ve been focused on perfection and not on his heart or mine.  His heart is the most important thing to me, and I am so thankful for the reminder of that and the awesome privilege it is to be his mama.

 

from Kelly…

 

Over the past 12 years of stewarding little stories I have realized the importance of parenting with a pupil’s heart. Moment by moment as they change, I am offered the priceless invitation to grow right alongside them. So, before I launch into what being a mommy means to me… I feel led to begin with what I know it is not. Being a mommy is NOT about being an expert or getting it perfect. Instead, it’s ignoring the reoccurring voice of fear… choosing to be a constant learner and daily embracing the greatest gift of all… grace.  

In our crazy, wild home, being a mommy means knowing my 4 Smalls have just as much if not more to teach me… than I have to teach them. It means… apologizing often … laughing at myself, dancing crazily as people watch, nursing ailments and personal “chefing” for little bellies with special dietary needs. It means advocating health on ALL levels (spiritual, emotional, physical and mental). It means super- raggedy homeschooling. It means equipping and celebrating successes in the midst of giant failures. It means modeling out respect and honor beginning with my relationship with their daddy. It means publicly grieving over pain filled losses as well as publicly belly laughing as I play. And, in my less than glamorous world, it means… being transparent enough to admit… most days I don’t really know what I am doing. I too, am just a little person in need of MUCH GUIDANCE as I walk out this God-given assignment. And, not only do I deeply desire the grace-gift they carry, I desperately need it.  

To be completely honest, I have received more education in these past 12 years of being a mom than I could’ve ever obtained at any prestigious university. And yet somehow I feel like I know less than ever before. So, at the end of everyday… I always come back to this one thing… GRACE. Being a mommy means an abundance of grace-exchanges. At some point on my journey I hope to receive a “Masters” in this subject. But, today, I am just thankful to have the opportunity to sit under some of the most powerful, little teachers my heart has ever known. So thankful.  

 

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your words and wisdom!

 

_______________________________

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom!  She has been a rock for me my whole life.  She works hard and is so respected and loved by all of us.  Mom, you take such good care of all of us — still — and I’m so very thankful to have you as my mother.  I love you!

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother-in-law also — to the woman who raised the love of my life.  You raised a wonderful man, and I’m so thankful for that.  We love you!

 

If you know anyone who has lost a child or could use a pick me up today, share my letter for mama’s with them.

you are amazing.adventures

 

On this day, I’m acutely aware of how hard it can be.  Last year was awful.  It was 1 week after Gabriel was born and died, and I can’t believe I even got out of bed that day.  But I did, and I don’t remember a lot of it.  But it was a very hard day.  I know there are many reasons for people to be sad today.  The cemetery is pack on Mother’s Day — mostly with people visiting the graves of their mom’s, but for some like me, it is to visit the graves of our children.  Whether today is hard because of death of a mother or a child, infertility, dreams that haven’t happened, just know that you aren’t alone.

 

happy mother’s day!

a mother’s perspective.

It’s the eve of Mother’s Day.  For some of us that means we are spending the day with our moms.  For others it might mean doing a little last minute shopping or card buying or Pinterest searching and trying.  This weekend I am thinking a lot about motherhood.  Reflecting much on my mom and all she has done for me.  Reflecting on motherhood with my boys.  Doing a lot of heart reflection.

 

Today I wanted to share some wisdom from a woman I admire so much.  Sweet Maureen watched Jack for us while we lived in Maryland, and she has been impacting my life for over 4 years now.  She is an awesome mama.  I asked her about what it’s like to be a mom and this is the wisdom she shared with me:

 

Raising a family is like conducting an orchestra. To make all the instruments work together in harmony, you have to understand and appreciate each instrument individually. There’s no sense in trying to make a drum sound like a flute. Each instrument must be guided in its own technique in its own time, while also learning the character skills needed to perform with others. Being a mother means learning each instrument, respecting its unique design and style, and developing its repertoire so its music can soar to the heavens.  

 

 

Thank you for the wisdom, Maureen.  Happy Mother’s Day eve mamas!

for the mom who’s lost her child.

you are amazing.adventures

 

 

Dear mom who has more children than anyone can see with you,

 

[Deep breath]

Hi, sweet mama.  How are you feeling this Mother’s Day?  It’s nice to be celebrated as a mom, but it can be so painful when it just brings reminders that part of us is no longer here.  That we are forever changed because a chunk of our heart has passed away.  That our very life as we know it, will never be as we had imagined or thought.

 

I know this day is hard and that it can bring so many emotions with it.  I know we all remember and celebrate in different ways.  I also know that ignoring this day, ignoring the memories and the celebrations of our children — of our motherhood, is so much worse than embracing it in all its forms.  While remembering and talking about the hard parts of our motherhood can be painful, pretending it didn’t happen is just excruciating.  Our children are precious and each of them should be celebrated.  You are a mother — whether you were pregnant for 8 weeks or have children who have children of their own.

 

Be strong today.  Stand tall and remember that you have strength and support from those around you and those who walk this road with you.  Be proud today.  Be proud of your amazing children both here on earth and those who are already in Heaven.  Share their stories and take the opportunity of this day celebrating moms to do what moms do best — brag on their kids.  Be real.  Tell people how you are doing today.  It’s okay if today seems impossibly hard.  It’s okay if today isn’t really that hard.  Share with people who don’t understand what all comes with losing a child.  Tell them how you wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything in the world.  Be brave.  Even though this day isn’t the same for us mamas who know the loss of a child, it doesn’t mean we need to hide out around this time.  Be kind to yourself.  So much of motherhood is demanding.  Do what you need to do today.  Want some quiet time?  Ask for it.  Need some help?  Ask for it.  Want to do something adventurous?  Go for it.  Want to spend the day in your PJs?  Call me, cause I’m in!

This is my prayer for you today — that you will be all of these things.  That you will feel loved.  That you will celebrate the special blessings in your life, even if they were here for way too short a time.  

 

And know that you are not alone.  Ever.  At all.  You may not be surrounded by children, or you may but are still missing the one who isn’t here.  But that doesn’t mean you are alone.  Because even if you have no one beside you, you have all of us mamas who know the ache you know.  Who hurt deeply on this day where we celebrate moms.  Who don’t get to hug and kiss those precious faces that we see each time we close our eyes.  Who take a deep breath before walking into a room of moms and kids, knowing we are “that mom” — the one who lost a child.  Who feel torn between living in a world that is our reality and wondering so often what could have been.  You are not alone.  And you are loved.  So very loved.

 

Mama, you are amazing.  Happy Mother’s Day.  

the quiet + what motherhood means to me.

I took a little unplanned break from writing.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  At first I thought it might be bad, but then I just decided to roll with it.  I realized it was a theme in my life — needing a break, needing to retreat, and just be quiet and just be.  So I took a little time.  I’m sure it had something to do with Gabriel.  I’m sure it had something to do with his birthday coming up.

 

But there have been so many things I’ve been wanting to share with you all.  Now I’m sure I’ve forgotten them 🙂  but I have lots of updates to do from weight loss attempts, exercise, healthy eating, to being organized, and to Gabriel’s birthday yesterday.

 

 

Today I am sharing on the Knoxville Moms Blog a little pre-Mother’s Day post.  I wrote about what being a mom means to me.  Head over there and let me know in the comments what being a mom means to you!

 

Jack and mommy.adventures.jpg