Wednesday, August 19, 2015

1st Day of School Photo Shoot

We did the first day of school photo shoot a day early, because I didn't want to feel extra pressure on the first day of school.  

Lynlee is participating in the UPSTART preschool this year, an online preschool through the state of Utah.  UPSTART stands for Utah Preparing Students something something Tomorrow. (I totally don't remember and I can't find the acronym explained on the website -- it was briefly mentioned at the parent training).  She and I get to do preschool together on the computer, and it is fun!  Lynnie always complains right before we start but then likes to play the games.  The program requires 15 minutes a day but recommends 20+.  I set the timer on my phone for 22 minutes and will incrementally increase until we get to 30.

Lynlee has been doing UPSTART for 3 weeks already, but was still excited to take "first day of preschool" pictures.  She drew her own chalkboard also, and makes the best faces! 





Can we be done now?

Ellie is beyond excited to be in 1st grade this year, except when she is feeling nervous.  She has alternated between being scared and being excited for the past week, and it has made for an emotional week.  

Ellie is Ms. Fox' class, along with her two best friends Hannah and Rachel.  Totally lucky!  She also got Spanish as her language specialization, which is extra lucky, since learning Spanish was the main reason we decided to try Renaissance.





Kabe was outside while we were doing pictures, and was nice enough to play with the girls for over an hour.  He is such a nice boy!

. : signing "water" : .


. : running : . 

The kids played Hide 'N Seek, and of course Cece had to go where the big kids were going.



This morning when I went to wake Ellie up, she was instantly wide awake and popped out of bed.  She was dressed in a flash and had her teeth brushed in no time.  She was so excited!  Ellie told me  that she is most excited for three recesses, eating lunch at school, wearing her cute uniforms again, and math.

We parked around the corner and walked Ellie in as a family.  Ellie and Lulu held hands the whole way.  Lu is pretty sad that Ellie is going to be gone all day, every day.

We walked in the front doors just as the 5 minute warning bell was ringing.  Ellie led the way to her classroom, gave everyone hugs and kisses, and walked right in without a backward glance.  And that's the way it should be!






She was sitting at her desk next to Hannah, doing her worksheet, before school even officially started.  I know she is going to have a fantastic year!


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Stake Conference Talk

I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes in Stake Conference tonight.  I even had a power point to go along with it (because I had to show pictures of our gorgeous girls!).  Here is the written version of my talk:


I am grateful to speak with you tonight about a topic that is near to my heart:  my family.   Greg and I have been married for over 20 years and we have three beautiful daughters that joined our family through the miracle of adoption.

Thanks to our transracial family, we often get the chance to talk about adoption.  I love talking about our daughters’ birth parents and the relationships we share in our open adoptions.  I love debunking myths and talking about how open adoptions are in the best interest of all involved: our daughters, most especially, but also their birth moms, birth dads, and us as the parents.  For our daughters, it is vital to their identity formation that they have information about their biological heritage, and that they have an ongoing relationship with their birth parents and know that their birth parents placed them out of love.  It is healing for their birth parents to see the girls happy, healthy, and loved.  And it is awesome for Greg and I because we expanded our family not just by our daughters, but by their birth families.

A common question that I get asked is, “why did her birth mom place for adoption?  Did she not think she could be a good mom?”


I relish getting asked this question because I can set the record straight.  Our birth moms did not choose adoption because of their parenting skills or their ages or their earning potential.  They chose adoption because they understood the power and importance of the sealing covenant, and they follow the prophet.

The First Presidency issued this statement in 2006:  https://www.lds.org/ensign/2008/01/why-adoption?lang=eng

“We … express our support of unwed parents who place their children for adoption in stable homes with a mother and a father. We also express our support of the married mothers and fathers who adopt these children.
“Children are entitled to the blessing of being reared in a stable family environment where father and mother honor marital vows. Having a secure, nurturing, and consistent relationship with both a father and a mother is essential to a child’s well-being. When choosing adoption, unwed parents grant their children this most important blessing. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses the child, birth parents, and adoptive parents in this life and throughout the eternities. We commend all those who strengthen children and families by promoting adoption.”

As we saw in the video earlier, President Boyd K Packer said:


To me, the purpose of adoption is to have these precious children of God sealed, linked to their generations. 


An article in the January 2008 Ensign entitled Why Adoption? talks about the importance of the sealing covenant:

"A primary reason the Church supports adoption is that children who are adopted by temple-worthy Latter-day Saint couples can be sealed to their adoptive parents. The sealing ordinance is the capstone ordinance in the Church, and its blessings are present in this life as well as in the next. As President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) declared, children who are born in the covenant—and, by extension, those who are sealed to their parents in the temple—“have claims upon the blessings of the gospel beyond what those not so born are entitled to receive. They may receive a greater guidance, a greater protection, a greater inspiration from the Spirit of the Lord; and then there is no power that can take them away from their parents.” 6

Fred Riley, commissioner of LDS Family Services, says that although adoption is rarely discussed in Church meetings, it is a profound gospel principle. He points out that when the prophet Elijah restored the sealing keys, these keys encompassed adoption. And one of the ways in which Jesus Christ is our Father is through adoption, for we become His sons and His daughters when we are adopted into the family of Christ.”


What does the ward council, and the ward members, need to know about families formed through adoption?  First, that this is a family, albeit a family formed in a unique way.  Second, there is no role confusion in open adoptions; it is not co-parenting or joint custody:  Greg is the dad, I am the mom, our birth moms and birth dads are some of our favorite and most loved people.   Our birth moms are kind of like the favorite aunts – only better!


I never get offended, but I feel it is important for everyone, and especially the ward council, to use proper adoption language to go along with your genuine love and concern.  Many birth moms find it hurtful that the common phrase is “giving up your child for adoption.”  You “give up” soda, or bad habits, or old clothes.   A birth mom “places” her baby for adoption.   She lovingly places her baby in the arms of their forever family.  The birth moms at birthmotherbaskets.org put it this way:  Gave love, gave life, but never gave up.  #placed


Other language that may be hurtful:  real parents, having children of your own, or keeping your baby.  Instead of asking about my adopted daughter’s “real” parents, ask about her birth parents or biological parents.  Instead of asking us if it is ever possible to have children of our own, recognize that we have three beautiful daughters, and they are as much “our own” as your children are.  Instead of asking a woman who is facing an unplanned pregnancy if she wants to “keep” her baby, ask her if she is considering parenting or making an adoption plan.  (Or better yet, don't ask her anything at all -- if she wants to tell you, she will do so!)  Instead of asking my daughters with beautiful brown skin if they are adopted, ask them if they were adopted.  Their adoptions were onetime events.


Our birth moms are my heroes.  Placing a child for adoption is a selfless act of pure love.  Being with our birth moms in the hospital were some of the most sacred moments of my life.  Watching them choose a different path for their daughters, a path with a father in the home who is a righteous priesthood holder, a path which includes the sealing ordinance, was beyond extraordinary.  Placing a child for adoption is the closest thing to the Savior’s sacrifice I have ever personally witnessed.

As a ward council, as you help adoptive families and birth parents in your ward, I hope you remember that adoption truly is about love: love for the child and love for each other.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we have a stewardship to “rear children in love and righteousness.”  We have a responsibility to care for each other and love each other.

I hope you also remember that pregnancy is never a sin.  Babies are always, always a miracle! 

In closing, I hope we may be all gain hope from one of my favorite statement by Elder Wirthlin:
“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Aquarium

I am not sure who the photographer was, Ellie or Lynnie, but I love finding pictures like this on my camera.

We went to the aquarium with Grandma, Amy, Jon, Travis, Sarah, and Gwen.  We had to get a picture of our whole group, because cousins are fun!


Our first stop was the rope bridge.  It was amazing to see how much more quickly Travis and Sarah could cross than Ellie and Gwen.




After seeing some of the animals, Jon, Sarah, Amy, and Grandma went to a movie while the rest of us played in the play center.  Travis made it so fun!  Ellie and Lynnie were in heaven, and Lynnie was glued to his side the whole time.

Cece even got pretty adventurous.




 Last stop, the otters.  And then we had had enough and said good-bye to everyone.  Mom's Christmas present to us of a pass to the aquarium was the best gift!


A Note on Technology

So.

My external hard drive, full of 1.2 terabytes of pictures, videos, and music, has breathed its last breath.

It has been making funny noises for a couple of weeks, and sometimes I would try to blog and it would be so slooooow in pulling up pictures that I would give up.

And it is gone.  Won't even turn on.

The good news is that I have redundancies in place and I am in the process of restoring my files (2 different online back-up servers).

I'm off to purchase a new external hard drive tomorrow and hope to get everything resolved and resume blogging soon.


In other news -- I got a new iPhone.  Also taking time to set that up tonight.  Isn't technology fun?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ellie is 6!

Happy birthday to the sweetest, kindest, smartest, most independent 6 year old I know!  Ellie has a soft heart and tries so hard to do what is right.  She is very smart and thinks she knows more than most people around her -- including her mother.  She loves to ask questions and figure things out.

I love this collage that Ky, aka Ellie's twin, made for her birthday.

Greg got up to go sunrise golfing with Tammy, but I let Ellie open the present from Lynlee and the one from Cece before breakfast.  Lynnie and I had gone shopping the day before, and Lynnie requested Walmart.  As soon as we got inside, she made a beeline for this Frozen fan and picked it.  Lynnie remembered from a month or more ago, when Ellie really wanted me to buy the fan and I said no.  What a thoughtful sister and a great gift!  Double bonus -- it was only $3 and was Ellie's favorite gift of the day.


We were lucky enough to have Papa and Nana with us for two years in a row on Ellie's birthday.  They stayed long enough to watch some present opening, and then got on the road to Idaho.

Papa's big idea was to fill this giant gift bag with shredded paper, and Ellie had to HUNT for her present.  It was a card with money, way at the bottom of the bag.  And Nana had glued shredded paper all over the envelope, which made it extra tricky.  I think Ellie hunted for over 5 minutes before she found the envelope.  Whew!  Papa said she needs to learn early that you have to work hard to earn your money :)



Robyn and Kevin dropped by for a few minutes to give Ellie a stuffed lamb from Kyrgyzstan and to say goodbye to Pops and Nana.

Ellie had already put on her new dress-up from Cece.

After saying good-bye to all of our friends, we loaded up to go to dance class.  Just as we were backing out of the driveway, Greg an Tammy got home.  Tammy volunteered to go pick up lunch, and Greg got the house cleaned up from the morning celebrations while we were gone.


After dance class, Ellie was very excited to open the rest of her presents.  She got some great art supplies from Aunt Jonette, books and a giant coloring book from Grandpa and Grandma,  and books, a new dress, & a Baby Alive from Greg and me.

After eating lunch with Tammy (who I neglected to take a picture with), she left to go to work, and we got ready to spend the afternoon with Tayler and her children.  Grandma Camp and Aunt Amy stopped by with presents, just in time for cake and ice cream (although I missed them in the pictures also!).


Tayler is such a thoughtful present giver, and always gives Ellie the best gifts!  This time was no exception.  Tayler brought ... a Baby Alive!  Ellie was in heaven to have two different Baby Alives that do two different things.  She has been asking for these dolls since before last Christmas (but after I had already gotten all of her presents).  She told me the next day that she likes the one Tayler gave her better than the one I gave her -- and that made me so happy!  I love that Ellie knows that Tayler loves and adores her.  Seriously, she is the best birth mom!


We stretched out our visit to the last possible minute and then ran to gymnastics.  It is always more fun when Daddy gets to come with us.

After gymnastics, we made Ellie her favorite dinner of steak and potatoes.  It was a great birthday!

We had Ellie's birthday party on Saturday.  Last year's party was a little too big, so this year I limited the guest list to 6.
Ellie's 5 year old party -- 2014
Of the 6 invited, 1 couldn't come, 1 was a maybe, and 1 forgot.  So we had a fantastic party with 3 friends, and it was perfect! (The maybe dropped by just after the party ended and played for a few minutes, which was also fun.)

Ellie chose a princess party, and the girls had fun putting on make-up.  I bought the cheapest make-up possible, which means the lipstick is pretty permanent.  Sorry to the moms who had girls with lipstick stains for church the next day...




Kylene & Tobyn and Mom & Amy came to be a part of the party as well.  It was a great time!

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