My how life changes in a year.
We traveled to China last October and met Tucker for the first time. After spending the next two weeks together in his birth country, we made the long flight home and reunited with Noah, Liam, and the rest of our friends and family. The following months were spent focusing on becoming a family of five and growing deep roots, secure attachment, and a forever bond with Tucker. Each month our love grew stronger and deeper, and by the six month period, we realized that we had finally reached our new normal. What a relief!
In the midst of those days gaining love for one another, we experienced loss, as well. In a sense, we lost our old family make-up. It was the same feeling I had after Noah was born looking back to when it was just Ryan and me, and then it happened again when Liam was born and looked back to when it had been just the three of us - Ryan, Noah, and me. I was happy to be moving forward with our new family dynamic, just bittersweet that the previous chapter was over.
Then, after being home from China for a few months, we left the church that had been our home for seven years. This was heartbreaking for Ryan and me, as we had invested in so many relationships and really grew as Christians in this very special place. This community of people had loved on us and wrapped around us both during and after the adoption process. This was my first church, making it even more special to me. It's where my small faith grew to a deeper, more mature faith. The foundation of our family was built in that church. It's where Ryan and I grew closer in our marriage, and our love for God grew stronger. I watched my husband dedicate countless Monday nights and weekend services over the years to the church band playing guitar. I could go on and on about what I loved and miss about our last church. I wish the circumstances could've been different, but we have trusted that God is using the situation for good and that He desires to use us and grow us somewhere new (Romans 8:28).
The last, unexpected loss was my decision to not return to work for the 2014-2015 school year. I really love my work as a school psychologist. I love working with children with various special needs. I love collaborating with my colleagues and making recommendations for placement, eligibility, and services. Not many people find a job that they are passionate about while working with such incredible people. I was one of the lucky ones to experience both, so leaving my work was a loss. For so many reasons, I know in my heart it was the best decision for our family, but there is a real part of me that is sad I can't see my coworkers and the kids tomorrow morning.
With losses behind us, we have moved forward with so much to celebrate. While Noah's love for Tuck was immediate and unconditional, Liam's acceptance and love took more time. Now, I don't think he can remember life without this special friendship with his brother!
We celebrated all three boys' birthdays with friends and family in May. A Ninja Turtle themed party was held with our family that afternoon.
After enjoying lunch, cupcakes, and presents with our families, we put the little boys down for naps and started setting up for the second part of the celebration. My brother, his wife, my mom's husband, and I ran balloons with glow sticks inside from our house to the back tree line. Ryan set up our tent and the movie screen that a friend so graciously let us borrow. Noah had a baseball game that afternoon, so we raced to the game and then raced back home to finish setting up. Our friends and their kids were coming over for an outdoor movie and campout, and Duck Tales: Treasure of the Lost Lamp was the featured film. SO FUN!
The movie went great, and everyone seemed to have a great time! Several families camped out but were woken by a pretty decent storm early the next morning. It rained the next day, too, so Ryan and the boys enjoyed a huge water gun fight in the back yard.
The memories didn't stop there. We really had the best summer!
|Noah graduated from kindergarten|
|Ryan celebrated his 34th birthday|
|Noah played a lot of baseball!|
|We traveled to our adoption agency to hug our sweet social worker, Karla!|
|We met up with the sweet family with whom we spent two weeks in China!|
|We slept in hotels on the way to Florida|
|Tucker walked on the beach for the first time.|
|It made me cry.|
|I felt so much joy and gratitude to the Lord for calling us to bring Tuck home.|
|We wore matching t-shirts and spent an amazing week in Florida with Ryan's family.|
|Tucker radiated happiness swimming all week.|
|Noah built sandcastles and played with his cousin.|
|Liam and I held hands while we walked on the beach.|
|We watched 4th of July Fireworks downtown.|
|We visited with great friends from out of state.|
|Noah and Liam took swim lessons.|
|We had swim play dates with friends.|
|We celebrated all things China with a treasured adoptive family from Atlanta.|
|The boys met their match with my friend Jess' sweet triplets.|
|We had a fun play date at a new park!|
Which leads us to this final picture. This picture that I think I will treasure all the days of my life. The moment when the stars aligned and all three boys looked at the camera at the exact same time. The moment when our summer came to an end and all three boys were getting ready to go to school. Noah is starting his first grade year, and the littles are beginning their first school experience - half day preschool two days a week. Are they not the most handsome little boys you've ever seen?
I am so thankful for the memories we made this summer. I am so grateful for the family we've become together. I thank God for taking us across the world to bring my third son home. Despite the losses, we have gained SO much more, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for our family during this next chapter of our lives.