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A new regime

It has been a pretty major week around the Smith household.  In most important news the “China Flower” bloomed.  We have no idea what type of flower it is, but Wen knows.  He may or may not have smuggled some seeds into the country without knowing it (or the rules).  That’s why it’s in a pot and not the flower garden!  Anyone know what this is???  He said there is also a white flower and the red ones are used to make nail polish apparently!
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Also, we are all trying to get into a routine for work and preschool and homeschool and baby sleeping schedule! Phew!  Although it’s been tough to make some changes, the kids really have thrived within the boundaries of a set routine.

For the past week, the boys have gotten up (or stayed in bed, in Rand’s case) at 7am, made their beds, gotten dressed, put their pajamas away, opened the drapes/turned off sound machine etc., and then they report to the kitchen to help set the table for breakfast.  At 7:30 we have breakfast all together and do our family time.

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This week at family time, we’ve started learning The Lord’s Prayer all together and also we do a new question each morning from the Catechism.  This is the little book another mom suggested to me last year and we really like it for kids.  You can get it here or here.  Don’t pay more than $2 though! It’s a tiny little book and amazon has it mispriced.
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At 8:00 the boys go brush teeth, gather their things for school and then we’re ready to go by 8:15 for either taking Philip to preschool, heading to our homeschool room (the den!) or  whatever we have for that particular day.

Since Wen uses a watch to keep up with his bathroom schedules, the other two boys have been wanting watches too… last week Rand bought one with his savings and Philip asked me if he could borrow mine, although I think he’s planning to keep it!

We don’t plan to do this routine for Saturdays or Sundays to make them special, but for the weekdays it has worked great so far!  And it has made me have to be READY myself…

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Summer days

We are easing into homeschool over here with some fun activities. We just finished up a unit study on seashells.  My mom has always loved shells/shelling and is somewhat of an expert so it was nice to do this project with her over the summer.

To complement it, we learned about the “sh” sound and identified words.  We also did some math and counted out 5 rows of 5 shells each and lined them up heaviest to lightest and tied them on strings of driftwood and made a mobile for Bo’s room!

Rand had fun with the jingle “toenail” shells.
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Don’t worry, we decided not to hang the mobile directly over Bo’s bed, just in case!!!!

We also worked on setting up our school room.  Here’s part of it, I’ll post some more photos later.

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Every day, the kids have fun fixing the calendar and recently, thanks to Grandmommy’s idea, we did a project and learned about where Brazil was and what the Olympics are.  Wen and Rand also have been practicing some sight words.  Don’t worry, I know “I got a dollar” is not a proper sentence, but Wen begged me to have that be his use of the word “a” in a sentence after our recent obsession with the Little Rascals.

We’ve also been out and about some.  We went and visited our Great Uncle (the kids Great, Great Uncle) again.  The kids were begging to go as they think the retirement center is pretty fun because everyone is really happy to see them and they also race up and down the halls.  As I’ve said before, I think it works out well to take young children to nursing homes.  It brings the residents great joy and, when the kids do things (like race down the halls), not everyone can hear them!  This time, the boys made some chocolate chip cookies and some hand-made cards to go with them for some of the people we’ve met.

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Wen and I went out one afternoon and visited a new jerky store in town called Sage Harvest.  A percentage of the profits are donated to orphan care (mostly China!) and so we wanted to go see what it was all about.  We know one of the families who helped to open the store as they have adopted kiddos from China and were a help to us before our most recent trip.

Wen and I both liked the teriyaki jerky best!

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Rand and Wen are going to start going to a bible study with me (the kids go their own study as well) and they were really excited about it and, even though it doesn’t start until September, they wanted to go see where it was today.  So, while Philip had some daddy time, we did a trial run to see how long it would take us to get there – it is out in the country!  We found it and, to the boys delight, there was an ice cream/coffee shop on the route that we stopped to check out.

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Bo has been doing all sorts of new things and has been up a little more in the night than usual (hey, would you want to sleep if you just learned how to do a bunch of cool new tricks?  No!  You’d want to stay up and practice them too, right?)

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We took him over to our mom’s the other night to get some work done and he wanted to join in.  Check out that smirk.

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After being up feeding Bo in the night, this happens sometimes in the afternoons.  Where are the other kids?  Philip is also snoozing and Rand and Wen are on the other side of the sofa in their lego haven.  I will have to post a photo of that soon.

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The other night Bo took his first dip in the pool and really enjoyed it.  The other 3 boys thought it was the most awesome night because it was bed time (almost) and Wes thew the older 3 in by surprise with their clothes on for a night swim.  They said it was “the most fun day” as they were falling into bed that night.

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Tomorrow we’ll begin our new regime of trying to be more on a schedule for Bo and for the boys.  We haven’t gone on our family vacation yet (October!) and so it doesn’t feel like summer is almost over.  I’m glad we’ll be delaying it for as long as possible!

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They never cease to surprise me

Last week, the laundry aligned and Bo, Rand and Philip all ended up in the same pajamas on the same night.  Wen was devastated because his were in the wash pile and so he’s been asking every night since when they could all wear the same pajamas.  It’s partly funny/partly sweet/partly sad because I guess this is something that is new to him and REALLY fun – even though I would have thought a 12 year old would be too cool to dress like his little brothers (he mostly wears athletic shorts and a tshirt to sleep).

But, last night, ALL 4 boys had baths and all the pajamas in the house were clean (miracle!) and so I told Wen that they could all match…and then of course we had to take a photo.

Here’s the sweet smile – and they are all looking!  I’m going to have to get a print made of it.

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Next was the silly face – even Bo participated…

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Then the “tough guy” faces.  Rand threw up some gang signs and even Bo looks pretty tough.

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And then Wes started making everyone laugh.

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And laugh some more!

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But this is my favorite!

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And there you have it – the story of the matching pajamas, thanks to Wen.  And Hanna Andersson.  (Although I got mine when they went on sale on Zulily for half the price;)  They are organic and well-made and I’m hoping they will last being 4x hand-me-downs!

Another funny story from the Smith house:  I was headed to a doctor appointment and the kids all said to Wes, “Where’s mommy going?”  When Wes told them I had a doctor’s appointment, Wen said “YEAH!” and gave a fist pump because they all thought that me going to the doctor = having another baby! HA! I told them I was not having another baby and asked why they wanted another baby already and they ALL started yelling: “We want another baby” and “We love babies” – it was pretty funny.

These 4 boys never cease to surprise me.  This time it was wanting to wear matching pajamas (at 12) and loving babies so much (even when the baby of the house takes me away from being with them some when they need me).  I was especially thankful for these 2 particular surprises and am looking forward to the next one to get me again.

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Things I like

I’ve already missed a few posts out of my 100.  Since it was national breastfeeding week, of course, I got a plugged duct/mastitis from feeding Bo and it took me out for a good day and a half.  I had a fever, pain and felt like I had the flu.  Brilliant timing.  So, to kick off the week’s “Things I like” post, I’ll start with…

1.  This website: Kellymom.com If you’re a breastfeeding mom, it’s super helpful and I attribute it to helping me know what to do without having to spend time waiting in the docs office (to be told to go home and rest and drink fluids and some other things you can read about if you reeallly want to, but you probably don’t) and to know that an antibiotic wasn’t necessary unless the infection got worse!

2.  The Little Rascals (1994).  We had a movie night with the boys and they loved it!  All three boys laughed so hard and Wes and I enjoyed seeing it again too – it had been a while!  Thanks to Uncle Sam for singing “I got a dollar…I got a dollar” and giving us the idea!

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3.  Annabelle Hydrangeas and summertime in our yard.  I know I’ve mentioned the fun we are having with our vegetable garden, but I have also been loving our yard and everything that is growing in so well with all the summer rain and sunshine.  We’ve been constantly picking things to bring in or make arrangements with and it is so much fun.  It’s all exactly how I want it!  I’ve been in hydrangea heaven.

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4.  The Weekly Meal Deal from the Fresh Market.  It is only $20 and it easily feeds everyone.  Bonus that it’s one less meal to plan out for the week.

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(Last week was Tacos, this week was Kebabs – both were great!  Unfortunately next week is sausages…not sure how that will go over so we may have to take a week off…)

5.  The boys skin has been so dry from all of our swimming and we’ve been loving the the Baby Oil from Beautycounter.  Bo was the one that got us all started on it! It’s less expensive than their other body oil we’d been using and the kids like the baby one better because they are weird about scents and this doesn’t have a smell.   And I love not having to worry about it having anything unsafe in it.

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6.  The moms from “Wild and Free” – a group of homeschool mothers – I mostly follow them on instagram or their individual blogs but many of them have helped me to be more inspired about what’s next for us, especially as it feels like we heading down such a different path and everyone (including Rand) is talking about starting kindergarten, etc.

7.  These tasty drinks:  The fresh squeezed OJ at our massive Harris Teeter Juice Bar, Southern Pines Brewing Co. “Malty by Nature,” Cactus Creek “Butter Pecan” coffee (you can taste it at the Roast Office), and my old standby which I have yet to tire of… Peach Pear LaCroix with a splash of Organic Cranberry Juice Cocktail.

Cheers to Monday and a fresh new week!

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Things I like

Lately we are liking…

1.  Swimming a lot.

2. Using our garden veggies to make things like salsa.  And my uncle just sent me a baba ganoush recipe to make with our eggplant surplus.

3. Flash tats – so much more fashionable for the kids to have a sparkly boho fake tatoo than a superhero or cartoon animal.  We all have them on our arms (and Rand has an arrow on his leg!)

4.  Trips to the library to get more books to read…usually followed by a trip to the Roast Office to get a coffee and chocolate milk…and sometimes a cookie:)

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5. Friendship bracelets.  These have been fun to teach the kids how to make on hot or rainy afternoons while the youngest two are napping.  There are so many different styles from a simple braid to a wrap to the one I linked.  We use a safety pin or some tape and either pin it or tape it to something that doesn’t move.  We are also liking these Pura Vida already made ones by Costa Rican artisans.

6. Finding caterpillars and bugs in the yard or watching the hummingbirds at the feeder and then learning about them and drawing what we learned.

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7.  Watching this little guy grow. He’s changed so much. Yesterday I overheard Rand say he couldn’t stop kissing Bo because he loved him so much. It’s so much fun to hear each of the boys talk to Bo when they think I’m not listening.

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100 days

My sister-in-law, Kristen, is doing this cool project where she does a painting every single day for 100 days.  I think maybe I should try to do the same with my blog to help me get better about writing and posting… a post every day for 100 days… which would be from today until November 4th… I wonder if I could do it?  I’m not as disciplined, but I guess that’s the point.  Some days, I forget to even answer my text messages (I answer them in my head, but then it never quite gets alllll the way back to the person…)!

Today was “Ema” day (my mom came over) and A LOT got done! Not in order:

2 loads of laundry (1 of which is folded but maybe not yet put away), 1 kid to eye doc, pilates class, 3 blackberry cobblers made (one for us and 2 to take to a family gathering), library books read, garden picking (eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra and cherry tomatoes), all kids toenails and fingernails clipped, I showered!, kids bathed and fed dinner, cleaned out fridge, set up hummingbird feeder, learned how hummingbirds build a nest, and drew and colored pictures of hummingbirds, picked up some things we needed from the store…

Phew!

I also was able to get a little work done for Beautycounter and for Jessie Mackay, a local artist and friend who I help with marketing and sales.  We decided to try something fun and are setting up a daily auction instagram account!  You can follow it here.  Each day, we’ll post a new painting for sale and first person to reply in the comments with their email address we’ll send the invoice to.  Most all of the paintings will be under $200 and are unframed oil on board paintings.  A few that are odd sized will come custom framed.   The first one will post on Friday, July 29th – so go follow @jessiemackayart now!

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My little cutie at the eye doc.

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One of the blackberry cobblers. Recipe is here but it doesn’t need as much sugar as it calls for. You can do less than a cup and also we just sprinkled a teaspoon or two on top instead of 1/4 cup!

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1/100 done!  99 more posts to go…

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Summer Reading

Summer reading for the kids, that is – because children’s books are pretty much all I can handle right now!

One of my favorite things we’ve been doing this summer is checking out books from the library!  We’ve also found a few at a local book thrift store which has been fun too and the boys got some new ones for their birthdays we’ve been enjoying.

A few of our favorites so far have been…

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These first three got a lot of laughs – all 3 boys like silly books.  And Little Babaji will make you want to eat some pancakes.

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The BFG we are working on, I read a chapter or two at a time.  Before starting the BFG, we read the first book in the series of the Boxcar Children and the older two boys really got into it.

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The Raft has been my favorite one so far!  The day we read it we also had a baby deer show up at the door, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why that was so cool!

Our favorite place to read is on the porch.  Especially during a summer storm, it’s my favorite place to sit in the whole house!

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Bo also likes to hang out on the porch while we read.

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What are you reading these days?

 

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Bo spam

I just can’t help myself…

And all three older boys have a hard time keeping their little hands off Bo too – he’s so lovable.   Wen is always saying…”mom, look at baby Bo, he’s so cute!”


This one looks like he’s had enough of my phone in his face. And I’ve only documented a “few” but there must be a couple hundred thousand kisses and cuddles and smiles I’ve committed to memory and enjoyed the moment instead of jumping up to find my camera/phone. As my dad used to remind me (when I would go slightly crazy trying to document moments or places), “Anna, some moments are better to just remember.”

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Easter Baskets

So we went back and forth on the whole Easter Basket thing…and decided to do them after all.  We just don’t want bunnies and eggs and candy to take over this season that is meant to celebrate the fact that JESUS DIED FOR OUR SINS AND ROSE FROM THE DEAD…so we are trying to be careful…especially when deciding what our family traditions will be.

On the nights we do our “family-style” dinners in the dining room we each do an ornament for our lent tree and read the bible story that goes along with it.  The kids are at the ages where they are really getting into it more and even are recognizing the stories from church, reading their kids Bibles and from this cool Bible app they all like.  We also make a big deal about Holy Week, Easter Sunday, and going to church and celebrating that Christ is Risen.

So…with all of that I wasn’t sure if we needed to even do an Easter Basket (hey, can’t we just wake up Easter morning and be excited to celebrate by getting dressed up and having a good meal and going to church to praise God?) but Wes and I talked it over and decided to keep the tradition we both had in our families of having an Easter basket from the Easter Bunny our parents.

Since Bo is due in 3 weeks… I’ve needed to go ahead and do both the Easter baskets (and plan ahead for Rand and Philip’s Birthday’s which could be within a week or two of Bo’s arrival).

Don’t tell the boys, but here’s what their baskets have:

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African Bolga Baskets from artisans in Ghana – I love these baskets and use them in the house to store toys, trips to farmer’s market, etc. so not just for Easter!  I went with the 12″ ones.  I think you could go much smaller if your kiddo is under 5 years old.

New Organic Pajamas – Wen especially needed some, so I got the boys all some coordinating ones (Wen prefers short sleeves, the others like long sleeved ones) but these Hannah Andersson ones are so soft and thick and also are on sale HALF PRICE on Zulily!!!

Tshirts – Wen and Rand both are in need for Spring.  I got them each one locally at Bump and Baby, but you can also get them online here.  I’ve been trying to get better quality, organic (when possible) and thicker materials so that each purchase can potentially make it through 4 hand-me-downs (one of the many perks of having 4 boys).

Personalized Cash boxes – seems random, but now that we have a 12 year old we need to teach the boys the principles of tithing and “Give, Save, Spend” and they each need a place to keep their birthday, Christmas, Chinese New Year and allowance (any suggestions on starting this???) money.

Eggs – I like these Eco Eggs.  They are non-toxic, plant-based and able to be composted vs. the petroleum-based toxic plastic eggs that are made in China that you see everywhere.  I got some last year at Whole Foods but now they are also on Amazon too.  We have been trying to avoid (without going insane) bringing anything plastic into the house – especially plastics made in China which are incredibly toxic and unreliable.

Easter Grass – Tim’s Real Organic Easter Basket Grass.  We found this last year at Whole Foods but have also seen online.  Same as the eggs – instead of the petroleum-based plastic stuff this is REAL grass and 100% chemical free. Read the story about it!  Both the grass and the eggs are Made in the USA.

Egg fillers – We’ll go easy on the candy, but when we do have sweets, we like anything made by YumEarth and Annie’s.  Also, I have been collecting some little stickers and tattoos to put in the eggs as well.

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Family Christmas Trip – part 1 Legoland

On Christmas morning, our boys opened up a “trip” from us to Legoland and Disney. Shortly after we came home from China with Philip we all went to Florida to the beach together and this time we wanted to do something to bond as a family – especially for the boys to bond together since Rand and Philip didn’t get to go on the trip to China. It goes against all the “cocooning” strategy out there for adopted kiddos but, we’ve learned that, for our family, we’ve bonded well by leaving home together, navigating somewhere new and then “coming home” has been good.  Wen especially seems to love to be active and going and doing things and has since the day we were first together.

So…shortly after the new year, we packed up and headed south.  We’ve made this drive a lot since I still have family in Florida and our favorite beach spot is there.  On the way down we stopped for dinner at a great, kid-friendly restaurant in Darien, GA called Skippers Fishcamp.  It’s a perfect stop with young kids because there is a little turtle and gar pond that our boys like to see. It’s also on the Altamaha river so you can walk around on the dock, watch the shrimp boats come and go and even see some alligators!  It’s about a 5 min. detour from I-95 and very scenic.  I normally don’t love my seafood fried, but Wes and I think they have the best fried shrimp we’ve ever had.  If you go, watch out for weekends (or GA game days) because it can get crowded.

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(Photo Credit: Necee Regis.  It was too dark for photos when we were there so I borrowed this one from a food writer/oyster blogger Necee Regis that I found online here)

After dinner, we drove another 45min-hour and spent the night in a hotel near Kingsland, GA.  Without thinking we booked our usual – 2 double beds and then realized when we got up to the room that it wasn’t going to work.  Because we were tired and didn’t have space for a cot, we put all 3 boys in the bed sideways and switched the covers around.  They thought it was so much fun!  However, me, baby Bo, Wes and my maternity pillow (this stomach sleeper can’t WAIT for April 2 to come so I can get some sleep again!!!) didn’t fit very well in our double.  From now on we’ve learned we need to stay in a hotel with the word “Suites” in the title!

In the morning, we had breakfast at the Cracker Barrel next to the hotel and then hit the road.  After a while, we were ready for a bathroom break so we stopped at one of our favorite “stretch your legs” spots for kids (other than visiting some sweet friends who live in St. Augustine, of course;) – Blue Springs State Park. Google it – the photos are amazing!  If you hit it on a sunny day the water looks so tropical.  It’s a great spot in the summer (you can swim!) but winter is the best because that’s when the manatees arrive.  They migrate in from other rivers to the warmer spring waters.  We hit it right at the beginning of the season since the weather has been so warm.  There were 5-6 manatees who had already come in and more were arriving.
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You can see one here between the boys heads – in the middle just above where their ears are.

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Rand is a little wet from the slide…another reason why this is a great stop off for kids – there is a playground, decent bathrooms and a long boardwalk that goes around the spring and a historic house to tour if you’re into that.  All perfect for getting the wiggles out.  There are some great picnic tables too if you pack a lunch, it would be a perfect spot for a picnic.  There are also 2 concession/ice cream places on site but we’ve never tried those before.

Then we were back on the road for naps with Legoland in the GPS.

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We checked in to the hotel – I would definitely recommend staying at the Legoland hotel if you visit.  It’s really well done and of all the places we stayed on the trip, we thought it was the cleanest and most comfortable! Big win!

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The rooms are themed – we chose the “adventure theme” but I think they are mostly all the same setup.  Sorry I didn’t take pics, but you can see them on the Legoland website.  Our room had a bunk bed with trundle bed in the “kids area” as well as a tv and treasure box – when you arrive to your room, you solve a puzzle that gives you the code to the treasure box which had some kids activities and legos in it…hence the immediate building that began!

In the middle of the room was the bathroom and tons of storage and closet space, then around the corner was a desk area with giant tv and king-sized bed.  The bed was REALLY comfortable for this mama!

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After the boys building session, we went downstairs to have dinner and explore the hotel.  The elevators are cute and play disco music when the doors shut – so fun!

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Downstairs in the main hotel area there are huge Lego pits where the kids can build and build…they also have contests and activities throughout the day for building and character visits, etc.  We were only staying the one night and planned to spend the following day in the park, but if you were spending 2 nights you could get more involved in all they have going on.  Also, the pool looked pretty fun and even though it was cold out, kids were swimming and the parents even claimed the water was warm too!

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The kids really got into building some fun…weapons.  Oh dear.  As you can see some of the parents really got into building too…

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Here’s Rand’s Lego gun.  In the background you can see the “Skyline bar” and restaurant.  It was smart to put it next to the lego pit and play area because the kids were having a blast and the parents could sit and watch them with a drink and appetizer.

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After our boys finished their creations and put them on the display racks in the lobby, we headed to the other restaurant on site which was a buffet-style dinner.  The food was decent with extremely kid friendly options. While you eat, some of the characters come around to your table and talk to you.  You can also purchase a “smores kit” from the restaurant and then head outside by the lake to the fire pit.  Unfortunately, it was raining that night so we weren’t able to do that so we went back to the room and the boys watched a lego movie in their beds.  They already had a great evening at Legoland and we hadn’t even been to the park yet!

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After a good night’s sleep and breakfast (breakfast was in the same place we had dinner – lots of options and some healthy options too like oatmeal and smoothies!) we got ready to head out into the park.  Walking from the hotel to the park took less than a minute – it is THAT close.  The park is beautiful – it is the former site of Cypress Gardens – a park once famous for it’s gardens and water-ski shows.

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The majority of the park was perfect for the ages of our children (we range from almost 4 to 12).  They are really sticklers about height and Wen wasn’t even allowed to ride some rides by himself so that was the only hitch for us – it would have been fine if we’d had a 3rd adult.  Without a 3rd adult, it meant that if it was a ride where a child had to ride with a parent, then one of us had to wait with the other 2 kids while one parent took turns rotating kids and riding.  So…if you’re a party of 2 kids/2 adults, you’re set, but if you have 3 young riders, it is helpful to have 3 adults.  The lines were not long and it really was no problem to wait and trade off kids, the hardest part was for the kids who had to wait behind patiently!!!

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Also, the rides did tend to skew younger overall but there still seemed to be something for everyone.  There were several roller coasters and water rides that we did not go on however that most older kids would have loved!  Also, one of our kids favorite things was the incredible lego structures and city recreations – don’t skip it!

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All throughout the incredible scenes made from legos there were little buttons the kids could push that did things like made the soldiers march or made a cannon go off or made something shoot water out so it was interactive as well.  We almost skipped it for time purposes, but it was one of the kids favorite things to see!

Their absolute favorite thing was the show!  Every day at “Pirate’s Cove” there are several showings of “Captain Brickbeard’s Battle” – it was pretty cheesy but the kids loved it and really got into it.  Wes and I enjoyed the water skiing and the wake boarders doing some crazy tricks.  Probably the healthiest place to grab lunch is right across from Pirate’s Cove (the stadium) and was called Lakeside Sandwich Co.  We headed there and got some sandwiches and wraps, fruit, chips and drinks TO GO and took them over to eat while we watched the show!  This was great because we saved time not having to stop for lunch and the kids ate really well watching the show rather than having to sit still at a table.  There’s a deal where you get a lego “lunch box” that we did but it was odd none of the food fit into the lego box.  However, the box did come in handy for all the little lego pieces back in the hotel room!

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After the show, we rode a few more rides – things like driving cars and boats…

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We played some “state fair type” games and won some prizes (not pictured, but they have an “everyone’s a winner” policy so you’re gonna end up taking home something stuffed:/)

We went on a safari…

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Wen rode a roller coaster (was really hard to get a good photo but he’s in the very back with Wes)

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And we saw a ton of cool Lego sculptures everywhere we went.

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(oh no…are they giving the Go Wolfpack sign???)

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Overall, we were really impressed with Legoland.  It was uncrowded, easily manageable with 3 kids and amazingly clean – especially the bathrooms – I think we tried almost all of them!  We were able to move at our pace and the lines were short.  The park was easy to do in 1 day – we got there at opening (hotel guests got to go a little early) and left by 3:30pm.  We didn’t ride everything – probably would have taken another hour and a half to do it ALL. For those wondering, we took our double stroller for the little guys – it was helpful and needed.  They walked some but there was a lot of ground to cover for their little feet and some hills!  Also we packed snacks and our own water bottles that we filled up at breakfast with water.  It was great not to have to purchase drinks or snacks – other than a candy store there weren’t a ton of snack options that I remember.  When we were taking turns riding some of the rides, the non-riders would have their snack, which was helpful.

Since we already checked out and packed the car up, we walked back over to the hotel to use the restroom and wash our hands and then we hit the road to our next destination – Disney World!  Thanks Legoland…EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME!

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Also, we have to thank our friend Krissy Yoder with Be Our Guest Travel Company – she planned our Legoland and Disney portions of the trip which was so helpful to not have to figure all of that out!  She even booked our dining reservations at Disney (we couldn’t have gotten reservations to some of the restaurants without her help because they were all booked up!) and our FastPass reservations.  If you’re interested in a trip, you should use her – doesn’t cost any more and saves lots of time!

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Welcome 2016

Apologies for not blogging lately – if you want to know a little of what’s been going on, follow me on instagram here for now!

We are doing well – I can’t believe we will have been home a month next week.  Even the past 10 days here have been so different and we’ve seen so many changes and can tell that Wen feels so much more at ease than he did the first 10 days home.  Last weekend some good friends came over to play – 2 families – 7 kids total and he did great.  I was amazed at the kind words and sharing that went on.  Wen even let the other visiting boys play with his Lego toys – it probably helped that the other kids were so sweet to him and would ask his permission!

Here’s the crew…

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plus there are 3 more on the way!  2 more boys and ONE girl.  I just love all of these kids (and their parents too!) So thankful we can continue to get them together as they grow up.

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And for a recap of the last few weeks before we bid 2015 goodbye…

We had a great day at DUKE.  We were super-impressed with the spinal clinic docs and couldn’t believe how efficient the day was.  We saw 4 specialists, met briefly with the physical therapy team who set us up with someone to help with Wen’s wheelchair, met with a social worker about medical coverage, etc. and they even sent a translator to help us ask Wen some specific questions during our meetings with the doctors!  During one of our meetings with the doctor, the wheelchair tech showed up, took Wen’s wheelchair out into the hall and took it apart and re-adjusted it to fit better for the time being.

We go back at the end of January for some larger tests in urology and neurology but overall Wen is in good health and the only major decisions to make right now are some orthopedic options.  Also, as it turns out, Wen does not have Spina Bifida as his file said, but was actually born with something more rare – Caudal Regression Syndrome/Sacral Agenesis.  You can read about it here.

At Duke we could tell the doctors were pretty amazed by Wen and all he does, how good his English is, how well-adjusted he is and how he manages his disability without complaints or obstacles.  We continue to be amazed daily.

Other than the Ironman (“transformer” as Wen calls it, we’re gonna have to show him the Ironman movie) and Star Wars figurines he was given as Christmas gifts from the clinic, the highlight for him was getting to go see where Uncle Sam and Aunt CeCe live in Raleigh and meet their new pup Banksy.  If you want to see cuter and clearer photos of him – check out his very own instagram feed here.

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We did a lot of fun things to celebrate Christmas.  The boys loved going to the Aberdeen Christmas parade,

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and having our own special tea party followed by the event of setting up the Nativity

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The Nativity is Rand’s favorite thing to do at Christmas.  We’re hoping Wen and Philip will love it too.  They all loved playing with the “play nativity set” too…you can order it on Amazon.  This one was given to us when Rand had his first Christmas and it’s the first thing he asks for us to bring out (usually at Thanksgiving!)

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Philip especially got into setting it up and learning who was who.

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On Christmas Eve, Rand and Philip were in the Nativity scene at our church.  They were both shepherds.  Rand wore the same headpiece from last year – a cut up old golf shirt that was his “Grandpa Hank’s” – makes me smile to see it.  Philip’s was a last minute “Ikea hack” haha…I think I’ll need to dig out another heirloom if they are going to be shepherds again next year!

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After church on Christmas Eve, the family came over for dinner at our house!  After everyone left and the boys went to sleep, Santa showed up.

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A lot of people have asked me this Christmas if we do “Santa” and the answer is yes, however, pretty much everything my kids know (or think they know) about Santa is learned from books, movies or school (i.e. the world).  We don’t bring him up or talk about him at all.  In fact, early in the season, I heard someone ask Rand what was on his Christmas list and he shrugged and said he’d “get what he’d get” type answer (but really he just hadn’t thought about it because we don’t talk about it).  We don’t really have an answer on what is “best” to do and we don’t want our kids being the ones who burst their friends bubbles and shout out “SANTA’S NOT REAL” so for now, we just glaze over it throughout the season and make a bigger deal about what actually is THE BIG DEAL – THE BIRTH OF CHRIST!

We do talk about Santa if the kids have a question – for example, Rand said to me one day (when he wasn’t on his best behavior), “Mom, if I’m not a good listener then Santa won’t bring me any presents, will he?” which drives me CRAZY that they get told this elsewhere…we went through the same thing last year…our answer is the same: “No, you will get presents on Christmas because we love you regardless of how you behave.  God loved us so much he sent us the gift of Jesus to save us from our sin when we didn’t deserve it!  But in our family, we try to behave and be good listeners because we love God and want to be like Jesus.”  While Santa will show up at the Smith house to help celebrate Jesus’ birthday, he will not be tolerated as the disciplinary tool for the season!!!!  On that note, we made sure the best gift the kids got came from us…hey, I also don’t like to give Santa all the credit:)  As their only gift from mom and dad (and as an attempt for some more new family bonding) we’re driving down to Florida very soon to go to Legoland and the Magic Kingdom!

I didn’t take enough photos on Christmas day, but this was a sweet one from Raleigh – we went and had lunch with Wes’ extended family and all the kids were so welcoming to Wen.  They are always awesome with the younger kids, but I was really blown away by how they just played with him as if he’d always been in the family.  What a Christmas gift it was for this mama to see.

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We spent some fun time with my side of the family (I need to upload those photos still, sorry!) and then have really been hanging out around the house.  We’ve had several successful movie night with Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

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We built one fire before it started feeling like summer here in North Carolina.

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The boys have spent a lot of time outside playing – Wen can pretty much ride any of the toys somehow and he loves to hit golf balls and play baseball.

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The boys play and play and play together.  Our noise level is UP and there is always some type of fun shenanigan going on with the 3 of them…

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The costumes come out all the time

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Philip continues to keep us laughing.  His most recent line of choice when you tell him something or he gets something he wants is, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

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It’s been really fun to see them all play together and have so much fun.  Our house last Christmastime was so quiet with just Rand and this year it has exploded with noise, and laughter and JOY.  I have to say it was the best Christmas yet for me.  I’m just so happy to have all my boys home to celebrate Jesus’ Birthday and to welcome 2016.

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LOA!!!!!!!

On Monday, we got our “soft LOA” (Letter of Acceptance)!  I would have posted sooner, but we were rushing around to finish up our I-800 paperwork which can be filed once the hard copy of the LOA arrives via mail or email probably next week – but we wanted to be ready in case it came this week!  Anywhere we can cut off a day or so or overnight something, we do…every day counts!

I remember when we got our LOA for Philip and how quickly things went after that step.  There are quite a few steps (back and forth between US Immigration, China, Our Agency, The Consulate, etc.) that happen next – it’s confusing but thankfully some adoptive mamas who have come before have made guides for those of us like me…it can make your head spin the first time AND apparently the second time too if you’re preggers and can’t remember what you did just 8 months ago…

Also, it was encouraging news that our agency said it may not be impossible for us to be with WenXuan in China for his birthday!  So please pray with us that we can be there with him by November 28th.  Also, please be praying about Rand and Philip staying behind this time.  That is what I lose the most sleep over right now!

These two boys can’t wait for their older brother to be home with them!

Philip and Rand

(photo by Meredith Macy Photography)

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More news…

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(Photo cred: Meredith Macy Photography)

 

We are still waiting on our LOA (letter of acceptance) from China – this is the last major approval before we get our travel approval and we think we should get it in the next few weeks (based on the time it is currently taking other adoptive families to receive it).  Once we have our LOA we will travel within 3 months to China – it was exactly 3 months with Philip’s adoption.

In the meantime…the Lord has blessed us with a miracle…a baby!  We were surprised to find out I was pregnant and my due date is April 2nd.  We had an ultrasound today and it looked a LOT like it is probably a boy but we will keep you posted on that since it is really to early to tell “officially.”

We told the boys this afternoon and they were really excited.  Rand can’t stop smiling and talking about “the baby in mommy’s bump.”  We told WenXuan a little over a week ago (through a contact/friend who was visiting the orphanage) – since he’s our oldest, we thought he should get to know first!

Throughout our adoption journeys I’ve been asked the question a lot… “do you think you’ll ever have another baby?” While sometimes this catches me off guard as not really anyone’s business, I usually try not to be offended and share what’s true:   I have always had a desire to have more biological children and I believe that desire is from the Lord.  I have prayed “Lord, if a baby is not something you have in store for us, if you would take that desire away”…and the desire has never gone away.  Sure, it has taken to the back-burner lately as all we’ve been able to think about are Philip, WenXuan and also some really special kiddos we know about in China and are praying for the Lord to send them families, but the desire of having another baby has always been there.

We had help with Rand and our doctors told us it wasn’t impossible for us to get pregnant without help, but that it was probably unlikely.  For the past few years, we’ve just left that up to the Lord to decide for us and truly have believed that if HE wants us to have another baby that HE will guide us to the help we need or make it happen!

I do think the Lord also knows me so well and my heart for adventure, even though I never expected my next adventure would be adding THREE children to my family in 1 year!!!!  But we are up for the challenge and have never felt so incredibly loved and blessed by God.  A little over 5 years ago I remember being so sad that we didn’t have any children and now am experiencing the overflowing joy of knowing we will be a family of 6 by April – it is truly incredible.

And we know what everyone is thinking…who knows what that crazy Smith family is going to tell us next time they say they have news!?

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Blueberry picking

Last week, at the recommendation of a friend, we set out to find a local farm in Carthage, NC – Olde Carthage Farm – for pick-your-own blueberries and blackberries.

The boys were excited and loved picking the blueberries.  It was an easy activity for them to do! Philip was more interested here in eating the blueberries than smiling for the camera!

(Sometimes I have a hard time finding boys clothing that we like – for those who have asked, both boys are wearing similar shorts: Rand’s are H&M and Philip’s are J. Crew factory.  Rand’s shirt was a bday gift from his friends and Philip’s is from our trip to Vieques.  Shoes are here and here.)
The boys also picked some blackberries, but Philip is used to eating raspberries at home and had trouble not picking the red ones!!!!!  SO…we purchased some of the blackberries they had there on hand ready to buy for anyone that doesn’t feel like picking!
Isn’t the farm beautiful? I wanted to stay all day.  Best thing of all, it’s CERTIFIED ORGANIC!  And…so is Philip apparently!
They also had lots of flowers and tomatoes for sale.
The owners were really nice and great with the kids.  They even let Rand and Philip borrow some nets to catch butterflies and June bugs.
There were also lots of bees but thankfully they kept to themselves!
If you’re passing through Moore Co. or are local and need some blueberries or blackberries go check it out!  I think they said they would have blueberries for another few weeks and blackberries through August 1.  We will definitely be back soon.  Next up…some blueberry recipes;)

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Saturday through Tuesday

On Saturday, I set up a table at a local event to promote my Beautycounter business.

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I’ve been on a mission to spread the word about safe products/cosmetics for the past year now.  So, since I’ve got your attention, go and check the ingredients in your products.  And your family’s products.  If you need help, the Environmental Working Group has an app you can download and scan barcodes that saves loads of time.  It’s called Skin Deep.  Or you can go here and type in the names of your products.  Even if you don’t buy Beautycounter, find something safe to use – we can’t control everything in our environment but we are 100% in control of what we put in and on our bodies!  Ok, there’s my PSA for the day.  Also, if you do want to try Beautycounter, or want more info, let me know.

Philip and Rand’s favorites:

Nice Do Shampoo – we squeeze a little in the tub for bubbles too!

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Lustro Body Oil in Rosemary Citrus – this is the only “lotion” I can get Rand to use (strong smells bother him) and Philip gets mad when I tell him he can’t have more.  I put it on both boys immediately after the bath!  And for me, I mix it with a little of the hydrate body lotion.  There’s actually a Mother’s Day promo now with the lotion/oil combo.

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And the boys have been taking frequent baths because we’ve been enjoying springtime and have been outside as much as possible in between rain showers.  The boys collected some “wild” flowers on our walk and learned about dogwoods and azaleas.  Thankfully no shoes were thrown.

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I did a smoothie experiment with my Pilates friends and I’m convinced I might need to sell my juicer and get a vitamix.  These were delicious.

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Other than that we’ve been hanging tight around the house.  Rand went back to preschool today after a week off for spring break.  We’ve still been enjoying lots of yummy meals and sweet visits from friends & neighbors coming to welcome Philip.  Don’t tell Charlie McWilliams (aka the chicken connoisseur), but last night we enjoyed the most perfectly grilled chicken – our friend Caitlin is apparently going to have to teach me how to make chicken because mine has never turned out that good!

Here’s a shot of the boys eating some pretzels today that we made!  Our sweet friend Amy brought us a delicious dinner and her son Walker suggested she also bring us his favorite snack – “make your own pretzels” and lemonade.  Perfect for our rainy afternoon.

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I thought this was cute of the boys and Nina watching Wes pull up in the driveway the other day.  You can tell it’s towards the end of the day around here because of the missing/mismatched clothes.  Ha.  They seem so little yet they make so. much. dirty. laundry.

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And with that, I’m off to bed.  Yes, everyone has asked – we are sleeping great!  However just not in our regular places yet.  We’re still divided up one of us with each boy in separate beds for the night. Eventually we’ll all be straight but we’re taking our time and just savoring that everyone is sleeping until at least 7am  (A real miracle.  Even pre-china, Rand rarely slept past 6am) AND taking 2hr (Rand & mommy sometimes too) and 3hr (Philip) naps every day as well.

Tomorrow is a very important day – Philip turns 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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We’re around

Sorry for the delay in a new post, but we’ve been really busy just doing life!  The kids take a little longer to fall asleep at home vs. in a hotel room for some reason and by the time we get them down for bed, it hasn’t left much time (and some nights we’ve fallen asleep trying to get the boys to sleep…) – although Wes and I did sneak in the season finale of Downton Abbey the other night! And have caught up on a few episodes of Madame Secretary.  It’s pretty good if you haven’t seen it.

Also, April is one of my busiest months!  I have not one now, but TWO boys with birthdays coming up, window boxes/planters to be planted and my garden to plan – these are a few things I really look forward to all year!!!

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It’s a good thing our car didn’t have room for more or we’d go broke.  I think I would be really happy working at a nursery/garden center some day.  There is something about plants and greenhouses that I can’t resist.

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In addition to the window boxes/planters, we planted 30 hosta and 30 ferns for some little “shade gardens” in the new landscape plan.

We also celebrated Easter!  Since we’ve been staying in for the most part in order to teach Philip we are his parents, and to not overwhelm him, we hadn’t planned to go to church – it’s not like he will be able to go to nursery or Sunday School for a while (without one of us), BUT Easter morning, at breakfast, Wes and I decided we couldn’t NOT go to church so we decided to go get dressed and give it a try!  Rand went to nursery and Philip sat with us.  He did really well, considering every time I tried to tell him, in Mandarin, that he needed to be quiet, he thought I was telling him “I love you”…Mandarin is HARD y’all!!!

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After church we went to “Ema and Pops” house for Easter lunch and then took the boys home for naps.  After lunch, Ema and Pops and Uncle Sam and Aunt CeCe did an Easter egg hunt in our yard for the boys and Uncle Fred and Aunt Tina, along with Uncle Wellborn (Rand and Philip’s great, great uncle!) came over to meet Philip and see the egg hunt go down.

The candy and toys were a big hit – Philip caught on right away and wanted to eat as he went…thankfully Ema only put one or two jellybeans or one gummy worm or one graham cracker bunny in each egg!!!

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And Uncle Sam helped the boys work out some of the sugar rush.

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We’ve also taken some walks in the past few days, one to our local Arboretum – as I shared on Instagram (follow me @annafranklinsmith I post a lot more often on Insta!) – on that first walk together, Wes and I marveled at how many walks we’d been on with just Rand and Nina and talked about Philip the whole time and what we needed to do, what was the next step, dreamed what things would be like…etc. We waited a long time for this inaugural walk!!!

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It was “very real” too – because we had to get on Philip at one point about throwing sand and he wasn’t happy that we made him get back in the stroller…so he threw 2 shoes and a sock…But all in all, it was a good outing!

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Rand’s been enjoying helping make popcorn – a snack we eat just about every day.  We’ve been really liking this recipe for a healthy version.  I omit the pepper and coconut oil (we have an air popper – $20 on amazon…) and drizzle with melted Ghee (you can see it melting in the top of the popper!) + turmeric mixed in and a sprinkle of sea salt! YUM.

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And we’ve been taking good naps every day (keeps everyone happy).  Sorry for the scary pic of me half asleep.  I’m not good at selfies, but I wanted to document how Rand likes to cuddle when he’s fast asleep.  I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be doing this, so I’ve been trying to soak it all in while I still can, it’s just about as sweet as it gets!

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Yesterday, we needed to run an errand in a nearby town, so we took the boys with us on a mini day trip and stopped at Smithfield’s on the way.  The waitress brought both boys a balloon.  I’m pretty sure they think that’s why we made the trip.

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Philip thankfully is really content to ride in the car.  I’m thinking we have TWO great travelers on our hands! He even caught a little snooze on the way home…

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Best shot I could get of the boys.  Wes is happy, Philip has a “hand up/peace sign” reaction every time we bring out a camera and Rand is getting down to eating his drumstick. Apparently with some texas pete?!?!

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I’m thankful for my boys and all of our moments of real life (even if some are without a shoe or two).

Thanks for continuing to follow us even though I’ll only be posting “often” and not always daily!

 

 

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Best of Summer

Since I haven’t blogged in 3 months…a recap seems like the most appropriate way to restart.  Notice, it is called “Best of Summer” – I have left out the 2 year old tantrum moments, the awesome new recipes that I didn’t try and my window box/planter fail…so…without further ado, here is a peek into the best moments of a great summer:

Summer began early for us…we headed down to our favorite New Smyrna Beach, FL and were delighted to be joined by the Stokes family for a few days!
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We had to visit our sentimental place on the Indian River.
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And we found some fun new places…

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Staying in a small condo that, at high tide, felt like we were actually on the water was heavenly – especially since the upkeep was so easy. Every morning, Rand would line up his animals. I would say his summer fascinations have been: animals, fishing, golf (his own versions of the last two, of course)

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So it was especially cool, if not somewhat unnerving to me, to see the fisherman catch exciting things each day.
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We had a special evening with my Great Aunt Bebe, who Rand got to meet for the first time
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And Wes and I got to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary (10! I know!!!)
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With Sangria at our favorite New Smyrna restaurant, The Spanish River Grill.
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The highlight of the day was that we found out our Dossier officially went to China…a huge milestone in the adoption process for us…more on that to come.
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Who are those two young love birds???
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We also got to share the end of our trip with my mom, or “Ema” as Rand calls her, and got to see more family, including the Wallis cousins! Rand was overjoyed to get so much attention. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone!
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Coming home wasn’t so hard because the Kings came to visit! Here’s a photo of Jackson and Rand perfecting their snow cone eating skills:
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We are finally enjoying our pool (it warmed up mid-June!) this year too! Rand loves to walk around it and “fish” and he enjoys rescuing bugs and frogs with the pool net.
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Rand got to spend time with both of his grandmothers (and his pops and Aunt MD too!)
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The boys did a little more “fishing”
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I did a lot of blackberry picking
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and I figured out that Rand and I both share a love for the “Go Green” smoothie at 195 Nature’s Own. It has been our “special snack” place!
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This next photo deserves its very own post – the most major event of the summer – we were blessed with a new niece. Sweet baby Kara was born at the end of June (that’s right, we’re not even to July yet)! Here she is less than 24 hours old.
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Another important summer event included James’ ordination as a deacon in the Episcopal Church.
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We spent time with Wes’ family at Myrtle Beach (don’t let my amazing sis-in-law fool you – this photo was less than 10 days after baby Kara was born! We are all taking lessons from Jax and Matt on how to rally.
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Rand and MJ got to have some quality time that also involved lots of bubbles, duck feeding and swimming
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which all make for one happy kid
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We visited the Myrtle Beach Aquarium – which was awesome!!!  But then we realized they make  you exit THROUH the gift shop, which is also on the opposite side of the building as the baby ducks that Rand saw outside.  So going home was not as fun…
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We also took a trip to Wilmington to hear James preach on his first Sunday at his new church.
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And then we stayed for lunch and snuggles.  It is also important to note that this was the day that Rand first met “Buster” and “Maggie” – they are James and Samantha’s 2 dogs who have unknowingly been prayed for 2x a day (nap and bedtime) every day since.
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Overall we did a lot of swimming (bathtub, pool, ocean and lake)

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It was a good summer and we were so blessed to be able to enjoy all the “new” things with a 2-year-old!

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A beautiful day

It was a beautiful day today so we went outside for the afternoon as soon as Rand got up from his nap (as a 21-month-old he’s doing really well with his naps. consistently sleeping from 1pm until sometime between 3 & 4)!  I was looking through some photos I took this afternoon and realized they were a great representation of this stage in the game.

Rand is such a little boy now!  I don’t know what happened.  We watch his baby video all the time (at his request) and I still think of him as that little baby.  Then I see these pictures and he’s all toddler.

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He’s SO BUSY. All. The. Time. And it is great. Daddy is really nice and let’s him play in his car…one of his favorite things to do.
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Rand also tries to do some things that he just can’t do yet but wants to…like riding this scooter. Almost…it won’t be long bubs!
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We don’t go anywhere these days without these two – “Meow” and “tut-tull” – Seriously. They ride in the car, they sit next to the crib, they come to breakfast and they LOVE to go outside. Rand found them in the garage a few weeks ago and remembered them from last summer. They are having a much more exciting off-season than most pool floats I know of.
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Lately, anything can become a horse. And this boy loves some horses.
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This is the “cheeeeese” face. We need to work on it some.
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There has been a language explosion in the past week or so. I have a feeling we are in for it. The kid knows what he wants.
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He’s also a great listener still.
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Thanks to a weekend project with Uncle Sam and Kristen (aka “Diddy and CeCe”), our trees all have bird feeders hanging from them.
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“Bird seed” and “Tweet Tweet” have been added to the growing word list.
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Here’s a proud face for making it up a step without having to hold on or crawl.
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Oh and of course the drool continues. Does it ever stop? That is one thing I will be happy to grow out of!
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Thanks for hanging out with us today!

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Working on…

Meal Planning.  This might sound crazy to people who know me (and how I like PLAN THINGS AHEAD) but I really struggle with meal planning.  I think it is because I also give into impulsiveness…ooooh just saw Ina make a perfect roast chicken (folks, if you wanna cook a chicken, just follow this recipe) OR a bunch of yummy things just popped up on Pinterest…and then whatever I bought earlier that week at Harris Teeter just has to sit in the fridge and deal with it (but then I have to deal with it later, of course).  So I need to make a plan and, for the most part, stick to it.  Especially since it is my JOB to fix our family 3 healthy meals a day.  Plus snacks.  Speaking of which, if you don’t already keep up with 100 Days of Real Food, go check it out too.  I started reading it about a year ago and it has been extremely helpful with cutting down on the amount of processed foods we consume.

Today, I was inspired to get started on this by Pawley’s Island Posh (cute blog!) who referred me to this blog and motherload of genius ideas for meal planning…i.e. making repeating schedules on my google calendar…why didn’t I think of that especially since I’m notorious for leaving my list at home and having to play the memory game.

Anyway, it is too helpful not to share so go check it all out:

(image from lifeingraceblog.com)

I’ll post any good recipes I find as well as keep you up on any other tips I come across as I tackle this.  Got any meal planning tips to share?

And so I’ll leave you with this photo from Sunday afternoon.  We had to get outside, even though it was FREEZING and took a walk in our local arboretum.  Rand found some pinecones that are now hanging with peanut butter and birdseed in the yard.  I guess the birds got the first meal plan:)  Whoops.

 

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December Photos

Before Christmas, we had our friend, and super-talented photographer, Cassie Butler, take some photos for us. Our goal was to get a few good ones of Rand that we could frame to hang in the hall and our room as well as a good family shot for the Christmas card. It was soooo hard to choose which ones we liked best but these were some of our favorites.  I just can’t believe that Rand is almost 2 and that Wes and I have been married for almost 10 years!!!

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