15 Months!

It's hard to believe that Grace is 15 months today! In some ways, I dread this monthly celebration because I don't want to miss any more of her life. But we're getting closer every day to bringing her home.

After receiving our LOA, we sent our I-800 form (petition to adopt Grace specifically) to the USCIS (branch of Homeland Security) on 1/15.  This whole process was put into place to avoid baby trafficking. 

We received approval on 2/3. (This was a bit frustrating since others who had sent their forms on 1/15 were approved days before us!) 

We got notice of our approval on 2/6.  Then our approval was sent to the US Visa Center (petition for a visa for Grace).  

Our approval was cabled to the US Consulate/Embassy in Guangzhou, China on 2/12. (Again, we were delayed on this step for no rhyme or reason.) 

We received our notice of the cable on 2/16. Our agency had to send this to our liason in China because the consulate won't process our next approval until a copy of this notice is in hand. And she couldn't drop it off at the embassy until this past Monday because the offices were closed all last week for Chinese New Year. (Let me mention that this step was JUST added on 1/15/10!  And it adds an extra week or two to the wait. Ugh!) Most of the wait is due to the US's red tape and not China's. 

What is next?
We are waiting on 2 more steps. The first is for the US Embassy in China to sign an Article 5. This is their final approval for us to adopt. We expect to have this on March 8th. Then, that form will be sent to the CCAA where they will then grant us travel approval. This can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks.

Our hopes of leaving the last week of March are fading. I have already smocked an Easter dress for Grace and hoped we would have her by April 4th. When we were first matched, many families were traveling in 4 months or a little more (or less). We will have waited 5+ months. But we're on the homestretch! :)

Please pray we have no more unnecessary delays and that we'll have our TA very soon!!


(Amy, Stacey C., Susan, me, Stacey P., Anna)

Last night, some friends and I went out to dinner for a belated birthday celebration. We ate at the newest burger joint in town called FLIP Burger. It has a cool atmosphere with fun music, hip decor, and a view of the city. And not to mention, mouth-watering GOURMET burgers.I dined on this fabulous Chirizo burger. It's spicy pork sausage, a fried egg, hash browns, smoked mayo, Manchego cheese, and some special type of ketchup. Out of this world.They also have a unique martini menu. Anna got an apple cinnamon martini, and I enjoyed the mango martini.Before they bring it to you, they freeze the top layer with liquid nitrogen. So when it arrives at your table, it's smoking (really, the nitrogen is evaporating). But it gives a really cool effect. :)me, Amy, and Susan

Stacey C. (pregnant with twins!), Stacey P. (pregnant with a baby girl), and Anna (with flat abs we're all dying for)

We all love to celebrate each other's birthdays, and we're also trying to get in as much girl time as possible before our dear friend Stacey (and her husband and son) move to Murfreesboro in May. We tear up every time we think about it, but we're excited they'll at least be within driving distance. Just a car trip away, Stacey!!!!!

I highly recommend trying out the food at FLIP. They also have one in Atlanta! It is now my goal to try every burger on the menu. :)


Stats and Stuff

Last week, Carter had his 2 year check up with his pediatrician. He weighs a whopping 33 lbs (and boy do my biceps know it), and measures 36 1/2 inches. Those numbers place him in the 90% for both weight and height. I joked at playgroup that he looked like Will Ferrell at the North Pole in Elf. He just looks so big around most other kids!

While Carter has stayed in the 90 or 95% in height his whole life, he just recently jumped from 60% to 90% in weight! I wondered whether I'd been feeding him too many french fries (sometimes my only option, along with fruit, for his allergies when we're out to eat) but the doctor wasn't concerned. She thinks his weight is evening out with his height.

Here are some changes and milestones I've noticed since he's turned 2:
- His vocabulary has been pretty broad for awhile, but he's suddenly been putting phrases and sentences together in the last week or so. It's wild to carry on somewhat of a conversation with him and to follow his thoughts. I love it!
- He is really getting into using his imagination to play games. He likes to make noises for everything. And he has a sense of humor. Hence the bowl as a hat.
- He gave me his 1st REAL kiss (with the lips smacking) last Friday. The BEST birthday gift!
- He has suddenly shown an interest in sitting on the potty and he teeteed on it today!!! I only put him up on it to humor his request and didn't really think he'd go, but he did. So I made a big deal about it, and he was very proud. However, I am not planning to potty train him until the summer. It really doesn't seem like the best time to tackle it right now.
- He LOVES the outdoors. He chants, "Outside! Outside! Run run run! Outside!" We played out in the yard today in 43 degree weather, and he would have stayed out until dark had I let him.
- He loves books and has many of them memorized. Being a book lover myself, I am thrilled that he is so fascinated with them!
- His drink of choice is now OJ. (watered down big time)
- Instead of saying "No," he says "Note!" And when he's really mad, he whispers it under his breath. :)
- For being such an active kid, he really enjoys cuddling. I love the mornings when he asks, "Sit Mama?" We watch Disney Playhouse with him in my lap and my coffee in hand. And I pray these days of snuggling don't pass too quickly.
- He is very methodical. Very into routine. Very focused. (sometimes on the wrong thing)
- He adores babies. He will stand in front of them for long periods of times. He likes to hug them and pat their heads. And he likes to kiss my friend Julia's belly because he knows there's a baby in there. Recently, he's been lifting up my shirt to kiss my tummy and tell me there's a baby in there. :) Sweet child, I wish there was!

Those are just a few of his little quirks and preferences. Every day I look at him and think to myself how much bigger and taller he appears. He's growing up on me! Parenting a toddler can be tough, but when he throws himself into my arms and says Mama, nothing else could be more worth it.


You know you're getting old(er) when...

  • your babysitters start calling you ma'am and sir
  • the kids YOU babysat have their license, are in college, or have even graduated from college
  • you have to split a movie into two nights because you can't stay up long enough to watch it in its entirety
  • sleeping late means getting up at 7:30 or 8:00 am (or 5 am if you're past 50)
  • music concerts require ear plugs
  • you can't drink caffeine after 3 pm without serious consequences
  • TUMS aren't just for pregnancy
  • you pull a muscle doing something you easily did just a few years ago
  • you can say you've lived through part or all of 5 decades +
In honor of birthday fun, Scott and I created this list Friday night. While we truly don't believe we're "old" in the least, we couldn't help but laugh that all the statements above are very true at this point in our lives. :)

Feel free to add your own statements to the list. If I get a lot more, I'll post a revised version.


Sunday Snapshots

Getting ready for church...Posing for a picture with Mommy
...and Daddy!See those keys in Carter's hands? Keys are his OBSESSION. There's mom's keys, and dad's keys, and Aunt Coco's keys, and house keys, car keys, you name it. He can even tell you which key is his Grand Mary's or Papa's just by looking at them on the computer screen when we Skype with my parents. Aunt JuJu gave Carter his own set of keys for his birthday, and he takes them everywhere.
See this young stud? This is my cousin's son, Alex, and he's 10 years old. Today was a special day at their church...the entire service was led by children. Greeters, ushers, Scripture readers, choir, and every role of the service was done by the kids. And Alex was chosen to deliver the sermon! He worked hard on his message and did an incredible job! I can't imagine standing up and speaking in front of a huge congregation of adults at the age of 10, but Alex was confident and natural. It's amazing to see how God gifts kids in all different areas and begins training them up early on. The theme of the service was The Potter's Hands, and how God molds each of us to be exactly how He desires and plans. I'm sure praying that God is molding me into something beautiful and glorifying of Him through this journey called motherhood.
After the service, we all went to The Club for brunch. It was a beautiful day, and we loved playing outside first and enjoying the gorgeous view of Birmingham (which isn't captured in any of these photos.) Here is my 92-year-old grandmother, MaMa, along with Carter, Alex, and his siblings. From L to R, Carter, Graham, Tate, Alex, Cece, and Mama. I love how Graham has his arm around Carter. He loves to help and is such a sweet big brother to Cece!Pals Carter and Graham
This cracked me up! This is Graham with his hand directing Carter's face back to the cameras! :)
Checking out the telescope

Here's praying that we all let God mold us this week, regardless of our circumstances! How reassuring to be in the Master's hands!


Birthday Joy

I have to say, even though I do a poor job of keeping up on Facebook, and even though I don't always know the point of trying to stay connected with more people than it's possible to do well....it sure makes birthdays really fun. :) Thanks for all the sweet messages on my wall....it's so great to receive bday wishes from people I don't ever get to really talk to. Facebook sure makes the day feel more special.

It's a beautiful, sunny, and warm (well, warm enough to play outside) day!! And Carter and I have had such a fun time. Today's episode of Disney's The Imagination Movers was even about birthdays. Carter keeps thinking it's his birthday again too. :)

As far as life in my 30s, I am still loving it. I do have to say that I noticed 4 big changes this last year that I assume are just a part of aging:
1) My skin has suddenly become very dry. Particularly my forehead. So dry that I sometimes have to apply moisturizer 3-4x a day so it won't itch or flake. Lancome counter, here I come. Or maybe I should start with Vaseline.
2) I am at the same weight as pre-baby, but everything continues to shift. I am certainly not as toned as I used to be, but I also just carry weight way differently that I used to. It's a little bit depressing, but I am not giving up on a return to bikinis.
3) The, ahem, monthly visitor, that all of us women groan about has decided to stay a few extra days each time. I tried to tell her that she wasn't welcome to stick around that long, but AF doesn't listen well.
4) While I do notice lines around my eyes, they aren't noticeable under makeup. But I never thought the lines and wrinkles on my hands would be the sure tell sign of my age. :) My new theory is that you can estimate a person's age based on their hands. I am not kidding. Compare the hands of a college girl and the hands of a 30-something woman. You'll see what I'm talking about.

I like to use my birthdays as a time of reflection. Here are some of the highlights I'll always remember about the last year:
- My first REAL publication (real meaning it came with a check) :) It was a devotion in The Upper Room.
Scott and I completed house plans for the home we hope to build next year and live in forever. It was such a fun project to work on together as we dreamed about our future and our family.
- Carter learned how to say, "Wuv you, Momma." Love it!!
- We got matched with our precious daughter, Grace.
- I reached a new level of intimacy with the Lord once I fully grasped that his love is UNFAILING. Some lessons don't sink in until you're driven to your knees.

Scott and I do a mini retreat every January to evaluate, plan, set goals, and make resolutions, but here are some random hopes and goals for this next year:
- Write an article a week.
- Learn to use my new camera through some type of class or book.
- Develop some allergy-free recipes for Carter that our whole family can eat together (recipes that will taste good too)
- Work my tummy and get a six pack. :)
-Then get pregnant and carry the baby (or babies!) full term. (Okay, so that may not ALL happen before my next bday.)
- Enjoy sweet moments with my children because they'll be all grown up before I know it.
- Drop what I'm doing to welcome home my husband every day instead of being so focused on finishing dinner, laundry, or other less significant tasks.

It's been a joyful day, and I couldn't conclude without celebrating my mom, Mary Lynn. Now being a mother, I've learned that your child's birthday is a big deal for you too because you remember the miracle of the day you gave birth. It's as big a day for moms as it is for the kids. Here's to you Mom!! Thanks for giving me life!


Our Emergency Dr's Visit

We might as well just rename my blog "Drama Central." :)

Carter and I just got home from an emergency trip to our pediatric allergist.  As you know, Carter has food allergies to milk, eggs, and beef. Up until today, his worst reactions included hives and vomiting. But the occurrences were never really serious. (just messy)

This morning at playgroup, Carter accidentally got a hold of two cheese its. Yep, that's all. Two.
I didn't worry too much, because the small amount would typically only result in a rash. He did grab his tongue, but he otherwise seemed okay.

He fell asleep on the way home, and I got him transferred into his bed. Twenty minutes later, he woke up screaming for me, while also coughing and wheezing. I thought to myself that a cold had come on awfully quickly!

I gave him some Tylenol and placed him on my lap to watch some Pooh in the hopes he'd fall asleep again. Within 20 minutes, he was scratching at his legs. I discovered he had red welts covering his entire body, and as he turned toward me, both eyes were almost swollen shut! I also noticed he was really starting to wheeze heavily. I gave him a dose of Benadryl, and we jumped in the car to head to the allergist. This reaction was way different than any other he had had previously. Not to mention that it was delayed by 2 hours! (I have since learned that reactions can occur up to 8 hours later!)

When we got to the dr's office, they rushed us into a room. We were quickly surrounded by our dr and three nurses.  I didn't know until 15 minutes later, but his heart rate and oxygen levels were too low. One nurse was giving him an epi pen shot, one gave him more Benadryl, and another gave him two tablets to chew while the dr got his levels. We then had to hold him down, as he was so scared and hysterical from the way his body was responding (kind of a fight or flight sensation they say), while another nurse held a mask to his face to give an oxygen treatment for 5 minutes. With all the commotion and the sight of my son so distressed, tears just began streaming down my face. Carter couldn't see me because he was sitting in my lap, but I had to struggle to keep my voice steady and composed so I could talk him through it and keep him distracted by the DVD they had put on.  It was such an emotional experience!

After about 10-15 minutes, they finally got his levels back to normal. Our doctor said it was good we came in because Carter was heading in the wrong direction. They kept us there for another 45 minutes to make sure Carter didn't rebound.  He prescribed 2 epi pens for us to have now if such a severe reaction occurs again. While Carter's reactions have worsened over the last year, the doctor still thinks he will outgrow them by perhaps age 4 or 5.  That is encouraging! But what a stressful and overwhelming day! This episode also convinced me to pay attention to Carter's diet, as there really may be a tie in to his behavior given his sensitivity to foods and his allergies. 

On a positive note, ya'll must be doing some serious praying!! :)  Carter and I had a great afternoon yesterday, and he actually wanted ME to read him his bedtime story last night even when Scott was home. He's been asking me to hold him and sit with him a ton.  YAY! Thanks for walking with me through this time. I really want to respond individually to all your comments, but it might take me a few days. :)

Love to all!


Answering Some Questions

First of all, I am SO grateful for all your comments and suggestions on my post this morning. I am following up on ALL of them and making a plan. :) Your words of affirmation and encouragement had such a sweet impact on my spirit, especially after the rough morning we had.

If you'll humor me, I did want to share some of Carter's wonderful qualities because I feel like I painted such a bad picture of him. He really is a very loving kid. He is good with sharing with other kids. He likes to gives hugs (and long ones, to the dismay of some kids!). He can be very creative and funny, and he likes to pray for practically everyone he knows. Despite his behavior and rejection, he has spent many moments cuddling with me. He asks for me whenever I am not around, and he loves to sit in my lap. While our time in North Carolina was a period of constant rejection, our weekdays together now, when it's just him and me, definitely have sweet moments interspersed. The disconcerting part is how he swings from one extreme to the other, and then back, so quickly. But my son can melt my heart like I've never experienced. And his smile and laugh are contagious. I can't imagine my life without him.

A lot of you asked some questions, so I've answered them below to help with any further insight or advice. Again, thank you for taking time to share such great tips. You have no idea how helpful your comments have been!

I honestly don't believe Carter is spoiled, at least by Scott and me. My dad commented last summer that we don't let our son get away with anything. I read a bunch of parenting and discipline books early on, so I have known from the start to be very firm and consistent. In fact, many of Carter's fits or bad moods are a result of us saying "No." He is very strong-willed and stubborn. So whereas many kids would become easily distracted after a few minutes, Carter will start crying again an hour later because he can't have Scott's car keys. Saying no to a request for oreos for breakfast can sometimes ruin Carter's mood for the whole morning. :) Sometimes I'll think, "Kelley, it's not really a big deal if he plays with that." But at that point it's too late to change my mind or else he'll think his whining worked.

Carter is the first grandchild on both sides, so of course he gets spoiled when in his grandparents' care. However, they are all good about not tolerating whining or tantrums. Carter has shown some perfectionist tendencies (like screaming and crying when his legos come apart), so I think this combined with his stubbornness might play a huge role in his reactions to not getting his way.

Like Darby mentioned, talking about spanking on the internet makes me feel a little vulnerable, but here goes. We do spank using the "sad spoon." (a wooden spoon with a sad face on it) We always make sure we are calm when we spank Carter so that he knows the difference between hitting as an angry response and spanking as discipline. We ask him why he is getting spanked so he understands, and like Darby and Beth shared, this usually results in a sweet spirit afterwards. Carter will often hug me and be very calm and gentle. (And I am intentional about not spanking Carter in front of company so that I don't publicly humiliate him.) We've also found now that even the simple threat of the sad spoon can correct a situation.

We also do timeouts, and they were pretty effective until a few months ago. They don't have much impact lately. I will say that I haven't been spanking as much in the last month or so because I felt like I was spanking too much. But it IS effective. Maybe I need to have a boot camp for a couple of days where we spend all day in time out or with the sad spoon if need be. :) Any variations or specifics in how ya'll handle spanking are welcome. (Verbal attacks are not...this is a topic many people disagree on.)

Scott is great at telling Carter to apologize to me if he pushes me or is mean. We try to show him that he can't control us. Several parenting books said that kids shouldn't have the power (or the burden) of controlling parents' responses. So I've tried hard to remain calm even when I am fuming inside (with the exception of my 2 big outbursts). :) Perhaps in my efforts to be very calm, I come across as too gentle? Maybe he doesn't take me seriously because I do not appear angry? I don't know...there are definitely times where I'm sure he can at least sense my frustration. This is why I have felt like such a failure...because I am furious inside and am trying to be so calm and unmoved.

I also think I say "no" too much. One of the first parenting books I read encouraged parents to train their children in good behavior so that discipline isn't required as often. In many ways, this has worked well. By the age of 7 or 8 months, Carter knew not to touch anything on our coffee table. However, with this approach, we didn't baby proof much because we were training him to obey. Before he realized he had a choice, this was great. Now, I feel like I am saying "No" too often when things like taking out my measuring spoons shouldn't be an option anyway. (We're installing drawer and door locks this weekend.)

One more thing...we don't count to 3. We teach Carter to obey on the first command. (I can't say this lesson has been learned yet though.) :)

The "Grace Factor"
I definitely think that there has been anxiety about the adoption process, especially because of some recent delays that we experienced. And Carter is a smart kid, so I am sure he senses it. The only complication in this being the main cause is that his behavior started back in October before we were ever matched with Grace. Also, Scott is very even-keeled, and yet Carter acts out for him a lot too even though he still prefers his daddy. There's no denying though that this is a probable factor in everything. While we don't talk about Grace a whole lot with Carter, I can't underestimate how much he hears when I'm talking on the phone or to Scott.

Red 40 Dye
Thank you Darby and Beth for bringing this to my attention!! I had never heard about the effects of red dye. Here is a blurb I found when I googled it:
"Red 40 is a commonly used food coloring dye added to a variety of products. While it may make food esthetically pleasing in appearance, it can cause a negative reaction in those who consume it.

Children are most often the ones who have sensitivity to red 40, whether or not their parents have realized it or not. Reactions include temper tantrums, hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, uncontrollable crying and screaming, kicking, nervousness, dizziness, inability to concentrate and sit still among other findings. Physically you may get frequent headaches or migraines, upset stomach and feel ill after ingesting this additive. Often when Red 40 is eliminated from the child's diet a remarkable change is noticed immediately.

Red 40 is used in many food products including kool-aid, orange and other flavored sodas, cheetos and dorito chips, strawberry pop-tarts, any candy with red coloring to it including m&m's, skittles, many chewing gums, etc. Also many children's vitamins and pain relievers/cold medicine have red 40 in the ingredients."

I am going through all our food labels and trashing foods with it. Due to Carter's food allergies, red dye may definitely be playing some role in his behavior! I am going to research this more.

Holding Time
Lynn, it's so funny that you brought this up because it crossed my mind the other day! I wondered if parents could try this tactic with their bio kids. Some days I feel like Carter and I are having "attachment issues" like adopted kids do. :) I think I am going to order that book tonight. I know that there's a specific way to do this approach, so I want to be sure I do it correctly. Thanks for suggesting this book!

Well, I have lots of avenues to pursue. And I would love to hear any additional suggestions out there. I'll keep ya'll posted on how we progress. Thanks for the support and love!!

Breaking Point: A Call for Help from a Desperate Mom

A common criticism of blogs is that people can make their lives look any way they want. They don't complain or share the not-so-great moments. In some ways, that's true. But I've also seen a lot of bloggers get very real in their posts. And I am about to do the same. I started this post almost two months ago but didn't want to publish it because of fear of judgment. Well, I'm over my pride. I need help, and I need it fast before I completely break down.

Let's cut to the chase and be blunt. I am having an incredibly hard time with Carter. I feel like a failure as a mom. I fight back tears most days, and I am not a huge crier. I know he's a toddler. I know he's probably experiencing the terrible 2's. But no one I've talked to has had their child behave in such extreme manners as Carter has. And no mother I know has had their heart broken by their child's rejection the way mine has been over the last few months.

Here's a little background...
I hinted in my Christmas post that things had been rough, but I haven't shared with ya'll that this all started in October. I know it's a common phase to prefer a parent and reject another, but 5 months is a long time to endure it. During our trip to North Carolina at Christmas, my mom cried when she saw how Carter treated me. He would only let Scott (or other family) hold him. He screamed when I came in the room. He pushed me away saying "push" or "scratch." He yelled "NO!" if Scott asked him to hug me, etc. Christmas Day was honestly one of the worst I can remember because I was constantly on the verge of tears. He would reject me, I would go and get myself together, pray, fight back the tears, and then return to try to play again. But each time I would go back, I felt a little smaller and it was harder to take. I never thought my own son would reject me, and it's been incredibly heartbreaking. We've researched this toddler preference, and it seems to be fairly common. But many moms described the pain the same way, and a lot felt they were depressed. Rejection is my "issue" so to speak, so this has all been particularly difficult, and I'm sure the enemy is taking full advantage of my history to make it seem worse. I can't explain what it's like to have your child repeatedly push you away, day after day, week after week. It starts wearing you down. Some of the things we read online said the phase was lasting even up to 3 and 4 years! Everyone had a similar story but no one really had any help or advice. And as I said earlier, no moms I actually know have experienced this. Carter behaves well at Mother's Day Out, church, and with family, so at least we know this isn't a general developmental/behavioral issue. I asked our pediatrician about his rejection of me, and she said I should see it as a compliment that Carter feels so unconditionally loved that he is comfortable pushing my buttons like that. I wish I could say I feel flattered.

Things have not been as bad as they were in NC, but every day is still a challenge. I have always felt incredibly blessed and joyful to be a stay-at-home mom, but I honestly would choose work right now just to escape. Carter is very aggressive. Scratching our faces, biting, pushing us. He seems to be in a constant state of irritation. He gets incredibly angry, and sometimes without a seeming cause. We're at a loss of how to handle it all. I can't figure out his triggers. His behaviors and outbursts will occur when he's rested as well as tired, when he's been fed as well as when hungry. He'll ask me to sit with him one minute to cuddle and then go ballistic another moment when I try to hug or kiss him. Scott disciplines Carter too, so Carter's preference for his daddy isn't because Scott is just the fun playmate.

The outbursts and fits are not always related to discipline. They happen at any given moment. And the hardest part is that, while Carter has often brought out the best in me, he is also succeeding in bringing out the very worst in me. On two occasions, I have completely lost my temper and screamed in a rage like I haven't done since my crazy, hormonal, adolescent years. I have apologized to Carter for these responses, but I am left feeling out of control and bewildered. One of these responses happened despite my frequent prayers for help throughout that day. The problem is that I keep it together for 6 days straight, but the cumulative effect leads me to break that 7th day. I get pushed to the limit, and I fall apart. I feel like I am a horrible mother. What I really want is to reflect the nature, love, patience, and consistency of Christ, but the more I seem to try, the more I fail. And I am not relying on my efforts alone...I pray frequently for the Lord to guide and help me. What am I doing wrong? We've been firm with discipline tactics from an early age, but obedience has gone out the door. The fits and outbursts sometimes happen all day long. I am so tired and drained, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

So I'm asking for help. Not pats on the back or reminders that this is all a phase. I am looking for advice from moms who've been there, done that. Even from those without kids who may have insight or wisdom to share. How long does this phase last??? What can I do differently? It's impossible to share every situation and what things we've been trying to help. I know a lot of this behavior is normal for toddlers, but why are my experiences so different from the moms I know?

Thanks in advance for your help.

P.S. One friend suggested that Carter might have some anxiety about Grace coming home. He smiles when he says her name and always seems excited, but this is a definite possibility for his behavior. Also, another friend shared that her son behaves much better when he hasn't had as much processed food. So I'm being careful with Carter's diet this week to see if this helps.


And she shall be called....

As many of you know, I've been wrestling with the decision over what we will call our daughter, Virginia Grace.  When we first chose the name, we didn't really intend for it to be used as a double name. But when we saw our little girl's face and realized she looked so much like a "Grace," we wondered if we would use that name rather than Virginia. We both loved the simplicity of each name on its own, but we weren't sure which one to choose. 

In the meantime, we (and everyone else) became used to calling her Virginia Grace.  I have loved both names for over a decade and thought that maybe I should use them separately with the risk that we may never have another daughter.  But we loved the two names together too, and so her name was chosen when we began the adoption process.  

Our concern now is that a double name is long and may be hard for our sweet China girl to learn and pronounce, especially since English will be a foreign language to her. The damage to her tongue from the tumor removal may pose some speech problems as well.  So, Scott and I finally reached a decision. We will call her Grace. This is what Carter has called her all along. And in so many ways, this name seems so appropriate and fitting.  

But, just to add some confusion to the mix, we will also use "Virginia Grace" on occasion. Just as a mom might call her son Christopher and Chris, or a daughter Katherine and Kat, our daughter will have her full name and her nickname.  I am embroidering a pillow with the full name, and her sippy cup labels have Virginia Grace on them too.  I just thought I'd explain so I don't confuse people when I use the names alternately. :)  

We've also been asked what her monogram will be since Xue has been carried over from her Chinese name and used as a second middle name.  Her monogram will simply be VBG.

I can't wait to share what Grace's Chinese name means in full, but we are required to wait until after she is home with us before I share her full name on the blog. 

One more thought to share about our child's name.... as I've written before, we were heartbroken when we had to turn down the referral of a beautiful girl with a special need much more severe than we felt prepared to handle.  That night, after an emotional 36 hours of research, discussion, decision-making, and prayer, I lay in bed with my husband and poured out my tears and anger to God. I felt like He had taken away yet another baby, as I had first believed this child was meant to be ours.  I will share more in another post, but I had not been dealing well with my grief from the most recent miscarriage, and that night, I told God that I hated Him. I soon repented, but the important part of this story is that God didn't hold this against me. In fact, I believe He was relieved that I was finally being real and honest with Him rather than pretending that we were okay.  I needed to deal with my emotions rather than just trying to be strong. The most amazing part of this story is that after being (momentarily) rejected by His daughter, God showed me Grace the very next day and gave Scott and me the gift of our daughter.  If that doesn't testify to the unfailing love and goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ, I don't know what does. 
I hope you will ponder how God has shown you grace lately. I think sometimes we completely miss it.  He gives us new mercies every morning, and I wonder how many days I've passed through without accepting them. As promised, I will share more of my experience from that night in a later post. But for now, I'll end with a passage that has become one of my most treasured Scriptures. 

        I remember my affliction and my wandering, 
      the bitterness and the gall. 
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  
Lamentations 3:19-23


Have I mentioned how much I love snow???

Well, I just adore it. The sight of snow literally soothes my soul and makes me sigh with contentment. Having lived 15 years of my life in the northern state of New Jersey, I was used to the guarantee of snowfalls every winter. In Alabama, it's a rarity. It's been so fun to see snow SEVERAL times this winter! Today, we got about 4 inches. And I think Carter loves it just as much as I do!Because we don't get much snow, I didn't have any gloves or hats for Carter. So here is Scott putting MY gloves onto Carter's little hands.And wearing one of my ear warmer headbands. He was ready to go!Daddy and Carter all set to head out into our wintry wonderland. (I love how Jackson positioned himself to be in the picture.)Carter's favorite thing was throwing the snow.And hugging the snowman that Scott made.
Carter and Frosty.

The snow stopped around 5 pm, and the beautiful day ended with this gorgeous sunset.
Have I mentioned how much we all love snow?


Like most sons, Carter likes to follow his daddy around and copy his every action. His latest obsession has been "shaving" with Scott. He asks for his own "cothwash" with warm water and holds it to his face to supposedly soften his baby stubble. :)

I have to say, it's very cute to watch Carter imitate his dad. And while it'd be amusing to have him follow me around, I'd much rather him be interested in trying to "shave" than apply mascara. :)