Black Belt

I have to admit, when we signed a contract with Declan's Tae Kwon Do studio, I chose the more expensive month-to-month option. His stick-to-it-ness isn't always rock solid (he was 5 after all). So a year long contract didn't seem like a good fit. Little man proved me so wrong and it was a joy to witness him climb the ranks and secure his black belt last night. The next step is Juniors and I'm really hopeful he stays focused there as well. The skills he learns in Tae Kwon Do are just the icing on the cake. I'm more thankful for all the listening skills they teach and the lessons about character.
Group of black belts:
 Declan's favorite instructor, Mr. Reed:




Baby girl is perfection. Seriously. I have never experienced a more easy, sweet baby in my life. Honeymoon period? Who knows but I don't care. I've totally slowed down (maternity leave...woot woot) and I just soak her in every chance I get. She loves to be snug in my Solly wrap:
With Declan and our foster twins, I was always ready for that last feeding so I could lay them down for the night. Baby girl just snuggles with me for a long time after that last feeding as I can barely convince myself to put her to bed. Something is magical about this sweet soul. It was easy to fall (fast) in love with her. 


Baby Girl

Every time we had court I swear mom's belly had grown. I wasn't the only one suspicious and it was confirmed this Fall that she was indeed pregnant. Our home was an obvious place for baby to go since we had 2 full bio siblings. One small hitch- we were done. D.O.N.E. Our family was complete and it had been a very hard year as the boys healed from some wrongs of their past. I started getting rid of baby stuff even though my heart was a teensy bit open (Marks was not at all). Crib gone, gear gone, everything pretty much gone. It felt liberating and I started looking forward to my 2 year old being out of diapers and all the fun next steps a young family takes when there are no more babies. 

Then I found out something that changed it all. A girl. My heart blew up and I couldn't stop thinking about her. Still, Mark was a huge NO. We prayed, we argued, we each made our points, prayed some more. Mom's due date was just around the corner when Mark decided he was finally on board. We gave our "yes" and just weeks later mom went in to labor early and baby girl joined our home just 1 day old last week. It's been amazing. She fits right in. The tenderness that comes out in the boys makes my heart leap. We are all so smitten. 

The uncertainties of this case can eat me alive if I let myself think too hard. My mantra has been to love on her as long as God allows. Some days I'm steady and trusting and some days the future scares me. I don't want to rip out the hearts of our boys. So, for now, she's our foster babe. My wise friend Maralee told me this: 

"Every day with a foster kid is a gift. It's a chance to invest in the woman she will become. I know it's incredibly tough, but do what you can to enjoy this day with her."

And I do. We do. At 4am when she's done feeding, I snuggle her extra long and stare at her little face that changes every day. I let each brother hold her as often as they ask. I worry less about noise and schedules and all the other things that consumed me when Declan was a newborn and just take time to soak her in. No matter how long she's with us, we are her safe place full of snuggles, hugs, songs, and sticky fingered brothers who vow to always protect her. 


January so far...

We celebrated Evie's 5th birthday party in Omaha at CoCo Keys (indoor game/water park). The boys loved it and so we'll need to go up again soon...maybe for L's 4th birthday in March.
That night Declan got some quality cousin and Nana/Papa time with an overnighter. This was the pic I got from my mom of Declan loving his hot cocoa. 
Sunday night movie night. Crosby and Declan chose to be fireside:
Sometimes my 2 year old looks 4. Amazing how quick kids grown. Sniff, sniff.
On the way home from skating, Declan was telling cute stories only a 6 year old could make up. Love him all deep in thought:
Ryan came over for our Monday Bachelor nights and the dogs immediately claimed his lap. Unfortunately, this season is a bore so I think I'm done.
I'm so happy my grandparents moved back from New York. Gie (what we call my grandma) and "B" are buddies. 
My aunt and cousin visited and we got to spend some quality time together. They joined in with the trainable fun.
Declan is so excited to test for his BLACK belt soon. Can't believe he's stuck with this so long. Hope he keeps it up! We see a ton of potential for him to do amazing in martial arts.
I don't want to nix anything but it's been unseasonably warm all month. It was over 50 several times this week and the boys drug all the toys over to the last patch of snow of course. 

January Christmas

Now that Mark's family is spreading out (Ohio and Colorado) we had to do a non-traditional time for Christmas so January worked for everyone. It was a fun and crazy day with 9 kids 7 and under. 

The day before we had our Colorado fam over for dinner and "L" was smitten with Violet:
These two boys are bestie. Cousins rock:
Uncle Jase and little Landry:
Sister-in-law's are the best...

Big Day

When Declan was 10 months old he started a new daycare. He quickly became glued to this sweet girl named Bekah. That daycare ended up being a bad fit but I stole Bekah and she became our nanny and an honorary member of our family the past 5 years. She's been through so much with us and even nannied the twins we fostered and I feel like we couldn't have done it without her. We were SO EXCITED she met her perfect match (who happened to be our pediatrician's son). Eric and Declan are peas in a pod and Decs was thrilled to be a part of their wedding.

That same rink

Just over a year ago, on a Monday in December, we sat home with Declan in preschool and the twins on a long visit with mom and discussed what was next. Fostering the twins was not on our radar but in many ways, we are so glad we did. One of those huge reasons was that we met the caseworker that would ultimately match us with the boys. 
We had the boys on respite the two days before. It wasn't good. It was chaotic, exhausting, confusing. We thought fos/adopting 1 and 2 year old boys would be a no brainer but we paused. Big time. We made a pros and cons list. ((I know! I know! It's ridiculous)) but, with hesitation in our hearts, told the case worker we were all in. That night, we had a mini celebration down at the Railyard here in Lincoln. It's an enchanting outdoor skate rink that I still can't believe is in our city. We had an absolute blast. 
First time skating for this little dude. Celebrating the "yes" given to maybe have two little new dudes join our family:
We went back to that rink this year with those two boys we had said yes to the year before. I had a little moment when I saw Mark walking hand in hand with my older sons so I set down the 2 year old that was on my hip and took this picture because I wanted to freeze and revisit it. 
My parents joined us and my mom took this picture which may be my new favorite picture of all time. It perfectly captures our crazy life. ;)