the flood.

Hello from a very wet Columbia!

Thanks so much to all who have checked in on us. It’s been a crazy few days. About a hundred of us from CPC went on a church retreat this weekend. We heard the forecast of record rainfall and possible flooding before we left, but didn’t comprehend the magnitude of it. Our retreat was at Ridgehaven camp in Brevard, NC, and we got lots of rain, but nothing major. We were tucked away in the mountains — wet, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves — when on Sunday morning we began to get word of the flooding back in South Carolina.

Some people left the retreat early, many went to friends or family’s homes outside of Columbia, and a few of us stayed at Ridgehaven until the afternoon to get an idea of what the roads were like. We finally made a break for it Sunday afternoon. We heard that some of the interstates were closed and there was a city-wide 6:00 curfew, but wanted to get as close as possible.

Thankfully some church friends got back in town before we left and reported that our house was okay except for some flooding in the basement, so David and I weren’t as concerned for ourselves as for other homes.

We got to Columbia at 6:30, right after the curfew, and it felt like a ghost town. 1-20 and 1-26 into downtown were blockaded off, but we found a way toward our neighborhood. After several detours, we were thankful to be able to get home.

We’re shocked by the damage that has been done to our city: dams have burst, homes are destroyed, whole chunks of road washed away. At the same time, most people we know have been spared so much. We’re still waiting to hear the final damage from a couple of displaced families; many are completely unaffected, and for others it seems that damage is limited to HVAC units and ductwork.

It continued to rain all day yesterday, but today has been so sunny you’d almost never believe our city has been flooded. David and his dad have cleaned out both our basements, and they spent the last couple days with our other pastor, John, out helping people and making grocery store runs.

I feel very, very grateful that we were spared a flooded house. David and I look around our home and wonder what on earth we would do if we lost everything. It’s a sobering thought. I’m so sad for those for whom that’s a reality this week. And I am also heartened by the hundreds, probably thousands, of people here and elsewhere who are already generously offering help.

Thank you for your prayers!

four on friday.

How they each prefer to spend quality time with me . . .


Judah. He wants to sit side-by-side and copy a picture chosen from a book or on the iPad (battle scenes from Star Wars and Pokemon characters are current top choices).



Amelie. Play make-believe as real people. Either we’re “friends” who go shopping and talk about our babies, or she’s the teacher and I’m the student. Basically any scenario where she can boss me around for a change.



Gabriel. I’m not sure this guy has a preference; he’s utterly thrilled with any one-on-one attention . . . reading books, playing trains, helping Mommy with chores, or doing school.



Noah. His love language is to be followed around outside (but not too close) while he roams freely, doing exactly what he wants at the speed he wants, getting as dirty as he wants.

12-hour date.

Thank you to those who have been praying for me! God really has given me a sense of joy this week. On Thursday David’s parents gave us a 12-hour date: they babysit the kids from 7 am to 7 pm. David took the day off work, I took the day off school, and the kids had a field trip to Edventure with Grandpa and Mum-Mum.

We hadn’t left the boys — or any of our kids for that matter — for this length of time since the adoption, and boy, did we need a break. Most of all I think we just needed to feel like a couple again. To spend a day focusing all of our attention on each other, instead of dividing it a dozen ways between kids and work and school.

My friend Hannah recommended a breakfast spot a couple hours up the road in Traveler’s Rest, SC, Tandem Creperie and Coffeehouse. Oh my goodness, this place is amazing. If you’re in the Greenville area, it’s worth a trip to Traveler’s Rest just to eat there. Try the Lumberjack, a savory crepe made with cornmeal and drizzled with maple syrup. And of course, what’s a visit to a creperie without some sort of concoction made with bananas and Nutella?


After getting all carbed up, we drove to Jones Gap for some hiking. I am now very intimidated to hike with my husband, because, I mean, the GRT. But he went easy on me and found a great compromise for us, a six-mile round trip hike to Rainbow Falls. Jones Gap is beautiful and the trails were almost empty on a Thursday morning. David is already planning a camping trip with Judah and Gabe.


It felt so liberating to be a regular person again, not attached at the hip to one (or all) of my children, hiking, laughing, talking, and just being companionably silent with David. He brought fun snacks from Whole Foods for a light picnic lunch at the waterfall, and of course it was so romantic up there that we did a little smooching.


We planned to drive to Greenville afterward for an early dinner, but then realized we were 20 minutes away from Flat Rock, NC, one of our very favorite places. So we headed to the Flat Rock Village Bakery for a pre-dinner cup of decaf on the patio. For those wanting to know, David’s reading material was Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, and I brought Jeanette Walls’ Half-Broke Horses.


We headed next door for dinner on the patio at Hubba Hubba Smokehouse, and were greeted by the resident free range rooster. David got the beef brisket plate and I ordered the pork. It was delicious!



Thursday was a rainy day here in Columbia, but we didn’t hit any rain until the drive back. When we arrived home at 7:00, Mum-Mum had the kids fed and bathed and in pj’s. It was incredible.

I’m so thankful for my husband and for our 12-hour date!

four on friday.


Judah. A scattering of trampoline breaks make for a much smoother school day for this boy.



Amelie. She keeps all of her brothers organized.



Gabriel. Catching and inspecting bugs is one of his favorite hobbies.



Noah. Two firsts this week: bursting into heart-broken tears when Daddy left for work, and a spontaneous, “I yuv you, Mommy.”

five months.


Our boys have now been with us five months, and we have wonderful moments and other moments that can only be described as desperate.

I took Gabriel and Noah to our pediatrician soon after they came home in April, and she told me, “Expect a good six months’ adjustment period for every member of your family.” I so appreciated her wisdom. I was worried about many things. But she said she didn’t want to consider any kind of next steps until we reached that six month mark. She said, “The very most healing thing for all of you is to be home together as a family. Just be patient.”

That has helped me a great deal. But this week I realized I’ve been hanging on for dear life to that six-month pronouncement as the moment when everything will magically click into place and become “normal” for our family.

And yet. Here we are at five months, and while we’ve come such a very long way in our bonding/healing process, I’m now realizing that we have a long way still to go.

In other words, I’m still burrowed deep in the tunnel, and I see that I will be here for quite awhile.

Suddenly I remember other wisdom, from friends who have adopted, from blog posts like this one by Jen Hatmaker, and books I’ve read, that let me know it takes a whole year for this kind of adjustment to happen.

We’re not even half way there yet.

There are so many layers and as we get through some challenges, I’m staring others full in the face, and some days I just cry because I want to fix my children right now. Not just the adopted ones — all of them, who struggle in various ways with brokenness.

My kids’ brokenness reveals my own brokenness and I’m just so impatient with the lot of us. I want us to be bonded and healed and happy. I want to be Fun, Laid-back mom — to be kind and gentle with all their struggles, and have a sense of humor on the days when things fall apart, and have wise words for their questions (okay, to actually answer their questions instead of brush right past with my arms overflowing with laundry), and to smile and shrug my shoulders when the house is a mess.

But I just can’t be that mom, and honestly, I’m so weary of trying. I’m weary of this journey, which is stretching me to my limits and exposing my deep inadequacy. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon, and I’ve never really had good stamina.

As I write this I’m sitting in a flood of tears, because like a light turning on, I see that that at the heart of it all, I do not want to surrender my kids to God. I worry over them all constantly and problem-solve and desperately want to protect each of them from pain. But I’m holding on too tight. I’m striving to do something God has not called me to.

I am not God.

I am not in control.

There are things He asks me to do as a parent, yes, and I need to be faithful. But the outcome of what I do is His. I can’t fix anyone. I can’t make anyone’s path clear and smooth. God has used pain and brokenness in my own story to change me and help me love other people better, and He probably wants to do the same thing for my children.

And yet I’m here, grasping their precious, fragile stories in my hands, trying to manipulate the sentences into something I think is tidy and pretty. In the process, I’m trying to write a chick-lit novel where the world is bubble-gum happy and bright.

But God is their Writer, and He’ll settle for nothing less than a classic. He has challenges and depth and beauty in store for them that I can’t even imagine. He has rich plot and conflict and character. His sentences sing.

So what is my job? I think it is probably just humble acceptance. It’s not straining ahead for some abstract six-month or one-year point when life will become easy. You know as well as I do that that won’t happen. One day we’ll probably emerge from this particular tunnel, yes, but then new challenges will replace old ones, because we are all sinners, and because we live in a beautiful-but-broken world.

And so now, here, at five months’ in, I see with a new kind of clarity that my job is to surrender and to sit with my children, just as they are here and now. I’m to love them the best I know how, even when I can’t fix them, even when I can’t be everything for them. I’m to celebrate their stories.

Instead of responding in sharp frustration because I desperately want to meet their every need and can’t, I can relax. I can repent when I need to, and other times I can smile kindly at them as I make my boundaries and say “No.” “No, I can’t be everything for you, and no, I won’t try.” I trust that my inability to meet all their needs and heal them is part of their process of needing and loving and being healed by Jesus.

This light-turned-on is also like a heavy weight slipping from my shoulders. I would never trade my life. But I want more than that, I want joy. If you’d pray for that, I’d be grateful.

homeschooling with four kids.

To be honest, I was scared-stiff about attempting to homeschool with four kids in our family. Especially when two of them are new-to-us. David and I considered and prayed through our options this summer, and in the end, we both felt in our gut that, even with its challenges, this is the right path for our family. But it was with fear and trembling that I began school on August 3rd.

Like I said in last week’s post, every moment of the day is not smooth. We have lots of interruptions, and Mommy loses her temper sometimes. There was one particular Disastrous Day when David stopped by the house at 11:00 am to find school work abandoned at the table and all of us sitting, dazed, in front of the TV, watching Reading Rainbow on Netflix. Of course that’s the one day my husband comes home early!

But on the whole, I’ve been so very surprised at how well it’s going. Perhaps the main reason is that our kids thrive in structure. All of them. And so, even if they don’t love every part of our school morning, now that they all know what to expect every.single.weekday, they’ve settled into this rhythm and we can learn together.

Here are a few other things that are helping us enjoy this school year:

1. I’m prepared in the right ways.
This is a huge, very-welcome change from the last couple years. You’d think it would be the first rule of thumb as a home educator, and I did prepare in the past, but not always effectively. I did a good job planning out our year, and I knew how much material we needed to cover each day in our textbooks and reading, so each day I just moved to the next thing. I then recorded what work we completed in a homeschool planner.

I can’t explain why that felt so hard and cumbersome.

But this year I take a good two hours over the weekend to prepare for the coming week. A friend I met this summer gave me a fantastic idea for planning our week by using colored folders.

Judah and Amie have a different color for each week day (minus Mondays, because we’re at Classical Conversations). In the left-side pocket I hand-write their assignment list for the day, which includes chores and playing with their brothers, and in the right-hand pocket are their worksheets for the day. They check off work as it’s completed and move their worksheets to the other side of the folder.

This visual is very helpful. Instead of me nagging them to do the next subject, I can say, “Check your folder; what’s next?” [Hint: I help Amie with this since she is still a beginning reader, but I want her to be in the habit of it by the time she can read her assignments.] They have a little flexibility of when to complete things. And because everything is right in front of them, they rarely ever ask, “Can we be done with school now?”

This little bit of preparation helps my part of the day flow much better too. I’m not scrambling to grab books and worksheets, or remember what’s next. I can follow along with the folders too.


2. We have a great schedule.

David helped me come up with a new daily schedule. I hesitate to write it out for you, because there’s no one right way to schedule your homeschool day, and sometimes reading the details of other people’s is burdensome. But in summary, the thing that’s saving us this year is block scheduling. We divide our school day into three blocks, that are each about 1.5 hours long:

Block 1: History and Math

Juice (the other kids can take a break or listen in on Gabriel’s Sonlight read-alouds)

Block 2: Language Arts (we eat our snack during this block)


Block 3: Finish Language Arts (if necessary) and Classical Conversations memory work

1:15 Nap/Quiet rest time for everybody. We are usually finished with our work by this time, but if not, I finish with the big kids during part of their rest time.

7:00pm(ish): Gabe and Noah in bed, Sonlight read-alouds with the big kids

I utilize the clock in my school morning to make sure we start school at breakfast-time, and always take our breaks for juice, snack, and lunch. I need those times to cuddle with the boys, and all the kids need their blood sugar stabilized around 10:00 with a healthy snack.

The little guys are involved with our learning on and off throughout the morning; and I do some one-on-one work with Gabe during Block 2. I’ve built in times for the big kids to take turns playing with them, either outside or inside, and that helps everything run more smoothly. This year I started using the iPad. Each of the kids gets 10 minutes on the iPad doing an educational app during the morning, and they love it.

It helps my state of mind to divide our day into blocks. Rather than become overwhelmed with the whole day, like I used to do, I simply focus on the block we’re in. Whatever we don’t get finished in that block becomes homework for later on. So far we’re doing a great job of actually getting all the work done.


3. I love our curriculum.

We’ve compiled a wonderful selection of books this year, largely thanks to our guidance counselor, Emily, at SCAIHS (who I can’t recommend highly enough). I’ve let go of my desire to fit myself into one homeschooling system or philosophy. Most of what we do follows the classical model because we’re apart of Classical Conversations, but I don’t follow all the CC recommendations for supplemental work, and we branch out on our own in some areas. I’m finally at peace with that.

Over the past three years of homeschooling, I’ve found myself becoming both more driven and more relaxed. I’m more organized and focused about staying on top of our schedule and school work  — in a healthy way I think, because the older my children get the more demanding their work.

But I’m growing so much more relaxed about both my abilities and limitations as a homeschool mom. I’ve struggled a ton with insecurity in the past, but have reached a point where I see that there will be gaps in my kids’ education (as there are in every child’s education, no matter where they learn). I’ve begun to let go of comparison, and can now stop trying obsessively to find the perfect homeschooling system, because it doesn’t exist. What’s right for my friend’s family may not work for mine, and I don’t need to feel bad about that!

With good resources and accountability and a support system, I can do this. My kids are learning to read and love books and do math and spell and are soaking up history and geography like sponges.


4. We are learning!

I can’t tell you how much confidence and relief I feel now that Judah is in second grade. Kindergarten and first grade are fraught with big challenges — like learning to read and write. So many things are new. Attention spans are short. Handwriting can be nigh unto illegible.

But oh, second grade, I love you so much. Judah has gotten the hang of weekly spelling tests, and math flash cards. He can sit still for longer than 10 minutes, and is much more focused in his subjects. And very best of all, he’s a reader! The thing I feared would never happen on my watch has happened! He reads whole chapter books in a day, and I can hardly make enough library trips a week to keep the boy in Magic Treehouse books. It’s a joy to watch his love of reading take hold. And, as you know, it makes every single other subject easier. He can do more independent work now. Most of all, it’s given his overall confidence in learning a great big boost.

Having a second grader gives me so much more patience with my other children. Of course that’s patience I wish I would’ve have with Judah (I’m so sorry, dear firstborn). Instead of worrying how Amelie and Gabriel are faring next to their peers or stressing that they will ever read well or catch onto math concepts, I’m enjoying their process. They’ll get it. I find that I love homeschooling three grades at once, because I get to see each unique child learn at their own speed, with their own particular strengths and weaknesses, and the subjects we get to do together are just so much fun.


This is a very long blog post to say: school is great! The addition of Gabe and Noah and their endless zest for life has actually served to motivate and energize the big kids. Is Noah a handful? Yes. What two-year-old isn’t? But I’ve seen him grow even in six short weeks of school, and he can now sit on the floor and play toys by himself for several minutes, or choose to sit in my lap and draw while I work with one of the others.

And so we have our own little one-room school house happening this year, and there are moments of joy and satisfaction in it every day. Even when it makes me crazy, I feel very grateful for my life and my work.

judah’s golden birthday.


Judah’s “golden birthday” was this week: he turned eight on September 8th!

We celebrated in style all week. He and Owen had a Pokemon-themed family party on Saturday, and his birthday breakfast request for Tuesday morning was donuts. David took a couple hours off work in the morning to open presents, help build a Star Wars Lego set, and play a game of Pokemon. The kids and I celebrated with a few friends from Classical Conversations at the park in the afternoon, and we topped the week off with a family trip to HiWire trampoline park today.


Judah and Amie have been anxiously awaiting this birthday so that the four kids in our family will be “2-4-6-8!” I have to pinch myself to believe that I have an eight-year-old. It makes me feel so old. I am thoroughly enjoying the elementary years so far. Our boy is growing up kind and funny and smart.


He’s become an avid reader in the last month. Favorite series are Magic Treehouse, Pokemon comics, and Star Wars Jedi Academy. He still loves to be read to, which makes me happy, and daily offers to read picture books to his siblings.

Judah enjoys drawing and making his own comic strips, playing Pokemon and Lego’s, jumping on the trampoline, hiking and camping. His favorite subject in school is science, and he has an amazing gift for memorizing facts in all of his subjects. He loves his astronomy class with Grandpa (at the moment he’s sitting at the table next to me making a comic strip about his astronomy class).


Judah started practice this week to prepare him for swim team with Columbia Swimming. His coach told me last night she’s very impressed with his form and the way he’s already beginning to pick up strokes.


We love watching his skills, abilities, and interests blossom, but most of all, we love his heart. Judah is very sensitive to the feelings of others, and doesn’t like to see people suffer or get sad. He’s an encourager. He’s fiercely loyal to his sister and brothers and wants to protect them in all settings (sometimes to their exasperation!), and he deeply cares for his friends.


He can be very detailed and particular. He likes his world and the people in it to function in a certain way and doesn’t like chaos or lots of noise. So as you can imagine, adopting two little brothers was very hard for him. We are so proud of the ways Judah has grown and changed this year in response to something that has been quite traumatic. We see him becoming more patient and flexible, willing to give up control, and love people who are different from him. That’s Jesus working in his heart, plain and simple.

We love you, eight-year-old boy! You bring us so much happiness!


the start of school.

We’re in our fifth week of a new school year. Our days are not idyllic or without interruptions, but I’m here to report that we’re off to a great start. We are learning and laughing and, for the most part, very much enjoying being together.

This is due to a whole lot of God’s grace, and also, I think, two main factors: 1. We found a great daily schedule, and 2. We love our curriculum. More on that later this week, but for now, some photos!

Happy Labor Day!













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she says.

[While we’re folding clothes]

Amie: “I’m going to miss you too much when I go to college.”

me: “I know, I’ll miss you too. But maybe you’ll go somewhere close by, like USC. Then you can come home on the weekends and see us and do your laundry.”

Amie: “When I’m in college I’ll come home on the weekends and do your laundry!”