Friday, June 23, 2017

Cheers to the Weekend, Camp Week Edition

Hey y'all! Happy Friday to you! We were equal parts busy and equal parts lazy this week, in large part due to the not-so-nice weather over the last four days. Regardless, it was a good week for my Lu Crew. Here's what we are saying CHEERS to this week/end:

Father's Day golf tourney. As I mentioned last week, my hub played in a neighborhood Father's Day golf tournament last Saturday. He actually created it four years ago, which, at the time, involved somewhere between 12 and 16 guys. Now, four years later, it has grown to 100 dads! My hub, and our friend, Jason, worked incredibly hard together to make it a success and judging by the post-tourney talk around the pool, I'd say they achieved just that! Teams were assigned based on handicap, which meant dads were often playing with new dad friends. There were competitions and challenges throughout the tourney (for example, one hole had this special rifle that actually fired a golf ball through the air and to the hole. Golfers could pay $20 to shoot it, with all funds going straight to charity), and in the end, the winning teams were awarded incredible prizes (think beautifully engraved decanters and bourbon glasses; Artic coolers; etc.). It was awesome!

Meanwhile, three of my girlfriends and I, along with our kiddos, set up a (free!) hot dog stand for the dads at one of the holes. There were hot dogs, fixins', chips, and coolers of adult beverages waiting nearby. My friends' daughters made the most adorable signs for the dads, too! For four hours, two of us made fresh hot dogs and continually brought them down to the stand while two of us (along with the kiddos) were ready to hand out the goods to the dads. It was a blast, and I know we'll be doing the same thing next year! 


Father's Day fun. The next day was actual Father's Day, and we had fun celebrating our favorite daddy. From Waffle House in bed (his favorite!) to Jersey Mike's for lunch, from poolside fun with friends to our Sunday night viewing of AFV, we had a blast and also made sure to have all of Daddy's favorite eats and treats on hand for him to enjoy. :) 


Camp week. This was the week. The ONE week this summer that I managed to get all three kiddos into camps at the same time-ha! Banks participated in an ultimate sports camp (shocking I know ;)) while Raleigh and Harrison participated together in a music adventure camp. They had so much fun during the 9:00-12:00 timeframe they were there each day, and I was able to get.stuff.done. and also have some fun! Aldi, Costco, and Target trips, every load of laundry complete, adoption paperwork done, etc., as well as getting to play tennis and hit up barre. It was a great week for all!

Farewell PB. Over the last two and a half years, I have completed 367 classes at Pure Barre. While every single class was HARD, I cannot say enough about the amazing workouts, kind instructors, and supportive PB community. However, Wednesday was my last Pure Barre class. While I will be very sad to not see all the friendly faces 4-5 times a week, I will always look back on my time there fondly and will always highly recommend Pure Barre to any and everyone I meet! Thanks for the friendships and the LTBing, Pure Barre Fort Mill. <3

Big boy bed. As we prepare for Bella's arrival (eeeeek!!!), we've been making some changes around our house (as you do when you are due with a new little one :)). One of these changes means that Bella will inherit the crib/toddler bed all of my kiddos have used. This means that Harrison was due for a "big boy bed," which arrived and was moved into his room this week. Safe to say, our little big brother was PUMPED about his new sleeping spot. :) And I'll have more on Bella's room in the  next couple weeks! :) 

And with that, we will dive headfirst into the weekend! I'll be taking a little break from the ol' blog next week but will be back soon after with adoption updates, a bedroom reveal, and a recap of our latest summer adventures. :) Have a GREAT weekend, friends! See you again soon! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Isms, Part 24

I haven't written one of these in almost a year and a half! So, I figured it was time for a little comic relief 'round these parts. I now, present Part 24 (!!! Wow! I've written 24 of these posts! Time to create my little coffee table book) of my little Lu's Isms: 

(Every single time Raleigh sneezes...)
Raleigh: I blessed!
And I will never, ever correct her when she says this. :) 

(Every single time Harrison has a sore throat...) 
Harrison: Mom, I have a fwoat.  
I have a "fwoat," too. Guess he has a sore one.

Banks: Mom, I thought we are going to take a shortcut!
Momma: We did, honey.
Banks: No we didn't. This is the long cut!
Oh, Bankster. #facepalm

Banks: I wish our last name was Danger. Banks Danger.
Momma Danger. I like it!

Harrison: I love buses, and I love quinoa, too.
Random, but noted, bud. Noted.

Banks: Mom, what's the best time to go fishing?
Momma: You'd have to ask pop that.
Banks: I already did. He said every time is a good time!
Ha! I can hear Pop saying this exact thing!

Raleigh: Getting our new sister is the best thing ever!
Banks: No, getting baptized is.
Raleigh: No!
Banks: Well it's better than going to the toy store. Actually, the best thing is having faith in God.
If you're looking for me, I'm the melted puddle on the floor. 

Momma: Harrison, what do you want for your birthday?
Harrison: Cupcakes.
Momma: What else? Do you want presents?
Harrison: Yes
Momma: What kind of presents?
Harrison: (mumbles answer)
Momma: Penguins?
Harrison: No! Say "Pink."
Momma: Pink.
Harrison: Say "Ones."
Momma: Ones.
Harrison: Say "Pink ones."
Momma: Pink ones...? You want pink presents for your birthday?
Harrison: Yep! 
Homeboy's got a future in education, for sure. 

Harrison: If you eat too much gum-eses, you will be choked. 
Well, maybe we should focus on a little grammar ed. before we send him off to teach the youth of the world. ;)

 Thanks for the laughs, little Lus! Maybe the next Isms post won't take me 1.5 years to write. :)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cheers to the Weekend, Father's Day Edition

Whelp. Summer continues to march on at breakneck speed. On the one hand, I am sad we are already halfway through June. I looooooooove getting all this time with all my kiddos, and we are having a blast so far! On the other hand, each passing day means another day to bringing our sweet Bella home to her family. <3 So. We are enjoying our time together and also looking forward to what's to come. 

That being said, here's what we are saying CHEERS to this Father's Day weekend: 

15 years. While I mentioned in my last post that June 16th is always a tough day for my family, it has also become a celebration for me. You see, although my dad passed away on June 16th, 1990, I started dating my now-husband on June 16th, 2002. Coincidence? I think not. I think God had his hand on me the whole time and brought my hub into my life on June 16th for a reason. Seeing as how today is June 16th, that means that my hub and I started dating 15 YEARS AGO TODAY!!! So, cheers to us, babe! <3

Flag football camp. Banks had an absolute BLAST at his second year of NFHS flag football camp. This boy eats, sleeps, and breathes football (hence, why his first ever summer league begins tomorrow), and he learned so much, performed really well, and had a great time throughout! Not only are the coaches (both high school players and the actual high school coaches) awesome with the kids, but our high school is literally located right next to our neighborhood, which means we would pull out of our driveway at 7:57 am each morning and arrive right on time at 8:00 am. Suhweet! I know Banks is already excited about next year's camp! 

Pool dayz. You can pretty much expect me to say cheers to this each week, as you can find us there just about every afternoon, splish-splashing away!

Cookouts with friends. Last night, we hosted one of our favorite families for a cookout - well, all except the awesome momma of the family, who is currently in Haiti using her gifts and talents as an audiologist to serve a community in need on a mission trip (Hi Kim!). We thought it'd be nice to have the rest of her crew over for dinner to give our friend (Hi Andrew!) a little reprieve. So, Andrew and his three, beautiful little ladies joined us for dinner, and it sure was fun! And the cookout fun will continue tonight as we join some fun neighbors for a grillin' good time. ;) Man, I love summer!

Father's Day fun. For the fourth year, my hub is coordinating a Father's Day Weekend golf tournament for our hood. What started out as a group of 12 or so guys this first year has morphed into 100 dads from our neighborhood playing in the tourney! My hub and our good friend, Jason, have been working so hard to get everything organized and ready to go. There will be lots of money raised for charity, prizes given, and plenty o' fun as the dads enjoy their Saturday on the course. Meanwhile, my kiddos and I, along with two other families, will be distributing hot dogs to the players at one of the holes, cheering all the awesome dads on as they enjoy their day. It should be fun for all! Then, on Sunday, we will spoil our favorite guy and celebrate the amazing dad that he is. <3 Should be a busy but fun weekend! 

I hope all the dads out there have a wonderful weekend. And a very Happy Father's Day to the three main dads in my life - my hub, my stepdad, and my father "in law" - as well as to all the other dads I know and love. Have an AWESOME weekend. I love you all!!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wee One Wednesday: Loss and Love

With Bella's adoption, Father's Day, and June 16th approaching, I have been thinking a lot about loss lately. 

You see, on June 16, 1990, my dad very suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. 

Everything I had ever known was suddenly ripped away. The loss was tremendous. And I have realized more and more as I have aged the incredibly significant impact the loss of a parent can have on a child. 

Now, I was (am!) so, so blessed to have the most amazing mom in the world. Since that fateful day in June, she has poured her heart and soul into her children, always ensuring we felt safe, secure, well-cared for, and loved. What's more, my siblings and I were so lucky to be surrounded by the most incredible, supportive, involved "village," who stood behind, and alongside, my momma as she raised her four babies on her own. There is absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind that this is why my brother, sisters, and I are in the physically, emotionally, and psychologically healthy states that we are in today. It's why we love nothing more than family and why we are as close as we are today. 

But still, there will always be a Larry-sized hole in my heart. My childhood undoubtedly made me who I am today. But with my dad's death came great loss and grieving. 

So, June 16th and Father's Day are always a little tricky for me. And with those days approaching, I think about Bella. Of the losses she has endured, of the grieving that is to come.

The day I finally wrap my arms around our sweet girl will be one of tremendous celebration...for me. My daughter - this missing, precious piece who lives on the other side of the world; this little lady who I have prayed for every single day, several times a day, for so long; the little girl who is absolutely adored by so many who have never even met her - she will finally be in my arms. And what a celebration it will be!!!....for me. 

For Bella, it will be a time of grieving. Because this will be the second traumatic loss she has had to endure in her very short lifetime: First, the loss of her birth parents, who loved her so very much that they made an unimaginable sacrifice to ensure that she would live a life that they, for whatever reason, felt they were unable to provide. And second, on that day when she is finally in my arms, she will be taken away from the only home she has ever known, the only people she has ever known, the only language, the only culture, the only place she has ever known. Two unspeakable losses at just two years old. 

So. I think about my own childhood loss and then I think about hers. And I wonder if the universe always intended for me to be hers and her to be mine. If, even as I questioned for so long whether I was meant to adopt, the good Lord knew that this was the path I was destined to take. 

We are children of loss, her and I. We have endured what no child ever should. We understand the grief that most children, thankfully, will never have to experience. And we will forever be connected in that way. 

But there is a much more powerful way I intend to be connected to her -  as her momma. 

I am who I am today because God blessed me with the ultimate warrior momma, who sacrificed all she had, gave everything she had every day that passed, to protect her babies and make sure they knew how very loved and valued they were. This is the inheritance Bella will gain with me as her momma. She will be fiercely protected, unimaginably valued, and loved, oh so loved, for the amazingly strong, resilient, beautiful soul that she is. 

Those of us who have faced such unspeakable loss are stronger because of it. And we will warrior on, together, she and I. 

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cheers to the Weekend, Post Weekend Edition ;)

I'm writing our CHEERS post today, as opposed to last Friday, as we were out of town last Thursday through Sunday, and I wasn't able to get my ducks in a row and get a post out before we left. That being said, here's what we are saying CHEERS to as we kick off this lovely June week: 

Weekends away with fun friends. We just returned from a three-day weekend away with some super fun, super awesome friends. Our friend, Ryan, turned the big 4-0 recently, and his amazing wife, Tara, planned the BEST weekend away to celebrate. Us, them, and four other couples headed to Reynold's Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia. We rented a GORGEOUS house right on the lake and spent the three days on a boat in the lake at our *favorite* new cove ;), lounging (and attempting synchronized jumps) in the beautiful lake-overlooking-pool,  paddle-boarding, playing game after game after game, enjoying delicious meals and yummy adult bevs, listening to the best music all weekend, and laughing 'til we cried. It was just AWESOME!!! I cannot thank our sweet friends enough for hosting such a fantastic and memorable weekend. They spoiled us from beginning to end, and it was definitely one for the books. In fact, come Sunday morning, as we drove away, we all agreed we could not have had more fun if we tried. Happy 40th, Ryan!!! Who's ready to go back ASAP?!

Half of our 12-person crew

The gorgeous view from the top deck
 The sweetest welcoming gifts!
A weekend away is just what the doctor ordered!

Prepping for China. As we await our latest paperwork to be approved (all prayers always appreciated!), I am starting to slowly acquire some of the things my hub and I will need for our trip to China. When we finally get Bella in our arms, she will have nothing but the clothes on her back. This means that we will be packing diapers and wipes and disposable spoons and bowls and changing pads and bottles and baby food and formula and clothes and medicines and a baby carrier and toys and on and on and ON. Not to mention the many things Clay and I will need to try and successfully and respectfully navigate an entirely different culture. I honestly think it will take me WEEKS to pack. So. I am doing little bits here and there to try and help ease the stress of traveling to the other side of the world for two weeks, prepping to leave our little Lu Crew trio behind (likely, right as school begins), and, oh yeah, doing everything I can to ensure our new daughter knows she is absolutely adored, even as she grieves what she will be leaving behind. So, yeah. I am doing what I can now. :) 

Tennis. Tennis is just so fun and you don't even realize you're getting in some good exercise while you play! But. It is harder for me to hit the courts during the summer, when I have three sweet companions at pretty much all times. So. I am getting them into the tennis spirit with me! Whether it be in our driveway or on our actual courts, we've been having a lot of fun hitting the ball around lately!

Flag football. Yep, we are diving into summer sports this week! Banks will be attending his second year at a 4-day flag football camp at our high school, starting bright and early this morning. And then, tonight, he has evaluations for his 9 and under summer flag football season. He is so excited...and so am I! I love seeing this kiddo do what he loves most! 

Pool days. If you know our fam, you know that we looooove hitting up our 'hood pool in the summer. So, no surprise that we were there several days last week...and will be again this week! Especially with Banks having flag football camp this week, I know he will love to cool down with a few dips in the pool!

And that's it for now. If you have a minute, I have a couple of silent prayer requests. Please just say some prayers for several different people who we love and are facing some difficult trials right now. And of course, we always, always, ALWAYS appreciate your prayers for our Bella - that she is being loved and well-cared for until we can get to her, that she is in good health and making great developmental gains, that there are no medical issues of which we are not yet aware, that our adjustment and transition in the months to come go smoothly and seamlessly, and that Jesus is wrapping her in His arms and keeping her safe until we can do the same! Thanks y'all! Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wee One Wednesday: The Update Continues...And A Glimpse At Our Remaining Timeline

Adoption is a whole lot of hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. And right now, we are back in the waiting game. When I last wrote about the process, we had just submitted our Letter of Intent to adopt our little lady. So, that's where I'll continue the story of our process...

On Wednesday, May 10th, we submitted the LOI (letter of intent to adopt) for our girl. This is basically a letter we had to write directly to China, sharing why we wanted to adopt from their beautiful country and how we are equipped to care for our girl. That day, we also submitted our dossier transfer request to our original adoption agency, asking them to write a letter to China in support of our switching agencies in order to adopt our little lady. Both of these documents were received and logged in to the Chinese government on Thursday, May 11th. 

Then, we had to wait for China to approve the transfer of our dossier to our new agency. We were hoping this would come Friday, May 12th. It did not. We remained hopeful (albeit anxious) that we would get word that the dossier had been transferred on Monday, May 15th. It had not. Our (new) agency finally contacted China on Wednesday, May 18th, and learned that they wanted the original, hard copies (not the electronic versions) of these documents. They were mailed immediately, with hopes that they would arrive to China on Monday, May 22nd, and that our dossier would finally be switched over to our new agency (and thus, our girl locked in with us) on Tuesday, May 23rd. 

On Tuesday, May 23rd, it happened!!!!! Our dossier was transferred over to our new agency and we were officially locked in and matched with our girl!!!! Next up, the wait for China to send our LOA. This is a BIG DEAL. This is the biggest step of the process. We would be completing paperwork while we wait and crossing our fingers and toes that it would come quickly. We were told to estimate traveling to China approximately 10-12 weeks after we receive LOA; so, we were waiting with baited breath for it to arrive. 

Meanwhile, my kiddos (who STILL didn't know any of what is going on as far as us finding their sister and being matched with her!) had been talking about her non-stop. They didn't know her, hadn't seen her, didn't know we had found her, and yet...she was a constant topic of conversation every day. It's like they somehow knew that something was going on. Which is amazing. In fact, I took Raleigh on a Momma Date around that time and ALL she wanted to do was buy her sister a gift - she ended up choosing a purple JellyCat bunny, just like the JellyCat bunnies she, Banks, and Harrison already have. She wanted her sister to have one too. <3 

On Wednesday, May 24th, we got (soft, aka the electronic version of) LOA!!!!!!!!!!!! I was casually checking my email and saw that our caseworker had emailed us five minutes earlier. And there it was. "Hi Lindsay, We received the electronic copy of the Letter of Acceptance today and the original LOA should come to us within a few days!!" I burst into tears and immediately told my hub. And then our families. And then our closest friends. And then realized we could FINALLY share the news with our kiddos that night. They were absolutely OVERJOYED to finally get to see, and hear about, their new sister. <3

On Friday, May 26th, we got hard LOA (on this day, a hard copy of our LOA arrived to our agency)! Our agency immediately mailed us the remaining documents we were waiting for in order to submit our latest round of documents to Homeland Security. Because it was a holiday weekend (Happy Memorial Day!), the package was not expected to arrive to us until Tuesday, May 30th. Unfortunately, after anxiously waiting all day, it never showed and the tracking notification indicated that it was delayed. Siiiiiiigh. So, the wait continued. I have never checked the mail so much as I did the next day. 

FINALLY, at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, May 31st, the mail arrived and there it was - our hard LOA! I immediately gathered the rest of the necessary paperwork we had already completed, grabbed the LOA, and rushed to UPS, where I over-nighted the documents so they would arrive to Homeland Security the next morning. Specifically, (for those who are knowledgeable of all the China adoption steps and hoops and are following along), I mailed in all the required I800 paperwork, which arrived to Texas on Thursday, June 1st. 

Now, we wait (again!) to be approved by the Immigration Department of the good ol' US of A to specifically adopt our Bella.

So many have been asking when we expect to travel to China to bring Bella home. Everything is an estimate, as it all depends on how quickly various paperwork is processed and approved. I CAN tell you that we are completing everything on our end as fast as we possibly can, but we still have to wait for various levels of approval. Confused yet? Here is what we have left to do, as well as the estimated timelines for each, as predicted by our adoption agency:

Right now, we are waiting for our I800 to be approved by the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services). Our paperwork arrived to USCIS on Thursday, June 1st. It usually takes 2-3 weeks for approval (hence, our current wait). 

After we receive the I800 approval, we will receive a National Visa Center (NVC) letter. We need the information from this letter to complete the next step, which is completing the DS-260 (an online form). 

Once we have received our I800 approval and NVC and completed the DS-260, we will send them to our adoption agency, who will then submit what's called Article 5 to the US Chinese Consulate for approval. This approval typically takes 10 days. 

Once our Article 5 is approved, we will wait for Travel Approval (TA) to show up in the electronic system, which usually takes a few days. 

Once the hard copy of the Travel Approval arrives, we should be traveling to China 1 to 2 weeks later to bring Bella home!!!! 

Clay and I will travel alone to get Bella. We felt strongly about this, as we want to use the time there to focus on her and our attachment. We will be gone for about two weeks. Luckily, we are incredibly blessed to have two sets of grandparents who didn't hesitate when we asked them, back when this all began in 2016, if they could each come for a week to take care of Banks, Raleigh, and Harrison while we were away. 


If all goes well (all prayers appreciated!!!!!), I am hoping we'll be headed to China sometime in August to get our girl. Again, the timeline is NOT set in stone, but that is what we are hoping for! The sooner we get there, the sooner we can get her out of her orphanage and into our home, where she belongs. <3