Celebrating All the Things

Hey Friends! Sssoooo, yes, it has been 8 months since I’ve posted. Sorry ’bout that! I promise we haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Well, our little fam has been SUPER BUSY, and I want to share about what has been going on in the last 8 months! Of course, I know you don’t want to read a 50 page recap of our lives, so I’ll just hit the highlights. My last post was on November 20th, after the girls had been home with us for 6 months. So here’s what we’ve been up to since!

The girls enjoyed their first Thanksgiving. We went to my grandparents’ house, and the girls ate lots of food! This was their first major holiday to spend with the whole family, since we had been cocooning earlier in the year. They did great and it was so nice to see them starting to form attachments with more extended family.

We really enjoyed watching Auburn put the beat down on Alabama in the Iron Bowl! Glad their first Iron Bowl was a good one!

On Dec 8th, we had a BIG (by Alabama standards) snow! We got 5 inches of snow, and we had SO MUCH FUN playing in it! We made snow angels, went sledding (on a cardboard box of course, cuz what Southerners own sleds?), and played all morning in the snow. Then we sat by the fire, drank cocoa, and made snowflake shaped cookies! It was honestly one of my favorite days ever, and I hope the girls remember that day as they get older!

CHRISTMAAAAASSSSSS!!! Y’all… The girls’ first Christmas was SO MAGICAL. They loved every bit of it. Christmas decorations. Christmas movies. Christmas cookies. The tree. Their own Advent Tree. Nativity sets. The presents. Reading the Christmas story and doing Christmas crafts every day. The Christmas Eve candlelight service. The whole month of December was really just a sweet, sweet time of teaching the girls about our Savior coming to earth and celebrating with many traditions. I actually teared up when we turned the lights on the tree for the first time and Mercy’s face was full of sheer awe and joy. We actually had 4 different Christmas celebrations: one with my dad’s extended family (whom the girls met for the first time), one with my parents and brother, one with just the 4 of us on Christmas morning, and then one with my mom’s side of the family. The girls definitely didn’t complain about more opportunities to celebrate and get presents, haha. It was an incredibly special time for us to create new traditions and continue old ones, and watch the girls grow in their knowledge of the birth of Jesus.

Unfortunately, not all of our news is happy. On January 13th, my incredible, sweet grandma passed away rather abruptly. It was (and is) really hard to process, but we rejoice in knowing that she is face to face with Jesus. It was difficult to explain her passing to the girls, and I know they really don’t understand it. My grandma prayed for two years for our adoption, and I’m thankful the Lord let her stay with us long enough to see them come home, spend time at the beach with them, and see their first Christmas.

In March, I went on a 10-day trip to Uganda and Ethiopia for work. I had only ever been apart from the girls for 1 night, so 10 days was a big jump! I had no idea how they would handle it. Like always, they were CHAMPS. Blake was a hero, parenting solo while I was gone, and my parents and Blake’s mom helped out a bunch. I got small gifts for the girls each day and recorded videos of myself reading some of their favorite books, so that helped them feel a bit more connected to me while I was gone! Blake said he was SO IMPRESSED with how well they did and how mature they were!

Also in March, we made the decision to move to a new church home that is more diverse. It was hard to leave our previous church that we loved, but we know it was the right decision for our family. We have felt so welcomed and loved by our new church family! I’m grateful the girls have black, Christian role models, that Blake and I have the opportunity to learn from and listen to believers who look differently from us, and that our faith family values diversity and justice as a Gospel issue.

We had a great first Easter! The girls had a blast dyeing Easter eggs, and they loved hunting for eggs! In fact, sometimes I still find plastic eggs in random places. Of course, we also talked daily about the story of the crucifixion and the resurrection. We made lots of Easter crafts, and it was beautiful to see the girls begin to grasp the magnitude of the Easter story, and Jesus’ love for us.

On May 3rd, we finalized the “re-adoption” process for the girls, and officially changed their names to Mercy Clairia Allen and Noella Parphine Allen. It was a simple, albeit expensive, process, but we are so thankful the girls’ names now represent who they are! No longer orphans. Adopted. Allens.

On May 18th, we celebrated FAMILY DAY, marking one year from the day we became a family of four. We celebrated by going to DeSoto Caverns, and had a BLAST! We saw a laser show in a cave, soaked each other with water guns, panned for gold, got caught in a beach ball tornado, ate a picnic, and just spent the day having fun together. We thank God for bringing us through one year of parenthood, and for all the joys and challenges that comes with that. It is beautiful to see how much the girls have grown physically, emotionally, and developmentally in one year’s time, and it is truly a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness.

In May, we sold our house in Calera. We LOVED that house, and it was really difficult for me to let go of that beautiful house we had designed from the ground up, and had prepared specifically for the girls. However, Blake’s commute had become unbearable with distance and increasing traffic, so we needed to move closer to his office (and church, and family, and all of our friends). We sold it in 2 days to the very first person who viewed it! Unfortunately buying a house was much more complicated. We spent the whole month looking at homes. We tried to purchase several houses, but for one reason or another, they kept falling through. Until finally, the offer on house #6 was accepted! The house hunt was terribly exhausting, stressful, difficult, and all-encompassing. Because we sold our house so quickly, we actually had to move in with my parents for 3 weeks before moving into our new home on June 16th. It was inconvenient having to move twice, and of course moving is always a challenge, especially with small children. But now, I am so thankful we are finally settled into our new home!

The girls turned four years old on June 24th! We celebrated with a Minnie Mouse party at our new house…meaning we had one week to paint nearly every room, unpack every box, assemble/place furniture, hang pictures, tame the jungle of a yard (and sledgehammer out some weird pagan-temple-like things in the back yard), buy/assemble a trampoline for the girls’ present, and decorate/shop/prep for a party. Oh and did I mention I got bronchitis that week? Yeah, it was a crazy week, and I definitely don’t recommend it for anyone. But, thankfully we got everything done and the party was a major success! The girls had so much fun with family and friends. It really struck me how blessed I am to be celebrating the girls’ birthday with them. God had to orchestrate so much in order to create our family the way He did. It is a privilege being their mother, and I’m so thankful I get to watch them grow every day and every year.

Just a few days ago, we celebrated the 4th of July at my grandpa’s house on the lake. Since we were cocooning at this time last year, it was the girls’ first time to experience the full blown family event! It included fireworks, BBQ, boat rides, go-kart rides, swimming, tubing, and more. It was two solid days of non-stop fun! The girls loved every bit of it, and so did we!

This summer, the girls are loving going to the pool, and we’re working hard on learning to swim! They will also be starting a 3 day/week preschool in August, so that will be a big change for them! I hope that they both LOVE going to school, learning new things, and making new friends!

So that’s it! That’s all the highlights from the past few months! It has been a pretty wild ride and included quite a bit of transition for our family, but I am so proud of the way the girls have handled it all. Honestly, they had a couple bad days here and there but honestly took it all in stride, and we saw very little to no regression.

You may notice there is not one mention of the word “attachment” in this post… a word that used to dominate EVERY family update post. Well, that’s because honestly, the girls are attached to us both in a healthy way, and we don’t really have to work at it anymore. They trust us. They know there will always be food. They know we will always come when they need us. They know we would never try to hurt them. Blake and I have worked HARD to earn that trust, and now we are reaping the benefits. Obviously, their past will affect them in a variety ways, presenting certain challenges throughout their entire life. So I’m not saying “oh a little love just fixes everything!”. Cuz that is NOT the case! Trauma is never really fixed. They just learn to adapt, and we try to provide them with tools for doing so. But for now, in this season, we are simply celebrating…rejoicing and thanking God that the four of us FEEL like a family, that we love one another, that they trust us, and that we are able to focus on life outside of a singular goal of creating attachment with almost-strangers. The girls are also doing GREAT with sleeping and eating! Two other things that were a STRUGGLE (to put it in the mildest term) in the early months. To God be ALL the glory for how the girls are thriving and growing.

It is crazy to think that we are just barely over one year of knowing each other. How far will we be by this time next year? We are trusting God to continue guiding us in this parenting journey and continue working in the girls’ hearts, revealing Himself to them day by day.