Thursday, December 18

Festive week

Sick day with Cash

Ben woke us up yesterday at 4am because Cash had puked in his bed. (Aweeesoooome...)

The Little Stinker was in a much better mood once his siblings were off to school and kept asking to go places.

"Well, you could put some clothes on and I could take you to school..."

He wasn't into that idea. (And he did only eat saltines for most of the day, so I guess he wasn't at 100%. But still. 95% at least. I think he coulda gone to school. But nobody wants you to send a pukey kid anywhere.) We did eventually walk down to the Coosa.

It's been a festive week for the kiddos. Pajama Day on Tuesday, class parties today.

Ani has been fiendishly hungry all week. It's amazing! I can give her a cheese stick or a graham cracker while dinner is cooking — a snack she can feed herself! She ate fried fish and broccoli last night. Still not big into fruit. The cantaloupe was cold, though. She might've tried it had it been room temp. I don't know, but SHE EATS FOOD and that is still SUPER EXCITING to me.

Zoe followed her around the other night with the kids' camera because she's finally learned to push the corn popper. (She has enjoyed this toy and just never made the connection on how exactly to push it to make the noise.)


The focus of this month's Love Without Boundaries newsletter is the current state of international adoption from China. If you're curious about that, it's a fabulous read.

Got the email from Lifeline that it's already time to start working on the 12-month post-placement report for Ani. We have seen such changes in her, and she has yet to be home a year. Wow.

Ben was pleased this morning that she's come around on the receiving hugs front. She was mad about something... oh yeah, did not want to practice with the cup this morning, and Ben was trying to comfort her and she hugged him back. Aww.

Tuesday, December 9

Nosey cup


The kids had their Christmas play on Sunday. (Cash got out of being a shepherd by puking that morning. Overindulgence in cotton candy oopsie.) Last night was the Christmas parade.


But as exciting as all that is to the kids, what's exciting to me is Ani learning to use cups and straws.

At her last feeding clinic, they sent us home with a "nosey cup" and instructions to use juice boxes to squeeze juice into her mouth. Kris has been doing the nosey cup in the mornings and juice in the evenings (so once a day for each) since we got back from the beach. And for the first few days, Ani screamed bloody murder every time.

But last night, she drank some juice! (No bedtime bottle!) And this morning, she drank water from the nosey cup. (No morning bottle!) Who is this little girl eating food and drinking drinks and being in the K2 class? (Yeah, that also happened on Dec. 1.)

I promised to bounce her on the yoga ball this morning after the cup and before we put clothes on (because bouncing on that thing is her new favorite pastime), and I told her how proud I was of her. Zoe was in the dining room (having escaped from Cash annoying her in the kitchen), so I was talking for her benefit, too.

"Eating food now! And drinking drinks! And like Zoe said, soon you'll be using the potty! And talking! Oh man, your siblings are gonna love it when you learn to say their names. I'll never forget the look on Zoe's face when Cash called for her..."

Then Zoe asked me how old Cash was then, and I fibbed and said I didn't remember. (And, well, truly I didn't, but...) Because I try not to think about what the boys were doing at Ani's age. It's better if I don't focus on where she could be at but where she is.

Which is home.


Wednesday, December 3

There will be a card after all


Zoe knew I was trying to get a photo of Ani smiling, and she helped wrangle her for this one. Which is an adorable image of sisters, no?

"Only, Zoe, you and I will know that the reason Ani looks so happy is that she was trying to smack you in the face."

I have the cutest little punks.


Kris got the tree up Monday, and the kids decorated it that night, but they also had practice for the church Christmas play. I ran out of time to take photos. But no photo = no Christmas card. And you'd think it would bother me more – the idea that we might not have a card this year – it being Ani's first Christmas. But nay. I am collecting items for a parcel to send overseas and I want to include a Christmas card.

Earlier in the year, we planned to do a shoot with the whole fam. The Catoe SIX! But yo, six of us.

And then my aunt sent matching Christmas PJs and well, that's settled. Just put them in their PJs in front of the tree. I tried to get them all settled looking. But they preferred to pose like this:


Oh, well.

Christmas cards are ordered.

Monday, December 1



Kris and I would like to SKIP the beach next year. Not because it isn't absolutely lovely, but because four littles on a road trip is hella exhausting and let's get Ani a little older before we do this again, okay? Whew. EXHAUSTING.

We didn't hit any traffic on the way down this year, which was nice, and the kids thanked God for this. (No, really. Cash said a specific prayer that morning that we didn't have to sit through a traffic jam, and when we made it there without one, he voiced his gratitude. Zoe chimed in.)

Ani didn't fuss on the way down, which is way different from Ben's trip where we had to listen to Dora umpteen times or Cash's trip where he had to be held to stop screaming. Bully for Ani!

Instead of a rest stop picnic or fast food, when we said "okay, let's eat at this exit," it was one with a Jim & Nick's and WHY NOT? Why not good barbecue on the way to the beach. The kids really liked it, too. The little biscuits? I don't know. Ask them.


The Big Kids loved pulling out the sofa bed each night and piling on in their sleeping bags. Ani HATED being in the pack-n-play overnight as a crib. HAAAATED it.

She is still anti-bath, so I worried she'd hate the pool, too. Nope! Because an adult held her the whole time. She really liked it when Kris would bounce her in the water. And she clung to my dad in the hot tub. Tucked her little face into his chest. Cash said "Ani's asleep!" and she poked her head up immediately, as if to say "nuh-uh, am not!"

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She liked strolling along the shore, too. I let her lead me, and we walked a looooooong way.

The kids love the Shrimp Basket & Lulu's. Cash likes to order shrimp. Ben likes to order fish. Zoe opts for chicken fingers.

Kris usually does the cooking, but Ani would not let me give her a bottle during the whole trip. (Protesting much?) So for several days, I made the meals. (Not sure if my children noticed this, as they were often busy playing with their grandparents. I am often convinced my children don't think I know how to cook or drive. And Zoe corrected my dad when he mentioned I was an artist, saying daddy is the artist.)


(Zoe at the same measuring stick two years ago.)

Ben wanted to hit the Awesome Playground one day instead of the beach and his siblings were game. I figured one of us would strap Ani in the Ergo when we got there, but I had on a jacket and Kris was like "well, let's just try it like this first." And I am so glad we did, because Ani PLAYED on the playground. She let me push her in a swing for a little while and then gestured to get back in it and then sat in another swing with me. I remembered the chimes thing Cash used to like, and she really seemed to enjoy climbing in and out of all the small toddler spaces. (Ben tried to follow her and bumped his head. The space really is perfect for the wee-est ones.)


But Ani was fretful for a lot of the trip. The elevator scared her every time. Though we began to chant "Ani's safe, Ani's safe" or something similar and it seemed to help. Probably took her mind off the feeling. What is my crazy family doing NOW? But of course it warms my heart to see the big three all so effortlessly on board trying to accommodate their sister. (Could they perhaps try to be accommodating to their parents, hmm???)

I got to read a book. Have a shrimp po boy. And some cute pics of my kids.

Still. See you in 2016, beach.


Wednesday, November 26

There you are


A year ago today, I got the call from our social worker saying they had a file for us to look at.

I remember being at the stoplight on Locust and thinking of the words spoken at the funeral for Kris' grandfather, ID Watts: "Be ready."

I hadn't even opened the file yet.

Then the light turned green; I made it to work and opened the email. There she was.

Lian Yan Qi

We said "yeah! Send a Letter of Intent!" We took a printout of the file with us to the beach. Showed the kids their sister at a Jack's off the interstate. "Her name will be Anika, but we'll call her Ani."

That day, when we first saw her, we thought she looked like family.

And now we've known her for nine months. She feels like family.


I'm so glad you're home, Ani.

Monday, November 24

No school for Thanksgiving

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Connor had a Cops & Robbers party for his 4th birthday. I'm so glad my wee posse are still friends with their FBC peeps.


I took this pic because this was the first "meal" that Ani sat at the table with her siblings. (Truthfully, more a snack after church than actual lunch, but hey, it was mealtime.)

At the table with the big kids

Also, you can text me while I'm on my way to work and I will totally agree to let you come swipe my children from wherever they are and take them somewhere. (As long as you bring them back.)

Thanksgiving adventure to IP

Thursday, November 20

Fandom hostess

A year ago today, I started a fan blog for a made-for-cable miniseries that aired five years ago. (SUPER EXCITING, no?)

Why did I do this? Because I had some fandom friends who said they might watch it and what if I wanted to have one place to point them for fic recs and deleted scenes and script extras and whatnot?

I was exchanging headcanons with a gal on Tumblr and told her I was thinking of starting an Alice blog and she was all “you so should.” (Fangirls are total enablers in case you didn’t know.)

I’d spent so much time reading fics that I had collected the urls to dozens of them in a single file. I had scoured Google searches for imagery to use in graphics, and I kept the links to interviews and the like. I had a YouTube playlist of my favorite vids. It was pretty easy to dump all that in a queue.

I am an Organized Nerd.

I value community, too. I love being a Fandom Hostess. Like “have you seen this?” or “have you two met?” I enjoy collecting posts where people have a burst of love for this show, like I had after first watching it.

And I owe this miniseries a debt.

Kris and I decided to adopt a second time in the spring of 2011. The waiting process for an international adoption can be an emotionally fraught time for parents. It was for me. And as the wait wore on, I ended up with a mild case of depression.

We were trying to adopt a specific child and we couldn’t get a straight answer and it was MAKING ME CRAZY. In September 2012, I managed to upset a Chinese orphanage (yes, behold the power of persistent moms) and knew I had to go Hands Off on trying to get information.

Another small thing happened that month: Netflix suggested a miniseries called Alice. Because I like “shows that feature a strong female lead” and reimagined fairy tales. (And yeah, appropriate use of guyliner.)

The energy I could no longer funnel into the adoption I turned toward fandom. I started reading fan fiction again. I started making fan graphics again. I started making fanmixes. I figured out Tumblr. I made online buddies again.

I lost part of my sanity, sure, but I regained something of my Self that had been lost. (Maybe not lost. Shelved. Dormant.)

A week after I started the Alice blog, we got our daughter’s file. (A different child than the one we had been waiting on, but this is a different story). A huge weight lifted. I could focus on other things. Had to.

This miniseries brought me so much joy at a time when I needed it. My fondness for it extends far past the show itself. I’m not sure how long I will run the blog. (I worried I’d run out of stuff to post, but that hasn’t been a problem yet. Fandom ingenuity.)

The queue is set until December and three times as much stuff in drafts. This hostess isn't done yet.