Friday, December 26, 2014

3 Years Today

It was Dec 26, 2011 that Joe and I boarded a plane to Washington DC, spent the night and caught the only flight out on Dec 27th to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to meet our daughter Iris. Although it's been a long 3 years and in some ways it feels like she was always here, I remember each moment of that trip extremely well.
We were terrified and excited at the same time! It was the first time away from Blake which was very hard. It was the first time meeting our girl who we had seen in pictures and prayed for and expected for years...yet nerve wracking not knowing what to expect.
That trip went as well as it possibly could have. We met incredible people and bonded with the families who were experiencing the same thing. Our court date was not until Jan 2 so we brought in the new year in a way I'll never forget. I will forever treasure that trip in my heart.

This is the picture we got of Iris when she left her orphanage and came to Acacia Village where she would first meet us. God was so faithful to bring her to us! How she has brightened up our lives!

We had yet to hold and hug our little girl when we saw these pictures and I remember the longing of just wanting to get on a plane and go meet her at that exact moment. It felt eternal till we could get her...and here we are, 3 years later. I had no idea how much I needed her. It's incredible how God works in our lives, isn't it?

Iris Michele, you are truly a gift from God and we love you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

9 Years!

October 1st, 2005 we said I do. It was such a beautiful day! How the years have flown by - Joe has stuck by my side through 4 miscarriages, 2 births, two trips to Ethiopia for International Adoption, a move across the country, new jobs, new house, 3 kids that are three and under....thanks for being my loyal and faithful love Joe!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A special day

Rewind 3 years ago to September 10th, 2011 and I remember it like yesterday. It was a cool day in Illinois and I was taking Blake for a walk. We had been waiting for months / years for a referral from Ethiopia. I got the call. We didn't know if we'd get a boy or girl so when she said "it's a girl" I about died. A dream come true. Her name was Tarikwa unknown...that's the last name they give orphans there until the adoption is complete. She was never unknown though to the Lord!
I still remember looking at her photos for the first time, it was finally real! She was so beautiful!!!

Telling her the story today I got choked up and realized just how incredible it is that from a village on another continent God brought her here. To me. To our family. It still just amazes me. God knew she needed us, we needed her (especially Blake!) and He was so gracious to us. I had no idea why all those miscarriages were happening - then I look at her face & thank Him for putting all the pieces together.

Monday, August 25, 2014

1 (Very tiring) Year!

At this time last year I was in the hospital, Rachel by my side, for an entire night preparing for labor. Sawyer was nice and toasty in my womb and didn't want to come out. A week past my due date and they had to soften the ol' cervix, causing me to be awake much of the night. I remember Amy coming by as well, we chatted a bit then it was just Rachel and me, trying to get a little rest before life got much busier than ever before.
I don't even remember what time he was born, is that horrible or what? I think it was late morning/early afternoon. That's #3 for you, little details are a blur. It was the best labor though, compared to Blake it was a walk in the park & I had the most incredible midwife who made it fun and relaxed. Well, as good as labor can possibly be.

NOTHING was as scary as driving home with 3 kids in the car (we picked up Blake and Iris from my parents house) and thinking how in the world are we going to do this? A newborn and two toddlers just felt so overwhelming to me. Those early days were HARD. Having meals brought to me was a huge help. Having Celeste pick up my kids and take them to a fun play date was awesome. Having my mom come over almost every day for 2 weeks to take Blake and Iris on a walk was incredible. Having family near by for support made all the difference.

It's been a hard year. Good, but lots of changes & lots of sacrifice. I've always thought of Sawyer as a slice of heaven, I didn't know with my history of miscarriages that I'd ever get to experience pregnancy after Blake so it was a gift to have Sawyer this way. I knew that perhaps I wanted to try for one more and although I have asked myself plenty of times was this really the best timing??? I know God has brought Joe and I through this to strengthen us, show us our weakness & reliance on Him with such a huge task of raising kids!

He makes me laugh and smile each day and I can't kiss and cuddle him enough. If I could have looked into time the afternoon that I had my second miscarriage & I sat alone & the quiet just killed me and wondered if I would ever be a this night, celebrating Sawyer, my 3rd child's life - wow, God has given me more than I ever thought possible. Happy Birthday Sawyer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oh Happy Day

It was your typical Tuesday, running around target getting a few things but something changed. Something was different. I was in the back of the store looking at sheets (of course I was) and then the magical words came out of Iris's mouth "I have to go poo poo". Now I know I've shared probably more than anyone cares about my poop woes, but honestly when you live this stuff day in and day out for a good year, it's hard to not be swallowed up in the madness.
Okay, so I run like a mad person to the bathroom, holding Sawyer, pushing a cart, yelling out please Iris, hold in your shadoobee & SHE DID IT. She held it till the right time, went on the toilet, wiped it like a normal person & we were done. This was the first time she's used a public toilet with no fear, no hesitation, telling me she had to go...I wish I could take some sort of credit, but honestly it's a complete and utter miracle.
This is the girl who would stand and take a dump on my floor. This is the girl who would scream and throw a fit when I suggest trying the toilet. She has now stayed clean for church, an Ikea run & Target with no sign of letting up in the future.
We've had a great couple of weeks here and there in the past, so I'm trying to not get my hopes up, but I've never had her tell me she's had to go so often, get it out without an accident & not be horribly upset by the experience. I'm LOVING this & finally seeing a light at the end of a VERY LONG TUNNEL.

One Very Tired but Thrilled Mother...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life lately

It's been a busy couple of weeks, not a lot of excitement but always crazy and amusing. Blake continues to show us symptoms of sensory processing disorder and how helpful OT would be... hopefully next month we can begin that. (Waiting on other factors - it's never easy!) Iris has determined that she wants to be in diapers for eternity...
I've had glimmers of hope since buying her a Minnie toilet that cheers her on, but she's still afraid at times and even with the help of miralax continues to hold it in with sheer will power. It's really quite astounding. We will have a good day followed with a bad one, or a good morning followed with hours of holding it and her refusing. Mom 0, Iris 1. I'm truly at a loss.
Sawyer is sweet but oh so clingy. Blake and Iris were never like this (although I didn't know Iris at 10 months but I'm sure it wouldn't be this bad!) and I find it very challenging to get anything done unless he is napping. It's sweet to see more interaction though between the siblings. They are starting to enjoy his presence lately which is fun to watch.

Thanks to my parents Joe and I have had a few opportunities to go on dates lately, which is a dream come true. It's been a really nice summer with VBS, swimming & time with family and friends. Each morning when I wake up and look out my sweet little yard and the cute faces around the table, I thank the Lord to be in a house in Clearwater. I'm blessed.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A few of my favorite things

Favorite candle of the moment = Kohl's Sonoma "Lemonade Stand". It's amazing & only 5$ for a little one(free when you get their coupons in the mail) & I've bought a lot of candles. This one is seriously winning. So, so good.

Best home d├ęcor right now = is HomeGoods. Hands down this is my favorite place to stop in during the week when I feel like I just have to mentally escape. There is always a little item that makes my heart skip a beat. Just watching other people buy stuff there is fun. I just have to be careful because it quickly becomes a place that makes me discontent...but it's just filled to the brim with beautiful stuff.

My new craft = find a branch, knot some yarn on it & suddenly I love the bohemian look of this. I blame pinterest of course, but I'm kind of hooked.

Favorite way to spend a morning is at my brother and sister in law's pool, hanging out with my nieces and nephews, watching Iris and Blake learning to swim & enjoying the company.

Of course my dad is my favorite pastor/teacher but best sermon I've listened to online lately is John MacArthur on the Danger of Loving Money ( So good, so convicting & really opened my eyes. Again, I have to say my dad is so wonderful too & I'm loving his teaching on the Psalms, especially on overcoming fear!

If you are looking for a delicious summer salad my favorite is mixed greens, strawberry, feta cheese, glazed almonds & rotisserie chicken. For the dressing just pour a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkle some sugar on top. Toss & serve with Bagel chips. Yum.

There ya have it, a little round up of useful information in life. A happy summer to you!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

SPD & Me

It's been a bit of rocky road here at the Cotton's. Hard to believe since I always come across so calm and peaceful right? (seriously kidding there). Dealing with some difficult issues since we began our journey as parents back in 2010...
It has become quite apparent to us in the last few months that we think Blake has sensory processing disorder or at least some sensory issues that need to be addressed.  "Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is the inability to use information received through the senses in order to function smoothly in daily life."  It is a bit of an umbrella term to cover a variety of neurological disabilities. Occupational therapy is a great help and we are hopeful to dive into that soon as well as other activities you can do at home, a sensory diet which includes activities that strengthen neurological development and improve self help skills. (Pinterest comes through for me yet again with hundreds of ideas and information overload... for anyone interested my Blake pins are growing by the hour).

It has been difficult but I'm hopeful with the right tools we can make some progress and get life to be a bit easier for our sweet son.
Iris is so perfect for Blake - they fight like cats and dogs but they adore each other and she is so good to him! She continually brings him out of his shell, keeps him happy, lets him get his way, goes with the flow even though her world has changed a bit due to this all - I'm so proud of my girl. Her potty training has gone down the crapper (pun intended) but I think with a new plan we are working on per our pediatrician she will be back on track in a month or so. One can hope! As long as Sawyer isn't potty trained before her we're good.
Oh my sweet Sawyer, he is letting his good ol' sin nature shine through lately. He wants to be held ALL the time, extremely clingy and cranky but I'm gonna go out on a limb and blame 85% of this on his front tooth breaking through. Regardless, home boy is making life tough. (Blake NEVER acted different when he got teeth in so this is new to me and I don't like it!)

A week ago my hubby became Yep, 42 never looked so good. We celebrated by going to the beach. Too bad my sister and her family got in a car accident on the way and there went my good mood, but they were not seriously injured so that was a relief.
Life has just felt overwhelming on all fronts, but God is gracious because I know it could be so much worse. Financial stress? Check. Parenting stress? Check. My ever constant struggle to be a godly wife? Check. Thankful for the Lord's grace, His forgiveness, and His mercy as I learn what love truly means.
So if you spot a grey hair on my head soon or I look a bit extra frazzled, just glance me that sweet pity look and I know that I have at least one reader. Ha!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Prentiss says it best

"Suppose you have to live with people who were perfectly uncongenial; who misunderstood you and who were always getting into your way as stumbling blocks?"
"If I were living with them and they made me unhappy I would ask God to relieve me of this trial if He thought it best. If He did not think it best, I would then try to find out the reason. He might have two reasons. one would be the good they might do me. The other the good I might do them."
"But in the case I was supposing, neither party can be of the least use to the other."
"You forget perhaps the indirect good one may gain by living with uncongenial, tempting persons. First such people do good by the very self denial and self control their mere presence demands. Then, their making one's home less homelike and perfect than it would be in their absence, may help to render our real home in heaven more attractive...we only know ourselves and what we really are, when the force of circumstances bring us out into the open."
"It is very mortifying and painful to find out how weak I am."
"That is true. But our mortifications are some of God's best physicians, and do much toward healing our pride and self conceit."

 - Stepping Heavenward (Elizabeth Prentiss)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

"Appreciate the goodness of God. Count your blessings. Learn not to take natural benefits, endowments and pleasures for granted; learn to thank God for ALL of them.
Appreciate the patience of God. Think how he has borne with you and still bears with you, when so much in your life is unworthy of Him and you have so richly deserved His rejection.
Learn to marvel at His patience, and seek grace to imitate it in your dealings with others; and try to not try His patience anymore.
Appreciate the discipline of God. If you are a believer and He puts thorns in your bed it is only to keep you from falling into complacency and to ensure that you continue in his goodness by letting your sense of need bring you back constantly in self abasement and faith to seek His face."

I can't remember who wrote these words, but I read them somewhere and it stayed with me. These last few weeks have been among the most challenging in my life & I find myself singing " I need Thee Every hour" and clinging to His promises to get me through the day to day in life. It seems the Lord likes to keep me ever so weak and dependent on Him, so that is where I continue to be.

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees" - Ps 119:71

My children continue to amaze and delight me, I am blessed to be their mother. Tired, but blessed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A quick update

Joe has a new job and begins April 1st. This is a huge blessing as he has been wanting a change for quite some time. The Lord has answered our prayers and we hope it's a really great fit!

Sawyer is 7 months today, how can this be? This boy is so cute I can hardly believe it, everything he does I find myself amused by, heck, even his farts are cute :) I realize this will all change very soon so I'm drinking up his gummy grin, his huge smile and even when he wakes me up WAY too early, he's the last baby so it doesn't get to me so much.

It's almost 2 years since we got on a plane and brought Iris home from Ethiopia. We will plan again in April to celebrate this special day (the 23rd) by eating at the only Ethiopian restaurant in the area (Queen of Sheba). It's actually delicious and is a slice of stepping back into time, love it.

Blake and Iris continue to fight like cats and dogs but when they love each other and hug and kiss and dance together, it's a reassuring reminder that they'll never be lonely & makes me so glad they have each other.

For anyone who missed it, my dad wrote a new book on the Song of Solomon called "The pleasures of Marriage" and you can buy it on amazon for less than 10 bucks. I've begun to read it and it's so good - I highly recommend it! Also, for those interested my sister has a blog on her daughter Lyla called and she is keeping updated posts on her progress. There, that's my little plug. Happy spring - makes me want to decorate white, pink and gold everywhere! (that's kind of every day though).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Make today count

 Yep. Need to remind myself to make every day full of special moments and opportunities to train and love these three souls that have been entrusted to me. Such a challenge!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Oh, crap.

We began potty training Blake when he was 2 1/2 and within 3 days he had it down. No accidents, no stress - it was really quite painless.
Iris of course wanted to do it as well and she successfully began going potty on the toilet without a problem. She was quick to want to wear undies, be like her brother and could tell me each time she had to pee and usually liked to go on her own. That's where my success ends. The poop situation is altogether another story.

For some reason she has an overwhelming fear to go poo on the toilet. I'm talking fall down on the ground screaming like she's being tortured if I say why don't you try to sit for a few minutes on the toilet because I know she's holding her poo in. It has escalated so badly in the last few weeks that she is now holding it in for as long as humanly possible until little by little poo is escaping and she can't keep it hidden. She is lying about it (that doesn't fool me honey) and many times this happens all day long, I'm talking half a dozen times between lunch and nighttime I am cleaning her poop. If you have been unlucky enough to be around her poo you will know that it is beyond the worst smell imaginable. We had her retested for giardia a few months back which came back negative.

I have tried everything and nothing has helped. I could really use prayer and wisdom. I don't know what it is that is causing such irrational fear and I don't want to her stop peeing on the toilet, which will happen if I give up and have her only in diapers. I stopped shortly before Sawyer was born knowing it would be a stressful time... She knows what she is doing (she tells me this) and she purposefully goes into another room and hides to do the deed. If she is bare bottom she will simply start to poop - it doesn't matter. Rewards don't matter to her - I am not getting through and feel so helpless. Any words of wisdom are appreciated! (She is turning 3 on March 1st)

Am I missing something? Attention grabber? Okay, but this is beyond that. A piece of her past? I feel at a loss...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

1st Kid / 3rd Kid Differences

From the time one has their first child to the time one might possibly have 3 (sometimes that's only 2 years!) many things change. Here are a few of my observations...

Wipe warmer machine for the first one, laughed about two kids later (face reality kid!)

Dark room, quiet for the first one during sleep time/ Any room will do or car seat or  pack n play, or sunny space, just so long as he gets a little nap...

Perfect little baby book, written in during "free time" and even posted pictures in the book for the first one/ Lucky to even have a baby book for the 3rd one, or even printed pictures for that matter!

Bath time gives you something to do in the day for the first one and each day it's a fun little time/activity. Third child? You try to remember when they got bathed last or if they start to smell you know it's time.

First child - lovely new clothes, books, toys & shoes. Third child? Find it on the curb, thrift store, hand me downs, & whatever else you can find that's in decent shape! (okay, in all honesty that happened with our first too, just not as much)

Your every day is consumed when it's just one, you are always together. Third child? During nap time you sometimes you forget about him (is that just me? Please tell me it's not just me)

Nursery drop off makes you nervous and you feel a little torn as to when you can leave them with someone else. Third child - no nerves, no reluctance & your hands feel quite nice to be free :)

Yep, it's a lot of changes but it's oh so good too; he has a piece of my heart forever and I didn't even know I could love three kids all at once the way I do now. His smile melts me and I forget all the worries in the world, I guess that's one thing that doesn't change.