Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Remember I mentioned James' moves?

Well he started 'break dancing' like his brothers last week. It was so adorable. Although I didn't catch it in this video, he actually did a couple of somersaults after Avery showed him how.


He was also dolled up by his sibs.

Avery says she's wearing that wig for Halloween this year. Good. One less item to buy.

This is what the American Idol finale does to some kids, apparently.

Were your kids as amped as ours?


And this was during a commercial.

Tangent: James is always doing something that tickles us. Something totally unexpected. Usually it's at least once a day.

For example, yesterday I was showing him Christmas cards of our family that are on my mom's refrigerator. There was one from a couple of years ago and we were all sitting on our front stoop. There were individual photos of the kids and he quickly pointed to each of them and said their names. Then he pointed to the photo of all of us (minus him, of course) in front of our house and said, 'home.' I just wanted to burst!

Is that not precious?

This little video is a reenactment of something he did one day a week or so ago. The girls came running for my phone to get him doing it on video.

JD was getting ready to get him in the bath. Clearly, he's had many, many baths, but this time, he marched his little self to where the bath toys are and proceeded to lug them back into the bathroom all by himself.

Love his determination!

We had a glorious Memorial Day weekend. On Friday, we surprised the kids with a trip to Busch Gardens to kick off the summer! It's such a treat when they realize Daddy's not going to work. Man, I should've gotten that reaction on video!

On Saturday, we headed to the lake and spent the rest of the weekend with family and friends. We had such a nice time that we didn't want to come home yesterday as planned and ended up driving home early this morning so JD (sob) could head back to work.

It's always a sad day when Daddy has to go back to work.

And the fun has to come to an end.

But we're grateful for the time.

And for every fish, lizard, toad and turtle that was caught! It was a critter-filled time. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

james: medically speaking

I know I've promised this post for a while.

An update on where things are with his doctor's appointments and therapies.

OT is better. We were kind of at a standstill until our appointment this week. A different OT was brought in to consult with our regular one and this new one was full of ideas and innovations to try! She knew of all kinds of different products (things to help him feed himself). For the last month, James has only had straight (unbent) forks and spoons to use which are hard for him to angle to his mouth. Then this new OT mentions that the spoons can be heated and bent!

And I left with photocopies of pages from a catalog that's chock full of adaptive utensils. At this point, we don't care if we have to buy them outright to get them faster. Our OT said she'd have to write a letter of medical necessity to our insurance and get approval before she could purchase whatever's needed. Ugh. I think we can spring for the $50. Sheesh.

Thank you, Jesus. Finally.

However, here are some photos from a couple of weeks ago when we first tried 'feeding therapy.' I didn't get a video this week. :(

James enjoyed writing on the mirror with window crayons.

So excited to be making tiny, baby steps.

Now, on to the appointment we had with the prosthetists. This was pretty cool. They were very excited about the strength, mobility and range of motion that James has on his right side. And his little arm and hand, for that matter. They were anticipating having to fit him for a prosthetic on that side, too. No way are we touching that precious arm and hand of his! God gave him a huge gift when he formed that in the womb! (Jeremiah 1:5).

They pulled out all kinds of prosthetics. It was interesting. But we haven't made a decision. Gotta have him evaluated at Shriner's first to see what the best course of action is.

Look at his cute little body! And all the random body parts everywhere!

The boy is happy in all (okay, almost all) situations.

These are the electronic sensors being held onto his muscles to see if he can activate them and watch the mouse on the screen move in sync with his muscle movements. This is how an electronic prosthetic arm will ultimately work. So he'll have to go through a lot of pre-prosthetic training to get his muscles prepped to do what they'll need to do to make an arm function. All in all, it was a very good appointment. Very informative.

And, of course, he was in front of a computer so he was a happy camper. :)

He then had a speech evaluation last week. We suspected what was reported. He hasn't been home long enough to really evaluate him well. So, we'll go back in three months for a re-assessment.

But, boy oh boy, is his speech coming along. It's c.r.a.z.y, y'all. Crazy-cool.

Just got a call from the MRI nurse. He has his pre-MRI appointment on Thursday at the pediatrician's. However, they want to know medical history, of course, and we don't know anything. Because he's going to be sedated, please pray that he can tolerate the anesthesia and that all's goes well in that regard. He'll have the MRI next Friday, the 1st.

Then we head to Shriner's on the 5th with our appointments on the 6th. So curious to see what they have to say. And, we had a cool small-world experience in preparation of our trip to Philly. My stepmom said one of her best friends from her youth is a pediatric orthopedist in another state on the east coast (Pittsburg?). She said she could certainly contact him and mention James to him. So she texts him while I'm sitting with her. Complete with a photo of James. Her friend responds right back with a guess at diagnosis (!). Then she mentions to him that we're headed to Shriner's. I get an email from her the next day and he highly recommends the very doctor that we're seeing.

Love it.

I think that wraps up most of where things are medically.

My next post must be about this boy's dance moves.


Get ready.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


The stars have aligned.

The skies have opened.

We've been saying for many months, 'If only someone would come out with a larger van.'

We test drove the Sprinter, but, my gosh, that thing's a beast.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll get ourselves in one of these bad boys.

And, maybe just maybe, our kids will get along better with a little more elbow room.

A momma can dream of peaceful rides, right?!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

our little firework

Here's James singing 'Firework' by Katy Perry.

Apparently, his favorite song.

At least for now.

With his love for music, he's bound to get this excited about lots of songs.

And check this out...

This is so classic.  Avery said she laid down and put her arms behind her head and he quickly did the same.  

He loves that girl.  

And she loves him.  


Sunday, May 13, 2012

how're things?

Things are really well.

I'll try to update all-around without writing a novella.  No promises.  :)

Obviously, with today being Mother's Day, I feel very reflective.  God is just so good.  I don't know what else I can say to express my gratitude for how I feel on this Mother's Day.  I have absolutely experienced joyful Mother's Days in the past.  I have felt undeserving of the blessing of being a mom.  I just feel so grateful to be a mother -- literally the earliest and clearest call on my life.  From the youngest age, I knew I wanted to be a mom.  I dreamed of being a mom.  There's no other role in my life that engulfed my desires like being a mom did.  This immense childhood desire conjured up marathons of playing 'house' with my childhood friend, Courtney.  We played for eight to ten hours a day, literally.  Put us in her basement with her play kitchen, some dolls and her ping pong table (that was our car) and we were good for an entire Saturday.  We hardly surfaced to eat, use the bathroom or breathe fresh air.  It was intense.  And, for me, the desire to be a mom was always intense.  So I'm thankful.  Oh so thankful.  God has not only given me the gift of biological children, but the joy and pleasure of adopting a precious, precious child.

Just like when we found out we'd spontaneously conceived twins, I've never felt so loved by God than I do right now.  That God would give us these little people to raise and love and nurture is a true gift.

Here it comes...

Sure.  I struggle.  I have my moments.  Y'all know this by now.  But all in all, I love my children and, today, has been a day to slow down a bit and realize what a blessing it is to be their mom.  I didn't choose them.  Even James.  A whole host of things could've prevented us from adopting James.  God planned every single aspect of our family.  Every member is meant to be and every member brings me great joy.


How're things?

Let's start with Payton...

Payton is well.  Tomorrow, she'll wrap up her science class at Westminster Academy.  She's enjoyed it a lot and will take three classes there next year.  We love that it's a 'sprinkling' of school (three hours a week) and it allows us to give her that 'school' experience that in so many ways is rich, fun and wonderful.  Westminster's very small and very fitting for our family.

She had to do an experiment on combustion so we she and JD built a fire Friday night in our fire pit.  We roasted marshmallows, of course.   And Lucy (our black lab) tried to eat one -- on the wire roasting stick!  Did I mention they were jumbo marshmallows?  That dog.  :)

Payton is easing into a more 'realistic' role in James' life.  She is not at his side most minutes of the day anymore.  And James is adjusting.   He calls her name through the house and sometimes out the back screen door into the back yard to find her.  Sometimes she comes; other times he goes and hunts her down.  Nonetheless, she needs to have her time curled up in her book and he needs to learn that he can't spend his days on her hip as he did the first month he was with us.  She was his go-to-gal and now he's having to be satisfied with other caregivers.  Including Avery...

Avery is doing well!  She had her 'mock meet' for gymnastics yesterday.  She's worked so hard this year and it really showed.  She loves it and it seems to love her.  :)  She is done with school, for now.  We are waiting to see what her (and Payton's) tests scores are for this year.  We've decided that we'll be done until they come, but if there are areas of weakness then we'll work on them this summer.  If there are, I think it'll be minimal since they seemed very strong on their test-prep work.

Avery has become the new 'love' of James' life.  If he can't have JD, me or Payton, he's asking for Avery.  And Avery's happy to oblige.  She carts him all over the place.  Just a week or so ago, with a deflated tone, she asked me when he would be able to say her name...well!...boy, does he have it down now!  He is calling for her off the deck, at the bottom of the stairs, out the window of the car, you name it.  It is precious.  We couldn't be more grateful for how our biological kids have welcomed James with open arms and hearts.

As for Jackson, he is just the biggest helper ever.  I ask him to grab something, 'sure!'  I ask him to run downstairs for something, 'sure!'  I ask him to pick up his toys or make his bed or put his dirty clothes away, 'sure!'  It's truly a gift he has!  We adore him.  When we're out and about, he shuffles around with his hands in his pockets just quietly taking in the world.  He's one of those boys you just want to squeeze to death.  I am so grateful for him.  He adds so much to our days.  He's just a joy to have around.

Jackson loves James well.  For the most part, he gets that he needs to be James' big brother -- by primarily helping him.  And that's right up Jackson's alley!  He also seems to get that James is littler, so Jackson can concede to him well.  He can hand over the toy when James screams for it.  Don't get me wrong, there are moments, but they're fewer and farther between than with, say, Brooks...  :)

Brooks and Jackson are amazingly different.  For twins, it's so cool to see.  Of course, they have a lot in common too -- they're both five-and-a-half year old boys!  Brooks is purely delicious.  If I could only get my hands on him!  But he's not a cuddler.  When I grab him, he pulls away.  He's uncomfortable with that kind of closeness.  He can't be bothered.  Although, I know he needs it, so I dish it out anyway.  Brooks is very imaginative and playful.  He'll often go outside and play by himself -- just him and his toy.  He's so content.  I watched him out the window the other day as he wandered around the yard talking to himself and have sword fights with imaginary adversaries.  He's awesome.

James, for whatever reason, seems to have the littlest tolerance for Brooks (this would be a prayer request).  Perhaps it's because Brooks doesn't cater to James as much.  If he wants to play with a toy that James thinks is his or that James is playing with, he just takes it.  Of course, James screams and we officially have a power struggle on our hands!  Yet they have very sweet moments too...Brooks loves to help James with his yogurts in the mornings, he loves to pick out James' clothes, and he loves to play in the bath with James.  The dynamic between Brooks and James isn't something we're overly concerned about at this point because it could easily pass.

All in all, our kids are doing so extraordinarily well.  It's crazy to us.  We know James' addition into our family could've been so, so much more bumpy.  It has really been ridiculously smooth.

And, I should mention that JD and I are doing well too.  For now, parenting five kids hasn't seemed that much different than parenting four.  Of course, God has given us an abundance of support from family and friends which makes it all possible.

Now, to the latest with James...

First of all, he is chattering away!  His English acquisition is coming along well.  And he's acquired a few signs, so communication is happening!  :)

He can say:
Thank You
*Please (the most adorable two-fingered sign ever!)
*Bye-Bye (okay, maybe this is the most adorable!)

*signs this, too.

One of the coolest stride James has made is that he's moved into Brooks and Jackson's room!  I came home late one night and saw our bedroom light on!  I knew instantly that JD must've put James in with Brooks and Jackson.  We'd been talking about trying it and JD decided to go for it!  Boy, am I glad he did.  :)  It is so, so nice to have our room back!  We can read in bed and chat and not have to tiptoe out in the morning.  The craziest thing!?  Ever since James has been in the boys' room with them, all our kids have been sleeping until at least 7 AM.  This is huge for our family.  In fact, on Saturday morning, every single one of us slept until 8 AM!  A Beam Team miracle!  I can't even remember the last time this happened.  It's been several years at least.

I feel like I want to video every moment of our days to share them with you!  There are the sweetest interactions and triumphs.  Believe it or not, James sings Katy Perry's song 'Firework'.  I just have to get a good video of it.  He's crazy about music.  It transforms him.

We now have weekly OT appointments, but are going to wait until after our Shriner's visit to decide about the frequency and necessity of PT.  Speech services have been offered to us, but we're going to play that by ear to and give him a little more time to acquire the language.

We did meet with a prosthetist last week.  That was interesting.  I want to fill y'all in, but I think it'll have to wait for the next post lest we'll be here all night!  Plus, JD and the kids and I are curling up to watch 'Oklahoma.'

The perfect ending to a fabulous Mother's Day.

Love to all of you celebrating today!

Friday, May 11, 2012

get your tissues (or sleeve!) ready...

To watch this was overwhelming.

Perhaps because we just celebrated our anniversary.

Perhaps because I've never felt so grateful in my marriage.

If Avery and James hadn't been watching it with me, I probably would've burst into tears.

JD's capable of loving like this.


I can only hope and pray.

Thank you, Jesus, for love like this here on earth.

Your kind of love.  






Wednesday, May 9, 2012

why i homeschool

People ask.

And fortunately for me, others answer -- better than I can.  Or perhaps choose to.

The words in this post could literally be mine.  Even down to the disclaimer of homeschooling being a personal decision and not one I want to be divisive (which I think is the reason I avoid conversations about it).    

Her top five reasons are my top five reasons.  Wow.  Thanks, Silvia, for sending this to me.

This was so good to read.  So I thought I'd share it with you in case you ever wonder and want to ask.

This is from Motherhood on a Dime, if you want more.  It's a good blog.

“Why Do You Homeschool?” (My Attempt to Answer the Question Without Offending Everyone Who Reads This Blog)

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Welcome! I'm on a journey to spend wisely, save faithfully, and give freely. I'd love for you to join me! If you are new here, you might want to getFREE daily updates via email or RSS.
Before I begin, let me just tell you that I’ve held out on sharing this post for almost a year!  I never want to alienate any of my readers…and I worried a little bit that this post would make someone feel uncomfortable or offended or even angry.  Please know that no matter whether you homeschool or take your child to private or public school, you are welcome here.  I understand if you think I’m crazy or weird.  I think that sometimes, too!  My intent is not to make anyone feel guilty or leave you thinking I believe everyone should do what we are doing.  This is where God has led us for now. 
Would I love for you to consider homeschooling?  Well, yes I would.  It’s been a real blessing for us.   Do I think everyone should homeschool?  No, I don’t.  But if the only thing holding you back is fear or the feeling that you just can’t do it, I want to reassure you.  I’ve had quite a few questions over the past year or so about why we are homeschooling, and I wanted to address them specifically for our family.

If you had told me seven years ago, I would be teaching my children at home…I’m pretty sure I would’ve laughed in your face.  I attended public school as a child.  My college experience included earning a degree in Elementary Education.  I taught in several schools before the girls came along.  School was my life.   
But somewhere along the line (after my oldest daughter was born), I began to feel uneasy.  I reflected on my time in the school system.  I didn’t like what was happening there, but I didn’t really see any other options.  I knew we couldn’t afford private school.  And then….
Yes, God.  He brought all kinds of amazing people and books and resources into my life.  We began to seriously ponder whether we could actually undertake this difficult task of homeschooling our children.
After studying and praying, I knew without a doubt, we had to do it.
Here are just a few of the reasons why we homeschool:

1)  Life is short.

I’ve shared about the loss of my dad before.  Although I was angry at the time, I’ve since been able to see the gift God gave me through my dad’s death.
Here’s the deal:  His death gave me perspective.  My dad was two days shy of his 50th birthday when he died, and I began to look at my own life differently.
I don’t know the length of my life.  Will I be around one month from now?  50 more years?
Time is short. Already seven years of my oldest daughter’s life have gone by. I can’t rewind time and I can’t get it back, but I want to make the most of what we have together.
Remember my mission statement?  Part of it says, “I will be a whole-hearted follower of Christ and glorify Him by shepherding the hearts of my children.”  It also says, “I will be a whole-hearted follower of Christ by stewarding wisely the time and resources God has entrusted to me.”
At this point, our family believes we must invest the precious time we’ve been given — and give our children a firm foundation.  Yes, I’ve had to “sacrifice” many things I’ve wanted to do.  Yes, I would love to have more time to myself.  Yes, I would love to write a book and write curriculum and take music lessons and speak to groups and have a clean house and cook more exciting meals and spend more time with my friends and on and on….
I don’t have all the time in the world.
I have right now.  And I believe I’m called to pour myself out for my husband and our three little girls.

2)  Homeschooling *forces* me invites me into relationship with my children.

I really hesitated to put this in here, because I’m afraid it might be misconstrued.  Please don’t read this the wrong way.  I genuinely love and care for my girls…it’s not like I have to be forced into loving them.  There are just moments when relationships are hard — when parenting is hard.
For instance, I butt heads constantly with one of my daughters.  Some days I think I would love to send her to school — just so I could have a break.  It’s at these moments I realize how valuable homeschooling is for our relationship.
If my girls were away from me for 8 hours a day, I’d miss the character and heart issues that need dealt with (in them AND myself).  Being with my kids 24-7 means we have to find solutions and grow together!  We’re *forced* into building a strong relationship.
In The Well-Adjusted Child, Rachel Gathercole mentions “the detachment snowball.”  This term was coined by Dr William Sears in The Baby Book.  She says, “According to this idea, the more time parents and kids spend apart, the less parents know and understand their kids; the less responsive, respectful, and communicative both parents and kids become; and the more time both need away from each other.”
I don’t want that to happen to my relationship with my children.  All too often, I’ve seen a similar progression in children as they go away to preschool, elementary school, and middle school.  By the time they are teenagers, they want nothing to do with their parents.  
I’m thankful that homeschooling invites us to a deeper relationship with each other — and I’m grateful for the time we have to work on it!

3)  I’ve been given a great gift.

I went to a conference last summer and listened to the challenging Voddie Baucham.  He made a comment (actually several of them) that stuck with me…
“Just imagine someone coming to your house, knocking on your door, and asking for the keys to your brand-new car.  They tell you they’re just going to use it during the day, but they’ll return it to you in the evening.”
Are you kidding?!!  That would be crazy…I’d never do that!
Are not our children much more valuable to us than a car?
Yet, we turn our children over to a teacher we’ve met once and let them be influenced and molded by them for hours each day.
Now, do not think for a second that I am bashing teachers!!  I know there are excellent teachers in my community, and there are excellent teachers all across the nation (I hope I was one of them)!  I know how challenging it is to teach and the rewards are often few and far between.
But because I was a teacher, I also know that there are many teachers whose hearts are not in it.  They’ve grown cynical.  They crush instead of inspire. 
More than that, they don’t share my values — and even if they do, they can’t teach them outright in the public schools.
My girls are gifts.  They are little sponges….and I can’t stand the thought of them losing the curiosity they possess and the desire they have to learn and create.
I know what they love.  I know what they struggle with.  I love them more than anyone else ever could.  Ultimately, God has made me responsible for training and discipling them.
I don’t feel I can abdicate that responsibility to someone else for hours and hours each day.

4)  Schools are not a good fit for *most* kids.

I personally loved the “school” part of school.  I was good at it.  It fit my learning style.  But I would say I am the exception rather than the rule.
Many schools I’ve seen (and been apart of) attempt to make cookie-cutter people.  They desire uniformity.  They quash creativity.  They have an agenda.  They leave children with wounds.
I’ve seen kindergarteners come to school excited and exuberant.  Nine months later, they leave hating school and learning.
It’s extremely sad.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of other reasons schools are not a good fit for kids:
  • Bullying
  • Violence
  • Peer-dependency
  • Early exposure to alcohol & drugs
  • Sexual experimentation
  • Disrespect for adults
I will do what I can to guard my children’s hearts.  I love the analogy that they are like newly-sprouted plants in a greenhouse — they need special care right now.  I’m not going to stick them out in the elements and expect they’ll be able to survive.  They need time to grow deep, strong roots.  It’s my job to nourish them, to protect them, to give them the guidance they need to grow.  Soon enough, they’ll be transplanted outside of our “greenhouse”!
Right now, my children love to learn.  They feel safe.  They talk to me about everything.  Home is a pretty good fit for them.

5)  We teach as we live.

When you are one-on-one with a child, you can accomplish “schoolwork” in an abbreviated amount of time.
We don’t have to wait for the other kids to finish their work.  We don’t have to spend time moving from one location to the next.  We don’t have to go at the same speed for everyone.  We don’t have to deal with tons of discipline problems.  Our on-task time is probably more in just a few hours than what children in school accomplish for the whole day!
This frees up our afternoons — for music, cooking, playing outdoors, visiting, serving, or other creative pursuits!  We’re involved in local classes, sports, Girl Scouts, and various other community activities.  When family members visit from other states, we can take off and enjoy their company.  We can “do school” in the evening if necessary — or even on the weekend(yes, we have)!
Life is education.  Education is life.

I realize that homeschooling is not an option for everybody.  Please do not take my own personal reasons as judgment on what your family has chosen to do!  Again, lots of you have asked, and I just wanted to share why WE homeschool.
Truthfully, there are hard days.  There are days I want to give up.  There are days I think I’m just pretty much crazy.  There are days I blow it.
However, the blessings far outweigh the hardships.  I cannot even imagine my life without these three little people with me most of the day!  If homeschooling is something you want to try or you’ve been considering, you can do it.  I truly believe that!
Questions?  Comments?  Please feel free to voice your opinion and share your thoughts!  This can be an emotionally-charged issue, so I do ask that we keep our comments kind and respectful! 

Monday, May 7, 2012


How is it possible that our sweet Avery Rose is eight?

My goodness gracious.

She opted to follow in her sister's footsteps and have a sleepover at her Gramma and Papa's house.  These grandparents are crazy brave.   True troopers.

Did I mention that they love that our kids want to have their birthday parties at their house?

A quick shot before we headed 45 minutes away for the night...with five little girls in tow.  Oh, and James -- again surrounded by a gaggle of girls.  And Payton, Jackson and Brooks, of course.

The rainbow headbands came in their goodie bags.  They were a hit!  And the rule was that everyone had to wear them at the same time.  Little girls!  

A ride-along with a van full of girls is quite a treat!

A quick dip in the lake and then the rain came.  Jammies for all!  

Good thing the couch is big.

Hunkered down with a movie -- Barbie and the Diamond Castle?  

The sillies were a little hard to tame at 10:30 that night, but alas we found success and they all slept through the night.  Hallelujah!

Gotta love it!

Hot dogs, grilled cheese, turkey burgers, fruit salad, chips and lemonade!  With Oreo ice cream cake and Oreo balls for dessert!

Avery's sweet cousin made these pretty tissue flowers! 

And then James decided to show off for the camera.  He's such a ham.

I could kiss his face off.  

Actually, I sometimes do.


We're off to his PT evaluation tomorrow morning and then his first OT appointment follows immediately after.  

Pray that they accommodate him with utensils asap.  He just wants to feed himself, for goodness sakes.      

Thursday, May 3, 2012



We've had lots of changes around here.

But there's gonna be a big change soon right here.

Like right here on this blog.

I finally took the plunge and got someone to come up with a look that's all our own -- a look that's befitting the Beam Team.

Should be ready next week.

My love for color, creativity of any sort, patterns, mix-media, old, new...it's all in there.  It's been so fun!

Can't wait to reveal it to you.

We have a busy (and fun-filled!) weekend ahead.  We have a special birthday girl to celebrate!  Will post more next week after we survive conclude the festivities. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


13's supposed to be unlucky.

But not today.

Today is our 13th wedding anniversary.

I just can't believe it.

How is it possible that this man and I have been together for 18 years and married for 13?

And we have five kids together?

It's just seems surreal sometimes.

I want to gush and gush on here about the husband that JD is, but he would die.

Let's just say this...

This man is everything I could've ever hoped for in a husband.

He is everything I could've hoped for in a father.

He is everything I could've hoped for in a friend.

I am counting my lucky stars today.

I love you, Honey.  You've always been and still are my true companion.  

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