2016 was the year of gather. So many times, it was affirmed that this word truly was meant to be my word this year.
I ended the post at the start of this year with, “…let’s gather ’round for some coffee, supper, laughter, and fun!” And, boy, did we. We have gathered more in this home than in any other place I can remember in all of my life. It’s not uncommon for friends or family to just stop by on their way to or from their actual destination–and that’s saying something because we’re out of the way! People recognize our home just from photos and comment on its physical appearance and ask to stop in sometime. God has truly, truly favored this home for His fellowship.
Our ultimate goal of having a permanent gathering place to worship has still not been realized. We sort of took a hiatus from visiting churches after a time, but we are back on the wagon in search of a place to land.
God has continued to gather me and draw me into Him as we wait to bring a baby home. I would be lying if I said I thought we would end 2016 as a family of three. I honestly did not think so at all. With each passing day, each changing circumstance, God is drawing us nearer to Him and preparing us more and more for the baby that will be ours. I don’t know when it will be, or what it will all look like, but I know He is gathering the details for a beautiful story only He could orchestrate.
This time of year is hectic, busy, and magical. The twinkle, the lights, the nostalgia. I love when the Friday after Thanksgiving comes and time to celebrate Jesus’ birth is here. We cut down our tree a day early this year so we could try a new farm; it was a successful trip. (Also, I did not go blond, contrary to what this photo would have you believe.)
A photo posted by Jolie Gray (@the_graymatters) on
Seemingly most important so far, though, is our school treat creations. This year, the boy was really into helping and being part of it. He didn’t want me to just design something and tell him how it was going down before he signed on the dotted line. We worked together to create some cute treats for his friends and his teachers.
I ordered mazes from Amazon, but you could grab some from anywhere that has party favors. Now, I know I usually include a printable when I share things like this, but let me tell you a little secret: somehow these are the wrong size. They’re too small. So, if you’d like the file, let me know, and I’ll resize it to send.
I think our teacher gifts are my favorite this year.
I mean, really. Are these not the cutest? (Even if I do say so myself.)
The boy is ready to share them with his friends. He loved playing a bigger part in the gifting this year. He loves giving gifts, just like I do. I’m so grateful for his generous heart.
It’s not often that I get through a week without a question or two about our adoption. Where are we in the process? Are we on a list of some sort? Do we have any idea how long we are waiting? Is there anything I can do to help?
Where are we in the process?
Well, we are still very much in a place of waiting. Our homestudy has been signed, sealed, delivered, basically just meaning that we are approved to adopt in the state of Texas. This is pretty much the first step in any adoption, and it’s needed for a private, domestic adoption like we feel called to. So that’s done. Check mark.
Are we on a list of some sort?
No. We are not pursuing an adoption through CPS, a consultant group, or an agency at this point, so no, we are not on any sort of list or registry. Our homestudy completion does not put us on any sort of list, either. We are in no man’s land as far as any formal list, but we still feel like we are walking out the route we are called to walk. (The follow up question here is, how do people find you to know you’re adopting? The answer: you guys. Word of mouth is huge. We have seen it work.)
Do we have any idea how long we are waiting?
Again, no. We have absolutely no idea how long we are waiting. We could find out as soon as a birth mother finds out, or we could find out when a baby is already born in a hospital. Your guess is as good as ours here.
What can I do to help?
We get this one, too, and it’s so heartwarming. You can pray. That is the best way to come alongside us while we’re waiting. You can think of us when you hear of a mother considering placing a child. Should you tell her we are adopting? Yes. This part of our story is up for sharing. It’s how our child will get to us. It’s why I share this kind of stuff for the world to see. You can partner with us financially. Some friends started a fundraiser for us (talk about blown away), and if you feel called to be part of the story, that’s another way to help.
We have loved living and adventuring as a family of three. We can’t wait for our newest family member to join us–whenever that might be!
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” –Lamentations 3:25
I think it’s actually been 366 because of the leap year, but I’m also pretty sure we didn’t actually fully understand it all that first day, anyway. 365 for good measure.
Last year, on September 22nd, we walked into a pediatrician’s office we had never been to before to rule out anything being wrong with our boy. We all went together, the three of us. He didn’t feel bad, he didn’t look bad (we didn’t think; I can see it all over the photos in my Timehop this year), we just had a bit of concern over his thirst. We knew it could be a phase, but we also knew it could be something.
I don’t remember a whole lot about that appointment, but I do remember that it was a feat in itself to get the doctor to check his blood glucose level. Granted, I had no clue what that actually meant at the time, but I knew that it needed to be done. Mamas (and daddies), trust your gut. If you feel like something could be wrong, find out for sure. Don’t take no for an answer. I don’t think I will ever forget the confusion I felt when they told us his glucose were elevated. What did that mean, exactly? Did that mean he had diabetes? What did that mean? What did that look like? What were the limitations? Could he have a snack? He was starving. I remember being in a complete daze while trying to pack bags for a hospital stay in which we were to “be prepared to stay two or three days.” Stay where? Why? Is he okay? Do we go in hyper-speed?
Those hours of not really knowing were so hard. I mean, I had consulted Dr. Google prior to the unofficial diagnosis that sent us to the emergency room at the children’s hospital, but only enough to find bits and pieces that allowed me to rule out any sort of long-term illnesses. And then it was. What do you do with that? How do you unpack it?
I still don’t really know the answer to that. I don’t know exactly how to process the fact that it’s not like a round of antibiotics where X days will make you better. I’m not always forward thinking enough to ensure supplies are stocked through the zombie apocalypse. We read and absorb all that we can about best practices and care. We consult with friends, strangers, others who are living it as well.
People tell me all the time that we are brave, or strong, or “the perfect family for this to have happened to,” but again, I don’t always know what to do with that. We’re just doing what we have to do to keep our son healthy and safe.
Our days look a little different than they did 365 days ago, but our future is big and bright. We know that God trusted us with this boy, this story, this life to bring Him glory. We know this boy was born to be a world changer.
It was a Monday. It was this Monday; not by date, but as it falls. The Monday between celebrating his fifth birthday with friends and celebrating it for real. It was a normal day, full of tutoring, preschool, and soccer practice. However, it was different. It was the day it all sunk in. It was the day it hit me that we might not, in fact, be ruling out that something was wrong. It was the day I spent the afternoon on the phone with my mom and some good friends in the peds field; the day I teetered between waiting for his scheduled Wednesday doctor’s appointment or rushing in for something sooner.
We didn’t know it that day, but that Monday was the last of that chapter of our lives. It was the last of a childhood where our son could eat or run without worry. The last of eating foods without immediately knowing their carb count. The last of dropping him off with friends carefree. It was the last of the days where a car nap was just a car nap. It was the last of so many things.
But it was also the last of a time where we didn’t know how strong our son was. A time where we didn’t know just exactly how kind and compassionate he was. The last of any question about the support system we have and how much they will rally around us. The last of any misunderstanding about the lengths you will go as a parent to keep your child safe and healthy.
As we draw closer to our one year mark, the words a dear friend’s mom shared with us in the hospital ring in my ears, “It will alter your life, but it won’t end your life.” I’m grateful every day for those words. I’m grateful on the days when it’s hard and we don’t understand what his blood sugar is doing, and the days when it’s textbook and “easy.” I thank God every day for this sweet boy of ours. I’m so grateful he’s mine.
(Do you remember that commercial? No? Just me? Okay, then.)
Well, the boy and I have officially survived our first week of school–and by survived, I mean thrived. We have had a great week all around. We both enjoy where we are, we haven’t been tired or stressed out. We are making great time in the mornings. Overall, I am completely surprised at how well it has gone. I’d be lying if I said I spent the summer looking forward to going back to work outside our home full-time.
However, here it is, Friday night after our first week, and I’m good. I’m not sad or wishing it were different or counting down days. While we all spend more time apart, our time together is more focused and intentional. Just this evening, the boy and I camped out on the living room floor with movies, pajamas, pizza, and brownies. We were focused on each other. He told me about things that happened at school this week. He asked about how my school was going. We talked, laughed, snuggled up close, and enjoyed. We agreed on a little later bed time, and then I laid with him for a while when I tucked him into bed.
Because I only work a half-day on Friday, Mr. Gray and I have set that time aside for a date lunch. It’s in pen in our calendars. It’s a gimme-date, one we don’t have to arrange or work for. As we rode to the restaurant, we talked about how we thought the week had gone. (Quick back story: I had a TON of anxiety leading up to this week thinking about being gone four and a half days a week and how I would fit everything into that schedule.) We reflected on what had worked well and what needed changing, but most of all, we were in total agreement that overall, it was a success.
“It all seems manageable,” he said.
“Yeah, but that’s where it’ll get you,” I replied, “once you think you’ve gotten to a point of manageable and start to slack on the systems that you put in place to manage it, you lose the control. We can’t let the snooze button creep in on us.” And it’s totally true. Feeling like it’s all under control leads to letting the standards slide, and then it’s overwhelming.
I’ve gone a full week logging more hours than I’ve been out of our home in six years, and I have only been tired once. I hit a wall Thursday afternoon as the day was winding down, but it was nothing that a few jumping jacks and brain exercises with the kids (who were also hitting their max) couldn’t fix. I have had time to rest, relax, and wind down every single day. I know it’s only been a week, but historically, this is the most tiring week of teaching for me. I’m calling it a win–even if soccer is fast-approaching and it might all change soon.
So what are we doing that’s working, anyway? (Monday and Wednesday mornings, I work out before all of this and return home at 6:00 to pick up where I would be if it were a “regular” day and I were just waking.) We start our day early, prep the day before, and get everything finished before we stop in the evenings.
Our typical day:
5:30: Wake up, get myself dressed and ready (4:30 Monday and Wednesday); Mr. Gray wakes up, gets dressed, makes the boy’s breakfast
6:30: Wake the boy for breakfast and TV (I sit and visit with him for a bit and then gather everything for the day during this time.)
7:00: TV off; clear table; get dressed; morning “because you live here” chores (I put his dishes in the dishwasher and start it then start the washing machine after he throws his pajamas in there.)
7:20: out the door
7:30: deliver the boy to school; text coffee shop
7:32: swing through coffee drive thru
7:38: arrive at school
3:10: dismiss students; leave for car rider line
3:25: get the boy; post office, bank, town errands, etc.
3:45: home; snack homework (I unload both of our lunch boxes and start repacking them for the next day. If we are having leftovers from supper, I wait to finish them until after supper. If not, I usually go ahead and pack them all the way before sticking them in the fridge. I check the boy’s daily folder, initial homework info, throw the load of laundry from the morning into the dryer, unload the dishwasher, and then print or look up anything I need for my class the next day.)
5:00: Mr. Gray home. We are completely finished with everything by the time Mr. Gray walks in the door. Then we play in the yard, ride the golf cart, play a game, build with Lego, or whatever we want to do from there.
7:00: supper, bath, playtime or TV time, read (everyone’s dirty clothes from the day are delivered straight to the laundry room)
8:30: bed time (The boy heads off to bed, and then we hang out, chat, catch up on the day, watch a show or read until our bed time.)
11:00(ish): sugar check (As long as all is well, we have been able to cut out the 2:00-ish check, which has been quite helpful for our sleeping habits!)
It sounds crazy, but it works for us. We are able to optimize our time on task and minimize the lolligagging. Nonna got the boy from school today because he had an early release (earlier than my half-day), and he still walked right in, got out his homework, and got to work. It’s the precedent we have set, and I’m hopeful it’ll carry us through a successful year. Spending the hour when we get home to really focus saves us so much time in the long run.
Does you family thrive in a system? What works for you? s
Today, he built Lego sets and ate chocolate chip pancakes bigger than his head, but tomorrow will be different. Today, we lounged around, not a worry in the world, but tomorrow will be different. Today, we traveled and talked and rode in the car for hours, but tomorrow will be different.
Tomorrow he’ll enter a new world, a new season, and a new time. Tomorrow, he won’t be just my sweet little boy; he’ll be a big kindergartener in a new place. Tomorrow, he’ll settle into a new routine, but it won’t be ours. It’ll be his–on his own. He’ll listen, learn, lead, and love. He’ll become more of his own person. He’ll continue to make us proud.
So, tonight, when he says, “Just sleep with me for a little bit,” I will when I usually don’t. Because tomorrow will be different.
And, tonight, when he squeezes my hand and says that he loves me more, I won’t dispute it. Because tomorrow will be different.
Tonight, when I peek in for that last little look before I go to bed, tears will stream down my face. Because tomorrow will be different.
If you’ve been following along on social media, you know we set out to finish up the camper project this summer. Primarily, we use our camper as a bedroom during football season since our group has outgrown the house we stay in for game weekends. However, last summer, Mr. Gray decided we should spruce up the exterior. (If I were good at re-doing and remodeling things, this is where a before photo would be.)
The mint exterior really spruced it up, and all of a sudden, I was bummed we didn’t get to do anything with the canopy or do dream about new interior.
time lapse | time lapse | football season | time lapse
When we brought the camper home after last football season, we had plans to rip out the kitchen for more space, paint a little, and work on the canopy.
(Insert before photo here. You can do it. Dated camper interior. Burgundy. Dark green. Patterns. Laminate. Fake metal. Fake wood.)
Mr. Gray got to work on removing the kitchen while I started thinking of affordable ways to give the rest a facelift. Spray paint. That’s the answer. The affordable way to do anything is to spray paint it. For about $4.00 a can, you can work on the canopy, the cushions, and any other dated upholstered surfaces that can be physically removed. I bought a twin sheet set for $8.00 and made valances out of that. It was the perfect width for all the windows, and I just cut them all to match, hemmed the tops for the rod, and the bottoms to finish the edge.
We had a space where the vent was removed that Mr. Gray secured from outside the camper, but it needed something for the inside. The boy and I created a cute wall hanging with a $3.00 canvas from Hobby Lobby and paint and stickers we already had.
I painted the refrigerator with chalk paint, not because I love it, but because we were out of black oil-based paint, and I knew that would be an easy fix for a focal point. We already had the paint on hand, which was an added bonus!
Plus, now for football season, we can #BTHOeveryone and change it weekly!
The original divider curtain was a very heavy green lined number, so I switched it for a shower curtain in the new color scheme. The ribbon tie-back replaced the original cumbersome get up that was there, and now it’s cute and easier to use.
The cushions are simply spray painted black. A word of excitement: the pattern will show throw adding a great look. It gives the cushion some dimension, despite the quick fix. It changes the texture of the fabric a little, but nothing outrageous. Had I had the time, I would have rubbed them with a wire brush or sanded them lightly. When you head to work as the sun is going down the night before you set out on an adventure, though, you do what you can and worry about the rest later!
I had one last idea that I wanted to finish late last night after being inspired by some metallic spray paint I found in the storage shed.
I channeled my inner throw pillows, and went to town. (Really, these are my throw pillows; inside my house.)
I taped off some abstract triangles, went to spraying, and waited for the reveal this morning.
Be on the lookout for the full exterior shot on social media once we set up camp! I love the way it all turned out!
I’m not big on the news. It’s far away; I can remove myself and allow a little head-in-the-sand time. It’s not that I’m unaware, but I’m ashamedly able to pull myself out of situations and convince myself those problems don’t belong to me and my small town life. While my husband spends his time listening to BBC, NPR, and sermons from various pastors we follow, I spend my time listening to KLOVE or Kidz Bop with the occasional top 40 hit thrown in there for good measure.
This time, it’s different, though. Those could have been my friends or their kids. It might have been children I love and care about as my own. It could have been one of my friends, simply because of the color of their skin. This time, it was far too close to home to turn away. I can’t bury my head in the sand for this one. Because for me, while I might not be about news, I am about love. I’m called to love those around me. I’m called to love my enemies. I’m called to love first. To give the benefit of the doubt first. To teach my son the same. These friends I mentioned, they’re his friends, too. They’re people he loves and cares about. They’re people he would be devastated if something happened to. He doesn’t know or care what color their skin is; he loves them because they’re his friends.
This morning, I watched this.
(Go on, I’ll wait. It’s worth it.)
I don’t have a systemic solution. I don’t have a great idea for how to move forward from here. What I do have is a little boy I am called to teach, mold, and shape. I can him teach to treat others–all others–well. I can teach him to love the people around him. I can teach him to serve as Jesus did. I can teach him to pray for his friends and classmates. We can start at home. Undoubtedly, we are called to.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” –Deuteronomy 6:5-9