2016 Vacation Road Trip | Day Two | LAFAYETTE, LA and NEW ORLEANS, LA

Day Two and we are off to our next state Louisiana!  I lived here for several years in my 20's and haven't really been back.  We were headed through Louisiana so I thought we could make it to Lafayette for lunch.  I took the family to my very favorite poboy shop called Old Tyme Grocery.  They have THE BEST shrimp poboys ever!
Not sure what this new pose is Jack is doing but hopefully he stop soon!

After our bellies were full I took them over to the University of Louisiana of Lafayette's campus to see the real (but contained) swamp.  They are known to have alligators and that day they were all hungry for some kids because they all came swimming our way.    These are not tiny alligators!  Savannah spied the first one right underneath her feet.  The barrier in some places only comes up to their knees so we had to watch a few of them pretty closely.

That night the plan was to spend the night in New Orleans.  Grant and the kids had never been there and I thought they would really enjoy seeing the Mississippi and eating Beignets so that was the plan. It was so fun to be back in New Orleans if only for a night.  The kids loved Beignets for dinner and the walk along the Mississippi was great.  Luke thought the trolley cars were the best!  He has a trolley at home from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood so he recognized them right away!

 Up next Alabama....

2016 Vacation Road Trip | Day One | ATHENS, TX

Straight down to Texas for our first day and adventure.  We ended up in Athens, Texas at The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and spent the afternoon viewing their enormous pond/aquariums where they house the fresh water fishes that they stock in the rivers, lakes, and ponds in Texas.  We had watched a OETA show about this hatchery and all about Alligator Gar.  Luke got obsessed and every conversation had to do with the alligator gar!

 At the end of the tour they also have a stocked pond where we all got to do a little fishing.   They had the whole set up there for us with the rods and corn/stink bait.

Jack was the only one to pull in a big one this time and he was so proud of himself! It is his first Texas catfish!!

Tomorrow we on to Louisiana!

June 8th ONE year Post-ADOPTION

This very day 365 days ago Grant and I were sitting in an office type building in Guangzhou, China shedding a few nervous tears that were full of excitement as we were getting ready to meet our daughter for the first time.  There really aren't many ways you can explain that feeling to some one unless they have been there.  The combination of joy, excitement, fear, unknown, and trust all at their peek knowing that this was an ordained moment of time and tears just flow.

Our soon to be daughter was 4 and 3 months of age.  She had lived a lifetime without a parent literally from hours after her birth until this day.  They told us to wait she wasn't there yet when we arrived.  Wait.  That's what we've been doing for the past 6 months since we first saw her face in a photograph.  Waiting.  The funny thing is I'm a photographer and I know even the best picture is just a picture capturing of the quickest moment in time and it doesn't come close to tell you the context surrounding that smile.

Then there she was holding the hand of her guide that brought her by train that day to us.  She walked across the room to a side office and all I could help but notice was this lost look on her face.  Unsure of everything.  Nothing was bad or good.  I had enough time to turn on the camera thinking I could actually record something.  But within moments she was being shoved towards us.  Lost and unsure.  She was in a city that spoke Mandarin and she didn't.  The guide was soon gone.  Then she saw Grant's sucker (thank you Jesus for Dum-Dums!) and she smiled.  Food and sugar are an international language all it's own!

It's crazy good to think of how far she and we have come in one year.  One year ago we were Mama and Baba (Daddy).  Those were our names without any meaning of trust, security, or unconditional love.  She had no clue of this thing we humans and even the animal kingdom call family.  It meant nothing to her.  She would literally gravitate to the sweet things in life.  (Random Chinese people carry a LOT of candy in their purses!)

I was never so glad to be home and start the crazy and at times super frustrating process of molding and shaping this child into our daughter who now a year later laughs like we laugh, sings like we sing, dances to the tune of our music.  She knows what we expect and when things are not right.  She knows now why she's in trouble and sometimes purposefully chooses to be ornery for the fun of it or because her brother does it.

She is strong and getting stronger.  She is also strong willed too so she fits right in with our crew.  She has SO MANY why questions and all of them need answers!  She knows all of her Uppercase letters and most of the sounds they make.  She has learned to share and that it is ok if we say no and that we still love her.  She has learned that being grumpy doesn't get her what she wants.  She has learned Jesus Love Me and that he can live in her heart...but she has a way to go to completely understand that concept.  Although I have no doubt that is why God "made a way where there was NO way for her to hear about him".

Caroline will be starting Pre-K next year and is so excited after watching Jack go in and out of that class all last year.  She still mimics everything and is learning like a sponge.  She even has taught herself the American Crawl swim stroke from observing it in the stands at Savannah's lessons the past two months.  (Don't throw her in- breathing while swimming is a whole other concept!)

I think the biggest challenge as her parents is to talk, encourage, discipline, teach, and help her because even though her vocabulary is robust and expanding daily she uses her words with routine and not out of understanding the concept of what is being said.  It took us a while to grasp this.  We recently had her tested in speech and communication skills for the start of school next year.  Her current age is 5 yr 3 months and she is understanding at a 4 year old level but her recall or ability to communicate her thoughts is at about 2.5 years.  This makes so much sense!!!   It just takes time!  Every month is so much better than the last and she is expected to catch up quickly!

Some of her most difficult words to learn were color words.  She could repeat them easily but it became apparent she didn't have the concept of color.  She didn't have a parent sitting with her as an infant reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear over and over again.

We are so proud of Caroline and so so thankful for the privilege of being her parents.   She is incredibly sweet and loving and is making up for all the hugs and kisses she missed out on those first four years.  You bring so much joy to our lives! So Happy Gotcha Day Sweet Caroline Joy!  We LOVE you,  Mama and Baba (Daggy) :)

Caroline's Gotcha Day Video:

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