a typical day: one month home

Typical routines: We’re working out the kinks, and I think we have a good plan until they start school… or Milo drops to one nap… or Dan’s schedule changes again. But a good plan!

They’re still waking up between 7 and 7:30a. They get dressed and eat breakfast, and we head out the door. Almost every single day. We find somewhere for them to burn energy — an outdoor park, if we can, or a few indoor playground options. They go hard for a while and usually start asking for a snack. We leave, eat a snack at home, and put Milo down for a nap. On the days Dan is working, I’m going to try to sneak in a shower while the boys watch a TV show from now on. I’ve attempted it three times, and it went well. I’m certain future attempts won’t always go as well, but mama gotta shower.


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We try to maximize time when Milo is sleeping with activities he may disrupt if awake and around. Doing puzzles, reading on the couch, or building delicate Magnatile structures. When he’s awake, we eat lunch. It’s still a bit tricky to find meals we can easily make and everyone will eat. There has been a fair amount of fast food purchased, because they do like it. After lunch, we sometimes stay home to play or sometimes leave the house again to go to the nature center, library and other places. This time between lunch and dinner is still a little tricky and unpredictable. We maybe need more structure here, but it’s nice to have some flexibility.

We’re hoping to more frequently do a walk with Oscar before dinner, but we haven’t quite stuck to that yet. We eat dinner as a family… Okay, sometimes Dan and I just sit with them and eat a nicer, quieter meal after they’re in bed. We have found that TV helps them wind down and easily transition upstairs to get ready for bed, so we do that between dinner and their bedtime routine.


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We’ve bumped up their bedtime a bit, and it works well. They really sleep 11.5 to 12 hours each night, and they need the sleep! We take turns doing different parts of their routines — getting ready for bed, reading books, laying with them until they fall asleep, as well as Milo’s pajamas and bottle. Bedtimes are tricky right now because Milo has been sick and/or teething for a while now, so he doesn’t go down too easily. The last time Dan was working during bedtime, I had a friend slip in to play with Milo until the older boys were asleep, and it worked really nicely. I had patience with them getting ready for bed without stressing about Milo.

Though Theo was waking up at night pretty often, he isn’t anymore. They sleep well all night long, and they frequently wake up and chat in bed until we get them. They also come pounding at our door some mornings, but Dan springs out of bed pretty quick to redirect them, if he’s home. He’s the sweetest.


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Language learning: Their English has really started developing more. They understand a lot! I can ask them questions or communicate things to them in all English, and I can tell they understand by their responses. They’re picking up words quickly — especially words they hear us say all the time. I noticed for the first time a few days ago that they were stringing two English words together: “Je like it.” “Papa pas fix it.” “Shoes on.”

Hard stuff: A lot of the immediate hard stuff that drove me up the wall is subsiding. Less aggression and much higher ability to follow our routines related to getting dressed, using the bathroom, eating at the table, and riding in the car. Little issues still pop up, but it’s much easier to do the regular day-to-day stuff. We haven’t thrown them for too many loops, though, and I can see hints that they won’t immediately handle big changes too easily. No out-of-town trips for us yet and minimal new places still.

We were having lots of struggles with one of our sons leaving fun places. He would run in the opposite direction or climb where he knew we couldn’t get him. We’d have to pick him up and carry him to the car kicking and yelling pretty often. I was afraid to take the three of them anywhere fun by myself, because I dreaded the inevitable wrangling. We tried minute warnings and choices and all that jazz. No luck. The use of a visual timer was recommended to us, and it’s worked really well! I took the three of them to the place I feared most recently, and they left easily. Hallelujah!


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We’re also having some food issues. We want to give them choices and show them that there is always enough food. I think we’re doing that well. By doing that, we are possibly creating some habits that will be harder to break later. One of our guys loves to try everything we’re eating. One prefers to eat popcorn, yogurt, Ritz crackers, and bananas only. He also gets anxious about when it will be time to eat and what we are eating. If we don’t communicate those things well, he really struggles.

They’re starting to talk about Congo more. They say they want to go to Congo on an airplane. Or they want to go to Congo to ride on a bus to school. (They really want to go to school.) It makes my heart a little sad, but I know where it’s coming from, and I understand.


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Easy stuff: It’s gotten easier to keep them entertained and happy. We have snacks and water on-hand almost all the time. We change activities often. We get out of the house to play and sometimes we just drive around. They’re often especially happy out and about or in the car. 

They’re learning pretty quickly. They’re picking up English, learning numbers and letters, learning animals, and getting comfortable with our routines. I can see ways they understand when we are frustrated or tired or worried. I would say their emotional intelligence is super sophisticated, but it feels like they know us more than they did. They frequently desire to obey and listen, and they’re always really proud when they do.

We’ve had an easy time being their sole caregivers so far. Dan has had abundant time off, and we’ve been able divide and conquer easily. Our house has been pretty clean and laundry has been completed. We haven’t quite mastered making lunch and dinner every day, but my guess is that’s very normal.

We’re seeing their attachments to us develop appropriately, too! It brings me great joy to see them run off at the playground after I give them permission, play for a bit, come back to check in, and ask that I come do something with them. It makes me happy to see our progress.


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the playground + a clean bedroom

The playground and a clean bedroom have been our two lifesavers in these early days. One for them and one for us.

The playground is their happy place. I’m not sure they knew what to do there until we showed them, and they’ve warmed up to it quickly. They have a lot of big needs to get energy out. Lots of climbing and hanging from things and running and going down the slide over and over again. They feel safe at the playground, especially after we’ve been there for a little while. They run off and check in. We sit back and then get up and engage. There are no issues of sharing at the playground and nothing to be thrown. We relax and give affirming touches and make good eye contact and laugh. We go at least once a day, and it’s usually the most peaceful part of our day.


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Dan and I made a decision to keep our bedroom clean and relaxing, and I’m so glad. I’ve kept fresh flowers in there, and I’ve moved the kid junk out over and over again. Our house looks like it’s been overrun by frat boys in lots of other areas. Handles broken off drawers, shoes in the strangest places, spilled marinara sauce on the rug, and dried up baby wipes under the couch. We need a space to go to alone to take deep breaths and to sleep well in at night, and this is it. We’re under a lot of stress right now — I think that’s obvious — and we don’t always do well under stress. I, especially, get extra irritated by messes if I’m stressed out. So this clean bedroom thing — consistently clean for the first time in a long time — is the sweetest sight.


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(These were moved from the entryway to our bedroom before being destroyed!)

a typical day: one week home

Here we are at a little past one week home. It has been hard, and it has been good. I want to document the flourishing we see in our home, but I want to protect the stories of my sons.

I also want to give those interested in adoption a real picture. I love good intentions, but keeping expectations low and realistic is where it’s really at. I’m a social worker. We’ve hosted kids from hard places. But I’ve still been a little overwhelmed.


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Typical routines: All three boys wake up between 7a and 7:30a. We kept Theo and Elliot up until bedtime on the day they flew in, and we have not experienced any jet lag at all! Dan usually gets up with them, because one of the boys sometimes wakes up early and comes in to our room. Dan has been going back to lay down with him until the other wakes up. I am not a morning person, so Dan gives me grace, and I sloth out of bed around 8a some mornings. We eat breakfast as a family.

The boys are at full throttle mode right away, so we try to burn off energy right away. We usually head out to the yard or a playground right away. I’m always already sweaty, unshowered, and without make-up. We try to help them play hard until we need to go back home for Milo’s first nap. We put down Milo and have a snack around 10:30a. If Dan is home, I have sometimes snuck out to do necessary errands during this time.


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We had a hard time finding things to do at home that keep them calm and happy initially. We’re slowly figuring it out. They may play outside more, play inside with toys, play music on their drums, color, or play with Play-Doh. They like helping with chores, so we do one at least one of those every day.

We eat lunch at noon when Milo is awake. We play some more. We have tried to do a nap around 1:30p most days. One of the boys sleeps and one doesn’t. The one who sleeps usually takes a long time to fall asleep at night. We’re considering skipping naps to do quiet time in their room, which kind of sounds impossible right now. Today I sat in their room and read books to them for about 30 minutes before they were over it.

Milo goes down for another nap at 3:30p, and the older boys have a snack again at that time. They say they’re hungry often, and whether or not they are isn’t for us to decide, so we’re giving them food as often as possible. More playing at home during this time. They love being outside, so we’re usually in the back yard.


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When Milo gets up around 5p, we start working on dinner, if we’re making it. (Friends have been super generous to bring us dinner every other night for several weeks!) They watch Daniel Tiger during this time, because they aren’t quite to the point where they will play outside without us there. We eat dinner as a family.

After we eat dinner, we either walk down to a nearby playground, do baths, or watch a movie. Right now, we’re taking them upstairs at 7p to get ready for bed. They’re laying down with one of us by 7:30p and asleep by 8p. We haven’t yet tried to do bedtime without us laying with them. We’re going to take that slowly. If Dan isn’t home, I’ve been feeding Milo his bottle downstairs with him, taking him up to lay him down, and then starting their bedtime routine closer to 7:30p.

Language learning: Their English learning has been a little slower than I expected, but I’m okay with it. Dan speaks more French than I realized (ha!), so he has been communicating with them primarily in French for the 2.5 weeks he’s been around them. He’s trying to transition to more English, and they’re accepting it. The first unsolicited English Elliot spoke was “Hi, baby! Hi, Milo!” in the same tone I use with him. They’re using “please” occasionally, as well as “thank you.” We’re reading lots of books with animals, so I think they’re starting to pick up animals. “Cow” seems to be one they use most often. Not much more than that right now… I speak to them in French a tiny bit, but when I speak to them in English, I can tell they’re starting to understand more of it.

Hard stuff: The hard stuff is absolutely there. It seems they are used to a different kind of structure and different rules. We’re trying to implement our structure and appropriate rules. It’s also obvious that they were kept safe and nurtured. We’re doing those things, too. I’m not comfortable sharing a ton of details, but we’re seeing regular meltdowns, throwing toys, physical aggression, and attempts to run off in public. They have also had a hard time with basic routines like eating at the table, using the bathroom, sharing toys, and getting in and out of the car.


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For the most part, we understand why all of this is happening. It helps a lot to consider all the changes their minds have experienced after all the loss they’ve experienced on top of other trauma we know they’ve experienced and probably trauma we don’t even know about.

Easy stuff: They love physical touch and affection. They love to be nurtured… We do lots of lotion and bandaids and feeding each other. If I sit on the couch to watch a show with them or on their beds to read books, they like to snuggle in close. When we lay down with them at night, they snuggle in to each other and in to us. Theo fell asleep forehead-to-forehead with me one night.

They love Milo, and he loves them. They’ve been really sweet with him and as gentle as high-energy 4-year-old boys can be. On our ride home from the airport, they gave him their toys and water. They tickled him on the way out of the car. They like to help put him down for naps and get him up in the morning. They are patient with him when he invades their space, and the three of them could play happily at the water table for an hour. We let them pick out his clothes sometimes, and they pick out their own clothes 100% of the time. (Elliot wore three button-up shirts on top of each other today.)


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We thought Oscar needed to move in with his uncle after one hard day, but then we started seeing progress right after. We showed the boys that Oscar does not eat toys (even though he does sometimes, don’t tell!) or shoes. We showed them how much he likes fetching balls, and they got used to throwing the ball for him. We showed them how he likes to eat table food and let them feed him a plate of mac + cheese. We took a walk with them safely in the double stroller and Oscar beside them. They don’t really pet him, but they can tolerate him being in their presence with out complete freak outs now! 

They’re sleeping really well once they’re asleep. One sleeps like a rock for 12 hours straight. Though the other sometimes wakes up and comes to our room a few times a night, we’re happy that he feels safe when he wakes up to not cry but come find us instead. He falls asleep easily as soon as we lay down with him again. 


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We have slowly ventured to playgrounds that are increasingly busy, because we weren’t sure how they would do with other kids and adults. This morning there were quite a few kids and parents at a small indoor playground we visited. Theo and Elliot were really careful and gentle around the babies, and they tried to interact with the older kids. The language barrier is still there, though.

Through the chaos, there have been plenty of moments I’ve sat back and marveled that these days are really here. They wore the Superman cape hooded towels I bought for them years ago. We read books given to them for their first birthday. We looked at pictures of them as babies. It’s still bittersweet… I haven’t forgotten the wait and the pain, and I don’t want to.

To some extent, it feels like we’re experiencing double the amount of hard stuff. But it’s double the easy stuff, too, and I’m so glad they’re my sons. They’re here to stay. They’re here to flourish. God is healing their hearts and refining mine. 

 


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I think it’s time

“Dan!” I yelled from downstairs. “Dan! I think we just got the email.” I ran upstairs, getting teary.

“What do you mean? What email?”

“Dan, I think they’re coming home. I think it’s time for them to come home!” 

We read the email once, then twice. I forwarded it to our adoption worker, adding all I could think to add: “!!!!!!! What does this mean?!”

“You’re approved!!!!!!!!!!” She replied. We read it a third time, while she called to explain some more and congratulate us.

We said “yes” to twin 6-month-old boys three years and five months ago. We said “yes” to everything adoption would bring a few months before that.

It has been hard. (And I see now that I rather unintentionally stopped writing about it. Apologies!) There have been months when I pushed it as far from my mind as I could. There have been months I was certain I could not do it anymore. Those feelings were even getting stirred up as recently as a month ago.

We have seen ways to get out of the pain of the wait, and we said “no” to them. We told God that we believed He was transforming us, we believed He wasn’t done, and we believed He would complete this. 

I have prayed for years now: “Lord, I trust You.  I know You have our best interests in mind.” I did not believe it when I started. I do believe it now. 

And I’m going to keep on praying it. They are not in our home yet. There are still hurdles to cross. But it’s looking better than it has in three years. And you’ll find me shouting from the rooftops when it happens. This has not been of my doing. It has been my God!


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a first birthday party

We kept Milo’s first birthday party very simple and sweet. Because we did a bigger party for his adoption finalization, we decided to stick with our immediate families for this gathering.

 


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I did a little woodland theme, inspired by the stuffed owl he had had his picture taken with every month. I used Paperless Post to make the invitation. I saved the image and emailed it to our families, so it cost nothing!

 


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I didn’t buy anything but a huge balloon and $4 banner for his high chair. I knew the banner would probably get cake on it… and it did! We borrowed a high chair from a good friend.

 


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I made a balloon garland for the fireplace mantle, and I decorated with a few of our woodsy Christmas decorations. 

I forgot to get him gifts until the morning before his party — the morning of his actual birthday — when I had to drive a 40-minute round trip to find somewhere that would fill the balloon! I said I’d never do a big balloon again after that, but it looked so cool, I think I might. 

Dan made Smitten Kitchen’s s’mores cake, and we made some super simple camping-themed food for lunch.

 


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I didn’t know if I’d be a big kid party mom or not. After hosting two sweet but simple parties for Milo, I’m pretty sure this is the way I want to go. I like the challenge of using what we already have in our home, and it has been enjoyable to really get to talk with the small number of people who come to celebrate.

 


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Freshly Picked moccasins giveaway

Here we go again. I love these things, friends.


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Chubby, curled up baby feet do not go in high tops very easily. They also do not go in stiff shoes very easily. Chubby, curled up baby feet do go in Freshly Picked moccasins very easily. 

Now that Milo is older, he’s crawling all over, pulling up, and hopefully soon walking. I was interested to see how these moccasins would stand up to his higher level of activity. I’m happy to say they’ve been great!

There seem to be different camps on the issue of shoes v. no shoes for learning to walk, but our pediatrician suggested we not invest in any special shoes. Because I’m not keen on Milo roaming around totally barefoot when our house is a little chilly, and because his socks can be slippery, his moccasins have been a good answer. 


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Not only are his socks slippery on our hardwood floors, but he pulls them off in no less than three seconds. Thankfully, he can’t get his moccasins off, so they’re what he wears for many quick outings to run an errand or go to the gym. 

Freshly Picked moccasins have got a strong following, and they are admittedly expensive for most mamas’ budgets. So, I’m happy to share this giveaway with you! Free, sweet baby moccasins!


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Please note: Your follow of Freshly Picked on Instagram is required. Winners also can not have won another pair of Freshly Picked moccasins in the last 60 days. The giveaway starts right now and ends on March 15 at 12:00a. A winner will be chosen randomly and emailed to verify. Shipping within the United States will be free. If you are outside of the United States and win the giveaway, you will be responsible for shipping costs. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided a free pair of moccasins to provide this review. My opinions are all my own, and I really do love these moccasins for Milo. 

milo: months 11 + 12

Ah, yes, the one-year mark. It came and left without a ton of fanfare for us. It’s been quick, it’s been slow, it’s been hard, it’s been easy.

We had a little birthday party with our immediate families. I forgot to buy him gifts until the day of his birthday. Pictures will come.

For now, we are loving life as parents. We talk almost very night after he’s in bed about the cute, funny, and sometimes annoying things he did during the day.

 Sleeps: Milo has slept through the night for several months now. Praise hands! We didn’t realize until recent trips with him sleeping in our room that he does stir around in the night quite a bit. He seems to babble in his sleep and sometimes cries or laughs a little bit. Bedtime varies between 7:30 to 9p, depending on what we’ve got going on. He can usually hang pretty late, but once home, he cries quite a bit if we try to put him down for bedtime and he’s overtired. He gets up between 7 and 8a each day.

He’s taking two naps. One nap is almost always 1.5 hours, and the second one keeps getting shorter. He just doesn’t need the sleep or he’s waking up hungry. Hunger is a good possibility, because the guy is always hungry.

Eats: He’s all about the adult food and self-feeding, though we still do food pouches in a pinch. He loves everything. If he seems to be getting bored with something we give him a lot, we reintroduce it after a bit, and he’s into it again. Examples: Cheerios and turkey. Some of his favorites are blueberries, cheese, Puffs, and yogurt melts.

We transitioned to whole milk a bit after his first birthday, but we’re suspicious of a mild lactose intolerance. We’re gauging that and might transition to lactose-free milk later. Milo drinks about eight ounces in the morning and night and two six-ounce bottles during the day.

Likes: He still really likes most things. He especially likes walks in the stroller, short car rides, outings, food, stuffed animals, and touch-and-feel books. He loves the water and has discovered open toilets in the last few days. He likes climbing whatever he can — the fireplace hearth, a few steps, cupboards, and the bottom shelf of our living room side table.

Dislikes: He does not like getting his face wiped off. He does not like having to wait for food to be prepared or bottles to be made. He doesn’t like sleeping in the car, which means long car rides are not enjoyable. He doesn’t like getting stuck somewhere he’s climbed without a way to easily get out.

Firsts: Milo experienced his first Thanksgiving and Christmas! He went with us to pick out a Christmas tree on a very cold, wet day. He attempted to open Christmas and birthday presents for the first time. He played in the snow and loved it. He also met lots of relatives for the first time over the holidays.

Milestones: The trend continues… Milo will seem far from being able to do something, and then suddenly, he just does it. He quickly learned to sit up from a laying position, pull up on his knees, and pull up to standing. He started crawling finally right after Christmas, and he now crawls so fast he sometimes face-plants. He doesn’t seem too close to walking yet, but if this trend continues, that will catch us off guard, too.

He reliably says “Oscar” and “uh oh,” which are two words we didn’t try to teach him. He less reliably says “mama” and “papa,” which are the two words we’ve tried hard to teach him. We’re working on “bye bye.” He claps and does “so big” like a champ, often when we don’t even request it.

He tasted dog food for the first time recently. I tried to sweep it out of his mouth, but it had been in there longer than I thought and was already pretty mushy. I gagged, and he clapped.

I hope to share some thoughts on this first year of parenthood as we approach one year since he was placed with us. But I need time to sit down to do that, and right now with the climbing and toilet playing, that time is limited.

baby gear I’ve loved

I can’t stand the “Must Have Baby _____” articles. There are so few things you “must have” for a baby. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Here we are almost a year in, and there have been a few baby items I’ve really loved having for Milo. We’ve gotten the most use out of these things, and though in some instances they’re a little pricey, I think they are worth it. I’m going to miss the little baby stage and all the gear it requires, but I’m looking forward to toddler life, too.

4moms mamaRooThe most relaxing, well-designed baby swing I’ve seen. Milo was happy in it for long periods of time, and it helped tremendously with is reflux to sit him up in it after each bottle. We went through a weird series of wake-up-screaming-after-falling-asleep-for-the-night sessions, and this swing was the only thing that seemed to relax him to the point we could help him fall back asleep for the night. We were definitely putting him in it past the weight limit… Don’t tell anyone.

Zutano bootiesBuy a color that goes with everything, and these might be the only shoes you need for a baby. They are warm and machine-washable and Milo can’t pull them off in the car. That’s all we’ve needed so far. And they make him look like a little elf! I like that feature.

Baby Brezza Formula ProPerhaps one of the hardest purchases to justify, but a life-saver in the middle of the night. Dan calls this our “formula Keurig.” It really is. Push the bottom and it mixes the formula and dispenses it at the perfect temperature. Besides middle of the night bottle-making, it’s been good for juggling a starving baby in one arm and getting the bottle ready as soon as possible with the other. The little guy is not very patient when he’s hungry. As we transition to whole milk, it’s going to be a bit sad to see this go.

Halo sleep sacks and swaddlesThough there are lots of options, we’ve used these the most. We used a fleece swaddle early on. He slept well in it, and we liked that we could swaddle one arm in and one arm out so he could suck on his hand. Since we’ve transitioned away from being swaddled, he’s only ever used the sleep sacks. Fleece and cotton. Simple and affordable and especially easy to find in resale shops and groups.

word for 2016: wellness

Me: “I should blog. I don’t want to.”
Husband: “You have to blog your word for the year!!!”
Me: “Well, I really don’t have to. But I guess I will. Should I just tell everyone I should have gone to counseling a while ago?”
Husband smiles and walks out of the room.

It’s a blogger thing to do, and I’m more into it than resolutions, so I have picked a word for the year the last couple years (2014, 2015). I’ve already thought about my word a lot, and I’m making regular efforts to pursue it already.

Wellness. Emotional, spiritual, physical.

I ended 2015 feeling a little off-kilter. I don’t know if it’s age or parenthood or just knowing more people and experiencing more things, but I’ve felt a weight that’s heavier than years past. People have hurts. One example out of so many: Our church small group has experienced significant weighty stuff this year. I wish I could take it all away for those who are hurting.

I have hurts… Emotional hurts tied to an adoption that was to be completed before my sons turned one year old and is now an adoption of “older children” who started school this year in a country halfway across the world. I have physical hurts I’ve waited too long to address. A medication I’m not sure has benefited me in some time, and chronic pain that affects my ability to sleep well in the early morning hours.

Just like Walgreens’ wish for me, I too want to “be well.” 

I have a very good idea of what it takes for me to be well. It starts with my relationship with God. It intertwines with exercise and eating foods that are good for my body. It snakes through my hobbies and interests and passions. It looks like time spent striving to work effectively as a social worker in my community. It might very well have to do with finally seeing a counselor. It has already looked like physical therapy.

Being well means pulling back in some areas of my life and leaning further into others. I want to feel good, and I want to make others feel good. My God does not promise a happy go-lucky life, but I do want to be sure I’m savoring every inch of life He’s given me. 

 


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