Friday, August 18, 2017

A Beautiful Story We Got to Be a Tiny Part Of!

On the evening of August 1st, at about 10:30 pm as I was getting ready to go to bed, I got a text from my friend, Wendi (the one who's farm the kids and I visited in April. She is a wonderful friend from our Air Force days at Eglin).   She said, "What city in Kansas do you live in?  Is it Wichita?  Tell me it's Wichita!"  
I had just had a crummy day, starting with a speeding ticket, a few stressful things with our refugee family, we also had a family of six here for a 24 hour stay, and Philip's dad was here as well (these last two things weren't stressful, just busy).   I was wiped out and in a funk.

When I confirmed that yes, we live in Wichita, Wendi excitedly told me that her cousin, Ryan, and his wife, Briana, were adopting a baby and the birth mom was delivering in Wichita!   She thought of me because they wanted a photographer to do photos at the hospital.   I said I'd be happy to, but made sure that she had told Briana that I was not a professional.    Below is the next part of our conversation, which I just had to include here.  (And no, I don't yet know how to do screenshots on my phone, so this is an actual photo of my phone screen!  Haha!)

What followed that was a flurry of texts back and forth, and then a joint text where Briana was added into the picture.   We were All soo excited about God working all of this out and connecting so many dots!   After the day I had just had, I realized the miracle that it was that I went to bed with a heart Bursting with joy and gratitude!   This was my jam, this is my gifting... this is my Thing!!   I could barely sleep, I was so excited and my mind was racing...  God is So good!!

By the end of the next day, several sweet friends had agreed to loan me a pack'n'play, two styles of swings and a baby bathtub, so Ryan and Briana wouldn't have to travel with any of that!   Another friend, who recently had a baby boy, GAVE me a ton of baby stuff for Briana to keep!

Look at all this!!

I got the basement all set up and anxiously waited for the news that an induction date had been set and they were on their way!   It ended up being almost two weeks later that they finally arrived, on the evening of Sunday the 13th.   Briana "knew me" already from seeing me so much on Wendi's blog when we were at Eglin in Florida, and Wendi had told me a ton about Bri.   It was such a happy first meeting!   They brought their stuff in, I showed them their space and then they left to meet the birth mom.

* Since the very beginning of this, and all through their stay, Wendi, Bri and I have sent literally THOUSANDS of texts back and forth...Such exciting times, and it was amazing for Wendi and I to be able to get real time updates from Bri and be able to encourage her as things were incredibly difficult and stressful for them at times.   Having Wendi (as family and a close friend) through this to speak from her own experience with adoption was invaluable for Bri.  She and Ryan were CHAMPIONS through it all.   God really carried them through this experience and they honored him so well in their words and actions!

They had a really late night on Sunday, so as soon as the kids woke up the next morning, I scooted them outside and we ate breakfast and did school in the driveway for several hours until I saw a text from Bri, confirming that they were awake.

Breakfast in the driveway is kind of fun!

They stayed the next two nights at the hospital, during the induction and birth, so we only saw them briefly, as they came back to the house to get stuff, do laundry or take a nap.

On Wednesday, the day after Caleb Asher was born, my friend Michaela watched the kids so I could to go to the hospital and do some photos of them with him and the birth mom before they were discharged.

Wow.   What a sacred space that was.    I felt like an intruder during such an emotionally charged time, as they held their son for the first time after the papers had been signed, and as his birth mom wept with the grief of relinquishing such a precious bundle.   Adoption is such a juxtaposition of loss and celebration.

At Ryan and Briana's request, I took a bunch of photos of the birth mom with Caleb, so she can have them, and for them to be able to honor this woman who gave them the best gift ever.  (I didn't post any of those, to protect her anonymity).

Look at that sweet face!

A tender Daddy moment

This was a raw moment as we all left the room to give the birth mom some final moments with Caleb before she left the hospital

Ryan and Briana took me to their room (a really nice, quiet room at the end of a hall where they had privacy and had actually been able to sleep!) and we figured out how we'd do the rest of the photos.

While we waited for the nurses to bring the baby, we decided to snap a picture of us together to send to Wendi.

So blessed to know this woman!!

Then the really sweet part of the shoot started...

We put up a sign and balloons (although the wind managed to blow the balloons loose and they sailed away before they arrived) to greet them when they brought Caleb to our house for the first time!

How exciting to have a newborn come "home" to our house!

Getting to hold him for the first time!

Ryan is Super great with kids and all our kids Loved him!

Keenan got a surprise when Ryan (who is 6'8!) easily picked him up and turned him upside down! =)

Oh, this girl loves babies like her Mama does...

The two Calebs!!
(He called him "Cabey Baby" like we call him!)

This has absolutely nothing to do with the baby, but it happened during their visit =)

On Friday afternoon, we did a little newborn shoot.   Usually I recommend that babies be 7 to 10 days old for this (to give them time to get over any blotchy newborn skin, etc, but he has perfect skin and was super photogenic already!)

Look at that sweet smile in Mommy and Daddy's hands!

Holding Daddy's finger

Partway through the shoot, Briana had to take a phone call downstairs, and Ryan and the kids started playing a game right beside where I was set up with the baby in the living room...

They ended up playing a Ton of this game, called Suspend!

... I just kept right on snapping...


I don't usually attempt these sorts of poses, but he just did them so naturally and without fussing that I couldn't resist!


I thought this was HILARIOUS that he was "holding" his own bottle already!

Ryan played really well with the kids and they did Lots of wrestling!

He picked Both boys up in one heap!

On his way to "throw them down the stairs" :)

Sweet baby snuggled up on his Momma

Later on, they convinced him to do This!

 Moriah drew their first family portrait!!

 A wide awake, hicuppy snuggle for me <3

Saturday evening we went out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Carlos OKelly's.    Caleb got his first taste of "restaurant wait time", since we had to wait to be seated... to order... for our food... and for the bill!   The food was delicious though and we had a wonderful time chatting and getting to know more about each other's lives!    Seriously, they came in our door a week ago as "guests", and they will leave as dear friends!

Baby Caleb is hidden at the end of the table in this picture

 Taking a nap on the couch while we all had lunch on Sunday

 After lunch, we did a few quick family shots before we needed to head out the door!  (We drove to Atchison, KS to stay with friends for the night, so we could be in the path of totality for the eclipse the next day!)

Love seeing these three together!

I am a Brave Little Guy, hear me roar!   (This was actually a yawn) =)

Ryan and Briana, this experience has been such an honor to be part of.  Thank you for sharing your first special days as a family with our family!    We love you and you are welcome in our home (now your home) ANY. TIME!

We left Sunday afternoon (which was sad for us, but I think easier than to have been there and watched them leave), so Ryan and Briana had the house to themselves for a little while and had a catered dinner, compliments of John and Wendi, before being cleared on Monday morning to head HOME - so happy for them!

Keenan and Moriah do the Salty Pup Triathlon!

Keenan and Moriah have been training for months, and finally, last Saturday, the day was here! We got up and left the house before 5 am! The race was an hour away, in Hutchinson, and they had to pick up their packets, put their stuff in transition, get body marked and get their timing chips before transition closed at 6:45!

They are set!!
(Don't they look legit??)

Just before I dropped them off in the line before the swim started

Since it was a pool swim, they were lined up by age, and they started the kids 10 or 
20 seconds apart.
Keenan is in!

There he goes!
(At this point, Philip and Caleb ran over to transition to meet Keenan when he got there)

...and out!

A high five from Moriah

Moriah's turn!

I think the longer pool (two lengths instead of four) stressed her out a little and she ended up doing most of it on her back

Keenan in his first transition
(Shortly after Moriah started swimming, I had to head to transition to be there for her when she got there.  I saw Keenan go by on the bike on my way)

Caleb made this special sign to cheer them on =)

Moriah racing out of the pool area to transition

Drying off

Helmet buckled...

Off she goes!

Keenan going by after finishing his first two mile loop

Moriah going by after her first loop

Keenan coming in to the finish
(Philip was there to see him off on the run)

I didn't mention that there was a Salty Dogs adult triathlon going on at the same time, so that made things a little crazier, too!    The adults all finished in the pool before the kids started, but then a lot of them were still cycling and running at the same time as the kids).

Moriah's done on the bike!
(then I raced to the finish line to wait for Keenan!)

Philip snapped this of her shortly after she started on the run

Keenan coming in to the finish, )determined that the girl behind him was Not going to beat him!!) =)

Way to go, Keenan!

Moriah had some competition at the finish as well!
(I Love the expression on this girl's face as Moriah put the gas on right at the end!)

No matter how tired or sore Moriah is, she Always has an Insane burst of energy (so fast I can't keep up) at the end of a run!

Yay, Moriah!!

So proud of these two!

What a great team!

Results: (for 100 meter swim, 4.2 mile bike and 1 mile run)

Keenan placed 34th overall out of 78 and was 7th in his age group, with a time of 36:33.  His swim was 2:25, first transition was 3:16, bike was 21:04, second transition was 0:46, and the run was 9:03.  

Moriah placed 52nd overall and was 6th in her age group, with a time of 39:59.  Her swim was 3:19, first transition was 3:13, bike was 23:04, second transition was 0:44 and run was 9:44.   

We were All exhausted on the way home, and it didn't take long before all three kids were zonked out!

What a morning!

Unfortunately there were no finisher's medals for this race, so that was a bummer.   We may look for a  different kid's tri next time around.   All in all, it was a great experience for them and helped them see what they need to work on for next time.   Congratulations, Keenan and Moriah!!