Noah Michael: Adopted!

February 18, 2018

Another amazing adoption day in the books for the Westbrooks family. It was a little more chaotic than Maya’s adoption day, in part because getting four people ready and wrangling a toddler in addition to a 6-month-old is a little more chaotic generally. But it was wonderful and felt monumental and celebratory. Gosh are we lucky. God chose these little beings for us to love of forever and ever. No take backs, no do-overs, just endless love for these perfect souls.

Want the play-by-play of adoption day? After we got everyone ready in the morning (except Noah, because he can’t be trusted not to spit up on his outfit for a 45 minute drive), we realized we were late. Before we even left. I’ll half blame Houston traffic, but we sort of just forgot how long it takes to get to the courthouse. I’m pretty sure they build in a little buffer when they tell you to show up at 8:30 in the morning, but it was still a little hard to remind myself that as we were driving the whole 45 minutes already late.

But we got there and found our lawyer and were whisked right into the courtroom. Noah needed a quick bottle before we got started, but then Judge Ronald Pope called us up to finalize Noah’s adoption. Our lawyer asked us a few questions about how long Noah had been with us, and our caseworker, Amy, answered similar questions. Then we got to answer whether we felt it was in Noah’s best interest and in our best interest as a family for him to remain with us forever. Yes, yes we do.

Judge Pope granted the adoption and then everyone clapped! We got to take a few photos in the courthouse before heading outside for a few more.

We were so excited to have both our sets of parents and Michael’s brother there to celebrate this time.

We followed our harried court appearance with a much more relaxing brunch at Revival Market near our house. It’s where we celebrated Maya’s adoption, and they treat us so well over there. And then we headed home to nap those babies before we hosted a little party at the Airbnb where our parents were both staying. The sun came out for the first time in weeks and we all sat on the deck, celebrating love. Our friend Andrew came and took photos for us and I’m so grateful to have these. I’ve already loved reliving this flash of a moment several times over.

That’s our whole crew on the far side. I think the guy in the foreground was maybe in the courtroom for something a little more serious? We were probably the lightest load of the day!  Maya was very quiet until the part where Judge Pope broke out the stuffed animals. She’s carried that kitty around for days since!  This is our whole adoption day crew — to my right is Depelchin’s birth mom liaison, Leah, who worked with Noah’s birth mom since March of last year. Exactly the time that we decided for sure to stay a little longer and commit to switching agencies to adopt again. And to her right is Amy, the caseworker who dealt with all our paperwork and then visited us every month since Noah was born. Michael’s mum is on my other side, and his brother Aaron on the far side of her. And then my parents are on the farther other side. Don’t you love Noah’s jeans? They’re Maya hand-me-downs! Ha!  My very short mom got lost in this photo, but we gained Sophie, who was one of our flower girls when we got married! Maya was a little grumpy because we took the Oreos my mom let her get from the vending machine away.  After lunch, I wanted to take a few photos with this sign, which Kristin from One Tiny Heart made us the day before. Luckily, there was a blooming tree right across from the restaurant where we could snap just a few more photos.  Both of these children desperately needed a nap by this point! I’ll also take this moment to let you know that Michael came home several weeks ago with Maya’s shoes. He had been shopping for sandals to wear to the pool for himself and walked in with these red velour shoes in exactly the right size and said, “She has to wear these to adoption day!” Why yes, yes she does. And she did!

What a glorious whirlwind of a day. The general chaos meant we didn’t livestream it like we did with Maya’s, but I’ll have a short video to share next week. Thank you to everyone who was so darn excited for our family this week. You made this celebration so special!

Another Adoption Day!

February 12, 2018

We have another adoption day coming up! This week!

Before Christmas, we had our lawyer ask the court if we could maybe switch Noah’s adoption finalization day so that Michael’s parents could attend. They were planning to visit from Ireland in February, and luckily the court was nice enough to accommodate our change. We offered the 13th, 14th or 15th of February and guess what they picked? Valentine’s Day! So, at 8:30am on Valentine’s Day, we’ll be celebrating by making Noah’s addition to our family official!

We’ve never been big Valentine’s Day people, but you can bet we are going to be now!

We were able to live stream Maya’s adoption through my From China Village Facebook page, so we’re hoping to do the same again with Noah’s. You can keep an eye on that page, but it will likely be between 8:30am and 9 Central time.

And for old time sake, Maya’s adoption video and photos!

4 Toddler Activities We Love And One Total Fail

February 9, 2018

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we took Maya out of daycare because we were worried about her immune system not being able to withstand the winter’s germs. I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard and exhausting, mostly because I’ve been working in the evenings once Michael gets home to take over. But she’s also stayed healthy, which was and is the goal! I’ve written enough about the terrible flu season in the last few weeks to know that we made the right decision. That said, I’ve needed to be a little more creative in keeping her busy and active and learning, and in case you also have a cooped up toddler who needs some action, I thought I’d share a few of our winning activities with you.

While the weather in Houston has been pretty good, we’re still cooped up at home a little because Noah naps so often and (sometimes) for so long. He’s also stopped napping in the wrap or carrier (FOMO much?) so it’s not as easy to just up and go to the playground when Maya starts to get stir crazy. We still try to get out every afternoon, but that leaves some long mornings to fill with educational-ish activities.

In the few weeks since she stopped going to school two days a week, I’ve tried out a lot of new activities with her. Some have been great, and I thought I’d share them with you in case you have a cooped up toddler needing some distraction. We also had one total fail, which I thought was hilarious, so you’re getting that one, too. You’re also getting primarily grainy photos from my phone of Maya with bedhead. Unless we’re going somewhere in the morning, we don’t do hair until after nap time.


My friend Jamie sent me this recipe for slime that doesn’t require buying a giant box of Borax that we then have to store for the next 10 years. Instead, it uses contact solution and baking powder! At first, I thought it would definitely be a recipe for a giant mess, but she claimed it wasn’t so we decided to give it a shot. Turns out, it’s less mess than play doh! Maya loves to play play-doh but it does leave tiny bits of the stuff everywhere for days. Slime, on the other hand, stays mostly contained. We’ve been able to reuse it for at least a week by keeping it in a sealed plastic bag.

We made this recipe for slime, minus the glitter and halved. It was a cinch and she could do almost all of the stirring herself.

Pouring colored water

Another friend suggested the instagram account Busy Toddler, which I’ve found myself scrolling through whenever we’re feeling a little tired of playing baby dolls or farm animals. Pouring colored water in a giant tub using different size vessels was an idea found there. We have concrete floors, so I don’t worry too much about getting them wet and mopping them up again. We set the tub on a towel and she scooped and poured for a while. She started with blue and red water and eventually exclaimed, “Purple!” so maybe there was a subliminal message in there, too.

Washable markers on giant paper

I haven’t wanted to spend much money on my new daycare project, but I did stock up on some more art supplies, including washable small markers from Crayola. Those aforementioned concrete floors really come in handy. I should really pick up some kraft paper but I used a giant piece of brown paper that came in a package and she drew for a long time.

Flash card mail

We had a set of bilingual flash cards already that she enjoys looking at and organizing into their little pouch. I decided she could “mail” them if I cut a slit in an empty water jug. We’ve kept the same jug around for weeks because she’ll keep going back to it. I just cut a trap door in the bottom so she can take them out again and start over.

Now for the fail: Shaving cream painting

I’d seen on Pinterest (famous last words, eh?) an idea for painting with shaving cream. Essentially, you put the shaving cream into a baking tin and squirt on some paint. Then the toddler can use the paint brush or her fingers to swirl the paint around. Here’s the problem. Once she stuck her fingers in (I’m pretty sure she never touched the paint brush), she couldn’t get the shaving cream off and she got all clogged up. Pretty soon it was all over her stomach from trying to wipe it off and then we just moved the whole ordeal to the tub because it was clearly heading toward disaster levels.  Maybe an older child would do better with the shaving cream painting, but a word to the wise if you do try it. Get unscented shaving cream. That stuff is stinky in large volumes!

Have any toddler activities (minus the shaving cream) that have worked for you?

How We Spend Our Days

February 7, 2018

I couldn’t remember what the saying was, so for the last 24 hours or so I’ve been repeating in my head “How we spend our days is….how we spend our days?” I knew it wasn’t quite right, but for whatever reason, it was a little bit calming. Then I googled it and learned that it’s actually “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard, from The Writing Life, which is ironic because when I’m not in the midst of the mom-ing life, I’m racing to the writing life. Also, very, very true. How we spend our days is what adds up to how we spend our lives.

Let me tell you why I have been ruminating over this quote for the last few days.

We had a grouchy, grumpy, overtired few days last weekend and I knew half of it was my own overdone-ness. The other half was a grumpy toddler who dissolves into a whiny puddle if she doesn’t get enough sleep and a fussy baby who must have just gotten the memo about fussy being an option. He went from the chillest baby on the block for his first 5 months to not wanting to be put down. Ever. They’re both recovering from whatever the heck that was (maybe that blue blood eclipse moon?) and resuming their normal sweet selves, but the combination of the three of us grumps (plus one Michael who does. not. do. mornings)  didn’t produce the most relaxing or even pleasant weekend. I suppose we all have those days, when you can’t get out of your own grumpy cloud, but I was determined to start the week on a better foot. And apparently that started by reminding myself that how we spend our days is how we spend our life. Ahem, grumpy mom, these are the days, the most precious, perfect, whiny, exhausting days. No matter how early they get up (and it’s creeping earlier by the day), you’ve got to try to remember not to waste these days reminding them how early they dragged you out of bed.

I also reminded myself that the day starts anew every morning, with a clean slate for the whole family. And if I’d only get myself into bed earlier I could really capitalize on that! We have better days when we get out and spend the afternoon at the park around the corner. Maya can swing for hours and Noah is warming up to it. He’s mostly content to just sit in my arms and watch his sister play.

She doesn’t always wear a dress to the playground, and Noah doesn’t always look so stern or blinded by the sunlight. Sometimes it’s not worth changing Maya out of whatever we started the day in just to go to the park, and sometimes Noah is totally overtired and won’t crack a smile. You win some, you win some. Very, very good hair day: documented. This girl finally realized, after 2 years and 4 months, that she could cheese for the camera. I’m so grateful she only realized it now, and now I think it’s absolutely hilarious to see that cheesy grin.

I’m finally getting used to my replacement camera and trying to bring it with me when I can. It helps when the playground is deserted so you don’t look like a weirdo taking pics of all the other playground kids, even though I only ever care to capture my own!

Here’s to appreciating the days ahead, no matter what time the tiny humans wake us up.

Happy Weekend

February 3, 2018

My mom got this great new rug, so when we were there over Christmas I took a few photos of Noah laying on it and then attempted to get Maya to stop for a split second in his relative vicinity. You can see how well that worked. Ha! You can also see what zero humidity, tons of wood stove heat and my total refusal to let her head be wet and cold for the sake of her locks does to her head. Ball o’ frizz.

This weekend, we’re dividing and conquering while I get ahead (or catch up, I’m not quite sure which I’m doing at this point!) on some work. Tonight, though, we’re going to take a break from work and have tacos at the park (if the weather cooperates) and start planning Noah’s adoption celebration. His adoption finalization is on Valentine’s Day, and both sets of grandparents and his uncle are flying in for the occasion. We’ve got a party to plan! We’re also hoping to meet friends at a new neighborhood bagel spot tomorrow morning, and then feed Noah his first real non-formula food!

And now, a few things to share with you.

I’ve begun posting a few pieces of writing on an Irish mom website, including a few old faves – Maya’s birth story, meeting Maya’s birth mom, and Noah’s birth story. I still cry every time.

One of my dear friends had a baby last week (we’ve been praying for these W babies for over a year, and now they are both finally here!) and I picked up Noah’s favorite made-in-Maine chewy Q for him.

I saw this fab video about composting in Portland, Maine, this week. We miss having the ability to compost so easily as we did when we lived in Dublin. But the Maine version allows you to request compost to use in your garden and directly benefits organic farmers. Much improved and entrepreneurial!

Halsey’s women’s march poem is worth at least one listen, probably two.

A really important reminder that what our kids might need most from us is to teach them how to be okay with not being okay. Or maybe a lesson we can all keep working on as well.

The Lost Kitchen restaurant is bringing notoriety to little old forgotten Freedom, Maine.


An Unexpected Milestone / Maya’s First Ice Skate

January 30, 2018

Maya’s over two now, so we’ve gone through quite a few firsts already. First solid food, first crawl, first steps. Now that she’s older, we’re more amazed by the words and sentences she comes out with (and repeats, for better or worse) and some of the firsts she’s still experiencing are more unexpected. Case in point, Maya had her first time on ice skates this weekend (at a friend’s sweet baby’s birthday party, which we knew we were going to but didn’t realize it was at a skating rink!) and Michael and I were both surprised at what a monumental moment it felt like to us. When Maya and I came off the ice, Michael said to me, “Wow, that was really special, wasn’t it?” And that’s exactly what I was thinking. What a special moment to get to share with my daughter for the first time. And what an amazing thing that we still have so many special moments like that in the months and years to come.

It didn’t hurt that she absolutely loved it and was pretty fearless taking her tiny steps across the ice. Although she did prefer when I would carry/push her across the ice while I skated. No surprise there!

I grew up in Maine, so ice skating was one of the winter sports my family enjoyed when we could get on the ice together. My parents taught me how to skate using M&M’s as a bribe for making the few steps forward on wobbly skates. I definitely have them to blame for the fact that I could eat about a million M&M’s in a sitting now. When I was older, my parents would drop me to the ice rink in the next town over for Sunday afternoon free skate. And when the conditions made it possible, we all used to love skating on the lake down the road.

Maybe next year Maya’s feet will be big enough to use actual ice skates! 


Planning Home: A Cozy Bedroom

January 23, 2018

Emily Henderson

Since Noah was born, we’ve had him sleeping in our room at night so he doesn’t wake up Maya when he starts to grump for food around 3am. I think we’re nearing the point when he can reliably sleep through the night and get moved into Maya’s room, but can I tell you how excited I am to have our own space again? Oh, and also? A king size bed. Our own space with a king size bed. That is my dream.

In preparation for moving into our next space later this year, I’ve started saving images that fit the dream — I want it to be light and airy with a big, comfy bed. While my temptation is to paint the whole place white, I like the idea of some color on the walls, especially paired with wainscoting. Apparently it’s easy to install. We’ll see!

I’m starting to pull together photos with the right vibe for our soon-to-be bedroom. Mostly simple and peaceful, with white walls and muted jewel-toned bedding or cushions. It doesn’t need to be fussy or even involve many components, but I want those components to be really comfortable and layered and cosy.

Architectural Digest



My Domaine

We don’t have a ton of space, and no closets, so we’ll need dressers or wardrobes, and bedside tables and a rug and lamps, but that’s too many decisions to make all at once now. So instead, I’m focusing on the fluffier decisions. the bedding.

While furnishing an entire house at once isn’t exactly going to be inexpensive, I’ve learned that we just can’t skimp on bedding. Our kids are relatively great sleepers, so I can’t really claim any hardship on the time spent in our beds (at least now that Noah doesn’t wake every two hours for a bottle), but we’re fairly worn out by the time our heads hit the pillow that I really want it to be as comfortable as possible.

Whenever I stay at my sister’s house, her bedding always feels like a hotel. Why can’t our bed feel like that every night?

I had a peek at the Brown Thomas website, arguably Dublin’s fanciest department store,
browsing their home décor and homeware living range to put together a wish list for our future,
hotel-like bedroom.

Linen bedsheets are oh-so-popular at the moment, so this deep grey linen Piubelle duvet cover would be perfect. If it’s got hotel in the name, that’s probably a good start for sheets, right? These Frette hotel collection sheets will definitely make the cut. I love a good Irish wool blanket, and this seafoam and grey stripe throw by John Hanly will pair nicely with the duvet but break up the grey. While we’re at it, cosy new robes would really top off the hotel vibe, wouldn’t they?

This post was written in partnership with Brown Thomas. Thanks for supporting the posts that make this blog possible! 

Family Photos in California

January 22, 2018

When we were in California at Thanksgiving, we met up with my friend Ashley, whom I’ve known for several years when she was living in Berlin. She lives a little north of LA, so we met up in Santa Barbara when we were staying there for a few days. She casually mentioned that she’d bring her camera, and I couldn’t have replied with a faster YES! She is the most talented wedding photographer and literally travels the world every year shooting weddings.

We spent a few hours catching up at the loveliest outdoor restaurant in Carpinteria that Ashley suggested. It was about 12 steps from the beach and had a giant sand pit with a ton of sand toys surrounded by picnic tables, so we got to chat and eat while Maya played in the sand. It was luxurious. Ha!

So after we chatted for ages and Maya dug in the sand, we spent ten minutes on the beach (in the most incredible light) and this is what she came up with. Honestly, I’m not sure if it was even ten minutes. I think it was more like four minutes. When Maya sees a beach, she goes bananas and also, she’s two, so she won’t be contained or smile for a photo on command ever. Oh, and did I mention Ashley shot all of this on film? Gahhh. She’s a photo magician.

All that to say, we’re so thrilled to have another dose of photos of our family of four. I love looking at them, and even Michael got a little emotional when he saw them. We are so grateful to Ashley for capturing our little family in four minutes flat! When I said to Michael that I don’t remember Noah looking like this, he said, “Oh yeah, he was a bit of a blob for a while.” Ha! But a very cute blob at that! Maya’s beach face is priceless. This girl loves running wild and free!


January 20, 2018

Singing: Baby Beluga on repeat before every nap and bedtime. It never leaves my head anymore! Also, listening to Michael trying to sing it to Maya before bed is hilarious. He didn’t grow up with Raffi, apparently!

Researching: toddler activities. We pulled Maya from her daycare this week because of the rampant flu that’s going around seemingly everywhere. I’m taking any and all recommendations for things that will keep toddlers busy! (Very thankful for this recommendation today)

Laughing: really hard with my mom’s group this morning. Those ladies are good for my soul.

Plotting: a potential new project with a close friend that involves putting our love of words to work for us.

Planning: for our trip to Denver next weekend! More skiing, I hope it’s not too cold!

Counting the days: until Noah’s adoption day! Valentine’s Day will never be the same!

Also counting the days: until all of his grandparents and an uncle will arrive for the occasion!

Missing: my grandma. Stumbled across some photos of her this week and haven’t stopped thinking about her.

Working: at my favorite neighborhood guilty pleasure coffee/dessert shop tonight. I definitely ate an entire giant piece of funfetti cake myself.

Mulling: consent. This discussion by DesignMom about the Aziz Ansari story this week was helpful.

In the midst of: potty training. I’d say we’re 78% there. Zero accidents outside of the house, but still a few standing 10 feet from the bathroom at home.

Cooking: not all that much now that I’ve shifted my writing hours to the evenings so I can have Maya at home during the daytimes. But I did just whip up this easy chili and it was indeed easy and remarkably fast, despite having subbed turkey mince and adding cumin, kidney beans, tomato paste and garlic.

Reading: again, finally! The Kite Runner, by the light of the flashlight on my phone while Noah sleeps a few feet away.

Sleeping: again, finally! Noah’s nearly figured out sleeping through the night. Hallelujah!

Waiting: for tomorrow’s warmer temperatures so we can get outside again.

Discovering: that adding sprinkles to plain yogurt makes for a pretty peaceful twenty minutes with a toddler.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Houston Adventure: Feeding The Mounted Police Horses

January 18, 2018

A while back, maybe right before Noah had to go to the hospital with that terrible fever at seven weeks old, I found that you can feed the mounted police horses in Houston every day of the week. But then we landed in the hospital and everything went a little crazy and I forgot all about it. Well, I found the link last week and we went last weekend. And we loved it!

Maya talked about it for a full 24 hours before we went, and she hasn’t stopped talking about it since. However, she was totally terrified the entire time we were there and wouldn’t let Michael put her down. To be fair, the mounted police horses are HUGE, which I’m sure seems even more huge to a teeny tiny two-year-old, but that’s also very much her MO.

During the week, you can just show up between 12-2pm (prime nap time in our house, unfortunately), but on the weekends you can make an appointment between 9am and 5pm. You get a 30 minute slot and you can feed each horse two carrots or apples. We didn’t realize how many horses there were! We should have brought at least two bags of carrots, especially since we didn’t have to share the horses with anyone else. When we got there, all the horses were outside, but as soon as they got a whiff of our carrots, they all came inside and stuck their noses into the hallway. A few of them even started banging their legs on the gates because they really wanted treats!  The place was deserted except for us, possibly because it was a cold day for Houston. But that made it even more fun — and way easier to take photos!  Noah’s face in this photo cracks me up! He was wide-eyed through the whole thing.  This horse really thought Noah might be holding the rest of the snacks!  Maya saved a carrot for herself!  And the minute she was ten feet away, she was all smiles and jabbered about the horses and carrots and banging all the way home.

We got such a kick out of it, we might just go back next weekend with more carrots!