leaps and bounds

When I was new mom I read all the developmental charts/books and followed along with what my baby ‘should’ be doing. By my second son, those books were out the window. While I think there is great value in developmental books and charts,  I had also learned to trust my instinct as a mom regarding what my baby ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be doing.

My daughter is 18 months old, only takes a ‘customized’ bottle and refuses to even touch food with her hands.

And that is totally fine.

It is fine with me, her doctors, her speech therapist – and everyone else that knows her well.

She hasn’t used a spoon nor does she snack on anything. But, my girl has made LEAPS and BOUNDS regarding eating in the last 4 months. Maybe her leaps are shorter than others. Maybe her bounds aren’t as high. But, they are her leaps and bounds. She is a growing, strong, healthy girl. She is overcoming major fears and stress related to eating. Because of her cleft lip & palate, she can easily feel like she is drowning or choking if too much gets in her mouth too fast. Early on it was highly stressful for both of us.

4 months ago ~ the first time I fed her

I ALWAYS hold her when feeding her, but I wanted to make sure and capture her eating by herself before her first surgery. Just kicking back and eating – stress free. Leaps and Bounds. Leaps and Bounds.

Because of her cleft, she is unable to suck like most babies. There are special cleft bottles, but she refuses to take them. Instead she uses a bottle with the top cut. We use bottles with liners so I can use my hand to control the flow. Home made concoctions of all kinds of stuff go in the bottles…as long as it is thick and sweet, she’s happy.

Well, hello there beautiful.

How in the world am I going to say goodbye to this smile this week?

And have I mentioned she gives the best hugs? Wraps both arms around tight and squeezes. They melt everyone that is lucky enough to get one. She is sporting some pretty great hair these days. Her mom is not.

Just for old time’s sake…hard to believe four months ago I was celebrating that she would let me just barely touch her hand before she pulled away. Leaps and bounds from here.


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  • Sarah{Handbags*N*Pigtails} - We’ll be praying for all of you this week, especially little one. She is such a beauty!

  • Jessica R - The difference in her – and you – is almost shocking to see. She looks so healthy and vibrant now.

    And you’ve said goodbye to many of your children’s adorable habits, motions, funny words and phrases, etc. over the years… this is different because it isn’t gradual, it’s sudden and you know it’s coming. I know that makes it a lot harder, but just like you still love them all as they grow and change, even as you mourn their too-quick growth and too-many changes, she will still be precious and beautiful and perfect after surgery. It’s time. You’ve got her healthy and comfortable. Time for her to get her forever smile. She’s perfect now and she will be perfect afterward too! 🙂

  • mary from tenn - My niece had a very similar cleft lip and palette only on the other side. She used to purposely blow food out her nose just because she could. She started sippy cups earlier than most because they said when they fixed her palette she couldn’t place anything in her mouth. Oh how those were rough times but everyone got through it and now she is almost 8 and besides the constant nose reconstruction surgeries and the upcoming jaw reconstruction she is doing great. Hang in there I know it will be tough on you all but it will get better. You’ll look back on this when she is 7 and it’ll be just a memory. Praying for you all.

  • Diane H - I have been silently following your blog with great interest. Our oldest was born with a partial cleft pallate, so this of course adds to my interest. Eating was an obstacle even with a paritial. I will never forget the day of surgery. She had surgery at 3yrs old, and is 25 now, but there are things I will never forget. God is good all the time, and will pray you sense him near to you and your sweet little one, and family.
    I will continue to follow your blog, I love your photography skills and the photos of your family.

  • Janice - You will say goodbye to that sweet smile, but you will say hello to a new sweet smile. And it will be a beautiful smile too! I continue to be in awe of your overflowing heart.

  • amy - wow she had grown so much in 4 months.. her hair and her whole appearance has changed so much. she looks much happier and healthier! soon she’ll be sporting little pig tails!

  • angie webb - Wow! It’s amazing how much she’s grown and thrived in the past 4 months. She looks so much older! I pray her surgery goes well!!!

  • Lyn - Sending prayers to your little girl. Lovely post. Leaps and bounds are amazing!

  • Andy - love this post. great pics. so awesome little one. love the last pic. so wonderful, so sweet, so special

  • Pam - You are right to celebrate such an amazing little girl. Her hair is gorgeous. I love that God put your family together, He’s awesome like that!

  • amber - I was ready for a Little One update. Such a sweet face. My 3 year old is sitting with me & we just prayed for you & that girl. Bittersweet. Everything about being a mom. Thinking about you guys & praying you feel His constant presence making everything sweet & ok.

  • Sara - She is so beautiful. The words you pen and your love (and your whole family’s love) that overflows is so beautiful. Little One’s story is beautiful. I have so enjoyed following all of you during this journey and I will continue too. And it will be beautiful. I will be praying for all of you during Little One’s next step. I know there has been a lot of hard steps and that there will continue to be, and I pray God will continue to sustain all of you through each step.

  • Aja - Precious, precious girl. She is just gorgeous. Praying for a perfect, easy, stress-free surgery for your Little One!

  • Elizabeth Saukas - How the love makes a whole difference in a person’s life. She is changing and growing. You’re changed too.
    Be praised God for this sincere love in your beautiful family’s hearts.

  • barny - you are so beautiful, i’m crying reading this. I am so happy for you both and your amazing journey that YOU are making happen.

    Barnicles xxx

    I wait for each of your updates and treasure the ones deadicated to little one.

  • Steph - Its funny she doesn’t look unhealthy in her China pictures, she looks beautiful and strong…but now? Wow. She glows, just glows. There’s so much in that face. I don’t know if its health or happiness or relaxation but there’s something shining through so strongly. She also just seems COOL, she and Firecracker radiate cool confidence in your photos. You’re going to have two gorgeous teenagers on your hands, good luck!!

  • Amy @ Fig Milkshakes - Bless her heart, I love these posts about this little gal.

    I think I understand your sentiments about her smile. My husband got into a devastating car accident when he was younger where his face was smashed up against the dashboard – as a result, most of his teeth were broken had to be pulled. His parents couldn’t afford to pull and fix them all, so the top part of his smile was fixed and the bottom ones stayed, but most of them are cut at weird lengths and some of the roots and gums were damaged, too – so some of his bottom teeth look rotten. Anyways, whenever we talk about saving up the money to finally get them fixed, I get a little sad that he won’t look the same way – even though I know it’s best for him, and by all superficial rights he will look “better”. I just can’t imagine getting rid of that smile. So I feel you, sister – and I’m not sure it’s something everybody would understand unless they were faced with it.

  • Sophi Belle - I am sure her new smile will be as sweet, if not sweeter. But how I love this smile, with her tongue peeking out. It’s the sweetest thing!! 😀

    Are you kidding me? Your hair looks great!! And you look like your girls’ big sis, young and beautiful. 😉

  • Lynn - All my prayers to you, Little One and the rest of your family. Little One will continue to make leaps and bounds as you make your way through this journey this week with her surgery. She is thriving because of your love and care and thank you so much for sharing with all of us.

  • Courtney - Children are so amazing! You are on a beautiful even though difficult journey.

  • gina - Baby girl gets prettier every day! Can’t believe how much her hair has grown in the past 4 months. Thoughts and prayers with you for an uncomplicated surgery and a speedy recovery! Happy New Year Ashley!!!

  • emmybrown - Such blessed development! Have been and will be praying for you all during this week and the coming weeks of recovery/changes. <3

  • the chronic utilitarian - will miss that beautiful smile, too. yet, you are doing right by her. happy new year to you and yours!

  • Emily - I’m keeping you all in my heart as you move towards her surgery date.

    Also: she has amazing mod-hipster hair 😉

  • Lennie - Great post. I have been following along for the whole journey and I am so happy to see your sweet girl thriving. Good luck this week, I will be praying for you.

  • Kimberly Dial - Ashley, I have loved your journey with Little One. It makes me so happy to hear of her progress and I can see it in the pics. Pure preciousness. I’m so happy to have found your blog. It’s a joy to read as you share. Thank you & Happy New Year my friend 🙂

  • Kelly - Wow comparing her today to 4 months ago you can see how far she has come. She looks so much older, healthier, chunkier :-). Little one you are adorable!

  • Natalie @ TheShadyAcre - It’s amazing to see her progress, Ashley. She was perfect when you met her, but she looks so much healthier and happier now. It’s evident that she has come a long way!

    I like what Jessica R said about the upcoming change being like other phases that children go through–just harder because you know it’s coming and won’t be gradual. Of course, knowing that in your heart doesn’t make it easier to go through. I’m praying that this surgery will go as smoothly as possible for all of you. And I know her smile will be just as beautiful and special no matter how many surgeries she has (or hasn’t) had.

    Much love and happy new year!

  • Nicola - You all look so happy, and she is so beautiful…
    Your so right about stages, she goes at her own pace and will take her own time. I am a foster carer and have been looking after three boys for the past 16 months. We had a 16 month old that was in 6-9 month clothes and was still bottle fed. He wouldn’t touch food and wouldn’t get his hands dirty at all. I know its not the same with his palet etc, but now…16 months on, he is wearing age appropriate clothes, he is so smart, he will eat solids although is still fussy, and will touch anything, including things he really shouldn’t!

  • Shannan - I love reading your story. You capture your baby daughter beautifully. It is a joy to share with you all the way over here in Oregon!

  • Tamar - She’s so beutiful!!!

  • Tammy C. - I love this post. It’s been amazing as we all follow along your journey, thanks for blessing us with that. Praying for your family in the coming weeks.

  • Annie Page - This post just makes me smile. It just shows how God puts the perfect child with the perfect family – exactly what each of you needed to be complete. My heart sings for all of you! Many prayers and blessings as you enter 2013 and for the surgeries to come. Her smile may change, but the love and joy she expresses and feels will not.

  • Jennifer - That smile brightened my day! Just beautiful!

  • elaine - I can just feel the warmth of her hug through that picture!

  • Marie in Seattle - I have been following your blog ever since I saw you in Fresh Style magazine back in Sept or Oct. I am so for you and your family. I will be praying for Little Ones’s upcoming surgery and sucess. God Bless you and your family. –Marie

  • Leigh Ann - Everything about her is growing growing growing from 4 months ago. God is good all the time and All the time God is good. He will bring you peace about her surgery and the days ahead. Aren’t you so glad to watch him in the miracle making business with her. It is so fun to read and follow along all the while giving him glory for her life and your family’s care.

  • Twirling Betty - Just her little face makes my heart melt. I think if I ever experienced a cuddle like the ones you describe I’d just be a big puddle on the floor.

  • Mary - absolutely beautiful!
    i am in awe at how much she’s grown and changed even just seeing her such few time on here.
    i am so thankful that the Lord brought you all together.
    a match made in Heaven.
    she is SO beautiful and so are you!

  • maggie may - oh my goodness, look at how big she’s gotten! and what a cute pixie hairstyle she’s got going on. i cannot believe how much she’s grown. what a beautiful girl! prayers for your family as you prepare for surgery.

  • Nancy Farmer - Thank you for sharing your sweet family & the journey with Little One. I am one of your older followers (65 in January)& am so drawn into the progress of LO. You answered so many of my questions on today’s post but I have wondered if she can say mama or daddy? My kids are all grown so I don’t remember how old they were when they used those words but I do remember how sweet it was to hear them. I know you don’t want to share everything about your sweet baby for her own privacy but once again I love watching her grow & thrive. I plan on watching her grow up as well as see how you & the family have grown throughout all this. I know this has stretched you beyond anything you thought possible. You & your husband are so sweet & loving. I know your kiddos will grow into such magnificent adults with your guidance. Take care & I will be in prayer for you all in the coming days.

  • Heather - 4 months of grace, grace, grace. She is beautiful!

  • Mary McDaniel - Praying for all of you this week–for Little One and her surgery and her pain and her healing. Also, praying for you and the hubs and your kids–praying deeply rooted peace and great grace through this journey!
    It is a such a joy to cyber-share your leaps and bounds. Thanks for sharing them with us!

  • naama - The power of love is amazing and healing. your story and family are full of love and inspiration. thank you.

  • Julianne - Ashley,
    I know you don’t me. I’m the girl that emailed you months back about your photography class (I had just recently moved to Uganda as a missionary working with children). I just wanted to tell you that I am praying specifically for your family this week, for your Mama heart as I know from your posts it is hurting and hesitant, and for your sweet little one. Just remember Jesus isn’t replacing her smile, only giving her a different one. That smile always will be perfect as will the new one! Blessings to you! Many prayers, Julianne

  • Kimberlee Jost - I got one of those hugs from Little One once.
    Hands down, it was the best thing every about that weekend.

  • findingmagnolia - Our baby, adopted this past summer, is facing corrective surgery within a week, too. Though her diagnosis is quite different than Little One’s, I understand what it’s like to face letting go of what a child looks like, even though it’s for the best. I adore my baby just the way she is, and fell in love with her as she is. It is hard to imagine her any other way. Thoughts and prayers are with Little One as she heads into surgery.

  • Julia - love love love these pictures. praying for a smooth surgery and for her confidence in ya’ll be to be unshaken. thanks for sharing your journey, all of it. it is so encouraging.

  • stephanie - this made me cry.

    i think you should raise more money by having hundreds of that beautiful smile printed for all of us to post on our fridge or cork board to inspire us to be as loving as you and as joyful as she.

    i don’t know how we will say goodbye to her gorgeous little face.

    if you decide to do this, please count me in 🙂


  • Tammy Kay - Oh, Ashley. She is so beautiful. I love that we have been able to see how love has unfolded so abundantly these last four months.

  • Shannon Phillips - I just can’t over beautiful she is Ash. Prayers, prayers and more prayers for the journey this week. xoxo

  • marci - Her beautiful eyes will still sparkle no matter how her smile changes. She is precious indeed.

  • Quita miller - You are absolutely not saying goodbye to her smile. For her mom she will give her true smile forever. Changed or not she smiles with her heart in those photos. And the gift of confidence and as well as the many physiologic challenges that will improve over time are priceless. Hang in there. Her perfect beautiful smile will always be there for you.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Thank you so, so much for allowing us to be a part of this journey. It is truly an honor to read.

  • ari - Her smile is really wonderful.
    Good luck with the surgery….

  • Ellie - My heart is melting

  • Cathryn - I have been reading here for quite a while, but i am finally compelled to comment that I have been truly touched by your family’s story. From seeing your sons take in your new daughter’s orphanage home to watching your beautiful children grow, I read each entry several times. Thank you for continuing to share your family’s journey.

  • Alison - I’m a pediatric nurse, and I cannot say enough what a great mom you are. You’re perfect! You’re wonderful! And Little One is going to be such a killer. She’s so beautiful.

  • Selina - I just wanted to let you know I found your blog last summer and started following your story because I have a similar situation. I have 4 bio kids, three boys and a girl in that order, and we just brought home our daughter with cl/cp from China in October. So many times, you write exactly what I am feeling. Our newest daughter is 23 months, and we had her first repair surgery early in December. I had so many similar feelings before her surgery. I was so worried I would miss her smile, which I do, but I also realized I loved her whole face when she smiled, and the mouth wasn’t the most important part of it. She is doing wonderfully and she will have her second repair in March. I would encourage you to be prepared to be overwhelmed at times, but also realize, she will heal, and she will love you the same. As soon as our daughter was waking up in the recovery room, she immediately reached out to me. I was so happy to know she was still in love with us.

  • elizabeth H - my SWEET PEA gives the BIGGEST squeeze when she hugs…it melts my heart! i can imagine the JOY it brings to see how far Little One has come when she hugs your neck!
    tears are coming.