• Believe me…you don’t understand!

    Date: 2015.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    Jasmine and I have long talks about what to share, what information will make a difference, what information will teach, and in the end we decide some things are just too personal to share about her previous life.  I know that fact is shocking considering how much she has allowed me to share, but let’s just say life for these kids is hard in so many ways and although there is tons of information she has chosen to share, there is just as much that she has chosen not to share.   She had a life before the orphanage and it is that life that she is most hesitant to share about.

    I believe I know at least part of the reason for this, it’s one thing to have someone question what a caregiver, who is a stranger, has told you to be truth.  It’s another thing to question what people, who are supposed to love you, care for you, and protect you, have told you is the truth.  It will take a long time to get through all the hurt from Jasmine’s first eight years.   Her words in regard to this matter are, “If I tell you about my life and how bad I really am, you could never, ever love me and I want you to love me mommy.”

    I have been so happy to have Jasmine as a translator for Elyse.  With the toddlers the language barrier wasn’t much of an issue.  We used signs and simple language, both Mandarin and English, and we did just fine.  They picked up English very quickly.  With Jasmine it was much harder at first, she knew very little English and we knew very little Mandarin.  We played a lot of charades for the first couple of months. We used Google Translate, although it does a poor job translating in very much detail.  Jasmine was pretty easy going and learned English amazingly quick.

    Elyse joined our family and knew no English.  She informed us that she would not be learning English and she refused to even try during the first two weeks home.  Jasmine’s extended stay in the hospital nipped that in the bud though and during the last 30 days she has learned many new phrases and is picking up English rather quickly and has decided that she likes knowing two languages (three if you count the ASL we use too).

    Elyse came to us with some very interesting thoughts.  I am sharing these thoughts to let others, who are adopting older children, understand that even if you think you know what is going on in their heads, you couldn’t possibly comprehend everything that they are thinking.  Unless you speak perfect Mandarin, know for a fact what their nannies have told them, and they trust you enough to have a indepth conversation with you, you are not going to know for a very long time what they believe to be the truth and what their fears are.

    I consider it okay to share these thoughts because these thoughts are not Elyse’s.   Elyse can not be held accountable for these thoughts nor should anyone think differently about her because of these thoughts.  These thoughts are the lies that she has been fed over and over again throughout her life until she finally made them her belief system.   If you will, it’s a form of brainwashing.  If you tell a child they are stupid and worthless over and over again, they will believe it.   If you tell a child that they are ugly, they will believe it.  If you tell them they can not do anything, and no one will every want them, they will believe it.  If it is the only thing they hear day in and day out, it becomes their reality.

    Elyse has been told that her only hope to be happy in life is to come to America and get her legs fixed.  Not only that, but she has been told she is lucky because she is beautiful.  Being beautiful, getting her legs fixed, and IF she can have a baby, may make her appealing enough to a man that he may want to marry her and  then she could finally be happy.

    When we told Elyse that she had a doctor’s appointment her first words were, “Will they tell me if I can have babies?”   She was so disappointed that she was just going in for a routine visit.  And if all those other lies weren’t enough, she was also told that the doctors would be able to fix her legs and she will be able to walk.  Elyse has spina bifida and no feeling in her legs.  You can not fix this kind of nerve damage.  Her legs are atrophied.  One leg will not bend and one leg stays bent.  No only did they feed her lies but they gave her false hope.  It’s heartbreaking as a parent to have to crush those dreams.

    Elyse is fixated on her looks.  It’s very important to her.  While we were in China, she would practice posing and take picture after picture of herself.  She took over 3,000 pictures.  She would stare at herself in the mirror and fix her hair for an hour.   She wants to wear make-up.  She wants to be appealing.  She worries about whether or not her hair is styled just right.  She is very sure of what she will wear and what she won’t.   All of these things are not bad in and of themselves, but the reason for being overly concerned about them is bad, and without the knowledge that Jasmine gave us I wouldn’t have known what to make of Elyse’s behavior.

    Elyse 15

    Elyse doesn’t like that her skin is darker.   She doesn’t like that her stomach sticks out a little bit.  She doesn’t like the lump on her back.  She really doesn’t like people who are overweight.   In China, I had difficulty with this.  I am overweight.   Having your child make faces and be disgusted over anyone that she sees that is overweight hurt my feelings.  I tried not to take it personally but it was difficult.   I knew that culturally that heavier people were made fun of in China.  I knew this but it still hurt.

    Here is what I’d like you to picture.  You are in China meeting the child you have waited for and prayed for for almost a year and she doesn’t necessarily like you.  She likes all the other mamas in your group because they are skinny.  She likes to point to them and then point to your stomach and say “no”.  When you eat, she makes faces.   She refuses to eat.  She bosses people around about what she would eat.  She constantly talks about being fat or getting fat.  Considering she is 9 years old and weighs 44 pounds, the likelihood of that happening in the next year is pretty slim.

    Elyse 14

    She has an over-the-top personality and she turns it on extra bright when she is with other people.   She does it in hopes that they won’t notice her disability.  This has become her life mantra…..beauty means everything and without it she has no worth.

    Underneath it all she is a sweet girl.  With Max she was adorable.   When we were in the room, she was so very sweet.  She wants to be loved.  She wants the love of family.  She is only doing what everyone during her whole life has told her is right.  You can not hold that against a child.  Without Jasmine my judgment of what Elyse was doing would have been the wrong judgment.  I would have been angry at her attitude because I wouldn’t have had the proper framework of why she thinks what she thinks.   You have to take all of these things into account when you are dealing with these older adopted kids.

    Max 5

    We used Google Translate a lot with Jasmine.  It works for short phrases.  It wasn’t until Jasmine started writing her blog and I used Google Translate to translate it that I realized how off it was.  Someone who knows Mandarin and English wrote to me and said that what Jasmine wrote was even more beautiful when it was translated correctly and they were right.  That was eye opening.  Who knows what I had been saying to Jasmine during those first few months.

    A friend was explaining how different words mean different things in Mandarin as opposed to English.  Silly in Mandarin means you are a fool.  If you want to tell them they are silly, you should say they are playful or jesting.  They often say open when they mean on.   Naughty means impish or mischievous not badly behaved.  The character for chicken and muscle are the same. The list is long on words that have different meanings for them so even if they do understand what the words means it may not mean the same thing to you as it does to them.

    These children refer to the nannies as mama.  Jasmine was told she had to call them mama or she would be punished.  They refer to older girls as jiejie (older sister) and younger girls as meimei (little sister).  Much older girls are called aunt and men are called uncles.  The elderly are referred to as nainai (grandma) and yeye (grandpa).  These are the terms they use all the time.  If they have grown up in an orphanage, they use these terms all the time but they don’t understand these terms as family.

    Children are told they have to be good or you will send them back.  They are told they have no worth and the only reason someone would want them is for their organs.  They are told you are bringing them here as hired help.  They are told that Americans are rich and they can have anything and everything they want.  Jasmine was told that she was going to another orphanage because we had 6 kids.  Elyse believed she was in another foster home because in China only foster homes have more than one child.  You just can’t even imagine the things that they have been told or what they may be thinking.

    We, as parents, have to look at things differently.  One of my friends said it best when she said that you have to parent differently.  It’s not up to them to change.  It’s up to you to change.   It is just not the same with these children.  You can not expect them to respond like your bio children do.  They come from difficult backgrounds.  They have deep scars and trust issues.  You have to lovingly help them to see what their worth truly is.  You have to give them reasons to trust and you can’t expect it to just happen over night.  I have heard others say that it takes a year out of the orphanage for every year spent in the orphanage for them to trust.  For Elyse that would be another 9 years.  I hope this isn’t true.  I hope she sees that family is permanent.  I hope that she can trust.

    Some day I hope Elyse will see her worth isn’t tied up in whether she has legs that work or not.  I hope she realizes that she can do anything she chooses.  Someday she will see that she doesn’t need anyone else to make her happy.  I hope she can one day see that she is beautiful but that is not what makes her truly lovely.   But mostly I hope that one day she will truly understand the love of family and how much we love her not for what she looks like or what she can do but just because she’s our Elyse WanQiu.

    Elyse & Daddy

     

  • A Call to Action

    Date: 2015.02.13 | Category: Faith, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    Today Jasmine looked at me with big tears in her eyes and asked me if her hands will one day stop working too.   I asked her why she was asking me and she said because she felt like her hands couldn’t do as much.  I explained to her that she’s been flat on her back for weeks.  She hasn’t eaten much by mouth in as many days.  She’s on many medications for pain and all of these things can cause weakness and hand shaking.  There are many reasons for her hands to feel weaker.

    But because I have always promised to tell her the truth, I also had to say I don’t know if she will one day lose the ability to move her hands.  Yes, it’s a possibility and a pretty big possibility.  I just don’t know how long it will take to get to that point.  She is stage 2 SMA, but there is a wide range of how fast the disease will take her muscle.  Her surgery let us know that she has already lost a great deal of muscle but we are hoping we have hit a static point.  Maybe, hopefully, she will keep the amount of movement she has for years.

    She told me that every year  her weakness has gotten worse.  She’s never been able to walk and she’s slowly lost the ability to move her legs and raise her arms over her head.  Her hands moving in her lap and wiggling her toes is all that she has left.  She wonders what that will mean for her future.  She has heard the word worthless her whole life.  She said it to me again today.  What good will I be?

    I remind her that nothing will change.  We will always be there for her.  We will never leave her alone.  We will never abandon her.  She will always be in our home.  She can still make a difference.  She still has a purpose.  Her life will still have meaning.

    When Jasmine is upset, I like to do a visualization exercise with her.  I ask her to picture when she gets to heaven.  I have her picture God showing her two giant walls.  On those walls are hundreds of pictures.  On one wall is the pictures of all the children who are adopted because she chose to share her story.  The other wall is covered with the pictures of people who were encouraged by her smile and life story.

    She asks me if this can really happen and I tell her that God is able to do anything.  I don’t know for sure what God will do when we stand before Him.  The verses talk about one day standing in front of our judge.  You can research and decide for yourself what you believe that means.  But in my heart, I believe what I tell her to be true that one day God will let Jasmine see the purpose her life had.

    I believe we often treat our salvation as a free pass.  We accept God’s grace and we get into heaven.  Not much more thought is put into it.  We show up to church and try to be kind to others, but being kind and not judging others isn’t all there is to being Christ-like.   We are called to action.  God doesn’t want us to be comfortable.  He wants us to be His hands and feet.  He wants us to give generously.

    One day I will stand before God and He will show me what my life meant and who my life touched.  So what will my walls contain?  What will my life show?  What will be my impact?  Will those walls show kindness or will there be post-it note after post-it note of things I should have done but didn’t.  That picture scares me the most, a wall full of post-its with missed opportunities.

    post it note wall 1

    I remind her that we can’t possibly know all the people who we affect both good and bad.  I’ve thought about this a lot today.  How we get caught up in our day to day lives and lose track of all those people around us who could use a little help.  So today I present you with a call to action.  Today I want you to really think about what your wall will one day contain.

    Will it show pictures of people you encouraged?

    Will it show girls that you saved from the sex trade?

    Will it show men, women and children who were fed?

    Will it show widows who were helped?

    Will it show communities who have clean water?

    Will it show children who were adopted?

    Will it show families that are intact because you lent a helping hand?

    Will it show surgeries that were completed?

    Will it show souls that were saved?

    What will it show?  I want my wall to be covered in pictures.  I want to do as much as I can.

    Today a little boy lost his life and his mother asked others to support another child who touched her heart and needs a family.   She realizes the same thing I realize with our children.  They may not live a long life but they will live a life full of the love of family and they will not die alone.   She didn’t get to have Xavier with her as long as she hoped.  Her post today said, “He’s gone.”  My heart was broken for a little boy that I had only met on Facebook.   Today in Xavier’s honor she asked others to donate to this other little boy, Brayden, so that he too may have the love of a family.

    Brayden

    or maybe you’d like to help a family get their son home so they can ease his pain.

    Nathaniel

    or help a little girl who had a stroke because of hydrocephalus but there is a family trying to get her home.

    Hope

    There are so many children who wait.  My news feed is filled every day with people advocating for children waiting for families.  You might not be able to adopt but you can help other families afford to.  Think about that on a wall.  Picture after picture after picture of children, who had the love of a forever family, because you gave up a few dollars every month.

    Show Hope has many ways to help and so does Love Without Boundaries.

    Reece’s Rainbow actually has a 5/5/5 Fund where you can help five families adopt by spending $5 a month.

    Or if you would rather help a family stay together by helping a child get the surgery they need.   LWB Unity Fund

    The list of ways to help is unending and it can seem overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you.   Help one person at a time.  We can’t fix everything but we can fix something.

    Open your eyes.  Take a stand.  Pick a cause.  Open your heart.  Share your money.  Share your time.  Use your words wisely.  Encourage someone.

    Don’t wait – answer that call to action today.

    “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”(2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV)

     

  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2015.02.08 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Today we share our story on 28 Days of Hearts.  Please take a look at the stories of beautiful children adopted from China with congenital heart disease.  Your heart will be moved.

    Hope, Benjamin, Evie and Elijah

     

  • I Never Knew…

    Date: 2015.02.03 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    THAT JASMINE WOULD HAVE COMPLICATIONS FROM SURGERY

    Many of you may know that Jasmine ended up back in the hospital.  I hadn’t really considered that she would have complications.  I’m not sure why.  It’s a big surgery.  They always inform you of the complications, but still I was so sure she would fly through this and be just fine. I was so sure of it that I really didn’t let my head go there.  Instead she ended up with a wound infection and a blood infection.   She was a pretty sick little girl.  They had to take her back to surgery and reopen her wound.  They took out the previous bone grafts, irrigated her wound with 12 liters, reapplied the bone graft, and closed her back up.

    Jasmine had a second set back and needed a lumbar drain put in.  She had a tear in her dura and lost a lot of cerebral spinal fluid.  They took her to surgery and put in the drain.  She now has to lie flat on her back for the next five days.  If it heals over, we are done and can go home.   If it is not healed over, she will need another surgery to reopen her wound, find the leak, and repair it and then five more days flat in bed.

    She will go home with a PICC line and IV antibiotics for a total of six weeks at least.  Worst case scenario is that they will not be able to clear the infection and they will have to remove all the hardware (screws and rods).   We are all praying that this is not the case.

    THAT JASMINE WAS CONSTANTLY HUNGRY IN THE ORPHANAGE

    When we adopted Jasmine she was 14 and weighed 85 pounds.  She wasn’t a very big girl but she wasn’t skin and bones either.  I hadn’t really considered her being hungry all the time.  When she shares these facts with me, she says them so matter of fact.  It’s like it’s nothing, just another random fact she is sharing.   These facts always break my heart.

    Here is my post about this talk from Facebook:

    Today I was talking to Cassie about Elyse not wanting to eat what Cassie was preparing and Jasmine overheard our conversation.
    Jasmine – Mama, take away her food for the day and then tomorrow she will be really hungry and eat.
    Me – Jasmine, did they do that in the orphanage?
    Jasmine – Oh yes mama. If they take your food for a day or two, you are really hungry and you will eat whatever they make.
    Big pause…..
    Wait, no don’t do that mama. It’s really not nice to do mama.
    Me – Jazz, did they really take your food from you?
    Jasmine – Yes mama and I could only have half the food everyone else got because I would get too heavy for them to carry. It’s hard to be hungry all the time. Don’t take Elyse’s food mama. Ok?

    THAT MY LITTLE GIRL WOULD CARE SO MUCH ABOUT OTHER ORPHANS

    Here is another excerpt that I posted on Facebook:

    They took Jasmine to surgery at 5……They allowed me to go back with her until she was asleep. The anesthesiologist told her that sometimes the medicines let you have wonderful dreams. I told her she could dream about Cassie‘s wedding or summer vacation. The doctor asked her what she was going to dream about and Jasmine responded, “I’m gonna dream about no more orphans in China mama.” That, in a nutshell, is the heart of my girl.

    THAT WOULD TAKE SO LONG TO GET PAST THE ORPHANAGE ISSUES

    With Jasmine there haven’t been many orphanage behaviors.  She doesn’t yell.  She doesn’t hit.  She doesn’t hoard food.  She doesn’t cuss.  She is respectful. She is loving.  She is caring.  She is sweet.  But what she isn’t able to get past are the abuse issues.  She can be in horrible pain and she won’t say a word.   Here in the hospital, people comment time and time again about how good she is.   I tell them over and over again (outside the door of course) that she isn’t being good.  She is absolutely terrified to complain because she was punished for complaining.  She was punished for speaking up.  She was punished for asking to go the bathroom.  She was punished for asking for more food.  The list goes on and on and even though it’s been almost two years she doesn’t believe she can say anything to anyone else.  She will tell Dan and I as soon as people leave the room, but she will not make a sound when other adults are in the room.  I can not even begin to adequately explain to you how heartbreaking this is.

    THAT MY HEART WOULD HURT BECAUSE I COULDN’T PROTECT HER

    While we were in the ER, Jasmine had an accident, the first one she has had at home.  The fear in her eyes as she was anxiously scream-whispering, “Don’t let them hit me mama.   Don’t.  Please don’t.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to.”  Spoke volumes and I had to leave the room and bawl in the bathroom.

    THAT I WOULD BE HORRIBLY SAD THAT IT TOOK SO LONG TO FIND HER

    Whenever anyone asks us how long Jasmine has been with us and I say it will be two years in May, I want to just scream about the fact that we didn’t see her picture sooner.

    THAT I WOULD BE EXTREMELY FRUSTRATED THAT I CAN’T DO MORE

    After our last adoption (for a total of 9 adopted), I thought I would feel like we did our part.  I thought that I could just move on, but there are so many children who wait.  I don’t understand the evil of this world.  I don’t understand not caring.  I don’t understand causing others pain.  I can’t explain it.  I don’t want to ever understand it.  There are children all over the world who are in pain right now.  Children who are hungry.  Children who need families.  Families who need help keeping their families intact.  Children who need surgery.  People who need food and clean water and medical supplies and we have so much.

    THAT ORPHANAGES WOULD BE QUIET PLACES

    The thing that always amazes me about orphanages is how quiet they are.  I’ve been in four different orphanages.  Each orphanage was quiet, even in the baby rooms.   In one place that we visited there was a new baby, in an isolation room that had recently arrived, screaming his head off, but there were 20+ babies in the regular room and not one of them was making any noise.  It’s an eerie, eerie thing.   What happens that make children not make noise, especially babies?

    THAT OTHERS WOULD THINK IT WAS WRONG FOR US TO ADOPT SO MANY CHILDREN

    See in my little world, I thought it was a good thing to adopt children.  I honestly didn’t think anyone would have anything negative to say.  I didn’t want or expect people to compliment us or commend us BUT I certainly never considered that people would think it was wrong.

    I keep trying to find just the right comment that would make people see it from my viewpoint.  Here’s what I have come up with….

    They say…..What were you doing adopting four at one time?  You can’t bond with four children at a time.  You can’t care for four children at a time.  It’s just too much and you shouldn’t have done it.

    What they are really saying…..It would have been much better to let Jasmine die in an institution.  It would have been better for Evie to die in the orphanage.

    You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t say it was wrong for us to adopt those four children without admitting it was okay for the rest to play out.  See no one else was showing up.  Jasmine had two weeks before she aged out.  She wasn’t going to be lovingly cared for in a home.  Evie had a couple more months.  No one was there.  She would have been just another child who died without a family, in an orphanage.

    THAT ANYONE BESIDE A FEW CLOSE FRIENDS AND FAMILY WOULD READ THIS BLOG

    Sometimes I forget that others read it.  I look at the numbers and am honestly just blown away.  I don’t know why people continue to read my ramblings, but I am always, always, always, beyond thankful that our children have this wonderful group of people who care about them and pray for them.

    THANK YOU!

    THAT I WOULD BE FOREVER BLESSED BY FOLLOWING GOD’S LEAD AND THAT ADOPTION WOULD CHANGE MY LIFE IN WAYS I COULDN’T EVEN IMAGINE!

    We are so blessed!  Not by material things, although we have them.  No, what I am considering my blessings are those sweet faces that greet me every morning.  I am blessed to watch our children thrive.  I am blessed to hear them laugh and sing and watch them learn new things.  I am blessed to be able to be their mother.   I wish I could take away their pain.  I wish I could take away the reasons that they ended up in an orphanage to begin with, but since I can not I will help them find their way in this world and consider myself blessed that I am allowed to be a part of their lives.

    Adoption has changed everything.  My life is no longer about me.  My perspective on almost everything has changed.  These children have opened and continue to open my eyes to so many things.

  • A Day in the Life of Jasmine

    Date: 2015.01.18 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Muscular Dystrophy | Response: 0

    Jasmine and I have often talked about her sharing her story and she has decided that she wants to share her story.  She has been working diligently on her blog and has now written quite a few posts.  Flower That Blooms  I love that she is sharing what her life was like.  She is helping others see what being an orphan truly means.  She hopes she will be able to help other orphans who may be afraid to come to America.  She prays that more children will be adopted.

    While she writes hoping she is helping others, she is healing.  I see a glimpse of belief in her eyes that her life has meaning.  She understands that all things may not be good but all things can work together for good.  She may not understand the whys.  The truth is none of us will on this side but she sees a purpose and wants to live her life for that purpose.

    Last Tuesday Jasmine had a spinal fusion done on her back.  This procedure will make it so she can sit up straight because the truth is as Jasmine’s muscles deteriorate, her spine can no longer be held up, which in turn affects her breathing and eating.

    Here are here before and after x-rays.

    Before xray After xray

    During the surgery they took a couple muscle biopsies so we can get an accurate diagnosis for her.  We know she has a neuromuscular disorder, presumably muscular dystrophy, but this will give us a correct diagnosis or at least that is the plan.

    Jasmine’s life has not been easy.   She says she can remember being clumsy at about the age of two, she was unable to walk very well by the time she was four, which made her father very angry, this was when she went to live with her grandmother.  When she was almost eight years old, her grandmother, after deciding Jasmine was too heavy to move, took Jasmine to the orphanage and dropped her off, vowing to one day return.  Her grandmother visited a couple times and then stopped showing up.   Jasmine has been through more than any of us should ever have to go through and all of this with a body that slowly fails her.

    This is what I want to talk about today, what a day in the life of Jasmine is like. I realized after messaging a few people during our stay here in the hospital, that not many really understand what Jasmine has or what a day in her life looks like.

    For Jasmine every single thing is an effort.  She is unable to sit up on her own.  When she wakes up in the morning, she must lie there until someone comes to sit her up.   Her body has been in one position for a long time and she is often in pain.

    It takes two of us to move her.  We have to help her to the toilet.  She needs us to move her to the shower.  I have to wash her hair because she can not lift her arms high enough to reach her hair.  Put your elbows into your side, hold them tight there, add ten pound weights to your forearms, and then try to move your hands around.  That is as much movement as she has.   Something as simple as itching your ear requires her holding her arm up by the elbow with her other hand.

    To move her legs, she tries hard to lift them by pulling on her pant leg.  She is unable to move them very far.  It can take her ten minutes to move her foot a mere inch.  It frustrates her so.

    She is unable to dress herself.  She can not do something as simple as putting on a sock.  I sometimes forget as I’m placing her arms in her sleeves and let go.  Her arms falls heavily to her side.

    We place her in her wheelchair where she insists on buckling her buckle herself.  She can not reach down to pick up the buckles.  You have to place them in her lap and then she takes minutes to try and put them together.  Just lining up the two sides takes great effort and pushing them together takes great force that she just doesn’t have.

    Then its time to brush her teeth.  She leans forward and picks up her toothbrush.  She has to lean forward, place one elbow on the armrest of her wheelchair, and hold up her other arm to get it high enough to brush her teeth.

    She loves her power wheelchair and the freedom it gives her to move where she wants.  She heads out of her bathroom and comes to the bedroom door.  If this door is shut, she can not open it.  Even if she could turn the knob, she does not have enough strength to pull the door towards her as she slowly moves her chair backwards.  We have tried the pull down handles and even those take too much effort.  She can easily be trapped inside her own room.  If she does get stuck and tries to call for help, finding enough air in her lungs to make the sound necessary to be heard across the house is impossible.

    She wants to get her school books herself.  It will take her a good 15-30 minutes to pull the books out of the cubby, drop them one and a time onto the foot pedals on her wheelchair, all while she is leaning as far forward as she can, and then comes the hard part – getting the books on the table.  She does it all in reverse.  She slowly takes one book at a time from her foot pedals and struggles to get it on the table.  It would be so easy for me to walk over and get her books.  It would take mere seconds to throw them on the table.  Every day I watch her struggle.  I watch her refuse to give up her independence.  She wants to do it for herself and I have to let her do what she can while she can.

    Oh the things we take for granted.  Bending over and picking up a pencil off the floor is so easy for us.  For Jasmine it means taking her chair to go get her claw that she uses to pick up stuff off the floor, she leans forward and slowly lines it up.   It takes both hands to squeeze the handle and pick up her pencil.  She then sits the pencil on her foot pedal of her wheelchair.  She leans as far forward as she can and picks it up, and then has to slowly pull herself back up.  She can still get herself up if she has something to push against with her arms.  If she falls backwards in her chair, she can not get back up.  She just doesn’t have the strength to pull herself up.

    She wants so badly to have chores and do what the other children are doing.  It is hard to assign chores to someone that does not even have the strength to pull a plate out of a dishwasher.   We have had to get creative with our chore list.  Her main chore consists of picking the things up off the floor in the living room.  She takes her claw and picks up the items she can reach on the floor.  This is a never ending job with toddlers but she never complains.

    The other chore Jasmine helps with is feeding Lainey.  Lainey is unable to feed herself.  She eats every three hours starting at 6 a.m.   Jasmine gets as close as she can to the high chair, leans forward, and puts her elbows on the tray.  Lainey has learned to lean forward and eat off the spoon.  Jasmine loves little kids and is so good with Lainey.  It’s very sweet to watch her care for Lainey.  It must have been so hard for her to sit at the orphanage and not be able to care for the other children. Although, we do know she liked to read to the other children. She really is a great big sister and has such a compassionate heart.

    Her fun for the day is going out into the backyard and going around the 900 foot cement path we put in.  She drives around and around at the highest speed she can safely go.  I asked her why she likes to just go in circles and she told me that for years she had to sit in the corner at the orphanage.  She couldn’t move herself.  She just sat there.  She wasn’t allowed to go to school.   She was told she was worthless and lazy.  The freedom of going anywhere, even if it is just a circle of cement in our backyard, is a blessing.  One of her favorite things to do is have us buckle in Evie with her on the chair.  She loves to give Evie rides on her chair.

    Jasmine & eve

    Jasmine spends all day in her wheelchair.  She is no longer able to be moved to the couch because she falls over.  There isn’t enough support in the cushions.  At the end of the day, we do it in reverse.  She brushes her teeth, we place her on the toilet, and we carry her to bed.  She slowly lowers herself to the bed.  I can not even watch this.  It scares me so.  She more or less lets herself drop to the side and slowly and painfully tries to squirm her way into a position where she can breath on her side.  I ask her over and over again to just let me help her but she wants to continue to do what she can.

    Can you imagine what that feels like as a person?  You don’t have a choice without help you can’t go to the bathroom, you can’t get into bed, you can not get out of your wheelchair.  If she tried to move out of her chair, she would fall on her face.  She can sit unassisted if you get her positioned just perfectly.  It’s like a baby who is just learning to sit.  If you adjust them just right, they can hold themselves up, but one little bump knocks them over.  But unlike a baby, Jasmine can not roll over and move herself.

    I think about her alone in China.  She was at their mercy and she has shared some horrible stories.  Stories of being taken to the doctor who told them that she should be able to walk so they left her food just out of reach.  They informed her that when she was hungry enough she would quit being lazy and get up and walk to her food.  She went all day without food and finally tried to move forward.  She fell out of her chair and they told her to get up.  She says she slept on the floor.  This went on for quite a while.

    She has told us that when she would have an accident, because there was no one to take her to the bathroom, they would allow the little and big children to hit and kick her as punishment.

    Whenever you think that it’s okay for these children to be in an orphanage, please think about what Jasmine has shared.  Whenever you think that you just can’t adopt a special needs child because it would complicate your life too much, think about what your not adopting them means for their little lives.  We have been told that Jasmine would have gone to an institution where it was survival of the fittest.  I asked specifically about this because I didn’t want to not be telling the truth.  Jasmine was two weeks away from this truth.  The nannies told her what her future held.  They let her know that she would be hit, there would be no one to feed her and that she would probably be left in a corner.  And yet Jasmine is joyful.

    I spend my days caring for others.  I spend pretty much every waking moment doing something for someone else.  I can do this without feeling sorry for myself.  I can do this and still feel joyful every day because I have learned to take my eyes off myself.  If I start thinking I could be getting a pedicure right now….I think about where Jasmine would be.  If I start thinking a vacation would be nice, I picture how sad Lainey was and where she is now.  If I dream about having a house that stays clean, I remember where Ben, Eli and Evie, who were considered inoperable and terminal in China, would be now.   Jasmine’s life has brought me greater perspective.

    Jasmine’s biggest fear heading into this surgery wasn’t the surgery itself. Jasmine’s biggest fear was that she would wake up and we wouldn’t be there.  Jasmine’s biggest fear was that we would decide we no longer want her.  Why does she have these fears?  Because it has happened to her before.  She has been through hospital stays by herself.  She has been abandoned and left alone.  She has been told that she is unworthy of love and a family.

    I often wonder how such a sweet soul survived in an orphanage for so long.  How did she go through years of hearing how worthless she was and keep her joy?  How did she endure more than any child should have to and still keep her beautiful smile?

    I am sharing these truths about Jasmine because I want you to understand just what she goes through every day and what it truly means for her to choose joy.  Every day she chooses to be joyful.  Every day she refuses to give up.  Every day she does all that she can to the best of her abilities.  Every single day without fail.

    So if Jasmine has touched your life in any way, please remember the lessons her life has taught us:

    1.) Don’t be afraid to do the hard things, sometimes they are the biggest blessings.

    2.) You can choose to be joyful.

    3.) Adoption isn’t about you.

    4.) God has a plan for you no matter how much or how little you can do.

    5.) If you are still alive, God’s plan is in place and He still has a use for you.’

    Jasmine endured her hospital stay with great grace.  She was polite and kind to others.   Her life is a beautiful testimony!  Please continue to keep her in your prayers as she has six weeks of lying back at a 60 degree angle in her wheelchair and six months of not being able to be moved with any ease.

     

     

     

     

  • Why We Share Our Story

    Date: 2015.01.15 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life, Hope | Response: 0

    After talking with Cassie today, I decided to take a moment and tell you all why we decided to tell our family’s story through our Facebook page and our blog. Years ago after we had adopted Hope, I refused to talk about her adoption story because I felt like people would think that I was bragging about saving this child.

    You see Hope’s story is amazing. It all started when my husband, who was a fellow in neonatalogy, had a patient born with a heart defect. The preadoptive parents backed out when the doctors found the heart defect and the birth mother decided not to treat, which was one of the three options available for a child born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Dan called me and told me he just couldn’t write the orders to discontinue support for this baby. We, as a family, decided to take her home and let her feel the love of family for as long as she lived. We had been through the death of a child and knew, with God’s help, we could do this. Not long after we had made that decision, the cardiac surgeon asked for a chance to save her life. We had been given a wonderful gift. We weren’t looking to adopt. We stepped out in fear because we felt that was what God was asking us to do. Hope is now 15 and doing very well.

    But back to feeling uncomfortable telling Hope’s story. I would rarely tell anyone her story. I felt blessed that this adoption happened out of no where. I was so happy to have been given this opportunity. The way God worked out the details was unbelievable, but I still felt like people would think I was bragging. There were two conversations that we always heard if Hope’s story was mentioned. Either we heard that we were going to ruin our family and this was a stupid thing to do or we heard that we were saints.

    One day, years after Hope was born, I was sitting on a bench at the Iowa State Fair. The stranger next to me started some small talk. She asked if I had any children and I said, “Yes, three boys and two girls.” She asked me their names. As soon as I said Hope’s name she smiled. She told me that she loved the name Hope. She had heard the sweetest story of a little girl with a heart defect and her church had been praying for this little girl because she had recently had surgery.

    A perfect stranger had just told me Hope’s story. I took that as a sign from God that Hope’s story was being told whether I was telling it or not. I decided then and there that I had the choice to turn all the praise back to God or to keep quiet and let others do the praising.

    A Facebook friend recently posted this quote. “When God answers a prayer, no matter how big or how small, we need to share it. It’s a stewardship issue. If we don’t turn the answer to prayer into praise, it may very well turn into pride. Giving testimony is the way we give God all the glory.” ~Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle

    I want others to see the miracles that God has done in our lives. I have felt Him call and stepped out in fear and watched Him provide over and over again. This is why I tell our story. So others see the glory of God and understand that He calls us to care for the least of these. Adoption is just one of the ways this is possible. What is your story? What is God asking you to do? Don’t be afraid. It just might be the best thing that every happened to you.

    After talking with Cassie today, I decided to take a moment and tell you all why I decided to tell our family's story through our Facebook page and our blog.  Years ago after we had adopted Hope, I refused to talk about her amazing adoption story because I felt like people would think that I was bragging about saving this child.  </p><br /><br /><br />
<p>You see Hope's story is amazing. It all started when my husband, who was a fellow in neonatalogy, had a patient born with a heart defect.  The preadoptive parents backed out when the doctors found the heart defect and the birth mother decided not to treat, which was one of the three options available for a child born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Dan called me and told me he just couldn't write the orders to discontinue support for this baby.  We, as a family, decided to take her home and let her feel the love of family for as long as she lived.  We had been through the death of a child and knew, with God's help, we could do this.  Not long after we had made that decision, that the cardiac surgeon asked for a chance to save her life.  We had been given a wonderful gift.  We weren't looking to adopt.  We stepped out in fear because we felt that was what God was asking us to do.  Hope is now 15 and doing very well.  </p><br /><br /><br />
<p>But back to feeling uncomfortable telling Hope's story.  I would rarely tell anyone her story.  I felt blessed that this adoption happened out of no where.  I was so happy to have been given this opportunity.  The way God worked out the details was unbelievable, but I still felt like people would think I was bragging.  There were two conversations that we always heard if Hope's story was mentioned.  Either we heard that we were going to ruin our family and this was a stupid thing to do or we heard that we were saints.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>One day, years after Hope was born, I was sitting on a bench at the Iowa State Fair.  The stranger next to me started some small talk.  She asked if I had any children and I said, "Yes, three boys and two girls."  She asked me their names.  As soon as I said Hope's name she smiled.  She told me that she loved the name Hope.  She had heard the sweetest story of a little girl with a heart defect and her church had been praying for this little girl because she had recently had surgery.  </p><br /><br /><br />
<p>A perfect stranger had just told me Hope's story.  I took that as a sign from God that Hope's story was being told whether I was telling it or not.  I decided then and there that I had the choice to turn all the praise back to God or to keep quiet and let others do the praising.  </p><br /><br /><br />
<p>A Facebook friend recently posted this quote.  "When God answers a prayer, no matter how big or how small, we need to share it. It's a stewardship issue. If we don't turn the answer to prayer into praise, it may very well turn into pride. Giving testimony is the way we give God all the glory." ~Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>I want others to see the miracles that God has done in our lives.  I have felt Him call and stepped out in fear and watched Him provide over and over again.  This is why I tell our story.  So others see the glory of God and understand that He calls us to care for the least of these.  Adoption is just one of the ways this is possible.  What is your story?  What is God asking you to do?  Don't be afraid.  It just might be the best thing that every happened to you.  I know we have been blessed time and time again.
  • Hurting Hearts

    Date: 2015.01.04 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Faith, Family Life, Grace, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    It all started with tears over the fact that she didn’t want to have a tea party with Elyse and Gracie.  Somehow I knew it wasn’t about the tea party.  Jasmine is usually easy going.   It was unusual for her to balk about something so trivial.  I asked her if Elyse had said anything to upset her and she screamed, “This is boring.  I don’t want to do it.”

    I let her know she didn’t have to play with the other girls.  I let her know that she could just sit in the room and watch them then but it would be more fun for her to participate.  She still didn’t budge on her position and I left them alone in their bedroom.

    About five minutes later Gracie came out saying Jasmine was sobbing.  I tried to get Jasmine to talk.  Cassie tried.  Gracie tried.  None of us had any luck.  I told her I knew that there was something else going on.  I asked her to e-mail me when she felt ready to talk.  She told me there was nothing wrong and I gave her some more time to calm down.

    The sobbing continued.  We continued to try and talk to her.  Jasmine yelled, “There is nothing wrong.  I am NOT sad!  I am NOT mad!” as the tears continued to roll down her face.

    This lasted three hours.

    Three hours folks and she kept insisting it was because she didn’t want to have a boring tea party.

    We’ve had one other huge battle like this one and that battle was over her saying she was stupid.  This was admittedly the dumbest fight ever in the history of fights.  She refused to back down about saying she was stupid.  I told her she knows three languages.  She is doing amazing in school.  She is one very bright, insightful girl and I would not let her call herself stupid.  The fight continued.  She yelled.  She threw her pencil.  She cried and cried and cried all over the fact that I refused to let her call herself stupid.

    I informed her that she could either say, “I am NOT stupid or I was going to make her write it 50 times.”  She still refused.  I got out the paper and the pencil.  She wrote her sentences but she refused to write the NOT.   This part of the disagreement went on for a couple hours.  I tried to let her calm down.  I had Cassie talk to her.  I had Dan talk to her.  I had Hope talk to her.  She refused to say, “I am not stupid.” and the tears continued to fall.

    See we’ve been here before.  I knew the fight wasn’t about the tea party just as much as the other fight wasn’t about her admitting she isn’t stupid.   It was about fear.  It was about having so many emotions over so many confusing thoughts that the simplest thing set her off.  It was safe to be mad about a tea party.  It was not safe to admit your fears.

    I told her that she had to stop and calm down.  I wasn’t going to argue with her.  She needed a shower so I gave her time alone in the shower so she could think.  She refused to talk.  I had already told her she had two choices.

    1.) To let me know what was really wrong.

    2.) To go to bed.

    She chose to go to bed.  I couldn’t believe it.  I gave her the options and now I had to follow through.  It was 6:30 p.m. and she chose to go to bed. I gave her ten chances to change her mind.   I gave her her I-pad in case she changed her mind.  I told her she could let me know just a little bit at anytime and we would talk but that she wasn’t allowed to not tell me the truth.  She couldn’t keep saying “I’m not mad.  I’m not sad. She could ask to talk about it later but she could not keep lying to me about there being nothing wrong.”

    Three hours later I get this e-mail.

    “Are you sad adoption me?”

    Am I sad that I adopted her?  Oh my heart.

    “I do wrong. Do you think I’m stupid?”

    Followed by….

    “If one day you do not want me, I really do not want lose the family.”

    “Because I know what will become of my foture.”

    And then she asked me to come to her room to talk.

    It wasn’t about the tea party.  It was about Elyse mentioning that the nannies told her that she could come to America and be healed.  The nannies had told Jasmine the same thing.  We were about six months in when Jasmine had enough English under her belt to ask us when she would get the surgery that would let her walk.  We had the horrible task of letting her know that there was nothing that could be done.  You can’t fix muscular dystrophy.  We had to break her heart and now we were going to have to break Elyse’s.  I told Jasmine not to say anything to Elyse because we haven’t seen a doctor yet.  Jasmine doesn’t need to be the bearer of bad news that could wait for another day.

    But all of her discussions with Elyse brought up the fears that she had before.

    Jasmine told me that she was worried that she would get too heavy and I would take her back to the orphanage.

    Because it has happened to her before.

    Jasmine let me know that she was afraid about having her surgery on the 13th because she didn’t want to wake up in the hospital alone.

    Because it has happened to her before.

    Jasmine was worried that I would decide that she was no longer worth caring for.

    Because it has happened before.

    It wasn’t about a tea party.  It was about her wanting a family.  It was about her wanting to walk.  It was about her wishing she could dream about one day growing up, falling in love, and having a family of her own.

    I’m sharing this story today because I want other parents who have adopted or are choosing to adopt an older child to remember not to take it personally and to remember the trivial fights usually are about something much more.  It’s not about wanting to eat late at night.  It’s about them testing you to see if you will feed them and love them.  It’s not so much about control as it is about fear.  Fear that you don’t love them enough.  Fear that they won’t get food.  Fear that this whole family thing isn’t going to work out.

    I can understand this.  For years when Dan and I met, I would test him.  I would push him.  I would bait him.  I would argue with him.  Why?  Because I didn’t believe someone could truly love me.  My dad and my mom divorced when I was 10 and then shortly after that I was sexually abused, for a whole summer, by an older trusted friend.  It played with my head and my self worth.  It made me believe that men would just hurt and that I had no worth.  This took place over about six months.  Now imagine if your whole life had been one of not feeling loved or worthy.  What if they made you believe that you are so bad that if you ever let anyone know the real you, they would return you to the orphanage? How much would you test?  How much time would you need to heal?

    Dan finally made me see that I could trust him and live each day happy or I could spend my whole life assuming he would leave and be miserable.  I had to make the choice.  These kids are in the same boat.  They have to make that choice but the first couple of years are just trying to figure it out.  They don’t have the language or the maturity to make that choice.  It’s all about survival.  If they learned to survive with manipulation, then they will manipulate.  If they learned to survive by withdrawing, then they will withdraw.  It takes time to let go of the fear and the anger.

    So it’s up to us, the supposed grownups, to remember it has nothing to do with us.  It has to do with fear and we have to remember who the author of fear is.  It isn’t God.  God is all about hope and redemption.  Satan whispers and people doubt.  Please remember that the next time you are in the heat of the moment.  Take a step back.  It’s not about the tea party or them loving you.  It’s about fear that they will one day lose this thing that they can’t even admit that they want.

    FAMILY!

     

  • Stage 2

    Date: 2015.01.02 | Category: Adoption, China 2014 | Response: 0

    Zhengzhou – Stage Two is complete.  (This blog post is late.  I couldn’t get my phone to post from China on WordPress.  We are considering this post – better late than never.)

    The excitement is always overflowing when you arrive in Zhengzhou.  Everyone gets settled, meets the other families, and there is a buzz in the air because they know they will be seeing their child in a day or two.  Most of the time, everyone rides together to the Registration Office to receive their child.  The child may be there when you arrive or they slowly show up as the morning goes on.  These days always bring tears to my eyes.  I can not watch a video of someone’s Gotcha Day/Family Day without crying.  Once you know what it means for these children your heart will be forever moved.

    Many agencies have special affiliations with certain orphanages.  CCAI does quite a few adoptions out of Henan Province.  Zhengzhou is where you end up staying if you are adopting from this province.

    We stayed at the Marriett Hotel which had been recently renovated.  I know there are many, many families who stay there during their week in Zhengzhou.  I wish they would have set aside a couple of rooms that were toddler proof.  The glass closet doors, glass bathroom door, and automated everything from curtains to lights, is too much for a small child to take.

    Max 16

    The lobby was decorated very beautifully.

    Max 17

    A couple nights they even had carolers.

    Max 9

    Wal-Mart is a few blocks away.  You spend your time walking on the sidewalk avoiding motorized scooters, bicycles, and small cars.  Yes, travel in Zhengzhou is exciting to say the least.  There is a lot of road renovations going on making it a little more interesting to travel in this particular stretch of town.

    One night we even saw many biking Santas

    Max 18

    Stephanie and I were especially happy that they put a Subway sandwich shop down by Wal-Mart.  Many of the breakfast menus have American cuisine.  Lunch can be a whole different story though.  I am not adventurous and I do not like my fish looking at me when I eat them.

    Max, however, was very happy with KFC, double deserts, and anything else they put in front of him.  :)

    Max 3 Max 6

    I chose to visit the orphanage this time.  Max, Lainey and Maisey were all adopted out of this orphanage and I had never had a chance to visit.  When we arrived on the street leading to the orphanage Max’s demeanor changed.  When we were waiting at the gate, the tears started to fall.  When we arrived at the front doors, he was pretty much hysterical.  I had never had a child respond this way.  Jasmine was excited to show us off.  Ben was 3 1/2 and he just held on tight to Dan, but really didn’t make a sound.  Max took it the hardest.  On one hand, I was upset that we had upset him that much but on the other hand, it was good to see him respond with such a strong emotion.  He hadn’t really showed that much emotion up to that point.   It showed he knew what was going on and understood to at least some degree that he was safe with us.

    The orphanage looked like a nice place.  There were many rooms set up that looked like any other preschool you would see in the U.S.   These buildings can be clean, new, with all the newest gadgets, but they still aren’t a mama or a baba.

    Max 14 Max 13 Max 12 Max 11

    While in China, you receive the child and have 24 hours to change you mind.  There was not going to be any changing our mind and on the second day our adoption was complete.  Max was officially our son!

    Max 7

    We spent our week bonding and getting to know each other.  He loves Zach and Steph. It was sweet watching them bond.   Max liked to curl up on the bed between them all the time.  He likes to snuggle and pat your head.  His little kisses on your cheek are the sweetest thing ever.  He is non-verbal but that doesn’t stop him from communicating.  He is already signing quite a few words.  We knew he was getting it when Steph signed “shoes on” from the other room and he went and found his shoes and put them on.

    max 1 Max 2 Max 5

    At the end of the week, everyone’s emotions change.  They have their child.  They are bonding.  They are ready to move to the final stop, Guangzhou.

    That is where I am.  I just want to go home and hug my husband. I miss him so.  I want to hold my babies and get on with being a family.

  • Stage One Complete

    Date: 2014.12.21 | Category: Adoption, China 2014, Elyse, Max | Response: 0

    I am going to try and post from my phone. This ought to be interesting.  :) (Hint- it didn’t work. -Cassie)

    We will be traveling to three different cities on this trip.  Stage one – Hefei, stage two – Zhengzhou, and the final stage – Guangzhou.

    This has been the most relaxed adoption trip ever so far.  They messed up our room at the Hilton and we ended up in a suite. A two bedroom suite with a jacuzzi tub that Elyse has loved.

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    We have played cards, shopped, ate pizza and watched some really interesting shows on a channel called Diva.

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    We visited the orphanage and met Elyse’s foster grandmother, mother, father and assorted family.  Elyse spent the first 7 years or her life with them before being called back to the orphanage.  It was a very moving moment in time and I believe allowed Elyse some closure.  Elyse had not seen them for two years and yet she acted like it was just yesterday.  Elyse’s foster grandmother told her to go, love her family, and be happy.  What a gift!

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    Tomorrow, bright and early, we head out to Zhengzhou for stage two of our trip.  We meet Max on Monday.  I am so ready to hold our boy.  Praying that he isn’t too frightened and ready to he loved up.

    Please surround our little guy with prayer.  I can’t imagine what it feels like to all of a sudden be with other people who look so different from you.   Elyse has done really well. She has been prepared well for adoption. Praying the same is true with Max.

  • China 3.0

    Date: 2014.12.13 | Category: Adoption, China 2014, Elyse, Max | Response: 0

    Well, the day is finally here.  We leave bright and early at 4 a.m.    It didn’t sound so bad when we bought the tickets.   What was I thinking?

    It will all be worth it when we meet these two….

    Elyse 1

    bi 2

    I’ve been informed that Elyse says, “To hurry up.  What’s taking you so long mom?”

    The countdown chart has been prepared.

    countdown

    Friends even dropped off a little gift for each and every day that we are gone.

    Thanks Foerch family!!!

    This trip will be different in that Dan is staying home.  With Evie and Elijah recently having surgery, we decided it would be better if one of us stayed home.  It won’t be the same without Dan with me.  We’ve never been apart more than a week in the 30 years we have been married.

    He’s sad and I’m sad.

    But he is going to fly to Chicago so that he can meet the kids before everyone else does because that’s what daddies who wish the could go….do.  I love the way he thinks.

    The kids have been kissed and tucked in.

    They all told me to hurry up and get Max and Elyse so they can come home and see the Christmas lights.

    Cassie and daddy have the fort covered.

    Everything’s packed and ready to go.

    So even though I’m sad about leaving my loved ones behind.  I am reminded of the reason we chose to adopt in the first place.  It’s not always an easy journey but well worth it.

    lainey 1

    Look how far Lainey has come!  She is such a happy girl now.

    Family is a beautiful thing.

    Cassie will update while I’m gone.

    She’s a little busy with some wedding plans, but I think she can handle it.

    Wedding plans you ask?

    Oh! Did I forget to mention what happened the other night?

    Well, Reece graciously included all her siblings and surprised Cassie by proposing at Jolly Holiday Lights.

    Jolly Holiday Lights is a couple miles of lighted up signs and at the end you can get out and get a picture with Santa.

    So we loaded up the bus….

    family Christmas

    and the siblings had their picture taken.

    And then…

    Christmas

    She said “Yes!”

    It seems we have lots of good news to share!

    We will be home soon!  Please continue to keep us all in your prayers.

    Max and Elyse as their lives change.

    All those that wait at home.

    Zach, Steph, and I for safe travels.