Archive for January, 2017

  • Elijah James turns 5

    Date: 2017.01.21 | Category: Elijah

    It’s sad when you look in your blog drafts and you see Elijah James turns 4 but you have to change the title to Elijah James turns 5 because you never got the first one done.  I have vowed to do a better job of chronicling our lives for the kids as the grow up.  I was fairly good at journaling with one or two children.  I’m not doing such a great job with 13 kids still at home.   But today is a new day and 2017 is a new year.  There is always time to start over and do it right.   Right?  🙂

    Elijah is our littlest guy.  His story is amazing and overwhelming and I am so humbled that I get to be a part of it.  His sweet little face reminds me every morning that miracles happen.

    What a gift he is for that reason and so many more.  (I will add what I posted on Facebook about his story at the end of this post for those who don’t know his story.)

    Eli has always had the sweetest little face.

    He is the best little guy.  He is easy going and loving and kind.  Rarely does anything upset him or make him mad.

    He has always been best friends with his sister Evie.

    They were adopted on the same trip and their bond continues to be a blessing.  Evie is easily fearful and Eli is brave.  He holds her hand and comforts her.  He is her best friend and protector.

    He loves anything active – gymnastics, trying to be a ninja, running through our backyard..  He loves to play.  He loves superheroes…

    and since his color is green, Hulk is his favorite.

    He patiently waited months for his PJ Masks Headquarters set.

    His big sister, Gracie, is the cake maker in the house.  He asked for a green cake with PJ Masks and dinosaurs and she did just that. It was a very green cake through and through.

    We called Zach, Steph, and baby Nicholas to show him our Pj Masks Headquarters toy.  I think Nick like it.

    Usually we take the kids shopping for their birthdays.  We spend a day with just them.  I had a doctor’s appointment that morning and Elijah asked me to just pick up the toy.  He said that he didn’t want to waste time shopping.  He just wanted to play, play, and play.  He asked if I could be sure that there were enough of the PJ Masks people for everyone to play.

    He asked for Burger King and corn dogs for lunch and that place that sells fish and chicken and corn on the cob (LJS) for supper.  Since the rest of the kids love those foods too, everyone was happy and full.

    It was the perfect laid back happy birthday.

    Happy birthday little guy!  Daddy and I are thankful every day that we get to be part of your life.


     

    The picture that started it all.   We saw his face in a newsletter and asked if he was listed any where for adoption.  His paperwork wasn’t prepared because he was considered “terminal” in China.  We asked for them to please make him paper ready and the rest is history…

    I don’t know how many of you know Eli’s story but it is amazing and every time I look at this little miracle walking around…

    Well, it just takes my breath away.

    He was born without main branch pulmonary arteries and now he is considered healed. He walks around with arteries that we’re made from his 4 large collateral vessels and some grafting material, during a 14 hour surgery by Dr Hanley.

    When I hear him giggle or tell one of his great stories, I am reminded of this incredible gift he has been given – a chance at a normal life.

    When I saw his picture for the first time, I just knew he was supposed to be our son. We saw his pictures and then waited for his papers to be prepared. In one of the craziest, God’s-hand-is-all-over-it stories ever, we had PA for Lainey and were waiting for Eli’s paperwork to become available. While we waited, not knowing if his papers would ever become available, we proceeded with Evie’s adoption. Dan kept telling me to have faith so we did the crazy thing and added Evie.

    We had PA for both girls and saw Jasmine’s picture and added a third child.  Six weeks before we traveled we received notice that Eli’s papers were ready and he needed to be expedited. It was allowed, which is unheard of.

    We had no clue how we were going to pay for the extra fees or the 4th orphanage fee or the travel for the 4th adult that our agency was requesting we take with us.

    On the very day we heard they would allow us to bring Elijah home, we received a check in the mail, from the University where Dan did his residency, for taxes that were wrongly taken out of Dan’s check for a few years starting in 1995 plus interest. The interest was the kicker. We sat holding a check that was enough to pay for the fees, the orphanage fee and the travel costs for our daughter. We were not expecting this check.

    I know people think we were crazy for that year. I remember saying “You can’t possibly be saying what I think you are saying God”, but Dan and I heard him over and over again so clearly. Each and every time God provided in amazing ways on that journey to Eli. Every day when I look at his sweet face, I am reminded of this fact.

    Eli is an amazing blessing. He is a great kid. We were blessed beyond measure for being obedient to His call and patiently* waiting for God’s timing to be made clear.

    (*We’re going to pretend I actually did it patiently, never doubting, and readily agreeing to this journey! Even though it went more like “What? You want me to do what? Seriously? I don’t think so. I can’t handle that. Don’t you remember when I said ….? You name it. I probably said it.)

    I’m so happy it’s not based on how great my faith is or how strong I am or how much I can do, because I would have missed this.

  • Happy Birthday Jessica Jean

    Date: 2017.01.15 | Category: Jessica

    Last year I did a poor job chronicling our lives.  My blog is my journal for our children.  I want them to have their memories written down for the future.   I vowed that this would be the year that I stayed on top of everything and then we got strep and I was already behind.

    Now its time to catch up…

    When we first received JJ’s file, I looked at her birthdate and it took my breathe away.  One day after my mama’s.  Ever since my mom passed away January 5th has been a sad day.  My mom, my mother-in-law, and I always did craft sales together at Christmas time.  We mainly did Christmas items so on my mom’s birthday we would load up the car and head out to find all the after Christmas items on sale for our craft sales the next year.  We would eat at her favorite restaurant, Red Lobster, and we would have the best girls day out.  It was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was just fun to celebrate mom and hang with my friends who just happened to be my mom and my mother-in-law.

    I miss my mom.  I miss those days.  I miss staying up late and crafting.  I miss setting up our display at the sale and hanging out and eating warm chocolate chip cookies while we caught up with our friends at the sale.  I miss all of it and my mom’s birthday is a constant reminder that it isn’t going to happen again.  So when I saw JJ’s birthday, it made me sad because I know how sad I am on January 5th and I wondered how I could be happy on the 6th, BUT God in all His infinite wisdom knew better.  He gave me a little bundle of joy that eased the pain of January 5th by allowing me to celebrate January 6th.

    Psalm 30:5    Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

    And what joy JJ has brought to my mornings.

    Jessica Jean is the name she was given but she is JJ or Little J.  She is a bundle of joy and her smile lights up our house.

    But we didn’t start that way…

    Her first month home included a hospital stay where she learned we would never leave her side.

    It took her a while to warm up to the idea of family and what that meant.  I think we overwhelmed her.  She had spent a lot of time alone in the orphanage.

    She felt safe with Gracie and Elyse and learned what the love of a big sister meant.

    She slowly learned to trust her mama…

    and her daddy.

    He taught her how to dance

    and the wonders of a treasure chest full of her favorite chocolate treats.

    Slowly as the year went by we saw her start to loosen up,

    and oh the joy she brought to our days.

    She got her first pair of sparkly pink shoes, a brand new wheelchair,

    and a very big pink bed.

    She had her first picnic.

    She met some new friends.

    and learned how to play princess.

    She went to her first state fair concert.

    Which got rained out and she learned what a summer storm was as we hid out under the grandstand where she learned mama would always keep her safe.

    She had her first time dressing up as a cow for Chick-fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day

    and as a pirate for Krispy Kreme’s Pirate Day!

    She went to her first movie and ate her weight in popcorn.

    She celebrated America

    and watched her very first fireworks display.

    She dressed up for her very first Halloween.

    and had her first carousel ride.

    Mommy and daddy learned how to make chicken feet just the way she likes them.

    She learned about Thanksgiving and Christmas and loved decorating the tree.

    She played a wise man in our church’s Christmas pageant.

    She enjoyed playing in her first snow.


    She enjoyed her very first birthday party ever.  This was the first time that someone had celebrated the day she was born and she was overcome with emotion but by the time it came to blow out the candles on the cake, she was getting into the celebration.

    And she loved her doll house that was bigger than she is.

    JJ has learned that big sisters are a pretty big deal.

    and she’s got a bunch of them that spoil her silly.

    What an amazing, incredible, wonderful, blessed year this has been.

    This sign says it all.

    Happy birthday Jessica Jean.  Mommy and daddy adore you and your feisty, spunky, quiet, brave, spirit that brings such joy to our lives.

     

  • Christmas Letter (Part 2 – Middles & Bigs)

    Date: 2017.01.14 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    Jessica Jean (8) – I don’t even know where to start with this girl.  She came to us angry, shut down, afraid to love, and scared.   She has done so well.  In February she will have been home a year.  She is happy, sweet, loving, caring, brave, and ready to take on the world.  She is still very quiet.  She practices her English until she can say it perfectly because she doesn’t like to be wrong.  She talks with very little accent.  She is doing so well with her school work.

    I admit that while we were in China, I was so worried.  Worried that we were too late.  Worried that she would never bond or care to have parents.  Worried that her little heart would never heal.  Worried that she would never trust another adult again.  But I was SO wrong.  She has done unbelievably well.  I love this little girl so much!  I can’t believe we almost missed the blessing that is her.

    Elyse (11) – Elyse continues to do well.  She is so smart – very, very smart.  As of 1/1/17, she has been in America two years.  She takes being an American very seriously.  She loves her freedom and the right to worship God.  Elyse loves BIG.  She is friendly and funny.  She enthusiastically lives life to the fullest.  She dreams big and I believe she will accomplish whatever she sets her mind too.  She wants to design dresses when she grows up and send clothes to orphanages so little girls can wear pretty clothes.   If Elyse had her way, she would have 20 brothers and 20 sisters.   Her heart breaks for all those kids who still wait.  Her biggest wish if for every child to have a family that loves them and keeps them safe.

    Gracie (11) – Gracie’s lupus continues to stay in remission.  We are so thankful that she has had a couple good years with very little issues.  She is a huge help around the house.  She is growing up so fast and I can hardly believe that she will soon be 12.  Where does the time go?  Gracie loves having a big family.  She readily helps her sisters who are in wheelchairs and is my right hand.  School doesn’t always come easy to Grace but she works so hard.  She wants to grow up and adopt as many kids as she can.  That’s a pretty good plan.  We will see where God leads.

    Jasmine (17) – Jasmine continues to learn English and progress well with school.  It’s hard on a child who really didn’t get any formal education until she was 14.  It makes her feel constantly behind even though she has come so far in just 3 1/2 years.  The last two years have been harder then the first two for Jasmine.  She had a huge set back when she realized that she would never walk.  China had told her that America would fix her and no matter what we said, she believed them.  She lost hope when she realized that her life would be forever in a chair.  We continue to tell her that her life has purpose and she is finally believing that.  She has made such a huge difference in other kid’s lives.  She continues to write her own blog www.Flowerthatblooms.com where she shares her feelings about living in an orphanage and what it means to have a family of your own.  I am very proud of how far she has come.

    Jasmine’s Dream Update:   To date these four girls – the fab four – as I call them, have helped 300 children.   They work hard to save their money to donate to other adoptions and fundraisers.  They have a dream to open up an Etsy shop where they sell their artwork, hats, t-shirts, etc. that they have designed to help even more children.

    Hope (17) – Hope is as artistic as ever.  She loves special effects makeup.  She is constantly in her room coming up with some new design.   She shows her work on instagram on DragonKnightMakeup.  I’m not sure where this passion and talent will take her but it is fun watching her imagination at work.

    We laughed because when Cassie took the pictures, Peter ended up being in all of them.  Peter and Hope have been best friends forever.  They started dating last year and as you can see from the picture, he is still here.  hahaha  He is a good kid and our family loves him.  They are still obviously very young but we all love Peter and his family.

    Cassie and Reece – in May they will have been married 2 years.  Cassie is still teaching 2nd grade and has decided to pursue a masters degree to be a speech pathologist.  Reece is attending Iowa State and has decided to become an audiologist.  They continue to live in an apartment on our property so that they can be close to the kiddos and help out when needed.  They both sign and are helping us all learn how to sign for Max.

    Zachary, Stephanie and introducing….Nicholas

    OH MY GOODNESS and the biggest news of the year!!!  We have a grandson!  A sweet-tempered, adorable little guy who we all adore.   Zach and Steph continue to live in Wisconsin and Zach works for Raven Software on the game, Call of Duty.  Stephanie is the best mama and there is nothing better than watching little Nicholas listen to his mama sing.  It is the sweetest thing around.

    Nicholas has the biggest fan club in the world.  No matter what he does he has a cheering section of uncles and aunts that stand in awe of all that he does.  This little guy is definitely loved!

    Our new favorite thing is being able to Skype with them on our big t.v.   We all miss them and love to be able to see them even if it is just on the t.v.  Technology is amazing and makes living apart so much easier.

    Codey (29) – And last but not least our oldest boy.   Codey continues to live at home and is doing very well.  He loves football and basketball games on his t.v.  He is very close to Lainey and she loves to follow him around the house.  Dan recently ran into a doctor who took care of Codey when he was an infant.  It’s amazing to hear how they all believed he wouldn’t live to be a year old and here we are.

    Life continues to be busy and loud and full of love and learning.  Our floors continue to be sticky and never, ever perfectly clean.  Things aren’t always easy and adopting comes with its share of pain.  I won’t pretend everything is pretty and perfect, but it is perfectly ours.  Life can be messy.  Tears will be shed.  Life lessons are learned.  The most amazing thing happens when a child learns to trust you though.  Hearts open and start to heal.  Little souls start to bloom.  It is an amazing thing to be a part of.

    I could never adequately put into words what it means to be a mother to this crew.  How can I put into words what it feels like to see their sleepy little faces in the morning, to have all those arms hug me, and tell me good morning.  I look in the faces of children who have come so far.  I am constantly amazed at the miracles that happened to bring them home and to help them get the treatment they needed.  We are seriously blessed each and every day!

    Wishing you all the best in 2017.  Merry Christmas everyone!

     

     

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