Archive for the ‘Cassie’ Category

  • Silver Linings

    Date: 2020.10.10 | Category: Cassie, Faith, Family Life

    Life is hard.  Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you expected.  Sometimes it makes no sense and you struggle to understand they “whys”, especially when you’ve waited years and years to get pregnant and when you finally do, the delivery isn’t what you expected, the recovery isn’t what you expected and then, to top it all off, you have to spend days in the hospital after the baby is born.

    Cassie joked over and over again that she had no birth plan except to have Cillian be here with her.  Everything else she would take as it came.  I am so thankful that has been her feelings all along because even though this was hard she knew what was important in the end.

    I’d be the first to admit that I don’t understand why life is so unfair sometimes. Oh, I know the bible verses…this life will bring you trials, there will be tests, etc.  There are many stories in the Bible that show life is hard, life is unfair and it doesn’t always go the way we want, but in the end lessons are learned and God works the bad for good.  I get it.  I understand it, but it doesn’t mean I like it.

    It was easier for me to tell Satan “Not today!” when we were in the middle of an adoption.  It is a well known fact in the adoption world that everything breaks down right in the middle of the hard of raising funds, doing paperwork and waiting.  I reminded myself over and over again during our adoptions to not let Satan steal my joy. Something good would happen and then something would break.  I would yell, “You can not steal my joy!”   I think it’s easier to do that when there is something you are working towards, when you can see the good that is happening but it’s harder when you can’t see the purpose.

    If I admit it, most of my growth as a Christian has come during really hard times NOT when life was smooth and I was just coasting. During the easy times you forget to thank God and you forget that you even really need him. You just go about your life feeling like you’ve got it mostly together. Do you know anyone who hasn’t been through some trial? Does anyone leave this earth unscathed? Death, destruction, rape, natural disaster, cancer. Is there any adult who hasn’t gone through something? I think we’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t gone through the hard, but for some reason we like to think we are the only ones.

    So during this time with Cassie, I reminded her not to let Satan steal her joy.   She has waited so long to be a mother.  She has always known she wanted to be a mother.  She will make a great mother.  Yes, there were roadblocks.  Yes, there have been complications.  Yes, there have been troubles and tests, but to try and remember what an amazing miracle this little guy is.  When you are sad and in pain, it is hard to be joyful.  I get that.  Truly I do.  You are allowed to cry out.  You are allowed to weep.  You just shouldn’t let all the bad overshadow the true joy and blessing that you have just been given.   I am so thankful she knew that.  I am so thankful that she understands these truths.

    As I was saying all of this to her, it made me stop to look for the silver linings.  There’s always some lesson to be learned in the midst of the hard.  Nothing is all bad. Sometimes it takes years to see some of the good that came out of the bad, but there is always something to be learned.

    There were a couple silver linings through Cassie’s delivery and recovery.   The first being that I figured out how to let Jasmine feed a baby. I don’t know why I didn’t think about this before.  As we were doing our usual morning routine with Jasmine, I realized I could lay him down in Jasmine’s bed next to her on her pillow wedges, I could pull her arm over her side and she had enough support to feed him a bottle.  It worked because his head was up on the wedge and Jasmine was supported.

    Seeing Jasmine in her wheelchair is deceptive. She looks so strong and able sitting there, but that is the illusion of her spinal fusion. The spinal fusion rod in her back keeps her sitting up tall and straight, but Jasmine has no muscle control. If you pick up her arm and let go, it flops to her side. If you were to push her head back, she isn’t able to lift it back up. She isn’t able to move her legs.  She has very limited motion and is very weak so holding a baby on her lap and feeding the baby is impossible without help from others, BUT put the baby beside her on the bed and she is able to hold the bottle and look the baby directly in the eyes. It was a beautiful thing to watch.   She was just so happy.  There was pure joy on her face as she fed him.

    The second silver lining was for the rest of the kids.  They have asked and begged for a baby in our house.  Dan and I have explained that I am too old to get pregnant.  That no one is going to let us adopt a baby.   The kids have believed all along that some where there is a baby that is ill and that that baby belonged here with us.  I told them if God wants that to happen, it will happen, but I am not sure it is likely.  I have assured them that we are leaving it in God’s hands.

    One day while she was holding Cillian Maisey asked me again, “Why can’t you have a baby mama?”   I reminded her that I was old and that I just couldn’t have another baby.  When you are 55 years old, you can’t just have a baby because you want to have a baby.   Maisey’s response?  “Haven’t you read the Bible?” and later when we were talking about it again Maisey reminded me,  “God gives babies to old women when they believe.”

    Oh boy!  I may be in trouble.  Me of little faith.   hahaha

    It has been a blessing for the kids to get to hold Cillian for an extended amount of time.  They’ve fed him.  They’ve held him.  They’ve sang to him.  They adore him.   It has  been a really good thing for them to have him here.

    The other good thing that has come out of it is the hard discussions.  The “What did I do wrong to be left?” question has been a big one.   I can say over and over to them that someone loved them and tried their best and they, themselves, did nothing wrong but until you can see how special a baby is and understand that babies deserve nothing but love, you can’t understand that you, as a baby, did nothing wrong.  You have no blame.  You didn’t do anything to have caused what happened.

    I will be the first to admit that I was judgmental of mothers who left their children before I understood the “whys”.   It’s easy to sit in our nice houses and say, “I’d never do that!”  It’s easy when you have health insurance.  It’s easy to say that when you have money and support.  It’s easy to say that before you understand true poverty.  It’s easy to say that before you understand what it takes to get surgery for a child in many other countries.

    Now that I know.  I am no longer judgmental.  I have never had to make that very hard decision to give my child up in hopes that they may have surgery.  I’ve never had to leave my child alone to go find food.  I’ve never had to have my child forego school to dig through garbage so that we would have enough to eat.  Life is truly unimaginable for way too many. 

    One of the other things that has come out of having Cillian here for an extended period of time is the flashbacks that our older girls have had.  (This is being told with Jasmine’s permission.)  Jasmine had a flashback of her grandmother sitting in front of some “fortune teller” type person who told her grandmother over and over again that what she was about to do was the right thing.  This person told Jasmine’s grandmother that Jasmine would go on to be happy.  She said Jasmine would have a happy life.  Jasmine has been so angry over being left at an orphanage.  Her anger towards her grandma has clouded her healing here in our family.  See Jasmine’s grandma walked 8 year old Jasmine up the orphanage steps and left Jasmine there with the promise that she would be back for Jasmine.  I have told Jasmine over and over again that it doesn’t mean that her grandma didn’t care.  I’ve explained to Jasmine that she doesn’t understand the pressure or the issues for the disabled or the lack of understanding or proper medical care without the funds to do it.  

    But for Jasmine it is hard.  She looks at her siblings that were about the same age as her when she was left and she doesn’t understand how anyone can do it.   But what do you do when your child is getting worse and worse and you can do nothing.  You’ve tried herbal remedies.  You’ve taken the child to doctors who say it’s all in your child’s head.  You’ve even gone so far as to take a hot poker and burn your child’s leg to “wake up” the muscles as the doctor asked you to do?  How desperate do you need to be to do that?   What do you do to get your child the medical care they so desperately need?   What would you do?  How far would you go to ensure your child had care?

    Yes, it was horrible that Cassie went through what she did.  Believe me when I say she was in horrible pain.  To top it all off they couldn’t find the source for a couple days, but in the midst of the sad, there was some good.   There was healing at the Ellsbury house in all sorts of ways.

    We are praising God for His good and perfect timing.  We are praising God for the time we got to spend with one of the chillest, sweetest babies I’ve ever seen.  We are praising God for Cassie’s healing and for the absolute gift and blessing that Cillian is.   We are praising God who can make GOOD come out of the bad every single time!

  • A Weekend to Remember

    Date: 2015.07.18 | Category: Cassie, Faith, Family Life

    So many things went wrong that weekend and yet Cassie​ & Reece​’s wedding and reception were beautiful.

    Elyse ended up in the ER on Saturday night.  We got home at 4:30 a.m.  I slept from 5 to 8 and started getting ready.  I would have slept longer but Lainey rarely ever sleeps past 5:30 and the fact that she went back to sleep from 5 to 8 had to be a gift from God.

    As the day went on we continued to season the meat and get the other items all ready for the nacho bar at the reception.  Zach picked up the cake at 11:30 and got lunch for the kids.  We had to have all the tables and our supplies to the reception area at 1, which was the earliest we could get in to set up.  I laced up Cassie at 1:30.  I then ran home to start getting the kids ready because we had to be back to the church for pictures at 3:45.  I realized as we were packing up all the food in the coolers that there was no way I was going to be able to drop off the food and still get to the church on time for pictures.  Dan and Zach headed to the reception area to drop off the food and crock pots, etc.

    At this point they still had Cassie’s backdrop for the wedding in their van.  She wanted really simple decorations.  I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that.  She choose book pages for “the next Chapter” in her and Reece’s life.  Her back drop was two 4×8 pieces of plywood with book pages randomly mod podged all over.  Reece and Cassie wanted a Bible verse across the top.  Dan had the great idea to get someone to do a custom vinyl cut out.  Vinyl Motivations did a great job, reasonably, and quick!


    Cassie made all her flowers out of book pages.  My mom made wedding flowers for many weddings when Cassie was younger.  Cassie and my mom had talked about what flowers they would use for her wedding ever since Cassie was a little girl.  Cassie was heartbroken over the fact that Nana couldn’t make them and she just couldn’t do what nana and her had dreamed of.

    Cassie even chose a Bible with writing margins to be her guest book.  She wanted her quests to share their favorite verse and for her to be reminded every time they opened their Bible how many people came to celebrate with them.

    At 3:45 we were still at home loading the bus.  I let Cassie know how late we were going to be.  As I was driving to the church at 4, I realized there was no way I could get the food set up and be back for the ceremony.  I had to call in reinforcements.  At Cassie’s pre-wedding dinner,  Teressa​ (mother of the maid of honor) had offered to help me.  I called her and she said she would be there.  I also called Amy, our pastor’s wife and my friend, and told her my dilemma.  These two families not only showed up to take care of things but they stayed throughout the night and helped clean up.  Without them we would have been eating out of coolers.  They were a HUGE blessing of the day.

    I had hoped to be able to be there at 5 and show them what food needed to go where and I didn’t even make that, as pictures were still going on at 5:15.  These two families were such a God send.  I can’t even tell you what that did for my heart to have two families step up at the very last minute and save the day.

    Lainey had a reaction to the sequins on her dress and was raging and refused to be in any pictures.  We forgot her formula and the snacks for the kids.  All of Cassie’s bridesmaids were in the restroom dressing my children for pictures.  I put a run in not one but two pairs of panty hose.  Lainey refused to put her dress back on, but Cassie wanted her to be on the video, so Lainey went down the aisle in a t-shirt, shorts, and no shoes.

    family pic

    Dan’s mom couldn’t attend because Dan’s brother, Rod, was dying.  Dan had to walk Cassie down the aisle knowing at the same time his brother could pass away at any time.   It was so hard on his heart.

    We had bought Cassie’s dress so long ago.  At the age of 18, with no serious boyfriend, Cassie purchased her wedding dress.  We had seen the dress when she was buying her Miss Iowa pageant dress.  We knew the owner of the store and Cassie told her someday she would buy a dress just like that one.  A few months later, when the owner decided to close the store, she called us to tell us she still had that dress and it was greatly reduced in price.  We laughed about trying on a wedding dress without a wedding in the future but we did it anyway.  Dan’s mom, my mom and Aunt Kay, the three ladies that always took Cassie shopping, went with her to watch her try on the dress.  It was just $300 dollars and we decided it was worth the price to just let it hang in the closet for a few years.  Thank God that we made that purchase because not one of those three lovely ladies, who meant so much to Cassie, were able to be at the wedding.  My mom and Kay had passed away and Dan’s mom was with Rod.  Cassie was filled with wonderful memories of the day she purchased the dress even though she was sad they couldn’t be with her.

    When I walked into the reception, I was blown away.  Cassie had chosen simple decorations for the tables because there were going to be many children at the reception.  She chose black vinyl tablecloths with butcher block paper so kids could draw.  There were little books to read and crayons to color with.   She had crowns for them to color and wear.  Although, I saw many adults wearing the crowns too.  She even made her flower stems colored pencils.

    Cassie and Reece’s friends guided by Reece’s sister, Bailey, had a couple of hours to decorate the reception area.   They did such a wonderful job.  It all looked so pretty when we walked in.


    The guests showed up, there was food to eat, the dance floor and DJ were in place, and the party went off without a hitch.

    Dan said it wasn’t fair that he was the only one to get to dance with Cassie so he came up with the plan that after they started the father/daughter dance, he would motion to us, and we would circle Cassie with the whole family.

    family dance

    Even though it was Sunday night, Reece’s friends stayed to help tear down.  They packed up the 41 tables to return them.  The Edwards and the Jakes stayed until the very end to help us clean up.

    I asked Reece about all the guys who came to help him set up.  He said that’s what they do at their church.  It’s a young church.  Everyone helps everyone else so when it’s your special day there is nothing to do.  I like that.  That is what a church should look like everyone coming together to help you celebrate and to help you when things aren’t going well.   People that graciously drop whatever they are doing to step in and take up the slack and then go above and beyond and they do it all with a smile on their face.

    It was a day filled with bumps and hurdles and issues that could have ruined the whole day but in the end it turned out beautifully.  Reece kept saying, “We have her dress and I have my suit, today we are getting married.  Everything else will be just fine.”

    Isn’t that the truth though?  We let little things ruin our whole day.  We need to keep our eyes on the big picture.  Even though there were little hurdles throughout the day, there were always friends to help us out.  The day turned out beautifully!

    Happy marriage Reece and Cassie!   May your life be filled with many blessings and may the trials only bring you closer to God.  May your journey be filled with friends, family, laughter and love!



  • Happy Birthday Boo!

    Date: 2014.05.29 | Category: Cassie

    There once was a little girl,

    that we all like to call Boo.

    (Well, we really named her Cassandra Lynne but Boo just sort of stuck.)


    She was the sweetest little girl and

    a mama’s dream come true.


    She has the biggest, most beautiful, blue eyes that you will ever see.


    They say that your eyes are the window to your soul.

    Well, if that is the case….

    boo 1

    this girl’s soul is beautiful…

    Boo 5

    the truth is she is as beautiful inside as she is outside….

    and her outside is pretty darn cute.

    Cassie 4-14 405

    She is the person we leave in charge when one of the other children have to be hospitalized.  We leave her with the littles and the middles because they love her so much.  She brings stability and comfort to her siblings.  She is love and routine and everything good.

    When we are traveling, people often ask us who is watching the other kids.  We tell them that our daughter, who is on summer vacation from college, is taking care of them.

    People would comment, “All of them?  She is able to care for all those kids at once?”

    Yes, she is able to. Amazing as that may sound.

    Grandma, Zachary, and Stephanie came to help support her and give her a break, but Cassie is able to handle it.  She is pretty amazing.  She steps up to the challenge because she loves her siblings and wants what is best for them.

    During the school year, she drives 45 minutes to school every morning and night so she can still be part of their lives.

    She even knows how to drive the bus.

    She’s not the usual 21 year old. (22 today!)  She is mature but still child-like at heart, which is why she will make a great elementary teacher.

    Children love her….especially our children.

    She makes life and learning fun.

    Boo 6

    She does crafts to take their minds off the hard things that are going on.

    Boo 7

    She has written about how much her siblings mean to her on her very own blog – Thankful for the Crazy!  (Blog)

    boo 10

    I know how very blessed I am to have her in my life.

    She was my first little girl and holds a very special place in my heart.

    boo & mom

    She is a wonderful daughter and a very special friend.

    And I am one blessed mama to get to say she’s mine.

    Love you Boo!  Happy Birthday!


  • What if…

    Date: 2014.02.28 | Category: Cassie, Thoughts to ponder

    I started this draft long ago and just never finished it.  It’s been sitting there in the draft file for a long time, but after a recent talk with Cassie it got me to thinking about this subject again.  Cassie has been asked over and over again in college “What is your go to drink to get drunk?”   She is amazed at how often college students talk about drinking, getting drunk, and partying.  When they talk about issues that they think are big issues, Cassie brings up orphans and some of the stories she has heard.  Their response every single time is….”That can’t be true!”

    She loves her big family and all her siblings.  Cassie feels blessed to be able to care for them and to live at home.  When others ask her why she still lives at home, her response is, “You have no idea how wonderful it is to have five little people run to the back door to greet you when you get home.  They shout your name, they surround you with hugs, they love you with all their hearts, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

    cass & kids

    Cassie even had a teacher congratulate her for creating and maintaining a “personal identity” despite her family.  This, of course, was said with great sarcasm along with “it’s good that you seem to have your own identity outside of being on call for your family. You deserve to live and grow and develop yourself, and not in your family.”

    I love what my children have learned from living with Codey and his special needs.  I love what my children have learned from our adoptions.  I love their hearts and their love and trust of God and His perfect plan.

    All of this got me to thinking what kind of world would we live in if we only….


    to be world changers.

    to embrace the uncomfortable.

    to live simply and with purpose.

    to help when they saw a person who was failing or falling.

    to put others first.

    to pray for others including those who hurt us.

    to not speak unless their words were uplifting and encouraging and filled with love.


    didn’t think the best thing about growing up was moving out, going to college and partying?

    spent their time finding their passion and their purpose to do all they could for God?

    dreamed about the day when they’d be old enough to adopt or foster?

    worried about the poor people in their hometown?

    couldn’t wait to volunteer to mow a widow’s lawn or cook a meal for the hungry or help out at a shelter?

    truly knew what it was like to live in a third world country?

    didn’t always dream of the next big toy, but instead dreamed of funding wells, buying mosquito nets, providing food rations, sponsoring surgeries?

    their hearts were really broken for the hurting in this world?

    strive to have a relationship with Christ,  a real relationship?


    truly supported those who wanted to adopt? Stepped up to help families with the costs?   (All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. – Acts 2:44-45 NIV)

    felt honored to help those in need.  (Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.  – Duteronomy 15:10 NIV)

    thought the most wonderful thing you could say was “I have helped others adopt 10, 20, or more children. I have practiced true religion. (Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 NIV)

    gathered together to help the widows? (Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. – 1 Timothy 5:3 NIV.)

    truly believed their blessings were gifts from God and couldn’t wait to share them with others?  (And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. – Hebrews 13:16 NIV)

    first thought was not to pass judgment but to love as Christ loved us?  (“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34 NIV)

    not only read God’s commands in the Bible but truly followed them?  (Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – James 1:22 NIV)

    WHAT IF…

    our main goal in life wasn’t a better car, a bigger house, a nicer vacation, or retiring when we are 50?

    we knew how much we had and didn’t need more?

    we truly couldn’t wait to share our blessings?

    we finally decided this life wasn’t about us?

    we found the true meaning to joy and happiness.

    WHAT IF….



  • Thankful for…

    Date: 2013.11.28 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Cassie, Codey, Elijah, Evangeline Faith, Faith, Family Life, Grace, Hope, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Lainey Rae, Maisey, Photos, Zachary

    A little boy that did better than anyone expected. (Today he has walked down the halls, had his chest tubes and i.v.’s taken out, and even smiled.  UNBELIEVABLE!)


    A little girl that we were told was deaf but can hear enough to dance to the music.


    A little girl who now understands love and has learned how to give kisses.


    A little boy that has blossomed and grown.


    Exciting proposals and new additions to the family.


    Family that becomes best friends.


    People coming together to help others.

    Shaved little heads that now hold enough hair for big sister to do a silly hairdo.


    Siblings that get opportunities to make great memories together. (Hope loves special effects make-up.  Cassie took her to be a zombie extra in a local movie.)


    Big siblings that love their siblings enough to take care of them when mommy and daddy have to be gone with someone who is sick.


    Husbands who support you, dream with you, love you, and make you laugh for more than 29 years.

    photo (1)

    Friends, family and others who encourage, support and pray for you.

    Meeting people who have majorly changed your lives. (Maria’s Big House of Hope, New Hope Foundation and the Chapman’s daughters words that made me rethink being too old to adopt.)


    Thankful, blessed, grateful, overwhelmed, and humbled – all these and more.




  • Blessings

    Date: 2013.08.21 | Category: Benjamin, Cassie, Elijah, Evangeline Faith, Grace, Hope, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Lainey Rae, Maisey, Photos

    Evie is extubated and resting now. It was a very long morning and afternoon where she was uncomfortable and they couldn’t control her pain. This is the first time she has rested comfortably all day long. Counting our blessings one medicine and one tube removed at a time.

    Dan and I were just talking about how at this time last night (7pm), they were rushing her down for an emergency heart cath with ECMO on standby and tonight she is happy and resting and on her way to healing. Can’t get much more blessed than that.

    Yesterday I wrote about some pictures that a friend of Cassie’s took. She came over with her camera and just played with the kids in the backyard. I picked 20 of my favorites to show you. Some good news is always in order. I have been blessed 12 times over….





















  • Updates

    Date: 2013.07.20 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Cassie, Codey, Elijah, Evangeline Faith, Grace, Hope, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Lainey Rae, Maisey, Zachary

    So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV

    I’ve been hanging on tight to the “do not fear” portion of this verse for the last couple of weeks.

    I will apologize ahead of time that this post is long.  I’ve chosen to post updates on everyone in one blog.  The good news is each paragraph is a story in itself so you can stop and come back and it won’t even matter.  Plus, if you leave and come back it adds another visit to my blog and I am really close to going over the 20,000 visit mark for the year.  Isn’t that unbelievable?  I sometimes forget that there are those, that I don’t even know personally, following our story.  I update for my family and friends who I know are praying for our family and for each of my children and pray that maybe, just maybe, I will reach someone I don’t know and they will be encouraged to do more.  They will be encouraged to follow where God leads them, even if they are afraid.  It just seems amazing to me that our story touches others.  To me, it is just our life.  It’s just my normal.  It can be really, really loud, and really, really busy, but at the end of the day we are just a family.

    If you are one of my readers, which I guess you’d be if you are reading this, thank you.  Truly thank you.  Thank you for caring about my children.  Thank you for covering our family in prayer.  As Christians we are commanded to encourage each other and lift up each other.  You do that for me with your comments.  You do that every time I hear about someone praying for my children.  What a blessing.  It goes without saying that the title of my blog says it all….I am SERIOUSLY blessed!  Thank you!


    Poor Benjamin had been feeling so bad.  He was admitted to the hospital to receive IVIG because his platelets dropped to 12,000.   He had a severe reaction to the IVIG, his temp jumped to 105.1 and his heart rate was well over 190.  When your heart is as overworked as Benjamin’s is already, a very high heart rate for an extended period of time is not a good thing. During his hospital stay, I asked him, “Benjamin, do you know that God loves you?”  and he responded, “Yes!” and then I said, “Benjamin, do you trust me?” and he said, “Yes mama!”  as he snuggled in closer he said, “I’ll be brave.”   He really is the bravest kid.   I wish I had the words to properly convey how humbling and overwhelming it is to watch your child truly trust God.  When said child is only 4, it is just mind blowing.  Benjamin is sweet and gentle and so loving.  Benjamin can not hear sirens without requesting that everyone pray, well commanding it is more like it.  When you pray, you have to pray for the person who is hurting, for their family, for the people driving, and for their safety.  You can’t leave anyone out.

    We had been home for a couple days and Ben was still whiny and not eating.  His dentist decided it was time to take out two molars before he has surgery.  One of them was infected and yet Ben wouldn’t really complain.  Benjamin’s surgery is scheduled for August 13th at Mayo.  We have to check in early the morning of the 11th to check his platelets and see what needs to be done to get him ready for surgery.  I am nervous about this surgery, but we know it is his only hope of being pinker and extending his life.  We are trusting in God’s plan and His timing.  We are putting Benjamin in His hands and praying for the best.   Plus, Benjamin has decided that he is SuperBen Ben and he can handle anything!

    Super Ben

    Plus, Gracie has informed me that “it’s a pretty good day for a miracle”.  So we are going to go with that.  It does seem like a pretty good day for a miracle!  🙂


    She has been such a huge help this summer.  She was invaluable in China and continues to be so.  She allows her mama some sleep, some much needed sleep.  I am always amazed at how much she has learned from our life.  She is so far ahead in her walk with Christ than I was at her age.  Here is her latest post that shows exactly what I’m talking about.   Things I Have Learned


    The boy turned 25.  How is that even possible?  I’m barely over 25.  Although, I suppose that makes the fact that I just had my 30th high school reunion a little improbable too.  🙂   Codey has adjusted well to all his siblings.  He doesn’t seem to mind the increased decibels in the house.  It has gone remarkably well.  Better than I could have even hoped for.  He has been healthy and he is a pretty happy guy.


    We now know why it said that he was “charming and handsome” throughout his papers from the orphanage.  This boy will charm the socks off you.  He is sweet and the faces he makes just crack me up.  Last night we hit a wonderful milestone and he melted my heart a little more.  There are many habits that children come with, who are raised in an institution, one of them is not wanting to be held or rocked.  Some, not all, children have this.  They are so used to being alone.  Comforting themselves.  Not crying out when they are in pain because no one responds.  It’s just very, very sad.  Last night Eli had a nightmare and he let me rock him.  He let me hold him and comfort him and he said, “Mama, wuv you.”  Those moments are to be treasured.   Those moments of complete trust and the understanding that you are there for them.  Little tiny steps but every time they happen they just warm your heart.



    This little girl just continues to improve every single day.  She has gained about a pound a week and weighs in at 20 pounds now.  She is sitting, crawling all over, pulling herself up to standing.  She is singing and saying new words every day.  Little Evie’s heart catherization is scheduled for August 6th at the U of I Hospitals.   I am soooooo not ready for this, but she is getting bluer and bluer.  It needs to be done.  I love, love, LOVE this little girl so much!  She has a personality that is just so big!  She steals people’s hearts in a matter of minutes when they meet her.   They are hoping to place a stent in her PDA and increase the blood flow to her very small pulmonary arteries.  Their hope is with increased blood flow, maybe her arteries will grow.  I’ve had others write to me, to encourage us, with stories telling how this has worked for their children.  Praying that there is hope for our little Evie Faith.  Her middle name says it all – we have proceeded in faith and continue to press on in faith.

    Faith makes things possible NOT easy.  Have you heard that saying before?  That’s where I am right now.  It’s easy to love her.  It’s easy to have your heart completely stolen by her.  It’s easy to thank God for the gift of being her mama.  It’s hard to know that I may not ever get to have a birthday cake with her.  How silly is that?  But not being able to celebrate a milestone with her makes me cry.  It really is the little things in life that matter.  It’s hard to think about taking this chance, even though the percentage is low that she won’t make it through the cath, the truth is she might not.  Am I strong enough to take this chance?  How strong is my faith?  Can I truly just turn it over?  Fear Not!  Fear NOT!  FEAR NOT!  Eyes directly on the Lord and counting each and every blessed day I get to spend with her.

    evie stethescope


    She just got a great report from the hospital at her check-up.  She got to drop another medication.  She grew taller, which is a big deal for a child who isn’t growing from being on steroids.  She’s been doing really, really well.  She has also informed me that when she grows up she is adopting 20 kids.  That is just my Gracie’s heart.  She loves more and wants to do more.  She just loves her siblings.   In the picture below she made an early morning picnic for them.  She’s always the one making the forts, playing games, giving baths (with help), having dance parties, etc.


    If you are wondering why Benjamin is in a penguin costume, well, the night before the girls had a fancy dance party complete with big, frilly dresses.  Benjamin thought he should wear a tuxedo and this was as close as he could find.  He then wanted to sleep in it, which I allowed.  There’s just something about not knowing how many days you have that make the little things seem like not such a big deal.  Who cares if he sleeps in a penguin costume?


    Hope is Epic!  Her words not mine.  I was asking her what she wanted me to tell others about her and she jokingly said, “Say I’m epic!” and then rolled on the floor laughing.  So, of course, I have to include those words.  That is just the kind of mom I am. Supportive!  Actually, Hopey is truly epic and is doing really well.  Health wise you’d never have any clue she is missing half her heart.  She recently just had a nasty bout of strep, but other than that she has been remarkably well.


    Oh my goodness, this girl has been busy.  She went to another VBS at a friend’s church.  It was wonderful because they used the same VBS theme that our church did so she already knew all the songs and could sing along.  She is learning more about God every day.  We tell her the basics.  God made everything.  God loves you.  God loves me.  We love God.  God brought us to her.  Today a friend of the family who speaks fluent Mandarin asked her about God and told her a few more things.

    The reward for attending every night of VBS was a ticket to the local amusement part, Adventureland.  Tonight she went with Grace, Hope, Cassie, Zach and Stephanie.  She loved it.  She had a corn dog and a sno-cone.  She tried the teacups, the ferris wheel, and a pretty tame roller coaster.  She played tons and tons of games with Zach and won two small stuffed toys.  She had an old time picture taken in the photo shop.

    She has come so far.  We are still waiting for her neuro appointment and her 2 1/2 hour MRI, which is scheduled for next week.  She had an eye exam this week and it broke my heart.   So many things that orphans feel and are fearful of that we can’t even imagine.  Take for instance the eye exam.  They started showing her letters and all was going well until the letter “H” came up on the screen.  She didn’t know “H” so they handed her a board with four letters on it and asked her to point to the one she saw.  It was then that the tears started. Not just a tear but full-out-sobbing tears.  It broke my heart.  She heard the word “test”, couldn’t say the letters, and just lost it.  When I asked her about it on Google Translate all she would say was that she was “afraid”.  She wouldn’t/couldn’t tell me why.  It just made me sad.  Something as simple as not knowing a letter should not fill you with such fear.

    Adventureland girls

    Today I asked her if she was happy here and her little face just lit up and she said, “Oh yes, Mama!”  Those three little words just made my day.


    She is still not sleeping which makes for some really, really, really long nights.  We have started taking shifts.  Every once in a while, Hopey takes the 10 p.m. to 12 p.m. shift for me, because she likes to play video games and she isn’t able to have alone time during the day.  It’s a win-win situation.  Zach hasn’t been able to take many because of the final push on his video game, but sometimes takes the 1 to 3 shift.   Cassie has been taking the 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.  shift with Dan taking over at 4 a.m. when he is able to.  Cassie is sleeping on and off during those hours, getting bottles left and right, holding a child who doesn’t want to be consoled, and all in all, being a life saver.  I get up around 6:30 a.m. and take over with the crew, since no one, but the older kids, like to sleep past 7.  Cassie then goes back to bed until noon.   We have to find a solution before the end of August because Cassie will be going back to school.  We have recently been approved to try melatonin.  There was some debate on whether you could use it with a child with PKU, but we’ve been given the okay.  Hopefully, this will help our child, who doesn’t want to sleep. sleep.

    On top of that we found out that Lainey is extremely farsighted.  We have been noticing that she grabs at things funny, like she just can’t see it clearly. She takes both hands and kind of starts big and brings them in closer.  She seems to have an issue with depth perception and she is clumsy.  It’s nice that at least there is a reason for this.  We ordered her a pair of glasses.  They are like goggles, completely unbreakable.  This child might make that statement untrue.


    Here she is rocking her compression shirt.  It has really helped her.  When you put the shirt on, she instantly becomes calm.  It is the strangest thing.

    But all in all, if you saw the Lainey we saw on day 1 and compared her to the Lainey you see before you now, things are so much better.  Truly better.  She is happy.  She hugs.  She plays with the kids.  She laughs out loud.  It does a mama’s heart good to know that she knows she is loved.


    Well, little Maisey Mei got herself some glasses.  Fitting glasses on a little Asian nose and not really having ears is a challenge.  These are what we found.  Cute, little, pink wire-rimmed glasses.  We use her hearing aid headband to hold them up and it seems to be working pretty well.  Her speech has just taken off.  She is getting clearer and clearer in the way she says her words.  She is a great big sister to the littles.

    mei glasses


    Mom is back in her own home and feeling better.  She  just had her check-up today.  She is still really weak but is steadily getting better.  Her ejection fraction went from 20% to 35% – so that was wonderful!  We were also told that she would need her carotid surgery done first to allow for proper blood flow to her brain when she is put on bypass.  They said surgery is likely three months after pulmonary emboli are discovered.  That would mean surgery could possibly be in 2 months with her quadruple bypass following 4-6 weeks later.

    I am posting pictures of all the kids so I thought I’d include the picture my sister-in-law recently took of my mom.  She is rocking those Minnie Mouse shades!  Mom won’t care.  Really she won’t.  Have I mentioned that my mom doesn’t own a computer or know how to get on the web to even read my blog?


    (No worries.  I did tell her and she gave me permission.)


    He is busy with his new game that is set to be released at the end of the month.  I say “his” but the truth is, he is the lead programmer for an international company trying to put their first game out.  It’s pretty exciting watching how God has let him use his degree from home, which pretty much everyone said wasn’t possible.  Oh and have I mentioned that he has a girlfriend?   She is very sweet and all of Zachary’s siblings really, really like her.  I won’t out them and put up a picture….yet.  For now, do you hear that Stephanie?  🙂


    Everyone gets along so much better than I could have even hoped for.  Maisey helps Lainey in so many ways.  Maisey seems to have an affinity for helping those who aren’t able to communicate.  She just gets right in their face and directs them.  She makes Lainey hug and hold hands and play.  It is a blessing to watch them play.


    Right now the littles are riding their cozy coupes in circles around the couch.

    cozy coupe

    Life is hectic, busier than I could even ever imagined but it is full of love and laughter.  I couldn’t imagine my life without even one of my blessings.

    Praying life is treating you well friends.  Enjoy your family, your friends, your faith and follow God’s lead without fear!




  • The Reason Why

    Date: 2013.04.05 | Category: Adoption, Cassie, Thoughts to ponder, Videos

    Disclaimer:  Everything I am writing about in regard to orphanages and what children go through – I have read about in another mother’s blog or in a book or had personal experience from.  Granted people could exaggerate or make things up altogether but these blogs have many, many followers.  You would think someone would call their bluff if they were out and out lying.  The truth of the matter is, there are just so many people saying exactly the same thing over and over and over again.   I tend to believe most of it.  Plus, I’ve seen the effects of an orphanage on a child firsthand.  It’s not pretty! It will tear your heart out and change every perspective you’ve ever had about what is and isn’t important.

    Have you ever wondered why so many people are moved to adopt over and over again?  Why they come home, talk about it, and pray that others will hear their message?  Did you ever think  “Why in the world would someone do what they are doing, spend the time and money that they do, just to bring a child home?”  The truth is it is estimated that the average adoption will cost $28,000 and take close to three years* (Ours took a year.).   (*Please watch the video below!)  Why would anyone do that?  Why would anyone sign up to do that and especially why would they do that more than once?

    (If you want to know more, STUCK will be playing in Des Moines on April 22nd at 7 p.m.)

    I’ve watched Cassie come home upset because people question why in the world would her parents adopt four children at a time.   I’ve listened to her explain what her answers were and why she said what she said.  Last night I told her, the truth is, she has three options.

    One, she can not answer at all.  Just let it drop, because she will never be able to truly make someone understand why we are doing this if they don’t understand what an orphanage is like. If they’ve never read the stories about “dying rooms” or children that are 14 that weigh 24 pounds.  If they haven’t heard that children freeze to death, or are chained to the walls, or are sent to mental institutions when they hit the age of 6.   It’s beyond their comprehension if they don’t know that a disability will label you as cursed for life.  In many places your last name means orphan and you will not be allowed an education, you barely have enough food to survive, you don’t have even the barest of necessities.  They will never understand if their only idea of an orphanage is from watching the movie Annie.

    When we got Ben (3 1/2) and Maisey (2), they wouldn’t play with any of the toys we brought them.  Why?  Because their first thought was for food.  They didn’t care about a book, or a blanket, or a toy that made noise.  Their cherished possession was a spoon. Who cares about toys when you are starving?   Ben walked funny because he was confined to a play pen or a high chair through most of the day.    They were afraid of a bath.  We later learned it’s because some orphanages give one bath a week or they hose them down with cold water.  There are no bubble baths and cute terry cloth robes.  Ben needs major dental work because six of his teeth are in such terrible decay.  There can be 40 kids sharing two toothbrushes.  Ben and Maisey couldn’t even hold a spoon and feed themselves.  Why?  Because when they are fed they are all fed out of the same bowl with the same spoon because the nanny doesn’t have time to give each child their own bowl and clean up after them.   It’s an assembly line.  There is no good night kiss and being tucked in to a nice cozy bed.  Many times the mattress is a piece of plywood with a blanket because it cuts down on the lice problem.

    Two, she can try to explain all about our family and all the people we have just waiting to love these four new children.  She can explain that our family has chosen this to be their mission and children are where our passion lies. She can explain her dad’s job, his expertise in caring for sick babies, his love for children, and how he’s home during the week.  She can explain how much I love children and how my dream as a little girl was to have 12.  But if they don’t understand that children need rescued and it’s not about having “quality time” or “more one on one time”, they still won’t understand.

    Oh, but if they could see what we, as a family, have seen this past year.  If they could see how a child blossoms and grows with the love of a family.  If they could see what we’ve seen, the physical, emotional and spiritual growth.  It’s about giving them love, food, an education, some more love, and hope for a future that doesn’t include sex trafficking or living on the street.  It’s about saving a life. If they could see what we have seen, they’d more than understand.

    Three, she can tell them to jump in a lake. (Probably not the nicest or the best option!)  The reality is it’s none of their business.  They have no right to judge.  They have no right to question whether it is or is not the right thing.  They don’t know anything about our family or where our hearts lie.   We’ve been through home studies.  You read that right – studie”S“.  When you adopt from China, you have initial home studies, and a follow-up home study when you come home, one at 6 months, one at a year, one at two years, and the last one at five years.  There are safe guards in place.  Plus, I’ve pretty much made our lives public by putting it all out there in picture and blog.  I’m not trying to hide anything.  I’m trying to prove you can do more than you think you can.  You can love more than you think possible.  You can show the love of God through taking a child in.  You can change their lives and their eternity.   All of this is a pretty amazing, mind-blowing, heart changing, life altering, thing.

    Maybe that is all she needs to say “God brought us to these four children and our family feels overwhelming blessed to be able to bring them home!”  Because that is the truth!  We are blessed.  We may be tired.  The house may never be perfectly clean.  Our mid-life crisis car may now be a 15 passenger van.  But the overall running theme in our home is love and that God has blessed us in immeasurable ways.  What a gift to us.  What a gift to them.





  • My children’s hearts

    Date: 2013.02.20 | Category: Adoption, Cassie

    I’m feeling the need to share a little about my children’s hearts.  It has become a running joke in our house that we aren’t done and we may never be done adopting.  The kids tease me and I laugh.  I suppose it’s funny because I have said I was done after each and every child.  “No more!” I would say, but then God would tug at our hearts and we would soon have another daughter or son.

    Cassie and Zach understand that if something were to happen to Dan and I they would be responsible and they have agreed….whole heartedly.  I don’t know many 20ish year olds that would do that.  Cassie recently wrote an article for a magazine that I wish I could share.  I don’t feel right sharing the whole article, but I can share what she said others have asked her.  My friends (Cassie’s friends) would always ask, “Why are you being a part of this?” “Aren’t you tired of helping your family and not having a life?” and my personal favorite, “Why would your parents do this to you?”  Cassie goes on to explain how much she loves her siblings.  How her family is her and she is her family so she has never felt like her family was doing this to her.  She has always felt privileged to be a part of this.  She also feels like the luckiest girl on earth when she comes home from school to cheers from Ben and Maisey.  “Yay Cassie’s home!  Love you Cassie! Yay!”  This is followed by huge hugs and kisses.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have a cheering squad whenever they walk in the door.

    Our whole family has agreed to this journey that we are on.   God has called us to love children and we feel honored and blessed.  What a huge blessing it has been to trust in God and His plan.  We aren’t doing anything to our “other” children.  I won’t say there aren’t time issues sometimes or there aren’t disagreements. But every family has those kind of issues.  What we do have is a family that loves children.  Gracie goes on and on about not stopping at 12 and if anyone should have a problem with our adopting more, you would think it would be the baby of the family.    We are blessed in so many ways to be able to do this at this time in our lives.  What a gift.

    My children’s hearts are wrapped up in orphans and their causes.  Their passion is a beautiful thing to watch.  Gracie is trying hard to raise money for Love Without Boundaries nutrition program.  You can go here  Gracie’s Love Without Boundaries page    if you’d like to help too.  They have big hearts. I’m very proud of their compassionate, caring, God-trusting hearts.  I love that about them.  They have a faith that I wish I would have had at that age.  I can’t wait to see what they do for Christ as their lives go on.  As a mother, you can’t ask for anything more than that.

    I feel like I’m adding a P.S. or two to my blog.  I just wanted to share what Cassie put as her Facebook status today.  This shows my girl’s heart.

    12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14
    Please notice: it doesn’t say that the Father in heaven is not willing that the rich little ones, the American ones, the happy ones, the ones we like, or the ones who have families, should perish.  It says any, the Father is not willing that ANY of His little ones be lost. So who are we, as the Church, to decide who does and doesn’t get saved -gets loved by a family-based on gender, race, ability, or native country? We are the Father’s hands and feet: it’s time we started loving like it.

    P.S.S.  🙂   Here is a song that Cassie has been listening to a lot.   It reminds her to love Ben for as long as she has with her whole heart and not be afraid.  If anyone should know about this subject it would be the singer.  He has a son with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  You can read their story at Bowen’s heart

  • Fun Friday Photo

    Date: 2012.07.06 | Category: Benjamin, Cassie, Grace, Maisey, Photos