Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

  • Good things happen to those who wait…

    Date: 2013.11.18 | Category: Photos, Zachary

    Zachary has been patiently waiting for the right girl for a few years now.  He has always had it in his mind that he would find a girl that shared his faith, who would be his best friend, care about his family (and not be afraid of his big family), and they would start a life together.   Zach moved to Florida to get his Masters degree.  He moved back to Iowa after interning at EA Sports because Gracie was sick and he wanted Maisey and Benjamin to know him.  (Little did he know then that there would be even more littles to join our family.)

    It’s hard when you are a 24 year old man who doesn’t drink, but you’d like to meet some people who share your interests.  Zach had been praying for that for a while.  He wanted to meet some friends, who liked video games like he did, who shared his same values, weren’t into partying or hanging out at bars, etc.  One day I was talking to a new 10 weeker that had joined our 7 a.m. class at Farrell’s.  He seemed like a nice guy.  We talked on and off about our faith and a little about our families.  One day I mentioned how hard it was for Zach to meet new people.  Our church was very small and most of Zach’s friends had moved away or he lost touch with them. Fritz invited Zach over for a game night with his group of friends.  They hit it off and a friendship was started.  I love the way God works.  How He places people in your life at just the right time.  After Fritz and Zach were hanging out for a while, Fritz told me that he knew lots of single girls in Zach’s age group from church and they (Fritz and his wife) said that they would figure out who would be the best match for him.  I laughed.  Blind dates don’t usually work, but they said they had had some luck in this match making area and would get back to us.  On New Years Eve they invited both Zach and this new girl over for their annual New Year’s Eve party.  Zach knew about the match making.  Stephanie did not.

    But to the joy of everyone involved, Zach and Stephanie hit it off.  They dated.  Zach commented over and over again how comfortable he felt with her.  He would say how easy it was to talk to her and how he just really liked her.  Time went by.  He brought her over to meet his siblings and she didn’t bolt out the door upon entering the chaos that can happen with 11 children in the house.  Even when he explained all that was going on with the littles, she was supportive.   The littles love her.  They run to the door, yelling “Stephameme!”.   They hug her and all ask to be held.  They all fight over her lap and she just goes with the flow.

    All of this leads to today.  It was a very big day. Zachary proposed and Stephanie said “Yes!”.

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    Now this is all very sweet but I really wanted to share the back story of how the proposal came to be.  Zachary really wanted this to be a sweet proposal.  He had considered some big flashmob idea, but Steph doesn’t like surprises all that well and he was worried he would embarrass her around people she didn’t know.  He decided to propose at Brenton Skating Plaza because that was where they had their first dates.  He had been talking with the staff there and found out they had a package you could buy to do just that.  He picked out his song, Philip Phillips “Home”.  They had it set for him to propose right before the zamboni polished the ice during intermission.  It was all set and he was so excited.  He had been counting down the hours on his phone until 2 p.m. today.

    He had worked it out so Stephanie’s parents, two of her sisters and her niece and brother-in-law could be there.  Dan and I and all our kids were set to be there along with grandma, Linda.  It is no small feat to get all of us somewhere.  We couldn’t say we were going skating because that wouldn’t be believable.  Ice skating with two children with thin blood would not be a good idea.  The littles, Jasmine, Dan, Mema and I were going to hide off in the distance in our “invisible” bus and watch from afar.  We were all set.

    On Friday afternoon the manager called and said the rink would not be open this weekend because it was too warm.  Too warm on November 17th in Iowa.  How is that even possible?  The manager asked if Zach could just do it next week.  Zach said he would love to, but he couldn’t.  His parents would be traveling to Boston for Ben’s open heart surgery and all sorts of finagling had to be done to get Steph’s sister off of work.  Zach was disappointed and tried to figure out a Plan B.

    Meanwhile, the rink manager called back and said he had a plan.  What if he could get Zach 30 minutes on the ice at Wells Fargo Arena?  Could he get Stephanie there?  Zach was thrilled, but how to get Stephanie there without her figuring it out.  It was no longer an outing to take Gracie and Steph’s niece to skate together.  Now it was private skating time.  Cassie came up with a great idea.  What if we told Steph that Zach had a special plan to celebrate Gracie being well now after being diagnosed with lupus two years ago?  It was right before Thanksgiving two years ago when she went in for her bone marrow biopsy because they thought she had leukemia.  Gracie is still taking her chemo drugs along with many others and will be for a while, but she had been doing so well.  What if that was the reason for the change?  What if Zach said that the people at Brenton were so touched by Gracie’s story that they allowed us to do this?  What if it was all about one last hurrah before Ben’s surgery?

    Well, the plan was in place.  We headed off in our bus to the skating plaza to get our skates.  Both families got on the bus and we headed to Wells Fargo.  We were taken in through the dock doors and the best news…..the littles, Codey and Jasmine didn’t have to watch from the bus.  They got to go in.  They got to be part of the whole thing.  And the people at Brenton went above and beyond, they even brought Tinkerbell to celebrate Gracie’s health.  Gracie and Jasmine were thrilled.  Ben loves Tinkerbell because of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  Hope was even excited because we often call her “Tink”.

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    What a gloriously wonderful day!  Have I mentioned before how seriously blessed I am?  It’s not often that our whole family can be part of gatherings.  It’s complicated with Lainey and Codey and Jasmine being in the wheelchairs.  But today they opened the big doors to the ice arena, put up a ramp, and invited Codey and Jasmine to take their wheelchairs on the ice.  It’s hard when your children feel left out.  It’s hard when they are constantly on the sidelines watching others do the things they wished they could do, but not today.  Today they were part of the group.  Today they had fun!

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    Zach proposed.  The families celebrated.

    Even the littles had fun running up and down the aisles between the stadium seating.

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    I have to give a big shout out to Brenton Skating Plaza.  They went above and beyond with all their plans. They could have easily said, “Well, we are sorry.  Here is your money back.  Wish we could have helped.”  But instead they thought outside of the box.  They listened to Zach and worked hard to make things work.  They met us at Brenton.  They took us to Wells Fargo Arena.  They patiently stood by while we unloaded the bus and took forever to get our children into the arena.  They made the day not only for Zachary and Stephanie but for all my middles and littles.  All the way home Jasmine kept saying, “I had really, really, really, really, fun mama!  I want to go again. Can I go?”


    We were all feeling blessed to be a part of this wonderful day and can’t wait for Zachary and Stephanie to start their lives together.  Nobody is happier than Steph’s niece and Gracie though.  They have been planning from the very beginning to be cousins and now they have their wish.  It wasn’t too long into their dating that Gracie said “She’s the one, Zach” and Steph’s niece announced to Zach at one of their first family lunches that “Hey, if you marry Steph then you get to be my uncle.”  Zach had set up a lunch meeting with her dad to ask his permission for Steph’s hand in marriage.  Zach was nervous about what to say. He kept saying, “I know this is right.  I just want to say the right things so he knows my heart.”  Gracie said, “Just tell him that Stephanie is wonderful.  We all love her and we want her to be part of our family.”  Out of the mouths of babes.   God is good.   We are blessed!

    Congratulations Zachary and Stephanie!  May your life together be seriously blessed!

  • Sometimes…

    Date: 2013.11.14 | Category: Photos, Thoughts to ponder

    Disclaimer:  Before we even start, I want you to know I don’t want your pity.  Truth be told, I don’t need it, I truly live a very blessed life and I know that.  I am grateful everyday for what I have been allowed to be a part of.  That being said, I have been told quite a few times this past month, that I only see the good, that I have a Pollyanna attitude.  So I thought I’d share….


    I wake up and I don’t want to get out of bed.  It’s overcast, gloomy, the house is still quiet, a great day to just pull the blankets back up over my head. But then it starts, Lainey is yelling, and she will not go back to sleep.  The day  has started too early.  I’m tired of long, hard days.  I’m tired of being tired.  I’m tired of watching others around me exercise (I miss my 7 a.m. workout buddies), and take vacations and watching others just hang out and have fun with their friends.  I’m tired of trying to find a moment to bathe.  I’m tired of the noise, the chaos, the dirty house.  I’m tired of scratches on my floor, dust on the shelves, and the fingerprints that are EVERYWHERE!!!!

    My usual day starts at 5:30, 6:00 if I’m really lucky, and goes non-stop from there until I fall into bed at 11.  It starts with oral feedings and tube feedings, dispensing medications and shots to be given, then there’s the diaper changes and clothes to change and breakfast to prepare. Codey needs a bath.  At 9 its time to get Jasmine up and transfer her out of bed, to the bathroom, help her get dressed, brush her teeth, etc.  At 9:30 school starts  and there’s work to be explained and corrected, little ones to teach and sing with, speech therapy and English to learn.  All of a sudden lunch needs to be prepared, cleaned up.  More school work, nap time for the littles, chores to be done and dinner to prepare.   In between all of that there is laundry and dishes and more tidying up than I care to think about.  Tube feedings x 5 and oral feedings for two x 5.  There’s more diapers than I care to count and dirty faces to wash.


    I get all excited when it’s time for bed, but then I remember there are 5 littles that I need to bathe and change and brush their teeth.  They’d like a story or two or three  Then it’s Jasmine’s turn, teeth, bathroom, clothes changed, transfer to the bed.  Give Evi her shot.  Tuck them all in.  Sing them their songs.  And then finally….bed.  Glorious, wonderful, warm, soft bed.


    And then…..Lainey wakes up. She rages.  She yells.  She doesn’t sleep.  Every hour on the hour she is up. Last night it was 12, 1, 2:15, 3, 4:20, 5:30, and up for good at 6.  Others take shifts when they can.  But I’ve had three days of it in a row and I’m not as young as I used to be.   And Evie is scared at night, Ben is having nightmares because he has surgery coming up, and all the littles seem to know something is up so everyone is a little more stressed.

    I have read those books that say God doesn’t expect you to be so busy.  I’ve read the articles about alone time and me time.  But I wonder what could I cut out of my days right now?  And heaven forbid I even joke about being busy.  Do you know what the first words out of people’s mouths are?  “Well, you asked for this.  Don’t be complaining about it.”

    BUT……sometimes a girl just needs to vent.

    The house is a mess.  My to do list just keeps growing.  There are school papers to check and winter clothes to get out, summer clothes to put away.  The yard is a mess. The car is sticky.  The garage won’t hold a car.   I’ve swallowed my pride more times than I care to admit when people visit because it is rare to find this house clean.  Five littles move a lot of toys around.  Five littles can make a very big mess.  They laugh, they play, and I like it.  I like it more than I like the crazy person I would have to be to keep it clean.  So… house is messy.

    But knowing what I know now, being as tired as I am, you might ask, “Would I still sign up for all of this again?”  And the answer is “YES!”  Yes, in a heart beat.  Because when I take my eyes of “me”, I see the beauty in the miracle of all of it.  Truly I do.  I have listened to others who are angry and bitter because they didn’t know the extent of their child’s illness, but I am thankful.  I am thankful because I know I would have said “No” if I had seen what Jasmine’s medical condition really was.  I would have believed that I was too busy and left it for someone else to come forward.  I would have said I would pray and then tried to let it go.  I would have not signed on for Lainey’s autism either.  I know I wouldn’t have.  It scares me.  I have watched friends go through terrible times.  I’ve heard their tears as they sobbed about having to place their child  to protect their other children.  I know what may be in store for my sweet little Lainey, but I also know what her life would have been like in China.  And she has made progress…real progress.   Just yesterday she said “Dada”.

    It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that I would have said “No!”.  “No” because I am not strong enough.  “No” because I am weak. “No” because my plate was full.  And in saying “No” I would have missed the biggest blessing.  Jasmine is joy and light and everything right with the world. Think about what you complain about every day and then compare it to her life.  And yet she is happy.  Truly happy.  When I think about what she will go through, I want to scream at the unfairness of it all.  But instead I will thank God for bringing me to her so she will never be alone again.

    Jasmine & Hope

    I am overwhelmed by worldly standards that say I should be fit and have a six pack, and my house should be clean, and I should wear the newest clothes, and be fashionable, and drive an awesome car, and live in a immaculate home, and travel the world, and retire when I’m 50.  I should be sitting on the beach, drinking an umbrella drink or bettering myself in college or, or, or….. The list goes on and on.

    I am overwhelmed when I listen to that voice that says “I’m not enough.”  “I’m not as good as….”   When I look in the mirror and I see an older me, a heavier me, a “man it would be nice to style my hair” me.  Lainey was the tipping point for me.  If Lainey was sleeping, I would have handled this all with relative ease.  I’m pretty good at organizing.  I’m pretty good at mothering and staying on top of things.  Lainey and her lack of sleep has made me know that I am not enough.  I have to ask for help and if you know me you know that I absolutely detest that. Truly I do, but it’s not about me.   The Lord has placed all of this on my plate because for too long I have been in control except for times of crisis, for too long it’s been about me and what I could do.

    But now….without Him….I wouldn’t make it through my days.  Through Him I can be strong.  Because of Him I know what is important.  Because of Him I have been “gloriously ruined”!

    I look at them and I wouldn’t change it.  Not at all.  Who would I not take?  Where would they be?  Life is busy.  Life is hectic, but I have family that is so helpful.  I have family that love each other and loves to be together.  What a blessing that is.  So when I am overwhelmed and tired, I remind myself that the only thing I can control is my attitude.  I pick myself up and I look for the good in everything.  I sit and laugh and play.  I remember that I am not guaranteed tomorrow so I will appreciate today.  I have fun each and every day.   I laugh because I am surrounded by silly.


    And then there is a quote from Katie Davis that I read whenever I feel overwhelmed.

    “We bend. I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears… And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower. Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant. He lived bent low. And bent down here is where I see His face. He lived, only to die. Could I? Die to self and just break open for love. This Savior, His one purpose to spend Himself on behalf of messy us. Will I spend myself on behalf of those in front of me? And people say, “Don’t you get tired?” and yes, I do. But I’m face to face with Jesus in the dirt, and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller this life gets. And sure, we are tired, but oh we are happy. Because bent down low is where we find fullness of Joy.”

    This is the truth.  Not what the rest of the world would have you believe.  It isn’t about me.  It isn’t about the kids.  It is about serving the Lord.  It is about living my life as unto Him.  He called.  I followed out onto the ledge.   Dan and I have talked each other out onto that ledge many times because we believed what God was calling us to do.  The journey is not perfect.  The journey has been hard.  This journey though is blessed and beautiful and amazingly wonderful.  I am tired but I am blessed.  I rarely lose sight of that fact and when I do His word brings me back.  So no I don’t have a Pollyanna attitude.  I don’t even have my head in the clouds.  I know how hard my life is and still I feel blessed because among the hard is so much beautiful my heart can barely hold all the love that I have been given.

    So as I said before, please don’t ever pity me. I am living the life that I chose and love with all my heart. I have a husband who I adore who shares my dreams.  I hear “I love you” more times each day than I can count.  I have been blessed by beautiful children with the sweetest of souls.

    So no pity, but you can, however, wipe up any fingerprints that you feel lead to clean, but please don’t ever date the dust because who knows when I will get to that.


  • 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….





















  • The reasons I lost my heart….

    Date: 2013.05.10 | Category: Adoption, China 2013, Photos

    It was so unbelievable being there with all those little kids.  My heart hurt leaving them there.  Dan says we should share their pictures and find them families.  Has God been tugging at your heart?  Take a look maybe a picture will steal your heart too.

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    Cassie’s favorite.  If only she had a pocket….

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    Mema’s favorite.  She had him jumping up and down and giggling so much.

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    The little one who stole Dan’s heart…..

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    Entering the orphanage.

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    Her SpongeBob room.

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    The view from her window.

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    Some of her friends waiting to say hi.

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    Nannies, teachers, director,  family and friends.

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    This boy is a charmer.  He kissed Cassie right on the cheek.

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    Handing out clothes to all her friends.  Mr. Charmer went straight for the spiderman jacket.  It was just like Christmas morning.

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    What did I tell you?  Mr. C.H.A.R.M.I.N.G!!!!!

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    This little guy leaves for America in a week.  His family is very, very lucky.  What a sweetheart.   Gave me a bunch of hugs!

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    The schoolroom funded by Love Without Boundaries.  They were very, very proud of their schoolroom.

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    The two girls Shuang (Sh-wong) shared a room with.

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    The tall girl in pink stole my heart.  She sat on her chair and looked sad.  I’m not sure if it was because Shuang was leaving or the fact that she wanted a family too or a little bit of both.  She came and sat by me.  She kept scooting closer and closer and when I put my arm around her she laid her head on my shoulder.  I put bows in her hair and wept when I left.

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    Just had to add the pictures of the kids sitting on the guardrail on their long trek home.  It doesn’t seem that bad from this picture, but when you consider what the hills really looked like….

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  • As ready as we can be….

    Date: 2013.05.02 | Category: Adoption, Elijah, Evangeline Faith, Lainey Rae, Photos

    Little did I know, over a year ago, when I had that feeling God wasn’t finished with us and adopting, that it would lead to these four beautiful souls.

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    We have filed all our papers and the very last check has been sent to our agency.   We have spent months, upon months, upon months, praying and hoping that all would work out the way we hoped.  We have watched God unfold miracle after miracle on our behalf and we are feeling blessed beyond measure.  We have dreamed and cried and laughed with joy with each new update including the newest picture of Ben’s didi, Eli!  Isn’t he the sweetest little guy?


    We have put together five little booster seats…..


    along with five little beds….

    And before anyone says anything about it looking like an orphanage or wondering why all the beds would be so close together.  I feel the need to say that when Ben and Maisey came home they wanted to be in the same room.  Plus, every time I place the beds in different positions in the room, this is what Ben does.  He pushes them all together and tells me who will sleep where and how he is going to hold everyone’s hands and then he yells, “Mama, this is gonna be so much fun!”  We  have six bedrooms in the house.  There is more than enough room for them all, but this is how we are going to start out…..together, having so much fun!


    We have added a mural to their bedroom wall….


    We have bought three new car seats……  and I have answered “No, I don’t need gift receipts.  Yes, they are mine.  No, I’m not crazy!” more than a few times.  🙂


    We have packed all our suitcases and are hoping we haven’t forgotten anything.


    We have added on Cassie at the very last minute due to our agency’s request.  Believe it or not with a week in which to do it, she got her finals moved and taken, her work covered, her visa, the tickets are bought, and she is packed.

    The siblings are excited….

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    The countdown chart has been made.  Dan told Ben that we were going to China to get our treasures and somehow Ben has decided we are traveling on a pirate ship.


    The have gotten in their bonding time with daddy…..

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    Everyone adores Zachary so I know they will be loved and well cared for.

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    So there is nothing left to do, but bid you all adieu.

    What’s to worry about….earthquakes, nuclear war, bird flu?!?!  Nah, God’s got it covered.

    Thank you so much for all your prayers, well wishes, encouragement, and offers to help while we are gone.

    God bless you all!

    In just two short days, we will be off on our great adventure to bring four more children into our family.  It is our greatest wish to give them a warm place to fall and love for the rest of their lives.

    Ben’s conversation with me today says it best:

    Ben – “Mama, Eli is going to say xie xie (thank you).”
    Me – “Why would Eli say xie xie Ben?”
    Ben – “Cause he gets a mama, mama.”

    Every child, even one who has never had one, understands what a mommy and a daddy are.  Family is a beautiful gift that should be every child’s right.  So we leave the comfort of our home and our children, to head half-way across the world to give that right to four more beautiful souls.  God is good and we are blessed!




  • Happy Birthday Codey & Kyle

    Date: 2013.04.30 | Category: Codey, Kyle, Photos

    My life was forever changed the day Codey and Kyle were born.  You can’t go back to who you were after something like that happens.  Trivial things were soon forgotten.  Material things were soon forgotten.   When you have to bury a son and your son who lives is forever changed, you don’t have a choice but to grow up.

    I don’t have a perfect life.  Truth be told, to most my life would seem extremely boring.  I wake up every day and go to Farrell’s (for my “me” time) but before that I change my son and I give him a g-tube feeding.  Codey is unable to do most things for himself.  I feed him by g-tube six times a day.  I feed him by mouth three times a day.  I change him.  I bathe him.  I brush his teeth.   Add to that trying to do laundry, dishes, cook all the meals, run everyone everywhere,  homeschool my other kids and just be their mom and well, that seems like a pretty boring life.

    I have always wondered if there was something really wrong with me? I’ve heard others describe me as a PollyAnna or they tell me that I see things through rose colored glasses.  But I’m just as confused when I hear others talk about their lives and they seem disappointed.  They talk about their lives like they were supposed to have some great adventure and they are upset it never happened.  I hear mothers say that they go to work to get away from their children.  I hear people talk about not being able to wait for summer vacation to be over so the kids go back to school.  I realize lots of times people don’t have a choice or they are just trying to be funny, but it makes me wonder just the same.  I love my life.  I love being a mother.  I love being married to my best friend.  That doesn’t mean I’m thrilled with six loads of laundry a day.  It doesn’t mean that I’m thrilled at having to pick toys up off the floor for the upteenth time.  But it does mean I make a conscious choice to be happy about it.  I can make it fun or a I can make it a chore.  I have chosen to look at my life with a different perspective because of all the things that have happened to me because of Codey and Kyle.  I know how quickly your life can change.  I know how much I would have given to spend more time with Kyle.  I am happy being at home because I know how blessed I am every day to get to love my children for one more day.  I have many, very sick children and that privilege won’t always be there.  I don’t take a moment that I get to spend with them for granted.

    It’s been 26 years since my dreams of two blonde-haired, sweet little boys ceased to be.  I thought my life was over.  I thought I’d never be happy again.  I questioned why it had to happen to me.  I questioned why God would allow something so devastating to happen to two parents who wanted nothing more than to love their children.  I had no clue what Kyle’s death and Codey’s life would change when we started out.

    But 26 years later, I have a small glimpse of the threads that will one day be the tapestry of Kyle and Codey’s life….

    Dan became a doctor with the promise to make life better for other children.

    Dan understands what it means to be the parent of a very, very sick child.  He knows how to talk to parents.  He knows how important it is to tell the truth in the nicest way possible.  He understands that sometimes no matter how hard you try a child will die.  He understands who his gifts come from and who is truly in control.  He learned that the things a parents need the most is to be heard, to know their child has worth, and to believe that their doctor has their child’s best interest at heart.

    I learned to not live my life in fear because you never know what the next day will bring.  You can worry about surgeries and when your child is going to die, but the reality is only God knows the number of anyone’s days.  So you might as well go on with your life and make the best of it, enjoying every wonderful moment you are allowed to have.

    I learned that sometimes doctors make mistakes and the consequences are devastating but blaming them and being bitter won’t change anything.

    I learned that not everyone will appreciate how hard you fought for your child to live.

    I have learned that most people will never understand the worth of a child who isn’t what the world considers “normal”.

    I have learned that you can do more and handle more than you ever thought possible, as long as you keep your eyes on the Lord.

    I have learned that by opening your heart to love, even with the possibility of loss, you gain beautiful blessings that are beyond measure.

    I have learned that the only thing you can take to heaven with you are your children.

    I have learned that sometimes people fulfill God’s plan and never measure up to man’s ideal.

    I have learned that sometimes scary things lead to wonderful things – Kyle lead to Hope which lead to Ben which lead to Evie which lead to Eli.

    I have learned that the death of a child really isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you – especially when you have the promise of forever.

    I have learned that doctor’s don’t always know what they are talking about.  We called our family down numerous times that first year because Codey wasn’t going to make it through the night.  We were also told he wouldn’t live past a year.  Sometimes, you just need to take it a day at a time.

    I have learned that the unconditional love of child truly is an amazing thing.

    I have learned that you should always forgive because you never know when your last day will be.

    I have learned that every day you have the choice to be happy or not.

    I have seen first hand the unshakeable spirit of a child who has been through more than any person should have to go through (close to 100 surgeries and 5 years in the hospital) and yet enjoys each and every day.

    I am blessed to be Codey’s mother. It’s not remarkable by most people’s standards, but it has been miraculous.  I have had a ring-side seat to some of the most amazing things.  You may look at Codey and see all that he isn’t able to do, but I look at Codey and see all that he can do.  He has done remarkable for a child that we were told, if he lived he would spend his life in a vegetative state, blind and deaf.   He gets around the house.  He loves Football, Wheel of Fortune, and the Price is Right.  He is truly a happy boy. Someday he will walk, someday he will talk, someday he will do all the things I dreamed he’d do.  Codey and Kyle have taught me more in my life than any other person.   My life has been harder with all we’ve gone through but I am a much better person for having them in my life.  It’s hard to not feel blessed by that.

    Happy birthday Codey & Kyle!   Mama loves you!


  • Maisey Meilyn is 3!

    Date: 2013.04.09 | Category: Adoption, Maisey, Photos

    I remember being matched with my little girl. I remember Dan and I praying about it and him giving her the nickname “cupcake”.  I remember him saying that he was ready to be matched as soon as possible.  We had just sent in our papers and they said we would probably be matched in 6 months or so.  They called us to present Maisey the very next day.   We had checked on the “Medical Conditions Checklist” that we would consider a deaf child. Cassie had just taken a year of ASL and thought we could do it.  We agreed to accept this little girl as ours.  I remember a few days later, I was standing in Linda’s kitchen, and realized that it was my little girl’s birthday.  I cried.  She was turning one and we were looking at a whole year before we could go get her.  It was so heartbreaking and unimaginable.  So much happens with a child between the ages of one and two, and we were going to miss it all.  My heart just hurt thinking about it.


    Then the day was finally here, we were going to travel.  Oh, that moment when they first placed her in my arms.  It was March 12th, 2012.  We got her in time to get to celebrate her 2nd birthday with her.   I was so overwhelmed with emotion when I first saw her face.  She was just so quiet and timid.  She walked around with her head hanging down.  She was hesitant…..


    But then we started to get glimpses of who Maisey really was.


    She was sweet and compassionate and loving.  When Maisey decided we were her family, she was all in.  There was no hesitation on her part.  She just decided “Hey, I like this being loved thing” and just went with it.  She knows she’s adored.  She knows she’s loved.  She runs and jumps and climbs absolutely everything.  She has no fear.  She lives life with such gusto.  Everything she does is with great excitement.   She wakes up ready to go every day.  She jumps up with a huge smile on her face.  She runs to you and hugs you like you are the best thing she has ever seen in her whole life.  She loves with great enthusiasm.  She loves with reckless abandon.  She comforts you when you are sad.  She is so empathetic.   She is truly so caring.  Plus, she likes to pretend that she is in charge.  🙂

    Dan thinks this song says it all.  (Listen from the 28 second point until the 2 minute mark.)  She is bouncy and full of life and she believes without a doubt that “I’m yours!”.

    We have been so blessed to be loved by Maisey this year.  We set out to save a little girl without much hope for a future in China.  The future for a deaf child and an orphan in China is very bleak.  We learned after we got home that Maisey weighed 6 pounds at 6 months.  We found out that she was a mini-celebrity.  She was the House of Hope’s 1,000 patient.  She was even listed in the book The House of Hope by Elisabeth Gifford .  Maisey’s name was Chaya in the book.  The Hills saved our little girl.  She is a fighter.  When we got her she had no way to communicate and had a huge bald spot on the back of her head from throwing herself on the floor.  Now she is signing and has her BAHA (bone conducting hearing aid) and her speech has just taken off.  She sings and dances.  She loves tumbling and her tumbling teacher (Cassie).  She loves to slide and run and swing.  She loves books.  She loves babies.  She just loves life.  What a beautiful addition to our family she has been.  One of the best things about Maisey is her love and compassion for Codey, a totally unexpected, beautiful gift.   We all feel blessed to have Maisey run to us, yelling our name,  jumping up, and hugging us as tight as she can. Maisey makes everyone feel loved.

    Happy birthday sweet Maisey!  Looking forward to what the next year has in store for you as you learn and grow.  I can’t wait for you to meet your new siblings and for you to spread your love and sunshine all over them too.  🙂  Mommy loves you so much sweet girl!  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you, my sweet, little cupcake!

  • Adoption Updates, Explanations, and Observations

    Date: 2013.04.03 | Category: Adoption, Elijah, Photos, Thoughts to ponder

    babies x 4

    Look at those sweet, sweet faces.   (Top left) Evie (then clockwise) Lainey, Min and Eli.  I can’t wait to hold them and take them home.  We are all just so excited.  Gracie sits and tells stories about what she is going to do with everyone all day long.  She debates who she is going to hug first and who will sit beside her in the car.  Who will like to swim and who will like to read.  Ben lies in bed at night and talks about how much fun this is going to be.  He tells me who will lie where and how he will hold their hands.  I have a special song that I make up for each of my children when they are born.  It is only their song and I sing it every night before they go to bed.  It made perfect sense when there was a couple – now it goes on and on forever.  Ben has been making me practice songs for each new child, so far he has not approved of any of my song choices.  I’m running out of time.  I’d better get working on it.   I love that they are excited about adding to our family.  It’s a wonderful thing for this mama’s heart.


    We are getting so close to the time to travel.  The closer it gets the harder it is to wait.  Yesterday we received Eli’s LOA (Letter of Acceptance) that we need to sign saying we officially want to adopt him.  The next step is our immigration letter and then we will get our travel approval.  We are one step closer in this adoption journey.  We have been informed that we should travel the last week of April or the first week of May – if all goes as planned.  Yay!


    It’s crazy all the steps and acronyms involved with adopting.  You have your LID (Log in date for your dossier, all the paperwork saying you are fit to adopt.  Financial statements, police records, doctors letters about your health, etc.).  Then you send in a LOI (Letter of Intent) stating who the child is, why you want to adopt them and how you can provide for them.  Then you get your PA (Preapproval letter), which just means that they approve of you adopting this child and the child’s file is locked in for you.  Then you get your LOA (Letter of Acceptance) which states that you agree to accept this child.  Then you get your I-800 which allows you to bring them into the country.  And finally…you get your TA (Travel Approval).   There’s more paperwork in the middle of all of this and afterward when you get to China, but you get the picture.  Paperwork, waiting, fees paid, paperwork, waiting, a few more fees, more paperwork, more waiting but then that day gets here and you can barely stand it.  Which is why the day you receive them at the Registration Office (or other meeting place) is such a highly emotional time.  All that waiting is finally over.


    Everyone pretty much thinks we are crazy.  Not that people don’t celebrate what we are doing or think it’s a good thing…..for us, but it’s not for them.  I hear that over and over again.  “Congratulations!  I’m glad it’s you and not me, but congratulations!”

    You only have to look closely at Ben and listen to his out of breath little body after he runs for only a moment, to understand that life is not guaranteed.  Hope, who is almost 14, looked all grown up in her pretty yellow Easter dress, but the truth is evident in that long jagged scar that runs down her chest that she’s been through a lot.  When you look at them it’s easy to just see the special needs – Maisey’s difficulty with hearing, Codey’s limitations both physical and mental, Ben’s blueness is hard to miss, Hope’s scar lies there for all to see and Gracie’s illness has left it’s mark.  But maybe that isn’t what we should be looking at.  Instead when you look at them, maybe the first thing you should see is the miracle of their lives.  The miracle of love.  The miracle of God’s hands working in all their lives.  The beauty of all that they are, not what they aren’t.

    I was born into a country that believes we should strive for the nice car, the perfect body, the nice house, the great job, the vacations, the pension, the retirement.  Well, I can tell you I have most of those material things.  I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking that after all the struggles, the not having money, the doing without, that someday Dan would have a well-paying job, and then that is when life would really begin.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy along the way.  I have always been grateful and felt blessed, but when there was more money, well, then the really good times would begin.  I’d have a nice house.  I’d drive a nice car.  I’d be able to buy clothes that I wanted.  I’d be able to do what I wanted.   Well, guess what?  I have those things and so what?  Who cares?  I wish I’d never bought the big house.  I wish I’d never wasted money on stupid gadgets.  I wish I could have a do over.  I wonder why did it take so long for my eyes to open?  Why? Why? Why?  I’m like a  two year old throwing a tantrum now but it’s at myself.  I could have funded a surgery.  I could have funded adoptions.  I could have helped a child find a family.  I could have fed more people.  I could have dug more wells.  I could have…. I could have… I could have!

    So why you spend time thinking I’ve lost my mind.  Admit it! You’ve thought it.  You think four at once?  What are they thinking?  Well, here is what I am thinking. My time for adopting is running out.  God has brought me to these four children and even though I am afraid, I will do what He asks of me.  I know that these are my children.  I may not be a lot of things, but I am really good at loving children.  I can bring these children here and they will know love.  I know that without a doubt.  They may never go to college.  They may die well before it should be anyone’s time but they will know love.  They will know laughter and love and happiness.  They will understand God’s love for them because they will have a father who shows them unconditional love.  They will know that they were not a mistake.  They will know love in abundance.  They will have their hand held.   They will have a lap to sit on.  They will have a daddy to read them bed time stories and a mommy that sings them their special songs when she tucks them in.  They will know if they wake up afraid that we will be there to comfort them.  These are the things that we take for granted.  These are the things that millions of children will never, ever know.  Simple, simple things that every child should know.  How dare we as Christ’s hands and feet deny that to anyone?

    I talk about these things over and over again because I want you to wake up to the need.  I want you to get it way before I finally did.  Don’t let time pass you by.  Don’t wait for later to help.  Do something today.  Spread the wealth.  Become God’s hands and feet.  Do something that really, truly matters.  Feed a child, help a family out, open your mind to the possibility of adopting.  Who knows where God will lead you.

    Do you know how Dan and I know that this is right?  We know it to our very core because we have such peace about it.  We aren’t freaking out wondering how it will work.  We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God brought us to these children and He will provide for all of our needs.  God has this covered.  What a wonderful thing to get to be a part of.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that lies ahead or that we’re not afraid, but I’m telling you that there is peace about this whole adoption that is truly amazing.  Even though we know that we have every right to be stressed, we have watched God provide over and over again this past year so it is easy to trust in His plan.  I’ve gotten to be part of some amazing, miraculous things this year. What  a beautiful gift that I am so undeserving of.  Blessed, simply blessed is the way that I feel.

  • Update on Benjamin

    Date: 2013.02.08 | Category: Benjamin, Photos

    I realized that I posted that Benjamin would not be having surgery on the 13th of February on Facebook, but I forgot to update my blog.  After much consideration, we have decided to wait for the RSV, norovirus, and influenza season to pass before doing his elective surgery.   It has been a hard decision, but after much prayer and consultation, we felt that it would be in Ben’s best interest to wait.

    In honor of Dan’s dad’s birthday, the 8th of February, we will be sharing our story on http://www.28daysofhearts.blogspot.comThere have been many wonderful stories of faith and love posted already.  You should check them out!

    It’s hard to believe Dan’s dad has been gone three years now.  We all miss papa very, very much and look forward to the day when we will all be together again.

    Thank you for your continued prayers and support for our sweet little boy.  We appreciate them more than you could ever know.

    Now we just need to head to China to get our 3 girls.  We still haven’t heard anything about Eli’s papers, but we know who is in control and haven’t given up hope of adding him to this trip.  If it doesn’t work out, we will push to expedite a quick return trip.  God’s timing is perfect, but mama is still impatient. 🙂


  • Happy Tears

    Date: 2013.02.04 | Category: Adoption, Photos

    It is so much harder adopting an older child.  There are so many more variables.   You know with a baby or a toddler that they won’t remember much or at least that is your hope.  Min was abandoned 2 weeks before her 8th birthday.  You know she will remember.  You know the language barrier is going to be so much more difficult.  With toddlers you know you will be able to show them your love very quickly.  Toddlers babble and use signs in every day life, but with a teenager it is so much harder.  You wonder if she will understand what coming to America means.  Will she be sad?  Does she understand what her life will be like if she doesn’t get adopted?  (In a rural community with no wheelchair accessibility life would be very hard for a 14 year old in a wheelchair.)  Is she excited?  Will our big family be too much for her?  Does she think about us?  Is she frightened?

    Today I got some answers to those questions.  We received an update on Min (Lauren on LWB’s site) and I cried happy tears.  They talked about how she is like a big sister to all the little ones in the orphanage.  They talked about how quiet, sweet, and well mannered she is.  But the very best part is they said she is excited about her family and can’t wait to meet her brothers and sisters.  They also let us know that she is learning English and can say Mom, Dad, sister and brother.   Here are the some of the pictures she has been drawing.  There is a picture of her older siblings, Zach and Hope.  There is a picture of her younger siblings, Ben and Maisey.  There’s a picture of her mom and dad and finally, a picture of our house.  It almost makes me want to paint our porch blue and purple for her.  🙂

    Today is a good, good day.  I’m feeling blessed and doubly excited.  Time can not pass quickly enough.  I can’t wait to show her just how much she means to us.  Mommy and daddy will be there soon sweetheart.