Archive for the ‘Zachary’ Category

  • Happy Birthday Zachary!

    Date: 2014.08.05 | Category: Photos, Zachary

    This is going to be a strange way to start a Happy Birthday blog, but it will explain the kind of boy my little Zach was and is so please bear with me.

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    Many people have questioned how we have been able to adopt six children in two years.  They wondered how in the world we brought home four at one time.  Zachary is part of the reason why.  I wouldn’t recommend bringing that many children home at one time unless you have very special circumstances such as ours.   Two adult children living at home and a husband who works from home most of the week means extra hands to help.   It also means that we have had many adults around to lavish love upon the kiddos.

    Zach and Cassie both lived at home in an apartment on our acreage.   They both chose to live close to home so they could love their siblings and get to know them better.  At a time when most children are ready to leave the nest, both of our adult children have chosen to stay close. They have driven 45 minutes both ways to and from college so that their siblings could see them every day.   Zach chose to do this because at the time we were expecting Gracie, he said he couldn’t stand the thought that his little sister wouldn’t really know him.   To this day, Zach and Gracie have a very close bond.


    Zach and Cassie have been questioned and made fun of by their peers at school because they chose to live at home, even teachers have questioned why they would want to do something like that.   It amazes me that wanting to be close to your family would be considered such an oddity and even frowned upon.

    After Zach completed his computer science degree at Iowa State, he moved to Florida to complete a master’s degree in a very innovative new program designed to train software engineers, artists and producers to produce state-of-the-art, big budget video games. After completing his masters degree, Zach was interning at EA, one of the biggest companies in the interactive entertainment business, and had been offered a job in game development.  At that time, we were in the process to adopt Ben and Maisey and soon after that Gracie was diagnosed with lupus.  Gracie was very, very ill and was going to start chemo.   These circumstances lead Zach to decide to forgo the job at EA and move home.   Zach said that he couldn’t stand the thought of not knowing his two new siblings and if something happened to Gracie, and he wasn’t here, he would never forgive himself.   His peers were incredulous.  Why would he give up his dream job to go home to be closer to family? Even when Zach explained the circumstances, no one really understood and many questioned him over and over again.   Zach, however, knew what was important.

    Zach has always had a strong sense of family and God.  One of my favorite moments was also one of the most devastating in my life.   A couple years after having Zach, I had miscarried and was feeling very sad.  Zach was a little over three years old.  He sat on the step holding my hand and comforting me.  His sense of God and his understanding of life were apparent even then.  Zachary held my hand and said, “Don’t be sad mom.  God has a plan.”

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    Recently my mother-in-law gave me this note that she had found while going through some old papers.  Zach would have been four at the time it was written.


    Who knows what “I sure miss God and Jesus!  I haven’t seen them in a long, long time” means, but Zach has always seemed to have an understanding of God.  His faith has always been strong.  He has always talked about God like He was a friend, from the time he was very little.

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    Life was hard after Kyle died and with Codey being hospitalized for so long.  I had no intention of getting pregnant, EVER again, which was saying a lot from a girl who always dreamed of having a big family.  Codey was still in the hospital when I found out I was pregnant.  God’s ways are not our ways, truer words have never been spoken.  I would have never in a million years chosen to be pregnant then, but I thank God every day that I did get pregnant.  Zach was one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever been given.  He is a bright, sweet, generous, caring, God-fearing, wonderful young man.  He was such a wonderful child to parent.  He is not perfect, none of us are, but he has always been a blessing.  He has always been a pleasure to be around.  He has always asked questions that made me truly think.   He makes my life a hundred times better than it would have been without him in it.  His life showed me that love is greater than fear.  He taught me to talk to God like a friend.  He helped my heart heal.


    He was married earlier this year to a wonderful girl.  It will be a blessing to one day watch him love his own little ones.  He couldn’t have been a better big brother to all his siblings and I know one day he will make a wonderful father.

    Family 2

    Happy birthday Zachary!  May God grant you as many blessings as you have brought into our lives.


  • 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.

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    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.




  • 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!

  • 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!




  • Happy Birthday Zachary

    Date: 2012.08.05 | Category: Zachary

    Sometimes in life something that scares us to death, turns out to be the best thing in the world that has every happened to us.  Twenty-four years ago today was that start of a wonderful blessing and that blessing was Zach.

    I was so afraid when I found out I was pregnant with Zach.  We were still in the hospital with Codey.  I thought I had the flu and someone in the NICU asked me if I thought I could be pregnant.  I laughed and said, “No, we are taking precautions.”  – which meant I was on the pill, I took it every morning without fail.  I could not even fathom what being pregnant while having a son still in the hospital would mean.  We were barely scraping by the way it was.  There were times my mom showed up with food and I was so grateful.   When you can’t afford toilet paper, you know things aren’t going especially well.  We were living in married student housing at Drake.  Dan worked weekends at the hospital.  I worked temporary work at law firms downtown.  Temporary work allowed me to miss if I needed to be with Codey, which happened fairly often.

    I remember the PICU wanting to call the news station to do a story about Codey and the fact that he would celebrate his first birthday in the hospital without having ever gone home.  I thought there was no possible way that a news station would want to do a story about this subject.  Boy was I wrong.  So there I was in all my pregnant glory, about 5 months along.   There was no hiding the fact that I was pregnant. I remember being so nervous and so upset because everyone sitting at home would wonder what in the world I was doing.  I know I would have wondered the same thing about someone else.

    Everything felt overwhelming.  We had no money.  We had to figure out what to do about a car because when Codey was able to come home we would have a ventilator, car seat, oxygen, suction machines, apnea monitor.  There was no easy way to get all of that and a second car seat into a car.  We had no idea what we were going to do.  We could barely afford groceries, not to mention medical bills, special formula, g-tubes, suction tubes, trachs, and now we were going to add on more diapers and formula. I tried so hard to trust in God’s plan but it really didn’t feel like there could possibly be a plan at that time.

    Codey went home for the first time at 14 months.  It only lasted a few days.  Codey was in and out of the hospital a lot the summer of 1988.  Then on August 4th, Codey was admitted to the hospital again.  The nurses in the PICU asked when the last time Dan and I had gone out.  We laughed.  They asked how many more weeks I had with the pregnancy and I said five.  A couple of the nurses who did care at our home were on that night and since Codey was admitted for something not overly emergent, we decided to actually go see a movie.  We trusted these nurses and were as comfortable as we could ever be with leaving him.  We laughed while we went out about having babysitters for Codey and it was too bad I wasn’t farther along.  Don’t every laugh about what could be….while at the movie – my water broke.   (That was a fun one to tell the theater manager.)  🙂   Zachary was on his way.   Ready or not!

    From the moment he was born, we knew he was different.  Zachary was being examined by the nurses and he arched up on his shoulders and his heals and flipped himself over on the warming table.  In all the deliveries Dan has been at, he’s never seen it happen again.  Zachary was the sweetest baby and he was such a comfort to me.  It was hard to not hold Codey all the time and do the normal baby things.  It was hard to lose every dream for Kyle and to have to start dreaming new ones for Codey.   Zachary healed so many of those hurts.

    Zachary and I were home alone a lot with Codey while Dan was in medical school.  I couldn’t go out and see friends.  I rarely got out of the house except to work my midnight to 6 shift on the weekends.   I was isolated so Zach and I kept each other company.  He was the funniest boy from the very beginning.  He asked questions way above his age level.  He questioned everything and we would talk about everything.   People would look at us like I was crazy with the way I talked to him, but he understood way above his age level.  When he was two he asked me why the sky was empty and it took me a while to realize that he meant there were no clouds.  When I miscarried before Cassie, Zachary held my hand and comforted me and told me that God had a plan.   I remember thinking you are three you are not allowed to be more mature than your mama.  He even quoted scripture.  When I was pregnant with Cassie, he kept asking questions, until I explained exactly how it happened.   I remember constantly calling Dan and saying what do I do Zach just asked me this question and Dan would laugh and say give him the answer but don’t give him more than he needs to know.  If he wants to know more, he will ask.  He asked questions and more questions and even asked to see pictures until he understood it all.

    When Zach was four, I drove a paper route in the afternoon with all the kids in the van.   I had to have a job to be able to afford a car and it was the only job I could do with all three kids.  We would drive around and sing rhyming songs and do math problems.  Zach loved to do math problems.   We sent Zach to school for kindergarten because he really hadn’t been around a lot of kids.  We thought even though he was way ahead, it would do him some good to be around others.  In first grade he would come home crying because he was bored and they would only let him add and subtract to 12.  The teacher finally gave in and had a 6th grader come make up problems for Zach, but Zach got upset because the 6th grader would make a mistake and get mad when Zach corrected them.

    I really had no idea that Zach was as bright as he was.  I thought every child was like this.  We took him out of school to home school him when he was in 4th grade.  Zach loved learning everything he could at home.  He dreamed of being an engineer.  We found out about the Belin Blank center in Iowa City and Zach was allowed to take the ACT in 6th grade.  He scored a 24 and beat 99% of the smartest kids in his age group.  I remember being blown away and thinking how is that even possible? Because I truly believed he was just a regular kid.  In 9th grade he scored a 35 – an almost perfect score.  He started getting college letters from MIT, Stanford, all over the country.  He has a binder of all his letters and where did Zachary go to school?  Iowa State.  Why did Zachary choose Iowa State?  Because they had a good engineering program, it was 40 minutes from home, and I was pregnant with Gracie.  He didn’t want Gracie to grow up and not know him.  Zachary chose to live at home and drive back and forth to Ames.  Zachary has always chosen family over what the world thinks he should do.  Many of Zach’s friends gave him grief about living at home, but he always said that coming to the door and hearing Gracie yell his name made it all worth while.  It happened again this past year when Zach found out about Benjamin and Maisey.  He was doing an internship at EA Sports and he turned down a job offer with them to come home to get to know his new siblings.  He said flying home once a month wasn’t enough.  He wanted to know them both, but especially with Benjamin’s heart and not knowing what was going to happen.  When Grace got sick, that cemented the deal.  Grace and Zach have always had an extra special bond.

    Zachary is such a sweet, compassionate soul.  He is fun and jokes and loves playing games.  He is kind and quiet, and so very, very bright.  He is just truly a wonderful man.  We would talk about what was most important when he was growing up.  My number one goal as a parent was his salvation.  My number two goal was building his foundation as solid as I could so he could be strong and handle whatever life threw his way.  We called this MOIH – growing to be a Man of Integrity and Honor.  Zachary is that and so much more.   I couldn’t be happier to have him as a son.  He has blessed my life in ways too numerous to mention.  I look forward to seeing what his future is. God has plans for this boy and I love watching them unfold.  Someday he will make the best father and husband and I look forward to the day he finds his soul mate.  I have been blessed over and over again by this child who was not planned – at least not planned by me – God knew exactly what he was doing.  As always, God’s plan is perfect!