• Reflections on 5 Years of Amazing!

    Date: 2017.03.12 | Category: Benjamin, Maisey | Response: 0

    Facebook has this amazing thing called “On This Day” where it shows you pictures that you posted from this date during the previous years.  My day has been filled with pictures of our very first China adoption.  I can’t help but get all choked up when I see the pictures and remember how it felt to have them placed in my arms on that day.  5 years has passed so fast and Maisey and Ben have changed so much!

     

    There are about a million different scenarios about how that day could have gone but the truth is it was so overwhelmingly heartwarming/heartbreaking that it changed our lives forever.  Had it not gone as beautifully as it did, I’m not sure we would have adopted 10 kids in 4 years.  I am forever grateful for the beginning that showed us how beautiful adoption can be.

    Here’s what we knew for sure when we set out to adopt (again).

    1.) We were older parents.  I was 45 when Dan first brought up adopting again, 46 when we filed our papers, and 47 when we finally stepped foot in China.

    2.) We had older children who were very supportive of this decision.

    3.) We had already adopted once domestically 11 years before and were blessed by that adoption.

    4.) We had the resources and medical knowledge to care for a special needs child.

    5.) We were never going to be empty nesters.  Our plan is to always keep Codey, our older son who has cognitive and physical disabilities, at home.

    Here’s what we knew after the first day we met Ben and Maisey.

    1.) Institutions are no place for a child to be raised.

    2.) Special needs, especially physical ones, make it easy for others to treat you as “less than”.

    3.) Even scared, hurt little 3 1/2 year old boys with severe food issues, can have sweet hearts and look out for their new little sister.  He cried if we moved his food, but he always shared with her.  (Ben ate for 3 hours after we brought him back to the hotel and slept with food or silverware in his hands for the first few months home.)

    4.) When a 3 1/2 year old refuses to be called their Chinese name or speak Mandarin from the moment you meet them, and refuses to go to anyone in the orphanage where they’ve been cared for for the past 3 years, there’s something not right.

    5.) Every child just wants to be held and loved.  They want someone who cares about them.   They want to feel safe.  This picture was just days after we met Ben.  I get choked up every time I look at it.

    What I know for sure 5 years later.

    1.) Two children adopted at the same time can become the very best of friends.

    2.) Your life will be forever changed by adoption.  Some days are harder than hard, but most days are beyond beautiful and life changing in ways you can’t even imagine.

    3.) No matter how long your life might be, you deserve the love of a family.  You deserve someone to hold your hand, sit by your beside, and let you know you will never be alone again.

    4.) Miracles really do happen.

    5.) Large families are busy, chaotic, noisy, and filled with more love, hugs, and kisses than you could ever imagine.

    The first five years have been overwhelming, busy, crazy, but DOABLE!

    1.) 5 heart surgeries and 5 heart catherizations for 3 children with 2 being considered completely healed.

    2.) 2 BAHA (hearing aid) post placements and the miracle of hearing well.

    3.) 5 trips to opposite shores for heart surgery Stanford (California) and Boston Children’s (Massachusetts).

    4.) Countless doctors appointments with numerous specialists.  Orthopedics, otolaryngology, cardiology, physical medicine, neurology, pulmonary, genetics, urology, nephrology, rheumatology, hematology, and developmental/behavior medicine.

    5.) Spinal fusion surgery and 5 weeks of hospitalization due to complications of a spinal fluid infection and subsequent spinal fluid leak.

    I’m hopeful the next 5 years will…

    1.) Bring more healing both physically and emotionally for our children.

    2.) Strengthen the bond of family even further between all my children so they will always be there for each other not matter what the future brings.

    3.) See more and more families open their eyes to adoption.

    4.) See more and more families step up and be the helping hand that allows more families to stay intact and not have to make the heartbreaking decision to give up a child.

    5.) Allow all our children to feel the love of God in their lives, that they will see their true worth, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved and cherished by their father and I.

    What an amazing journey this has been.  I am so happy that Dan and I decided to be obedient to God’s calling.  Our lives are full of the brightest colors.  I can’t imagine going back to the comfortable life we were living.  That life was so black and white, well ordered, comfortable.   Yes, there is pain and hurt and I will never be able to close my eyes to the suffering of the children in this world, but there is also so much beauty to be found in the ripple effects of helping where you can.  Reaching out a hand to help, feeding those in need, helping to pay for a surgery, fund a healing home, sponsor a child, the list goes on and on.   The need is great but we can make a difference one child at a time because “Every Child Counts“.

    My prayer is that one day Jasmine’s dream will come true – “A family for every child.”   What a beautiful day that will be.  Until that time …

    “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  – Theodore Roosevelt.

    BECAUSE…

    “If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody.”  – Malcom Bane

     

  • “I Get To” Changes Everything

    Date: 2017.03.11 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    I get asked all the time about how I do it.  It’s pretty simple.  I get up every day and I just keep moving forward.  My days are VERY busy.  Unbelievably busy.  Things don’t get done around the house sometimes.  My house will never be in perfect order.  I wish, but it isn’t going to happen.  This is hard for me to admit because I like organized and having everything in its place.  But we also have a Lainey whose favorite activity is to throw anything she finds on the floor and I do mean everything.  She likes to grab cups and run through the house spilling everything every where.  We have 8 littles between 5 and 8 who like to leave things around and since we home school there are lots of hours of the day to move things to and fro.

    I have done a lot in the past year to simplify.  I have removed so much stuff in our house.  I have gotten rid of almost all my knickknacks.  I don’t have time to dust.  I don’t want to worry about who is going to break what next.  What have I learned from this simplification?  We have too much stuff.  Way too much stuff!  I have removed bags and bags and bags from this house and there is still more to take out.

    It makes me sad to think of the money I have spent on things that just don’t matter.  We don’t bring toys into the house unless it’s someone’s birthday.  We regularly go through items to see what they are and aren’t playing with.  If it’s not being worn it’s gone.  We still have way too much stuff.  It’s hard not to when you have this many people in the house but we are working harder at only bringing things into the house that will make our lives better.

    There are things that are non-negotiable during my days.  Morning hugs and kisses.  Codey and Lainey’s feedings.  We have five kiddos that are in diapers and four will be for life.  Catherizations.  Medications are a must and are given twice a day to 11 of the 13 kids that are at home.  Meals and prayers around the table. Quiet time with Dan. More hugs and kisses before bed.

    House cleaning, school work, and appointments make up the rest of my day.  Every day looks a little different.  Kids who come from trauma have days where they need you to drop everything and we do that.  This past year has been extremely difficult for Jasmine.  It would be hard to put into words how hard it is when someone is on meltdown mode all day.  It’s emotionally draining for everyone in the family and you have to take the time to repair the damage that is done.

    When I say I am going to bed, this is what needs to be done before placing my head on my pillow.   Take the littles downstairs to get ready for bed (Grace often helps with this.), change Codey, take Jasmine to the bathroom (this takes two people) and put her to bed, feed Lainey and give her her last meds, cath JJ and give her her meds, story time and give everyone hugs and kisses.

    Sometimes it is overwhelming.  Sometimes I just want to go to bed without all the other stuff.  Sometimes I just want to take care of me and not do everything else.  Sometimes I am just plain tired.  But when I have those pity-party moments where I start to think “I have to do this, this, and this”, I stop myself and change it to “I get to”.  Perspective changes everything.

    I GET TO…

    …wake up in the morning to the sweetest, sleepy smiles.

    …hear mom, mommy, mama hundreds of time throughout the day from little kids who went years without this privilege that we all take for granted.

    …get hugs, hugs, hugs, hugs, and more hugs.  (The best part of every day.)

    …hear “I love you” over and over again.

    …help little hearts heal.

    …wipe away tears.

    …have a ring side seat to God’s big and little miracles.

    …sit by hospital bedsides while children heal.

    …serve with a willing heart.

    …watch little souls blossom before my eyes.

    …watch little minds learn and grow.

    …hit my knees repeatedly.

    …give up control.

    …turn it all over to the one who knows best.

    …prepare meals that little ones love.

    …wash, fold, and put away clean clothes to wear.

    …have access to the best medical care around.

    I GET to do it all of these things every single day with my very best friend.

    I am blessed!  Beyond blessed!  SERIOUSLY blessed!

  • Thoughts from Elyse

    Date: 2017.03.07 | Category: Elyse | Response: 0

    Today I had a MRI for my back.  It felt very scary.  In the orphanage when I had to go to the hospital or for tests, they always left me alone.  In the MRI I was alone.  I didn’t know my mom could come in.   I was scared.   I did not like feeling like I did in China.

    I don’t like to be left alone.  It made me really upset and I cried.  I do not want to ever be alone again.  I love my mom and dad.  I always think they are my real parents.   If I don’t have my mom and dad, life would be so scary.  Mom and dad told me all about MRI so I wouldn’t be scared.

    I didn’t know mom could come in.  My brother, Liam, had a MRI too.  He has spina bifida too.   He cried and they let mom come in.  They let mama hold Liam’s hand so he would not be scared and don’t feel alone.  This is the first time mama didn’t go in.   Mama and daddy both waited for me.  They always love me.  They always care about us.  I was not scared in the MRI after awhile because I knew mama and daddy would never leave me alone or let someone hurt me.

    When we get hurt mama and daddy always hug us, talk to us, and help us get better so we won’t be upset.  Mama and daddy changed my life.  Mama and daddy tell me I can do everything.   Don’t listen to what China says because it’s not true.  Now I know who I should trust or who not to trust.

    I have fun with mama and daddy.  We ate breakfast at McDonalds and mama and daddy buy us food we like.  My love language is to hug me and to say “I love you” so they do it all the time so that I know they love me very much.

     

  • No Hands But Ours Article

    Date: 2017.03.06 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    I was honored to get to guest write about our family for No Hands But Ours.  The NHBO articles are wonderful and uplifting.  If you are starting the adoption process, are curious about special needs, or wonder what other families have gone through, this is a great place to start.

    Seriously Blessed

  • Chinese New Year 2017

    Date: 2017.03.04 | Category: Adoption, China 2016, Family Life | Response: 0

    Our children look forward to celebrating Chinese New Year (CNY) each year.  The first year home is always the hardest because it brings up memories, some good and some bad, that we have to wade through.  As our family as grown there have been more and more children who love to celebrate so the most recently adopted get into the swing of things pretty quickly.

    We leave up the 14 foot Christmas tree and decorate it for CNY.  Everything is red and gold.  We have special ornaments that the kids have made and some extra special ones that we bought through an adoption fundraiser.

    We wait for a day when everyone can celebrate together so it isn’t often that our family celebration is on the actual day of CNY.   During the week of CNY we take them to Panda Express so they can each get a kid’s meal.  It’s not cost effective to do this very often so it’s a special treat.

    We go at an off time because there is only one table in the whole restaurant that can seat us all.

    On the day of our celebration the children wake up and put on their silks right away.  I think it’s their favorite part of the day.  We have a box full of colorful silks.

    I think Eli is going to need a new one soon.  🙂

    Maisey is always ready to do her “China” pose, as she calls it and Evie always needs a fountain to finish off her outfit.

    They all look so cute in their silks.  We even found one that fit Hope’s sense of style.  I wish I would have bought more sizes the last time we traveled.  I guess I always assumed their would be one more time.

    Even Nicholas got into the action.  We got out his dad’s outfit from when he was a baby.  Why I purchased a Chinese outfit for my son 28 years ago I will never know.  I just can’t remember.  God knew long before I did I guess.

    They love having family together.  They are always excited when Zach and Steph come to visit.

    They love to eat the special foods we prepare twice a year on CNY and Children’s Day.  We make home made steamed buns, spicy chicken feet, wontons, and crab rangoons.   I don’t often prepare these foods from scratch because they are time consuming.  The house smells so good though when it is all cooking.   Then their are the usuals that we eat often – egg drop soup, hot and sour soup, fried rice, spicy steak, teriyaki chicken, and potstickers.  I don’t make potstickers from scratch because Sam’s Club carries some that the kids love.  They are so easy to prepare.  The come frozen in a tray with water around them.  You just put them in a pan and wait as the water boils off, the bottoms get browned, and they are perfect.

    This year we had our pastor and his lovely family over.  They were a wonderful addition.  The extra hands in the kitchen were a welcome treat.   Amy rolled out all the dough for the steamed buns so the kids even got fresh ones for breakfast too.  Jasmine was sick, she woke up with a 102 temp., and missed out on the day of fun.  We brought her out for a picture and let her eat her spicy food in her room.  Not quite the same but better than nothing.

    It was still a wonderful day full of laughter, friends, and family.

    We ended our day watching the Troll movie.  The littles were so excited to show Nicholas this movie.  They figured he would love the music and bright colors.  I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that he is still a bit too little to understand a movie.  Nick laughed and cooed and smiled and made them all believe that he loved it.

    Our new couch is the perfect place for the whole family to cuddle up and watch a movie.

    All in all a pretty good day!  Happy year of the rooster everyone!  Wishing you all the best in the upcoming year!

     

     

     

  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2017.02.25 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    I was asked to share out story on the 28 Days of Heart blog.  It has been a pleasure to share our story during the past years.  Our story has changed a lot from 2013 to now.

    This blog shares the hearts of parents who have adopted children from China with heart defects.  They share the ups, the downs, the blessings, and trials.  Your heart will be moved by reading these beautiful stories.

    Here is ours…

    28 Days of Hearts

  • Big Family – Big Dreams – Big Story

    Date: 2017.02.16 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Group story time at the Ellsbury’s can result in some enthusiastic and sweet stories from our wonderful children. One of these stories is below, and highlights the sweetness of our babies and how loving they are to others.

    Super powers of the Super Middles and Super Littles:

    Elyse – power of invisibility, and can fly on a good day

    Gracie – can make things invisible and can make any baby stop crying

    Jasmine – can wrap up people in yarn super fast and can make baby blankets super fast

    Hopey – can do super scary makeup that makes people faint

    JJ – can fly and sing people to sleep

    Max – touches people’s heads and they can’t hear for 24 hours

    Ben – super fast and has super long arms

    Eli – super strong and has super long arms

    Liam – makes people forget to remember

    Maisey – can turn into cute animals

    Evie – can instantly paint the walls in a room and talk really, really fast

    Lainey – can turn anything into a baby bottle

    Mom – has extra arms to feed lots of babies and always has lots of extra love, never sleeps

    Dad – super doctor who loves babies and does anything a baby tells him to do


    One day the Super Littles and Super Middles realized they couldn’t adopt any more, but they still wanted to.  They started devising a plan to be spies and figure out how many kids they could get home and fit in their new house.

    Eli had already started building a big beautiful castle with 777 bedrooms to house all their new brothers and sisters.  Eli was super strong and really fast so the castle was almost done.   Evie had started to paint all the rooms.  She painted them orange, yellow, green, blue, red, purple, and pink just like the kids’ special colors.

    The house was amazing. There were huge rooms for everyone to sit and watch a movie.  There were tables that were super long and super big where everyone could eat.  The table was a special machine invented by Zach and Reece that could make food in large quantities.  Codey had a giant table full of Kindles for all the kids to play with.  Cassie and Stephanie helped decorate the house and ran a special store where we could get all our supplies.  The store was in our front yard and everything was free.

    The middles had been devising a plan to make an invisible jet to secretly fly across the ocean to their orphanages to adopt more brothers and sisters.  They had been practicing taking care of babies and they were sure they could do it.  They each remembered kids that they wanted to bring home to be their brothers and sisters.  Some kids were little and some kids were older just like them.

    Maisey reminded them that they all needed “to work together”.   She gave them a very special pep talk. She wasn’t kidding.

    Elyse and Gracie became invisible and snuck JJ and Liam into the building so JJ could fly around and sing everyone to sleep and Liam could make them forget so they wouldn’t come after the super heroes.  Ben and Eli were super fast and picked up the kiddos in their super long arms and started putting them into the airplane that was invisible because Gracie touched it.   Max made it so people couldn’t hear them so they wouldn’t be caught.

    In the jet, Maisey became a really, really cute bunny that could talk to make all the little kids feel safe and happy.   Lainey made bottles for all the babies.  JJ sang to the babies so they would go to sleep.  Daddy looked over everyone and made sure they were doing ok.

    We flew home to our rainbow house that lights up and plays the song “We are Family” really loud as we drive in the driveway.   Mema was there to meet everyone and she fainted when she realized she had 777 more grandchildren.

    If anyone bad tried to bother us in our new house, Hopey would put on zombie makeup to scare them, Jasmine would wrap them up in yarn, and Eli would make the bad guys do tricks like backflips and make them wear big mustaches.  Maisey was always a cute little bunny but if someone was mean she would turn into a crocodile and scare them.   Evie would talk, and talk, and talk, and talk until the bad guys ran away.  (Not sure why we have bad guys visiting but it seems we do.)

    Every day we all sit in a giant room with a ton of computers where everyone plays Minecraft together and goes to school together.  We are happy all the time all day long.   Mama is so happy that she gets to love everyone and teach them.  The house is a magic house like in Beauty and the Beast and it cleans itself.  And we have lots of chickens so we can all have spicy chicken feet! Yum!

    We have a giant superbus that is really long and two levels.  Steph and Cassie have super powers and can do the girl’s hair fast (542 girls – so they have to braid FAST).  Everyone is very happy to have a family and we celebrate together because….

    “All our dreams came true.  We have a big, happy family!”

    THE END

     

  • Elijah James turns 5

    Date: 2017.01.21 | Category: Elijah | Response: 0

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

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

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

    Eli has always had the sweetest little face.

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

    He has always been best friends with his sister Evie.

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

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

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

    He patiently waited months for his PJ Masks Headquarters set.

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

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

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

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

    It was the perfect laid back happy birthday.

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


     

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

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

    Well, it just takes my breath away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Happy Birthday Jessica Jean

    Date: 2017.01.15 | Category: Jessica | Response: 0

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

    Now its time to catch up…

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

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

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

    And what joy JJ has brought to my mornings.

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

    But we didn’t start that way…

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

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

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

    She slowly learned to trust her mama…

    and her daddy.

    He taught her how to dance

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

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

    and oh the joy she brought to our days.

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

    and a very big pink bed.

    She had her first picnic.

    She met some new friends.

    and learned how to play princess.

    She went to her first state fair concert.

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

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

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

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

    She celebrated America

    and watched her very first fireworks display.

    She dressed up for her very first Halloween.

    and had her first carousel ride.

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

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

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

    She enjoyed playing in her first snow.


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

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

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

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

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

    This sign says it all.

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

     

  • Christmas Letter (Part 2 – Middles & Bigs)

    Date: 2017.01.14 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Zachary, Stephanie and introducing….Nicholas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

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