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Wednesday, November 27, 2013


It's amazing to believe that I have spent almost half my life with my husband.  We dated for five years, were engaged for one, and now celebrate 10 beautiful years of marriage.  We met when I was just 17!  I was such a baby, and totally in love.  When I reflect on all the blessings God has bestowed upon us, wow I am simply speechless!  Three children, three houses, two dogs, so many amazing friends, a supportive family, multiple businesses, and a whole lot of love through the years.  I am honored to be sharing life with this man, God sure knew what He was doing!

I was looking through some pictures of our early beginnings, and thought I would share ... from the very first picture ever taken of us just a month after we met, the years we dated, our engagement, our beautiful wedding, and our most recent family portraits taken in front of the very same chapel we were married in :)  Sixteen years together, 10 years of marriage.  Happy Anniversary, babe!  I love you more every day!  God is so good!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Open Adoption Interview Project 2013

Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2013 

 I am excited to be participating in the Open Adoption Interview Project this year!  It's a project that includes many adoption bloggers who team up together to interview each other.  This year I was paired with Rachel of Made In China With Love!  Her family is in the process of adopting babies #5 and #6 from China!  How cool is that?!?  I've had such a blast getting to know her and her family.  This was an awesome project to be a part of, and I am so thankful for the opportunity!  You can read her interview with me right here.  And to read many other adoption blogger interviews, check out this post, this post, and this post.  There were so many participants, the interviews are broken up into three blog posts!  Below is my interview with Rachel:

1. You have such a beautiful family! Can you tell a little about you, your husband, and your children? How and when did each of your children join your family?

I am a special education high school teacher in an inner city. Since 2007 I have worked exclusively with high school students with Autism. I’m pretty sure that I have the best job in the city since the students are absolutely amazing and make me smile every day. I’ve been teaching since 2001. I went back to graduate school in 2009 for my MS in Special Education and continued on towards my MA+30 by obtaining a graduate certificate in Behavioral Intervention in Autism. I like to travel, read, organize, decorate, shop, exercise, and plan family activities. I started running 1 ½ years ago for the first time in my life, and have since completed my first ½ marathon. I’ll start training again in the spring for my next one.

My husband is also a special education teacher—we work at the same high school. Actually, we have worked together for 11 years in 2 different districts. We did not plan it that way but it works for us. He recently obtained his 6th year in administration and is hoping to obtain a higher level position. It might not be a true passion of his, but he is constantly attempting to complete a project around the house. He doesn’t have much time for it anymore, but he loves mountain biking, hiking, and ice hockey. He hates to read but loves to learn. He is an amazing writer and father.

We got married in 2001 on the day of my college graduation. We had our first biological daughter in 2003. She was the most stunning little baby but it was a real challenge to transition from no children to sleepless nights and actually being responsible for a little person. She is completely artistic, loves baking and cooking, and loves to be in plays. She plays softball and soccer and wants to get back into gymnastics and dance again. Our second biological child was born in 2006. He struggled with expressive language skills and received early intervention assistance. When he was 4 he had tongue surgery and additional private speech services as he recovered. He is a very smart young man who loves to read, practice math facts, and he has a huge heart for his younger sister. He plays soccer and baseball, and wants to explore multiple interests: guitar playing, swimming, basketball, etc. Our adopted son was born in 2008 and it was in 2009 when I first saw his referral picture. He was the cutest little thing wearing a pink shirt! We were early on in the homestudy process and still deciding between India, Ethiopia, and China based on their travel requirements. We were looking at a sibling group in India but when we got an update the oldest girl made it clear that she did not want to be adopted. So, we kept looking. I was set on a girl but kept looking at this photo of this little boy. I could not get him out of my head. I walked over to my husband’s classroom to let him know that this is our son and we have to go to China to get him. He was thrilled. I traveled in November/December 2010 to get this huge 2 ½ year old boy. He was with his foster mama since infancy and was quite attached and obviously well fed. He grieved hard. After a few days things improved, but attachment is an ongoing process. He is now 5 and doing so well. We are extremely close, he has a great time with his big brother, and he is a smart, athletic, and able little guy. He amazes everybody that meets him with his abilities. Our little surprise baby was born 11 months after I met Christian. I hate when people say that everybody that adopts gets pregnant afterwards because that is just not the case. I did not expect any more biological children and going from 2 to 4 kids in under a year was hard. When I was in China I was really at peace with not having more biological children, and I wanted to start to plan our next adoption shortly after we got home. Well, obviously we put off our plans to adopt again for a bit. Our 2 year old is a spunky, verbal little ray of light. She is full of adventure and excitement.

2. How exciting that you are soon adding two more children to your family! You mentioned that you now have three 1-year-olds ... How are you feeling about have three children the same age and are you doing anything specific to prepare for the new babies' arrival?

Ellie just turned two, but all three kids are only months apart. We didn’t want to disrupt birth order too much, and we were open to children up to age 3 based on what we think we can handle. I am preparing by slowly gathering things that I will need to take 3 small children out—a double stroller (do I need a triple?!?!), stocking up on baby carriers (I am ready to carry 2 at once), and figuring out how we will configure all of the car seats in our car. Daily I am reminded of the little things that I still need to buy—car seats, dressers, another high chair, cribs maybe…the list keeps going. I have started putting together some clothes to take to China and trying to figure out what I need for travel in addition to items that I will need long term.

3. What first led your family to adopt? How did you choose where to adopt your children from? How did you come to the decision to adopt two children in your current adoption?

When I was younger I actually didn’t want biological children. The whole pregnancy and birth experience didn’t seem exceptionally exciting to me, and I felt like adoption would be my answer. We had the file of a little girl in Russia in 2002 that we were seriously considering…and I ended up pregnant. We were not allowed to pursue the adoption at that time. My husband’s parents have actually adopted 6 children from China. Three of them were so little when we first met, and the last three arrived home after Jim and I were engaged. We weren’t set on China—I was actually leaning towards India or Ethiopia—until I saw my son’s picture. At this point I don’t want him to be the only Chinese person in our immediate family, and we decided to go back to China this time around as well. I wanted to get approved for two children just in case, and it took months to get my husband on board. He finally agreed in February of 2012 and we didn’t start this adoption until September of 2012. We were open to twins or non-related children, but we really weren’t sure if we would get two children at once because it had to be the right situations presented to us at the right time. We wanted at least one girl—and I kept finding the most amazing little boys on the list that I would consider in a heartbeat. It was hard to be patient through the process this time around. As we were waiting to pick our 3 big kids up from Vacation Bible School on a Friday night in August, I got an email with the most perfect little boy smiling right at me. I emailed my agency right away—I needed that file—and by the time we got home it was ready for review. There was no doubt that we wanted to pursue him, but we weren’t sure what to do because the next shared list was coming out on Monday. We sat on it, because if we committed to him right away we would not likely have an opportunity to be matched with a girl. That Monday we were matched with our daughter. I responded to our case worker within the hour that we were saying {shouting} YES to both children. Our case worker wasn’t thrilled and only allowed us to consider our daughter at that time. It was so difficult to wait. We interviewed another couple that adopted two at once, consulted online with other families in the process, wrote extra essays, and our China team met regarding our family a number of times. We knew that if a family wanted our son and they were only adopting 1 child at a time—they would be considered first. It was horrible but in the end—our agency agreed to let us go forward and submit a Letter of Intent for our son as well. It was such an emotional rollercoaster. I will never say never—but this might be our last adoption. If I can ever talk my husband into it I’d love to be family considered for Project Cuddle.

4. I noticed that you have a mix of biological and adopted children, like my family. How are your big kids feeling about the two siblings that will soon be joining your family? What do they think about adoption?

My daughter was 7 when she came with me to China last time. We saw children her age and older that never knew the love of a family. I think it really opened up her eyes, and she was really sad about what she saw. I don’t think my children really think adoption is anything special because they grew up with it and have so many adopted aunts and uncles that it’s just the way it is in our family. Christian is beyond thrilled. I heard him explaining to the neighbor about his new little buddy (brother). He said that his new little buddy has the same arm and a leg like his arm. He is so excited that he is telling everybody about his new little brother. He gets Jacob’s bed ready at night and talks about him a lot. Overall, the 3 big kids are excited. Ellie looks at Jacob and Julia Mei’s pictures and names them and she will either be smiling or saying no. She’s 2.

5. What adoption resources have been most helpful to you in your journey? Blogs, books, etc.?

I can honestly say that I haven’t read any books about adoption but I’m always up for a good book! I try to stay up to date on blogs and if I have a specific question I am quick to do some Internet research. This time around I am connected online to a number of DTC (Documents to China) groups. If I have an adoption specific question the groups can get back to me more quickly than my agency case worker. The process is slightly different this time around and I am just working my way through each step. Last time I relied heavily on my case worker since she was amazing and practically held my hand through each step.

6. Can you share about how your family is fundraising for your adoptions? I think it's awesome and I know people are sometimes concerned that adoption (especially international adoption) is cost prohibitive. I think everyone would benefit from reading about fundraising ideas. Please share!

Last time, we naively went into the adoption thinking that we would receive grant money to fund most of the adoption. I spent many hours on grant writing and delayed submitting my dossier documents because I was writing so many grants. The only one that we received was our agency specific Waiting Child grant, designated to Christian’s adoption. So…we borrowed the money and paid it off within 3 months when we got our tax return. This time, I didn’t bother to write any grants based on my experiences last time and I don’t seem to have as much time to dedicate to it now that I have 4 children. We have 3 fundraising opportunities right now thanks to another adoptive mama that is nice enough to donate all of her proceeds towards our adoption. We opened up a You Caring account if anybody wanted to donate directly. Honestly—we haven’t been all that successful with any of our efforts. I wish that I spent more time grant writing this time around. This time, we refinanced our house, deferred our student loans, and we will still need to take out a substantial loan in order to travel and pay the orphanage donation fees. I will not get paid when I am out on leave since my district does not offer adoption leave, and that is another hurdle to get through. We will pay down this adoption again at tax time and continue to pay it off in the next year or two. I have seen some amazing fundraising ideas and community support. I WILL say that I am amazed at some of the support that we have received. The Father at our church has been amazingly supportive and can’t wait to meet our two new little ones. My friend’s church has adopted our family as a community project and will make meals for my husband while I am gone and for a week when I return. Oh, and…they are watching our children on Friday night so we can go out on a date before we add more kids to the mix. At the Uconn Panda Playdate this past weekend another adoptive mother offered to come and pick up our laundry and do it for us. She lives an hour away. These little things are beyond amazing to me—I am so humbled that our adoption has impacted so many around us.

7. We've had our share of the interested, and sometimes judgmental looks out in public. What about adoption do you think is difficult for non-adoptive families to understand?

I really notice the looks when we are on vacation, especially in the summer. I think people are trying to size up our family and make sense of it without asking. Children and adults often ask Christian questions about his arm. I don’t ever want him to feel uncomfortable about his appearance and I do try to step in when I see him shut down and let the person know that is just the way God made him—and it’s no big deal. I hate that I am not always there to protect him and that he will have to be stronger than a typical boy as he grows up with a physical difference. I’m pretty sure that the looks will only increase with this next adoption as we turn into a super-family and we throw some prosthetic legs into the mix. We love to go to the beach and my big kids were asking how the little kids will swim. We were like…huh…we never really thought of that…but we will figure it all out, stares and all. I hope that our story encourages others to consider adoption, supporting those who adopt, supporting orphans abroad, or even supporting those in need locally. A lot of people don’t understand why we wanted to adopt since we already had a boy and a girl and we could clearly have biological children. A lot of our students want to know if we get a discount because it is a special needs adoption, and why we would want a child with special needs. My husband always says: if it was you wouldn’t you want a family to find you?

8. I love that you have a big (and growing) family. Can you share some pointers about how you balance it all? Family, kids, doctor's visits, fun, work? I feel like balance is a constant struggle for many of us mamas (including me!) and would love some tips from another experienced mama about how to get it all done!

Oh, I wish I had a good answer for this one. There is no equal balance. Something has to give in all areas of my life, and I’ve had to accept that. I cannot dedicate 100% of myself to all areas equally—there is just no way. The other day I left for work at 6:30 for my hour commute, got home at 3:15. I had two sick kids that needed immediate attention. I made a couple of quick appointments and ran out of the house with those two kids. I spent a couple of hours getting them the care that they needed and the medication at the pharmacy, and got home at 7:30. I was beat. During that time my husband went to pick up the other two children at their after school program and got dinner going and lunches made. We were both exhausted and as of today—I have 3 kids home sick. What a week. I put a lot of energy into finding free/cheap/fun local activities to do over the weekends. I have kid involved in up to 3 sports or activities at a time and I’ll be honest—it’s hard. I need to finish house renovations. I need to clean and organize my basement. I constantly have things to do and want a cleaner house. I’d love to sit and read a good book. I never take work home with me. We have family dinners a few nights a week and we have weekend Family Fun Day. Of It’s a constant struggle and I’m still trying to find my way.


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Friday, November 22, 2013

Going back!

There's something that makes me feel at home when I say that I'm going back to China.  No, not for an adoption.  This time anyway.  Wink, wink.  A big part of my heart was left in China when we brought Sunshine home, and will forever remain there.  In some small ways, I feel like I am part Chinese because of how entangled my life has become with the beautiful country and its people.  I have been waiting for the opportunity to return.  Finally, that time has come.  I'm going back to China in March with Visiting Orphans and my very dear friend, Kelly, to love well on orphans and the workers that tirelessly care for them.  This opportunity has been a dream of mine since before we brought Sunshine home, so I am still pinching myself a bit knowing this is happening!  I am very thankful to serve in this way and I know how special it is!

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Lovebug's broken arm recovery has been a little bumpy.  X-rays right after the cast removal showed his ulna was not completely healed, but the doc didn't feel it needed a new cast.  He said, "just be careful."  Riiiigggght.  I think he forgot he was talking about a six year old BOY :-)  Fortunately nothing happened, and his 2-week post cast removal showed it had pretty much healed.

The bigger issue Lovebug is facing is his significant range of motion loss.  At first he couldn't move his arm at all, although a very small percentage did return.  At the two-week follow-up, the doc was concerned because it usually returns within a couple days of the cast removal.  So we've been trying to get him to stretch it out with some exercises and lots of hot tub visits.  At the four-week follow up yesterday, the doc was much happier.  He can finally straighten his arm almost completely, but he still has trouble bending it much past where the cast held his arm in place.  His ability to twist his wrist back and forth (from his elbow) has also gotten much better, although still not 100%.  There was talk about a PET scan, but we've seen enough improvement that we're going to hold off on that for now.  We go back in two more weeks to evaluate again.  Please keep his healing in your prayers!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Just like the older kids

The older kids are learning to play chess.  It's adorable, especially because I have no idea how to play.  Sit checkers in front of me, and I'm good to go.  But chess is a foreign language.  Sunshine has been tagging along in all the fun too.  I think she might be the only three year old I know who can set up a chess game with the king, queen, pawns, and whatever else goes on the board, all in the correct spots.  Good gracious, she kills me.  So, so precious.  Oh this girl.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Sunrise

"Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." Hosea 6:3

I had the beautiful opportunity to watch the sunrise with my Lovebug several weeks ago.  It was a precious time that I am so thankful for!  What a blessing!  The individual time with him, coupled with witnessing the artistry of Our Father was priceless.  I see many more mornings like this in the future.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Individually frozen dinners

I've been interesting recently in finding a way to freeze individual meals from our leftovers.  There are so many times when we throw out perfectly good leftovers because we're just in the mood for something else.  Ya know what I mean?  It's such a waste though, and I know plenty of families that freeze meals all the time.  I found these cheap reusable to-go containers on Amazon the other day and decided to give them a whirl the other night.  I overestimated (by A LOT) how much we would eat, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.  I had enough stuffed shells for an entire extra meal and four individually frozen meals, veggies included.  Awesome!  I wrapped these containers in two layers of aluminum foil.  A lot of the online website suggest wrapping in plastic wrap first, and then aluminum foil ... but I don't typically keep plastic wrap around.  Hopefully two layers of aluminum foil will be ok, I'll have to update later on how it works out.  I think these will be perfect for work lunches or nights when I just don't get around to cooking dinner.