Saturday, July 27, 2013

Oh, blessed day!!

Today, Andrew has been a son longer than he was an orphan!!!!

As an orphan:


Oh, Happy Day!!!!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Updated pictures of Hope

God bless the person who dressed her like a princess,
and God bless the person who took these pictures!

Head-over-Heels in love:
her family

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A look inside our family...Part II

"Children's Guidelines"

We have three guidelines for our children.

1. Obey your parents.
2. Be kind to one another.
3. You never get what you cry or whine for.

Here is our reasoning:

1. "Obey your parents" (Ephesians 6:1--a direct command in Scripture). Initially, we want our children to learn to obey us for simple safety reasons. Ya know, "Don't put that in your mouth; it's not food." "Don't go in the street!" And then, in a short time, they've learned to obey for other reasons. They learn that dad and mom love then, and boundaries are created to ensure security and safety, as well as to promote growth in many other areas.

2. "Be kind to one another" (Ephesians 4:32). This one's easy to understand. And, Derek and I want to model this by how we act toward one another and how we act toward our children. In addition, we have a rule for ourselves: "Do not exasperate your children" (Ephesians 6:4). (I'll write more about that in my next post.)

3. "You never get what you cry or whine for." This has helped so much in our family to have peace and tranquility! Our children have learned that acting out gets them absolutely no where. We start at an early age--by about one-and-a-half years old. To teach them, "You never get what you cry for," we state the rule and then wait until the child stops crying. It looks like this: child crying for mommy to hold him/her (not from being hurt, having a bad dream, etc.). I would tell him/her, "You never get what you cry for, so stop crying, and say please." Then, I show him/her the sign language sign for "please", they stop crying long enough to put their little hand on their chest, and then I scoop him/her up quickly. I say with a smile and a hug, "See, you said 'please' and you weren't crying, so mommy could pick you up."

Over time, this evolves, and the children learn how to ask for things properly, and if they have a moment of amnesia, within 20-30 seconds they remember the guideline. Obviously, the crying or whining may follow a "no" reply. "Mom, can we have desert after breakfast?" "No, Honey. I don't think that would be good for you."

In order to not "exasperate" our children with lots of "no" answers, Derek and I try to give a lot of "yes" answers. Like: "Mom, can we have dessert after lunch?" While I don't want them to eat sugar, I may say something like: "OK. Let's have animal crackers with peanut butter for dipping, AND we'll eat them outside like a picnic!" Saying, "yes" to a request--with keeping their best interest in mind--is a good way to teach the children that their ideas are valuable and that we care about their desires.

We hope that over time, our children will learn to obey those in authority (leading to obedience to God), learn to be kind to other people, and learn to have self-control and make wise choices.

This is just another glimpse into who we are....

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our LOA has arrived!

Yesterday, after waiting 110 days, we received our
notification. Our agency wrote us an e-mail congratulating us at 5:15 p.m., but since we were having dinner and did not respond immediately, they called us at 5:55 p.m. to congratulate us. Derek answered the phone, and as I listened to the conversation unfold, I started crying and ran to the computer to read it for myself. After Derek hung up the phone, our whole family started jumping up and down and thanking God!

This long wait for LOA ("Letter of Acceptance") is quite abnormal, but since Ch*na implemented a new computer system, we had to patiently wait for them to fix the "technical difficulties" and process our paperwork.

Essentially, the LOA is the letter that confirms that Hope's paperwork is done and is matched up with our paperwork in Ch*na. This letter also gives us the "go ahead" to begin the paperwork to bring a "named immigrant" into the country. In doing so, we can complete our adoption in Ch*na, and when Hope steps foot on U.S. soil, she will instantly become a U.S. citizen.

This very nice man delivered our LOA today and was so happy to hear the news of our upcoming adoption:
He was beaming!!

So, Derek and I signed the paperwork enclosed and immediately sent it and the immigration paperwork out via overnight mail. Now, instead of simply sitting still and waiting, we have begun the process once again on the U.S. side.

We officially have a countdown to bringing Hope home: 10-14 weeks. We are on a race to get home before our home study expires!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A look inside our family...Part I

Saying "I'm Sorry"

I have been feeling a pull to blog about what makes up our family. From the inside out.

The real us. The stuff that you would see/hear if you came to stay at our house.

So, let's begin before Derek and I ever got married.

Derek and I made a covenant between ourselves. We promised ourselves even before we were married that we would never go to bed angry with one another, so that we would never give the devil an opportunity to get a foothold in our relationship (Ephesians 4:26-27).

We had made a covenant.
We were serious.
And, so we began. We got married, and we began living as husband and wife.

As you can imagine, with two sinners living together, we had ample opportunity to "work out our covenant". There were misunderstandings, differences of opinions, hurt feelings, and plain ol' sin.

When we began the journey down our covenant-keeping-lifestyle, and as I, in particular, hated confrontation of all kinds, we'd often wait and talk at night before bed. (Ya know, brush it under the rug until the last possible moment.) Knowing we had a covenant to keep, we would stay awake until all hours of the night working out the issue until we could fall asleep snuggling and holding hands.

We were serious. Our marriage was/is worth so much to us, that working out the issues was (and remains) of utmost priority.

Over time, we began to realize that any time spent between an argument/disagreement/sin and that nighttime talk were just absolutely wasted moments and hours. Over time, we'd learned to just "get it over with", because we'd be hugging and kissing before the night was over anyway. So, why not get to the kissing and hugging sooner?

So, how do we get to the "hugging and kissing" part?

Every apology has three statements.
1. "I'm sorry for ___________." (List the sin/offense by name--by the name God gave it.)
2. "I was wrong."
3. "Will you please forgive me?"

That's it.
Three simple statements.
Simple, yet terribly humbling.
Completely useful for tearing down all walls between individuals.
Three statements that will humble the offender, and completely melt the heart of the one who was offended.

And, it's amazing how one apology (from the offender) can lead to another apology (from the one offended). Many arguments/disagreements/sins have two people involved. And, when one person's self-protective walls are torn down, the other person is often quick to lower their self-protective walls as well.

We have lived out this way of apologizing in our family for over 14 years.
It is part of our make-up.
It is who we are.
So much so, that Derek and I were saying these words to our children even before they could understand English.

I remember being in Ch*na, and Cherish was terrified of me. She had just joined our family three days prior. She had spent the day hitting me, kicking me, trying to bite me, screaming bloody murder when I went near her...and in my heart I had stopped being patient with her. I was hurt. I knew her little world had turned completely upside down, yet I was hurt that she "hated" me so much. So, there I was in a hotel room in Ch*na, apologizing to a 12-month-old for being impatient with her in my heart.

I remember saying through tears: "Cherish, I am so sorry that I was not patient with you today. I am SOOOOOO sorry!! I was wrong! Will you please forgive me?" (By that time I was bawling!) Obviously, she did not answer, but my heart was broken, and our relationship continued with me being a better mother!

It is so precious seeing the results from this type of apology!

Cherish and Andrew apologize this way to each other, and where one minute one temper can be hot, the next minute--literally--the other has apologized, and they giggle the silliest laugh, hug, and start playing again as if the offense never happened!

I have heard Andrew say to Cherish on his own: "I sorry mean. Wrong. 'Give me?" It melts Cherish's heart and it melts my heart to hear that he already "gets it".

This is real life here.
We all sin.
We all offend.
But, we've made it a point that everything stops, and the offense is confessed before moving on.

And, we. have. peace.
Real peace in the family.

Getting used to saying you are "wrong" is really hard. But, it gets a lot easier over time, and it is one of the bonds that holds this family together in unity.

We all sin.
We all need to seek forgiveness.
We all need to grant forgiveness.
Seeing the healing and love that follows makes going through the process of seeking forgiveness a beautiful thing!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blessings in Hard Times

It has been a hard month and a half.

You may not have seen it from the last several blog posts, but it's been a crazy summer. We've been sick. A lot!

Let's back up to Derek's 40th birthday. June 7th weekend. We went to Animal Kingdom. It was hot. Orlando hot. We were dressed appropriately.

But, we got caught in a torrential downpour, that, well, wouldn't end. We were wet soaked and cold.

Andrew woke up on Monday morning with a nasty cold. It spread. To the whole family. The WHOLE family. It was bad! So bad, that the day before Cherish's dress rehearsal for dance, she had a fever. If I remember correctly, it was 104° F. She gladly sucked down all manner of good-for-ya stuff so she would not let her dance group down. She was much better for the rehearsal and dance recital. But the rest of us? Well, we should have been confined to bed--or at least the house.

We made it through the dance recital weekend, and remained sick. The following week, Andrew's surgery was cancelled, and he was put on an 18-day quarantine by his doctor, with surgery rescheduled.

(We had first seen Andrew's surgeon in August 2012!!!!, but his surgery kept getting cancelled due to illness and testing for neurological issues. We had waited so long.)

We had been home-bound due to illness, and now we were headed into an official quarantine.

But, thankfully, everyone was getting well and staying well.

Derek and I were feeling sad that Cherish was "missing" her summer, so we allowed her to "sneak away" for some occasional summer fun. Derek took her swimming and to her Pappy and Nanny's house while I stayed home with Andrew.

Then, it was time for VBS. Cherish LOVED last year's VBS that a church downtown had, and we had previously told her that we were planning on her attending again this year. (This was before we knew Andrew's surgery was going to be cancelled for the fourth time and that he would be quarantined.)

So, wanting to be faithful to our word, Pappy, Nanny, and I took turns taking her to VBS and/or babysitting Andrew. They graciously made a way for Cherish to attend while keeping Andrew away from everyone else.

Andrew had his surgery this past Thursday, while Cherish stayed at her grandparents' house Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon. She was able to finish her VBS week and prepare for the closing program on Sunday evening.

Here are some pictures from the VBS closing night:

Cherish is in the front with a green shirt on...

Riding the VBS Ferris Wheel:

Headed up the slide:

The day after the program, she woke up sick! Sick, I tell ya! With the quarantine officially over, and Andrew able to leave the house (provided his Rx is kicking in full gear), we are again home-bound. (I do not believe in going out and spreading nasty germs if at all possible!)

In addition, we began dog-sitting for some friends--since we were home anyway, right? Well, the dog--who has been here many times before--must really miss her family! (That's all I'll say....)

In addition, I was feeling poorly, and getting little sleep with needing to give medication around the clock for Andrew, and caring for a not-so-happy-doggie.

May I also add, the wait for LOA--the letter that will tell us to begin counting down the weeks until we hold Hope in our arms--has not come. We've been waiting over 100 days. It's unheard of. Well, until now.

And there are other things I could add but won't.

Over the last 20+ days I've been studying grace.
I have been praising God for His grace--in many different aspects.
In His grace, He has given us Hope. I concentrate on thanking Him for her.
Through these long months of illness (and trust me, I've paid attention, since tests and surgery appointments have been cancelled so often from illness), I've been praising Him for His grace in giving us Cherish and Andrew. I've been concentrating on thanking Him for Cherish and Andrew, and for the opportunity to have them in our family. (I often silently stare at them in awe.)

In addition, I've tried to make it a point to continually thank God for being Sovereign, good, and loving. I am so thankful He loves Hope more than I ever could. He knows what timing is best for us to bring her home.

But, this week I was feeling down. Feeling tired. Feeling sick. Feeling emotionally strained.

Then a surprise CD came in the mail on Monday. A friend that I know through an adoption group sent me some encouragement in the way of music.

I've been listening to the CD like it was candy to suck on. Constantly running the music over and over again. Songs about God's power, sovereignty, understanding, and perfect timing. Just what I needed this week!

In this lack-of-sleep and pain-ridden body I've been experiencing, I've been slowly loosing perspective. Then the CD came. Thank you, Katie!

So, today I was determined to live out my thankfulness for my children. We got chores accomplished, and while I was working on an additional cleaning project, Cherish began hanging streamers in the kitchen. Andrew began to gather "presents" for me from around the house--ya know, like a wheel, a marble, a sock, a piece of paper, whatever a momma might want =).

Then Cherish declared a party. She was half joking, but I determined to take the idea and run with it. Since Derek was working a 16-hour shift (which rarely occurs anymore), I declared that the party HAD to have certain essentials, and those essentials would be our dinner.

Those essentials were ice cream and cookies! (I figured after all the fruits and veggies we'd been eating to be healthy, one meal wasn't going to kill us.) To the total shock of the kiddos, we had "ice cream soup"--the animal crackers were crumpled up and stirred into the soft ice cream. And, while we ate, we told crazy made-up stories. It was a blast. Afterwards, we each picked an activity for us to do. We played and played.

At 6:30 p.m. I went to get our mail. And guess what? My sister and her family had sent Andrew and Cherish a package. Perfect timing since the party was still going on! ;-)

In the box were soft peppermint candies. So, we had a tea party and added the peppermints to the menu.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed at being "stuck" in the house for yet another day (or another week), I concentrated on being thankful, joyful, and delighting in seeing the children's eyes light up and sparkle. Strangely enough, I didn't seem to feel all the pain and tiredness I had been feeling in the last several days ;-).

So, today we read several chapters in a novel (with more being begged for), made up silly stories, painted, colored, played games, built railroad tracks and played trains...and had a very long party that will continue tomorrow morning (with Cherish planning nail painting, dress-up, eating the special cereal Uncle Mark and Aunt Michele sent, more games, and more fun). Sometimes, ya just gotta!

So, am I still in the long LOA wait? Yep.
Do I still have a child in pain from surgery? Yep.
Do I still have a sick child who may spread her very bad cold to the rest of us? Yep.
Do I still have a dog here who needs constant watching? Yep.
Am I still feeling poorly? Yep.

But the truths of Scripture and the encouragement of others with their acts of kindness have made this day wonderful!

I am so thankful to have been adopted into God's family.
I am so thankful to have adopted children into this family.
I am so thankful for family and friends who have spread their love over us.

I remain: blessed beyond measure!

Soft peppermints from Uncle Mark and Aunt Michele.
Look at her eyes lit up!

A panda from Uncle Mark and Aunt Michele:

Notice the streamers in the background?

Yummy peppermints!

Looking at the good and looking up!
God bless our dear family and friends!

Praising God that He is indeed
and Perfect in timing!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


EVERY worm, EVERY caterpillar, EVERY centipede, EVERY bug is a pet. Lose one, and there will be LOTS of tears.

Pet worm taking a ride:

Might I add:
Boys like to play in the dirt (especially when given the excuse that the "sprinkler needs fixing").

 Goggles ready:

My boys love dirt and bugs!