We are FULLY FUNDED! Thank you all so much!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New School Year, New Beginnings

I can't say enough how much older child adoption rocks. These kids are incredible and we feel so honored to be able to share all these new milestones with them. I know what we have done isn't right for every family, but it has been great for us and for our children - all of them. And I also know that most families don't have as easy a transition as we have! My husband and I keep asking each other if this is still a honeymoon period or if this is really the way things are going to be forever. Either way, we are very thankful for the last three months and how well everyone has bonded. 

An anonymous individual commented during our adoption process that we should have only adopted one child. Which of our boys would they have had us leave behind? We can't imagine being without any of them, and we also can't imagine what would have happened to them if we hadn't said "YES" to each of them. We are counting the days until Barton can join us here at home too. (Very soon!) I know most people don't adopt 4 older boys at once. That is okay! Yes, it has been all kinds of chaos. You should see what happens if I skip a single day's worth of laundry! But the kids are great, incredible, and loved so much. It has been an amazing journey and we all have so much ahead of us, together.

So, on to school!

This is the day Theo and Orion went to check out their new school. Their new teacher could hear us as soon as we came in the door, even though her room is a few halls away, because the boys were so excited and kept exclaiming about how big and beautiful the school is. I really like their teacher and she has been wonderful about understanding my concern over helping the boys transition into a school environment. The boys had a great time checking everything out and meeting the staff. 

Here are Theo and Orion after their haircuts for school! Aren't they the handsomest boys ever? I had been putting off cutting their hair because one of them has a lot of scars on his head that are hidden when his hair is longer. We were able to cut it short enough that they were happy with it but long enough to make the scars less obvious. Phew! They were also both quite surprised that their haircuts didn't hurt. Little things like that pop up all the time, so unexpectedly. It stings my heart that something like a haircut not hurting would bring them so much joy. They really enjoyed having everyone fuss over how handsome they were afterward though, which we were all more than happy to do.

Here they are waiting for the bus! So much anticipation had been building for this. They started asking when school would begin as soon as they got to America. They were very disappointed to learn it was the middle of summer vacation. It is finally time to figure out what school is like and they can't wait.

Theo was a little nervous about the lift on the bus for the first few days, but now he has gotten used to it. The bus driver has been really good about showing him everything she is going to do before she does it so he knows what to expect. She takes great care of them!

Orion just about leapt into his seat once the bus stopped. I am glad they are excited for their bus ride, since it is pretty long. There are only about twenty other kids on their bus, but we are in a rural area so it takes some time to pick everyone up. The other kids have been very curious and excited about the boys going to their school, and also helpful about showing the boys how things work. 

There is a lot of catching up to do in so many areas. We are still learning about the concept of buying things, and that Mama and Papa are the ones paying for your milk at school - not the teacher! They are missing a lot of the assumed background knowledge, even in very basic materials. We often don't discover those gaps in their knowledge until we all stumble into them together.

Their excitement for everything makes it easier. You know the videos of kids finding out they are headed on a vacation to Disney? That is how Theo and Orion sounded as the bus pulled into school for the first time. They are so thrilled to go to school each day and learn new things. I have had so many people from the school stop me to tell me how much the boys' excitement has affected them. Again, we are so in awe to be their parents. They are still adjusting to the expectations at school. Orion had been entering each classroom by shouting hello and shaking everyone's hands...all out of excitement and absolutely adorable, but not always appropriate! Now that we are a couple weeks into school, we are working on keeping their excitement a little quieter and a little more suited to the setting, but happily it is still there.

You'll notice Evan didn't get on the bus with Theo and Orion. He will be having homebound services for this year. Medically, he is amazingly uncomplicated considering his background. He has CP. He is malnourished but gaining weight. Even uncomplicated children have a lot of medical visits though, and with his background all of these transitions are very tiring and stressful. The specialists have agreed that we will better be able to find the right educational environment in another year. He will be getting most of his services through the school at home, but also some extra speech therapy and PT during short sessions at the school. We will be adding private therapy too as he gets more comfortable with the interaction with all of the therapists and educators. All of this is a big change for him, and no one has any idea what kind of results we can expect from the therapies. We are hoping for miracles, but we truly love him exactly the way he is.

These photos are from one of his many trips to our Children's hospital. This was us going to do some sedated tests, which he did fine with although I was a nervous wreck the whole time waiting for him! We don't have much new information about his condition at this point. It isn't progressive, which we knew. His hearing is great, which we were pleased to find but expected. He has a little bit of vision, but it is hard to assess, which we also expected. None of these have changed what we are doing, but it is good information to have.

I can't explain how much we love Evan, and the rest of children as well of course. I think the bedridden kids, the crib kids, come across as very scary and hopeless. It is so hard to see a little blurb and a photo or two of a child and make a decision, even when the photos and description make a child sound "easy." (Haha, easy child? I know, I know, doesn't exist!) With the bedridden kids, and also transferred kids, the child is most likely drugged, in all but the most rare cases is neglected at a level the average person can't comprehend, with so many unknown diagnoses and an unknown future. What we have found after getting Evan out of his crib and into the real world, is that all of that scariness melts away. What seems frightening in a crib in a room full of other neglected children and adults seems so much easier in the light of day - in the living room of your home, in a carseat in your car, outside on a walk with your family. Even with Theo and Orion, who were in much better conditions than Evan, you could see something fall away once they left the orphanage and arrived in America with us. Adoption changes lives. It can be hard. It can be heartbreaking. It is worth it. We are so thankful for our children.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On Aging Out And Keeping Doors Open

As August draws to a close, a boy I have seen is more and more likely to have passed his 16th birthday. He had a family coming but no longer does. I don't know the details, and I don't need to. Knowing those details won't change things for him. There is something that could change things though. Maybe there is a family out there who has already sent in their i600a, who is approved to adopt a 16 year old with Down Syndrome. Maybe there is a family out there waiting for Gene.

So many of you know our story with Barton. We sent in our i600a only a couple weeks before his birthday, but he wasn't even on our radar. I saw people shouting for him as he turned 16, and I was so sad when his birthday came and went without a family lined up. Slowly it became clear that there was no other family coming because we were his family. It was truly amazing the way everything worked out.

The big thing was that we mailed in our i600a early. Our homestudy wasn't done. We weren't planning on adopting a child who had already aged out. We had to send in those fees sooner rather than later. We did it anyway. We kept that door open. We kept other doors open too. We discussed with our social worker the wide range of ages and needs we were open to on a case by case basis. Our special needs list was very, very long. We were only planning on adopting older children, but we kept younger ages on our homestudy also in case there were younger siblings we did not know about, or maybe a child we hadn't been considering was the right one for us. Each of those choices to leave those doors open was done consciously. My husband and I talked it over, knowing how unpredictable the process is for the country we had chosen. That was why our homestudy met the requirements to add Barton, and later also Evan.

Please, consider the plans your family is making in your adoption process. Consider keeping your hearts open and keeping those doors open. Consider an older child who has waited for an unimaginable length of time for a family. One of our boys told me yesterday how sad he was in the orphanage. He said he would stay awake at night and ask God for a mama and papa. His brother said that he was so sad too. Wow. These are older boys, who so many people wanted to warn us would be dangerous, would be predators. They have blessed us more in the short time they have been home than I can put into words. My heart breaks every time I think of how long they waited, and how they may never have had a family if we had not seen them for who they are and been willing to step far outside the typical adoption box. We kept our hearts open and we kept those doors open, and it has made a tremendous difference in our lives and theirs.

Theo's First Birthday With Us!

Here are a few pictures and a video from Theo's birthday! He had an amazing time and so did we. It was his 15th birthday, but only his first with a family.  He loved his balloons, his cake, and all of his presents. There was a lot of Thomas the Train for this birthday. He loves to shout "Too-too" whenever he sees a train.

It was a big surprise to see how much he loved his balloons. When he had a balloon in the orphanage, he and the other boys all popped their balloons within a few minutes. These ones last more than a week!

Here we are singing happy birthday and he even blows out all his candles on his Thomas cake! He could barely believe the train decorating the cake was his to keep. He was covered with frosting by the time he was done eating cake.

These are just a few pictures of him with his presents. It was a little overwhelming for him to get so many things at once, but he did well. He loved everything, even the clothes.

Later all the kids got to play with glowsticks in the house and in the yard. We will always miss the memories that we will never have, of all the birthdays celebrated or not before we knew our sons. We are trying make as many new memories as we can. We already have so many, but we can't wait for all the memories still to come!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

We Passed Court For Barton!

Yes! Really! Finally! Barton is our son! We had to sit on the news for a few days until the papers were finalized, but I am so excited to be able to publicly share now! My husband will be going back in the beginning of September, after the waiting period has ended and holidays are over, to finish the last of his paperwork and bring Barton HOME! We are still not fully funded due to all of these extra trips, and we are very appreciative of donations. Our account HERE needs to read $32,000. Right now it is at $28,505. Thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting us. Don't forget to email me at to be entered into our Little Pim Thank You Giveaway!

Here are some of the photos we couldn't show anyone until after court. I hope you like them! These are from my husband's visit the day after the judge said YES! And yes, Barton really is that skinny...but not for long!

This is from when I was able to meet him before we went to court for the other boys. This was months ago, at the end of spring. He was so sweet and shy with me, but he also gave me a hug when we left.


Here he is looking at one of the books my husband brought for a visit. He loves to look through these comic books. He holds them very close to his face because it is hard for him to see, but he is so excited about them.


Here are a couple pictures of Barton with my husband. You can really see in these how small he is. It is hard to imagine that he is 16! You can tell how happy he is to see his Papa and spend time with him. 

And all of these are from my husband's first few visits with Barton, back in April. He loves to be pushed on the swing and play with clay. They put him in that sweater and dress pants for all of my husband's visits until the weather was so hot that my husband was afraid he would get heat stroke. 

The staff at the orphanage said that the change they saw in Barton from my husband's first visits to now have been huge. They said that he really came out of his shell after my husband spent so much time with him. I can only imagine how much he will grow once he is home with us. He is so excited about our house and his new family and how he will go to school. We can't wait to have him home. It has been a long, hard road. I am so thankful we are finally nearing the end of it!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Matching Grant and Little Pim Thank You Giveaway

I am so honored to announce that we have been awarded a matching grant by an amazing anonymous group to help us get Barton home. We need our FSP to read $28,450.50 to meet the $550 grant. You can go HERE to donate. Right now it is at $27,900.50. We have two weeks to raise the money for this grant. This is a huge help and we are so thankful for it! The total amount when we meet this grant will cover more than an entire plane ticket! Wow!

As our thank you to everyone helping us meet or match this grant, we are going to give away 3 Little Pim discovery sets. Each set has 3 DVDs and a small stuffed panda. We will be giving away 1 set in English and 2 sets in Mandarin Chinese. The set in English is great for newly adopted kids. We bought one for our kids! The Mandarin sets could be used for young adopted children to maintain some of their first language, for excited new siblings, or just as a fun introduction to the language.

I will tell you guys up front that I *love* Little Pim. I have used the French language discs as part of an early elementary language study program for some of my kids. The background music is soothing and calms kids (and mamas) down. The vocabulary focuses on daily activities and objects young children will encounter. It is gentle. I love gentle! I am happy to answer questions you might have!

There are a few ways to be entered. For every $5 donation, you are entered once into the giveaway! (2 entries for $10, etc.) You can also be entered for sharing our blog post or posting about it on your own blog. Any donations, sharing, or posting within the next three weeks can be entered into the giveaway, to make sure we can thank everyone who is helping us bring Barton home! Don't forget to email me at with Thank You Giveaway in the subject, your receipt or a link to your shared post or blog in the message, and whether you want English or Chinese so that I can enter you! (And so I can thank you!) Go HERE to donate!

Plus, here is a picture of Theo enjoying his first birthday in America! A full birthday post will come in a few days after I have finished wiping frosting off all the walls and cleaning up wrapping paper!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Barton Is Worth It

I have been putting off writing this update. Barton is not home yet. We have not passed court. The court requested a second date to call extra witnesses and do a few other optional things that most courts decline to do. These are extra steps the court is requiring from the country, not for our family. We understand that this is the first time this court has done an international adoption, so they are making sure they cross and dot every letter. The second court date is scheduled for the end of July. It will be in a few days.

We are very sad and frustrated for Barton. Our facilitator and his teachers were able to explain what is happening, but he was disappointed. His teachers have said they have seen him open up a lot since my husband first started visiting, and one of them has requested to make a statement about that at court. We have so much waiting for him here. Our children keep asking about him. The staff at our school can't wait to meet him. There is a hole in our lives, waiting for him to come home. It is so hard to know that our other boys have been home for more than a month, and we don't know yet when he will be here. It has been especially hard for my husband to be there and be so happy to spend time with him, and then say goodbye one more time.

In addition to the emotional difficulty with another delay, these extra trips have been a logistical nightmare. We will now have three extra trips for my husband to make since we have brought the other boys home. He is getting closer and closer to eating up the last of his FMLA time, even though he is coming home to work as much as he can between those trips. At close to $1000 each way, each time he has to make another trip, these have been a huge extra expense. After recent events, airlines are canceling flights to the airport he had been traveling in and out of. He now needs to fly in and out of the capital, requiring extra travel time. The flight for the second court date was cancelled very close to his departure, and we are thankful we were able to get an alternative flight on such short notice. We had scheduled medical appointments for the other boys based on when our children's hospital had openings with multiple specialists, and it has taken some juggling to make sure those run smoothly now that my husband may be traveling during those times.

It is worth it though. I can't say that enough. He is worth all of this. It has been hard, and we aren't done fighting for him yet. But we would do it all again in a heartbeat.


You know who else is worth it? These three amazing boys that we have been watching grow and change every day. We are still cocooning and still enjoying our honeymoon while we learn more about each other.

I have so much more to say about them, but they are too busy climbing all over me right now for me to say anymore. So I will leave you with some pictures and a couple videos of how things are going.

Theo and Orion were very amused that their crazy American mother gave them root BEER. I tried to explain it was soda but that part was lost in translation.

I have to say again, we have the handsomest sons in the world! Theo really wants his friend (Tania on RR!) to have a family too. Orion would spend the whole day playing outside if we let him.

And here is just a sneak peak of all the amazing things ahead for Evan. He is knocking our socks off every single day!

I have so much more to say about how well they are all doing, but it will need to wait for next time!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

These Boys Are Amazing!

I have been SO busy and SO happy with our new sons. They are just great. We are having so many new experiences every day. My husband is back in country for court for Barton. He will be coming home during the ten day wait because he will run out of leave otherwise. Yep, he will have spent three entire months in country by the time this is done - twice as long as most people take. That doesn't even include the time spent waiting at home for Barton's court date.  It has been a long journey.  We have a $500 matching grant that our FSP account needs to read $26,728 to meet. To be fully funded our account needs to read $29,277. These delays have required four extra flights during the expensive summer months, extra money for transportation and lodging, etc. We haven't included any of the lost income in our fundraising totals, but as you can imagine three months of lost salary has been a big hit. Evan's condition is miraculously good for his size at his age, but we are already seeing many expensive specialists to check up on things. Any donations to our account HERE are greatly appreciated.

Now for the good stuff - pictures from the last month!

Evan, Theo and Orion are doing so well. I am so thankful to have each of them in our family. They are adjusting so well. We are working on new skills with Evan, but mostly just loving him more than words. He is such a treasure. Theo and Orion are playing all the time and asking every day to practice for when they start school at the end of the summer. I am constantly surprised by how many things Theo can do for himself when he tries. Sometimes it takes a little prompting because he isn't used to doing those things, but I think he is definitely capable of more than anyone realized. Orion is so proud of all the things he can do and loves to have someone to show them off to. He is also so sweet and gentle. They are great kids.

They all love spending time outside. We have had a few impromptu picnics. Theo loves having the chance to play with sticks and dig in the dirt too. Evan would cry when he was outside when we left the orphanage. Now he laughs and lights up when we take him out. Orion is always very busy building something. They are so much fun to be with.

Evan has been having a lot of appointments. So far the ENT removed huge impactions in both ears, we have done tons of lab tests with really great results, a full skeletal x-ray showing contractures, some hip degeneration and a bone age 3 years younger than his chronological age, and a swallow study with no aspiration. So much to be thankful for there. Here he is with Orion at one of his appointments. We have 8 more specialist to see in the next month.

The boys loved their first 4th of July. Independence Day indeed. We watched fireworks by the river and ate fried dough and had a great time. They even ate at McDonalds for the first time on our way home. I LOVE how excited they are by everything. These boys love life and everything it has to offer them. I can't say enough how awed I am by them.

We all can't wait for Barton to be here too. Orion and Theo ask me all the time when he will be sleeping in his bed and if he will go to school with them. They also ask about all of their friends who are still at the orphanage. I know people are wary of older kids. Ours are all wonderful and I can't imagine any of them being left behind for the rest of their lives just because they weren't chosen when they were younger.

Gene ages out very soon, but he is not scary. He is small and frail.

The boys ask me about their friend Gideon and if he has a family almost every day.

Denzel was in the same room as Evan. He needs a family desperately. He was so alert and responsive and alive. He needs someone to give him a chance. He needs a bigger grant.

This girl is such a sweetheart. Kendall was in the playroom with my husband and Evan one day when Evan wasn't feeling well. She crawled over to check on him. She is learning to stand!
O girl (1)

Vance is so full of love. He was so sweet and gentle and happy to get attention.

Please share any and all of these children. They need families.