Monday, April 14, 2014

Dreams Do Come True

Dear Yuan,

I received a note from Ms. Tang this morning and learned that you now know without a doubt you have a family.  Sadly there was no video of this moment or pictures, but the written words are a treasure.  I can read them and re-read them knowing that one of your most deepest desires has just come true:

"She is smart and very excited to be adopted.  When she sees her friends get adopted she feels jealous because she wants a family.  She always asks, 'Can you help me find a home?'  The nannies told her she has a family and she almost can't believe it.  She keeps asking for reassurance, 'Are you sure?  I really have a mom and dad?'  Every time she sees her nanny she asks, 'When can I see my mom and dad?'  Even though she has Cerebral Palsy her development is good.  She is afraid her mom and dad won't like her.  Usually they call her by her nickname, Yuan Yuan.  She is going to school and doing well."

As I read the words tears ran down my face.  You know it feels like this is all a dream to me, too.  "Do I really have a daughter?  Really?"  Almost every day I ask the adoption agency, "When can we go to China?".  And I also have fears that maybe you won't like us.  But you know what?  I think we can do this.  We have all waited so long for this to happen that it will give us the strength and determination that we all need.  YOU, Yuan, are strong, smart, and you never gave up hope.  I admire you for that.  You have much to teach us, your new family.

These next several weeks are going to feel like an eternity as we all prepare for this new chapter in our lives.  You will finish up school, your brothers will finish up school, we will finish getting your room ready, and Elijah and I will begin to pack up for one of the most amazing trips of our lives.  I have been gathering some clothes to bring to you and I try to imagine what you will look like.  Will you like them?  I know that you love to wear dresses so I may have gone a little overboard in that department.  Your closet has nothing but dresses at the moment.

I wish I could tell you in person how much you are already loved.  How daddy and I have laid awake at night praying for you.  Being scared is normal, I think.  But I truly hope that you soon learn that you have nothing to worry about.  You are loved.  You are cherished.  You are our daughter.

I love you.

Always & forever,

Mom xoxoxoxo...

Friday, April 11, 2014

I Can See The Finish Line!

Back in the day, before children, before blown out knees, and when I was in better shape I was a distance runner.  I LOVED the thrill of the race and could run five miles without even thinking of it.  In fact, when I was in high school I fractured my foot during a cross country meet and was so intent on finishing no matter what that I ran on the foot despite the fact that it was injured.  Determination.  Slow.  Steady.  Keeping the pace.

Adoption reminds me of the races I used to run.

For Dima's adoption there was a lot of sprinting involved.  Ukraine was going to shut down to International adoptions and we had a deadline to meet.  Despite our best efforts we did not get a travel date before the closure but during the wait we remained steadfast to Dima.  Slow and steady.  Eventually we made it and now Dima has been with us for 2 1/2 years!

Channah's adoption has been like a marathon.  We started out slow last February when we first saw her picture.  Then we could submit our letter of intent.  Then we received our pre-approval.  And the pace picked up a little.  Once we did all of the paper work things slowed down once again as we waited for others to do their part.  We kept moving forward.  Slow and steady.

Today, however, we came around a rather large corner and we now see the finish line off in the distance.  Today we received word that we are "matched reviewed" which is fancy talk for we are officially matched to Channah and have been approved by the Chinese government!  According to our agency we will be traveling in 2-3 months which could put Elijah and I in China as early as the middle of June.

This brings us to the part where we begin to pick up our pace once again.  We have a many preparations to do in Channah's room, clothes to purchase, minor home improvement projects, logistics to figure out while I am out of the country, and I cannot forget to breathe.  Life has suddenly become more interesting!

So as we enter into the final stretch of this race I ask that you would continue to pray.  Most importantly please pray for Channah; for her heart to be prepared.  For the boys.  For Eric and I (we have NEVER had a daughter and I confess it is a little daunting after only raising boys for 11 years!).  That we would be able to be fully funded in the next month.  That we would be able to figure the logistics of mom being out of the country for 2 weeks while the boys are out of school.  And finally, that God would continue to guide the process in a seamless manner.

Eric and I expect to receive an update on our precious daughter early next week and we have asked some very pointed questions about Channah and her thoughts on making such a big move to the States.  We want to know what she is thinking and feeling so we can better serve her and help her adjust in the best way possible.  I remember how despite the fact that Dima was SO happy to have a Mama and Papa he was also very upset to be taken from all that was familiar- he was only 7 at the time.  Sweet Channah is 11, almost 12, and her entire childhood has taken place in the shelter of the same place for over a decade.  It is a blessing to know that so many of our friends, family, and church family are praying and just as excited as we are.  Our sweet girl has NO idea just how many people already love her.

I am ready to cross that finish line...

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. 
Isaiah 40:31 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Success & Victory

I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who participated in our Bonfire Funds t-shirt fundraiser.  We exceeded our goal and we raised $683!!  That amount will be applied towards our next agency fee that will come due when we receive our LOA.  T-shirts will be sent out within the next two weeks and I hope to see pictures of y'all sporting your shirts!!  Thank you once again for your generous support!!

In the meantime we continue our LOA wait and this seems to be the most difficult part.  We have almost been in process for a year now as it was this time last year that we were seriously trying to get our ducks in a row to even begin the adoption process.  By the time we get this precious girl home she will be almost 12 years old.  Her childhood ended.  It makes my heart sad to think of that, but I know that there have been times of happiness for her.  From what I am hearing about her, she tends to look for the joy and usually finds it.  In that respect she and Dima are so alike.  They are survivors.  Strong.  Determined.  Yun has an amazing future ahead of her, of that I am certain.  Yesterday I received a picture of her from a family that had seen her back in January.  While the picture is blurry, you can see that she is happy and goofing off with her friends.  She is in the green jacket next to the gal in the pink.

Dima's adoption seemed to take forever, too, yet in retrospect it took all of seven months.  He has been with us now for 31 months and has blossomed into an amazing little boy.  He LOVES school, especially now that he is at the school for special needs kiddos, and he is learning.  Not too long ago I had to take Dima to school and I decided to tag along with him to breakfast.  When he walked into the cafeteria everyone turned and said, "DIMA!".  Even the high school students were hugging him, giving him high fives, and I could see that Dima is truly loved and well-liked by his schoolmates.  Despite Dima's difficult and painful past he chooses joy and loves to bring joy to others.  I witnessed it firsthand and it brought tears to my eyes.  Sometimes I wish that those who were in his life before us could see him now...

This past week our county had it's annual field day sponsored by the Kiwanis club.  Dima's school and The Key Training Center were the participants and it was a fantastic day.  Elijah wanted to be there, too, to cheer his "twin" brother on as he raced.  I was able to receive special permission for Elijah to miss school for field day and it was so nice to be able to share it with Elijah.

Dima participated in the 50-yard run and received first place!  It was so exciting to watch him run and see the joy on his face as he ran as fast as he could.  As he crossed the finish line the photographer from the local paper was there to capture the moment and Dima made the papers yesterday:

More pictures from our day:

Elijah holding Dima on his lap.  There is such love between these two.
Dima and the school's therapy dog.
Momma and Elijah waiting for the day to begin.  This young man will be my travel buddy to China.  I am very much looking forward to experiencing China and all that the trip entails with this fellow.  His love for others is amazing and I am blessed to be his mother.
Elijah was so proud of his "twin's" success!

What a fantastic day.  It was just such a blessing to watch not only Dima, but his classmates and our friends from the Key have fun, too.  Our family is certainly fortunate to live in a town where individuals like Dima have an opportunity to live life to the fullest:  an education, a job, an active social life, chances to compete in sports, and even travel!  

I have shared on this blog time and time again that adopting a child with special needs is not about "saving the world", "being trendy", "trying to be holier than thou", and we are not ruining our biological children.  No.  Our family has chosen to adopt Dima and Yun with the desire to help two children have an opportunity.  An opportunity to have a life, be loved, know what love is.  As you can see our biological children have not been ruined, are not traumatized, and if anything, have learned far more important life lessons than the average American child.  Our family loves a God who sacrificed His one and only son for us.  A God who has set a proper example on how we are to love our fellow humans.  With a God like that how could we not love so abundantly in return?  

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Matthew 22:34-37

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Sammy Wammy!!

Eight years ago today at this time I was having an emergency c-section.  It is a long story but suffice to say that my amniotic fluid was non-existant and our little fellow's chances of survival were not very high.  I'll never forget that sickly little cry and how my tiny little baby was whisked off before I could even see or hold him.  That first night I stood on my feet for hours praying over Sammy.  His heart would stop and the nurse would say, "O.K. momma, time for you to do your job- PRAY!".  I never bargained so hard with God or pleaded so fiercely for a miracle.  The love that I had for that baby was immeasurable and I would have gladly given my own life so that he could have his.  And I had yet to even hold him.

And now, eight years later, my Sammy is still here and he is an amazing little boy.  As my mom puts it, he "sparkles".  Oh does he ever!  There is something special about him, how he loves life, how he loves others and animals.  Over the past year and a half we have been going through a lot of medical testing and the like and he is under the care of a neurologist and a geneticist.  While we still do not have all of the answers we are looking for I know that God knows.  I know that Sammy loves the Lord and trusts Him fully with the number of his days. He sometimes puts my own faith to shame.

Each of my boys have specific interests and for Sammy it is animals.  While he insists that he will be a cop someday I think deep down he is destined to be a vet.  He LOVES animals of all kind and he LOVES LOVES LOVES his dogs (Caleb, our Weim and Murphy, Sammy's Jack Russell).  We have had rabbits, dogs, hermit crabs, frogs, toads, fish, and even chickens.  Sammy would love to have a mini farm so we could have goats, some pigs, and maybe even a horse.  Ha!  We need more land for that.  But I love his heart.

So as a birthday tribute to my sweet Sammy, I leave you with some of my most favorite pictures of him.  They are mostly with animals, too.


My most favorite picture of Sammy ever (he was 3).  THIS is his face, his personality, his "sparkle".
Sammy at age 2 with our former dog, Jax.  Those two were always together.

Another picture of Sammy and Jax.
Sammy holding one of our former rabbits, Lina.  She was a house bun who was litter trained and all.  With Sammy and Lina is Elijah.
Sammy with one of our current dogs, Caleb.
Sammy on a pony at the Cooter Festival this past October.
Sammy feeding some goats.
Sammy at the neurologist with Dima.
Sammy with his surprise birthday gift this year:  Murphy the naughty Jack Russell.
Sammy singing to Caleb.
Sammy at Shriner's Hospital in Tampa.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
—Psalm 127:3-5

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
—Matthew 18:1-3

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

T-Minus Six Days & Pictures

Only six days left to order a t-shirt through our Bonfire Funds t-shirt fundraiser.  We have sold 21 shirts but need to sell 50 in order for them to be printed.  So far we have raised $353 dollars which will help us cover our next agency fee that is due when we receive our LOA (Letter Of Approval) from China.  If things continue to progress at the rate they are for other families, we very well could have our LOA by the end of next month with travel 2-3 months from that point.  That puts us in the home stretch of this adoption!  Here is the design that we have available.

To place an order please click HERE and you will be taken directly to our fundraiser.  Unfortunately you cannot use Paypal to make your purchase.

In the meantime I was given such a gift last evening!  Someone had found an online photo album of children from Channah's orphanage and she was in a TON of the pictures!  The pictures were taken in 2009 so she was 6 years old.  Oh the joy it brought to my heart and that of her daddy and brothers!

Channah is the little girl in the bright orange coat.

Hanging out with boys- she will handle her brothers NO problem!

Channah is on the left.

Look at her writing!  

 No worries sweet girl.  That Minnie Mouse IS creepy!
So will you PLEASE order one t-shirt and help this adorable girl become part of our family?  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Another T-Shirt Challenge!

Good morning!!!!  Since my previous t-shirt challenge was successful I would like to offer another challenge for today.  Only this time there are two items and there will be two winners!!!

But first I would like to thank some donors who have donated financially to our Bonfire Fund.  We are extremely grateful and humbled by your generous donations.  Those donations will help tremendously in meeting our financial goal of covering our next round of agency fees.

We do, however, need to sell 36 more t-shirts in the next 13 days in order for them to be printed.  Our last t-shirt challenge was successful and congratulations to June R. on being the winner of the globe necklace!  So we are going to offer another challenge for today, March 19th.  Place an order for a t-shirt and have your name in the running to win one of two items that yours truly has made:

This is a jade and red aventurine stretchy bracelet.  And yes, that is REAL Jade.

See how that jade just pops?

This necklace has multiple colors of glass beads, orange stone beads, and red aventurine.  It is a long necklace measuring 30" in length.  

Lovely colors.

So how does this work?  Purchase any shirt from our Bonfire Fund and your name will be in the running to win.  You have until tomorrow morning, March 20th for your order to count.  The first name that is drawn will get to choose either the bracelet or necklace.  The runner up will get whichever item has not been chosen.  To place an order please click HERE.  Below is the design of our shirts.  I know a bunch of people who are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their shirts in the mail!

Will you help us reach our goal of selling 50 shirts?  Ready, set, GO!!!!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

T-Shirt Fundraiser Challenge!

O.K. friends I am going to offer a challenge to you all for ONE DAY ONLY.  Today, March 14th, if you order a t-shirt or make a donation to our adoption through Bonfire Funds, your name will be entered in a drawing to win a necklace.  I did not make this necklace, rather, I had purchased it to use for fundraising purposes.  It features a spinning globe charm and binoculars.  Fitting for families who travel the world to adopt, no?

To enter the drawing purchase a t-shirt or make a donation HERE.  In order for our t-shirt fundraiser to be successful we need to sell at least 50 shirts.  If you would like to receive more chances to win the necklace please share our Bonfire Funds fundraiser on your Facebook wall, blog, or Twitter.  If you share on all three social media outlets you will get three extra entries.  You will need to comment on this entry with those links so I can verify and count your entries.  Unfortunately you have to make a purchase or donation in order to receive extra entries.  The winning name will be drawn tomorrow morning (March 15th).

Here is the awesome t-shirt design that we are offering (also available in long sleeve, hooded sweat shirt, and youth sizes).

If you have already made a purchase today your name will automatically be entered into the drawing.  A HUGE thank you to those of you who have already placed an order.  As of this moment we have raised $78!!!  Let's see if we can break $100 over the next 24 hours!!!