Thursday, July 27, 2017

Spectacular Seven

Oh my heart.

My boy is seven.

This kid. I just love him so. He is funny and witty and dramatic and sensitive and gives 100%, good or bad, all the time.

His great love is soccer and it is SO fun to watch him play. He may be rocking the 22% height on the growth chart, but he plays like the biggest guy out there.

A sample conversation in our house.

Ryan and Jack were discussing a adult basketball rec league.
Jack: "So, what does 'Rec' mean?"
Ryan: "It means recreation, that you play for fun"
Colin, who was coloring off to the side and not in the conversation at all, " I don't play for fun, I play for competition." 
And he means it. The boy lives for his games. He can tell you the exact score, who did it, who assisted and what angle the goal was shot from.

He is also so excited to meet his new sister. He has saved his money to help us get her. He has asked about her, prayed for her and even wrote about her in school. Colin may not be a man of many words, but when he does use them, they are sweet and loving. I am so proud of his little heart during the adoption. He has been the most on board the entire time. I can't wait to see him interact with Maggie.

Seven is a big year and I can't believe that my baby boy is this old.

Happy 7th Birthday, Colin. We can't wait to see you grow!

We love you!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Be Brave, Little One

Dear Maggie~

Today, my daughter, you turn 15 month old. I am beyond excited to know that this is the very last time that you will do that alone. Next month, your sweet 16 month, you will be with me. At home.  Forever.

I have been waiting so long for this day. We have tickets to come get you. They are booked and bought. It is real now. The final itinerary it set. The last travel meeting completed.

We have been working for this moment for 18 months, thinking and praying about it for over 2 years. Hours and hours of paperwork, reading, writing, scrolling, absorbing much information. The reality of being so close to seeing you in person is a bit surreal.

We've seen pictures of where you sleep. The pale pink walls, lined up with cribs. We've looked at the outside building, with it's 3 stories and barred windows. The tile floors and the play room with the boppy pillows stacked high.

We are so glad that you had that place to keep you safe and keep you warm. But, we are ready for you  to be at our home, with our family. Your family.

Your bed is ready, with a very excited big sister waiting to share the room with. The bags are slowly being packed. The car seat installed. Everything is moving forward to becoming a family of six.

And now, my Little One, we are coming. For you.

See you in a week sweet girl.

Be brave, little one.

Be Brave.

Momma and Daddy are on their way.

Love you always,

Monday, July 10, 2017

LAST CALL: Puzzle Pieces for Maggie

We are weeks away from traveling thousands of miles to go get our girl. We are waiting for our travel approval and consulate date from China and then we can book those tickets!!

SO, with those upcoming events happening so soon, we are doing one last call for our puzzle fundraiser.

We still have puzzle pieces available for the puzzle picture that will hang in Maggie and Macy's room.

We will be shutting down our fundraising page soon!

How does it work?

1. There are 252 pieces to this puzzle we created.

2. We are "selling" each puzzle piece. You can buy one for any amount.  It can be $10, $20 or $100. It doesn't matter to us. Anything helps. No amount is too small or too big. We are grateful and thankful for anything.  (If you're wondering, the total cost of adopting from China is approximately $35,000.  We are still trying to raise the last $8,000)

3. For every donation we receive, we will write YOUR name on your puzzle piece. Maggie will be able look at her puzzle and know that you were apart of bringing her home.

4. Once every single puzzle piece has been "sold", we will put the puzzle together and hang it in a double-sided glass frame in her room. It will be a beautiful reminder of who had a "piece" of bringing her home, and all those that joined together with us and became apart of our own love story.

5. If you would like to buy a piece of our puzzle, please click HERE. There are buttons on the right side of the page for any size donation and every donation is tax deductible. If you do not want your name on a puzzle piece but would still like to donate, just let us know.

We are so grateful for your help in our journey to adopt Maggie. We love having people join with us and bring one more orphan home, one puzzle piece at a time!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

And Then He Turned 9....

This handsome boy turns NINE today.

So big.

My baby boy is growing much to fast.

My Jack is funny and smart.

He loves reading and learning and exploring the world around him.

Any subject fascinates him and he prefers to read non fiction over fiction.

I love that he wants to always discover how things work and facts about everything.

He also loves to play soccer with his brother and friends.

Our front yard is always full of boys and soccer balls and I love it.

He is quick with a response, kind and (mostly) looks out for his siblings and friends.

I am so proud of my first born boy.

 I am forever grateful that I get to be him mom.

We love you buddy!

Happy 9th Birthday, Jack!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Her Name Is...

In 2002, I ventured to Kampala, Uganda, as a bright-eyed college student, excited to explore the world. I was going to help build a house that would hold 8 orphan children and their house mother. It was apart of a village of orphan homes that is known as the Watoto Children's home, a modern take on traditional orphanages that creates small families for the orphans while providing jobs for women, usually widows who were least likely to find good employment.

What I encountered left me changed beyond recognition. The climate, the landscape and the people left an indelible mark and changed the way that I saw the world around me. The extreme poor countered by the mega-watt smiles left a paradox that made me question my outlook on life. Such poverty next to such joy. My American ideas were shaken.

On my very first trip I had the privilege of meeting a house mother named Margaret. She was warm and welcoming and ushered me into her home, giving me the best seat in the small, spartan house. She held my hand and talked about two of her boys, both orphans from the government orphanage. Her story, and those of the boys, stuck with me.

Margaret was raised by her grandparents and succeeded in school, becoming a schoolteacher. Shortly after she started teaching she got married, and after the birth of her third child she stayed home to care for them, not wanting to have her babies raised by strangers. 3 more children followed.

"My secret to raising my children was that I tricked them. I just loved them and loved them and I would always try to be there for them," Margaret said. "This is how I would raise them: I would just love them too much."

When Margaret became a Christian, her new-found faith upset her husband and he left her with all of the children. She was forced to move in with her ailing grandparents and jobs were scarce.

She was one of the lucky few who was chosen to become a house mom with Watoto. This ensured that she would have food, clothing and lodging for the rest of her life. Her older children were able to go to boarding school and she was able to keep the youngest two children with her. She moved into a house with 6 orphan boys.

The transition to mothering orphans was not as simple as she had thought. These children did not respond to her love. They were rebellious and did not listen. It was a slow process of them coming together as a family.

One particular little boy named Vincent was very shy and did not interact with the other children. He had missing fingers on one hand. He didn't smile. He preferred to be alone.

Margaret had to pray for grace where Vincent was concerned.

"When Vincent came, I had to pray and pray that God would break the ice between us." Margaret said.

But grace came one chilly morning.

Vincent came close enough for Margaret to pick him up and put him on her lap.
"It was cold and we just warmed ourselves by the stove and I held him close." Margaret said. "After that, the ice was broken, and he knew that I was his mom."

Her story of love and redemption took a deep hold in my heart. I heard the call of the orphans and the widows. The call for love and acceptance, the need for family, no matter how it is formed.

I was able to see first hand the transformation in little Vincent. I met him on my first trip and he would not touch my pale white hand, afraid of my skin color. When I returned almost 2 years later, his little hand grabbed mine and when I looked down and noticed his missing fingers, I was amazed at the bright smiling face accompaning that little hand. He remembered me and I was blown away at the change in him. Happy, confident, smiling from ear to ear. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen.

There is so much joy in the redemption of children, in the creation of families.

It was in that red clay dirt of Uganda that I knew that I had to do something. The desire to adopt was rooted firm and now, 15 years later, I am preparing to head to China to adopt my own little child, to create my own special family.

And my daughter...

Her name is Margaret.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Elephants and Orphans

* This blog post was written by my husband, Ryan.

20 years ago South African wildlife parks were successfully bringing animals back from near extinction. However, along with the growing population of endangered species like the White Rhinoceros, the Pilanesberg Park had a serious problem.  The Rhinoceros were now thriving, but 10% of the total population had been brutally and maliciously killed.  

The motive of the murders was unclear.  The ivory horns of the Rhinoceros, a popular treasure among poachers, remained untouched.  This wasn't the classic case of human greed needlessly killing an animal for profit.  After setting up surveillance cameras to monitor the park, the culprits were quite unexpected.  It turned out that young male elephants were responsible for these vicious attacks.  

So what happened?  


In another South African park, Kruger National Park, endangered elephants were being protected and nurtured back to a healthier population.  The program was so successful that now these elephants were outgrowing the park.  A plan was created to relocate some of these elephants to another wildlife refuge.  As you can imagine transporting elephants is not an easy task.  The elephants to be relocated were set in a special harness and transported via helicopter.  This was a fine plan for transporting young and female elephants.  However, the male elephants were too large to transport in this way.  They made the decision to transport the young and female elephants and leave the huge male elephants behind.  

The transported elephants found their new home in Pilanesberg Park where the White Rhinoceros population was growing strong.  It wasn’t but a short time later that the Rhinoceros in the park were found dead, violently killed.  

The young male elephants that were transplanted from Kruger Park were found to have created gangs that were viciously attacking the Rhinoceros as well as other animals in the park.  What officials had discovered and concluded is that the young male elephants lacked the leadership of older male elephants to model appropriate behavior. The young male elephants needed the older male-figures to keep them in line, model the right kinds of behavior, and establish the right way to conduct themselves.  Without this, they turned rogue and extremely violent.   

To test this theory they transported some of the adult male elephants into Kruger Park, and in a short period of time, the aggressive behaviors stopped completely.  More than a mere coincidence.     

Without a male role model, these young male elephants left the herd, formed gangs with other young males, and took to violent behavior.  They didn't have anyone to set an example for what was appropriate.  There was no one there to put them back in their place.  No one was there to curb their natural, but unacceptable impulses.  While the intentions of the people who designed this program meant well, they created a generation of orphaned elephants without adult males to teach them how to live in their community.  

Talking about elephants sometimes catches our attention more effectively than talking about people.  We feel a lot of fatigue when we read about other kinds of injustice.  We hear statistics about our fellow humans and then casually turn the channel, keep on scrolling, or think how terrible that is, and then wonder what's for dinner.  But the truth is the role that fathers play in raising their children have similar effects as these elephants.

In fact, did you know when a father is active and involved in their children's life they are significantly less likely to:

  • abuse drugs and alcohol
  • become sexually active as teenagers
  • be violent
  • end up in jail
  • suffer from depression
  • experience anxiety
  • live in poverty

When a father is active and involved in their children's life they don't just deter them from dangerous and destructive behaviors, but promote positive outcomes too.  These include outcomes that will make a child much more likely to:

  • form positive social relationships
  • perform at a higher level academically
  • experience emotional and psychological health throughout their entire life
  • make healthy lifestyle decisions
  • have higher levels of confidence and self-control
  • make better long term decisions
  • form healthy families of their own as adults

This Father’s Day I want to encourage all fathers, whether biological, adoptive or otherwise, to get involved with the children in your life.  Spend time with them, play with them, teach them, correct them, and provide for them.  Show them how to treat their siblings, their neighbors, and people they meet for the first time.  Model how to be caring, respectful, and kind.  Show them how to work hard, achieve their goals, and follow their dreams.  Give them a chance to explore the world around them while knowing they will continue to be supported even when they fail.  Give them a chance to love and be loved in return. Children don't just like the attention of a father, they need it.  Their biochemistry responds to a caring and loving male figure.  Their lives are shaped by the men who will take responsibility and lead them to a successful life.  

In August we are bringing home the newest addition to our family.  We are adopting a beautiful baby girl from China.  We are excited to introduce her to her brothers and sister.  We are blessed to call her our daughter.  

But, we need you.  We are adopting from an orphanage that has cared for her these past 13 months of her life, meeting her needs as best as they can.  But an orphanage is no place for children.  Kids belong with a family.

As part of the adoption process we need to raise $7000-$8000 for a donation to the orphanage.  This is for vital supplies, clean water, food, and other basic needs of these orphans.  Every dollar we raise is helping the boys and girls who have been living at the orphanage to continue on until they too can be adopted into a family of their own.

Maybe you also feel that you could do more to help orphans.  We would love to talk with you if you're considering adoption or other ways you can make an impact.  My wife and I want to see a world where every orphan bed is empty, and every child experiences a loving family to lead and love them for all of their life.

If you'd like to give, please visit our fundraising page.  Your gift is literally changing the life of our daughter as well as her "brothers and sisters" that continue to wait:

Friday, May 26, 2017

13 Things For 13 Months

 13 things on her 13th month…

1. Today our Little One turns 13 months old. There is no one there with a fun sticker on her onesie, or a blanket to lay her next to, or a headband to put on her little head. She is just going through her day at the orphanage, no fanfare, no pictures. Nothing.

2. Her birthday is an estimate. We do not know the day that she was born. Officials estimated the day. Regardless, we will ALWAYS celebrate her on April ~~th*. It will be her birthday and we will celebrate her beautiful life every year for the rest of her life.

3. Little One’s orphanage has a one to one partnership with our adoption agency, which meant that we got the very first look at her file once the Chinese government released it. She was ours from that very first look.

 4. Because our agency partners with her orphanage, they have been able to come in and make some changes and help support the orphanage in very vital ways.

5. I read on an adoption blog of a family that adopted a little 2 ½ year old girl from our daughter’s very orphanage five years ago and the conditions were heartbreaking. There was a 35+ kid to 2 helper ratio. One of the nannies would cook and clean while the other would take care of the kids. 35+ kids for one single lady. No one can love and nurture 35+ kids in the way that they need in a day. It is not humanly possible.

6.    The same family estimated that the kids were out of their cribs for one hour in the morning and one hour at night. That means these kids lived in their cribs for 22 hrs a day, including when eating their meals.

7. We are SO thankful that our agency has since gone into that orphanage and brought color, toys and training to the nannies. They also do regular visits and work very closely with them. We will pay an orphanage donation fee of around $6,000 (a standard procedure for all Hague country adoptions) and I will gladly give them every penny. These kids need to have those funds to help care for them, give them toys and areas to play.  They also took care of my daughter for the first 13 months of her life and for that, we are eternally grateful.

8. We have no idea what our daughter eats or how often, but we have read of one family that adopted their 22 month from China last year and she was only formula fed. 22 months old and had never had solid food, only 3 bottles a day.

9. Our daughter was given a Chinese name with a very generic last name. Most of the kids in that orphanage are given the same last name. We are SO excited to give her our last name!

           10. We will change her first name and her last name, but we are keeping her Chinese name as her middle name. If one day, she would like to go back to her Chinese heritage and be called by her Chinese name, she will be able to do that without having any legal issues to change it.

11. We have pictures and two videos of her and we look at those every day! We will not be sharing those pictures on any social media until we get home, or have permission from our agency. We want to respect our agency's ties to China and do not want to cause any problems by posting things before we finalize everything in China. However, if you see me, I have those beautiful pictures on my phone and would love to gush over them with you!

12. We are fortunate to have a few newborn pictures of her. Fortunate because many families do not have pictures of those first few weeks. However, they are very difficult to look at, as she is in the nicu with cords and wires and she is screaming.  It is heart wrenching. That sweet newborn baby was by herself in that nicu, and I hate that. I am so thankful for the medical staff that worked on her and kept her safe, but those pictures are just one more reminder of why she needs a family and why we need to bring her home.

13.  UNICEF estimates that there are 132 million children in the world that have lost one or both parents, the true definition of an orphan. This is a staggering number. We are choosing to  make that number one less. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How can change the orphan crisis? One child at a time.

In celebration of our Little Lady’s 13 months on this planet, we are asking that you join us and give to her orphanage donation. Help us provide for the other children that are still waiting for their forever family.
 Click HERE to partner with us.

*removed for privacy sake until we are home with her