Another Birthday Week


Would you believe that this little lady went and turned THREE on us on Monday?!  (I must be becoming an old woman for two posts in a row to revolve around little people somehow being much older than they ought to be, but more on me being an old woman later…).

 Coraline Audrey surprised us in the middle of our adoption process for Niko; she’s a precious blessing that we might have missed out on if it had been left up to us.  We are so thankful that God’s plans were bigger and better than ours.


This little lovie makes us all laugh all day long.  She loves Delia with a ferocity that has worn her big sister down more than any of the other kids have managed to.  She is an irresistible force, and we are so blessed to have her in our family.

The next morning I woke up to this scene in honor of my birthday:


I didn’t cook a single meal all day thanks to my capable little sous chefs!

It was a pretty ordinary day.  We had a lot of school to work through since we’d been at a birthday party the day before for some friends.  I had a pretty bad cold (still do!)  But at the end of the day my heart echoed the sentiments of Mary Ingalls on a birthday episode of Little House on the Prairie we happened to watch this week.  Recently left blind by scarlet fever, she sat surrounded by family and friends, poised to blow out her birthday candles.  “Make a wish!” they all chorused.

“I don’t know what to wish for,” she beamed. “I already have everything I could ever want right here!”

And so it is with me.  My days are often hard, filled with unpleasant smells and difficult behavior.  I don’t get a lot of quiet moments (which is why I’m blogging so rarely and way past my bedtime tonight!), but when I have them, I have a deep abiding contentment with my life.  I can’t think of a single thing I’d change or a single thing I’d wish for.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.    – Psalm 16:6


Mr. and Mrs.

So, a crazy thing happened last weekend.  My baby sister got married.  Now, when I say “baby sister”, you are likely picturing a cute old photo of a gappy-toothed little-kid me looking bewilderedly at a newborn on my lap.  In fact you should be picturing me in a prom dress looking bewilderedly at a newborn in my lap, because this baby sister is fully a decade and a half younger than I am!  You can imagine how the fact that she is now of marriageable age (even borderline, like I was!) has rocked my world.


Romilly, who has always shared a special connection with Aunt Chelsea owing to their shared love of horses and drawing, was the flower girl.  Isn’t she beautiful?


The kids all had a fantastic time at what was arguably the most kid-friendly wedding I have ever been to (a play-doh station, games, swings, a candy bar!!!) thanks to the groom being the oldest of five boys.  The youngest brother of the groom was Romilly’s little sidekick, the ringbearer, and the second youngest made a perfect little buddy for Pippa. (And I say “buddy” by way of sticking my fingers in my ears and pretending not to notice all of the whispering and giggling surrounding the whole situation, which I was completely unprepared to be dealing with at this point in my parenting career!)

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My sister was a beautiful bride, and she married a man who was, once upon a time, a little boy she used to play with in the nursery of the church we grew up at.  I almost called it a very happy ending to a wonderful love story, but of course, we all know it is really just the beginning.


Weddings make me all reflective.  It really feels like that was just us, a couple of crazy kids getting hitched, just a few short years ago.  When I look at this picture and stop to take stock of where the Lord has led us, I can hardly believe it’s really my life.  Fourteen years, two continents, six babies, two adoptions… EIGHT KIDS!  We could never have planned a life like this for ourselves (and, for the record, we didn’t: our premarital counseling workbooks from way back when put our expectations firmly in the 3-5 children range, that’s 3 to 5 not 3 and 5!), but the Lord had more amazing things planned for us than we could ever have imagined.


As I looked at Chelsea and John on their wedding day, I couldn’t help but wonder what the Lord has in store for them, two hearts that love each other and love Him.  You just never know where that might lead!

Last Camping Hurrah 2014

I have to admit, when our friends, the Weavers, asked us to go camping with them for a full week, I wasn’t entirely sure they knew what they were getting themselves into.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into either!  This dear couple are missionaries who travel the US and Canada helping various missions with their computer systems.  When they are home they attend our church and small group and invest in our children through a homeschooling science club.  The trip was to include not only our family, but also Mr. Weaver’s parents and brother (to be known as Mr. and Mrs. Mr. Weaver and Mr. Mr. Mr. Weaver, respectively!)

But after months of planning, our trip to Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio, was finally upon us last week.

And you know what?  I needn’t have worried: it was the best week ever.

Here is a whirlwind photo tour:

Tuesday consisted of a walk through Old Man’s Cave and riding bikes around the campsite.

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Wednesday was one of the loveliest, fullest, most amazing days the Lord has ever handed us.  Our friends had arranged a private tour of one of the missions they serve, MMS Aviation, including airplane rides for all of us, three at a time.  Afterwards, Mr. Dave the pilot kindly opened up his home to us, where his wife took each of the kids for a ride on their horse!  Our big girls coined a phrase years ago that has stayed in our family vernacular: a Squeeze Day is a day that is so wonderful it must be squeezed at the top of one’s mental list of best days Ever.  This day was surely a Squeeze Day of Squeeze Days for our children.




In the middle of his tour, Mr. Dave pulled a tiny rivet out of a drawer and held it up for our children to examine.  He then showed them a small plane covered in thousands of identical tiny rivets.  “You wouldn’t think one of these could be very important,” he explained to them, “but no plane is allowed to fly unless they are all in place, holding the whole thing together.”  Then his face changed, his eyes teared up and his voice broke a bit.  “That’s how it is,” he continued, “with the body of Christ.  Every single person, no matter how insignificant they may feel, is so important that the body cannot function without them.”  He shared some of his own story with us, how God has used him to fill some behind-the-scenes needs at the mission to free the other mechanics and pilots up to do their jobs.  He handed each of the kids a rivet to take home, a reminder of an amazing day but more importantly of how precious they are to our God.  Marvelous.


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This precious girl almost didn’t get a ride.  She wouldn’t have asked for one or objected to being left out, but we knew she would love it.  Mr. Dave graciously and unhesitatingly offered to do one last flight so our girl could have her moment, too.  She was delighted beyond words with every minute of it!

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The next morning, after Pippa helped Mr. Mr. Weaver with breakfast, we took our little gang for a special playdate with a family I know from an online moms group.  When our eight met her nine, they were fast friends.





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Our last day was another day of cave exploration.  I have never seen so much beauty in such a small area.  The photos really don’t even do it justice.

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And that was our trip!  Four fantastic days sandwiched between two nice long drives on which to chat with my favorite guy in the world.  It was a pretty amazing week, all things told.


If it weren’t for the crispness in the morning air these days, I wouldn’t be able to believe that it’s already been half a year since our sweet Annis Octavia was born.


Oh, how we all adore this little girl!  She wakes up happy and goes back to bed happy when it’s time, and she’s happy most of the time in between (as long as we get her to her bed when she needs it – she’s not big on napping on the go!)  She is full of coos and happy little squeals and loves to reach out and give me a sweet little touch on the cheek just to say, “Mommy, I just love you so much.  You’re the best.”  She is just <insert weight after check-up in two weeks> lbs of pure baby deliciousness.

And speaking of delicious…


Six months old is a special time in our home.


A time to try something new and a bit puzzling:



Annis’s verdict on her first few mouthfuls of pureed oatmeal was, on the whole, pretty neutral.  But give her a few months and a few new tastes to try, and we’re pretty sure she’ll plump up nicely like her sisters have before her.


She is getting close to commando crawling and continues to love being on her tummy, just anywhere but on the blanket where we put her.  We have only just started trying to encourage her to sit up, so although this photo looks impressive, the 10 seconds it took to capture it were probably the longest she’s ever stayed up for.


We are so thankful to have this precious blessing in our family.  Happy half birthday, baby girl!


Labor Day

Labor Day weekend was a pretty action-packed ride for us!

Pop-Pop and Debedee (now referred to collectively as Poppadee, because, you know, they are a celebrity couple after all!) took three of the middles on a grand Pocono adventure.  Niko, Bea and Junie got to go visit Great Grandmom and Great Grandpop Gilbert first.  I love that my kids will have memories of this Godly couple.  They have been married for nearly 70 years!


Then they spent most of the day at the West End Fair, learning all about all things farmy and riding some cool rides as well.  I’m pretty sure there may also have been a trip to McDonalds in there at some point.

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It was just about the best day any of them had ever had, I think, and no thanks to me.  I was home with the other five enjoying a day with Paige that left me with a fabulously refinished coffee table.  It was a pretty fantastic day, but for me and the big girls (and Annis), it was just the beginning of our adventures.

On Sunday morning, as the rest of the gang were heading off to church, my girlies and I packed into Daddy’s little car for a grand excursion to Maryland.  After a slight misinterpretation of my directions which resulted in $12 worth of trips through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (that gets you through it three times, if you were wondering), we arrived just after lunch to a warm greeting from dear friends.


It’s been nearly four years since I’ve been down to visit these girls, precious friends from college, but it wasn’t long enough for the kids to forget each other.


Pippa and Ro picked up right where they left off with their long-lost friends, creating the game of Extreme Pillow Jumping, doing crafts and playing quite a bit of Plants vs. Zombies.  They had a marvelous time and everyone agreed that the weekend was too short (but that it would nevertheless be nice to sleep in our own beds again.)


We are so thankful to have had this sweet reunion!

*   *   *   *   *

A decade ago on Labor Day, I labored and gave birth to my first precious baby girl (the significance of the day was sadly wasted on the non-Labor-Day-celebrating staff of St. John’s Hospital in Livingston, Scotland.)

Today we will celebrate the young lady that baby has blossomed into, our beautiful, talented, smart, capable, loving, mostly-sweet-occasionally-spicy Philippa Violet.


Part of me can’t believe you’re ten.  Ten years is a lot of years, and I remember meeting you for the first time like it was yesterday.  But at the same time, it is hard to believe you are only ten.

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You have seemed so grown up for so long, I sometimes forget you are still so little.  You are a joy and a help to me, a treasure in our family.  I couldn’t do what we are doing without your help and encouragement.  You are a blessing!

Happy birthday, my lovely!


Back to School 2014


Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year, everyone!

We are almost through our first week and so far everyone’s enthusiasm is holding.  Delia is not feeling the love with workbook time, but we will get there, I’m sure.  She and Coraline are doing the same pre-K workbook, so hopefully peer pressure will win the day.  It worked that way with pairing Niko and Bea when he was first home and had the attention span of a gnat.  Now he’s racing through his second grade math for the week and begging for more.

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Wherever you do your learning, I hope it’s a great school year!


Little Camping Getaway…

Great big fun!


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And that concludes our official summer holidays.  We are excited to start our new school year on Monday!  The summer felt a little too quick, but we are ready for some structure, and I’m growing weary of chasing the kids away from their exciting new school books.  Onward and upward!

New Eyes


When we sat Delia down in the optician’s chair and handed her her new glasses, she tossed them on the floor.  We tried letting Pippa put them on her: no joy.  Mommy?: nope.  The optician sighed and pondered the situation with her glasses in hand.  Then Delia stood up, took a step toward him and leaned in ever so slightly as if to say, “Well, okay, maybe just for a second…”  She hesitated for a minute with her new specs in place… then tossed them on the floor again.  I paid for them, thanked the optician, and put them in my purse.  “Give us a week,” I said.  “I think she’ll be fine.”

We came home, had a snack, and tried again.  I put Delia’s glasses on and gently removed her hands from them once or twice with the reminder, “No touch.”  I had Pippa set the timer for 5 minutes.  Baby steps, I thought.

But then, something amazing happened.  She left them alone!  I caught the timer just before it went off and bumped it up to 15 minutes.  By the time the 15 minutes were almost up I turned the timer off.  Delia was just plain old wearing her glasses – day one – and no turning back.

She took them off deliberately maybe once or twice in the first couple of days, but now, almost a week later, she is more likely to seek out help to put them back on if they come off accidentally.

Delia loves wearing glasses!  She is looking at things for the first time: paying attention to pictures in books, focusing on faces, crossing her eyes less.  We wonder if it’s our imagination, but she even seems happier and more settled.

We are so thankful for this little piece of the puzzle falling into place, another key to unlocking her mysterious little world.  And we are praising the Lord that the battle we had braced ourselves for to get her to wear her glasses lasted no longer than the five minutes we spent in the shop!  (And doesn’t she look adorable?!)


Today, I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for a very special young man.


If you are reading my blog because you have an interest in special needs adoption, you likely already know the Musser family, but many of you probably do not.

Trevor and I began reading Susanna’s blog The Blessing of Verity while we were adopting Niko.  At that time, the Mussers were adopting their daughter Katie from the same country Niko came to us from, and we followed their journey with interest.

A little over a year ago, while we were working to adopt Delia, the Mussers also brought home a beloved son, Tommy, from the same orphanage they had adopted Katie from.

It has been a joy over the past year or so to get to know Susanna personally through a little support group she organizes for moms of children adopted out of institutionalization.  She has been an incredible blessing and encouragement in my life.

Just over two weeks ago, on July 31st, Tommy passed away in an accidental drowning.  I found out that night by stumbling across a mention of the news online.  I spent the rest of the evening crying and vainly attempting to put something helpful into an email to my dear friend.  It hurt to even think about what she must be going through.  What their whole precious family must be going through.  What they will continue to walk through for years to come.

But today was a celebration.  A celebration of Tommy’s much-too-short life.  Of adoption.  Of love.  Of the difference a family can make.  Of the immense value of one human being and the impact he can have on the lives of those around him.

Because of Katie’s and Tommy’s stories, many families have been emboldened to see precious orphans for the treasures they are and go and adopt themselves.  Many more have given to help those still left behind.

In Tommy’s honor, I would love it if you would go to Susanna’s blog and read a bit of their amazing story.  The links at the side for the beginnings of Verity’s, Katie’s and Tommy’s stories are a good place to start.  If you feel moved to do more, please consider making a donation to The Pleven Project, which Susanna and others have set up to revolutionize the care of those left behind in Tommy and Katie’s former home.

Would you also join me in lifting this dear hurting family up in prayer?  Susanna has described the love and prayers of others as a “wall of protection” as they have walked through these difficult early days.  Let’s help keep that wall strong for them.


More Summer Fun

This time, of the outdoor variety, as it should be!

Earlier this week we had an absolutely perfect day at Six Flags with my sister Paige and her friend Maura.  We were able to go thanks to a teacher friend of ours from church who had leftover tickets from his school.  (Do you want to guess how much it would have cost us to go otherwise? Just guess… Over $500! Who has that kind of money?!) Needless to say, it was a first for our kids.  The last time Trevor and I went was for one of our first dates, on which day Paigie, then aged 5, famously whispered to my mom, “Mommy, I think I just saw Jodi and Trevor holding hands!”  Sigh… happy memories.

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The kids had a fantastic time.  Delia loved the rides.  Everybody loved the rides.  Even Romilly found a lot that she enjoyed without going too far outside her (rather small) comfort zone.  Pippa had reached the magical 54″ mark and was allowed to go on her first real rollercoaster (and I got to go on my first since having her, to my recollection). Coraline was allowed on a whole lot more rides than we expected, which was good, because when she didn’t get to go, it wasn’t pretty, folks.

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I remarked to Trevor as we were leaving that it was a relatively drama-free day, and he actually laughed at me.  Apparently the 45 minutes when we abandoned him with 7 kids to take Pippa on her very first roller coaster were not that drama-free.  Who knew?

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We are always so thankful when God drops a day like this into our laps.  They really are a gift from Him. We never have to worry about what our kids might “miss out on” because of our family being how it is.  Apart from the little adventures we have every day, God always seems to give us opportunities for Great Adventures as well.