Random Dress-Up Fest

It was a ho-hum kind of day around here today.  Daddy decided early on that he’d be spending the night near work because of the snow expected, but there wasn’t yet enough on the ground to have much fun with.  We made our own fun instead.

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Nothing brightens up a dreary day like doing school dressed as Anna from Frozen with a pint-sized mermaid nearby and the Incredible Hulk flexing her stuff all through the house.

Tomorrow, there should be sledding, and snowmen, and Lord willing, Daddy will come home at the end of the day, and all will be right with the world again.

Bragging on the Boy

 

Somehow it feels more socially acceptable to brag about our adopted kiddos than our bio girls (not that I don’t do plenty of that, too.  I just feel guiltier about it.)  I can’t take any of the credit for their nature and only a fraction of the credit for their nurture, so it’s not really bragging, just noting awesomeness when I see it.

Now that I have my disclaimer out of the way, would you just look at how amazing my boy is?!  Clubber of the month for December means he memorized more verses that month that any other boy in their AWANA club!

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Three of our girls have also received this award over the years, and of course, it is always an honor, but the boy…  Oh, how hard he worked for this!

When he first started AWANA, he was six months home, had just had major craniofacial surgery, and was still wearing his halo, which kept him from participating in most of the gym-time games.  To add insult to injury, because English was still so new to him (and Bible verses being Bible verses were full of big new words), he went weeks and weeks without being able to successfully say a single verse.  John 3 :16, the verse every good Christian knows by heart before he is potty-trained, took him months to learn.  After a few weeks of discouragement while Bea, who is in the same grade and was working through the same book, raced ahead of him, I had a chat with one of his leaders.  They agreed to be a little more flexible and give him a bit more help, under the circumstances.

He muddled through like that for a while, making his very best effort but still not quite managing to learn the verses quite the same way the other kids did, and there was plenty of grace for him.  He has loved AWANA all along.

But this year, something clicked.  Maybe he just finally saw his chance to overtake his long-time competitor (Bea), or maybe the words just finally started becoming words to him instead of just collections of letters.  (And maybe it helped, just a teensy bit, that we don’t hang out at my mom’s house all day on Wednesdays before AWANA anymore now that she has switched her day off.)  Whatever it was, our little man has been working his tail off to learn his verses, and it has paid off.  I am so proud of him I don’t know what to do with myself.

One of his leaders came to me the night he received the award, with tears in her eyes, to tell me the story of his “acceptance speech”.  They had asked him if he knew what it meant to get “Clubber of the Month”, and he replied confidently,

“You have to say a LOT of verses.  And believe them!”

Lord, may it be so.

Farewell, Wee Man

This sweet face belonged to our first baby.  He was our practice kid who experienced our first feeble attempts at parenting.  Our Gulliver.

He was the center of our universe for a few years…

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…And then had to find his new place in the pecking order when Pippa arrived.  (She wasn’t that much fun at first.)

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He’s had to find it a few more times since then, but he has always remained a beloved member of the family.

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We loved this boy dearly, and we said goodbye to him on Thursday, at the ripe old age of thirteen.  He had been declining since last winter, and hadn’t been able to walk well enough to go for a walk since the summer.

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We postponed the inevitable for as long as we could, and we were thankful Guvvy got one last visit with Adrian.  They were old pals.

On Wednesday, we had a particularly rough day.  Mr. G went potty and then fell sideways into his mess.  While I was giving him his emergency bath, Junie managed to knock Coraline over and give her a bloody lip, and suddenly I knew I had to make the call.  After months of wondering if he would just go peacefully on his own or if I would have to make the most horrible decision ever, and wondering how I would ever know it was time to make that decision, I just knew.  Only I was too much of a mess to talk, so I called my sister instead and made her call the vet for me.

The next day, we took our sweet boy to his last appointment.  Romilly came with us: she wanted to be there.  Through tears, we all gathered round him to say our last goodbyes, and then just like that it was over.  I could no longer feel his heart beating under his too-skinny ribs.  It was so much harder than I ever could have imagined.

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You’ve been a good wee dog, Guvvy.  Sleep tight.

Gulliver Ezekiel Young

9/20/01 – 1/15/15

 

Uncle Adrian’s Epic Christmas Present

On one of Adrian’s first night’s here, we were looking at Christmas photos on his laptop when a photo folder titled “Names” caught my attention.

“Ooh, what’s this?” I asked him.

“Oh, you can look at those.  Go ahead,” he answered, all cool and casual-like, as if what I was about to see was no big deal at all.

What I found was photo after photo of my children’s names, all lovingly located on UK street signs, mostly in London.  He found every. single. one of them.  No photoshopping of any of the names (though Niko’s was a barber shop rather than a street sign).  Do you have any idea how much I love this?!

Uncle Adrian presented each of the kids with a lovely print of their name photo (I intend to frame them), but I felt that a trip to the craft store was also necessary in order to display them in their proper splendor.

Here are the results:

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Oh, how we are going to wear these shirts out.  I love them, love them, love them.

A Holiday Visitor

Having Trevor’s family thousands of miles away is lousy.  Period.  But if there is one bright spot it is that when we do get to see them, we really get to see them.  We are blessed right now to have Trevor’s brother Adrian staying with us for ten whole days, and it has been an absolute joy.

The last time Uncle Adrian was here was a little over three years ago when we “only” had four children.  I wasn’t sure how well he’d deal with our new level of crazy, but he has taken it in his stride.

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On Tuesday we celebrated Uncle Adrian’s birthday in style with a trip to the McDonald’s near Trevor’s work so he could meet us for lunch.  Smiles all around.

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On New Year’s Eve we celebrated British New Year (at 7 PM) by breaking Christmas crackers and watching the London fireworks on the Internet – a genius way to allow kids to participate in the festivities while still going to bed at a reasonable hour!

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Friday saw us spending a rather chilly day at the zoo, where Uncle Adrian, who has visited us countless times before, claims he had never been before!

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 Bea has hardly left his side in the week that he’s been here so far (and indeed has made dents on the tops of his shoes from walking around on his feet so much  – sorry, Adrian!).  She lamented to him on Friday: “I wish you were at the library.”

“Why?” he asked her, a bit puzzled.

“Because then I could have you for three weeks and then take you back and have you again three weeks later.”

Love.

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When we first arrived home from the airport last week, Coraline eyed Uncle Adrian suspiciously from her seat in the van.  I was 7 months pregnant with her last time he was here, so she is the longest-time family member not to have met him.  I reassured Adrian that it wouldn’t take her more than five minutes to warm up, but it didn’t take nearly that long:  the moment he got inside and sat down she asked to sit on his lap, a bit of real estate she has defended fiercely ever since.

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We’re thankful to have a few more days left of his visit, but it is certainly going by much too quickly!

 

Merry Christmas!

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The blog has been quiet lately (it’s because Trevor has been switched to day shifts(!),  and I don’t seem to know how to be productive when he’s home in the evenings with me anymore – a good problem to have!), but I wanted to pop in to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from our family to yours.   May God bless you abundantly with His peace and joy this holiday season.

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One Year Young

One year ago today, this lost-looking little girl walked out of an orphanage hand-in-hand with her Daddy.  She made no fuss about leaving the only life she’d ever known, but it wasn’t because she was looking forward to her new one, only that she had never learned to attach to anything or anyone.

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One year later, our precious daughter is blossoming!  She still struggles in so many ways, but there is so much hope.  While she used to laugh wildly when she hurt herself, she will now come to us showing her boo-boo with a very deliberate (if slightly fake) “Oww!”  While a hug from Delia (even one initiated by her) used to almost always end in getting elbowed in the face or getting my hair tugged, she can now sit calmly on my lap and be sweet.  She loves to be lifted up and danced with, though still always on her terms.  And that’s okay.

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Our beautiful little girl, who was classed as completely non-verbal before coming to us now uses about 30 ASL signs and attempts to speak several of the words while signing them.  She also sings with gusto!  We are finding more and more ways to connect and engage her, including the recent revelation (at AWANA) that our girly, who wants nothing to do with any coloring activity loves painting with watercolors!  Looks like we’ll be doing a lot more painting around our house.

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It’s hard to say quite what we expected our first year with Delia to look like.  Did we think she would talk more? Maybe.  Did I fear she would still be waking me up with blood-curdling screams each morning at 2 or 3 AM?  I prayed not (See: the Delia Sleep Miracle of February 2014).  What I do know is that when she first came home, I learned a lot about what hard looks like, and now, by the grace of God, we don’t see the hard stuff nearly as often.

Oh, and this girl?  The one whose file said, “this child rarely smiles”?  I think she likes it here just fine.

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Happy Gotcha Day, our beloved Delia Mary!

A Day for Thankfulness

What a blessed week I’ve had to top off a month of Thanksgiving!

On Monday my sister took me to get my hair done as a belated birthday gift from her and my mom.  The afternoon with her and a quick stop for lunch and coffee before our appointment would have been more than enough, but Oh, was it ever lovely to be pampered a bit.  And of course, in order for any of this to happen, my wonderful husband had have the eight all to himself for the afternoon, so he gets a whole bunch of awesome points, too.

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Of course we see God’s provision in all sorts of ways every single day of our lives, but on Tuesday, we got to see Him provide for our needs in a particularly cool way.  Last week at the kids’ AWANA club one of the leaders had heard through the grapevine (okay, let’s just call it what it is: Facebook) that we were in need of an oven.  In fact, we had been without one for about a month and managing surprisingly well with various combinations of broiler, microwave, stovetop and crockpot cooking, but it wasn’t a great longterm solution.  “Our youth pastor buys and sells ovens on Craigslist,” she told me.  Maybe he can help you.  About five minutes later, she reappeared with Pastor Sean.

“I hear you need an oven, ” he said.

“I hear you… trade in ovens, ” I replied.  (Is this even a thing that people do?!)

He took my details and less than a week later called to tell me he had an oven for us for $100, installed, and he’d take our old one away, too!  About an hour later, the Oven Fairy himself arrived at our home.  As a bonus, the kids were delighted that Pastor Sean came to our house.  And oh, did we ever make cookies that day!

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On Wednesday we got to have a pre-Thanksgiving feast with some out-of-state relatives at my dad’s house.  I completely flaked out on taking pictures of the kids with their long lost second cousins, but it was such a joy to see them, albeit too briefly.

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Today was Thanksgiving proper, and I am feeling properly thankful for the day we had.  We stopped to visit my best friend Mary’s family just after lunch, as is our Thanksgiving tradition.  The kids had a great time playing with their honorary cousins there (Again, no pictures.  What is wrong with me?!) while I got to catch up a bit with the grown-ups.

Then we finally landed at my mom’s house for this bountiful feast:

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It wasn’t a huge affair, just us and my mom and grandmom, but I love watching the kids make these simple, enduring memories.

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Trevor had to work tonight, but he did get to stop by for an hour and a half just in time for turkey and my sister’s fantabulous apple cupcakes before heading to work. It made everyone’s night to have Daddy there for a little while, even if most of the kids were totally absorbed in the Squanto movie for most of the time he was there.  (We can count that as school, right?  Just kidding.  Mostly.)

I’ve enjoyed a month of paying a bit of extra attention to counting my blessings (beyond the usual blessing-counting that happens frequently whenever we go out in public!) and I’m looking forward, with the kids, to getting out our box of Christmas stuff in the next week or so and shifting our focus to the ultimate object of our thankfulness.

As the kids were chattering away about Christmas in the van yesterday, I heard Coraline’s little voice ask, “But what do we do on Christmas?”  I held my breath for a moment before answering to see if one of the other kids would chime in first.  I guessed they would probably remind her that we go to church on Christmas eve.  That we have a tree and get presents on Christmas day.  That we go to grandmom’s for brunch and get more presents.  That we go to Pop-pop and Debedee’s house for even more presents at some point…  All of that would have been true and fine, and was probably just the sort of answer she would have been looking for.

Instead, without hesitation, Bea answered her, “Coraline, Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus being born!”  And last but not least, I am thankful today for that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Another Thankful Week

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This week I am thankful for community.

It’s a funny, small world we live in now that we’re all connected by this one great Internet, isn’t it?  I began to discover its potential when I was pregnant with Romilly back in 2006 and found an online community of other expectant moms due the same month as me.  I was surprised to discover that these women actually came to feel like friends.  I met a few of them who lived near enough get together with.  Sure enough, they were actual humans.  And I actually liked them.

A couple years later as our family began to take on a less conventional shape and size than most, I found another online group for moms of large families.  This group has become so dear to me over the years, that even Trevor and the big girls know many of the names of the ladies and their kids.  We’ve celebrated with them when they’ve had babies, and we’ve prayed for them together when tragedy has struck.  We’ve had the privilege of meeting a couple of their families, and they have been an incredible support in a world that is not always cut out for a larger-than-average family.

More recently, as we have waded into the sometimes turbulent waters of adoption, we have yet again found a little safe haven for ourselves in cyberspace.  What a comfort it is to know that others have walked the same road you are on, and what wisdom they have to share!

Last week at our agency’s annual International Adoption Dinner (see photo above of our Bulgarian bunch), we got to spend time with a mom I first met through online connections.  I meet with her and several other ladies who have adopted internationally every other month for support and invaluable friendship, and it also started right here in my computer.

This age of technological overload is certainly full of pitfalls and potential dangers.  There are days, too many of them, when my online world sucks me in at the expense of the precious little people in my real world.  But God is certainly using the Internet for His purposes.  I am daily encouraged by being part of a community: of adoptive parents, of parents of kids with special needs, of moms of large families, of Christians!  And in knowing I am not alone, there is strength.

Thank you to each of you reading this for taking the time to visit my little corner of the great big Internet, because you are a part of that community for me.  I have been so blessed by your comments over the years, and just by knowing that someone cares enough about our family to follow along on all our adventures.

Still More Thankfulness: Hubby Edition

This week, and every week, I am thankful for my husband.

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I don’t often gush about Trevor, because he’s not really the type who likes to be gushed about, but you should know this: he is a more amazing husband and father than I ever could have imagined he would be when I married him.

Our life has had such an unusual rhythm since Trevor started working nights a year and half ago.  We spend half the week seeing him only briefly each day since he sleeps for most of the time that he’s home, but for the other half of the week we get him all to ourselves.  It means, for me, that I spend half the week in survival mode feeling like a single parent and the other half the week feeling like we’re on vacation.  There are some pretty intense days (especially since Delia misses Trevor something fierce when he’s working/sleeping), but it’s not a terrible existence at all.

But for him, working nights means switching his sleep pattern twice a week, surviving one day a week of sheer exhaustion as he pushes through to reset his body clock, and doing about half of his sleeping while we (all 9 of us!) are awake and living life rather loudly downstairs.  He doesn’t mind his job, or really even the hours, but he would much rather be with us all the time.  And I love that about him. (Honestly, I think if I worked outside the home, I would relish the chance to hear my own thoughts for a few hours!)

When he’s home, he’s all home.  He changes diapers, reads endless stories, grocery shops (never without at least two kids in tow) and even vacuums from time to time.  And his only real complaint is that I always eventually make him go back to work.

I think people assume, maybe because I am the talker and he is the strong silent type, that I am the crazy one.  I guess that’s about half true.  I’ve certainly had my share of crazy ideas.  But when the Lord lays something on Trevor’s heart, he listens and he acts, whatever the cost.  And I love that about him, too.

A dear friend told me on the eve of my wedding that one of the greatest joys of Christian marriage is that you get to watch your husband become a better person over the years.  To be honest, I didn’t really believe her.  After all, I already thought Trevor was about the best thing ever, plus I don’t think I truly understood the transforming power of Christ’s love.  But she was right.  As much as I adored Trevor almost fifteen years ago when we married, I had absolutely no idea what a keeper I was getting.  He continues to surprise and challenge me, and I am thankful to God for him every single day.