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 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.

Two New Girls Update

A few new things about this happy girl:


  • She is potty-training!!!  I had consciously put this issue on the back burner when Delia first came home, knowing how contentious it can be even with well-adjusted, well-bonded little ones.  The thought of adding bodily functions to an already long list of things Delia and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on seemed unwise, so we waited.  It turns out, she doesn’t like being in poopy diapers (indeed, who would?) any more than we like changing them!  Now that she knows there’s a chocolate chip or two in it for her, she has been coming to me and signing “potty” with reasonable consistency for the past month or so.  There are still accidents, but most of them involve me not being able to help her quickly enough because I’m nursing the baby or similar.  There have been plenty of days when I have not had to change poopy diapers at all, and you cannot even begin to imagine what a lovely change that makes to my days.  We haven’t had as much success with going “number one” yet, but I think once we may be venturing into training panties soon and ditching the diapers.  Watch this space!
  • Delia had her speech therapy evaluation and is now on a waiting list for speech services.  I was pleasantly surprised by her evaluation report.  Having been labeled “non-verbal” in all of her reports from her home country, we have been thrilled with her attempts to communicate, especially using sign, and the evaluation reflected all her hard work.  It placed her at an age equivalent of 1 year 8 months for expressive communication, but at 2 years for auditory comprehension.  We are excited to see how therapy (and even some of the activities we have to do with her while we wait for therapy to start) will help her to blossom even more.


  • Delia is getting glasses!  As part of her initial International Adoption Clinic evaluation, it was suggested that we should have a proper eye exam performed.  Our pediatrician also agreed this would be worth doing at some point, but there was never any rush, as it seemed her unusual use of her eyes was primarily a behavioral/neurological issue.  Well, we were wrong!  Delia does in fact have astigmatism in both eyes; glasses should significantly improve her vision.  The ophthalmologist believes this will really help her to be able to focus on books and other activities that she has so far shown very little interest in.  Another exciting prospect.  Here’s hoping we can actually get her to wear them!

Our other newbie continues to be sparkly and sweet and bring joy to all of our hearts:


  • As little Annis approached her 4 month check-up, I had a nagging concern that she might be following in Coraline’s footsteps and veering off the growth chart toward the scrawny side (Don’t laugh!  That was really a thing for a while!).  I was relieved to find that, although she is on the petite side at 12 lbs 1 oz, she has a firm grip on the weight chart at the 17th percentile.  I may or may not have nursed her in the waiting room right before weighing her even though she had just been fed at home.


  • We still have no idea what color her eyes are going to be! Our initial guess was that they were darkening and heading for brown, and this is still our pediatrician’s guess, but they are definitely lighter than our other brown-eyed girls’ eyes were at this age.  They are a dark gray around the outside with hazelish flecks in the middle.  I don’t think they’ll be blue, for sure.  Whatever they are, they are lovely to gaze into, and this continues to be one of my favorite passtimes for the hour or so after the other kids are in bed each night.

We are so very blessed to have both of these precious girls in our lives!

Happy, Happy Birthday, Delia!

Wondering where I’ve been?  Well, for the past week, at least, my usual blogging time was taken up by this:


We had a great week at VBS!  Two of our little cousins (you remember Ellie, right? And also little Morgan, who is June’s age) were able to attend this year, plus the overall attendance was up about 25% over last year’s.  So much to praise God for!  We are thankful to each and every person who helped make it possible.  The kids who can talk will tell you it was THE.BEST.WEEK.EVER!!!

It was a rough week for us in some ways, though.  I was thrilled when our children’s ministry leader offered to have a designated person to stay with Delia at VBS so that I would be free to teach in the Memory Verse Room as I have done in previous years, but in hindsight it was probably a little too soon for Delia to spend that much time in one week in the care of others.  Her behavior for me during the days was more difficult than we’ve had in a while, and I wasn’t exactly at the top of my game either.  I’ve had a bad cough for over three weeks now, but I did finally go to the doctor to get something for it, so hopefully I’m on the mend.  Hopefully Delia is, too.

Hot on the heels of VBS was Miss Delia’s 8th birthday, this past Sunday!


There is something so very precious about celebrating an adopted child’s birthday for the first time when they are home. It is bittersweet to have missed so many, especially knowing that they may or may not have been acknowledged at all, but it is a delight to watch her experience it all anew.


Our two birthday party girls:


Delia absolutely adored being sung to.  They sang to her in church on Sunday morning, and she loved it, and then she loved it all over again at her party on Sunday afternoon.  I love seeing the delight on her face when she truly connects with something and enjoys it:


She didn’t make quite as much of the gift-opening, but she has been enjoying some of her presents today, away from the craziness of the unwrapping.

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I should try to remember for next year how much Delia enjoys unwrapping actual paper-wrapped gifts.  There are just too many gift bags nowadays.  Thanks to Gran and Grandad in England for providing her one properly-wrapped gift.  She loved opening it!


I’m hoping to get a proper Delia update posted later this week.  Things have still been difficult in some areas, but there are definitely things to be excited about!

For tonight, I’ll leave you with her first official “bear” photo (we bought her a dog instead because she loves dogs, though she has so far shown exactly zero interest in any soft toy ever including this one).  We usually begin this tradition (and so many others) in babyhood, but at least we shall start as we mean to go on.


Happy birthday to our beautiful Delphinia Mary!  We all love you so very much.

The 4th and the 7th

Another month of birthdays is upon us.

If we count the birthday of the good old US of A, we’ve had two already!

We spent the 4th at my mom’s house, eating hot dogs and watermelon.  My dad came over as well and the early evening found all of us at a fantastic kid’s play area.


Normally, by bedtime on a Trevorless day, I’ll admit I am pretty much done.  There’s not much that can make me say, “You know what?  It’s already an hour past bedtime, but let’s just hang out a little longer.”  But there was something in the air that night.  Niko had been asking all day why we couldn’t go see fireworks, and I kept reminding him how scary they are for Coraline (to say nothing of Romilly!) and how late in the evening all the shows start.  Here they were, all in their PJs ready for bed.  I knew the noise would keep them awake anyway, and I heard myself say something quite out of character for this weary mama, “Do you want to go outside and see if we can see any?”

And did we ever!  We got a good half hour long show, standing right there in our driveway in the cool of the evening.  There were fireflies all around and bats fluttering overhead.  Even our two noise-sensitive girlies enjoyed it for a while, then quietly snuck inside to read a book when they’d had enough.  It was a magical night, and I was thankful for the tiny prompting to enjoy my children for a little longer than scheduled that day.

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On the 4th of July 7 years ago, I was already in labor with this girl:


She didn’t actually arrive until three days later on 7/7/07 at about 7:25 in the evening weighing 7 lbs 15 oz.  Apparently we were even in room 7 by the time we were having visitors, though you couldn’t prove it by me.  This 7th birthday, in any case, is a very special one indeed!

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The day was filled with not-all-birthday-related things: a morning visitor from a realtor to get a ball-park estimate of the value of our house in case we ever decide to move, an afternoon speech therapy evaluation for Delia, which Bea decided to come along to.

But then there were some presents, and there was McDonald’s for dinner.  Just when we thought it couldn’t get much better, there was a surprise visit from Aunt Paigie just in time for cake and ice cream, followed by a movie of the birthday girl’s choosing.

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This girl is easy to celebrate.  She is sweet and thoughtful.  She rarely stops talking and most of what comes out of her mouth is absolutely hilarious.  She is a rule-follower and a rule-enforcer – a good sort of kid to have around, unless you happen to be one of her siblings bent on naughtiness!  She picks up bugs with her bare hands, and, bless her, expects me to be excited about them.  She wants to tell everyone about Jesus, and the way she can talk, I believe one day she just may.

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Happy birthday, Bea!  We love you so very much!

Summer is Here!

See that sign down there?  The one hiding behind Coraline’s gigantic noggin with the practically invisible writing?  It says: “Last Day of School!” in Niko’s coolest, fanciest puffy letters.  That was almost a week ago, and we are loving summer so far!IMG_4963

Tomorrow I will drop off Pippa’s portfolio along with my affidavit declaring my intent to homeschool *four* legally school-aged children next year to our local school district (three kids all turning 8 in one year sure makes for a sudden jump in the volume of homeschooling paperwork!), and we will be D-O-N-E!

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In the meantime, summer has already commenced.  Week one included two birthday parties (one of them a very first sleepover for our two big girls!) and a trip to the zoo.  We are all enjoying the relaxed pace of life and only a teensy bit chomping at the bit to get started on next year’s school.  (Someone in our family wants to start learning Latin over the summer instead of waiting for the Fall, but I won’t name names.)

Delia has made a new best friend!  (Mommy looks forward to seeing this friend every year, too.  Never a moment too soon!)


Sweet Annis has surprised us all by graduating to semi-mobility at the tender age of three months! To say that she has learned to roll is an understatement.  In fact, we cannot even lay her on her back to change her diaper without her immediately flipping to her tummy.  Girly knows how important tummy time is to her brain development, apparently!

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Rolling is serious business!

The End of School Year Crafties


This lovely young lady has recently taught herself to knit from a book from the library.  She will humbly tell you that I taught her, but, in fact, she figured out casting on completely by herself and I only showed her the main stitch once.  I hardly know how to do it myself.  When asked by her home school evaluator what her goal is for fifth grade, she replied without a moment’s hesitation: to learn to purl!

Her first proper project was this adorable headband for little Annis.  Isn’t it sweet?!


Won’t be long before those little fingers are stitching away, too.  It’s been a very crafty place around here now that the school year is winding down:


Annis Octavia’s Pink Octopus, crocheted by Bea.


Football for Pop-pop, sewn by Niko.


Phillies cell phone case, crocheted for Pop-pop’s birthday by Bea.


Two Hawks, crocheted by Ro, just because.

We’re going to go through a lot of yarn this summer!

Q & A: Randomness and Delia

First of all, thank you to everyone who takes the time to visit here and check in on our family.  It makes us feel incredibly special to think that people we have never met (and those we know well, too!) care about our family and want to know what’s going on with us.  But I want to extra thank those who take the time to leave a comment.  I can’t tell you how many times your caring thoughts and words have brought a smile to my face and even tears to my eyes.

With that in mind, I want to answer a few of your questions from the past few months.  I always intend to write back to each person who leaves a comment, but that has been happening less and less frequently as life has gotten fuller, so here we go:

Q:  I am in awe of whatever super powers you have to get eight children to not only look at the camera but smile so perfectly! Please share your secret… I have a hard enough time with just one!

A: Do you really want to know?  Okay.

No super-powers, unfortunately.  At least three of my children at any given time suffer from a condition called Camera Smile.  As soon as the camera appears, they contort their faces into the strangest, most unflattering expressions you have ever seen.  This ailment is only aggravated by any use of the words, “Smile” or “Say Cheese!”  The only cure for this unfortunate sickness is to actually make them smile real smiles.


To this end, my usual method for photo shoots is to stand on the coffee table and act ridiculous.  Tell jokes, use funny voices, sing a song about how they’re not smiling or who’s not looking at the camera, opera-style usually.  It’s a delicate balance, because the silliness has to be turned up high enough to rattle out the fake smiles, but if it gets too high then you start to get the head thrown back, falling on each other giggling pictures.  I have many, many outtakes in both directions, but usually somewhere in there we get a gem.  And you only need the one.


Q: I love how sweet your kids are always dressed by the way. Do you let them choose their clothes in the morning, or do you lay out their outfits?

A: Thank you!

For photo shoot days I totally and shamelessly pick out their clothes and coordinate them.  I also like them matchy when we go somewhere busy and public, so I can find them all easily.  For everyday, some of them have opinions and others don’t care that much, so I often still do the majority of the choosing.

June is the fashionista, and has been known to burst into tears at some of the awful suggestions I have put to her.  She sometimes helps me pick out outfits for all the girls.  Niko and I had our first major fight over a sweater vest I wanted him to wear to church when he was first home, so he usually gets a choice of a couple tops but still needs some boundaries.  The two big girls wear the same sizes, so I usually pick out a couple options and they can decide between them who wears what.  Special requests are welcome and usually granted, but all the girls’ clothes are kept upstairs, so it seems easier to just grab clothes for everyone than to have them all going up and digging through drawers at the same time.

Q: Oh my goodness! I barely recognized Delia! … I was wondering how she was doing so far. How has she done in learning English and/or her ability to communicate?

A: Your comment made my heart smile, thank you!  Delia is doing so well in so many ways, and we are thankful for every baby step she takes toward cracking the language thing.

She is such a puzzle.  When she wants to say a word, she says it so clearly and repeatedly that we are convinced she could just start talking if she wanted to.  She has so far mastered: Delia, Pippa, baby, all done, no, okay, hot, oww, knock, uh-oh and probably a few others I can’t think of right now.  She says them in appropriate situations, but somehow she isn’t quite using them in the way we use words.  It is more like she is mimicking than actually speaking.

She also continues to love to sign and learn new signs.  The way she uses sign seems to be a closer to true communication for her.  She will sign “no” after she does something she knows she shouldn’t (!), sign “nice” when we remind her to use gentle hands, and sign “dog” over and over again when she sees one.  She uses “more” and “water” regularly to ask for food and drink.  We even had her first “sentence” right after Annis was born when she clearly signed “more” followed by “baby” after holding Annis for a short time and wanting more.  At a guess I think she is at around the 20 sign mark, but they are not all clear, and sometimes she just gestures randomly, hoping to eventually hit on something that looks like a sign to us and gets her something good.


We are encouraged, though.  Her frustration level has gone down significantly as she has learned to express her wants and needs.  She will hopefully be starting speech therapy over the summer, and it will be interesting to see how that goes.  She was hit or miss with behaving well enough at occupational therapy for it to be of any value.  Similarly, she was too distracted and sometimes difficult at PT and we have decided to leave it for the summer and try again in the fall.  Speech therapy will be so dependent on her willingness to make an effort, and control is still such a huge, dominating factor for her.  We have every confidence that she has the ability to speak, but it will have to come on her terms.  There is absolutely no persuading her to do something she doesn’t want to.

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Thanks again for your comments and questions.  If there’s anything else you’d like to know, fire away.  I’ve been doing a terrible job of coming up with topics of my own lately, so you may see me start posting more if you keep them coming!