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.

More November Thankfulness

Apparently even in the thankfullest month of them all I can still only manage one post a week, so I guess I’m going to have to make sure I hit the biggies!

Today I am thankful for my children.

I am thankful for silliness and laughter in my home every single day.

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I am thankful for every sweet face I get to look at at the breakfast table each morning, even when I haven’t had my coffee yet, and I may not quite feel ready for all the voices that come out of the faces.

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I am thankful for the gift of adoption and all that our family has learned through it in the past three years.  About patience and grace and unconditional love.  About acceptance.  About sacrifice.  About our own hearts.  It’s all worth it, and it has added a depth to our family that I could never have imagined.

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I am thankful for snuggly little love bugs and big kids who love to read to them.

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I am thankful for joy found in the simplest things.  An empty box that becomes a castle.  A trip to the grocery store alone with Mommy.  A perfectly crunchy pile of leaves to jump in.

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I am thankful for Pippa, Romilly, Niko, Delia, Beatrix, Juniper, Coraline and Annis.  They make me want to be a better person every single day.

The Best Sort of Trick-Or-Treaters

Are the ones that bring the treats to you!

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We were pleasantly surprised by the second knock on our door this evening.  Full basket of candy in hand, we opened the door to Pop-pop and Debedee dressed as Woody and Jessie from Toy Story!

We went from counting down till bedtime to staying up late just like that!  My daddy even brought me coffee.  I’m pretty sure that’s my love language.

Although we didn’t dress up tonight (at least, not before we started picking Woody and Jessie apart and reappropriating their bits!), most of the kids got to dress up as their favorite Bible Hero for AWANA on Wednesday night.

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From left to right: Romilly as Lydia, the purplemaker, Delia as Sarah, holding baby Isaac, Pippa as Mary with baby Jesus, Bea as Mrs. Noah, Junie as Queen Esther, Niko as David, the pre-Goliath, pre-king shepherd boy, and Coraline as Elizabeth, mother of baby John the Baptist.  I wasn’t sure we’d have enough baby dolls to go around!  Pippa kindly volunteered to use Annis, but it didn’t come to that, thankfully.

Since it is technically November now as I type this just after midnight, I will begin my month of (probably patchy at best) thankfulness by saying how much I appreciate having an extended family on all sides who truly love and support us.  Grandparents who can think of nothing more fun to do on a Friday night than to surprise their grandkids by arriving in costume to deliver treats (and coffee!  Don’t forget the coffee!) are an incredible blessing that I do not take for granted.  And we really do have that kind of loving pouring in from all sides.  So very blessed!

October Beauties

 October. Quite possibly my favorite month (although doesn’t one’s own birthday always have that effect?), full of pumpkins and apple picking and dressing up.  We do not celebrate Halloween, but we love to celebrate Fall in all its glorious splendor.  Look how pretty!

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I’m savoring the bit of warmth that has lingered in the air this week, knowing that November will be upon us soon enough.  I do love October.

Another Birthday Week

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.