Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

We had an absolutely perfect day with our sweet family today. I hosted, and I'm not one to brag, but not only did I not kill anyone with food poisoning, but the house is still standing and semi-clean, too! ;) It's a Turkey Day miracle!

I scrolled through my Facebook first thing this morning and saw all you fit people out running Turkey Trots, so I decided to get my morning workout in by banging the Pillsbury can against the kitchen counter EXTRA hard before throwing those suckers in the oven. I mean, that definitely burned at LEAST two I ate two cinnamon rolls before tackling the turkey. :) Sorry, not sorry. 

These two didn't mind my workout of the day either.

And then...this sucker met its demise in the oven.

After getting everyone cleaned up, we recruited my parents to take a few family pics outside because I totally blanked on booking family pics this year. (Is adoption brain a thing? It's kind of like preggo-brain...except not?) 

This girl was ready for her close-up. 
 Carter's face...he's all, "Get me outta here!"
 My tiny beauty.
 Stud muffin!
 So blessed. So SO blessed.
 Blake checked went to gather up the boys' fishing gear for a trip up to the pond, and I took the opportunity to snag a few pics with my kiddos. I somehow NEVER make it into the pics, so I had to take the opportunity!
 Love these two!

At this point, ten more people descended on the house and fun family chaos ensued for about six hours. For some strange reason, I could never get the adults to pose for me, but the kids' table was willing to give me a cheese before diving into the meal!

And then, we feasted! Such an amazing spread!

We had an absolutely perfect day...the kids were asleep in their beds at 7pm, and we are feeling so incredibly thankful and blessed by all we've been given this year. God is good...all the time! We are so grateful for a wonderful family day and hopeful that next year there will be a sixth little booty at that kids' table! :) 
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Adoption Awareness Month: A Male Perspective

Today, I'm changing it up around here. Over the last few months, I have received DOZENS of questions related to how I "convinced" my husband to adopt. I have heard from so many women who have such a strong desire to join in caring for orphans, but they just can't seem to get their husbands on board. The reasons for this include everything from the cost to adopt to concerns about becoming a trans-racial to family to concerns that the love will not come as naturally for the adopted child as it did for biological ones. So, I posed these questions to my husband, and here were his responses...

1)   How did you come to the decision that you wanted to grow our family through adoption? 

It was a slow process really, by our family's standards. We are typically very quick to make a decision, but not this time. For quite a while leading up to our final decision, I just couldn’t shake this feeling that something wasn’t complete in my life and in our family. I have always struggled with how I can make a difference, other than just providing for my family, but I wasn’t sure what that meant quite yet. That is when I believe God intervened through our pastor at Hope Fellowship, John McKinzie, through a sermon based on the story of Nehemiah last winter. Part of this sermon really struck a chord with me. To sum it up, he asked us to consider, “What breaks your heart, and what are you going to do about it?” I really wrestled with this question for a few days, but the answer that I ultimately settled on was children without a permanent home break my heart. I shared this with my wife and, ironically enough, she was being tugged in the same direction. After many, many months of discussion, thought, and prayer, the rest is history.

Link to sermon here:

2) What experience did you have with adoption prior to our family beginning the process? 

My father was adopted through Gladney as an infant. Had it not been for his Mom and Dad taking that leap of faith, there is no telling how his life would have turned out. Maybe someone else would have adopted him, maybe he would have spent his life being bounced from foster home to foster home, who knows. But I do know that his parents made the selfless decision to adopt him and take him as their child, and that decision forever changed his life and the lives of so many others, myself included.  

3) What would you say to someone who believes you won't be able to love a child that is not your own blood as much as your biological kids? 

My belief on that is that blood isn’t a prerequisite for someone to be family. I have friends in my life that I would consider family. Is a step-son or daughter not “family” to the non-blood parent? Absolutely not; they are a family. My dad may not have been born to his parents, but he was completely loved and completely "theirs."

4) How did you come to terms with the financial obligations of the adoption process? 

This one was surprisingly not as hard for me as one would think. Being the sole provider for a family of four, you would think that I would have had a really hard time with trying to come up with $35,000 in about a year’s time. But for some reason that I can’t explain, I have just had this peace that God will provide and we will make it happen. Sure enough, through our saving, selling of various things around the house that we don't need, fundraising, and the generosity of some friends and family through Paypal donations, we have come a long way in a short time. We still have a ways to go, but I am confident that we will be able to make it happen. We still may have to apply for some adoptions grants and, worst case, an adoption loan to finalize our costs, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. If the finances are the only thing holding you back, don't let it!

5) What advice would you give couples who are just beginning to discuss this option for their own family?

Make sure you are both on the same page about the process. Understand that it is not going to be easy, but not insurmountable either. Start the process of saving and fundraising as soon as you have made the final decision. Research domestic vs. international, talk to as many people as you can about their adoption experiences, and speak to as many adoption agencies as you can. You are going to be dealing with the agency often, so you want to make sure you are compatible and that they are going to meet your expectations and needs. We researched dozens of agencies, and I think we spoke to at least five or six when we were looking. We are so glad we did because it wasn’t until we interviewed the last agency that we knew we had the right one, Holt International. And lastly, pray! A LOT!

I am so thankful and grateful to my sweet husband for contributing and answering his side of this story, and I am even more grateful to God for bringing us to this decision TOGETHER and in His perfect timing. If I can offer my one little piece of advice to wives feeling alone in their desire to adopt, put it in the hands of someone bigger than yourself. Hand it over to God, pray about it, and if it is in His plan for you to walk this path, you won't have to arm-twist and nag and plead with your husband to agree to it. Quite frankly, the last thing an orphaned child needs is a home where he or she is not 100% completely and totally wanted by BOTH parents.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Get those stretchy Thanksgiving pants out and FEAST! :)  
Friday, November 20, 2015

Oh, Happy Friday! [Adoption Update]

Happy Friday, friends!

So, remember that time I thought we were home study approved? Yeah, so we technically were not yet. This actually IS my first rodeo in the adoption world, and I misunderstood our social worker when she told me that "this part was done" in her email. What she actually meant was HER part was done...but this is international adoption, and if I've learned anything in the past several months, I've learned that there are always MULTIPLE approvals that have to happen for every single step, so were not in fact home study approved then. We were a few approvals shy...

But, as of Tuesday, we are NOW approved. For real this time. ;) So, let's celebrate again! We should be receiving the actual report from our social services agency any day, and then we can mail in our immigration approval. That should take somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks to get back, and that'll be the final piece to our dossier puzzle. I have my fingers crossed that our dossier will be sent to China sometime in January, but that depends on how quickly USCIS (aka the immigration people) give us our approval.

My life right now...this made me laugh. :)

The crazy thing about now having our "official" home study approval from Holt is that we've been added to their family list! This means we could get "the call" any day now to review a child's file! Because we are open on gender, we have been told our match could happen, at least unofficially within the next couple of months. (They say a "long" wait time to match a family who is open on gender is four months...) For those of you unfamiliar with the process, the adoption agencies do all of the matching and referrals for China adoptions; the government in China does not get involved at all until the agency and family have agreed to the match, so it's possible that we could submit our dossier to China already matched. EEEEK! SO exciting!

So, with that shared, I have a two prayer requests to share if you are the praying kind...

1) Financial Provision: I know, the icky part. :( If I'm going to paint an accurate description of the international adoption process for you here, there's just no way to sugarcoat this part of it. Typically a fee is involved with all of the exciting milestones that happen in the process, and we are being hit with some big ones right now. Would you continue to pray for us here? We are absolutely humbled by the generosity of those who want to see us grow, and we are blown away by the support we have received already. (Side note: A huge thank you to my brother and his wife who held a garage sale in our honor last weekend and to my amazing friend, Laurel, who is donating half of our Rodan + Fields proceeds to us from her November sales. If you are interested in trying her products, shop her website HERE.) 

2) Wisdom on Travel: After discussing travel with our social worker and several friends, we are really leaning toward taking the kids with us to China. Adoption is a family event, and we feel like we should go there and return as a family unit. We really feel like the transition for all three kids will be easier if everyone is included in the process...HOWEVER, that means flying all four of us there, bigger hotel rooms, AND flying all FIVE of us home. (I get an eye twitch just thinking about that part...) But, this child is getting a WHOLE family, not just a mommy and daddy, and I think Carter and Kate will feel less resentment if they experience the adoption with us. It's a huge decision, so prayers for wisdom and clarity here would be so appreciated.

Thanks for continuing to follow us in this journey. And stay tuned next week...I've gotten countless questions from friends about how I "convinced" my husband to adopt (spoiler alert: I didn't...), so I have asked him to share HIS side of this journey with you. I've done all of the talking up until this point, so it's about time you heard from HIM how we got here! :) 
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Life Lately: School Pictures and Letters to Santa

So, life lately has actually been fairly slow and, aside from the terrible twos being in FULL FORCE around here, not super stressful. (Side note: Am I wrong that girls in the terrible twos are SO. MUCH. WORSE. than boys?!! Holy drama, Batman! Somewhere my mom is laughing...) 

We are at a point in the adoption process where the powers that be are working on our behalf and we are simply waiting for things to get done on their end, so it's been nice to take a break from the "paper chase" for a bit and just enjoy some good family time. Yesterday, yes, on November 10th, my kids decided it was time to write letters to Santa.

Allow me to translate: "Dear Santa, Dirt Bike. Lobve, Carter"

I've been good...riiiiiiiight. ;)

Carter is at an age where he is CONSTANTLY asking me to spell things so he can write. He is DETERMINED to figure out reading and writing, and it is the most fun thing to watch. Kate is not pictured because, as mentioned above, TERRIBLE TWOS. She was upset because she couldn't write her own letters. She wanted to try so I handed her a crayon, and she screamed, "I can't!" So I offered to help...MELTDOWN. The struggle is real.

I walked out on my porch Monday afternoon to find this beauty...

The shirts came in and are SO CUTE!!!! We have heard from a few people who didn't get to order, so we may relaunch in the spring if anyone wants additional colors or missed out in October. It has been so fun to hand them out to all our amazing supporters! 

And, last, because PROUD MAMA, I had to share the school pictures we got to preview last week! I was so excited that the kiddos got to take a sibling pic, too. Melt my heart!

Quite a step up from Carter's infamous "hitchhiking" mug shot from two years ago...

For the love...

And lastly, don't forget to get your orders in to my friend Laurel before the end of the month if you want to give Rodan + Fields a try! 50% of her proceeds this month will go to our adoption fund. Thank you, Laurel! :)

Happy Hump Day, friends!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Adoption Awareness Month: Get Your Tissues Ready, Y'all...

Although I'm not technically an adoptive mom yet, I am in the process of becoming one, and in honor of Adoption Awareness month, I wanted to share with you the video above. I think this so perfectly describes the adoption process, the beauty and tragic loss that are both present in adoption, and the redemption that can come from that loss. This video was posted on an amazing China adoption blog that I read called "No Hands But Ours," and if you've got 36 minutes and a box of tissues handy, watch this amazing little girl's story. I can only pray that our little one will flourish the way sweet Lydia has. :) And if you are the praying kind, would you lift our family up this week? Lots going on over here that I won't go into detail about, but we would just covet your prayers for wisdom and peace. Thanks, and happy Monday, all! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1

Eeeks! November 1! I've been waiting for this day for a while. Halloween is over (it's a love-hate, y'all), Adoption Awareness Month is beginning, our Booster closed last night, and my kids broke in their new Christmas pajamas last night. :) Life is good today.

First, I want to give my deepest, most sincere, and very heartfelt thanks to all who supported us in our t-shirt Booster sale. We ended up selling 187 shirts and raising...wait for it...


I don't even have the right words to express my gratitude. I was actually told by a friend who had sold t-shirts as a fundraiser to not expect much because she didn't feel like t-shirt fundraisers worked, and hers was very unsuccessful. Well, I loved the design we came up with, and I thought, why not? If we raise a couple hundred dollars and people get to share in our journey a little bit, what can it hurt?

Yes, well. 

How incredible God (and our community!) is to not only help us reach our completely ridiculous goal, but to actually SURPASS IT and basically QUADRUPLE what we had initially hoped to raise. I know I sound like a broken record here, but we just continue to be humbled and blown away by God's provision for our family in this process. It's not easy for a family with one full-time salary who has two kids in preschool and very little discretionary income to come up with the $35,000 needed to complete an international adoption, but God just continues to show up, cover us in all of these details, and confirm that this is His plan for us. What an amazing Provider and Father we serve.  

Big Sister gives Him all the praise hands.

Last night, we had a blast celebrating Halloween with our sweet Ironman and Doc McStuffins. We trick or treated with my two nephews and their neighbor, and the kids had a great night. It was really the first time they understood and were excited to do it, and that was so fun to see. 

And because it's November 1st...these babies made an appearance in our house last night! Cannot explain my actions. Judge if you must, but the Christmas season is short enough enough as it is...we wear Christmas pjs from November to February around here! :) 

Ok, and lastly, my generous and precious friend, Laurel, has made the most incredible offer to our family. She sells Rodan + Fields skin care, and to honor Adoption Awareness Month, she has offered to donate 50% of her proceeds during November to our family.

Rodan + Fields is the fourth largest premium skin care line in the country, and their testimonials are absolutely INSANE. They have several different product lines for various skin types, and I have many friends getting incredible results from the products. If you've ever been curious about the products and wanted to give them a whirl, now is the time! My sources tell me their multi-function eye cream is amazing, and I am personally excited to see that for myself when I get my hands on it! :)  To learn more about the products or place an order, visit Laurel's link HERE

We all have a role to play in caring for orphans (James 1:27), and we are so thankful for so many people wanting to help us on this journey. Have a wonderful Sunday, friends! 

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