Saturday, July 26, 2008

These Little Piggies went to market....





THIS DAD CRIED, "I'VE GOT NO MORE MONEEEEY," ALL THE WAY HOME ('cause we all know how much it costs to take kids to the county fair!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fun at the County Fair

Ryan is showing some animals in the county fair this week and has been camping there since Saturday. He is in the Agriculture course at school, and they spent the school year getting animals ready for the fair. He has really enjoyed it and his teacher made him the manager of the school farm. It's a small, working farm and it has been a lot of work and responsibility for him. He works hard and we are so proud of him.

He showed his calf yesterday, so we had planned to spend part of the day there. We arrived at 10AM and didn't leave until almost 8PM!! Surprisingly, the kids were able to hang in there (even the little boys, who had no naps) and we had a blast. My sister came for part of the day, with two of her kids, as well as my mom. We were able to watch Ryan and Shelby show their calves--and later, they were auctioned off. Tonight, his two pigs will be auctioned off.

We ate junk food, rode rides, fed llama's and ducks, enjoyed petting goats, rabbits, horses, cows, and got stickers from the clown. I now understand how my parents could go to an amusement park and hardly ride any rides, but have a fabulously FUN day. It was a riot to watch the kids on their rides! There is no better sound than a child's laugh, and to hear their squeals and peals of laughter was sweet music. SaraGrace could be heard no matter how far away from us the ride took her. It was so funny. She was delighted, and grinning from ear to ear. However, when she got off, I would ask her if she had fun and she would say, "No." Urgh....
We didn't get home until almost 10PM - after having to stop at the local Culvers to feed the kids. Ryan and Shelby (the starving teens) joined us. I guess they are getting tired of ramen noodles at the campsite! Lots of the kids from their 4-H group are staying there all week, since they have to stay up late and get up early taking care of the animals. They are properly chaperoned, so all has been going well.

While at the fair, someone told us that there was a picture of Ryan on the front page of our town newspaper. We bought several on the way home and sure enough, there is a huge picture of Ryan, as well as quotes from an interview with him. Ryan (aka 'I hate limelight and attention') didn't even mention that he had been interviewed. Our town is quite small, so it's not like he's on the front page of a major newspaper, but it is still exciting.

Proud Mom moment with her 'baby' boy (how can he be this old? sniff, sniff)

The little boys eat ice cream and watch big brother, Ryan, show his calf

SaraGrace loves animals and has absolutely no fear of them

Who is sweeter, these little girls or the cotton candy? Definitely the girls--although SaraGrace might be considered more spice than sweet!

Standing in line waiting for auction

Standing in the ring while his calf is auctioned off

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Happy Belated Birthday, Jake!

Our adorable Jake turned two on Monday the 14th, but Jeff had to be out of town on business the entire week, so we celebrated tonight.

The present he liked the best was a pair of $.79 flip-flops that my parents brought for him! He was petrified of the candles on his cake, so he needed help from big sister, Jillian, to blow them out. He recovered sufficiently to scarf down a big piece of cake, though!


Friday, July 18, 2008

The doctor weighs in on Zoey

Our family orthopedic surgeon called yesterday to discuss Zoey's leg. He said she has a very common birth defect called fibula hemimelia. He will have to evaluate her of course, but are facing a choice between many, many reconstructive surgeries or amputation. One of the biggest factors will be the leg length difference. If it is greater than a 20% difference with the other leg, amputation will probably be the best option for her.

The doctor said that he would put a brace on her ankle right away so that she doesn't have to walk on the side of it anymore.

He has patients with this same condition--some parents have chosen amputation and some have chosen reconstructive surgery. He said he would put us in touch with them to help us make the best decision for Zoey.

I just want to get her home!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Splashes of joy

A friend of mine invited us over to her pool the other day (thanks, Susie!). Normally, we leave Jake and Jordan at home napping (under the care of big brother, Taylor). However, this particular day, Taylor had other things to do, so we decided to take the little boys with us. Jordan had tried the pool the week before, so he was an old pro. We put life jackets on both of them and Jake started crying. The next thing we knew, he was as far as he could get from the pool, hiding behind a chair.


He likes the bath, so I knew he would like the water if I just made him get in. We sat together on the steps and edged our way down into the water--with Jake letting out little shrieks each time we went deeper. Finally, we were in the water, and he started to smile. Susie had some cool floaties with seats in them, so I could just stick both boys into the seat and they could float around. Jake quickly became acclimated to the idea and had a blast for the rest of the day!

Little Jordan has made some amazing strides of late. We have had some bonding issues with him, and even though he didn't exhibit any horrible behavior, we still knew that he hadn't quite given his heart to us yet. He was willing to let us hug him and hold him, but he rarely reciprocated. He would even ask for hugs--but would remain stiff and wooden, not returning the hugs. We have been praying and praying that he would be able to fully trust us. Finally, about two months ago, he looked at me and totally out of the blue, said, "I love you, Mommy." heart melted! I didn't hear those words again until about a week ago. He said it again...and since then, he has been saying it more often. He has been climbing up into my lap, hugging me, kissing me, and just hanging out with me. His personality is changing from an overly anxious, worried child, to a silly, joyful little boy. Sooooo sweet! I think we finally have his heart...and he certainly has ours! Makes me understand in a small way how God feels when one of His children finally give their hearts to Him.

SaraGrace penny update: No sign of it yet!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A prayer you don't hear very often...

WARNING: If you are squeamish, you will want to skip this post.

Tonight, SaraGrace prayed:
"Dear God, pwease hewp me poop a weally big poop so dat da penny will come out."

Last night, as the other girls were praying, SaraGrace suddenly burst into huge sobs. We couldn't figure out what was wrong, until she finally gasped out,
"I swawwod a penny."
"I swawwod a penny." It took a few more tries to figure out that she had swallowed a penny.
"I'm sorry, Mommy," she said.
I hugged her and told her that is why we should never put pennies in our mouths..blah, blah, blah, but that the penny would eventually come out.

She has been quite frightened all day that it would get stuck somewhere in her body. Her over-developed sense of the dramatic has not served her well during this incident! Her little sidekick, Chloe, tries to give her encouragement by saying things like,
"Mom will have to watch while you go potty in case it comes out."

The two of them came to me excitedly this evening and announced that SaraGrace was feeling the need "to go" and that I should come and watch. Oh goody. I dutifully sat nearby as she went, but so far, there is no sign of the penny.

Maybe tomorrow.... Its great having things to look forward to!

Update on some sweet little girls

First some great news about little Jia, in China, who I asked you to pray for a few weeks ago. She needed a visa to come to the US for heart surgery. Things were at a standstill--and I don't know how God moved the mountains--but He did and she now has a visa!!! Please pray that her heart surgery will be a success. It will be a very complicated, delicate one.

Do you remember baby Sinh from Vietnam? We were told that her heart was inoperable and were given the impression that she would not live long. She had a stroke over a year ago which affected her left side. I have been asking the agency for an update on her and this week I received some pictures! The agency director also told me that she is doing well, walking and interacting, although had some neurological damage from the stroke.

This photo was taken in Oct. 2007

Also taken in Oct. 2007...this is Sinh in her crib. She doesn't even have a mat to lie on..just these uncomfortable wooden slats.

This photo was taken a week ago. Her little lips and fingernails are so blue from lack of oxygen. SaraGrace had the same blue lips and fingernails prior to her surgery. I so wish we had been able to help Sinh. Every doctor we showed her medicals to, said that we were too late. She should have had surgery at 3 months of age. We didn't know about her until she was 18 months old. By then, the high blood pressure caused by her heart working improperly, had done irrepairable damage to her little heart.

We asked about getting her into a foster home, but apparently that did not work out. I don't know if Vietnam is familiar with any type of foster care, so it seems that little Sinh will live out her days in an orphanage. It is so heartbreaking. Does she ever have loving arms around her? Does anyone tell her that she is special? That she matters in this world? Did anyone cheer and clap when she took her first steps? Does anyone celebrate her birthday or comfort her when it thunders outside?

Sometimes to let my mind wander to what an orphan experiences, could suck the breath out of me. It comforts me to know that God loves Sinh far more than I ever could, and that He is watching over her. In my helplessness, He has given me the ability to do something for her that bridges the ocean that separates us...PRAY. With my prayer, I can touch her from afar, and have confidence, knowing that God is answering those prayers.

Her name means Life. Her's is a life that matters.

It's official...we are logged in at CCAA!

Our adoption agency emailed us yesterday to let us know that our dossier was logged in at China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) on July 7th. We can now begin counting down until we receive a Letter of Acceptance, which takes about 2-3 months. Once we send that back, it takes another 3 weeks or so to receive the official Travel Letter, allowing us to come to China. Barring any delays due to the Olympics, that would put us in China in November!

In other news....

Jillian and Taylor returned home from Camp Barakel yesterday to a boisterous 'Welcome Home' from their siblings.
Rendezvous at the Cabella's parking lot.

When Jillian emerged from the van, she was immediately surrounded by her younger brothers and sisters...


It was very cute to watch them hug on each other and listen to the older kids tell about their adventures at camp. The younger ones sat silently, drinking it all in, and dreaming of the day when they, too, would be old enough to go.

I think watching these reunions is one of the most rewarding parts of having a large family. We are so blessed!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Camp, potty-training, and favorite movies

We sent Taylor and Jillian to Camp Barakel last Monday. It was Jillian's very first time going away to camp. She looked petrified as she rode off with the rest of the kids from my parents' church. Taylor has been there quite a few times and was really looking forward to it. My Mom has called twice to let us know that both kids are doing well (my Mom went along to volunteer in the kitchen). It's a bit odd to only have six kids here--and usually just five, since Ryan is often out of the house. Molly has missed Jillian quite terribly and has had several meltdowns, but is trying to be brave. She had Chloe have already made Jillian some "welcome home" cards in anticipation of her return on Monday.

Meanwhile, dreaded potty-training chore has begun in earnest for Jordan. He is doing remarkably well, although there have been some unmentionable moments. Blech. As I looked through the pictures on my camera, I came across one that Molly had staged and taken of Jordan reading the paper while sitting on his potty chair. She is so funny!

Last night we decided to watch one of our favorite family movies--Nacho Libre. Yes, I know, we are deep literary thinkers. Ryan has been wanting to put a mask on Jake to make him look like Nacho in the movie. This morning the time was right.

He ended up looking more like Batman than Nacho, but we tried. He then left and came back modeling his own fashion accessory... These sunglesses belong to Jillian's Build-A-Bear, and she would be most unhappy to know he was playing with them in her absence. He loves them, though, because they are so tight on his head that he can put them anywhere and they stay lodged there.

A certain unnamed friend was disappointed that I didn't line all the kids up for a 4th of July photo this year, so I am going to try to appease her with the following shots. I have been trying to take some photos that I could use in lieu of taking the kids for professions pictures. There are several reasons for that, which I won't bore you with. I haven't been successful getting usable shots of the older kids yet, so I will have to keep trying. I'm struggling with the lighting, so if any of you can give me some tips, I would love it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

She smiles...

We just received this picture of Zoey, and for the first time ever, we have been introduced to her coy smile. What a blessing it was to receive these pictures!

We also received some photos of her leg and foot. We were quite startled by them because they look different than the ones we have from when she was a baby. We don't feel that we have been misled, it's just that when she started walking and putting weight on her foot, her true condition became much more obvious. We have an x-ray that was sent to us a few months ago from China, but since we haven't been to see Chloe's orthopedic surgeon since then, we hadn't asked him to give an opinion yet. After seeing the photos of her foot and leg, I pulled out the x-ray and looked at it closely. Dr. Karin has noticed that she doesn't seem to have any ankle bone, nor any heel bone. (Yes, I know I am so intelligently explaining this in my non-doctor terms..haha) And if I was a real doctor, I would have noticed the lack of foot bones when we first received the x-ray. It's also obvious from the pictures that her leg length difference is much more severe than Chloe's, since she is bending her 'good' leg quite a bit while the other one is straight. It just makes me want to get on a plane and bring her home for an evaluation!

We have sent these photos to Chloe's ortho, and are waiting for his response.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Summer's greatest invention...flip-flops

I love summer...and I also love when my kids can wear flip-flops. No need to find need to tie several pairs of shoes...just slip those flip-flops on and the kids are good to go.

Or at least that is how it SHOULD be.

We currently have 367 pairs of flip-flops in our house. I say 'pairs' loosely, because we can rarely find a matching set. One time I pounced on what I thought was a matching set--held them up triumphantly--only to realize that they were not the same size. Hrmph...back to searching under beds, behind couches and in the wastebasket.

I have to give my kids a one hour warning prior to leaving the house. "All of you need to find a matching pair of shoes." I used to say, "All of you need to find a pair of shoes." I now need to clarify that they need to be matching, after taking SaraGrace to the store the other day. I glanced down at her and noticed that she was wearing these:

They weren't even remotely similar. She just chose two random flip-flops and then hopped in the car, out of sight of Mommy. It worked for her! (And to think I used to always make sure my kids had socks that matched their outfits and coordinating hair bows...)

Baby Jake has decided that he also wants to be like his older siblings and wear flip-flops. This is a child who hasn't been walking all that long, but he has managed to learn to walk in flip-flops. He insists on putting them on all by himself, and even though he has a 50/50 chance of getting them on the right feet, he almost never does. He also doesn't realize that there is a certain toe that should hold the shoes on. His feet look like this:

I was comforted to hear my sister giving her kids the same speech today as they were getting ready to leave the house. "Where are your shoes? Why can't you find at least one matching pair?" And don't even get me started on socks...we never having any matching pairs of those either!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Package Delivered Safely

Our dossier made it safely to China. This may seem like a 'DUH' statement, but when you have spent months putting together the paperwork necessary to adopt, you can have all kinds of weird thoughts or nightmares about the package not getting there. Indeed, there have been awful reports of adoption paperwork being lost, or damaged beyond recongnition, etc. Thankfully, ours made it safely!

From FEDEX website:

Jul 3, 2008 3:01 PM

Delivered BEIJING CN

And now we wait....

We did receive a wonderful surprise from a new Chinese friend who sent us a picture of our Zoey! She told us that Zoey smiles a lot--which was nice to hear because we do not have any photos of her smiling. I requested one! :) I think this picture shows a twinkle in her eye, though, and a slight smirk. Our friend will be traveling to the orphanage again soon, so maybe she will be able to catch a smile with her camera.