Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Perfect Chaos

Friday evening for the first time all ten of us were together.

We loaded up into the van and headed home.

They were all so excited.

"How much longer?" was only asked a few hundred times.

When we finally pulled into our drive way they could not get out of the car fast enough.

We showed them all of the downstairs and then we began to show them their bedrooms for the first time.

The excitement remained at an all time high from the first door until the last.

They seem to all love their room and the special touches we added to make it their own.

After the grand tour it was time for our first meal together as a family.

Several of the kids wanted to help me prepare it.

Lots of hands in the kitchen.

It took twice as long to make dinner.

The mess was ten times bigger.

But it was sweet memories together.

Memories that I wouldn't trade for anything.

We watched a movie together after dinner and then tried to settle down for bed.

Sleep...there wasn't a lot of that.

We were all just a bit excited.

They went to bed late and woke up early.

It felt almost like having 8 newborns in the house.

Saturday was a big day.

Our sweet friends Jennifer and Jennifer hosted a beautiful shower for us.

It was a chance to meet family and friends.

What a blessing it was to see our children meet their grandparents,aunts, uncles, cousins, and new friends for the first time.

Sunday morning we got up and went to church as a family.  I think this might have been my favorite part of the weekend.  All ten of us sitting together taking the entire row worshiping our Creator.

A sweet friend made us all matching shirts.  As soon as we opened them on Saturday the children wanted all of us to wear them on Sunday.

And so we were THAT family Sunday morning in our matching shirts.

There may have been some eye rolling from dad, but he's a good sport.  He loves these kids with his whole heart.

 I love that about him.

I remember a time when he said he didn't care if we ever had kids.  I don't think he feels that way anymore. :)

Sunday night was one of the hardest things we've had to do.  We had to say goodbye to 7 of our 8 children one more time. (One moved in on Friday.  It was what is best for her)  Our hearts broke as we drove away.

We are all counting down the days until Friday when everyone can be home for good.

The weekend wasn't perfect.

I would be lying if I said there were no hard moments.

I would be lying if I say it wasn't a chaotic weekend.

It was very chaotic and very new.

Yet it felt normal and like it is the way life has always been.

God has brought our children home.

Now we will do our best with His help to raise them to love Him with all their hearts.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Our Painting & Technology Date

Our three youngest daughters returned from camp this past Thursday.  They were gone for two weeks but it felt more like two months.  I didn't realize just how much I missed them until I saw them Thursday evening.  

We took the two youngest girls out for a date.  I have enjoyed each and every date with them, but I have to admit this was my favorite meal and activity.

We went to Pottery Worx, one of those places where you pick a piece of pottery to paint.  

Our Dancer chose a cat for herself and a dog for dad.  He took his dog painting seriously.

I painted a plate and our other sweet daughter painted an owl.

It was so much fun.  We are looking forward to picking them up soon and seeing our finished products.

We ate at a place called Stoby's afterwards.  Andrew claims it is famous for its cheese dip.  I had never heard of it or their cheese dip, but let me tell you it was GOOD!!

After our date we were able to spend time with seven of the eight kids.

We told them they were going to Skype with family and they could not have been more excited about it.

Most of Andrew's family were together for PB's birthday party so we skyped with them.  They got to "meet" our kids for the first time.  

It was special.

I stood behind the ipad and just cried for a minute.  

I have never been more thankful for technology.

A few of them Face Timed with my parents too.

Our kids are so excited about family - and they don't mean just Andrew and me.  They mean aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins.

We start overnight visits soon.

We talk to at least some of the kids every day.  They call us and they call often.

We love it.

They ask every time they call when they can come spend the night.

They are so ready.

We are too.

We are working like crazy to get bedrooms set up for them.

We just keep telling them soon.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Weekend Fun!

Oh what a weekend!

We had a fun filled weekend and none of it had anything to do with the holiday.

Andrew and I pretty much just ignored the fact that it was July 4th.

It wasn't intentional.  It just happened that way.

Thursday evening the most exciting thing of my blog life happened.

I met my best blog friend for the first time.

Not only did I meet her, but she and her husband stayed at our house for a couple of nights.

I found Miranda's blog several years ago through a link up Kelly  (Kelly's Korner) hosted.  We immediately hit off and became "fake" friends as my husband calls it.  Ha!  She and I just seemed to have so much in common and it wasn't long before we were texting and hanging out via technology.

She was visiting Arkansas over the long weekend and it worked out where she and her hubby could stay with us for a few days.

We had so much fun.

I dare say our husbands hit it off great!  48 hours of golf talk.  

Andrew and I are sad they don't live closer so we could hang out more often.

Friday we were telling her about the van we planned to buy.  One thing led to another and before we knew it this happened...

We are now the proud owners of a Nissan NV.  

Plenty of room for us and our eight kiddos!

As we drove it home that afternoon Andrew and I would just look at each other and laugh.

That thing is huge!

Our youngest son has nicknamed it Big Blue.

Seems fitting.

Saturday morning we had to say goodbye to Miranda & Shelby.  :(

Andrew and I then spent the day with two of our boys.

We picked up our oldest son that morning and went to the driving range.  I'm not expert but I think he did a great job and will be out there playing before long. 

We picked up two of the girls and our youngest son for lunch.  

I love watching them interact with one another.

After lunch we took the two girls and our oldest son back home so that we could have an afternoon date with our youngest son.

Bowling and ice cream were on the agenda.

Sunday afternoon we were able to spend some time with our middle son after church.  

We had lunch and then went to a park to play.  He and Andrew threw a football around while I sat and watched.

Sunday on the way home I told Andrew I felt like I was going to be in a constant state of exhaustion for the rest of my life.

I love dating our kids, but the constant driving is exhausting.

I cannot wait to have them home so we can be with all of them all the time.

I cannot wait for them to meet all their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I cannot wait until I can share their pictures with you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dating Our Children

It's new.

Learning how to meet our children and get to know them.

We've compared it to dating and marriage.

It's the closest thing that we have experience with.

Just like we vowed before God, our family, and friends to love one another no matter what, we vow to love these children no matter what.

It's easy right now.

We are in the dating phase of our relationship.

Everything is new and fun and exciting.

But we know the honeymoon phase will eventually end and real life will settle in.

We will have good days and we will have hard days.

We will have days when the love comes easily.

And we will have days where we have to seek forgiveness from one another.

It's all a dream come true.

Our path to parenthood is different than I ever imagined it to be growing up.

Our path is showing me the truth of Ephesians 3:20.  My God is able to do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or think.

We are treasuring every minute of this path.

We met our middle son yesterday for the first time.  It was strange to be back in this place of first introductions.  We were not as nervous this time, but we were equally as excited.

Our sweet boy seemed nervous at first.  

Who could blame him?

We told him how excited we were to finally meet him and we told him how much his brothers and sisters missed him.

We gave him the cards from his brothers and sisters and that seemed to bring out his true personality.  We gave him the option of waiting to read them in private or reading them right then.  He wanted to read them right then.  

It was precious to watch him read his siblings' words to him.  We could tell that it meant the world to him.

We played basketball for a little while.

Andrew beat him at a game of horse.  :)

We walked a few laps around the track and just talked.

He told us he was excited about being adopted and even more excited that it meant he could be with his brothers and sisters again.

The excitement they all have to be adopted all together...

It's why God laid on our hearts to adopt a sibling group.

Their love for one another is a beautiful thing.

Sure they are siblings and they pick on one another, but oh how they love one another.

Last night we took our two oldest daughters out on a date.

We went out to eat and then took them for manicures.

Such a fun girls night, even with Andrew tagging along. :)

He knows how to show three girls a good time and make them feel special.

The girls had never had manicures before and it was fun watching them experience it for the first time.

Our Shy One wanted our nails to match.

That made a momma feel loved.

The Oldest chose bright neon colors.

They could not have been more proud of their new nails.

The night did not seem nearly long enough.

It gets harder and harder to say goodbye at the end of each visit.

And it saddened us that we didn't get to see the other children last night.

We miss them.

We cannot wait for our next visit.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Date Night

Friday night was date night. 

 It was a new kind of date night.  

Friday night I shared my husband with two other beautiful young ladies.

Our daughters.

We picked up The Oldest first.  Another girl in her cottage had fixed her hair in a french braid that ended with beautiful blonde curls falling over her shoulder.  It was a sign to us of the excitement she had for the evening.  

The three of us walked across the street to pick up The Cheerleader.  In true girly girl fashion, she didn't want us to see her until she was completely ready.

It was in those moments that Our Dancer realized she was not going to dinner with us.  The tears came.  They came hard and fast.  Her house mom tried to comfort her.  We tried to help but it was one of those moments when it was best for us to just walk away.  We told her we would be back soon and would visit with her and then we slipped back into the hallway.

In the hallway we saw The Cheerleader all dressed up and ready for our date.  She had picked out a new dress to wear and had one of the other girls curl her hair.  She looked absolutely beautiful.

I smile every time I picture her in my mind.

We realized very quickly that night what a big deal this first date with us was to all them.  To be chosen to go first or to be staying behind...

We want them all to feel special.  We want to get to know all of them.  And they realize we need these small group dates to get to know them, but they each desire for their turn to be now.

There were so many times during the night when I wanted to pull out my phone and snap a picture or record the sound of their laughter and banter with one another.  But at the same time I didn't want anything to get in the way of me soaking up these moments.

We talked to The Oldest about soccer opportunities and watched as she beamed with excitement.

We watched The Cheerleader struggle with her feelings, being torn between what she currently has and what she could have.

Oh The Cheerleader.  She's a fun one.  It was raining when we left the restaurant.  Andrew and I, along with The Oldest, walked in the rain  sprinkle to the car.  The Cheerleader stayed under the awning of the restaurant until Andrew drove the car over to pick her up, which he happily did.  Then she took off her blue jean jacket and held it over head.  

We couldn't let the rain mess up those beautiful curls.  :)

After dinner we took them to get froyo.  As we enjoyed our froyo we showed them pictures of our house and their bedrooms.

Questions started to come out.

"If you adopt us..."

We looked them in the eye and told them we were in this.  We weren't going anywhere.

They've heard those words before and it breaks our hearts that they've been through a placement that didn't work out.

They have walls up that only time and love will bring down.

We are doing everything we can to assure them that we aren't going anywhere and that it is okay for them to feel both sadness and excitement at the same time.

We understand.

When we got back to the campus we were able to see all of the children.  We all met in the dining hall, the place that has become our private place to meet, and gave them supplies to make cards for their brother.  We will meet him on Tuesday and plan to give him these cards.  I think it meant a lot to them to be able to do this and I think it showed them that we care about him too.  Some of the kids were private about their cards and some asked us to read them before they sealed them.

It was a sweet time.

We then gave them each a small gift, a framed copy of our first family portrait from Tuesday along with a card with a note from Andrew and a note from myself.

The tears flowed.

Theirs as they soaked in the photo and read our words, and ours as we watched their tender hearts overflow.

One told us she had never had a family portrait before.

One asked, "When you adopt us can we have family nights where we do stuff together like on Friday nights?"

When she finished reading her card, Our Dancer looked at Andrew and asked if she could call him dad.  He told her she could call him whatever she wanted.

"Ok, Dad" she said.

And then she called him Dad a thousand times.

As we were walking to the dining hall, The Oldest was behind me and called out to me saying "Mom, I picked you a flower."

I heard her, but didn't even realize she was talking to me.

I'm mom?

I am mom.

I laughed throughout the night when different ones would say mom or dad and Andrew and I didn't answer immediately.

We are not used to those names.

But oh how we cherish hearing those names.

It's something we dreamed about for years.

It's something we never dreamed would happen so quickly in this process.

What we thought would be a thirty minute visit with all of the children quickly turned into a couple of hours.  It was late and we were all exhausted and ready for bed.

Yet it was hard to say goodbye and walk away.

As Andrew and I plan our next date it seems to far away.

We miss them the moment we leave.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Daddy's Love

I always knew my husband would make a wonderful daddy.  Watching him interact with nieces and nephews over years has been evidence of that over and over.  

And then as we began to talk about adoption and there were times when I wondered if his heart was in it the same way mine was.  Would he fall in love with kids that were not biologically ours?

I'm sitting here now shaking my head at those silly thoughts.  After all one of the things I love most about my husband is his big loving tender heart.

He told me last night when he got home from work that before he even opened his eyes yesterday he was thinking about the kids.  He was ready to see them again.  He spent the evening looking online for activities and things that we could go do with them.

And he was still up thinking about our kids long after I went to bed.

And as you will see he is much better with words than I am...

Elaina has already shared about our eventful day yesterday. I have not. I do not have a blog so one obscenely long Facebook post must suffice...
So simple a thing, saying "hello", has never felt more special, more important, more purposed.
We have had one picture of the children this whole time. One picture that's at least 18 months old today. We were to meet the children one-by-one starting at 11:00AM. Everyone was running late except for us and the kids. We caught a glancing view of them coming up the stairs a few minutes earlier than the DHS workers thought they would. Excited children running up the stairs to meet their forever parents; excited parents trying to steal an early glimpse of their forever children. The workers at the group home quickly shuffled them back down the stairs and out of view. My first thought: "they've grown!!!" Kids can do a lot of that in 18 months. What have we missed in those 18 months? What have they been through? What have they felt while waiting?
We then met with everyone that has anything to do with the kids. DHS workers, group home workers, the attorney that represents the children. Adults scheming away about how to say hello to children. It's comical to think we can control such a thing. There is only One that orchestrates the affairs of man. This day was His day and in the hours that followed we felt His hands. Words came from our mouths that He put there. When to speak, when to listen, when to interact and when to observe. He was good to us all on this day.
Finally it was time. We were to meet the first one they had chosen to introduce to us. We were to hear one of our children's voices for the first time. I'm sure he felt like we were staring holes through him as he entered. He was nervous. We were nervous. After a few minutes, most of the workers left and we were able to visit with him for a while. The nervousness went away and we talked. He asked questions, we asked questions. We showed him photos of our family, our home, our dogs. His calming demeanor put us all at ease. Then we met with his brother, then with his sisters... A new wave of excitement and nervousness each time the door opened. It opened four times, bringing with it seven children. One more was not available and we will meet him on Tuesday. Eight in all. Sounds like alot, sounds crazy, feels perfect and wonderful. Elaina has told this story and I won't repeat every detail, but I must say it was a special time. At one point one of the girls asked me point blank "when will you adopt us?" I said "there are many steps we have to go through and we have to wait until DHS and everyone else involved thinks we're ready. I can be ready and you can be ready, but we have to go through the process." She immediately responded "I'm ready." In an instant so was I.
After the introductions in smaller groups we went to the dining hall to have lunch. Our girl who was ready prayed for our meal and then we ate together. Our first family meal was pizza around a couple of folding cafeteria tables. Not exactly a fine feast in an ornate dining room, but it was home for a few minutes. We answered more questions from the kids, and watched as they talked with each other and picked on each other. They are definitely siblings. State workers and group home workers sat at the end of the table, observing it all. To be honest, it was like the workers weren't even there. My focus was elsewhere.
Elaina has told this next part but I must tell it again. As we finished eating, our little prayer leader asked me if I had "Church Clap" on my phone. I said that I didn't and she asked if I could find it online. I said I would try and she helped me locate the correct version on YouTube. So I hit play and sat my phone on the edge of the table. I then turn around to see my beautiful little girl dancing. With no shame. Doing the church clap. The youngest boy soon joined in. Then one of the older girls. I selfishly soaked in every second of it.
We then took a group photo. Our family's first portrait. I so wish I could share it with you. In time we will be able to, but it will be a long, long wait because of the rules in place to protect the children.
We then went outside and played a little and talked a little. We were treated to another dance of course. The children only get to be together so often right now, so eventually we just sat back and watched them visit. Viewing a close group that we hope to break into. We took the time to visit with two of the workers that have been there with the children from the beginning. Great people doing the Lords work. Such beautiful, helpful, gracious people. We are thankful for them.
Finally it was time to go. What was originally going to be a couple of hours had turned into three and half. Elaina told of our tiny dancer running and jumping into my arms. She has won my heart and I fear that she knows it. We exchanged hugs with the kids and told them we would see them all very soon.
As we walked back to our car, our dancer walked along side. I asked her "where are you going?" and she said "to my cottage, you come see where I stay." I said that I didn't think we were allowed but she insisted. So we followed her into the living room. The house mother soon entered the room and we exchanged niceties. Then a procession of girls made their way from the halls of the house to the Living Room. Beautiful young girls. Some hoping to go home soon, some having been told that they never will because their parents' parental rights have been terminated. Their only hope is adoption. Our dancer was proud to have us there, so we were there and we said hello to each of the girls. I recognized some of their faces from the heart gallery. I thought about what they'll look like in 18 months. What are their forever families going to miss? What will these girls go through? What will their eager hearts feel while they wait? They're each so beautiful and worth pursuing. Don't let them wait long.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Day We Won't Forget

We won't ever forget today.

The day we met our children for the first time.

I cannot share their picture with you yet, so you will have to believe me when I tell you that we met 7 beautiful children today.

You could tell they felt like a piece of them was missing today with their middle brother not being there.  We will be meeting him next week.  We are less nervous about meeting him but just as excited.

I'm not sure what I expected today to be.  We've never experienced anything like this before.

Overall I would say it went very well.

For me, it was a roller coaster of emotions.

There were moments where I thought, "I am in love with these children.  Can we take them home with us today and start being a family?"

And then there were moments when I felt overwhelmed by it all.

Some of them are more outspoken than others.

Some of them are more affectionate than others.

They are all unique individuals and we look forward to getting to know each one of them.

We met the oldest boy first.  He had read our homestudy before meeting us.  He told Andrew he wants to be an architect and he wants to learn to play golf.

My heart about burst out of my chest at that moment.  

He and Andrew share two loves and immediately started talking about the projects they could do together and all the golf courses they could play together.

That connection put all of us at ease.

Then we met the youngest boy.

He is a ten year old little boy with LOTS of energy.

We took a few pictures with us to share with the kids and he just kept looking at them and looking at them.  He was soaking it all in.

He asked if we have a garden because he is good at watering things.

Maybe he can teach me how to keep a plant alive. :)

We met the two oldest girls next.  They were very quiet.  It was the only part of the day that was slightly awkward.  The oldest girl had a job interview this afternoon that we didn't know about.  She had a lot on her mind today.  

I would have been quiet too.

Next came meeting the other three girls.

(If you are keeping count that is 5 girls and 3 boys - one boy not being there today)

The youngest girl kept raising her hand to ask us questions.

She was very affectionate and gave us more hugs than we could count today.

Before we left she told Andrew to catch her.  She took off running and jumped into his arms.


Questions they had for us...

*What do you like to do for fun?
*Do you have soccer teams where you live?
*When are you going to adopt us?
*What are your rules?
*Who will share bedrooms?
*Will we have cell phones?
*Do you want a cat?
*Do you have our phone number?

I'm sure they will think of more as they have time to process today.

It was a lot to take in for all of us.

After the initial introductions and meetings we all went to the dining hall to have lunch together.  They opened up a little more at lunch.  That is when they asked most of their questions.  The two youngest made sure they go to sit by Andrew and me. A few of them showed us a dance they had learned at church camp.  

We spent a little bit of time outside after lunch.  Andrew shot hoops with a couple of them for a few minutes, but it was a thousand degrees outside.

During this time we kind of sat back and just watched them interact with each others.  It also gave us an opportunity visit with two people who know them better than anyone else.  

Andrew and I left emotionally exhausted.  There had been a lot of anticipation leading up to today.  We feel very good about how today went.  I don't think it could have gone any better.

Our next step will be to meet the middle brother next week and then we will start having visits with them in small groups to get to know them.