Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pick Up Trip Ups and Downs

Well, I finally got one good night’s sleep last night so I’m back to blogging about our pick-up trip with our three boys. Yesterday was a rough day for Norman and me. After five nights in a row of getting about 3-4 hours of sleep, we were barely functional. And then I had a three hour stand-off with Benjamin in the morning. It ended fine and he started behaving well but I was so exhausted, and I will be honest with you—I started wondering if we had made a big mistake in adopting three children. I started imagining in my mind that every day of my life was going to be like this with him….and I thought “how on earth will I be able to handle this boy along with having six other children?!” I started praying to God telling him that maybe the decision to adopt them was all me and not from God—and asking him to help me….just help. I had known that I was going to feel regretful at times once I had the boys….but knowing it in your head and feeling it are two different things. In a way I hate to even be posting this honestly—because I read so many other adoptive moms’ blogs and they sound like they are absolutely SO in love with their precious children all the time….and it makes me wonder if I am just a little different than the average adoptive parent…..less naturally loving….or too much of a perfectionist….or too selfish……or maybe I just need more sleep than everyone else! But I want to be honest in case maybe someone else will or has felt like this—so you know you aren’t alone. Yesterday we got the boys to bed very early and there was a 100% difference in how easily they fell asleep—it was like God moved things in fast motion for the sleeping adjustment orphanage children must go through when they go to a new house. Tonight as well, they went to sleep with NO issues—praise God. So last night we got a great night’s sleep and today felt so much better. Benjamin only had a few minor episodes of acting out with Norman but none of them lasted more than 2 or 3 minutes.

A little about the boys….first Josiah, the littlest one. He’s six but he acts and looks more like a four year old. He really does have a big vocabulary, only you can’t understand him because of his cleft palate—he barely pronounces any consonants. But he’s a smart little guy and uses gestures to get his point across. The funny thing today was that, I had already been accustomed to the way that he asks to go to the bathroom, but then today he asked in English—and I had no idea what he was saying…he repeated himself a couple of times and then pointed “down there” and it hit me, “he’s saying ‘I have to go to the bathroom!” How cool! Josiah is a great eater—very independent, uses the bathroom himself, walks around singing sometimes, loves to wear the sunglasses he got at the 3D movie, LOVES doing puzzles on the Kindle. Yes, I KNOW that real life puzzles are much better for children and that real life experiences are much better than those on a screen….but Norman and I knew that we had a nine hour flight, along with two other short flights ahead of us….and everyone knows what good babysitters computers are…..AND can you imagine what the place would be like with 101 REAL puzzles lying around the apartment….and YES I am allowing their use much more than I should be….but everything they do on it is educational so it’s win win! Josiah also loves to be carried and he’s very affectionate and very easy to get along with….not demanding and he knows how to take “no” for an answer….much to his credit since we can’t explain ourselves to him and give him any good reasons. I wonder if anyone was brushing Josiah’s teeth in the orphanage because when we did it the first few times he squirmed and grimaced and gagged as if he’d never had a toothbrush in his mouth in his life. But today he watched me brushing my teeth and we watched me brushing the other boys’ teeth and he did a lot better. Then in the afternoon he asked to brush his teeth himself, so I let him, and then he wanted to keep doing it throughout the day. The other “first” for him as well as for the other boys was taking a real bath—they just get showered at the orphanages. And oh how they LOVE the bathtub. Josiah was in sheer delight—I mean he was going to hurt himself—he kept standing up and throwing himself down into the water—Norman had to hold onto him so he wouldn’t kill himself! His main issues are the medical ones—and they are very serious. We are laying hands on him and praying for his healing….asking God to give us faith and wisdom in how to pray and what God would have us do. We really appreciate your prayers as well and will give specific details on how to pray after we meet with the cardiologist. For now, pray that this enormous hernia we found on him will resolve itself and go down and not give him any problems until we can get him to a doctor.

You already know a little about Benjamin, our ten year old, but that was just the bad stuff. I have to make many allowances for him, knowing that he comes out of one of the worst orphanages in Bulgaria. We really felt it when we were there in December….he was the one I really cried about when we were leaving….because I couldn’t imagine leaving him there. I remember the children running wild and the teachers having no control—sometimes it felt like wild animals the way they were acting. And our Benji was so sweet, we honestly thought he was the angel of the orphanage. He did not display one negative behavior at the visit in December. But looking back at how the other kids acted, it isn’t surprising that he’s had his moments now with us. Plus, the director said that there are so many children and that they go around from teacher to teacher asking for what they want until they get it. She said the teachers don’t care that much about the children so they finally just give in in order not to be harassed anymore. So Benjamin has been doing that with us….and yesterday I think his world was just rocked when it didn’t work and he didn’t get his way. I wanted to explain to him that Norman had to take Josiah to get an important document and that as soon as he came back we were going to McDonald’s and a park….but of course I couldn’t, and I didn’t have the cell phone with the facilitators’ numbers so I couldn’t call anyone to help me explain. All he knew was that Norman and Josiah went out and they left him behind. Let me brag a little on him now—Benjamin LOVES to help. This morning he made all the beds in the apartment….then picked up everyone’s dirty clothes and brought them to the washer….then washed all the breakfast dishes (I did rewash them)…then swept everywhere—all of that without being asked to do any of it. He is very affectionate, but right now that affection is indiscriminate, as he hugged a man at the doctor’s office, one at the grocery store, and a couple of ladies as well. He says hello to people as we pass them on the street, and if you know anything about Europeans (so sorry if I am overgeneralizing) they aren’t as friendly as Americans are. I couldn’t believe how person after person after person would literally look him straight in the face after he told them, “Zdrasti” (hello) and they would not say a single word or even smile at him. Benjamin can eat non stop, and I realized today that I am feeding him too much—just because he can put it down doesn’t mean it’s good for him. He needs an enormous amount of food before he says he’s had enough. So I need to just give him normal portions for a 10 year old but add lots of olive oil and high calorie foods to help him gain weight—poor thing is only about 48 pounds. With him and Steven we feel like we are nursing children who lived in Auschwitz. The facilitators assured us that the children eat well in the orphanages here….but that studies have been done showing that it is the lack of nurture, and not the lack of nutrition, that makes the children fail to thrive. Benjamin has loved everything I’ve served him so far, except for dinner tonight. I made pasta with meat sauce, which my children at home love…..but he did not care for it at all and he did not want to eat it. Now I know that many parents would say that since it was only his third day, we should probably just give him something else to eat….and I can see their point. But Norman and I made the decision that better sooner than later he learn that we don’t run a restaurant and that if he doesn’t want to eat, that’s fine with us, but there will be no dessert or alternative meals. That’s what we did with our other children and they now eat absolutely everything. So we were very sweet and kind to him but told him that he’d have to go to bed without any dessert and he just cried and cried. I know for sure that he was still hungry and I wondered how that was going to make the night pass for all of us….and it was tempting to just give him some bread and butter or a banana and be done with it, but we decided better to just rip the bandaid off quickly and get it all done at once rather than prolonging the inevitable. So after he had his pajamas on and the other two boys were in bed and we were about to brush his teeth, he asked me for a piece of chocolate. I took him into the kitchen and showed him his plate and said once more, “first pasta, then chocolate.” And he said, “dah” and sat down and ate his food right up and then got a banana and some chocolate. “The end doesn’t justify the means” some might say, and I agree with that, but for Norman and I this brings the most peace to our family at dinnertime and better to get it over with in the beginning.

Steven, our newly turned 13-year-old is, as my mom put it, “A ray of sunshine soaking up all the love and radiating joy.” He is so happy to be adopted and going to “America.” He is very sweet with his younger two brothers and helps them in many ways. And they both like him very much and go to him on occasion for affection. All the boys get along very, very well. Today, Steven got to skype with some people from his orphanage, and he was proudly showing them his two brothers. He is very affectionate, but not indiscriminately like Benjamin. And when we told Benjamin not to hug strangers, Steven told him, “Mama and Daddy will be sad if you hug other people.” Lol Steven speaks English whenever he can and he is constantly telling Benjamin to say things in English!!!! He is really looking forward to getting home and playing with our 11 year old, Luke—who will definitely be the “big brother” of the two. It’s amazing how awkward physically and socially these children can be….but I know that that will change once he’s had better modeling and nurture from a family. Today there were a few times that he decided to ignore us when we were calling him. I’m not sure if it’s because he sees the other two doing it at times and so he feels like he needs to get in on all that….or if he’s just testing us or what…but we are showing him that we are not happy when he does that—and that does seem to matter to him—he is eager to please in the end. His main issue is his vision. According to the report he is practically blind in one eye and has extremely limited vision in the other. He is very tactile and auditory—one reason why I guess he learns the language so quickly. But he does puzzles and walks around fine and notices many details so I’m interested in seeing the ophthalmologist to find out exactly what’s going on there.

Some people might wonder why on earth we decided to adopt three unrelated children at once. Well, for us, just seeing the plight of orphans made us want to do everything possible. I guess we kind of said to ourselves, “What is the absolute most we can do without literally killing ourselves,” and for us three was our answer. For some, one might be the answer, of for some five might be the answer, or for some they might not be interested in having a near death experience—and that is totally fine as long as they are answering the call of James 1:27. Also, financially it makes sense to adopt more than one. Adopting three at different times would have cost around $90,000, while doing it all at once should have cost around $40,000 (it actually ended up being like $50,000 due to an issue we were unaware of). But money isn’t really the issue—when you are doing the work of the Lord, he can make 90K come just as easily as he can make 40K come. Money is really nothing to him—we are the ones who make a big deal about it. I have more to learn in this area.

Anyway, pray for us that things continue to smooth out and improve throughout the week and that God gives us mercy once the Kindles die out on the airplane on our trip back home!! Blessings to you all and thank you for your prayers and support! No time right now to upload pictures on here, but I’m sharing some from my husband on Facebook so please check there to see some new pics! I’ll try to add pictures to this post in the next day or two :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We Have Our Boys!

Well, the day finally came! We picked up all three boys today…..and I wish I could blog about all the details but, since it’s like 2AM I’m going to just have to go with the highlights for now (and sorry, no pics until tomorrow!!).

I’ll start off by saying that God really gave me supernatural strength today because I haven’t been getting good sleep at all, with the time change, and last night I think I was so anxious, that I only got three or four hours of sleep (I need 9!) I asked him, “Lord, just redeem the time I’ve lost on sleep and give me the strength for tomorrow.” And praise God—he really did! I’m even still awake enough to get these thoughts down before I go to bed.

So, I got up early in the morning and met Plamena, our facilitator, and the first thing she told me was that our little Josiah (new name) the six-year-old, has been ready for us to come and get him for months. She said that every time the social worker at their orphanage would enter his classroom, he would ask her if his parents were here to get him. And last week, when Plamena had another family at his orphanage, visiting their two boys, Josiah told her, “I have a Mama too.” When we got to the orphanage, we had planned on transitioning slowly and playing with him for a while there before leaving. But his social worker told us, He is SOO ready to leave with you—I don’t recommend staying here—you should just go. So that is what we did, and if you can image what it’s like to keep a child who acts like three-years-old occupied from 10 AM until 8:30 PM, out in the city all day long, then you know that it was a looooong day! (our return flight didn't leave until 8:30)  Whatever genius decided that every playground in the town needs to have carnival rides and money-spending attractions all around it, surely only cares about revenue and not the parents trying to just take their child to the park. Of course, I couldn’t keep his attention on swings and slides when there were merry-go-rounds and electric cars all over the place. So we spent some money but then of course, he just wanted to do the next thing, and the next, and the next.

Finally we decided to go to the mall and try a movie—at least we could all sit still for a while and kill some time, and hopefully he would take his nap. Well, he likes movies about as much as my four-year-old. And he quickly figured out that the best way to be able to get up out of his seat was to tell me that he had to go to the bathroom. So, we made several trips there and then ditched the movie for an indoor playground in the mall.

Meanwhile, Norman was back at the apartment waiting for our two older boys, Steven and Benjamin (new names). They finally got there, and all I have to say is that I hope Norman has a renewed appreciation for my role in our children behaving so well.  He just gives a command and they usually  do whatever he says. But today was different. Today I received more than one phone call telling me something like this, “Benjamin is all over the place…he’s into everything…when I tell him ‘no’ he doesn’t listen…..if I say it sternly he cries” Then it was, “Your computer is gonna be broken in about five minutes” then “Both the boys are crying and I have no idea why.” (it turns out Steven was sad about missing people from the orphanage, and I think Benjamin was upset  because he wasn’t getting his way) Finally he got them settled down and took them to a park, ate dinner, watched a movie here at the apartment, etc. and eagerly awaited my return!

Josiah and I didn’t get back to the apartment until about 10:30, at which point it was all excitement and hugs and greetings. We cleaned up, brushed teeth, got pajamas on, skyped with our kids back at home….and then TRIED to get the three boys to bed. Benjamin started crying inconsolably, and Steven was so sweet the way he was talking to him in Bulgarian, trying to cheer him up and make him feel better. I am amazed at how well Steven can already communicate—he has such a drive to learn English and already knows so many words. He was a great help translating back and forth for Benjamin. Benjamin would say something like this, “skdgoweitahgkrjehrietreaihiretretoaijwortijer,” only it sounded even more confusing because they don’t use the Latin alphabet like we do. Then I’d turn to Steven and say, “What did he say?” And Steven would think for a minute and say, “Ummmmmm…..dark” Ahhhh, ok, so Benjamin is afraid of the dark! Got it! Easy fix with a light on in the hallway. Steven kept telling Benjamin, “Just speak English…it’s easy.”

Unfortunately Steven isn’t much help translating for Josiah since Josiah has a very serious speech impediment due to his cleft palate. He basically only speaks in vowels. But tonight it was like the Lord gave me the gift of interpretation to tongues, because Josiah said, “Uh ahhh aagh oh.” And I, with divine utterance, said, “Mlyako?” (which means milk) And he shook his head “no” which, for anyone familiar with Bulgarian will know that that means “Yes!” So, how about that—I got it right!!

I learned about ¾ into my day that I was going to have to put all of the political correctness aside of trying to learn as many Bulgarian words as possible and not trying to impose English on them so quickly. NOPE, not gonna work. They must learn English and they must learn it quickly!! So I started my day, saying “Ela took” (come here) and “posle” (later) and “chakai” (wait) and dah and nay. And it’s actually amazing how far those five words will get you with a 3-year-old like child. But then I realized, I can say as many Bulgarian words as I want but it’s still not going to help ME understand THEM! And so, right in front of all the Bulgarian moms and dads, I kept saying one English word after another and making him repeat them. I wondered if any of them thought it was bad of me to be disregarding his language and teaching them my own instead, but then I thought, “Well, I’m the one who is going to be raising these kids, not them…..and if any of them have a problem with it (which none probably did!) then I can refer them to a few thousand orphans that they are more than welcome to adopt themselves….and they can speak to them in whatever language they want.

Benjamin’s crying went on and on so we got all the boys up and gave them some bread and butter ( it was about all we had) and some milk, and we decided NOT to try brushing their teeth again, as the first time it entailed Josiah squirming and crying a LOT, and Steven’s gums bleeding…..poor guys… you can see cavities in both Benjamin’s and Steven’s molars. We finally got Benjamin to sleep but Josiah just wouldn’t fall asleep so we brought him to our bed. After a while he started crying very sad sounding tears and was saying a word over and over, for which the Lord did not give me divine interpretation this time….so we had no choice but to just let him cry it out. And now all three are sound asleep.

So all in all today was a happy and exciting day. We learned that all three boys have been anxiously awaiting our return for all these months and were driving their teachers crazy asking about when we were coming for them. We got to see them experience so many new things in just this one day. And we saw them testing us out….trying to figure out if we are just some cool big friends who are going to give them a lot of fun times….and if not…..what exactly ARE things going to be like in “America.”

Tomorrow is Steven’s 13th birthday so we will plan something fun for him and we have a gift for all three of the boys, since we didn’t think they’d understand why only he was getting one. (We do NOT do that with our other kids….but that’s because we can explain to them the reason in English). I will upload our pictures onto my computer and blog again with some fun pictures of our day with them, so check back sometime and please PRAY that they DO NOT wake up early in the morning. I wrote this for ya’ll, so you owe me some prayers that I can sleep in!! Blessings, and thanks for all your support and prayers!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Tribute to My "Sixteen" Kids

This past year, I’ve been so focused on writing about the three boys we are adopting from Bulgaria, that I haven’t really taken the time to share what a blessing the children I already have are to me. With Mother’s Day being tomorrow, I want to write this just so that they know how much they are loved and admired….and to brag on all of them a bit. When you count my three step-children, I have twelve children all together, (when you count the three who are almost home from Bulgaria)—though five of them are grown and out of the house. But I can’t stop at twelve, because my sister, my only sibling, has four amazing children, who I have always also loved as my own. Here’s a little tribute to them all.

                                   SHANNYN
My oldest, Shannyn, I became foster mom to in 1991, when I was 22 and she was 6. Three years later, I adopted her. Shannyn had a great personality—very street smart, a bit of a wise guy, a very sharp mind and sometimes a sharp tongue. But so caring and nurturing and motherly. She had cared for three younger siblings up until the time she came to live with me. Though she was already 6 years old, Shannyn knew few letters of the alphabet and was really behind in school. Her teacher wanted to move her down to Kindergarten from T-1 but I insisted, “This little girl is SO smart—I can tell just from talking to her. She just needs time to catch up. You’ll see.” And sure enough, they kept her in T-1 and by the end of the year, her teacher told me, “Shannyn is my biggest success story ever—she went from hardly knowing anything, to being at the very top of her class.” Shannyn later went on to graduate from UGA in criminal defense. Her goal is to one day work as a youth advocate. Shannyn and I are alike in that we both love to debate—we can debate pretty much everything—and we’ve even been known to stand on a table now and then to make our point! We both have a strong sense of duty and self-sacrifice. I love hanging out with Shannyn and hearing what she has to say. She lives in PA near the rest of my family so I really miss her—especially now that she just had the cutest baby ever. I can’t wait until she and her husband and little Kylin come for a visit in July!! I am so proud of what an amazing person she is—including a great wife and mom!!

                              ELIZABETH
My second child, Elizabeth, is Shannyn’s biological sister and came to live with me that same year, when she was 5. It’s amazing how I can love her and Shannyn both so much when they are complete opposites from each other. Elizabeth was our little comedian—also with a very sharp mind, and would make everyone laugh, seemingly without ever trying. (Like when she came home from school and told me that she knows how God heals people...."He just reaches his hand down from Heaven and touches you--but not on your private parts--and heals you!"  LOL)  She was happy-go-lucky and the “life of the party” throughout her younger years, until she started taking life much more seriously and decided she was more of an introvert than an extrovert. She loves books—I’d be surprised if there was one out there she hasn’t read. She’s the one who got me into Jane Austin—who we both love for her wit and satire:). Lizzie and I love watching the same type of movies and we are both homebodies who prefer cozying up with a cup of tea to going anywhere. She has been an extremely successful therapeutic massage therapist for several years now—even working on some big name celebrities from time to time. She has a true heart for God and for those in need. I just love her and am so blessed that she is my daughter.

Evelyn, age 23, is my oldest step-child. She and I share the same birthday, which started a bond right away. Evelyn was always very old for her age—never wanted to be a little girl, and grew up a little too fast maybe. She is the free spirit of the family and we all have a hard time keeping up with her, but every time she comes home, she greets us all with a huge smile and hug, and we are all so happy to see her. She has blessed us all with a beautiful grandson, Anthony, who is just as cute and sweet as can be! Her dad and I miss them both and hope they move back to Georgia soon!

           LUBY, EVELYN, AND SAMMY ON THE LEFT
Luby, my second step-daughter, is 22 and was married young and has two gorgeous little ones, ages 4 and almost 2. My girls at home just love it when they come over—they eat up their little niece, Imani, and she gets very spoiled over here! Luby is such a hard worker—I don’t know how she does it, working full time and taking care of two little ones. She’s a serious-minded girl, and has always been the steady and stable type. I’ve always thought it was so sweet how attached she and Evelyn were to their dad. And I’m glad that she and her children are a part of our lives.

               MIKAEL, GABRI, NICKY, AND DANNY
Though he is not my child or step-child, I just cannot leave out the next in line in my heart—my 19 year old nephew, Nicolas. He and his siblings are definitely their mother’s children, but they know that I have always loved them as my own. I had the privilege of taking care of them for several years when my sister worked, which kept my heart and hands full…..and I loved every minute of it. Nicky has the most sweet and sensitive spirit of any boy his age. He’s always been such a good boy—typical first born—serious, concerned for others, considerate. And what a baby he was—the easiest baby a mom can ever have. If every baby was as easygoing as him, we’d have triple the population we do now. Currently he is a sophomore at Liberty University and though I don’t get to see him much, I love keeping up with him on Facebook—such a sweetie.

Just a month younger than Nicky is my 19 year-old step-son, Sammy. We were so thankful for Sammy when blending our families, consisting of four teenage girls! Sammy, like Nicky, was easy going, go-with-the-flow, and just a sweet boy. The two of them, in fact, used to be great friends, until my nephews and niece moved up north. Sammy is currently in Argentina for a few months but his dad and I look forward to him coming back soon. A man of few words, he loves music, like his dad, and is getting into songwriting and composing. We just love his heart for the Lord and seeing how bold he is becoming in the things of God!

My sweet niece, Gabriela, age 17, is next in line. She and I were kindred spirits when she was just a tiny thing. Once, when she was three, she came over to me and said, “LiLi, I love you SO much!” I told her, “I love you too Gabri!” Then she leaned in close, like she didn’t want anyone to hear and whispered, “I love you more than GOD!” (with a strong emphasis on God!) I told her, “Awww, that’s so sweet….I love you so much too….but we should try to love God even more than each other.” And she scrunched up her face and tilted her head to the side and said, “I know……but I don’t!” lol. Gabriela practically came out of the womb talking—the girl could hold long conversations with you and pretty much discuss anything at two-years-old. In fact, the family laughs about an incident in which her then one-year-old brother got frustrated at her constant talking and said, “Gabby…..SHUT UP!!!!!” right in the middle of a big family dinner. Gabri is smart and confident and liked by everyone. Right now she is making her decisions for where she will be going to college in the Fall. My prayer for her and all of our children is that they will seek after the Lord with all their hearts and use their talents and God given gifts for the sake of God’s kingdom. Though I don’t talk to her nearly as much as I wish I did, she knows that she still holds a very special place in my heart.

Anyone who loves a boy with a sweet spirit, like I do, will understand why I’m just crazy about my next nephew, Danny, age 15. He and I had a bond from the time he was just a tiny thing. Danny was so particular with who he liked at ages 1-3. There were just a “chosen few” he would associate with. A couple of people even asked me if I thought he might have autistic tendencies, but his mom and I were like, “Nope—no way….no autistic tendencies here at all….he is totally connected with us….he just doesn’t like many people, and therefore won’t talk to them or even look at them.” Lol Danny is the boy who, for instance, when you come home with your hamburger order, and they shortchanged you a burger, will be the first one to hand over his burger to you and say, “Here, eat mine…I’m fine with fries.” He helps his mom with whatever she needs and is just a kind and sweet boy. Oh and did I mention that he is practically a professional soccer player? Yep, at only 15, he plays for the US National Team for his age group and has been offered free scholarships with teams in Europe. He has some big decisions to make very soon which will affect the rest of his life. We’re praying for these choices he needs to make but most importantly that his heart’s biggest desire is to walk with the Lord.

While I just love sweet spirited boys like Danny, Nicky, and Sammy, I also have a soft spot for gorgeous smart-alec boys like my nephew Mikael, age 14. This guy was a little koala bear as a baby—would just latch onto you and let you hold him and snuggle with him for hours, until you put him down. Mikael is a typical baby of the family—has the most fun, gets out of the most work and gets away with the most…just because he’s so darn cute and charming! Even though he acts like a cool kid, anyone who really knows him knows that he is just a sweet, loving teddy bear. I truly miss this little guy—he used to come to my house for weeks every summer and would go on vacation with us every year until last. I hate that things have to change and that the kids have to grow up and move on with their lives….I just want to keep him with me forever. In fact, every time I visit I try to talk him into coming back home with me and moving in with us!

                             OUR FOUR LITTLES
Newest to our family, and the oldest boy of the house (for the next three weeks at least) is Luke, who is 11. We adopted Luke in 2011 and he is all boy. Anything related to outdoors or sports, Luke is all for! He will try anything and has no fear. I have found him probably 60 feet up in a tree (I’m not good at measurements—just know that it was HIGH!!) and making me a nervous wreck but to him, it’s like walking up a flight of steps. He informed us when he came to live with us that he intended on keeping his strong Southern accent, and we told him that it was fine with us…though now he is seeing the ramifications it has with his spelling, lol. The most impressive thing about Luke is his deep understanding and commitment to the things of God. Just from less than two years of living with us, he knows the Bible inside and out—he remembers everything, and says that it all started when a lady prayed for him at church. He prays regularly for the salvation of his birth family, as well as our family members who are far from God. This is a very special boy and we are excited to see the plans the Lord has for his life!

Luke’s biological sister, and our oldest girl currently in the home, is Gracie, age 10. Like my Shannyn, she can be a little bit overzealous about the behavior of others (some call it bossy :) but she is an amazing helper and I’ve honestly never met a 10 year old girl with her home keeping skills. She LOVES how organized I am and always tells me how much she loves organizing things. She loves learning how to cook, and LOVES caring for little children. Every time a little one visits our home, she takes over and becomes “mom” for the day. What does she want to be when she grows up? A babysitter, of course…though we are encouraging her to possibly consider being a mom or full time nanny instead:). Gracie is very personable, gets along with absolutely everyone, and never holds a grudge. We truly believe that God brought her into our family because she has such a heart for orphans. She cannot wait until her new brothers get here and I know she is going to be a tremendous help with them.

Nine-year-old Sara is also the biological sister of Luke and Gracie. She is a tiny thing—not even 50 pounds, and looks three years younger than her sister rather than only one. Like Gracie, she loves caring for little ones, though she’s not quite as diligent in the task. She’s more like my Elizabeth was at that age—knows she’s cute, and likes having a lot of fun—the less stress, the better! Sara is extremely loving, but is also headstrong and not afraid to argue from time to time. She’s the logical one of the bunch and loves to shoot down her older siblings’ arguments with a “well, that just doesn’t even make sense because….” type of statement. I love how Sara and Gracie love watching movies like Anne of Green Gables, and Pride and Prejudice, etc. We find a way to “get rid of” the boys (allowing them to play a video game, or getting Daddy to play with them outside) and then we have our tea and watch our girlie movies together, just like I used to do when Shannyn and Elizabeth were younger. Sara also cannot wait until her new brothers come, and even though she’s younger than Steven and Benjamin, she talks about how cute and sweet they are and prays every day for them.

Lastly is the baby of the family….little David. David is the only one of my own children who I raised from the time he was a baby. We were in the older child adoption program through Georgia foster care, and were expecting a child of around 7-9 years old, but God blessed us with a baby boy instead. He is now 4 years old and has made us laugh every day of our lives. Even though he is the baby, his personality is much, much more like a first born child—and not one of his siblings can get away with bossing this kid around. The only child I’ve probably ever met with better verbal skills than David at such a young age was Gabriela—and that’s not a fair comparison because she’s a girl! This kid is a whip and has even been known to “outlogic” his elder siblings a time or two (much to their delight!) Like his older brother, he loves sports and “dangerous” things, but really, he only “thinks” he’s doing dangerous things….he is, in fact, extremely cautious. I mean, even when he was a year old and throwing temper tantrums, his idea of smashing his head on the floor was VERY SLOWLY reaching his head down to the floor, giving it a little tap, and then looking up at you like, “Humph! See what I just did! I told you!!” David is really looking forward to having his three new brothers. Even though Josiah is six, he is smaller and far behind David developmentally, so in a sense, David will finally get to be a big brother, as he has always wanted!

                       MY BEAUTIFUL MOM
As you can see, my husband and I have been so blessed with all of our children. It has been sometimes a sacrifice, going through this International Adoption process this past year, as we have been busy and preoccupied with all things “adoption”…..paperwork, fundraising, paperwork, preparing rooms, paperwork, fundraising, paperwork, researching our boys’ conditions, paperwork, fundraising……you get the idea. In fact, the worst thing I’d have to say about this whole process is that it has definitely taken away our time and energy from the blessings that God has already given us. BUT, we know that these three boys are worth it. There has been no one in their lives giving them time and attention, so if our children have to do without us a bit so that we can give these boys a permanent family, then so be it, and let it be done to the glory of God! I am so thankful for all of our children and our nieces and nephews, even the ones not mentioned by name on this post…..they are all so sweet and special to us. The Lord has been good to us and our desire is to please him in every aspect and to raise our children to fear and love and honor the Lord with all their being.

Last, but surely not least…..since tomorrow is Mother’s Day, I cannot end this post without giving a shout out to my own mom. She is the epitome of loyalty and “having your back” I remember once, on the middle school bus, the bus driver did something I thought was very unfair and I snapped at him, “Wait until my mother hears about this!!” LOL, I mean, my mom even stuck up for us when my sister and I were clearly in the wrong….I don’t know if that was good or bad….but we certainly appreciated her for it! I can go to my mom for anything—help, ideas, advice, and she is never too busy to help in whatever way she can. She and my Dad watched three of our children when we went to Bulgaria for two weeks in December to visit our boys. When she visited her chiropractor during that time, he said to her, “What happened to you? You look like crap!” And now, she and my Dad are in for round two and will be watching all four of our kids when we leave in two weeks to bring our boys home!! They are a great match—my Dad will play and play and spoil the kids, and my Mom will keep them from being spoiled brats when we get home:). This is why my sister and I turned out so fine…..one parent to spoil and the other to remind us that the entire universe doesn’t revolve around us…and that, by the way, there are other people around you to consider as you go through life!! Thanks Mom for training me to see life that way!! I love you so much and are so blessed that God chose you to be my MOM. XOXOXO

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!!

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