Family picture

Family picture

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Wedding

Ted and Claire's wedding day was as special as they dreamed it would be . . .
Getting our make-up and hair done - what a luxury
Claire getting into her wedding gown - beautiful bride 
While the girls were getting ready, so were the boys!
Last few minutes with my oldest son
before he marries Claire - so happy!
First look before the wedding and pictures 
The wedding party
Ted waiting for his bride to come down the aisle
Wedding communion together
The joy overflowing
The vows
Oh what happiness and joy!  They are now husband and wife.  Lovely wedding surrounded by family and friends.  What a day to remember!
More to come - reception pictures coming soon!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ted and Claire's wedding weekend - The Rehearsal

What a wonderful weekend we just shared with
family and friends
who came from near and far . . .
Our oldest son, Ted, married the love of his life, Claire,
and we are over the moon thrilled for both of them!
First, there was the rehearsal and dinner
that followed . . .
MOTG and MOTB excited for our children!
Gram waiting to be escorted down the aisle
by two of her handsome grandsons
A mama and her two little sons practicing for
the wedding
Three little loves walking down the aisle
A beautiful little flower girl
Father and son with our minister
A sweet moment between Ted, Claire, and her dad
A cute picture of the bride and groom
Sweet treats
The lovely ladies who prepared and served
the rehearsal dinner
Let the dinner begin!
The happy couple
The happy parents
 Stay tuned:  Wedding pictures in my next post! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Happy One-Year Anniversary

A year ago (February 17, 2014), our daughter Sophia, my dear friend Deidra, and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Grace, the newest family member to join our family.  Kevin and our three sons waited back home.  We were standing in a large, clean, modern looking room in the Civil Affairs Office of Guangdong Province.  We would spend our entire time in China in Guangzhou as that was the province of Grace’s birth.  The night before had been spent enjoying a calm and leisurely meal of delicious Chinese cuisine with our guide John.  The three of us would come to depend heavily on John during the next eleven days.  We just didn’t know it yet!

Meeting Grace for the first time

From the look on Grace’s face in the pictures her orphanage had already sent us, we could see a beautiful little wisp of a girl looking back.  She didn’t exactly have a look of joy on her face in those pictures though.  It was more the look of a little one used to keeping her emotions inside, looking like she was part sad, part happy.  So, here the three of us stood, waiting to meet Grace.  Suddenly, she marched in across the room from us followed by her nannies.  She paused to look in our direction, then turned, and kept going to the other room.  At first look, Grace seemed larger than her pictures, and the look of determination and grit on her face told us her personality might be a little larger than we had expected as well.


Sophia and I stretched out our hands to welcome Grace as she came back into the room a short time later.  Deidra, our own personal paparazzi, stood a little off and snapped photo after photo of our first meeting.  You can see in the pictures a little girl whose eyes are wary, whose personality is strong and trying to take charge in a frightening time, and a little one who is competent in her answers to her nannies and to our guide as they talked her through this first meeting with her new mom and sister.  We saw a determined, intelligent, strong little girl at first meeting.  The orphanage staff who had brought her to us said at parting, “She is very stubborn.”  Then they left.  Ha!  That parting comment should have clued us into what the next few days, weeks, and months of life with Grace would be like.

Grace's first plane ride as we began our journey home


As soon as we returned to our hotel room and our guide left, life with Grace took on a larger than life appearance.  While skyping with her new daddy and brothers, Grace started her first meltdown with us.  Our sons went back to bed as Kevin stayed on the skype long into his wee hours of the morning, watching the scene in our hotel room unfold, praying and talking us through it.  How can I describe that time in China?  From the moment Grace came into our hotel room, throughout the rest of our stay in China, she was frantic, terrified beyond reason, and so very difficult to handle. 


In those few moments Kevin witnessed her first meltdown.  She had been jumping on the bed behind me as I talked to Kevin so I calmly went over and helped her sit down.  She immediately became enraged, trying to bite, kick, scratch and rage at me.  That strong and determined young lady we had first met was gone.  It was heart wrenching to witness.   This very damaged, terrified little girl remained.  She had meltdown after meltdown the rest of the trip, throwing herself down on the any surface, trying to bang her head on anything she could find, screaming, writhing, biting, kicking, etc.  John, Sophia, Deidra, (Kevin and our boys across the world), and I constantly had to problem solve from every angle.  Just eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner out, walking down a street, and especially being in governmental offices were fraught with trauma for Grace and for us.  We, and loved ones back home, constantly prayed, and with God’s provisions, traveled safely back home at the end of our time in China.
First picture as a family of 7 taken right
as we got off of the plane after a long
and exhausting journey home

Grace was our fourth child to be brought home, and I am forever grateful that she was not our first adoption because if she had been, we might not have Philip, Elijah, and Sophia home.  Our first year with her has been that rough.  We have learned a truth about adoption, and it is this.   Even though you want to be home with every fiber of your being while in-country with your new child, the really, really difficult work begins once home.  And, it was the case with Grace.  Even though our time in China was way out of everyone’s comfort zone, Grace’s entry into family life was so much more difficult than any of us could fathom.


Kevin and I could stop the tantrums and Grace throwing herself down when she became frightened and enraged.  We could stop the biting, kicking, and acting outrageously in front of others, but we couldn’t stop the effect of a lifetime of trauma we didn’t cause.  That has been a long and arduous journey for our entire family.   

Sitting with her daddy on a sunny spring day

I think that many adoptive families would agree that bringing home a child with such a history of trauma, as most of our children we adopt have in their backgrounds, brings out things you didn’t even know about yourself.  Some of those things are positive such as the opening of our hearts and eyes to the plight of orphans everywhere, learning to love a child from that kind of difficult background, and the joy that is in our being when our new child succeeds in something.  There is great joy in seeing Grace suddenly understand what being in a family is or seeing the wonder in her face when she gains a new skill.  There is such sweetness in sitting and rocking her, pressing our faces to her hair, taking in her smells and the feel of her sitting there.  There is such a goodness to adoption, and we know without a doubt that God’s fingerprints are all over our journey to Grace.

Our little ones at the zoo last spring

There is another side of us we learn about that is not so nice.  It is the darkness our hearts can hold in the negative feelings and in our actions of those first few months.  It is the impatience that we show our new child because we are at the end of our rope, dealing with issues we didn’t even know we had or issues we thought we had already worked out in the past.  It is the inability to like and sometimes love this child God has brought and needing to daily call out to Jesus to help give us His eyes and heart to really, truly be the parents and siblings Grace needs us to be.  There is the immense guilt when we fail, which we do daily, and there is the sadness that comes from seeing your family’s life turned upside down as our new child struggles to heal. 

All four of our littles last Easter

But through it all, we are seeing slow and steady progress.  Just when we think we can’t possibly manage Grace’s challenges, God brings help.  I am a homeschooling mama.  Sophia, Philip, and Elijah thrive in being home-educated, getting individual attention, loving the curriculum, and growing with other kids in our co-op.  But Grace . . . homeschooling just wasn’t’ the right fit.  We tried it for many long and difficult months.  Her needs are so great.  She needs speech, ot, pt, academics, and social skills in a structured setting.  Grace now attends Kevin’s school and is so blessed to have a loving, caring special education staff to help with her special needs.  We are seeing great progress in her ability to better cope with life and also in her ability to be a loving member of our family.  Praising God for this huge blessing and that our family, friends, and teachers are willing to come alongside us to help Grace heal. 

First day of her new special education class
back in October

Our church has been wonderful in helping place her where she needs to be instead of by age level as well.  Grace still is homeschooled one day a week as she goes with us to our co-op school.  Everyone there is so understanding of her needs, making her feel welcome in everything we do on that day. And of course, our family, friends, and our community love her dearly and provide tremendous support to Grace and to us. 

We have had the prayers and support of so many during this last year.  Some friends of our friends even prayed over her one day a few months ago over skype which was the most amazing thing.  Grace's tough times are caused by so many issues, but greatest among them is the spiritual battle that we often felt when she would revert back into her orphanage behaviors.   That one prayer encounter from strangers has helped our Grace so very much.  God seemed to reach down and begin to heal her little spirit that day. 

Waiting for a new little friend to come home
from China at the airport on Christmas Eve

The support from others includes doctors, too, as we steadily address Grace’s medical needs.  The funny thing is that the medical issues Grace has with her Sturge Weber syndrome are not the issues we struggle with!

Sharing a giggle with her grandmother (Gram)
during the holidays

At this time, Grace’s seizures are controlled allowing her to have the laser surgery she needs to treat her facial birthmark.  She has tolerated those treatments well.   She will be getting a leg brace soon to help her walk and run easier.  When Grace first came home, it was evident her physical strength and coordination was lacking.  Through many happy and long hours of playing, swimming, walking, and running with us, she is gaining in strength and stamina. 


As I write this, I can hear her playing happily with her siblings in the family room.  That is a huge step forward.  Grace didn’t have the ability to play with others at first, especially her little brother Elijah.  Instead she would bully others or ignore them altogether.  This was very hard on our children who were home first as they struggled to find a happy balance with Grace.  We are seeing her play well and imaginatively with her siblings and other kids more often now.  That makes us happy!  It makes her siblings happy, too!

All my littles helping me celebrate my birthday
in November 

Something else that makes Kevin and me very happy is that Grace is beginning to respond better to positive reinforcement and loving touches and gestures from us.  It is very easy for Grace to snuggle up to a stranger or to someone who isn’t her immediate family.  She definitely came home with indiscriminate stranger affection, but snuggling up to her mommy and daddy was something she struggled with.  We are the ones who are closest to her, invading her sense of security and space, setting limits, guiding and directing her.  She resented that for the longest time and would deliberately seek out our negative attention.  Kevin and I have always been united on rearing our children and very consistent.  Now Grace is beginning to thrive under our parenting instead of resenting it.

Grace with Teddy/Claire (as she calls them both)
taken last spring

Another blessing Grace has in her life is her big brother Ted and his fiancĂ© Claire.  Claire came into our family’s life about the same time Grace came home.  Claire has seen our extremely difficult transition with Grace, and she is marvelous with her and our family.  Ted is so understanding of Grace’s abilities and needs, and together Ted and Claire love our little ones so much. 

Gracie 11 days out from her second laser surgery!
Look at her beautiful smile!  I just took this
picture tonight.  See our Amazing Grace emerging!

Overall, we are far from those first traumatic days, weeks, and months with Grace.  Life in transition with her still has its ups and downs much like a roller coaster.  However, we are seeing much more positive times, loving, and sweet times, too!  On Grace’s first Gotcha Day, we celebrate her with love and affection in our hearts.  We are coming through a long and dark tunnel into light and beauty with our Grace.  The song “Amazing Grace” was kind of her theme song, and we quote it often.  She was lost and now found, and in a very profound way, we were lost but now found in our journey with her. 


Amazing Grace – she really, really is!  We love you Grace Chengmei so very much! 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good-bye 2014, Hello 2015!

2014 was an eventful year, to say the least!
This family picture. . .
became this. . .
As Grace came home and Ted and Claire began to date.
Our dear friend Deidra, Sophia, and I traveled to China in February to bring home Grace while Kevin stayed home with our boys.  What an adventure that was for us girls while in China.  Click here for a peek at Grace's journey home. 
Grace's transition has been a bit rocky, but she (and we all)
are making slow and steady progress!
Sweet Easter children
A new little friend came home from China just
a month later
This sweet boy had his bone graft surgery
in the spring and did very well
We attended the graduation of our nephew,
and Ted brought Claire along!  :)
We met our new great-nephew in the spring as well.
That meant two new children were added to our family
this year!
Sophia danced in her first recital.
Hmmm - Claire was there, too!
Grace took her first family vacation as we
ventured out east to see our nation's beginnings
and visit dear family
Grace had her first time ever at a beach.
Our littles sat for this picture glowing with summer fun and looking
toward school beginning.
Grammy and her youngest grandchildren
Philip and Elijah with their wonderful cranio-facial
doctor who does all of their cleft lip and palate work -
the cranio-facial team put on a picnic for their patients.
The theme was a western one!
There was a reason we saw Ted and Claire together a lot! 
They got engaged in the fall!  We are all so happy!
I decorated a table at our church and attended with Sophia,
dear China friends, Claire, and her mom
Mommy and her little girls are at our nephew's wedding.
This extremely handsome man still takes
my breath away!
Grace's first laser surgery to lighten her birthmark - this
was taken a few days after the treatment.  It has lightened
considerably now.  This photo also shows the look we
sometimes see in her eyes from living in an orphanage.  We pray
we will see this look less and less and her sweet, beautiful smile
more and more.
A tender moment with Grammy at Thanksgiving
Surrounded by 4/6 of our children on my birthday
Going to see a play Ted was in called
"The foolish wiseman"
Visiting with Ted right before Christmas
Welcoming a new little friend and his parents
home from China on Christmas Eve
Spending Christmas morning with all of
our children - big and little
Listening to Ted read the story of
Jesus' birth
Looking forward to their wedding next summer!
Spending a quiet New Year's Eve night
with our precious little ones.  Their smiles light our
 Happy New Year to everyone! 
May 2015 be filled with peace, joy, and love!
God bless us, everyone!