Friday, May 29, 2015

These boys.

Charlie and Joseph's preschool graduation ceremonies took place today. To see these boys--dressed in red, white, and blue--in a chorus of patriotic songs, including God Bless America, well, it was quite moving to say the least to hear them singing passionately about the "land that I love," especially Joseph, who has been a U.S. citizen for just eight months. They've come so far to be here in our family. Thank you, Jesus.

Preschool has been a part of our family for such a long stage that it truly is difficult to imagine life without it. And this little gem of a preschool called First United Methodist has been our home for so many years. I simply can't imagine not being there with my kids anymore. The teachers are amazing...the love they give is second to none. They've embraced all of our babes, and now Joseph, with open arms and he has done nothing but thrive in their care. What a treasure; what a blessing.

Among other things, Joseph's teacher, Mrs. Bivins, had this to say about him on his progress report, "Joey has amazed me during the time he has been in my class. He fit in so well like he was meant to be there!"


Charlie's beloved teacher, Mrs. Avogardo, said this, "Charlie is self driven with high goals set by himself. He has wonderful quick thinking cognitive skill. In the past few months, I have watched his confidence grow so much. Charlie is a kind and thoughtful boy, well liked and a wonderful student."


Can you see me glowing over here?? It is such a privilege and a treat to watch our sweet boys come into their own and blossom. I am so proud of both of them. Charlie has such a huge heart, and Joseph's determination is amazing...he's come so far in such a short time.
Miss Gina, Joey's substitute teacher

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Big change.

Every year, Lent seems to bring fascinating change to our lives. This year was no exception. 

Let me start by saying that moving to a new home was never in our plans. We could have been happy in our old house forever. But something changed during Lent. I credit the Holy Spirit.

I guess it started when I called some closet companies for estimates. The kids' bedrooms were in need of some serious storage solutions. Reality smacked me in the face when I watched the closet representative scan the boys closet for a few minutes when he finally said, "There's really nothing I can do to help you here." Boom. Just like that, a seed was planted...these little guys are only going to get bigger.

I began to think about possible solutions for our current issues, and I also began to ponder some of the necessary home improvements coming down the line in the next few years. Of course, I it was worth investing more into a house we are already outgrowing?

Something told me to go onto that night, and I found our house (though I didn't know it quite yet). There was something in the photos that looked and felt familiar, perhaps the color scheme. This house had been waiting for us for almost a full year. I asked Jimmy, since he's a realtor, if we could go take a look. I had been curious about that neighborhood for a while anyways.

My kind husband agreed, in order to appease me. We drove over the next day, and quietly walked through the house together. Neither of us said a word. But in my head, I was already hanging artwork and knew where we would put the Christmas tree! It was Jimmy who finally broke the silence and said, "Wow...I can totally picture us in here." sentiments exactly.

So, just like that, we'd found our dream home, but there was one little hiccup--we needed to sell our house. Jimmy had remembered, from his open houses, a nice young couple who had been looking in the neighborhood for quite a while, almost two years actually. He reached out to their realtor, and they came to take a look that week. They instantly fell in love with our house. How could they not? 


The rest is history. They begin a new chapter, and so do we. It happened so fast that we didn't have much time to process it all. That's probably a good thing. The last week in our house gave me crashing emotions of leaving so much history behind...memories of Jimmy's mom, DANIEL, our two cats, bringing home four beautiful children into that home, and leaving many neighbors and friends whom we love. Needless to say, I shed a river. I am so overjoyed, though, that the sweet kids moving in love our home so much, and we know they will take it to the next level. They can give it everything it needs and more.

Our new home is incredibly perfect for us! We basically traded in yard for house, which is our priority right now. It has four bedrooms, so the boys can still share their room, but now they have a loft area for all of their toys. About two weeks before we moved, Joseph admitted to me that he had been scared in the in the middle of the night, but he was too frightened to come to our room because he had to walk through the living room. I find God's timing amazing, because now our children are just a bedroom away from us, and Joseph is no longer scared.

Madi is thrilled with it all, especially that she has her own sink in their bathroom, and all the kids feel like they hit the lottery by having stairs. As a matter of fact, so do I! I look forward to the built-in workout!

Daddy has his own office, which is huge! Before, he literally had to run out into the backyard to take sales calls just to escape the noise. We are sharing this new office space together in hopes that we can keep each other on task for our businesses.

We love our new community already. It is very safe and family-friendly. It is an extra bonus that we are only five minutes away from our old digs, so the kids will go to the same schools, and we are still close to our friends. It is a complete win-win!

Bring on the next chapter...we are so READY for it. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Joseph's known about Daniel since the beginning. I mean, our house is covered with pictures of him, and he's never far from our discussions and memories. Joseph knew about Daniel's broken heart, and we'd told him that his brother was in Heaven. In the mind of a six year old though? Pretty confusing stuff, I'm sure. We never delved too deep. 

Lent has been, literally, a Godsend. The past couple of weeks have opened up so much discussion about Jesus, about Daniel, about death, and most importantly, about eternal life. Charlie was the one, in typical fashion, who started the questions on our morning commutes to school. But it was Joseph who pushed to know more about Jesus, about Heaven, about angels, about his brother. And this week, he wanted to see Daniel.

It was time.

We picked up Madi from school today, and drove down to the mausoleum. I'm not sure if Joseph thought he would come face to face with his brother, but I don't think so. I think he understood that he wouldn't physically see a little boy. It is so hard for children to comprehend that a body is only a vessel but the soul lives on. And he struggled with wonder about how Daniel fit into that square. I tried to explain cremation to the boys, and Madi helped me immensely so they wouldn't imagine their brother on fire. It almost sounds comical as I type it, but it was quite serious. We wanted them to understand. And we didn't want them to be sad. I was struggling to explain.

It was Madi, of course, who came up with the most brilliant analogy:

"You know a peanut?" she said. 
"Yes," they replied. 
"You know how a peanut has a shell?" she asked. 
"Yes," they replied. 
"Well pretend the peanut went to Heaven and all that was left was an empty shell with nothing inside. It's kinda the same thing."  

I swear that girl's something special. The boys got it. Plain and simple. We drove away with this Mama knowing that more discussions will take place. And they are welcome...they are a gift, especially on Holy Week.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Casting call!

Since the beginning of January, we have been blessed with the most kind and generous physical therapist. Vicki is a personal friend who has been working with Joseph on a weekly basis for the last two months, and her efforts have really made a difference. Several weeks ago, at Vicki's wise suggestion, we reached out to our surgeon at Joe DiMaggio to see if he felt Joseph would be a candidate for serial casting--a process in which his legs and feet are casted in a specific position in order to adjust them. The casts are changed out every two weeks for a total of six to eight weeks. To us, it certainly seemed to be worth a try, since it is less invasive than tenotomy surgery. Dr. C. responded that while he was skeptical about it making a long-term difference, he did not see any harm in trying. We were thrilled!

Last Thursday, we took Joseph to the office to begin the process. They opted to cast both feet because even though he had major correction to his left foot in China, they felt there is still some range to gain. Joseph was quite suspicious of his new accessories at first, but the nurses gave him some great colors to choose from, so that distracted him into loving the idea of Spiderman colors--red and blue. The girls in the office worked their magic, and we were on our way in about an hour. 

Joseph seemed to tolerate it relatively well. He had some discomfort that night, which was expected and alleviated with Advil, and he went to school on Friday without issue wearing homemade cast shoes (constructed of duct tape-covered socks) that I made for him. He wasn't really happy with my creations, so I made a point to locate some *real* cast shoes on Friday, and Jimmy kindly picked them up from the medical supply on Saturday.

Initially, Joey did okay with those, too, and even insisted on riding his bike. But then he cried when he realized that his feet were "too big and slippery." He was clearly beginning to process his new reality. Our son came into the house in tears, having somewhat of a meltdown, and lost his balance in the living room. He tried to correct himself, but kinda fell to the ground. When he did, Jimmy and I both thought we heard an audible crack. His crying escalated, and after that, he refused to bear weight on his right foot at all. He scooted around the house on his rear-end. 

The past few nights were ROUGH for him. He seemed to be in quite a bit of pain, so we gave him pain relievers each night and pulled him into our bed when he needed extra comforting. I'm not gonna sugar coat it was ROUGH for us, too. I must admit that I didn't exactly handle it all gracefully at times. This parenting thing is a hard job, isn't it?? Not knowing what's right and what's wrong, and it figures that these things always seem to happen on a weekend. With a gut feeling that something was not right, I called Joe D. first thing Monday morning, and they didn't like it either. They squeezed us in this morning. 

The nurse removed the casts, and we could see right away that his right ankle was swollen. When asked where it hurt, Joseph poked his ankle and said, "the bone." They ushered us down to x-ray only to confirm that he was right, indeed. Joseph fractured his ankle. So now he's sporting a new green cast (nice pick for St. Patrick's Day!) to immobilize his break, which he will wear for two weeks. And then we will formulate a new plan. 

Jimmy and I are now concerned that maybe his anatomy can't handle the casting, and we may end up listening to the advice of the surgeons and proceed with tenotomy. We will be speaking with the surgeon tomorrow, and we will see. But at least there is peace in knowing that we tried.

It is such a HUGE relief to see him bear weight on his right foot without pain! And even more of a relief to see him happy once again. Fingers crossed that he does okay at school tomorrow. No one saw this one coming, poor kid. 

Welcome to Murphy's Law, son.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Oh, what an adventure we had...

Our trip to Legoland was first in discussion before Joseph's 6th birthday. We had decided that we really wanted him to have a family experience, rather than a big party. Especially on the heels of Christmas and all the gifts (and over-stimulation) that the season brought.

Though Joseph's birthday was on January 14th, we delayed the trip until the end of the month for several reasons. We did, however, celebrate his actual birthday very quietly at home with family...and cake, of course.

The build-up for the trip was insanely perfect! The kids were ready to burst with excitement by the time it was finally happening. They packed their suitcases pretty much all week long in anticipation, and couldn't wait until after school on Friday. Daddy rearranged our van seating to party mode, and we were on our way north after ten trips back into the house for the million things we'd forgotten.

Before we made our way to the hotel, we'd planned a little side trip to see friends who were visiting from Wisconsin and happened to be staying about 15 minutes from our destination...and they were leaving the next morning. What are the chances? We met Becky (the lovely mom pictured below and A.K.A. FullPlateMom in the blogosphere) on our adoption trip for Joseph. She was in China with her son, Cam, to adopt a beautiful little baby girl named Cate. It was so cool to see them again! But the icing on the cake (like...literally, Cate's 2nd birthday cake) was that we were able to meet her husband and their whole family of ten kids, including their precious little Tess (pictured with Mommy), who is a beautiful heart baby I've *known* and adored for a couple of years through Facebook. It was like meeting a real princess. Please add her to your prayers as she has an open-heart surgery at the end of the month.

After a lovely visit, we departed for the hotel. We had opted for a Hampton Inn that was in close proximity to the park, and we were glad we did. We checked in around 9:00 just in time for a late night snack and bedtime. The kids were amped up, but they also knew that the quicker they slept, the faster they'd get to Legoland. We managed to sleep in until 7:30 (that's late for us), headed to the lobby for breakfast, packed our bags, checked out, and then...

These three were over the moon. Joseph was skipping along (his sign of true joy), and all three of them were amazed by the mere entrance! We arrived about thirty minutes before opening time, (which must've felt like hours to the kids) and we were second in line. But it was worth the wait!

The first ride of the day was some crazy rollercoaster. Joseph wanted nothing to do with it, nor did I. So we watched...and we laughed as we imagined Charlie up there twisting and turning. Turns out he's a little daredevil in disguise...or at least I thought so until I took a closer look at his facial expressions. He told Jimmy and Madi that he wasn't screaming, he was saying "AHHHHHH" like you do for a doctor, but really, really loud.


After that, we made our way to the back of the park for a few more *little-kid friendly* rides and attractions like these:

And then, we hit the Driving School!  We nicknamed Charlie "Crash" because, oh my goodness, he ran into almost everything in his path. Hilarious. Joseph, on the other hand, managed to steer away from some very close calls. Impressive.  And Madi got her license in the big kid school. Naturally.

After that, we hit some other rides until the kids obviously needed a food and drink break. Waiting in line is hard work when you're little.

And then we went back at it:


We left the park at 5:30, half an hour before closing, to head back home. The kids were whooped, and so were their parents. But thank God for Daddy, who can drive in such exhausted condition and with an awful back-seat driver (me) to boot. Bye bye, Legoland (or as Joseph calls it "Lego-man"). I can't imagine a more awesome way to celebrate a Lego-loving little boy's first birthday with his family.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The first day

First, let me just state the obvious...I shed a lot of {joyful} tears this morning. Joseph has come so far, literally, and it humbles me that God made ME his Mama. I find it all quite overwhelming, and I am just so thankful to the One who has stitched our family together so beautifully. God is so good.

Last night, Madi was so excited to make lunches for the three of them. She is just such a terrific big sister. Those kids have their moments, for sure, but when it comes down to it, they are so close.

This morning after the usual 6 a.m. round of cartoons in our bed, Madi jumped out of bed excitedly and announced that it was Joseph's big day. She rousted him up and swept him away to get dressed for the occasion, in a First United Methodist tee shirt, of course.

The kids ate their breakfast together and, honestly, it was one of our more organized mornings to date! Likely because big sister took on such a big task to help me out and get them ready.

I took some pictures of the (silly) boys before we got in the car, and we made sure we had everything we needed for his first day. Yesterday, I had asked Joseph to make a choice...would he rather walk Charlie to his class first and then go to class himself, or did he prefer for Charlie to walk him into his classroom. Surprisingly to me, he chose the latter...he wanted his brother to deliver him to class. Melted my heart.

A friend, Julia, who had wished Joseph a good day had also suggested that he take an apple for the teacher. Joseph totally embraced this great idea, and I wish you could've seen his face when he marched in the classroom and handed Mrs. Bivins that apple. Actually, I wish you could've seen her face, too. So, so special. 

We took some more pictures, and my heart was were my eyes. We put his things in his cubby, and he found his way to his seat, right next to his friend, Henry. It was crystal clear that Joseph was so ready, and it felt so right. I kissed him goodbye for the morning, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

I hadn't been out of the building for ten minutes when my cell phone rang. It was the preschool Director (and friend), Peggie Nasin. She asked me if Joseph had ever had a nose bleed before. Interestingly enough, he had. For the first time in our presence, Joseph had a nose bleed over Christmas break at my parents' house. The wild part was that Joseph totally knew it was coming on, and guided me to the bathroom (with his head tilted back) for tissues. I had no idea until he produced blood on the tissue. This had obviously happened before in China, because our son knew exactly what to do. It stopped after a few minutes, and he went back to what he was doing. Our festivities were such a whirlwind (and we were hoping the incident was a fluke) that I never even thought to mention it to Peggie.

Anyway, once again, Joseph knew exactly what to do, and handled the situation like a champ. Peggie held him on her lap, while he applied pressure and stopped the bleeding. When I sent her a text later, she replied that he was doing great. In an odd way, I think this might've been a good thing. Right out of the gate, Joseph had an opportunity to show them just how responsible and self-sufficient he is, even under the duress of a language barrier!

Last week, Madi had asked Joseph what he wanted to be called at school, and he announced to all of us that his *new* name is Joey. I had to laugh today when my friend, Jen, commented that she'd asked her son, Beck, (Charlie and Joseph's buddy) if Joseph had a good first day. Beck responded, "Joseph told me today, I don't like the name Joseph, my name is Joey." He's staying true to his words!

When I picked him up, I confessed that I'd been tearful all day, and Mrs. Bivins said there were so many emotional moments for her, too. At one point, she found him sweetly watching over her shoulder, and she felt compelled to ask him for a hug. She got one.

At the day's end, Joseph emerged so proudly from the classroom with his stack of papers and lunchbox. He refused to hand anything over to me. In his true form, I am sure he'll squirrel away every single paper he's given, and that's just fine.  I am lucky that he even allowed me to photograph anything...but he was happy, really happy, so I guess he let me slide today...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Time for school.

Exactly one month before we arrived home with Joseph, I had posted on Facebook regarding an education plan for our son-to-be. I knew, at that time, a "plan" was all we could hope for, and no concrete decisions could be made until we knew him better and had explored all of our options.  

Since Joseph turns six next week, he should--technically--be enrolled into Kindergarten, but all along we felt very strongly about keeping him home for his first few months to adjust to his new surroundings. We believe that part of our plan worked out perfectly, as many of his transitional *kinks* have been worked out and he has adjusted more beautifully than we ever imagined. 

In November, Joseph and I toured the Kindergarten program at Banyan Creek Elementary School, where Madi attends school. I liked what I saw, but in my heart of hearts, I yearned for him to be at Charlie's preschool, First United Methodist Church, for so many reasons. One, he's been escorting his brother to school for three months now, and he feels completely comfortable there. And two, the schedule of M/W/F from 8:30 - 1:30 makes for a perfect transition into American schools. Most of all, I desperately wanted this child to have an opportunity to learn through play. He loves doing crafts, and looking at books, and all the things that preschool entails. I just knew that Joseph needed, and deserved, to experience Pre-K 4.

But there was one major hurdle...there were no available spots, and we would pretty much need a miracle for something to change. Three classes, ten children per class...the chances weren't great.

My faith never wavered though. I felt peace about it all, and I believed that God would work this out, somehow, according to His plan and that Joseph would land in the right place...the school where he is meant to be.

Then, in early December, it happened. I heard it from a close friend that a family at school would be moving out of the area at Christmas time. As that family's miracle came in the form of new employment for their daddy, our family's miracle came in that one lone spot opening up just for our son.

But it's even more special to us than that. Because the opening happens to be in Mrs. Bivins' class--the same Mrs. Bivins who taught Madi, the same Mrs. Bivins who taught Charlie last year, and the same Mrs. Bivins who loved on our sweet Daniel so much when he'd deliver and collect his big sister to and from school (I wrote about her in With an Open Heart!).

Joseph starts school tomorrow, and we are thrilled for him to begin this new and exciting chapter of his life. We are also overjoyed that Joseph and Charlie will get playground time together each day at school! 

Please, please say a prayer for him, if you would--that he is not anxious or upset and that he assimilates into his class without issue. We trust that this will be the best thing for him, and it's certainly the best place.  God knew.

Pictures to come...