For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two Years at Home

2007...Mandy(Wei Dan Na)...leaving her "old" life for her "new" one...what a brave little girl!!
Mandy... a proud Chinese American... Today is Mandy's second Forever Family Day. It is so hard to believe that she has been a part of our family for two years. Sometimes it seems as if it were yesterday that we met this scared, precious little girl. There are days that seem like she has been with us forever(she fits in so well), and to be honest, there are days that we have a hard time... helping her to feel and know that she belongs, helping her to trust us and to accept that she has parents to care for her needs. Slowly, we are building that trust and forging a relationship. She still has, at times, difficulties understanding and accepting these concepts. We continue to work diligently in the areas of family relationships, togetherness, trust, and forever. It is our hope that she will know and feel unconditional love and that she will always know that she is a part of our hearts forever.
She has grown so very much over the last two years. She has changed both in size and appearance. She is maturing emotionally and spiritually, as well. We continue to take steps to help her be a child,enjoying things she may have missed as an infant/toddler, and helping her meet her chronological age as well.
Here are some things we have learned about Mandy:
1) She is a "girlie" Girl...she loves clothes,jewelry,hairstyles,makeup(if it were allowed),finger nail polish,princesses and the like...
2)She is a good student and loves learning new things.
3)She has an amazing talent for Art. She particularly loves arts and crafts, and she is talented at drawing as well.
4)She has learned to speak English well. It has bothered her for sometime that she couldn't remember Chinese. Amazingly enough, we have witnessed a "renewal" of her skills...she doesn't always remember how to say words; however, she is understanding Mandarin when it is spoken to her. She translates it automatically to English without any help.
5))She is "fitting in" with her siblings now. She loves to be with them all the time and misses them when they are gone. It has been fun to watch her develop an interest in outdoor and sports activities. She loves to play "sandlot" baseball with her siblings,especially if her big brothers teach her skills. She loves to go on our nature adventures and very seldom complains anymore about being outdoors and in the heat.
6)She gives hugs more willingly now, and she will respond with "I love you" when we tell her first. We are praying for the time when she can freely say "I love you".
7)She tries more and more types of foods.
8)She isn't afraid to try anything at least once whether it is food, an activity or a new concept.
9)She has learned to has been fun to watch her develop a wonderful imagination.
10)She is proud to proclaim that she is American...Chinese American.
We are so blessed by the plans God had for our family. We are so thrilled to able to call Mandy our daughter. We pray that God will continue to grow our relationship, that she will know that she is loved, and that she will know that we are forever her family!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Georgia On My Mind

Papa and the kids My Aunt...the kiddos call her Nana M... and the kiddos (Can you see the reflection of the camera man in the side window?)
Papa and the kids(before we headed home)
Two Peas in a Pod... they are changing and growing so much...

Swimming is fun but waiting for the lifeguard to wistle all clear is no fun...
The little ones enjoying the kiddie pool and time with Nana M Nate and Mandy exploring the deeper pool...boy oh boy was that water ever cold...too cold for momma to stay in long, so I took pictures.
Daddy's work night at the baseball game...sounds like a tough job, but somebody's got to do it! He really wanted to stay and do stuff with us, but his attendance was required at this meeting and if there is a free baseball game involved....
Nana M's dog...Reese... she is one big teddy bear of a dog...
Can you see this woodpecker? He was gorgeous(the picture doesn't do justice to his colors and markings)We think this was one of the babies...the momma woodpecker had distinct color and markings...she was bigger and we saw some of them feeding others.We just returned from a week long trip to visit my aunt and my 95 years young grandpa. We had such a good time and were so blessed to spend time with family. My brother, his wife and my nephew live a short distance from where my aunt lives, and they made a special trip out one evening to spend time with us. Brad was actually on a working trip and had a few meetings and lots of work . He actually had a meeting that allowed him a chance to see a "free" baseball game, and he squeezed in a few hours to go swimming with us.
While daddy worked, the kids and I spent lots of time having fun with papa and my aunt. Papa shared lots of stories about his 95 years of living. The kids loved hearing all about "living" history. They share a love and interest in bird/wildlife watching. So, we always have to feed the birds,squirrels,chipmunks, and deer while visiting. We are always rewarded with a spectacular nature show right outside the big picture windows. This trip was no exception... we saw some amazing birds, and the deer even made a trip to the feeder on the last day of our visit.
We kept the kids extra busy with swimming, playing and shopping. My Aunt took the kids shopping on two different days and outfitted them with new school clothes and school supplies. It was indeed a wonderful surprise and an amazing blessing to us! As if this weren't enough, my aunt took the kiddos to see the movie "UP". It really surprised me by the terrific story it told. It was really a good movie. As a special celebration, Nana M and Papa took all of us out to eat at Pappadeux's(Creole/Cajun/Seafood). The food was fantastic and the company even better. Lots of activities, lots of good food, lots of laughter, and lots of love made for a wonderful, blessed week with family.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Brothers....Look Alikes

It's no secret that my older boys look very much alike and that they all bear a strong resemblence to their daddy. From the minute they placed Nate in my arms at birth, I always felt that he looked like a replica of his big brother Nolan. All three boys have such a strong resemblance that I have had to be diligent in labeling photos so as not to get them confused. Although Garrett looks similar to the other two, he has some distinguishing features(like his enormous blue eyes). Each of them has a very distinct personality as well. As Nate is growing and maturing, his features are beginning to take on more of Nolan's characterisitics and to look even more like Nolan. Sometimes it is almost as if I am looking at clones(except for the height and age difference)...What do you think?

Fun in the Sun

Summer fun.... exploring and splashing in the creek.Wading deeper... Searching for crawdads....
How about tadpoles...can we find any?
What did they find?...The first of many crawdads... Nolan thought that they could collect enough to have a fine "cajun" meal; however, his catch of (35 crawdads) was of the small variety....and mom made him turn them loose.
Princess Mia had a blast getting wet and playing in the running water...
Can you tell who helped her get all wet.... All BOY and all fun...Searching for their own stash of crawdads... Nate thought he could bring one home in his pocket as a pet... Nolan stopped him suggesting that they don't make good pets(Thank goodness!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mandy's Surprise

BEAUTIFUL PRINCESSES.... Wow! What a weekend... Mandy's surprise had been in the works for a few weeks, but before I get to describing it, I must share a little background. Mandy joined our family almost 2 years ago this month(we celebrate her 2nd Forever family day at the end of this month). Before joining our family she lived in Guilin Social Welfare Institute,Guangxi ,China. It would be several years before God's plan would come to fruition, and she would join our family. While living in the SWI, Mandy would make several friends,each one dear to her heart. On our trip to China 2007, we would get to meet a few of these friends,visit with them(via interpreter), and even hug a few of them. Fast forward to February/March of this year, via a website group, we learned of a little girl that would be coming to join her family soon. Mandy and this little girl shared a sur name,which often indicates that they were born in the same year. This little girl was also the same age as our Mandy. I contacted this family (thank you Jesus for email)and soon learned that this little girl was indeed a friend of Mandy's. I showed Mandy her picture, and Mandy gave a shout of pure joy that this was her friend (Mandy had been telling me for months that she had a close friend in China that "had the same like her "mei-mei".....refering to Mia's cleft lip and palate). Amazingly, this young girl was her friend, and we had met her while in China. We had given her hugs(Brad and I would have brought her home with us, if we could). Fast forward a little more, Mandy and I followed faithfully this family's journey to bring their daughter home. Mandy was craving a connection with her friend and would watch everyday for updates and pictures. A few weeks after she was home in the states, we got a call from J and her mom. The girls stayed on the phone together for a good hour and a half, only letting go when we made them end the call. the surprise, C-(the little girls mom) and I had for several weeks been trying to work on a day that we could get the girls together. She thought they might take a family vacation up to their home state;however, it just wasn't working out. So,C- contacted me and we found a weekend that worked. C- and J- drove from their home(practically across 3 states,on a very boring interstate highway...been on it) and spent the weekend with us. Brad and I, in spite of our excitement, managed to keep it all a secret from Mandy. When they arrived at our house, Mandy was downstairs. We called her up, and the look on her face was priceless...pure joy! She was stuned at first almost as if trying to decide if J- was real. In a few short minutes, the girls renewed their close relationship, and we hardly saw them all weekend. I really enjoyed getting to visit with C- , and I pray that we have forged a lifelong friendship. We promised the girls that we would try our best to get them together as often as we possibly can arrange it. Thank You C- for going out of your way to bring J- and for your willingness for them to meet again. After they left, Mandy spent several hours opening a window to her heart sharing about her time in China, and we brought out pictures again. What a blessing it was for our sweet Mandy and for us to get to know you and to see J- happy with her forever family.
Often I reflect on the amazing blessings and journey God has lead us on through adoption. It continues to blow me away the abundance and depth of His Love. I know that God is more than amazing..He is all powerful after all, but I continue to be almost overwhelmed sometimes by the blessings, gifts and plans that He has for those that love him. It brings joy to my heart and tears to my eyes when I witness a child joining their forever family and to see the LOVE that shines through them. ...and then God gives us so much more. As God molds and leads us through this time, more and more blessings unfold. Of course, there are the beautiful children we are gifted for a time,His children,but there is so much more. We are abundantly blessed by the beautiful families that we get to meet along the way, by the plans that he unfolds as each year passes, by the growth and joy and love that these blessings give. Wow! What a Journey...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth of July

Is it Mia and Levi or is it a couple of fish? They were having a blast and improving in their swimming skills all the time. Watch out,Mandy! An expert diver on the loose...

Could we get a swimming pool dad...pleeeasse?
A Game of skill??Splashingly good fun!! Relaxing in the water....
Is it a Merman?...or is it Nolan?
Mia ...the motor boat
Waiting for the show... Killing Time before the fireworks started...
Not sure what was so funny... waiting for the fireworks(J,my Nephew,almost 5)
Good Looking kids... Nolan and M(my niece) are 9 months apart in age and have always been close. I love celebrating Independence Day. It serves as a reminder every year of the freedoms we have in the United States and of the cost to maintain those freedoms. I want to always honor the men and women of our nation that fight and have fought to keep the US free. I want to teach my children about the history of the USA and an appreciation for the country they are blessed to live in. From the time I can remember, our family has always celebrated the 4th with a picnic and watching the city fireworks. Although as the years have gone by these activiites have had to be changed slightly, we still enjoy making trips home to family and celebrating "old" traditions. On our trip to Texas, we made our way to family and enjoyed time with my mom, my brother, my sisters and their families. We were blessed by the hospitality of my sister and her husband. We stayed with them, and the cousins had a blast. They played together almost non-stop. We all enjoyed their swimming pool and spent many hours just splashing and playing. On the 4th, we had a picnic(complete with Nana's cooking... there is nothing like my mom's brisket). We took the opportunity to celebrate the "family" birthdays(my sisters and I all have birthdays in July). Once again, Nana came through with a delicious chocolate cake and (for me) a cherry pizza(YUMMY!). After eating and cleanup, it was off to the city fireworks. We found a terrific spot (we could feel the boom)and enjoyed the beautiful display that the city put on. All of the kids loved it and declared that we should come back next year. It was truly hard leaving this time as we had such a wonderful, fun filled trip; however, as always, this too had to end. We are praying that it won't be to many months before we can see family again. It feels good to be back at our house, and we have lots more plans for our summer. Stay tuned...

A Weekend in the Motherland

It's no secret... Brad and I are native Texans and PROUD of it! Due to job circumstances we moved to our current state several years ago(and we now know that God lead us here as part of our adoption journey). We enjoy getting back to what we affectionately call "the motherland" from time to time. This weekend worked out perfectly for a long awaited trip back home. As it turns out, we were able to enjoy another of God's blessings that we have recieved through the world of adoption. We were able to visit with one of our favorite adoptive family, "bloggy" friends, and fellow "PROUD TEXANS". We stopped by their little town in Texas and spent the night with these wonderful,gracious people. Our kiddos had a blast playing together, jumping on the trampoline(even in the 105 degree Texas heat), and just spending time together. We took a driving tour of their town... and were very tempted to want to move back. The moms just had a blast talking away about anything and everything. P and K were fabulous host/hostess and treated us like honored guest. Ms.K, my kiddos loved your food and declare that you are a terrific cook...I have to agree! We cannot wait for our next visit together. MsK and Mr P, you must come visit us and let us return your hospitality. We were so blessed by our visit.

Playing a Little Rock n Roll...
Steaming HOT but waiting patiently for a few pics together.

Friends... what a crew... they were having fun taking silly pictures.

Everyone had fun dogpiling Nolan... he was a very good sport...