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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Nolan

Nolan and his baby brother

Well, I was supposed to do this post yesterday; however, our day was so full and I chose to enjoy time with the family. We had a small family picture session yesterday morning. We needed some family shots for our first post-placement visit coming up this Wednesday morning. We then took Nolan to lunch at Logan's Steakhouse. Following his birthday lunch, Nolan made the request that we go to Orange Leaf (a self serve yogurt place). All the kiddos enjoyed their yummy treat, but it did take Toby a while to warm up to the idea of eating something cold (as of now, he still likes warm water, warm milk...). This momma loved seeing all my kiddos enjoying their time together while celebrating their big brother's birthday. We returned home with a load of movies and a birthday cake. We piled on the couches and the floor to watch movies and snuggle away the afternoon. It was a very lazy, laid back day filled to the brim with family togetherness.
Happy Birthday To our oldest Son!! How is it that you are 15 years old today?! It seems as if it were just yesterday when you were born and placed in my arms. Then, I remember on your 6th birthday when you proudly announced, "Yeah! I'm a teenager now!"... "Not for several years my little man." Little did I know that those several years would go by in a flash, and now you are that teenager and growing into an amazing young man. Dad and I are so proud of you and the person you are becoming. We love your devotion to serving others and serving your Lord Jesus. We pray that God will always be the center of everything you do and that you will always show the love and compassion of Christ to all that you meet. We love you so very much!! Happy Birthday Nolan!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bell Choir

Nate, Levi and friend waiting to perform

Mandy and friends wait to perform

Mia and friend waiting to perform

2nd Annual Christmas Hand Bell Choir
Four of our kiddos participated in the hand bell choir at our church. This marked our second year of performing a Christmas program. All of the children that participated seemed to enjoy every practice, and all were very dedicated to doing their best. All of their hard work showed in the final performance. They all did a super job!

Big Brother

A Brother's Love
Levi is relishing his role as big brother. He is beyond excited that he and Toby will be sharing a room. He is already super protective of Toby and loves any opportunity that he gets to help or play with his "di di". At Levi's request, the two boys dressed alike the other day. Our house is overflowing with cuteness...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Home Again, Home Again...

We are home! We arrived home around midnight December 9th. We were scheduled to make a slightly earlier arrival; however, our plane out of Chicago was delayed. So after a long,long day of travel, we finally made it home. There was never a more wonderful sight for this momma's "teary" eyes than to see my precious group of treasures waiting for us with welcome signs. After hugs and kisses all around, we grabbed the luggage, piled it into the car, and headed out for the hour long trip home. Everyone was so excited, laughing, and talking at the same time. I just sat back and took it all in even in my "dazed" like state of being. We were thrilled to watch Toby's reaction to all his siblings and laughed a lot at his exhuberance. He grabbed his picture book up and started pointing at the pictures, and then he would look up at each sibling saying "ge ge" or "jie jie", and then he would just shake his head. I think he was just processing that the people in the pictures were real. After he had assured himeself that they were indeed real, he just kept running around grabbing their hands or alternately giving hugs to all 6 of his siblings. After handing out the few souvenirs we brought for each kiddo,we had a little catch up time. Finally, worn out, we all went to bed and slept until about 11am the next day (with a couple of wake up times in between...but, with no other options given, we convinced Toby that it was indeed time to sleep). There is no rest for the weary around this place because we had to return to work in the Children's Ministry that Sunday. We spent a good bit of time Saturday working on preparation for Sunday morning, and then when "jet-lag" got the best of us...sleeping. Sunday arrived, and we were off and running. All the kids were gathering around and welcoming Toby into the church family. They were all so good with him and just wanted to love on him all morning. He was thrilled to run around and make friends with everyone, and not so thrilled when momma drew him back in and made him ride in the carrier attached to his momma all morning.
Since we couldn't take red couch pictures at the White Swan

Smiling less than five seconds after the meltdown over having to be still long enough for a picture

Welcome Home Toby, Welcome Home! .... my 7 treasures together at last
I have to say that I tried to approach "jet-lag" in a totally different way this time back, but no matter which way you try to tackle it, it is still "BAD". It has really been knocking me off my feet. I have often wondered if I had some sort of virus or something to go along with it because I have been so tired and just felt lousy. Some days are definitely better than others. I think I am finally "getting over it" and reasdjusting to U.S. time, but then there are days like today when I am so tired I fall asleep sitting up (and that is after sleeping 7-8 hours). Brad, Garrett, and even Toby readjusted quickly in the first 2-3 days. Toby sleeps through the night even with taking a two hour nap. We are counting our blessings and feeling very blessed that Toby is adjusting so very well because we know only too well that it can be very different. Least you think everything is easy, Toby is having his share of meltdowns. He doesn't like to go to bed or take naps, and we see some major "temper-tantrums" at the mere mention of nighty-night. We are still working on attachment issues, but he is learning and starting to accept love, hugs and kisses. He is finally allowing mommy to care for his needs, to rock him and to hold him on occassion. We are seeing that he rushes through all the motions at the moment...only allowing us to cuddle, hug and feed him because he has "accepted" his fate. However, first steps first... we know that these actions will eventually lead to the "real" thing and often many "hurting" children cannot even give this much.. He loves cuddling and hugs way too much to turn them away for too is just an adjustment to know that you have a mommy and daddy who love you forever. And that he does... He has a mommy, daddy, 4 brothers, and 2 sisters that are head over heals in love with him, and he has a forever family! Praise the Lord for He is Good!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Travel Dates

Not a lot of time to blog right now. I am trying to get things packed and accomplished. I did want to let everyone know our travel dates. We are still waiting on the in-country itinerary, but we know flights and gotcha day (the most important thing on the itinerary anyway). We will leave on Thursday Nov.24th, arriving in Beijing late Friday night. We will tour Beijing and then leave for Nanjing on Sunday. Gotcha Day will be Monday November 28th. We will return home on Thursday Dec. 8th. Our flight will arrive in Springfield at around 10pm.
If you wish to follow along on this journey, we will be using our website from our previous adoptions .
If for some reason that site will not work, we will try to post here on fivechilipeppers.
We will update our itinerary as soon as we know something. We are so thankful for all of you who have supported us, prayed for us and lifted us up on this journey.
We appreciate all prayers on our behalf , for our kids that are remaining at home and for their caregivers, and for our precious Toby who will undergo so many changes.
Until China...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Dates

The Consulate appointment of December 6th was approved...our first request date. This means that we will be flying out November 23rd (the day before Thanksgiving). We will meet our baby boy for the first time on Monday November 28th (which will be Sunday night for those at home). I am so EXCITED that I can hardly think. Praising God for the amazing way He is growing our family!
So much to do... what to do first?!

We're Going To China

"We're going to China. We're going to China. Feel so happy, I just want to sing..." Ni Hao Kai Lan

We were beginning to feel like it was never going to happen, but God had the plan all along. We heard from our Agency late in the afternoon yesterday. We now have to wait for a confirmed consulate date. Our agency is requesting Dec. 6th, 7th or 8th. We think we will be flying out on November 23rd (yep, that's right, the day before Thanksgiving). No complaining here! We are going to get our baby and will be back home to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Christmas, with all of our children at home! Praise you Lord Jesus!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Prayer Request...and our Article 5

We received confirmation today that our Article 5 was indeed picked up on Friday Oct 21st. Our agency is telling us that it may be 3-4 wks before travel approval. We would travel approximately 2 wks after that under normal circumstances; however, 6 weeks from now puts us traveling right before or if not during Christmas. This means: 1) We have a potential "nightmare" on our hands, and/ or 2) that we have some not so fun choices to make. We don't particularly (well at least I don't) relish the idea of being away from our 5 other children(Garrett is going with us) on Christmas; however, we don't want to have to wait even longer to get our baby home either. We want him home with his family for Christmas! I am trying not to "whine" (really I am) because I know, from past experience, that this wait is not in my control and that God's timing is always perfect. Knowing that fact doesn't make the wait any easier!
Where does the Nightmare come in?...well, if we were to choose to travel during Christmas... (getting goosebumps here) ... We wouldn't just have travel plans to deal with, but preparing a Christmas for our other kiddos would be added to travel preparations and "toddler-fying" the house. Then there is the "logistics" of it all...arrangements for child care become more difficult because of everyone's family Christmas (it is a bit difficult to ask friends to add 6 additional kiddos to their holiday/ family celebrations)... We have terrific friends and family who would willingly and lovingly care for them, but I hate to impose on anyone. ... and, there is the children to think about(they need comfort, security and stability while mom and dad are gone... it becomes harder to ask people to care for your children in their familiar surroundings when it is a holiday.)
...oh, and did I forget to mention that since we are serving as the interim Children's ministers at our church, it would be kind of a good idea for us to be around for the Christmas program etc... As I type this, something occurs to me. Is there really a need for me to worry or be anxious? After all Christmas isn't about programs, parties, and presents, it is about Jesus...his birth, his death, his resurrection. It strikes a little chord in my heart. I know that it will all work out to God's glory.
SO... I am choosing to not get anxious, but instead I am going to pray. I am going to pray that God moves that paperwork ever so quickly, and that he sends our TA within the next two weeks. I am praying that we can travel at or around Thanksgiving (not fun!... missing this day with the kiddos, but it beats missing Christmas with them). I am praying for this and that we can all be together, with our Toby, celebrating Jesus' birth. I know that NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE for our God! Praising Him for all that he has done as we have answered HIS CALL to adopt this precious treasure!
Will you join us in prayer over the next two weeks, please?
Some specific prayer request would be:
1) that we get our TA no later than Nov. 4th
2) that we can be traveling to China within two weeks of that date
3) that Toby is made ready, that God will prepare his heart for a loving family
4) for all the changes and transitions that must occur for Toby to join his forever family
5) for our kiddos left at home and for their caregivers
6) for safe and uneventful travels; for fair weather as we will be entering the winter season around here; thus, it will make travel more difficult
7) for the remaining finances needed for the orphanage donation

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Nate!

How, oh how did this baby boy become 10 years old!! It just doesn't seem possible. Our sweet Nathaniel was born this day 10 years ago. He survived all odds! You see Nate was a twin, and about 5 weeks into the pregnancy, I miscarried the twin. My doctor cautioned us that often when one twin miscarries so will the other. Praising the Lord that Nate beat those odds! Praising the Lord for this precious boy, who at 15 months underwent a major emergency surgery, and survived 3 surgeries before he was 2 years old. We praise our amazing God each and everytime we kiss and hug this precious child, a precious gift from Him.
Nathaniel, or "Nate" as he likes to be called is a very quiet, tender hearted child. He loves to play with his friends, but he can find an equal amount of enjoyment in just spending time alone. He is kind to everyone he meets, and he loves with every ounce of his being. Of all our children, he is the one who has so easily made the adjustments as we add more children to our family. He befriends his siblings almost immediately, and it isn't long before the love and bond has grown immeasurably. As quiet as he can be, he still defends the weak and any causes he deems worthy. He is almost always calm and mild in manner; however, if  he feels that there is an injustice being done, he will fight. He defends his siblings no matter the cost to himself. It is such a joy to watch as he matures (and this momma has to confess, I am in no hurry for him to grow up). He is developing a sense of humor and loves to laugh. As he gets older his interest are changing. He has developed an interest in baseball again, and he is telling his dad that he wants to try playing again next season (you know his daddy is happy with that!). He still loves to give and receive hugs, and he loves nothing better than to have quality time with his momma and daddy (even just watching a movie together). I miss the baby boy he was, but I am thrilled with the young man he is becoming. I look forward to watching all that God has in store for this wonderful young man.
Nate at 5wks old

Nathaniel Adam  (NATE)
Happy Birthday Nate! Your are truly a treasure and precious gift from God!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Betcha Can't Guess What Time It Is??

...and the Rangers are in the Playoffs...

The Best of Chicago...

The girlies loved playing with baby Ned (who isn't much of a baby anymore)

Everyone wanted to walk through Chinatown

No that's not Toby..yet... it is Ned ...we count him as one of our kiddos too.

An annual (well sort of ) event ...taking a group pic of the kiddos with our Chicago friends... this pic has expanded a bit over the years

Ned just fits right in...

Lovin' it
The Best of Chicago is that we get to visit with friends! In preparing for our upcoming trip to China, we have to obtain Chinese Visa's for our passports. There are courier services available, but we have friends in Chicago. It is more fun to make the trip, and the way we figured it, the cost to go were only minimally more than a courier (of course, that is because we can stay with our friends while there). We are "penny-pinching" more so than ever to cover trip expenses, so our "fun" activities were limited to mostly free things to do. We did enjoy one lunch out at Harry Carey's (yummy food) and a trip to Starbucks (Pumpkin Spice Latte...oh so yummy!). We were able to walk a bit through downtown Chicago while taking the Visa's to the consulate, and a trip to China town always adds to the excitement and fun. Our kiddos (especially the big boys) love to just walk around and take in the sights, sounds and window shopping there. We vistied with Scott, Rachel and Ned. Their warm hospitality was so appreciated, and we love to share family time with them. One evening, we spent with our dear friends Shawn and Tina (Brad and Shawn are Navy buddies). We had a blast visiting, reminiscing, and sharing about our lives. The only problem...time went way to fast. Our trip was a short one (only 3 days), and it sped by much faster than we would have liked. So, we began making plans for a future visit to Chicago in which we can spend lots of time seeing the sites and enjoying friendships to the fullest. First things first...gotta get our precious baby boy home...
Thanks Again Scott and Rachel and Shawn and Tina! We love you guys!

"Bestest" Friends

Can I just say," I love these girls!". They are indeed precious. Miss Mia, Miss Amy (and Miss Jaelyn) joined their families at the same time. We were so blessed to meet the families before traveling together, and we formed a bond that can never be broken. The "girlie" girls do not get to see each other as often as they would like; however, we know it's time when they start pleading with us to find a way. We had hoped that all 3 girls could get together, but it just hasn't worked that way for this year yet (we missed you Jae). We are hoping to find a time for a reunion soon.
Taking the car out for a spin... Can you see them at 16?

Giggly Girls...ready for church

They selected the same candy for the movie ...No, they didn't eat all of the candy in those boxes, but saved some and shared some
Amy and Mia had a blast just being together, playing and giggling lots. Mia is already making plans for another sleepover with her friends.

Family Fun

Staying Busy! Loving on our Kiddos and loving life!! In the post that follow, I am including pictures of the fun things we have been up to while waiting for approval to bring our Toby home. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Look What We Got...

New Pictures of our Toby!!!! Praying for the remainder of this wait to go quickly...We want our baby home!
I think he likes the slide...and maybe he wants to be a cook?

Daddy says, "Strengthen those muscles buddy. We have some baseball to play!"

Just look at that face... I think he is definitely a Smith!

Loving that smile!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Day of School

School Bus is Here!

Someone is excited about something ,at least...breakfast "to go"

Not excited about school (nor getting up early)

Yeah ! There is one in the crew who is excited about the start of school!

Yes, One of our crew is missing. The older "girlie girl" stayed with her cousin for a couple of weeks and started school later.

The very handsome bus driver

Uh!Oh! Wonder what these two did on the bus ride? (No...the bus driver is just a cut-up)
Our school year began back on August 22nd. Our days our filled to beyond capacity, and I am just now getting around to posting pictures. Our beginning of school would not be the same without our annual schoolbus ride. This year the driver took the students to get a "to go" breakfast, not the most nutritious, but fun just the same. True to each year, some of the crew was excited to start the year, and some of the crew would rather sleep in a few hours later. In spite of this, the day went by quickly with all hard at work. We look forward to a great year filled with lots of hands on, interest filled learning!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Making the Time...

...,that is, to catch up on my blogging. We have had a very full and very eventful summer. To tell you the truth, I am not sure what (if any) exciting events took place;however, we have been busy,busy, busy!
Let me back track a little. The summer started as a lazy summer full of plans to just piddle around and have fun being together. We swam a little. We played in the creek a little. We took picnics and enjoyed lots of family time. We took time to plan and host fundraising events in an effort to pay for adoption expenses...and GOD provided. We were able to earn about $5,000 dollars toward our adoption. Some additional funds were gathered by scrimpping, by saving and by the blessings bestowed on us by friends and by "bloggy" friends (who barely know us). All of those monies combined allowed for us to pay for immediate adoption expenses as they came along. See I told you  HE provided! That was definitely a good part... but, we continued to pray (and keep praying now) that the provisions for the remaining $20,000 will be revealed to us. One way that HE has revealed some of these provisions is, also, very good... see, our church was in need of a interim children's minister, for a minimum of 10 mths to a year, as the elders and committee are prayerfully searching for a new minister for this area. We need funds...we love children...we love to teach...well you get the idea. We prayed, the elders prayed, and we agreed to accept the position "temporarily". Here is where the BUSY comes in... starting at the end of July we began to work with the children's program and have been running on high speed ever since. August brought some not so fun news. My sweet, precious grandpa went to be with Jesus. He was 96 1/2 years old at his death. I will be adding a special post to his memory later. It was my grandpa's wish to have a funeral service in the town he lived in at his church there, and then to be buried in his home state of Texas, near my precious grandma( his wife of 68 years until her passing in 2005). So, we shifted gears a bit, changed plans, and made arrangements to cover all our obligations and traveled to the beautiful state of Georgia for the visitation and funeral mass. Then, we were off to Texas to spend a few days before the burial service took place at the end of that next week. It was nice to see family, but it certainly would have been better under different circumstances. We returned home, two weeks of August down for the count, and we began again to fill our role as children's ministers. It has been non-stop...
Oh , and on August 22nd... we began our 9th year of homeschooling with our children...I will have to post our annual start of school pictures, too...Fun Times... 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Princess Mia!

Our Baby Girl turns 7 today! I still can't figure out how the years go by so quickly. She is such a precious gift from God and truly our treasure! She is such a delight and shines her gorgeous smile to everyone that she meets. She loves all people and finds joy and excitement in living life to its fullest. She loves to sing, to dance, and to perform. She loves her family to the depths of her soul. We are truly blessed!
Happy Birthday to Our Mia!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We Haven't Disappeared...

....we just have a lot going on around here. We will be back soon with several post to update you on the happenings of the chili peppers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Celebrating 17 Years of Marriage

17 years...6 children (with another coming home soon) ... Our Love just grows stronger with each passing year!  Happy Anniversary to my amazing, wonderful, loving Hubby!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

4 Years Ago...

On this day , four years ago, a very scared but courageous little girl's life was changed forever! She had a family to call her own...a forever family! It is sometimes hard to believe that it has only been four years, and at other times it feels like it was only yesterday. Our sweet Mandy girl greeted us at the door of the civil affairs office(she slipped away from the director)  with a beautiful smile and the only English words she knew, "Hello Mother, hello Father!" She was super excited and very scared all at the same time ( I can assure you that we were having almost the exact same emotions). When we left China, she never once looked back. She was ready to tackle her new world and her new life. It was then that we realized that Mandy had a mind of her own and a determination that no one could change. She has grown physically (a lot), emotionally (which we still have struggles with) and spiritually (which brings tears to our eyes). Adopting her at an older age has been down right hard! The hardest parenting we have ever done, but we were assured in our hearts and minds of one thing. God told us to trust him, to win another precious soul for Jesus. We knew that He had/has HUGE plans for this precious child!  He never promised us easy, but He knew the plans He had for her and for US. As the years pass, Mandy is learning to trust more, to love harder, and to turn to Jesus for her strength. She has been trying harder and having more success at being a part of our family. She shares with us that she had always desired a family, but there have been many times that we knew she wasn't prepared for what having a family meant. She is letting go of her past (the harder, uglier things) and moving forward slowly with the new life God has given her. Throughout all these struggles, God has been working on her heart and ours. We have learned so much more of what "to love someone" means... to love as Jesus loved. She has learned to accept love and continues to learn what it means to be loved unconditionally. Tenacious, brave, courageous, ambitious are just a few words to describe our Mandy-girl. She loves dance with an amzing talent for ballet. She has a gorgeous smile that brightens a room. She is something of a perfectionist about things, but she is learning that she can't be "perfect" (that she doesn't have to be). She has a very tender heart especially for toddler children. She desires to be a preschool dance instructor some day. That desire fits her perfectly. We are so proud of the young lady she is becoming. We are honored to be able to call her our daughter. Happy Forever Family Day Mandy girl!

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Girlie Girl" Reunion

Three Amigos

Meeting New Friends

Swimming in the early morning hours

Playing games when the temps soared past 100 each day


Riding Big Wheel Cycles

The Gang
This past week, we took a trip to meet some of Mandy's orphanage friends. We all decided to meet at a Campground near St Louis, and we had planned this several months ago before the unbearable heat hit the mid-section of the U.S.. So, we braved it and made the most of our time together. It was HOT, HOT, HOT!!! One of the families rented a double wide trailer that they had available at the campsite. The trailer became our meeting place for meals and to pass the hotest parts of the day. The kiddos enjoyed swimming, riding "hot wheels",playing miniature golf, playing board games, coloring, watching movies, and just hanging out together. The grownups got a chance to visit and share our stories.Oh... and did I mention eating... we had some great food cooked by chefs from each family...Yum Oh! As for the friends, well, we hardly saw them the whole weekend. They spent lots of time talking, doing hair, chatting, and giggling as girls will do. We missed one of the friends a whole bunch...The amigos just weren't complete without Miss J~! Looking forward to our visit in August J~!