Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Anniversary to Us!

As we look back, we are amazed at all of the wonderful friends and family who have shared our lives with us! Thank you to everyone who inspired us, encouraged us, and helped us to grow closer together as husband and wife. So much has changed since these pictures, but we can honestly say that each day only gets better! We look forward to many more years of special moments as a couple and a family! 

Prayers, blessings and many thanks



Our pastor and friend 

Our adorable ring bear and flower girl - Love their kisses

It's official

Us shortly after the wedding

God, please continue to bless our marriage so that we can grow deeper in love for each other and our children. Seven years ago, we had no idea the plans that you would have for us. We are so grateful as your plans are far better than we could have imagined or dreamed. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to spend the rest of our lives embracing all that the future holds together! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Bat Mobile

Its official! Everything in life that I once said, "I would never do" has now come to fruition. I don't even say the phrase anymore, because at that moment, I know that it is bound to come true. Just 2 years ago I said that I would never buy a minivan. And a year later, it happened. I gave in. M's minivan turned into my minivan because it is so much more practical, convenient, and the kids prefer it. When we signed the papers for the our first van, I said, "Okay, but I'm drawing the line at a 15 passenger van." And I was serious. I meant it. "Ha! You have no idea" God must have been chuckling, as He knew months later this big, black vehicle would be in our driveway! He continues to show me that He has other plans.  Big ones. And I'm glad, because I like His plans better than mine. 

Our new vehicle is the size of a 15 passenger, only it is customized to seat 10. When I asked M if he ever thought about having a van this size, he simply stated with a laugh, "That is like asking if I ever thought about flying to Mars". I'll take that as a "no"! But none the less, today he drives it and we both love it. Oh, how both of our lives have changed. We now have 2 vans in the garage - this one the big boys call the "Bat Mobile"!

Lord, thank you for our new vehicle. Though we never imagined having a van this size, we are now able to comfortably fit our entire family with room to grow. Thank you for breaking our hearts for what breaks yours. For allowing us to see first hand the difference a family can make to a child. We feel blessed to follow your plan for our lives and expand our family as you direct us to do so. We know that you have many fun memories for us to share together as we travel, laugh, share, and explore life as a family!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Good, Not So Good, and In Between

This last month has been a whirlwind as we met with specialist to try to piece together K's medical history and future plans of care. We have so much to be thankful for everyday! Each day together as a family we adjust more to having a daughter and the boys to having a sister.  Each morning as our eyes meet, she brings a smile to our face as she greets us with a, "Well Hi!" that sounds like it was drawn straight from the South. Each evening, all 6 of us cuddle up on our bed watching a show together as a family. Each night, she is sleeping better knowing that we are still there when she wakes up to look for us through the dark. Each day our little girl allows us in more to be a part of who she is - to love her more.

The good: The awesome news is that she isn't just walking, but running! She is is now navigating around objects, balancing on uneven surfaces, and even walking on an incline. K can walk up and down the stairs with assistance and loves to practice. She is a very strong willed little girl that is determined to succeed. We present her with opportunities to grow through play, but it is her that is taking those challenges with all that she has to do well.

We had her assessed by the state to determine if she would qualify for services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, early development, or speech pathology. We feel confident that she is now close to being developmentally on target, but also wanted to get her assessed in case we were missing something. With having Spina Bifida and English as a second language, we knew that she automatically qualified, but also know that she is making incredible advances in both departments.

The assessments were made and scored by a team of specialists. The results are in. Physical therapy said that she is only one standard deviation below normal in her physical growth on her legs - she wouldn't even qualify for services if it wasn't for her SB! Developmentally, she is also very close and again will not qualify. Each week she adds more English words to her vocabulary. We could choose to still have services because of her birth defect, but have opted out at this time because she is just making phenomenal  progress. The team was blown away by her! The team told us that we are fostering an environment that is encouraging such great achievements, but we know it is K's determination that is responsible. It is God that is continuing to heal her. It is Him who brings restoration. It is His love that allows us to love.

The not so good: Just 2 days ago, we went back to Children's to have an MRI to look at her entire spine and a CT to see if her subdural hematoma had resolved. Yesterday, we heard the results, maybe not the answer that we were hoping to hear. But again, through this entire process, we have prayed faithfully for the very best and educated ourselves for the worst. God is so good.

I find myself sitting across from a doctor that I know is well trained in pediatric neurosurgery. He is average height for a man with salt and pepper hair. He is kind and chooses his words carefully. He has his hand on his head, propped up against the exam bed in the room, rubbing his forehead in disbelief that our daughter is walking. As he sits in his chair, he is intently studying our daughter with great concentration as she strolls across the room. As he watches her, he occasionally glances up to give me the results that I have been waiting to hear for almost a year. His voice confident, he says, "sometimes with adopted children from China, we see that they have had an operation that isn't even close to the operation that we would perform in the states or an operation that I would perform shortly after birth. Some children get an operation by doctors that are not neurosurgeons, to simply close the skin over the spinal cord. The spinal cord is never placed in its accurate spot. In other children, we see that they had a surgery that was done by a highly qualified surgeon. These children often do fantastic, but are still at risk for a tethered cord." He takes a deep breathe and I lean forward to hear the news that the latter was K's case. I was wrong.

"Your daughter's surgery was done most likely by an untrained doctor in neurosurgery. Her spinal cord is tethered and is longer than most other children because there is scaring that is pulling the cord down. There is most likely a lot of scar tissue around where her previous surgery was done.  Her spinal cord is just underneath her skin and is not actually being protected by her spine at the bottom of her back. She most likely does have a myelomeningocele - the most serious type of spina bifida. She has hydrocephalus and enlarged ventricles in her brain, which is common with children that have SB. Kai also has a condition called Arnold Chiari malformation." I take a moment and digest the information that was just handed to me. I look at our amazing little girl playing as if this conversation isn't taking place. She has no idea of so many unknowns that surround her regarding her development.

As I pick her up and place her on my lap, I find myself smoothing down her thick black growing hair and I kiss her forehead. I touch her little hands and she cups them around mine. I look down and notice the contrast in our skin. My skin white, hers brown, and I love her as if she has been mine forever. Though we look nothing alike on the outside, there are times that I have to actually try to remember that it was only 2 months ago that we met her half way around the world. We have all fallen so in love with her. She giggles up at me and I know that no matter the outcome, it doesn't matter. God has given us this amazing gift and we are so thankful! Together, we will conquer whatever it is that our journey holds. Together.

I look back toward our doctor and ask the obvious question, "Will she need surgery?" He looks directly into my eyes, his voice very serious and says, "I want you to know up front that this is a big surgery. This isn't a procedure that we jump into or base information only off of an MRI. We need to continue to piece together information, including all clinical history, to determine the risks verses the benefits. The risks are great and I don't want to do an operation that could possibly make anything worse. We should wait and see. Treat her like a normal kid. Look at her now."

The in between: We have learned that each day is truly a blessing. It was good to hear about Kai's current medical status, but I believe that God has a plan bigger than what the doctors can see on MRI. There is a reason that her surgery was done the way that it was and we believe that God was with her every step of the way. Sometimes when we pray we want an answer, one to our liking, and we want it when we ask. But God doesn't always deliver information in the way that we want. Sometimes there are lessons along the way to be learned. Lessons that we couldn't learn otherwise. Learning takes time. More often than not, we experience life obstacles to help others. To be an encouragement to those who are where we have been. Overall, great news, but a mix of emotions. Love. Joy. Fear. Encouragement.

There are days that the thought of wrapping K in a bubble sneaks in to my mind (okay, so not literally - maybe a helmet for her head :)). I wonder what will happen if K is playing outside and falls on her back with no protection on her head or spine. What if future surgery is required? What if paralysis occurs at some point? Fear sets in. But how gently God reminds me that relying on my knowledge and worrying about the things that I can't control are not in my best interest. There is so much more than we know, than we understand. So we are rerouted to seek God and to continue to put our trust in Him. What peace there is in knowing that His love is so great, that He delights in us, and calls us to draw near to Him. How wonderful it is to have His word and encouragement in times of fear.

While we rejoice that K is developing beyond our expectations, we will continue to seek out information. Thankfully her subdural hematoma is almost gone and expected to continue to just resolve on it's own. Her hydrocephalus is just a part of who she is and no further action will most likely be needed unless it gets worse. Our next appointment will be to visit the pediatric urologist in June, because issues are common in kids with her condition, although we don't believe that she has any at this point. We won't need to follow up with neurosurgery until a year, unless she appears in pain, her strength decreases, or major issues arise.

Lord, we choose to move ahead bold and confident, while we wait for the answers. We want to focus on the "right now" knowing that You are faithful and will continue to shape K into his image. You have the power to decide wether she will continue to walk or if at some point, not. She was made with such care, perfect to the way that You wanted her to be. This new information doesn't change all that she has accomplished. Right now K is walking, talking, and growing leaps and bounds.  She can jump, race cars around the house, and continues to gain strength each day. We love her unconditionally and want what is best for her. In this moment, she has a chance to learn who You are and that You are in control. We place any of our fears in your hands, as we believe that you want to take our burdens. We seek out your desire for our family as we continue to believe that you have big, incredible plans for us. Thank you for your continued blessings of abundant love and encouragement. We are humbly grateful!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Back Yard Fun

Kai at home swinging for the first time! We can't help but smile every time we see such joy in her sweet little face!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Sneak Peak At Recent Family Pics

                                                                            M & J

                                                              Q - Our Bubba Bumblebee

C - Our Cuddle Bug 

S - Our love Bird

    K - Our Beautiful Butterfly

Q (5) and C (3) Preschool Graduation

We are so excited that Q and C were able to attend an awesome preschool! We love their teacher and the program has been great for both of the boys. Q will graduate this year and go to kindergarten in the fall while C will attend school for 2 more years. The socialization has been great for both of the boys since they don't attend daycare outside of the home. We are so proud of both of our amazing big boys! We love you both bunches!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Full hands

"Are they all yours? Wow you have your hands full!" We hear this at least once a week and at first I didn't know how to respond. Often times it takes me a minute to fully understand the reason someone may be asking as I juggle between requests for apple juice, snacks, or potty breaks while we are shopping. People are very much interested in our family dynamics and especially our adoption. But we don't mind as this gives us an opportunity to share a piece of God's heart. I smile and then respond to more questions. Are we busy? Yes! Does it often take a lot of multitasking and patients? Yes! For us, does it take a healthy marriage and good teamwork? Yes! But is this the journey that God has called us to travel? Absolutely! So yes, they are all joyfully ours! And yes, our hands (and hearts) are full. They are full of love, kisses, hugs, and cuddles from our children.

God, thank you for our family! We love that our children are close in age and play so well together. We love that each one is as different on the inside as they are on the outside. We are so proud that we see you in each one of their hearts. Every day, God, you shower your plans of love and hope into our home. Your love is unconditional and never ending. We know God that we just said "Yes" to your plan, but it is you who guides our way. Thank you for drawing us close to you and showing us daily the parents that you want us to be. Through our faith and your grace, your love is abundant. Some may call us crazy, Lord, you call us blessed.

K's Room

 After spending several months working on K's room, we finally finished it! We used the same crib that we used for the boys. And just like them, she doesn't like sleeping in it. She'd much rather be in our room. So we will take it at her pace, and let her sleep where she wants, until we can transition her into a big girl bed.  

Standing in the doorway, I was able to capture most of her room. We tried incorporating Asian items such as the paper lanterns, a Chinese fan, and the cherry blossoms canvas. You can't see it well in this photo, but in the left hand corner of her room, is a super cool shadow box. Our friend Ash, used a map to cut out "people" representing M, K, and I's place of birth. It's perfect for her room!

We were also able to bring back souvenirs from China to add to K's room. Some day we will take her back to China to fully experience the culture, traditions, and heritage. But for now, we will do our best to help her remember our journey. Above, I framed and matted four crocheted designs found at a small shop on Shamian Island. At the same place, I also found K an adorable blanket (that never leaves her sight) and clothes for her many dolls. Items in this shop were made by women in poorer areas. The proceeds from sales then went to help support orphan children. How cool is that?!? We also found pink tea cups in a mom and pop shop owned by a Chinese Christian family. When this man found out that we were adopting K he was so happy that he made her a special gift. He used thick black paint to beautifully place her name on rice paper.  K will love it when she gets older. In the red and gold box on the top shelf is a hand carved jade stamp set. The jade is carved into her animal year of birth and stamps her name in both Chinese and English.  On the top far right is a doll that represents K's birth province - Hebei - that was also given to us in token of appreciation of K's adoption from a Chinese family. In a another shop close to our hotel, we came across this gorgeous comb and mirror set as well as the three Chinese dolls. Below the mirror set are 3 Asian hair combs, made with pretty jewels, that K can enjoy once her hair get longer. The traditional pink and gold Chinese shoes were a great find at a nearby boutique. We were excited to get to capture a little piece of China for K to treasure.   

Lord, thank you again for our experience together as a family in China. Thank you for all of the memories and stories that we get to share with K for years to come. Thank you for the items that we were able to purchase with K to help remind her of the wonderful culture that she was a part of for the first 2 years of her life. We are forever grateful for this time to experience our daughters place of birth and the many amazing people that helped us enjoy each day there. Amen.