Sunday, May 17, 2015

i see summer...

I am so excited!

I see summer lurking just around the corner and I am thrilled.

Payton and Avery are done with school at Westminster.  I'm just trying to keep the gears moving with Brooks and Jackson.  James' last day of preschool is Thursday.  Sniff.

I can't believe that little dude is headed to elementary school and will say bye to his dear preschool teachers.  I can't even begin to describe to you the servant's hearts of those amazing women.  Truly remarkable.

We've had lots more meetings for James.  We did a child study and evaluation for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and then finalized the IEP last week.  I love all involved in his case.  There is unanimous agreement that we want the least restrictive environment possible for him; meaning we want him to be able to try, troubleshoot and persist through all the obstacles presented to him while at the same time helping him when necessary to keep him safe.  From the beginning, I was adamant that he needs to ride a regular school bus with his neighborhood ladies buddies.  He needs to be as included as possible.  He needs to march through is day as he always does without people coddling all over him because, let me tell you, he can charm the pants off some folks!

I am elated at how things have panned out.  There's no doubt in my mind that he should go to school and will love it!


We decided not to take him to Florida to see the doctor there because we knew that wasn't sustainable for us -- we just can't realistically fly to/from Florida to use a doctor when it seems that highly reputable doctors are much closer.  So, the doctor from Florida came from Baltimore, so we're headed to that facility on Monday, June 8th for a second opinion.  If we like the doctor, feel good about his recommendations, we're hoping to schedule his first limb-lengthening surgery before he starts school mid-August!  But first we need to get to/from the Philippines, ha!

The update there is that Christine has two very important meetings this week -- her visa medical screening to ensure that she's healthy to travel and her final interview for ICAB to check-in and make sure she hasn't changed her mind.  She and I communicate regularly and she seems very excited for us to come get her!  We are counting the days.  It's looking like the end of June or early July.

I will keep you posted!

Finally, some big news around here is that we've decided that Jackson and Brooks will go to the elementary school next year.  And I am thrilled!  As are they!  Good stuff.  More on that later....

Prayer requests:

1.  Pray that all goes well with Christine's appointments this week -- she had an appendectomy a couple of months ago and was quite unwell -- so we really want her better!  And pray for God to prepare her heart as she leaves the Philippines.

2.  Pray that we will be filled with wisdom and discernment when it comes to making medical decisions for James.

3.  Pray that our boys will finish their school year with a bang!

4.  Pray for safe travels for us as we travel to get Christine.

I'll do another, more fun (with photos), post soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

the most overdue update ever...

I thought I'd forgotten how to login here!

Well, hellooooo!  :)

I don't even know where to begin.

Well, yes I do.

I must start with an update on Christine.

Clearly, Christmas came and went.  And she is not home.  :(

We are so very close.  We should have our I-800 (immigration approval) this week.  Then there's one final filing to do that takes about 2-3 weeks to process and then we start planning to travel.

Here's a sneak peak at her bedroom.  :)

This desk was Christine's Christmas gift from Mimi and Pappy.

Avery tests it out.  :)

Life has been especially full lately.  Not only are we completing Christine's adoption and very much looking forward to our trip to the Philippines to get her, but we've also entered into a new season with James.  For two reasons...  

I've had lots of conversations and a few meetings with our county school system about him beginning kindergarten in the fall.  The child is so excited.  And we're so excited for him!  He just absolutely adores preschool and loved Randolph Elementary School when we visited yesterday.  I'm so impressed with the heart of each of the women I've met with so far.  They are open-minded, loving and accepting of James.  We've had conversations around his ability to navigate independently through his day: climb off and on the bus, pull out and sit in his chair, feed himself lunch, use the bathroom, write and do his schoolwork, etc.  We know he'll do just great!  And the wonderful thing is that the school's occupational therapist, physical therapist, nurse and even a kindergarten teacher were so excited to watch him succeed.  Not that I ever really doubted that sending him to school was the right decision, but our experience so far is really affirming that for us.  

The second reason things have been full (both in our minds and on our schedules) is that we took James to Shriner's in Philadelphia last week.  It's been over two years since we visited last (click here if you want to read about that visit).  It was time to go back and follow up on things.

You may or may not remember that we took James there just a few months after bringing him home from China.  He wasn't standing or walking -- in fact, he stood for the first time on that trip in the middle of our hotel room.  The doctors pretty much told us to just let James adjust and adapt to his new surroundings/life and bring him back in a couple of years.  Well, for a variety of reasons, we felt it was time to return.  We'd been feeling nudged to seriously consider doing something with his leg to help him have more mobility and stability.  One of the nudges was James' preschool teacher telling us about an 8-year-old boy on the 'Ellen' show that reminded her of James.  Take a gander...

Isn't he somethin'?

For some time, James has been talking about the sports he's going to play and really trying to keep up with his brothers and friends in the neighborhood.  He's out there running around in our yard, he's down by the creek and in the woods playing 'Hunger Games' (lovely) with his siblings, and he's playing in the snow.  

But he stumbles a lot.  And he falls sometimes.  He's worn out/broken a couple of his AFOs (artificial foot orthotic).  The idea of him having a strong reliable prosthetic that he can fully run in was becoming more appealing to us and we were becoming less afraid of at least having the conversation.  We realized we needed to stop avoiding the conversation out of our own fear of what we might discover.

Toes transplanted to fingers?  A more functioning hand?  Running, jumping, playing sports?  Yes, yes and yes.  It all sounded great to us and to our prosthetist and orthopedic surgeon in Richmond.    

It was time for more information, so off to Shriner's we went...

The doctors there are great.  They took notes, x-rays and...  

Yep, he had himself a little photo shoot.  As if he didn't already feel like a superstar being on a trip alone with Mommy and Daddy, staying the night with Aunt Karen and Uncle JP in DC...

...and staying in a hotel.  :)

Oh, and let's not forget that we splurged and let him play the gaming device at Chili's during dinner.

Mommy and Daddy had a lot to talk about as we ate and, frankly, Mommy splurged too with two glasses of wine at dinner and chocolate back at the hotel room (can you say, 'stress eater'?  Oye).  Five hours at Shriner's left me feeling like my head -- and heart! -- was going to explode!  Let me explain...

We had marched ourselves up there thinking we knew exactly what we were going to ask (and we asked it!) and thought we pretty much knew what we were going to hear (and we heard it!...until...).  

The upper extremity doctors (and there was a team that stood around us nodding) completely endorsed the idea of transplanting two of his toes to his hand, performing the amputation and fitting him with a couple of great prosthetics.  Oddly, we were kind of coming to peace with this whole crazy thing.  

Then we moved to meet with the lower extremity folks and they launched straight into bone lengthening (also known as limb lengthening).  

It was like a record scratch.


I actually stopped the doctor and explained that we were actually there to discuss amputation.  He was very kind and gracious and said, 'Oh, okay.  What were you thinking?'  I explained and he heard us out, but quickly explained the bone lengthening process and used phrases like, 'He has a good leg,' and 'His foot's in a great position,' and 'His knee's strong.'  What?  These are not things we'd ever heard before about James' little leg that's 2" shorter than his left leg.  Look at the photo shoot above, for goodness sake.  

We were intrigued, but the gruesomeness and arduous process involved seemed beyond manageable.  But James would get to keep his leg -- which means he would get to keep his foot!  A foot that, he uses far less than he used to, he still uses.  And he wouldn't have to use prosthetics for the rest of his life (getting them off and on, caring for them and his 'nub', etc).

So, here we are.  

In May (assuming we're not in the Philippines!), we'll likely take James to see another doctor in Florida for a second opinion.  He came highly recommended by several people and, unlike the Shriner's doctor, he isn't booked for a year!  I kid you not, James could not get in to have the surgery done at Shriner's for at least a year.  

It feels like we're on the right path.  The path to being able to give James his best shot at independence and being able to stand before him one day and assure him that we did our very best for him as his parents.  Hopefully he'll believe it.  :) 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

we're alive!

What a drought!

I don't know if my not posting can be explained by busyness or lack of interest in posting or both, but I apologize to those of you who actually still check this blog.  Thanks for reaching out to see if we're well!

Plus, I'm thankful to have a few minutes to record the happenings of the last few months.  There have been 'developments' on several fronts.  Here's a long overdue update!

I know many are anxious to hear the latest with Christine's adoption.  Our dossier arrived in the Philippines in early October.  Our agency told us we would hear back from ICAB (the Intercountry Adoption Board in the Philippines) within 2-3 months with an approval.  Then, we'd have 4-6 months from there until we travel.  Needless to say, I was dumbfounded when I heard that.  That's excessive considering we were told last January that this entire process, from beginning to end, would be much faster because we're a host-to-adopt family -- the timeframe they gave us then was 4-6 months (for the whole adoption!).  Clearly, we're not even close (it'll be a year in February).  We're hoping to have Christine home sometime this spring.  Sweet girl is waiting so patiently.  She turns 15 on December 18th.  Sniff.

As we've begun preparing for Christmas this year, there have been lots of comments starting with, 'Remember last year...' as we've remembered fondly our time with Christine.  We're all missing her and wishing she were here.  But we trust God's timing and know He goes before us.

So much so that I should update on our fundraising efforts.  Due to the very generous and loving response of so many family and friends, we have made all our payments to our agency!  Y'all, that's like $15,000!  We were awarded a $3000 matching grant from the Fathered Fund (Lifesong for Orphans) and quickly met it.  We have travel expenses to come, but God is already providing!  We received news this week that my dear uncle 'nominated' us to be considered for a $5000 gift that his company gives each year to a deserving entity or individual and we were chosen!  Talk about humbled.  And tearful!  Wow.  We feel so ridiculously undeserving.

Our shoe drive that was supposed to be three months long, ended up being six months long and is finally coming to an end.  It has been so, so fun to see a community of people rally to support our adoption through donating old shoes, but our house was taken over by shoes over these last many months and I'm super ready for the shoes to be out of our house!  I'm ready to enter into the beauty and peace of Christmas -- without dirty, smelly shoes around!

For our last pick up, we had 72 bags all over our front room.  There was a rabbit trail through the room.  Ahhh....

The kids thought it was fun to use the bags as chairs.

The boys were studying their spelling words on the bags!  

Speaking of school, it's going well!  I can't believe half the school year's almost passed already!  Payton and Avery continue at Westminster Academy and really enjoy it.  This is Payton's third year there and she's definitely hit her stride.  She has many friends and loves to go (she's there three days a week).  Avery only has classes on Mondays, but she's there all day.  One thing we love about homeschooling is the ability to cater our kids' education to their individual needs/abilities.  They can take the different subjects in varying grades, so their strengths can be pursued.  We felt the 4th grade classes may not have been quite enough for Avery this year since she's made such nice strides over the last couple of years.  This was a girl who was terribly timid in school during her early years, but a couple of years at home, and a smaller school with much smaller classes, has served her so well.  We talked to her teachers and said we wanted to try the 5th grade classes for her (science, history and English) and they encouraged us to give it a try.  She's doing beautifully!  It was definitely the right decision.  She's thriving and we're feeling grateful for options!

Brooks and Jackson have come to love being at home despite the fact that I have to battle with them to stay on task!  Oye.  Boys are something else.  Honestly, the dynamic of my being the teacher isn't the best with them, so if they weren't able to start at Westminster next year, they'd probably be in school.  I'm grateful that they're excited to go there and I think it'll be great for everyone!

Clearly, we do have some good mornings.  

One thing I love about homeschooling is the fun things we get to do together.  On this day, we went to a paper mill and learned how paper is made.

Walking from one building to another through the pipeline that moves water and other materials to make pulp.

Hands on learning!  Making paper!

They are capable of working diligently.

This girl's become such a hard worker!  Sweet girl.  She never gets off task.  :)

Brookster has grown so much as a student. 

This guy can be so focused when he wants to be.  He's a smart little cookie!  

I cherish my time with these kids even if it tries me to my core at times!  

In August, Jimmy Jam turned five.  Crazy.

He was so excited about these cupcakes, such a simple joy.

He remains full of joy!

Friends over to celebrate.  Nothing like time with family and dear friends.

We're quite the fans of a local park here called Maymont.  It's such a beauty and never disappoints.  There's a petting zoo, an historic home (the original owners gifted Maymont to Richmond).  Just tons of history and stunning gardens. 

This hill's always a hit.

The black bears are too -- including the sculpture variety.

The Japanese Garden.

This waterfall's one of our favorite spots.

Avery  :)


For years, I've wanted to take the kids to hike Hump Back Gap in the Shenandoahs.  A few years ago, I was able to hike it with some ladies and knew JD and the kids would love it.  Man, what a climb, but what a view!

At the head of the trail

Yes, JD hiked it with James on his back!  (He was training for a Spartan Race which has become quite the hobby for him this year).  

At the top!  

These huge rocks create quite a ledge overlooking the valley

Avery and Brooks

At the bottom, eating our picnic.

This guy was a sweaty mess, but he did it!  I bet James was 40 pounds on his back!

This little dude now makes his own bed each morning.  Oh, yes he does!  He was so excited to show me the first time he did it that I had to take a picture.  :)

They may fight and bicker (yes, all three of them!), but they really do love each other.  A mom of three boys must capture these moments of sweetness...

...or I may doubt they actually ever happened!

In September, we added a new member to the family.  This is Bailey!  He was my cousin's dog and she needed to find a home for him, so she emailed me to see if we were interested.

Who wouldn't be interested in that face?!  As JD said, 'Come man or beast, we'll adopt them all!'  :)

Clearly, the kids were smitten.  If it weren't for their unceasing begging and pleading, we probably wouldn't have kept him, but, what the heck...they're only kids for a little while.  

Who can say 'no' to that face?!

Our neighborhood had it's fall party...the ladies of the 'hood.  Love this place.  

Jackson began his fall season of soccer (he's on the left with his neighborhood buddies).  He's really taken to it and wants to try out for a travel team this spring.

For Brooks and Jackson's 8th birthday, I had the idea of letting them have an egg fight with their friends from the neighborhood.  Several times a week, when they collect eggs from the chickens, they ask if if they can 'sacrifice eggs' and throw them at each other.  I always say no because these are our much cherished fresh eggs!  I decided I'd rather buy some cheap eggs in bulk at the store and divide them into cartons so each boy would have his own carton.  They were thrilled at the idea!  

They're ready to go!

And all smiles at the end!

A rather large development occurred in October when Avery quit gymnastics.  Talk about a shift in our lifestyle!  No more 16 hours a week at the gym for this girl!  No more 6-8 hours a week carpooling for these parents!  It was a long time coming in that she slowly fell out of love with it.  She began Level 6 this year and the demands of the higher levels can definitely take the fun out of it.  So!  She wanted to try lacrosse...

Off to a lacrosse clinic in November

The verdict?  'I liked it, but I don't want to play it.'  Next!  She will try soccer this spring.  And we may check out cheerleading...pray for us.  :)  

The most beautiful thing about Avery's years in gymnastics?  The friends she made.

The moms and daughters headed out on a bowling date -- three of the girls in this photo quit gymnastics, but everyone's still friends and they still love to see each other.  Sweeeet girls!

We ran into our new favorite store (Altar'd State) to pick up a birthday gift for a friend of Payton's.

Gotta keep it fun!

Brooks wrapped his baseball season in November.  He's front center.

He says he's never playing again.  :)  

James continues to thrive at school.  'Thrive' is actually an understatement -- he lives to go there!  Literally runs into the building squealing each morning.  So sweet.  He will start kindergarten in the fall.  I can't even.  Pray for me.  Putting him on that bus makes me sick to my stomach, but I know it's what's best for him.  This child would go crazy at home.  I just need my heart to be convicted that he's ready and able and will be safe.  

JD and I stand in awe of how God continues to meet us in our feeble attempts to serve Him.  We're very thankful for His unending grace -- especially in parenting these kiddos.  

We have happily entered into the Christmas season after having a lovely Thanksgiving with my mom and Allen.  We're looking forward to having Mimi and Pappy for Christmas, but I'm sure it will still feel like someone's missing.  Sure hope we can get our girl home before too long.  

Happy holidays!


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