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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tough Cookie

Ah, SPRING BREAK! This has brought much adventure to our household!

Hope and I went to Washington to visit my sister and her family. Hope also was able to visit a former friend from her foster village. Even though they were still thousands of miles apart, they were able to connect briefly in an international village for the day. 

Easter morning brought us to Westminster Church with long-time friends, Lavonne Dideon and Cathy Worrell.  It has been my long time dream to meet Yahoo group friends face-to-face--perhaps someday I will make it to the Eastern coast too! (Annie and Angie, I am still hoping!!!) The service was great; I was in tears more than once and the message was a topic of conversation in our family through the week. 

The best part of our trip was getting to know our niece and nephew (cousins for Hope). Between the crunchy brown mice, chirping finches and growling Lilo, it was worth it's weight in gold. (Those who understand…understand!)

It was sad missing Easter with my family. The kiddos at home did staggered basket hunts, divided egg hunts, and Easter service with their holiday dresses without me. However, they did it well and the memories were worth the absence.

In an effort to "make it up" to my kiddos at home, I took them to an open-gym at our gymnastics gymnasium. We did it on Tuesday with Andrew, Hannah and Amanda, and  we also repeated the excursion on Thursday. Originally I planned on picking up my eldest daughter, Hailey, from the airport during the gym time but her "special someone" Daniel asked to have the honors. For that, I am SO grateful! I needed to be present.

It was a simple mistake--Jumping to the high bar. Hannah did it (with permission first) and then encouraged Mandy to do the same. Mandy jumped, grabbed, slipped and fell--just wrong. She ended up breaking her elbow and needing surgery to put the piece of bone back into place with a surgical screw (as well as sewing a chip back into place…how do they do that??!?). My little girl who only cries silent tears didn't stop waterworks for over an hour…big indication that something was VERY wrong! X-rays showed that an early morning appointment with the orthopedic doctor was prudent…and he "just happened" to clear his schedule prior to today to accommodate for E.R. surgeries…namely, Mandy's, whose took over 2 hours. 

As I mentioned, Mandy is a silent tear crier. She holds all of the "questionable" emotions inside. However, once she was given a sedative via I. V., she opened up considerably! Before surgery she was quipping about the room, the needles, us…anything she could focus on! She said I looked like I had four eyes…and I don't wear glasses. The funniest thing happened afterwards. 
Dave (who "just happened" to take a day off work…anyone connect the spiritual dots besides me???) and I greeted Amanda as she woke up from surgery.  Dave said, "How's my little Cookie?" to Mandy as she entered the room. With a totally perplexed look on her face, Amanda asked."I went into surgery, and now I'm a cookie?"  If she wasn't so serious, we wouldn't have lost it--but she was, and we did. :)  After a while of eyebrow raising and abnormally animated antics from Amanda, we were able to go home.

We are so thankful for all the e-mails, phone calls and flowers that were sent to Amanda. As she came out of her stupor, she relished the attention. Even her virtual twin was pining for the attention…as she adorned the room with signs and pictures she drew for her sister. 

Hopefully the Tylenol 3 will last the night. Hopefully tomorrow will be pain-free. Hopefully Amanda will realize just a little bit more how important she is to our family. Dickens had it right: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. This tragedy left a bunch of fertile ground for my baby to grow in. 

You are surrounded in prayers, Mandy! 

All my best, 


Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year’s Resolution

Being the mother of a collage-aged son who lives 13 hours away, I have had to learn to let go. Don’t get me wrong; my first-born has never done anything (much) to cause me grief or worry. Not knowing is half the battle—where he’s going, who’s he’s with, and choices he’s facing. The other half is knowing that bad things happen to good people, and that is the half that keeps me combating with worry and on my knees.
When my first-born received his driving license, my husband and I stayed up EVERY TIME he was out late. After a few months, we would take turns nodding off until Austin was safely home…but now we have let go of those reigns as my son has a schedule totally unknown to us. Even when Austin came home for Christmas break, we would be asleep by the time he returned home at night. Until…
One night Austin was out late. I was with the rest of the family when I was overwhelmed with fear for Austin. The previously stated phrase, “Bad things happen to good people,” flashed like a neon sign in my mind, and I was instantly trembling. I didn’t say anything to anyone else as I thought I was having a case of over-protective-mom-syndrome, but I did start praying for his protection, safety on the road, angels to protect him from dangerous situations and God to keep him in the palm of his hand. This continued until I was in bed, and I drifted into sleep.
The next day as I was chatting with Austin, I admitted that even though he has grown up so much, I was really afraid for him the night before. As the words came out of my mouth, Austin’s eyes became round as saucers and he locked them on me. He said that he had THE SAME FEELINGS the previous night! He said that he didn’t know why, because the roads weren’t as bad as the night before, but he was very concerned as he was driving.
It would be one thing for Austin to say what he did, but his reaction was what emphasized what he experienced. I don’t think that my prayers are anything special, but I do know the One whom I pray to is…I don’t pretend that I know what will happen, but I know that my God does.
My new year’s resolution is not for better fitness or losing weight or more patience. Those things are necessary, some more than others, and will happen (sometime or another). My commitment to myself, to my family, and to my Lord is to listen to His voice. I will only be able to hear Him when I spend time in His Word so it will take time and effort. When he speaks, either in the wind, the earthquake, the fire or the whisper, I need to obey (1 Kings 19:11-13). My family depends on it.
All my best,

Monday, December 31, 2012

We’re In!

A couple months ago Dave and I decided that both Hope and Andrew should join us in the Riverbank Run (25k=15.5 mi) next spring. This delighted both kids—and sent Hope to the treadmill! After she put in over 20 miles in the basement last week, Dave and I considered the next step…and signed up the four of us for a MARATHON next spring, one month after the Riverbank Run! Yes, that is a whole 26.2 miles to be run consecutively by four Fathmans with three cheerleading girls to root us on. J
As a side note, I am still healing from my foot surgery last summer, I have not run for weeks due to bronchitis, and marathon training takes a LOT out of a busy homeschooling mom’s schedule (heck, out of anyone’s schedule!)…but the marathon bug bit my dear husband and the kids’ interest were the rational to doing it now…I feel like a deer in the headlights but what can I say? We’re in this, and we’re doing it together.
What a great place to be!
Anyone interested in cheering us on this spring???
PS Although it will be in Massachusetts, my eldest will also be embarking on a run of a different sort: a “Muddy Buddy”, which blends 12 miles of running with multiple obstacles, mixing with ample mud, of course. I don’t jest when I say that the running stores received a large percentage of my husband’s paycheck this week… J Any east-coasters are welcome to root for Austin!
All my best,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Just Not Enough

This week Hope and I were talking about her recent love for running.  This beautiful girl, as recent as last year, HATED running with a passion. Now she hits the treadmill on a regular basis for 6-12 miles, sometimes even upping the grade to 12%! Although I never pushed running on her, she has gleaned this love from me (and her goals from her coach.) We were bantering back and forth when she grabbed my arm and told me how cool it would be if I was her bio mom. I didn’t know what to say, but she had words enough for both of us. She went on and on how much she wished I would be her bio mom—I told her that although she didn’t grow in my belly she grew in my heart, and she is more like me than some of my bios!
This has been bouncing around in my head the past few days. I am deeply touched that she wants to be my bio child—but at the same time, I am saddened because I can never be the mom that she deeply desires and needs. No child should have to endure being “given up” by their mother—made worse by the fact that her past is shrouded in secrecy. I can strive to be the best mom for her, but even on my best day, I am still, not the bio.
Even if I can’t be what she desires, I am still blessed to be what she needs…today…tomorrow…and every day I am blessed with her.
All my best,

Friday, November 30, 2012

All Fun with Games

My dear Hope is such a deliberate, hard-working girl. I never have to remind her to do her homework; when the table needs to be set before dinner, she stops what she’s doing and does it without being told. If she is doing her laundry, she often empties Hannah’s and Amanda’s hamper to do with her own. I must admit, her folding is much better than my own!

One thing Hope does not do well is play. This was a real struggle when she first came home—it was something more foreign than the language. Over the years Hope has engaged in some methods of play—shooting hoops, jumping rope, going on a bike ride. Almost always she is doing it solo—no game playing or form of competition permitted. For this reason, ALL board and card games are avoided like the plague. There is not convincing her once her mind is made up! Generally when Hope resists, I can tell it is futile to pursue; she has made up her mind and nothing will change her mind. Only her attitude will change—and it will go from bad to worse!

Sometimes, however, if I detect just a glimmer of a sparkle in her eye, I know that she wants to play, but is afraid to try. Afraid to fail. Afraid to look foolish. Afraid to be the only one who doesn’t get it.

This past weekend we had ASTOUNDING victories in the “try something new” and “play” departments!

I asked her to join me and some of her younger siblings in a board game. I think she was really getting bored with her holiday weekend and was open to doing something, anything, to beat the boredom. Hey, whatever it takes, right? Even when one of her older siblings joined she was willing to try, but when this sibling’s sweetheart also joined, Hope was MORE than ready to bail. This couple is rather cut-throat in their game-playing tactics, and Hope was ready to bolt like a rabbit. Thankfully I convinced her to stay and be on Hannah’s “team” since Hannah “ wouldn’t know how to do it by herself”.  All of a sudden, it was appointed work—so with much coaxing (and sitting next to me) she stayed and played.

The next day one of my sons, my husband and I were planning on going into the state forest behind our house to do some target practice. My husband and I recently received our CPL and I really wanted to know how to use what we own properly…and my son just likes to shoot. (Boys! J) Dave invited Hope to join us…again, that glimmer!...and through much coaxing, Hope agreed to at least walk out with us, knowing that she could leave at any time. We were using our garden’s leftover vegetables that had begun to rot as targets—the “carnage” would feed the deer. Can you believe Hope shot a 380, a 9mm, and a shotgun??!? Granted, no vegetables were wounded in her attempts, but she TRIED it and ended up SMILING!!!  

We were on a roll! I decided to push it a bit farther and asked Hope to play a different game with us—one that required a bit more strategy than the first. Since the competitive duo wasn’t at our house, she reluctantly agreed, and she wasn’t even a part of a team. Although she didn’t win, she ended the game smiling. She did it. Or should I say: SHE DID IT!!!

It’s no longer anything big for Hope to run 10 miles on the treadmill or even 5 miles at an incline of 7% and above. That was last summer’s battle, and she conquered it. She not only has her sight set on next year’s cross country team, but she also has started training for the 5/3 Riverbank 25k Run in Grand Rapids in May. Two years ago her battle was navigating High School—in which she just received all A’s again—and maintains her 4.0 GPA. (side note, so does her brother Andrew, an accomplishment which deserves a “Whoot-whoot!” here.)

I can’t help but to wonder what this newly acquired success will bring her way.  To not be afraid to try…or to fail…or to look foolish…to not have as much of the fear of man dictating what she can and can’t do.

I’ll keep you posted!

All my best,

Monday, September 10, 2012

Our New Normal

Recently, we have been faced with changes and new beginnings:

Austin left for MIT. 
Hailey and Hope went to work at their new cleaning business they started together.
Andrew and Dave made and shot off a potato canon (Wow! It was crazy-loud and powerful!)
Hannah and Amanda started their new “official” dog care business together. (my babies!)
Hannah and Amanda also started riding bikes with hand brakes—no more little bikes for them!!!
Hope ran 19 ½ miles!!! (she missed a day of training during the week b/c it was 88 and full sun by the time she woke up—she ran two on the treadmill, but was bored beyond tears and biked six. She made up yesterday’s run this am and today’s run this pm!)
We all (minus Austin, but we thought of him frequently!) made marshmallow shooters and had a marshmallow war. Our dogs had a great time cleaning up after us!
Hailey took the ACT, swam for hardware in West Michigan Relays, and then finished at her part time job at a local ice cream shop.
(deep breath!)
Such is a day in our life.

Our days are full. Our dinner table is not. Even when we had Austin’s friend over for dinner, I felt that we were missing someone…Hailey asked who wasn’t there, and my first response was that she was…where???...who???...then I realized we were all together. Now we have a real opening at the table. Our lives are busy and full—I am not lacking anything! And yet…

I will be content with all things—but change is normal—and what will tomorrow’s normal be???
Praying for what God has in store for us!
All my best,

Called to Action

Allow me to share a bit of a story. It is like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books, where the reader is given several opportunities to make choices that lead to different endings. Like those books, what happens next is up to you.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (aka southern China), there lived a poor little orphan girl. She lived with her foster family in a small village outside Kunming. While she was not living at her home, she lived at school, because it was too far away to make the journey daily. During her many years at her foster home and school, this girl made several friends, some close ones, especially with other orphans like her. The loss of parents has a way of binding people.
One day, just a few days before her 14th birthday, she was abruptly removed from everything she had ever known, brought to the orphanage for a weekend, and then handed over to two odd-looking, big-nosed, foreign strangers. Forever.
Over two years later, this girl has grown in her new land, her new home, her new family. She has blossomed into a lovely young lady who is becoming more self-confident than before and is sweet to her core. During this time she has kept in contact with her friends in China via phone and QQ (Chinese Facebook). It happened that in one of her first calls to her foster family she talked to one of her friends. This friend had become her foster sister, as the foster family needed a replacement to keep up with all the work the orphan girl was used to doing. During the phone call, the new foster sister was crying and asking, “Why you? Why were you chosen and not me? What’s wrong with me?” Enter survivor guilt! The conversation didn’t end well to say the least. This past spring, the former-orphan-turned-daughter was able to take a trip to visit her former foster village, family and friends. She was treated like quite the celebrity! The foster sister who had originally cried and accused on the phone was hugging this girl’s neck, claiming her to be her best friend. Two other former friends also came to spend the day with the girl, reconnecting and sharing their lives for a day.
Just as school has started in the US, school has also begun in China. These three girls, the former friends and foster sister, have been given the opportunity to continue their education, which doesn’t always happen for orphans in China. Two have made the decision to go to trade schools; one is continuing on in a high school. These schools are residential; much too far to travel daily and the two friends have been removed from their foster homes. They have no other place to go.
Here is the part in the story that you have a chance to alter the outcome. Love Without Boundaries has taken these three girls into their program to raise funds for their education. Right now they can attend school—but if funds don’t come in, they will be removed.
My daughter was given the opportunity to give them their Westernized names seen on the site. She researched name meanings and tried out dozens while looking at their photos. J
Will you please consider sponsoring one (or all three!) of these girls every month? My daughter prays for them regularly and is waiting with anxious expectation as to what will happen next. I rarely plead for financial assistance, but as a mom of a girl who has heard the call to action, I will do my part as well.
All my best,

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I am in AWE!

It has been 2 ½ years since Hope has been home. When she arrived, she talked about not having to run anymore. It was a requirement in her school, and although I thought at first she missed it, she later let me know that she NEVER wanted to run again. In fact, when she and I would go on little jogs together (bonding time), she would barely be able to run between mailboxes without slowing down to a S  L  O  W walk and breathing heavy.
Fast forward to the following spring. Andrew was training for cross country—Hope decided to try and run a mile with me too. We did more walking than running at first, but then it lengthened to two miles, mainly jogging. Not too bad, but she said that she didn’t want to run like her brother!
Throughout the school year, Andrew kept encouraging Hope to join the Cross Country team. Hope didn’t want to commit, but I took her for a sports physical “just in case”. When she didn’t sign up at the end of the school year, Andrew took the liberty to write down her name on the team’s roster. (without her knowledge, of course J) Hope took the training schedule and started it, without committing, she let me know.
Without getting stuck in the details, only two months later, Hope has run OVER 230 MILES!!! Never mind the blisters, never mind getting up at 5 am to get the run in before band camp for a week, never mind the 90-degree heat most of the summer! She even learned that running in the rain can be enjoyable, deer and wild turkey can be seen in the multitudes when you are on the road, and sometimes you can run 11 miles just because it feels good. As of yesterday, she officially “committed” herself to the team!
I am so proud of my girl!
BTW, I am also proud of my boy—he is now over 300 miles in his 2 months of training for cross country!
Way to go, Andrew and Hope!! You both have done what was formerly-considered *impossible*!
All my best,

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy 10th Birthday!

Amanda’s birthday is here! We are getting ready to celebrate her big two-digit birthday! The festivities began today, bringing cookies into her Sunday school class. Next will be her actual birthday DAY, with cookies brought in to her drawing class, followed by a trip to BWW for dinner. Dave and I typically go to BWW for our date night and I usually bring home 18 wings for the kiddos—6 honey BBQ for Hannah and Hailey, my non-spicy girls; 6 Thai curry for Hope and Austin; and 6 hot BBQ for Andrew and Amanda. Now she will be able to get as many as she wants, followed by her own birthday scoop of ice cream and a candle. Usually I wouldn’t go so lame for the cake, but we just made strawberry  and strawberry/rhubarb pie for Father’s Day and Mandy’s birthday party is on Thursday, which necessitates a cake. Mandy says cake gets boring after a while: I’m glad, otherwise I will be eating more than my fair share!
Amanda used to follow Hannah’s lead for the birthday planning and invite list. This is the first year she has expressed her opinion as to what SHE wants. I know that her virtual twin is still influencing her from the side-lines, but it is fun to watch MANDY plan her party. My “whatever” and “I don’t know” girl is finally growing into her own opinion!
Happy Birthday, my Amanda-Panda!
All my best,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

China Bound and Blessings!

We always told Hope that someday we would bring her back to China to visit her family and the national treasures she heard about but never saw. God ordained an opportunity for an excellent fare on airline tickets…so the future became today! The day before spring break Hope, Hailey, and I headed for the airport for an incredible experience.

Our trip was not without mishap! Before we even left Grand Rapids, we accepted a “bump” and were awarded $400 each to take a pre-paid taxi ride to Detroit and were given vouchers for dinner as well. Once we boarded, not one of us slept, thanks to some very social passengers who liked to talk LOUDLY 4 feet from our seats. Even after I shhhushed them in Chinese (yes, I was proud of that!) another group of them gathered to socialize in their not so quiet voices.

First stop: Beijing. Miraculously, God ordained a  blue sky and light breeze for us to explore the Great Wall. We interacted with other Chinese groups—they laughed with us and us with them—it was a welcome break to the panting and gasping from the steep climb.  We enjoyed the sights, but really enjoyed the path PAST the allowed passage.
It was more costly than expected, but we also splurged on a chute ride down the incline. 
Xie xie, Chen Tai tai!

We also visited the Forbidden City and closed it down. It was my third trip but never have I been with someone who was so interested in the famous buildings. Both Hailey and Hope recognized some of the buildings from the Chinese movies Hope enjoys so much.

The second day we visited the Summer Palace. It was a beautiful day again and we enjoyed meandering through the grounds. We walked and explored for hours! Once we decided that we were tired and wanted to go back to the hotel, it took at least another hour to find our way out—we got so lost!!!

That night, Hope was stricken with nerves about visiting her foster family. It made for a very prickly evening, but through it all, she learned values of family. It seems that every time Hope acts ugly, our relationship is refined as silver. We aren’t leaving her. Her value doesn’t decline with bad choices. The safest place is in Momma’s arms, not pushing her away.

We loved Beijing, but the next stop was Kunming! It was another Horrible Flight with turbulence, but once we arrived, Hope’s former teacher met us at the airport. She melted into tears, but it meant the world to her. The next day her teacher (and husband) insisted upon driving us to Hope’s foster village. Originally, Hope told us it was a 4-5 hour trip…I was SOOOO glad that she was exaggerating! We had planned on staying for lunch; we ended up staying for dinner as well. Hope was able to meet an aunt and uncle she never knew before; she met her younger foster brother for the first time (who was SO cute and needs a forever family) and she connected with former friends. It was quite the day—Hope was like a celebrity and people flocked around her. Hope’s “older sister” in her foster family (who she knew before but was only brought in to replace Hope’s work once she was adopted) had talked to Hope over a year ago in a call back home. She had asked Hope “Why were you chosen? Why not me?” which sent Hope in a spiral of survivor’s guilt. Now she gave Hope gifts and told her that Hope was her best friend. Hope even commented later about how her older brother (the family’s bio son) was nicer to her. We exchanged gifts; I was VERY glad that we purchased so many and Hope was tickled that she chose the right size for everyone!  After the many hours, we went back to the hotel tired, satisfied, and burdened for those left behind.

The next day we enjoyed over the bridge noodles for breakfast, taught Hope the art of bartering for souvenirs, and headed back to the airport. Of course the turbulence was horrid—we were experiencing weightlessness and people were using their air sickness bags all around us. We landed in Shanghai and were greeted by a driver—very welcomed sight! He did get lost trying to find our vehicle…but we made it to the hotel in time for me to savor a glass of wine before bed.  

The best laid plans are not foolproof. Hailey has been dreaming of seeing a boy she met when we lived in Shanghai 4 years ago. He was a resident of the Cere Care Center—has CP and perhaps on the spectrum for Autism. Dave has visited him with his trips to Shanghai with work and has taken photos. But, when we traveled halfway across the world to visit him… he was  gone for the Tomb Sweeping holiday.  Hailey was heartbroken, but I tried to console her in saying that it meant that we would just mean that we would return. J
Our first night we were treated to a Shanghai-ese dinner by a friend of Dave’s. In all our time in Shanghai 4 years ago, we never ate like we did that first night! Bruce also procured tickets to the Shanghai acrobatics show—it was as good now as it was years ago. Truly amazing what they make their bodies do!

A dear friend met us at the Cere Center and then took us out to lunch. She is supposed to be visiting Canada this month and then coming to the states this summer…perhaps she will allow us to show her the hospitality she showed us! I won’t make her eat pig’s feet, however. J

A final stop for the day was at the pearl market. I had gifts to buy for my bible study ladies and Hailey had friend that she wanted to bless. We bartered and bantered, we sought great buys and great jewelry. I was really wanting a new pair of beaded sandals but the faces of my daughters said it was time to go…so we headed out. A last minute purchase for hair accessories led to an elongated browse…and then the bartering began in earnest. Hope had learned some of the tricks of the trade and enjoyed haggling. She was definitely an asset as she spoke Mandarin, which typically got the prices lower than we could get them. I know enough Mandarin to get me in trouble, and after at least 10 minutes of bartering back and forth, I heard the shopkeeper start to tell Hope, “ Really, these things I would ask 100 kwai ($16)…” What I didn’t realize was that she was going to offer a lower price…but I blurted out, “100 kuai???” and then I zurburted  on her. Raspberried. Made a very undistinguished sound  in  her general direction, expressing my disgust. Honestly, I didn’t mean it, but I was tired, bone tired, and exasperated to have to go through the process AGAIN to buy a simple headband and comb for my girls. PRAISE GOD that it caused everyone to erupt in laughter—including the shopkeeper! We ended up getting a lower price than I imagined—AND  the girl selling the merchandise HUGGED me before I left! How uncharacteristic of a Chinese girl!!! We still laugh about it today…although the story has morphed into me actually spitting at the girl…which I will never admit to b/c it didn’t happen!

Very early the next morning our flight home was changed from stopping in Japan to being a direct flight. It was a long flight, we didn’t sleep, but it was a necessary evil to get HOME. We hated to leave but were anxious to be home at the same time.

Once we returned to GR, our family greeted us with open arms and bear hugs. It took the better part of a week to get over the jet lag (it’s always worse returning home, isn’t it??!?) but it was good to be together again. There is something about FAMILY…and that is where our heart is!

All my best,

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Virtual Twinning…Again!

I am so thankful for *free* services offered by our local public school! Both Hannah and Amanda are in speech therapy once a week. Why? Because Hannah speaks like I did when I was young and Amanda speaks like Hannah. She has definitely learned her “Hann-ese” well—their speech therapist has her work cut out for her!
These girls are so blessed! They complete each other’s sentences; they are a constant companion; they encourage each other to new levels in schooling, memorization, and imagination.
I can’t imagine life without my girls. Anything else would be less-than.
All my best,

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Straight A’s!!! AGAIN!!!

This is a proud momma moment!
My three high school students pulled straight A’s again, second trimester this year!!!
Looks like we’ll be taking them out to dinner, our “reward” for a job well done.  (Worth the investment in my opinion!)
May I add that this was Hope’s first English class in high school…coupled with Economics and Chemistry…my girl did GOOD!
Thanks for listening to me crow!
All my best,

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Tonight I was the hands and feet for my son. A classmate of his was broadsided and killed by a drunk driver last week. Her visitation was very filled with friends and relatives—I chose not to go through the receiving line. I didn’t know her in life—I didn’t feel right looking at her in death. I thought and practiced conversations with her mom three dozen times in the past week—each and every one ended in my weeping—not what her mom needed at a night like this. In the end I signed the registry, including both mine and my son’s name, walked around looking for someone I knew, and stood in the back of the room, watching her mom and staring at her coffin. The photos that were in the reception room were probably still put together from her graduation open house last spring. Her videos from script-writing class are immortalized forever. Tonight I felt and still feel somber: thankful that my 5 children are at home, either sleeping or studying for exams; thankful that my eldest is at school studying his brains out and swimming his heart out. I feel indulgent that I have so many beautiful blessings, and Bethany’s mom is grieving in a way that I never want to understand. I have a wonderful sister that shares her name, one that is too far away for me to hug, which I would do tightly tonight. And tonight, I was an extension of my eldest son, who knew her briefly but will never forget Bethany.
All my best,

Monday, February 6, 2012

I Shudder to Think!

Recently, a lot of our conversations around the dinner table have been retrospective about our girls’ life in China before life with us. Unfortunately, Amanda doesn’t remember much, but Hope does, and we continually learn more about her former life.

We are cautious not to belittle what she had before and to acknowledge what she endured to make the adjustment through the adoption. We were talking about her feelings when she saw us, when we took her away, living in the hotels, boarding the airplanes, etc. Hope told us that she never took off her coat while in China because she was not used to buildings having heat. Her former school didn’t have it and neither did her foster home. She was expecting to have it get cold in the middle of the night, so she wore it CONSTANTLY. She also mentioned that her former foster family didn’t have an ample water supply, hot or otherwise, to have the hour long hot showers like she originally told us. (not that we believed her, but she finally trusts us enough to tell the truth and that she wasn’t honest before.)  Most sobering, however, was when we talked about her fears and feelings about coming here. She told us that she was told that she MUST say that she wanted to be adopted; that she didn’t have an option. I asked her if she knew she could say no to us, would she have done so?  She said Yes, without a moment’s hesitation. (talk about a heavy silence that followed that bombshell!)  But she also followed up that statement that she is so glad that she did come home with us to be a part of our family.

In light of other families returning home without their older children because the children decided at the last moment they didn’t want to be adopted, I shudder to think of our family if Hope knew she had that option. Is it really in the best interest to give a 12 or 13 year old the life-altering choice to have a forever family or to stay in China as an orphan? I know my eldest daughter still thinks she knows everything but is desperately needs her parents to give her firm guidelines and to reign her in when she wants to go astray. I could never allow her to make a monumental decision that would affect her for the rest of her life based on fear of the unknown with no regard to the opportunities she would (or wouldn’t) have. Why do governments think this is a good idea??

Once again, a glimpse of the providence of God has been revealed to us. We are SO thankful for his hand!

All my best,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Happy 2-Year Homecoming!

It is SO hard to remember life without our Hope and Amanda!!! Has it only been two years? It seems like forever.
At the same time, it is incredible to think of all that the girls have accomplished in two years:
Became conversational in English (Amanda had NO English upon arrival and Hope depended on Google translate)
Found their niche in our family—Amanda as a virtual twin of Hannah J
Amanda discovered that she has an imagination (once again—NO imaginary skills upon arrival!)
Hope went from “showing effort” in middle school to pulling straight “A”s in high school
Amanda competing in Bible Quiz Bowl for AWANA and achieving 2nd place out of 9 teams (this included standing on a stage and giving answers into a microphone!)

These are just a sampling of what they have accomplished—which doesn’t really define who they are. Hope is SO MUCH like me—I continually remark how much she is like her mom—because there are likenesses that go way beyond the physical. She is also a LOT like her closest brother, Andrew. They are probably more like virtual twins than either would admit. I hope they realize it soon and learn to embrace the relationship they could have!

David just mentioned that he can’t imagine life without “the girls”. I can, but the only way I could describe it would be flat. These girls have brought dimension to our family and to ME that is beyond measure. I can imagine life without them, but I certainly wouldn’t want it!

To my beautiful Asian Daughters—Hope Katherine XiFan and Amanda Beth MinZhi—Welcome Home!!!

All my best,