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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cat’s out of the Bag!!!

Tonight Dave was putting the two little girls to bed. He encouraged them to think about what they would write to Santa in a letter to leave by his cookies on Christmas eve. Hannah exclaimed “There’s no Santa—I think YOU’RE Santa!” Amanda chimed in and said, “Yea, and Mom’s the Easter Bunny!”
Sigh. No fooling anyone anymore!
All my best,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Homeschool Highlight!

Last week I was wrapping up schooling with my two little girls (affectionately nicknamed “Thing 1” & “Thing 2”). As I was making an o-so-nutritious lunch of ramen noodles, I was quizzing them on their multiplication skills. After exhausting numbers up to 12’s, I decided to see how much they remembered from Geography last year. (We had worked on an overview of the US) Thinking it was only fair to start easy, I asked them if they remembered the name of our state’s (Michigan) capital. Hannah was stumped, but Amanda was eagerly hopping in her seat, exclaiming that she knew it. My hopes for her retention came crashing down when she proudly answered “M-I”.
As soon as we start the new year, we will have to start a language unit on homonyms. J
All my best,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hello Again

How many moments have passed by that I haven’t logged? How many milestones will go by unnoticed? I am sad that I missed writing about them, because they won’t be remembered. Nor will they be able to be used to encourage anyone else. Although I can’t recall every point that has happened in these walls, but to try to catch up:
My momentary child, Avery, has decided to remove himself from our family. Although I thought he was our forever child, we were a step in his walk of life. I praise God for the opportunity—we have grown through it all and God has shown himself faithful.

My eldest son, Austin, has made his pilgrimage to MIT. He has now discovered that he was a big fish in a small pond while at home, but a small fish in an ocean at school! He has been doing problem sets on Friday nights, swim meets all day Saturdays, and realizing that even though the food is good and plentiful where he is, there is no place like home. J He is scheduled to come home for Thanksgiving; our holiday will have new meaning this year!!!
Hailey, our eldest daughter, is swimming at state next weekend. This will be her third time of swimming at the big house…this year is at Oakland U. She has done a good job so far—at conference her times for 100 back dipped into the 1:01’s which earned her the unique opportunity of painting her daddy’s toenails hot pink with blue polka dots. J It was quite a show!

Andrew finished his cross country season and is doing dry land conditioning for swimming. He is a diver, but keeping his options open. J He also is in the school’s musical of Footloose, opening in 3 weeks. His director wanted to know if any of the boys could do back flips as a part of the dance scenes, and although Andrew doesn’t know how, he decided it was time to learn. After a few attempts in the back yard, he was able to finagle a back handspring. Now he is attempting a back flip—I hope we can stay out of the ER until closing night!

Hannah and Amanda are still two peas in a pod. They are still homeschooling, much to my delight. Amanda is working a grade behind in reading, spelling and language, but is doing splendidly in the rest of her subjects. The two of them encourage each other to better things—Amanda was completing her spelling with better accuracy than Hannah at first; now Hannah is setting the curve. Amanda is amazing at math—she memorizes her facts and remembers them FOREVER. She and Hannah are working in the same book for AWANA this year—at the same pace, out-memorizing everyone else in their class. The biggest thing, however, is the imagination that Amanda has acquired! When she first came home, she would look at Hannah quizzically when Han would try to play house, my little ponies, etc. Now the two of them can be lost in “Imagination-land” for hours! Unfortunately, our house usually shows the effect of their imaginative play! J

Hope has been emerging from her shell more and more. My beautiful daughter has entered high school and is pulling straight A’s! Although she didn’t join any sports or groups this year, she has expressed an interest in joining the cross country team next year. Andrew has been very encouraging to her; she has also logged many miles with me this summer/fall!  Although she sometimes tries to compete against herself and improve her times, she also uses the 1:1 time to just talk. I have connected more with my daughter while with our running shoes on than just about any other time. J Dave and I told her that when she finally gets the opportunity to go back to China and visit the Great Wall, she needs to be in shape to be able to walk it. She took us to heart and will either run on the road, on the treadmill, or do P90X in our basement. (If Tony Horton only knew!!!) I had the blessing of taking her 1:1 for a girls morning shopping trip this past Saturday. Although it was only to one store in the mall and grocery shopping, she was introduced to the fun of trying on beautiful clothing that we had no intention of buying, getting a makeover AND free makeup from the Clinique counter, AND lots of food samples since it was the weekend. Hope had told me in the past that her foster mom NEVER spent time with her 1:1—the eldest bio son was always there or she had work to do. She enjoyed 4 hours of mom-time, but more importantly, she allowed me to connect with her in a way she never allowed me to in the past.

Whew. It is therapeutic to journal! I hear about so many other people’s adoptions and their difficult times YEARS after homecoming. My girls are perfect for us—I have a connection with them that defies comprehension since they haven’t even been here for 2 years! Have there been tough times? YES!!! Even tonight Hope was short circuiting about going to a social event at our youth pastor’s house with her sister and brother. BUT>> through it all, God is glorified, we are edified and equipped to walk alongside another family who makes the FANTABULOUS choice to adopt.

Thank you for following up on us! I hope to share more soon!

All my best,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Just checking in

It has been so long since I posted. Not because I haven’t had momentous things to share; it has been more of wondering what would be appropriate.
First, the noteworthy!
Our eldest son is off! He is officially in his dorm room at MIT, launching frozen chickens at stone pigs, having water wars, building and racing land yachts. We endured an earthquake going out and a hurricane coming back. He had a mandatory class about how to have sex without being charged with rape.(!) Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) has been a great draw for him and he looks forward to finding a home church.
Hope has decided to run with me! Originally she said that she would run with me in 10 years, but she decided to start now. Truth be told, Dave and I told her that she couldn’t ask to go back to the Great Wall before she started exercising here. About 2-3 weeks ago, Hope decided that she wanted to join me on my morning runs. At first it took her 27 minutes to run 2 miles; today she was at 18.45!  Hope has already thought about joining the cross country team next year with her brother, Andrew.
Amanda is ready to start school this fall. We have been doing the regular back-to-school purchasing for everyone else. Mandy has decided to get her school books out early and start her learning. She also has enjoyed doing mental math in the car…she is so quick in remembering her multiplication facts! A real difference between Chinese and American learning styles. Amanda has also been demonstrating her flexibility—she can put both her feet behind her head, do a back bend and curl her head to touch her knees, and while on her stomach, not only touch her feet to her head but bring her heels to her chin! We all gave her the appropriate ooh’s and ahh’s that she deserved!!
Our newest addition, Avery, continues to challenge our previous notions that we were good parents. A good morning often results in a difficult evening; a sulky am may lead to an easy pm. We don’t know how to predict the future; every day is lived moment by moment.
I really wish I could give a glowing report about domestic adoption!!! I would love for other people who won’t do international adoption step up and give a child a chance. But it can be hard. REALLY hard. We were blessed by two wonderful girls through international adoption that, although gave us a run for our money in the beginning, are the joy of our lives now. Perhaps others are experiencing our struggles after international adoption without the back door to put the child back into the system. The shame of disruption is much more real to me now, even though our current placement is still foster. I don’t know, although I do know that pride comes before destruction, and in hindsight, I am sure we were prideful before since both of our girls are so well adjusted. Not anymore.
I love other people’s blogs that show a snippet about their lives. I also love other people’s blogs that share the real parts of their lives. I hope I am sharing a bit of the same.
Tomorrow I am sharing the morning with two of my daughters and our exchange student at the mall to do some real girl time. The evening will be spent with the family, as Andrew is planning a dinner and dessert that will put all others to shame. I am a blessed woman!
All my best,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just What I Needed

I just feel like singing! There is nothing BIG to write about, but to me, it is HUGE!
Dinner tonight was a breath of fresh air. I made a new recipe and EVERYONE liked it (besides Hannah, who said it was a little too spicy, but that is normal), and it didn’t require my oven, which will have a rest until our heat wave breaks.
Work, weight lifting, and dive camp took three of our kids from attending, but two returned for the end and the other will be in MA starting next month for school, so we are getting used to his absence.
Anyway, we laughed together while eating, either at ourselves or with each other. Afterwards, we read Proverbs 1 in the NLT, which made sense to most of our kids. Hope then read the same passage from her Chinese bible, which made more sense to Mandy.
Let me tell you, to have the word of God read in another language by our daughter was beautiful…but that word doesn’t even begin to describe it. A year ago Hope refused to read her bible in front of us…today she lead a chorus of angels singing over us! The music must have been loud enough to tickle our ears, because we then started singing hymns and kids’ spiritual songs that I sang to my original 3 children over a decade ago. That lead to teaching Avery the words to the star spangled banner…and Hannah reciting the Pledge of Allegiance…wrapping up with the kids washing dishes, sweeping the floor (Avery did it, even though just a month ago he REFUSED to sweep!), and cleaning up the rest of the kitchen. We wound down the evening with me reading a chapter to everyone from Little House in the Big Woods, squeezing four kids and myself on one couch, pausing only for everyone being able to see the pictures.
I am struck that only 48 hours ago I was griping to God about how this was a big mistake to expand our family again. I know that we are told to do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil. 2:14) but I felt I was justified to gripe and complain and argue with God. Just like the Israelites in the wilderness! But, just like the Israelites, God drew me back to his heart and gave me what I needed for the day. Now I have hope for tomorrow. Thank you, God, not only for today, but for it all.
All my best,
Amy 艾米

Sunday, July 17, 2011

No More Games

We have been so blessed with our children! There are so many facets to them—some mesh well with others, others are like flint and sparks fly when they hit. Some children energize and others drain.
The past month has been filled with successes and dark spots. Avery has made huge strides in assimilating as a part of our family, but still is conflicted with giving up some aspects of his past. We are not asking him to change who he is or his heritage as an African-American youth. It is more like exchanging the mud pies he is so used to eating for the good nutrition we offer here. Every once in a while he really craves mud and doesn’t like it when I won’t serve it to him. That is usually when it gets ugly. Other times he is just worried that we might forget him, so he is ALWAYS talking and seeking attention. That, plus being hyper-vigilant about keeping an eye on him with the other kids…Let me kindly say that it is zapping our last ounce of sanity!
I was griping (again) to God tonight. I have laid my burdens at his feet many times, but honestly, I was complaining. I told Him that I thought He made a mistake, that we weren’t supposed to be adopting again, that I made a mistake in hearing Him. I guess that I was looking for God to reassure me in what He was doing, but tonight I just heard…silence. Not like I was alone, but just as long as I was speaking untruth, He wasn’t going to accompany me in the journey. Just because I am squeezed-dry daily doesn’t mean that this is not what God planned for me. I was looking for the best for a boy from Detroit; God was looking at the best for ME. He never promised it would be easy, it would be for my good. I heard a quote once by CS Lewis: We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us. We are just wondering how painful the best will be.
On that note, I am glad that I am not alone.
All my best,
Amy 艾米

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Baby Steps

Life is certainly different here these days! I never realized how easy it was with six kids until we added our seventh!

Both Avery and Hope are in summer school—Avery for math, Hope for English. Hope enjoys the structure; I enjoy my son having something to do under someone else’s authority! Some days Avery is up on time, ready to go (other than needing to pull up his pants)—other days I am pulling him out of bed 5 minutes before we need to leave and putting a granola bar in his hand for breakfast. Neither one really dislikes school—it is a lot of educational play that adds to their learning.

Avery is very proud of himself—he stayed awake during church last Sunday without me making him stand through the service. He also said that he learned from the sermon, so much so that he e-mailed the pastor and told him such. He was singing a song from church on the way home—he couldn’t remember all the words, but he said he really liked it. The chorus is:
        You are stronger, you are stronger, sin is broken, you have freed me;
        It is written, Christ is risen, Jesus you are Lord of all.
Of course, the day he was singing this was also the day that he was being defiant and argumentative about EVERYTHING. The devil didn’t want to lose his foothold! But the words are working their way through his mind and into his heart.

This evening I had the opportunity to show Avery how to use a Bible. We looked up Ephesians 4:29 (a family favorite!) and talked about what it meant. At first he thought I was punishing him, but I explained that I wanted him to see that we didn’t make up our family rules just to bug him—rather, it was based on something much bigger than ourselves. I think he liked at least some aspects of it, as he leaned against me and watched TV for a while after we were done.

Hope has been reading some Christian romance novels. (I know, I know…not my first choice, but they seem to be capturing her interest and she is reading 300+ page ENGLISH books that include scripture and are biblically sound. It is a lot better than what she could be reading!) She has asked me what the verses mean that are included in the stories as they are written in KJV. I have been blessed to be able to explain what it means in Matthew 7:21-24. The door was cracked—I pray that the Holy Spirit did a better job illuminating the scripture to her heart than I did. I am glad that it was important enough for her to ask instead of just skipping it.

Hope and Amanda have settled in and seem so much more permanent now, especially since they are not the “new” ones any more. Avery has been here only 2 weeks, but it feels much longer. Yet I know that we have a long way to go. As Austin prepares to go away to school in the fall, I am desperately trying to not squander any moments with him. I pray that God gives me the same motivation for ALL my children—my blessings—my gifts from God himself.

All my best,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

He’s Here!

Today’s the day!
Avery is here to stay!
Stay tuned…
All my best,

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Still here and…

It has been months since I have posted and so much has been happening! For a while I was afraid to post, as I didn’t know what was permissible and what was against the rules. Now, I think I may proceed!

It is true that once your eyes and heart has been opened to the blessings of adoption, you are forever changed. It’s not that I am discontent with my family; I am not lacking anything with the children that I have. The problem is that there are thousands and millions of children who ARE lacking and who want/need the basics of life…food, safety, a family. I can’t promise designer clothes, big vacations and cruises are out of the question, and even ordering anything off the dollar menu at Mc D’s on the rare occurrence that we go is forbidden! BUT, I can offer a place in our family, a place to come home to, a place to belong. I can offer my heart to be stretched to encircle another, my arms for a ready hug, and my prayers for a lifetime.

It is for these reasons as well as others that I can proudly announce that we are adopting again! This time our foreign land is Detroit, MI; our new child is a 14 year old boy. Avery has been visiting us since April 1st (no fooling!) and will be with us full time by mid-June. Being an older boy, he knows that adoption for him means that some past behaviors, vocabulary, music and activities must be left behind. He also knows that exchanging those for what he has offered with this forever family makes it a very tempting deal.

What has been interesting has been watching Hope interact with Avery. Hope, being a very reserved girl, is forced out of her comfort zone with Avery, who is very much “in your face.” Instead of retreating more into her shell, Hope has been blossoming into a more self-confident, smiling young lady. This is just another example of how God’s hand has been in the midst of the adoption…and there are many stories to tell!

Hope has been enjoying everything so much more here. She has started reading English books (and really liking the Shadow Children series!) and rarely misses an opportunity to watch English movies, even over her Chinese movies and books! She still is in contact with her Chinese friends, but also has a lot of fun with her new friends from church and school. She has been blossoming into such a beautiful girl, inside and out.

Amanda is still Hannah’s virtual twin. They dress alike, play alike, and even talk alike! Last week I brought out last year’s summer clothes for the girls to try on, thinking it was going to take about 30-40 minutes to complete. Instead, they took 2 hours trying on the clothes and giving me a fashion show, complete with naming the outfits, coordinating hair styles and props, and walking up and down the sidewalk as their catwalk. There is rarely a dull moment, as Amanda’s imagination has developed as well as her English skills. For a little girls that could only recite “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in English when we got her January of last year, she has completed her first grade reading curriculum and spelling with excellence! Her 9th birthday is coming up next month and the planning for her party has occupied both her and Hannah’s imaginations for weeks. She doesn’t want much, just treasure hunts, pool parties, music recitals, slumber parties, petting zoos, and bike races, all rolled into one extravaganza. I love a girl who can dream big!

Often people ask about the girls, and inevitably they ask how their transition has been. I can honestly say that we have two girls that fairytales are based upon—if I were to write a book about how well things are going, no one would buy it because no one would believe it. Things were TOUGH in the beginning, but that has all faded away. I only hope I can be a good enough momma for my girls, as well as all of my kids.

On another note, we just finished cleaning up after Austin’s open house—he just graduated from high school on Thursday. Hannah is already crying daily because he starts college in 90 days (she‘s counting) . He has finished the race of high school well—academically, socially, and spiritually. I am excited for his opportunities at MIT, but the natural sadness of missing him definitely creeps up on me when I’m not looking.
Well done, Austin! I am so proud of you!

All my best,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Alive and Kickin’

Alas, how many moments have I let fade away in the deep recesses of my mind because I didn’t take the time to write them down? I cannot do them all justice, but I can give an attempt to touch the big ones, however briefly:
v      Last spring we all volunteered for Disney’s “Give a Day, Get a Day” and we took advantage of our free tickets to the Magic Kingdom! It was only a day in the park, but it was a day at Disney—something Hope had anticipated since we were in Hong Kong last year. Even though we had great fun as a family, the next day was just as good if not better! We took a drive to Cocoa Beach to play in the surf.  It was the Hope’s, Amanda’s and Hannah’s first trip to the ocean, and each one learned that when momma says to keep your mouth closed in the water, she means it!!! Everyone took lots of time finding fantastic shells and rocks and all the kids romped in the waves for a long time. Bless his heart, Dave even decided it would be a good idea to stop at a souvenir shop for everyone to get one treasure to bring home (that wasn’t covered in salt water or sand…those were in our luggage!)
v      Our FIRST Christmas together!!! It was SO wonderful to be together! As the season approached, we would talk about all the Christmas shows on TV, watched A Christmas Story, and read some Christmas books. Hope was mystified when the storyline didn’t mirror the first Christmas of the Bible. It really highlighted how jaded I have become, how much junk I have let replace the sacred places of my heart. We all participated in family traditions: an afternoon was devoted in finding the *perfect* Christmas tree, another for decorating the tree with all the ornaments we have gathered over the years, multiple kinds of Christmas cookies, complete with cutter cookies, made and decorated by each child. We also thoroughly enjoyed the company of my sister and her family for the holiday. At first I was concerned that the extra commotion could cause undue stress to the new girls, but true to form, the value of family far outweighed the uncertainty of the unknown. We loved going places in our big white van…it looked like a clown car when 4 adults and 8 children disembarked!  I am sure that Christmas Eve and Day were overwhelming for the new girls, but we all enjoyed each other—and spent a lot of time in our pj’s, even when Grammie and Grandpa came for Christmas dinner.
v      Celebrating our FIRST YEAR—Gotcha days, first day in America, First day trying pizza, all of those firsts!
v      Celebrating Hope’s birthday—she turned the big 1-5 this year! Surprisingly, she was very disturbed by this. She even cried when people talked about it and repeated that she wanted to stay 14. I tried to tell her that I have been trying to say 32 for a decade, but it wasn’t working. We even tried to tell her she was 14 plus 1, but she didn’t buy the logic. She had her first sleepover with two friends for her birthday too. It started out well, but we decided that little sleep and an extended visit the next day doesn’t work out well for a tired teen…next time, guests will go home right after breakfast! That way Hope can still get a nap…for someone who will stay up all night studying for school or watching Chinese movies, she certainly needs sleep when being social!
v      Hope and Andrew were in a play together in January! Andrew was a lead role and Hope had no lines, but they were in it together and had a blast! We will be having the cast party here next week!
v      Mandy has been diligently studying her AWANA book and has officially finished it and is ready to start reviewing it! AMAZING for a girl that knew NO English a year ago!
v      Hannah turned 8—we officially have two eight year old virtual twins! She had friends over for a sledding party—it was low-key, but better than no party last year (due to Mom and Dad being in China!)
v      CHINATOWN in Chicago—only a day trip, but one that was so much fun for all of us! The girls kept saying “Are we in China?” Of course they knew full well that we were still here, but had fun being surrounded by people that looked like them, talked like them, by smells and writing that were familiar. It will be a trip that we will repeat soon!
v      MINNIE IS HERE!!! Our former exchange student is visiting for her CNY. It feels good to have our “family” together again! J
v      CNY—nothing close to China but we went out to a local Chinese restaurant that also had lion dancing, gave the red envelopes, and Dave set off some fireworks in the front yard (sorry, neighbors!). It was easy to see on Hope’s face that she was remembering years past, but she seemed thankful that we tried.

I have forgotten many important things, but lest another memory fade, I wanted to write while I had a moment.

I thank God for all the blessings He has shared with us in the past year alone. I pray that I will be a good steward with what (and whom) He has given!

All my best,