Praise and FIREWORKS

Becoming a Family of 6, I mean, 7 through Adoption (and praising as we go)

Are you 1? Are you 2? Are you 3? 4? 5? June 19, 2017

Filed under: Stories — praiseandfireworks @ 11:20 pm

We are going back in time a few months so you can share in celebrating Little One’s birthday.  She woke up bright and early to a doughnut cake.  She happily gobbled up her doughnuts, apples slices, and cheese (We have to have a little protein with our sugar.).  She quickly realized and loved that the day was all about her.


Could she grin any bigger?

Of course, we had to go right from doughnuts to opening presents.  When I first sat her down in her little green chair, she was immediately mesmerized by the balloons and didn’t even look at her pile of presents.  We thought at first that she didn’t know what presents were.  How many times had her birthday been celebrated before?  We know it was celebrated at least once while she was in her orphanage’s foster home, because we have seen pictures.  Since we sponsored her, we were able to send a care package for that birthday, so she’d even received presents from us, too.  Did she remember, though?  This time, she was celebrating at home with her forever family…priceless.


She has a tight grip on those balloons!


This was K’s last birthday in the orphanage with the microphone and stickers we sent her.  We are so thankful for the foster home director, who looks similar to Chad, for paving the way for her to attach to her daddy.

Admittedly, I bought most of her presents with a purpose in mind.  She received a magnet easel so she could practice reaching, pinching, and placing.  She got new books because she loves to read and a new purse because she wants to be like momma.  Amazon hooked us up with peanut balls, a toy they use at physical therapy to work on balance and core strength.  She loves them, though.  Since we weren’t sure of the size she would need, I ordered two, much to the delight of her older siblings.  What was I thinking?


Mom, are you sure about this?

We wound our day down with dinner at our local Chinese restaurant (Chad is a regular, so they make him special dishes.  And, when we take the kids on their birthdays, they get FREE dumplings!  Yes, please!). K requested chocolate cake with chocolate icing for her birthday cake, so we all indulged right before bedtime!


She can put away the hot tea, wonton soup, noodles, and dumplings!


Yep, it is her cake and she is licking it!

She had a fantastic day, smiling and giggling the whole time.  What a joy and privilege to celebrate with her and tell her how thankful we are that God made her. Likewise, the very fact that she has life is a miracle.  How we were gifted with her, God only knows.  She is a treasure.

Once upon a time, in a country far away, another woman gave birth to Kristiana.  We actually have no idea what day, what month, or what year that was.  She was not relinquished as a newborn like most Chinese orphans are, but as an older toddler.  Chad and I have studied her pictures and tried to figure out how old she could have been.  There were several different birthdates in her paperwork, one putting her at age SEVEN!  There is no way she is seven, but how old is she?

Below are the first pictures we saw of K.  In the first, the empty look in her eyes broke our hearts.  In the second, just try to guess how old she was:  18 months?  2 years?  4?  Who knows?



Based on the birthdate assigned by *hina, she turned five on her birthday, meaning she would start kindergarten in the fall.  This momma was definitely not ready for that, and neither was Kristiana.  The doubts about her being five were numerous, so we decided to do a bone age scan to see if a more accurate age could be determined.  The results…she is 1 1/2 years YOUNGER than her current legal age (putting her at 3 1/2,  not 5)!  However, the results of the bone age scan must be taken with a grain of salt.  Being institutionalized and poor nutrition can lead to younger scan results, as can having cerebral palsy and being petite in general.  Not to mention the fact that, to determine an age, the radiologist compared K’s bone scans to that of children from the United States in the 1950s!  So, we petitioned the court to move her birthdate by one year and not a year and a half, and our request was granted.  She still shares a birthday with her Mimi, so we are thrilled about that.

At times, not knowing when she was born really bothered me. Our other children bombard us with questions about their births and we can answer with too much information.  I can tell MaeMae what the weather was like the day she was born (the actual temperature), but with K, I can’t even tell her the season.  Is her legal age even close?  How many years of life has she experienced?  What did she experience in those years (or year) with her biological family and in the foster home at the orphanage?  We will never know and she may never tell us.

The only solace in the uncertainty is our Heavenly Father.  Long before I knew Kristiana existed, long before I first caught a glimpse of her face, long before she was even formed, He knew her.  He gave her life and a purpose.  He placed all those hairs on her little round head, and formed her big, almond eyes, and drew out her long, slender fingers and toes.  He put His love in her heart and told her she worth it all.



Her birthday will roll around again this year.  She will be more ready for hers after watching Mama, Baba, and all her siblings have cake, open presents, and celebrate.  Indeed, we will celebrate her each and every year, each and every day, and thank the Lord she was born.




Home January 13, 2017

Filed under: Stories — praiseandfireworks @ 12:05 am

For the last few years, I have been part of the trend to pick a word for the year, instead of a resolution.  Most years, God has impressed a word and verse upon my heart.  In 2013, the year we brought MaeMae home, it was Perseverance (Philippians 3:12-14).  We had to persevere through the process to bring her home, persevere through the transition to a family of 6, and persevere through some particularly painful events in other areas of lives.  2014 was Joy (Psalm 28:7).  MaeMae was Li’l Miss Joy, and we praised God for working in other areas of our lives.  Joy comes in the morning.  Proverbs 3:5-6 pervaded my thoughts in 2015 as I sought to Trust.  A paycut had me a little nervous, but little did I know that 8 months after I chose this word, the Lord would be leading us to trust and submit to Him in the adoption of K.  Which brings us to 2017…

I’ve had a song running through my head, well, really a phrase, since the beginning of the year.  Better is one day.  Better is one day in God’s court than a thousand elsewhere; I’d rather be a doorkeeper in His house than be anywhere else (Psalm 84).  You can listen to a song based on these verses below, but when I hear this song, I don’t hear Matt Redman.  I hear a girl  woman, Shaunanda, from the church where Chad was youth pastor singing it.  I wish I had that version…


My word for 2017 is Home:  God’s Home, Our Home, Their Home.  We love our home, but have obviously outgrown it.  We are seeking the Lord in where He wants us to move to or maybe He wants us to stay put in this house and continue making it work.  I always remind myself to be content and that families around the world cram more people into smaller spaces.  So, we are not seeking a house just to have a bigger house, but a little more room would be great for our growing kids.  More than one bathroom would be ideal.  K has equipment she needs to use, but it doesn’t work well in the house we have now.  She has a walker, but she can only go a few steps up and down our little hallway.  I dream about having just a small room where we could put some equipment for her:  exercise balls, tricycle, even a swing.  We are actively looking, if that includes Chad looking on Zillow.  Some houses in our area are selling in two days!  

 My desire is that the Lord will lead us to the house He has in mind for us: a house where we can minister to our family and others, one where K can be active and grow stronger, and one where we can easily live within our means.  I want to be well under what Dave Ramsey says is appropriate, which is a house payment of 25% of your take-home pay; I want well under that 25%!  Seeking this means always keeping in mind where our real home is.  This is only temporary.

In the meantime, organizing our earthly home is constant.  A family member recently asked how we did it with 7 people in our home, and the answer is “Everything has a place and is in its place.”  After Christmas, that meant clearing out space for new toys and buying storage bins for Shopkins (I don’t understand those things, but I love that they are small!).  I have already dropped off things at the Salvation Army and I have another load ready to go.  I keep looking at my corner cabinet filled with crystal nonsense and wonder how much longer I can take looking at it; it needs to go!   Okay, slow down, a little at a time.

There is an ongoing project list in my head regarding the house, so I did set a New Year’s Resolution to mark one thing of that list–clean the oven!  Does anyone else have trouble with this?  I despise using the self-cleaning feature as it makes my whole house smell badly.  Every time I use Easy Off, I forget I sprayed it and then turn the oven on the next morning!  Let me tell you, baking Easy Off puts off horrible fumes, but thankfully, they do not include carbon monoxide.  This time, I used my friend Tracy’s method of oven cleaning and am proud to say I knocked that resolution out on January 3rd! What’s next?

My next resolution regarding “Home” is actually the real reason I am writing today.  Psalm 84:3 says even the sparrow finds a home in God’s house.  I have two little sparrows tucked in my heart and I want them to find a home this year.  Actually there are many, many sparrows, but these two are special to me.  This year is going to be full of advocating for these two precious boys, who happen to be orphans, until they come home.  I know they have a family waiting somewhere, but their family needs to find them.  YOU are going to be seeing and hearing about them at least once a week on my FB page.  Please share their pictures in hopes that their mamas and babas might see their worth and race to bring them home.

When we visited MaeMae’s orphanage, we tried to visit with as many of the children as possible.  One child stuck by my side the entire time and held my hand.


At the time, I had a student that looked similar to this precious boy, and so, I felt a connection automatically.  This picture was taken THREE AND A HALF YEARS AGO.  He is still there, waiting for a family to pick him.  3 1/2 years have gone by as he has watched his friends go home with their forever families.  He is still waiting for his forever.  Because many families visit the orphanage, there is picture after picture of sweet Bryer (the nickname a few moms have given him) growing up on film.  We have learned things about him, more than his file states.  We know this orphanage frequently gives the label “delayed brain development” to the kids.  That may or may not be the case for Bryer.  I have not read his file, but I know he is so much more than a piece of paper.  His greatest need is a mama and baba that will love him .  If you are interested in reviewing his file, you can do that at any time, no strings attached, with our agency. If you have questions about him, please ask me.


Look at those eyes. He needs a Mom and Dad.


Here is a link to our agency’s listing of Bryer (Aiden).  It includes a SMILING  : )

picture and a video.

The other child in my heart is Emerson. The first year we sponsored K, the foster home allowed us to send Christmas gifts to the children.  Of course, we sent K presents, but then I asked if any other children needed anything.  I was “assigned” Emerson.  Off I went to buy boy AND girl clothes and toys. He was frequently in pictures with K, and we commented how they were like siblings.  Little did we know, there were actually “triplets” in the foster home.  K, Emerson, and Stephanie slept in toddler beds pushed together and did school work at the same table.  I am assuming they ate together, too.


Stephanie, Emerson, and K did activities at this table. K’s seat is the empty seat with foam blocks.


The triplet’s beds–we were told they rarely stayed in their own beds.  K’s was the bed on the left.

Emerson is paper ready at this time. That means he has an adoption file and is available to come home to live with his forever family.  I can locate his file and get you started.  I am assuming he has cp like our K.  It may sound scary, but the joy, enthusiasm, intelligence, and love our girl has far outweighs any scariness of a cp diagnosis.  You can read more about Emerson on the foster home’s website, along with the other children there.  Actually, they are all available for adoption at this time, except Stephanie.  We asked the orphanage to please prepare a file for her because we knew a family would adopt her.  Please pray her file is completed soon. She deserves a family.  Below is the link for the foster home information about the children.

You may be asking, “Well, why don’t you bring them HOME if you love them?”  I have sat beside both these boys and held their little hands and the Lord did not say, “This is your son.”  But, we will never say “Never again” to adoption.  Deb, my sister-friend (our friendship has been honed through the fires of adoption journeys), reminded me recently, “You already said ‘Yes'” and that “Yes” doesn’t stop.  This time, though, it is not our turn.  My “YES” to these boys is advocating for them and praying them home.   Would you join me in praying these little sparrows find their nest this year?






Citizenship November 7, 2016

Filed under: Stories — praiseandfireworks @ 12:30 am

About three months after coming home, K received her Certificate of Citizenship in the mail.  Amazingly, she was a citizen as soon as our plane landed in the US, but now she has the parchment to prove it.  The day after her certificate arrived, she completed her first act as a citizen of the US–she prayed for our country.


Our family stood on the capitol’s green with over 8,000 people from our state.  We joined Franklin Graham in praying for our country: for forgiveness of sins, for the courage to get involved, for our presidential candidates and the election, and for God’s Lordship to rule in our hearts.  We felt it was important for us to experience this as a family, so our kids were allowed to miss school.  Will they look back and remember that time we stood in public and prayed to God for our nation?

As we stood with our brothers and sisters in Christ, I thought of our brothers and sisters in Christ across the ocean in MaeMae and K’s birthplace.  When have they been allowed to stand in public and pray to God?  When can they even stand freely in church and pray to God?  In that place, people worship in underground churches under the threat of imprisonment and Bibles are a rare treasure.

A few weeks after receiving her Certificate of Citizenship, K began school.  She is able to go to a local public school and receive three hours of instruction four mornings a week.  Because of our taxpayer dollars, she receives a quality education, along with occupational, speech, and physical therapies.  If we wanted, a bus would come right outside our door, pick her up, and bring her home again.  The staff is required to do what it takes so she can access the same curriculum as every other student.  Her teacher and other staff are excited to have her in class, and we can already tell they are dedicated to helping her be all she can be.


In her birthplace, it is rare that orphans with special needs are allowed to attend school.  In fact, children with special needs are still considered cursed in many cases.  (Follow the link to read an article about an infant with cleft lip that was killed.)

You may shake your head and think, “How can they think a child with a cleft is cursed?”  How different is it here, though?  If an ultrasound is performed and concludes that a baby will have significant needs, women are encouraged to have abortions. Many say these unborn babies do not have constitutional rights and their needs will not allow them to have a happy life. I believe God ordains a life, makes a life, and we are not the ones who decide they are worthy of that life.  Those babies are not cursed, and every one is worthy to be born: alive, loved, and wondrous.  More and more, God is showing me that I cannot only be Pro-Life, but I must be Pro-LIFE, supporting those who have been born in whatever way I can.

Not long after school started, K received something else in the mail–an insurance card.  Our state provides secondary insurance to children with special needs.  When our primary insurance does not cover something related to her cerebral palsy, even charges going towards our deductible, the secondary insurance will cover it.  This is an answer to prayer, as the weekly charge to attend outpatient occupational and physical therapies is $700.  How amazing to have this extra provision! Did you know that in Chin*, patients have to pay up front for medical costs?  If your child has a heart condition that requires surgery, you pay before the surgery.  How is this even possible for families?  It’s not, which is why so many children with special needs are abandoned in *hina.  We are all complaining about astronomical insurance costs here in the States. How long until it reaches a point that families are abandoning their children in order to save their lives?  It happens every day in *hina; may it never happen here.

K has her citizenship, for which we are so thankful.  We are afforded many wonderful things by living in this country, and most we take for granted.  May we not take for granted the privilege to pray in public, to worship freely, to attend school, and to obtain healthcare.  And above all, may we recognize that our true citizenship is in Heaven and live in a way that shows others the way there.



Victories, Every One October 4, 2016

Filed under: Stories — praiseandfireworks @ 11:20 pm

Friday marks THREE MONTHS since K has been home.  Three months!  I can’t believe it! Here’s a summary of her three months home. The first month was spent settling in and learning what it means to be a part of our family.  The next month was filled with doctors’ appointments, evaluations, and procedures.  The third month has involved establishing a routine and winning little victories, each one important. It reminds me of a Rend Collective song that I’d like to share with you.  It’s been a while, so listen…

Love cannot be tamed / You shatter every chain / Let our praises run wild and free / Your lion heart is alive in me / Let our freedom and joy begin / With You we’re dancing upon our chains / With You we’re soaring on eagles’ wings /

You made us for so much more

Kristiana is showing us every day that God made her for His glory. She is shattering expectations, basking in His freedom, and spreading joy wherever she goes.  Here’s how:


K drinks great out of an open cup, but she can’t grasp it.  I had been hesitant to buy much for K, not knowing what PT and OT might suggest.  But, I finally bought a cup with handles.    The handles worked great!  I also let her try sister’s water bottle and then bought her one like it.  It has a loop that attaches the top; she hooks her finger through the loop and gets it to her mouth.  K has never asked for a drink other than when we are at the table, so I have been trying to give her the cup and water bottle more.  She drained the ten-ounce water bottle so quickly the first time.  Between being thirsty and excited about her accomplishment, K has rapidly increased her liquid intake.


I can drink by myself!

After the positive swallow study results, we have been allowing her to feed herself more.  In the last few weeks, she has fed herself whole meals!  Sometimes we help her load her utensil, but other than that, she is doing it!  With practice, it is amazing how much quicker and more accurate she has become compared to three months ago.  I am so glad we fed her the first 2 1/2 months for attachment reasons, and we still feed her some daily, but it is nice for her to have some independence!


Picking up raisins and working on that pincer grasp


Chad was recently out of town, so of course,  K was in my bed.  Somehow she stayed asleep when I got up with the alarm.  One of us is usually still in the room when she wakes up so she is not alone.   On this day, I couldn’t wait for her to wake up, so I was listening for her very closely. Normally she either has a pitiful, quiet whimper when she wakes up  or goes straight to a hyperventilating panicked cry, snubbing and all.   Imagine my surprise when I heard a crystal clear, “MOMMA” not once but TWICE!  StP and I ran to the bed and she was leaning up and smiling, no tears.

In the past few weeks, she has been spitting out words spontaneously:  get in car, book, bus, again, okay, diaper, CHOCOLATE.  She is going to be talking, just listen.


MOMMA and Kristiana after her first Happy Meal…She liked it.


Finally…FINALLY, we had her physical therapy and occupational therapy evaluations. Finally, she has started therapy. During her first therapy appointment, the therapist was showing Chad and me how to do stretches with her.  First she had Kristiana on the floor and her feet were against the therapist’s legs.  Kristiana loves to kick the wall, a chair, the tub, anything; for the noise, I think.  Well, she started kicking the therapist and Miss Becky told her “No” in a very stern voice.  Kristiana complied.  After that, Miss Becky did a stretch that was very painful for Kristiana (she’s never done stretches before).  I could see the thoughts running through Kristiana’s head after this.  She knew she couldn’t kick her again, so she turned her head and acted like she was going to LICK HER.  Krisitana loves to give kisses to us, but sometimes will stick out her tongue instead.  She thinks it is hilarious, but we have taught her licking is not acceptable.  I know she was thinking, “If I can’t kick this lady, I will do the next naughtiest thing I know to do…lick her!”  I did tell her to stop, but I also chuckled because it was the first time she was naughty with us.

Now we have a routine of stretches to do with Little One twice a day.  Some days it is very easy for her, and other days her muscles are tight and we can tell it hurts.  She will stick her bottom lip out and wrinkle up her chin, but she rarely sheds a tear.  I can see the tears coming and will tell her, “Just one more,” to which she responds, “Okay.”  We try to distract her with music, short videos, and sibling antics, but overall she complies easily.  Such a brave, determined Little One we have.


With the siblings off to school, Little One has quickly learned I am not as exciting of a playmate.  It is amazing to see her playing and moving by herself, though.  She crawls all over the place and then will play leaned on one arm with the rest of her body laying on the floor.  This month she has started crawling to couch, putting toys on it, and then will STAND UP TO PLAY.  One day I was cleaning up the kitchen and came around the corner to see her sitting up independently against the couch.  Getting into a sitting position independently was huge for her.  She is moving and grooving!  She is also engaging in imaginative play, making noises when driving or flying toys, and making her precious Barbies “talk.”  She’ll hold a toy phone and call Baba or Papaw.  Playing tea party is her absolute favorite.

Although many children who have lived in institutions have sensory issues, Kristiana appears to have none.  I wanted to make her some sensory boxes, anyway, so she can work on her fine motor skills.  With the kids back at school, the time had come.  The Dollar Tree was my inspiration.  Last week I gave her three bags of pom-poms and erasers shaped like cars and trucks.  I thought maybe she would play for fifteen minutes or so.  AN HOUR AND HALF!  She sat in her high chair for an hour and a half putting pom-poms in a bowl, digging out the erasers, scooping pom-poms with a spoon, and driving the erasers.  I asked her several times if she was done, but she would shake her head “no” and keep playing.  Now before you think too highly of me as a parent, I was cleaning the bathroom during this time (the highchair was in the doorway) and then I got to clean the kitchen, too.  It was a win-win for both of us:  sensory/play time for her; cleaning time for Momma.


Who knew pom-poms could be so fun?


The team that did Little One’s evaluation is not the team that will actually make a placement decision for Kristiana.  Over the last few weeks, we have had several in-depth conversations with the school psychologist about K’s needs and our desires for her.  Basically, our choices come down to putting her into an award-winning specialized day school for students with multiple disabilities or a special education classroom in a local elementary school.  Each placement has its pros and cons, but our ultimate goal is for her to be in her neighborhood school learning with her peers and using whatever accommodations she needs to make it possible.  How do we get her there?  The psychologist, who had never met Kristiana, was hesitant that the local school could handle her needs.  She suggested we visit both programs and bring Kristiana so they could meet her.  We started with the classroom in the local school.

Remember the song you listened to above?  Well, Kristiana took off her chains during the visit and danced her way into their hearts.  We first met with the speech-language pathologist.  After being shown once how to operate the toys, little K did it correctly.  Understanding cause and effect–check.  She tried her best to imitate the SLP. Word approximation–check.  She paid attention and followed directions.  Understanding of English–check.

Then we went to the classroom.  Can she sit in a chair?  Check.  Can she attend during circle time?  Check.  Can she match objects to a picture?  Check.  I think they may have stood with their mouths open in surprise, but Kristiana is so cute and joy-filled, all they could do was smile.

It just so happened that the OT and PT were there that day, AND the PT had equipment in her car.  So, the team decided to bring some in and try it.  They strapped K into a walker and off she went!  She reminded me of a ball in a pinball machine, running into every  piece of furniture in the room.  The students were in the library during this time, so all six adults stood and watched her, saying, “Watch out!  Don’t run into the table/chair/bookcase!”  She threw her head back, laughing, and by her second time around the room had learned to “steer.”  The PT said, “I think we have a walker here.”

It was so good to hear someone say that.  The doctors have said, “Maybe she’ll walk, but she’ll probably need a wheelchair.”  I have been too scared to hope that she will walk and talk.  She’s not scared, though.   She’s breaking chains and she’s going to be soaring, all for His glory.

(Oh, and we have not had the IEP meeting yet, but they gave us enrollment forms for the local elementary school and the teacher asked if she got to keep Kristiana for the two years before kindergarten.)


Look at that perfect little face!





A Week Off and a Bathtub Miracle September 16, 2016

Filed under: Stories — praiseandfireworks @ 12:05 am

The pediatrician (x2), an ophthalmologist, school social worker, the preschool evaluation team, a neurologist, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician, an orthopedic surgeon, occupational and physical therapists, and the dentist:  those are the specialists we have visited in the last month with Kristiana.  She has undergone a sedated MRI, EEG, extensive blood work, and swallow study.  We also have a referral to see a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor and have an appointment to get orthotics for her feet and legs.  We have been busy.

It took a while for the referrals and appointments to be made, but during August, we covered a lot of territory!  Add to that getting the other children ready to start school, as well as eye doctor, orthodonist, ENT, and cleft clinic visits for them.  Through it all, Little One has maintained her joy, even laughing after getting 8 vials of blood taken (well, after she gave the nurse a pitiful look).

Chad has been preaching through the book of Mark.  A few weeks ago, he said something that really hit me.  When talking about Mark 8, he mentioned the suffering Jesus knew He would endure.  Jesus was preparing His disciples for what was to come, although they didn’t believe Him or understand Him.  Jesus knew what was coming, though, and even sweated drops of blood in anticipation of the event.  The journey  to the cross and the grave would be excruciating, but He held the destination in mind.  He held us in mind.  So, think about this…


Don’t delay starting for the destination JESUS called you to because you are scared of the JOURNEY.

Although not comparable to what Jesus endured, for the last few months, I have been treading through so much fear.  The actual getting on a plane to go to Ecuador and Ch*na was ridiculously difficult for me.  Once I started worrying about the plane crashing into a mountain in Ecuador, my mind traipsed into all kinds of dangerous places. It seemed I couldn’t take my thoughts captive and they were paralyzing me.  God carried me through the plane journeys (including a cancelled flight due to malfunctioning EMERGENCY BRAKES!), and the destinations were filled with blessings and joy and love and purpose.  My lovely friend, Audrey S., reminded me of this the third day we were in Chin*:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10

Thank you for reminding me, Audrey, that I was right where I was supposed to be.

I believe God put the destination of Kristiana right in our pathway.  I am so thankful the journey did not scare us out of saying “Yes” to this precious child.  Looking at her all beautiful and joy-filled, I wonder how I got the privilege of mothering her.  The journey we are on now with her is going to be filled with doctor’s appointments, loads of therapy, fights for her rights, and unknowns.  The destination of seeing her understand that she is loved by us and the King of Kings is worth it.


Helping with yardwork

Our Week Off!

We had a week off from appointments (which means those listed occured during three weeks!).  That called for some fun, fun, fun!  Unfortunately, StP started school earlier than the rest of the kids.  This prompted MaeMae to suggest we have Sisters’ Fun Day.  When questioned what this would entail, she responded, “We would go to Chuck E. Cheese, go to the store and buy panties and Barbies, go on a picnic, and watch a movie at home.”  She had it all planned out!  Since I am the mother, I got to revise her plans:  uh, no to Chuck E. Cheese.  I asked MaeMae about the other brother, since he was not in school yet.  She said he could come on our Sisters’ Fun Day, too.  Not to be left at home, Buddy accompanied us.


Look at Kristiana’s excitement!  She was holding a box of seven Barbies, which we didn’t buy, but she was content with her one.


Buddy accompanied us to lunch on Sisters’ Fun Day.  He actually didn’t sit alone since his dad joined us for lunch, too.


I’m telling you, Sam’s hot dogs and pretzels are really, really good.

Unfortunately, it was raining, so no picnic.  Instead, we opted for hot dogs, soft pretzels, frozen yogurt, and gigantic drinks at Sam’s Club (Hey, it’s budget-friendly: we all ate  for under $15!).  Kristiana loves playing Barbies!  Chickadee says she mostly swings them by their hair and gives them kisses.  She was so excited to pick out her first Barbie, a veterinarian.  We did get to buy panties, too, and Buddy stayed in a different aisle during this part of Sisters’ Fun Day!   Overall, our day was a blast and should become an annual tradition.

The next day we got to babysit two friends, also adopted from Chin*.  I shouldn’t say “babysit” because they are both teenagers!  During the day, hearing them play together with my children, I felt so amazed…amazed that God would bring together kids from the East and the West to be friends, to enjoy life together, to encourage one another, and to love each other.


Look what God brought together.

We ended our week off with a visit from dear friends (Terry and Chad have been friends since 6th grade!)  They are members of the FIVE KIDS CLUB, too, and so we squeezed 14 people into our little bitty house and had a blast.  I feel so over-indulgent because we introduced them to Sherman’s Ice Cream, which means I had Sherman’s three times in one summer.  So, so good.


Two families.  Ten kids.  Blessed quivers.

A Bathtub Miracle

Giving Kristiana a bath has been challenging.  She can sit up with support, but when she is all wet in a slippery bathtub, this is nearly impossible.  I cannot hold her and give her a bath; there just aren’t enough hands for holding and washing.  So, I have been donning my bathing suit and getting in with her.  This allows for fun play time, but is not always practical.  When we were first home, DH made her a bath seat from pvc pipe and pool noodles.  She sat in it beautifully and we thought we had a cheap solution, until it started floating with her in it!  She is so tiny, she couldn’t hold it down.  Someone suggested using a toddler sled, the kind with a seat and buckle.  It seemed like a perfect solution, so we borrowed one from a friend.  Unfortunately, the back was too low and she started sliding down.  The seat belt was a lap belt, so when she slid down, it got caught under her ribs.  The belt was very tight and I was so scared I was going to break her ribs trying to get my fingers under it to unfasten it.

 One day, Chickadee mentioned how well K sat in her booster seat at the table and asked why didn’t we try that in the tub.  We sat her in it and it worked!  No sliding down!  No floating!  No need to fasten the seatbelt!  Only splashing, playing, washing, and momma not getting wet!  Kristiana got to have her first bubble bath and she loves it.  When I ask if she is ready to get out, she always answers, “No.”  A miracle. Seriously, thank you, Jesus!


If you have read this far, you deserve some results!  Here we go…

MRI–Kristiana has cp because she experienced a lack of oxygen before, during, or shortly after birth.  No surprises here.

EEG–No seizures!

Swallow Study–She has no restrictions!

Blood Work–No concerns!  She is up-to-date on all her immunizations, even though we received paperwork from Chin* saying she had been given none because she has cp.

Orthopedic Surgeon–No hip dysplasia or anything concerning!

Dentist–No cavities, just tea stains!

School–Eval done but no IEP meeting yet.

Physicians’ Consenus–She is a joy-filled girl who needs therapy!


Praise the Lord with us that there were no hidden diagnoses and our girl is healthy.  So, off we go on our journey to therapy and learning and growing and being amazing, one step at a time until we get to our destination.


Firsts are Firsts August 7, 2016

Filed under: Stories — praiseandfireworks @ 11:26 pm

Kristiana has had many firsts, just like any child.  However, only a few have been with us.  Her first time rolling over, her first time giggling, her first time crawling, and her first tooth coming in were all witnessed by someone else.  It could be easy to dwell on this and mourn all the time we have lost with her. Instead, I hope her biological family experienced joy when she accomplished new things, and I know the folks at New Day treasured and celebrated each “first” (She even won the Most Progress Award one month at New Day.  We have the certificate!).

Home now for one month, Kristiana has experienced doing many things for the first time with us, and we are celebrating each thing!  How about making a cake?  As you can see below, she enjoyed baking a chocolate zucchini cake with Momma.  This was one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten and the best spatula she ever licked!


She helped add all the ingredients and then stirred! stirred! stirred!


Who needs to lick when you can just sluuuuurp?



Is that cake done yet?

We are learning some great things about Kristiana.  How about a Top Ten list?

In no particular order…

  1.  She is working hard on saying, “I love you.”  Each time we say, “I love you,” she puckers up her lips for a kiss.  Occasionally, she will stick out her tongue at the last second and give us a very slobbery kiss and then laugh and laugh.
  2. She is a great sleeper!  She usually goes to sleep within 5 minutes.  Right now she is in a toddler bed in our room and then in our bed whenever she wakes up in the night.  She has the quietest, yet most mournful cry when she wakes up in the night so I scoop her up and put her into the bed with us.  How many nights did she cry and no one came?  Never again.
  3. Kristiana responds to her Chinese name AND her American name. After months of discussion about her nickname, we realized (Hellllllll-O!) that the perfect nickname is her Chinese name.  It’s easy to say, cute, and means “Sweet.”  She also knows when we write  her name and points to herself.
  4. Little One loves to color, draw, and put stickers on paper.  She enjoys playing babies and with the toy kitchen.   Taking objects, like toy animals, out of a container and putting them back is a big delight (also delights MaeMae since K thinks putting away toys is fun).  She doesn’t mind getting her hands into things like fingerpaint, play-doh, and sand, so we haven’t noticed any real sensory concerns yet.  Two of my favorite parts of the day are our story times before naptime and bedtime when my two littlest sit in my lap and we read, read, read.
  5. Independence is something she strives for and she is determined.  Due to her cp, feeding herself is not easy.  We often feed her for three reasons:  it builds attachment and trust and is faster and neater.  But, I try to let her feed herself one meal or part of a meal a day. She feeds herself snacks, too.  If I try to take the fork from her to load food, she will pound her little chest and shake her head No, meaning, in the voice of the Little Red Hen, “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!”  The other children all help to feed her, too, without me even asking.
  6. She knows her family.  If she sees a sibling or, especially, her Baba across the room at church, she squeals and kicks her legs.  We have been out and about, but no one outside the family has held her except for two people, and the whole time, she was looking at me and signing and saying, “Mama.”  “Yes, child, I am your Mama and you are mine…forever.”  Her siblings love her and love helping her.  They have taken it upon themselves to do “therapy.”  Buddy practices walking with her, Chickadee helps her stand independently, StP helps her practice her balancing skills as he totes her through the house, and MaeMae works on pretend play with her.
  7. She communicates.  So many people have asked how many words she can say and I honestly don’t know.  So many sound the same, but we know what she is trying to utter.  She learns new signs quickly, but she uses modified signs because of her finger movements.  She has incredible body language.
  8. Kristiana wakes up with a smile EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.  Usually with her nose almost against mine.  Why can’t we all wake up like that?
  9. Remember when the orphanage workers told us that WE could work on potty training?  Well, she can poop on the potty!  It is very evident when she is having a bm, so Chad will put her on the potty and most of the time she will go.  She will not go for Mom, so Dad has potty duty : ) Of course, we have to put her on the potty and help her sit there, but it’s one less dirty diaper to change!
  10. She has special needs, but really she is just special.  God is going to do amazing things with her life, and she will bring Him glory. This week marks the beginning of many appointments with specialists.  We are eager to hear what the neurologist, ophthalmologist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist recommend.  There are many things she could do or do better with correct positioning or equipment or increased strength.  Mostly we just need education and advice.  Here is why.

I disagree with the saying that having a child changes everything.  I think it may change how you do some things, but it doesn’t have to change EVERYthing.  Likewise, having a child with special needs will change how you do some things.  THIS is a learning process and we are just at the beginning.  Thankfully, I can laugh at myself and Kristiana giggles, too.  Here is an example.

I took K to the hospital for her bloodwork by myself. On the way there, I realized I had forgotten to go the bathroom at home and I have the smallest bladder God ever made.  I started to panic.  How was I going to go to the bathroom with a four-year-old that can’t stand up independently?  There was no way I could lie her on the contaminated floor in the hospital bathroom.  Then, a lightbulb came on—I have a stroller!  That’s what strollers are for!  Strollers are used to contain small children so parents can go to the bathroom in a public place!  Good thing we keep our stroller in the back of the van.

Except the stroller wasn’t in the back of the van.  DH had removed it for a youth trip and didn’t put it back.  Of course, we were at the hospital for an hour and a half and I HAD TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.  And, I managed to do it!  She leaned against me, I shimmied and swayed, and that’s all the information I will give you.

There will be more occasions, much more important than a trip to the bathroom, that will require accommodations, ingenuity, and a sweet hour of prayer.   One day at a time, that is where we are now.  May we be present, enjoying all the firsts, and give glory to the One who made her.





Sunset and Moonrise July 26, 2016

Filed under: Stories — praiseandfireworks @ 11:58 pm

I took no time for introspection or contemplation on my thirtieth fortieth birthday (Wait, how old am I?).  For the past several months, I have been consumed with completing adoption paperwork, grant applications, and an online auction.  Those activities provided plenty of time for introspection and contemplation (For example:  What is my worldview?  How do I describe my parenting style?  Who is God?).  My birthday provided time for sitting still, being present with my family, and marveling at God’s creation.


This beach is definitely one of God’s best creations.

Even though we took five children to the beach, there was much sitting…hallelujah!  Kristiana enjoyed herself immensely.  At first, she wasn’t so sure about the sand.  The children were all trying to be the first to put her little feet in the sand.  I wanted to be the first to put her feet in the sand, too.  However, Buddy beat us all, grabbed her up from the picnic table, and off they went.  It took her a while, but by the end of the night, she was digging those pudgy little fingers in!


She loved using the shovel and rake to dig in the sand.  I filled up a bucket with sand, and she used the shovel to empty it three times.


The water coming up on her feet sure made her giggle!


We stayed until after sunset (it’s setting in the picture above).  Little One has done great on her first few outings since being home; this was the biggest outing.  For the most part, we are staying home and just trying to get to know her and show her what it is to be a family.  She keeps surprising us at how easygoing and happy she is.

I will be writing more about Kristiana and her development in the next few weeks.  We have a screening for school and a doctor’s appointment to review the results from blood tests on EIGHT vials of blood this week.  After that will be appointments with specialists and therapists.  Regardless of what they say, we know she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  What a joy God has placed in our family.

We ended the night with the moonrise and really good ice cream cones.  The children and Chad all got baby scoops and I treated myself to a waffle cone with a quart of ice cream inside (or something like that).  It wasn’t a surprise party, a dinner in a rented hall, or a dance with balloons, but it was an amazing 4oth birthday…  just what I wanted.  Oh, and for those of you who have donated to Denise’s birthday wish, “THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!”


No, I didn’t eat it all!  I shared it with MaeMae, Kristiana, AND Chad.


The moonrise–a perfect ending to a perfect birthday.