Monday, July 16, 2012

Sunday Snapshot

It has been awhile since I have done a Sunday Snapshot. The rules have changed but only to make it even better and to stretch our photography skills even farther. I chose this photo because I love it. Everything about it but most of all, the meaning behind it.

My sorority sisters from, let's just say, a few years back sneaked and planned and plotted a celebration of epic proportions to welcome the new boys to our family. By this point (and honestly way earlier in the evening), Joe was overwhelmed by the chanting, yelling, singing, hugging, loving, belly flop contest winning sisters of Sigma K. While he sat on the deck above, Leon and I managed to win a dancing contest against Russ, Robbie and Sam hosted by none other than Elvis himself. It was an amazing night filled with love and laughter. Welcome to America, son. Thank you. Thank you very much.


I took this with my Nikon D7000 and my 50mm 1.8 lens. My settings were ISO 640, f/4, 1/100. The day was overcast and the lighting was good so minimal editing in LR was needed. I felt like this day was a stretch for my photography skills because I wanted to enjoy the day, there was a ton of action, the lighting was constantly changing and I had to adjust where I stood with my fixed lens depending on the number of people in each shot all while manually adjusting all of my settings.

Ni Hao Yall

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Nine. Nine Saturdays ago.

Thursday, July 5th was two months from Saturday, May 5th, the day they landed in the U.S.

But as Joe emphatically pointed out to me - it couldn't really be two months because it was a Thursday. They came to the U.S. on a Saturday.

Duh, Mom! (He didn't really say it but I know he was thinking it.) He said, "Thursday, tomorrow, tomorrow.. 2 months," which in 'Joe Speak' means Thursday + one day + one day = 2 months.

And on that note, I will tell you a little bit more about this son we like to call "Joe."

And sometimes we like to call "OCD Joe."

He is delightful. Full of pure unadulterated JOY! A total kid at heart. He squeals like a little girl in all his 5'7" glory. When he smiles, his eyes crinkle into tiny crescents and his dimples go on for miles. This boy will stick his arm up to the shoulder into a ghost crab hole on the beach and come out holding one. He will impulsively chase a sting ray out to sea while his freaked out American mama calls his name over the ocean waves. He will also be rendered unable to move by the lick of a dog on his hand, a dog hair on his shirt or by stepping on a drop of water with his sock on. A splinter will cause him to revert to a toddler like state, but he can haul a wheelbarrow full of rocks for an hour straight (but his dirty shirt will require an immediate change and some consoling from his mama). I love the complexity of this child... How he contradicts his maturity with his child-like nature. It is humbling to watch and be a part of it all.

He wants to be with his mama every second. He hates to shop but insists on going with me. But when he is ready to go, he will say "GO!" and head the buggy toward the check out whether you are ready to go or not. I tell him that we eat a lot so we shop a lot (though I am not sure hitting the grocery store 1-2x per week and the whole foods store 2x per month is a lot, but apparently it is for him). Food spoils if you buy too much at once, but I am not sure he gets this because he is still looking for "Chinese vegetable" that we bought at the Asian market over a month ago but never cooked. When I am in my room working on my volunteer job, he is laying across my bed staring at me or playing a computer game. If I have to run an errand, he is in my car as soon as I crank it. When I take the dog out, he is hot on my tail. Do not get me wrong - I am not complaining. Just informin'.

He is loving. Like ~alloverya~ loving. Five minute hugs are the norm. He loves to grasp your hand and lean on your shoulder. "I love you vewy much" are words we hear all throughout the day. He loves to pat you when you hug him goodnight. And you better set aside a good 10-15 minutes to say goodnight. There is a lot of lovin' and a lot of gigglin' that has to happen. He craves affection and we are delighted to oblige.

He is constantly sharing his life in China with us. From finding past pictures on the internet to telling us about all of his friends to showing us pictures of all of his adventures around Guangzhou (thanks to a wealthy man with a heart for the local orphans). He even found a picture of when he spent 3 months in a monastery with his friends. That one was a total shock, I tell ya. His. head. was. shaved. He has shared his heartbreaking tale of loss in great detail and more details unfold each time he tells it to us. We know all about his friends and his teachers and his ayis. The auntie who took care of his chicken pox (Which initially translated as "giving birth to water pox." Phew. Glad we got that straightened out). The teacher who at first only saw him as an angry young boy but who took time to look deeper and discover who he really was. The friends who have come to the U.S. before him and the ones who are left behind. He is so open about all of his life. And we are open to hear it.

He is also loving to our dogs and his siblings and his grandparents and his cousins... He is quick to apologize when his childish nature goes too far. He is pretty mischevious but reins it in when needed. He is stubborn. He is moody. And the boy can pout. and pout. and pout. and pout some more. But he always comes around with apologies and more hugs. He shares everything he has and always insists that we have some of his food or drink.

He is fanatical about washing his hands (not saying it like it is a bad thing). He loads the conveyer belt at the grocery story EXACTLY the way I would. (God knew what He was doing). Of course, at this point, I need his help because I am hobbling around with run over toesies since he insists on pushing the buggy and I wear flip flops everywhere I go. You do the math. And I am sorry to anyone who shops at my grocery store because he touches every. piece. of fruit and most vegetables in the produce section. But it is okay - because, I promise you, he has just washed his hands...

He unloads the car and puts the groceries away without being told. He takes out the trash.
..without being asked..
To his future wife: You are welcome.
I can't really take the credit. But I'm gonna.

((I am inserting my disclaimer here... I am thrilled to be this boy's mama. It is an honor and a privilege. So many people have asked for the real story. The real truths behind older child adoption and transition. I will be honest. I will answer any question. Please know my heart. Anyone who knows me knows that I love this boy with every fiber of my being. That in a perfect world, he would live a long and happy life with his Chinese parents, but in the absence of that world, I am blessed beyond measure to be his mom. There is a fine line between protecting this life experience and the brave child behind it and being honest so that others that go after me are prepared and those who are praying for direction in this matter have a realistic view of what can and does happen. There. I feel better.))

Did I mention that he is stubborn? Yea, that. Food is a real issue. He wants me to cook exactly the way he was cooked for before. We don't like American potatoes. And by "We" I mean Joe. Actually he is becoming okay with them but they aren't Chinese potatoes, just like American coconut milk is not like Chinese coconut milk... Shall I go on?? Meat (beef) is gross. So gross in fact, it comes with wretching noises and hand motions. Umm, I faintly remember choosing not to eat meat that I could not identify in China and I probably made some wretching noises too, but that is another story entirely.  On a side note, I wonder what he thinks that lumpy stuff is in my spaghetti that he devours (sshhh... no one tell him it's ground beef). Everything was better in China. And you know what? To him, it was. Is. Because when I was in China, I remember thinking that everything was better in America. And for me, I was right. For him, he is right. He is not rude or ugly about it, just matter of fact. If he thought for a second that it hurt our feelings (and by the way, it doesn't), he wouldn't say it. He has never had a mama to tell him to eat all of his dinner or not to tell someone that you don't like their food or if you are going to order a nice dinner in a restaurant, you better plan on finishing it... He is gonna be a food hold-out for awhile now, I think. But at the end of the day, he loves to eat healthy so it is not like he is refusing to eat his veggies. When I showed him that all of his favorite Chinese foods had monosodium glutamate as like the third ingredient and showed him what it was, he said that he wants to eat healthy and doesn't want to eat it. He loves fruit. Like will bankrupt the grocery budget with his fruit eating self. He loves chicken noodle soup. Likes noodles for breakfast. No sweets. But he does love egg custard pie. Just. like. his. mama. He and I can put away some egg custard pie (he always offers me the first piece too). We have had some real dark moments concerning food. Often at restaurants spilling into the aftermath at home. Thankfully, with the help from some friends who speak his language and some silly American parenting charades, I think he is learning what we find acceptable and what we do not find acceptable. You would think it was obvious but older child adoption parenting is way different than American teenager parenting and things just aren't always as straightforward as one would assume. Oh, and if he ever asks you to order him a hamburger, he means a chicken sandwich. Make a note of it.

He grieves. Hard. Tears. Sobs. Breakdowns. His body fails him. His heart fails him. His words fail him. He is always accepting of our comfort, but not always the minute we try to give it. A child who loves passionately also grieves passionately. He loves us. He has attached to us 2000%. It is more than we could have ever dreamed and I think the feeling is mutual. But it does not take away the pain. It does not take away the loss. No matter how hard he grieves and how much he shuts us out (though never for very long), we always tell him that we are proud of him and that he is so very brave. He, without fail, tells us "Very, very, very thank you." Unconditional love. We all need it. We do not always like the behavior, but we always like the boy. And I could say that about each and every one of my boys. Miss Emma too. And we could all say it about each other. How thankful I am that my Lord above feels the same way! 

This young boy basically raised himself. Made a family out of friends and adults along his journey. He pleaded for a family. Gave his name out to moms when they came to adopt his friends. He asked them to help him find his family. He was ready to come to America. He is so happy, but he grieves that it is not like China here. No matter how prepared he was to come here and no matter how much this was something he so desperately wanted, nothing could prepare him for the unknown reality that awaited him.

He is so very caring. He has a servant's heart. He was regularly given a small amount of money from his orphanage and a little more from the wealthy gentleman who cared for the orphans. He often bought milk for the children at the SWI and donated what he had saved back to them when he came to the U.S.  You can't teach that. Especially not in the setting he grew up in. He is good down to his core.

Did I mention he knows Jesus? He shared that with us when he unpacked his belongings and showed us a worn out Bible. He held his arms outstretched like a cross and then patted his heart. Every Saturday, a group came to the orphanage and read Bible Stories. He is so proud of this. He pulled out 2 cross necklaces. Gave one to his brother, Robbie and the other one is hanging in our kitchen. I told him that he should share some of those stories with Leon, who has never heard of Jesus. He is very excited to share the good news.

Most days are happy. Wonderful. Seriously - I could pinch myself wondering if it was a dream, things are that good. But there are not so good days. Thankfully, they are short lived and are lessening in frequency. I have cried my share of tears alongside this precious young man. I cry for him, with him and, admittedly, for myself. Some days are just hard. Much harder for him than for me, though. I have also cried when he shared the innermost details of the numerous losses he has lived through in his short life. He, however, does not cry and motions that he has left all of that behind. He does not grieve so much over the loss of his biological parents as much as the loss of the family he made for himself over the years while waiting for his forever family to come for him. The loss of his culture and his food and, I am sure to some extent, his independence. He is very obedient. He respects me when I tell him that we do not allow him to watch Rated R movies and play M for Mature games, even though he has seen them and played them before coming here. The memory of the look on his face when I mentioned he needed a helmet for riding a bike or a ripstick still makes me giggle. In his mind, his birth country was amazing. And I hope he always remembers it that way. I want him to embrace America as his new country. He chose to come to America. He asked to be adopted by an American family. Agreed to be placed on the list for international adoption. He said "Yes" when we came forward as his family and said "Yes" after spending the standard bonding period with his new family. There is no question he was ready, willing and able to become an American. But the food is different. The smells are different. The people look different. Every printed word and auditory sound is different. It's an adjustment. And I am so very proud of him. He is used to wandering the streets of his city alone, but he has never stepped foot outside this house without asking. He is used to putting himself to bed every night but he lavishes us with affection and laughter every night now. He pulls out a notebook that a friend wrote for him to learn English and studies it. He sometimes gets frustrated when all the voices around him are speaking English and we are so thankful that by bringing Leon home too, they can speak to each other when it just gets to be too much. He uses the translator on his iTouch skillfully and when we just can't figure it out, he always says, "Call Chinese Teacher." He is patient with me and giggles when I try to say the Chinese words he says.

He is precise. Detail oriented. If we say we are leaving at 4pm, we better be walking out the door at 4pm. There are no estimates, no sudden adjustments. There is no leaving when we are done, whenever that might be. Jack was at a friend's house the other day and due to be back at a certain time, but they made a stop on the way home so their plans changed. Obviously not a problem but the first thing I thought of was, "How am I going to explain this to Joe??" He wouldn't be upset, just concerned or questioning why things would not go as planned. He had previously asked no less than 6 times when Jack would be home. If the kids spend the night away, he counts when they will be back by counting "tomorrows." It is important to him. Hopefully, some flexibility and some gray areas will come soon. Dude is fairly black or white right now. I think there is reassurance in knowing when your family will be back... when we will all be together again.

Nothing passes his notice. From a balloon flying through the sky to a bird's nest hidden deep down in a tree... he notices it. He is full of curiosity. If there is a change in the routine, he notices. When he first came home, we started the week off with Russ at work and the kids at school. When the following Saturday rolled around, he was full of questions. He counted the days of the week on his fingers and made a mental note of the weekend. We have started using a dry erase board calendar. It has been really helpful in preparing him for any changes in routine. He knows when to expect an upcoming dentist appointment, English lesson, camp for one of the kids, etc.. We cross off the days as they pass and use it to learn about months, days of the week and numbers. It is kinda fun having "Calendar Time" with middle school age kids. Joe always makes me laugh when he says the days of the week (though he does a way better job saying that English days of the week than I would saying them in Chinese, I can promise you that). He says, "Oneday, Twosday, Threesday, Foursday, Fivesday..." 

This boy lives life with gusto. He loves to cook. He will be silly and sing until he remembers that he thinks he should be embarassed (I can't imagine that in this house) and then he will get that shy smile and say, "No no no!" He will take embarassing photos of us then run them through Fat Booth and laugh for hours at us, but will grab your camera and erase any pictures of him that he doesn't like. He loves Justin Beiber and is drawn to anything with weapons. He loves a #4 with fruit cup and a chocolate shake at Chick Fil A. He has gorgeous handwriting. His smile lights up a room. Physically, he is exquisite. From his hair to his smile to his muscles to his skin to his nicely groomed hands and feet. He is a beautiful person - inside and out. We thank God every day for bringing this child into our life. He is our son and we are so proud to be his parents.

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.
Psalms 68:5-6

Friday, July 6, 2012


How has it been two whole months since their plane landed? How has it been two whole months since our family waited with anticipation at the top of the escalators to welcome our sons/brothers home? How has it been two whole months since I first laid eyes on the two sweet faces that were on my heart night and day? ...since I first hugged them? ...since they first walked through the door to their new home, their new family, their new life?? Two months! And what an amazing two months it has been. Ups - Definitely! Downs - Of course! Two months of firsts. For all of us. Immeasurable love. Immeasurable trials. Immeasurable blessings.

May 5th

July 5th

The Lord bless you
and keep you; 
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you; 
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

Our Story

Before we get started with the rest of our story, go and read our travel journal that chronicles the Journey to Joe and Leon. We hope that you are blessed with how God worked a miracle in our family. Start at the beginning and enjoy the ride.

For with God nothing will be impossible. Luke 1:37

Monday, March 26, 2012

I know.. I know.. It's been a while...

I had the best of intentions to post more often. I always have so much to share. Bloggger does not always cooperate, and I guess I give up too easy. I will try harder. I promise.
Let's see... What have we been up to since I last posted?? Well, we talked about the adoption of Joe... Then there was that huge blessing that I referred to. It was a new house. Well, not new-new, but new to us. I thought I would miss my old house and cry every day. I was wrong. God was faithful. Our new house has been Home since day one. I do miss living so close to my mom and dad. That we all really do miss. But the new house is more than we could dream. Such a blessing straight from God. His provision and timing is always perfect. The hard part is waiting on Him. We still drive home every day and say, "I can't believe I live here." Not because of the grandeur but because of the provision of our precious Lord. He is always faithful. We have been here for several months and we are still so grateful. What a blessing to have a home that fits your family perfectly without having to adjust your budget. And God had even more blessings in store. The most recent of which is our decision to step - no, JUMP - out on faith and race to adopt precious Leon in addition to our sweet son, Joe. Well, how is that for a quick little "catch up" post??
Decision to adopt Joe - check.
New house - check.
Decision to adopt Leon - check.
Add in some holidays, some amazing family memories and some great kids and we are all caught up!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Snapshot: Pink Piggie

Emma and I worked in her room today. We got her closet all ready for the cool, fall weather that is moving in. We also dusted and vacuumed and straightened up...a bit. Little Miss Emmie has become quite the Little Miss Piggie when it comes to her room. She cleaned out her drawers and put away costume after costume that she had "hidden" away in various secret spots around the room. It feels so nice to snuggle in your princess carriage the middle of a very clean room....with you very own delightfully scented Penny the Piggie.

Sunday Snapshot

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday Snapshot: Early Morning

One of my favorite times of the week is early, early on Sunday morning. I wake up and grab a warm cup of coffee about the same time my littles begin to come out of their rooms. All the big boys are snoozing, and I get some Mommy time with the littles. Emma is usually dressed up in whatever suits her early morning mood... last week I woke up to a toothless pirate.
This week, I woke up to a ballerina.
In hot pink boots.
Trying to feed Isabella some yogurt.
Did I mention the wings?
Oh the wings....

Sunday Snapshot