Sunday, August 23, 2015

Noah's HOPE

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11
 The moment when the picture of a child you have prayed for becomes a reality is always surreal.  Noah was so brave.  And so willing to go with us.  And so happy.  No tears.  No goodbyes to those who seemed familiar.  He acted as if he had known us for years and he never looked back.
 We all watched intently on the drive home wondering what he would do.  We were prepared for the seatbelt battle being that he had likely never been in a car much less buckled into a car.  We were prepared for car sickness - towels packed, bags ready, and change of clothes on hand.  Thankfully, none were needed.  We drove well into the wee hours of the morning, he slept on and off, played with a little fan on and off, and drank his beloved water on and off.  
I wondered what he could be thinking.  
He is only 6.
New country.  New language.  New smells.  New experiences.  
We arrived home and he excitedly unpacked his bag showing us all of the items inside.  And he checked out his room and a few toys.  
We said goodnight, tucked him in and asleep he went.  
 The next morning we all waited anxiously outside of his room for him to awake. 
Thankfully, he was all smiles and ready to take on the day when he awoke.  
He played and laughed and ate and immediately began to weasel his way into our hearts.
This was the beginning of his new life.
A life of hope and future.
 When we traveled to China last year to adopt Maryn, we met many families who were adopting the children they had hosted the previous summer.  This is where the seed was planted inside of me to host a child in our home.  We do feel like our family is full.  We have a whole hand of kiddos and we are navigating through teenager-hood and toddler-hood 24/7.  
But I do struggle with knowing that so many children wait.
Hosting allowed our family to do a "mission" trip of sorts together, in our own home, without traveling and within our financial means. 
And mission it was.  Our main goal for Noah was to find his forever family and to gain as much knowledge about his medical challenges for potential adoptive families.  This child's file was/is just that - a file with many words about a child who is much more precious than words can ever describe.  
 Fifteen years ago, while attending a Discovery Toys party, I met Connie and her baby girl, Abby.  We became fast friends and began a playgroup that included Abby and our son, Colin.  
On Colin's first birthday, we moved to Boston, MA.  
Not long after, baby Abby and her family moved away to SC - right to the town that I grew up in. 
Last summer, as God would orchestrate without us knowing, our family bumped into Connie.  We mentioned that we were in the process to adopt our Maryn and would be traveling very soon to bring her home.  Connie told me her dreams of adopting from China.  Their Abby was adopted domestically as an infant.  With Abby and their two bio boys support, they were praying about adopting once again. She felt a strong desire for China adoptions but also the domestic programs as well.  
That was that.  A conversation.  We became FB friends and life went on.
And then came this little guy! 
 I am pretty sure they were smitten at first sight - that first picture that I posted on FB.  
They met and the rest is history.  
The host program has changed this little guys life.
He came to us with one list of diagnoses and left with a new list.  Medically, he is fragile.
But, more importantly, he left us yesterday to go back to China with HOPE.  He has a family who adores him and will go to the ends of the earth to care for him.  
Our hearts hurt today that he is gone from our home.  Tears have been shed and our home is eerily quiet.  I would be lying if I said we have handled this all in stride.  Goodbyes are not my thing.  At all.  Even knowing that he will be home soon, even knowing that he has a family, even knowing he is loved by many....I am struggling today.  I miss him.  We all do.  
Our lives are once again changed by the needs of an innocent child.  We are humbled to have been allowed to be a part of his story.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Maryn Gentry is THREE!

Our "surprise" baby girl turned THREE years old on August 2, 2015.  
What a true blessing she is to all of us.
We celebrated her on her special day...
and we celebrated her during our mountain adventure....
and we celebrated her with friends....
because when you turn 3, it is all about the fanfare, not the gifts!
This little one has her brothers wrapped around her little finger....
and her smile, as well as her belly laugh, will brighten any room.
And those lips...those perfect little lips...
Celebrating the life of this little girl is a gift....
at the age of 3, her speech is exploding, she jumps in the pool and swims without floaties to the stairs, 
she counts to 20 - minus a number or 2 at times, she goes into her church classroom without any hesitations, she loves to ride her bike and does so at a fast rate of speed....
she is potty trained, her sweet tooth reigns, she has met all of her goals for early intervention, she is a bit spicy and a lot sweet, she can unbuckle her carseat - not necessarily a good thing, she will go to Mother's Day Out for the first time....
and she remains the child that keeps us on our toes.  Maybe it is just the age but I have a sneaking suspicion that she is going to always keep us on our toes....just last night I enjoyed 5 minutes peace while chatting with a neighbor and the girls played together upstairs....when all was said and done, Maryn came down with lipstick all over her face, hands, and clothes as well as mascara streaked across her forehead.....and lipstick all over our stairs....eeek.  But it is in these moments that I love this little girl to pieces....Happy Birthday baby girl!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Change is in the Air

Here's to the most handsome sophomore in town!  He embarked on his journey at 7:15am yesterday and had nothing but horrible things to say when he returned home at 3:00pm.  One of Colin's best qualities is his humor.  He is hilarious so even though he had unpleasant things to say, this mama was in stitches laughing about his description of his day. 
I do pray that he develops a more kindred heart towards school.  Having been homeschooled for the last six years, change is tough and, according to Colin, he is already deserving of a break:) Ha!
 This little Miss was all smiles prior to going to school as well as upon her return from school.  School just fits her.  MK was more than positive about her day and cannot wait to go back tomorrow!
 It was especially nice to have Chloe by her side for this new adventure!  Chloe was calm, cool and collected which made MK much more comfortable.  We are so excited to have Chloe and her family here with us!  We adore them and as they are setting out on a new adventure of their own, we are glad to get to spend this time with them!
 Ryan has always been MK's safe-hold so she was more than glad to have him by her side as she began her day.
 We began homeschooling many moons ago basically because I wanted to know what it was like.  The deal was that we would do it for as long as it was working for all involved.  Our first year, Colin was in 4th grade and Pryce was in 1st grade while MK was in a Mother's Day Out program.  These years are definitely some of my most treasured times with my children and I have been so thankful for every moment with them.  Last year was tough.  We had a high schooler, middle schooler, elementary schooler, preschooler and a baby - a newly adopted baby who desperately needed her moment with mommy.  More than anything, I value the time I have to spend with my children.  I found that being the mom and being the teacher was much more than my head could wrap itself around at one time.  Doing geometry while potty training is just CRazY!  So, we are trying something new this year.  C and MK are going to school.  Pryce will remain homeschooled.  Maddox will attend a local private, half-day kindergarten while Maryn will go to Mother's Day Out three days a week.  And our deal is that we will do it so long as it is working for all of us.  While we are not ready to fully call it quits to the idea of homeschooling, we are open to trying new things and seeing if it is a better fit for our family!   
 We are so thankful to have good options for schooling our children.  And we are especially thankful to have teachers who will love and guide our children during their time of learning at school!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hosting Changes Lives

Meet Noah
This little guy is a six year old orphan from China - no family and a list of medical needs.  
But let me tell you about him - 
His smile will melt you in an instant, his giggle is even better - its a combination of happiness and "mischief boy" all mixed into one sound; he is smart, obedient, curious, and a bottomless pit - this boy LOVES to eat! 
 Noah does not know the love of a family.  Each night I tuck him into bed and we practice saying, "I love you!" - his sweet almond shaped eyes disappear into his face as his smile takes over.  It is so sweet yet his heart does not understand the depth of those words.  
 Abandoned at the age of 5 months, Noah has lived the past 5 1/2 years as an orphan.  His adoption file depicts a very ill child, one that would require much needed medical attention and lifelong possibilities of unknowns.  And he is SIX years old.  And a boy.  These three facts combined equal little hope.
 Enter Orphan Hosting
Many question the program due to the fact that you bring an orphan into your home, spoil them with love and toys, endless amounts of food, give them new clothes to wear each day, take them to fun places and then they have to go back.  And, yes, they do have to go back.  
 But let me tell you that without this program, our little Noah (as well as the 29 other children who are currently being hosted through this program across the US) would sit on a list for YEARS and grow older and, eventually, age out of the adoption program to land himself right on the streets of China to fend for himself.  The orphan hosting program is his chance - his chance to show off who he really is, his chance to show the world who he really is despite what the medical records indicate.    
And our Noah is NOT what his file suggests.
He is SO much MORE.
Full of life.
Full of JOY.
And, because of the orphan hosting program, FULL OF HOPE!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Happy Birthday Maddox!

"Mom, my face is still the same but my number is bigger!"
 Yes, sweet girl, your face is still the same but you are a whole year older!
 Maddox, we went around the table and told our favorite Maddox stories at dinner....the number one thing we love about our girl is that you always have something funny to say!  And the best part?  Most of the time you don't even know you are as funny as you are! 
 You planned your special day.  Four special guests.  LOTS of make-up.  A tea party.  Dolls.  Dress-up.  More make-up.  Nail painting.  Cupcakes to decorate.  Strawberries - you said we had to have something healthy:)  And punch.  
 You pretended to be shy but we know you are full of life and spunk!
 You told me all day not to worry because it would be a whole year before you were 7....
 Six years old looks good on you baby girl.  We have loved watching you grow this year.  You have gone between loving being the big sister to wanting to be the baby again....what a big change you have adjusted to this last year with bringing Maryn home but you have handled it in stride.  
 And watching you succeed in swimming - we were so excited for you as you made your way across the pool each meet.  
 You have developed friendships this year that we hope will last a lifetime.  Your sweet friends are the cream of the crop and we look forward to watching you grow together.  
 So sweet and silly all blended into perfection.
 We have listened to your prayers and we love that your heart is for Jesus.  We call you our little evangelist because when someone is in need of prayer, you are the one to call.  Your words speak love and kindness tied up with a little sass and are our well-rounded baby girl!
 On your 6th birthday you requested to have your ears pierced.  We agreed and up you went into the chair with your brave face on.  Mommy had to snap one last picture sans earrings.
 Though there was a bit of fear in your eyes, you were brave and not one tear was shed.
 Instead, you were all smiles and excitement flowed through your body.  You told everyone we encountered about your new look!
 We surrounded you with love and gifts on this very special day but in reality, you are our gift.  
We are so thankful for your life and we love celebrating you!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Some of our Favorite Peeps!

We got lucky this summer! Some of our favorite people, the Mohrs, came for a visit!  
 We were so excited to show them our little home!  And we even took on some sites that we have never been to - the drive-in being one of them!
 The Big Mo was a hit!  With a family the size of ours, the Big Mo is the way to go!  Two movies and half the price of going to a theatre!  Plus, you can take your own food and there isn't any of the undercover operations sneaking candy in:)
 Chloe and MK had lots of laughs together!  These two amaze me.....they have a very special bond that I pray will last a lifetime!
 Within minutes of the Mohrs arrival, these two took off to play and they played and played and played!  
I love knowing they have each other!
 Finley was excited to have visitors too!  Lots of treats for him and lots of love!  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Seabrook 2015

Happy July 4th, 2015
The children wasted little time getting their suits on and heading to the beach to enjoy the surf and sand!
And it is medicine for my soul to sit back and watch my five children as happy as clams playing together!
There were evenings spent on the beach fishing - lots of fish caught as well as a baby shark!  The shark story is a funny one.  Pryce caught the shark and Ryan had gone back to the house for a moment.  We didn't know how to take it off of the hook so we asked the neighboring family for their assistance.  The dad and 11ish year old daughter came over and the DAUGHTER took the shark off of the hook!  Our mouths hit the floor as she handled the shark and then asked if Pryce would like to throw it back in.  What boy would have the nerve to say no???!!!
Maddox has always been our child that can sleep anywhere and she loves to sleep on the beach. What a gift!
MK is our monkey in the middle.  She will be the glue between the boys and the girls as they meander through life.  I love that she can hang with them and then dote on her sisters all in a good day's time.
And the to my ears.
Sweet girl was all dressed up and she was running all over the beach a mile a minute!  Admittedly so, I could not keep up!
MK was much more cooperative :)
Maddox, not so much!  She was on her own time, in her own world!  
This pretty much sums up the evening of photography on the beach!
Sassy and sweet....
The boys are often not photographed is a rare event when I am able to convince them that a picture is good for their health!  Or at least it is good for mine!  
Ryan's parents joined us for a long weekend....we enjoyed our time with them, watching fireworks and watching the parade!  
They really are the sweetest! 

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