Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nutcracker 2014
It's a that we began four years ago....
 a group of ballet friends and their mamas all get seating together and the girls are in awe as their teachers twirl and dance below onstage....
 it is always a load of fun and the cherry on top is when we go out for dessert afterwards!  This year the mamas may have been having a little too much fun for their biggest girls!  MK and her friend, Claire, were both fast asleep long before we arose from the table to go home!  
(Fun fact:  Claire's daddy grew up with fun that the girls will grow up together as well!)
 Even with our late night out, no one in the house could possibly forget the German Christmas tradition of putting out shoes for St. Nicholas to fill....a few goodies were left and all was well in the home....
 The next evening we had some adoption buddies over....the best part about this evening was having our newest little adoptee join us - Miss Anna is fitting in nicely with her forever family and Maryn is pretty fond of her too!  Also, we had a family over from church that has just begun the process to adopt a baby girl from excited to be on this journey with them!
 Our girls wanted curls so curls were made....of course, Maryn asked for curls too but had to settle for a bow only....
 this pretty girl is growing up....
 and she loves the role of big sister - most of the time!
After spending our morning watching my most favorite Christmas play, A Christmas Carol, the children and I did our annual trek to the mall to do a meet-and-greet-and-picture with Santa....
 though Maryn was less than thrilled at first, she settled in and we got a good thankful for my boys and their willingness to take part in the photo!
 Radio Shack and Claires....the boys went one way and the girls went the other....and below is what happened!
 these girls are too much!
 We were blessed to have our 24 middle and high school homeschool co-op kiddos over for an evening of fun and games.....
 gifts were exchanged and the reindeer-made-with-panty-hose-and-balloons were made....and a bit of noise was made which may or may not have disturbed our neighbors - oh dear!  Such joy it brought to my heart to have these guys in our home for the evening.....I love the friendships/relationships that these kiddos have with one another.  They do life together and it is glorious picture to see firsthand.  
 Another Christmastime favorite is our day with Emma and Aunt Nellie....Emma and MK spent the morning painting together while my sister Kellie and I took on the town for some shopping adventures!  
 And then there was thankful for these girls and their giddiness as we ventured out to see our first ever singing Christmas tree production at a local church.  It was fabulous!  And in true Drafts form, ice cream was had by all following the show!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Clarks Hill Christmas Tree Farm

The Christmas traditions began this week with our annual visit to Clarks Hill Christmas Tree Farm....
The children were so excited to share this time with Maryn....
and she was thrilled to be on this journey....exploring is a favorite adventure of Maryn's!
Our oldest and youngest....I adore this picture for so many reasons.  Maryn squeals, "Col-win....Col-Col!" often and his face lights up!  
After finding the perfect tree, it was off to the cafe for a few Christmas treats....
Maryn wasted no time at all digging into her Christmas cake,
while Maddox opted for boiled peanuts!
Then it was game-on.....hide-and-go-seek!
Maddox found a comfy, hidden spot and even sipped on her Sprite as she waited to be found....
Anything wrong with this tree?  Why, yes!  Two trunks???
Evidence of their growing up....just under 6'!  CRazY! 
Thankfully, this guy has a few more inches to spare - though he is not too far behind his brother.
This girl keeps growing too!  
And this one....she grew four inches this past year!  And she grew and grew in her spunkiness too!
Little bit was all about taking a picture in front of the tree so long as she did not have to give up her cake to do so!  
With full bellies, tired legs and a tree tied to the top of our car, we drove to our new home to begin the decorating!  
We are so thankful for our family - our five children are our hearts and we cherish every minute we are given with them.  I was so pleased to hear them all saying, "We always go to the Christmas tree farm the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving - it's tradition!" and "Let's listen to Christmas music!  Please!"  (No begging needed!)
We began our traditional reading of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on Monday.  I am pretty sure that though they do enjoy this tale, I am the one who LOVES this particular treat each year!  
Our nice-and-naughty-at-times elf, Matthew, made his debut December 1....he has been up to his usual antics and the children all get a kick out of seeing what this little guy has gotten into during our slumber.
Yes, the Christmas season is in full swing and we are embracing each moment while remembering the true reason for the season!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Today we celebrate five months home with this little girl!  She is the squishiest little bundle of love and we all adore her.  
Five months home meant it was time for our social worker to visit to assess how our post-adoption phase was going....she asked what our biggest adjustment has been and Ryan's wit shown with is candid response of, "Well, four, five, what's the difference?!  The biggest adjustment for us has been where is everyone going to sit in the van!"  I agree.  
Many have asked what her "special need" is.....she was labeled "delayed development" but MK said it perfect the other night when she exclaimed, "I think she needed our family!"  True.  And we needed her.
She talks and sings and jumps and dances and climbs and runs and rides toys as well as scooters....she is always on the heels of her big sisters!  She still has a bit of anxiety with the nursery at church but calms quickly. She has a love/hate relationship with her hairbows - she asks for them to be put in but they are always pulled out before the day ends!  She participates in occupational therapy each week and is meeting all of her goals - taking her clothes off, putting her shoes on, climbing up and down stairs, coloring, lacing, etc....she is doing all of this and so much more.  For this, we are thankful!   

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 was spent on my great-uncle's farm, the same farm that I grew up going to each year when I was young.  My parents were overjoyed to spend the day with all three of their children and spouses as well as their ten grandchildren....not to mention the added bonus of the remaining 100ish family members also present for the big annual feast.  
 In what has become true-Maryn form, she pranced right around the farm as if she had known it for her entire life....she explored and greeted everyone even letting several people hold her from time to time.  This is a true testament to just how attached she is, how she has come to know trust, and how peaceful she is in her new life with her forever family.  It has been five months and this little one is thriving.  MK often says, "Mom, I know we got the right one...." and the end of the sentence will be with another reason why Maryn is a perfect fit to our family.  She is a gift to us all.
 Cousins, I love that these three adore one another.
 Maddox kept asking, "Are you serious that we are going to a REAL farm?  Like a FARM?"  She was in all of her Maddox glory running from the cotton fields to the tractors to the barn....and eating her weight in every desert that could be found along the way.  
 My sweet Nannie turned 94 on November 5.  She has been a bit under the weather and we have all worried about her health while keeping a watchful eye on her.  We were so thankful to see her quite spry during our afternoon visit and her smile lit up the room when we all arrived!  She loves Thanksgiving and we loved getting to see her on a day that means so much to her!
 These two are quite the team.  Maddox loves for my dad to play "Horse Bite The Corn" with her.....the giggles are neverending.  This game is something my grandfather used to do with us and the reaction was always the same - laughter!  
Post-farm, we visited with Ryan's family for a bit, ate more goodies, and then it was time to head home....on our way home, we made an impromptu stop at Target....the children were all tired yet excited to experience a little of the Black Friday madness.....thankfully we were not really into shopping for the deals but more into getting what we needed and heading home for a good nights rest!  
A fabulous Thanksgiving indeed!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Catching Up

We began our month of November with the sweet homecoming of Anna!  We have prayed Anna home for months and we were filled with joy to see her as she walked off of the plane with her family!  Absolutely precious....
Dates with two of my girls are always fun....this date was to see Dolphin Tale 2!  This green-tongued beauty is a prime example of what can happen when you allow your five year old to eat a Fun Dip in the dark - eek!
Brrrr!  It has been especially cold in our neck of the woods!  The children all know that when the going gets cold, the cold get STARBUCKS hot chocolate.  Fun, spur of the moment outing with all of my kiddos....
Homeschooling is made so much more possible with the loving support of our co-op friends!  
MK got a blue ribbon on art night!  She was so proud and we were too!
Orphans no more!  So thankful for our adoption group!  We were more than pleased to have our friends over for our first adoption gathering in our new home!  Great memories!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Orphan Care and Adoption

November brings Orphan Sunday and awareness as well as the celebration of National Adoption Month, all of which are very close to our family.

A few thoughts.....

Each time we travel to China, I am made more aware of the orphan crisis that the world faces.  One cannot fathom the need to care for these children.  There are MILLIONS of children who suffer without a family, without food, without medical care - seeing just a small portion of these children during our orphanage visits has changed our family.  One simply will not totally appreciate the need to assist in the care for these children until you have seen it firsthand.  Period.  Ryan and I were recently asked what we would/could say to encourage others to support a local ministry for adoption.  Our answer was simple - give.  Give your time to a family who is fundraising to bring home their newest family member - your donation is not to the family; it is to the CHILD - you are changing the life of a child whether you give $10 or $100. Give your support through prayer - prayer is what gets adopting families and orphaned children through each day. Give a monetary donation to an organization that is assisting in orphan care - there are many, hundreds to choose from - some even allow you to support a specific child with care and give updates on the child each quarter while others allow you to support education or health or medical needs for many children....the opportunities are endless.

This is an orphan.  A sick little girl who was recovering from a recent surgery.  10 months old.  What you can't see from this photo is the little guy beside her.  The one who will never be able to sit unassisted.  The one who drools uncontrollably while he cries out - maybe he is communicating or maybe he is in pain?  And the other little one, the one with Down Syndrome.  He or she, I honestly can't remember, is tucked over in a corner crib just laying there.  No toys to play with.  No parent to cuddle with.  These are the orphans.  And what about the hundreds of others that are enclosed in the same building?  These are children, babies, all of whom are having their physical needs met - they are some of the fortunate ones! - yet they do not know the feeling of unconditional love.  This is why adoption is so important to our family.  This face is why we will not ever be able to turn our heads from the children who wait.  Every child deserves to know love.  Every child deserves to have a family!

Many know our family.  Many others know our story.  Hundreds know our girls' faces through pictures and just from being out and about in our city.  One does not think about the fact that they were once orphans....they were once the babies in the crib recovering from a surgery, they were once the babies who cried out in hunger or because they were too cold....they were the children who had so much joy to share yet their caregivers were too busy meeting the needs of the other orphans to notice.  When you hear their giggles, when you see their bright smiles, it is so easy to forget that these three beautiful girls came from a life that not many of us can even remotely relate to.  They were orphans.

They are why we adopt.  They are why we will continue to support adoption.  They are why we will advocate for those who wait.  They are why we cannot turn our backs on those who wait.  They are why we will always strive to support orphan care.  They are why we are who we are.

"It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone.  To serve someone.  To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light.  This is the dream, and it is possible."  Katie Davis, Kisses from Katie

Thank you, girls, for opening our eyes and changing our world!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy Halloween - 2014

Halloween week was an ongoing party for our crew!  Monday was pumpkin carving, Tuesday was our homeschool co-op annual Harvest Party - a party no-one wants to miss out on! - Wednesday was Fall Fest at our church - a night of jumping and sliding and train-riding fun! - Thursday was a little B&B - ballet and baseball with a visit from Gran and Pop to boot! - and Friday was the big day - Halloween!  Our sweet neighbors invited other neighbors as well as our family and we all gathered together for a little warm chili before heading out into the cool evening on our trick-or-treating trek!
 MK made the perfect cat for Halloween this year!  Watching her dance is always makes my heart happy - there is a peace about her as she twirls and her beauty shines.
 Miss Maddox, our stunning Sleeping Beauty.  
 This little one just makes me smile.  She may have changed her mind a gazillion times on what her costume would be, but each idea was fantastic and she would have rocked them all!
 Whether she is soaring solo through the air or twirling with her friends, she always radiates happiness!
 Everyone was glad to have some time with Gran and Pop!  So thankful they were able to come over and enjoy watching our talented young kiddos!
 Pryce played a fabulous game - catching a ball in midair and then hitting several good balls into the outfield!
 Halloween morning finally arrived....MK was most excited to discover our "Boo Bucket" tradition lived on!
 With treats for everyone, they all wasted no time digging in to the treats!  Fortunately, for them, there were no tricks involved:)
 Gran found this cute Monster Mash cake and Colin could not pass on the opportunity to see what it would look like on his own face???  Teenagers = fun times!
 Once all treats were opened, the children dove into their monster cake for BREAKFAST!  Yes, it was for breakfast and that is just how we chose to roll on this particular day.
 Our little pumpkin.
She makes us all giddy.
And brings smiles like no one else can to her siblings, they are amazed by her.
 The pumpkin tradition lives on - all five of our children have donned the pumpkin costume on their first Halloween and my biased opinion says that they are all the cutest pumpkins ever!
 Sweet Maryn took the evening all in.  When Maddox chose to forego a few homes, Maryn was full speed ahead shouting, "trick or treat."  She may or may not have let a few adults know that their candy distribution was not enough for her....and, as luck would have it, they would say, "awww, she is so cute!" and then give her ANOTHER piece!  One has to love being little!
 Our girls.  
 Four out of five....what a handsome young man that these girls get to call brother!
 I share these photos to remember how Maryn always imitates us........take not of MK's tongue.  I think she was adding this little detail in as part of her costume and her little sister was watching intently!
 I noticed MK's tongue and asked her to put it in her mouth and smile....she did and then wouldn't you know that our little Maryn popped hers right out for the very next photo!  
 Our biggest guy!  He manned the candy stash while we were out and about the neighborhood!  Then he joined some friends the following evening for a costume party - and I didn't even get a picture!  Ack!  He went as Facebook....very clever indeed.
 Our Princess
 Our Cat
 Trick or Treat
 Pryce headed out with his big kid friends and had no trouble filling up his pillowcase!
And with a little rain coming in, we called it a night but not before Maryn took one last house in!
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