12.31.2012

Looking towards 2013

2013.

Where did the time go?  I can't believe this year has flown by so fast. I now watch Jenna talk about how slow time seem to move and I warn her that before she knows it, she'll be all grown up with a child of her own and be wondering where the time went.

So as we are headed into a brand new year, I've been thinking of the things I want to do differently in 2013.

I am not making any weight loss goals because those never stick and I've decided to just have plastic surgery when I'm 40.  I'm totally kidding.  Kind of.

One of the things I want to do in 2013 is start spending more time with my family.  Lately, when I put Kylie down at night, I'll go ahead and crawl into bed and do one or a combination of the following:  read, blog, read blogs, watch TV, read/study the Bible, surf the Internet....

I justified this by saying this is the only time I have to myself.  But I realized, I could do any or all of these things while sitting in the living room with my family.  So I'm going to start doing better with that.

Of course, as always, I want to incorporate more time spent in the Word and in prayer.  I bought a new book that I hope will help me do this.

I also want to make sure I eat lunch away from my desk at least once a week at work.  Now that I no longer have a WBFF, it's become very easy to simply eat at my desk at work.  The problem is that I then only take maybe 30 minutes max and after a few weeks of doing this, you start to really get burned out at work.  There's a reason they give you a lunch hour.  I need to take it.  I feel so much better when I do.

I want to do some other minor improvements but nothing significant enough to mention here.  So, that's what I'm looking forward to in 2013.  What are your goals?

12.30.2012

9 months home!

Kylie has been home 9 months...as long as her China Mommy carried her inside.  I can't believe it's been 9 months.  Some days it feels like she's been with us forever and some days I feel like I was *just* packing to travel to China.

For Christmas, I bought a copy of our China album for Deanne and looking through it brought things so much more in focus.  It is absolutely amazing how far this sweet girl has come since March.
Maybe a better comment would be it is amazing how far this MAMA has come since March.  The journey is one we are ALL on.

What's Kylie up to now?  Well, she is a month shy of turning 2 years old.  In the last month or so, her vocabulary has really started to pick up.  She will parrot just about anything you say back to you.  We are working hard at getting her to "use your words" when she needs something instead of grunting and whining and us anticipating her need.  She doesn't usually spontaneously tell us things yet, but she's getting there.  We are still doing speech therapy twice a week and TEIS once a week.

We haven't been to the doctor for height/weight, but last visit, she was nearly in the 50th%ile for both.  She fits very well into 18 month clothes and some 24 month (pants are usually too big). 

She will go to other people now.  She especially likes my friend Jill's husband, Alan.  He's super tall and she loves for him to pick her up and even throw her up in the air, which is a big milestone...that's trust in another person...she had a great time with my niece over Christmas and then we had an ER trip thrown in for Steve's kidney stones and my sister kept her for us and she went right to her and even took a nap at her house.  So she's establishing relationships with other family members now too.

She is super animated.  Unless she has just woken up, she is usually a jabber mouth (gee, wonder where she gets it?!) and loves to sing (although I don't have a clue as to what she's singing).  This is from one day at breakfast.  I love that she thinks she is funny too!



Most times if you ask her for a hug, she'll hug you and pat your back which simply makes me melt.  When you ask for a kiss, she offers you her cheek.  Steve calls that "typical woman" behavior.  And sometime when you say, "love you", she'll try and say it back and will occasionally lean in for a kiss on the lips if you are lucky and she's feeling particularly sweet.

She still likes to be carried but she also likes to walk as well.  She has no fear when it comes to climbing and falling and we are expecting our first broken bone or stitches any time now.  :)

She is somewhat of a picky eater but her favorite food is shredded cheese.  I know my brother is rolling over in his grave right now because he hated cheese.  Kylie loves it but her favorite way is shredded.  She recently decided that chocolate pop tarts are her favorite breakfast food, but she likes donuts, eggs, biscuits and hash browns too.  We sometimes use M&Ms as a treat and she LOVES those, so I think we'll use them as potty training treats when that time comes.  She favors macaroni and cheese but will eat lunchables, chicken and a variety of other foods.  She's not a fan of fruits and/or veggies, but we are working on that.  The girl definitely has a sweet tooth.

Speaking of teeth, she LOVES LOVES LOVES to brush her teeth.  After her palate had healed, we switched to the OK-to-swallow toothpaste and she loves night-night time because she gets to brush.  She does mostly suck the toothpaste off but she's already moving the toothbrush back and forth top and bottom and both sides.

Kylie sleeps like a champ now and we are very thankful.  She goes to bed in her crib at 8:00-8:30 after 3 books and prayers.  Every once in a while, she'll cry and I'll have to go in and give her some extra love and that's it.  She sleeps through the night until we go in and get her up usually around 8:00-8:30.  She usually takes a full two hour nap when we are at home and she can.  Many times her naps fall during the time Steve has to go pick Jenna up from school, so it might be 30 minutes to an hour.  On the weekends, I'll take her to her room and typically she will want to get in her bed rather than have me hold her.  I'll sit in there while she settles down and then finally drifts off to sleep.  I try to stay in there while she sleeps because it's quiet time for me plus, I get to be near her and I like that.  Sometimes it takes her a while to drift off.  Today, for example...
We are so blessed by this sweet baby's presence in our lives.  She is such a joy and full of personality.  All in all, she's come a long way in 9 months and I can't wait for the next 9!

12.28.2012

Help Needed

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." ~John 14:18

Today, my heart is very heavy with the passing of the Russian law essentially prohibiting Russian adoptions by Americans.

A sweet friend at church has a brother and sister in law who are mid-adoption right now for their sweet son, Josiah, who they met just a few weeks ago for the first time.  At this point, it is unclear how this law will affect them (or any of the other families that are in process), but we need to be on our knees for this law to be changed and changed quickly.

I received a forwarded email plea from this family today that I would like to share with you all...when you are finished reading, I ask that you take action.  Blog it, Facebook it, Tweet it...and then DO IT.  Make the call.  Send the email.  Above all, whisper a prayer.

These are CHILDREN.  And they have families who are here...in America.  Already loving them.  Already waiting for them.  Already preparing for them.

Help bring them home.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Greetings family and friends!

First off, Courtney and I want to say thanks for your continued prayers and support throughout this journey. Your continued calls, e-mails, texts, Facebook and Twitter messages are a source of encouragement for us. We give thanks for each of you and praise God for allowing you to be a part of our lives and in turn this journey.

Second, many of you have asked how you can help. As you know, this morning (our time) President Putin signed into law the ban on US Adoptions. We talked with our Adoption Agency and they have suggested that we have our family and friends contact two different sets of people. The best thing we can do right now is lobby for an agreement that would allow families like ours, who have met their children and are waiting on a court date, the opportunity to finish out the process and bring their children home.

First, call on the White House directly. You can contact the comments line and talk to an operator at 202-456-1111. Please say something to this effect:

“Hello, my name is _____ and I live in _____. I am calling on behalf of my (friends or family members) Josh and Courtney Clarke who are in the process of adoption from Russia. They have already signed a letter of intent in Russia for a two year old little boy and are waiting for a court date. I ask that President Obama contact President Putin directly to talk about the ban on adoptions from the United States, but specifically to work out a deal that would allow families like Josh and Courtney, who have already met their child, to bring them home safely.”

They also asked us to contact our Representatives and Senators. You can find your elected officials on this websitehttp://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm . When you talk with someone in their office please say something to this effect:

“Hello, my name is _____ and I live in _____. I am calling on behalf of my (friends or family members) Josh and Courtney Clarke who are in the process of adoption from Russia. They have already signed a letter of intent in Russia for a two year old little boy and are waiting for a court date. I ask that Congressman or Senator ______ contact Secretary of State Clinton and other members of the State Department to talk to them about the ban on adoptions from the United States, but specifically to work out a deal that would allow families like Josh and Courtney, who have already met their child, to bring them home safely. We also urge you to ensure that the United States State Department is following through with every commitment made in the agreement signed in July to ensure that adoptions can continue for years to come.”

Please make sure you do not reference anything negative about Russia or President Putin.  

Our goal is to let them know that the number “46” that appears in the news isn’t an arbitrary number that has no impact in their districts, but that we are real families that are longing to have our children home.

If you do not feel comfortable calling, then please don’t. There is no pressure to do this. If you would like to e-mail any of these people, please use the scripts above for your e-mail. Our agency mentioned to us that phone calls are most effective because of the time sensitive nature of this law.

However, more important than the letters or the phone calls are your prayers. We covet them, not only for us, but for the other families that do not know the status of bringing their children home and the almost 800,000 children in Russia that do not have any parental rights attached to them.

As we move forward we truly echo the words of Daniel 3:17-18, “our God is able to deliver us… but even if He does not…” we will still worship Him alone. Our prayer is that God’s will be done. We know He has the power to bring Josiah home tomorrow, but we also know that may not be His will. No matter the outcome of the governments of this world, we know who still sits on His throne and will reign forever more. Our faith will not be shaken. He is still our God and we are still His people. We will forever worship Him.

Love you all.

Josh and Courtney
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now, I ask you...can you imagine what this family...THESE families...are going through?  I'd venture a guess that you CAN'T imagine.  Because I know I can't.  I implore you again, please help bring these children home. 

If you are so inclined, you can leave a word of encouragement on the Clarkes blog.  You can find them here.  They need to feel our support. 

Until then, may God watch over these children and bless their families as the wait.

12.27.2012

Christmas v1.1

The Saturday before Christmas, we got together with my side of the family.  If you can believe it, I walked out without my camera.  I was so irritated with myself but the weekend had been so hectic...I had my sweet grandson Gage with me and Steve was gone ALL day...and I was trying to cook and get the last minute stuff done for Christmas...something was bound to be forgotten and it was the camera.  Thank God for Apple and iPhones which take pics just as well as DSLRs sometimes!!  In a pinch, it'll do!

The spread this year wasn't as over-the-top as in years past.  I think I'm scaling back and so is everyone else. 
I love holiday food.  All of this was SO delish.  And the company wasn't bad either.  :)

It was Kylie's first time to EVER open a gift.  And there I was without my camera.  Turns out, it was fine because I used my camera to video and I'm SO glad I did.
She really was sure what it was all about, but she enjoyed the time with family nonetheless.

She really seemed like she turned a corner this season with the family.  She would let a variety of people hold her (not for long though) and she took to anyone who would play with her.  And of course, the big kids enjoyed the gift opening too...

I will tell you...I always go on and on about how much I enjoy spending time with the Taylors and I do.  I love them dearly.  But I love my family just as much.  We don't spend nearly enough time together and when we do get together, everyone always has such a great time and talks about why we don't do it more often.  I didn't get a family pic since I forgot my camera but I'm still glad we got together.  Now if we could just find time to do that more often...

12.25.2012

Merry Christmas!

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. "
-Luke 2:11

Merry Christmas to all of my readers!



12.23.2012

Just In Case...

...I get too busy to post for a  few days, I wanted to wish all of you who stop by and read what's going on in our crazy lives a Merry Christmas.

This weekend has been...challenging...to say the least.  I've had many, MANY, less than stellar parenting moments, so I am choosing now to make tomorrow and Tuesday way better days.

I can tell you that my girls went to see Santa and get a picture, but until I can find time to scan it in, I'll leave you with a picture worthy of of those Worst-Santa-Picture-of-the-Year sites.

But it makes me laugh every time.
Merry Christmas!

12.22.2012

Christmas fun

A few weeks ago, our church life group had a little Christmas party.  I'm pretty certain I've mentioned how much I love my life group (and church) before.  We wore ugly Christmas sweaters (explaining the green one in the video) and did some fun games.

This is a video of a game of spoons...I was already "out" and I laugh hysterically every time I watch this.
 
One of the other games was to take balloons and hose and make a reindeer. Oh my word.
 

  And somehow the reindeer antlers became a new Christmas decoration in the yard of our fabulous leaders...
Oh so fun...

And there's been fun going on at home too.  We have a Santa that dances to Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree and a Grinch that sings the famous "Mr. Grinch" song.  Kylie loves to dance to them both and thinks the Grinch is hilarious as long as she doesn't have to touch him.
At the end, she's singing that last note with him.  And if you listen closely, you can hear her say "more" to Jenna meaning she wanted Jenna to push his button and make him sing again.

We did go to see Santa.  It went as well as could be expected.  I'll post that picture a little later...until then, here's a pic of my sweet Sunday School class watching the live nativity last weekend at church...

12.21.2012

Happy birthday Rachel!

Today I want to wish my dearest and oldest friend, Rachel, a very happy birthday!
Rachel and I have known each other literally our entire lives.  We are very much alike and at the same time, oh, so very different!

We hold the same morals, work ethic and values.  We went to the same school, home church and now attend the same church and live in the same town.  Up until last year, we worked at the same company.

Rachel is way more outgoing than I am and a ton funnier.  She is also way more laid back and she is  phenomenal event planner. Not too long ago, I volunteered to help with a church event she was planning and I got to see her professional side and WOW!!!  I just couldn't get over it! 

She is currently STILL in the very, very long wait for a little girl in Ethiopia.  I know God had written her story just like ours, but it's been several VERY LONG years...once upon a time, we actually thought we might travel together right before the big slow down in ET.  So, if you will, take a moment today and whisper a prayer for her as she continues to wait.  I know a lot of adoptive families read this blog and while we all waiting various times for our children, we know the pain and struggle that you endure during that time.  And if you want the HELP her bring her daughter home, she's selling these cookbooks for $20. 

I put a bunch of recipes in there and it has become my favorite cookbook I own and I'm not exaggerating.  I seriously love it.  So if you want one, comment or email me and I'll put you in touch.  And if you are out of town, I will personally cover the shipping costs.

Happy birthday Rachel!  Here's to your last birthday without Zoe in your arms!!!

12.20.2012

My little monkey

Kylie likes to climb as much as Jenna did when she was this age.  I'm just waiting for our first broken bone, stitches or knocked out tooth.

I got this video at work one day...that's Doc McStuffins she's watching in the background...
And then just a few nights ago, I captured this on video...
So um yeah...she's a climber.  She likes to climb the stairs, but there's a bunch of those, so I don't let her do those alone. She's a mess.  We have to keep our eyes on her at all times or else she'll be on top of something in an instant.

12.19.2012

PlayTime!

Kylie enjoys the church nursery SO much.  This past Sunday, when she left my classroom (I teach young 3s) with Steve, to go to hers, she said, "Bye!  Bye!" and Steve said she walked right into her classroom and started playing.

Her teachers are truly fabulous and I am SO thankful for the men and women (yes, men...Kylie loves her men, just like Jenna did) who sacrifice their time each week to teach her and make her feel safe.

Luckily, a few weeks ago, my friend Elizabeth, joined the teaching crew in that room, because her sweet Congo boy, Moses, was being introduced to church nursery (if you remember, Elizabeth and I first met while I was loving on her older girls in the nursery).

I got the following videos while teaching my 3s a couple Sundays ago...tell you what...these kiddos know how to have fun!!!

A few weeks ago, my friend Jill and I went to hang out at Elizabeth's house and it was a little like we were running a daycare.  3 adults, a tween and 5 or 6 little kids!  In January, Kylie will join Moses and Wylie in a local Christian daycare.  I told Elizabeth, those poor teachers have no idea what they are in for!!!
And you know, I can't show a video like this without bragging on my wonderful church.  How many churches can boast at least 3 nationalities in one toddler class?  Not many.  Not to mention, I'm ultra excited about a new China friend coming to join out church in the next few months...some friends of ours just got their referral and I absolutely cannot WAIT to meet him!!

12.17.2012

Happy Birthday Chase!

Today, I want to take just a moment to say Happy Birthday to the "token male" in my family (other than Steve!!)
I've been fortunate to be part of Chase's life since he was 6 years old.  He is as laid back and easy going now as he was then.  I always said Chase acted like he could take it or leave it. And that was true for everything and everybody.  Of course, I know now that he really does care about people and things but back then, I wasn't so sure.
Chase runs his own store here locally and we are VERY proud of what he's done with his life.  He still knows how to punch my buttons, but I quite enjoy the time I get to spend with him.

Jenna and Kylie both call him Chasey and think he hung the moon.  He is the world's best big brother.

Chase-Happy birthday!  We are SO proud of you!  May this be the beginning of the best year ever!

12.16.2012

Upcoming Blogger Day of Silence

I know many of you are as heartbroken over the recent events in CT.  I have talked with friends about what happened.  We've debated gun control, mental health assistance, media involvement and school safety.  But really, the reason for this evil is that we live in a fallen world.  Evil is ever present and that, my blog friends, is a fact.   And so, rather than write a post, tweet, or Facebook on any or all of the above things and how I feel about them, I think we should focus on the hurting families.  There is one ONE Hope for this world.

His name is Jesus. 

And if you haven't ever thought about it before, think about it now.  If you have questions about who Jesus is and who He is to me, please leave me a comment or email.

But to show support and love to those affected by the events in Newtown, CT, Tuesday, December 18, 2012 I'm participating in a blogger day of silence.  I encourage you, if you are a blogger, to use the button and observe too.


On Tuesday, December 18th, there will be a blogger day of silence. We will post the button and that's it. Please try to not post anything else that day if possible.

We are also raising money that will go to an organization in the memory of this tragedy. The organization is called The Newtown Family Youth and Family Services. Here is the official description of the support service we are donating to:

"Newtown Youth and Family Services, Inc. is a licensed, non-profit, mental health clinic and youth services bureau dedicated to helping children and families achieve their highest potential. NYFS provides programs, services, activities, counseling, support groups and education throughout the Greater Newtown area.

ANY DONATIONS MADE TO NEWTOWN YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES WILL BE DONATED DIRECTLY TO THOSE EFFECTED BY THE SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING."

Please visit THIS PAGE to make your donation.

We can't imagine how they must be feeling, especially this close to the holidays. We would love for you to spread the word on your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let's make a difference and use blogging in a positive way. Thank you in advance for participating.

Love,
The Blog World

p.s. If you would like to, copy-paste and repost any part of this, please do. Share on.
Copied from here.

12.09.2012

Sleeping Beauty

I have taken a short break from blogging after my 30 days of Thanks posts.  I'm going to try to get back to it, but work is crazy busy and a bunch of nights where I'm working from home up until nearly midnight.  So, I can't promise regular posts, but I'll do my best.  Tonight, I just want to hang out and watch TV...

Until then, take a look at my precious sleeping beauty (she is, incidentally, a very good sleeper now).



11.30.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 30

Today, I'm thankful for my salvation.

As I reflect over these last 30 days (holy cow, where did the time go?!), I think about all the posts and things I am thankful for.  I will admit, 30 days was kind of a long time to go trying to think of new things every day to be thankful for.  But the challenge exercised my brain to think of things I would not normally remember to be thankful for.

And really all of it comes down to my salvation and having a God that pursues.  Did you read that?  A GOD THAT PURSUES.  In other words, not a God who is nice enough not to strike me dead when I mess up.  Or not a God that sits on his high and mighty throne hoping I will do just the right combination of "good" things to get to be in his presence.

No, this is a God who can't just sit still while I stray.  He comes after me.  Just like any other parent.  Not just hollers to me "Hey, come back here!", but literally moves heaven and earth to be there for me when I call.  I always imagined God running down a path to catch up to me. 

THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE RUNS AFTER ME.  Because he loves me THAT much.

Holy cow.

I am blessed.

I am thankful.

11.29.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 29

Today I'm thankful for a sense of humor.

I'm not the funniest person, but I do feel like I have a sense of humor.  And let's be honest...to get through this life, you pretty much have to have a sense of humor or you might just land yourself in the loony bin.

So many times, I have been faced with a decision to either laugh or cry...literally.  And thankfully, even if I cry first, I can find humor in the situation later.

And you know, I'm thankful for other people's sense of humor.  I'm a little sarcastic by nature...and so I have to hang with people with a sense of humor who can dish it as well as take it.  And I love people who make me laugh.  I like to laugh more than just about anything else.  Honestly, it's probably been a little too long since I really laughed.  But I'm glad I have friends that surround me that can make me laugh until I pee my pants (which granted, doesn't take much these days.)

So, today, I'm thankful.

11.28.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 28

Today I'm thankful for my co-workers.

This is a pretty broad category because I have about 2,000 co-workers if you want to get right down to it.  Obviously, several in my department are closer to me than others, but I am thankful for them all.  There are some who I am closer to and that I like better or have more in common with or just simply work better with.  But by and large, I have not encountered anyone who I just can't stand to work with.  And with that big of a company, that's unusual.

It's just my company has an uncanny ability to hire GOOD people.  Most of the ones I work intimately with have the same work ethic as I do.  They don't skip out of work for no reason and they go above and beyond.

And there are a precious few that I just love to pieces.  I love being around them and working with them and would miss them like crazy if they left.  And these folks range from the security guards, maintenance folks, custodial staff (remember sweet Brenda?) all the way to senior executives in the company.

It's a rare occasion where someone can say they love their job, their company, their boss and pretty much everyone they work with. 

But I can.

And so today, I'm thankful.

11.27.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 27

Today, I am thankful for God's Word.

At 38 years old, I have finally realized that I CAN study and understand the Bible.  I obviously have always known that, but thankfully, recently I have figured out the best way for me to study so that I understand and learn.

And now that I can do that, I am SO grateful that God has given us His Word.  He pulls back the curtain on all his glory and shows us what we need to know. 

I'm constantly amazed at how He speaks to us.

Today, I'm thankful.

11.26.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 26

Today I'm thankful for pastors.  There are several in my life that have led me through some of the best and worst times I've ever experienced.

My home church pastor, who has now gone on to heaven, was there when I was born, there when my mom died (literally), there when I got married, there when I had Jenna and I was actually at my home church the weekend before he had a stroke in the pulpit (he passed a week later).  This man was literally like a second father to me and I have missed him many, many days since his passing.

Then there is my current church pastor who rocks my socks off every Sunday, is an adoptive parent and was integral to our own adoption process.  He was there when we arrived with Kylie and has been our biggest supporter and cheerleader throughout the whole process.  We just finished up a sermon series on the book of Revelation and OH. MY. WORD.  I'm telling you what, I could do an entire blog SERIES on what I've learned.  If you are interested, you can go here and listen to the podcasts.  They are just SO good.

I'm just so thankful there are other pastors and ministers that God has made instrumental in my life.

Today, I am thankful.

11.25.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 25

Today, I am thankful for the gift of adoption.

Without it, I would not be a mother to this precious face.  I have wanted to adopt from China for so many years that some days I can't believe I actually have a beautiful, sweet baby girl from there.  And if it weren't for all of those that went before me, we would have never taken that leap.

Today, I am thankful.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

This was the first year in a while that I didn't do some Black Friday shopping.  Normally, I'll go out about 3-4pm on Black Friday after all those crazy, early morning shoppers are at home passed out.  But this year, I just didn't have it in me.  Instead, I sat at my kitchen table and basically finished my shopping.  I had done quite a bit already and I still have a little to go...but it is nothing I'm worried about.  Now I need to start wrapping!

I did go out earlier to visit with some old friends.  My dear, high school friend, Stacey, was in town and it has become a Black Friday tradition to meet her at some kids play place and let the kids run wild while we catch up.  She invites all her hometown friends and so I've grown to love meeting up with these families.  It's normally the only time I get to see them (except on Facebook) and so I always enjoy it. This year was extra special because it was the first time any of them had met Kylie.  I unfortunately never even thought to take a photo, but my friend, Beth, did bring Kylie a little something...lo and behold, it was the Little People barn and I already had that on our Amazon Wish List to get for her this Christmas!  The child was CRAZY with joy (after her 2 1/2 hour nap)...
She and Jenna played and played in the floor with it.  Then, they started playing in my Thanksgiving Day newspaper.  You know, the one with ALLLLL the ads???

Oh, did she have fun.  While she was occupied, we decided to get the tree up.  That was fine, but it wasn't long after I started decorating that she decided she wanted to "help".
Steve was stuck on the ladder because Kylie did not want to get off!  Finally, she saw I was decorating the tree and decided she wanted to do that too.
Man, Christmas is going to be so much fun with my fixed lens for my Canon!

The only problem was Kylie didn't understand that when you put the ornament on the tree, you LEAVE it on the tree!  She kept trying to take it off!!  She got her hand smacked once which she certainly didn't like, but after that,s he acted like she got it.
I just love these photos.  Such a special day for us.  As we were wrapping up the decorating, our neighbor Ping came to visit.  It was her day off and she tries to get over to see Kylie when she can.  You can see her to the left of our tree...
I can't wait to start getting presents wrapped and under the tree.  I'm going to have to start early this year because I'll only be able to wrap a few at a time with Kylie home...

11.24.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 24

Today I'm thankful for Facebook.

Yeah, I said Facebook.  I know it is the bane of some people's existence and quite honestly, sometimes I feel that way about it too.  But by and large, it has connected and RE connected me to people I would not have ever known their whereabouts before.

People who I can't see as often as I'd like due to life or distance....the ones I'd like to see more often, I can still keep up with their lives.

So today, I'm thankful for Facebook.

Kylie's First Thanksgiving

I would have to say that Kylie's first Thanksgiving was a resounding success.  I cooked a mini-Thanksgiving lunch for us.  By "mini", I mean, I didn't cook enough food for 15 people.  Our menu consisted of a small ham, turkey (because Steve prefers ham, but I thought turkey had to be included since it was Kylie's first ever Thanksgiving), macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, cornbread, dressing, hashbrown casserole and fruit salad.

Interestingly, our good friend and neighbor, Ping, is Chinese and her sister is here visiting her all the way from China.  We have grown very close to Ping for obvious reasons and she attends LifeGroup with us on Sunday evenings.  Ping had to work Thanksgiving Day, but her sister was at home with Ping's son, Aaron.  We invited them over to join us, and they came!  Ping's sister's name is something similar to Ping, but I'll butcher it if I try to type it, but suffice it to say, lunch was interesting because she doesn't speak or understand English.  Aaron is in Chinese school, but he doesn't speak enough to help.  Thank God for Google Translate!!!

Kylie thought it was good.  :)

After lunch, we took some time to rest and then headed down to Deanne's house for Thanksgiving dinner.  It was extra special for us there because Deanne was so close to our adoption, so celebrating Kylie's first Thanksgiving at her house was pretty neat.
And even though she's new to the scene, Kylie always enjoys hanging out with her aunts, uncles and cousins.  It was another yummy meal and the company was wonderful too.  I can't wait for Christmas!

Speaking of, we are nearly all decorated for Christmas here.  We usually start the day after Thanksgiving because we never know what our weekends between now and the holidays are going to look like.  Typically, by the time Thanksgiving gets here, I'm nowhere near ready for Christmas.  I'm not in the mood and not "feelin' it".

This year, I am SO ready!  I'm excited for Kylie.  Not many people get to celebrate the first Christmas of their child at an age that they can actually ENJOY it.  Jenna was only 6 months old her first Christmas and then 18 months old her second so she really didn't get it either year.  Kylie will be just a month shy of being 2 years old at her first Christmas.  I'm not sure she'll understand about unwrapping gifts, but I bet she'll catch on pretty quickly...she sure does enjoy the tree...more on that tomorrow...

11.23.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 23

Today I'm thankful for my neighbors.

For 30+ years of my life, I lived in the same house in the same neighborhood and in the same city.  We had good neighbors for the most part, but we would not call them close.

In 2005, we moved to the town we currently live in.  The day we closed on this house, we drove out here to look around and just let it soak in that it was OURS.

We'd not even been here for 5 minutes when there was a knock on the door.  It was our neighbor Aimee welcoming us to the neighborhood!

Since that time, Aimee and her husband have become dear friends to us.  She always treats our girls special at Halloween and she was the first house Kylie trick or treated at!
Not only them, but Jenna has grown to be dear friends with the sweet girl who lives across the street.  At this current time, I have literally 100s of photos of them together that she has taken.  The sweetie is one of the most kind, respectful child I have ever been around.  The girls spend a LOT of time together which makes me happy because Grey is a good influence on Jenna and because I NEVER had that in my neighborhood growing up.  I don't even have to think about it when Jenna asks if she can come over.  She is ALWAYS welcome and trust me, in this day and age, that isn't normally the case. For real, this is going to be one of those friendships where if either of us move away, life is going to be heartbreaking for a while.

Directly next door to us is our Chinese neighbor, Ping, who has become a very integral part of our lives since she is familiar with Chinese culture.  I wish I had a photo of her, but I don't.  However, she is the ONLY Chinese person Kylie will have anything to do with. We've enjoyed having Ping around...she translates some of our Chinese documents and has even treated us to dinner (OH. MY. WORD.  Authentic Chinese food...yes please!)

Another neighbor couple has recently joined our church.  They show up at our door randomly with a gift for Kylie or sweets.  They watch our house when we travel and we return the favor.

We are so blessed with good neighbors.  Our favorite times are the days where it seems everyone is in their yards hanging out.  July 4 finds most everyone in the streets shooting fireworks.  Spring finds them grilling out.  Fall finds them around fire pits.  Winter finds them sledding and building snowmen.

I never thought I'd live in an area like this.

So, today, I'm thankful.

11.22.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 22

Today, on this ultimate day of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Jesus Christ.

My Savior.

My Friend.

My Beginning.

My Daddy.

My EVERYTHING.

Today, I'm thankful.

Something Else to Be Thankful For

I couldn't let this day get past without sharing something that happened recently for which I'm thankful...

As you know, Kylie had cleft palate repair surgery back at the end of August.  In January, when I was choosing my medical benefit options at work, I knew we would have vastly increased medical expenses this year and so I chose accordingly.  We knew we would owe at least $2500 out of pocket (that would exceed our FSA contributions).

Sure enough, when the hospital bill came, our amount owed, after insurance, was about $2300.  I put off calling the hospital to make payment arrangements because I just hated that we even had to do it.  But it was expected, so about a month ago, I prepared to make the phone call (talk about humbling...).

My friend, Jennifer, had mentioned to me prior that her children's hospital (in another state) had financial aid that you could apply for and I should ask about that.  Lo and behold, as I'm dialing the number, I notice a line on the bill that says, "To make payment arrangements or request financial aid, call..."  REQUEST FINANCIAL AID??? 

So, I get the gentleman on the line and tell him I want to make payment arrangements.  He takes my first payment and I inquire about financial aid.  He says all he can tell me is that there's a form and he will request it be sent to me.  He verified my address, I thanked him for his time and with $200 less in my account, I disconnected.

That was the last I thought about it until late last week when I realized I'd never gotten those blasted forms in the mail.  I even picked up the phone to call them back and request it again, but got sidetracked and then figured I'd just wait until the first of December when I called to make my next installment payment.

Yesterday afternoon when I got home from work, the first thing I did (as always) was go for the mail.  In the stack, was an envelope from the hospital.  I was excited because I automatically assumed it was the financial aid paperwork I'd requested weeks ago.  Instead, it was a letter.  And it read....

"We have received and processed your request for financial assistance with your medical bills.  We are happy to let you know that you qualify for 100% assistance...For the account listed above, your balance has been adjusted to zero."

ZERO.

I owe nothing.

I had no words.  I never got that paperwork in the mail and I certainly never filled it out.  How do you explain that?  It's like a $2000 Christmas present!

And I couldn't help but think how it parallels the greatest gift mankind has ever received...

I had a huge debt I couldn't pay.

I needed financial aid.  Something that would help me pay the debt.  But there was nothing that I could do to repay.

And without my asking...without my even knowing it was done, Christ paid that debt for me on the cross.  Just like somehow, some way, my bill at the hospital was PAID. IN. FULL.

I am just as unworthy of the blessing many years ago on the cross as I am today of this blessing.  And I'm equally amazed at the goodness and provision of God.

I deserved to pay that bill.  I incurred the charges.  The money should have come from my account to put me in right standing with the hospital. 

Instead, someone else paid what I owed.  And now...I am debt free.  My account is zero.

And so, on this day of ultimate Thanksgiving...I give thanks again for the ways that he has blessed me.  I am the most undeserving of all.

Happy Thanksgiving.

11.21.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 21

Today I'm thankful for friends.

I was going to add pictures.  I was going to name names.  But there's no way to do it.  I have been blessed with MANY friends.

I have "old" friends...my high school friends...you know who you are.  The ones that even though you go years between actually seeing each other, you know you could call them up anytime and they'd be right there with whatever you need.  The ones who when you DO finally see them, it's like you were never apart. The ones you talk to every day on the phone to keep you sane on the LONG commute.  The ones you text funny things you hear or see because it takes you back to the "good ole days".  For me, these aren't just friends from school, but friends from my home church too.  Some of that overlapped and some didn't.  I'm thankful for you.

I have "new" friends.  The ones who have blasted into my life, unexpected in the last few years.  The ones I would see at church or at work who I would have NEVER believed we'd be friends, but then God blessed me by making them some of the dearest friends EVER.  The ones you laugh with.  The ones you cry with (and who cry FOR you).  The ones you hang out with on Friday night.  The ones who have seen your house a mess and you theirs and IT. DOESN'T. MATTER.

Then there are the ones who came and went.  For whatever reason they were in your life for only a short period of time.  The ones who made you laugh during the darkest days of your life.  The ones who  taught you more about yourself in the short period if time they were in your life.  The ones that even though you might not ever care about seeing them again because the hole their departure left in your life, they helped form you into the person you are today.

I used to desire a BEST friend.  You know, the one who I could tell everything.  The one consistent who would love me as much as I loved her.  The one who was consistent when nothing else was.  I think this desire came from losing my mother at such a young age.  

I realized recently that no woman, relative or friend could replace my mother and the relationship that could have been.  Instead, God has blessed me with MANY people to fill that void.

So today, I am thankful.

11.20.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 20

Today I'm thankful for 2 vehicles that run.

Yes.  Vehicles that run.  My van is going to be 10 years old next year and Steve's truck is going to be 8 years old.  Both have over 150,000 miles on them.  I know cars are built to last longer now than some number of years ago, but there are many, MANY that don't.

These vehicles are both paid for which is good because quite frankly, we can't afford a car payment.  We have been without one for a long time and God willing, it'll be a while longer.

And yes, I'm fully aware that I've probably just jinxed myself and they'll both die next week, but until then...

Today I'm thankful.

11.19.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 19

Today I'm thankful for my grandson.  Yes, I'm 38 and a "Mimi" to this little fella...
I know.  He's the cutest thing ever.  He has the most darling southern drawl when he talks and he looks JUST. LIKE. HIS. MAMA. See???
As I mentioned in my posts about Micah and Chase, I never thought I could love a child not biologically connected to me but holy cow, I sure do love him.  I regret that I don't get to see him as much as I would like (they live about an hour east of us) and of course, seeing them is another reason I love the holidays.

I'm so blessed.  I have four kids and 1 grandson that I love to the moon and back.

Today, I am thankful.

11.18.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 18

Today I'm thankful for Steve's family.  I know some folks have serious issues with their in laws from mothers in law to sisters in law, but not me.  I have the absolute best in law family there is.

As you remember, Deanne, my SIL, went with me to China to pick up Kylie.
 
The rest of the family gathered around their computers every night or two to see Kylie, Deanne, Jenna and myself.  (my family did too) I know some dread these upcoming holidays because of family drama and of course, the Taylors have some of that too, but I LOVE this time of year because I get to spend time with them and it really IS fun.  I love it.  I love them.  All of 'em.
 
Today, I'm thankful.

11.17.2012

30 Day of Thanks - Day 17

Today I'm thankful for my home.

I was born and raised in the same house my whole life. I was in my 30s before I moved from it into the home we are currently in.  For an adult who'd never bought a house before, we lucked up with this house.  While I'd love to have something a bit bigger, it really is perfect for us.

I'm also thankful to live in a neighborhood and town where most are friendly and crime is low.  I'm simply glad to have a roof over my head.  Now that winter is here, I'm reminded of all those who do not have that luxury.

Today, I'm thankful.

11.16.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 16

Today I'm thankful for my boss.

Yes, I know that is likely a strange thing to be thankful for, but the woman I've reported to for much of the last 15 years of employment is one of a kind. 

First of all, I am fortunately enough to call her a friend, as well as a mentor.  She is a Christian and over the past years, we have found we have lots in common (some good, some not so good.  :))  After my last job, where I really enjoyed my male boss, I swore I would never report to a woman again.   

There is something to be said for liking your boss.  I don't recall ever dreading going into work (as a general rule...though some Mondays are tough) and much of that is due to her constant challenge to me.

She truly does try and look out for my best interest and sees the potential in me, many time long before I would see it in myself AND sometimes when no one else saw it. 

So today, I'm thankful.

11.15.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 15

Halfway through 30 Days of Thanks!!

Today I'm thankful for Christian education.

I was a product of Christian education.  For 13 years, my parents sacrificed their wants (and probably sometimes needs) to send me to a Christian school.  I grew up, kindergarten to 12th grade never knowing not praying before meals, not having chapel once a week and not having Bible class and learning scripture daily.

The things I learned from good ole EHCS helped transform me into the woman I am today.  Some of the teachers I encountered there challenged me to learn to defend my beliefs and not just believe the way my parents did and because they did, I respected them greatly.

When Steve and I met and started getting serious, I shared my heart for Christian education and turns out, though he wasn't fortunate enough to attend Christian school, we agreed on the importance of it for our children.  And today, we are seeing much of the same benefits from Christian education for Jenna.  I pray that she will grow up never knowing not praying before meals, not having chapel service once a week and not having Bible class and learning scripture daily.  I also pray Kylie is able to benefit from the same Christian education.

Today I'm thankful.

Finding....The Rest of the Story

OK, apparently I've left you hanging long enough.  This wasn't meant to be a cliff hanger, but it was merely a byproduct of me not having enough time to get all the way through the story.

Oh, and you can click here for prior posts:   Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

In part 3, here's where I left you...
Kylie was found on January 31, 2011 right near the electric pole directly in the middle of the photo above.  To the right is a gas station.

We know this because our friend who was there to take pictures of the spot, FOUND Kylie's finder.  Not only did she find him, but she spoke with him.

Let me stop here and say, I have struggled with whether to make this part of her story public.  It IS her story to tell for sure and so perhaps I am doing her a disservice by telling it before she's old enough to understand.  And if you think I am, don't bother telling me in the comments.  I'm not asking for public opinion. I am tellling the story to share with you how my glorious and loving God watched out for this precious life thousands of miles away through the kindness of strangers.

Here is Mr. Jiao.
Mr. Jiao works at the gas station to the right of the pole in the above picture.  Here is what the email from our investigator said:

"We located your daughter finder, Mr. Jiao, (he is one on the paper work). He first saw your daughter at 4:00am at his working place, and he informed his friend Mr. Yan (who he is clean street man) to take care of it, because it is too cold. Mr. Jiao gave Mr. Yan to take care of your daughter. So, Yan took your daughter to the spot where he found some straw to keep her warm. Mr. Yan settle down your daughter and he think this is not right, he went back to Mr. Jiao, they think need to call the police station to hand over. so, they phoned the police station.

The finding day is very cold, your daughter first was found under the electric pole near the gas station where Jiao works. Jiao wants her in better place, and he asked Mr. Yan to take care of her.

We found this two kind men, they still remember that finding date is near Chinese new year time."
 
I received this information early one Sunday morning before church.  I wept when I read it.  It was 4:00am on January 31.  The wee hours of the morning.  And since you can find anything on Google, I found that the month of the coldest temps in Jiangsu province is in January, with the average being about 31 degrees.  That's the average. That means at 4am, the temps are probably well below that.
 
Mr. Yan is pictured here.
 
These two men are Kylie's angels.  As you read above, Mr. Yan took Kylie to a place with straw to try and keep her warm.  Straw.  Know anyone else who was put in straw right after they were born?  Not that I'm comparing Kylie to the baby Jesus, but this news was like God's nod to me that He was right there with her all along.  She was never really alone.
This place is near the place (a hotel) listed as her finding spot in the referral papers.  I guess it's a lot like when a crime or accident takes place, they just list the nearest cross street.

Here are Mr. Jiao and Mr. Yan pointing to the exact spot where Kylie was.

We will be sending some gifts to these two men to thank them for taking care of our girl until she could be moved to safety.  Clearly, they weren't sure what to do with her but they knew that leaving her wasn't right.  I picked up winter hats, scarves and gloves to send as thanks.  But how exactly do you thank someone for saving your child's life?
 
There is more to come once our investigator arrives back to her home.  She took more photos and videos of the city and village where Kylie is likely from.  I'll get those in a few weeks.  But now I know the whole story.  Kylie' China Mommy left her right in the middle of the street near a gas station where she knew Kylie would be found.  We know she was wrapped in a "brightly colored" quilt (we asked for this, but it was destroyed after she was brought to the orphanage.  It is possible the quilt is pictured below.
 
 
So, now you know the whole story.  And not only that, but Kylie will know more of her story too and the part these two men played in bringing her to us.
 

11.14.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 14

Today I am thankful for our adoption agency, Lifeline.  They have some of the best social workers in the adoptive world.  I have never worked with anyone like the China program director, Karla, who personally took on our case when we were waiting forever for LOA.

And their in China rep was the one who made the miracle happen of transferring our dossier from our former agency to theirs and then literally within hours finding us Kylie.  If you don't remember the story, you can read more about it here and here, but children are usually not listed on the shared list until they are 6 months old and usually only released once a month.  Kylie was 6 months and 3 days and found smack dab in the middle of 2 months worth of shared lists.  It literally is a miracle that we were matched with her when we were.

So, for the infamous Lily, Karla, Amy and all the other staff at Lifeline that change families' lives every day...

Today I'm thankful.

11.13.2012

30 Days of Thanks - Day 13

Today I am thankful for my freedom.

Yes, I know I should have posted this one last week on election day, but I was quite tired of the election by the time the day came, weren't you?  GAH.

But yes, I voted and took Kylie with me.  And I got to thinking how thankful I am that I live in a country where I not only have the freedom to vote for the elected officials I wish, but also can freely disagree with others political stance without getting thrown into jail.

I can worship as I wish.  Worship WHO I wish.  There are people in other countries who do not have that freedom.

I am thankful.