Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Letter

This time of year is upon us again and when I think back to January 2011, it seems like it was a lifetime ago. One year ago, we were living through the nightmare of poor Tate's ear tube fiasco, not sleeping and in the middle of the whitest Christmas we'd seen in a long time. This year, we're waiting for Max's mouth surgery (minor), not sleeping for a whole other reason, and playing outside without coats on Dec. 29! What an amazing amount of change can take place in just 12 months.

Here's a recap of our year, month by month. And I'm sorry, dear friends, but this is WAY more for my own benefit than for your reading pleasure. :) But read along if you like!

January: We started out our year with Tate's second round of ear tubes and his adenoid removal. Although it was a long road to eventual recovery, it was well worth it! We got our happy go lucky boy back! January also brought several snow days for our kids. We had a lot of fun snowboarding and sledding in the back yard, along with jammie/movie days inside. Fun times!

February: Zoe's 5th birthday happened on 2/2 and we celebrated with a party at Chuck E Cheese! More snow, and we survived Daddy's crazy travel schedule.

March: The hardest and most memorable thing of 2011...the death of my beautiful aunt on March 3. It rocked our family to the core. Although any death is hard and sad, losing someone SO suddenly like in this tragic car accident was horrible. My heart has expanded immensely for anyone who has lost a loved one in this way. We survived this as well and honored Leslie's life in many ways over the week our extended family spent together. Spring break was overshadowed by her loss but the kids enjoyed the time off school!

April: The start of all things spring! Little league for the boys and softball for the girl! We spent A LOT of time at the ball fields and Buck got his initiation into the world of little league coaching with Charlie's Blue Jays team. We celebrated Easter at my mom's and found ourselves ever more thankful for the gift of new life made possible through the Jesus' death and resurrection from the grave.

May: Busy, busy! End of the school year, family reunion, dance recitals...oh my! My grandpa's 90th birthday happened on May 9 and we had a wonderful though quiet celebration at my mom's. We also enjoyed Zoe's rockin dance recital...her first one in tap shoes! The boys continued to play baseball game after baseball game. We couldn't escape the month injury-free...Zoe took a nose-dive off our swingset and wound up with the first round of stitches for the Olsen kids. Not surprising that it was our little daredevil girl! The kids finished up second grade, kindergarten, and pre-K!

June: We enjoyed our first taste of summer by heading to the Blank Park Zoo and enjoying LOTS of pool time. All three "bigs" loved their first experience with junior golf! I am 100% in favor of encouraging my children to pursue non-contact sports. :) We took our first of 3 trips to the lake this month as well. We wound up the month with Charlie's birthday guessed it...Chuck E Cheese. Chars took his first spin around the neighborhood on his new skateboard and was a natural...he could be found on the board for the rest of the summer! We also celebrated the birth of our second nephew, Jack Elliott Olsen. He is a joy to our whole family!

July: Lake, lake, lake! We made 2 weeklong trips to our heaven on earth and had amazing weather and wonderful times. We celebrated the 4th of July with some great friends and the traditional Urbandale parade. The kids enjoyed more pool time as well! Tate potty-trained in record time and our family was free of diapers for the first time in like 9 years!!!

August: The last of our family trips to the lake...again, God smiled on us and blessed us with amazing weather and special lake memories with Nama, Papa, Aunt G, Uncle Jeffery, Katelyn and Madison! We celebrated Max's 9th birthday at Incredible Pizza (thank goodness we escaped Chuck E Cheese for at least one kid!!) Zoe had her second medical adventure of the year and had successful surgery to repair her lazy eyes. She did great! I had to suck it up and send the kids off to school...Max to third grade, Charlie to first grade and my girl to kindergarten. Sad day for Mommy but the kids were very excited and ready to go. Thankfully two of my best friends from high school came to visit with their babies and we had a wonderful time reconnecting! Tate and I found our new normal and LOVED our days with just the two of us...even though it wouldn't last long...

September: Tate started his "preschool" going to The Bridge 2 mornings a week so I could volunteer in the kids' classrooms. He has been a champ! We got into the swing of things with football practice and games, soccer practice and games, music lessons and Awana. One of the biggest things that happened in September was our move to our new church home to Lutheran Church of Hope in Johnston. We had been looking for a new church home closer to home and God provided! A new church branch right in our backyard. We continued to survive Buck's crazy travel schedule. :) I tiptoed back into labor and delivery and helped a friend as her doula as she and her husband welcomed a sweet baby boy. September also brought the amazing news that we would be parents again, and SOON! A baby girl was on the way via domestic adoption!

October: Travel! I tagged along on a business trip with Buck and spent a few fun days in Washington DC. It was a fun but quick getaway. I attended my second (and final I think, but who knows!) birth of the year as a doula...on my birthday! A new friend welcomed her first baby, a boy. It was wonderful! We surprised the kids on my birthday as well by telling them that a Disney World vacation was coming soon. Our "party of 9" traveled to Orlando the end of October and had the time of our lives. The kids were amazing and it was so fun to have Buck's parents and my mom along to share in the fun.

November: Time to get ready for baby! Making travel plans and scouring Craigslist for baby gear took up some of the time while we impatiently waited to meet our baby. We traveled to Utah late on Nov. 21 and met Selah Faith Olsen on Nov. 23. She is an absolute joy and delight. We officially became her parents on Nov. 24...Thanksgiving day. Although we were sad to miss Thanksgiving with our families, we couldn't be happier to have a new little girl to love.

December: Here we are again! What a year it has been. Christmas parties at school and finding the perfect presents (although we must say the Disney World trip and a new baby sister made this Christmas not quite as exciting as others have been. :) ). We spend Christmas this year with my mom's side of the family, missing Auntie Les and making new memories...and enjoying Selah's first Christmas! Although traveling and sleeping in a hotel room with a newborn and 4 other kids was interesting, we were happy to be with family. Sadly, Buck's grandpa, Merrill Shaw, passed away on Dec. 27 of this year at the wonderful age of 96. He was a great man with a GREAT smile and a huge heart for his four daughters. We will miss him greatly but are so thankful for his long and productive life!

Buck: Professionally, he continues to be happy and fulfilled in his position as a partner at Foster Group. This is the first year (I think) in the 11 years he's been there that he used all his vacation time for the year! Woo hoo!! Let's hope that continues into 2012. While his travel schedule can be crazy, we make the most of the other family time we have together and love our weekends! Buck continues to love his workouts at Farrell's after a minor knee surgery in March...he had a good recovery and was able to get back on the wakeboard this summer. He is the BEST daddy I've ever known and is our rock and my biggest cheerleader. So blessed!

Laura: Professionally, I continue to be happy at home...most of the time. :) I am so fortunate to have a small professional outlet by working as a nurse practitioner 2 days per month (yes...per MONTH). It's the best gig ever! I love my friends and co-workers at the clinic and the patients always manage to keep me on my toes. I've taken the month of December off and will jump back into my PRN position here in just a week or so...leaving Tate and Selah with my sister-in-law makes heading off to work as easy as it can be. I love teaching KQ (Sunday School) to kindergartners and first-graders at our new church and enjoyed my women's Bible study this fall. Mostly I just try to make sure my five kids have clean clothes and that I remembered to feed them all sometime during the day...anything more than that (i.e. baths, brushed teeth, beds made, etc.) is just a bonus! :) In reality, the transition from 4 to 5 kids hasn't been overwhelmingly crazy although it has its moments. But we are blessed with 4 amazing older kids who have LOVED baby Selah and have welcomed her with open arms. It's nice to have a 9-, 7-, and 5-year-old willing to give a bottle, grab a diaper or hold a baby when I need a moment (to you know, change the laundry or something fun like that!). We are so blessed and thankful.

2011 has been quite a year...whew! Cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in 2012. We are so grateful for His faithfulness. One of my very favorite life verses, which I think applies in the good times and the hard times is from Lamentations 3: "The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies are new every morning. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him!" v. 22-23 A very happy new year to you and yours. May you know the peace and joy of the Lord now and in the year to come!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Favorite Christmas pic

My Granddaddy reading "The Night Before Christmas" to 10 of his 12 great-grandchildren. Sorry for the awful quality of the photo but I was too busy making sure Zoe didn't drop Selah. :) Hope you all had a beautiful Christmas with your families!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My ode to the stomach flu

Puking sounds, are you listening?

And last but not least who man!

When they puke, it's so not pretty
I really wish I was in another city
Mommy cleans and does laundry
And dreams of Hawaii..

Walking in the stomach flu wonderland
Welcome to my world! Selah and I are the only two who have been spared. The joys of a big family...when one person gets sick, LOTS of people get sick. We are a family who shares. :) We'll be back when we're healthy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some adoption FAQ's

4. Why did you decide to adopt from the U.S. this time? I may get a tad defensive with this question and I don't mean to so please know that's where this answer is coming from. When someone asks me this, what I hear (and this is totally my issue! Probably not implied at all!) is "there are orphans all over the world who need to be adopted, why didn't you adopt one of them?". I answered some of this issue in my "Details, part 1" post so I apologize for repeating myself. We wanted to return to Ethiopia this time but it just didn't "feel" quite right. We believe that to be a leading from the Holy Spirit. Buck and I have always tried to be very open to God's leading through our adoptions and we fully believe that if a door closed in the midst of our processes we weren't going to force that door open by pushing and pushing and kicking it down (sorry for the metaphor!). The doors to our Ethiopian adoption were slowly closing around us. It was sad and frustrating and we don't know if we will adopt from there again...we might...but we don't know. Meanwhile, the doors to a domestic adoption were swinging wide if God was saying "over here...hello! Come over here!" It took some prayer and discernment and TIME, but we figured it out. Bottom line, friends...there is NEED everywhere. Here, in Africa, in China, EVERYWHERE. There is no doubt in our minds that we were meant to be in the life of Selah's birth mom and that Selah was meant to be our daughter. And however that came to be...was in God's hands.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How it's going?

So many people have asked us how it's going with baby Selah and the older four kids. I thought I would sum it up in photos (and thought you all wouldn't mind!)

There's this sweet guy:

Just missed him giving baby sis a sweet kiss

But this happens multiple times a day. "Hold her pwease, Mama?" comes out of his mouth a lot!

Then there's this precious sister, a sweet little "mama" at the ripe old age of 5. It's amazing that God has given us that innate knowledge of how to hold a baby, try to comfort a baby. So cute to see Zoe try to "shh, shh, shh" Selah while gently bouncing her.

And this proud guy. Sorry about the red eye--darn iPhone camera! He was the first brother to give Selah a bottle, and he was so excited! He was a pro.

And one more very proud brother! He had to make sure I got a picture of him giving Selah a kiss. :)

It looks like he's smooshing her but really it's a very sweet little kiss on her head. :)

Bottom line...things are going amazingly well. Truly I don't think they could be going any better (other than those 3 AM feedings but that's a newborn!) Selah has just become part of our family like she's always been there. And now we can't imagine our family without her. Yep, things are going well. Thanks for asking. :)

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Details...part 2

So here we were in September. We had to get our homestudy updated to reflect a deisre for a domestic adoption, which took a couple of weeks. Our local social worker is an angel and put up with all sorts of phone calls and requests for various information. :) Thankfully she keeps good records because goodness knows I don't. If there was ever a piece of paperwork I couldn't find, all I had to do was call Cheryl and she would send me a copy...God bless her.

We finally got all of our paperwork in order to make a change from an Ethiopian adoption with one agency to a domestic adoption with a different agency. Don't forget that money thing I mentioned earlier. In order to proceed with Courtney from Faithful Adoption Consultants, we needed a certain amount of money...and we had about double that amount invested with the other agnecy for the international adoption. Wouldn't you know, God showed up. We had already decided to call it a loss and move forward with Courtney, regardless of the money issue. We would be diligent with our finances and figure it out. After making that decision, we got an email literally out of the blue, saying that part of our money would be refunded. God is so faithful to us when we follow His lead. What an unexpected and truly inexplicable gift. Inexplicable to anyone but God that is. Thank you, Lord!

So we took that money and joyfully signed on with Courtney. Within 4 days, we had a potential match! Oh my goodness our hopes were high. Four days and we could be matched? We said from the beginning, we were trusting in God's plan for our family, no matter what. That mom ultimately decided to parent her baby. So that wasn't our baby. I was settling in for numerous situations like this one--where our profile would be shown to a birth mom and she wouldn't pick us. Or she would decide to parent. The very next day I got a phone call from Courtney--while in the toy section of Target with all 4 kids no less. :) I remember specifically she said "I don't know if this is something you would be interested in but you came to mind right away when I heard about this gal." I listened briefly then told her I would call her back when I got home. Courtney is such an amazingly faithful, discerning heart. If we came to mind when she heard about this situation I needed to listen.

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel." Proverbs 12:15

Now, I know this sounds awfully fast and crazy for a domestic adoption. Keep in mind one of the most important things is that we were open to race, gender, and many medical issues. This makes things go a LOT faster. We truly trusted God would bring our baby to our family, whatever that looked like. I want to add here that Selah is a truly perfectly healthy, African-American baby girl. For Zoe to have a sister that looks like her in some way is an amazing gift. It's better than anything we could have picked ourselves! We knew that by being open, God would pick our perfect child.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. " Isaiah 55:8

Anyway...I truly felt an immediate connection when I heard about this young woman's story. Plus the timing of it had God's hand all over it. We had been planning our Disney World trip for about 6 months and knew it would be complicated if there was a newborn in the picture or if we had to leave Disney World early or whatever. Don't get me wrong, we would have altered our plans however we needed to to make the baby our first priority but we were all looking forward to this last "family of 6" vacation. This baby we had just heard about was due to be born the end of November...a month after our trip. And in my mind I had thought there was no way we'd have a baby before the end of the year. Here was God, laying this gift right in front of us and defying my expectations.

"Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." John 14:13-14.

This birth mom was shown 8 different profiles to choose from. I thought we didn't have a chance in heck of being picked--we already had 4 children, which we had been told may be a detriment to us. Many birth moms want their baby to be the first child or second child...likely not the 5th child. We got a phone call back the next day saying that this birth mom wanted to talk with us and one other couple on the phone before making her decision. I felt like we had made it to the finals of some contest. What a weird feeling! This mom was going to be deciding who would raise her baby based on a phone conversation! We were so excited to talk with her and anxious to hear more about her life.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;" Psalm 139:23

We had a wonderful phone conversation, even with a couple of connection glitches. The evil one could not break through even though he tried! We asked if we could ask the birth mom if she was a believer. They said not to ask specifically but if she opened the door we could ask about her beliefs. The second question she asked us was whether or not we went to church. BINGO! We told her that church and our faith was the most important thing to us. She said she believed in God and had been praying for her baby's adoptive parents. This is not a specifically Christian organization, so we were thrilled to find another believer, and to know that we would have this connection if she chose us.

"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common," Acts 2:44

The phone call happened on Saturday evening, and our case worker told us that we might hear her choice within a couple of hours. A couple of hours came and went...we went to bed...waited all day Sunday. I called Courtney, I texted Courtney, I e-mailed Courtney. Then I remembered that it was Sunday and she wasn't supposed to be working. :) But she emailed me back anyway, telling me exactly what I thought she would. That she hadn't heard anything and that she would let me know the minute she heard something.

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit." Ecclesiastes 7: 8

"But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." Romans 8:25

Monday morning rolled around and Tate and I had a playdate. We went on about our morning, as if we weren't waiting for the most important phone call. We had a fun playdate with our friends and on the way home, shoved in the backseat of my friend's mini-van, I got the most important phone call. "Are you dying?" Kris asked me. "Well, yeah, pretty much. Can you put me out of my misery?" I replied. "She picked you." Kris answered. I started crying and my friends thought something crazy had happened. I had to say quickly "We're getting a baby!" And wouldn't you know, Buck was out of town. I called him in the middle of some crazy important meeting and said "Congratulations, Daddy, it's a GIRL!" He started laughing and crying. We both were certain that because it had taken her so long to make her decision, we were not the ones she picked. We cried out in praise to the Lord.

"Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." Colossians 2:7

We were waiting for a sweet little girl, due to arrive via c-section on November 28. We couldn't believe God's favor and blessing. At the time I thought, this may be one of those situations where God chooses to teach me patience or humility. This isn't going to work out. I'm going to get my hopes up and God will teach me to lean even more on Him. I heard a couple of stories of parents who had even gone so far as traveling to the hospital, meeting their baby and having the birth mom change her mind. I couldn't imagine how I would explain that to my kids. It would be like a death for them. But then I was reminded, there are no guarantees in anything...not with a pregnancy (we've all known too many women who have lost a baby!), not with an international adoption, and not with a domestic adoption. We just have to walk by faith, not by what is guaranteed in front of us.

"Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight--we are of good courage..." 2 Corinthians 5:6-7

Fast forward a few months to our awesome Disney World vacation. The trip of a lifetime! We came home and had a couple of weeks to get our travel arranged. We thought what a blessing it was to have a c-section date so we could "plan." You know that saying "Make a plan and watch God laugh." Well, should have taken that to heart. Two weeks before we were supposed to leave, we found out that her c-section date had been moved up to the 23rd. So we had to rearrange our trips and our childcare and realized we would be missing Thanksgiving with our families. But what is that compared to getting to meet our baby 5 days sooner?! We were so excited. I was nervous about leaving my kids for so long. We also had NO idea when we would be able to come home. Best case scenario would not be until Wednesday the 30th. And that was being INCREDIBLY optimistic. That would mean that they would get our paperwork to the Utah courthouse on Monday, send it overnight to Iowa, the Iowa office would get it approved the same day and communicate that back to Utah, then we would be cleared to leave on our 10 AM flight on Wednesday morning. I was not counting on it, trust me. But still...

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4: 4-7

I was laying all of my fears and anxieties and apprehensions at the feet of the cross. He would care for me. He would surround me and my family with His joy and His peace. Off we went!

We got to have dinner with our birth mom and birth dad the night before the c-section. We were excited more than nervous and Buck said "are you going to give her a big hug??" kind of joking, but kind of not...I am a hugger! :) I said I was going to restrain myself. YEAH RIGHT!! The moment I laid eyes on her, I grabbed her and gave her a big hug. She didn't seem to mind and hugged me right back. Later that night, she told her case mananger she knew it was the right thing and she had made the right decision the moment I gave her a hug.

We had a great dinner, enjoyed getting to know one another, asked lots of questions and answered lots of questions. I was amazed that she had pretty much memorized our profile book. She knew all about our kids (what I had written), their ages and names. Trust me, even I have a hard time remembering their names and ages sometimes. ha! We all parted ways ready to see one another again in the morning, the day of our baby's birth!

"This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!" Psalm 118:24

Being a nurse-midwife and longtime labor & delivery nurse, you can guess how much I wanted to be in the OR when the baby was born. I didn't ask, because that is a deeply personal decision but I did tell my case worker that I really wanted to be there. But I knew there was a very good chance that I wouldn't be able to. I truly was fine either way. I texted my dear friend Kara and said "Please pray I can be in there when she's born. Just specifically for that." She was on it. We got to the hospital at 7:30, and still hadn't heard whether I could go in. I thought I would be in the waiting room, just like dads way back when. :) At about 7:50, with the c-section scheduled for 8:00, our darling case worker said, "Happy get to be in the delivery room." Praise the Lord! Thank you, Lord, for your timing!

"But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness, answer me with your saving truth." Psalm 69:13

What a gift God had given to me. What a blessing to hear this baby's very first cry:

What an unbelievable overwhelming blessing to share this baby with this woman. What a beautiful, priceless gift God bestowed on us. On the day before Thanksgiving, for goodness sake!

And this guy was pretty darn proud too:

Sweet baby Selah. As for her name: as you can tell, I love the Psalms. I love the whole Word of God, but the Psalms speak to me in every season. "Selah" is a word used at the end of some of the Psalms. In music it is used as an instruction to the choir director to pause. As I was in Bible study this fall, our teacher was teaching us about meditative Bible reading and used the word "Selah" to describe pausing and waiting for the Lord to speak. It is also the name of a town in Israel that means "rock". How can those meanings all not apply to our journey to our Selah? Oh, and it's pronounced "SAY-la". I'm sure I will be saying that my whole life and so will she. :) Sorry, kid. As for "Faith"...well, I'm sure you can guess where we got that name. Or not. Our birth mom told us the night we had dinner together that she wanted to name the baby Faith. Our agency that brought us together was called Faithful Adoptions. God demonstrated His faithfulness to us time and time again through this process.

"Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." 1 Thessalonians 5: 24

And once again: "From the fullness of His grace, we have received one blessing after another." John 1:16. Amen!

And as a small but significant post-script to this story, remember how I said it was really optimistic to hope to come home Wednesday? You don't even have to guess when we got to come home, right? God has shown His favor and blessing and power through this whole thing. Of course, we got home on Wednesday! I put out a request for prayers and about 2 hours later, our case worker called and said "I hate to tell you this...but you have to go home!" What a joy, what a blessing, what an answer. She said it was unprecedented to have paperwork go through that fast. Nothing is unprecedented when it comes to God. Nothing should surprise us. Thank you, Lord!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Details...Part 1 :)

Yes, we have a sweet, beautiful, new little person in our family. She is amazing! We are overwhelmingly thankful to God for our newest blessing. I have been reminded of the verse at the top of our blog numerous times in these past couple of weeks: "From the fullness of His grace, we have received one blessing after another." John 1:16 Amen! God's grace abounds...and our FIVE sweet children are the biggest of the amazing blessings He's bestowed on us. fill in a few of the blanks.

We actually started to pursue another Ethiopian adoption about a year ago. We were on the "waiting list" and everything. Then one thing after another started happening...first it was the new 2-trip policy. We would be required to travel to Ethiopia twice to complete the adoption there. While not ideal, we decided that was do-able. We stuck with it. Then the projected wait times for a referral with our agency started gettting longer and longer. When we joined the wait list, it was a 6-9 month wait for a referral (your "match"). Then it was 9-12 months. Then it was over 12 months, with no guarantees of how long. We had a conversation with our social worker about our options. In the most loving way possible, she told us what a great need there was for families for minority children here in the US. We decided to think about it, pray about it, and see what direction we should go. We already had a decent amount of money invested in the Ethiopian adoption--enough to make us keep going in that direction, knowing that making a change with regard to where we would adopt from would likely mean a total loss of that money.

I started researching different domestic agencies...a completely new thing for us. We had never considered domestic adoption, mostly because of the mistaken belief that there were crazy long waiting lists for healthy babies. That babies born here didn't ever have problems finding families. Not true, friends. The more I looked into it, the more need I discovered right here in the United States.

Through what I believe to be God's leading, I found Faithful Adoption Consultants through reading the blog of an acquaintance. I called Courtney the next day. We had a wonderful, long conversation and she and I clicked immediately. I wanted to hire her on the spot! But again, there was that money thing...we kept praying, we kept waiting, and all the while I was getting more and more excited about the prospect of adopting 1) a newborn and 2) a baby whose first family we could potentially have an ongoing relationship with. The first time we adopted, we didn't fully realize or grasp the huge importance of developing and maintaining a relationship with our child's birth family. While we were able to meet some of Zoe's birth family (and what a God-given gift that was!!), knowing for sure that they are receiving our updates on Zoe is uncertain, and we wish that they had some way to communicate with us. Bottom line, God was definitely changing my heart about adopting domestically and we began to think that maybe "our child" was right here in the US. And as a wonderful side note, this all was happening right about the time that our birth mom was contacting the agency that we eventually were matched with. God's timing is perfect, always perfect.

Moving forward to September. The kids were in school and it finally felt like the right time to make a move. We officially put our Ethiopian adoption on hold. Oh...what do you know? Miss Selah Faith just started fussing. :) I guess that means it's the right place to pause this long detailed explanation. More tomorrow...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The reason...

I haven't posted lately...
We are here...

Meeting her...

And hoping to be back in Iowa soon. Things are wonderful...we can't wait to begin our life as a family of 7. It's been the BEST Thanksgiving ever. We are blessed!

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Monday, November 21, 2011

November thankful...Charlie

There are SO many reasons I'm
thankful for Charlie, but look at his Christmas list. I love this kid...he makes me smile every single day.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

November thankful: teachers!

This being conference time and all, I have been overwhelmed with thankfulness for the teachers we have been blessed with in our lives and our kids' lives. They love our kids like they were their own; they desire success for our children, both academically and in their development as "kids of character." At a (wonderful, I might add) public school, we have been blessed with several teachers who love Jesus and who pray for our kids and all the kids my children interact with. What a blessing! I have struggled at various points as to whether public school is the right choice for us. I am pro-public school in the right setting--at the same time, I fully understand why people choose private school or homeschooling as well and trust me, I've had all of those conversations with myself and with the Lord numerous times. But each time I keep coming back to the fact that sending our kids to public school (for now) has been a much-prayed about and God-driven decision for us...not one we entered into lightly or by rote. And when I left 3 kids' wonderful conferences this past week, this decision has been confirmed over and over again. I fully believe that our kids are lights for Jesus in their school. Because their lights are shining, others can see their good works and praise our Father in heaven (paraphrase from Matthew 5:16). Thank you, Lord!

As a proud mom, I am also overwhelmingly thankful for the hard work and growth I've seen in each of my children since school started this fall. Zoe is reading!! She is a champ at math apparently and is the "queen of rhyming". :) After a bit of a rough start, Zoe is making great behavior choices and we are SO proud of who she is! Chars is reading well above grade level and is a superstar artist...he has started (just for fun, I might add!) creating his own superhero comic books starring Tate and Charlie as defeaters of monsters. Love that!! And Max...well...typical oldest child...perfectionist, rule-follower, hasn't missed a spelling word all year...all I can say is wow. Yes, I love these little monkeys, and I am SO proud to have the privilege of parenting them and watching them become who God intends. So very thankful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our last few weeks in photos!

Max & me at the Civic Center for a super fun field trip!

Followed up with a trip to the Science Center! What a great group of 3rd graders. Thankful: that I get to stay home and do these awesome things with my kids.

My cousin and her family came for a fun weekend visit. E & L (my cousin's daughters) got a shot on TV with our local weather caster!

The little miss needed a trim. I debated about getting it done as she really wants her hair long, but it badly needed the trim and I'm glad I did it! Even just trimming the 2 inches, there was practically an entire head of hair on the floor! She is such a dolly, this girl. Love her gorgeous hair!!

I love sweet pictures of sleepy kiddos. And yes, Tate's carseat is flowered. :) Poor kid.

And look who turned 3 years old!!! Wow!!! He is such a sweet little guy and we are blessed to have him in our family. Love love love you, Tater Bug!!!

More birthday and thankful posts to come. Happy Tuesday.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November thankful #4

This guy deserves at least a week's worth of thankful posts...probably the whole month's worth. He is our provider and the emotional rock of our family. He is our spiritual leader and he showers each of our children with a sweet and individual love, showing them here on earth a glimpse of how God loves them.

He is blessedly patient and gracefully forgiving. He is a gifted listener and also puts up with any movie I'm in the mood to see (I also got him totally hooked on The Good Wife!! Yes!!). He really is my very best friend. Man, God blessed my socks off when he picked this guy for me way back when we were 16 & 17. So in love and so, so thankful.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

November thankful #3

I love autumn. It is absolutely my favorite time of year. Bring on the sweaters and the Ugg boots! Yes I know, talk to me in January when I want to throw my Uggs out the window and hop a plane to Hawaii. But I am thankful for the change in seasons, the beautiful colors, and the little bite in the air. Reminders of God's power and presence through His creation are everywhere in this season. I am thankful for a warm home. I'm reminded many nights of people who don't have that luxury when one of our kids (usually Max or Zoe) prays for "the people who don't have homes to stay warm tonight". I'm also thankful for a mug of hot apple cider, the appearance of peppermint hot chocolate at McDonald's (woo hoo!), and under-a-big-fleece-blanket-snuggles with my kids while watching Toy Story with the fireplace going. Love this season! And you can bet that I will be loving that extra hour of sleep tomorrow night. :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2!

Oh so thankful for Jesus! Jesus who hears every whisper of our hearts, Jesus who comes near when we say "Lord, help me!" I had a couple of what I fondly call "Lord have mercy moments" when I thought I might just lose it with the kids today. Some days I have none of those moments, but when they come they seem to come in full force. Buck was out of town tonight and with drum lessons, church night, bath night and cold and dreary weather all rolled up into one L O N G night. But Jesus...He's there. Speak His name and He comes to us. Thank you, Lord, for your truly amazing grace. Thank you, Lord, for being strong in our weakness. Thank you, Lord for your LOVE.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Thankful

I'm going to try and post most days about what I am thankful for...and no promises because goodness knows I can't do anything other than eat and sleep every single day. :) But I will try. This morning I was overwhelmingly thankful for my oldest child. Yes I am thankful for each of my children every single day...and you'll likely hear more about them in the coming days. But today...Max. We were at the orthodontist for the big "money appointment" as I described it to Buck. They laid out Max's treatment plan, how much it would cost, how long it would take. And Max asked more questions than either of his parents!! Love that kid and his attention to detail and curiosity.. I am also thankful for his adventurous spirit and being willing to try anything once. He was the go-getter at Disney World, trying every single ride possible. Yesterday he gave a speech for the student council elections...he wrote the whole thing himself and did not even ask for help. The last sentence of his speech: "remember, Horizon, a vote for Max is a vote for the pillars of character." How does he come up with this stuff? Yep, I'm so thankful for Max.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trip of a lifetime!

We had such a perfect the happiest place on earth...Disney World! I don't know how one could NOT have a great time. Yes it was a lot of work and prep and packing and unpacking but it was well worth it. We had all of our parents along as well which made it even more fun and memorable. Never thought in a million years I would get my mom on Space Mountain but grandkids are way better arm-twisters than daughters, I guess. ;) Lots of pictures on several different cameras but here are a few from my phone:

Charlie & I on the plane!

Princess Breakfast with our princess

Meeting Mickey at Animal Kingdom

Buck's parents at the Michael Jackson 3-D show (yes, I dragged everyone to see Michael)

Tate & Daddy love MJ too!

The tooth fairy had to come to Florida! He looks like a little jack-o-lantern. :)

Max & Nana on the people-mover

Some other cuties on the people-mover

Tired monkeys!!

We found our friends the Polkings at Disney! It's a small world after all...haha. We knew ahead of time we would be there at the same time but meeting up was tricky! We are so glad we spent a little time with them and their adorable kids.

Riding on the tea cups--can't miss those!

Quite possibly our favorite picture from vacation! Look at that smile...JOY! We are so blessed and as always...thankful to be home but oh so thankful for an amazing week. Happy Monday, friends.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A time out

What do you think has been happening around here a lot lately when I overheard Tate asking his Hot Wheels cars "Do you need a time out?" :) Oh the joys of an almost-3-year-old.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A little getaway

For my birthday and just for fun, I got to tag along on a business trip with Buck to one of our country's treasures. Washington DC! And Buck really had to twist my arm since he was staying at the Ritz-Carlton. :) As always we had amazing help at home from Buck's parents and his sister. I had to share (and for my own memories) the rain-soaked photos I took of my tour of the memorials.

The Washington Monument (photo for Max!)...closed at the moment due to damage from the earthquake.

The first time I had seen the beautiful World War II memorial. Here is the Iowa pillar.

This man is certainly worthy of the memorial dedicated to him--impressive and impactful.

The gorgeous (haha) view from the Lincoln Memorial...the reflecting pool is being renovated and is a big pile of dirt. :) I felt like I did when I went to visit Stonehenge in England...waiting for a momentous spiritual experience but really just getting drenched and wanting to get inside and get dry. :) I wanted to visit where Dr. King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech...and I did. :)

One of the most meaningful experiences of the trip. Holocaust Museum. The sign outside says "think about what you saw." No problem...I am thinking about it, trust me!

I know this very hard to read but this is a plaque at the Vietnam Memorial dedicated to veterans who died as a result of their service in the war. My dad's sister was the person who spearheaded this effort to get this plaque installed in honor of my dad and his comrades, who died after coming home. It was very cool to see it 19 years after my dad died from Agent Orange- related cancer.

Finally, can you see I was excited to find Zoe's store? It was fun to send her this picture and hear her sweet little giggle. So fun to go, but as good to be home! Happy day, friends!