This blog chronicles the miracles and struggles of our daughters, Emily and Olivia. Emily was born 15 weeks early and had many complications, but she continues to amaze us! Olivia, born in China with heart complications, is also beating the odds. She joined her forever family (us!) when she was four years old and has been doing wonderfully! UPDATE: We started homeschooling August 2009 :)

Friday, November 19, 2010


Since we're discussing family additions, it has just occurred to me that although I've posted pix of our new canine family member on Facebook, I've never posted about our new dog here. We adopted Lily in July after our beloved (almost 16 year old) Chelsea died in June. Lily is about a year old and appears to be a lab/beagle mix, around 45 pounds. She was about to be euthanized along with all the other animals in the southern IN pound because they didn't want to pay overtime for a holiday weekend (July 4th). Rover Rescue here in IL went down and saved a van load and two days later Lily joined our family. I don't know much about her history, but she was apparently picked up as a stray?? She's a sweet girl and has been a great addition to our family. The girls are totally in love!! I had some fun with her pictures as you can see here:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adopting TWO boys!!

I guess I need to update here! I previously announced that we were adopting a six year old boy from China. Well, now we're adopting TWO six year old boys!! Jimmy AND Joel :) Jimmy will turn seven in April so it may end up being six and seven year olds, but we'll see. They are three months apart and not related. They are in two different orphanages in Shenzhen, but they were both at the same Journey of Hope camp in April. Jimmy has a few posts on our agency's blog so you can find him here if you search for Jimmy:

Joel probably doesn't even know his name (our agency just made up an American name for reference/pronunciation sake), but after referring to him by Joel for a while, the name stuck. I also liked the meaning: the Lord is God. Jimmy, on the other hand should know his name since he is in a class (taught by an american) that teaches some English and they were all given American nick names. In fact, Jimmy's name is actually what hooked us.

You may remember this post from two years ago when Olivia got to go shopping with her Bible bucks for family members at Pioneer Club. She brought home gifts wrapped and labeled for Mommy, Daddy, Emily and Jimmy. Jimmy?! Why of course, she told the volunteer worker that she needed a gift for her brother Jimmy! We didn't even know a Jimmy so that whole thing came out of nowhere!

Fast forward to this May. Andy and I had been privately discussing the idea of adoption, but before the girls knew anything about it, Olivia floored me by praying for us to adopt a brother one night at dinner! When I asked her what her new brother's name would/should be, my jaw dropped when she stopped to think for a second and then very sure of herself, said, "James." She had no way of knowing that Jimmy and James are often one in the same and probably didn't remember that she'd bought a gift for her "brother Jimmy" two years ago, but boy was she strangely consistent! Also, immediately when she said James, a scripture popped into my head that I didn't even know that I knew, James 1:27: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. With this, I knew Someone was trying to tell me something!

All that made quite an impact on me, but I had no way of knowing how it would all play out so perfectly in a plan I could not have orchestrated if I tried. Reminds of how our first adoption came about much better than we could have ever planned--see Olivia's story here! Within a month of Olivia's dinner prayer I came across a blog that featured Chinese orphans who'd attended a three day Journey of Hope camp with the hope of being adopted. Staff from an adoption agency in Portland, OR had attended the camp with 35 older &/or special needs kids to get to know them so they could advocate for them and find them families. Interestingly enough, there was a Jimmy among the group! My interest was piqued, but after researching Jimmy's special needs (which could require a series of reconstructive surgeries) I reluctantly moved on and zeroed in on another cute six year old who'd already had his heart corrected and would only require one other surgery. Joel. It took Andy a while to warm up to the idea, but on our anniversary dinner date (August 15) he gave me the green light. As soon as the agency opened on Monday I told the agency it was a go.

The very next day, China announced a policy change; they would now allow families to adopt a second child at the same time as long as at least one is a Special Focus (special needs or older) child. Interesting! I'd already wanted two, but didn't think it was possible. This was very exciting news for me!! Andy, not so much. He wasn't opposed to a fourth child later, but was justifiably afraid that two at a time would bond to each other to the exclusion of the rest of our family. He'd just gotten used to the idea of adding one more and didn't appreciate what felt like a bait and switch. He was not on board. Yet.

Hoping that Andy would warm to the idea of two I inquired about other boys on the list. With Jimmy being just three months older than Joel, I again dismissed him thinking I didn't think I really wanted two the same age. Instead, I asked about some younger boys, but none seemed like the perfect match. I had all kinds of justification for not picking Jimmy, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that he was meant to be ours. Olivia's foretelling of Jimmy/James and the James scripture had all pulled at my heart. After a few days of futile resistance I asked to review his file. That was it. I knew then he was ours. The problem was that Andy did not know it. Yet.

We did not see eye to eye on the topic of adopting two so we agreed to pray for like-mindedness. We've been happily together for about 25 years now (dated for 7, married for 18) and we've agreed on most important things and we knew we needed to be in agreement on this. We prayed that one of our hearts would be changed--that either my heart would change to desire only one OR that his heart would change to desire two. After praying about this for a few weeks we learned that Jimmy's time was running out. Our agency had been given six months to find families for the camp kids and the unmatched files would be going to go back to at the end of the month.

As we continued to pray that we'd come to a united decision, I didn't twist Andy's arm or nag him to death, but amazingly, within a few short weeks I started to see his heart change! I watched him move from resistance to acceptance to excitement. Only God! It was so neat to witness the change and later hear him say that he didn't know exactly how or when his heart changed, but that it definitely had. This answered prayer was yet another confirmation that Jimmy AND Joel were meant to be part of our family and I couldn't be more excited! Shortly before the end of October we let our agency know that we would be pursuing TWO boys and submitted some pre-approval forms. Last week we got the word that China accepted our proposal for both Jimmy and Joel :) Of course there is still a lot of red tape ahead, but we (girls included) can't wait to be a family of six! We acknowledge that two may be double the challenge, but another verse quickly come to mind, Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who can be against us?

"Once our eyes are opened {by a cute little girl!}, we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows we know and holds us responsible to act."
Proverbs 24:12

"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is within the power of your hand to do so."
Proverbs 3:27

"Take up the cause of the fatherless..."
Isaiah 1:17

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves..."
Proverbs 31:8

"And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."
Matthew 18:5

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families..."

Psalms 68:5-6a

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Didn't mean to be a tease

In my last post I said that you could find Joel's smiling face by searching our adoption agency's blog. I'd forgotten that he wasn't that well represented there...and that most of the Journey of Hope camp pix I have of him were emailed to me separately. Not sure when I'm allowed to post his pix here, but I guess for now you'll just have to trust me that he's got a smile that could light up a room.

Just looked back at the blog and found a few pix. They're not his most photogenic, but I see him on a lady's lap in Sept. 13 post... and in the June 1st post that same woman (same clothes, probably same day) has her hand on his shoulder.

And, on May 5, he was written about: "Joel is another boy that stole my heart. What a vivacious and curious little boy! He explores everything and seems to live every moment:-) He was very outgoing and didn't hesitate in coming right up to me to interact multiple times. He also enjoyed the camera and took every opportunity to pose:-) He performed the two tigers song and dance and stole the show!"

Exciting new additions to our family!!

It's been a while since I last posted and there have been a lot of changes! In June we said good bye to our dear old dog, Chelsea, who'd been with us for almost 16 years. In July we adopted a wonderful new dog, Lily, whose time was almost up in a shelter. And, in August, we decided to adopt a six-year old Waiting/Special Needs boy from China!

Yes, that's a lot of change in a short amount of time!! I'm not sure what I'm allowed to post about our new son, but I can direct you to the blog where I found him. Yes, a blog, of all places! You see, an agency in Portland, OR went to China in April to spend three days at a Journey for Hope camp with the hope of finding families for 36 hard to place orphans. I first came across the blog in June and we committed to Joel on August 16 after a big discussion on our date for our 18th wedding anniversary.

I'll probably resurrect this dead blog in order to chronicle our trip to China (we're all going, hopefully in the spring), but I may need to change the name somehow! (edited to say) I thought one could search for Joel's smiling face on the blog but now when I enter "Joel" in the search I don't see him :( UGH, I didn't mean to be such a tease! Trust me, he is a little cutie with pinchable smiling cheeks! I have lots of pictures AND a video, but I don't think I'm allowed to post anything online yet. Still check out the site and take a good look around because many of the kids from the camp are still needing forever families ;) Spread the word if you know anyone looking to add to their family!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Emily's first piano recital and doggy woes

We had a rough morning yesterday trying to get off to Emily's first piano recital after our 15.5 year old dog had taken a tumble down the stairs and crashed into the wall at the bottom. When she couldn't get up after her fall, we thought we'd have to make a tough choice when the vet reopened on Monday. We got a little reprieve today though when Chelsea surprised us by walking a bit and eating again, but she's still in a lot of pain and it's clear that her days are numbered. The only silver lining of all that commotion was that Emily had a distraction from stage fright and didn't dwell as much on the dread of having all eyes upon her! She just started lessons in the fall and I think she did pretty well :) Click on the video below to see her performance.

I've pasted some pix from last month of Chelsea when she was doing a little better.

This is posted out of order, but after we took some funny pictures of our crazy dog ON the dishwasher, we eventually kicked her out!
Caught red handed! Or should that be red pawed?
Chelsea, do you know where Alaska goes?
Chelsea was already declining here, but was still able to tolerate the girls' TLC. The girls have to be much more careful with her today.
We had Chelsea for six years before Emily came along, but they took to each other very well :) It's going to be hard to say goodbye.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

March for Babies

Our Top Walker award!! What a nice surprise!
Emily doesn't look like a preemie anymore does she?!
Aunt Ruthie and Bo joined us for a fun day :)
This venue (in Bolingbrook) was only 3 miles vs. 6+ (in Naperville) which really appealed to me with rain in the forecast!
Thankfully the rain actually held off until we were almost done!

On Sunday we did our annual March for Babies to raise money for other babies born too soon like Emily. It's almost hard to believe our tall ten-year-old once weighed barely more than a pound! We are so blessed to have her in our life and will be forever grateful to March of Dimes for their life saving research that enabled her to survive. This is our way of saying thank you and trying to make a difference for future babies. We certainly never dreamed we'd have a baby four months early, but unfortunately one out of seven babies is born prematurely.

Andy's Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Bo joined us as we walked at a new location this year (Bolingbrook Promenade vs. Naperville) where we were surprised to be recognized at the Top Individual walkers! That means that of all the individual walkers there (vs. teams or corporate) we raised the most money :) Our current total is $2,755.00, but we're still accepting donations if you would like to donate! We'd love to make it to our $3,000 goal and we're soooo close!! Just click here to go to our March of Dimes page.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


These pictures uploaded in reverse order, but you can still see that we had a great Easter. Our soon-to-be-moving-far-away friends came over for dinner and a little Easter egg hunt. We will really miss you guys!!

Where oh where could those eggs be?
The early morning obligatory pre-egg hunt pose. They were eager to fill those baskets!
Ta da! Look what I made!
Emily was wearing almost as much dye as the eggs!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Third time is a charm?

We're still chugging along with homeschool, work and a kitchen renovation. This week I'd already painted my kitchen twice but it just wasn't working for me. The first time was too dark, the second time too light and neither time did the color really relate to the connecting family room. Sure they could have worked, but after all the time, effort, and money, I wanted to be happier with the color. Fortunately, right before I was about to attempt to buy paint #3, a fellow homeschool mom came to pick up her kids who'd been over to play and that's when I learned that she'd been a designer for years! I had no idea, but was glad that she was happy to rescue me :) She loves color and grabbed my Benjamin Moore fan deck and started thumbing through. Thanks, Michelle, you're a life saver.

We still have odds and ends like painting the window and door trim in the breakfast nook to match the cabinets, painting the ceiling, window treatments, possibly tweaking the lighting, possibly replacing the table and chairs. I'm happy with the progress and see an end in sight :)

Here are some pictures I snapped this afternoon:
My three paint color attempts this week.
Crown moulding up and painted...and walls painted!
Andy did a great job with the crown moulding, didn't he?!
The old pantry has been replaced with cabinets to the left of the fridge and the new pantry (to the right) replaced our old unused desk.
We pained the old cabinet boxes in the main U, covered the ends with wainscoating, replaced the doors and drawers with painted maple ones from Schrock (Menards), replaced laminate counters with granite, and updated the sink and faucet. Oh, and Andy disguised the ugly soffits with crown moulding. It all looks bright white here, but it's actually a Dover, grayish white.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

DIY Kitchen Reno

These last few months here have been a little crazy with homeschool, a kitchen remodeling project, Thanksgiving, Emily's birthday, Christmas, my Dad's five day stay in the hospital, a 3-day drive to Florida, a week in Orlando (in the COLD!), a week on a Disney cruise, a 3-day drive back home, more kitchen remodeling, and Olivia's birthday... BUT, we're all hanging in there and doing fine. I've posted some pix below of our kitchen progress:

BEFORE. November. Our lovely orange oak and a floral border.

DURING. Two days before Christmas granite counters were installed. In the weeks before, Andy replaced the doors and drawer fronts, painted the boxes, and added crown moulding ...

DURING. The day before Christmas...wondering if we were going to have a working sink on Christmas day...

BEFORE of the old pantry and desk before they were torn out.

BEFORE. The only thing staying on this wall is the fridge.

DURING. January (two weeks ago). The soffits and desk were torn out on the fridge wall. Pantry demolition happened one week later.

DURING. Today (Feb 6). The unused desk was replaced with pantry cabinets two weekends ago...the old built in pantry was torn out and today the final cabinets are going in :)

DURING. Today (Feb. 6). The new and improved fridge wall with floor to ceiling pantries on both sides of doorway.

DURING. Still to do: spacers, knobs, crown and base moulding, garbage and recycling pull-outs, paint on wall, etc.

DURING. Today (FEb 6, almost midnight). Andy installed the fridge cabinet and surround today! The last two cabinets (where the old pantry had been) are being installed as I type :)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Somebody just turned SEVEN!

Olivia turned seven yesterday. Wow, hard to believe!

Monday, January 25, 2010

vacation pix

While I procrastinate getting back into the real world of homeschooling, laundry and our kitchen remodel, I thought I'd post some vacation pix :) We spent a chilly week in Orlando then a week on a Disney cruise (W. Carib.). A third week was spent in transit (3 day drive each way). It was too chilly to get off the ship in Key West, but we enjoyed some days in the low 70s in Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Disney's private island in the Bahamas. In spite of the arctic blast, we got a few warm days and still had a great time. The girls want to know when we're going on a Disney cruise again already!

They never tired of seeing the characters! Here is Cinderella at Epcot.
The girls got their faces painted at our resort while I used my (May) birthday spa gift certificate. Ahh...what a nice treat!!
Not sure what Emily was...looks like a butterfly, but there was a spider between her eyes??
Andy and the girls at dinner on the Disney cruise. You can't see them here, but the girls and their (Target 18") dolls had matching outfits. I was thrilled to find some Dolly & Me sets on the clearance rack for $6.99/set!! Your Sears might still have some.
It was always fun to see what towel animal we got with our chocolates at our nightly turn down. Kind of miss those chocolates!
We didn't bother to get off the ship in Key West since it was only in the low 40s and we'd been there before. Fortunately it was in the low 70s at our second port, Cozumel. Andy and Emily ventured into the water here at Paradise Beach, but Olivia preferred land surfing and castle building.
The water was beautiful, clear and blue, but chilly!
Our ship, The Magic, in Cozumel, Mexico.
The girls loved the beach at Disney's private island in the Bahamas.
Andy's parents are not beach bums, but we all appreciated having sunshine and 70s...until the rain came anyway!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hello from chilly Florida

I don't have a lot of time, but wanted to quickly post some vacation pix. On our first full day down here we went to visit Olivia's orphanage friend, Jack, and spent the day with his family. We even got visit the beach right by his house, but did NOT go in the water. It was great to see them all again.

We drove three days to get to warm weather, but have still not found it :( It's been in the 30s to low 50s here and unfortunately it doesn't look like it's going be much warmer during our entire week here. Good thing the outdoor pools are heated though and the girls don't seem to mind the weather much. On Saturday we're going on a Disney Cruise and hope we'll get at least a few warm days there. Looks like Key West will only be in the 40s though... Yes, I know it's better than at home, but just not exactly what we had in mind. We're still having a great time though and the girls don't seemed to be bothered in the least :) I don't think they've complained once so we're having a great time. We may have to buy some warmer dressy clothes before the cruise on Saturday though!

Tomorrow we plan to go to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Winter coats, gloves and all!

From their faces, you'd never guess that the air temperature is only in the low 50s. Good thing the water was much warmer!
When not IN the water, it's pretty chilly!, really we're NOT encouraging Olivia to be a swimsuit model...
Emily was happily swimming and doing cannonballs in an empty pool, seemingly unaffected by the chilly weather. Oh, to be young and carefree!
All bundled up and at the beach by Jack's house.
Two cute kids from RongXian, GuangXi, China: Olivia & Jack.
Prince Charming & Princess Olivia
Visiting the real princess: Cinderella's castle at the Magic Kingdom.
Disney just isn't Disney without the Dumbo ride, right?
And of course, we had to visit Minnie & Mickey!