Friday, October 30, 2015

T Minus One Week!

I can hardly believe it, but one week from today, we will have dropped the kids off at school and will be at the Chicago O'Hare airport to get on our flight to China!   We still have so much to do, but things are getting done too.  You know how it is though..every time I cross something off the list, something else gets added!

We'd like to share some praises!  This week we received a wonderful grant from Gift of Adoption! Such a blessing and perfect timing!  God always provides!!    I'd like to give a shout out to Gift of Adoption though because we have gotten to know them on a more personal level, having attended a couple of their fundraising events and written an article for them for the Racine newspaper.  Their hearts are for orphans all around the world and for helping families at the end of the adoption process by removing some of the financial burden so that they can get their child/children home!   They are very good people and they do some incredible fundraisers to raise money in order to give grants to families like ours.  In fact, this is the 2nd grant we have received from them.  Reid was granted their 1,000th grant in 2013 and they have now given over 1,500 grants!   They will be celebrating their 20th year of grant giving soon and Reid will be featured due to him having been a milestone grant. :) If you are ever looking for an organization to donate to or support, I'd highly recommend giving to Gift of Adoption:

Another praise!  A few days after we booked our flights, I had printed the itinerary to put in a folder to take with and realized the travel agent had spelled our last name wrong.   He corrected it right away and told us that re-booking with the new spelling saved us $274!  AWESOME!

Yet another praise!!  Evan finished up his cookie jar fundraiser to help raise money for his ticket. He sold 73 jars and got a couple donations.  He raised approximately $540!  With the money he made during his Easter fundraiser, he is pretty close to raising the money for his whole flight.  We are so proud of him!  

A couple people asked if Lena had a fundraiser. I'm not sure she understands that concept and we've just been busier than you can even imagine so we didn't have two fundraisers going on.  But a few kind souls did want to give her some donations and she raised about $60 for her trip. :)   She's just so darn excited, I can't even tell you!

And the last one for now- a shout out to my dad for donating a bunch of his Marriott points to us for one of our nights in Hong Kong on the way in and for our five nights in Nanning, Guangxi!   It worked out perfectly that the 5th night ended up being free with 4 nights worth of rooms booked with points.  That was such a great gift and so very helpful!

I'll be posting more about our itinerary and our upcoming prayer needs soon, but for now- back to the to do list! ;)  

When you step out in faith and trust in our God, you can expect miracles!  Anything is possible because we serve an awesome God and He is faithful.  He always provides for us and we are blessed to be His children.

We are so excited to have Macie and Maeleigh officially part of our family soon!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Flights are Booked and We Have VIDEOS!

I crossed one thing off my mighty long list that is currently in my head (mental note to self:  it's time to put the list on paper).  Our flights are booked.   We will be leaving on Friday, November 6th from Chicago direct to Hong Kong (same flight we've done for Lena and Reid).  We'll get in Saturday night, November 7th due to the time change and long flight (16 hours).   We are unsure if we will stay the night in Hong Kong and take a van to Guangzhou on Sunday morning or if we'll take a van right from the airport to Guangzhou.  If we do that, we'll stay one night at a hotel in Guangzhou.  Leaning towards the 2nd option.   We plan to take the bullet train mid-day from Guangzhou to Nanning, Guangxi.  Nanning is the provincial capital of Guangxi province, which is the province our girls are from.    We'll arrive in Nanning late in the afternoon on Sunday, November 8th.   Monday afternoon, November 9th will be gotcha day!   Friday late afternoon we'll head from Nanning to Guangzhou via the bullet train again.  Saturday the 14th we'll have our medical appointments.  Tuesday morning the 17th is our consulate appointment.  Wednesday evening the 18th we'll head back to Hong Kong by van.  Thursday, the 19th we'll fly home from Hong Kong to Chicago non-stop (a bit shorter on the way home than the way there).   We'll get home mid-day on Thursday, November 19th due to the time change.   Now it's time to plan out all the details of our trip and get the things we'll need to take with us on our trip.  One thing at a time- I may need to remind myself to breathe!
Map of China
All our kids are from the southern provinces.  Reid is from Guangdong, Lena is from Fujian, and Maeleigh and Macie are from Guangxi.  This will be our first time to Guangxi and we are looking forward to it!

Map of Guangxi Province
We will be taking the train in and out of Nanning and staying there.  Our girls are from Liuzhou, slightly northeast of Nanning.  We hope to take a bullet train there one day and visit and maybe meet the foster families.  

And now for what you really came here to see- the VIDEOS we got today!   Oh my heart- it was just what I needed.   I'm so in love and preparing for some heavy grieving from these girls too.  We've been told that Maeleigh is very close to her foster mother.  That is clear from the video and what a good one she is!   Such a blessing for the long run.   Macie is closer to her foster father.  We're curious if that will mean Macie wants more to do with me and nothing to do with Rick and if Maeleigh will want more to do with Rick and nothing to do with me.  We shall see!   The girls are absolutely beautiful and so very precious.  The thing I couldn't get over is how  much Macie looks like Reid and how much Maeleigh looks like Lena!   The way God knits families together is simply amazing.  His plans are always the best plans.

Maeleigh's video:
Password: Adoptmaa
*She is 3.5 and is hearing.

Macie's video:
Password:  Adoptmaa
*She recently turned 3 and she is deaf.

We're so in love and cannot wait to hold them in our arms SOON!

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's All Led up to This!

We received our Travel Approval (TA) for Maeleigh today!!   And tonight we got the email that our consulate appointment has been confirmed.  They are fitting Maeleigh in with Macie on the same day and time- November 17th at 8:30 a.m.   What does that mean?  That means we backwards plan.  Our gotcha day (the day we get the girls) will be Monday, November 9th, 2015 (while most of you are sleeping here in the states Sunday night).  We will leave either on Friday, November 6th or Thursday, November 5th.  We have to decide that tonight and book our flights!  YES, it's time to book the flights.  This part stresses me out a bit, but I'll be so glad when we have a decision made and flights booked!  We have so much to do between now and when we leave!! We could use prayers that we make a good decision on flights and that we get everything done between now and then.  I can hardly believe it, but ONE MONTH from tonight, we will likely be back home with our two newest daughters, a family of TWELVE!

It's getting real now!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Update on our Biggest Princess

The written updates came for Macie and Maeleigh!   We learned some very helpful information about them.   I will wait until we have some new pictures before sharing. While waiting for those, I want to share a story about Lena to update everyone on her progress.  This blog was her blog from the beginning after all. :)

Lena is now in full day kindergarten at the school for the deaf just up the street, where she is a leader in her classroom.  She continues to amaze us and has blossomed into this 'big girl' full of confidence and almost always full of joy.  Her sign language has come so far that sometimes I feel bad because I have to ask her to repeat herself or slow down.  I didn't want to ever have to admit that, but it is inevitable now that she is at school all day and because of her age.  These kids are sponges- that's for sure!   Rick and I are going to start volunteering in her classroom for about an hour a week each so that we can keep learning and improving with our sign language.  The best way for me to really tell you about how Lena is doing though is to share a story that happened last week.  I need to write it here because I never want to forget it and because it is one of the most special memories I've shared with Lena these last 3 plus years.

Lena has been very interested in books lately.  She's often looking at them, possibly trying to read them.  She brought me a book to read to her at bedtime last week:  'A Mother for Choco.'   This book is a great adoption book for little kids.  We have taken it to Ethiopia and to China.  It was how I got Elijah to crack his first smile and Reid loved being read to every night in the hotel when it was time for bed.

So I take the book from her and think to myself- oh how I hope I know enough sign to get the message of this book across to her.  You see- reading a book and signing a story are very different. When you read a book to a deaf child, you don't read word for word.  You tell the story in a different way. I do sometimes sign simple stories word for word though because I want Lena to be able to read and write well.  Throughout the book, the bird is looking for his mother.   None of the animals he runs into look like his mother.  They all point out their differences.  I was telling Lena how our faces are different and how our hair color is different.  She then signed that our skin is different.  I was impressed- she was getting this.   Then at the end of the story, the mama bear takes the bird to her home to have pie and meet her other children who are all different animals that she 'adopted.'  None look at all like her.   I explained to Lena about how she needed a family- a mom and a dad and how we came to China and adopted her.  I told her how we would always be her family and how much her mom and dad love her and always will.  It may have went beyond that.  She just lit up and was having a conversation with me with her sign and her facial expressions and it was a moment I cannot really describe in words. It melted me and hopefully imprinted into my memory- a moment I never want to forget.   With children who are adopted who already have a language, they tend to pick up the new language fairly quickly.  With deaf children, it is a different process.  Lena never had a language for 2.5 years...very crucial years in a child's development.   She had to learn individual signs for each object and then learn how to put those signs together to form phrases, questions, etc.  Learning how to answer questions and choose between things took a lot of time.  So to get to this moment- it meant the world!  It may have taken a long time, but it was worth the wait.  We could not be more proud of this little girl.  God has big plans for her!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Evan's Cookies in a Jar Fundraiser

We plan to take Evan and Lena with us to China because we know they will both be helpful, that they travel well, and because we know they will help their new sisters not feel so scared. This will allow them to be able to open up and start the bonding process sooner too.   I have to be honest, we're also taking two kids this time to alleviate some of the hardship on the grandmas and grandpas who will be watching our kids back at home.  Six kids, their schedules, and their homework will be enough for them, I think.  Evan is doing excellent in school and will do any work his teacher sends him.  We are not at all worried about him missing a couple weeks.  Lena is also doing terrific and her school feels this will be an experience of a lifetime for her.  At least the grandmas and grandpas will have one less school and a lot less homework to have to worry about. ;)  

Evan is such a sweet child. He has a heart full of compassion and I love that!  He's wanted to help raise some of the money for his flight so that it isn't one more thing we need to worry about.  Around Easter, I helped him make homemade playdough and educational Easter eggs. He raised a little over $200 selling those things.   He has also applied for a grant another child gives away approximately twice a year for a child who wants to go to China with their parents. I am SO proud of him for filling out his first grant- a lot of thought and time goes into that process!   The first time, he made the top 13 out of 40+ applicants, but was not selected.  He just re-applied a couple of weeks ago and is awaiting the outcome.  Either way, we are so proud of him for applying!  

He wanted to share a new fundraiser he has with those of you who are local.  With my help, he has created a fall "cookies in a jar."  These would be great for Halloween or Thanksgiving and they'd make a great gift too.   You can see the recipe below to see what is in them, what is included in the jar, and what you would need to add.   Evan is selling them for $10 each.  We are happy to deliver to local friends and family at no cost.   Just send me a message on Facebook or email me at if you'd like to order one.  You can call or text too if you have my number.  

Thanks for supporting Evan- he's super excited about this and about going to China to help us bring his two new sisters home!   I'm sure I've mentioned, but Lena is excited too!  She tells people at her school every day that she is going to China tomorrow to bring home her sisters.  :)  




Sunday, October 11, 2015

Now for What's Been Happening Here at Home & Adoption Update

We've been busy since school started!   When our kids aren't in school, we are consumed by homework.  That will happen when you have a 3rd grader, three 2nd graders, a 1st grader, a Kindergartner, and one in 4K.

Rick and I have gone on a handful of field trips.  The kids started back up with sign language class once a week and AWANA started back up too.  They are so excited about AWANA!

And we can't leave out that we were able to find a few wonderful souls through the UWM interpreting program to interpret for Lena for AWANA on Wednesday nights and for Sunday school at church.   We are so thankful she can now participate in AWANA and that she is going to get something out of Sunday school.  It's so important and so we are happy to have Amber, Aaron, and Kendra interpreting for her.  Such a blessing!

 Rick, Rowan, and I got to go bowling with Jayce for his morning pre-school.

 Rick went to the apple orchard with Jayce and his afternoon Junior Kindergarten class.

Rowan and I got to go the same apple orchard with Jayce and his morning pre-school class.

Rick ran the Milwaukee marathon last Sunday morning- his 2nd time.  It was his 6th marathon and personal best time!   I sure wish I liked running. ;)    Evan and Jonah went with my sister-in-law and niece to watch dad and uncle Ron run while the other kids came with me to a fall festival at the church and school Rick grew up in.  We played a bunch of games, including our very favorite...the cake walk!  The odds are good when you have many children in the same family playing. :)  We won two cakes!  Reid picked out the Packer cookie cake above.  We've been loving watching the Packers and the great season they are having.
 The kids played on the playground between the games and the meal we have with Rick's side of the family.  We've been experiencing a lot of ups and downs in weather here.  Some really warm days and some really cool days and not a lot in between. I think we are about done with the really warm days now though.  I would love many more days in the 60s and 70s, but we shall see.  For now, we are enjoying the fall colors while it lasts.

When I was on my trip to China advocating for orphans, our Letter of Approval (LOA) for Maeleigh came!   It arrived on our front steps the very day I got home from my trip...PERFECT!   We have had a bit of a roller coaster of a process between then and now (seems to be the story of her adoption), but we have received our I-800 Approval and our Article 5 was dropped off at the US consulate in Guangzhou, China.  Somewhere in there we decided to book a consulate appointment for Macie, with the hopes that they could squeeze Maeleigh in for a consulate appointment on the same day and at the same time.  The consulate is going to expedite Maeleigh's article 5 because of our unique situation with Macie's travel approval expiring soon and because we have a set consulate appointment already.   Our article 5 should be picked up on Monday night while we sleep/Tuesday in China. Please pray that it is ready and picked up that day- we'd sure appreciate your prayers!    At that point, we will be waiting on travel approval for Maeleigh.  It appears as if we will be traveling November 6th- 19th, with a gotcha day for both girls on Monday, November 9th and a Consulate Appointment on November 17th, pending they can get Maeleigh in on that day and time.  Worst case scenario- they make us come twice in one week for two consulate appointments or move Macie's to a day or two later and schedule both girls then, making us have to stay another 1-2 days in country.  That is the only reason I have not booked our airline tickets yet. I would love confirmation that they can get both girls in on the same day and at the same time. I sure would think so, but you never know. We'd love your prayers for that too!

We'll have more specific prayers to come.  We've got A LOT to do around here between now and November 6th.  But we can finally say, girls- we are really coming and SOON!
We are excited and Lena is VERY excited.  Others are starting to feel sad about having mom and dad gone for 2 weeks.  They'll be on a future prayer request for sure.
We have requested updates for both girls.  I hope they cooperate because our last picture of Macie was from April. Our last picture of Maeleigh was from July.  I am hoping for some good information on both of them too. I asked some pretty specific questions.

Thanks for following our journey and for your prayers and support!  

My Recent Trip to China

"Times flies"  could not be more true in this house.  There is NEVER enough time in a day, a night, a week, etc.   I don't know where these last couple months since I've posted have gone, but I can tell you that they have been packed full.   I will share more about what's been going on 'here' in another post, but wanted to do a re-cap of a recent trip I took first.

In September, I was asked last minute if I could go to visit orphanages in China in place of someone who had to back out.  The week leading up to the trip (including the morning of) was absolutely chaotic, but it was all worth it. It was a trip of a lifetime and one I will never forget.   I went to four orphanages in Anhui province in 3 days and met a lot of incredible kids.  I was changed before I went, but am even more changed now.  There were kids who I met who just pierced my heart- amazing kids who I feel need ME to tell THEIR story so they can find a family that will look past the fact that they are a boy, that they are incontinent, that they are in a wheelchair, that they are older...the list goes on.  They were beautiful and awesome!  Then there were other kids who just needed out in order to survive.  I had seen malnourished children before in images, but don't believe I had ever really seen one and held one in my arms.   I definitely did that on this trip.  I got to love on babies and big kids, giving some touch that they clearly are aching for.  It was heartbreaking to hold a baby and love on a big kid, both who spent much or all of their days in a crib, and then to have to set them back down in that place that is all too familiar to them.  There were also a handful of older kids who were so special.  There were a couple of times I thought I was going to have to get up and walk out because I felt like I just had to find a family for this child who has such little time left.  I don't think I have slept the same since coming home from this trip. I think about these kids I met every single day.  I will do everything I can to help find families for as many of them as I can, but I am only one person and the days pass all too quickly. Please pray with me for these kids and for the right family to be looking in the right place at the right time.   

Every heart deserves a home and to know the love of a family. These kids deserve to know what life looks like outside an orphanage.  They deserve to know what it means to have their own mom, dad, brother, sister, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, and cousins.  They deserve to know what it means to be snuggled up with a good book and someone who loves you or to be tucked in and kissed at bedtime.  They deserve that and so much more.  I will not lie to you- not much about adoption is easy.  But you know what?  Nothing our savior has done for us was easy either, but He didn't give a second thought when it came to paying the price for us so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. We are his sons and daughters.  He has chosen each of us.  We have been adopted by our heavenly Father.  Will you rise up for one of these children as He has for YOU?   Pray about it while you take a couple minutes to look at the faces of some of the beautiful kids I met in China just one month ago.  They are waiting for someone to choose them- for someone to say YES!  Lord, I want to be your hands and feet- send me!

 Broc, 5 year old boy

Elsa, 2 year old girl 
Elsa has CP (possibly left side hemiplegia) and cannot walk yet, but she can sit and roll.  
Her file should be arriving to Madison Adoption Associate's list in about 3 months or so.

Dean,  Healthy 12 year old boy 
This one pierced my heart- seriously had me smiling and in tears.  He's special.  
His file should be listed with Madison Adoption Associates in about 3 months.

Malachi, 2 year old boy
SO cute!  He has a 'minor need' and will likely be listed as LID, which means that a family will need to have their paperwork logged in with Madison Adoption Associates to be able to move forward for him.  His file should be ready in about a month.

Jedd, 11 year old boy
Jedd is a great kid and he's going to do very well in a family!   He knows his real Chinese name and birthday.  His file will be listed with Madison Adoption Associates in approximately 3 months.

Asher, 9 year old boy
The orphanage told us Asher has a different look and drools a little at times (may need speech), but beyond that- he is a healthy boy.   His file is ready.

This guy was not on our list, but God made sure we saw him and we told them to make him ready for adoption and we're looking to get him help so he doesn't have to spend all day in a crib.  He wanted to be held and loved SO badly!

Robert, 1 year old boy 
I think about this guy every day.  He is SO precious!
His file will be listed with Madison Adoption Associates and should be ready in approximately 3 months.

Unknown baby girl- she was not on our list, but we made sure to give her some love.  I don't think she spends much time out of her crib. :(

Darren, 6 year old boy   This guy is so happy, but was like a baby in a walker.  
He needs a walker his size, therapy, and love.
His file is ready and he can be adopted now and with any agency!

Jeremy, 1 year old boy
Jeremy has a lot of needs (CP?  and epilepsy), but is beyond adorable. He smiled and made good eye contact.  He can't stay where he is at though with his needs.  His file will be ready in about 3 months and he will be listed with Madison Adoption Associates. 

Auden, 8 month old baby boy    This is the guy who I wasn't sure if he'd make it another day.  I am happy to report that he is now out of his orphanage and receiving care via a healing home run by Love Without Boundaries.  Pray they are able to get him in better shape soon!

Gabriel, 13 year old boy  -He is healthy, but didn't have an adoption file and he will age out/no longer be able to be adopted in February, 2016.  Pray for him..he needs a miracle!

 Cody, 9 year old boy
Cody can hear and understand everything, but he does not speak. He can make noises.  He is very happy, but can get very frustrated/upset if he doesn't get what he wants.  He will need a family that is experienced with adoption and older children.
His file is ready and he is on the shared list- a family could use any agency to adopt him.

Whitney, 10 year old girl
Beautiful and sweet.  Very small for her age. She needs a family to help her gain some weight and strength. DECEMBER 2015 UPDATE: HER FILE IS NOW WITH MADISON ADOPTION ASSOCIATES AND SHE HAS A $4,000 AGENCY GRANT!

Lena, 9 year old girl
Beautiful!  She will be a blessing to some very lucky family!  She is very organized and neat. Lena has epilepsy, but is is controlled with medicine and she has not had a seizure in 2-3 years.

 Victoria, 12 year old girl - This is another one who pierced my heart. God made sure I saw her that day!  She is beautiful on the inside and outside.  She truly needs someone to see past all of her needs and see her for HER...she's a gem.  Her file should be coming to Madison Adoption Associate's list any time now.

Lena (9) in the background and Aspen, 8 year old girl
-Aspen was scared and cried at first, but really opened up while we were there and was full of smiles.

 Pierce (he's also gone by the names Shaun and Luke), 7 year old boy.  -He is so sweet, mild, easy-going, and quiet. DECEMBER 2015 UPDATE: HIS FILE IS NOW LISTED WITH MADISON ADOPTION ASSOCIATES!  THERE IS A $5,000 AGENCY GRANT FOR HIS ADOPTION AND HE HAS $5,0000 IN HIS REECE'S RAINBOW ACCOUNT TOO!                                                                        

Reagan, 5 year old girl
-She is SO happy and SO loving!

Jackson, 13 year old boy  -He was another one who pierced my heart. He will age out/no longer be able to be adopted in May of 2016. Please pray for him! He would make a great son and I just have to find a family for him.  DECEMBER 2015 UPDATE:  HIS FILE IS NOW WITH MADISON ADOPTION ASSOCIATES AND HE HAS A $5,000 AGENCY GRANT!  

Calvin, beautiful 4 year old boy
He is blind, but doing very well!

Truman, 9 year boy -He is an awesome kid and he's going to do very well in a family that can provide him the therapy he needs.   DECEMBER 2015 UPDATE:  HIS FILE IS NOW WITH MADISON ADOPTION ASSOCIATES AND HE HAS A $5,000 AGENCY GRANT!  

Taylor, 5 year old girl
-Taylor did not talk, but she could hear and she could follow directions.

McKinley, 11 year old girl
-She's seen many friends leave and she is a sweetie. Praying one day soon it will be her turn!

Andrea, 9 year old girl
Sweet girl!

 Lincoln, 7 year old boy
-Personality PLUS!  He was SO funny and SO talkative!

 Kennedy, 13 year old girl -She needs a family soon or she will age out/lose her chance of every being adopted in April 2016.  She is scared to be adopted, but there is a fantastic guide in this province who can help a family out and I'd recommend a family Skype ahead of time with her to get to know each other.  This orphanage had the capabilities for that.  Kennedy has spastic CP, but can walk independently.

Tyler, 7 year old boy 
 He is wonderful and his file is currently listed with Madison Adoption Associates.

Millie, 11 year old girl
Her file is listed with Madison Adoption Associates at this time.  She has had interest and is currently on hold for a family. Please pray for her!  She will make a wonderful daughter.

William, 5 year old boy
-He too has a need that sounds scarier than it looks. He is doing fantastic, is beyond adorable, and will do very well in a family.   DECEMBER 2015 UPDATE:  MADISON ADOPTION ASSOCIATES TRANSFERRED HIS FILE TO ANOTHER AGENCY FOR A WONDERFUL FAMILY!  PRAISE GOD!!!

Please ask me about any of these kids by email: or on Facebook.  I pray they will all find families.  Please pray with me.   These are just some of the kids we met.  We met many more.