Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy 15th Birthday, Colin!

I know that I haven't posted our year in review as we celebrate Colin's one year anniversary with our family. (8/22)
I want to, but I have been so busy and now, a week later, here we are celebrating his 15th birthday.
I am so amazed at the young man he has become in this past year.
The first picture I ever saw of Colin
An orphan no longer.
Colin in May, 2012
Rather, he is now a two-time, big brother to Cameron and Tommy.

Soon, he will welcome with open arms another beautiful child, our newest son, Cooper!

Certainly, none of us saw our family growing this way on this day, one year ago...

But, God has blessed us. 
Last year at this time, we were in Guangzhou, China, celebrating Colin's first birthday with our family.  Check out this post to take a look back at that special day!

As I look back to that day, I see how much he has changed since coming home to America.

When Colin came home, he was 5'6", 124 pounds.  (Even then, taller than his new mama!) Today, he is 5'8" and 142 pounds!
In just one year, he has jumped up 2 inches and gained 18 pounds!  

It does our hearts good to see him thrive this way.

As was true last year, birthdays start early in our house.  Luckily, this year, everyone had all their clothes on for the video!

Once we were all ready for school, Tom cooked Colin a special breakfast of sausage biscuits and scrambled eggs. (By the way, for those who are interested, we are going to need a full dozen eggs for a simple meal once Cooper comes home.)

The card that my Mom sent in the mail was waiting for him at the table.  There is something really nice about seeing your adoptive child's new name on an envelope.

So, off to school they went and the day marched on, pretty much like normal.

When Colin came home, he said that both his ESL (English as a Second Language) and his Geometry classes sang to him!

Our celebration plans were to throw a pool party at our local pool where we would have some snacks, cake and fellowship.

(Ok, confession...yes, it was all about being easy on MOM!...or so I thought....) 

Well......we went to the pool.

We hung decorations.... 

Our dear friends, Bob & Jody
(or "Chef Bob" as he is affectionately known in these parts) 
generously donated the cake for this occasion. 

The boys arrived and jumped straight into the pool while we waited on our party guests.


You guessed it....

Rain.  Ok, not rain. R>A>I>N>!!!!!


So, those of us who were there early ran under cover and thought, "It'll pass soon". 


So with the impending nastiness and my mom's long drive back home, we decided we would at least let Colin open her gift before she swam an hour home.

This was not just any ordinary present.

No, my mom, a very talented seamstress, among her other gifts....

Quilted a 
 blanket for Colin's bedroom.

Look at this thing!  

The pictures really don't do it justice.  
The colors are so vibrant and the workmanship is incredible.

It was a real work of love for her new grandson and it looks amazing on his bed!

Once that was done, it REALLY began to pour.  Did I say pour?  I meant FLOOD!

Here we were, under the canopy at the pool, wind and rain all around and what does my sweet boy do?

He runs over to one of the large tables, pulls out the enormous (and heavy) green umbrella and carries it over to where we are so that he can escort each person (and all their STUFF) to their cars.  Back and forth he goes wading through inches of water on the deck of the pool as he helps everyone out of there. 

So, needless to say, the party???

Moved to the HOUSE!

Picture this scene...

Over 40 SOAKING wet (yet smiling!) people who came out in that monsoon to celebrate and show their love to our extra special teen!

Yes, that's Colin with his shirt off!
He eventually put it back on when he dried off.

and of those 40-some people, over twenty of them were children!

there they all were climbing on Cameron's bunk bed like monkeys in the jungle!

it was insane.  But, we had such fun!

Tom w/ Pastor Richard Brown

Finally, it was time for the cake!

This video was taken during the festivities
(if you are reading this in email format, you will need to go to the blog to get the video to work.)

 Cake anyone?

Look at these beautiful stairsteps!

Sweet Colin holding "Baby J" (Justus Carpenter)
 while watching the Lion King

as the fun winds down, and the guests have gone, and the vacuum comes out.....

Colin counts his birthday loot.
Now, I know that there probably isn't a teenager on the planet that does not appreciate a TWENTY now and then.  

But, for a child who has never owned anything in his life until this year, the generosity shown to him is powerful.

Now, you might wonder why I have included this last picture.

This is the cubby in Tommy and Cameron's room.  Otherwise known as "Mom's sanity".  

This would most definitely be the "after shot".  I did not, sadly, have the foresight to take a picture of the "before shot".  

Use your imagination...

20 kids, limited supervision, 12x14 room...

you get the idea!

It was a certified disaster!  Several broken toys later and all the boys helping out, and we reclaimed the bedroom and crashed into bed!

Happy Birthday Colin!
We love you!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Older Adoption and Christianity

One of the questions that I get a lot when folks hear about our adoption of older boys,
right after,
"Did they know any English when they came?"
"How do they feel about your faith?"
"Do they like church?"
So, now that we have hit our 1 year mark with Colin, adopted from Shenyang in August, 2011, I thought I would attempt to share a little of what that journey has been like for us.  I am well aware that our experience is not indicitive of what all older children will experience once adopted, but this is our story.  It is real, not sugar-coated. 

Sadly, many adoptive blogs lately have implied that if your adoption story does not include lots of pain and grieving, tantrums, rebellion and ugliness, that you must be cherry-picking what you share.  For certainly, everyone that adopts is on the front lines of a war.  I take issue with this. I take issue with the suggestion that people who share the joys and the victories of adoption are being dishonest.  Now, admittedly, there are things that we choose not to share.  Mostly, to protect the privacy and dignity of our children. 


Being in the ministry of adoption day in and day out, I know that all of those things that I listed above are real.  For some, they are very, very real.  But, thankfully, so are stories like ours.  Please don't think that I want to, in ANY way, trivialize the struggles that any parent faces- adoptive child or bio.  But, it is ok to celebrate the good.  Ok, to share the joys that we experience with these children.  So, tonight I want to share about our experiences in training our children, in particular, our newest children, in the ways of the Lord.

As I think about our first few months with Colin, it was clear that he had never heard about Jesus and was like a fish out of water when it came to things like praying.
In his case, he was too respectful to resist or say anything against our faith, but it was clear that he did not share our beliefs and thought this was all a little strange. 
I didn't really know how to handle that.  I completely understood that he had no background in Christianity and that he wasn't going to wake up in America and "get it", but I admit I still had a hard time with it.
Perhaps another surprise for me, being a first time adoptive parent was how much this weighed on my heart. Suddenly, I was burdened for the salvation of this child that I had only just met. I was constantly reminding myself that it is only by the grace of the Holy Spirit that someone's eyes are opened to the truth.   
To be honest, when you can barely communicate the most basic of instructions in those early months, clearly communicating the foundations of the Christian faith is tough.  We didn't really know where to start or how to do it.
So, we started with the Bible.  We knew the only way he was going to really understand was if he could read the scriptures.  Thankfully, he loves to read and so when some friends ordered a Bi-lingual Bible for him, we began to direct him to passages that could shed some light on what we believe.  He would read this during church, since he couldn't understand anything being said from the pulpit and while we weren't sure back then what was "sticking", it is clear now that he has learned a lot.
He was very quick to appreciate our time at church since he is such a social kid.  He loved hanging with the other middle school kids and seemed to make friends pretty easily.
As the months progressed, and his language began to open up, we started teaching him how to pray.  We started with prayers of thanks.  Colin is a very appreciative child, so we explained that we prayed in order to thank God for the blessings of the day.  Each night before Tommy's bedtime, we would take turns sharing what we were thankful for that day and praying together.
He quickly got used to this routine and little by little, he would pray a little more confidently, in more detail and for longer periods. 
Then, when Cameron came home, we continued this nightly tradition, along with prayers of thanks at mealtime.  We purchased a couple of Christian DVDs recorded in Mandarin and had the boys watch them.  They helped us lay a foundation for most of the common kids' Bible stories.
Cameron, being much younger, seemed to us to be more open to our faith.  He loved going to church and would ask more questions, to the degree his language skills would allow. 
Now, after a year home (Colin) and 8 months for Cameron, we have grown into a wonderful routine of nightly devotions where we have been reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible.  The younger boys love this time each night and it has given us a great tool to share how each story in the Bible speaks to the greater plan of Redemption.  Colin is starting to understand.  He is opening up and we are seeing signs that there is more there than just a desire to respect his parents.
Most recently, we have added scripture memory to our routine.  We started with Psalm 119:9 as it clearly describes the way young men are to live:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. Psalm 119:9
Once each of our boys memorized this verse, we gradually added to it with vs. 10 & 11. 
Here is a clip of Cameron reciting his verses.  We are very proud of each of our boys and delight in hearing them hiding the word of God in their hearts.
I asked some specific friends to commit to praying for Colin.  And they have faithfully partnered with us in praying for him and our other sons. Now, I would love to tell you that he has now made a public profession of faith and has given his life to the Lord.  But, he hasn't. Not yet. 
But, what I know, is that God is faithful.  I know that He loves my boys more than I am even capable and I know that He wrote their stories long ago.  I know that I am not the one who will save my children.  Tom and I will continue to share our faith and try, with God's help, to live out our faith before our children's eyes each day. 
I pray that one day, I will be able to celebrate that all my boys are living for the Lord and raising their own children in the faith.  Until that day comes, we are eternally grateful that God brought them into our family. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First Day of School- 2012

Now that Colin has been successfully introduced to the 9th grade academy at Wando and is ready for his first full day with 3600 of his closest friends, it is also time for the younger boys to head off to school!
For Cameron, this will be a year full of new adventures!  
We decided to place him in 4th grade this year. 
(For those who haven't been with us for long, Cameron was adopted as a 14 year old- but we knew early on, and confirmed with several medical tests/ Xrays that he is much younger in reality).  

Another post, for another day..

As you may have noticed in last night's post, I take full advantage of the "first day of school" as license to go nuts with the camera.  My kids are not allowed to moan and complain on this day. (or their birthdays, Gotcha days, major Holidays, or any other day I choose to be a pain in their behinds!)

So, my all time favorite time of day (NOT!) came ringing in at 6 AM.

Once again, (I LIKE this routine by the way), Tom got right to work packing lunches and prepping breakfast after waking the kids up.  

I should point out here that I did NOT take photos of the two young ones who looked like the walking dead this morning at 6:00am. I should get serious points for this.  Tommy was especially beautiful as he promptly pointed out the time and asked why in the world I was waking them up so early???

So we got them all dressed into their appropriate uniform compliant outfits, fed them, got teeth brushed and bags packed.

Here are a few highlights from our morning!

Is this kid gorgeous or what?

the gang's all here!
Since our year also includes working on manners, American customs and SPEECH, we practiced our morning greeting.  Click this video to hear what each child was planning to say when they arrived at school this morning.

Lunches, School Supply "donations", Backpacks...ok, we're good to go!
Time to load up this wagon train!

So, that just leaves one more kid to get off for the day!  (I did mention that I am spoiled, right?)
Now, after homeschooling Tommy for the last 3 years and Colin and Cameron for several months after they returned home, and with me in full-time ministry now, what ever will Tom find to do in his copious free time?????

Coffee- check!
Newspaper- Check!
Peace and Quiet- CHECK!
Let the year begin.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I can't believe that today, our Colin started HIGH SCHOOL.
And tomorrow, we celebrate the one year anniversary of his gotcha day!

I couldn't believe that I was so restless last night.  I wasn't agitated, but I just couldn't sleep.  I just really wanted Colin to have a great first day.  Having never raised a teenager before and not having the luxury of slowly working into this whole phase of life, I am not sure at all what "normal" parents feel when their babies start high school, but I can only imagine that some of this is normal. 

Add to the "normal":  the child is super nice, (not always a plus), has not yet mastered the language, struggles with his speech still and.... well, let's just say that I really wanted him to enjoy his day, make GOOD friends and get some dedicated and kind teachers. 

And yes, I know I ask a lot.  It's been pointed out a time or two in my life!

Well, in the wee hours of the morning, I finally drifted off and was jolted awake with our first alarm clock ringing in MONTHS.  (I really wasn't missing that blasted thing!)

As always, my amazing hubby was up, dressed and downstairs in a jiffy.  He woke the kids and started cooking breakfast. (don't HATE me 'cause I'm spoiled!)

Now, there are only a few days of the year when I can go completely nuts with the camera and not get in too much trouble. 

You guessed it, the first day of school is...
One. of. those. days!

Here is my oldest getting ready for his first day of High School.  (And yes, lest you think I am super stealth with the camera....he did see me and yelled, "Mama!")

This would be my amazing son packing his backpack for school.... (are you bored yet? Sorry. I am just getting warmed up!)

Here we have Colin compliantly posing for the traditional first day of school picture.

No, I am not such a fan of the camera these days, but I missed so much of his life, I just don't want to miss a single opportunity to capture time with him.  So, Tommy, our youngest cameraman obliged and on the third attempt, finally got a decent shot.

Ok, already.  I told you this was my day.  So, yes, this is Colin heading to the car...

and sitting in the car...

yeah, that is the look I usually get on such occasions.

After a short ride through the neighboring subdivision, we arrived.  His new school small city has a population of 3600!

Upon entering the school, we were all greeted by a swarm of Sophmore ambassadors who politely escorted all the freshman to their respective homeroom classes while the parents were shuffled off to the auditorium for an assembly/parent orientation.

(AhHa!  I knew it.  You were thinking, "O my gosh! She walked him

Admit it, it crossed your mind. 

Well, yes, we all-- the entire family-- walked him into the school, but it was ok because all the other parents were there too.

I am not that cruel. HeeHee.

We met Colin's ESL teacher as we entered. We had seen her the night before at Cameron and Tommy's school so we recognized her right away.  She was great and made sure that Colin knew exactly where to go.

Here he is taking an ESL pretest. (ok, I snuck in before we left! Busted)

Also, before we were finished, we visited the school store to get him a Wando shirt.  On the way down there, we passed the attendance office, so we decided to pop in and check on procedures for extended absences in anticipation of our next China trip.  Look what I saw in the window of the office?

LOVE IT!!!  I HAD to take a picture of this.

Now, I was going to combine Colin's anniversary post with this one, but I think I will save it.

Suffice it to say for now, we are over the moon in love with this incredible boy and are honored that we have been allowed to parent him this past year.  More on Colin to come.  Tomorrow, Cameron and Tommy start their first day-- Tommy, first day of public school and Cameron, first day in American school.  Big transitions ahead!

I am ready.

 No, really. I am. 

First day paperwork - check
Checks written- check
Lunch boxes ready- check
Backpacks loaded- check
School supplies bagged and ready- check

I will sleep tonight.

Of course, I wouldn't mind a little prayer support!

Good night all!